I ask you, who among us has not awoken in the woods and been compelled by strange forces to build a stone circle and, behooded, take a quick nap within it? Also, it happens in black and white? Brooklyn-based experimental solo act Insect Ark – being the nom de drone of Dana Schechter of Bee and Flower – have recently unveiled a new video chronicling this very phenomenon for the title-track of the new Insect Ark EP, Long Arms.
Long Armsis out via Geweih Ritual Documents on hand screened 10″ vinyl and available for streaming on the Insect Ark Bandcamp. The clip for “Long Arms” was directed by Chris Carlone and — I’ll be darned — here it is:
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 14th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’ve kept relatively quiet in the leadup to the release of Kings Destroy‘s second album, A Time of Hunting, which is out as of today, May 15, on War Crimes Records. This was basically on purpose. I’m not involved in the release, but since their 2010 debut, …And the Rest Will Surely Perish, came out on The Maple Forum, I still feel like glorifying the record is something of a conflict of interest. Even though all my copies are long since gone. A conflict of ego, maybe. Still, I probably won’t review it.
Because I’ve held off writing about A Time of Hunting, I’ve been more curious to see what others think of the album and its eight varied songs. From blurbs saying they sound like Queens of the Stone Age (they don’t) to reviews saying it’s their first record (it isn’t), this has been an almost universally frustrating process. Yeah, I’m biased, and yeah, I’ve got a different relationship to the music than the average reviewer — that’s not me touting band bro’ness, like I’m Mr. Ontheinsidetrack or some shit. I was in the rehearsal room with Kings Destroy when they were beginning to put these songs together. I’ve seen them coalesce live, seen the band find their identity after the departure of bassist Ed Bocchino, watched them discover the music they want to be making, and then watched them make it. At this point, I’ve lived with A Time of Huntingsince before it had a name.
And nothing I’ve seen has come close to doing it justice. Sorry. I’m sure if you happened to review the record and I didn’t see it or whatever, your review was awesome. It was the one that got it. But from where I sit, even the good reviews have missed the point. A Time of Huntingisn’t a collection of post-Sabbath riffs set to Ozzy vocals. It’s not even doom, and to write it off as that is to cheapen the actual character of the material, which is dark and complex and progressive and much, much fucking harder to pin down. Even the clarion riff that opens “The Toe” has more to it than a genre tag, let alone the drama in both the guitars and the vocals that caps “Blood of Recompense” or the sheer creepiness of closer “Turul,” which is so strange with its sirens, yowl and chugging lurch that the band had basically no choice but to stick it at the end even though they knew it had to be included. And they were fucking right. A Time of Hunting — especially coming off …And the Rest Will SurelyPerish, which was a doom album and very much wanted to be a doom album– is so much bolder and more realized than I’ve yet seen it given credit for being. Fucking buy it and fucking appreciate it.
A Time of Huntingis out now. Kings Destroy is guitarists Carl Porcaro and Christopher Skowronski, vocalist Steve Murphy, bassist Aaron Bumpus and drummer Rob Sefcik. Here’s the release off the PR wire:
Kings Destroy Album Out Today!
Kings Destroy is set to release A Time of Hunting via War Crimes Records today.
Kings Destroy is a twisted, thundering gang of musicians. The doom metal unit takes its name from an infamous late ’70s/ early ’80s Bronx-based graffiti crew, which make sense, as the principle members of Kings Destroy have been playing together in New York City hardcore bands and heavy music projects since as far back as 1986. Guitarist Carl Porcaro is a founding member of the New York hardcore/punk bands Breakdown, Electric Frankenstein, and Killing Time. Guitarist Chris Skowronski also plays with Killing Time and first met singer Steve Murphy and drummer Rob Sefcik in 1988 when he joined their NYHC outfit, Uppercut.
Kings Destroy on tour: Jun. 07 Brooklyn, NY – Saint Vitus (Record Release Show w/ Clamfight, Windhand, Belus) Jun. 20 Chicago, IL – Reggies (w/ the Swan King and Yakuza) Jun. 21 Milwaukee, WI – Days of the Doomed Fest June 22 Columbus, OH – Cafe Bourbon St (w/ Tank Destroyer)
Posted in Radio on May 8th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Brooklyn-based psychedelic jammers Zoned Out are currently in the process of mixing their debut full-length. The band, which boasts members of La Otracina, Mirror Queen and Titan, have had a couple live recordings get out in the meantime. One, a full show from last December, was posted here before. This week, I managed to get ahold of mp3s of their March 28 performance at Union Pool in their native borough, and once I got the chance to listen, pretty much knew I had to add it to The Obelisk Radio.
Credit where it’s due, the gig was recorded for NYCTaper.com and is available there for free download. The audio sounds great and balanced and natural, and the trio alternate between driving classic solos and trippy prog fusion, their moniker proving all the more accurate for the hypnotic effects of their music. If nothing else, the Union Pool audio raises hopes for how Zoned Out will be able to translate the sound in a studio setting, a song like the later “Smoke Signals” having a bit of ’90s alt rush to it while “Feathers of the Wild Cloud” goes for full-on wah drench. Setting up a dynamic never hurt.
Especially for an instrumental band. For the quality of the recording, the atmospherics Zoned Out are able to pull off in a live setting and the job NYCTaper did in putting it out there for anyone who might be lucky enough to stumble on it, Live at Union Pool, March 28, 2013makes a great addition to The Obelisk Radio. You can hear it on there now as part of the regular playlist, or check out a sample below with the song “Smoke Signals” and find the free download in mp3 or flac on the NYCTaper site. Either way, enjoy.
Zoned Out, “Smoke Signals” live at Union Pool, 03.28.13
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 6th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’m very, very proud to be involved in helping promote The Eye of the Stoned Goat 3 in the way that I am. After checking out the second in the festival series back in February, it’s an honor to have signed on to help spread the word about the third, which boasts a strong lineup of bands at a choice venue on what I’ve no doubt will be a sweltering weekend night of heavy rock and roll. The fest sent over a victory lap of a press release, which you’ll find below:
The Eye of the Stoned Goat 3 set for Brooklyn, NY
Snake Charmer Booking announces its 3rd installment of its stoner rock and doom metal themed concert event “The Eye of the Stoned Goat”. The event will take place at The Acheron in Brooklyn New York on Saturday, July 27th 2013 at 6pm.
The Acheron, known to the locals as “the second coming of CBGB’s” is the perfect spot to host such a powerhouse line up, including Small Stone Records bands: Lo-Pan, Gozu, SuperMachine, and Lord Fowl. Washington, D.C.’s own Borracho, Delaware band Wasted Theory, and Philadelphia’s Wizard Eye will be making the trip up, while local support will be provided by Brooklyn’s Black Black Black, and Kingston, New York’s own Geezer.
In February 2013, Snake Charmer Booking hosted the second Eye of the Stoned Goat show in Delaware, home of event organizer Brendan Burns. Only a month later, Burns teamed up with Pat Harrington at the ‘Electric Beard of Doom’ podcast to announce that they would be bringing the event to New York.
Some of the bands who have previously played the ‘Stoned Goat events include- Pale Divine, Iron Man, Clamfight, Beelzefuzz, Blackhand, Skeleton Hands, Thee Nosebleeds and Black Cowgirl to name a few. “I’ve been fortunate being able to work with so many great bands, and this time around is no different” according to Burns. “This roster of artists are bands that I enjoy listening to regularly, and I am just absolutely thrilled to be working with them, it’s a promoter’s dream to work with bands that you listen to in your daily life”. Burns has also begun working on his roster for the Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 for 2014.
This summer’s event will also features such sponsors as Small Stone Records, The Obelisk, Wendigo Promotions and Electric Beard of Doom Podcast.
Tickets go on sale May 1st 2013 for $12.00 (online price), and will also be available at the door for $15.00 to first come first served. For more information, visitwww.TheEyeoftheStonedGoat.com.
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 2nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Just in case you want a glimpse into future live reviews, on June 7, Maple Forum alums and all-around badasses Kings Destroy will play the release show for their second full-length, A Time of Hunting, at Brooklyn’s St. Vitus bar with Windhand, Clamfight and Belus. Yeah, that’s a righteous bill, and if you’re in town and your calendar isn’t duly marked, fine, you lose. The actual release date for A Time of Hunting is May 15, and the album will be out on War Crimes Records.
And aside from deriving an intense satisfaction at the level of bro-ness between Clamfight and Kings Destroy even though I recognize consciously that I had literally nothing to do with bringing the two acts together, I’ll look forward to seeing both bands sharing a bill, much as I’ll look forward to seeing Windhand play again ahead of making their debut on Relapse Records later this year. I don’t know Belus, but dammit, if they’re on this lineup, they’re okay by me.
Kings Destroy have a brand new video out ahead of the album (rumor has it there might also be a track premiere coming…) for the song “Stormbreak,” which is as awesome as it is of the forest and reinforcing the universally accepted notion that children are creepy. You’ll find it below, along with the tour dates that Kings Destroy will play en route to Days of the Doomed III in Wisconsin next month.
Thanks, the PR wire:
Kings Destroy Unveil New Video/Tour Dates
Kings Destroy is set to release A Time of Hunting via War Crimes Records on May 15th. To celebrate, the band has unveiled the Christina Reilly-directed video for “Stormbreak” and announced a string of dates in June.
Kings Destroy is a twisted, thundering gang of musicians. The doom metal unit takes its name from an infamous late ’70s/ early ’80s Bronx-based graffiti crew, which make sense, as the principle members of Kings Destroy have been playing together in New York City hardcore bands and heavy music projects since as far back as 1986. Guitarist Carl Porcaro is a founding member of the New York hardcore/punk bands Breakdown, Electric Frankenstein, and Killing Time. Guitarist Chris Skowronski also plays with Killing Time and first met singer Steve Murphy and drummer Rob Sefcik in 1988 when he joined their NYHC outfit, Uppercut.
Kings Destroy on tour: Jun. 07 Brooklyn, NY – Saint Vitus (Record Release Show) Jun. 20 Chicago, IL – Reggies (w/ the Swan King and Yakuza) Jun. 21 Milwaukee, WI – Days of the Doomed Fest June 22 Columbus, OH – Cafe Bourbon St (w/ Tank Destroyer)
Posted in audiObelisk on April 5th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Bouncing fuzzy grooves off classic Stooges and the Misfits of old, Brooklyn garage punkers Dirty Fences keep it simple and straightforward on their Too High to Krossfull-length. The four-piece will issue Too High to Krossthis coming Tuesday, April 9 on Volcom, and to herald its coming, I’ve been allowed to premiere the song “White Lies” from the album. Timing is everything.
To that end, Dirty Fences seem to have the timing just about nailed. The record — and at a vinyl-ready 32 minutes, it is a record – makes no bones about its appreciation for early punk, basking in natural tones (perhaps I’m destined to be a sucker forever for punk with the bass turned up) while affiliating themselves with that moment in time where American heavy became punk rock, a track like “Under Your Leather” not at all void of melody while the following “King’s Cross” reminds of just how pop-minded the Ramones were, as iconoclastic as their outerwear may have been.
Songs on Too High to Krossrarely touch three minutes, and at a trim 2:29, “White Lies” is a solid example of Dirty Fences‘ underlying grooviness, hinting that there’s more to them than Raw Powerfetishizing even as it affirms a modern swagger à la Eagles of Death Metal‘s chic, laconic impressions. Oh yeah, and it’s catchy as fuck too, with backing vocals in the chorus and a steady snare beat that’s as universal as it is familiar and inviting. And in that, it’s a pretty good summation of Dirty Fences‘ general ethic, since although they lean to one side or another sonically along the way, “catchy as fuck” is something that seems to follow them wherever they go.
Check out “White Lies” by Dirty Fences on the player below, and please enjoy:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
Dirty Fences‘ Too High to Kross LP is out Tuesday on Volcom. Celebrating the release, Dirty Fences are playing in Los Angeles tonight, April 5, at the Lyric Theatre in La Brea with The Shrine (with whom they’ve toured in the past as well and with whom they seem to share a high-topped skaterly vibe), CBG and Strangelove, whom I’ve never heard but automatically like just based on their name. Behold the flyer:
Fret not, East Coasters. Dirty Fences will be back this way in time to kick it with Turbonegro at Irving Plaza in Manhattan on May 18. More info at the links below.
Posted in Reviews on April 1st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Coinciding with the announcement that they’d signed to Season of Mist and would release a new studio album, reunited Florida riff bombers Floor launched a two-week tour that brought them to Brooklyn’s St. Vitus bar Friday night, March 29. Guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks‘ other outfit, Torche, had played the same venue a couple weeks prior, but I’d missed that show, and with the chance to hear new Floor songs along with cuts from their en-route-to-classic 2002 self-titled and what was once their swansong, 2004′s Dove, it wasn’t a mistake I was going to make twice.
The show opened with Brooklyn-native double-guitar all-caps noise rockers VAZ, who locked in more than several driving grooves along the way with their NYC-characteristic crunch. They’d recently toured their way to SXSW in Austin, so that they were tight on stage made sense, but it was a welcome start to what would prove to be a good night of heavy tones, and when they were done, yeah, I bought a $5 tape. I’ve never been one to resist a bargain, and having never seen VAZ before, they made a decent first impression with frantic drums and a style worthy of their pedigree in early ’90s AmRep noisebringers Hammerhead.
After lugging his own cabinets onto the stage — there were several, and they were large — Joe Preston took the stage solo with his bass and his drum machine for a Thrones set. The audience was duly reverential for Preston, a former bassist for the Melvins who’s worked with SunnO))) and many others along the way, and accordingly, he had no trouble charismatically holding down the set on his own. Starting instrumental, he gradually introduced vocals, electronic beats, drones and probably the most blissful feedback I’ve heard in a year (or any other applicable amount of time that would qualify as “long”). At one point, it seemed to run its wavy current directly through the audience.
Aside from t-shirts with the giant floating head from Zardoz on them — that’s knowing your market — Thrones offered a surprisingly rich experience for being a one-man deal. Obviously, Preston‘s been at it a while even since reviving the project in the studio in 2010 following its initial run from 1994 to 2000 or thereabouts, but a lot of people would’ve been talked over, and he wasn’t. The room was full by the time he was a third of the way through, and at least where I was standing, when he introduced a drone, or went quiet, there was little noise other than applause or the occasional, “Hey Joe!” which he answered with, “Hey what?”
Though the aesthetics were different, it was a great lead-in for Floor. As Brooks, guitarist Anthony Vialon (interview here) and drummer Henry Wilson (who formed the underrated Dove following Floor‘s initial split and now also plays in House of Lightning) got set up, I couldn’t help but wonder if they — a two-guitar trio lacking a bassist — and Preston – a bassist touring by himself — might wind up collaborating at some point. The math works out, and though I doubt a partnership that brought Preston on board would be convenient as he lives in the Pacific Northwest and Floor are based in Miami, a song or two with all four on stage didn’t seem like it would be out of the question, given the apparent amiability between the two acts, who swapped jokes as the one loaded off stage and the other on.
Wilson announced before the first song that it was Brooks‘ birthday, so an already celebratory mood — the mere fact that Floor were touring was something special — became even more so as the three-piece delivered a sing-along-ready one-two punch with “Scimitar” and “Downed Star,” tracks one and three from the self-titled. Three years ago, when Floor played Europa, I remembered crowd surfing and other general pit whathaveyou, so that wasn’t such a shock, but it after having my kneecaps adjusted a few times via the edge of the stage and having two of the remaining five hairs on my head removed via some guy who just seemed to think he was caught in a Shelob web and had no choice but to tug his way to freedom, the “I’m too old for this shit” impulse took over and I split to the back.
The new stuff? There were four songs listed with initials and numbers on the setlist — the opener “B1,” “DB,” “52,” and “TMITB” — that I can’t find any other account of in their catalog (Below and Beyondis a good metric, as it encompasses everything), and the first led off with vocals drawn out over psych riffing and Wilson‘s steady crash, Vialon subdued as he fit a quick lead into the end, soon making way for the start of “Scimitar” and “Downed Star.” Hard to judge sonics from a live show in terms of making judgments how something might sound in its studio incarnation. No complaints, in any case. I wasn’t in the mood for analysis anyway, happy to go where the riffs were going. Most of what they played throughout their time — “Nights of Lolita,” “Sneech,” “Twink,” “Assassin,” “Iron Girl,” “Ein (Below and Beyond)” and “Night Full of Kicks” — came from the self-titled, which was to be expected, but there was room for “Bombs to Abbadon,” “Dove,” “Loanin’” and “Diamond Dave’s are Forever,” as well as the new material, so even if the crowd wasn’t already standing on its toes to pump fists along with “Figured Out,” Floor had plenty to keep it there anyway.
“Return to Zero” — the middle piece of the opening trio of the self-titled — made its appearance in the encore and got possibly the biggest response of the night, the crowd moving in a wash the way science has dictated it must. The room sang “Happy Birthday” to Brooks and more riffs and feedback ensued, another song or two, and the set didn’t so much end in the sense of thank-you-goodnight-big-light-show, but seemed to kind of finally implode under the weight of Floor‘s tones. By the time Metallica came on through the P.A. afterwards, I felt like I’d just had my brain kicked.
Posted in Reviews on March 25th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
It had been my original and stated intent to catch Los Angeles-based cellist Alison Chesley — who has performed under the moniker Helen Money since releasing a self-titled album under it in 2007 — at the St. Vitus bar on Friday night. So firm was I in this intent that I stayed at my office until 9PM so I could leave right from it to get into Brooklyn for the show in time to catch her with minimal traffic hindrance. I’d picked up my car from the mechanic earlier in the day and was all good to go.
All good to go, that is, until I started said vehicle and found it had no headlights — a fact I’d failed to notice since it was still light out when I drove it from the mechanic’s to my office. Some wire accidentally bumped, and there you go. This was enough for me to miss the show. I called The Patient Mrs., who in fact offered to come drop off another car — because she’s wonderful — but the timing wouldn’t have worked anyway.
I had a solid 15 to 20 minutes of feeling bad for myself while I waited for her to pick me up at my office before I remembered that Helen Money had a second show booked for Sunday night at The Acheron, a venue I’ve generally avoided since I and someone on their behalf engaged in a bit of needless mutual dickery early in 2011 (though I was there later that year), and suddenly it seemed far less dramatic. I’d still be able to see Helen Money while she was in town, still be able to pick up a copy of her latest album, Arriving Angels(review here), and though it was a Sunday night and I had to work Monday morning, stubbornness won out.
So off I went. My car was still at the mechanic’s, but The Patient Mrs. was kind enough to lend me hers for the evening and I trucked across Manhattan and into Brooklyn for the show; a bill which Chesley was sharing with San Diego doom-dub machinist Author & Punisher and Philly metallers A Life Once Lost. Nothing against either, both are well established in what they do — and I can’t even think of the name A Life Once Lost without having the hook of their “The Hunter” run through my head — but it was Helen Money I was going to see, so I made sure to get there early.
Familiarly, I was a little too early, but after standing around for about an hour, Chesley took her cello out of a case with a sticker for her old outfit Verbow on it and took the stage in front of the other bands’ backlined equipment, standing with pedal boards in front and to the side of her. She was alone — Arriving Angelsfeatures outside contributors, something of a departure — but more than held her ground as a solo artist. She’s hardly the first to construct a larger-than-one-person sound using loops and effects, and the drama a cello can create without accompaniment has been proven time and again, but Helen Money is nonetheless a singular, individual project, as much sonically as practically. She may or may not be moving in the direction of working on fuller arrangements for studio material going forward, but for what it is now, for Helen Money to work, it almost had to just be her.
She mostly kept to Arriving Angelsmaterial for the setlist, with each of the eight tracks accounted for save the closer, “Runout,” and a good portion of them presented in the same order as on the album. Helen Money‘s propensity to play heavier and louder parts off softer ambience showed itself throughout as she bowed or plucked the cello strings, a kind of frantic energy taking hold at points that was suitably electric for her distorted tone. Some of the most effective momentsof Arriving Angelsarrive when she makes that sudden jab, and using sampled drums — it’s Neurosis/Sleep drummer Jason Roeder contributing the loops to the studio versions, and presumably his samples live as well — “Radio Recorders” and “Beautiful Friends” were all the more visceral in the live setting of The Acheron, which was mostly held in attentive check throughout, save for some conversation in back and spillover noise from The Anchored Inn next door.
Two or three times, Chesley spoke off-mic from the stage about a song before she played it. I was standing in back by then, so couldn’t really make out what she was saying, but her point got across anyway once the next piece began. Dipping back to the self-titled, she touched on the shorter “Hendrix” before rounding out with the march of “Schrapnel” and the stark, sometimes furious Arriving Angelstitle cut. It wasn’t quite 10PM when she finished and said a humble goodnight, and I was soon enough on the road back to Jersey, the looming week and temptation to make it back before midnight overwhelming all other impulses. Plus, you know, I had to give my wife’s car back.
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 18th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
If you’re coming from San Francisco, I guess a stopover for a show in Brooklyn prior to launching your European tour in Prague doesn’t seem that unreasonable. That’s the plan for the four-piece Golden Void, who will hit Union Pool with Pontiak on April 6. That’s a hell of a show (there are several hell-of-a-shows happening that night) and for anyone who heard the band’s self-titled debut last year (review here), not one to be left off the calendar. Here’s the news and Golden Void‘s Euro dates in full. They’ll end that tour playing Roadburn‘s Afterburner on April 21.
The PR wire puts it like this:
Golden Void & Pontiak play Union Pool April 6th
San Francisco heavy psychers Golden Void, which feature Isaiah Mitchell of Earthless & Howlin’ Rain and Camilla Saufley-Mitchell of Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound, will be making their New York debut at Union Pool April 6th. Their debut album, which was called, “a heady, rich brew, buoyed by roaring hammond, loose drumming and some blazing solo epiphanies” by Terrorizer, was released by Thrill Jockey to acclaim throughout the rock and metal communities last November. They have a new 7″ with two exclusive songs slated for Record Store Day 2013. Check out “The Curve” and their version of “1983″ by Jimi Hendrix below. Following this rare East Coast performance the group will be heading to Europe to perform at the famed Roadburn Festival.
Pontiak are the Virginia based Carney brothers, who make expansive psych rock populated with irresistible, stoned riffs. Their last album, Echo Ono, was called, “the peak of their career to date… raw, spontaneous, and unfettered power and release that simultaneously addresses the visceral and refined” by Prefix. Known for the mix of beauty and power that comes from the extreme volume at which they play live, Pontiak are an experience not to be missed.
Golden Void Upcoming Tour Dates – 2013 Apr 06, 2013 Brooklyn, NY Union Pool Apr 08, 2013 Prague, Czech Republic Klub 007 Apr 09, 2013 Berlin, Germany Jagerklause Apr 10, 2013 Dresden, Germany Ostpol Apr 11, 2013 Linz, Austria Kapu Apr 12, 2013 Innsbruck, Austria PMK Apr 13, 2013 Milan, Italy Lo fi Club Apr 16, 2013 Lyon, France Le Sonic Apr 17, 2013 Paris, France Point Ephemere Apr 18, 2013 Antwerp, Belgium Trix Apr 19, 2013 Leige, Belgium Inside Out Apr 20, 2013 Siegen, Germany Vortex Apr 21, 2013 Tilburg, Netherlands 013 venue (Roadburn Festival)
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 14th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Presented by Snakecharmer Booking, Small Stone Records, the Electric Beard of Doom podcast and yours truly once I manage to track down my hi res Obelisk logos, the Eye of the Stoned Goat 3 is set to take place July 27 at The Acheron in Brooklyn. It will have only been months since Eye of the Stoned Goat 2 suckerpunched Delaware upside its still-bragging-about-being-the-first-state head (review here), but with a lineup that includes Lo-Pan, Gozu, Supermachine, Black Black Black, Borracho, Wizard Eye, Lord Fowl, Geezer and Wasted Theory, I’m not about to complain.
As I’ll be helping present the damn thing, expect much more to come, including interviews with the artists, reviews and updates on their whathaveyou and maybe even a giveaway if I can square it with the powers that be. Till then, stare at the preliminary flyer below marvel at the wonders summer will bring:
Once they figured out what they wanted to be as a band, Unearthly Trance only got heavier, so that the debut full-length from Serpentine Path — which unites that trio’s final lineup with guitarist Tim Bagshaw, formerly of Ramesses and Electric Wizard — should be darker and more extreme in its doomly ways isn’t so much a surprise as it is a natural evolution. Add to that vocalist Ryan Lipynsky‘s ongoing tenure in black metal progressives The Howling Wind and it makes even more sense, though Serpentine Path have little in common either with Lipynsky‘s other outfit or with Unearthly Trance. Some of Ramesses‘ death-doomiest moments might be recognizable in the eight-track/42-minute self-titled, but there’s little to none of the cultish psychedelia that offset such dirge marching in that band. With Serpentine Path, it’s pretty much all bludgeon.
The album was released last fall on Relapse and met with as positive a response as something so unabashedly negative can, and since it came out, Bagshaw (who wrote the music on the debut) has reportedly relocated to New Jersey from the UK and Winter guitarist Stephen Flam has joined as well, making the band a five-piece rounded out by bassist Jay Newman and drummer Darren Verni. I just recently came into contact with Serpentine Pathcourtesy of Flam, who was interviewed here a while back (if you didn’t read it, you should, it’s awesome), and having spent some time with the record, as usual, I a little bit regret not checking out it sooner. The drawn-out stomp of “Crotalus Horridus Horridus” and the ’90s-style leads infecting “Obsoletion” are a death-doomer’s missing link, and the purposeful unipolarity in Lipynsky‘s vocals there and elsewhere throughout the album only makes the band’s intentions clearer.
Bagshaw‘s guitar even on a shorter track like “Bats Amongst Heathens” — easy to hear a Winter influence there — crafts an abyss of tone, and as they’re no strangers to slow, lurching rhythms, Newman and Verni work well in walking the line between snail’s pace grooving and unhinged immobility. Periodic samples like that at the beginning of “Beyond the Dawn of Time” don’t so much ground the material as add to the chaos, and a song like the later “Compendium of Suffering” is given even more weirdness in its break for the vague spoken echoes playing out over the unceasing plod of the verse riff. I guess if you want the short version, Serpentine Path are seriously fucking heavy and seriously grim. They don’t stray from that modus throughout these tracks, but they don’t really need to either, since the more oppressive a song gets, the more it’s doing its job. They win no matter what.
Closer “Only a Monolith Remains” seems to have been the inspiration for the artwork as well, which seems to be nodding at Hellhammer on the front cover while on the back a sort of Cthulhu-meets-the-Pradator monolith plays host to the tracklist. The inside of the liner has snake scales embossed onto the paper, as do the lyrics, and the tray under the CD also has an embossed ouroboros, so clearly somebody was putting effort into the aesthetic from the ground up. Not the first time I’ve given Relapse‘s Orion Landau kudos and it probably won’t be the last. One way or another, Serpentine Path‘s Serpentine Pathis a record I’m glad I got to check out, since given the changes in the band they’re not likely to repeat themselves next time around.
Posted in Radio on February 27th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
With shades of industrial, black and post-metal, Brooklyn’s Sannhet cast a deep shadow with Known Flood, their debut LP. And then they hide in that shadow, and they lurk around for a while, all creepy-like. The trio released Known Floodon vinyl last week through Sacrament Music, the new imprint cast by the crew at the St. Vitus bar, and with its forward-thinking approach to churning tonal oppression, transitional drones and ambient heft, I can’t help but think it’s a good fit. Very easy to imagine this noise filling that room.
The record (produced by Colin Marston of Behold… theArctopus!, et al) is consuming when played at high volume, with a kind of surrounding effect coming from tracks like the centerpiece “Moral” or the subsequent “Slow Ruin,” which effectively touches on Neurosis crunch without simply aping it. Sannhet sound bigger than three people and add chaos by means of an assortment of loops and samples handled by drummer Christopher Todd and guitarist John Refano – the lineup is completed by AJ Annunziata on bass — but at the root of Known Floodis a fierce grip on aesthetic and directionality and an obvious push toward the sonically extreme. Whether it’s an earlier bruiser like “Safe Passage” or the final ambient swell of closer “Flatlands,” screaming or instrumental, Sannhet make each turn consistent, dark and intricate.
Textures unveil themselves more with each listen as vague samples become clarified standouts, and repetitions become all the more engrossing and hypnotic. “Still Breathing,” the penultimate and longest track (7:46), also proves the most patient in its unfolding, but when it reaches its apex, there is a shattering effect that’s not to be missed, Refano and Annunziata mounting a linear build that Todd makes turbulent with the addition of blastbeats and corresponding open crashes. Eventually, they break through it with a sweeping payoff that, but for the malevolent noise underscoring “Flatlands,” would be a fitting end to the album.
Glad to have Known Flood added to The Obelisk Radio, and if you’d like to experience it en masse, please refer to the stream below, courtesy of the Sannhet Bandcamp:
Posted in Reviews on February 26th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
However long it had been since Acid King hit NYC for a show, it was too long. Probably long enough that the last time they did, it was Manhattan they were playing and not Brooklyn. We’re talking pre-economic collapse, possibly around the time the San Francisco trio (ding ding!) put out their latest album to date, III, on Small Stone in 2005. If that’s the case, and I think it might be, then golly, that’s a long time. That would mean that the last time Acid King came through NYC, neither of the bands who opened for them — Blackout and Kings Destroy – nor the venue they played — the St. Vitus bar — existed yet. Pretty wild.
And Brooklyn was excited to see them, at least judging from the packed house at the sold-out Vitus bar and the people outside who couldn’t get tickets. I had a feeling it might work out like that, and wanting to catch Blackout for not having seen them before, got there early and headed almost immediately to the front of the stage where I’d remain for the duration. It wasn’t long before Blackout went on and recognizing Justin Sherrell of Bezoar (who play the same venue with Samothrace this coming Friday), was surprised to find him handling bass in the trio, which also includes drummer Taryn Waldman and guitarist/vocalist Christian Gordy.
I was thinking of Blackout as a new band, but they’ve been kicking around Brooklyn since 2011, so I guess it isn’t a surprise they were as tight as they were, playing a thick, riff-led heavy psych that blended Sleep‘s stoner heyday and classic Melvins stomp with a touch of Rob Crow‘s vocal compression in Goblin Cock and even, when Sherrell joined in, some of Fu Manchu‘s inherent movement to go along with that Naam-style Brooklyny Brooklyness. You know, the kind you get in Brooklyn? Riffs were familiar and steady, well-punctuated by Waldman‘s drums, and straightforward enough that they never really departed from their central groove despite changes in pace and volume and shifts into and out of verses. They didn’t seem so much concerned with breaking new ground, as with bringing something of their own to an established form.
Gordy came across more as a rhythm player than one to kick out a showy solo, but I could see at one point he was just on the verge of breaking out a stoner rock softshoe while riding a particularly funky line. Go for it, man. No way to lose on that one. Blackout‘s last song, “Seven,” had their most potent start-stop and a memorable one-two shout to go along with it, repeated early and repeated often in a killer jam. They were a cool band and a good fit for the bill, since you could just as easily point to Acid King as an influence for their driving, tone-minded roll. If that left Kings Destroy as the odd men out, they were just fine with that.
The thing I enjoy most about seeing Kings Destroy at this point — and I enjoy a good bit about them and I’ve had plenty of occasions to enjoy it — is watching them demolish people’s expectations. Whether people in the crowd heard them through picking up their And the Rest Will Surely Perishdebut (a Maple Forum release) or just from checking out random videos along the way, there’s little that can prepare either for the focused intensity in their performance at this point — not so much a holdover from the members’ NYHC days as an evolution of it — or the free aesthetic range of the newer, post-debut material from their forthcoming second LP. However they manage to do it, Kings Destroy are always catching someone off guard.
I’m hardly an impartial observer, but fun is fun. Despite throwing in weirdo cuts like “Blood of Recompense” and the closing “Turul” from the new album, due out this year on whichever label is bold enough to pick it up, Kings Destroy also went back to their roots, playing both sides of their initial 7″ single with “Old Yeller” and “Medusa.” The blend was right on, and if they had it in mind to play the simpler, more directly riffy material for the heads out to see Acid King, they probably weren’t wrong in doing so. The room was more or less full from what I could tell as they kicked off with “Old Yeller,” and the crowd was already drunk and already rowdy. Or at least a couple dudes were who decided to spread it around after already being led forcefully to but apparently not through the door once during Blackout.
My pick of the Kings Destroy set? Well, I’m a sucker for “The Toe” and a sucker for “The Mountie,” so take your pick. From the start of “Old Yeller” on down, the band showed how far they’ve come, adding a dangerous sense of energy to the older songs. Both cuts from the 7″ also appeared on the album, so “The Mountie” wasn’t alone, but the push was still clearly geared toward the newer stuff, and rightly so. While I love that record as much as you’d think someone would have to in order to decide to put their “label” stamp on it — and if they came to me today with it, I’d still be up for helping to put it out — Kings Destroy 2013 are miles ahead of where Kings Destroy 2010 were, bolstered by road-time in Europe, more songwriting and a greater sense of what influences they want to bring into the band. Their confidence bleeds through everything they do, and they don’t just know they’re kicking your ass on stage, they actually kick your ass too. It had been a couple months since I last saw them (review here), so the refresher was appreciated.
Vocalist Steve Murphy hopped off the stage into the crowd during the quiet ending of “Blood of Recompense” and stood on some kind of box on the side of the stage during part of the oddly progressive “Turul,” marching in isolated place while guitarists Carl Porcaro and Chris Skowronski, bassist Aaron Bumpus and drummer Rob Sefcik locked in the chugging chorus that brought the set to a finish, so even to the presentation of the songs itself, there was a sense of not knowing what the hell might come next.
What was next, however, was Acid King.
And I’ll say this about Acid King: That is a band who are ready to let the riffs do the talking. The case was roughly the same when I last saw them at Roadburn in 2011, but perhaps accentuated all the more for a headlining set in Brooklyn. Still, even without whooping up the crowd, the crowd was in their pocket… and all over the floor of the St. Vitus bar. Moshing during Acid King? Really? The songs have like 30 beats per minute. Q: How do you mosh to that? A: Sauced. I stayed up front the whole show, and for most of Acid King‘s set, my side of the stage didn’t seem to be getting it as bad as the other one, but really, I didn’t expect that kind of thing to happen. It’s fucking stoner rock, not Converge.
But I’m old, and the generation has shifted, so if Acid King inspire enough devotion in a Saturday night Brooklyn crowd despite not having put out a new album in eight years to result in moshing at their show, well, that bit of “this is fun because I’m wasted” goonery and “let me cover you in my shirtless man-sweat” latent homoeroticism I guess is the price to pay for seeing the three-piece in the flesh. It’s a small one in the long run as compares to actually watching Acid King play (though I can’t help but wonder if the girl on the other side of the stage who kept getting grabbed on by Dipshit McGee would argue), who arrived on the stage with as little sense of fucking around as they’d soon bring to their set, which covered mostly IIIsongs and classics from 1999′s genre landmark Busse Woodsbut left room for new material as well in the form of “Coming Down from Outer Space,” “Red River” and a third yet untitled.
Yeah, that’s right, new Acid King. They’ve been kicking around “Red River” for a while — also happens to be the name of the street in Austin, Texas, where I first saw them in 2004, half-passed out sitting on the upstairs balcony at Room 710 while they headlined the Small Stone showcase at SXSW — but everything’s relative. Really, they could’ve played just about anything and I don’t think anyone would have complained. The place was just excited to see they were there, and the band — guitarist/vocalist Lori S., drummer Joey Osbourne and bassist Mark Lamb — were well into it as well, not thrashing around or anything but ensuring the delivery of the tightest set possible of some of heavy rock’s most underrated riffage.
If you were so inclined, you could probably write a dissertation on Lori‘s guitar tone. Under the red lights at the St. Vitus, she led the band through the fuzz of “Busse Woods” and “2 Wheel Nation” like it was a guided tour, Lamb’s own low end providing a fitting answer back, resulting in a consuming wave of groove that was, I shit you not, right up there with the heaviest sounds I’ve ever heard come through that Vitus P.A. It was clear immediately that it would be a great set, and as they nestled into the pocket of riff after riff, not overly animated but not still-life-with-fuzz either, Acid King reminded Brooklyn of just what it had been missing in the time since they last stopped through.
When the crowd got unruly between songs, shouting requests or nonsensicalities like, “You’re in Brooklyn now,” as though they (1:) didn’t know or (2:) were concerned they’d set up their gear in Queens instead, Lori simply hit her foot pedal on for the next song and all the rest disappeared in a hum of feedback, Osbourne smiling behind. “Silent Circle” was a highlight, but “Electric Machine” — which followed the unnamed new song and “Coming Down from Outer Space” — made the whole set for me personally. That’s a song I’m lucky I get through a day without it showing up stuck in my head at some point anyway. To be that close to it was something special.
Their regular set wrapped with III closer “Sunshine and Sorrow,” on which I’d apparently never properly appreciated Osbourne‘s drum fills, as Lori put her guitar down and adjourned to the side of the stage — nowhere else to go — to watch Lamb and Osbourne finish off the song and nod on the groove. They couldn’t leave before the encore, so after a minute or so, they launched into an encore of “Teen Dusthead” and the extended, hypnotic “War of the Mind,” finishing huge, sick and unpretentiously righteous as they’d started. It was a monument to riff-paganism equal parts huge and awe-inspiring, and I felt dazed when they were done.
Consciousness returned on the slow march out enough to get me to my car and back to Jersey, whereupon I crashed out so thoroughly that three days later I’ve yet really to come fully awake. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. One thing’s for sure: If Acid King came to the East Coast for the first time in more than half a decade — one show, not even touring — it probably wasn’t without a reason, and if they were testing the waters for a new album prior to recording, the interest and the fanbase is definitely there. Acid King were welcomed to the St. Vitus like the stoner royalty they are, and though I might stand in back next time around, my only hope after this show is that there is one.
Proffering rich, organic tonality with an unpostured flair for the soulful and classically rocking, Brooklyn’s Traveling Circle made enough of an initial impression to be picked up by Germany’s Nasoni Records for the release of their first album. That’s high praise for psychedelia — especially American psychedelia — and the record, 2010′s Handmade House(review here) left little to question of the three-piece’s having earned it, a patient but still motion-minded flow playing out over the course of tight grooves and well-placed flourishes of synth. The follow-up, Escape from Black Cloud(review here), was also issued on LP by Nasoni late last year.
Its pulse is no harder to read in terms of overall accessibility, but Escape from Black Cloudis nonetheless a more developed full-length, two-sided all the way in its blend of classic psych and modern tonality, a steady beat throbbing under unrepentantly shoegazing opener “Higher,” while the high-pitched vocals space out above the sway. Elsewhere, as on side B’s shuffling “Fountain of Time,” they touch the ground, but there’s little interest presented in remaining there, as the sleepy “Newborn Shadow” demonstrates and the more playful “Rock this Feeling” confirms. At rest or in motion, Traveling Circle draw forth an engaging atmosphere akin to but not necessarily biting off anyone else’s work in psych or space rock. The more you let yourself be carried off by Escape from Black Cloud, the more satisfaction the album is like to provide.
Traveling Circle is comprised of guitarist/vocalist Dylan Maiden, bassist/backing vocalist/electric pianist Charlie Freeman and drummer Josh Schultz. All three were kind enough to participate in the following Six Dumb Questions. Please enjoy:
1. Escape from Black Cloud seems to have a more laid back feel than Handmade House in general. Were there things you knew you wanted to do differently coming off of the last record, or is that just how the songs came out of the jams?
Josh: I do think our attitude was a little different for the new record. We kept in a more sort of spacey pulse area for this album. For me, I really tried to keep the drums more pulsing. I tried to be creative in the approach but also keep it simple. I saw a documentary on Krautrock a while ago and Jaki Liebezeit describes a spaced-out audience member approaching him to suggest he should “play more monotonous.” I definitely tried to “play more monotonous.”
Charlie: Simplicity was the general approach all around. I tried not to overthink things but we had a certain sound in mind.
Dylan: Yeah, the goal was to compose a more linear structure throughout and fill it with melodic accents that give you the feeling of moving up and down.
2. How does the Traveling Circle writing process usually work? Am I way off in hearing a soul/funk influence? If I’m not, where does it come from?
Dylan: There may be some influence from those territories. But, to be honest, I draw inspiration in my writing from just about every place conceivable. The subliminal and subconscious are important drivers behind our writing process. There are many elements at work. We usually enter the practice studio and start arranging these elements into the sonic positions we feel are most appropriate for each song’s narrative.
Charlie: I can see what you mean with the soul/funk influence. “Rock this Feeling” has that vibe running throughout. In general, Dylan has a very soulful vocal delivery and Josh and I have an intertwined approach to drums and bass. This album definitely has more groove injected in it.
Josh: Over the two albums we have used a number of different methods in terms of writing. I think this record has some really great songs that Dylan brought in more or less done from a guitar/vocals perspective. Higher is a good example of this, the way I remember it. Some songs started as jams. “Closer” was sort of an unwritten jam at first. We first played that song as a jam at a bar in Brooklyn called Legend and just improvised it. The room was empty at the beginning of the song and began to fill up by the end. It looked like a good idea to polish it up after that. People seemed to relate to it. “Candle Light Sways” was an odd one in that I worked out the entire drum part at home and then brought it in to see if Charlie and Dylan would be up for making something out of it. The structure changed a bit with the group though. Maybe this is too mechanical an answer…
3. Tell me about writing and recording “Newborn Shadow.”
Dylan: This is one of my favorite songs on the album. I wanted to create a nostalgic atmosphere with the guitar sound, which involved very simple strums. Serendipitously, the guitar ended up sounding like a harp. Then I overlaid vocals that sound like they’re coming from a gothic cathedral. I really love Charlie’s bass on this track. It holds everything together and makes me feel like I’m on a teetering boat with a lantern in my hand, trying to make my way through the darkness ahead.
Charlie: This one came together pretty quickly right before we went into the studio. Dylan had a very clear idea of the overall sound he was going for. It has a really nice build to it. It’s a very haunting song.
Josh: The drums were more involved on that song at one point and it was worse for it! In trying out ideas we got around to the current treatment, which is much stronger for the simple drums.
4. The album sounds so natural. How much of Escape from Black Cloud was recorded live? What was your time in the studio like? Has there been any consideration to bringing in a synth player as a full-time member of the band?
Dylan: We’ve been praised for our live performances. Many people have said they prefer hearing us live to our albums. The aim of Escape from Black Cloud was to capture the energy and emotion of our live performance and bring it to the forefront. We brought in friends to help with arrangements such as synthesizer and Theremin, but this by no means compromised the integrity of our sound. Having our brethren by our side helped accentuate the most important bits and crystallize the vision. Nostalgia and dustiness aside, considering how many tracks we recorded live, Escape from Black Cloud came out sounding quite polished as a studio piece, both in its execution and production.
Josh: We did the bass, drums and guitar tracks all at once in a live fashion and then went from there. We recorded at Seaside Lounge with MitchRackin. Mitch is the best! His record with Heavy Hands is great. I listen to it pretty regularly. The album is called Smoke Signals. Seaside is a great place to record. They record to tape and have a lot of sweet vintage gear and are great guys! I wish I was at Seaside Lounge right now! As for the mixing, Dylan was in contact with Gordon Raphael and we decided to approach him about trying out some mixes, we really liked what he came up with and so we asked him to mix the album. He was working between Berlin and Texas so we handled the mixes through the mail. It was an unusual way to work for us but I like what we ended up with.
We have talked at times about adding a member but haven’t really done much about it. Charlie handles the keys on “Willow Tree Fair.” He comes up with great parts. Other additional parts include Theremin played by Matt Dallow and some studio magic from Gordon.
Charlie: We keep some pretty odd rehearsal times too. A lot of people don’t want to get up that early on a Sunday morning.
5. Can you give some insight into Erin Klauk’s work on the cover art? Was there some discussion of direction beforehand? How did you wind up working together in the first place?
Josh: Erin has done a lot of posters for us over the years and also the cover to the last LP. She did the posters for Brooklyn Psych Fest as well. I don’t recall much direction. I guess she just riffed on the title. Pretty far-out stuff, right? Alexandra Zorbas-Maiden took the sweet photos, including one on the back and another on the poster insert.
Charlie: Erin had some couch pillows made with the cover art and gave them to us as gifts. That was the first time I saw the art and I was blown away. We’re really lucky to have people as talented as Erin and Alex working with us.
Dylan: I was at an art opening in Chelsea that featured some really cool Himalayan artwork. They were dark depictions of mountains and clouds. Very simple line drawings that almost resembled wood engravings. I was very inspired and thought the tone somehow related to the songs we selected for our second album. Knowing Erin was going to illustrate the cover,
I texted her pictures from this Himalayan artist as inspiration for what would later become Escape from Black Cloud.
The photo on the back cover of Escape from Black Cloud was taken in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, by my wife Alex. The poster insert photo was also taken by her in the Muir Woods.
6. Will there be a CD release? Any shows, plans or other closing words you want to mention?
Josh: Currently there are no plans for a CD but we have been receiving requests. The best way to pick up Escape from Black Cloud is on vinyl at www.nasoni-records.com. They also have both an LP and CD of our first album, Handmade House. If you don’t listen to records, Escape from Black Cloud is on iTunes and Spotify. We are currently planning to hold record listenings in three cities as well, New York, San Francisco, and Sydney. If anyone is interested, keep an eye on our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/TravelingCircle for more details.
Posted in Reviews on February 12th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
There’s no doubt in my mind that when 2013 is over, this will have been one of its best shows. Out from Oregon prior to sequestering themselves to write a new album, YOB joined forces with Hull and Bezoar for the first of a two-night stay at the St. Vitus bar. It was Sunday as well — and I know the mystique of weeknight shows is that everybody acts like they don’t have to get up the next morning because rock and roll means more when it’s painful — but man oh man, whatever assault and battery I may have inflicted on myself, my neck, my hearing and my ongoing semi-conscious waking state, it was worth it. And not just to have my bald spot show up headbanging down front on those unARTigNYC videos, but you know, for the music, dude.
It was one of those front-to-back nights. They don’t come along all that often, where you can show up to a venue and rest assured that everything you see is going to blow your ass out of the room — without literally doing so, lest you miss a minute of the righteousness. The St. Vitus was sold out for the night, and it was through the much-appreciated grace of Bezoar that I was able to get into the show at all. Having seen an impressive couple of their gigs over the last few months (see here and here), you’re damn right I was showing up early so as not to let their frequently bizarre invocations and riffly conjuring pass me by. I dig that band more the more I see them, and I plan on seeing them more.
The more I see them, however, the clearer the picture becomes about what it is that I enjoy so much. It’s the blend. Their ability to play one influence off another and tip the balance at a moment’s notice between echoey ’90s art rock, visceral doom and scathing extreme metal. Aside from drummer Justin Sherrell‘s fluidity in fast or slow tempos, guitarist Tyler Villard‘s periodic bouts of shred-itis and bassist/vocalist Sara Villard‘s enviable rumbling tone and un-postured vocal ethereality, there’s the course of a given song itself, genre-free and off and running — now at an gallop, now a lurching crash — that nabs the attention and renders moot the bookmaking on what might come next. Factor in the sheer attention-deficit nature of what they’re playing, they almost can’t help but be fun to watch.
For Bezoar, it was a good night to make a lasting impression, and they did precisely that, settling into a groove here and there throughout complex compositions as Tyler‘s variable riffing through a steady hand provided the foundation on which Justin and Sara enacted sped-up post-metal churn, blackened squibblies belted into doomed time-change, ignoring the improbability of it all working as Tyler plucked out a purposefully strange sub-blues lead to somehow answer back. The song about Jim Jones doesn’t have a name yet. I asked Sara afterwards if I could call it “The Song about Jim Jones,” and she said it was cool, so yeah, they played that. Closed with it, in fact, as the new lighting at the St. Vitus bar flickered around the early rush of the cut, which will presumably (hopefully) surface on their next full-length, due sometime this year.
They’ve begun to click as a band on stage, which made them a suitable fit alongside fellow Brooklynites Hull in representing the borough’s heavy creative set. I was up front, but by the time Bezoar had finished, the room was all but packed. Hull aren’t exactly lacking in draw on their own, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, but what occurred to me watching them open for YOB was the same thing that occurs to me almost every time I’m lucky enough to see them, and it’s just how much I absolutely take them for granted. It shames me to say it, because I try not to — their last album, 2011′s Beyond the Lightless Sky(review here), I loved and still keep on my person at most times in my trusty CD wallet, but when it comes to seeing them live, I’m way too blase about it. “Oh, I’ll catch them whenever,” or wait for a night like this to come along when they’re on a bill with someone I can’t miss like YOB, or maybe EyeHateGod.
To wit, this was my first time seeing Hull since guitarist Drew Mack left and they embarked on a new era as a double-guitar four-piece last fall. The change was notable, but it’s not like they went from two guitars to one or one to none. The real kicker was how overwhelmingly heavy they were, guitarist Nick Palmirotto and bassist Seanbryant Dunn splitting vocal duties as they sprinted masterfully through the tense thrashing of “Earth from Water” from the last record, hitting the point of no return for payoff largess and ignoring the signs on their way to cliffdiving doom slowdown. Lead guitarist Carmine Laietta, far off to the right and largely in the dark, tore into the stops of the open solo section given thrust by Jeff Stieber‘s kick drum. How had I let it go so long since the last time I saw Hull?
Like the openers, they also had yet-unreleased material which they used as a follow-up for the massive apex of “Earth from Water” and the chugging heft of “Architect” from 2009′s Sole Lord, mentioning after the fact that the song was new in an “oh by the way” kind of fashion. The central method — create tension, release tension, rebuild and dismantle — seemed roughly the same as ever, and Hull‘s ability to turn a churning riff on its head is nothing short of world class, though it was the extended “Viking Funeral” that made the closing statement of their set, parts weaving out in movements over the course of 15-plus minutes. Don’t get me wrong, I remember when they put out that EP in 2007. I spent a lot of time dorking out over that track.A lot. And I appreciate it when a band doesn’t forget their earlier accomplishments in favor of indulging more recent efforts.
But here’s the thing: It’s only an indulgence if the more recent efforts are in any way weaker than the earlier accomplishments, and Hull‘s aren’t. So much as I was thrilled to hear the undulating riff of “Viking Funeral,” I’m not entirely sure I would’ve taken it over “Fire Vein” or “False Priest” (oh hell, both) from Beyond the Lightless Sky. Perhaps it’s not something they do every show and save for special occasions which something like supporting YOB most definitely is, but there’s so much depth to what they do now that I think it’s worthy of highlighting, however epic their first outing may have been. It’s not a complaint, exactly — that is, “Viking Funeral” kicks ass and we all know it — I just also think the Beyond the Lightless Skymaterial could just as easily have provided the peak Hull were carrying across in closing out their set.
In any case, they destroyed in a manner befitting what was still to come once YOB took the stage, drummer Travis Foster emerging first from the crowd, then bassist Aaron Rieseberg, then finally guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt. There was a bit of a delay as Scheidt had to run and grab a vocal mic, but they were sharing Hull‘s gear, so it wasn’t that long before YOB got going, with “Kosmos” from 2005′s The Unreal Never Livedserving as an entry point to their consuming, space-quaking tonality. A band I once thought I’d never have the chance to see live, I’ve caught a handful of YOB shows in the years since they resumed their ascent with 2009′s The Great Cessation — Manhattan, Roadburn, Roadburn, Brooklyn — and have had few experiences as life-affirming in a concert setting. I mean that. I knew I’d only get to see them this one of the two nights they were at the Vitus bar (the next night, Sea of Bones and Batillus opened), so I did my best to make the most of it. You never know when next they’ll come back, if at all.
And while I took a second to pause and wonder, if I lived in Oregon, would I take YOB for granted the way I do with Hull, I soon enough had my face torn off and handed to me. When they finished “Kosmos,” someone in the crowd shouted “play anything!” and they answered with the soft opening strains of “Catharsis.” At first, I didn’t believe it, but Scheidt, his eyes closed, slowly rocking back and forth, kept it going and gradually, the song built to its full breadth, Foster and Rieseberg joining in the long journey to the initial verse. At one point, I looked down on the stage and there was my right earplug, but if it’s any indication as to how loud the band actually were, I don’t think I’d have known it was missing if I hadn’t actually seen it there. The slow rise of “Catharsis” to the chorus, “The tyranny/Built upon our philosophies/Not for me in solitude again,” indeed lived up to the title of the song, the middle chugs and Scheidt‘s echoing deathly growls — somehow not at all in conflict with the psychedelic-shamanistic delivery through which they were metered out — leading to the extended, ultra-slow plod, crashing, lumbering, chaotic. I stood and watched myself be dismantled by it, piece by piece, broken apart and put together the right way at last.
The final movement of the song, its faster rush, swirls to an Olympus Mons of a culmination before cutting off, and though it’s impossible to me to think of anything following that — perhaps because “Catharsis” closes the record of the same name, which turns 10 this year, or perhaps because it’s the heaviest thing I’ve ever heard — but YOB weren’t long in breaking into The Illusion of Motion‘s “Grasping Air,” the rolling groove of which launched on a sea of nodding and banging heads. Not moshing exactly, but there was a crowd push. Maybe it was moshing. I don’t know. I ignored it, and frankly, was so mentally and spiritually gone by the time they got there that it didn’t matter. I didn’t care. It’s been a while since the last time I was subsumed enough into a performance that I felt that way. The religious call it communion. I was just glad to be in the room.
Rieseberg‘s bass swell under Scheidt‘s solo for “Grasping Air” was steady enough to hold up the walls of the place, and in the stop before the last slowdown, Scheidt let out a high-pitched shriek off mic but still picked up by it that was both jarring and awesome at the same time. The finger-picked opening of “Adrift in the Ocean,” which closed 2011′s Atma(review here), made for a somber moment complemented by Foster‘s cymbal washes and the rumbling bass, but there was still energy left in the band when they moved into the faster core of the percussive build and takeoff, and that energy only built over the stretch, cleaner vocals wailing out in the verse en route to one of the most infectious chorus hooks YOB has ever written, taking the universe personally in a way few lyricists would dare, speaking in images that show more than they say.
A long instrumental push begun with seething whispers — led to the mounting final build, cut off suddenly but to which Scheidt added a last slow strum on his guitar. That was to be the end of the set proper, but they added “Burning the Altar” from The Great Cessationto finish an “encore” and as one of YOB‘s several strong album-openers, it made a great closer to their first night at the St. Vitus bar. I was dizzy by the time they were done, but gathered my camera bag, which I’d put on the floor in front of me, and made my way out. It must have been almost one in the morning? Something like that. I don’t know. I was home before two, which was earlier than the night before, the whole world having that “congratulations, you’ve just done serious damage to your hearing” tin-can sound for the next 36 or so hours. At least when it’s gone I won’t be able to say I wasted it.
Extra pics after the jump. Thanks for reading as always.