Friday Full-Length: Dixie Witch, Into the Sun

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 20th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Dixie Witch, Into the Sun (2001)

I don’t think Texas heavy rock is what it is today without the groundwork that Austin’s Dixie Witch laid. I remember seeing them at Small Stone showcases at SXSW in the mid-’00s, and it was so clear whose town it was. When drummer/vocalist Trinidad Leal walked into Room 710, he owned the place. Nothing’s universal, of course, and Texas is huge, but do you get Mothership or Wo Fat without Dixie Witch paving the way? I don’t know. The trio of Leal, guitarist Clayton Mills and bassist Curt “CC” Christenson made their debut on John Perez of Solitude Aeturnus‘ vastly underrated Brainticket Records imprint, and would go on to sign to the aforementioned Small Stone by the time the follow-up, One Bird, Two Stones, arrived in 2003, reissuing Into the Sun that same year. Their songs of perservering through hard times and being on the road, blistering solos, thick grooves and Southern-without-caricature brand of rock would make them one of the quintessential Small Stone bands of their generation, kicking ass in the pre-social media age on songs that would become staples like the extended megagroover “Freewheel Rollin’,” “Into the Sun” itself and “Throwin’ Shapes.”

Like the best of their contemporaries, Dixie Witch recalled classic heavy rock and roll without sounding anything other than modern. A full 15 years later, if you sent me Into the Sun to review, I’d in no way call it dated. I’d call it awesome, from the title-track at the outset down to the cover of Joe Walsh‘s “The Bomber,” which closes. The soul and the force they put into these tracks — doubly impressive on a debut — would serve as a defining moment for everything they did after, whether it was One Bird, Two Stones, 2006’s Smoke and Mirrors or their 2011 last-LP-to-date (one never knows), Let it Roll (review here), and “Thunderfoot”‘s whiskey-drinking ways, trippy solo and fervent crash makes a great model to follow. That’s not to say the band didn’t grow during their tenure — Smoke and Mirrors was expansive and Let it Roll showed just how tightly honed their songwriting was, even though Mills had left the band — just that Into the Sun set the tone that Dixie Witch would build on as they moved through the decade that followed.

They were underrated at the time, but as a new generation of heavy rockers have come up in the last five or six years, Dixie Witch have been off the touring circuit. Guitarist Joshua “JT” Todd Smith, who replaced Mills for Let it Roll, seems to have relinquished his position to its former holder, and through 2015 and up to this March, Dixie Witch have done sparse live shows. Seems like an act ripe for a triumphant comeback, but of course Leal is touring and playing with Honky now as well, so what if anything might be in the cards for Dixie Witch is anyone’s best guess. But man, they were incredible on stage, and Into the Sun continues to hold up, as I expect it will into perpetuity.

Hope you enjoy.

The Patient Mrs. has been in London since last Sunday. She took a group of some of her students over on a study tour — my wife is a college professor — and will return next Wednesday. It probably would’ve been worse being home alone this week if I hadn’t spent so much time in traffic. 90 minutes to work every morning, except yesterday when it was 100, and at least another hour and a half to get home afterwards. Punishing. By the time I’ve gotten home, I’ve been too exhausted to be lonely. And well, being at work is what it is anyway. It’s not like that’s time otherwise spent hanging out. Not to say I don’t miss her, because I do very much. Fortunately, this trip is nowhere near as long as when she went to Greece for a month two years ago.

But yeah, just kind of a slog to get through the days this week. I knew I was tired when that Radio Moscow giveaway went up yesterday with the wrong venue address. I corrected it, and those things happen, but for me it’s usually a sign I’m on my ass. Get exhausted, get sloppy. I don’t think I’m the only one in the universe.

Good news is I’ve got a friend coming north to chill this weekend and I’ve got a day or two to get some errands done — air conditioners need to go in windows, dog food needs purchasing, some laundry, etc. — and the weather isn’t supposed to be shit here in the Commonwealth, so I should be vaguely restored by the time Monday comes back around and the bullshit parade begins anew. To offset that, I’ve got a pretty busy week in store.

Monday, I might have a Black Moon Circle track premiere from their new EP? Not sure yet, but I’m trying to work it out. Also a King Buffalo track stream. Tuesday a full stream of the new Farflung. Also going to try to fit in reviews for Electric CitizenEarthless/Harsh Toke and Hijo de la Tormenta, and there’s already a ton of news I’m behind on and a couple new videos to get up as well, so yeah, I expect a barrage. Anyone notice yesterday was seven posts? Today wound up being seven too. Wednesday was six. Not complaining, it’s just a lot to keep up with.

Sometimes as a result a venue that’s in Long Beach gets mixed up with the same venue in North Hollywood. It happens. Pretty sure no one notices but me anyway. Oh, and Albatross Overdrive. They noticed.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. I’m going to try to do the same and not throw out my back dealing with that AC. Please check out the forum and the radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

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Friday Full-Length: Wo Fat, Psychedelonaut

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 15th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Wo Fat, Psychedelonaut (2009)

[Please note: For consistency’s sake, I’m using a YouTube embed above. The album is available direct from the band on Bandcamp here.]

I distinctly recall getting and reviewing Wo Fat‘s sophomore outing, Psychedelonaut, in 2009. It was an easy record to dig, so full in tone, so unabashed in its groove, but I don’t think it was possible to appreciate at the time just how pivotal the Dallas trio would become, not just to Texas fuzz, but to the breadth of US heavy in general. Seven years later, they stand tall among the finest and most accomplished heavy rock acts the nation has to offer — and does offer; they have a couple Euro tours to their credit and more to come — and on many levels, Psychedelonaut was the nexus point for what they’d go on to accomplish, blending swamp blues, ultra-stony fuzz tone and heavy psychedelic jazz-jamming into a sound that’s only become more their own as they’ve gone on. Granted, that’s a lot of context to expect to be able to pull out of one record seven years before any of it has started to unfold, but listening back to Psychedelonaut now, whether it’s the riff-chanting of “The Slow Blade,” the vicious, still-infectious hook of “Analog Man,” the slide on “Shake ’em on Down” or the ranging jam in closer “The Spheres Beyond,” which pushes the album past the hour and 70-minute marks with complete abandon, a lot of what the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer/backing vocalist Michael Walter would go on to accomplish sonically got its start here.

That’s not to take anything away from the underlying sense of blues-monster threat in 2006’s debut, The Gathering Dark, but there’s a self-awareness that bleeds through Psychedelonaut — the idea that Wo Fat knew who their audience was and how to reach them — that particularly in hindsight only makes it seem more masterful. It was an essential step in an ongoing development that would see them sign to ultra-respected German purveyor Nasoni Records for 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra (review here), and then Small Stone for the subsequent two outings, 2012’s The Black Code (review here) and 2014’s The Conjuring (review here), before linking up with Ripple Music for the forthcoming Midnight Cometh, but even taken on its own level, its songs deliver an already-shaped identity and lyrical wit — references to Hendrix and Parliament in “Enter the Riffian,” lines like “Vacuum tube voodoo” in “Analog Man,” the entirety of “Two the Hard Way” (also another Funkadelic reference there for good measure) — as well as an instrumental chemistry demonstrated across “Not of this Earth” and “The Spheres Beyond” that was the true point of potential. Even seven years ago, Wo Fat could jam. Some bands have to grow into that. These cats came in ready to roll.

And again, it’s easy to know that now, but as Wo Fat get ready this spring to unleash the next stage of their progression — the aforementioned Midnight Cometh — it’s worth taking the time to fuzz out on how what they’ve done in the years since really started to take shape, or at very least to get lost in the percussive hypnosis of “The Spheres Beyond.” If that’s how you want to go with it, that’s cool too.

Either way, I hope you enjoy.

My original plan for this weekend was to put together my Most Anticipated Albums of 2016 list to go up early next week. Gotta push that back. My living room is full of t-shirt boxes, and those things need to get gone as soon as humanly possible. So instead of writing tomorrow and Sunday (well, I’ll still be writing on Sunday), I’ll be filling out address forms and packing up hoodies to ship out across the planet. This is all happening as quickly as it can possibly happen. Please be aware I work full-time, so it’s not like I’m sitting on my ass with your money not fulfilling orders. I’m doing the best I can.

Next week, reviews of Mammoth GroveConan and Mars Red Sky (their new EP). This week was in-fucking-sane for news. Six posts a day. Seven posts a day. And more coming in all the time. I have news stories slated for Tuesday, never mind Monday, and Monday’s already a seven-post day. Today was six. Yesterday was seven. Apparently everyone decided this was the week to send out their press release. Fair enough, but give me a minute to catch my breath or, I don’t know, earn a living. Have been feeling way, way overwhelmed by everything.

That said, I appreciate all the kind words and support upon hitting 7,000 posts earlier this week (for example: that was Wednesday and this is post #7,016). There’s an anniversary coming up in a couple weeks that has occupied a goodly portion of my consciousness of late, but I guess we’ll talk about that when we get there. Announcements coming through for the Obelisk All-Dayer at the Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn on Aug. 20 as well in the next week or two. So, so much to do.

For now though, that’s taking Sharpies to envelopes. Please have a great and safe weekend, and please check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

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audiObelisk: Elliott’s Keep Unveil “Gates Beyond” from New Album Nascentes Morimur

Posted in audiObelisk on November 26th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

For over half a decade, Dallas, Texas, doom metal trio Elliott’s Keep have paid homage to fallen comrade Glenn Riley Elliott, the three-piece of Kenneth Greene (bass/vocals), Jonathan Bates (guitar) and Joel Bates (drums) having made their debut with 2008’s In Medias Res (review here). In some ways, that album has proven to be the blueprint for everything Elliott’s Keep have done since. Released on Brainticket, it established Elliott’s Keep as a powerfully metallic act running an electric current of Solitude Aeturnus-style traditional American doom metal through their songs. The ensuing follow-up on the same label, Sine Qua Non (review here), was more cohesive and more metal, but crucially, more confident in establishing its darkened course.

Elliott’s Keep‘s third album, the forthcoming Nascentes Morimur, holds to some of the band’s established traditions. It has a Latin title (meaning, “From the moment we’re born, we die”), as well as artwork with a castle keep on the front cover, and it sure enough taps into trad doom and metallic elements from what I’ve heard of it, but like last time around, there’s also progression on the part of the band. And since they returned to record with J.T. Longoria (Solitude Aeturnus, Absu, Mercyful Fate), that progression comes through with clarity and a professionally crisp presentation that’s still heavy as all hell. For example, take the closing track of the CD’s total nine, “Gates Beyond.”

What impresses most about the song isn’t necessarily that it expands the band’s sonic palette by incorporating violin alongside Greene‘s mournful vocals, but how well that expansion blends with the strength in the songwriting. Yeah, “Gates Beyond” is interesting, but it’s also quality doom, and I feel like all too often the one is sacrificed in service of the other (or the other to the one, as it were). Elliott’s Keep have been able to hold firm to the parts of their processes they want to maintain and at the same time bring in new ideas and ultimately change the output in a natural way. “Gates Beyond” proves that, five-years on from their first record, Elliott’s Keep are able to bend their sound to their will. They’re the masters of their own fate.

And that being the case, all the better that I have the opportunity to premiere “Gates Beyond” in advance of the album release. Check it out on the player below, and please enjoy:

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

Elliott’s Keep‘s Nascentes Morimur is due in December and will be available on CD/digital. More info at the following links.

Elliott’s Keep on Thee Facebooks

Brainticket Records

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Elliott’s Keep Finish Recording Nascentes Morimur

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

With their eyes on a Fall 2013 release, Dallas doomers Elliott’s Keep have finished recording their third album, Nascentes Morimur. Last we heard from the trio, they were starting to record in May, so as the record is being mixed, they’re on track to have it out as planned. J.T. Longoria (whose considerable credentials you can see below) will be handling the mix, and while it’s probably not up there with the highest profile outings he’s worked on, Elliott’s Keep‘s mission of honoring their fallen comrade with heavy-as-hell trad doom continues to impress with both its sincerity and its metallic heft.

The band sent an update down the PR wire:

ELLIOTT’S KEEP COMPLETES RECORDING OF THIRD ALBUM

ELLIOTT’S KEEP, the Dallas metal doom trio have completed the recording of their third full-length album, entitled Nascentes Morimur, which is scheduled for a fall 2013 release.

As with their first two releases, ELLIOTT’S KEEP recorded again with J.T. LONGORIA (Solitude Aeturnus, Candlemass, Absu, Mercyful Fate, King Diamond, Volbeat). Primary recording was completed again at Nomad Studios in Carrollton, Texas. Drums were tracked at Empire Sound Studio in Carrollton, Texas.

Nascentes Morimur is currently being mixed by J.T. LONGORIA, with GARY LONG of Nomad Studios again mastering. In keeping with the band’s use of Latin titles, Nascentes Morimur means “from the moment we are born, we begin to die.”

Song titles for Nascentes Morimur are as follows:

Waves of Anguish
Days of Hell
Now Taken
Feanor’s Bane
Regicide
Tale of Grief
Convergence
Omen
Gates Beyond

In Medias Res was released in November 2008 on Brainticket Records. Sine Qua Non was released in September 2010 on Brainticket Records.

Elliott’s Keep, “Days of Hell” practice recording

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Elliott’s Keep Recording New Album for Fall Release

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

Good news from Texas today in that Dallas trio Elliott’s Keep have a batch of new material they’re getting ready to record next month. According to the update below, which the band sent down the PR wire, they’ll be working again with engineer J.T. Longoria, who also manned their 2010 sophomore outing, Sine Qua Non (review here). A sampling of his credits, which are considerable, is listed below.

Look for more on the album, dubbed Nascentes Morimur in Elliott’s Keep‘s tradition of Latin titles, as we get closer to the Fall 2013 release, but for now here’s the announcement and the front cover of what’s to come:

As we did three years ago, we will begin recording the next Elliott’s Keep record over Memorial Day weekend. This one is entitled Nascentes Morimur, which translates to “From the moment we are born, we begin to die.” The cover art is attached. We will be working again with J.T. Longoria (Solitude Aeturnus, Candlemass, Concept of God, Absu, King Diamond).

Nine tracks this time. The record should be released in the fall.

Elliott’s Keep, “Fearless” from Sine Qua Non

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Las Cruces at Work on Fourth Album

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

Last heard from with 2010’s underrated slab of rockin’ doom, Dusk (review here), Texan burl-bringers Las Cruces are on the move as regards their fourth album. According to a comment left yesterday, the four-piece are currently writing tracks set to be recorded later this year and released on John Perez of Solitude Aeturnus‘ label, the venerable Brainticket Records. Obviously this is good news for lovers of trad or biker doom, and I can only hope they top Dusk by having the word “wizard” in the titles of three songs this time out.

Stoked:

Texas Doom-Metal Veterans LAS CRUCES To Enter Studio For New Album In 2013

Viva Las Cruces

Texas doom-metal veterans Las Cruces are currently writing new material and preparing to enter the studio for their 2013 as-yet-untitled fourth full-length album. The album will be a follow-up to 2010?s “Dusk” released worldwide via Brainticket Records. The band will also re-release their entire catalogue to include a vinyl edition of 1998?s “Ringmaster”, initially released via Brainticket Records.

In other news, Las Cruces will now be managed by Leigh Olson Management and Media Relations who is the wife and personal manager of Jeff “Oly” Olson, original drummer of doom-metal legends Trouble. Moreover, Las Cruces is currently entertaining new record labels as well as scheduling a summer 2013 U.S. tour. Tour dates will be announced soon.

Guitarist George Trevino founded Las Cruces back in 1994 in San Antonio, Texas and has since made his mark across The Lone Star State and the American doom-metal scene. It’s no wonder why Daniel Bukszpan, author of “The Encyclopedia of Heavy Metal,” acknowledges Las Cruces as “one of the genre’s leading proponents.”

Las Cruces‘ current lineup is as follows:
George Trevino – Guitar
Mando Tovar – Guitar
Jimmy Bell – Bass
Paul DeLeon – Drums/Vocals

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