Posted in Whathaveyou on July 17th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Doom experimentalists Insect Ark — now a duo after putting together their full-length debut, Portal/Well (review here), under the sole guidance of multi-instrumentalist Dana Schechter — are getting ready to head out on the road next month alongside Chicago’s Locrian. The tour begins in Washington Aug. 14 and ends in Portland on Aug. 22 and runs down and back up the West Coast in the interim, the Brooklyn-based outfit having West Coast roots in both Schechter and Portland-based drummer Ashley Spungin.
As my brain has turned into goo, I’ll turn it over directly to the PR wire, which puts it thusly:
ExperiMetal Doom outfit Insect Ark touring with Locrian
Insect Ark will celebrate the release of it debut full-length album, Portal/Well with a series of North American dates opening for Locrian. The new album is the result of one years’ work in composer/ multi-instrumentalist Dana Schechter’s Brooklyn studio. Exploring themes of corruption of the natural world and facing oblivion, Portal/Well continues the wordless existential narratives already established on 2013’s Long Arms EP and 2012’s “Collapsar” 7″ single. Autumnsongs Records released Portal/Well, on CD in June 9, 2015.
Insect Ark began in late 2011, as the one-woman solo project of bassist and multi-instrumentalist Schechter. As an analog-electronic hybrid with a heavy focus on live performance, Insect Ark has been building a following in the experimental doom scene via consistent touring in the U.S. and abroad.
Dana Schechter, a California native, spent her teens in the San Francisco metal scene, where her love of heavy music gained its foothold. She moved to NYC in 1997; in 1999 she began working as a recording and touring bassist with Swans leader Michael Gira’s Angels of Light and she founded her own band, Bee and Flower, as well. In 2004 Bee and Flower relocated to Berlin, its new base for touring and recording.
By 2008 Schechter had finally found her way back to NYC. There, she formed Insect Ark as an effort to write and tour continuously without the complexities of a band and to reconnect with the darker, heavier, and more abstract sounds of her youth.
In 2015 Insect Ark gained a second member, drummer and electronics operator Ashley Spungin, who is known for her work with the Portland-based band Taurus. While Schechter appreciated the freedom of working alone, she ultimately decided that live drums would be a powerful addition to the project’s releases and shows. The new duo incarnation of Insect Ark began recording and touring in spring 2015.
Insect Ark Opening for Locrian Fri 8/14 Bellingham, WA – The Shakedown Sat 8/15 Seattle, WA – Highline Sun 8/16 Boise, ID – Crazy Horse Mon 8/17 Salt Lake City, UT – Urban Lounge Tue 8/18 Las Vegas, NV – Bunkhouse Wed 8/19 Los Angeles, CA – Complex Thur 8/20 San Francisco, CA – Elbo Room Fri 8/21 Sacramento, CA – Starlight Lounge Sat 8/22 Portland, OR – Panic Room
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 8th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Kudos to Brooklyn trio The Golden Grass all around on the company they’re keeping throughout their upcoming eight-date mini-tour, hitting up shows with the likes of Joy, Blue Snaggletooth, Ruby the Hatchet and Attalla as they make their way out to the Midwest and back to the East Coast between July 15 and July 25. Unquestionably the biggest gig of all, however, is the last of the bunch, which finds the three-piece — now a year removed from their self-titled Svart Records debut (review here) — opening for none other than Deep Purple at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY.
The power of positive thinking? Even if you’re not a believer, The Golden Grass make a strong argument.
Tour announcement and appropriate linkery follows, as sent along the PR wire:
THE GOLDEN GRASS TO EMBARK ON JULY 2015 US MINI-TOUR
Brooklyn, NY based heavy rock group THE GOLDEN GRASS to embark on 8-date US mini-tour including shows with DEEP PURPLE, JOY and RUBY THE HATCHET.
Formed in 2013, this Brooklyn power trio quickly signed to Finland’s Svart Records, before even playing their first gig, and have since released 1 full length LP and 2 EPs. These boys are no strangers to the road either, as they’ve extensively toured the Northeast/Midwest US and embarked on 2 European Tours, earning them a devoted cult following, all in less than 2 years.
Their sound majestically encapsulates the timeless feel of 60’s/70’s influence. Taking a nod from legends like JAMES GANG, ALLMAN BROTHERS & GRAND FUNK, the soulful British psych/mod of THE MOVE, THE PRETTY THINGS & THE ACTION, and the heavy umph of BUDGIE, BLUE CHEER & BLACKFOOT to seal the deal, THE GOLDEN GRASS synthesize these influences into a seamless, memorable, and high-energy performance that screams from the past but is a welcome and much needed presence in the now! Hard rock lives! Keep on grassin’!
Posted in Features on July 6th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
If 2015 ended tomorrow, I think you’d still have to say it was a pretty good year for heavy rock. Doom veered into a swath extremes — its own subgenres emerging almost one by one in a growing splinter that nonetheless continues to draw water from its roots — while the neo-stoner ignition of the West Coast continued its boom of new acts proffering classic groove. The East reveled in a progressive vision just waiting to be picked up by others, and in Europe, the ’70s traditionalist movement spread ever wider, essentially defining a modern sound in organic sounding, sometimes-vintage elements. Whether you’re going for crushing, oppressive barbarism or cosmos-bound blissouts, it is, in short, a good time to be alive.
Of course, 2015 doesn’t end tomorrow, and there’s still a whole lot of year to come. About half, as it happens. So, as has been the tradition around here for the last half-decade — and seems to be the tradition in a growing number of outlets; not taking credit or claiming to have invented anything, just noting a proliferation — it’s time to count down the best records of the year so far. There have been more than a handful of gems, and since in December I’m planning on doing a top 30, we’ll mark half the year with a top 15. Seems only fair.
Please note that this isn’t purely a critical evaluation, but a personal list, and that what I’ve put on most is as crucial a factor in my ranking as how important I think a given record is. You know the drill by now. Let’s go:
Kiev three-piece Stoned Jesus have a varied stylistic history, and their third outing, The Harvest was ultimately a success in large part because of its complete refusal to be defined. Atop a foundation of quality songcraft, the trio proffered a sound that was not necessarily experimental in terms of anti-structure noise or effects onslaughts, but bold in each of its forays outward from its heavy rock underpinnings.
It has consistently taken me a while to get a hold on what Freedom Hawk are up to. The steady elements in their sound are held to so firmly that on the first couple listens, it seems to just be more of the same. But the more one digs in, the more there is to be found, and with Into Your Mind, the Virginia Beach trio overcome losing a member to create their most progressive outing to date, flourishes of psychedelia melding easily with their signature style of sunshiny riffing.
Five albums deep, Germany’s My Sleeping Karma are an act unto themselves. Their progress has been natural, fueled by a clear, varied sense of exploratory will, and the results on this year’s Moksha were nothing short of stunning. Branching out their arrangements might not be new to them, but the inclusion of horns, drones, percussion, etc., amid the central guitar, bass, keys and drums lent an almost orchestral feel to the flow between the tracks, and one can only hope they continue on their current path, because it is unquestionably the right one.
So much potential, so much vitality at the heart of this debut from Death Alley. The Amsterdam-based four-piece (interview here) stormed out of the gate with a ripper of a debut, and just when you seemed to have it all figured out, they hit the ignition on a 12-minute full-impulse space rock thrust, a guest vocal appearance from Farida Lemouchi (a former bandmate of Death Alley guitarist Oeds Beydals in The Devil’s Blood) adding both mystique and emotional resonance to what was already a stunning track. With all the riotousness preceding, Black Magick Boogieland readily lived up to its righteous title.
Midwestern-turned-West-Coast heavy psych rockers Mondo Drag may have taken their time in releasing their self-titled sophomore outing, which followed their 2010 debut, New Rituals (review here), and was recorded in 2012, but it’s easy to imagine that’s because they wanted the circumstances to be as special as the album itself, recorded with a fleeting five-piece lineup that included the one-time rhythm section of Radio Moscow who wound up leaving to further their then-nascent project, Blues Pills. Even without that lineup shift as a factor, the late ’60s vibe Mondo Drag brought out across the release proved eminently listenable and has held up on repeat visits.
A gorgeous, shimmering and melodically resonant debut from the Dutch four-piece Cigale, their self-titled gracefully maintained tonal presence and warmth while also enacting a psychedelic sprawl and grooving serenity that acted like the landscape in which the songs took place. It was a rich, bright vibe, and an utter joy to behold, tracks like “Harvest Begun,” “Feel the Heat” and “Eyes Wide Shut” proving as memorable as they were inviting. Having two former members of the much-missed fuzz rock outfit Sungrazer may have initially turned some heads in their direction, but Cigale‘s first album proved they’re an outfit with their own personality, their own development to undertake, and already much to offer.
The awaited return of The Machine brought the band’s fifth album and a further-refined sense of maturity in their processes, as well as intrigue as to where they might be headed, two dual modes of open-ended jamming and more structured songwriting playing off each other in the extended “Chrysalis (J.A.M.)” and “Come to Light” and the more verse/chorus stylizations of “Dry End” and “Off Course.” To be perfectly honest, I doubt The Machine will ultimately pick one side over another, since if Offblast! proved anything it’s that they can easily handle either or both, but as they continue to grow, it’s encouraging to have their style establish itself as so multi-faceted.
First time I pressed play on Gravitron was a real “oh shit!” moment. The last release from NJ stalwarts The Atomic Bitchwax was 2011’s The Local Fuzz (review here), a single-song full-length instrumental riff onslaught that had its charm but was inherently divorced from the appeal of the band’s songwriting. Not only does Gravitron re-factor that in with songs like “Roseland,” “It’s Alright,” “Coming in Hot” and “Ice Age Hey Baby,” among others, but it hits with kick-in-the-ass production force and an all-out heaviness that 2008’s TAB4 showed the three-piece steering directly away from. Just a killer record. Utterly void of pretense. No bullshit. No need to rely on anything more than chemistry, and with the Bitchwax, that’s plenty.
7. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth
Right now, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth are my band to beat for Debut of the Year, and I’m quite frankly not sure how anyone is going to be able to do it, so if list time comes in Dec. and you see Tad Doyle‘s trio marked out as such, know that it’s been that way in my head for some time. The three-piece of Doyle, bassist Peggy “Pegadeth” Tully and drummer Dave French arrived with a roar, and even when their self-titled let up sonically, the atmosphere remained viscerally heavy. Six years having passed since the release of their first demo (review here), I wasn’t sure there was ever going to be an album, but then to have Brothers of the Sonic Cloth show up and enact such thorough demolition only made it more impressive.
It can’t possibly be a surprise to have Luminiferous show up somewhere on this list. The seventh long-player by High on Fire had all the rage and bombast in “Slave the Hive” and “The Black Plot” that have become the band’s hallmarks over their 17 years together, but branched out progressively as well in songs like “The Cave” and “The Falconist,” the latter of which was brazenly catchy and about as emotionally direct as the band has ever gotten, their general modus being — and in that song too, just to a lesser extent — a metaphor-laced lyrical approach. That song was a triumph and so was the album as a whole; the second collaboration with producer Kurt Ballou building on the rampaging victories of 2012’s De Vermis Mysteriis (review here) while also showing growth on the part of one of modern metal’s most pivotal bands.
Hitting more or less concurrent with a vinyl release of their prior album, 2013’s A Time of Hunting (review here), Kings Destroy‘s Kings Destroy is not at all coincidentally titled. Over the course of now three full-lengths, the New York five-piece — about whom I feign no impartiality, let it be noted — have distinguished themselves with a sound neither noise, nor doom, nor heavy rock, but drawing on elements of all three when it suits their purposes with chemistry built from years of being in bands together of various stripes and in various genres. What stands the self-titled out from their past work, in part, is that it is the closest they’ve yet come to capturing their live sound in the studio, and accordingly, it’s a volatile kind of heavy that bends aesthetic to its will rather than capitulating to expectations of any sort. I don’t think they’re done growing by any stretch, but Kings Destroy feels like an arrival front-to-back.
This one was almost a sneak-attack. German heavy psych forerunners Colour Haze released To the Highest Gods We Know, their 11th full-length, in Dec. 2014 on CD (the vinyl was in 2015, which is what we’re counting in this instance), with very, very little fanfare of any sort. There was a track premiere here that came shortly after the album was announced, but I think it was officially out less than a month after its existence was made public, which for a band of Colour Haze‘s stature and influence was surprising. Less devoted to grandeur than 2012’s 2CD She Said (review here), it nonetheless pushed the band’s sound forward and found them experimenting in their studio, particularly on the string-quartet-inclusive finale title-track, which offset jams like “Überall” and the laid back highlight “Call” with a rhythmic oddness that was somehow still Colour Haze‘s own. I couldn’t help but wonder where it was leading, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t masterful in its own right.
Goatsnake didn’t have it easy going into their third album. It had been 15 years since their sophomore outing, Flower of Disease, 11 since their last EP, and five since they first started playing shows again. Expectations? Through the roof. Among heavy rock heads, a new Goatsnake was like seeing the mountaintop. I mean, a big fucking deal and then some. Then the record hits, and there’s just about no way it can live up to the anticipation, but god damn if Goatsnake not only finally put out a third album, but one that was better than I think anyone could’ve hoped for. Hearing Pete Stahl with however many backup singers he had on “Another River to Cross” et. al. was like finding an animal in its native habitat, and between his soul, Greg Anderson‘s riffs, bassist Scott Renner‘s low end rumble and drummer Greg Rogers‘ roll, Black Age Blues won almost immediately and then spent the rest of its 47 minutes throwing itself a victory party. “Elevated Man,” “House of the Moon,” “Jimi’s Gone,” “Grandpa Jones,” almost on a per-track basis, Goatsnake added to the reasons they’ve been so heralded despite a decade-plus’ absence from the studio.
On the level of achievement alone, Elder‘s Lore will be the album of the year for many, and there are times (such as right now) when I listen to it and question whether or not it isn’t also my pick for that honor, but wherever it falls on whatever list, far more important is what the Massachusetts/Rhode Island/New York trio manage to accomplish across their third LP’s formidable five-track/59-minute span, songs like “Compendium” and “Deadweight” bridging a rarely approached gap between heavy and progressive rocks while maintaining a flow consistent with the psychedelic vibing of 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here) but grown outward in another aesthetic direction and no sooner setting foot on the ground than seeming to master it in a flurry of blinding turns, sprawling soundscapes and clarity of mind that found perhaps its greatest expression in the centerpiece title-track, the 15-minute “Lore” itself, which I’ve no doubt will stand among if not atop the best songs of 2015 when the year is over and encapsulates the ambition and the corresponding breadth of Elder‘s songwriting, the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan, and drummer Matt Couto rising as one of the East Coast’s most pivotal acts, with a sound completely their own.
1. Acid King, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere
I use the word “molten” pretty regularly to describe an album or song that seems to just ooze its way out of the speakers or shift seamlessly between its songs, but Acid King set an entirely new standard for the term with Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere. Their first outing for Svart and their first release in a decade, its 55 minutes were a riff-rolling nirvana of lurching fuzz and tonal excellence, the guitar of Lori S. at the fore accompanied by Mark Lamb‘s bass and Joey Osbourne‘s drums, the swing of which propelled a highlight track like “Coming down from Outer Space” right back into it, while elsewhere on the record, “Silent Pictures,” “Red River” and “Infinite Skies” torched stoner conventions into a new space-biker rock, culminating in the heavy psych of “Center of Everywhere,” which seemed to emanate from the place it was describing, at once empty and full. More than just a welcome return after a long dearth of releases, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere found Acid King progressed even beyond where they were with 2005’s III, though more than anything else, what makes it my top pick for the year so far is the fact that I can’t seem to walk away from it for too long before going back, and ultimately, that’s what it all comes down to with his kind of thing. I’ve yet to find a standard to which these songs don’t live up.
A few others worth noting. The Sun Blood Stories album (streamed here) continues to resonate. Also Monolord, Valkyrie, Lamp of the Universe, Garden of Worm, Wo Fat‘s live record, The Midnight Ghost Train‘s Cold was the Ground and Ufomammut‘s Ecate. The Black Rainbows was a joy, as was Spidergawd‘s second LP, and while I still feel like I haven’t given it its due, the Sumac won many over and should get a mention. Steve Von Till‘s solo outing and the latest from Enslaved are worth seeking out as well for anyone who hasn’t heard them yet.
More to Come:
The year’s only half over, which is kind of a scary thought but true nonetheless. Watch out in the coming months for new stuff from Bloodcow, All Them Witches, Clutch, Graveyard, Zun, Sacri Monti (if that one’s not already out), Snail, Uncle Acid, and Kind. The new Kadavar is a sure-fire top tenner, and between that, the potential for a new Neurosis album and stuff like Magnetic Eye Records‘ Electric Ladyland [Redux], there’s no way the book is written on the best of 2015.
So stay tuned.
And if I’ve still got your attention, thanks for reading.
Posted in Whathaveyou on June 30th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Brooklyn doomers Clouds Taste Satanic will release their second album, Your Doom Has Come, on Sept. 1. The record follows the band’s 2014 debut, To Sleep Beyond the Earth, which was formatted as a single piece, and is broken down into separate tracks, though the first three of them — as you can see in the tracklisting — are also meant to be taken as a whole.
The instrumental double-guitar four-piece has made the last installment of that three-parter, “Beast from the Sea” available to check out in a new video, and you can find that under the album announcement below, snagged off the PR wire:
Brooklyn-based instrumental doom quartet CLOUDS TASTE SATANIC will release their highly anticipated sophomore full-length on September 1st. Titled Your Doom Has Come, the six-track follow-up to 2014’s critically-heralded To Sleep Beyond The Earth full-length was engineered and mixed by Nadim Issa at Let Em’ In Studios in Brooklyn and mastered by Alan Douches (High On Fire, Mastodon) at West West Side Music.
Thematically, Your Doom Has Come traces its inspiration to the darkest corners of the Book of Revelation. Sonically, Your Doom Has Come finds the band at their fastest and most aggressive. While To Sleep Beyond The Earth took a more Dopesmoker approach (with one forty minute plus song spread over 2 sides of vinyl), Your Doom Has Come takes a more De Vermis Mysteriis approach, compressing its conceptual storytelling into six minute plus songs of riff-filled Armageddon. While all of Side A is joined together thematically to form the title song, the individual pieces work just as well on their own.
CLOUDS TASTE SATANIC formed in Brooklyn, New York in 2013 and have spent the past two years building a reputation as one of the finest underground doom bands playing today. They’ve patiently and deliberately developed a unique sound that melds riff dominated stoner rock with heavy doom. With their live show, they work to create a multi-media mood that offers a true experience and companion piece to their albums. CLOUDS TASTE SATANIC’s debut album, To Sleep Beyond The Earth was released in 2014.
Your Doom Has Come Track Listing: Your Doom Has Come I. Ten Kings II. One Third of The Sun III. Beast From The Sea Out of The Abyss Dark Army Sudden…Fallen
CLOUDS TASTE SATANIC: Steven Scavuzzo – Guitar David Weintraub – Guitar Sean Bay – Bass Christy Davis – Drums
Posted in Reviews on June 30th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Monteleone – Carter 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Posted in Whathaveyou on June 23rd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
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 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
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 Recordings, Kings 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 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
Posted in On Wax on June 11th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
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.
The 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 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 sense. 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 shift in its storytelling and a guitar figure to match, “Turul” flips 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 past 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 I’m supposed to. It’s supposed to be as far out as they go, and it winds up 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 change 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 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, 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.