Video Premiere: Elder, Live in Cambridge, MA 10.16.14

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 5th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

elder live at tt the bear's place

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 GrowthSea 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:

Gemini
Dead Roots Stirring (individual clip here)
Spires Burn (individual clip here)
Compendium
Release

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.

Enjoy:

Elder, Live at T.T. the Bear’s Place, Oct. 16, 2014

elder tour banner

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

Elder on Thee Facebooks

Treebeard Media

Armageddon Shop

Stickman Records

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Gold & Silver, Azurite and Malachite: Elemental

Posted in Reviews on December 17th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

gold and silver azurite and malachite

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.

gold and silver azurite and malachite record

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.

Gold & Silver, Azurite and Malachite (2014)

Gold & Silver on Thee Facebooks

Gold & Silver on Bandcamp

Azurite and Malachite at Totem Cat Records

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Ice Dragon, The Burl, the Earth, the Aether, The Sorrowful Sun and Tome of the Future Ancients: Devil in the Sandbox

Posted in Reviews on October 15th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

ice dragon

Especially listening to them one into the next, it’s hard not to try to string a narrative between Ice Dragon‘s albums The Burl, the Earth, the Aether (2010), The Sorrowful Sun (2011) and Tome of the Future Ancients (2012). All three — plus side-project Tentacle‘s 2013 sophomore offering, Ingot Eye — have been given a sturdy jewel case CD treatment from Canada’s PRC Music, each with a four-panel liner with the original covers plus lyrics, recording info and/or other art, and right away the intent feels archival, the label having stepped in to release these albums to give them some form outside the crowded nebula of their digital incarnations. To my knowledge, the only one of these three Ice Dragon records to have been pressed at all was The Sorrowful Sun, which Acid Punx released on tape alongside the Boston band’s 2007 self-titled debut (review here), but either way, these feel official and the ability to hold them and explore their art and liner notes gives each one that much more of its own personality. Ice Dragon have taken to putting out new music at such a prolific rate, sometimes it can be hard to keep up.

All the more reason to explore the releases individually, then, since they each have something different to offer, as has proven a big part of the appeal of Ice Dragon‘s work these last few years. We’ll start at, or at least near, the beginning:

The Burl, the Earth, the Aether (2010)

ice dragon the burl the earth the aether

Their second. Working as the trio of bassist Joe, guitarist Carter and drummer/vocalist RonIce Dragon began a run with The Burl, the Earth, the Aether that’s still going on. To date, they’ve released nine albums in the four years since, not to mention singles and splits and side-projects, but more than just the quantity of their output, the standout is the quality of it, and The Burl, the Earth, the Aether stands as a beginning point there as well. Comprised of eight tracks totaling in a 53-minute runtime, the album boasts the classic doom of “Squares inside Squares” and “The Watcher,” recorded with the raw and blown-out sensibilities of US black metal, but still riff-led in a stonerly tradition, and while Ron gets into some rougher shouts on “The Watcher” and “Alucard” — the Castlevania reference there fits with the record’s dark intent — far more prevalent are the echoing howls that resonate from the album’s overarching murk. In “Spellpouch,” “Meddoe” and “Winged Prophet,” Ice Dragon show their propensity for working with acoustics, and in the context of what they’ve done since, moving into psychedelic, psych-pop and folk influences, the ultra-quiet finish of “Winged Prophet” seems like a forebear of future adventurousness, while the ultra-distorted grandiosity of 11-minute closer “Aquageddon” and its blend of malevolent swirl and lumbering riffage with a slow descent into abrasive noise come across like a direct line to what Tome of the Future Ancients would have in store two years later.

The Sorrowful Sun (2011)

ice dragon the sorrowful sun

Both The Sorrowful Sun itself, which divides its concise 38 minutes into two roughly equal halves, and its Adam Burke artwork seem to be begging for a vinyl release, but no less on CD, what Ice Dragon achieves on their third album is a standout in their catalog. Aesthetically, there’s a cohesion and a confidence in the presentation of what just a year prior seemed to be experimentation, the swing of songs like “Interspecies Communication” and “Flowers” having solidified into the beer-soaked garage doom on which much of their current take remains based. Likewise, they begin to explore folkish material on “Light Years” — underscored by some righteous bass fuzz — and add several interludes in “Dusk,” and the intro “Sunrise” to give a more complete album-concept feel. The obscure psychedelia of “Poseidon’s Grasp,” with its mix-consuming leads, the drearier churn of “White Tusks” and the subdued exploration of “Near Sun, on Earth” make for as satisfying a three-track run as any Ice Dragon have yet conjured as they round out The Sorrowful Sun, the three-piece not only engaging a multitude of styles but successfully commanding all of them so that the songs flow well one into the next even as the sprawl grows wider. Particularly with a few years of hindsight, one can hear a lot being figured out on The Sorrowful Sun that seems like a foundation for where Ice Dragon would go creatively, but like its predecessor and even more than its predecessor, it stands on its own accomplishments as well and continues to resonate even three years later. If you needed a starting point for the band, The Sorrowful Sun might be it.

Tome of the Future Ancients (2012)

ice dragon tome of the future ancients

Including Tome of the Future AncientsIce Dragon released four full-length albums in 2012, and to date it was their most productive year, also resulting in Dream Dragon (tape review here), greyblackfalconhawk (discussed here) and the moody Dead Friends and Angry Lovers, initially released as a side-project called Slow Heart but later brought into the Ice Dragon fold. Of the bunch, Tome of the Future Ancients is by far the most expansive, and the intent of the 12-track/75-minute offering feels clearly bent toward the overwhelming. On CD, it is a beast. Half the songs top seven minutes, and whether it’s “The Black Book of Hours” or the opening “Manuscript 408,” Ice Dragon seem to be taking the drone lessons of Earth and applying them to their own brand of doom, thudding and struggling with various impulses along the way, be it the where-did-this-come-from boogie-to-noise onslaught of “Illuminations Foretold” or the excruciating plod of “Night” or the sitar-laced 10-minute blowout of “The Bearded Mage.” What unites the material is the fact that it’s all over the place, but “tome” is right as Ice Dragon prove that fuckall still rules the day on their fourth album. Relatively peaceful psychedelics on “Adoration of Ra” and non-abrasive experimental guitar sweetness on “Infinite Requiem” round out, but the campaign to get there is wearying, the trio merciless in crafting a path that seems to cut further and further into a clouded abyss of distortion and foreboding, where even the drone-noise of “Astronomical Union” pushes downward into a pervasive void of silence. It is lung-filling doom.

Tentacle, Ingot Eye (2013)

tentacle ingot eye

Like the manifestation of all of Ice Dragon‘s darkest tendencies, Tentacle ooze forth four tracks of abrasive, cavernous regression on their second outing, Ingot Eye. Originally released early in 2013, it’s another two-sider folded into a linear mass on the PRC CD — the back cover divides the songs, each “side” starting with a 10-plus-minute monster — and what it shares in common with Ice Dragon aside from the lineup and raw vibe is its immersiveness. As much as Ice Dragon push and pull in various directions, Tentacle swallows you whole, and Ingot Eye‘s four pieces — “The Blackness of My Soul will be so Great as to Make the Night Weep” (11:26), “Dull Ache (I Hate Myself Today)” (4:59), “(Revenge) Dust for Blood” (12:46) and “Our Serpent Mother’s Kiss” (9:53) — comprise a lumbering mass. The second cut, “Dull Ache (I Hate Myself Today),” is the only real point of letup, taking on a more shuffling groove and cleaner vocal, but “Our Serpent Mother’s Kiss” arrives at a downer moment of accessibility as well, the its vocals buried deep in gleefully farty low-end and preceded by devolved noise that’s emblematic of how unfriendly these guys can get when they feel like it. What distinguishes Ingot Eye most from Ice Dragon‘s output is how much Tentacle turns the band’s ambitions on their head. And then stomps that head into a muddy goo from which no light can escape.

Ice Dragon continue a multifaceted progression. This year, in addition to a split with Space Mushroom Fuzz (info here) and other singles, they’ve issued two full-lengths, Seeds from a Dying Garden (review here) and Loaf of Head (review here). PRC has a preorder available for a CD edition of Dream Dragon, so it seems safe to say that if the label and the band wish to continue their affiliation, there will be fodder for releases for years to come.

Ice Dragon on Thee Facebooks

Ice Dragon on Bandcamp

Tentacle on Bandcamp

PRC Music

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White Dynomite Self-Titled Reissue Due Oct. 14 on Ripple Music

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 2nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

white dynomite

Twelve days might not be much advance notice for the locking up the good china, but it’s what we’ve got to work with ahead of Ripple Music reissuing the 2012 self-titled debut from Boston heavy punkers White Dynomite. The fivesome — high in the running for “Dudes Who Took ‘Sharp Dressed Man’ Most Literally” — are reportedly putting together new material for a sophomore outing to come in 2015, unless I’m crazy and didn’t actually see that somewhere, probably Thee Facebooks. Anyway, a lot of what you need to know is right there on the cover, so I won’t delay the news with a lot of whathaveyou.

Goes like this:

white-dynomite-vinyl-(Photo-courtesy-of-Tim-Catz)

WHITE DYNOMITE to reissue self-titled debut via Ripple Music

Ripple Music is proud to announce that Boston’s riff-heavy rockers WHITE DYNOMITE are set to release the vinyl re-issue of their 2012 self-titled album in October. The reissue will be released on limited edition black and colored vinyl as well as digitally via bandcamp.

Release Dates:
North America: Oct 14, 2014
Europe/UK: Oct 13, 2014

Born of boredom and bourbon, WHITE DYNOMITE are considered gentlemen of experience and true Rock City pedigree. Featuring ex-members of ROADSAW, LAMONT and WRECKING CREW, this five man band has a shared love for all things loud, fast and loose. There’s more to their story than just the suits.

WHITE DYNOMITE call Boston home but their brand of action requires a map. Jump into their jalopy for a trip thru the streets of NYC with The Ramones and The Dictators blaring thru the deck. Then shoot across the pond to London for a holiday party with Slade and T.Rex. Get back behind the wheel and swerve left into Sweden thru Hellacopters and Turbonegro country. Make a quick stop in AC/DC’s Aussie garage before bouncing down Detroit’s back alleys with The Stooges and MC5 riding shotgun. WHITE DYNOMITE do it all in one night.

Say what you will about the white polyester suits. Throw away the cheap shades. You can even make them bathe and shave. It won’t matter. WHITE DYNOMITE have enough punk muscle and rock ‘n’ roll heart to deliver the dangerous goods loaded, rolling and exploding in a cloud of smoke.

ripple-music.com
facebook.com/WhiteDynomiteBoston
http://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/white-dynomite

White Dynomite, White Dynomite (2012/2014)

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Live Review: Blackwolfgoat Album Release with Bedroom Rehab Corporation, Sea and Shutup!! in Allston, 09.12.14

Posted in Reviews on September 15th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

blackwolfgoat

It was just over a month ago I last saw Blackwolfgoat, in Portland, Maine, opening for We’re all Gonna Die‘s final reunion gig, so I’d say the stuff was pretty fresh in my brain, even aside from listening to the new album, Drone Maintenance, for an I’ll-get-there-I-swear-I-will review, but this was the release show for that record and sometimes you feel like maybe you need to show up. Another chance to scope out Connecticut duo Bedroom Rehab Corporation was added appeal, and it was the live debut from Sea, which boasts bassist/vocalist Stephen LoVerme of Olde Growth and guitarist Liz Walshak, formerly of Rozamov, so put that together with noise-riff duo Shutup!! opening, and yeah, it’s a night. A Friday, in Allston, in September. College kids, hip youngsters, and me, rolling down Harvard Ave. like a forest troll looking for parking. Around and around and around Allston’s designed-for-the-crowded-populace-of-1700 blocks I went, ducking drunk undergrads and Bruins fans. There were other shows around town. I knew where I wanted to be.

O’Brien’s was much as I left it whenever the last time I was there was. Low, red lights, equipment along the wall. They played Floor between bands, which was a nice touch, and people shuffled in and out over the course of the evening in various degrees of stupor. It wasn’t a rock show entirely, but there was a bit of that going on. Here’s how it all went down:

Shutup!!

Shut Up (Photo by JJ Koczan)

One of the issues with going to see drone live is that the crowd, especially after a couple minutes in, invariably starts to chatter, and you hear it over the performance, still very much in progress. The guitar/bass two-piece Shutup!! avoided this issue neatly by being so fucking loud you could barely hear yourself think, let alone transmit those thoughts verbally to another human being. Clever. Bassist Aarne Victorine is set to debut with another band, UXO (featuring Steve Austin of Today is the Day and Chris Spencer of Unsane), next year, but paired with guitarist Jon Christopher in Shutup!! the modus was forceful low-end rumble all the way. They were on as I was walking into O’Brien’s and clearly audible from outside, tossing in a few lumbering riffs to go with the massive wash of amp noise, feedback and effects that seemed to bite right past one’s earplugs — the cheap foam kind, but still. It was a short set, less than 20 minutes, but I doubt anyone there would argue they didn’t get their point across. Exploratory but vicious, heavy drone not for the faint of heart or the weak of tolerance.

Sea

sea (Photo by JJ Koczan)

It is a cruelty to judge a new band or anything they do by their first show, so I won’t, but don’t take that to mean newcomer four-piece Sea didn’t come across well or like they knew what they were going for. With a blend of flowing doom and some post-metal churning inflection, as well as a strobing desk lanp on top of guitarist Mike Blasi‘s amplifier timed to be’chopped drummer Andrew Muro‘s kit, Sea seemed to be on their way toward solid construction and an aesthetic in the making. LoVerme varied his vocals between post-Mastodon shouts and more subdued melodies, and Walshak and Blasi added ambient sprawl to quieter sections to contrast and complement the heavier push. Their songs, as I understand, are as yet untitled, but one could hear an oceanic theme at work, and while the project is nascent, there seemed to be potential at work as well. They were the fullest band of the night with twice as many members as anyone else, but received a warm welcome that, especially for a debut gig, didn’t seem like it could’ve left them disappointed. Will be interesting to see where they go as they continue to hammer out their sound (and light show).

Bedroom Rehab Corporation

Speaking of good bands getting better, the night also re-confirmed for me how far ahead of their 2013 debut, Red over Red (review here), are bassist/vocalist Adam Wujtewicz and drummer Meghan Killimade of Bedroom Rehab Corporation. After seeing them for the first time earlier this summer, this was already apparent, but no less so in Allston, the New London, CT, twosome engaging in varying doomly methods, Melvins-style crunch and a bit of noise punk to boot, the gruff shouts of Wujtewicz adding a sense of burl to the set. He announced their intention to record with Justin Pizzoferrato, who also helmed Red over Red as well as past and upcoming efforts from Elder and many others, in the coming months, and though they’ve worked together before, I wouldn’t be surprised if the next Bedroom Rehab Corporation is a much different affair than was the first. They seem to be in the process of discovering their sound and that only makes watching them play, even the older material with its seafaring thematic — New London is on the no-less-ambitiously-named Thames River, and is a town with a port history — more enjoyable.

Blackwolfgoat

blackwolfgoat

After stints in recent years in HackmanBlack PyramidThe Scimitar and most recently KindBlackwolfgoat seems all the more like the vehicle through which guitarist Darryl Shepard can express unmitigated joy in his craft. He’s all alone up there — wasn’t at this show, but we’ll get there in a second — looping guitar pieces on top of each other and feeling out the spaces his tones create. The project has proved more progressive over time. His first album on Small Stone, 2010’s Dragonwizardsleeve (review here), was rife with darkened noise, while the subsequent 2012 outing, Dronolith (CD released by The Obelisk’s in-house label, The Maple Forum), branched out to more varied atmospherics. With the new Drone Maintenance, the release this show was celebrating and a record I was fortunate enough to see in the makingShepard again pushes himself toward traditional songwriting ideology, but maintains a full-headed sense of purpose to each piece, each one accomplishing a goal of its own feeding into the larger whole of the album. At O’Brien’s, new works like “Axxtrokk” and “White Hole” led to Shepard bringing up his Kind bandmate Matthew Couto (also Elder) for an entirely improvised jam that ended the set in a chaotic swirl of effects noise that refused to be grounded, either by Couto‘s drumming or the crowd’s expectation. Having seen Kind recently, I had some sense of what to expect from the collaboration, but the results were still the highlight of the evening and something special that hadn’t been done before. If that jam foretells a direction Blackwolfgoat might take, it’s one of any number possible for the wide open creativity on display.

Turns out Allston hadn’t gotten any less fucked up while I was inside O’Brien’s, but I mowed down zombies with video-game accuracy and grooved out to the Masspike without further incident. A couple close calls here and there, but easily a trip worth the risk.

Few more pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

Read more »

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Ice Dragon , Loaf of Head: Playing on Contrast

Posted in Reviews on September 15th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

ice dragon loaf of head

It hasn’t yet been a full month since Boston’s Ice Dragon issued their Seeds from a Dying Garden (review here) album, more or less dropping it on the heads of listeners in their customary Bandcamp/YouTube fashion, and this weekend the admirably prolific foursome followed it up with Loaf of Head. The new release starts off like the aural equivalent of showing up at a fancy dinner party, pulling down your pants and slapping your balls on the coffee table. It swaggers and swings and drunkenly pushes you out of the way with opener “Yes I Am,” working quick to proffer shouted-across-the-room dudely burl while the subsequent “Walking Tall” stomps its feelings away in a stupor of slide guitar and blown-out proclamations. Maybe after Seeds from a Dying Garden was out Ice Dragon decided they had to let loose a little — though one imagines the two were written concurrently — and Loaf of Head certainly follows suit with that. It is raucous and mean, and even when the guitar gets a little psychedelic at the end of “Walking Tall,” one would hardly call it a peaceful moment.

Yet there’s more to it than the initial boasting and riffbeating as well — not that I have a problem with either, particularly in the context of Ice Dragon‘s multifaceted sound — and Loaf of Head shifts with “The Question Unanswered” into a more style more psychedelic in its garage doom roll. The lead guitar is still over-the-top grandiose, and it’s still plenty heavy, but it’s a more languid unfurling, less immediately aggressive, and more of a nod. The band, comprised of vocalist Ron Rochondo (some drums), guitarist Carter (some bass), bassist Joe (some guitar) and drummer Brad, continue down this path with “A Song by Hildegarde Hawthorne,” a slower garage rocker more peaceful than either in the opening duo, but still with movement underscoring its warm distortion, layers of lead and rhythm guitar, rounding out with “aah” sweetness in a way that almost telegraphs how much it’s setting you up how-about-a-Hawaiian-punch-style for “I’m Sorry to all the Girls,” which returns to the knuckleheaded butt rock thrust of “Yes I Am” and “Walking Tall.” And just so there’s no mistaking, indeed, “knuckleheaded” is a compliment.

They said at some point over the last couple weeks that their next one was gonna be a rocker, and they were right. Continually, Ice Dragon show an awareness of what they’re bringing to each release sonically. Even down to Loaf of Head‘s artwork, which is manic and psychedelic but rawer than the Beach Boys-style sunshine of Seeds from a Dying Garden, the album reaffirms their consciousness of the scope they’re creating. They can come across as nihilistic, particularly on songs like “Yes I Am” or “I’m Sorry to all the Girls,” which delights in its scuzzy blues, but Ice Dragon know what they’re doing here, and every song, every album they make is a result of thought-out decisions, even if the decision involved is, “Okay, we’re gonna get loaded and hit record.” If you’re wondering why they might be sorry to all the girls, it’s because they need “a savory older lady.” That song sort of disintegrates behind Rochondo‘s vocals, and the sleaze continues on “Living in the Goddamn City,” though with a more socially-conscious turn in lines like, “There’s a rich woman yellin’ on her telephone/She’s never had a job she’s got a beautiful home.”

ice dragon

A punk ethic and accordingly a punk riff, though slowed down in a stonerly tradition. After a bridge and tripped-out solo, they repeat the chorus in what feels like surprisingly traditional fashion, and Loaf of Head rounds out with “The Rising Moon, the Setting Sun.” I thought they might try to tie the two sides of the offering together, or maybe begin a turn to the easy psych flow of “The Question Unanswered” and “A Song by Hidegarde Hawthorne” and just cut it short, and they seem to lean more to the former idea. A highlight bassline and swinging drum march meet with airy guitar and a chorus that satisfies in the tradition of big ’70s rockers — when Ice Dragon decides to do “their ELO record,” shit is going to hit the fan — and whatever it may be doing to tie the leave-’em-loose ends of Loaf of Head together, “The Rising Moon, the Setting Sun” is the album’s best track, crafted fluidly and engagingly around a simple, central chug but opening in that chorus part to a glorious wash that’s as accomplished as anything I’ve yet heard from Ice Dragon on one of their many outings. A signature moment, and a fitting close.

Their progression, walking down several different avenues at the same time, continues unabated. I wouldn’t hazard a guess at what they might break out next — a metallic single? a drone-folk collection of peaceful resonance? — but whatever it might be, the underlying processes by which Ice Dragon are able to concoct all this diverse material move forward. They’re a lot to keep up with, but the catalog they’ve created — now upwards of 10 albums deep, plus other singles, splits, etc., all DIY — is unlike anything else out there. And in the case of Loaf of Head, I mean way out there.

Ice Dragon, Loaf of Head (2014)

Ice Dragon on Thee Facebooks

Ice Dragon on Bandcamp

Ice Dragon on YouTube

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: Bong, Space Mushroom Fuzz, Desert Lord, Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, and Plunger

Posted in Radio on September 12th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk radio

It’s been a couple weeks since the last time I was able to get together a proper round of adds to The Obelisk Radio, and the list as a result is accordingly huge. I’d have to go back and compare the last 18-plus months to be sure, but I think 40 albums is up there with what I might have uploaded during the initial buildup of the playlist, just basically getting everything I could think of and a bunch of stuff I couldn’t to expand on what was on the hard drive when I got it. We’ll be at two years since the Radio stream went live before I know it. Time goes quick, and seems to all the more when each post has a timestamp.

I say this every time, but there’s a lot of killer stuff included this week, so I hope you find something you enjoy.

The Obelisk Radio Adds for Sept. 13, 2014:

Bong, Bong Presents Haikai No Ku Ultra High Dimensionality LP

bong haikai no ku

I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to try to ascertain what plane of being Bong are residing on these days, but suffice it to say, they’ve evolved beyond corporeal form and merged with the all-consuming distortion of the universe. At least that’s how it sounds. The maddeningly prolific UK drone-doomers present this release but aren’t actually on it, save for guitarist Mike Vest, who leads the side-project Haikai No Ku through five tracks of blissful psychout on Ultra High Dimensionality. If you’re looking for differences between the two outfits, Haikai No Ku lean less toward grim droning than Bong, and songs like “Dead in the Temple” and “Blue at Noon” roll out huge psychedelic grooves — the band is completed by bassist Jerome Smith and drummer Sam Booth — but there’s consistency to be found in the wash of noise and the complete hypnosis of their repetitions anyway, and as high as the dimensionality might be, the volume should be higher. One to get lost in for sure, and there’s enough space for everyone. Bong on Twitter, on Bandcamp.

Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, The Shining One

lucifer in the sky with diamonds the shining one

The pun in the moniker of Moscow double-guitar four-piece Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds probably doesn’t need to be pointed out. Featuring The Grand Astoria collaborator Igor SuvorovLucifer in the Sky with Diamonds pull together touches of psychedelic impulsiveness and classic heavy rock structures with the production clarity and catchy songwriting of mid-era Queens of the Stone Age. There’s a danger underscoring the boogie of “How to Fix Things” from the band’s self-released debut LP, The Shining One, that seems to find payoff later in the big-groove hook of “Highlow World,” which provides one of the album’s most satisfying listens before shifting into an airier dreamspace and fading into the noisier “Lords of the Damned,” reviving the largesse of riff prior to the closing title-track. An intriguing debut for an outfit loaded with potential, the fullness of their sound boding particularly well for their confidence in their sound and the precision of their execution. One not to be missed. Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Desert Lord, To the Unknown

desert lord to the unknown

Finnish stoner-doom foursome Desert Lord get into some Sabbath-worship on their debut long-player, To the Unknown, but manage to avoid both the trap of retro ’70s-ism that has much of Europe so firmly in its grasp and the trap of sounding like Reverend Bizarre, whose legacy in their native land isn’t to be understated. Of particular note is that Desert Lord cite The Cult as an influence. One can hear shades of that in the guitars on opener “Forlorn Caravan,” but Desert Lord quickly move into doomier fare on the subsequent nine-minute “Wonderland,” which distinguished by weeded-out wah on Roni‘s bass. Middle-ground is sought and found on “New Dimensions,” with vocalist Sampo Riihimäki reminding of Earthride‘s Dave Sherman in his movement between rougher delivery, spoken word, and accentuated screaming, also hinting at roots in more traditional metal, though “Manic Survivor’s Song” gives way to more stoner territory in the guitar, reminding of some of Eggnogg‘s stylistic turns, though with less of a mind toward tonal thickness. They’re still figuring out where they want to be, but Desert Lord‘s To the Unknown has more than a few moments worth the effort of a listen. Desert Lord on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Space Mushroom Fuzz, Onward, to the Future

space mushroom fuzz onward to the future

Perpetually progressive and perpetually prolific bizarro psych rockers Space Mushroom Fuzz return with another new release, dubbed Onward, to the Future. The Boston outfit, led by Adam Abrams of Blue Aside, include two tracks this time out, “Onward, to the Future,” a laid back space rocker made strange in its midsection with some theremin-style keys, and the waltzing “Half the Way Down,” which shows off some classical guitar work over a subtly oompah backing rhythm with soft, brooding vocals. Is it possible to have a shoegazing waltz? Space Mushroom Fuzz never lack character in they do, Abrams periodically leading the way through jams that could and sometimes do run into indulgent (if satisfying) noodlefests, but particularly with “Half the Way Down,” there’s something more grounded and sadder at the root. “Onward, to the Future” tells a tale of alien invasion — short version: they win — and showcases the band’s exploratory side, but even that ends contemplative and relatively minimal, sort of dropping instruments one at a time by its finish on a long fade. A lesson in taming expectation, perhaps, and a fascinating, quick journey from this inventive outfit. Space Mushroom Fuzz on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Plunger, Space Plumber

plunger space plumber

All seems to be on a course for weirdo noise punk as Los Angeles bass/drum duo Plunger get underway on their debut Space Plumber EP, some Melvins influence making itself felt on “Toxic Wrap,” and then they rumble and thump their way into the eight-minute centerpiece title-track, and it becomes apparent that there’s much more going on with twin brothers Mark (bass/vocals) and Kris Calabio (drums/vocals, also of Old Man Wizard) than it might at first seem. They quickly put their own minimalism to work for them on the faster opener “Blerg Rush,” but “Space Plumber” moves far off into sparseness, the drums barely there when they are and then gone ahead of the transition into “Sleep,” on which both Mark and Kris contribute vocals over a fuller rumble and steady roll, clearly enjoying the contrast. “Plunger” rounds out the release with a fuller take on some of the faster movement of the opener, starts and stops in the unpretentious 1;53 finale. One gets the feeling the (Super) Calabio Bros. are only going to get stranger from here, and that suits them well. Plunger on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Once again, these are five cool releases, but there were 35 other records that join the playlist today, including full-lengths from Orange Goblin, Electric Wizard, Apostle of Solitude and on and on. A couple of these will be on the year-end list, so if you get the chance to check out The Obelisk Radio playlist and updates page, I think it’s worth a look.

Thank you for reading and listening.

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Ice Dragon Release New Album Seeds from a Dying Garden

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 1st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

It was late Friday night when, in their usual fashion, Boston doom experimentalists Ice Dragon posted a link to their new album, Seeds from a Dying Garden, available to stream and download on their Bandcamp. This was surprising at first — not because it’s a new Ice Dragon; they’d said they were working on material and they’ve been almost maddeningly prolific over the last several years — but because it wasn’t free. A $7 download. Quite a jump from their usual “here, take it” name-your-price methodology.

I assumed at first there was something they were raising money to buy. Some piece of ancient and obscure recording or synth equipment, a Moog that George Harrison once looked at in a store or something like that, but nope, apparently they just ran out of free download credits on Bandcamp, which is apparently a thing. I’d never heard of it, but I don’t have a Bandcamp, so there you go. They’ve since lowered the price to a measly buck, and I think once you check out Seeds from a Dying Garden itself, you’ll find it worth the investment.

ice dragon seeds from a dying gardenFor their latest and umpteenth outing, Ice Dragon dive deep into classic psychedelic pop rock — as their Beach Boys-esque cover indicates — and emerge with Beatlesian characters like “Mr. Merry Melan Man” and the winking weed puns of “Mary Wants a Sunset” to craft a sound still characteristically their own, shades of doomed march working their way into languid progressions, an abidingly stoned sensibility arriving with the eight-minute dream-out “Your Beauty Measures More.” Front to back, it is a consuming journey into psych-ic expansion, but as ever, Ice Dragon maintain the penchant for songwriting that has made them forerunners among garage doom and the unflinching creative will that sees them so constantly broadening their style.

And while they often toy with biting metal tones and lunkheadedly badass riffing, Seeds from a Dying Garden feels more like it’s working to push the boundaries of last year’s Born a Heavy Morning (review here), and it does so even unto its ambient interludes “To Everything that Was” and “To Everything that Might Have Been,” which appear three tracks in and three tracks from the end to draw a linear thread through the album’s widely varied course. No doubt Ice Dragon will tackle their metal side again at some point, but for the boldness with which they approach psychedelia when they choose to do so — their sound also isn’t necessarily limited to one or the other — I tend to find this path even more engaging. The title may hint at some sense of loss or foreboding, but the general mood is more suited to the bright nostalgic wash of the cover photo, though of course if Ice Dragon only did one thing all the time, it just wouldn’t be them.

Seeds from a Dying Garden is available now for download and follows Ice Dragon‘s July 2014 split with Space Mushroom Fuzz (info here). Check it out on the player below.

Ice Dragon, Seeds from a Dying Garden (2014)

Ice Dragon on Bandcamp

Ice Dragon on Thee Facebooks

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