Posted in Whathaveyou on January 31st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Meeting at the intersection of punishing modern doom and industrial experimentation, Brooklyn’s Batillus seem destined to always be an oddball musically. Their 2011 Seventh Rule debut full-length, Furnace (review here), reveled in its bleak weirdness, and I’d expect no less of the follow-up, Concrete Sustain, which is due out March 19 through the same label.
Also sprach the PR wire:
BATILLUS: Avant-Industrial Doom Conjurors To Unleash Concrete Sustain Via Seventh Rule Recordings Next Month
Artwork + Track Listing Revealed
Brooklyn, New York avant-industrial doom conjurors BATILLUS (buh-TILL-us) today confirm March 19, 2013 as the official North American release date of their forthcoming new full-length. Titled Concrete Sustain, the follow-up to 2011’s critically-lauded Furnace long player, was recorded and mixed by Sanford Parker and BATILLUS at Sound Generation in Manhattan and Hypercube in Chicago and mastered by Collin Jordan at the Boiler Room.
With songs that range from relentless mid-tempo churns to subterranean crawls, BATILLUS cohere the extremes of heavy music into a surge of massive riffing, rolling over and descending on the listener with the force and intensity of a sudden storm. Concrete Sustain delivers six unforgettable tracks of chilling industrial doom.
Originally conceived in 2007 as an instrumental trio, the BATILLUS lineup expanded in 2009 to add vocals, synthesizer, and samples to the dynamic range of their music. The tight and focused songs on Concrete Sustain reflect this expanded palette, which has had a profound effect on the band’s writing process.
Concrete Sustain will be released via Seventh Rule Recordings. Stay tuned for further info on BATILLUS, including a stretch of live rituals, in the coming weeks.
Posted in On the Radar on January 28th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Okay, stay with me on this one. Way back at SHoD XI in 2011, I caught a band called Nagato from West Virginia who kicked my ass a more than fair amount and whose demo I grooved on thereafter. Dark, ambient, bluesy, really heavy and moody but without making a show of it. Good stuff that warranted a follow-up and hasn’t gotten one yet. Nagato were playing shows as late as June 2012, so what their status is, I’m not really sure.
In the meantime, though, guitarist/vocalist Paul Cogle – whose tone and delivery was a major source of my appreciation for what Nagato were doing — has put together a new project called Black Blizzard. Joining him (he’s the one right on the camera in the pic above) is Brooklyn-based drummer Ben Proudman. The two were formerly bandmates in the punk outfit Vox Populi and got going as Black Blizzard in the middle of last year, playing a show the same night they decided they were a band. Nothing like a quick start.
The duo have just put out their first release, a three-song EP called Broken Hands, Broken Heartsthat sets a surprisingly diverse course in a short span of time. All told, “Light up the Night,” “Loss” and “Black Blizzard” top out around 16 minutes, but in that time, Cogle and Proudman move fluidly from rocking riffage and a catchy chorus offset by distorted crunch to sullen instrumental guitar minimalism with some obscured layers of noise low in the mix, rounding out with Conan-style low end on their eponymous closer, a tide of guitar leading the course for a build that might have been what Helmet turned into had they decided early on that they liked kicking ass and wanted to keep doing it. Vocals on the closer are wetter with reverb than on the opener and stand up to the thump and crash in the guitars and drums, leaving an impression though the track is still mostly-instrumental.
Broken Hands, Broken Hearts culminates with a vicious dug-in groove that gets louder before cutting out and though I don’t know how often they’re going to be able to get together for writing purposes — West Virginia to Brooklyn or vice versa is a long way to go for band practice — the material on the EP, like Nagato‘s demo, deserves subsequent explorations. Let’s hope it gets them. Until then, here are the three tracks in full courtesy of the Black Blizzard Bandcamp page, also available for a free download:
Posted in Reviews on January 22nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Somebody’s Range Rover had broken down in the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, so the traffic getting across to the St. Vitus bar in Brooklyn was a cruelty. The Patient Mrs. had business elsewhere in the borough as well, so we carpooled and sat for about an hour, waiting, inching forward, honking, being honked at, staring at the billboards for Soylent Orange or whatever it was, waiting. Waiting. Mostly it was waiting.
I was still early to the show, though, which was the live debut of the supergroup (they need to come up with a new tag for “band made up of people known for being in other bands”) Corrections House, whose lineup reads like a list of influences. Mike Williams of Eyehategod on vocals, Scott Kelly of Neurosis on guitar, Yakuza‘s Bruce Lamont handling sax, backing vocals and noise, and producer/Nachtmystium member Sanford Parker – permanently linked to the largely unmatched crush of Buried at Sea in my mind — acting as warden behind a podium with the band’s logo draped on the front, his laptop, sampler, drum machine adding to the experimental edge and providing the rhythmic base of the material.
The concept for the show was pretty complex. Two bands were opening: noise trio York Factory Complaint and blackened noisemakers Theologian, both NY-native. After them, each of the members of Corrections House would come up for a brief 10-15 minutes of solo work, then, once they were pieced together on the stage, a Corrections House set would close out the night. It was a cool theory, and it felt even better to know that St. Vitus bar was the first time they were trying it out, but I guess my concern going into it was how they’d actually make it happen with each member doing something different, what the order would be and how many songs Corrections House, as a band, could possibly have.
Answer? Three or four songs. But it was a long road to get there. York Factory Complaint went on at about 10PM, so I knew right away it was going to be a pretty late night. All the gear was backlined behind and around the outfit — which lists itself as a four-piece so perhaps someone was missing — who sat and knelt on the floor of the stage in front of their vintage-looking manipulators, Moogs and whathaveyous. Their noise was, well, noise. As advertised. Screaming vocals gave some inkling of structure, but there wasn’t really a verse as such, just lines spit over harsh audio.
I guess that’s going to happen from time to time, and for what it was, I thought the presentation was cool and the ambience creative. I always wanted to start a noise project with equipment hooked up to giant walls with knobs on them that I could dress as a mad scientist in a labcoat and run from side of the stage to side of the stage turning like a fool. Of course, with neither the money for equipment nor a knack for working with oversized knobs, it’s resided in the pile of band ideas next to my one-man black metal band with no music because nothing sounds kvlt enough and my doom project with lyrics based solely on the themes of Final Fantasy games.
York Factory Complaint was much simpler in their approach, and Theologian likewise, though the Leech-led live trio — which included Fade Kainer of Batillus on, you guessed it, synth and noise — were a little more grounded, relatively speaking, and had a projector going behind and over them while they played. That didn’t do much to make the sounds any friendlier or more accessible, but the point was the experiment, and their complex wash of synth, effects-laden vocals and array of abrasive screeches felt all the more purposed for its bleakness of mood. A couple toms on the side of the stage manned by Matt Slagle provided human-driven thud when called upon, and Leech‘s voice became as much a part of the wash as anything else. I wondered how they’d serve as a lead-in for Corrections House, but with Sanford Parker up first crafting a noise barrage of his own, it made more sense than one might have expected.
Dressed as all the members of the band would be in a black button-down withCorrections House logo patches sown on the arms and a larger logo on the back, Parker set quickly to work laying a bed of industrial-style beats and noisy flourishes. Samples came and went muddled by the surrounding swell as Parker, lost in the rhythm, continued to construct the sound one element at a time, even picking up a mic and manipulating feedback from it. After a while, Lamont joined him on stage, picking up his baritone sax and running it through a pedal board of his own, soon doing the same with some vocalizations and even scratches on the microphone that ran along the border between experimental and obnoxious. It can be a fine line sometimes.
Williams appeared unceremoniously on the side of the stage, holding a notebook, and gradually, Parker and Lamont brought the noise down to a steady drone. This actually worked really well, because in his reading — Williams in addition to fronting Eyehategod has done spoken word for a while now and has a book of poems called Cancer as a Social Activity– he gripped the mic, yelled and often had space to pause for the sound behind him filling what would otherwise have been silence tempting people in the crowd to talk over him. I’ve been to that kind of gig before and it’s excruciating, but whatever else you can say about Williams, he’s charismatic like few others I’ve seen on a stage. Like a magnet for eyeballs.
His poems/writings ran through a litany of post-beat disaffection, navigating a gamut of vague imagery and all-too-specific chemically-added grit. It’s hard to critique a written work by hearing a reading, but his delivery could change in a line from tragic and solipsistic to engaging with smiled charm, and not without interrupting the flow of a piece, and that’s worthy of commending. As he read, Kelly made his way to the front and took up position at the side of the stage, fresh off two rare East Coast Neurosis gigs, in Philly and at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple for a weekender preceding the launch of this tour. Lamont and Parker were still up there as well, the former kneeling in front of his pedal board in attentive semi-meditation and the latter tucked away behind his podium.
Closing out his portion with an extended poem that was a series of purposefully ridiculous claims ended by the refrain “That’s what the obituary said,” and finally ending it with what he seemed to make his own concerning his many-storied history of drug abuse — there was some mention of “finally kicking the habit” — Williams then made way for Kelly to run through a couple songs. This turned out to be something of a side-step, since each of the preceding additions of personnel to the stage had added to the atmosphere of what would become Corrections House, whereas Kelly‘s material is more straightforward and more definitively solo. Even “The Sun is Dreaming in the Soul,” which featured a second guitar on last year’s The Forgiven Ghost in Me(review here), was wholly Kelly‘s own despite complementing ethereal backing vocals from Lamont. I’m not about to complain for getting to watch Scott Kelly play his solo material — that can only make a good night better — but it was a turn from the process of building Corrections House on the stage, since what he was playing as part of the band turned out to be heavier, darker and more fitting to the rhythmic pulsations of Parker‘s drum machine.
Once they were all there, again, Corrections House only had three, maybe four songs to play. The difference was it had already been about an hour, so it was more like an extended encore than a full set. I wasn’t about to complain. Aside from Kelly playing angrier and with more distortion, there wasn’t much about Corrections House that hadn’t already been revealed. A digital “leak” of their “Hoax the System” video had given some idea of what to expect, and the other material they played followed suit, once more leaning on the line between organic darkened heavy and industrial coldness. Williams spat fury with his characteristic nihilism, Lamont kept up with Parker in laying the foundation of noise, be it with his sax or mic or both, and where once there wasn’t one, an increasing swirl of chaos ensued. It was all I could do to realize how far we’d already come by the time Corrections House were into their second offering.
They wrapped with an extended take on “Hoax the System,” its insistent rhythm playing out steady as the final tide of feedback rolled over it and just about everything else, Williams seeming to hold on against the rush with repetitions of his last lyrics urging the title. It was nearly 1AM by the time they were done, and I knew The Patient Mrs. was waiting, so I was quick out the door of the St. Vitus bar and back down the block to where she’d parked and was waiting for me to drive back to Jersey. Fortunately, whoever’s Range Rover it was had been towed by then. Small favors.
Pretty much the whole way through, this show wasn’t what I’d expected or planned on. From the traffic getting there to Williams taking the frontman spot then relinquishing for Kelly only to resume it shortly thereafter, to Lamont‘s mic-scratching, to the clear-road record time I made to the valley afterwards, the vast majority of my preconceived notions of what Corrections House would be had turned out to be in need of — forgive me — correcting. That’s what they got, anyhow. Rumor has it a 7″ is in the works, after that, who knows. But whatever might come next for these guys in this collaborative form, at least now I know why I’m anticipating it.
…And they do it in grand style, with a short teaser clip of spaced-out sonics set to a red-skied open field. The Brooklyn-based psychonauts have never exactly wanted for atmosphere, but if you had the chance to hear last year’s The Ballad of the Starchild EP, then you know that much weirdness is afoot and that it’s working for them. Very much looking forward to hearing what Naam get down to on Vow when the album drops on June 4. I have the feeling they could surprise a lot of people.
Here’s the teaser, with assurances of more to come:
Posted in Reviews on January 21st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I caught the light at just the right time as I was leaving the house to see Neurosis at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple, and it wound up being one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen in my humble river valley. Five minutes earlier or five minutes later and I’d have missed it. I took a picture before I got in the car and before I was up the hill out, felt the need to stop the car in the middle of the street and grabanother on my phone. Right place, right time.
The show itself was the same deal. I made it to Brooklyn in what I actually consider a record 85 minutes, and got to the Masonic Temple in time to stand with the early part of the line for a little over an hour. When doors opened, I headed immediately to the merch table, around which the 10 or so people in front of me on line also swarmed, and then made my way to the front, where I planted. For the night. I got a spot in front of one of the speakers and remained there for the night, through openers Carlos Giffoni and James Plotkin & Tim Wyskida and for the whole of Neurosis‘ 90-plus-minute set. So once more, right place, right time.
Giffoni has collaborated with the likes of Merzbow and Thurston Moore, and both Plotkin and Wyskida were in Khanate (though one might more readily recognize Plotkin‘s name as preceded with the phrase “Mastered By,” as a constant stream of albums seem to be), so I expected a barrage of noise and that’s pretty much what both parties delivered. Working on a foldout table across a range of modular synths and manipulators, Giffoni assaulted the early arrivals with a wash of static, beeps, bloops and beats. Plotkin & Wyskida were, relatively speaking, more traditional, with the former running loops on his guitar through a Sunn Beta Bass amp and Wyskida peppering and accenting the improv creations on drums.
It would be a stretch to draw a line between what they were doing and Khanate, but had Alan Dubin taken the stage to start screaming, it might have resulted in a less sparse version of some of the same psychological dysfunction. Hardly a thrilling stage show, but it worked for what it was, and set the course for the evening’s volume level, which would only increase when Neurosis actually took the stage. Masonic Temple gave out free earplugs, if that’s any indicator. I don’t remember if they did the same when Sleep played in 2010, but it was the right call, anyway.
There had been some word lamenting the lack of Josh Graham‘s visuals behind and around the band while they played, and I get where that’s coming from, but really, the once every two, three or four years I might get to see Neurosis do a show, I’m there for the music and the visceral, affecting sounds blasting full bore from the stage. I didn’t feel like anything was missing watching them. Quite the opposite. As a fan, it was interesting to see them play with lights on, and made the songs seem even rawer in their presentation than they otherwise might, which for a set sandwiched by “Eye” and “Locust Star,” both from 1996′s Through Silver in Blood, worked to their benefit.
As expected, the still-fresh 2012 release, Honor Found in Decay(review here), featured heavily, and rightly so. One wouldn’t expect to trod out “the hits” — like Scott Kelly or Steve Von Till is going to stand at the mic and go, “How’s everyone feelin’ tonight? Here’s one off Souls atZero!” — and in fact, neither of them said a word to the crowd the whole night. They began “Eye” without ceremony and ended “Locust Star” in the same, albeit noisier, fashion, with the only real direct contact between band and audience being from drummer Jason Roeder, who clasped his hands and bowed his head in a gesture of thanks on his way off stage. That might have seemed strange to anyone who’d never seen the band before, but it’s how they do, and again, without the visuals, it made even more sense. All there was, was the music, the performance. That’s what you get.
The would-be asterisk point to make here is that Neurosis put more of themselves physically and emotionally into their performance than any band I’ve ever watched on a stage. As influential as their recorded output has been, their live show — immediately made a special occasion for how infrequently one might occur — is entirely their own, and however inhuman(e) the audio might seem upon receipt, their delivery is almost painfully human. This goes to the core of the most prevalent misconception about Neurosis and why no post-metal act in their wake has been able to capture the same sort of power: It’s them.
Whether it’s Dave Edwardson running in circles like a madman, throwing his bass around his body and jumping on mic for an occasional growl that wouldn’t be out of place over Napalm Death at their most classic, or synth/sample specialist Noah Landis swaying to the noise and looking like his head is about to explode with every keystroke, the steady presence of Roeder behind, Kelly‘s grimaced screaming and rhythmic shoulder-banging contortions or Von Till‘s weathered expressiveness in his vocals and guitar, these moments, “cherished and driven,” are wholly their own. It wouldn’t work with anyone else.
Following Honor Found in Decay‘s explosive “My Heart for Deliverance,” the slowly creeping “At the End of the Road” from 2007′s Given to the Risingand the title-track of 1999′s Times of Gracemade for a fitting pair, the former rife with a mounting intensity and the latter paying it off with thrust that even Giffoni‘s low-end pulsations had done little to presage. I wanted to pay particular attention to Landis, whose contributions to the latest album were a standout element throughout, and the tension brought to the drones between songs and within them proved likewise to be a key and previously underappreciated factor in the live experience.
Since most of what Neurosis puts on their albums is captured as live as possible, the arrangement and mix of their stage show is roughly the same. I remember seeing them at Philly’s TLA in 2004, watching “Burn” from that year’s The Eye of Every Stormand saying, “Perfect,” out loud when it was over. It may or may not have been, but either way, I had the order wrong. It’s the records capturing the live show, not the live show mirroring the records. They didn’t play anything off The Eye of Every Storm this time through at the Masonic Temple, returning to Given to the Risingafter “Times of Grace” for the bleak and agonizing “Distill (Watching the Swarm)” – Roeder‘s drums here were a highlight driving the enveloping churn — before the quiet opening of “At the Well” from the new album brought Von Till to the fore vocally.
By then, I’d lost track of time. If you had told me they’d been on for 15 minutes, I’d have believed it, but they were about halfway through their set by the end of “At the Well,” as Von Till and Kelly traded off lead vocal parts and came together periodically. “The Tide” from 2001′s A Sun that Never Setswas a surprise inclusion and something else I couldn’t recall ever seeing them play before along with “Times of Grace,” but its slow build wasn’t out of place between “At the Well” and Honor Found in Decay opener “We all Rage in Gold,” which probably had the most straightforward groove of the night, centered around a strong riff and memorable verse from Kelly, delivered with pull-your-earplugs-out passion.
Landis once again took the lead with the foreboding intro section of “Bleeding the Pigs,” which Von Till used as a bed for tense guitar and more subdued initial vocals before the second half launched into extended pummel enough to justify the song’s position as centerpiece and a high point of Honor Found in Decay, soon brought back to ground by “Given to the Rising,” Kelly leading through the beginning progression into darker ethereal terrain. I’d been keeping tabs with the setlist by the side of Landis‘ setup, so I knew they were almost done and that only earth, sky and “Locust Star” remained. Every now and again, the press of the crowd (I hadn’t turned around in about two hours, but at some point the room filled up to sold-out capacity) was enough to push me into the speaker placed in front of the stage, but I wasn’t going to leave that spot.
When they finished “Given to the Rising,” I put my camera down and just watched “Locust Star.” It was a conscious decision in an attempt to put as little as possible between myself and the song. Like leaving when I did, waiting at the door, the earplugs and getting up front, this too was the right choice. The ringing tones at the start, Roeder‘s drums behind the contemplative guitar, it all exploded about a minute in and there was no turning back. Compared to some of Neurosis‘ compositions over the course of their career, “Locust Star” is a blip at under six minutes, but what they pack into that time has made it one of their most lasting works. If nothing else, the Through Silver in Bloodtrack made for a fitting summation of the set preceding, with Edwardson‘s bass holding powerful sway amid Kelly‘s vocals, the ferociousness of the chorus, the sheer aural push and the sudden stop. The lights stayed low for a couple minutes after they were done, as though the venue itself wasn’t sure the show was actually over.
Likewise, at first I was unwilling to move. Roeder expressed his thanks after everyone else had gone and before long the house lights were up. Before longer, I was outside, and before longest, leaving Brooklyn, relieved, smiling. I’d been anxious before the show, but all the things I worried about not working out exactly as I’d hoped did, and that tension was no match for Neurosis‘ sonic assault. That’s why some people go to church. All the more appropriate the show happened at a temple.
The day’s wearing on and I was just starting to drag a bit ago when along came this brand new video from Brooklyn’s own Black Black Black for the song “Redeath” from their self-titled album (sort of reviewed here and also here) to wake my ass up and get me through the rest of the day. Black Black Black (which boasts ex-members of Disengage) will release the aptly-named Black Black Black on Aqualamb Records, and just as soon as I stop hemming and hawing over every single fucking letter of every single fucking question, I promise I’ll get a Six Dumb Questions email interview going with them because the album kicks ass. Also hope to see them live at some point in the near future, so keep an eye out for much more to come either way.
In the meantime, here’s the clip for “Redeath,” which will probably take you less time to watch than it took to read the paragraph above:
Posted in Reviews on January 16th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’ve had an itch to catch Baltimore’s Arbouretum live really since I caught wind of their 2011 album, The Gathering (which I didn’t review here because I didn’t think it would fit; I’ve since stopped caring), but especially since hearing about their sharing the stage with Om in their hometown the same weekend I was there and not being able to make that gig. Hearing their new record, Coming Out of the Fog, which is due out Jan. 22 on Thrill Jockey, only added to the urgency, and when I heard they were sharing a two-band bill with long-running alt country pioneers Freakwater at The Bell House on a Tuesday night, the decision basically made itself.
The ride in was easy enough. I’d stayed at the office late to split on time to get there for a 9PM start and miss most of the tunnel traffic, and when I got to The Bell House, I paid the door charge and was somewhat surprised to find rows of foldout chairs set up in front of the stage. I was taken aback, since last time I was there was to see YOB in May 2012, but I grabbed a seat up front and proceeded to make an activity of waiting the 10 or so minutes for the band to come out. It was mildly awkward and I felt a bit like the curtain behind Brian Carey‘s drums was going to rise and we were all going to be treated to a live The Creation of Adam à la Arrested Development (“Where is god?” “There is no god!” etc.), but no, in another couple minutes, Arbouretum emerged from the side door and the show began.
This being my first time watching them play and a big part of my attraction being their tonal warmth, I was particularly interested to see what kind of amps guitarist/vocalist David Heumann was playing through. It would be just as easy to imagine full stacks from some obscure fuzz factory, or even Dead Meadow-style Orange combos, given the sonic richness and fullness that pervades from Heumann and bassist Corey Allender, though the reality was far more understated. Heumann ran two small Egnater half-stacks arranged separately (it was a bit of linguistic near-irony when one of them started smoking mid-set; I couldn’t get “ignitor” out of my head), and while the striking visual aspect wound up working in the opposite direction from what I’d figured, his tone was unmistakable, and the band quickly went to work straddling and crossing the lines between heavy psychedelia, folk, indie and doom, as few other than them seem to be able to do.
My familiarity is really with the last couple albums (I was kind of hoping they’d have any of the first three on their merch table and I’d be able to get caught up, but no dice), but I recognized a goodly portion of the material they played, the memorable “Oceans Don’t Sing” standing out from Coming Out of the Fogalong with “Renouncer” and “The Promise.” The three cuts from the new album ran in order as they do on the record behind set opener “Mohammed’s Hex and Bounty” from 2007′s Rites of Uncovering. It seemed a curious choice to me to start off with — one would expect something more recent, and, if they’re playing tracks two, three and four from the new one, then “The Long Night,” which leads off Coming Out of the Fog, wouldn’t have been out of place — but it very quickly became apparent they knew what they were doing.
The lightly rolling groove of “Renouncer” and more lumbering fuzz of “The Promise” — on which Matthew Pierce turned from his Rhodes to add percussion and complement Carey – were an excellent setup for the instrumental build of “Oceans Don’t Sing,” which also proved a highlight for showcasing Heumann‘s voice, like an earthier David Bowie gone west. The setlist was probably tailored to the show, that is, playing with Freakweather, Arbouretum probably weren’t looking to blast out eardrums — though before they got going, Heumann warned that parts would be pretty loud and they were — but the flashes of heavy that came through the songs seemed to be met with appreciated from where I was sitting. Catchy almost in spite of itself with the vocals following the guitar line in a bouncing melody, “Renouncer” rumbled a subtle threat in Allender‘s bassline, and “The Promise” paid that off with a noisy finish and a solo that Heumann didn’t seem to want to let go.
Contrast was a big part of what made it all work. Arbouretum balanced heaviness and sweetness of melody and tone and ranged dynamically in terms of pace and volume. Rites of Uncoveringopener “Signposts and Instruments” followed “Oceans Don’t Sing” with a similar if less countrified linearity and the subsequent “St. Anthony’s Fire” provided the most raucous stretch of the set. Longer than everything else and seeming to range even further than the studio version (which appears as part of a 2012 split with Hush Arbors called Aureola), “St. Anthony’s Fire” gave way to a legitimately huge-sounding jam led by Heumann‘s guitar, which broke into an extended heavy solo, periods of shred offset only by the crunch elicited when the guitar, percussion and bass came together with Carey‘s thudding drums. Maybe it was the fact that I was sitting right in front of it, but Heumann’s lead was particularly impressive, sounding soulful and even a little funky as it moved along in a world seemingly of its own.
Little doubt that’s what Heumann was thinking of when he warned earlier they’d get loud, and the band lived up to the warning. The crowd at The Bell House had been filtering in throughout their whole set, but there were enough people in the room by the time Arbouretum got around to “St. Anthony’s Fire” to give a genuine response, and it was a cool moment to witness, cheers coming up after Heumann finished that solo. I had been hoping for “The Long Night” or even “The White Bird” from The Gathering, which still gets stuck in my head on the regular, as a closer, but they finished with the title-track to Coming Out of theFog. It rounds out the album as well and might have been somewhat faster live owing to the sheer momentum they built during “St. Anthony’s Fire,” but they made it work anyway, despite what looked like some technical difficulty in Allender‘s backing vocals.
Given that it was still early when they finished, I thought maybe I’d stick around for a bit and catch at least some of Freakwater, even just for myself if not to write about it later, but the temptation of being able to go to a show in Brooklyn and still get back to Jersey before midnight won out. I waited for the band to emerge so I could buy a copy of Coming Out of the Fogand then headed out, the freezing rain that would turn to snow overnight just starting to fall as I crossed the street to my car.
Ahead of the Aqualamb Records release of Black Black Black‘s self-titled debut on Feb. 5 (details here), the label was kind enough to send a promo of the NYC-based heavy/noise rock band’s album. Included as well in said promo was a copy of the limited 40-page artbook designed by vocalist Jason Alexander Byers (ex-Disengage), also a visual artist who’s had gallery showings in Miami, his native Ohio, and current residence in Brooklyn as well.
One of the most impressive aspects of Black Black Black‘s Black Black Black(review here) is how widely the band’s personality varies between tracks, whether it’s the strong hooks of “Wisdom, Knowledge and Fucked,” or the raging NY-style noise of “Pentagram ON,” on which Dave Curran from Unsane contributes guest vocals, or the later despondency of “Lexipro Devil,” memorable for its melody even as it feels detached from reality in a manner befitting its chemical allusion. Elsewhere, chugging riffs like that of “Night Moves” and the even-more-plodding “Light Light Light” give a modern heavy sensibility offset by touches of ’90s alt rock, but no matter which angle you try to approach it from, Black Black Blackshows little interest in easy categorization.
So it goes as well with Byers‘ work in the artbook, which ranges from horror schlock to the target-minded interpretations that form the basis of a lot of his style and indeed, the band’s logo above, which draws the eye toward the center and the heart of the work. Also including the liner notes credits, a table of contents and thanks, pages are broken up by each song, with lyrics handwritten over culled and distorted images:
“Mishandled Cult Funds”
“Soar Like a Spider”
You can see in the sample shots above that the mood is pretty dark across the board, but that the images themselves vary, and I’d say that’s true of the album as well. If nothing else, the book makes an excellent companion to the tracks on the record — which aren’t exactly lacking atmosphere on their own but are made even more vivid all the same. This being Black Black Black‘s first full-length, I hope the blend of aural and visual is something Byers and his bandmates, Jacob Cox (guitar), Johnathan Swafford (bass) and Jeff Ottenbacher (drums) continue to experiment with, since it offers a level of engagement with the material rarely seen in these days of digital minimalism.
Posted in Reviews on January 3rd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Brooklynite trio Traveling Circle made their debut on Nasoni Records with Handmade House in 2010. It was a fascinating listen (review here) for a number of reasons, chiefly its buzzsaw fuzz, falsetto vocals and displayed affection for late ‘60s psych-pop. On their follow-up, Escape from Black Cloud, the space-minded unit of guitarist/vocalist Dylan Maiden, bassist/backing vocalist/electric pianist Charlie Freeman and drummer Josh Schultz expand the formula a bit, keeping the soulful elements in play while drawing back the tonal bite of the first album and exploring a more shoegazing feel. The 10-track/34-minute vinyl-only outing earns a return endorsement from Nasoni, and the LP package includes a separate lyric sheet fitting the aesthetic of the striking Erin Klauk artwork. As with last time around, there’s something playful about Escape from Black Cloud – even the title sounds like a children’s story, and Traveling Circle keep a sense of wonder in the material, songs like the grooving side two highlight “Rock this Feeling” – is that a Prince influence? – and the earlier analog trippery of “The Candlelight Sways” smoothing out much of what the first album presented without sacrificing the refreshing originality Handmade House presented. They are almost universally farther back in the mix. All three of them. From the Freeman-begun opening of leadoff cut “Higher,” everything is full-reverb, and that follows through to Maiden’s guitar and vocals as well, while Schultz’s drums seem to come in bursts of cymbal wash while otherwise sticking to a vinyl-compressed thump that hints at that moment right before rhythm sections in power trios threw the “heavy” switch and Cream gave way to Blue Cheer. A sense of weirdness prevails, and Traveling Circle seem to delight in it, adding theremin first to “The Candlelight Sways” and later to “Rock this Feeling” and “Conduit is Closing” on side two. All three are standouts on Escape from Black Cloud, and the theremin, played by Matt Dallow, is no less drenched in echo than the rest of the instruments, the vibe staying consistent across the release and never relenting from an effective balance of subtly presented structural traditionalism coated in some kind of hallucinogenic moss.
Slow, ethereal and righteously psychedelic, “Newborn Shadow” is perhaps some of the most affecting material on the album, making latter day Dead Meadow sound like thrash in comparison to its ambient hypnosis. Past the opening duo, which weren’t exactly lacking resonance on their own, Traveling Circle spend the rest of side one in a flowing slow-motion freakout, Maiden cooing over light-touch rhythmic minimalism on “Newborn Shadow” before the instrumental build of “Green Spider” takes hold, melding surf rock guitar à la Yawning Man with prominent fuzz offset by Freeman’s counteracting fills and a more-forward-in-the-mix snare march from Schultz. A linear progression is at work, but Traveling Circle are patient with it, letting the song come to its own peak before shifting to the more space-rocking launch of “Closer,” which sets its musical crux around variations of the repeated lines “Closer today/So far away/Closer.” If it seems barebones, it is, but the actual sound of the track is much fuller, Maiden injecting wah swirl for a tiger-growl at the halfway point before cycling once more through the verse. Freeman and Schultz pick up the already insistent pace for a build that Maiden soon joins and the whole song comes to a head on a drumroll and set of crashes, ending side one with as much energy as Escape from Black Cloud has yet shown. Side two begins with “The Willow Tree Fair” – the longest track on the record at a sprawling 4:53 – the central chorus of which seems to be nodding at early British psych rock lyrically, while the music is undeniably more modern, hitting its apex late in a similar spirit to “Closer” but having an even more languid vibe for the extra time it takes. Subtlety is a big part of what makes Escape from Black Cloud work, here a look at different psychedelic themes lyrically, there an ambient nod to experimental post-rock indie. It makes for an intriguing aesthetic, and with a firmer grip on his falsetto, even the “oohs” and “aahs” of “Rock this Feeling” come across more convincingly than they might have last time out, the fuzzed-out funk groove underscored by echoing slide-whistle theremin sounds, woven in for engaging texture amid Freeman’s excellent bass work.
Posted in audiObelisk on December 31st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
So I guess this pretty much just happened a couple nights ago, but here is the live debut of new heavy jammers Zoned Out, and as we head into a New Year this week, a brand new band seems all the more appropriate. Diggers of Brooklyn psychedelia might recognize drummer Adam Kriney from La Otracina, who brings some of the frantic rhythmic insistence of that band to his excellent fills here in this more spaced-out trio, which also includes bassist Dan Bates and guitarist Phil Ortanez (both ex-La Otracina).
Here’s the complete tracklisting if you want to give names to the tripped out sonics:
ZONED OUT Live at Glasslands 12-29-12
A Kriney – drums / D Bates – bass / P Ortanez – guitar
1. Feathers Of The Wild Cloud 0:00-4:30 2. Eyes Within A Dream 4:30-9:50 3. Gypsy Dance 10:36-14:58 4. Bigger Fun 14:59-21:00 5. Smoke Signals 22:06-26:18 6. Woodland Blues 27:08-34:45
Rumor has it — and by “rumor,” I mean what the band actually said — Zoned Out are going to record in February or March of the coming New Year, so that’s one more to keep an eye on before we actually get there. In the meantime, I should say thanks toKriney for posting these tracks at just the right moment when I was looking for something cool to feature. Timing is everything, people.
And speaking of time, 2012 is almost out of it. Can’t say I’ll miss this year, but it could’ve been worse. I’ve spent the better part of the last week in sundry Xmas celebrations with different segments of the total population of my family, and that’s been somewhat exhausting, but last night I went and saw Clutch at Crocodile Rock in Allentown, PA, and it was great to blow off some steam. I’ll have a review of that up this week, maybe Wednesday, if I actually decide to take tomorrow off. Not sure yet.
Helping in the argument to do so is the fact that I seem to have acquired a cold from sources unknown — actually it’s a combination of kid-germs and The Patient Mrs., who had it first and thus shall absorb her portion of the blame — but it’s okay. I never much liked breathing or not feeling like my sinuses were about to explode anyway. You can go ahead and insert a Scanners reference here. I feel too crappy to handle it.
Also to come this week assuming I have enough energy to set fingers to keys are the Readers Poll results, reviews of Traveling Circle‘s new one, which is also rife with lysergic goodness, and a twofer from Electric Moon, as well as the top five albums I didn’t hear in 2012 — gonna wait for 2013 to post that one, just in case I do some last-minute listening; I won’t — and if I have time to transcribe it, that interview with Arthur Seay of Unida/House of Broken Promises. I seem to suck at getting transcriptions done lately and I also suck at putting together emailers, so kind of a late-year dearth of interviews around here as a result. Perhaps I’ll resolve to be more on top of that shit next year. I’ll see what I can do.
Whatever your New Year’s plans are, I hope you’re safe and that nobody gets hurt or arrested but otherwise that you have a great time. I think maybe I’ll just go back to bed and wait for tomorrow to come so I can say I’ve been sick for a whole year. Fortunately, I can bring my laptop with me.
Posted in Radio on December 27th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
With the holidays there hasn’t been much time for throwing records up on the Obelisk Radio streaming server, but one thing that came along this week that I wanted to make sure got included was a complete 51-minute set from Brooklyn-based delinquents Mighty High, recorded Dec. 1, 2012, at The Grand Victory in their native borough. This was the first gig the four-piece played after losing a ton of equipment in Hurricane Sandy, and in the tradition of the finest soundboard bootlegs, the audio is raw, but clear and crisp. “Chemical Warpigs” sounds amazing, as you’d have to expect.
Here’s the full setlist:
Tokin ‘n’ Strokin
Cheep Beer Dirt Weeed
Hands Up (If You Wanna Get High)
I Don’t Wanna Listen to Yes
High on the Cross
Cable TV Eye
Mighty High‘s 2012 Ripple Music debut LP, Legalize Tre Bags (review here), continues to reign among the year’s most charm-driven releases, and tracks like “Breakin’ Shit,” “I Don’t Wanna Listen to Yes,” “Drug War” and “Mooche” are even better live. Plus, it’s a chance to get to know Chris “Woody” MacDermott better than you might just by reading his Spine of Overkill column as he delights in asking from the stage, “Is the huge crowd coming in for the DJ gonna fuck us up?” There’s no way to lose with the dude’s banter, even if it is a little sad when he goes member by member and details the gear everyone lost, including his own Foghat speaker cabinet.
It’s in there now as part of the regular rotation, so at some point, a solid 51 minutes of Mighty High will pop up to kick your ass and smoke you out. Hope you enjoy it. In the meantime, hands up if you wanna download the show for free. It’s right here on Soundcloud:
Posted in Reviews on December 13th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
I guess if your last name wasn’t McCartney, it was kind of a crappy night to put on a show in New York. While the “12-12-12″ benefit for those in the region affected by Hurricane Sandy at the end of October went on at Madison Square Garden with a wide swath of “Where the fuck were you when Katrina hit New Orleans?”-type celebrities (also Kanye West), across the river in Brooklyn a somewhat humbler extravaganza was held at The Grand Victory, benefiting perhaps local audiologists through its sheer assault of volume. Gotta build a customer base.
First time I was at The Grand Victory was Oct. 25 to catch Elder rolling through town with Reign of Zaius and Thinning the Herd (review here), and last night only confirmed the impression I had of the venue: I like it. Its long layout, nice bar and good beer selection continued to remind me of places these kinds of shows used to be held in Manhattan, and though I wasn’t drinking, I was glad to pay the cover to get in and at least give some support where I could.
There weren’t a lot of people there apart from the bands and some dude who decided that out of the whole room he was going to bump into my camera bag no fewer than four times — presumably he has some stance against people with bags at shows, and really, why should a day pass when you can’t needlessly be an asshole to someone else entirely without provocation? — and I was late in my arrival, entirely missing both opening acts, Vultus and Furnace Head. Felt kind of like a prick walking in just as NJ-based upstarts The Badeda Ladies were getting ready to go on, but I’d worked late and was lucky to get out when I did. It was a Wednesday night. I did my best.
The Badeda Ladies were not unknown to me. I’d first heard a couple demo tracks from the young Jersey troupe when they were a bass/drum instrumental duo. This was, however, my first time seeing them live. It was also their first New York show, having haunted Jersey house gigs and basement whathaveyous along with the few stalwart venues like the Stanhope House with a commitment to fostering new and growing bands, and the addition of guitarist Chris Eustaquio alongside drummer Ryan Smith and bassist Jonny Cohn went a long way to adding to the already established dynamic in the rhythm section.
Most of what they played — the first three songs of the set, anyhow — came from an upcoming split they’ll reportedly have out next year, and that wasn’t the extent of the new material. There was another song that Cohn referred to as “Bilbo Baggins” from the stage — Eustaquio‘s laughter seemed to indicate it wasn’t actually the title — and a few off their prior Liv Didemo as well, including the step-down-to-nothing finale of “Vulture,” punctuated by a loud snare hit from Smith, who had also provided the only vocals in a song earlier. They were pretty obviously still getting their feet wet in terms of playing out, and the style was post-metal so banter was minimal, but they had their own way of engaging the room nonetheless.
What they had working greatly in their favor was the inimitable intensity of the young. Smith‘s vocals on whichever song it was were harsh post-hardcore barks, throaty but interesting and enough to speak to some potential there should that be something they want to pursue down the line, and their instrumental material, ranging from Pelican-type pastorals to post-Isis constructions, showed burgeoning personality. As they move forward with the Furnace Head split, it should be interesting to hear how Eustaquio becomes further integrated into the band and also to see how their presence develops playing these songs live more often.
Last up for the night on my abbreviated version of the bill were artsy Brooklyn nativesBezoar, for whom slow metal is just one weapon in their apparently growing arsenal. The trio killed when I caught them at Public Assembly in October (review here), so I was stoked on the prospect of another encounter, and despite a room-consuming stench of body odor up front — not saying it was one of them, just saying it was there — they didn’t disappoint. Guitarist Tyler Villard, bassist/vocalist Sara Villard and insano-drummer Justin Sherrell (also of local merchants Wizardry) played a set that seemed to be mostly new material presumably from the album they’ll set to recording in the spring, showing off the expanse of their creative range while deftly pulling off abrupt changes in timing and tempo.
Shredding one measure and plodding the next, Bezoar are a band that challenges you to keep up as you listen. Their 2012 debut full-length, Wyt Deth, made its triumph in complexities both melodic and dissonant, Sara topping either a torrent of extreme metal or open-spaced doom excess with a consistent, drawn-out, echoing clean vocal that in another context might prove almost comforting. Their live show is more intense and their newer songs likewise. Tyler, decked out in a Gorgoroth shirt, seemed gleeful as he squibbled out that influence, and with his feet at a constant double-kick pulse, Justin met his extremity with no small measure of his own.
Sherrell is nothing if not a harsh lesson in the difference a great drummer can make in a band. He has a difficult task in tying Bezoar‘s material together and making their on-a-dime transitions sound natural if not flowing (they’re not always supposed to flow), but he does that while still managing to hold down the rhythm with Sara‘s bass and sounding creative in the process. Once again, the high point of the set came in a new song I don’t know the name of — it may have been the one Sara introduced as being yet untitled but about Jim Jones – as all three members of the band locked into a massive and immediately recognizable grooving riff. It was one of those, “Oh yeah, this” moments, but still just one of several reasons they gave throughout their time on stage to anticipate their next LP.
They’re also still establishing what they can do on stage, but already since the first time I saw Bezoar opening for WitchMountain in June (review here), they’ve come far in their presentation and last night, even playing to those from the other bands who’d actually stuck around, me and a handful of others, they showed potential to excite both conceptually — that is, in terms of appreciation for what they do — and in the sheer appeal of watching someone kick ass at a gig. I don’t know whether or not I’ll see them again before they go in to record, but even if not, the impression they’ve left at this point is of an act on the cusp of really coming into their own. I look forward to hearing what they can do with these songs in a studio setting.
When I left, the radio had it that the grand shenanigans up at MSG were going on and had raised an estimated $50 million. Way more than I’ve done for anyone lately, but still a drop in the proverbial bucket compared to the $64 billion tab the president requested for storm relief and rebuilding. Nice to make famous people feel good about themselves, I suppose. Me, I’ll take the music every time and if that means leaving the rest of the world to its hoedown-for-a-cause, that seems a small price to pay.
Brooklyn dark psychedelicists Bezoar continue to fascinate. Today, along with premiering their new clip for “Friend of My Enemy,” they also revealed that they’ll be recording their next album with Stephen Conover, whose credits include the RZA and Method Man. I’ve always wanted to hear what Missy Elliott could do with a metal record, but I guess Conover will probably work too. Following up the weird vibes of Bezoar‘s 2012 debut, WytDeth, will be no easy task, but as the band have already proven live, they’re up for giving it a shot.
Speaking of Bezoar and gigs, they’re playing next Wednesday at The Grand Victory in their native borough with The Badeda Ladies and Furnace Head, and unless I get hit by a truck before then, I think I’ll probably hit that one up.
“Friend of My Enemy” was directed by Frank Huang and filmed in part at the Saint Vitus bar. Here’s the video, followed by the latest off the PR wire:
Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, the members of stoner, psychedelic doom metal power trio BEZOAR have been busy performing for audiences across North America in support of their album- Wyt Deth (No World Order Records) released earlier this year beckoning the attention of the press along the way.
Combining organized chaos and sweaty organic riffing with mystic purpose, BEZOAR is a no nonsense hardworking band who at times have lived on their school bus turned touring vehicle to support the music they love. With influences ranging from Sleep, YOB, 1349, Diamanda Galas, Swans, Mayhem, Electric Wizard, Eyehategod, Slayer, and Darkthrone among many others, BEZOAR features female vocalist and bassist- Sara Villard (ex Isle of Citadel), guitarist Tyler Villard (ex Ruksac) and drummer Justin Sherrell (who also plays drums for Wizardry).
“‘Friend of my Enemy’ is a song about passing fears down through generations and holding them close to our hearts when ironically, it would be best for people to face and shatter them,” says vocalist/bassist Sara Villard. “We’re really excited about this video. Frank Huang [the videos director] captured the lyrics through visuals perfectly.”
In other news, in an unlikely but interesting pairing, the group is set to head into Brooklyn’s Studio BPM to begin recording the follow up to Wyt Deth in late February 2013 with engineer/mixer Stephen Conover (Rza, Method Man, Swizz Beatz) and hope to have the new record out by May/June 2013.
BEZOAR creates music that’s equally majestic, massive and cerebral than any mere genre tag. Villard adds, “We are now working on the next record and I’m happy to say that Bezoar is really learning the art of songwriting in a new way. The new record is going to be crushing and we plan on creating a true album. Something that will be best listened to from beginning to end as a whole. We’re also excited to include some new instrumentation and possibly some guest appearances.”
Catch BEZOAR live: Wednesday, December 12 @ The Grand Victory w/ The Badeda Ladies and Furnace Head 245 Grand Street – Brooklyn, NY
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 5th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Previously On the Radar-ized Brooklyn noisemakers Black Black Black will release their self-titled full-length on Feb. 5, 2013 — the future! — on Aqualamb Records. Strictly speaking it’s somewhere between a reissue and an official pressing, but good for the band either way.
The band features Jason Alexander Byers, formerly of Disengage, on vocals and Black Black Black was recorded by Andrew Schneider, whose studio took a hit from Hurricane Sandy and could use your support here.
As always, the PR wire informs:
BROOKLYN DEATH ROCK BAND BLACK BLACK BLACK’S SELF-TITLED DEBUT OUT FEBRUARY 5 ON AQUALAMB RECORDS
FEATURES MEMBERS OF DISENGAGE
The self-titled debut from Brooklyn-based death rock group Black Black Black is due February 5 via Aqualamb Records. Produced by Andrew Schneider (Unsane, Converge, Pelican, Cave In), the album will be available digitally on iTunes as well as via www.aqualamb.org alongside a vinyl LP and limited-edition 40-page art booklet designed by Black Black Black frontman and former Disengage vocalist Jason Alexander Byers. The record also features a guest vocal performance by Unsane’s Dave Curran on the track Pentagram On. Please see below for full tracklist, album art is attached.
Black Black Black consists of Cleveland ex-pats Jason Alexander Byers (vocals), Jacob Cox (guitar), Jeff Ottenbacher (drums) and Johnathan Swafford (bass).
Black Black Black, the new clan of Brooklyn-by-way-of-Ohio doomsters offer up a big, nasty salute to gas tanks and goat hooves on their self-titled debut that’s ridiculously fun and gritty.
BLACK BLACK BLACK
1. Séance for a Sucker 2. Pentagram On 3. Wisdom, Knowledge & Fucked 4. Light Light Light 5. Mishandled Cult Funds 6. Night Moves 7. Redeath 8. Fever Is Law 9. Soar Like a Spider 10. Lexipro Devil 11. Drum 0))))))) 12. Son of Bad
Posted in Reviews on November 12th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
First thing’s first: As one of the two presenting parties for the show — the other being BrooklynVegan, whose promotional assistance was massively appreciated for this weekender tour — I probably shouldn’t even be reviewing it at all. On the other hand, however, Black Pyramid, Kings Destroy and Clamfight rule, and after plugging the living crap out of it beforehand (see here, here and here), it seems like I’d be leaving the story unfinished without some kind of wrap-up. I felt a little bit like I was going to my own birthday party.
It was the first night of a three-gig weekender, at Union Pool in Brooklyn. The other two shows, Saturday and Sunday, were in Rochester and Allston, Mass., but this one had the added bonus of being free, so all the better. Yeah, C.O.C. and Royal Thunder were playing down at the St. Vitus bar the same night, but though that provided a bit of pre-show anxiety, the crowd was by no means lacking for any of the bands. Even as Clamfight got going, the room had plenty of people in it, for which I was thankful.
I’d shown up to the venue early to deliver the NJ/Philly-based outfit their I vs. the Glacier CDs, due out for release on The Maple Forum on Jan 22. It wasn’t long before they were out on the merch table, so hopefully a few people got early copies, which is always awesome. They got going circa 9:30PM and delivered a set of their epic riffy thrash. Their set was almost entirely new songs — that would prove to be a theme throughout the night — with “The Eagle” as a highlight alongside the slower, more languid guitars of “River of Ice,” which guitarists Sean McKee and Joel Harris made all the groovier while drummer/vocalist Andy Martin slammed his drums so hard he collapsed his floor tom and broke every stick he brought with him for the three shows, leaving Louis Koble‘s steady bass to the task of holding the songs together.
Martin, who has been occasionally known to throw up the night’s alcohol on stage but was doubtless pacing himself for the weekend ahead on Friday, has emerged as a solid frontman presence in the band, despite being behind the drums. He plays with charisma and the shouts and screams he lets loose feel like cruelties directed at the microphone. The band would do well to push his kit more to the front of the stage — not necessarily with anyone behind, but playing more on a lateral, à la Weedeater – and give their set even more of an unhinged atmosphere. As it was, they more than gave a favorable impression to the crowd, and capped off with “Stealing the Ghost Horse,” which also closes I vs. the Glacier and is arguably the most expansive Clamfight song yet, with a sense of drama to offset some of the brashness found elsewhere and a one-man clean/harsh call and response from Martin that’s as memorable live as it is on the album.
This was the first time I’d seen them since being delivered the master for I vs. the Glacierand knowing the songs better just made their set more fun to watch. McKee is relatively understated on stage — well-headbanged hair often obscuring his face entirely — but standing alone to Martin‘s left, he tears into a slew of killer solos, while Harris and Koble keep the riffs flowing on the other wise. Their live dynamic is beginning to come into its own. There are kinks to be worked out — more shows will help — but the potential remains strong and they did right by their new songs, as did Brooklyn’s own Kings Destroy, who turned the lights low and played cuts off their new record, the title of which I’m pretty sure I’m not at liberty to reveal.
I’m not aware of any album title, nor would I be at liberty to disclose any such title were I aware of its existence. Turn your head and cough. Ha.
As if the lighting at Union Pool needed to be any more challenging to my novice-ass picture-taking, Kings Destroy basically played in the dark but for a projection of what looked like shards of light that cut through. Their new songs — the likes of “The Toe,” “Decrepit” the more upbeat “Casse-Tête” and “Storm Break” — are a distant cry from where their first album, And the Rest Will Surely Perish (also aMaple Forum release, fancy that), once came. Part of that has to be due to the departure of bassist Ed Bocchino as a songwriting factor, but if it’s guitarists Carl Porcaro and Chris Skowronski coming up with the guitar parts around which this current batch of material is based, the results are intricate, complex and more and more atmospheric. I’m not about to decry the first album — I wouldn’t if I could — they’ve just flipped the formula on its head and as a result are less tied to genre stylistically.
They’ve also become a force on stage. Union Pool isn’t a huge room, but neither is it small, and that’s how the five-piece made it look, bassist Aaron Bumpus, drummer Rob Sefcik and vocalist Steve Murphy delivering a pro-grade run through a well-constructed set of their latest, the chaos all the more palpable for the fact that it was basically happening in the dark. The band all around has grown from their time on stage in Europe and the US, Skowronski and Porcaro keeping individual identities in a wash of tone and feedback, Murphy cutting through the morass, Bumpus touching on creative fills that just hint at the mountain of talent on which he seems to stand, while Sefcik‘s propulsive thunder proved no less weighted fast or slow. Their new stuff runs a risk of throwing some people off who perhaps expect a direct port of the straightforward side of the debut, but they’re on the way to mastering their aesthetic, and the direction they’re headed inis rich and progressive in a way that they’ve barely hinted at being to this point.
So yeah, by the time they finished with the creepy awesomeness of “Turul,” the first two bands of the night had me in a full-on nerdout. I can admit it. I wasn’t exactly going for impartiality here to start with, just trying to let you know how it went down. And if I wasn’t a fan of the bands, I probably wouldn’t have signed on to release their stuff on The Maple Forum, so if you have to take the review with a grain of salt, well, fine.
A note about the hazards of no cover charge: As Kings Destroy were wrapping up, Guy Who Clearly Just Wandered In saw me standing by the side of the stage in front of Black Pyramid drummer Clay Neely‘s kit and asked if I was in a band. It’s not an unreasonable suspicion — black t-shirt, jeans, long hair, beard; I’ve got the uniform. Now, I don’t want to go around making unreasonable assumptions about the behavior of others, but with the stickers on his $500 leather jacket, the crazed look in his eyes, dual-blonde accompaniment and “I’m everybody’s best buddy and the life of the party” demeanor, I had no choice but to presume he was on cocaine.
This is not an unreasonable assumption to make about anyone on a Friday night in either the Manhattan or Brooklyn boroughs of New York City, but I think that given the evidence — circumstantial though it is — I wasn’t necessarily in the wrong for being on my toes. I told him that, no, I wasn’t in the band, and that Neely, standing next to me, was their drummer. Sweat running down from the well-tended crop of spiky hair on his head, he persisted, as though I was simply obscuring the fact that I was in a band, indeed the band that was playing next, and we were just involved in some kind of playful joshing. No sir, I insisted, I’m not in a band, not in that band. Finally, and in a sterner tone that was not quite a yell but nonetheless definitely the “daddy voice” I’ve put on while scolding my dog for chasing a squirrel toward the road, I told him, “Dude, I’m not in that band. I’m just weird looking. I promise you,” and walked away to watch the end of Kings Destroy‘s set. So to the hazards of no cover: You ne’er know who’s gonna walk in.
It turned out — much to his surprise — that I wasn’t in Black Pyramid. Neely, bassist Dave Gein and guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard (who killed it just six days prior performing as Blackwolfgoat at the Small Stone Boston showcase) were in Black Pyramid, and no sooner were they set up and ready to go than were they laying waste to everything in their path, including the room, which by this point was fairly well packed out. Up front were a few headbangers — a rarity for New York anything — and the band’s energy fed off their own as they led off with “Stormbringer” and then went into “Aphelion” from their 2012 split with Odyssey, the first studio cut with Shepard‘s vocals and guitar, its axe-wielding groove making it an immediate highlight.
There were a few new cuts in the set from Black Pyramid‘s next album, which was finished being recorded only hours before the band pulled up to play Day Four of this year’s SHoD, and it’s worth noting how much more at home Shepard seemed on the material he helped compose. He stepped into kind of an awkward situation when he joined the band late last year before the release of their second full-length, II, and though he’s done well to make the prior material his own — as “Stormbringer,” “Visions of Gehenna” and the finale “No Life King” showed — there’s a difference between his performance of the songs he adopted versus the songs he wrote. It’s not an easy thing to make someone else’s work yours — that’s why most covers suck — but what he brings to Black Pyramid is about 20 years of writing killer riffs, plus an ability to toss off embarrass-your-lead-guitarist solos like he was taking off a pair of shoes. He makes some of the older leads look easy to the point of silliness.
His vocals on both new material and old fit the songs excellently, though, and he, Gein and Neely were as tight as I’ve ever seen Black Pyramid, including at Roadburn 2011, which if it wasn’t their prior apex had to be close to it. I’m hardly objective in their case either, even if I haven’t released anything of theirs, but the crispness of their presentation made me look forward all the more to when I might get the chance to hear the studio versions of the new tracks and give them an overly-worded track-by-track review, which no doubt will also carry with it a disclaimer disavowing any and all critical credibility. But it’ll be fun, and that’s what matters.
Ditto that for this gig. It was a great time. All three of these bands are made up of killer dudes, and when I rolled out of Union Pool and headed back to Jersey, I was more than a little wistful at the thought of following the tour up north to Rochester, but it wasn’t to be. Instead, I rolled into my humble river valley at around 1:30AM, found that the internet had finally come back on after Hurricane Sandy, and spent the remainder of the evening — all 25 minutes of it — beginning to chip away at the weeks of neglected emails that I hadn’t had the chance to answer. Some you win, some you lose. I felt lucky to see these three acts on the night I did, and hopefully they get together and do it again.