Posted in Reviews on December 8th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
If you turn the volume way up at the end of “Seven Veils,” after Uzala guitarist Chad Remains announces they’re going to play a new song, you can hear some dork in the crowd ask, “What’s it called?” I’m that dork, and in the interest of full disclosure (and a bit of bragging), I also took the photos that appear on the cover of the Boise, Idaho, trio’s Live at Roadburn MMXV document of that set at the 013 venue, the first night of this year’s Roadburn fest in Tilburg, the Netherlands (review here). I said at the time and have noted since that the performance by Uzala — Remains, bassist/vocalist Darcy Nutt and drummer Chuck Watkins — was something special, and while I’d hardly consider myself impartial in doing so, I’ll say the same for the six-track/50-minute live album (digital out now, vinyl early 2016, both through Burning World Records) that captures its feedback-drenched ethereal plod, as gorgeous as it is grueling and most effective when it’s both at once.
Across the span, Uzala dole out churning riffs and slow-crawling malevolence, as Nutt recounts various medieval terrors, her voice cutting through the tonal morass of her bass and Remains‘ guitar, all poise and zero posturing, the overarching lurch of “Countess” from 2013’s Tales of Blood and Fire setting the bar high as the set-opener for what’s to follow. In their momentum, in their engagement with the crowd and in the dark red sense of psychedelia they brought to their material even on the stage, how raw it both was and wasn’t, Uzala delivered one of that weekend’s most memorable sets. Not everyone who listens to Live at Roadburn MMXV will have that associative framework — i.e. they won’t all have been there — but I think the set stands up even if you didn’t happen to be in front of the Green Room stage letting it punch you in the face.
Tales of Blood and Fire is, reasonably, the focal point of the set. Uzala‘s second LP behind 2012’s self-titled (track premiere here), a 12″ single and a 2012 split with Mala Suerte (streamed here), it was a noteworthy step forward from the first album for the atmosphere it was able to cast — ritualized without a dogmatic adherence to genre. In addition to “Countess,” they include “Seven Veils” and “Dark Days” from the record. Those two appear in succession as the opener and second cut on Tales, but are spread out on Live at Roadburn MMXV, and the longer “Countess” makes a nodding launch to the set to lead into the commanding lumber of “Seven Veils,” Remains setting up the song’s chorus beforehand by responding to an “I love your wife!” shout from the crowd (not me) with, “I love your wife. And your girlfriend,” before calling for the head of John the Baptist and clicking into the feedback from whence the song starts.
Ultimately one of two new songs included, “The Gallows” rounds out side A of the live vinyl with a more uptempo, swinging take. It’s the shortest piece on Live at Roadburn MMXV — the track runs 5:30, and the song itself is shorter — but lacks nothing for expansiveness, Nutt echoing out a chorus of “ohhs” before a noisy guitar solo kept in fluid motion by Watkins‘ drumming. Just before the halfway point, “The Gallows” transitions into a particularly doomed march, returning to the verse progression before finishing in a swell of amp noise. The room responds vehemently, and reasonably so. “This is a song about being burned at the fucking stake,” Remains says just before they hit into “Dark Days,” adding, “Don’t burn your steak.”
Though somewhat shorter than it is in its album incarnation, the Vitus-esque “Dark Days” is a compelling argument for Tales of Blood and Fire in itself and Uzala‘s approach overall, an opportunity for vocal showcasing that Nutt absolutely nails on Live at Roadburn MMXV and an ambient take on doom that’s hypnotic without being redundant, which is a finer line to walk than the stomp in the song itself might lead the listener to believe. The second new song, “Shores,” takes hold directly from “Dark Days” and opens with a sparse and murky guitar line gradually built up over the first three minutes or so until it seems like Watkins can’t take it anymore and loses it on his toms, propelling the energy of the track forward.
Obviously that’s scripted into the song — I don’t actually think the drummer lost his patience — but it’s an effective turn and all the more because the transition back to the initial, slower pace is pulled off without a hitch. “Shores” builds again its second half toward a climactic finish that in many other contexts would be straight-up psychedelic rock, but here never seems to lose its bleak intent. More feedback shifts into “Death Masque,” from the self-titled, which provides an especially chaotic closeout to the set, mounting an initial tension in the drums before the first verse and never quite letting that slip as it makes its way, noisily, but melodically, through an oppressive landscape of nodding doom. Right around the eight-minute mark, they crash out a couple times and commence quickly tearing the song apart with feedback, noise and drum fills, and that’s how Live at Roadburn MMXV caps, some final words from Remains and calls for more manipulated to give a sense of the room being transformed by what it just witnessed.
Again, I’ll make no claim toward objectivity when it comes to listening to Live at Roadburn MMXV, but whether it’s as a complement to Tales of Blood and Fire or a precursor to their yet-unannounced next release with the new songs, their Roadburn set is a beast to behold, and if having been there affords me any authority at all on the subject, let it be to say that the live album accurately reflects how it went down on stage. They actually were this crisp and this on-point throughout their time in the Green Room, and at a fest where the impulse to be pulled in (at least) five directions at once, it was the kind of thing you couldn’t help but stand and watch front to back. I’m glad I did, and I’m glad I have Uzala‘s Live at Roadburn MMXV to remember it by.
Posted in Reviews on October 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
One thing I’ve noticed over the now-several times I’ve done this is that people have a tendency to apply some value to the ordering. It’s true that I try to lead off with a bigger release sometimes (as with today), but beyond that, there’s really no statement being made in how the albums appear. It usually has way more to do with time, when something came in and when it was added to the list, than with the quality or profile of a given outing. Just that final note that probably should’ve been said on Monday. Whoops.
Before we wrap up, I just wanted to say thank you again for checking any of it out if you did this week. It’s not a minor undertaking to do these, but it’s been completely worth it and I very much appreciate your being a part of it. Thank you. As always.
Fall 2015 Quarterly Review #41-50:
My Dying Bride, Feel the Misery
Led by founding guitarist Andrew Craighan and vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe, UK doom magnates My Dying Bride mark their 25th year with Feel the Misery, their 13th full-length and one that finds them right in their element practicing the melancholic death-doom style they helped forge on pivotal early works like As the Flower Withers (1992) and Turn Loose the Swans (1993). “And My Father Left Forever” starts Feel the Misery on a particularly deathly note, but it’s not too long before the 10-minute “To Shiver in Empty Halls” and the subsequent “A Cold New Curse” are mired in the grueling, poetic, beauty-in-darkness emotionality that is My Dying Bride’s hallmark. The album’s title-track is a chugging bit of extremity, but the record’s strongest impact winds up being made by the penultimate “I Almost Loved You,” a piano, string and e-bow (sounding) ballad that pushes further than “A Thorn of Wisdom” by daring not to get heavy and rests well between the lumbering “I Celebrate Your Skin” and the 11-minute closer, “Within a Sleeping Forest,” which fits well, but more reinforces the point than offers something new on its own. A quarter-century later, they remain an institution. One wonders how they’ve managed to stay so depressed for so long.
If French mostly-instrumentalists Glowsun are feeling pressed for time these days – and with the theme of Beyond the Wall of Time (out via Napalm Records) that shows itself in the ticking clocks that launch opener “Arrow of Time” and the like-minded titles “Last Watchmaker’s Grave,” “Against the Clock” and “Endless Caravan” – the material itself doesn’t show it. Opening with two nine-minute cuts, Glowsun’s third outing and the follow-up to 2012’s Eternal Season (discussed here) unrolls itself patiently across its seven-track span, leading one to wonder if maybe Beyond the Wall of Time isn’t intended as another means of expressing something outside of it, the expanse of tones and grooves created by guitarist/vocalist Johan Jaccob (also graphic art), bassist Ronan Chiron and drummer Fabrice Cornille on “Shadow of Dreams” and the centerpiece “Flower of Mist” intended to last after some eternal now has passed. I wouldn’t want to guess, but it’s noteworthy that the trio’s output is evocative enough to lead toward such speculations.
As with their 2012 debut, Someday You Will be Proven Correct, Washington D.C.-based trio Caustic Casanova recorded their sophomore long-player, Breaks, with J. Robbins at The Magpie Cage in Baltimore. They’re also releasing the album through Kylesa’s Retro Futurist Records imprint, so they come nothing if not well-endorsed. With bassist Francis Beringer and drummer Stefanie Zaenker sharing vocal duties throughout – the trio is completed by Andrew Yonki on guitar – they run and bounce through a gamut of upbeat post-hardcore noise rock, thick in tone but not so much as to get up and move around, tempo-wise. Yonki brings some post-rock airiness to the early going of the nine-minute “Elect My Best Friend for a Better World,” but the album on the whole feels more about impact than atmosphere, and Caustic Casanova work up considerable momentum by the time they get around to paying off the 12-minute finale, “The Painted Desert.” Its melodies open up more on repeat listens, but not at the expense of the push so well enacted throughout.
An outwardly familiar conceptual framework – instrumental space/psychedelic rock – does little to convey how much of themselves Manchester, UK, trio Dead Sea Apes put into their new full-length, Spectral Domain. Released by Cardinal Fuzz in conjunction with Sunrise Ocean Bender, it’s the band’s sixth or seventh LP, depending on what counts as such, and bookends two north-of-10-minute explorations around three shorter pieces (though not much shorter in the case of the 9:50 “True Believers”) varied in color but uniformly galaxial in intent. “Brought to Light” rings out with a wash of drumless echo and swirl, seemingly in response to the tension of centerpiece “The Unclosing Eye,” and the whole album seems to take a theme from things seen and unseen, between “Universal Interrogator” and closer “Sixth Side of the Pentagon,” a vibe persisting in some conspiracy theory exposed as blissful and immersive truth with something darker lurking just underneath. Thick but not pretentious, Spectral Domain seems to run as deep as the listener wants to go.
A ritualistic spirit arrives early on Italian heavy psych rockers Bantoriak’s debut LP, Weedooism, and does not depart for the duration of the Argonauta Records release’s six tracks, which prove spacious, psychedelic and heavy in kind, playing out with alternating flourishes of melody and noise. “Try to Sleep” seems to be talking more about the band than the act, but from “Entering the Temple” through the rumbling closer “Chant of the Stone,” Bantoriak leave an individualized stamp on their heavy vibes, and that song is no exception. If Weedooism is the dogma they’re championing on the smooth-rolling “Smoke the Magma,” they’re doing so convincingly and immersively, and while they seem to have undergone a lineup shift (?) at some point since the record was done, hopefully that means Weedooism will have a follow-up to its liquefied grooves and weedian heft before too long. In an increasingly crowded Italian heavy psych/stoner scene, Bantoriak stand out already with their first album.
Though somewhat counterintuitive for a band playing their style of doom to start with, Ahab have only been met with a rising profile over their decade-plus together, and their fourth album for Napalm Records, The Boats of the Glen Carrig, answers three years of anticipation with an expanded sonic palette over its five tracks that is afraid neither of melodic sweetness nor the seafaring tonal heft and creature-from-the-deep growling that has become their hallmark. Their extremity is intact, in other words, but they’re also clearly growing as a band. I don’t know if The Boats of the Glen Carrig is quite as colorful musically as its Sebastian Jerke cover art – inevitably one of the best covers I’ve seen this year – but whether it’s the 15-minute sprawl of “The Weedmen,” which at its crescendo sounds like peak-era Mastodon at quarter-speed or the (relatively) speedy centerpiece “Red Foam (The Great Storm),” Ahab are as expansive in atmosphere as they are relentlessly heavy, and they’re certainly plenty of that.
One would hardly know it from the discouraging title, but all-caps UK progressive metallers ZARK do manage to catch one off-guard on their debut full-length, Tales of the Expected. Duly melodic and duly complex, the eight tracks rely on straightforward components to set deceptively lush vibes, the guitar work of Sean “Bindy” Phillips and Josh Tedd leading the way through tight rhythmic turns alongside bassist Andy “Bready” Kelley and drummer Simon Spiers’ crisp grooves. Vocalist Stuart Lister carries across the aggression of “LV-426” and hopefulness of “The Robber” with equal class, and while ZARK’s first outing carries a pretty ambitious spirit, the Evesham five-piece reach the high marks they set for themselves, and in so doing set new goals for their next outing, reportedly already in progress. A strong debut from a band who sound like they’re only going to get more assured as they move forward. More “pleasant surprise” than “expected.”
Paired up by style almost as much as by geography, Alicante, Spain, acts Pyramidal and Domo picked the right title for their Jams from the Sun split – a bright, go-ahead-and-get-hypnotized psychedelic space vibe taking hold early on the Lay Bare Recordings release and not letting go as one side gives way to the other or as the noisy post-Hawkwindery of “Uróboros” closes out. Pyramidal, who made their debut in 2012 (review here), offer “Motormind” and “Hypnotic Psychotic,” two 10-minute mostly-instrumental jams that progress with liquid flow toward and through apexes in constant search for the farther-out that presumably they find at the end and that’s why they bother stopping at all, and Domo, who made their debut in 2011 (review here), counter with three cuts of their own, “Viajero del Cosmos,” “Mantra Astral” and the aforementioned “Uróboros,” switching up the mood a little between them but not so much as to interrupt the trance overarching the release as whole. I remain a sucker for a quality space jam, and Jams from the Sun has 45 minutes’ worth.
After releasing a couple internet EPs (review here) and 2013’s Call of the Mammoth EP as the duo of guitarist/vocalist/bassist Paul Dudziak and drummer Mitch Meidinger, Portland, Oregon’s Mammoth Salmon enlist bassist Alex Bateman and drummer Steve Lyons for their first full-length, the Adam Pike-produced Last Vestige of Humanity, which rolls out plus-sized Melvinsery across six amp-blowing tracks of sludgy riffing and nodding, lumbering weight. The title-track, which ends what would and probably will at some point be side A of the vinyl version, picks up the tempo in its second half, and “Memoriam” teases the same in Lyons’ drums at the start, but of course goes on to unfold the slowest progression here ahead of “Shattered Existence”’s toying with playing barely-there minimalism off full-on crush and the 10-minute “Believe Nothing” rounding out with appropriately elephantine march. Sustainable in their approach and viciously heavy, Mammoth Salmon seem to have hit reset and given themselves a new start with this lineup, and it works to their advantage on this promising debut.
“Karma is a bitch that will definitely hunt you down for what you have done,” would seem to be the standout message of “The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife,” the third and longest (at 6:34) of the four inclusions on Molior Superum’s new EP, Electric Escapism. The non-retro Swedish heavy rockers fire up righteous heft to put them in league with countrymen Skånska Mord, but ultimately have more in common with Stubb out of the UK in the loose-sounding swing of “Försummad,” despite the different language. I had the same opinion about their full-length debut, Into the Sun (review here), and last year’s The Inconclusive Portrait 7” (review here) as well. Can’t seem to shake it, but Molior Superum’s ability to switch it up linguistics – they open and close in Swedish, with the two middle cuts in English – is an immediately distinguishing factor, and whichever they choose for a given song, they kill it here.
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 11th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
It was a spacey happening, rest assured, when Carlton Melton, stepping out from their San Francisco home, hit Roadburn 2014 and paired up with none other than Øresund Space Collective figurehead and roving jammer Scott “Dr. Space” Heller. Each of the two parties is plenty freaked out on its own, but the combination worked to push even deeper into the cosmos, their mission of exploration made bolder by the alliance between them.
Like just about everything that happens within the bounds of Roadburn, Carlton Melton Meets Dr. Space — the best ’50s sci-fi flick that never got made — was captured in its 90-minute entirety, and will be out through Lay Bare Recordings and Burning World soon. Not sure on the exact release date, but how do you pinpoint the birth of a galaxy anyway? It’ll be along sooner or later, and it’s available to preorder now. Set it and forget it.
To my knowledge, this was the only time these two have collaborated and I haven’t heard about any further action to come, so it’s kind of a special one-time deal that, as someone who stood in the back of the Cul de Sac and felt the wash surround me from all sides, is worth digging into. The preorder announcement follows:
Hear! hear! Lay Bare Recordings proclaims:
Pre-order: Carlton Melton meets Dr. Space, live from Roadburn 2014.
Carlton Melton is a psychedelic rock band from San Francisco who have been blazing their own trail of psychedelic rock and far out drone sounds for the past many years. This was the bands 2nd appearance at Roadburn and a special meeting with Dr. Space from the Øresund Space Collective was arranged at the Cul De Sac in Tilburg on Sunday April 13th. The band debuted 4 new songs never performed live before with or without Dr. Space (tracks 2-5). The full 90min spaced out set was mixed by Dr Space with assistance from Johan Dahlström. Enjoy the trip..
Posted in Whathaveyou on April 22nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
One of the things that made Wolf Blood‘s 2014 self-titled debut (discussed here) so engaging was its complete unwillingness to settle on a genre or a unipolar sound. I can’t help but wonder if the Duluth, Minnesota, outfit will bring a similar restlessness to their onstage presentation when they head off on an East Coast tour next month. It’s a good round of dates, with a few still to be filled in — I’d say hit up The Depot in York, PA, but they’ve already got two dates in Pennsylvania, one in Philly, one in Pittsburgh — but wherever they wind up for those TBAs, they’ve got a few killer gigs spread throughout, some house shows and a stop in Brooklyn with Geezer, The Golden Grass and Bison Machine, so it should prove worth the road time.
To hear them tell it, they’ve got 30 copies of the debut left and they’ll have them on hand for the tour. Confirmation from the PR wire:
WOLF BLOOD East Coast Tour May 21-June 6th 2015
Duluth’s WOLF BLOOD (soon to be Minneapolis based) are hitting the road next month for 2 1/2 week tour to the East Coast. Starting in Duluth on a train(!) for “Blood on the Tracks” with The Black Eyed Snakes and culminating with a stacked show at Brooklyn’s Lucky 13 with Geezer, The Golden Grass and Bison Machine.
Also with less than 30 copies left this will be the last chance to grab a copy of their S/T debut on Burning World Records before it’s gone.
East Coast Tour Dates May 21 Duluth, MN @ Blood on the Tracks w/ The Black Eyed Snakes & more May 22 Des Moines, IA @ The Fremont w/ Druids & Glass Ox May 23 Kansas City, MO TBA May 24 Cincinnati, OH @ Tacocracy w/ Temple & tba May 25 Chattanooga, TN @ Sluggo’s May 26 Harrisonburg, VA @ House show May 27 TBA May 28 Baltimore, MD @ Side Bar May 29 D.C. @ The Pinch May 30 Brooklyn, NY @ Lucky 13 w/ Geezer, Bison Machine & The Golden Grass May 31 Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie w/ Hellrad, Heavy Temple & Toke June 1 TBA June 2 Pittsburgh, PA @ House show June 3 Dekalb, IL @ house show June 4 Milwaukee, WI TBA June 5 Appleton, WI @ Xtra920 w/ Relentless, Attalla… June 6 Duluth, MN @ Luce w/ Gay Witch Abortion & Strange
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
I was coming down to the end of this one and decided that I couldn’t let it go without including one more track to push it toward the two-hour mark, and the weirdness of Skunk Hawk’s “Lovers of Pompeii” won out. All bets were off after JPT Scare Band anyway. Nothing to lose between that and Jonas Munk and Headless Kross. Kind of all over the place stylstically there, but each song is so immersive on its own that I figured it would work one way or another. Heaven forbid you change it up once or twice in 60 minutes. Ha.
The first hour gets pretty heavy as well — I suppose it starts that way, with Ufomammut leading off, but look out. Once Wren kicks in from the Jarboe & Helen Money track, that, Gale and Watchtower get into some serious heft. Not that the others don’t, but you know what I mean. Blah blah blah riffs. Oh yeah, and I totally snuck in some new Acid King there, because that record is killer. So dig on that for sure if you haven’t yet. As always, hope you enjoy:
Ufomammut, “Plouton” from Ecate
Royal Thunder, “Time Machine” from Crooked Doors
Boarchucker, “Red Rain” from Swine Throne
Suzukiton, “Snakehead” from Suzukiton II
Jarboe & Helen Money, “Hello Mr. Blue” from Jarboe & Helen Money
Wren, “Before the Great Silence” from split with Irk
Gale, “Burn Your Person” from Vol. 1
Watchtower, “Living Heads” from Radiant Moon
Leather Nun America, “Bourgeois Pig” from Buddha Knievel
Worshipper, “High above the Clouds” from Black Corridor/High above the Clouds
Acid King, “Red River” from Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere
Headless Kross, “Rural Juror” from Volumes
Jonas Munk, “Absorb” from Absorb Fabric Cascade
JPT Scare Band, “Sleeping Sickness” from Acid Acetate Excursion & Rape of the Titan’s Sirens
Skunk Hawk, “Lovers of Pompeii” from Skunk Hawk
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 5th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
The below image isn’t the W. Ralph Walters cover art for Headless Kross‘ upcoming sophomore full-length, Volumes, but it’s working on a similar theme, so I figured close enough. The three-track LP will be issued April 1 by Black Bow Records on vinyl and tape and Burning World Records on CD, and I don’t know how but the words “Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studio” seem to have become interchangeable with the phrase “very, very heavy.” Funny how that works.
If you’ve never checked out Headless Kross before, you might want to head over to their Bandcamp, where their 2011 Bear debut LP, as well as their 2012 Demises EP and splits with War Iron and Lazarus Blackstar are all available for free download. That seems to be everything up to the new album, which, you know, isn’t out yet.
Aside from giving their music away for free, they also get points for the 30 Rock reference. See if you can spot it.
Burning World had this update:
Burning World Records to release HEADLESS KROSS – Volumes
Formed in 2011, Glasgow’s Headless Kross combine monolithic riffs, mind bending psychedelia and crust tinged freak-outs to give them their unique sound.
Frequently described as ‘psychedelic doom’, swirling phasers and repetitive pounding rhythms give way to downtuned heaviness in a way that is somehow both tight and loose at the same time.
Headless Kross recorded their latest album ‘Volumes’ in July 2014 with Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studio. This is due for release in early 2015 on Black Bow (vinyl and cassette) and Burning World (CD and download), with an amazing painted cover by US artist W. Ralph Walters. The album contains 3 gargantuan songs exploring the well-worn theme of nature reasserting herself in an incredibly violent way.
‘Volumes’ is released on vinyl via Black Bow Records on April 1st 2015, while the compact disc pressing will be handled by Burning World Records.
Tracklisting: 1. The Rural Juror 2. Who is This Who is Coming 3. Even the Destroyed Things Have Been Destroyed
Posted in Reviews on January 23rd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Dual-guitar riff excavators Slomatics released their fourth full-length, Estron, last year on Burning World Records, and for those who’d worship at an altar of tone, it makes a suitable icon. The Belfast, Northern Ireland, trio roll out sans bass but want nothing for low end, Chris Couzens and David Majury contributing tectonic force on songs like “Tunnel Dragger” and “Lost Punisher” while drummer/vocalist Marty Harvey (also of War Iron) sets the lurch in motion, his voice echoing deep from within the band’s well-honed morass. Songs are spacious but consuming and full, and on the 38-minute offering there’s really only one moment of letup: the two-minute ambient interlude “Red Dawn” that precedes closer “The Carpenter” (also the longest track at 10:26). Beyond that, Slomatics offer few opportunities (some, but few) to let the air back into their listeners’ lungs, and that’s clearly the idea. Estron marked not only their fourth long-player, but also their first decade in the band, Couzens and Majury having started Slomatics in 2004 and Harvey joining in 2011 between their breakout split with Conan (review here) and 2012’s A Hocht full-length, released on Head of Crom. In that decade, and in any case well before they got around to Estron, Couzens and Majury figured out what they wanted from their assault, and Estron bears the fruit of their hammering-out. Though slow-moving, the album is fluid front to back, and it thanks in no small part to Harvey‘s vocals, it has a sense of melody to complement its crushing, nigh-on-claustrophobic tonality.
The nod is persistent, and even on the airier “And Yet it Moves” — something you might say about the band’s sound itself — you wouldn’t be wrong to call it brutal, but there’s a human presence in the material as well, and I have a hard time thinking that as Slomatics wreak all this aural havoc they’re not also having a really good time doing it. That’s not to say there’s some element of irony here, just that Majury, Couzens and Harvey seem to revel in the harsh riffscape they create. And why not? “And Yet it Moves” is a highlight for the interplay of lead and rhythm lines, but even when Couzens and Majury are locked into simultaneous plod-riffing à la “Futurian” or the opening “Troglorite,” the output is righteous in its heaviness — the opener particularly indebted to Floor but darker in atmosphere — and exciting in its delivery. Estron works cleanly in two sides, four tracks on side A, three on side B, and the transitions between songs are direct bleeds, usually via feedback, but the resultant over-arching flow isn’t to be understated, and on the CD version, even “Lost Punisher,” which would close out side A of the vinyl, moves right into “And Yet it Moves,” which would otherwise come after the flip to side B. It’s emblematic of Estron being a well-thought-out release, rather than a happenstance collection of badass riffs, and it serves to inform about Slomatics approach as a whole. Their songwriting is likewise purposeful, whether it’s the hook of “Troglorite” or the sparse, minimal opening of “The Carpenter” that emerges from “Red Dawn” and builds to a gradual head over the track’s first four minutes. In between, Slomatics offer variety of pace, shift between levels of aggression, and keep a strong sense of atmosphere in moments like the midsection break of “Tunnel Dragger,” which drones out a hypnotic ambience before moving back in for the next round of pummeling.
And make no mistake, many of Estron‘s finest stretches arise from those pummeling moments, be it the shorter barrage on “Futurian” and the CD-centerpiece “Lost Punisher” or the album’s immersive second half, with “And Yet it Moves,” “Red Dawn” and “The Carpenter.” Either way Slomatics go, they carefully manage a balance of heft and spaciousness throughout while sounding anything but careful. It’s a deceptive record in that one might put it on for the first time, hear Couzens and Majury‘s tones and say, “Okay, I got it,” but though the impact of the guitars is a big part of Slomatics‘ approach, it’s really just one piece of a larger, more dynamic picture, working in concert with the drums and vocals, the largesse, the periodic, well-placed breaks and so on for a complete and engrossing effect. Estron is remarkably cohesive even from a band who’ve been around for a decade, and while Slomatics have clearly established a wheelhouse for themselves in which to work, what they bring to that context is a sense of progression and a willfulness to create a whole album, not just a roundup of songs or parts. In this, they are resoundingly successful. Worth noting as well that Couzens, Majury and Harvey have already issued a follow-up to Estron in the form of a split single with Floridian tone-and-crashers Holly Hunt, who make a fitting companion. It would seem Slomatics are content to keep moving forward and pushing their sound along with them — and yet it moves… — and that is an ethic worth celebrating, because honestly, if they wanted to, they could probably just sit around, bang out cheapo riff grooves and get by just on the badassery of their tones. That they aspire to and are able to create something deeper and more resonant is ultimately what stands them out from any like-minded peers.
Posted in audiObelisk on August 27th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Among the many Main Stage acts on the Roadburn lineup this year, few bands left the kind of impression Richmond, Virginia’s Windhand seemed to leave. After their set, which was on the third day of the fest proper, Saturday, April 12, you could hear their name being talked about for the rest of the evening outside the 013 in Tilburg: “Dude, did you see Windhand?” The five-piece had obviously made an impression with their 2013 Relapse label debut, Soma(review here), and they followed that up with a blistering live set that, come the fall, will be available as an exclusive vinyl release on Burning World Records and Outer Battery Records.
The opener from that set, recorded and mixed by Marcel van de Vondervoort and mastered by James Plotkin, was “Orchard,” but that’s only if you want to be technical about it. Really, the opener for the set was about a solid minute of gut-wrenching feedback from which the initial riff eventually oozed. Soon enough, Windhand are underway with the track’s doomly lurch, but they’re barely there at all before you can hear the audience get into it on the recording. Roadburn may have been a stop for Windhand on a longer tour, one that seems nearly endless with the road-time the band puts in — they’re out again in the States next month (dates below) — but after listening to the captured results, there can be little question it was a landmark both for them and for those who got to see them play.
If you were there, Live at Roadburn 2014is a chance to relive that moment. If you weren’t there, it’s still about as quality a live recording of Windhand as you’re going to get, so I don’t really see how you could lose. The LP is available now to preorder, and you can hear “Orchard” on the player below. Please enjoy:
Windhand will release the vinyl-only Live at Roadburn 2014 late September/October on Burning World Records (EU preorder here) and Outer Battery Records (US preorder here). The pressing is limited to 400 copies in the US. Windhand also head out on tour starting Sept. 4 with All Them Witches. Dates follow:
Windhand tour with All Them Witches: 9/4 Baltimore, MD – Ottobar 9/5 Pittsburgh, PA – 31st St Pub 9/6 Akron, OH – Musica 9/7 Columbus, OH – The Basement 9/9 Iowa City, IA – Gabe’s 9/10 Chicago, IL – Cobra Lounge 9/11 Minneapolis, MN – Triple Rock 9/12 Milwaukee, WI – Metal Grill 9/13 Ferndale, MI – Loving Touch 9/14 Toronto, ON – Coda 9/16 Ottawa, ON – Cafe Dekcuf 9/17 Montreal, QC – Petit Campus 9/18 Cambridge, MA – Middle East (upstairs) 9/19 Providence, RI – AS220 9/20 Brooklyn, NY – Saint Vitus Bar