Quarterly Review: Horsehunter, Church, Corpse Light, Sunder, T-Tops, The Space Merchants, Etiolated, Blown Out, Les Discrets, Beast Modulus

Posted in Reviews on June 30th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk summer quarterly review

Day one down and feeling good so far. Day two continues the thread of mixing more known quantities with bands either self-releasing or putting out demos, etc., and I like that. More than last time around — last quarter, if you want to use the business-y sounding language for it — I tried to really get a balance across this batch of reviews, posted yesterday and coming up over the next couple days. We’ll see how it works out when it’s over. It remains a ton of stuff, and I hope you dig it. Day two starts right now.

Quarterly review #11-20:

Horsehunter, Caged in Flesh

horsehunter caged in flesh

Pushing their way to the fore of Melbourne’s heavy surge, double-guitar four-piece Horsehunter proffer oppressive tonal crush on the four tracks of their 2LP Magnetic Eye Records debut, Caged in Flesh. The story goes that, unsatisfied the initial recordings weren’t heavy enough, the band – guitarists Michael Harutyanyan (also vocals) and Dan McDonald, bassist/vocalist Himi Stringer and drummer Nick Cron – went back into the studio and redid the entire thing. Mission accomplished. By the time 16-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Stoned to Death” is done, lungs are suitably deflated, spines are cracked, skulls cleaved, and so on. They’re hardly the only ones in the world to conjure formidable tonal heft, but it’s the deft changes in vocals – clean here, shouts there, more abrasive at the start of the title-track – and the sense of atmosphere in the three-minute penultimate interlude that really distinguish Horsehunter, as well as how smoothly that atmosphere integrates with the pummel in the second half of closer “Witchery,” attention to detail and awareness of the need for more than just sonic weight boding well for future progression.

Horsehunter on Thee Facebooks

Magnetic Eye Records on Bandcamp

Church, Unanswered Hymns

church unanswered hymns

A staggeringly heavy debut full-length from Sacramento, CA, five-piece Church, Unanswered Hymns was initially released digitally by the band and quickly picked up for a cassette issue by Transylvanian Tapes and forthcoming LP through Battleground Records. One gets the sense listening to the three extended tracks – 19-minute opener “Dawning” being the longest of the bunch (immediate points) – that those won’t be the last versions to come. Psychedelic doom blends seamlessly with vicious sludge extremity, creating a morass engulfing in its tones, spacious in its breadth and unrepentantly heavy, making it one of 2015’s best debut releases, hands down, and a glorious revelry in bleak tectonics that challenges the listener to match its level of melancholy without giving into an impulse for post-Pallbearer emotive theatrics. As thrilling as they are plodding, expect the echoes of “Dawning,” “Stargazer” and “Offering” to resonate for some time to come, and should Church show any predilection for touring in the next couple years, they have the potential to make a genuine impact on American doom. Yes, I mean it.

Church on Thee Facebooks

Transylvanian Tapes

Battleground Records

Corpse Light, Without Form

corpse light without form

Recorded in a day and released by Grimoire Records, the four-track Without Form is slated as the debut from Baltimore atmospheric doomers Corpse Light, but the band have had tracks come out in drips and drabs since getting their start as Ophidian in mid-2012, even if this is their first proper release. Either way, “The Fool” sets up an immediate and grim ambience, the churning lurch from guitarists Keiran Holmes and Don Selner and bassist Aurora Raiten set to roll by Lawrence Grimes (The Osedax) and given earthy aggression by the vocals of Jim Webb. “Lying in State” fleshes out these morose aggro vibes, but it’s with the drop-everything-and-kill peak of the subsequent “R Complex” that Corpse Light hit their angriest mark. If Without Form was just about that, it would be the highlight, but the album’s 29 minutes have more to offer than pissed off tonally-weighted post-hardcore, as closer “Kenophobia”’s clever turns and deceptive forward momentum demonstrate, though a touch of that kind of thing never hurts either.

Corpse Light on Thee Facebooks

Grimoire Records on Bandcamp

Sunder, Demo

sunder demo

Heavy psych four-piece Sunder will make their debut this summer through Tee Pee and Crusher Records with a 7” for “Cursed Wolf,” so consider this notice of the tracks on their not-for-public-consumption demo a heads up on things to come. Their “Deadly Flower” was streamed here this past April, and the band’s previous incarnation, The Socks, released their self-titled debut (review here) on Small Stone in 2014, but with songs like the key-laced stomper “Bleeding Trees,” the ‘70s rusher “Against the Grain,” and the Uncle Acid-style swinging “Daughter of the Snows,” the Lyon, France, outfit continue to refine a style drawing together different vibes of the psychedelic era. “Deadly Flower” was also distinguished by its key work, and as for “Cursed Wolf” itself, the melody reminds of proto-psych Beatles singles (thinking “Rain” specifically), but the groove still holds firm to a sense of weight that’s thoroughly modern, and by that I mean it sounds like 1972. Keep an eye out.

Sunder on Thee Facebooks

Tee Pee Records

T-Tops, T-Tops

t-tops t-tops

Granted not everyone is going to make this immediate association, but when I first saw the moniker T-Tops, I couldn’t help think of like C-grade generic stonerisms, songs about beer and pretending to be from the South and all that. If you experienced something similar in seeing the name, rest easy. The Pittsburgh trio of guitarist/vocalist Pat Waters (ex-The Fitt, Wormrigg), bassist Jason Orr (Wormrigg) and drummer Jason Jouver (ex-Don Caballero) are down with far more sinister punk and noise on their self-titled, self-released debut full-length, riding, shooting straight and speaking truth on cuts like “Wipe Down” and the catchy “Pretty on a Girl” after the tense sampling of “A Certain Cordial Exhilaration” turns over the power-push to “Cruisin’ for a Bruisin’.” “Ralphie” is probably an inside-joke if not a Christmas Story reference, but point is these guys are way less about-to-sing-about-muscle-cars than the name implies and their tight, crisp rhythmic turns come accompanied by vicious tonal force and an utter lack of bullshit, which is a scenario far preferable to that which one might otherwise expect.

T-Tops on Thee Facebooks

T-Tops on Bandcamp

The Space Merchants, The Space Merchants

the space merchants the space merchants

Issued by Aqulamb in the imprint’s standard 100-page art book/download format, the self-titled debut from fellow Brooklynites The Space Merchants seeks to draw a line between psychedelic rock and country. And not pretend country like people with a Johnny Cash fetish because he covered that Nine Inch Nails song one time – actual, bright, pastoral, classic country. Call the results psychtwang and applaud the effort, which works oddly well in a thoroughly vintage context to come across on “Mainline the Sun” like something from a lost ‘60s variety show. Parts of “One Cut Like the Moon” and the later fuzz of “One Thousand Years of Boredom” give away their modernity, but The Space Merchants’ push toward a stylistic niche suits them well, and the intertwined vocal arrangements from guitarist Michael Guggino, bassist Aileen Brophy and keyboardist Ani MonteleoneCarter Logan drums to round out the four-piece – add to the rich, welcoming feel that remains prevalent even as the eight-minute “Where’s the Rest of Life” slips into wah-soaked noise to finish out.

The Space Merchants on Thee Facebooks

Aqualamb on Bandcamp

Etiolated, Grey Limbs, Grey Skies

etoliated grey limbs grey skies

The undercurrent of black metal coursing beneath the surface of Etiolated’s debut full-length, Grey Limbs, Grey Skies, eventually comes to the surface in 10-minute opener “Internal Abyss” and 16-minute eponymous closer, which bookends, but in part it’s the tension of waiting for those rampaging surges that keeps one hooked to the Armus Productions release. Guttural death growls echo up from dense tonal reaches, and tempo shifts, whether in those longer tracks or three-minute lumbering slice “Futility” are fluid, the North Carolina five-piece executing a slow-grinding chug in centerpiece “Exsanguinate,” which seems like a murk without end until the 1:47 “For Your Hell” kicks into a speedier, more blackened rush, guest vocalist Ryan McCarthy joining guitarist/vocalists James Storelli and Walls, bassist Cody Rogers and drummer Elliot Thompson in furthering the already prevalent sense of extremism before “Etiolated,” after a surprisingly peaceful if brooding midsection, plods the album to a close. To say “not for the faint of heart” would be putting it lightly, but if I had a vest and if Etiolated had patches, the two parties would definitely meet up at some point in the near future.

Etiolated on Thee Facebooks

Armus Productions on Bandcamp

Blown Out, Planetary Engineering

blown out planetary engineering

It has not taken long for the discography of UK psych jammers Blown Out to become a populated murky cosmos of its own. Planetary Engineering is released on Oaken Palace Records and finds the three-piece of guitarist Mike Vest (also Bong, etc.), bassist John-Michael Hedley (also Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs) and drummer Matt Baty (also the head of Box Records) exploring two mesmeric and sprawling instrumentals – one per side – that bend and flourish and hypnotize in organically-concocted swirl. Side A’s “Transcending Deep Infinity” tops 20 minutes and shifts from its spacey build to a low key groove at about 7:30 in, pulsing forward once more amid head-turning repetition, deep echoes and longform nod, culminating in a two-minute fadeout that brings forward “Thousand Years in the Sunshine,” an immediate bass groove and interstellar swirl no less trance-inducing than its predecessor. Cyclical drum fills morph over time behind the guitar and bass, and Planetary Engineering seems to push continually further out until, of course, it disintegrates, presumably as it crosses the galactic barrier.

Blown Out on Thee Facebooks

Oaken Palace Records on Bandcamp

Les Discrets, Live at Roadburn

les discrets live at roadburn

I was fortunate enough to have been in attendance at Het Patronaat in Tilburg when French post-black metallers Les Discrets took the stage at Roadburn 2013. As such, it’s with some trepidation I approach their Live at Roadburn recording on Prophecy Productions – the impression they made live wasn’t something I’d want potentially spoiled or brought to earth by a document proving it was just another set. With Neige of Alcest on bass with guitarist/vocalist Fursy Teyssier, Les Discrets proved to be something really special to those who, like me, were there to catch them, and the eight-track Live at Roadburn – fortunately – captures both the majestic lushness they brought with them and the underlying weight that seemed to add impact to the material. What might sound like post-production mixing on “L’Echappée” or the wash of “Chanson D’Automne” isn’t – it really was that beautiful and that perfectly balanced coming from the stage. A vastly underrated act and a document that reminds of how stellar they were without sullying the memory in the slightest.

Les Discrets on Thee Facebooks

Prophecy Productions

Beast Modulus, Beast Modulus

beast-modulus-beast-modulus

Brooklynite foursome Beast Modulus seem to care less about meshing with ideas of genre than sticking them in a meatgrinder and seeing what comes out. To wit the riotous chugging of “Cowboy Caligula,” and the blackened thrust of “WaSaBi!” on their self-released, self-titled outing, which leads to dueling growls and screams on the tonally weighted post-hardcore “Fabulous,” and the appropriately mathy turns of the thrashing “Tyranny of Numbers.” Inventive in their stylizations and in where the six songs included on the release actually go – hint: they go to “heavy” – the lineup of vocalist Kurt Applegate, guitarist Owen Burley, bassist Jesse Adelson and drummer Jody Smith have some post-Dillinger Escape Plan vibe in the calculated chaos of “Kalashnikov,” but closer “Killing Champion” is too impatient to even be held by that, the prevailing manic angularity of Beast Modulus ultimately crafting its own identity from the physical assault the music seems intent on perpetrating upon the listener.

Beast Modulus on Thee Facebooks

Beast Modulus on Bandcamp

 

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Sabbath Assembly Announce Self-Titled LP Due Sept. 11

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 23rd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

sabbath assembly

If the prospect of Sabbath Assembly casting off the cultish tropes of their genre even in part piques your interest, the band have made it easy to get introduced to the crux of their fifth album, which is self-titled perhaps as much to showcase a defiant spirit as to declare who they are as an act less based on Satan-loving dogma. Not that the two are mutually exclusive necessarily, but you know what I mean. Their new video, “Ave Satanas,” still has plenty of cultistry to it, even if that comes encased in Mercyful Fate-style riffing. Has it been long enough for proto-black metal to become a style? Yeah, probably.

Art, info, tour dates and bloodshed-prone video, courtesy of the PR wire:

sabbath assembly sabbath assembly

SABBATH ASSEMBLY set release date for fifth album, premiere first video and album trailer

Today, Svart Records announces September 11th as the international release date for Sabbath Assembly’s highly anticipated fifth album, Sabbath Assembly. It marks a new beginning for the band: its “Great Schism” from the Process Church of the Final Judgment. Like the albatross falling from the mariner’s neck, the band has freed itself from the cult’s theology in order to explore its own creations – with no special guest appearances or narrative frills. Sabbath Assembly is, in fact, a decidedly metal offering, for in the writing, the band returned to its own personal roots in the dark age of the ’80s. These are Sabbath Assembly’s own “hymns” for their own “church” – a place marked by passion, devotion, and the gospel of metal.

The primary thematic difference between Sabbath Assembly and its predecessors is that this album is about embodiment, addressing all the power and grit required to endure our human existence, rather than exploring spiritual philosophy alone. While the songs reference occult literature, such as Robert Chambers’ The King in Yellow, Valeri Briussov’s The Fiery Angel of Desire, and The Gospel of Thomas, these texts were chosen not because of their abstraction from the mundane, but rather their propensity to embrace it as a means to spiritual understanding. If something is to be taken away from the new Sabbath Assembly album, it is this: the mysteries of occult philosophy are revealed not through celestial charts and diagrams, but rather the subtleties of earthly love and loss. Cover and tracklisting are as follows:

Tracklisting for Sabbath Assembly’s Sabbath Assembly
1. Risen From Below
2. Confessing a Murder
3. Burn Me (I Thirst for Fire)
4. Only You
5. The Fiery Angel of Desire
6. Ave Satanas
7. Sharp Edge of the Earth
8. Apparition of the Revolution
9. Shadows of Emptiness

Sabbath Assembly features Jamie Myers on vocals, David Christian on drums, Kevin Hufnagel on guitar, and the new addition of Johnny DeBlase on bass. The album was recorded by Colin Marston at Menegroth: The Thousand Caves Studio in Queens, NY. Comments drummer David Christian: “When we started the writing for this record, I was reading through hundreds of pages of Process texts, hunting for inspiration. All the writing seemed so stiff and jilted. Then I came across a letter that founder DeGrimston had written after having been excommunicated from the Church addressing the remaining congregation. It was so tragic, so moving – so much more heartfelt than his theological treatises. There was no talk of judgment or revenge in the letter, only bewilderment and heartache – but also forgiveness. My heart cracked open; I called Jamie and the band to discuss this new inspiration, and out came all these songs of heartbreak – our own songs, connecting us to all those who have ever experienced the pain of loss and the suffering of grief.” See/hear a vision of that heartbreak with the first video from Sabbath Assembly, “Ave Satanas,” which can be viewed exclusively HERE. A video trailer for the new Sabbath Assembly album can be viewed HERE.

In other Sabbath Assembly news, the band have confirmed all dates & venues for their upcoming “From Darkness to Darkness” tour with Relapse recording artists Christian Mistress. The full list of dates are as follows:

JULY 10 – SAN FRANCISCO, CA @ ELBO ROOM
JULY 11 – SACRAMENTO, CA @ STARLIGHT LOUNGE
JULY 12 – GARBERVILLE, CA @ THE GARBERVILLE THEATER
JULY 13 – SALEM, OR @ THE WISP HOUSE
JULY 14 – EUGENE, OR @ OLD NICK’S PUB
JULY 15 – SEATTLE, WA @ THE HIGHLINE
JULY 16 – BELLINGHAM, WA @ THE SHAKEDOWN
JULY 17 – OYLMPIA, WA @ OBSIDIAN
JULY 18 – PORTLAND, OR @ TONIC

www.sabbathassembly.com
www.facebook.com/sabbathassembly
www.sabathassembly.bandcamp.com
www.svartrecords.com
www.facebook.com/svartrecords
www.youtube.com/svartrecords
www.twitter.com/svartrecords

Sabbath Assembly, “Ave Satanas” official video

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Kings Destroy Premiere “Mr. O” Video; Tour Dates with Weedeater Announced

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 18th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

kings destroy mr o

Perhaps most of all on their recently released third, self-titled album (review here), Kings Destroy‘s “Mr. O” is a litmus test to determine who’s going to get it and who isn’t. Easily the most upbeat track they’ve recorded to date, its lyrics refer to Reggie Jackson, who has become in the last several decades analogous not just to a vision of late-’70s power hitting standing in for some mustachioed lost masculine ideal, but more specifically for the era of New York City that Kings Destroy‘s Kings Destroy takes as its central theme. Before the porn shops were closed, before Mayor Rudy Giuliani had the homeless secretly killed (prove it didn’t happen), when the Knicks were good and the Yankees were gods, the streets smelled of piss (some things never change) and there was danger. It wasn’t a place to raise kids. It was a place to get stabbed.

The regularly-showing-up-around-these-parts Brooklynite five-piece of vocalist Steve Murphy, guitarists Carl Porcaro and Chris Skowronski, bassist Aaron Bumpus and drummer Rob Sefcik aren’t so much mourning the loss of that threat in their new Josh Graham-directed video for “Mr. O” as they are speaking to their personal experience of it. For the first half of the clip, we take a tour through the past with Murphy in an awfully nice looking muscle car, and gradually the B-roll takes over, the line, “Ladies and gents, the Bronx is in flames tonight,” as resonant of the time as of any particular performance Jackson ever gave. It’s a remembrance of the idea of a city — theirs is unmistakably New York, but yours doesn’t need to be — and a cultural moment whose time has passed, and in true New Yorker fashion, they don’t couch the idea in some grand metaphor so much as directly confront the listener and viewer with embodiments of that memory, the song thrusting ahead at full punch-in-the-face speed all the while.

To go with the new release on War Crime RecordingsKings Destroy have announced they’ll hit the road in August alongside Weedeater. I know the two bands had previously played together or close enough to it in Sweden at this or that festival, and it’s hard to imagine they haven’t shared a stage somewhere along the line since, but it should make for a solid pairing of complementary sounds, big riffs, lurching groove and little tolerance for those who can’t or wouldn’t have gotten it anyhow.

Dates follow the video below. Please enjoy:

Kings Destroy, “Mr. O” official video

weedeater kings destroy

Weedeater & Kings Destroy on tour:

08/04 Atlanta GA 529
08/05 Savannah GA Jinx
08/06 Charlotte NC Tremont
08/07 Richmond VA Hardywood Brewery
08/08 Sprague WI Farmageddon (Weedeater only)
08/09 Philadelphia PA Johnny Brenda’s
08/10 Boston MA The Sinclair
08/11 Brooklyn NY Saint Vitus
08/12 York PA The Depot
08/13 Pittsburgh PA 31st St. Pub
08/14 Erie PA Sherlocks
08/15 Kent OH Outpost
08/16 Asheville NC Mothlight

Kings Destroy on Thee Facebooks

Kings Destroy on Bandcamp

War Crime Recordings

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On Wax: Kings Destroy, A Time of Hunting

Posted in On Wax on June 11th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

kings-destroy-a-time-of-hunting-lp-and-cover

When it finally came to it, I couldn’t bring myself to review Kings Destroy‘s A Time of Hunting around the time of its original 2013 release. Aside from having helped put out their 2010 debut, And the Rest Will Surely Perish, on this site’s in-house label, The Maple Forum, and the invariable conflict of interest there — though by the time they got around to putting out the second album, the first was long gone, so it’s not like I was trying to sell anything — I felt way too close to the songs to even try to muster a sense of impartiality as regards the Brooklyn five-piece’s achievement. What’s changed? A bit of distance from the record itself, maybe, but more than that, and more than protecting the illusion of critical perspective as much as I could ever claim to have such a thing, there was a lot about A Time of Hunting that I don’t think I really understood, and it took a long time before the character of its eight songs really set in.

kings-destroy-a-time-of-hunting-side-aThe biggest help of all may have been the release of their third album, Kings Destroy (review here), which hit at the beginning of last month. In a strange bit of coincidence, that record’s arrival on War Crimes Recordings landed awfully close to Hydro-Phonic Records‘ LP issue of A Time of Hunting, so I had occasion to visit both in pretty close proximity to each other. The vinyl edition, which does justice to both the beautiful and intricate album art with its relative size and with the blue and brown splatter on the record itself, also takes a step in explaining the structure of the album. Take it as evidence of how far away I was from being able to offer any valid critique of Kings Destroy‘s sophomore outing if you wish, but I never thought of it as having two sides until I listened to it that way.

It makes mountains more of sense that way. Righteous moments like the huge-sounding drums of Rob Sefcik that launch opener “Stormbreak” and the lurching groove of “The Toe” are preserved on side A, which even as it moves into “Casse-Tête” and “Decrepit” keeps a more straight-ahead and aggressive sound built around the guitars of Carl Porcaro and Chris Skowronski and with the foundational low end of then-newcomer bassist Aaron Bumpus, while side B moves outward from the soft intro of “Shattered Pattern” to a more emotive lumbering before the lurch of the title-track and the subsequent “Blood of Recompense” take hold, the album’s two longest cuts served up one into the next with spliced in leads, an immersive sprawl, and particularly in the case of the latter, a grandiosity that’s still miles away from anything And the Rest Will Surely Perish had on offer, pulled off with sincerity in Steve Murphy‘s voice at the fore — see also the side A closer, “Decrepit,” which hinted of the turns to come — and a fullness of sound surrounding that no doubt benefited from being the second production collaboration with Sanford Parker.

And then “Turul.” Fucking “Turul.” It’s four and a half minutes long and I’ve spent the last two years trying to get my head around it. A strange turn in its storytelling and a guitar figure to match, “Turul” turns the entire record on its head — but somehow, on the vinyl, its context feels different since so much of side B is branching out from what they were doing on “The Toe” or even “Casse-Tête” in reinterpreting the confrontationalism of their New York hardcore kings-destroy-a-time-of-hunting-gatefoldpast into an anti-genre stew past doom and still decidedly un-metal. I won’t go so far as to say I get it now, but in light of “Time for War” from the self-titled, I don’t think it’s supposed to. It’s supposed to be as far out as they go, and it turns out to be exactly that.

In a way, it’s fitting that the LP version of A Time of Hunting should show up so close to the album after it, because with Kings Destroy‘s Kings Destroy for comparison, the vibe on these tracks is really more like a second debut following the lineup shift that saw Ed Bocchino leave the band and Bumpus join. These are the origin points for the songwriting methodology that the third offering continues to refine. I guess that’s not such a crazy thing to say about one record into the next, but with A Time of Hunting, it was a big jump sonically, and as enthralled with it as I was — I didn’t review it, but I think I said enough about it along the way to get that point across to anyone paying minimal attention — I feel like there’s a lot about it that’s made clearer with this revisit, so I’m glad to have the chance to approach it again as a new release.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still claim no impartiality when it comes to Kings Destroy or whatever it might be they’re putting out in a given week, but as well as I know these songs, and as close as I’ve come to feel to them over the last two-plus years since I first heard them, it should say something that I can put on the LP and be able to gain a new appreciation for how rich and ambitious a listening experience A Time of Hunting actually is.

Kings Destroy, A Time of Hunting (2013/2015)

Kings Destroy on Thee Facebooks

Kings Destroy on Bandcamp

Hydro-Phonic Records

Hydro-Phonic on Thee Facebooks

War Crime Recordings

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Foehammer and Thera Roya Announce Summer Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 26th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

foehammer (Photo by Sasha Benderly-Kraft)
thera roya (Photo by Jess Rechsteiner)

The first night of the upcoming summer tour for Foehammer and Thera Roya, June 12, is the record release party for the former’s self-titled EP on Australopithecus Records. That EP has been available digitally through Grimoire Records for a while, but the vinyl is newly arrived and they’ll reportedly have it ready to go for the tour. Brooklyn’s Thera Roya, meanwhile, should have some new material in tow as well after their “Fat Voyage” single which was released digitally late last year.

A few shows remain unconfirmed for the run, so if you happen to be in one of those cities and have a line on putting something together, be it a bar, house show, whatever, you should probably think about dropping a line to one or both of the bands. If you haven’t heard Foehammer‘s EP yet, it’s devastatingly heavy, and Thera Roya‘s post-metal style will make a fitting complement atmospherically for all that bludgeoning.

T0ur dates, links and audio follow:

foehammer thera roya unmothered austin show

THERA ROYA & FOEHAMMER SUMMER TOUR 2015!

Thera Roya & Foehammer take the south by storm! Details to be added as shows are confirmed.

JUNE
12 Fri WDC / Tour Kickoff @ The Pinch w/ Narrow Grave, TBA
13 Sat Charlottesville, VA @ Magnolia House w/ Beldam
14 Sun VA Beach / Norfolk VA
15 Mon Charlotte NC @ Tommy’s Pub w/ Pig mountain, Grande Niño
16 Tue Charleston SC @ King Dusko’s w/ TBA
17 Wed Orlando, FL
18 Thu Miami, FL
19 Fri Tampa FL @ Cafe Hey! w/ Weltesser
20 Sat Dothan, AL
21 Sun New Orleans, LA
22 Mon Baton Rouge, LA
23 Tue Austin TX @ The Lost Well w/ Unmothered
24 Wed Dallas TX
25 Thu Nashville TN
26 Fri Asheville NC @ The Odditorium w/ Black Mountain Hunger, Spliff, Mondays
27 Sat Morgantown WV / Richmond VA
28 Sun Frederick MD – Maryland Doom Fest @ Cafe 611*
* – Foehammer Only

https://www.facebook.com/events/737569289689446/
https://www.facebook.com/TheraRoya
https://theraroya.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/foehammerva
https://foehammer.bandcamp.com/

Foehammer, Foehammer (2015)

Thera Roya, “Fat Voyage” (2014)

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Live Review: Conan, Mantar, Black Pussy and Hush in Brooklyn, 05.22.15

Posted in Reviews on May 25th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Conan (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I had almost forgotten the glorious trials that NYC traffic could provide. The opportunities to see oneself as being on a great, grueling journey, near-Homerian. A quest undertaken on foot, dragging a cart on your back, covered in shit and mud, sweltering in the sun. Maybe an extreme vision, but the A/C in my car was on the fritz, and it’s summer south of the wall, so it wasn’t exactly an easy drive. Got to Brooklyn in time to have a burrito at the Acapulco Deli next to the Saint Vitus Bar, however, ahead of the start of a four-band bill with Albany five-piece Hush (also stylized as Hush., with the punctuation), Portland, Oregon’s Black Pussy, German duo Mantar and UK destroyers Conan, the latter two wrapping up a coast-to-coast tour that also included stops for Conan at Psycho California and, just the night before, at Maryland Deathfest.

Brooklyn was the second to last stop on the tour, with Philly the next night and then flights out, but I didn’t get a sense of any post-MDF comedown from the band. The Vitus Bar has enough of a reputation at this point that it has become a destination in itself for bands on tour, and for me, seeing Conan there was no less an event. This was their first time in the States, and while I had an advantage in having seen them twice at Roadburn (in 2012 and in 2014) and at Desertfest London in 2013, the prospect was still exciting, not the least because it was a new lineup. I parked myself near the front a couple minutes before Hush went on:

Hush.

Hush (Photo by JJ Koczan)

One could probably call Hush.‘s style death-doom, but I always ascribe a certain sense of emotional drama to that, and the Upstate fivesome were light on that and heavy on just about everything else. More megasludge than death-doom, but plenty extreme one way or another. Vocalist C. Cure set up in front of the stage, and no wonder. Space was at a premium with the mountain of amps backlined, and Hush.‘s own contributions to that pile of equipment were as considerable as the tones that emanated from them. Slow-sounding even in their faster stretches, their lurch was pervasive and Cure‘s growls met the tide head-on, spit or some other manner of regurgitation flying out of his mouth as he headbanged near the front of the stage such that I thought it might be hitting guitarist Jeff Andrews (also of heavy rockers Ironwweed) in the leg. If he did, Andrews gave no sign of it. With an emphasis on tonal crush running throughout, they tossed in some new material along with “We Left Like Birds” from last year’s Unexist debut full-length, and while they were somewhat unipolar in their overall affect — that is, all heavy, all the time — they gave the evening a vicious, intense start and bludgeoned ferociously as if throwing down a gauntlet to anyone who might dare pick it up, earning their punctuation all the while.

Black Pussy

Black Pussy (Photo by JJ Koczan)

To be perfectly honest, I was kind of dreading seeing Oregon’s Black Pussy again. Not because they suck. Actually, just the opposite. If they sucked, fine. You write them off as a shitty band with a shitty attention-grab of a name and you move on. But because they’re actually good, and because they put so much attention into the details of their presentation — from drummer Dean Carrol‘s near-manic smile as he plays to the all-Sunn backline, to bellbottoms and vintage shirts on guitarist Ryan McIntire, organist Chief O’Dell and bassist Aaron Poplin, to guitarist/vocalist Dustin Hill‘s sunglasses and apparent unwillingness to keep his tongue in his mouth while he sings — you can’t just ignore them. I decided early in the set that from here on out I’d refer to the band as Five White Dudes in a Band Called Black Pussy, and so I will. Five White Dudes in a Band Called Black Pussy were solid, and I recognized several tracks from earlier-2015’s Magic Mustache (review here), the Queens of the Stone Age-style bounce and warm but still heavy roll, but you pretty much have to put a douchebaggery-filter on to watch them and get any sense of enjoyment out of it. At least if they’d called themselves White Cock you’d be able to say it was vaguely subversive. As it is, they’re just a bummer, and the more I see of them, the more that becomes a palpable reality. Don’t think it’s a racist or sexist name? Think it’s cool and ironic and not at all reinforcing white supremacy or the colonization of black bodies? Think the internet is populated by overly PC “social justice warriors?” Fine. You’re wrong and I don’t give a fuck. Think for a second about what you’re defending. Or don’t. Start your own website instead, and pine for the days when white people could be blatantly racist without being told they should feel bad about it. Have fun with that.

Mantar

Mantar (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Hamburg duo Mantar — vocalist/guitarist Hanno and drummer/vocalist Erinc — arrived in Brooklyn having already made an impression on this tour. I’d heard from several people in other cities who’d been pleasantly surprised by the two-piece’s blend of thickened doom tone and raw metal. They had some technical difficulties at the beginning of the set, something about the power cable into the D.I. box, but once they started, they were zero-to-100 almost immediately, Hanno spitting his lyrics at Erinc from across the stage while the drummer, arranged with his side to the crowd, crashed and slammed away a propulsive course. There were elements of Celtic Frost at their roughest, and a touch of High on Fire and the Melvins in “Astral Kannibal,” but wherever they went sonically, the core of what they were doing was the punishment of their delivery, veins popping out on Hanno‘s neck as he shouted up to his microphone. With just the two of them on the stage, there was plenty of room to thrash around, and Hanno took advantage, switching between different channels in the backlined rig, Orange heads and cabinets set up on both sides of the stage, revealed when Five White Dudes in a Band Called Black Pussy removed their Sunns — it was an evening of expensive-looking gear — used to get both bass and guitar tones out of the guitar. It was unfortunate that their set got cut short and they were visibly frustrated, but assured the room they would be back and would hopefully be able to play longer next time around. I couldn’t imagine it had been an easy tour with routing that basically took them across the country and back, but Mantar did well in the direct-support slot and the punk-rooted dynamic between Erinc and Hanno was evident even as I was relatively unfamiliar with the band.

Conan

Conan (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Word was that at least some of those Orange stacks had been used in Sleep‘s recent Atlanta show. To have them subsequently carried by Conan on their first run through the US — it surely won’t be their last — seems a fitting inheritance. Conan guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis is the sole remaining founder of the band, and over the course of 2014, he brought on bassist/vocalist Chris Fielding, also producer for not only Conan but also the likes of Electric Wizard, Primordial, etc., and drummer Rich Lewis, so while Conan released their second album last year in the form of their Napalm Records debut, Blood Eagle (review here), they’re essentially a new band. Lewis, who is a man of many cymbals, is the latest addition, but they’ve toured with this lineup before, and coming toward the end of this stint as well, they were duly crisp in their delivery of what has developed into one of the heaviest aesthetics in the world. Hyperbole? Yes, but Conan warrant speaking in absolutes. Opening with “Crown of Talons,” they immediately set the place to a steady rumble and did not relent for the duration of their time on stage, Blood Eagle cuts like “Foehammer” and “Total Conquest” joined by “Hawk as Weapon” from 2012’s Monnos (review here) and “Satsumo” from their landmark 2010 Horseback Battle Hammer EP (review here), as well as a new song that worked in a middle pace to further the overbearing impression of their riff-led pummel. Davis and Fielding traded shouts, the latter almost with a Godfleshy burl, and managed to cut through the tones while Lewis nailed the snare work and quick changes in “Foehammer.” My usual modus is to hang out up front for a couple songs, take pictures and then fall back and enjoy the rest of a set from in back of the crowd, but Conan held me front and center for the duration, headbangers to the left of me, drunken staggering to the right, volume over top and crushing down. It was a brutal push through some of the highlights of their growing catalog, but their set also got cut short on curfew accounts. They wrapped up amid calls for one more song, thanked the crowd, said they’d be back, and took centerstage for a quick photo to mark the occasion, urged by some jerk who’d been taking pictures the whole time.

Speaking of, I owe a particular thanks to respected videographer Frank Huang. At the start of the show, I turned on my camera only to find I had no memory card in it, and Frank came to my rescue by letting me borrow a spare. When the show was over, I immediately dumped the photos onto my laptop, which I had in my car because I was slated for a post-gig two-hour drive to Connecticut, where I’d be crashing for the night to continue to Massachusetts on Saturday. Epic in a whole different way. I got in around 3AM with the lumbering “Crown of Talons” still stuck in my head, where it has remained since.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Live Review: Ufomammut, Usnea and Mountain God in Brooklyn, 05.19.15

Posted in Reviews on May 20th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Ufomammut (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The circumstances by which I found myself in the Tri-State Area were complex enough that I feel no need to recount them, but the point is, if you’re in town anyway, and Ufomammut are rolling through Brooklyn to hit the Saint Vitus Bar on their first US tour ever, supported by Portland’s Usnea and locals Mountain God opening, the obvious choice is to go. Yes, I was at a show in Boston on Sunday, but that seemed like long enough ago that it didn’t matter. It’s fucking Ufomammut. You show up.

Mountain God (Photo by JJ Koczan)I missed the three-piece at Roadburn in 2011, but saw them there in 2009, and even six years later, the impression they left behind was resonant enough that I could see them clearly on the Main Stage bludgeoning the room with their cosmic mastery. The image is vivid. They’ll play Maryland Deathfest this weekend and are out supporting their 2015 Neurot Recordings outing, Ecate (review here), the latest in a line of records a decade long proving their utter supremacy of sound. I felt fortunate to have the planets align in such a way as to allow me to make it to the show.

As I understand it, Mountain God were something of a late addition to the bill. Cool by me. Playing as the trio of guitarist/vocalist Ben Ianuzzi, bassist Nikhil Kamineni and drummer/backing vocalist Ryan Smith (also Thera Roya), they had new material on offer and included two cuts from their 2013 Mountain God (Photo by JJ Koczan)Experimentation on the Unwilling demo (review here), so yeah, sign me up. Their particular brand of atmospheric sludge has only become more visceral over the last couple years, and as expansive as their 2015 single-song Forest of the Lost EP (review here) is, its churn still seems to stir the guts. So it was on stage as well.

Worth noting that for all three bands, the stage was d-a-r-k dark. Most of all for Mountain God and Usnea, but even for Ufomammut the only real light was toward the back of the stage, and there wasn’t much of that. Might as well have been taking pictures in Boston, it was so fucking dark. So it goes. Mountain God‘s new songs, “Nasca Lines” and “Taxidermist,” pushed the limits of their extremity well, Ianuzzi‘s blown-out vocals cutting through his and Kamineni‘s rumbling tonal morass — a heft that would become a theme for the night. The interplay of Ianuzzi and Smith proved especially effective throughout, but either way, ambience remained thick and the effect remained crushing.

Usnea (Photo by JJ Koczan)They finished out with “Experimentation on the Unwilling” itself, a memorable pummel of a riff at its center, and received greetings and well-earned congratulations at the front of the stage while breaking down their gear to make way for Usnea, touring with Ufomammut from their base of operations in Oregon. It was my first exposure to the death-doom four-piece, who made their debut on Relapse last year with their second full-length, Random Cosmic Violence, and I found they were a completely different band from what I expected them to be. As in, I thought they were another band. It was a pleasant surprise when their ultra-nodding brutality held sway for the duration, both guitars tuned to the key of slow-motion destruction as drums and bass stood center-stage to punctuate and foster feel-it-in-your-stomach resonance. Can’t claim to have known the material, but the first impression was a positive one.

And by positive, I mean overwhelmingly negative — the downer vibes so dense they couldn’t seem to let any light escape. Right on. I knew Ufomammut would be headed for more psychedelic terrain, and indeed they were, so to have Usnea follow Mountain God‘s tectonics with their own lumbering doom was a solid fit and welcome complement to the bill. If I’d had any cash, I Usnea (Photo by JJ Koczan)probably would’ve picked up a CD of Random Cosmic Violence, but the water bottle I had in my camera bag I bought with quarters and I didn’t think I had that much change on hand. Maybe next time. Their closer was “Detritus,” the 15-minute finisher from their sophomore outing, and it was as vehement an endorsement of their wares as anything I might recount in a review, plodding and stomping en route to a building finish that left nothing else to say when it was done. Many bands would have trouble following it.

Ufomammut, however, are a different breed. I’m almost surprised this was their first US tour. It’s easy to imagine them — as so many of their contemporaries from around Europe did — coming to the States and playing to upwards of 20 people at The Continental in Manhattan a decade ago before any of this stuff caught on and it was suddenly reasonable to be positioned in front of the stage at the Vitus Bar next to a photographer from The New York Times (“Uh, I run a blog,” was my barely-stammered response when she asked who I was shooting for) at a sold-out show. As if the experience wasn’t surreal enough, Ufomammut — guitarist Poia, drummer Vita and bassist/vocalist Urlo arranged left to right — Ufomammut (Photo by JJ Koczan)played off a setlist that seemed to be written in code, with notations for synths and the mysterious light-up samplers and effects they had on foot-switches while a video screen projected behind.

Devastatingly heavy? Why yes, they were, but that’s really just one component of the experience. Watching Ufomammut play is like being stirred in a cauldron of something thick and molten. Somehow, it swirls, but on the surface level it doesn’t even seem like it should be able to move at all. Each song seemed to take them deeper into space, the entirety of Ecate rearranged for stage presentation and followed by “Oroboros” from Oro: Opus Alter (review here), “Stigma” from 2008’s Idolum and, finally, “God” from 2004’s Snailking, which was brought to a brutal finish as though the trio were trying to pull apart the remnants of the galaxy on a molecular level, some great cosmic code punched in to result in the end of all things in multi-dimensions. It was like that. Sound as force. Senses colliding, and Urlo headbanging with his entire body the whole time. The further they went the more righteous they became, and the room — sweltering, dark, vibrating — went with them all the while, that great cauldron made flesh. To call it breathtaking would be speaking literally.

Ufomammut (Photo by JJ Koczan)There was a moment after they were done that required a return to earth, more of a snap back than a gentle release, and you could feel it from others in the room as much as from yourself. An exhale and realization of the impressionist galaxial scope just witnessed, blurred lines fitting for the summer’s haze that seemed to be settling over the Manhattan skyline on the way into the city. Even having seen the band before, I did it too. People made their way to the bar and out blissfullly stunned, and I did likewise, almost tempted to call Ufomammut‘s arrival on North American shores overdue if they hadn’t rendered things like space and time so irrelevant.

A couple more pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Ancient Sky to Release New Album Mosaic on June 9; “Two Lights” Streaming Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 18th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

ancient sky

Brooklyn psych rockers Ancient Sky have been through some changes since their third record, most notably adding a second drummer, so one looks forward to hearing what they’ve conjured for their fourth album, Mosaic, which is set to be released next month on Wharf Cat Records CD/LP/DL. The new song “Two Lights,” which has just been unveiled, holds open-spaced promise and cosmic pulse, and while I wouldn’t presume it speaks for the entirety of Mosaic — the title alone giving something of an eclectic impression just by the meaning of the word — its groove and vibe certainly wouldn’t be a bad model to work from. Easily worth a look if you’re in search of some edge with your bliss.

And who isn’t? Ancient Sky play their record release at Union Pool in their native borough on June 6 and will take part in the Northside Festival a week later. The PR wire brings pertinent info, audio and links:

ancient sky mosaic

Ancient Sky Share New Song “Two Lights”

Mosaic Out June 9th on Wharf Cat Records

Playing Northside Festival + NYC Record Release Show

Mosaic is a new statement of purpose for Ancient Sky and a record that defines the band as one of Brooklyn’s heaviest and most dynamic units. With a collection of Brian Markham’s best songs yet, Ancient Sky headed into Future-Past Studios in Hudson, NY with the like-minded Ben Greenberg (Uniform, Mission Hubble, The Men) on board as producer and sound engineer. The perfect combination of songs, personnel, and recording space resulted in an album that captures the massive scale of Ancient Sky’s live sound for the first time.

Mosaic is the sound of a band revitalized. With the addition of Adam Bulgasem as second drummer, Pat Broderick’s signature swing hits even harder. Kevin Lamiell and Brandon Evans add bass and keys respectively, leaving Markham to handle the singular guitar, one that riffs and drones in classic Ancient Sky form. From metallic street punk (“Know”) to swinging celestial psych (“Sing Swing”) to the crunching terror blues that is “Two Lights” this is a band showing that maturity means knowing your strengths and also knowing how to keep pushing it.

Mosaic captures the massive scale of Ancient Sky’s live sound for the first time pivoting around such heavy themes as loss, hypnosis, escapism, poverty, the pressure to conform to terrifying new technologies and modern consumerism’s catalytic contribution to the growing disparity between the haves and the have-nots.

Ancient Sky have been exploring the wide sonic boundaries of rock music for nearly a decade, drawing inspiration from artists as seminal and diverse as Delta bluesman Skip James, early Pink Floyd, the darker corners of modern ambient represented by Demdike Stare, Pye Corner Audio et al and the ubiquitous influence of heavy Brits such as Hawkwind and Black Sabbath. But to define them simply by their acclaimed progenitors-as impressively curated as the list may be-would be to rob the band members of their own incontrovertible creative drive and a southern-bred, city-tempered history that’s as much a celebration of devoted friendship and blue-collar dedication as it is an acknowledgment of the importance of diverse influences and open minds.

Ancient Sky Live Dates:
6/6: Union Pool – Brooklyn, NY *Record Release Show*
6/13: Northside Festival at Shea Stadium – Brooklyn, NY w/ Gun Outfit and The Ukiah Drag

https://www.facebook.com/ancientskyband
http://wharfcatrecords.com/store/ancient-sky-mosaic
http://wharfcatrecords.com/

Ancient Sky, “Two Lights”

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