Posted in Whathaveyou on January 18th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
So here’s how it apparently went down. A week ago, the dudes in Boston-based doomly three-piece Ice Dragon got loaded on a bottle of mead gifted to them by the band Merlin. One imagines from listening to Ice Dragon‘s prolific level of output that it’s not the first time they’ve been drunk on mead, nor will it be the last. While bombed in the viking tradition, they decided to record a new single, called “The Soul’s Midnight.”
The result was fittingly dark, moody and languid. Here’s what they had to say about it at the time:
We just finished a great bottle of homemade mead, given to us from our friends in the band Merlin. We can’t figure out how to tag them because we’re drunk. Anyway we made a new song too and rather than be assfaces and give a “release date” and leak the cover art and tracklisting and all that stupid bullshit bands do nowadays. HERE YOU GO. It’s free. Don’t make fun of us if it sounds bad, please. We made it tonight. We’re drunk.
Fair enough. Last night (Jan. 18), they posted a revisited version of “The Soul’s Midnight,” this time recorded while high. What could possibly drive them toward such scientific aims, discovering — at last — the differences between putting a song to tape under varying influence? I don’t know, but the track is killer and the nihilism only adds to the enjoyment level.
Ice Dragon posted the results of this bold experiment last night. Here’s that post, followed by both versions of “The Soul’s Midnight,” which is up for pay-what-you-will download at the Ice Dragon Bandcamp:
So, we made a HIGH version of “The Soul’s Midnight”. The original is still on there and that is now the drunk version. We’re not “signed” so we can do whatever the hell we want, and this is what we want. We hope you want it too.
Might want to re-download if you already did. Or not.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 7th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Over the weekend, your buddy and mine, Darryl Shepard (also Blackwolfgoat, Milligram, etc.) announced that he and his Black Pyramid bandmate Dave Gein had formed a new band, The Scimitar, with drummer Brian Banfield. The name comes from a song Shepard wrote with Gein and drummer Clay Neely in Black Pyramid, and with a new album from that band expected this year — it’s mixed and last I heard was being mastered — I can’t help but wonder if the difference won’t show itself in terms of the amount of live shows being played by The Scimitar. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Until then, Shepard says they’re working on material and will start playing out in the spring:
I’d like to announce the formation of a new band called The Scimitar. It consists of myself and Gein from Black Pyramid as well as drummer Brian Banfield. Black Pyramid will be playing out much less in 2013, so Gein and I decided to start a new project. It will basically be just an extension of BP, same style of songwriting, same tunings, etc. We have two songs near completion, and we’re working on a cover of Motörhead’s “Metropolis”. Black Pyramid isn’t going anywhere, just think of The Scimitar as an extension of that band. We should be ready to play shows in March or April.
Posted in Radio on January 2nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Some bands have a tone that just goes beyond fuzz. So it goes with Boston-based space-psych trio Sonic Titan, who play with such distortion as to make you think their guitars have beards. The trio digitally released their second full-length, EvenHigher, last March and it flew under my radar, but I’ve been digging its quirky interludes, fast-paced changes, and yes, its hairy tonality, and wanted to take a second to highlight it in case anyone else had yet to check it out.
Steve McCaul‘s bass warrants a headphone listen on its own, but there’s a lot of intricate work going on in Tom Symes‘ drums as well, while guitarist/vocalist Shaun Anzalone leads the charge with classic riff rock and vocals that strike a balance of impeccably mixed modern shouts and the swaggering soul of yore. “No Illusion” works in a Never Say Die-era Sabbath mold, at least initially, and “Esoteric Warning,” despite the severity of its title, has a bit of funk to its pulse. There’s a lot to immerse yourself in, and I’ve really just been introduced to the aptly-titled cosmic strangeness and guitar solo glory of “Weird Forest,” but Even Higher is an album I’m looking forward to getting to know better, and I’m glad to have the chance to add it to regular rotation on The Obelisk Radio.
It’s only been a little over two months since Boston-based space rockers Space Mushroom Fuzz released their second album, Something Weird’s Going On, and only about six since their first full-length, When Time Trippers Collide (review here), was unveiled, so the two-piece have set a solid course of working quickly. Yet, I can’t help but notice that the song “Trapped in the Past,” for which they just today unveiled a new video, isn’t on either of those two albums.
The natural conclusion is that Space Mushroom Fuzz — the duo of Adam Abrams (also Blue Aside/Palace in Thunderland) and John Belcastro — already have more new stuff in the offing, which is an even more impressive pace than I previously thought. Either way, the video for “Trapped in the Past” is rife with a sort of low-budget psychedelic strangeness, Wonka-esque light flashes and periodic moments of clarity. It’s a trip, and you’ll find it on the player below.
I also thought I’d include the stream of Something Weird’s Going On from the Space Mushroom Fuzz Bandcamp page in case you wanted to dig a little further. Please enjoy:
It just can’t be a coincidence that the quickie solo in “Eightball,” which is very much about cocaine, sounds like Kerry King on an ’80s Slayer record. Who also would’ve thought that “Who’s got blow/Eightball/Bring it all/Come on” would make for such a catchy chorus? It’s one of about six for six on Lamont‘s 2005 EP, Muscle, Guts and Luck, alongside ripped like “Raise a Little Hell,” and the raucous closing pair “On the Lam” and “Burn it Down.”
You might (you might not) remember I wrote a post about Lamont‘s Thunder Boogie full-length, well, Muscle, Guts and Luck was released in 2005 on Underdogma Records and came into my possession as a gift from longtime Obelisk reader and all-around good dude Mike H., who I’m pretty sure is more O.G. on this site than I am. He found it in a shop in Maine called Bull Moose – apparently a bit of a local chain up that way — and sent it over with holiday-type cheer. Much appreciated, even before I put the thing on and heard the killer Boston-Southern riffing of “Water Me Down,” which, if it showed up today on a Roadsaw or Infernal Overdrive record, would still have me stoked. I guess seven years isn’t that long anyway, but this stuff hasn’t aged a bit.
Muscle, Guts and Luckis only 23 minutes long, so it’s right there in EP territory, but it’s packed anyway. Each track has something killer on offer, whether it’s the aforementioned chorus righteousness, Jase Forney‘s bass-fill excellence on “Raise a Little Hell” and really everywhere else, Pete Knipfing‘s used-to-be-a-punker shouts, drummer Todd Bowman‘s quick changes in “Cannonball,” on which Michele Morgan also adds backing vocals behind Knipfing. ”Cannonball” particularly reminds me of some of the ballsy groove that showed up on what would turn out to be the last album from NY regional favorites Puny Human, 2007′s Universal Freak Out, and it’s not surprising since the two releases share a producer in Andrew Schneider.
According to the Oct. 14, 2005, issue of the Boston Phoenix – because, that’s right, I do research — Forney busted his sternum and a couple ribs and bruised his heart and spleen while working on Lamont‘s tour van around this time, forcing the band to can most of the tour they’d have done around Muscle, Guts and Luck. I’m not sure if bruised muscle, flattened guts and shitty luck were what they were going for with the title, but at least it’s genre appropriate. If you can get your hands on a copy of the EP, either at a Bull Moose like our dear friend Mike H. or anywhere else, consider it recommended listening. The more time I spend listening to these dudes, the more I think a reunion is in order.
Elder, classic cable-access style. Not sure what could be better than that. Rich from the respect-worthy The Day after the Sabbath blog sent over the above clip, which was taped in 2010. The band’s second album, Dead Roots Stirring, wasn’t out yet, but they still close out with “The End” and the title-track from the record, so that material is represented along with “Riddle of Steel Pt. 1,” “Hexe” and “White Walls” from their 2008 self-titled debut. It’s a badass video, a great way to end an amazing week, and Rich also sent over a link to download high-quality mp3s of the full performance, which I’m glad to say will be added to The Obelisk Radio over the weekend.
About this week: Wow. Thanks to everyone who’s taken the time to check out the stuff that went up over the last few days. Usually I think of December as being kind of a quiet month, but with more than 200 Thee Facebooks likes on the Top 20 of 2012 and the kind of response to today’s Devil to Pay video premiere that I’m relatively sure the internet types call “viral,” I couldn’t feel better about heading into the holidays next week. Thank you all for reading, commenting, liking, sharing, helping to spread the word that this site exists. Today felt really good.
Over the weekend, I’ll be adding more than 100 albums to The Obelisk Radio, including as I mentioned the Elder performance above, as well as some classic Trouble, Kylesa, Mastodon, and many others. There’s still a lot of updating to be done, but I’ve been enjoying the process, so I’ll keep plugging away and hopefully you get the chance to listen and enjoy some of the tunes. I was stoked this afternoon when “Big News I” came on, and then later I heard The Atomic Bitchwax covering Deep Purple’s “Maybe I’m a Leo.” It had been a while for that one, so that was cool as well. Lots of good stuff on the playlist at this point, and while we’re still working out some kinks on the back end and there are adjustments to be made, I hope you enjoy the work in progress.
I will be posting next week, so if you’re around I hope you’ll be able to check in. Monday is Xmas Eve and that brings familial obligations, and of course Tuesday is Xmas Proper, but I’m back in the office for at least part of the day Wednesday and if I can post prior to that, I will. I’ve got an awesome interview with Arthur Seay of Unida/House of Broken Promises that I’d like to post before 2013 hits, and a whole stack of CDs wanting reviews, so although I’ve pretty much put the year to bed (I was thinking I might do a separate list of the top 10 EPs and demos — might be a fun complement to the bigger top 20), there’s still a lot more to come as we head toward the New Year. As always, I hope you’ll stick around.
And as always, I hope you have a great and safe weekend. I’ve been hearing and reading about blizzards in the Midwest, so if you’re out that way, stay warm and stay safe. I’ll see you on the forum and back here next week for more good times.
Similar to my thinking in going to the Six Organs of Admittance show last Friday, it seemed to me that if I’m going to be living up that way in the next year, I better get used to buying records in Boston. I’d been to Armageddon Shop there before, and I’ve visited the Providence store as well, but a return trip seemed warranted and The Patient Mrs. gave the all-clear, so off to Harvard Square we went.
Like a lot of places, Armageddon seems to be phasing out CDs in favor of donating the room to vinyl, which at this point I can’t even argue with. New records are coming out only on LP and CDs have lost preference to either end of the extreme — i.e. vinyl or digital, or both. Even as someone who would still rather have a CD than a record, I can understand the appeal. So it makes sense. It’s good business. And in the meantime, they still have a whole wall and then some dedicated to mostly used compact discs and I was happy to peruse the space once again while the crew put on the flute-laden tones of the last Blood Ceremony full-length.
I wound up with two discs for my effort, not really on the cheap but not exactly off it either. For $9.99, I got Black Spirit‘s Black Spiritand for $6.99, Endless Skies by Ashbury. The former is an Italian band and an album I posted about earlier this year, full of post-kraut progressive indulgences but not really off-putting or lacking unifying melody. The latter — and I’ll say this honestly — I bought because the art was badass. I looked at the wizard holding up his hand to gather the clouds about the village below, saw that it was a Vintage/Rockadrome reissue and decided there was no way to lose. A safe bet I was comfortable making.
Of the two, Black Spirit‘s album is the older. It came out in 1978, was their only release, and even this Ohrwaschl version is light on info. You get the lineup and the tracklist (inside the liner in what looks like a direct replica of the vinyl sleeve) and that’s pretty much it. The cover art — also righteous, but in a different way than Ashbury – appears twice, on the jewel case and the outside panels of the liner notes, and even under the CD tray as well, not to mention on the CD itself. It’s a lot of purple to live up to, but the music on the album’s five tracks gets driven home with a bluesy feel and some lightly accented vocals, and 12-minute closer “Old Times” is high-grade classic heavy rock that maybe could’ve come out five or six years earlier and been a hit, but I guess was a little behind the times for ’78.
Same applies to Ashbury, come to think of it, except with the Arizona duo they’re playing a kind of proto-metal that, by the time Endless Skieswas released in 1983, the genre had moved past. “Vengeance” has a kind of metal-ness to its riff, but a song like “Take Your Love Away” is more Blue Öyster Cult than Judas Priest. Nothing against it, since the guitar playing is ace, the tracks groove and the whole thing has a vibe worthy of its wizard cover, and considering the side-of-the-van-worthiness of that wizard, that’s saying something. To imagine though that the mid-’70s arena melodies of “Madman” came out the same year as the first Slayer record makes it even more fascinating. In any case, I lucked out.
It wasn’t the biggest haul I’ve ever pulled in, not the stack of discs I sometimes come away with, but for the quality of what I got, I’d hardly call it a loss. Two albums that happen to share in being out of place for what they were doing at the time, the math actually works out pretty well. There was never any doubt, but I’m more or less certain that whenever I end up living there, it won’t be the end of my record buying habit. Good to know. If you’re so inclined, check out Armageddon Shop’s website here.
Posted in audiObelisk on December 6th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
These Roadsaw demos from 1998 might be old hat by now if you’re a regular on the forum, but I thought after listening that they were definitely worth highlighting here as well in case anyone may have missed them. Darryl Shepard, now of Black Pyramid and Blackwolfgoat, played guitar with the band at the time and found the there songs on an old CDR and decided to put them up for anyone interested.
Well, I guess that would be me. What’s cool about these tracks is that it would be another nine years before the two that made the cut helped serve as the defining statement of Roadsaw‘s return in 2007. By then, Ian Ross had replaced Shepard on guitar to join founders Craig Riggs (vocals) and Tim Catz (bass) and drummer Hari Hassin, but Roadsaw – despite originally issuing Rawk ‘n’ Rollin 2001 — had been inactive for roughly half a decade before aligning themselves to Small Stone and reissuing that album, so both “Bad Ass Rising” and “Blackout Driver” had already stood the test of time for almost 10 years before they showed up on the reissue of Rawk ‘n’ Roll in 2007.
And the third track, “While You Waited” was never previously issued in any way at all, so this is the first time it’s coming out. Basically, for Roadsaw fans, they’re a curio kind of listen and a bit of insight into the band’s process as it was at the time. I included the original post from Shepard beneath, and you’ll find the tracks on the player below. Please enjoy:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
I found a CD-R of Roadsaw demos from 1998 in a box last night, figured I’d post ‘em for people to check out. These were recorded between “Nationwide” and “Rawk ‘n Roll”. Two of the songs, Blackout Driver and Bad Ass Rising were re-recorded with Ian Ross and later appeared on “Rawk ‘n Roll”. The other song, While You Waited, never appeared on any release in any form. Andrew Schneider recorded these tracks at New Alliance in Boston. The line-up was Craig Riggs (vocals), Tim Catz (bass), Hari Hassin (drums) and yours truly on guitar. So here’s a little piece of Roadsaw history, hope you dig it.
Posted in Reviews on December 4th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
In light of the fact that we’ll be moving there at some point within the next eight months, The Patient Mrs. and I decided to head up to Massachusetts this past weekend. She got a job at a university in Bridgewater and I’d never seen the town, and well, if I’m gonna live there it made sense to have a look. Since going to shows is a big part of what I do with my time, it also made sense to check out Six Organs of Admittance at the Brighton Music Hall in Boston, about half an hour away. The whole thing was very sensible.
The theory was it’s not like I’m going to stop seeing bands, it’s just that the places I’ll be seeing them will be different. A different scene. That’s okay though. I’ve heard Boston is very welcoming to outsiders. Ha.
Helping ease my transition was the simple fact that the joint Ben Chasny and his East Coast cohorts in Six Organs of Admittance – on the West Coast, he reportedly played with members of his other band, Comets on Fire, but no dice for the Eastern run — was called the Brighton. I couldn’t help but be immediately comfortable in a place that shared its name with the Brighton Bar in Long Branch, NJ, where I’ve seen (and played) more shows than I have time to sit and remember. Several cans of Sapporo and the company of The Patient Mrs.herself may also have helped. Nothing to be terrified of here.
Opening act Major Stars were on when I got there. The band is local to Boston but Drag City labelmates with Six Organs, once did a split with Comets on Fire and a bit given to the driving psychedelic swirl that also provides the pulse of Six Organs‘ latest album, Ascent (review here), so if nothing else, they made sense on the two-band bill. Frontwoman Sandra Barrett (ex-L.A. Drugs) won the prize for tightest leather pants of the evening — I didn’t even know there was a contest and so had left my own at the hotel — and guitarists Wayne Rogers, Kate Biggar and Tom Leonard provided ample churn behind her chic-but-more-than-capable croon.
They rode the line between heavy psych and indie pretty hard, but the three guitars had distinct tones among them and that added a level of interest in watching them on stage with no prior listening experience. Rogers walked back and forth in a way that was almost hypnotic, and Biggar‘s instrument was gorgeous in a museum-quality sense. Bassist Dave Dougan and drummer Casey Keenan had their work cut out for them in holding the varied assault together, but ultimately, they were up to it. Keenan would wind up pulling double-duty in Six Organs as well, and he did so having already made a positive impression on the crowd, which seemed much more familiar with Major Stars‘ work than I could claim to be.
As regards Six Organs of Admittance, they were just what I was looking for. I’d just spent about five hours on the road to Boston and, only the night before, had driven to and from Philadelphia to catch High on Fire (review here). To hit two shows in a row is one thing, but to do it one city to the next is another. But Chasny, electric guitar in tow — this was the first time I’ve seen him play electric, which he did neither at Roadburn 2009 nor at that awful night in Brooklyn — along with Keenan, second guitarist John Shaw of Magik Markers and bassist Andrew Mitchell (who formerly accompanied Chasny on live guitar), opened with the driving jam “Waswasa” from Ascent, which was consuming in its frenetic freakout from the word go.
Being the only material put together with a full band in mind, where prior Six Organs outings were Chasny solo affairs with periodic guest spots, Ascentobviously featured heavily in the set. Fine by me, since despite bitching about the cash I shelled out for it, I actually quite enjoyed the album. Mitchell‘s fuzzy bass on “One Thousand Birds” — which Chasny joked was about “a hundred birds” — was a highlight, and for someone who’s been so subdued every other time I’ve seen him on stage, Chasny tore into his many solos, leaving Shaw to cover the rhythms while he proffered a swaggering mastery straight out of classic rock. It was a long way from Compathia, but damn if it wasn’t a good time.
The moods varied throughout from bombastic chaos to Dead Meadow-style shoegazing psych, but Six Organs kept a firm grip no matter how far out they went either way, the insistent rhythm and tossed-off sounding verses of “Even if You Knew” standing out as particularly vivid. When they wanted to be, they were raucously heavy in a psych sense — that’s to say, not beholden to tonal thickness — but there was no ideological genre allegiance, and so they were free stylistically to roam as they pleased. At the end of the set, Chasny came back out and did a couple songs solo. It felt a little perfunctory, which I chalked up to residual adrenaline from the full set prior and a conscious shift from one modus to the other. I’ve never gone from playing psychedelic freak rock to quiet, intimate folk, but I can imagine it’s not as easy as flipping a switch. He seemed a bit like he was reminding himself to slow down.
Nonetheless, the glimpse at the “usual” Six Organs of Admittance methodology was welcome, if only as it provided contrast to what Chasny has done with the project on Ascentand by extension with this tour. Boston was the first night, but if there were more than one or two hiccups, I didn’t notice. The band seemed to operate smoothly, Keenan‘s drumming fluid with the two guitars and bass, and Chasny took well to the frontman role, his presence on stage only enhanced by the unhindered conviction with which he delivered the material.
If this was my first show in Boston attended while also thinking about the city on some kind of residential level, I couldn’t have really asked for more than I got. The Patient Mrs. and I cabbed it back to the hotel, I took the dog out — my dog is so housebroken that your dog is embarrassed about it, and rightly so — and we crashed. Saturday was to be spent looking at houses down in Bridgewater, and it wouldn’t have done to sleep through such things.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 3rd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Dates are forthcoming, but Boston heavy psych forerunners Elder have announced they’ll be touring Europe around their previously announced Roadburn 2013 appearance with Danish trio Pet the Preacher. I’ve run the scenarios through my head a dozen times, and it all comes out to there’s no way this could possibly be a bad thing.
Elder continue to support their 2011 album, Dead Roots Stirring and this year’s limited Spires Burn/Release10″, and I have a hard time imagining a better flag to fly upon their reaching European shores than those releases.
More to come, but here’s this in the meantime:
We are excited to officially announce that this spring US heavy psych rockers ELDER will join forces with their Scandinavian brothers PET THE PREACHER (DK) for a two-week tour across Europe.
ELDER have gained a steady following since their sophomore album Dead Roots Stirring (MeteorCity Records), which established them as one of the US’s most innovative stoner rock bands. They will be performing at the 13th annual Roadburn Festival in Tilburg, Holland, on April 20th.
Hailing from Denmark, PET THE PREACHER have been turning heads with their debut album The Banjo and in january 2013, Bilocation Records will release the follow-up double-EP Short Stories: Papa Zen & Meet The Creature. Crossing genres from stoner/blues to prog rock, the trio embodies the modern definition of spirited rock n’ roll.
Stay tuned for exact dates in the very near future.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 20th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Way to go to Boston-based crushers Phantom Glue. Word came down just a bit ago that the four-piece have signed with Black Market Activities, the Metal Blade imprint helmed by Guy Kozowyk of The Red Chord. Phantom Glue‘s 2010 self-titled debut (review here) was a rager, so hopefully their new alliance gets them some roadtime as they prepare to unleash their second album, A War of Light Cones early next year.
The PR wire tells it thusly:
Black Market Activities signs PHANTOM GLUE
Black Market Activities officially announces its newest signing: Phantom Glue. BMA will release the band’s new album, A War of Light Cones, in early 2013.
From Boston, Massachusetts, Phantom Glue name The Jesus Lizard, Neurosis, and Trouble as key influences, pounding out what Exclaim Magazine has termed “a heated bastion of caustic riffs and unearthly girth”.
Beneath the band’s self-proclaimed “avalanche of distortion” lies a rich conceptual foundation where lyrics and artwork combine to evoke a Lovecraftian universe. Vocalist/guitarist Matt Oates, also the band’s lyricist and resident cover artist, describes new album A War of Light Cones as “a nightmare/occult alternate history of Colonial America”. Standout track “Perils”, for example — released in August on alt weekly The Boston Phoenix’s Born of Fire, Vol. 2 compilation, alongside other Boston bands like Doomriders — tells the tale of a trapper catching a creature whose pelt grants psychic gifts.
Phantom Glue’s second album and their first for BMA, A War of Light Cones was produced by Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou at GodCity Studio (Converge, Cave In, Today Is The Day). Ballou’s connection to Phantom Glue dates back to the 90s when he and Matt Oates were bandmates in The Huguenots.
Phantom Glue’s lineup is completed by guitarist Mike Gowell, bassist/vocalist Nick Wolf, and drummer Kyle Rasmussen.
BMA boss Guy Kozowyk states, “We are proud to welcome Phantom Glue into the BMA family. As someone who grew up in Boston and still lives in the area, it means a lot to me to have a strong New England contingent on BMA. With the recent Hivesmasher album and now Phantom Glue, we’re helping represent some of the exciting stuff going on here right now.”
It’s okay though. I’m pretty sure Lamont were only in such a hurry to kick your ass on Thunder Boogie because they had to get to that date with your girlfriend.
During their time together, Boston-based trio Lamont put out two EPs and two full-lengths. Thunder Boogie was the first, arriving a decade ago in 2002 on Traktor 7 Records after the 1999EP and Muscle, Guts and LuckEP and preceding their swan song, Population 3. They broke up in 2007 — guitarist/vocalist Pete Knipfing went on to play in Mess with the Bull — and since then, info on the band has become sparse to the point on nonexistence. Even their MySpace page is gone by now.
A pretty familiar story — band does stuff then breaks up — and I’d leave it there were it not for the unencumbered freeballing swagger of Thunder Boogieitself. The basic fact of the matter is if this record came across my desk for review today, I’d fall all over myself to give it a glowing overly-detailed review, and while 10 years on, it’s not exactly groundbreaking for heavy or stoner rock, it’s clear even now that Lamont‘s penchant for speed-riffing and driving grooves — rushed from the start of the blazing “Hot Wire” — wasn’t about innovation as much as it was about drinking, classic rock worship, big hooks and no bullshit.
Like the best of Boston’s heavy rock scene then and now, there’s a strong undercurrent of punk in what Lamont does. Nine tracks in 31 minutes means there isn’t much time for screwing around, and “Vegas,” “I Saw Red” and “One White Line” ensure the first half of Thunder Boogie is filled with strong choruses, motor-ready rock and a blinding sense of pace that, even when it slows, hardly gives you time to process before Knipfing, bassist Mike Cosgrove and drummer Todd Bowman are on to the next thing. By the time they get around to “Thunderboogie,” “Hell’s Got Me Runnin’,” “Psychopath” and the infectious closer “Agent 49″ — which tops seven minutes only because of the bonus track — they’re well dug in, dripping attitude on the gang vocals of “Psychopath” or the post-rockabilly brashness of the finale.
Thunder Boogiefinally came into my possession just hours after acquiring the Johnny Arzgarth haul, presented to me by the man himself, whose reaction earlier when I’d told him about my trouble finding any of Lamont‘s material was, “Oh yeah, let me call Pete,” in the manner of a person who gets things done. So be it. I don’t know how I’d ever be able to pick up any of Lamont‘s other releases — unless, I was to, say, move to Massachusetts sometime in the next year and immediately begin perusing CD stores — so the chance to hear this one was certainly much appreciated.
The video’s kind of lo-res, but should be enough for you to get the point:
Posted in Reviews on November 6th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Delving further into the psych-prog course they launched with 2010’s impressive The Orange Tree EP, Boston-based trio Blue Aside keep a strong sense of melody running throughout their debut full-length, The Moles of a Dying Race. Notably absent are the abrasive vocals that periodically showed up throughout that initial release (review here); in their place, guitarist Adam Abrams, bassist Joe Twomey and drummer Matt Netto have expanded their melodic reach, instrumentally and vocally ranging further into classic and modern progressive elements. The eight track offering, released via Hydro-Phonic Records, runs a lengthy 62 minutes, which is a hefty first statement, and the three-part “The Moles of a Dying Race” title-cut is threaded between other pieces, opening with a seven-minute installment before “The Electrode Man” and “Will We Remain Tomorrow” – both of which top eight minutes – begin the process of really immersing the listener in the album’s atmosphere, which is patient and soothing despite still being tonally weighted. If Netto’s snare is anything to go by, the album was most likely recorded by Black Pyramid drummer Clay Neely at Black Coffee Sound, and there’s a decent balance in the production between lolling groove and open space. Abrams’ guitar is a focal point, but the trio’s vocals also feature heavily in the layers of the mix. The opening “The Moles of a Dying Race: Part 1” distinguishes itself via a sleepy delivery and psychedelic sprawl, and immediately the band makes it known that they’ve gone deeper into their own sound than they did or could have on their first EP, and as “The Electrode Man” follows with Abrams’ lead tracks layered in a kind of instrumental chorus after a gruffer declaration that, “We’re done” – the implication being more perhaps about our species than any more particular “we” – the mood is somewhat darker, but the tones and atmospheres remain consistent. Blue Aside are simply doing more as songwriters than crafting parts that flow well together. They’re using those pieces to evoke an idea, a reality, and it’s for that reason that The Moles of a Dying Race seems so well suited to being tagged as prog.
There isn’t any real focus on technicality in the sense of coldly putting on a clinic. While the three members of the band prove more than capable players – Abrams in particular gives some choice leads and seems to have expanded his creative breadth, perhaps from his work with the experimental Space Mushroom Fuzz psychedelic side-project – their mission remains not the highlight of individual contributions, but instead the song as a whole. The sum, not the parts. “The Electrode Man” bleeds directly into “Will We Remain Tomorrow” (I have a version of the record on which the two songs are combined to one 17-minute track, and I’m not sure which is the final, so if it’s the whole “The Electrode Man/Will We Remain Tomorrow, I hope someone will correct me; it’s the same listening experience either way, so I didn’t figure it really mattered so much), which but for the sharpness of Netto’s drumming would be utterly hypnotic in its earlier moments, Abrams’ leads spacing out over a warm foundation laid down by Twomey on bass. Shades of Rush persist as the more actively chugging verse begins, and the rest of the song is devoted to smooth tradeoffs between the two figures, ending in a solo and a slowdown that sets up the pastoral intro to “The Moles of a Dying Race: Part 2,” on which Abrams and Twomey pair wah lines while Netto cymbal washes behind. Gradual – ever gradual – the song unfolds, gracefully turning darker over its 10:32 runtime, whispered vocals cutting through a verse before opening to a chorus that sets up a more metallic progression, Netto adding brief flourishes of double-kick drumming to play up the aggressive feel. The solo two-thirds of the way through the song is about as grandiose as Blue Aside get on their first LP, reveling in indulgence before shifting back into the chorus. They seem to stumble through the repetitions of that last chorus, with Netto’s fills faster and more impatient than the lumbering riff calls for, but that’s how they end the song, leading to a moment of straightforward respite with the shorter, “The Ice Mammoth.”
Posted in Reviews on November 5th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
It was the night of a thousand riffs. At very least 100-150 very well purposed. A Small Stone Records showcase is always an occasion and this year’s Boston to-do was no exception. The scene was the Radio bar in Somerville, and though The Brought Low dropped off at the last minute owing to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the lineup boasted nine bands — Boston natives Mellow Bravo stepped in to fill the hole, playing earlier than the NYC trio would have — and it was front to back quality between them, Blackwolfgoat, who opened and also played in between sets, Supermachine, Infernal Overdrive, Lord Fowl, Freedom Hawk, Roadsaw, Lo-Pan and Gozu.
What do you do with a night like that? Well, you drink. And I did. Hard. I have a tradition — someone choosing their words less carefully might call it a “habit” — going back nearly a decade at this point of showing up to Small Stone events and promptly getting obliterated. At last year’s Philly showcase (review here and here), I played it cool for the most part. Less so this weekend. Maybe it was just that it was Saturday and I knew I had Sunday to recover, maybe it was the fact that I still didn’t know if the power was on back home yet. Whatever it was, I opened a tab and didn’t look back. My storm-refugee ass needed a night of reckless abandon.
After being dropped off in front of Radio by The Patient Mrs. as though I was on my way to my first day of kindergarten — schooled indeed — I walked in to find Darryl Shepard of Blackwolfgoat early into his set. Downstairs in the basement, a matinee of three sets of Beatles covers would soon give way to a sweaty, smelly night of punk rock. Seems as good a jump-off point as any, so here goes:
With a cocktail straw in his mouth and a bounce in his step (minus the bounce), Blackwolfgoat‘s lone resident, Darryl Shepard — also of currently of Black Pyramid and Milligram and formerly of Hackman, Roadsaw and no shortage of others — showed off some of the latest wares from his one-man act. Shepard would soon adjourn to Radio’s semi-balcony off to the left of the stage, where he’d sit at the ready and wait to drone out a tune or two between other acts, but before he got there, he played some material from last year’s Dronolithand some newer stuff. The newer songs find him using more dynamic loops, setting a droning bed for himself and then launching into — in at least one instance — a grandiose classic rock solo over it. It was awesome to see, and the melody in that solo and around it proved just one more way the project is expanding sonically. He’ll reportedly be recording soon, and of course that’s something to look forward to. Pretty much any day you get to see this dude play guitar is a good day. If you get to see him do a full set to start a show and a bunch of mini-sets between seven or eight other acts, well then, all the better.
There was an interesting mix of stage presences when it came to Boston’s own Mellow Bravo. The first full band on the bill was also the newest to Small Stone‘s roster save for Supermachine, who followed, and they released their self-titled debut album (review here) on the label via a Mad Oak Recordings imprint earlier this year. In the case of charismatic vocalist Keith Pierce and guitarist Andrew Doherty, they seemed birthed of Boston’s formidable hardcore/metalcore scene, whatever soul records they may have dug into since those days, keyboardist/vocalist Jess Collins came off more on the heavy metal end, while guitarist Jeff Fultz (ex-Seemless) had the lead licks and enviable hair of a modern classic rocker. Mix all that with the rhythm section of sunglasses-clad bassist Seager Tennis and drummer Dave Jarvis, and it’s a strange six-piece stew resulting from Mellow Bravo‘s recipe. Nonetheless, they were resoundingly cohesive, putting on a professional show — staged in parts, like when Collins came out from behind the keyboard to front “Ridin’” — and looking like a band who should and expected to be paid for their work. “Love Hammer” was a highlight, but really just one of the memorable songs on their debut that the band did well bringing to life.
There are few phrases that will earn respect in my book as quickly as “ex-Scissorfight.” In the case of label newcomers Supermachine, bassist Paul Jarvis and guitarist Jay Fortin were founding members of that most excellent New Hampshire outfit — both also played in Mess with the Bull – and so interest in what they might be doing musically was automatic, especially as this was my first time seeing them or hearing any of their songs. Joined in the four-piece by drummer Mike McNeill and vocalist David Nebbia, there was a moment where I stood in front of the stage at Radio and was reminded of hazy afternoons and evenings at Room 710 on Red River in Austin, Texas, at many a Small Stone showcase years back there, when I was still relatively just getting my feet wet in terms of appreciating and being exposed to this kind of music. If that’s a long way around to saying Supermachine sounded fresh, so be it. Their performance was organic and unpretentious — though there was no question which of them was the lead singer, even before they got on stage — and while they seemed to still be feeling out their identity as a band, they gave a good first impression.
True enough, I’d had some beers by the time Infernal Overdrive started playing, maybe visited the basement Beatles show downstairs to weird everyone in the room out by singing along to “Can’t Buy Me Love” way louder than was called for. I nonetheless recall being entirely of sound mind when I scribbled my first note about Infernal Overdrive‘s performance. It was as follows: “New shit is right on.” I stand by that 100 percent. They might need to hit the road for a while to really step into what and where they want to be as a band, but short of that, they’ve got their aesthetic down. No less so at Radio than at Stoner Hands of Doom XIIin September. Part of me wants them to just go ahead and get the next record out so they can start closing with “Viking” already, but as the room was beginning to fill up, the Jersey/Massachusetts-native double-guitar foursome treated an eager and thirsty crowd to “Motor” and “The Edge” from their Last Rays of the Dying Sun2011 debut full-length (review here) and those songs rested well alongside newer cuts like “Quints Revenge” and “Ride to the Sun.” As ever, they tore through their set, capping with the cowbell/fuzz swiftness of “I-95,” which set the stage well for Connecticut’s Lord Fowl, who followed.
Continue to impress. Despite an apparently ongoing throat problem for guitarist/vocalist Vechel Jaynes — I actually take it as a sign of someone giving a shit both about what they do and what I think about what they do when artists tell me about their various injuries, illnesses, aches and pains; that kind of thing can be good to know sometimes, though Jaynes‘ trouble did little to hold back Lord Fowl at Radio — the New Haven, Connecticut, four-piece dove headfirst into material from their Moon Queenlabel debut (review here), rising to the occasion of directly following Infernal Overdrive and making me remember why I like this kind of shit so much in the first place. They also gave a fitting sequel to when I saw them at SHoD XII, guitarist/vocalist Mike Pellegrino comfortable as he always seems to be fronting the band alongside Jaynes while bassist Jon Conine and drummer Don Freeman locked in grooves thick and slick in equal measure. “Streets of Nevermore” was a highlight, and the one-two punch of “Quicksand” and the insistent swirl of “SOS” was no less engaging on stage than it was late into Moon Queen. I wondered a bit what their next album might bring, if they’d keep to a thematic, semi-psych heavy rock approach or branch out elsewhere as they move forward, and then The Patient Mrs. showed up looking all fine and I got distracted. Ha.
Quietly, more than a year had passed since I last caught Virginia’s fuzz buzzards live, but Freedom Hawk were the most in their element at Radio that I’ve ever seen them. The songs from their Holding On 2011 label debut (review here) have cooled and tightened into a fine, viscous ooze, and the set had more than a few killers to it, including the recent video track “Indian Summer.” They’re a good band, and fresh on my mind as I’d just that very afternoon acquired their first demo in a haul of old promo material (more on that tomorrow), so I was glad to have our paths cross again at last. A less raucous delivery than either Lord Fowl or Infernal Overdrive – both of whom put on a hell of a show — Freedom Hawk were nonetheless in the right place at the right time. The crowd was boozed and well warmed up, and Freedom Hawk‘s “all fuzz, no bullshit” was right at home, guitarists TR Morton (also vocals) and Matt Cave leading with ’90s-style stoner rock riffing while bassist Mark Cave and drummer Lenny Hines provided weight and pulse to the rolling groove. I don’t know if someone thought they were being clever by playing Ozzy before they went on (Morton‘s vocals being geared in that direction), but Freedom Hawk showed they’re moving more toward becoming their own outfit and incorporating whatever influence it might be — Ozzy, Fu Manchu, Kyuss, etc. — into a sound more fully theirs. Worth noting that at this point there hadn’t yet been a band whose next album I wasn’t stoked at the thought of hearing.
In true showcase fashion, Roadsaw delivered a set that not only showed why they’re the godfathers of Boston’s heavy rock scene, but ran a gamut through their own catalog — opening with “Look Pretty Lonely” from 2008′s See You in Hell!, and also including “Keep on Sailing” and “Thanks for Nothing” from 1997′s Nationwide — on which Shepard joined on lead guitar from his spot on the balcony — “Buried Alive” and “Disconnected” from 2007′s Rawk ‘n’ Roll, “Monkey Skull” from 2012′s Roadsaw EP, and “Weight in Gold” and “Long in the Tooth” from their 2010 self-titled full-length. I said earlier this year at London Desertfest that I wanted to see them on their home turf, and I was glad to have the opportunity at last. If it’s any indicator of how it all went down, they delayed the start of their set to get another round of drinks. Yes, it was that kind of party. The stage at Radio wasn’t as small as that at the Small Stone showcase in Philly last year — it was somewhere between that and the more spacious at the El ‘n’ Gee in Connecticut, where SHoD was held, and which Roadsaw also played — so I didn’t think vocalist Craig Riggs was about to bean bassist Tim Catz or guitarist Ian Ross with his spinning microphone (ever-shirtless drummer Jeremy Hemond being well out of range), but they made short work of it nonetheless, and even went so far as to bring up Infernal Overdrive guitarist/vocalist Marc Schleicher for an encore of “The Gentle Butcher,” from Nothing that a Bullet Couldn’t Cure by the band Antler, of which he, Ross, Catz and Riggs were a part. As ever, they were in classic form.
A scant two weeks before leaving for a tour with High on Fire and Goatwhore that will have them playing in the biggest venues of their career to date, Columbus, Ohio’s Lo-Pan looked ready. I think they’ve already discovered that the reward for the hard work they’ve been putting in over the last couple years is actually just a bunch of even harder work, but they seemed hungry nonetheless. It had been more than a year since I’d seen them as well, and along with a new shorter haircut for guitarist Brian Fristoe, they had two new songs in the set alongside cuts from 2011′s brilliant-and-yes-I-fucking-mean-brilliant Salvador(review here). Both “Eastern Seas” and “Colossus” had Fristoe‘s steady progressive-edged fuzz, made thicker by Skot Thompson‘s basslines, but seemed to push vocalist Jeff Martin farther into his range as well as Jessie Bartz — front and center as always — tied it all together on drums. As I told Bartz when they were done, I’d like to hear them 85 or 87 more times before I make final judgment, but they sounded pretty dead on, and fit well with “Kurtz” from 2009′s Sasquanaut(which Small Stone reissued) and “Chichen Itza,” “Deciduous,” “Bird of Prey” and set closer “El Dorado” from Salvador, all of which remain as powerful in a live setting as they were the first time I saw them. Lo-Pan was my only real headbang of the show. When they were done, I stumbled my drunk self around the side of the building and threw up barely a fraction of the beer I’d drank, taking care to keep it out of my hair and beard, then went back inside, washed up downstairs while trying to ignore the stench of punker sweat, lest I retch again, and headed back into civilization in time for the start of Gozu, who rounded out the night. I’d been a wreck despite having my last beer sometime during Roadsaw, but with just one band still to go, there was no turning back now.
Much to his credit, it was Gozu guitarist Doug Sherman – he of the perilously short guitar strap — who put the whole gig together. From the second I was walking into the venue, way back before anyone played other than Blackwolfgoat, before all the beer, the barbecue, the more beer, the rock and roll and the more beer, Sherman was outside greeting people, there the whole time, and he and his band very quickly showed by they were just right to close out. Guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney (above, left) has a subdued presence on stage, quiet and reserved — a good balance for Sherman‘s energy — and his performance has been spot on every time I’ve seen him, making vocal up and down vocal dexterity look easy while also joining Sherman on guitar and driving the songs forward with driving riffage. Bassist Joe Grotto was a new addition to the band since I saw them in March — also at Radio, as it happens — but he fit right in the rhythm section with drummer Barry Spillberg, and being revived following my ritualistic purge, I was in decent enough shape to appreciate their even-thicker take on “Meat Charger” and “Meth Cowboy” from their 2010 Locust Seasondebut (review here), on which they were joined by Ian Ross of Roadsaw (above, on right guitar). Their sound is too thick to really be a boogie, but that forward motion is there, and Gaffney brings a sense of drama to their choruses that stood them out from everyone else on the bill at Radio. They had a couple new songs as well, and whatever they do next, it’ll be a welcome arrival.
I know I post a lot of shit about Small Stone bands. I go see them play when I can, I review the records, I do interviews, post tour news, posters, and so forth, but the fact of the matter is this: That’s not coincidence. It’s a short list of American labels contributing anything of merit to the genre of heavy rock — by my estimation there are maybe five, with a few others who’ve glommed onto this or that trend within the sphere of Riff — and Small Stone are right there at the top. From the label’s days providing a haven to bands like Acid King and Sons of Otis in the wake of Man’s Ruin‘s demise, to fostering its own upstart acts like Sasquatch (not that they’re upstarts now, but they were when their debut was released), Infernal Overdrive, Gozu, Lo-Pan, Sun Gods in Exile, and Lord Fowl, while still keeping a commitment to what he does best, label head Scott Hamilton has patronized some of the best American heavy rock out there today, to the point where “the Small Stone sound” is an influence unto itself for bands around the world to pick up on. To be perfectly honest about it, it’s a cause I feel is worth supporting.
Small Stone’s next showcase is in Detroit at the Magic Stick on Dec. 1. More info here.
When the show was done, I was so tired I thought I’d fall asleep walking to catch a cab back to the hotel. There were goodbyes to be said, tales of hurricane survival to regale with and be regaled by, and a bar tab to close out, but I was quick about it, and before too long, The Patient Mrs. generously corralled me into a taxi. I was more lucid than I had been at several points in the evening by then, but still, sleep came as quick and as heavy as the riffs still stuck in my head. We had to drive back to Jersey on Sunday and figure out if the lights were back on yet after the storm (they were as of that afternoon), but if that was to be the finale of “refugee living,” I didn’t make out so bad.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 1st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’ve never been to a Small Stone showcase in Boston before. Sure, I was at both nights of the Philly one last year (review here and here) and I caught Gozu and Infernal Overdrive together at Radio this past March (review here), and looking at the list, the only band on it I’ve never seen is Supermachine — and I saw Scissorfight, from whence they come — but still, Boston’s a different beast. To tell you the truth, every time I hit the town, I feel a little bit like I’m going to get my ass kicked.
Perhaps then, it would be wise for me to hit the warm-up show slated to happen one day before the showcase proper. Elder (who so far as I know are not on Small Stone) and Infernal Overdrive will play at the taqueria No Problemo in New Bedford at 10PM. If you’re north of there, Gozu and Freedom Hawk will be on a bill at Asylum in Portland, ME. Drummer Mike Bennett of Infernal Overdrive posted the following notice and flyer:
Tomorrow night there will be a few warm up gigs starring some of your favorite Small Stone bands….
Asylum -Portland, ME w/ GOZU, Freedom Hawk, Murcilago and Whitcomb No Problemo – New Bedford, MA w/ Infernal Overdrive and Elder….. All leading up to the big event Sat. !!!
And then of course there’s the showcase itself on Saturday at Radio in Somerville. As awesome an assemblage of Small Stone acts as I’ve had the privilege to see. Here are the details, courtesy of the Thee Facebooks event page:
Nov. 3rd-Radio, Boston Small Stone Showcase 10 dollars!!! Dudes- BEER-PETTING ZOO!! Purchase Tickets HERE: