Released to mark a month-long tour together earlier this year, the Setalight Records split 10″ between Berlin heavy rockers Samavayo and Russian genrenauts The Grand Astoria holds a few surprises along the way. Pressed to black vinyl, it’s a follow-up to Samavayo‘s 2014 joint release with One Possible Option, and for The Grand Astoria, who’ve worked with Setalight in the past on 2014’s La Belle Epoque (review here), as well as 2013’s Punkadelica Supreme (review here) and several other short releases along the way.
Though on paper it might seem like an awkward pairing — come to think of it, just about anybody paired with The Grand Astoria is kind of awkward on paper; their sound is expansive, and they’re more than capable songwriters, but you never quite know what they’re going to do next — they mesh pretty well, and with a side split between them, both bands give a quick glimpse at where they’re at stylistically without completely losing a thread going one into the other.
One might notice The Grand Astoria‘s skull-headed mascot on the cover art by Sophia Miroedova walking away from a temple — or maybe having his portrait painted in front of it? — over which Samavayo‘s sun-style logo resides in the sky. Both acts, then, are represented, one perhaps more subtly than the other. It’s much the same way with the music. On side A, Samavayo offer two tracks: “Intergalactic Hunt” (4:03) and “Soul out of Control” (8:06), while on side B, The Grand Astoria reaffirm their shift toward progressive rock with “Kobaïa Express” (11:30).
Each cut is distinct from those around it, one way or another, and “Intergalactic Hunt” stands out for its immediate sense of movement, the guitar of Behrang Alavi (also vocals) setting a tight rhythm that drummer/backing vocalist Stephan Voland and bassist/backing vocalist Andreas Voland match both in groove and nuance, building and releasing tension in the instrumental verses and chorus of the first half before shifting in the second to a bridge that gradually leads them back to where they started, the guitar line that started it all serving also as the leadout. Fitting somehow for Samavayo in terms of showing their range that they should go from an entirely instrumental track to one centered almost completely on its vocal hook.
Well, “almost completely” is a stretch. “Soul out of Control” still has its riff — a more laid back chug over which Alavi calls to mind any number of ’90s alt melodies — and at eight minutes, there’s plenty of room for Samavayo to give the song a sense of space. They do precisely that, even slowing down over the last two minutes to march the way out, but “Soul out of Control” remains a deceptively quick listen for topping eight minutes, and that too suits Samavayo well, their songwriting always at the core no matter how expansive a given track may or may not be.
And speaking of expansive, The Grand Astoria‘s “Kobaïa Express” takes its name from the fictional planet created by Magma drummer Christian Vander — or at least from the train that presumably gets you there with the minimum of stops en route — and is presented in the accompanying alien language, a morass of syllables sometimes closer to Italian, sometimes more Slavic depending on where the music is going in any particular movement. And it does go. Recorded as the six-piece of Kamille Sharapodinov (vocals, electric and acoustic guitar), Danila Danilov (vocals, keys, flute), Eugene Korolkov (bass), Vladimir Zinoviev (drums), and Igor Suvorov (lead guitar) with Ravil Azizov on clarinet, “Kobaïa Express” is nigh on visionary progressive metal, at times operatic and at times grinding, but always precise, heavy and intricately constructed.
The Grand Astoria have already followed this split up with a two-song full-length titled The Mighty Few on which each track tops 20 minutes, so we know it’s not as far as they’ll push into fleshing out arrangements and the like, but “Kobaïa Express” thrills nonetheless for its direct Magma-ism and the poise the band demonstrates throughout, and Samavayo‘s inclusions, both of which were recorded at the end of last year, bode well for what they might do on their own next outing. If nothing else, the moral of the story with their split would seem to be that that must have been one hell of a tour. Even though it’s long since over, the scope both bands show here does justice to the fact that they got together in the first place and unites in unexpected ways across a bridge of progressive stylization and heavy craftsmanship.
Posted in Reviews on July 7th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
German trio Kadavar set a formidable standard with their self-titled 2012 debut (discussed here), released on Tee Pee and This Charming Man to a swath of multi-continental acclaim and seeming to take on immediate influence particularly in the European underground. When Abra Kadavar (review here) arrived in just the next year as their Nuclear Blast label debut, it rightly thrust the band into another echelon of heavy rock acts worldwide. Touring commenced and continued heavily, and it’s in the context of Kadavar as a substantial international act that Berlin — their third full-length, second for Nuclear Blast and first to feature bassist Simon “Dragon” Bouteloup alongside guitarist/vocalist Lupus Lindemann and drummer Tiger — arrives. An 11- or 12-track collection that runs 45 or 52 minutes depending on which version you get, Berlin is hands down the best thing Kadavar have done to-date.
A sure-fire top-tenner that gets down to the business of boogie immediately with opener “Lord of the Sky,” it never seems to relinquish the hold that cut takes, Lindemann‘s leads careening as memorable hooks on the standout third track “Thousand Miles away from Home” — which follows the irresistible riffy bounce of “Last Living Dinosaur” — as well as on “Pale Blue Eyes,” “The Old Man,” “Spanish Wild Rose” and “Circles in My Mind,” while elsewhere “See the World with Your Own Eyes” kicks into a megachorus of its own, closer “Into the Night” fuels classic proto-metallic street-strut vibes, “Stolen Dreams” launches from full-on shimmy into a jet-engine of a breakdown in its second half and “Filthy Illusion” stomps like a single-guitar Thin Lizzy with standout basslines from Bouteloup.
Granted, that’s jumping around a bit through the running order, but taken front to back, there isn’t one song in the bunch that feels like a comedown from the track before it. Even the bonus track, which is a comparatively subdued, near-seven-minute cover of Nico‘s “Reich Der Träume” (“realm of dreams”), boasts keyboard flourish from Tiger that serves to distinguish it from the pack preceding. Nothing about Berlin comes across as forced, the songs are stuck in your head almost before you realize it, and while swing and ’70s-style fuzz are central to Kadavar‘s approach here as they were on their last two albums, the sense of presentation, confidence and chemistry the band fought for and obviously won on the road bleeds through a songwriting method varied enough to produce the wash and farther-back echo in the verse of “Last Living Dinosaur” and the unabashed good times of “Pale Blue Eyes,” only bolstered by a production less outwardly dedicated to a vintage sound than on either of their prior LPs.
That’s not to say Kadavar‘s methods have shifted away from ’70s heavy loyalism — quite the opposite — just that they’ve hit a point where they clearly feel they can carry across the spirit without directly aping the sound. They’re right. Entirely possible Berlin was recorded analog, in fact I wouldn’t doubt it, but it’s a clearer production, and it serves the material well, allowing a song like “Lord of the Sky” to concentrate on nailing Berlin‘s initial momentum or the chills-up-the-spine hook of “See the World with Your Own Eyes” to be utterly propelled by a build in Tiger‘s drums, or “Last Living Dinosaur” to highlight Lindemann‘s growth as a vocalist, switching register between verse and chorus as fluidly as the track soon enough shifts instrumentally into its rolling finish.
As with their last two outings, Berlin is an easy album to be excited about, and no doubt many will be. Its upbeat movement and vividness are infectious. What distinguishes Kadavar‘s work up to this point, however, is that the quality of the songs stands up after the record’s freshness gives way. Multiple listens to Berlin only make it sound richer, only reveal it to be a more complex outing than its brainwashing choruses at first declare. Subtle moments like the Rolling Stones-style noodling at the start of “Thousand Miles away from Home,” the way “Stolen Dreams” seems to echo the push of “Lord of the Sky” while doing something of its own as well, or how Lindemann‘s voice echoes when he says “night” in the title-line of “Into the Night” and the light Sabbathian touch in that song’s finish make Berlin all the more special.
Not just because they show attention to detail on the part of the band, but because they — like the tones, pacing, melodies and rhythm of the album overall — sound natural, grown out from Kadavar and Abra Kadavar but seeing the world with their own eyes (I just made that up; no idea where I might have gotten it from), the band’s progression evident in both the style they present on the surface and the substance that acts as the foundation beneath. The native-language bonus track makes a suitable finale even as it undercuts a prevailing hopeful sentiment, however, because its somewhat otherworldly melancholy reminds both of Kadavar‘s psychedelic side — something touched on elsewhere but not widely represented — and that at the best of times very often a downturn awaits. Going back to the start to give Berlin another go, one hopes that turn never comes and that, as much as Kadavar have found a new peak and captured a defining moment with these songs, there’s another around the next corner.
Posted in Features on July 6th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
If 2015 ended tomorrow, I think you’d still have to say it was a pretty good year for heavy rock. Doom veered into a swath extremes — its own subgenres emerging almost one by one in a growing splinter that nonetheless continues to draw water from its roots — while the neo-stoner ignition of the West Coast continued its boom of new acts proffering classic groove. The East reveled in a progressive vision just waiting to be picked up by others, and in Europe, the ’70s traditionalist movement spread ever wider, essentially defining a modern sound in organic sounding, sometimes-vintage elements. Whether you’re going for crushing, oppressive barbarism or cosmos-bound blissouts, it is, in short, a good time to be alive.
Of course, 2015 doesn’t end tomorrow, and there’s still a whole lot of year to come. About half, as it happens. So, as has been the tradition around here for the last half-decade — and seems to be the tradition in a growing number of outlets; not taking credit or claiming to have invented anything, just noting a proliferation — it’s time to count down the best records of the year so far. There have been more than a handful of gems, and since in December I’m planning on doing a top 30, we’ll mark half the year with a top 15. Seems only fair.
Please note that this isn’t purely a critical evaluation, but a personal list, and that what I’ve put on most is as crucial a factor in my ranking as how important I think a given record is. You know the drill by now. Let’s go:
Kiev three-piece Stoned Jesus have a varied stylistic history, and their third outing, The Harvest was ultimately a success in large part because of its complete refusal to be defined. Atop a foundation of quality songcraft, the trio proffered a sound that was not necessarily experimental in terms of anti-structure noise or effects onslaughts, but bold in each of its forays outward from its heavy rock underpinnings.
It has consistently taken me a while to get a hold on what Freedom Hawk are up to. The steady elements in their sound are held to so firmly that on the first couple listens, it seems to just be more of the same. But the more one digs in, the more there is to be found, and with Into Your Mind, the Virginia Beach trio overcome losing a member to create their most progressive outing to date, flourishes of psychedelia melding easily with their signature style of sunshiny riffing.
Five albums deep, Germany’s My Sleeping Karma are an act unto themselves. Their progress has been natural, fueled by a clear, varied sense of exploratory will, and the results on this year’s Moksha were nothing short of stunning. Branching out their arrangements might not be new to them, but the inclusion of horns, drones, percussion, etc., amid the central guitar, bass, keys and drums lent an almost orchestral feel to the flow between the tracks, and one can only hope they continue on their current path, because it is unquestionably the right one.
So much potential, so much vitality at the heart of this debut from Death Alley. The Amsterdam-based four-piece (interview here) stormed out of the gate with a ripper of a debut, and just when you seemed to have it all figured out, they hit the ignition on a 12-minute full-impulse space rock thrust, a guest vocal appearance from Farida Lemouchi (a former bandmate of Death Alley guitarist Oeds Beydals in The Devil’s Blood) adding both mystique and emotional resonance to what was already a stunning track. With all the riotousness preceding, Black Magick Boogieland readily lived up to its righteous title.
Midwestern-turned-West-Coast heavy psych rockers Mondo Drag may have taken their time in releasing their self-titled sophomore outing, which followed their 2010 debut, New Rituals (review here), and was recorded in 2012, but it’s easy to imagine that’s because they wanted the circumstances to be as special as the album itself, recorded with a fleeting five-piece lineup that included the one-time rhythm section of Radio Moscow who wound up leaving to further their then-nascent project, Blues Pills. Even without that lineup shift as a factor, the late ’60s vibe Mondo Drag brought out across the release proved eminently listenable and has held up on repeat visits.
A gorgeous, shimmering and melodically resonant debut from the Dutch four-piece Cigale, their self-titled gracefully maintained tonal presence and warmth while also enacting a psychedelic sprawl and grooving serenity that acted like the landscape in which the songs took place. It was a rich, bright vibe, and an utter joy to behold, tracks like “Harvest Begun,” “Feel the Heat” and “Eyes Wide Shut” proving as memorable as they were inviting. Having two former members of the much-missed fuzz rock outfit Sungrazer may have initially turned some heads in their direction, but Cigale‘s first album proved they’re an outfit with their own personality, their own development to undertake, and already much to offer.
The awaited return of The Machine brought the band’s fifth album and a further-refined sense of maturity in their processes, as well as intrigue as to where they might be headed, two dual modes of open-ended jamming and more structured songwriting playing off each other in the extended “Chrysalis (J.A.M.)” and “Come to Light” and the more verse/chorus stylizations of “Dry End” and “Off Course.” To be perfectly honest, I doubt The Machine will ultimately pick one side over another, since if Offblast! proved anything it’s that they can easily handle either or both, but as they continue to grow, it’s encouraging to have their style establish itself as so multi-faceted.
First time I pressed play on Gravitron was a real “oh shit!” moment. The last release from NJ stalwarts The Atomic Bitchwax was 2011’s The Local Fuzz (review here), a single-song full-length instrumental riff onslaught that had its charm but was inherently divorced from the appeal of the band’s songwriting. Not only does Gravitron re-factor that in with songs like “Roseland,” “It’s Alright,” “Coming in Hot” and “Ice Age Hey Baby,” among others, but it hits with kick-in-the-ass production force and an all-out heaviness that 2008’s TAB4 showed the three-piece steering directly away from. Just a killer record. Utterly void of pretense. No bullshit. No need to rely on anything more than chemistry, and with the Bitchwax, that’s plenty.
7. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth
Right now, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth are my band to beat for Debut of the Year, and I’m quite frankly not sure how anyone is going to be able to do it, so if list time comes in Dec. and you see Tad Doyle‘s trio marked out as such, know that it’s been that way in my head for some time. The three-piece of Doyle, bassist Peggy “Pegadeth” Tully and drummer Dave French arrived with a roar, and even when their self-titled let up sonically, the atmosphere remained viscerally heavy. Six years having passed since the release of their first demo (review here), I wasn’t sure there was ever going to be an album, but then to have Brothers of the Sonic Cloth show up and enact such thorough demolition only made it more impressive.
It can’t possibly be a surprise to have Luminiferous show up somewhere on this list. The seventh long-player by High on Fire had all the rage and bombast in “Slave the Hive” and “The Black Plot” that have become the band’s hallmarks over their 17 years together, but branched out progressively as well in songs like “The Cave” and “The Falconist,” the latter of which was brazenly catchy and about as emotionally direct as the band has ever gotten, their general modus being — and in that song too, just to a lesser extent — a metaphor-laced lyrical approach. That song was a triumph and so was the album as a whole; the second collaboration with producer Kurt Ballou building on the rampaging victories of 2012’s De Vermis Mysteriis (review here) while also showing growth on the part of one of modern metal’s most pivotal bands.
Hitting more or less concurrent with a vinyl release of their prior album, 2013’s A Time of Hunting (review here), Kings Destroy‘s Kings Destroy is not at all coincidentally titled. Over the course of now three full-lengths, the New York five-piece — about whom I feign no impartiality, let it be noted — have distinguished themselves with a sound neither noise, nor doom, nor heavy rock, but drawing on elements of all three when it suits their purposes with chemistry built from years of being in bands together of various stripes and in various genres. What stands the self-titled out from their past work, in part, is that it is the closest they’ve yet come to capturing their live sound in the studio, and accordingly, it’s a volatile kind of heavy that bends aesthetic to its will rather than capitulating to expectations of any sort. I don’t think they’re done growing by any stretch, but Kings Destroy feels like an arrival front-to-back.
This one was almost a sneak-attack. German heavy psych forerunners Colour Haze released To the Highest Gods We Know, their 11th full-length, in Dec. 2014 on CD (the vinyl was in 2015, which is what we’re counting in this instance), with very, very little fanfare of any sort. There was a track premiere here that came shortly after the album was announced, but I think it was officially out less than a month after its existence was made public, which for a band of Colour Haze‘s stature and influence was surprising. Less devoted to grandeur than 2012’s 2CD She Said (review here), it nonetheless pushed the band’s sound forward and found them experimenting in their studio, particularly on the string-quartet-inclusive finale title-track, which offset jams like “Überall” and the laid back highlight “Call” with a rhythmic oddness that was somehow still Colour Haze‘s own. I couldn’t help but wonder where it was leading, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t masterful in its own right.
Goatsnake didn’t have it easy going into their third album. It had been 15 years since their sophomore outing, Flower of Disease, 11 since their last EP, and five since they first started playing shows again. Expectations? Through the roof. Among heavy rock heads, a new Goatsnake was like seeing the mountaintop. I mean, a big fucking deal and then some. Then the record hits, and there’s just about no way it can live up to the anticipation, but god damn if Goatsnake not only finally put out a third album, but one that was better than I think anyone could’ve hoped for. Hearing Pete Stahl with however many backup singers he had on “Another River to Cross” et. al. was like finding an animal in its native habitat, and between his soul, Greg Anderson‘s riffs, bassist Scott Renner‘s low end rumble and drummer Greg Rogers‘ roll, Black Age Blues won almost immediately and then spent the rest of its 47 minutes throwing itself a victory party. “Elevated Man,” “House of the Moon,” “Jimi’s Gone,” “Grandpa Jones,” almost on a per-track basis, Goatsnake added to the reasons they’ve been so heralded despite a decade-plus’ absence from the studio.
On the level of achievement alone, Elder‘s Lore will be the album of the year for many, and there are times (such as right now) when I listen to it and question whether or not it isn’t also my pick for that honor, but wherever it falls on whatever list, far more important is what the Massachusetts/Rhode Island/New York trio manage to accomplish across their third LP’s formidable five-track/59-minute span, songs like “Compendium” and “Deadweight” bridging a rarely approached gap between heavy and progressive rocks while maintaining a flow consistent with the psychedelic vibing of 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here) but grown outward in another aesthetic direction and no sooner setting foot on the ground than seeming to master it in a flurry of blinding turns, sprawling soundscapes and clarity of mind that found perhaps its greatest expression in the centerpiece title-track, the 15-minute “Lore” itself, which I’ve no doubt will stand among if not atop the best songs of 2015 when the year is over and encapsulates the ambition and the corresponding breadth of Elder‘s songwriting, the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan, and drummer Matt Couto rising as one of the East Coast’s most pivotal acts, with a sound completely their own.
1. Acid King, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere
I use the word “molten” pretty regularly to describe an album or song that seems to just ooze its way out of the speakers or shift seamlessly between its songs, but Acid King set an entirely new standard for the term with Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere. Their first outing for Svart and their first release in a decade, its 55 minutes were a riff-rolling nirvana of lurching fuzz and tonal excellence, the guitar of Lori S. at the fore accompanied by Mark Lamb‘s bass and Joey Osbourne‘s drums, the swing of which propelled a highlight track like “Coming down from Outer Space” right back into it, while elsewhere on the record, “Silent Pictures,” “Red River” and “Infinite Skies” torched stoner conventions into a new space-biker rock, culminating in the heavy psych of “Center of Everywhere,” which seemed to emanate from the place it was describing, at once empty and full. More than just a welcome return after a long dearth of releases, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere found Acid King progressed even beyond where they were with 2005’s III, though more than anything else, what makes it my top pick for the year so far is the fact that I can’t seem to walk away from it for too long before going back, and ultimately, that’s what it all comes down to with his kind of thing. I’ve yet to find a standard to which these songs don’t live up.
A few others worth noting. The Sun Blood Stories album (streamed here) continues to resonate. Also Monolord, Valkyrie, Lamp of the Universe, Garden of Worm, Wo Fat‘s live record, The Midnight Ghost Train‘s Cold was the Ground and Ufomammut‘s Ecate. The Black Rainbows was a joy, as was Spidergawd‘s second LP, and while I still feel like I haven’t given it its due, the Sumac won many over and should get a mention. Steve Von Till‘s solo outing and the latest from Enslaved are worth seeking out as well for anyone who hasn’t heard them yet.
More to Come:
The year’s only half over, which is kind of a scary thought but true nonetheless. Watch out in the coming months for new stuff from Bloodcow, All Them Witches, Clutch, Graveyard, Zun, Sacri Monti (if that one’s not already out), Snail, Uncle Acid, and Kind. The new Kadavar is a sure-fire top tenner, and between that, the potential for a new Neurosis album and stuff like Magnetic Eye Records‘ Electric Ladyland [Redux], there’s no way the book is written on the best of 2015.
So stay tuned.
And if I’ve still got your attention, thanks for reading.
Posted in Reviews on July 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
We’re on the downhill swing of this edition of the Quarterly Review, so it’s time to get into some extremes, I think. Today, between death-doom lurch, drone-as-fuck exploring, gritty aggression and a whole lot more, we pretty much get there. I’m not saying it’s one end of the universe to another, but definitely a little all-over-the-place, which is just what one might need when staring down the fourth round of 10 reviews in a row in a week’s time. Feeling good though, so let’s do it.
Quarterly Review #31-40:
Kamchatka, Long Road Made of Gold
It would really be something if Swedish blues rockers Kamchatka released six albums over the course of the last decade and didn’t know what they were doing by now. Fortunately, that’s not the case with Long Road Made of Gold (Despotz Records), their sixth, as the Verberg three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Thomas Juneor Andersson, bassist Per Wiberg (see also: Spiritual Beggars, Candlemass, Opeth, etc.) and drummer Tobias Strandvik modernize classic heavy rock with equal comfort in including a banjo on “Take Me Back Home” and progressive-style harmonies on “Rain.” They seem to get bluesier as they go, with later cuts “Mirror,” “Slowly Drifting Away,” “Long Road” and “To You” rounding out the album with Clutch-style bounce, but the prevailing impact of Long Road Made of Gold is one of unflinching class, the chemistry of its players – not to mention Wiberg’s bass tone – ringing through loud and clear from the material as Kamchatka make their way down that long road to their inevitable next outing.
I said as much when the Tokyo duo released their 2013 debut EP (review here) as well, but their first long-player Iron Scorn (on At War with False Noise) only confirms it: Legion of Andromeda are fucked. Theirs is a doomed-out death metal given further inhumanity by programmed drums and the blown-out growls of vocalist -R-, while guitarist/programmer –M- holds down grime-encrusted chug and dirge riffing. Perhaps most fucked of all is the fact that Iron Scorn uses essentially the same drum progression across its seven tracks/44 minutes, varying in tempo but holding firm to the double-kick and bell-hit timekeeping for the duration. The effect this has not only ties the material together – as it would have to – but also makes the listener feel like they’ve entered into some no-light-can-escape alternate universe in which all there is is that thud, the distortion and the growls. Not a headphone record, unless you were looking to start psychotherapy anyhow, its extremity is prevalent enough to feel like a physical force holding you down.
Relentlessly creative and geographically amorphous drone warriors Queen Elephantine compile eight tracks from eight years of their perpetual exploration for Omen on Atypeek Music, which launches with its titular cut, the oldest of the bunch, from 2007. It’s a gritty rolling groove that, even as nascent and riff-noddy as it is, still has underpinnings that might clue the listener in to what’s to come (especially in hindsight) and comes accompanied by the sludgy “The Sea Goat,” a rawer take recorded the same year in Hong Kong. Newest on Omen is the blissfully percussed “Morning Three” and an 18-minute live version of “Search for the Deathless State” from 2010’s Kailash full-length. Lineups, intent and breadth of sound vary widely, but even into the reaches of “1,000 Years” (2012, Providence, RI) and “Shamanic Procession” (2009, New York), Queen Elephantine remain unflinching in their experimentalism and the results here are likewise immersive. Vastly underrated, their work remains a world waiting to be explored.
Consuming undulations of tectonic riffing. Two of them, actually. Watchtower’s Radiant Moon EP serves as their debut on Magnetic Eye, and like their fellow-Melbourne-resident labelmates in Horsehunter, the four-piece Watchtower slam heavy-est riffs into the listener’s cerebral cortex with little concern for lasting aftereffects, all in worship of nod and volume itself. Where the two acts differ is in Watchtower’s overarching sense of grit, harsh vocals pervading both “Radiant Moon” (9:03) itself and the accompanying “Living Heads” (7:09), standalone vocalist Nico Guijt growing through the tonal fray wrought by guitarist Robbie Ingram and bassist Ben Robertson, Joel McGann’s drums pushing the emergent roll forward on “Living Heads,” a High on Fire-style startoff hitting the brakes on tempo to plod over any and all in its path. I’m trying to tell you it’s fucking heavy. Is that getting through? Watchtower had a live single out before Radiant Moon, but I’d be eager to hear what they come up with for a full-length, whether they might shift elsewhere at some point or revel in pure onslaught. Now taking bets.
The use of multiple vocalists gives Roman trio Ape Skull’s ‘70s fetishism a particularly proggy air. Fly Camel Fly is their second full-length for Heavy Psych Sounds behind a 2013 self-titled, and the boogie of “My Way” and “Early Morning,” the solo-topped groove of “Fly Camel Fly,” and the raw Hendrixology of “A is for Ape” position it as a classic rocker through and through. Vocalist/drummer Giuliano Padroni, bassist/vocalist Pierpaolo Pastorelli and guitarist/vocalist Fulvio Cartacci get down to shuffling business quick and stay that way for the 39-minute duration, the Mountainous “Heavy Santa Ana Wind” missing only the complement of a sappy, over-the-top ballad to complete its vintage believability. Even without, the triumvirate stand tall, fuzzy and swinging on Fly Camel Fly, the cowbell of “Tree Stomp” calling to mind the earthy chaos of Blue Cheer without direct mimicry. A quick listen that builds and holds its momentum, but one that holds up too on subsequent visits.
Mad-as-hell trio Hordes have had a slew of releases out over the last eight years or so – EPs, splits, full-lengths with extended tracks – but their experimental take on noise rock topped with Godfleshy shouts arrives satisfyingly stripped down on their latest self-titled five-track EP, recorded in 2013 and pressed newly to tape and CD (also digital). “Eyes Dulled Blind” dials back some of the pummeling after the bruises left by “Cold War Echo,” guitarist/vocalist Alex Hudson at the fore in the JK Broadrick tradition. Centerpiece “Summer” starts with a slow and peaceful ruse before shifting into brash and blown-out punk – Chris Martinez’s hi-hat forward in the mix to further the abrasion – and finally settles into a middle-ground between the two (mind you, the song is four minutes long), and bassist Jon Howard opens “Life Crusher,” which unfolds quickly into the most oppressive push here, while a churning atmosphere pervades the more echo-laden closer “Fall” to reinforce Hordes’ experimentalist claims and steady balance between tonal weight and noise-caked aggression.
There’s a theatrical element underlying Welsh rockers Dead Shed Jokers’ second, self-titled full-length (on Pity My Brain Records). That’s not to say its eight songs are in some way insincere, just that the five-piece of vocalist Hywel Davies, guitarists Nicky Bryant and Kristian Evans, bassist Luke Cook and drummer Ashley Jones know there’s a show going on. Davies is in the lead throughout and proves a consummate frontman presence across opener “Dafydd’s Song,” the stomping “Memoirs of Mr. Bryant” and the swinging “Rapture Riddles,” Dead Shed Jokers’ penultimate cut before the cabaret closer “Exit Stage Left (Applause),” but the instrumental backing is up to its own task, and a clear-headed production gives the entire affair a professional sensibility. They veer into and out of heavy rock tropes fluidly, but maintain a tonal fullness wherever they might be headed, and Cook’s bass late in “Made in Vietnam” seems to carry a record’s worth of weight in just its few measures at the forefront before Davies returns for the next round of proclamations.
Berlin’s These Hands Conspire aren’t through the two-minute instrumental “Intro” before they’re showing off the heft of tone that pervades their metallized debut album, Sword of Korhan, but as they demonstrate throughout the following seven tracks and the total 45-minute runtime, there’s plenty to go around. Vocalist Felix delivers an especially noteworthy performance over the dual-guitars of Tom and Stefan, the bass of Paul and Sascha’s drums, but heavy metal storytelling – the sci-fi narrative seems to be a battle in space – is just as much a part of the record’s progressive flow, longer cuts like “Praise to Nova Rider,” “The Beast Cometh,” which directly follows, and “Ambush at Antarox IV” feeding one into the next sonically and thematically. The penultimate title-track brings swinging apex to an ambitious first outing, but the foreboding, winding guitar echoes of “Outro” hint at more of the tale to be told. Could be that Sword of Korhan is just the beginning of a much longer engagement.
Maybe it doesn’t need to be said, since if it weren’t the case, they wouldn’t have paired at all, but Enos and Mangoo pair well. The UK chimp-obsessed space metallers – that’s Enos, on side A – and the Finnish modernized classic heavy rock outfit – that’s Mangoo, on side B – don’t ask much of the listener across their Son of a Gun/The Grey Belly split (on H42 Records) beyond a little over 10 minutes of time and a willingness to follow a groove. “Son of a Gun” finds Enos blending particularly well with Mangoo’s methodology via the inclusion of organ in their swinging but still forward-directed movement, and after that, it’s an easy mesh to flip the platter and find Mangoo’s “The Grey Belly” waiting, its own keys playing a huge role in carrying across the ‘70s-via-‘90s vibe the band projects so well. Flourishes of percussion in the former seem to complement the progressive guitar work in the latter, and whichever side happens to be spinning, it all works out just fine.
Born in 2007 as Spice and the RJ Band and rechristened Band of Spice in 2010 prior to their third album, Feel Like Coming Home, the Swedish unit boasting vocalist Christian “Spice” Sjöstrand (founding vocalist of Spiritual Beggars, also Mushroom River Band, currently also in Kayser) release their fourth full-length half a decade later in the form of Economic Dancers on Scarlet Records. It’s a straightforward heavy rocker in the organ-laced European tradition that Spice helped create, with some shades of quirk in the intro to “The Joe” and the arena-ready backing vocals of “In My Blood,” but mostly cutting its teeth on modernized ‘70s jams like “On the Run,” “Down by the Liquor Store” and “True Will,” though the six-minute centerpiece “You Will Call” touches on more psychedelic fare and is backed immediately by two metallers in “You Can’t Stop” and “Fly Away,” so it’s not by any means one-sided, even if at times the mix makes it feel like the 11 tracks are a showcase for the singer whose name is on the marquee.
Posted in Whathaveyou on June 19th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
No question that Kadavar‘s upcoming third album, Berlin, is one of the most anticipated releases of the summer. It is set for release on Aug. 21 through Nuclear Blast, and the classic rocking trio will tour Europe this winter to support it. That leaves me to wonder if they won’t hit the US beforehand, either later in summer or early fall, but I’ve yet to see any confirmation of that one way or another, so don’t quote me. Either way, the record is legitimately one to look out for, the band’s ’70s traditionalism having made their first two outings, 2013’s Abra Kadavar (review here) and 2012’s Kadavar (discussed here), both high points of their respective years and cast an increasingly influential net over organically-toned retro heavy rock.
So what’s news? News is that the cover can be customized for the Berlin vinyl depending on how you adjust the insert, and news is the tracklisting for the album. I’ve got my fingers crossed one or another of these cuts is a psychedelic freakout, as that’s something of an underrated aspect to Kadavar‘s sound. Oh, and preorders are available now too. Have at it:
KADAVAR – BERLIN TRACKLIST, 4 MORE VERSIONS OF THE COVER ANNOUNCED, NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER!
After working nonstop in the studio for the last 4 months, Berlin, Germany-based classic rock overlords KADAVAR have finalized the production process of their brand new album. The third KADAVAR record will be entitled Berlin and is tentatively scheduled for an August 21, 2015 release.
Today, the band announces the album’s tracklist, as well as 4 more versions of the cover that will be available for everyone buying the vinyl version of the album. The glasses of the cover model will be cut out, depending on how you insert the inlay, the cover will change. See above.
Pre-Order your copy of Berlin as well as any of the t-shirt bundles on the Nuclear Blast Webshophttp://goo.gl/S3uzwd
Below is the track list for Berlin: 01. Lord Of The Sky 02. Last Living Dinosaur 03. Thousand Miles Away From Home 04. Filthy Illusion 05. Pale Blue Eyes 06. Stolen Dreams 07. The Old Man 08. Spanish Wild Rose 09. See The World With Your Own Eyes 10. Circles In My Mind 11. Into The Night
BONUS TRACK 12. Reich der Träume (Nico cover)
KADAVAR’s drummer Tiger shared the following about the upcoming album: “About ten years ago, when we, independently of one another, moved to Berlin, we just wanted to break free from home and do something new. I thought it was comfortable to blend in and just live from day to day. A lot of very long nights and so many completely different people in one place. We all come from different places but have managed to create something together we all like. Where there are opposites, you can always ground yourself. I think the Berlin lifestyle has influenced our band very much and therefore fits perfectly as the album’s title.”
The band recently released the official video for the song “Eye Of The Storm” which comes off their most recent album Abra Kadavar and marks the end of the 2 year cycle promoting the album by relentless touring across the globe. The video combines contemporary artist Dust’s grandiose mural painting in action, with a unique concert by KADAVAR at the legendary ISC Club Bern.
KADAVAR live 2015 Supports: The Shrine + Horisont + Special Guest (tbc) 05.11. F Strasbourg – La Laiterie 06.11. D Cologne – Kantine 07.11. NL Nijmegen – Doornroosje 08.11. UK Manchester – Sound Control 09.11. UK Glasgow – Audio 10.11. UK Leeds – The Brudenell Social Club 11.11. UK Wolverhampton – Slade Rooms 12.11. UK Bristol – Marble Factory 13.11. UK Cardiff – The Globe 14.11. UK London – The Dome 18.11. F Nantes – Stereolux 19.11. F La Rochelle – La Sirene 20.11. E Madrid – Penelope 21.11. E Barcelona – Razzmatazz II 22.11. F Bordeaux – Le Krakatoa 23.11. F Lyon – Ninkasi Kao 25.11. CH Zurich – Dynamo 26.11. CH Geneva – L’Usine 27.11. D Stuttgart – Wizemann 28.11. D Munich – Backstage 30.11. D Frankfurt – Batchkapp 01.12. D Hamburg – Markthalle 02.12. DK Copenhagen – Pumpehuset 03.12. N Oslo – Vulkan 04.12. S Gothenburg – Brewhouse 05.12. S Stockholm – Debaser Medis 07.12. FI Jyväskylä – Lutakko 08.12. FI Helsinki – Nosturi 09.12. EE Tallinn – Club Tapper 10.12. LT Vilnius – Propaganda 11.12. PL Gdansk – B90 12.12. PL Warsaw – Progresja 13.12. PL Krakow – Fabryka 16.12. D Nuremberg – Hirsch 17.12. B Brussels – Vk* 18.12. D Berlin – Astra 19.12. D Oberhausen – Turbinenhalle II 20.12. NL Amsterdam – Melkweg
Posted in Whathaveyou on June 1st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Some awaited news from German trio Kadavar today in that their third album, titled Berlin, will be released by Nuclear Blast this August. The dead heat of summer seems a fitting time for a new Kadavar record to show up, and after the overwhelming responses both their albums to date — 2012’s self-titled debut (discussed here) and 2013’s Abra Kadavar (review here) — received, it’s only fair to say Berlin will be one of the season’s most anticipated full-lengths. It’s available to preorder now for those inclined toward such precautions, but something tells me they’re going to make plenty of these to go around.
Album art, details, and tour dates with The Shrine and Horisont were all just announced, if you please:
*** NEW ALBUM + TOURDATES w/ The Shrine + Horisont ***
KADAVAR – announce new album and headlining tour for winter 2015!
After spending the last 4 months in the studio, working on it non-stop, Berlin, Germany-based classic rock overlords KADAVAR have finalized the production process of their brand new album. The third KADAVAR album will be entitled »Berlin« and is slated for an August 21, 2015 release.
Commented drummer Tiger: „About ten years ago, when we – independently of one another – moved to Berlin, we just wanted to break free from home and do something new. I thought it was comfortable, to blend in and just live from day to day. A lot of very long nights and so many completely different people at one place. Where there are opposites you can always ground yourself. We’re all different, come from different places but have managed to create something together we all like. I think the Belrin lifestyle has influenced our band very much and therefore fits perfectly as the album’s title.“
Furthermore the band has announced to tour Europe this winter. Find the dates below. KADAVAR live 2015 Supports: The Shrine + Horisont + Special Guest (tbc) presented by CLASSIC ROCK, ECLIPSED, MUSIX, NUCLEAR BLAST MAGAZINE, PIRANHA, ROCK HARD, VISIONS & METALNEWS.DE 05.11. F Strasbourg – La Laiterie 06.11. D Cologne – Kantine 07.11. NL Nijmegen – Doornroosje 08.11. UK Manchester – Sound Control 09.11. UK Glasgow – Audio 10.11. UK Leeds – The Brudenell Social Club 11.11. UK Wolverhampton – Slade Rooms 12.11. UK Bristol – Marble Factory 13.11. UK Cardiff – The Globe 14.11. UK London – The Dome 18.11. F Nantes – Stereolux 19.11. F La Rochelle – La Sirene 20.11. E Madrid – Penelope 21.11. E Barcelona – Razzmatazz II 22.11. F Bordeaux – Le Krakatoa 23.11. F Lyon – Ninkasi Kao 25.11. CH Zurich – Dynamo 26.11. CH Geneva – L’Usine 27.11. D Stuttgart – Wizemann 28.11. D Munich – Backstage 30.11. D Frankfurt – Batchkapp 01.12. D Hamburg – Markthalle 02.12. DK Copenhagen – Pumpehuset 03.12. N Oslo – Vulkan 04.12. S Gothenburg – Brewhouse 05.12. S Stockholm – Debaser Medis 07.12. FI Jyväskylä – Lutakko 08.12. FI Helsinki – Nosturi 09.12. EE Tallinn – Club Tapper 10.12. LT Vilnius – Propaganda 11.12. PL Gdansk – B90 12.12. PL Warsaw – Progresja 13.12. PL Krakow – Fabryka 16.12. D Nuremberg – Hirsch 17.12. B Brussels – Vk* 18.12. D Berlin – Astra 19.12. D Oberhausen – Turbinenhalle II 20.12. NL Amsterdam – Melkweg
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 3rd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
I wondered last week when perusing Kamchatka‘s UK and European tour dates if the Swedish trio might not also end up on one or the other of the Desertfests, and it seems they’re headed to Berlin. Apparently since the last time I looked, Baby Woodrose also got added, which is awesome. The Desertfest Berlin 2015 lineup might be the strongest one yet, and it’s been interesting to watch — from an unfortunate distance — as the London and Berlin incarnations of the festival each grow their own personality. Both have a broadening reach, and yet they’re clearly becoming different entities, which when one takes into account the expansion of the brand to Belgium and potentially beyond that — because why not? — it should make the next couple years even more intriguing to see where it all goes.
These are the things one has to think about when one can’t just say things like, “Golly, I can’t wait to see Kamchatka at Desertfest!” One of these years, I’ll get to Berlin or back to London. For now, here’s the announcement of Kamchatka joining the lineup:
Here comes a new band: the Swedish trio KAMCHATKA is now confirmed for DESERTFEST BERLIN 2015!
Formed in Varberg in 2001, KAMCHATKA provide an explosive mixture of Stoner-, Hard-, 70’s-, Retro-, Psychedelic- and Bluesrock. Their first self-titled album came out on January 2005 via New York based indie label Grooveyard Records, followed in 2007 by “Volume II”.
During their first years, they played gigs here and there in Sweden, opening for Clutch a couple of times, who finally invited KAMCHATKA to join them on their 2008 US-Tour! It gave the guys their first opportunity to proove themselves to the American audience. After 21 successful performances, KAMCHATKA returned back home to complete “Volume III”, released in March 2009 via Swedish label Superpuma Records. In November 2009, the trio was once again invited by Clutch to open for them, this time on a month long tour of 23 gigs throughout western Europe.
With their amazing fifth album “The Search Goes On” (released on Despotz Records in February 2014) in the pocket, KAMCHATKA will make your booty move at DESERTFEST BERLIN in April! We are thrilled to have them on board!
Red Fang + Orange Goblin + Brant Bjork & The Low Desert Punk Band + Acid King + Ufomammut + My Sleeping Karma + Conan + Black Pyramid + Karma To Burn + Brutus + Dopethrone + The Atomic Bitchwax + Lo-Pan + Baby Woodrose + The Picturebooks + Toner Low + Kamchatka + Dirty Fences + Heat + Mountain Witch + Mother Engine + Moaning Cities + The Sun And The Wolf + Cigale + Riff Fist + Travelin Jack + Tau + more
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 25th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Last I heard, the plan was for German heavy rockers Samavayo to release a new album this year, which would be their first as a three-piece. Nothing’s come my way to contradict that, but it looks like they’ll be tightening up new material on the road prior to hitting the studio. Titles like “Intergalactic Hunt,” “Kodokushi,” “Someone Else” and “Iktsuarpok” have been tossed about as being inclusions in the setlist, and as you can see from the list of dates below — there goes March — those songs and anything else Samavayo might decide to throw in the set are bound to get a workout on the road with The Grand Astoria. The two groups will also have a split 10″ out next month on Setalight Records.
Dates and the preorder link for that split follow here, taken from Samavayo‘s latest updates. They came from the internet! Imagine that:
Oh yeah, booking is almost finished. And here we go, We proudly present our tour in March 2015 across Europe playing a lot of the shows with our friends from The Grand Astoria and Six Months of Sun and many many more. Looking forward to an awesome tour!
28.02. DE Berlin, Zukunft am Ostkreuz 04.03. DE Potsdam, KuZe 05.03. DE Hamburg, Bar 227 06.03. DE Hamburg, Marias Ballroom 07.03. DE Cottbus, Muggefug 08.03. DE Erfurt, Tiko 11.03. DE Nürnberg, Artischocken 12.03. DE Karlsruhe, Alte Hackerei 13.03. FR Paris, Le Buzz 14.03. FR Nantes, La Scène Michelet 17.03. FR Strasbourg, Check point 18.03. CH Neuchatel, La Prise 19.03. CH Genf, Kalvingrad 20.03. CH Luzern, Bruch Brothers 21.03. CH Winterthur, Gaswerk 22.03. CH Olten, coq d’or 23.03. DE München, Cafe Cult 24.03. AT Salzburg, Rockhouse 25.03. AT Haag, Boellerbauer 26.03. AT Wien, Arena 27.03. DE Weiden, Salute Club 28.03. DE Jena, Kulturbahnhof
It just arrived! The new Split Ep from The Grand Astoria and Samavayo. It´s an honour to share the EP with our Russian friends! It´s gonna be on our tourbus in March and of course we´ll bring it to our gig on Saturday in Berlin as well.