Posted in Whathaveyou on April 20th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Boston trio Rozamov are keeping busy in a number of righteous ways as they make ready to release a new split 7″ with Deathkings on Midnite Collective. This weekend they’ll head south to Brooklyn and Baltimore to play alongside the noisy/sludgy likes of Godmaker and Wizard Eye, respectively, and next week, they open for Slayer and Doomriders, which isn’t a line that’s going to hurt their CV in the slightest, at a Converse Rubber Tracks show at The Sinclair in Cambridge, MA, that will no doubt vibrate the walls of Harvard dorms down the way. Oh yeah, and then next month they head west to go play Psycho California alongside Pentagram, Sleep and about a million others. Clearly not a bad month to be Rozamov.
The band sent a rundown of their killer doings via the PR wire, including a preorder link for that Deathkings split:
Rozamov Playing Pre-Psycho Fest Shows Including Converse Rubber Tracks w/ Slayer
Rozamov will be performing select dates ahead of their performance at Psycho California, beginning this weekend in Brooklyn and Maryland. Included in this string of shows is an appearance at The Sinclair in Cambridge, MA for Converse Rubber Tracks Live with Slayer and Doomriders. Rubber Tracks Live is a free event but fans must enter to win tickets beginning this Monday, April 20th.
Rozamov recently announced plans to unleash a split 7-inch vinyl with Deathkings via Midnite Collective on May 12th. Rozamov’s track “Ghost Divine” will debut later this month, Deathking’s track “Solomon” is being streamed at CVLT-Nation now.
Rozamov Live Dates:
April 24 – Brooklyn, NY – The Acheron w/ Livver, Godmaker, Dead Empires April 25 – Baltimore, MD – The Circuit w/ Fortress, Wizard Eye April 29 – Cambridge, MA – The Sinclair – Converse Rubber Tracks Live w/ Slayer, Doomriders May 8 – Northampton, MA – 13th Floor Music Lounge May 16 – Santa Ana, CA – The Observatory – Psycho California
Posted in Features on April 7th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
04.07.15 — 6:29PM Eastern — Tuesday evening — Logan Airport Terminal E, Boston
I have never enjoyed air travel. Nor, I think, would any sane person who gave even the remotest conscious thought to the processes involved. If ever you doubt the void that exists where a just and loving god should be, use a commercial airline. That said, both traffic en route to the airport and traffic within it were minimal given the rush hour. The Patient Mrs. dropped me off freshly returned from a day of work and she stopped short of saying “have fun with the weirdos and get your head on straight,” but the point lingered in the air anyway. She knows I need this more than I do. Poor thing has to live with me.
Terminal E is the ass-end of Boston Logan International Airport. The “International” part. Lufthansa, SwissAir, IcelandAir, Aer Lingus (which is the dirtiest sounding airline and also the one I happen to be on — flight 138 which I remembered because of the Misfits), and a handful of others operate out of here. A year ago I sat on the other side of this giant rectangle of a room and waited to board a flight. I was absurdly early then too. They tell you an hour and a half, two hours. I got here at six and my flight is at nine. I’d rather sit, listen to music, watch people going here and there, boarding silly out-of-date airplanes with fresh paintjobs and tighter seats. Imagine an industry where the central technology around which it’s based remains basically unchanged for the last half-century. What’s that you say? Auto, banking, oil, airlines? Amazing coincidence that these people make a ton of money and run our lives. There’s no need for conspiracy, the shit’s right out there in the open. The chemtrails people are looking in the wrong direction. They should be throwing molotov cocktails for cross-ocean high-speed railways and MTA teleporter transit systems, or at very least more legroom.
At the airport, even the CNN is geared toward selling you shit. Not that it’s not anyway, but there’s something to be said for a level of subtlety. Here’s a Christiane Amanpour news story about the perfect app for traveling, and it’s on at the airport! That’s incredible. Keep it light. Nothing about bombs dropping, drones flying, fucking Rand Paul or anything else that might hint at imminent destruction. A helicopter plunks into the marshland outside, a fireball seen for miles. I’d rather look at duty-free candy or the self-help paperbacks at the Hudson News. Could use some of that shit anyway. A fire alarm was going off when I was walking up to get here. It’s stopped now.
I am about to embark on an adventure the familiarity of which only heightens my sense of awe at the thought. My seventh Roadburn. In a couple hours, I’ll get on that Aer Lingus flight and “scoot” over to Dublin, connect there and then on to Amsterdam, from which a car — all of this pre-arranged; I hear I may or may not be sharing transport with a couple of the dudes from Bongripper — will cart my no-doubt sleepless ass to Tilburg in time, one hopes, to crash for a few hours before the Hard Rock Hideout. That will be Wednesday night, a day from now, but somehow it will still bleed into today. I’m so fucking lucky. I’m so fucking lucky. To be here, to be going there. The next few days, priority will be given to updates from the Roadburn fest, reviews, photos and the like, and other whatnot that happens along the way. I may have some other updates, but this is time out of time for me, and I intend to make the most of it. Less sleep, more rock.
Posted in Reviews on April 7th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Knowing that on a Friday night the Royale would have its dance club going by 10PM, I made sure I was at the venue early. Doors were slated for six for Electric Wizard and Satan’s Satyrs, and the venue would be cleared out before the dance party began. I neither begrudge Royale its double-booking — gotta make money, and the more the merrier as long as you can get away with it — nor mind an early night. While I’ve shown up late for shows in the past elsewhere and been pissed off missing this or that band, so long as the clientele are aware of the situation, an early end to the show isn’t necessarily a bad thing. One might go out to the bar with a group of friends and talk about how much the show kicked ass, feeling good and energetic after watching someone kill it. In my case, I went home and sat with the dog afterwards, but you know, you could go out and do something. If you’re in your 20s, maybe.
Two bands on the bill: Satan’s Satyrs and Electric Wizard. I was maybe fifth on line, which was enough to get me in and allow me to get a spot up front when the doors actually opened, closer to 6:30 than not. Satan’s Satyrs were slated to start at that point, but they didn’t actually go for another half an hour, the Virginia three-piece sharing bassist Clayton Burgess with the headliner. Satan’s Satyrs have been kicking around for the last six years, proffering ’70s boogie and doomly atmospherics — disciples conceptually, if not exactly sonically, of Electric Wizard — and they have two records out in 2012’s Wild Beyond Belief! and last year’s Die Screaming, as well as a handful of other EPs and live releases. Their third record is in the can, having been tracked in February, but the impression they give on stage, other than guitarist Jarrett Nettnin and drummer Stephen Fairfield winning any contest for big hair that might be going on, is of a young band.
The energy in their delivery, their presence on stage, the underlying vigor with which they present their material — it’s something they’ve managed to hold onto despite having a decent amount of experience under their collective belt at this point. They toured Europe last year, played Roadburn twice, and I don’t think that was their first time on the road. The kicker is that in addition to being young, they’re also ridiculously tight. So you’ve got Burgess spinning around on stage, Fairfield bounding around his teased-out coiffure, and Nettnin hitting Iommi poses for the leads, but they’re nailing it. All of it, really. Cuts like “Instruments of Hellfire” and “Lucifer Lives” from Die Screaming were boogie doom ragers, and they played a new song that, had it not been announced as such, it would’ve been easy to imagine they’d been kicking around for a couple years. It was my first time seeing them and they tore it up. Yeah, people were there to see Electric Wizard and it was Electric Wizard‘s show, but I didn’t hear one complaint while Satan’s Satyrs were on stage.
It felt like a long changeover, though I’ll allow that could’ve just been anticipation. I’ve seen Electric Wizard before, when guitarist/vocalist Jus Oborn curated a day at Roadburn 2013 (review here), but in the two years since, he and guitarist Liz Buckingham (ex-13, for New York types) have totally swapped out the rhythm section, bringing in Burgess on bass and drummer Simon Poole, and well, this was their first US tour since reactivating in 2007 — and several years before that — so it felt a bit like an event even before they took the stage. They did so preceded by burning enough incense to give me raised-Catholic flashbacks, which were perfect for Good Friday, and by bringing the lights all the way down for the intro “Crypt of Drugula.” A one-two punch of “Witchcult Today” from the 2007 landmark of the same name and “Black Mass” from 2010’s Black Masses (review here) followed and reaffirmed why we were all there: to worship. The riff, the nod, the horror. A crowd of scumbags and normal heads, hipsters, hippies and crust kids, headbangers and stoners, all of us drawn in by the eerie power and undeniable hooks of Electric Wizard, as beautiful as it is deranged. Altered movie clips playing behind them, the foursome wasted little time that could’ve otherwise been dedicated to Heavy, and they had plenty of that to go around.
Sound at the Royale can vary pretty widely depending on where you stand. It’s a club, remember. After “Satanic Rites of Drugula” came “Dopethrone” and I started make my way back from up front by the stage, found I could hear Oborn‘s vocals better and more of a balance between the guitars and bass. Earplugs pulled halfway out, the wash of noise was near-physical, a push that seemed to have presence. “Dopethrone,” taken from the 2000 album of the same name — 15 years later, its influence continues to spread — got a huge response, and while I’ll never understand people moshing to doom riffs, sometimes you just have to shrug your shoulders. Nothing to be done about it anyway. In back the audio was clear and I could see the screen behind them better, the cover of Dopethrone projected interlaced with ’60s/’70s horror boobage and other sundry whatnots, motorcycles and the like. Come My Fanatics (1997) opener “Return Trip” followed “Dopethrone” and only after that, more than halfway through the set, did they touch on the new album, 2014’s Time to Die (review here), with “Incense for the Damned” and “Time to Die” one into the next. Easy to get lost in that murk of riffage, but that’s the point. A quick second to catch breath later, and “The Chosen Few” from Witchcult Today once more had the room in a trance, the line “legalize drugs and murder” — also the name of an EP the band put out with a track on it based around the line copped from “The Chosen Few” — getting an extra-loud chant from the crowd.
That just left “Funeralopolis” to close out, and when the undulating Dopethrone track hit, there was little doubt that it was the culmination of Electric Wizard‘s set. The insistent riffs of the song’s early going were the night’s most engrossing nod, and the later tempo burst was met with a suitable audience response as it thrust forward into its own destruction into shouts, and noise, the whole set seeming to come off the rails with Oborn shouting out misanthropics as Buckingham and Burgess added to the mound of feedback and Poole attacked his drums to further the sense of chaos. One couldn’t ask a more fitting end to an Electric Wizard show than to have the whole thing dissolve right there on stage. No encore, nothing left to say, they took off. About a minute’s tease later, the lights came up and the early goers at the Royale shuffled their way downstairs and out of the building. I was home before 10:30.
Posted in Reviews on April 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Day four. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling it, but you know, that’s what caffeine is there for. If I push past the day’s quota of mental energy, fine. Hasn’t stopped me yet, and there are only 20 reviews of the total 50 left. Not quite the home stretch, but it’s up there on the horizon. Some cool stuff today, and that always helps as well.
Quarterly Review #31-40:
Leather Nun America, Buddha Knievel
Though they’re mostly indebted to a Wino-style Maryland doom sound, San Diego three-piece Leather Nun America touch on more dramatic fare late into their fifth album, the awesomely-titled Buddha Knievel (on Nine Records). Pairing the acoustic-led instrumental “Gloom” and 7:51 “Winter Kill,” which swirls its way to an apex of lead guitar from John Sarnie with some subtle touches of extreme metal from drummer Sergio Carlos, they expand beyond a riff-and-groove ethic – though of course they do that well too. Sarnie and bassist Francis Charles Roberts (also of Old Man Wizard) offer familiar structures but satisfying tones, cuts like “Into Abyss” taking a darker turn on some of Spirit Caravan’s road-ready groove. An intro (“Prologue”) and subsequent interludes offer further depth, but the heart of “Burning Village” and Buddha Knievel as a whole is in the three-piece’s take on doom rock, and some of the record’s most satisfying moments come from precisely that, even unto the surprisingly boogieing closer “Irish Steel.”
Seems longer than three years since Virginia’s Corsair made their self-titled full-length debut (review here), but with the fervent support of Shadow Kingdom Records, they return with One Eyed Horse, an album much sweeter than its somewhat disturbing cover art might indicate, the four-piece of guitarist/vocalists Marie Landragin and Paul Sebring, bassist/vocalist Jordan Brunk and drummer Michael Taylor gracefully delving further into progressive heavy rock textures in cuts like “Shadows from Breath,” which though it winds up in blastbeats, never loses its sense of pose. That’s emblematic of the masterfully-handed twists and turns One Eyed Horse presents throughout its 45 minutes, highlights like “Sparrows Cragg” soaring and immersive while elsewhere “Brothers” reminds that sometimes it’s important to just get down to business and rock out. Corsair remain a well-kept secret, and one wonders while listening to the harmonies and post-rock bliss of “Royal Stride” just how long they can stay that way. Gorgeous, heavy and definitively their own, there’s nothing one could ask of One Eyed Horse that it doesn’t deliver. And yes, I mean that.
“Seer,” “Moros” and “Chronos” are the first three tracks to be released by Boston newcomer post-metallers Sea, but already their Demo showcases an impressive atmospheric breadth. Churning riffs from guitarists Liz Walshak (who also drew the cover; ex-Rozamov) and Mike Blasi (Rhino King) are given added depth from bassist/vocalist Stephen LoVerme (Olde Growth), and propelled ahead by drummer/engineer Andrew Muro, though there’s room left in each cut for ambience as well, “Seer” trading off, “Moros” beginning a linear build, and “Chronos” finding a middle-ground in switching between harsh and clean vocals before a slowdown brings about the chugging, memorable finale. Opening with its longest cut (immediate points), Demo proves an ambitious first release, but there’s nothing Sea set out to do on it that they don’t accomplish, and I take it as a particularly encouraging sign that in three cuts, there’s just about no structural repetition to be found. That bodes well in the classic demo sense, but more than what’s to come, these songs are already worth hearing.
Aggressive Sabbath-style doom with East Coast roots – The Munsens recorded at Moonlight Mile with Mike Moebius (Pilgrim, Kings Destroy) in NJ – Weight of Night finds the trio amidst the legal flora of Denver, Colorado, which is a fitting enough setting for the three riff-led cuts they offer on the tape. Of them, side one’s “Slave” is the most decidedly Iommic, a layered solo rounding out after “Under the Sun”-style descent — it also opens with a sample of Julie Newmar as the devil from The Twilight Zone — but both “Weight of Night” and side two’s 11-minute “The Hunt” boast the root influence as well, though the latter is invariably a standout for its crawling progression, almost Pallbearer-esque, that pushes up the tempo in its second half, arriving at a driving pace that’s even farther from where it started than the runtime would have you believe. The opening title-track works somewhat similarly, but ends with a piano interlude, and the shouting, metallic vocals hold back later on “The Hunt,” making its lumbering all the more hypnotic.
Philly trio Gondola waste just about no time showing off primo guitar antics on their Budro Records-released Get Bent LP, a penchant for jamming underscoring a lot of the wah-drenched movement on opener “Brain Ghost” and its side A compatriots “Psychic Knife,” “Poison Path” and “The Hornet.” There’s a decidedly stoner influence, vocals gaze-out Dead Meadow-style on “Psychic Knife,” but a Naam jam in “Brain Ghost” and the Fu Manchu drive of side B highlight “Electric Werewolf” offer plenty of variety within that sphere, guitarist/vocalist Rocky Rinaldi, bassist/vocalist Jordan Blumling and drummer Tim Plunkett finding space to make their own thanks in no small part to a palpable chemistry between them. Heavy rock and roll, and a damn good time, Get Bent comes across more as a suggestion than an imperative by the time the arm’s returned after “Life Cult” but either way, Gondola’s jam-laden push and brainmelter leads make this one a howler not to be missed, and just because it vibes hard doesn’t meant the songs don’t move.
Consistently unpredictable and reliably prolific, Boston outfit Space Mushroom Fuzz – spearheaded by Adam Abrams of Blue Aside – isn’t through opener “Let’s Give Them Something to Hate About” before a sampled bong and sickly-sweet solo interwine with a progressive psychedelic jam. One never really knows what’s coming from Space Mushroom Fuzz, and on Future Family, it seems to be a blend of traditional songwriting with the project’s long-established weirdo sensibilities. “A Day in the Strife” is particularly Floydian, but even that has a structure, and “Saving all My Love for U2” has just about the heaviest, most straightforward push I’ve heard from Abrams in this context, even though there’s plenty of freakout to be had as well. What holds the release together is the persistent anything-goes vibe, which is maintained even unto the acoustic-led swirl of closer “L’Americana,” not quite fully departing an underlying cynicism, but escaping sonically the irony in some of the album’s titles in a manner that’s sincere whether or not it wants to be.
The key to Deep Aeon’s Temple of Time (released on H42 Records) is in the momentum the German four-piece commence to build on opener “Element 24” and how utterly unwilling they are to relinquish it at any point over the release’s 29-minute span. Even six-minute closer “River” has a shuffle – and handclaps. Vocalist Marcel Röche keeps a gruff edge to his voice throughout, but that could just as easily be from keeping up with guitarist Alexander Weber, bassist Axel Meyer and drummer Nikolaj Marfels. Songs like “Floating” and side-B launch “With that Priest on the Back Seat” offer straightforward fuzzy heavy rock, but rhythmically, Temple of Time swings and swings and swings and there’s just no getting away from it. If the record was 50 minutes long, I’m not sure it would be sustainable – someone’s bound to need to catch their breath, band or listener – but for being in and out in under half an hour, Deep Aeon make a clean, efficient run with little use for letup. Bonus points for the Alexander von Wieding artwork.
“Come with me, let’s go get high,” urges Teepee Creeper guitarist/vocalist Jon Unruh on “Rainbow Sex Glow” from his band’s seven-track/33-minute Ashes of the Northwest full-length, recorded by Mos Generator’s Tony Reed, who also drums and whose band released a split 7” with Teepee Creeper last year (review here). I won’t say “let’s go get high” sums it all up, but a lot of it. Riffs rule the day, and deservedly so, on tracks like “Far Far Away,” the live-tracked “Crushing the Gods of Men” and “The Raven’s Eye,” which caps with a particularly righteous roll. Rounded out by bassist Jeremy Deede – no slight presence in the mix – and now featuring drummer Ian Hall, Teepee Creeper seem to get better the higher the volume goes, the impressive and open-sounding tones surrounding the listener on the aforementioned “Rainbow Sex Glow” like a meaner version of Texas’ Wo Fat, and yes, that is a compliment. The album may or may not reduce their native region to ashes, but it’s bound to turn some heads in their direction.
How right the umlaut-happy Hellräd are when the Philly sludge slammers posit that Things Never Change. Their destructive, blown-out grime makes its nihilism plain in songs like “Homegrown Terrorist,” “My Jihad Against My Own Mind,” “Dopefiend Jesus,” and of course “Smoke More Crack,” weighted, lumbering grooves switching off at a clip with full-speed punker fuckall. Guitarist Mike Hook, noisemaker/vocalist Dirty Dave (not the same Dirty Dave from The Glasspack), bassist Herb Jowett and drummer Robert Lepor get down to all-out bludgeonry from the start of “Street Zombies,” the opener and longest track (immediate points) at 6:55, but there’s just something about the rolling groove of “Fuck Up (All I’ll Ever Be)” that hits home. Probably not as primal in its making as the energy with which it’s conveyed might lead one to believe, the ultra-nasty 38-minute debut full-length is nonetheless likely to leave a dent in your skull. Or have your skull leave a dent in something else. A wall, maybe. Or another skull.
Working in longer form on the four original tracks included on Dead Sun Worship, their full-length debut, Dublin four-piece Venus Sleeps make an atmospheric centerpiece out of the Syd Barrett cover “Golden Hair,” which in the context of what surrounds it is almost an interlude. Shades of Electric Wizard show themselves on the howling “I am the Night,” but the opening duo of “Ether Sleeper” and “Dawn of Nova” is more progressive, the guitarist/vocalist Sie Carroll, guitarist/backing vocalist Steven Anderson, bassist Seán O’Connor and drummer Fergal Malone exploring a psychedelic blend of doom and heavy rock riffing that comes to the fore again on 11-minute closer “Age of Nothing,” despite that song’s healthy dose of wah. The range they show in the original material seems only bolstered by the cover, and especially as their debut, the ambition and scope Venus Sleeps showcase is admirable. There are moments when the production seems to contract when a given part wants it to expand, to sound bigger, but Dead Sun Worship lacks nothing for clarity in purpose or execution.
Posted in Reviews on March 31st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
When I finished yesterday’s reviews, I felt suitably beat, but as ever, there was a bit of catharsis to it too. Today’s pile takes us all the way to the other end of the world and back again to my (relative) back yard, and then loops around one more time for good measure with a few stops in between. While I’m coherent enough to form sentences, you’ll pardon me if I get right to it.
Quarterly Review #11-20:
If the name Motherslug or the cover art look familiar, it’s because the Melbourne double-guitar five-piece initially released their self-titled EP late in 2012 (review here). This NoSlip Records release, however, takes the tracks from that, couples them with cuts from Motherslug’s subsequent outing, a 2014 two-tracker called Three Kings in Darkness, and remasters both for vinyl as one 39-minute full-length. There’s a bit of progression evident in the newer cuts, “Trippin’ on Evil” and “Three Kings in Darkness,” but the LP smartly arranges them so that each ends its respective side, led into by two songs from the self-titled, so the impression is more that Motherslug are expanding their riffy, Southern-style sludge rock sound – which is still true, it just initially happened over two releases – rather than they’re mixing and matching different recordings. By the time you get to either, however, Motherslug will have already bowled over you with rolling, thick sludge riffs that could just as easily have come from Maryland or Virginia as Australia.
Allston(e) newcomers Worshipper make an accomplished-sounding debut with Black Corridor/High above the Clouds, two self-released tracks that mark their first release as a band. The two-guitar four-piece balance classic metal riffs and doom tendencies with soaring-style clean vocals and fast-moving grooves, as much Candlemass as High on Fire. “Black Corridor” wows with its solo but more with its hook, guitarist John Brookhouse and bassist Bob Maloney sharing vocals while Alejandro Necochea adds guitar and Dave Jarvis draws it all together on drums, and “High above the Clouds” adds some choice early-Dio “Egypt”-ology to the mix. It’s a sense of grandeur that’s neither overblown nor mishandled by the winding track, which coupled with its predecessor demonstrates Worshipper’s firm grip on a style melding heavy rock and metal into a take of their own, and a progression beginning that seems to have a definite idea of where it wants to end up. One can’t help but look forward to finding out.
Hard to think of a band from Portland, Oregon, these days as being underrated, but Ape Machine fit the bill all the same. The four-piece of vocalist Caleb Heinze, guitarist Ian Watts, bassist Brian True and drummer Damon de la Paz played Germany’s Freak Valley festival as part of a 2013 European tour in support of the then-recently-released Mangled by the Machine (review here), their third album and Ripple Music debut, and accordingly, most of what shows up on the 48-minute Live at Freak Valley comes from that record, later album cuts like the swaying “Strange are the People” and stomp-slide-fueled “Ruling with Intent” leading to a run through Mangled by the Machine’s first five tracks, in order, to close the set. With a cover of Deep Purple’s “Black Night” (something they also did on their second record) in tow with others from their first two records, Live at Freak Valley makes a solid intro to a group more people should know.
A compilation that draws from Churchburn’s 2013 self-titled and two tracks recorded late in 2013/early in 2014 – opener “Embers of Human Ash” and the subsequent “V” – The Awaiting Coffins revels in its extremity of doom and no-light-shall-pass atmospherics. The duo of vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Dave Suzuki (ex-Vital Remains, among others) and Ray McCaffrey (ex-Sin of Angels) issue the CD/LP via Armageddon Shop, and while there are plenty of droning moments, acoustic interludes and stretches of depressive noise, the Rhode Island outfit is primarily brutal. Suzuki, joined on vocals for the first two cuts by guitarist Kevin Curley and bassist Mike Cardoso, leads a pummeling charge in “V” that’s more death than death-doom, but far be it from me to quibble. For “Come Forth the Swarm,” the Sin of Angels cover “Crown of Fallen Kings” and “Kneel upon Charred Remnants,” it’s just McCaffrey and Suzuki, and the dynamic is different and the recording rawer, but the bleak territory being explored has a similar root. Add on an unlisted cover of Celtic Frost’s “Return to the Eve,” and The Awaiting Coffins is even more of a sure thing.
Instrumental save for some samples, spoken proclamations and field recordings, Thrust/Parry was released by Belgian outfit OMSQ in limited numbers via Navalorama Records on CD to mark the occasion of a late-2014 UK tour, and it showcases an outfit of rare sonic adventurousness. Progressive, heavy structures unfold across three overarching movements in the 68-minute whole of the album, which at any moment makes shifts between dense riffs and crashing drums and exploratory washes of noise sound not only smooth but fitting, culminations like “North Sea” and 16-minute closer “4:48” as much about finishing a story as providing a sonic payoff, each cut serving not only the movement of which it’s component, but also the overarching flow of the record as whole. Stylistically wide open an unhindered by genre constraints, Thrust/Parry is a challenging listen that satisfies in proportion to how much one is willing to shift along with its changes in mood and style. Evocative throughout, it proves more than worth the effort.
Swiss five-piece Unhold trace their lineage back to an early-‘90s demo, but Towering (on Czar of Crickets) is their fourth album since their 2001 full-length debut, Walking Blackwards, and their first offering in seven years since Gold Cut in 2008. Something of an unexpected return from the Bern troupe, then, but not unwelcome, their Neurosis-influenced post-hardcore/post-metal finding renewed expression in the moody unfolding of “I Belong” or the tense bellow of the later, keyboard-infused “Hydra,” moments of triumph in ambient/crushing tradeoffs of “Voice Within” as guitarists Thomas Tschuor and Philipp Thöni step back and pianist Miriam Wolf takes lead vocals for a movement almost Alcest-like in its melodic course. Drummer Daniel Fischer and bassist Leo Matkovic are less a foundation than part of Towering’s nodding, modern-proggy whole, and it probably works better that way in smoothing out the various turns in extended pieces like the title-track or “Dawn,” which provides the apex of the album with the calmer “Ascending” and “Death Dying” as an epilogue.
Three words: Rock and roll. With Boston four-piece The Heave-Ho, it’s less about subgenre and more about paying homage to a classic ideal of straightforward expression. Dead Reckoning, the debut full-length from the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Pete Valle (ex-Quintaine Americana), bassist Keith “Barry” Schleicher (ex-Infernal Overdrive), drummer Dylan Wilson and lead guitarist Lawrence O’Toole, is eight songs (plus a closing radio edit, presumably for WEMF) of unpretentious rendition, steady in its delivery of grown-up-punker hooks and barroom rock such that, when Valle calls for “guitar!” prior to the solo in “Buffalo,” it’s entirely without irony or cynicism. Would be hard for “Thirsty Jesus” not to be a highlight on its title alone, but the lyrics also hold up. With a clean production style, centerpiece moment of clarity in “Afraid to Die,” and particularly riotous finish in “The Line,” Dead Reckoning has little use for stylistic nuance and a confident delivery across the board. Drunk as it is, it does not stumble.
Though Adelaide three-guitar six-piece Crypt title their debut release Kvlt MMXIV, it’s actually a Jan. 2015 release, a half-hour’s worth of stoner chicanery pressed up in a recycled-material digipak with a fold-out liner poster – the lyrics, yes, are written in a rune font – and the disc held in place by a piece of cork. The presentation of the songs themselves is no less off the wall, the lumbering “Green Butter” taking hold from the crust-raw opener “Siberian Exile” with unhinged low-end, drum stomp and some deceptively subtle airy guitar, and the weirdo blues howl of the following “These Last Days” only broadens the scope. Seems fair to say “expect the unexpected” since so much effort has been put into throwing off the frame of reference, but as the fuzz of “Idle Minds” and ambience into righteous groove of closer “Dead River” show, Crypt have more working in their favor than variety for its own sake, namely a fire in their delivery that burns away any slim chance this material had of sounding stale.
Ferocious death-doom meets with melodic atmospheres on Oceanwake’s second album, Sunless – a title that’s not quite a full summary of what the Finnish five-piece have on offer throughout the four tracks/44 minutes. Opener “The Lay of an Oncoming Storm,” also the longest cut at 15:35 (immediate points), shifts back and forth between lumbering brutality and sparse guitar atmospherics, and while one waits for the inevitable clean vocals that would put Oceanwake in league with countrymen Swallow the Sun, they don’t come yet. Instead, the track explodes into crashes and screams. Ten-minute closer “Ephemeral” holds the most satisfying build, but between the two, “Parhelion” (9:09) and “Avanturine” (8:03) manage to remind of the particular melancholic beauty of death-doom – including some of those melodic vocals – and how resonant its contrast of light and dark can be when held together by an emotional core as resonant as that of Oceanwake. Sunless is gorgeous and devastating, and not necessarily alternating between the two.
While one struggles not to be skeptical of any release in this day and age that opens with a “Radio Edit,” I won’t discount the quality of songwriting L.A.-based Lunar Electric display throughout their self-titled EP. Now a duo driven by guitarist/vocalist Dre DiMura, the band is highly-stylized but brims with a classic heavy rock swagger in “Bread and Circuses” (the aforementioned radio edit) and the subsequent “Moonlight,” a steady swing emerging in layers of heavy riffing and DiMura’s own croon, pushed ahead by the straightforward drumming of Kaleen Reading and the low-end heft of bassist Geena Spigarelli. They make a solid trio across “Moonlight” and “Sleepwaker,” which follows with its chugging break foreshadowing closer “Crossfire Child” (video premiere here) while building a tension of its own, though it seems unlikely that whatever Lunar Electric do next will have the same lineup because of geographic spread. Too bad. While young, and somewhat brooding, Lunar Electric nonetheless offer up a work of marked potential in their EP’s quick 17-minute span.
Posted in Reviews on February 19th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
There are really two approaches one might take in considering Lore, the third full-length from Massachusetts trio Elder, released in the US by Armageddon Shop and in Europe on Stickman Records. The short way is to say they’ve turned from the deep-toned heavy psych style of their 2011 sophomore outing, Dead Roots Stirring (review here), and used that as a basis for a more clear-headed, progressive approach to riffing. The long way is to sit and map out every turn Lore‘s five included tracks make over the course of their combined 59 minutes, every change, every moment where sprawl meets crunch, every soundscape, melodic impression, rhythmic pivot, etc. Frankly, neither approach does the album justice. The former cheats the songs — “Compendium” (10:39), “Legend” (12:31), “Lore” (15:57), “Deadweight” (9:27) and “Spirit at Aphelion” (10:32) — of their due consideration on an individual level, and the latter wrongly discounts the impression of Lore as a whole, which is how, despite its 2LP length, it is best experienced. One hopes, then, to find some middle ground, as the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo (also keys), bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto have done on the Justin Pizzoferrato-produced outing, which follows 2012’s two-song Spires Burn/Release EP (review here) and seems to be pushing further along those stylistic lines. That’s no surprise. Each Elder release has built on the last — Dead Roots Stirring was a leap from the band’s stoner-riffed 2008 self-titled debut (interview here), released on MeteorCity, and Lore is likewise a leap from that second album — and it seems that if they don’t have something to say, Elder aren’t interested in putting out a record every year just for the sake of doing so. Their musical progression is that much easier to trace for the stretches between outings, and Lore, as was Spires Burn/Release, as was Dead Roots Stirring, as was Elder, is their defining work to date. A landmark.
Those who worshiped at the altar of Dead Roots Stirring might be surprised on first listen at just how clean Lore sounds, the beginning guitar taps of “Compendium” a clarion both of the proggier feel that pervades and of the clarity of the production that follows suit. It’s not, however, as simple as the band jumping ship from one style to another — much of DiSalvo‘s style of riffing remains the same, and Donovan‘s basslines still circle around the guitar only to land back at the root just at the right moment, and Couto‘s swing and crash is as prevalent as ever — it’s just what they do with these signature elements that results in the impression of growth. In “Compendium”‘s airy midsection, in the snare work under the guitar solo in the second half of “Legend,” in “Lore”‘s post-break Mellotron-inclusive triumphant swell of crash cymbal, guitar and bass, and in the energetic, circular riffing to which it leads, in “Deadweight”‘s atmospheric opening and more straightforward, linear framework, and in the running acoustic lines that begin “Spirit at Aphelion,” one finds some standout factor or moment in each of Lore‘s individual pieces, but the evolution of the band is as evident in how well songs feed into each other as it is in the songs themselves. On a linear format (CD, digital), Lore is an encompassing front-to-back listen, and while the side-flips of a 2LP allow for more focus on each track — not to mention a fuller, frame-worthy view of Adrian Dexter‘s stunning artwork — being carried along the record’s sundry builds and cascades uninterrupted is a markedly satisfying way to experience it. The ground they cover across “Compendium,” the shiver-down-the-spine launch and turns of “Legend” and “Lore” — each longer than the last until the 16-minute title-track takes hold as the centerpiece and most expansive inclusion — would be enough for most full-lengths on its own, let alone the building riffs of “Deadweight” and some of the leftover Colour Haze influence they show in that track, or the stomping pre-fadeout finale “Spirit at Aphelion” provides, its deep-mixed keyboard line (that might be plucked guitar) the theme holding it all together.
Still, in taking Lore as a whole, it’s hard to discount the singular achievement of the title-track and the textures DiSalvo, Donovan and Couto craft across its span, from its immediately heavy opening, melodic verses, through the guitar-guided ambient break in the middle and the heights to which they build from the ground up in the second half, the song pulsing back to life at about 10 minutes in with a wash of mellotron, crash and guitar, before heading off at a full-run an on instrumental psych-prog exploration, topped here by a solo, shifting there into single hits before unfurling the massive-sounding, insistent riff that provides the apex before acoustic and electric guitar intertwine over the fadeout. Its transitions alone make for a remarkable accomplishment, but how well the song flows between its parts easily stands in for how well Lore, the album, shifts between its movements, “Deadweight” picking up from that fadeout quietly at first to hypnotize for two minutes before kicking into the lead-topped introduction of its meaty verse riff. After “Compendium,” “Legend” and “Lore,” it would be easy to think of “Deadweight” as a stylistic pullback before “Spirit at Aphelion”‘s early psych-folkish resonance — an impulse that one hopes Elder will continue to build on — and later adrenaline surge of a finish, but it’s not. It’s really just a kind of introductory track those who’ve made their way past “Lore” and onto side D know that Elder‘s story isn’t as simple as a phrase like “gone prog” could encapsulate. Their argument for a slot at Duna Jam? Maybe. If so, it’s a solid case. Either way, Lore brings new context to Elder within heavy rock, as they emerge not so much as a band taking influence from others, but one whose shifts, flow and songwriting are all the more dizzying for the sense of control behind them. Anyone still longing for a short version might take comfort in “Elder have matured,” but the truth of Lore is more than that, and the album distinguishes the trio from just about everybody in American heavy one might otherwise consider their peers, standing as their most individualized statement to date and one that seems poised to have a lasting influence of its own in years to come. For now, I’ve no doubt it will be counted among 2015’s best albums. Recommended.
Who’s gonna argue with some live Elder? Not me. The first time I saw the Massachusetts trio on stage was a revelation, and as we stand on the cusp of the Feb. 28 release of their third album, Lore, through Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records, the band are also staring down the barrel of their most comprehensive tour itinerary to date, beginning March 6 in Providence, Rhode Island, alongside Mos Generator, taking them to and through SXSW and back northeast to end on their home turf at T.T. the Bear’s Place in Cambridge, MA. From what I hear, they head to Europe shortly thereafter, then are back in the States to head west for the Psycho California festival, where they’ll join Boston cohorts Rozamov and a ton of others. From there, who knows.
Ending the SXSW run at T.T. the Bear’s seems especially poignant, since the three-piece — guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan, drummer Matt Couto — will more or less bookend the tour with hometown shows. After the band’s return from a few month’s hold last September, they played a handful of regional shows as they prepared to hit the studio and record Lore with Justin Pizzoferatto as the follow-up to 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here) and the Spires Burn/Release EP (review here) that followed in 2012, and one of those shows happened to be this past October at T.T.’s. The full set was taped by Stephen LoVerme of Treebeard Media (also of Olde Growth, Sea and Leafcutter), and today I’m fortunate enough to be able to host the premiere of the show in its entirety. The setlist was as follows:
Five songs that, put together, made for an hour of time on stage. You’ll note “Compendium” (also streamed here) makes an appearance ahead of its arrival on Lore, and the opening duo from Dead Roots Stirring appear in order at the start of the set. Round it out with “Spires Burn” as a centerpiece and “Release” as a closer — covering the two songs on that 2012 EP, and it’s a killer show from Elder the video for which showcases not only their psychedelic side, but the chemistry they’ve established on stage, and their emerging progressive tendencies that one can hear on the new album. Thanks to Elder and LoVerme for letting me host the clip. Please find the show in its entirety on the player below, followed by Elder‘s tour dates.
Elder, Live at T.T. the Bear’s Place, Oct. 16, 2014
Elder on Tour
03/06-14 with Mos Generator
03/06 Providence RI AS220 03/07 Peterborough NH Wreck Room 03/08 Rochester NY Bug Jar 03/09 Pittsburgh PA Gooski’s 03/10 Columbus OH Ace of Cups 03/11 Indianapolis IN 5th Quarter 03/12 Chicago IL Reggie’s 03/13 Texarkana TX Silver Dollar 03/14 Dallas TX Double Wide 03/16 Austin TX Beerland 03/20 Austin TX The North Door 03/21 Austin TX The Lost Well 03/23 Houston TX Mango’s 03/24 New Orleans LA Siberia 03/25 Atlanta GA 529 03/26 Charlotte NC Tremont Music Hall 03/27 Richmond VA Strange Matter 03/28 Baltimore MD Metro Gallery 03/29 Philadelphia PA Kung Fu Necktie 03/30 Boston MA TT the Bear’s Place
Posted in Reviews on December 17th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
The copper minerals from which Gold & Silver‘s two-song debut EP takes its name, Azurite and Malachite, are blue and green, respectively. But for the shimmering tones present on the tracks themselves, I’d almost be tempted to say it’s a long way around to expressing the ideas of color while avoiding the Baroness trap of actually naming records after colors, but both “Azurite” and “Malachite” seem to take a feel as crystalline in their structure as the Andrea Santos cover hints toward, fleshing out progressively over two extended runtimes and creating a sometimes heavy but almost universally spacious and apparently more concerned with that feel that persists for the 26-minute duration. Even the name of the project, Gold & Silver, relates both to colors and to minerals. The Boston duo of guitarist/drummer/keyboardist Nick DiSalvo, also of Elder, and guitarist Mike Risberg have released Azurite and Malachite on limited vinyl (250 copies, tri-color platter, etc.) through Totem Cat Records, and apart from a prior rehearsal demo, it’s the first output from the band, and the feel throughout is suitably exploratory. But that’s the point. Gold & Silver began as Risberg and DiSalvo writing for acoustic guitar, and if “Azurite” (15:42) and “Malachite” (10:08) were constructed the same way, then they maintain that jam-based sensibility, despite being at least directionally plotted and recorded in layers (unless DiSalvo has concocted a way to play guitar and a full drum kit at the same time; live, Gold & Silver brings in Elder‘s Jack Donovan on bass and John DiSalvo on drums), while fostering clean tonality and a linear feel. They are two distinct pieces, each with its own movements, but consistent in mood and atmosphere and entirely instrumental, the breathy guitar notes and at-the-ready leads saying whatever it is that might ultimately need to be said.
Elder comparisons are inevitable — particularly so for Gold & Silver being DiSalvo‘s first public step outside that band since they got going — so I’ll resign myself to them. Around halfway though “Azurite,” there’s a stop, quick turn, and launch into a heavier push, and in the structure of that, Azurite and Malachite has some commonality with DiSalvo‘s main outfit. As heavy psych influences and some more weighted tones show up later into “Azurite” and “Malachite” gets started on a quieter feel before building into a memorable triumph of a movement, there’s some of that spirit as well, but Gold & Silver retain a personality of their own because of the contributions of Risberg‘s guitar — there’s bass as well, though I’m not sure which of them actually plays it — as well as the overarching progressive vibe throughout. “Azurite” mounts a tense second half on quick-turning rhythms, made jazzy by an overarching lead and some feedback cascading over, and even when it opens up, it does so to a jabbing kind of payoff, guitar and bass bouncing off the sides of the wall of whatever corridor the drums are leading them down toward their crashing finish. It’s not barraging one part after another in the vein of soulless modern prog technicality, but neither is “Azurite” — nor “Malachite,” for that matter — entirely a heavy psychedelic jam. Gold & Silver find a resonant space somewhere between the two sides, and while one gets the sense that should the project continue to move forward Azurite and Malachite could seem formative in comparison to subsequent outings, there’s also clearly a consciousness at work behind both the construction of the material and the style in which it’s presented. As a preliminary exploration, the EP satisfies, and for those familiar with what’s become a signature rhythmic patterning for DiSalvo‘s playing through Elder, it provides a different context in which to experience that as he continues to branch out and progress in his writing.
But there’s also a burgeoning individuality at work within Gold & Silver. The contemplative opening of “Malachite” demonstrates it well, with the wistful lead lines that emerge over an already intricate intro, playing into the subtle build already underway in the guitar, bass and drums. About three minutes in, the drums shift and the central guitar figure arrives that will mark out the song from its predecessor, a sweet sort of noodling that furthers Azurite and Malachite‘s bridge between psych and prog. They build around this riff until shortly before eight minutes in, when the track starts to blow out — think the ending of Neurosis‘ “Stones from the Sky” — and cuts to silence, a drone gradually fading in and swelling to audibility just before wisping out to end the release. That final section, in the two minutes between where the distorted apex of “Malachite” checks out and where the drone takes hold, belongs entirely to Gold & Silver, and if it’s a last minute show of experimentalism on the part of the duo, it’s one that bodes well for their growth as a band. While Azurite and Malachite represents just a first stage in that process, it also makes for an engaging listen both in its concept and execution, and winds up a heartening debut that speaks — without any words, mind you — of good things to come. And while much of DiSalvo‘s 2015 seems set to be consumed by the impending release of his main outfit’s third album and their ascending profile, the word he does here with Risberg isn’t to be ignored.