Duuude, Tapes! Qosmic Qey, Doorway

Posted in Duuude, Tapes! on December 6th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

I’m not going to lie. Shortly after receiving Qosmic Qey‘s Doorway tape, I set about trying to synch up its two-song (one per side), hour-long drone sprawl with various episodes of Carl Sagan‘s Cosmos. It didn’t really work, but was kind of a fun endeavor all the same, and that I’d even try should probably give you some idea of where the one-man project from Ice Dragon vocalist Ron Rochondo fits sonically. There are a couple samples — I think more in “Part II” than “Part I,” both songs clocking in at precisely 31:31 — but the crux is synth experimentation, textures and drones weaving in and out of prominence, some pleasant, some abrasive, all expansive in one way or another. I know the noise scene — that’s actual noise, not noise rock — has been into tapes for some time even before the current and alleged revival of the medium — but that’s not really what Qosmic Qey sounds like. The two pieces are more like isolated tracks off a space rock record, and when they pierce, they do so in the context of other parts that are soothing and hypnotic.

The tape itself is purple, the inset is a hand-painted watercolor, the case is neon yellow, and the audio is no less colorful. Things get particularly calm a little before halfway through “Part I,” but a headphone listen reveals patterns shifting and sounds jumping from one channel to the other, notes arriving in a deceptively fast swirl and moving fluidly around and through each other. When it comes to drones and long-form ambience, something I always enjoy is the impression that every wave of sound is audible, that you can actually hear those waves. Rationally, it seems more likely that’s imagination, but with the twists in the audio that arise as “Part I” makes its way from layered drones into a hiss-heavy minimalist key line and, eventually, to a programmed beat that’s gone almost as soon as it appears — could this be walking through different doors and finding what’s there? — the feeling of undulating sound remains. “Part II” carries the theme of opening with a space-themed sample and moving into drones, but as soon as it kicks in is darker-toned and more foreboding.

Since side one and side two are both over half an hour long, chances are that if you’re listening to Doorway, you’re going to get lost in it at some point. “Part II” doesn’t have that same kind of snap-you-back-to-reality to it that the aforementioned beat offered in “Part I,” but distinguishes itself with more of a sense of build, going from low hum to abrasive, distorted noise over the course of 20 minutes and keeping some of the cave echo that will be familiar to those who’ve been aware of Rochondo‘s work in Ice Dragon. If it’s space, “Part II” is deeper, darker space than “Part I,” and by about 22 minutes in, it’s arrived at someplace threatening. It’s more of a surprise, then, that around 23 minutes in, “Part II” comes to a complete, dead stop and begins all over with a quiet, almost mumbling, sample explaining planetary rotation topping wind-style analog synth. There are effects low in the mix on the sample, giving a suitable otherworldly feel (another benefit of headphones), and another stop afterwards marks a break into ringing electronic tones that build, resonate, distort and finally, echo away over the last several minutes, the last minute rising from silence to a machine hum that in turn fades out.

Probably goes without saying that Qosmic Qey isn’t going to be for everyone, but I’ll say it anyway. It’s either going to be a zone-out or a conscious challenge, but either way, Doorway provokes a response, and particularly with such an experimental feel, that’s something of an accomplishment. I can think of way worse ways to lose your head. If you’re an Ice Dragon fan looking for a curio or a drone-head seeking a fix, you don’t really lose out.

Qosmic Qey, Doorway (2013)

Qosmic Qey on Bandcamp

Qosmic Qey on Thee Facebooks

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Black Thai, Seasons of Might: Doors to Burn

Posted in Reviews on December 5th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Three years on from their debut EP, Blood from on High (review here), Boston-based four-piece Black Thai return with Seasons of Might, which ups their presentation on every level. A 45rpm multicolor 12″ vinyl platter with four songs — “Blood Dust,” “Start a War,” “Doors to Nowhere” and “Reasons to Burn” — it still check in as a 22-minute EP, but the growth in the songwriting is responds in kind to the seasonal-representation in the Alexander von Wieding artwork, which of course depicts the four seasons played out in alternately gorgeous and cruel fashion across a single face, from the birth of life in spring to the decay of autumn. Whether or not Seasons of Might itself, which was recorded by Joe Saliba and mixed by Benny Grotto at Mad Oak Studios, was intended to mirror these ideas musically, I don’t know, but it’s easy enough to read a different personality into each track and I’d suspect it’s from there that the title derives. Be it the rolling riff-heavy groove of “Blood Dust” or the heads-down intensity of “Doors to Nowhere” — introduced with a frantic fill by drummer and recently-converted stair safety expert Jeremy HemondBlack Thai are able to elicit a varied personality through consistent songwriting quality and weighted production and the result is a brief collection that more than ably serves notice that, yes, they’re still at work and that Blood from on High, which came across as a somewhat surprisingly metallic turn after their initial two-song demo (review here) showcased an initial base of stoner doom push, was more of a beginning point for a developing aesthetic than a be-all-end-all of the band’s scope. Black Thai are tighter on Seasons of Might as one might expect with three more years of shows under their collective belt with the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Jim Healey (ex-We’re all Gonna Die), guitarist Scott O’Dowd (also Cortez), bassist Cory Cocomazzi and Hemond (also Cortez and Roadsaw) — these are experienced players who know what their project is — but even taking that into account, the EP manages to land a striking blow with each of its components, whatever its thematic may or may not be.

It doesn’t seem unfair to say Seasons of Might should probably be a full-length album, three years on from their first outing, but if there would’ve been a sacrifice in quality to add even another 10 or 15 minutes to the release, then Black Thai made the wiser choice to keep it brief. With Healey‘s soulful vocals at the fore along with O’Dowd‘s tear-right-in lead work and the groove and stomp that Cocomazzi and Hemond seem to wield at will, all four members are working together within the songs to maximize the impact of each both emotionally and tonally, and with a professional production behind them — which they also had their last time out — they at times carefully and at times bombastically leave a footprint on the borderline where heavy rock meets heavy metal. To wit, the call and response chorus of “Start a War,” which follows the opener, finds Healey with a throaty delivery that still holds its melody but carries plenty of aggression as well. This is a far cry from the more patient, atmospheric approach on the eight-minute “Reasons to Burn,” which doesn’t even begin its first verse until after two minutes in and follows the riff in doomier fashion as the title-line of the EP is delivered in the chorus in a more solitary, straightforward fashion. All four of the songs hold plenty of weight in their tones — they’re all heavy, in other words — it’s just a question of how Black Thai choose to tip the balance of their influences. That it’s a choice they’re making at all speaks to where they are in their craft, and actually says a lot about it. This is a band in control of what they do, who is aware of what they’re accomplishing in this material, which itself is refined despite what particularly on “Doors to Nowhere” is a fresh and switched on feel, not lifeless or sterile. It is professional, but not standoffish or disengaged.

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Gozu Add Third Guitarist, Replace Drummer

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 3rd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

The actual announcement is pretty short, but the implications are fascinating. Today, Boston heavy rockers Gozu announced not only that they’ve added a third guitarist in the form of Jeff Fultz, but also that drummer Barry Spillberg is out of the band and replaced by Mike Hubbard, formerly of Warhorse and currently in Cheap Leather. Anyone who’s seen Fultz rock it with Mellow Bravo or who recalls his work in Seemless after their first album can attest that he’s a killer lead guitarist, and he should be a good match for Gozu‘s Doug Sherman, whose own shred is not to be understated. Adding a third guitar alongside Sherman and guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney is going to have an immediate effect on the songs, new material and old, but I’m even more curious to hear how Gozu sounds with someone other than Spillberg drumming.

With songs like “Charles Bronson Pinchot” and “Ghost Wipe” from this year’s The Fury of a Patient Man (review here) in mind, it’ll be interesting to find out how Hubbard takes on the underlying metal influence in those parts, if he adopts them more or less as Spillberg played them, or if he brings his own edge to the tracks as well, either changing or rewriting stretches of the drum parts for a live setting. An even bigger tell is when Gozu get around to writing a follow-up to The Fury of a Patient Man, but by all accounts it seems like that’s a while off, with European touring and appearances at Desertfest and Roadburn on the horizon and a few East Coast shows before that happens.

Gozu‘s first gig with the semi-new lineup is at Great Scott on Jan. 10 with Never Got Caught, Thunderbloods, Township and Await Rescue. Info follows, culled from Thee Facebooks:

It’s been a real crazy month on our end and just wanted to welcome some new cats into the fold!! We are super super excited to have Drummer Mike Hubbard (Warhorse, Cheap Leather) and Guitarist Jeff Fultz (Seemless, Mellow Bravo) on board.

Jan 10th. Great Scott. See you there.

“It’s a new dawn. It’s a new day. It’s a new life.” – Nina Simone.


Gozu, The Fury of a Patient Man (2013)

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Ice Dragon Release New Single Steel Veins b/w Queen of the Black Harvest

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 24th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

You’ll probably note that as Ice Dragon announce “Steel Veins, take two” at the start of the track, there’s the sound of a can opening. A burp follows shortly thereafter, and soon, the garage-doom riffage is underway. The prolific Boston four-piece announced their new single, Steel Veins b/w Queen of the Black Harvest, as being older school, and the leadoff track bears that out, though inevitably some of the psych rock vibing of their last album, Born a Heavy Morning (review here), has bled in as well. Still, the harsher vocals in the call and response chorus and the plodding feel of the riff should sit well with anyone who’s been checking out 2012′s Tome of the Future Ancients lately.

The second and longer track, “Queen of the Black Harvest” keeps the live-in-studio vibe going (belch included), but satisfies a classic Pentagram vibe more than the A-side of the digital only release, and where “Steel Veins” borders on screams, “Queen of the Black Harvest” borders on harmonies. For what it’s worth, one is no less fluid than the other, and whichever feel Ice Dragon are working with, they’re able to make it their own, as the creepy slowdown and resumption of the instantly-familiar verse riff will attest. Ditto that for the backwards cymbals and spooky ambient vocals later into the cut, which lead to what if I’m not mistaken is a (sampled?) gong backing that central riff. Even when they’re going “traditional,” Ice Dragon can’t seem to keep from getting weird.

All the better. No word on if Steel Veins b/w Queen of the Black Harvest will get a physical release, but here’s what they had to say about the single on Thee Facebooks, followed of course by the thing itself, which is up for pay-what-you-will download on their Bandcamp:

New release from Ice Dragon

Almost finished with a new “single”. 2 tracks, b/w and all that shit. I hope you guys appreciate all the fucking cables we have to put up with around here. hahaha. Kinda classic “Ice Dragon” sound on these jams, no funny business. Well… maybe a little.

Here’s a trick. Solo a vocal, guitar, bass, whatever. Then send that into the mixer, use the insert as a direct out into another channel, then hook a pedal up on the aux send/return. Then you can eq them differently, adjust the send levels, add another insert, etc. etc. It’s essentially like duplicating a track in the ‘puter, but doesn’t sound like sterile beige ass and gives you more options.


Ice Dragon, Steel Veins b/w Queen of the Black Harvest (2013)

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Summoner Post Second “Making Of” Episode; New Album Atlantian Out Today

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 19th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Boston-based bashers Summoner release their second album, Atlantian, today on Magnetic Eye Records. The full-length follows their 2011 debut, Phoenix, which arrived after the band switched names from Riff Cannon and took on a more progressive aesthetic. Atlantian continues to work in that vein, but is also more melodically confident and given to fits of head-down driving. It’s clear in its production and intent, as you can hear in the full Bandcamp stream courtesy of the label right here:

Summoner, Atlantian (2013)

Atlantian was recorded by Summoner vocalist/bassist Chris Johnson and guitarist AJ PetersJoe Richner also plays guitar and Scott Smith drums — and in celebration of the release, in addition to the album itself, the band has also made available the second in a series of behind-the-scenes clips about the recording process. Last time around, they were just getting to the studio and getting started. Now the foursome are wading deeper into the making of the record, and it’s possible to get more of a feel of how they work together toward the goals they’d previously laid out.

They go pretty in-depth over the course of the eight-minute video, and where a lot of this kind of behind-the-scenes footage will kind of give you one sample riff and then two minutes of dudes fucking around before the “NEW ALBUM COMING SOON” sign flashes and it’s over, Summoner really seem to be more interested in conveying how Atlantian was constructed and how it was particularly for Johnson and Peters to work as both engineers and players. Smith undersells his role in saying “I’m just the drummer,” but it comes clear over the course just how much each member of the band makes up the whole of the finished product.

Reportedly they’ll have vinyl ready for Nov. 30 (they play the Middle East that night), but you can download Atlantian now and check out the clip below for a glimpse at how it all came together:

Summoner, The Making of Atlantian: Episode 2

Summoner on Thee Facebooks

Magnetic Eye Records on Bandcamp

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Elder to Release Live at Roadburn 2013 on LP and CD

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 15th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Some right-on-yes-please news today out of the Burning World/Roadburn Records camp in that Boston trio Elder will be releasing their 2013 Roadburn performance under the suitable title of Live at Roadburn 2013 on CD and vinyl. By way of a confession, I sort of knew this one was coming since the band was kind enough to ask for some photos from the set — which took place at the converted church Het Patronaat – to be included in the package, but it rules to see it announced and what’s best of all is that Live at Roadburn 2013 is available now for a pay-what-you-will download through the Burning World Records Bandcamp page.

Check out the righteous Adrian Dexter artwork, the announcement, and of course, the stream below, and rejoice. They were a highlight of that whole weekend, and some of the best memories I took away from Roadburn 2013 were of watching them so thoroughly kill it. Here’s the news, complete with a section of my review from that day:

ELDER to release Live At Roadburn 2013, download now on Bandcamp

Roadburn Records is proud to present: Elder Live At Roadburn 2013 on both vinyl, cd and digital. For those we weren’t there check what JJ Koczan, connoisseur of all things rock and psychedelic, over at The Obelisk had to say about the experience of catching Elder live:

‘What a fucking blast. Seriously. That’s what it says in my notes: “What a fucking blast.” It’s a direct quote. Probably the best thing I can compare it to is when Black Pyramid played the Afterburner in 2011 and were given such a warm reception, but this was bigger, both in room size and in that reception itself. People were lined up out the door and down the alley to see Elder‘s Roadburn debut, and the crowd was cheering before they even started the first song. They waved and people cheered. It was a lot of fun to see, and as it was the 10th show on their 15-date European run with Pet the Preacher, they also handed the place its collective ass. Both cuts from the Spires Burn/Release EP were included, as well as “Dead Roots Stirring” and a host of others, and for the umpteenth time in the last couple days, I felt lucky to be there. I know for a lot of people, this was the first time they’re getting to see them live, but even for the several times I have, this one was something special.’

Live At Roadburn 2013 captures the set in all its glory. Listen to it on below on Bandcamp and if you like download it, it’s “Pay what you want” so even free!

If you need the set on cd or vinyl please go here but beware we will not be able to send out the vinyl or cd before Feb. 1st 2014.

Elder, Live at Roadburn 2013

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Live Review: Grel, Oberon, Titanis and Bion in Boston, 11.06.13

Posted in Reviews on November 7th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

According to the Google, that arbiter of all things directional, it’s about 26 hours by car from Lawton, Oklahoma, to Boston, Massachusetts. Twenty-seven if you take I-81. OK residents Grel and Oberon had been touring their way to the East Coast, playing in Lawton, in Kansas City, Chicago, Columbus and even another show in Western MA, and their run — dubbed the “Star Stuff” tour — would continue to Philadelphia and on to Richmond, Virginia where both play Stoner Hands of Doom XIII, their slots on that fest being the impetus behind the string of shows in the first place. Since I wasn’t going to be able to see them in Richmond, and since I dug Grel‘s 2012 EP, The Red Sun God (review here), what with their having come all that way, it seemed the least I could do to show up. So I did.

Local support at Midway Cafe in Jamaica Plain — cool room, decently lit when they had the lights on, divided, bar in the middle, decent beer selection and a pug that showed up halfway through and was awesome to see until someone served it a Guinness; sorry, that shit’s not funny — came from Bion and Titanis, who opened and closed the gig respectively. It was a night of young acts. Not a full stack to be found. For a while there, I was the oldest person in the room not working at the bar, which is always a dubious distinction, and while each band showed they had growth in progress and still to undertake, it also wound up being a varied and enjoyable bill. Four single-word monikered bands with vastly different influences, starting with Bion.

It was easy enough to hear prog and extreme metal influences in Bion‘s set, guitarist/vocalist Charlie occasionally locked into a section of blackened squibblies en route to his next impressive solo. Both he and bassist Phil handled vocal duties, while drummer Jesse busted out shots of double-kick that served to presage some of what Oberon would shortly have on offer. Their lone EP to date, Hive Mind, is somewhat similarly minded in its will toward progressive heaviness, and I take it as an encouraging sign that the vocals sounded better live than they do on the studio recording. Bodes well for ambition to coincide with their stylistic intricacy. At one point, Phil said they only played one of the songs “for exercise.” They hardly seemed to break a sweat.

With the keyboard of vocalist Seth prominently displayed front and center on the stage, the five-piece Grel made an immediately different impression. A double-guitar outfit, they nonetheless rested heavily on the swing of their rhythm section, bassist Brandon and drummer Dustin, to convey the weight of their material, while six-stringers Ryan and Bentley seemed to come most to the fore with the Red Fang cover, “Prehistoric Dog.” Not unexpectedly. Elsewhere in their set, the Southern rocking EP opener, “Lady,” an engaging 12-bar blues that let Seth show off some surprising Midwestern classic rocker soul and “Astro Cannibalism” showcased a band who even as I was watching them were refining their approach. I’ve yet to tire of watching young bands do this, particularly those with enough belief in what they do to take it on the road. Grel were refreshing both in the reality of what they were playing and in the whole concept behind it. They’ll come off this tour a better band they they went on it, and I imagine they’ll be a riot by the time they hit Virginia on Saturday.

One might say the same for Oberon, but the application is somewhat different. Focused more on the instrumental side of their sound, with the catchiest song being “Phobos” from their thematically constructed Through Space We Ride EP, Oberon came across as more technical and progressive, and more metal in their influences certainly than Grel, but still far less tonally metallic than they presented on those recorded tracks. I got shades of Pelican in the early going, and though guitarist/vocalist DJ Bryant — joined in the band by guitarist Jeremy Wingard, bassist Adam Smith (not to be confused with the Adam Smith who plays in Ohio space rockers EYE) and drummer Logan Wood – had some technical trouble with his guitar and that derailed a bit of their momentum, they still found room to push through a reworking of Survivor‘s “Eye of the Tiger” that proved effective and managed to skirt the irony one might expect to encounter with such fare. A post-rock verse in the theme from Rocky III? Some Wednesday nights take you to unexpected places.

Oberon recovered from their technical troubles to finish strong, but unfortunately, Titanis wouldn’t be so lucky. The four-piece had made a mid-week weekender of playing in Northampton with Grel and Oberon the night before, but when guitarist Niko Galanis broke not one, but two strings within the first two songs and the band tried to keep moving with a Melvins cover with Galanis just on vocals alongside guitarist Brett Miller, bassist David Willoughby and drummer Pat O’Neill. That was going well enough until as he ran off stage to get a replacement guitar, Galanis caught on Willoughby‘s bass cable and tore it right out, breaking it off. Show over.

It was plenty late by then, after one in the morning. The word in my head for the circumstance of the night’s ending was “unceremonious,” but “unfortunate” works just as well. Titanis barely got to leave an impression. Like Oberon, they played mostly in the dark — for some reason, the first two bands had lights on and the last two didn’t — and before they could really get any momentum going, it was over. Maybe next time. My understanding was that the night before in Northampton had also been rough going. Hopefully not enough so to discourage Titanis from what seem to otherwise be worthy pursuits in their craft.

I ducked out on the quick. If you’d have told me that it would be 50 degrees at night in November in Boston, I probably would’ve told you to fuck off or at very least made some obnoxious Game of Thrones reference about southerners and how “winter is coming,” but the walk down the block to my car was barely brisk. I got in at about quarter to two and did my best to crash out right away, only to fail spectacularly. So it goes. A drag-ass Thursday well earned.

Extra pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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10 Days of SHoD XIII, Pt. 2: Black Thai Premiere “Start a War” from Seasons of Might EP

Posted in audiObelisk, Features on October 25th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

We continue the “10 Days of Stoner Hands of Doom XIII” special with a brand new track from Boston four-piece Black Thai, who will release their brand new 12″ EP, Seasons of Might, on mystery-colored 45rpm vinyl in time to tour their way south to SHoD and then make a leisurely loop through the Midwest en route back north. The four-song, 22-minute collection arrives with golly-that’s-pretty artwork from Alexander von Wieding, and in a limited edition of 300 as the Black Thai’s first release since 2010′s Blood from on High EP (review here) gave a more metallic edge to the heavy rock styling of their initial 2010 demo (review here), guitarist/vocalist Jim Healey bringing an aggressive but still accessible vibe to the tracks.

Seasons of Might works in a similar vein, but sets a more accomplished balance within each song itself. The band — Healey (formerly of We’re all Gonna Die), guitarist Scott O’Dowd (also Cortez), bassist Cory Cocomazzi and drummer Jeremy Hemond (also Cortez and Roadsaw) — make a decision to ignore that balance and go full-on metal with the near-blasting third track, “Doors to Nowhere,” but on opening duo “Blood Dust” and “Start a War” especially, they’ve found a sonic niche for themselves that isn’t quite as angry as modern metal but neither is it entirely indebted to doom or heavy rock. Most of all, it sounds like Black Thai, which after three years since their last EP is a welcome way for it to turn out.

They round out with the eight-minute “Reasons to Burn,” which tips more toward the doomed, albeit while holding firm to the melodic sensibility shown on the earlier cuts. Seasons of Might was recorded at Mad Oak with Joe Saliba and mixed by Benny Grotto, and the production is as crisp and professional as the songs are engaging, whether it’s O’Dowd tearing into a mournful lead late into “Reasons to Burn” or the full band locking into the thrust of the still-catchy “Start a War,” the burly call-and-response hook of which winds up being one of the highlight moments of the whole release as Healey‘s shouts echo amid the quick turns that almost dare you to keep up.

Black Thai play Stoner Hands of Doom on Sunday, Nov. 10, with Wizard Eye, Kin of Ettins, Lord and many more at Strange Matter in Richmond, Virginia. Their tour dates, a quote from the band about the EP, and links can be found under “Start a War” on the player below.


Black Thai, “Start a War” from Seasons of Might

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

Says Black Thai:

We recorded with Joe Saliba at Mad Oak Studios and he did an absolutely amazing job tracking. Benny Grotto mixed the session and it sounds absolutely pummeling. We couldn’t be happier with the results.

Black Thai on Tour:
11/6 Middle East Upstairs – Cambridge, MA with: Cocked N’ Loaded, Goddamn Draculas, Second Grave (Release show / tour kickoff)
11/7 St. Vitus Bar – Brooklyn, NY with: Gozu, Kings Destroy, Second Grave
11/8 JR’s Bar – South Philadelphia. PA with: Backwoods Payback, Hang-Up to Flat, Skeleton Hands
11/9 The Pinch – Washington DC with: Iron Man, Gozu, Freedom Hawk
11/10 Strange Matter – Richmond, VA Stoner Hands Of Doom
11/11 The Maywood – Raleigh, NC with: Bedowyn, Devil To Pay
11/12 The Masquerade – Atlanta, GA with: Volume IV
11/13 TN (TBA)
11/14 Cusumano’s Pizza – St. Louis, MO with: Rowsdower, Heavy Horse, White Fire
11/15 The Melody Inn – Indianapolis, IN with: So Sayeth, Devils Of Belgrade
11/16 The Tree Bar – Columbus, OH with Old City, +2 TBA
11/17 Duke’s Bohemian Grove Bar – Buffalo, NY with: Second Trip
11/18 Nectar’s – Burlington, VT (Metal Monday) with: Toxic Holocaust, Ramming Speed, In Defence

Stoner Hands of Doom XIII

Black Thai on Thee Facebooks

Black Thai’s website

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Duuude, Tapes! Ice Dragon, Dream Dragon

Posted in Duuude, Tapes! on October 21st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Admittedly, there’s a decent chance I’d have endeavored to pick up the Dream Dragon tape from Boston psych doomers Ice Dragon anyway, but it was the layout of the cover that made it so imperative. You can see the font they used in the picture above, and the black-bar along the bottom. This was something that was done with albums back when tapes were a companion format with vinyl so that cover art wouldn’t have to be warped to fit the longer tape case, and even down to the type-setting and the relative size of the band name and album title, Ice Dragon nailed it. Same goes for the spine of the tape itself and the tracklisting, right down to “side one” and “side two” and the fake barcode. They couldn’t have done a better job with it if it had been white with red letters.

The blue tape itself is somewhat less playing to tradition, but as did their 2007 self-titled and 2011′s The Sorrowful Sun (both discussed here), Dream Dragon makes an excellent cassette, the band’s self-recorded, lo-fi aesthetic coming through extra gnarly when intended, as on the ballsy “Maximum Trip” and still offering depth enough of mix to make it seem that the “Planet Caravan”-style synth trails of the nonetheless-rumbling “Dream Dragon” have space to move around. It’s also too long for a single vinyl at 55 minutes, but breaking it up into sides one and two here — the first ending with “A Dragon’s Dream, Pt. I” and the second with closer “A Dragon’s Dream, Pt. II” — makes Dream Dragon more accessible without taking away from the hypnosis of it, especially on side two, when the relationship-gone-good and relationship-gone-bad “For Once in My Life” and “More than I Can Say for You” give way to the engaging psychedelia that closes out the last several cuts, the brash half-speed garage of “Beard of Thieves” seeming a much greater distance away than the start of the second half of the album.

And throughout, whether it’s the mellotron of opener “Dreamliner” or the bass-heavy “Stumble onto Magic,” which sounds like it was recorded off a tv performance in 1967, or the patiently unfurling “Me and My Lady (My Lady and Me),” Dream Dragon lives up to its name and its easily-deciphered bent toward the ethereal. Moments of threat loom in the drones of “I Know You’re Here” and the later instrumental “Unter der Gnomen” — and certainly Ice Dragon have made good on those threats elsewhere in their rapidly expanding discography — but the prevailing mood here is peaceful, otherworldly, and the flow the band create never gets shaken enough to really be interrupted. Until of course you wake up. Both parts of “A Dragon’s Dream” have a dirge march to them with far-off drums crashing and intertwining layers of guitar, and the second one seems to come apart at the end, leaving just a final trace of scratchy analog synth.

Ever-prolific, Ice Dragon — then the trio of drummer/vocalist Ron Rochondo, guitarist Carter and bassist Joe (all of whom handle a variety of instruments here as well as backing vocals for the latter two) — have released an EP and two full-lengths since, but I think it’s audible even on the latest, Born a Heavy Morning (review here), that they were developing some similar atmospheres to what they’d done on Dream Dragon, so I’m glad they went back and gave this one a physical issue. I’m not about to complain about their standing free-Bandcamp-downloads-for-all, but particularly with an album of this kind of breadth, it deserves some presence in the terrestrial realm as well, tenuous as its connection to it sonically may or may not be.

Ice Dragon, Dream Dragon (2012)

Ice Dragon on Thee Facebooks

Ice Dragon on Bandcamp

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Wino Wednesday Live Review: Saint Vitus, Pallbearer, The Hookers and Gozu in Boston, 10.15.13

Posted in Reviews on October 16th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

I won’t lie: The fact that Saint Vitus were playing on a Tuesday night had added nerdy glee for me for Wino Wednesday prospects. I was going to the show one way or another, but the fact that I could do two years in a row of live reviews for Wino Wednesday was an extra appeal. Last September, they played Brooklyn on my wedding anniversary and it was one of the best shows I’d ever seen. Doesn’t feel like more than a year ago, but the numbers tell it. Been a hell of a year.

Including, apparently, for Saint Vitus, who rolled through the downstairs space at Boston’s famed Middle East – a name I’ve seen on lists of tour dates forever but hadn’t actually ever been to until this show; the fact that I’ve only lived here for two months might have something to do with it — with Pallbearer and The Hookers in tow. Now well past their “reunion band” novelty and into the sphere of working a tour cycle, Saint Vitus delivered probably the most professional set I’ve seen from them. Gozu had joined the bill as local support, so I made sure to arrive early at the Middle East, which was a fortunate decision for the traffic I sat in getting there, and catch the start of the show.

That itself was also early, with Gozu going on around 7:30 following 7PM doors. I parked a couple blocks away and hustled in my lurching way to get into the venue and to the front of the stage, and here’s how it went from there:


Stop me if you’ve heard me say this about Gozu before, but the Beantown natives have hit that echelon of performance where the only thing that can possibly bring them to another level is touring. A band gets to a point where they’re so tight, so crisp in their delivery and so cohesive as a unit that just doing a show, even a relatively big one, which this was — that Middle East stage is wide, and deep; you could put a couch up there and make it your living room — is only going to do so much for them. Two albums in, Gozu have hit that point, so with the prospect of European dates around their impending Roadburn performance in the Netherlands next spring, it was a joy to watch them take a victory stomp over the hometown crowd. I hadn’t heard “Jan-Michael Vincent” from Locust Season in a while, with its funky vocal riding atop a fervent heavy rock groove, and though I still think they could milk that chorus for another round or two, it fit in well accompanied by “Ghost Wipe” from this year’s The Fury of a Patient Man (review here), from which the majority of the set was derived, though both swaggering opener “Meat Charger” and closer “Mr. Riddle” came from the earlier record, the latter following a blistering run through “Charles Bronson Pinchot” from the 2013 album. That song is about as aggressive as Gozu – guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney, guitarist Doug Sherman, bassist Joe Grotto and drummer Barry Spillberg, who seems only more righteously destructive every time I watch him play — have gotten to date, but even “Bald Bull,” which was comparatively unobtrusive in its studio form, was brought to life with considerable movement of air. Ditto that for “Signed, Epstein’s Mom.” I know for a fact that I’ll catch them again before they hit the road in Europe, but I’ll really be interested to see what some solid touring brings to their approach. As it was, they were an early treat well worth the rush-hour traffic to catch.

The Hookers

Monks of the First Church of Lemmy, Scientist, the Kentucky-based metalopunks The Hookers were demented, loud, energetic, and fun. How they wound up on a touring bill with Pallbearer and Saint Vitus, I have no idea, but they were a good time all the same, and seemed to revel in their standout position, frontman Adam “Rock ‘n’ Roll Outlaw” Neal pumping his fist to the d-beat sprint in songs like “Rock ‘n’ Roll Motherfucker,” “Black Magic” and “Black Thunder.” Even their “slow” stuff was fast and they knew it, and I’m not sure if they’ve gotten a mixed response at other shows, but they seemed to think they’d be worse received than they were. Maybe that’s part of the show, positioning themselves as hated to play up the scumbag aspect, but it’s worth noting that toward the end of the set, when bassist/backing vocalist Juan Badmutha came down from the stage into the crowd, he was almost immediately invited to partake in somebody’s PBR, which that showgoer even carefully poured into his mouth so he didn’t have to stop playing. That’s courtesy. They were a long way away from being “my thing,” but they hit hard from the stage and made no effort to pretend they weren’t enjoying themselves or that it wasn’t fun to sing songs about horror movies and booze and whatever else, and I certainly respect the hell out of that. Even from Gozu, who can be plenty uptempo when they get to it, The Hookers were a swift change, covering themselves and their audience in whiskey-soaked grit metal, unabashed in a high-speed AC/DC kind of way with several shredding guitar solos tossed off with foot-on-the-monitor command.


Most of what Arkansas doomers Pallbearer played was new, as in, after the release of their 2012 full-length debut, Sorrow and Extinction (review here). Two of the songs — the set opener and another of the total three (I think) new ones — didn’t yet have vocals, but the double-guitar four-piece still used one of the instrumentals as the wrap of their set proper because, as guitarist/vocalist Brett Campbell put it, “It’s fun to play.” Campbell is emotive enough on stage to cover for lyrics most of the time anyway, and Pallbearer‘s leads, provided either by him or fellow guitarist Devin Holt, are so mournful that the feeling is conveyed one way or another as bassist Joseph D. Rowland and drummer Mark Lierly hold together the huge, spacious-sounding plod of the material, the former also putting on a headbanging clinic for anyone fortunate enough to be there to watch. Rowland had a whole side of the stage to himself, which was different from every other time I’ve seen Pallbearer Campbell was front and center, splitting Rowland and Holt, where in the past he’s been to the left, with the bassist and guitarist in subsequent left-to-right line. The shift made Campbell come across all the more like a frontman, particularly for that portion of the set which had vocals, including the distinct “Devoid of Redemption” from Sorrow and Extinction, and a surprising but potent take on Black Sabbath‘s “Over and Over,” the closing track from Mob Rules, which was the finale/epilogue to their time. It’s always a bold choice to take on Dio material, whether it’s Sabbath or not, but to their credit, Pallbearer were wise not to try to capture the same kind of feel as the original version, instead slowing it down, thickening it out, and letting Campbell deliver the lyrics — which actually fit pretty well with Pallbearer‘s consistent downer thematics — in his own style. Not only was it the shortest song in their set, but it played to an influence I wouldn’t have expected on the part of the band. A young woman in the crowd shouted, “Put out another fucking album!” and that seemed to be the prevailing sentiment all around. Hopefully in 2014.

Saint Vitus

Right in the middle of their set, just before they launched into “Let Them Fall” from last year’s über-excellent return outing, Lillie: F-65 (review here), Saint Vitus guitarist Dave Chandler got on his mic — which was there solely to address the crowd in such a manner — and say that the song was their first-ever music video and that it got panned by “internet critics,” so let the internet critics fall. That’s always a bummer. Nonetheless, Vitus absolutely destroyed. A Tuesday night, still the beginning the week, I don’t really know what I was expecting, but they came out to “Vertigo” from Lillie: F-65 and with a one-two of “Blessed Night” and “Clear Windowpane,” ignited the crowd and proceeded from there to pummel with classic after classic from their catalog. They’ve toured with some consistency since the record came out, and among the encouraging signs I took from their set was that cuts like the aforementioned “Blessed Night” and “Let Them Fall,” as well as “The Bleeding Ground” and “The Waste of Time” fit exceedingly well with essential Vitus tracks like “Living Backwards,” the anthemic “I Bleed Black” and “War is Our Destiny.” Chandler, vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich, bassist Mark Adams and drummer Henry Vasquez looked like a band who’d been playing shows for the last 11 nights in a row — that is, set in their execution like the whole thing was muscle memory — and the crowd couldn’t have been more into it. Moshing broke out during “The Bleeding Ground,” as Chandler noted, and a couple of surprise inclusions later on like “Shooting Gallery” from 1988′s Mournful Cries and “White Stallions” from 1985′s Hallow’s Victim, which seemed to take the place of their eponymous song in closing out their regular set, made for welcome additions to “The Troll” and the other older material. Vasquez got on mic before the encore to talk up the crowd and introduce the band coming back out. Mark Adams was “Original Member Number 69″ and “the King of Beers” both, and Chandler was “Mr. Doom Himself” or something thereabouts, while Wino was the “Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla” (somebody was a wrestling fan). Each of the three came out on cue and Saint Vitus capped the night with “Dying Inside” and, of course, “Born too Late” – Wino and Chandler both hopping off stage and into the crowd during the course — which only underscored how on their game the band is some four years into what’s apparently (and thankfully) an ongoing reunion. I had some hopes in the back of my mind for a new song, as they put word out in July that Chandler has started writing for their next album, but no dice there. As dead on as they were, I could hardly call it a loss, though, especially with the comfort I get to have in saying “maybe next time” about a band who, a few short years ago, I was convinced I’d never get to see live. Fucking awesome.

As a side note to the review, I just want to say that I met John Perez from Solitude Aeturnus at the show. A personal landmark. There working for Vitus along with former The Gates of Slumber drummer J. Clyde Paradis –which if nothing else should be indicative of the respect doom has for its forebears — he’s someone I’ve been in contact with periodically for the last decade or so who’s been perennially awesome to me, whether I’ve been covering his band or stuff on his Brainticket Records label, whatever it might be, or even just generally offering me advice and shooting the shit back and forth. An all-around great dude and a hand I was very glad to have an opportunity to shake after so long.

Thanks for reading. More pics after the jump.

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Roadburn 2014 Lineup: Hull, Morne and -(16)- Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 2nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Straight out of the “Fucking A” file comes the news that Brooklyn post-sludgers Hull have joined the lineup for Roadburn 2014. One can only hope that by the time April rolls around the now-foursome will be supporting a follow-up to 2011′s triumphant sophomore outing, Beyond the Lightless Sky (review here) — they’ve been playing new material live for a while — but even if not, it’s awesome to see them on the bill for Roadburn, where they’re almost certain to lay waste to what and whomever should stand in their path at the 013.

News has also come out in the last couple days that Boston funeral doomers Morne and CA sludge mainstays 16 have been added to the fest. Updates follow, courtesy of the Roadburn site:

Hull: Brooklyn Sludge Rock Alchemists Added To Roadburn 2014 Lineup

Brooklyn, New York sludge rock alchemists, Hull have been confirmed for Roadburn Festival 2014 on Thursday, April 10th at the 013 venue in Tilburg, The Netherlands.

Hull will be performing alongside a jaw-dropping lineup that already includes Opeth, Yob, Triptykon, A Storm Of Light, Crowbar, Graves at Sea, Lord Dying, and so many more.

Comments guitarist Nick Palmirotto, “Hull is absolutely elated to be a part of the vastly diverse lineup that will be gracing the stages of Roadburn 2014. Having had the tremendous experience of performing bass guitar duties for Jarboe in 2010, it is an honor for Hull to be a part of one of the most unique and unprecedented festivals in the world of heavy music. Our gratitude speaks no bounds, we shall forge onward through the barren lands, beyond the lightless sky.”

Hull released their monolithic Beyond The Lightless Sky full-length via The End Records in 2011. Commended by The Village Voice (NYC) its “motorcycle-revving D-beat, bog-trawling doom, sinister black metal, Neurosis drum-offs and hypnotic passages that gnash like a venom-dripping cousin to the final Isis album,” Beyond The Lightless Sky features guest appearances by vocalist Jarboe, keys/ambiance by Fade Kainer (Batillus / Jarboe / Inswarm) and has reaped critical acclaim internationally for its delicate balance of staggering heaviness and poetic grace.

Hull materializes as a massive entity storming stages and immersing their audiences in a blanket of grandiose down-tuned compositions. A shifting fault line of decibel heavy harmony, this collective force converges in a collision of thrash, doom, classic rock, and formal orchestral works.

Hull commands their listeners through each riff with incredible precision, as a seafarer guides vessels through ominous waters. Submerged in cosmic soundscapes, Hull challenges the mind with flowing, off-time fugues and powerful, dynamic movements.

Brace yourself for an onslaught of eruptive force as a new world of music is formed in the deafening clap of thunder that is Hull.

Roadburn Festival 2014 will run for four days from Thursday, April 10th to Sunday, April 13th 2014 at the 013 venue in Tilburg, The Netherlands.

Boston’s Morne To Bring Outsider Funeral Doom To Roadburn 2014 Afterburner

Boston’s Morne has everything you could ever want in an outsider funeral doom band. Their sound, revolving around guitarist / singer Milosz Gassan, shifts from crushing bombast to dark psychedelia, from crumbling, downtuned riffage to lumbering drone and from post rock to gothic gloom and metallic crust. They traverse this wide range of sounds without dwelling in trendy post-metal circles or being part of the seemingly never ending enclave of Neurosis adepts.

On their latest album, Shadows (out on Profound Lore), Morne even delves into classic rock and 70s prog, which drives the band onwards though a darkened wasteland of melancholy and menace, fueled by bleakness, airily textural progressions, moody melodies and a fierce, riffy, but also straightforward chug.

Morne, huge favorites of Darkthrone’s Fenriz and Nocturno Culto –who incorporated the Morne logo into the artwork of Circle The Wagons, will bring their vulnerable slabs of despair to the 2014 Roadburn Afterburner on Sunday, April 13th at the 013 venue in Tilburg, The Netherlands.

Roadburn Festival 2014 will run for four days from Thursday , April 10th to Sunday, April 13th 2014 at the 013 venue in Tilburg, The Netherlands.

-(16)- To Bring Jagged Blocks of Buzzing Sludge To Roadburn Festival 2014

Over the last two decades, Califorian veterans -(16)- have been pioneering heavy-as-hell, ill tempered sludge metal, alongside fellow luminaries Buzzov*en, Eyehategod and Crowbar (among others).

Despite all the anguish, pain and countless lineup changes that 20 years brought, -(16)- remained a dependable source of gutsy, misery infested, torturous sludge, captured on albums like Drop Out, Zoloft Smile and Deep Cuts from Dark Clouds (out on Relapse Records).

Whether its the band’s mid tempo, aggressive metal assault, their sludgy dissonance or aggro-punk-hardcore filth, -(16)- spits it out with hateful, jaw-punching glee – thriving on chugging guitars, grinding bass and growling vocals that drive home the point like a blast of scuzzed-up vitriol.

We’re looking forward to get punched in the gut, and smacked in the face as well by -(16)-‘s jagged blocks of buzzing sludge on Saturday, April 12th at the 013 venue in Tilburg, The Netherlands. Nope we won’t mind it abit, as we’ve been waiting for so many years for this to happen!

Turn up, tune down, give up…

Roadburn Festival 2014 will run for four days from Thursday, April 10th to Sunday, April 13th, 2014 at the 013 venue in Tilburg, The Netherlands.

Hull, Live at St. Vitus Bar, Brooklyn, Feb. 10, 2013

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Summoner Post Behind-the-Scenes Footage Making New Album Atlantian

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 30th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Summoner‘s second LP under that moniker, Atlantian, is set to be released in November through Magnetic Eye Records. The Boston-based outfit issued their debut, Phoenix, after changing their name from Riff Cannon, whose own debut was 2009′s Mercury Mountain, and whose approach was different enough to justify the switch in name. A double-guitar four-piece, the band documented the making of Atlantian and have begun to post clips in an apparent series of three behind-the-scenes looks at the making of the album, which will be a vinyl-only 180 gram pressing (of course with a download available via the usual suspect list of purveyors) and will feature the following tracks and art:

01 The Gatekeeper
02 The Prophecy
03 Horns of War
04 Changing Tides

05 Into the Abyss
06 Crystaline Sky
07 Atlantian
08 Taken by the Sea

I dug these guys when they were Riff Cannon and both times I saw Summoner last year, they killed. Going by the descriptions they give of some of the differences in approach this time around — and even more importantly, by how excited they seem to be taking on the task of making a new album — Atlantian is one I’m looking forward to hearing. If you happen to be in the Boston area at the end of November, they’ll be playing a release show at The Middle East on Nov. 30 with Rozamov, Jack Burton vs. David Lo Pan and Second Grave. I’ve already got my calendar marked. More info is here.

Hopefully I’ll have more to come on Atlantian as we get closer to the release, but in the meantime, check out the first behind-the-scenes episode below and enjoy:

Summoner, The Making of Atlantian Ep. 1

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Nice Package: Ice Dragon, Born a Heavy Morning

Posted in Visual Evidence on September 23rd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

As the resurgence of vinyl has come to prominence over the last couple years, the age-old argument against CDs has likewise returned in that they don’t do justice to album art. For those two or three of us still loyal to what’s undoubtedly the least hip of the major physical formats at this point — even tapes are cooler than CDs, being cheaper and having nostalgic value — a release like Ice Dragon‘s physical issue of Born a Heavy Morning on the Belgian imprint Navalorama Records proves there’s life in the compact disc yet.

The dreamily psychedelic Born a Heavy Morning (review here) from the Boston-based four-piece arrives in what’s essentially a plain cardboard gatefold case, but as is the case with so much of the album itself, it’s creativity of the arrangement that makes it stand out. With a wraparound paper band that has the album title on front and the label’s name and website on back, the cover is a cutout to reveal the Samantha Allen watercolor artwork, which gets its due as a removable, high-quality cardstock insert with the album info (tracklist, recording, lineup, etc.) in glossy on back. A card is also included with Navalorama‘s info, but separate, and the CD itself arrives in a hand-numbered plain white sleeve.

Perhaps most endearing of all is the thank you card. It doesn’t look like much when you first open the gatefold, but the more you dig into it, the more the CD actually has to offer, and as awesome is it is on a basic theoretical level that Ice Dragon give so much of their prolific output away for free at their Bandcamp page — and by “so much,” I mean all of it — the fact that they and Navalorama would also put such an effort into making a product worth buying as well when you can get at least the music without paying says a lot about the creativity at work. Check it out:


CD and Cover Insert

Inserts and Thank You Card

Unless I’m mistaken, Born a Heavy Morning is Ice Dragon‘s first CD release, so it’s twice as impressive to see them doing it right. As much as I enjoy a straight-up jewel case — a rarity these days — especially for an album so otherworldly and gleefully strange, it makes an eerie kind of sense this way.

Ice Dragon, Born a Heavy Morning (2013)

Ice Dragon on Thee Facebooks

Navalorama Records

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Monday Long-Player: Mellow Bravo, Ripper EP

Posted in audiObelisk on September 16th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

It’s a gloomy Monday morning here on the South Shore, but I’m combating the greys with coffee, mini-muffins and upbeat heavy rock, the organ-laced, thickened Thin Lizzy-isms of Boston’s Mellow Bravo suiting me just fine as I make my way through their brand new EP, Ripper. I’ve caught these cats live a couple times at this point and they’re killer, and from where I sit, the EP does an even better job of capturing the experience of seeing them than did their self-titled debut (review here), which came out on Mad Oak Records/Small Stone. Solid rock band, and as I listen to the tradeoffs between keys and guitar leads on “Party,” I’ve got no regrets in starting the week with it. Was up late last night and Ripper‘s exactly the kind of kick in the ass I didn’t know I needed until I got it.

…And yes, I know an EP can’t technically be a “long-player.” Just go with me on it, I beg you.

Last night, I drove all the way into Boston. Down past Fenway Park and into Cambridge, over to the Middle East, where Anathema and Alcest were playing. It was early, but I got there. There was a whole line of people around the building, and parking was blocks away. I was all set to go to that show — I was right there — and I left. I looked at the line of people and I just couldn’t bring myself to get out of the car. I was exhausted from a fantastic but busy weekend, and I just didn’t have it in me to go stand on that line, go to the club, take pictures, be in the way up front at the venue, get home late, etc. I just couldn’t do it. I called The Patient Mrs. and said I was going to come home, and I did. That was it. I got there and didn’t go to the show.

Chelsea Wolfe and True Widow were also in town last night, and I guess I was hoping everyone would be at that. Maybe they were. I don’t know. I came back home and put on pajamas. It would’ve been an existential fucking crisis for me had the issue not been so cut and dry: I wasn’t going to enjoy myself and if I’m not having fun then what the fuck am I doing? I wasn’t getting paid to be there. It’s not my job. It’s something I do because I want to, and if I don’t want to, well, there you go. Anathema‘s not going to fucking cry if I don’t show up. And hell, if they do, then fine — they make really good music when they’re sad, so it’s a win either way. But I was there. I just couldn’t get out of the car.

Burnt out on working hard and being broke and a lot of other shit, and to be honest, I still feel like I’m drained from the move north six weeks ago. But music still sounds good and if that’s what I’ve got going then at least it’s something. Right now I’m gonna grab another cup of coffee and dig into the start of the week. In a little bit I’m going to have a track premiere from Second Grave, then hopefully later today a review of the new Sasquatch album. Tomorrow I’m supposed to be interviewing Dave Wyndorf about the new Monster Magnet (review here), so that’ll get up at some point, plus I’m sending some questions out to Ufomammut about their new tour today, and trying to sort a stream of the new Gonga, and I’ve got reviews slated for I are Droid and Don Juan Matus. I also picked up some awesome buried treasure-type stuff this weekend (on the cheap, considering) that I’ll have something about in the next couple days. So, much to come this week and I hope you’ll stay tuned and check out the forum and the radio stream as well.

Have a great and safe week. More in a bit.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Maintaining the Drone: In the Studio with Darryl Shepard of Blackwolfgoat

Posted in Features on September 9th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

In 2011, I was fortunate enough to release the limited compact disc version of Blackwolfgoat‘s second album, Dronolith, through The Obelisk’s in-house label, The Maple Forum. The solo-project of then-Hackman guitarist Darryl Shepard — whose formidable curriculum vitae also includes Slaughter Shack, Slapshot, Roadsaw, Milligram, among others, with current tenure in Black Pyramid and The Scimitar — I’d dug Blackwolfgoat‘s Dragonwizardsleeve 2010 debut on Small Stone (review here) and was thrilled to find the second outing was even more progressive and varied. When I heard that Shepard, who’s  also one of the nicest guys you could ever be lucky to meet, was going to be recording a third Blackwolfgoat long-player at Amps vs. Ohms in Cambridge, I took the liberty of inviting myself along to document.

The day started at 11AM. I’d told Darryl that I’d roll in sometime between one and two. I’ve done recording sessions before, seen how it goes, and figuring there’d be a long stretch at the start of getting set up and finding tones, etc., assumed that a delayed arrival would put me in line to catch most of the action — as much as recording a drone record can be considered action. Well, by the time I got to Amps vs. Ohms, the record was about half over. Shepard and engineer Glen Smith had apparently gotten down to business, and were moving along at a more than fair clip. The album, which I’d soon learn is to be titled Drone Maintenance, probably received its biggest interruption yet when I texted Shepard to let him know I’d arrived.

Nonetheless, the guitarist came out to walk me through the building, which was fortunate, since I don’t think I’d ever have made it otherwise. Imagine me, doomed to spend the rest of my days knocking on an endlessly winding succession of dark red doors. More likely I’d get there in time for the fifth album than the third. I was introduced to Smith and watched as the two resumed progress on the record. They played back a song called “Cyclopean Utopia” that Shepard noted was the heaviest track to be included. My head immediately went to “Dronolith,” the 15-minute closer from the last full-length, but “Cyclopean Utopia” was a different beast entirely. Shorter certainly at less than five minutes, it was less of a build and more a dark exploration. He’d add vocals to it later, but it was already plenty crushing; grim with the black metal undertones than have been present throughout Blackwolfgoat‘s first two outings, only more pronounced.

How to counter such a beast? I don’t even know where he pulled it out from, but Shepard grabbed this keyboard that looked like something I used to sell at KB Toys and played a pre-programmed beat for it that was to serve as the bed for a Krautrock-inspired track called “Notausgang” (German for “emergency exit”) that relied on a suitably progressive guitar line. It was the second of three songs I’d hear there — a series of interludes were also recorded, more on that in a bit — and each had a vastly different persona with a thread of experimentation running across them. Shepard said that one of the things he enjoyed most about working with Smith was that things just happened spontaneously that worked really well. He stopped short of calling them “happy accidents,” but that seemed to be the idea, and while one doesn’t often think of a drone album has having much room for spontaneity, watching Darryl stand up to layer a wah solo over the song, as inflexible as the beat was, it was clear that part of the excitement of the material was the process of constructing it.

Best case scenario is that bleeds into the record. It did last time. I obviously won’t pass judgment on Blackwolfgoat‘s third album based on half-finished or at very least unmixed recordings as they’re being captured — it just wouldn’t be fair — but as Shepard listened back to “Notausgang,” the level of enjoyment was clear and the good mood was infectious. It was warm in the control room, a mountain of amps stacked on the wall, an Echoplex on the floor either in working order or not, Shepard on the leopard-print couch and Smith at the board, but there was fun being had, a positive vibe. Honestly, I wouldn’t have expected otherwise. After “Notausgang” was completed to satisfaction, it was time to move onto the acoustic “Fahey,” named in honor of acoustic instrumentalist John Fahey, whose deft finger-work had obviously inspired it.

Shepard plucked engaging, noodling lines on a guitar he said had been loaned to him years ago from Roadsaw‘s Craig Riggs and explained some of the concept behind Drone Maintenance as a scenario concept as Smith set up the mics for him to record in the larger live room. With increasingly chaotic interludes at the beginning, middle and end topped with spoken word pieces written out, the songs will tie together around the idea of the drone itself breaking and needing to be restored. Shepard laughed at the idea of the drone repair man and soon set to work on “Fahey,” which was two smaller parts tied together with a chord between them but sweetly toned and flowing all the same. Two or three takes on the second part went fast — you could hear Darryl breathing on the recording through the studio monitors — and it became readily apparent why I’d missed so much early on. I guess things go quicker when you’re not getting drum sounds, bass sounds, etc. Maybe he should call the record Drone Efficiency instead. Or hell, if you wanted to be consistent with the second record, Dronefficiency.

Whatever Drone Maintenance winds up being in its final form — nothing’s done until it’s done — the material strikes immediately as adventurous. Shepard‘s acoustic foray was followed by the recording of the spoken word parts to complement the interludes. Using a guitar cable as an extension to avoid feedback, Smith hooked a CB-radio-type microphone to a tiny Fender amp for an ultra-blown out effect. Needless to say, much shenanigans ensued while Smith got the levels right to record. I didn’t hear the drones of the interludes themselves until after the fact, with the speech layered in, but when I did, it made even more sense. Shepard had it set up in three parts, each with a corresponding drone. Smith suggested moving the last of the three to the most chaotic instrumental accompaniment and it made a lot of sense with where the story such as it is wound up. I don’t know how it will all turn out or how it will fit in with the other material on the album, but at very least it sounded raw and fucked up, and that was obviously the idea.

Speaking of, after the spoken parts, Shepard went back to add some screams to “Cyclopean Utopia.” If the song is supposed to be about a utopia of or for cyclopses, then surely the layered-in, ambient, sustained screams of “no” indicate some trouble in paradise. I’d never hard his vocals so isolated before — every time I’ve encountered Darryl screaming, he’s had mountains of distortion to back him up — but his voice sounded strong and his throat held up as he tore through no after no. It just as easily could’ve been painful to watch, and in the playback afterwards, they went a long way in adding to the oppressive atmosphere of the track. I don’t know if Shepard‘s gotten more used to screaming owing to his time in Black Pyramid and The Scimitar or what, but the sound was vicious and he clearly knew what he was doing. The idea seemed to be to bury the screams low in the mix, again, for ambience. Easy to imagine the finished product will make for some disturbing audio.

From there, the session started to wind down. It was about 4PM. Darryl had one other guitar part he recorded twice, first dry and clean, and then with distortion, that worked off some similar ideas as “Fahey,” and then was going to take a break before coming back in to do a rough mix with Smith. The actual recording finished, I took it as my cue to split and asked Shepard if he’d be so kind as to guide me back out from whence I came. Daylight hit hard, very much the opposite of “Cyclopean Utopia,” and after shooting the shit for a couple minutes, I said thanks and was on my way. I don’t know what  the plans are for the release of the Blackwolfgoat album, who Darryl will release it through or when, but  I know already it’s one I’m looking forward to hearing when the time comes. If “Fahey,” “Notausgang,” “Cyclopean Utopia” and the other parts I heard are anything to go by, it could be his most expansive outing yet.

Thanks to Shepard and Smith for their time and to you for reading. More pics after the jump.

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