Posted in audiObelisk on June 6th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Today it is my extreme pleasure to host the first of what I hope will be many batches of audio streams from Roadburn 2012. This year, instead of links, I’m honored to host the audio streams themselves, which you’ll find on the players below. Extra special thanks to Walter and the Roadburn crew, and to Marcel van de Vondervoort and his team for recording these sets.
Alkerdeel – Roadburn 2012
Ancestors – Roadburn 2012
BlackCobra – Roadburn 2012
Bong – Roadburn 2012
Horisont – Roadburn 2012
Sigiriya – Roadburn 2012
YOB – The Unreal Never Lived live at Roadburn 2012
Posted in Features on April 8th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
04/08/12 — 22.31 GMT — Sunday — Hotel
I’m gonna be perfectly honest with you. I have no idea from what part of the chicken that doner kebab I just ate was made, nor what constituted the white sauce that topped it, but man, it was delicious. A greasy jolt being oddly enough just what I needed at this point. I picked up a plus-sized bottle of Zywiec (and toasted Elvis Deluxe when I opened it, as is my habit — sorry to not see those dudes in Berlin) and some cheddar cheese and crackers, and I could ask nothing more from the end to the first London Desertfest than what I’ve gotten.
Right now, Viking Skull should be on the stage at The Purple Turtle, and C.O.C. will be shortly wrapping their set at The Underworld, and then the streets of Camden Town will once more flood with weirdos and leather/denim heathens, doubtless to the horror of what seems otherwise like a pretty straightforward section of the city, full of painted ladies and bar-going dudes. I’m glad I got to see it during mating season, or maybe that’s later. Ecosystem studies I don’t do.
Balls-out heavy rock and roll, on the other hand… Well, that has been done. It’s been an amazingly long weekend. I’ve met a lot of great people, seen a lot of awesome bands. I know it seems like every post is full of, “Wow, these dudes were excellent! Party time alright!” but no shit, that’s pretty much how it’s been — though I’ve limited my partying to be even on all four sides (read: “square”), and even the Zywiec I’m now enjoying was purchased as much because it’s something different than tap water than because I felt like having a beer. I used to drink all night. Now I do this.
And on that note, let’s get started. As you can see below, my intent of making today lower key than yesterday was at least partially successful, though still with a bit of back and forth near the end.
Once more into the fuzz:
Leeds instrumentalists Wiht looked like they hated each other. I don’t know if it was just a contemplative post-metal thing or if each member of the trio is convinced that the other two dudes are bastards, but they hardly looked at each other or at the crowd, and guitarist Chris Wayper made only a cursory mention of it being their last show. Musically, they were right on. They did “The Harrowing of the North” and nailed it part for part, and it was a lot of fun to follow along with that story in my mind as they went along (see the review for more info), but yeah, there wasn’t much question that when the set was over, they wouldn’t be a band anymore. Still, Wiht were a quality act and quality players, both in general and on stage opening up at The Underworld, and I hope they end up in other bands. Though if I could bring the kind of crowd they did being the first act on the bill at 14.00 after a raging Saturday night, I wouldn’t break up.
My plan was to stay put at The Underworld through Gentleman’s Pistols, and though I knew nothing of either Throne nor Crystal Head, who were the two acts between Wiht and Leaf Hound, I’d hit the point where I was willing to trust Desertfest enough to not throw in anything shitty. It had already been two days of nothing but solid heavy bands, I saw no reason to doubt the capacity of the DesertScene crew to come through in the end, and sure enough, they did precisely that. Throne reminded me a bit of a less psychedelic Naam. Their riffs were in several cases lifted directly from Sleep’s Holy Mountain, though reworked — not that I fucking care; play that Sleep riff note for note and I’ll groove out almost every time — and they had a laid back stonerly attitude that went well with the music. The London trio didn’t look like they gave a damn, but it worked for them.
Also native to the city that’s hosting the fest, Crystal Head apparently used to be known as Penny Black. The new name suits them better. Especially immediately following Throne, they had a professional edge to their presentation that only enhanced the music. Floor lights, fog machine, a Gretsch guitar thicker in body than the guy playing it — Crystal Head struck an immediate chord with me for what I perceived to be a Queens of the Stone Age influence coming out. There was some of that Josh Homme-style start-stop jerky riffing, and the vocals (which came from both the bassist and the guitarist) veered occasionally into some characteristic falsetto. Still, they were thicker tonally than QOTSA, and they took the elements from that band to someplace heavier musically. They were a pleasant surprise, though I’m sad to say I failed to buy a CD from them, even later on in the night asking some other dude with a shaved head who I thought was the bass player if he had any merch. Obviously, he did not.
Fucking Leaf Hound. I don’t know where they stood numerically on the list of bands I never thought I’d be able to catch live, but I’d probably give them an ‘X’ either way, just because the idea seemed so ridiculous I wouldn’t have even thought to include them on any such list (one does not exist, surprisingly). And yeah, I know it’s Peter French and a bunch of guys who weren’t in the band when they recorded their classic material — they even had a new bassist, whose name I sadly did not catch — but whatever. I got to see Peter French sing “Growers of Mushroom,” and the jam that the players behind him embarked on in the song’s middle gave me a whole new appreciation for the track. “Sad Road to the Sea” was one of the day’s best performances from any band, and though I wasn’t on board all the way with guitarist Luke Rayner‘s guitar-face and “I’m gonna stare at the ceiling like I’m having an orgasm because this solo is so good” stage moves, I can’t take away from the fact that they were fucking great.
Shortly before they went on, a guy in the crowd Tony Reed introduced me to the other day told me that Gentlemans Pistols were the best band in Britain. Britain’s got some righteous rock and roll on its curriculum vitae at this point — to wit, everything I’ve seen this weekend — so I was on my way to intrigued by the time the double-guitar foursome took the stage. That in itself was a cause for celebration, as the band includes axe-man Bill Steer of the always-be-boogieing Firebird, and indeed Gentlemans Pistols were even more upbeat than Firebird on stage, changing places and mics, hoisting guitars aloft for the crowd to see and, in the case of drummer Stuart Dobbins, playing in his skivvies which he made a point to show off before sitting behind his kit. I can understand the impulse, as it was pretty hot and only getting hotter in that room — 20 minutes before Gentlemans Pistols came on, The Underworld was packed out — and while I don’t know if I’d say they were the best band on these Isles, I understood the appeal enough to pick up their 2011 album, At Her Majesty’s Pleasure, and I look forward to getting to know it better. Maybe not “in its underwear” better, but better, anyway.
By the time Gentlemans Pistols were halfway through their set, I was ready for the day’s first bit of traveling and made my way down the block with a mind toward seeing Cultura Tres, winding up at The Purple Turtle in time to catch Widows beforehand. UK natives as well, they thanked the crowd present for not going to see Gentlemans Pistols and delivered a set of that peculiar brand of stoner-type rock that’s not actually so different from post-hardcore in that everyone who plays it looks like they were in a hardcore band seven years ago. Not really my thing sonically, but fun to watch and they clearly had the style down. I bought their albums — they were selling handmade copies of their apparently-soon-to-be-pressed new one, and I got one of those — and enjoyed them for what they were. The Purple Turtle being the “heaviest” of the three Desertfest stages throughout the weekend, Widows were a decent balance between the some of the more aggressive sounds and the more laid back approach that was still to come from Samsara Blues Experiment later.
Cultura Tres are, among other things, well managed. They came all the way from Venezuela to tour Europe and the UK and their promotional team (there were several guys the band brought with them, to roadie, sell merch, street-team, film their set, etc.) has been handing out free DVDs the entire weekend. I have at least three at this point. Clearly a case of a band making the proverbial effort to be noticed, and I can’t hold it against them. They have a viable product. Their style is not quite sludge in the American or even the British sense — thinking Eyehategod and Iron Monkey as respective examples — but more of a slowed-down, malevolent metal. Tonally, it’s pretty clean, and there’s an edge of drama to their presentation on stage that adds to whatever the vague threat their material is making might be. I didn’t know them too well, though I’d checked out the video that I think was also contained on those DVDs (I’ll have to look to confirm that) and thought it was cool enough to post. If nothing else, it was encouraging to see that Cultura Tres were able to stand themselves out atmospherically from the rest of the Desertscene fare. I didn’t see anyone else this weekend who sounded quite like they did.
Back at The Underworld, Zoroaster were just finishing up their signature noisy wash as I walked in and made my way up front for Black Cobra, who, at this point, are a sentimental favorite. Aside from the fact that they kick unholy ass and just released the album of their career so far in Invernal (review here), I remember them from their days around New York, and they were killer even then. This morning as I sat outside whichever cafe it was down the block from the venue, I saw guitarist/vocalist Jason Landrian and got to say hey and see how the tour with C.O.C. and Zoroaster was going, and as unassuming as he always is to talk to — real quiet, down to earth guy — is as monstrous has he’s become on stage. He and drummer Rafa Martinez make for one of the tightest live heavy bands on the planet. Reportedly, before they loaded in, the duo also went and had their picture taken in front of a statue of British explorer Ernest Shackleton, on whose writings Invernal is partially based. Perhaps some of Sir Ernest‘s brashness was absorbed into the band, although to say that might give the impression that Black Cobra aren’t always as devastating as they were tonight, so stow that. These dudes just rip. If thrash had become Black Cobra, I’d listen to thrash, and whether it was seeing them destroy this crowd or seeing them with Kyuss Lives! back in December in Jersey (review here), they deserve and they earn every single success they have.
I was worn out. I was down. I didn’t know if I had the hike back to The Purple Turtle in me. Certainly C.O.C. headlining at The Underworld was an enticing offer. But man, there was Samsara Blues Experiment, just waiting with their heavy psych grooves and jams that were just too perfect a close-out to this Desertfest experience. What was I supposed to do? True, Corrosion of Conformity were probably the first heavy band I listened to and one to which I’ve never really lost attachment (we’re talking since I was 10), but I saw them on New Year’s with Clutch, and they’re almost certain to come through NYC again before the Berlin-based Samsara Blues Experiment make it over. So it was back to The Purple Turtle I went. I’d watch Samsara Blues Experiment — who, much to my delight, were selling copies of their original demo — for as long as I could stand up without feeling like my legs were going to give out, and then I’d split. It wasn’t long. I stood right in front of guitarist/vocalist Christian Peters as he had some technical problem with his stage monitor that sent out a rather unpleasant crackle through the P.A. He seemed bummed about it, but once they got going, the band played really well. They are a strong voice in the post-Colour Haze wave of European heavy psych, but like with Sungrazer yesterday, one of the best parts of watching Samsara Blues Experiment was seeing how they’ve come more into their own even in the year’s time since I caught them at Roadburn. I felt like I made the right choice to be where I was, and I can’t think of a better way to cap Desertfest than that, since it’s how I’ve felt this whole time. Coming here was the right choice.
At some point tomorrow, though I don’t know when, really, I will have some concluding-type thoughts on the weekend, so I’ll save the thanks and all that stuff for then, but yeah, that’s definitely on the way. For now, I’ll just say I hope you’ve enjoyed these posts, if not as much as I’ve enjoyed seeing these bands (did I mention fucking Leaf Hound played today?), then enough to make it this far.
Checkout’s at 11.00 and I’ve got pics to sort, more of which you’ll find after the jump. Thanks for reading.
Posted in Reviews on December 14th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Sunday inevitably rolled around after seeing Kyuss Lives! on Saturday and Cortez/Mighty High on Friday, and where one tour was ending, another was just getting started. This time it was Black Cobra, emerged from under the Kyuss banner’s black sunbow/bird color scheme, taking on the role of headliner on a bill that teamed them with two of modern doom’s most formidable names: Zoroaster and The Body. I was exhausted, and had the show been just about anywhere else in Brooklyn but the Saint Vitus bar, which is unbelievably easy for me to drive to in non-rush-hours, I probably would’ve sat it out.
But I’d never seen The Body, and between last year’s All the Waters of the Earth Turn to Blood and this year’s Nothing Passes collaboration with Braveyoung, I’d been inundated enough with their fucked up sonics that I thought it worth my time and further wear and tear to show up and catch it in-person. Plus, I hadn’t seen Zoroaster since Mike Morris joined on bass in replacement for Brent Anderson and it had been nearly 24 hours since Black Cobra made my eyes bleed with the sheer force of their thrashing righteousness, so I had to go! I DVR’ed the Boardwalk Empire season finale (haven’t watched it yet, don’t tell me what happened) and hit the road.
Gang Signs opened, and I missed all but the last 30 seconds — literally — of their set. I barely had time to look up at the stage to see who it was before they said “thank you, good night.” Some you win, some you lose. There was a break while The Body positioned their strange tube-like drums and wall of bass cabinets, so I had plenty of time to stand there and obsessively check my email on my phone, send The Patient Mrs. text messages about how tired I was, checkthe forum for spambots and run through all the usual crap people do while pretending to look busy. When The Body, their sampler set and ready to roll, finally got going, they would be probably the loudest band of the night.
If it’s any indication of the kind of volume I’m talking about, guitarist/vocalist Chip King plays out of two sideways-stacked Ampeg 8x12s. The only other person I’ve ever seen pull that off is Dickie Peterson of Blue Cheer, who, of course, was playing bass. King ran his line through a Peavey combo amp and a bass head that had “Bastard Noise” on a plaque on the front, either in reference to the band or the sound it made. In combination with the distorted noise and samples from drummer Lee Buford, The Body‘s sound was huge low-end malevolence. King‘s screams rested far back in the mix as he stood away from the mic, and it was heavy enough that I was glad I left the house to see it. Their atmosphere is as pummeling as anything they actually do on stage.
I suppose that holds true for Zoroaster as well, though the Atlanta natives are a better stage act and were greatly aided at St. Vitus as always by an extensive light show — now with lasers! Their songs themselves came across in an overwhelming wash of noise through which drummer Dan Scanlan was charged with crashing, and as their progression over the course of their three-to-date full-lengths has taken them ever further into the psychedelic reaches, so too has their live show followed suit. I can’t remember if it was for 2010′s Matador or 2009′s Voice of Saturn that I last saw them (it was downstairs at Webster Hall in Manhattan), but there’s been a marked change in their dynamic since then, and undoubtedly the addition of Morris in the bassist role is a part of that.
Could be that Zoroaster are maturing and are more assured in their aesthetic, or it could just be the new trio lineup works well together and I caught them on a good night, but either way, Zoroaster looked to be exactly where they wanted to be in terms of sound and presentation. The crowd was a Brooklyn crowd, and it was Sunday, but the room heated up quickly with the energy spent — though that could also have been the tubes driving guitarist/vocalist Will Fiore‘s Green and Orange amps. With Morris putting a Sunn head through another of the evening’s several Ampeg 8x12s, I was starting to feel like I was at a trade convention for doom suppliers. Sounded cool, either way.
The danger as I see it for Zoroaster now is not losing themselves in it. They have this massively sensory experience happening, where the sound and the light envelops you and the band really seems to be going somewhere and taking you along, but I can’t help but also feel like they’re skirting a line between engaging and indulgence. If they are, they haven’t crossed it yet, and the crowd was certainly on board for what they brought to St. Vitus. It was Sunday night, and the crowd was meh, and I was meh, but they killed it anyway, and I’m excited to see where the follow-up to Matador takes them stylistically. It’s been quite a ride so far.
As each act played and then removed their equipment to make room for the next band, whose stuff was backlined behind, the size of the stage seemed to grow, so that by the time Jason Landrian and Rafa Martinez of Black Cobra were ready to start up, there was space on either side of them and they seemed clustered together in the middle, huddled almost. Behind them, a large banner bearing the cover of their new album, Invernal, draped down to the floor and scrunched up there like poorly-measured curtains, and when they launched their set, they did so entirely without ceremony. No intro, no samples, nothing. Just the ambient sound of the crowd and then that noise eaten in an instant by the start of “Avalanche.”
Headliners, they obviously had more time than they had the night before supporting The Sword (who they blew off the stage) and Kyuss Lives!, and they put it to good use, playing every song off of Invernal with highlights from 2007′s Feather and Stone and 2009′s Chronomega mixed in. The only cut from 2006′s Bestial to make it in was “Omniscient” (can’t fault the choice), so the focus was clearly on newer material, and though “Negative Reversal” and Feather and Stone closer “Swords for Teeth” were high points, they paled in comparison to the power Landrian and Martinez showed on “Abyss” and “Erebus Dawn,” their handling of which was so precise and careful as to be awe-inspiring.
Where Landrian‘s voice, presented cavernously in parts of Invernal, had been naturally bolstered by the high ceiling of the Wellmont, in Brooklyn, in the considerably smaller room, he sounded more compressed, albeit clearer in the live mix. It did nothing to lessen the force of the material, and so wasn’t a problem. And if Martinez was at all spent by the month solid he’d just spend touring in bigger venues, he didn’t show it. Rather, Black Cobra made it perfectly clear why they were at the top of the bill (the fact that they’re the ones with the newest record and neither band wanting to follow them might also have something to do with it) and ripped through a round with their most potent material yet.
I was ready to go after “Obliteration” — how could I not be, after that? — but as Landrian and Martinez stood on stage with their backs to the crowd, waiting to start the encore, it was clear they weren’t done. “Red Tide” and “Chronosphere” wrapped the night and I was quick out the door, the wall long since hit and my eyes halfway closed before I was on the other side of the Queens-Midtown Tunnel. It’d be another hour before I got back to the valley, and I’d wind up exhausted all week from the three nights out and with a cold to boot, but screw it. If 2011′s taught me anything, it’s taught me that you’re either there or you’re not there, and I have no regrets on this one.
Posted in Reviews on December 13th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Earlier in the day, while waiting for a table at the Alexis Diner on Rt. 10 in Denville, I asked The Patient Mrs. to buy a ticket for the Powerball. I don’t usually play the lottery, but we’d been there for a bit waiting for the rest of my family to show up (lunch following my nephew’s Xmas pageant was one of the day’s several social obligations), and still tired from seeing Mighty High and Cortez the night before, I thought how great it would be to both win the Powerball and see Kyuss Lives! in the same day. My reasoning was that one was great enough, but imagine both!
It’s a wonder I’m not divorced.
The early part of that same evening found The Patient Mrs. and I (she was driving; I’d already had a few and I’d have a few more before the night was out) racing northbound on the Parkway to get to the Wellmont Theatre in scenic Montclair, NJ, in time to catch The Atomic Bitchwax open the show for Black Cobra, The Sword and Kyuss Lives!, who were on the last night of their tour and under whose banner the whole show took place. The Bitchwax being Jersey locals, the appeal was plain, and with the added interest of Dave Witte (Human Remains, Burnt by the Sun, Exit-13, Birds of Prey, Municipal Waste, etc.) filling in on drums, I didn’t want to miss it. You know that hurried feeling when you get all anxious that you’re not going to make it in time? It was like at, and as per usual, completely without reason. We arrived well in time for the start of their set.
Last time I saw The Atomic Bitchwax was at the Saint in Asbury Park with Karma to Burn, and it was high on the list of the best shows I’ve ever seen them play. With Witte‘s taking Bob Pantella‘s spot on drums while the latter is on a European run with Monster Magnet, intrigue was high. Sure enough, Witte more than held his own, but as you’d expect, the chemistry that’s developed between Pantella and bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik and guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan just wasn’t there. Still, they did Jersey proud, and I spent the whole time trying to figure out how Kosnik would know Witte (Human Remains was a Jersey band; that’s the best I could come up with), taking minor mental detours to enjoy “Destroyer,” “Gettin’ Old,” “So Come On,” “Shitkicker,” “Hope You Die,” the Core cover, “Kiss the Sun” and the curious instrumental choice of closer, “Force Field.”
Witte is a master drummer. The reason he’s involved in so many projects is he’s so adaptable, and in The Atomic Bitchwax, he nestled in well alongside the fast-winding riffs of Kosnik and Ryan, though there was part of him that looked ready to bust out a grindcore blastbeat at any moment, and his snare seemed to pop with that kind of expectation. By contrast, Rafa Martinez of Black Cobra did unleash a few blasts, most notably during “Obliteration” from the band’s most recent Invernal album, but hit with a different technique altogether. This was the first I’d seen Black Cobra since Invernal came out, and I was glad to find them focusing on the new material, since I think it’s their best yet.
That Martinez and guitarist/vocalist Jason Landrian were unbelievably tight should almost go without saying at this point, since that’s pretty much been the case with the duo since their inception as a touring act seven or eight years ago at this point. They opened with “Avalanche” from the new album, though, and it occurred to me how much they’ve grown in terms of stagecraft. Landrian, quiet and subdued off stage, is more confident than ever while on, and more apt to engage the audience as a frontman. He held his guitar over his head, headbanged, yelled off-mic at the crowd and generally worked to bring people into the show. It wasn’t yet crowded at the Wellmont, but the people who showed up early knew why they were there, and I think Landrian‘s efforts were appreciated.
“Avalanche” and “Obliteration” were highlights, but the irresistible riffing of “Corrosion Fields” made their set, and it would do so again the next night in Brooklyn. That kind of chugging groove is unmistakably righteous, and I didn’t in the least envy Austin, Texas, riffers The Sword for having to follow it. Still, they did, and as The Sword are more or less the commercial vanguard at this point for heavy rock, I felt in watching them like they were unavoidable. Bound to happen. I didn’t hear their last record, 2010′s Warp Riders, and I don’t remember the one before that, but I immediately recognized “Freya” from Age of Winters for its epic riffing and battle tales, and that was fine.
Look. At this point, The Sword aren’t going anywhere. They have a more than solid fanbase, have worked hard enough on the road to give their now-former drummer a nervous breakdown, and as guitarist/vocalist J.D. Cronise was out front watching The Atomic Bitchwax during their set, I’m inclined to think their hearts are in the right place, whatever the hype or promotional push around them might be. Hipster metal isn’t all The Sword‘s fault, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t even like the band. They did their thing and the crowd responded well to it, and if I wasn’t into it, then at least I got a few minutes once I was done taking pictures to grab another beer and sit down before Kyuss came on, which I appreciated thoroughly.
And you’ll notice in that last sentence I dropped the “Lives!” from Kyuss Lives!, which seems only fair at this point. The looming prospect of a new album next year, plus the time the foursome of vocalist John Garcia, bassist Nick Oliveri, guitarist Bruno Fevery and drummer Brant Bjork have put in on the road playing those old tunes, they’ve earned it. It’s Kyuss. You know it, I know it. This was my second time seeing them, and yeah, Josh Homme wasn’t in the building, but seriously, bands have toured with fewer founding members, and I defy you to watch Brant Bjork during “Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop” and call it anything other than Kyuss.
It was pretty clear they were tired from being on the road, the show wasn’t exactly sold out even at its most crowded point, and the cavernous high ceiling of the Wellmont that so well suited Black Cobra didn’t do them any favors sound-wise, but how could I possibly think of a Kyuss set as anything other than a positive? What else would I have been doing that night that would’ve been better than drunkenly belting out the parts to “El Rodeo” along with Oliveri and Garcia, or watching the jam that developed out of “50 Million Year Trip (downside up)?” Nothing. Watching the current incarnation of Kyuss tear through their set with the level of poise and professionalism they did was a blast. Garcia didn’t talk much, but sounded killer singing, and Fevery seemed even more comfortable on the songs than he had in Philly, making “Hurricane,” “Freedom Run” and “One Inch Man” high points of a night mostly comprised of high points.
Whatever becomes of the Kyuss Lives! lineup, with Oliveri facing jail-time following a SWAT standoff earlier this year and Scott Reeder waiting in the wings to take up the bassist position as he did prior to the release of 1994′s genre-defining Welcome to Sky Valley, they’ve done well by themselves and most importantly, by the material on these American and European tours. After absolutely nailing “Demon Cleaner,” they came out to do a quickie encore that included “Green Machine” and (I think; someone please correct me if I’m wrong) “Odyssey,” and then were done. I’d expected “Thumb,” but the Wellmont house lights came back up and the audience was quickly escorted out the door and into the cold.
Jersey doesn’t get shit for heavy rock shows. Generally speaking, if it’s coming anywhere these days, it’s coming to Brooklyn or maybe Manhattan if it’s a big enough deal to get into one of the corporate venues, but something like seeing Kyuss on my home turf in North Jersey, I felt like it was a really special opportunity and one I think I made the most of. It was night two of three shows in a row for me, but definitely will standout as more than just the middle in a series. I got everything I could’ve asked for except cheaper beer, and as I woke up the next day sans hangover, I felt like even the $7 Shiner Bock was a favor directed in my way (well, maybe not). I didn’t win the Powerball, but I’d hardly call it a loss for that.
Posted in Features on November 1st, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Like a lot of people, I feel safe saying one of the heaviest live shows I’ve ever seen was a Black Cobra show. Unlike a lot of people, I can say the gig took place in a shoe museum. Yup, that’s right: a shoe museum. As in a museum… for shoes. Wanna know something else? Torche played too.
I was in Los Angeles on a pseudo-business trip, and in between squandering my savings at Amoeba Records and eating the best Mexican food I’d ever had, I caught wind of Black Cobra being in town. Can’t say it was much of a surprise, since Black Cobra‘s reputation for touring so damn much is well earned and they can pretty much pop up anywhere at any time, but when I walked into the place and saw the shoes belonging to former and/or dead A-list celebrities, well yeah, it felt a little surreal.
That was 2006. Black Cobra had just released their first album, Bestial, and were really just starting to amass their cred as a live band. Since that time, they’ve put out three more records — the latest being the stellar Invernal (review here) on Southern Lord — and have come to be recognized as one of the most brutal acts in their generation of Heavy. They’re outclassed by none in terms of performance, and for being comprised solely of guitarist/vocalist Jason Landrian and drummer Rafa Martinez, their presence is staggering.
Invernal was produced by Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou in his Godcity Recording Studio in what Landrian reveals was a matter of days; even fewer than either the band or the respected engineer/mixer thought going into the project. The album is righteous in its intensity and focus, and working from Antarctic themes lyrically and musically, comprises some of the most pummeling Black Cobra material to date. To be blunt, they’ve outdone themselves, and as much as they’re known for being a live band more than a studio band, Invernal deals any such characterizations a decisive blow.
From his home in foggy San Francisco, Landrian took my call and discussed working with Ballou and what his and Martinez‘s time at Godcity was like, their upcoming tour with Kyuss Lives! and The Sword (I went right for the hard-hitting questions on that one, as you’ll see), the thematics at play with Invernal, how he and Martinez work together in the studio and on the road, and much more.
Posted in Reviews on September 29th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
They are among the upper echelon of today’s heavy live acts, but that has turned out to be the undoing of each successive full-length from near-nomadic Los Angeles duo Black Cobra: The inability to stand up to the high standard set by the live show. And since Black Cobra have also spent a goodly portion of the last six years on the road, there has been less need to focus on the records, because, hell, those songs are going to be better live anyway. With Invernal, their fourth LP — second for Southern Lord behind 2009’s Chronomega – Black Cobra reach new heights of recorded intensity. A song like “Erebus Dawn” sees guitarist/vocalist Jason Landrian and drummer Rafael Martinez in complete mastery of their complex and tonally thickened thrash. Invernal is the kind of album for which hyperbolic exclamations of the word “insane” were made. It refines chaos into a laser-accurate attack and puts Black Cobra at the forefront of their class of risen riffers. It makes the last High on Fire album seem tired. I’m pretty sure if you asked it, it would bake you a pie. But even with all the über-effective bombast, tonal righteousness and clear growth from Chronomega and anything else that’s preceded in their discography, I’m not sure if Invernal stands up to what Black Cobra do live.
The difference between Invernal and everything else Black Cobra have done – and it’s a big difference – is I’m not sure it’s trying to. More than anything they’re released to date, Invernal finds Landrian and Martinez a mature studio act. They’re not just trying to compress their live show to disc, they’re making an album, and ultimately, that’s a huge part of what makes Invernal succeed as one of the best releases in 2011. The recording job of Converge’s Kurt Ballou does effectively balance their overwhelming crest with an appropriate amount of clarity (not too clean, but clean enough to appreciate), but even more than that, the principle change seems to have been in the overall goal and mindset of the recording. One can appreciate the album on its own terms and then look forward to the experience of witnessing the material live. There’s less pining involved, and I think that has to be thanks in part to the songs themselves. My chief complaint with Black Cobra from a songwriting standpoint has always been that the material doesn’t stand up to the experience of it – that is, you hear a Black Cobra song, feel like you’ve been punched in the face with awesome, and don’t remember a thing afterwards. Invernal changes that as well, with twists and turns and a genuine progression from track to track, beginning with opener “Avalanche,” on which Landrian approaches an Al Jourgensen-style verse vocal with both confidence and a sense of individuality.
His vocal shift – there are plenty of screams on “Avalanche” and elsewhere, so it’s not like he’s gone completely clean – is a natural progression from the last album and rightfully prominent where it needs to be in Ballou’s mix. The focus remains on the overall effect of the music, and Landrian’s chemistry with Martinez is palpable in how they interact on guitar and drums. As “Avalanche” transitions immediately into “Somnae Tenebrae” – the shortest song but for closer “Obliteration” – the band’s added focus on structure is made apparent: They wanted to start off pummeling, and their opening salvo does precisely that. “Somnae Tenebrae” isn’t Invernal’s most memorable track, but it does successfully convey Black Cobra’s “holy shit that’s heavy” live presence and offer some thrashing groove in its latter half. When it crashes, it gives a couple seconds for listeners to catch their breath, which is the perfect way to set up album highlight, “Corrosion Fields.” The interplay between the tracks feels more thought out than ever, if that hasn’t yet been made clear, but when “Corrosion Fields” kicks in following some sparse playing from Landrian and periodic crashes from Martinez, the focus is less on stepping back and examining the moves Black Cobra are making and more on “How do I make this as loud as possible as quickly as possible?”
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 26th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Jeebus loves me, this I know — because Kyuss Lives! is coming to Jersey in December and they’re bringing Black Cobra with them. I’ve only been to the Wellmont Theatre once, to see Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull (ruled), but I’ll be god damned if there’s anywhere else on the planet I’m headed when Dec. 10 rolls around.
And while I don’t want to say the cosmos added Black Cobra to these dates and brought Kyuss Lives! back to the East Coast specifically as a favor to me, I think we all know the score. Here’s the total rundown courtesy of the PR wire:
The previously-announced second leg of the KyussLives! North American tour dates this November, featuring Black Cobra and TheSword in support, has just expanded to include five brand additional dates including LosAngeles at the beginning of the tour, and four new East Coast shows at the end of the tour (Baltimore, MD, NewHaven, CT, Huntington, NY, Montclair, NJ).
Black Cobra w/ Kyuss Lives!, The Sword: 11/17 House of Blues San Diego, CA 11/18 Wiltern Theatre Los Angeles, CA ** 11/19 The Regency Ballroom San Francisco, CA 11/21 Roseland Theatre Portland, OR w/ YOB 11/22 Showbox SODO Seattle, WA w/ YOB 11/23 Commodore Ballroom Vancouver, BC 11/26 Flames Central Calgary, AB 11/27 Edmonton Event Centre Edmonton, AB 11/29 Garrick Centre Winnipeg, MB 11/30 First Avenue Minneapolis, MN 12/01 Turner Ballroom Milwaukee, WI 12/02 Vic Theatre Chicago, IL 12/03 Crofoot Ballroom Pontiac, MI 12/05 The Palace Theater Greensburg, PA 12/06 Town Ballroom Buffalo, NY 12/07 Ram’s Head Live Baltimore, MD ** 12/08 Toad’s Place New Haven, CT ** 12/09 The Paramount Huntington, NY ** 12/10 Wellmont Theatre Montclair, NJ ** [** = newly announced tour date]
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 19th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Well, this should be pretty killer. I wasn’t in love with Black Cobra‘s Chronomega, but the news that they worked with Kurt Ballou this time around is welcome indeed, as the Converge guitarist is a master at capturing inhuman tone (to wit, Trap Them, Kvelertak and Swarm of the Lotus). Maybe Invernal could be the album that finally puts Black Cobra‘s absolutely merciless live attack to plastic. More rampant speculation to come, I’m sure.
In the meantime, here’s some actual info from the PR wire:
The Bay Area’s devastating duo Black Cobra have completed the recording process of their upcoming fourth full-length album, set for release in the Autumn months ahead.
For the recording of this, the band’s second release for Southern Lord Recordings, Black Cobra recently ventured across the continent to pound out their anticipated new album, the follow-up to 2009′s massively well-received Chronomega. This time around the outfit enlisted the talents of Converge guitarist KurtBallou and his God City Studio in Salem, Massachusetts, for the first time. After a brutal week-and-a-half in the notorious lair, Black Cobra hammered out what will soon be known to the world as their almighty fourth full-length album, the title now confirmed as Invernal. A full track listing, album art and other specific details will be announced in the shortly, but from an advance listen to the unmastered output of this savage outfit, we are confident in confirming that this is Black Cobra‘s most honed and diversified material to date, and will definitely tear your face off completely.
While Black Cobra‘s full-on tour cycle for Invernal has not yet began, as it undoubtedly will very shortly, the band have in the meantime been confirmed for several shows over the coming weeks, including an appearance at The Power of the Riff Festival in Los Angeles on Aug. 18 alongside Eyehategod, Pentagram, Winter, Pelican and more, a direct support spot for High on Fire in Oakland on Aug. 27, an appearance at MusicFest Northwest festival in Portland and more. A rigorous amount of touring will continually be announced through the rest of 2011.
Black Cobra Live:
07/30 El Rio San Francisco, CA w/ Hot Lunch, Lecherous Gaze, Hightower
08/13 Echo/Echoplex Los Angeles, CA @ The Power of the Riff
08/27 Uptown Oakland, CA w/ High on Fire
09/08 Dante’s Portland, OR @ MFNW
09/22 Yerba Buena Center for the ArtsSan Francisco, CA
Posted in Whathaveyou on June 8th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
Now, without the word “Headlining” in the, um, headline, I’m not sure this even qualifies as news. Think about it: “Black Cobra Announce Tour,” and you’re sitting there saying, “Well, duh.” That’s like saying “Sky Announces Blue.” Of course they’re announcing a tour. That’s what they do.
The difference is this tour sees Black Cobra headlining, and that’s good, because they’ve spent the last who knows how many years blowing everyone they’ve played with off the stage. The headlining spot is their rightful place, and I wish them the best of luck.
The PR wire has dates and info:
Hot on the heels of its recent five week US trek supporting fellow Bay Area riff lords High on Fire, Black Cobra will launch a month long headlining tour of its own – dubbed The Weight of the Crown — that will kick off on July 16 in Portland, OR. The fast-rising unit continues to tour in support of its latest album Chronomega (Southern Lord Records).
Black Cobra’s “The Weight of the Crown” Tour is presented in part by Brooklyn Vegan and will hit 27 US cities, running through August 15 in San Francisco. Support on the massive trek will be provided by Rhode Island’s Howl with Ohio’s Struck by Lightning (July 22-August 7) and France’s Monarch (August 8-15) as openers.
“After having the opportunity to annihilate audiences across America alongside the mighty High on Fire, we are eager to head out on the road again,” said Black Cobra in a statement. We’re looking forward to amping it up with this ear-demolishing headlining tour.”
Black Cobra’s The Weight of the CrownUS Tour
(* All dates include support from Howl)
July 16 Portland, OR Satyricon
July 17 Seattle, WA Comet Tavern
July 18 Boise, ID Red Room
July 20 Denver, CO Larimer Lounge
July 21 Lawrence, KS Jackpot
July 22 Minneapolis, MN Triple Rock
July 23 Madison, WI Frequency
July 24 Chicago, IL Empty Bottle
July 26 Columbus, OH The Summit
July 27 Rochester, NY Bug Jar
July 28 Boston, MA Great Scott
July 29 Providence, RI AS220
July 30 New York, NY Webster Hall Studio
July 31 Philadelphia, PA North Star
August 1 Baltimore, MD Otto Bar
August 2 Richmond, VA Strange Matter
August 3 Raleigh, NC Volume 11
August 4 Charlotte, NC Tremont Music Hall
August 5 Atlanta, GA The Earl
August 6 Memphis, TN Hi Tone
August 7 New Orleans, LA Hi Ho
August 8 Dallas, TX Skillman Street
August 9 Austin, TX Emo’s
August 11 Albuquerque, NM Launchpad
August 13 Los Angeles, CA Approved Fest
August 14 San Diego, CA Casbah
August 15 San Francisco, CA Bottom of the Hill
Posted in Reviews on April 13th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
Here’s a quick New York moment for you: I’m sitting in my car waiting for 7pm to roll around so I won’t have to pay for parking off 23rd St. in Manhattan. Bison B.C. go on at 7, so once I’m in the clear I’m going to head into the Gramercy Theatre to catch their set, but in the meantime, I’ve got a book with me, I’ve got the Yankees game on the radio and I’m basically good to go.
Then all of a sudden I look up and standing next to the car in front of mine, facing me, is a dude on his phone. Not uncommon. I do a double-take, though, because on second glance, he’s got his shwatz out and he’s pissing right there on the street. It’s not rush-hour or anything, but there are people walking by for sure, and I know damn well he saw me. It was one of those things that, if I was a tourist from the Midwest, I’d be talking about it for years. As it is, I was kind of like, “Eww, wiener,” and went back to reading. Surely I’d not just spent an hour and a half of my life getting to the city to see that.
I’d done it to see Bison B.C., Black Cobra and High on Fire, dammit, and when 7pm rolled around, I busted ass across the street to do that very thing. I didn’t know the show was sold out (dude at the door told me to watch my feet in my sandals), which was a daunting prospect. This was the biggest show I’d been to in a while — venue and people-wise — and to be honest, it’s more than I generally prefer. But that’s a killer mix of bands, and if humanity is the cost of bearing witness, I’ll tough it out.
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 10th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
Yeah, I didn’t think Black Cobra‘s Chronomega was the be-all-end-all of righteousness. It’s true. I thought they’ve done better, more interesting work in their time. But here’s what you can’t take away from Black Cobra ever, ever, ever: they work harder than damn near everyone else to be as tight as they are. Behold their upcoming tour schedule from the PR wire:
Black Cobra California In-Store Performances: 2/09/2010 R5 Records - Sacramento, CA
2/10/2010 Streetlight Records - San Jose, CA
2/11/2010 Streetlight Records - Santa Cruz, CA
2/13/2010 Thirsty Moon - San Diego, CA
2/14/2010 Vacation - Los Angeles, CA
March Tour and SXSW:
3/16/2010 Burt’s Tiki Lounge - Albuquerque, NM w/ Spittin’ Cobras
3/17/2010 The Conservatory – Oklahoma City, OK w/ Liturgy, White Mice
3/18/2010 Channel/Meridian - Houston, TX w/ Weedeater, ASG, The Gates of Slumber, U.S. Christmas
3/19/2010 Skillman Street Bar - Dallas, TX w/ Weedeater, Black Tusk, The Gates of Slumber
3/20/2010 Encore – Austin, TX – SXSW Tone Deaf Touring Showcase w/ Weedeater, Rwake, Black Tusk, ASG, U.S. Christmas
3/21/2010 Zombies - San Antonio, TX w/ Weedeater, Black Tusk, The Gates of Slumber, SBL
3/22/2010 Rogue - Fayetteville, AR w/ U.S. Christmas
3/23/2010 Downtown Music - Little Rock, AR w/ U.S. Christmas
3/24/2010 The Muse - Nashville, TN w/ U.S. Christmas
3/26/2010 31st St Pub - Pittsburgh, PA w/ Bison B.C.
3/27/2010 Mickey Finn’s Pub – Toledo, OH
Black Cobra Tour w/ High on Fire, Priestess, Bison B.C.:
3/31/2010 Triple Rock Social Club – Minneapolis, MN
4/01/2010 High Noon Saloon – Madison, WI
4/02/2010 Lincoln Hall – Chicago, IL
4/03/2010 Skully’s Music Diner – Columbus, OH
4/05/2010 123 Pleasant St – Morgantown, WV
4/06/2010 First Unitarian Church – Philadelphia, PA
4/07/2010 The Middle East - Cambridge, MA
4/08/2010 Daniel St – Milford, CT
4/09/2010 Gramercy Theater - New York, NY
4/11/2010 Black Cat – WashingtonD.C.
4/13/2010 Tremont Music Hall – Charlotte, NC
4/14/2010 The Masquerade - Atlanta, GA
4/15/2010 One Eyed Jacks – New Orleans, LA
4/16/2010 Walters on Washington – Houston, TX
4/17/2010 Emo’s – Austin, TX
4/18/2010 The Loft – Dallas, TX
4/20/2010 Fox Theater – Boulder, CO
4/22/2010 Hollywood Alley – Phoenix, AZ
4/23/2010 El Rey Theatre – Los Angeles, CA
4/24/2010 Detroit Bar – Costa Mesa, CA
4/25/2010 The Casbah – San Diego, CA
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 19th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
I guess when you tour as constantly as Black Cobra, even the most trivial of actions become potential shows. What’s next, guys? Gonna do an in-store at Ralph’s when you go to pick up a half-gallon of milk?
[Note: Black Cobra only buy half-gallons of milk because they're never off the road long enough to drink a full one.]
Metal’s true road dogs offer this update via the PR wire:
In celebration of the vinyl release of their latest album, Chronomega, gruesome twosome Black Cobra will punish several California record stores with several in-store performances early this February. This is not only a great opportunity to get the mammoth new album on wax, but also to see the band for free in an intimate yet primal setting, for free!
2/05/2010 Amoeba Records – San Francisco, CA @ 6pm 2/09/2010 r5 records – Sacramento, CA @ 6pm 2/10/2010 Street Light Records - San Jose, CA @ 4pm 2/11/2010 Street Light Records - Santa Cruz, CA @ 4pm 2/13/2010 Thirsty Moon - San Diego, CA @ 6pm 2/14/2010 Vacation - Los Angeles, CA @ 5pm
The vinyl release of Chronomega will also include the band’s cover of Buzzov*en‘s “Behaved,” previously only available on the Japanese release of the CD, via Daymare Records. It will be pressed on 180-gram wax, the first pressing forged in several limited color schemes (800 red/yellow splatter, 500 black, 200 red/black swirl). Chronomega is Black Cobra‘s Southern Lord Recordings debut.
Posted in Reviews on September 30th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster
If we?ve learned anything about Los Angeles thunder-thrash duo Black Cobra by this time, it?s that they kick ass. Starting with their 2004 self-titled, self-released EP, and across the two full-lengths that followed (2006?s Bestial and 2007?s Feather and Stone), guitarist/vocalist Jason Landrian (Cavity) and drummer Rafael Martinez (Acid King, 16) have left boot prints in the glutes of the multitudes planet-wide, touring incessantly and becoming ever tighter and ever more aggressive. Kicking, in other words, more ass.
So with the surprisingly unceremonious release of their new Billy Anderson-produced Southern Lord debut, Chronomega, it?s not much of a surprise to hear Black Cobra doing what they do best; taking all the intensity of earlier High on Fire and ramping it up even further with Melvins-on-speed riffing and unhinged drum-work that would do Dave Lombardo proud (listen to ?Glacies en Spiritu? — it?s like the whole song is a fill!). Some subtle development in Landrian?s vocals is apparent throughout. Not so much in the beginning — opener ?Negative Reversal? keeps it pretty straightforward — but the echo on the title track gives his voice an early-?90s Ministry vibe and there?s some melody creeping into ?Catalyst? that shows some definite growth. It?s in there if you listen for it.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 10th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster
For my money (and granted there’s not much of it), Black Cobra succeed where Big Business fail. As a duo, they are louder than five-pieces, their songs crush and their touring ethic has been unparalleled for nearly five years now, which the three-month string of dates after the jump only stands to affirm.
As the PR wire informs, the band’s third album over all, first for Southern Lord, is out at the end of this month, and though it’s only a matter of time before they roll into town for a show, it’s still worth picking up the record beforehand so you know on which songs you’re going to break your neck headbanging. They are simply unmatched among their peers.
Here’s the story:
Black Cobra shall release their monolithic Southern Lord debut album?Chronomega on September 29th. The album slams the listener with nine slabs of the band’s?diversified, patented,?breakneck sludge, and shows the San Franciscan duo expanding their knowledge?of punishing tones?and colossal rhythm changes.
Recently the band’s video for “Sugar Water”, from 2006′s Bestialrelease, surpassed 52,000 views viaYouTube and the band’s MySpace page, where you can also?now pre-order an amazing,?limited edition Japanese import version of Bestial.
The band will embark on an extensive tour of Japan later this month, followed directly by a massive string of dates in Australia, including a Vice Magazine sponsored premier of the film Heavy Metal In?Baghdad, in Melbourne. They?then return to the States for a full US tour alongside labelmates Pelican.
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 8th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster
I didn’t. Until a friendly tip pointed me over to their MySpace page, anyway, where after some quick buffer time my ears were assaulted by “Negative Reversal.” I don’t know what it’s going to be released on (though one assumes it’ll make the cut for their forthcoming Southern Lord debut), but its riffs have all the balls of High on Fire matched with the aural heft of Torche, so it’s cool by me. Speaking of Black Cobra and Torche, when I was visiting Los Angeles in 2006 and happened to catch the two bands teamed up for a gig at a shoe museum, of all places, it was one of the heaviest shows I’ve ever seen.
That’s right, one of the heaviest shows I’ve ever seen. At a shoe museum. Sometimes you just feel like life is making fun of you.