Posted in Whathaveyou on January 27th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s hard not to get all dorked out every time the prospect of new Goatsnake music is mentioned. Sometimes, I’ll admit, I don’t even try. But it’s been five years now since Goatsnake played their first reunion shows, and that’s no small amount of time for the band to put music together. When I step back from that so-easily-leapt nerd precipice, though, I have to wonder what this record is actually going to sound like. Nick Raskulinecz is a much different producer today than when he recorded Flower of Disease, and I guess my only apprehension comes from how special those two Goatsnake records are. It won’t be easy to add a third to that canon.
But I guess that might be part of why it’s taken half a decade for this record to come together. No doubt in my mind they can pull it off — if they didn’t think they could do it, I can’t imagine they’d bother trying — I’m just anxious to hear the results of this sessions and if the natural, easy-greasy vibe is still there. Fingers crossed we get some audio soon.
Until then, here’s Euro tour dates and some teaser text, fresh off the PR wire:
GOATSNAKE ANNOUNCE EUROPEAN TOUR; NEW ALBUM DETAILS SOON TO BE REVEALED
Los Angeles, California’s Goatsnake have announced further live dates in Europe, kicking off at the end of May with their set at Temples Festival, and taking the band through territories new to them. This comes in the light of the news of a brand new album from the band, which they have just completed recording, and will see release on Southern Lord this summer.
The new album will feature the familiar faces of Greg Rogers (The Obsessed, Sonic Medusa), providing drums, Greg Anderson of Sunn O))) taking care of the riffs, Pete Stahl (Scream, Wool, Earthlings?) on vocals, and new bassist new and Cape Fear North Carolina legend Scott Renner (Brickbat, Sourvein, Sonic Medusa). On production duties is Nick Raskulinecz, who, since being introduced to Dave Grohl during the recording sessions of Flower of Disease, has gone on to work with seminal artists such as Rush, Alice in Chains, Mastodon and Ghost, and has won Grammys with the Foo Fighters. United again, he and the band are sure to serve a menacing cut of the time-honoured ultra-heavy rock they are infamous for.
Further details of this are to come, meanwhile Greg Anderson did offer this insight, “We are beyond stoked about the new Snake album. We all rose to the occasion and with the help of Nick and the state of Tennessee delivered the fucking goods. More soul, more power, more balls.”
Here are the dates:
GOATSNAKE TOUR DATES: 30/05/2015 – UK, Bristol – Temples Festival 01/06/2015 – BE, Kortrijk – De Kreun 02/06/2015 – NL, Amsterdam – Melkweg 03/06/2015 – DE, Berlin – SO36 04/06/2015 – DE, Siegen – Freakvalley Festival 06/06/2015 – GR, Athens – AN Club
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 26th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Colour Haze and Radio Moscow on the bill. Given enough time, I’m quite sure I could come up 100,000 things I’d want to see less than that. Start with “anything” and work your way back from there. It might take a few minutes, but given how high that show would be in this hypothetical hierarchy of stuff-I’d-like-to-see, there’s plenty of room for monuments, mountaintops, oceans, and so on. We’d hit the 100,000 mark no problem. I’m sure of it.
The two acts will begin headlining the Up in Smoke Volume 5 tour — actually they call it a “psychedelic roadfestival,” which I like — on Feb. 27, joined for a stretch by Cherry Choke, whose new album, Raising the Waters, is due out next month on Elektrohasch, and meeting up along the way with The Sun and the Wolf, Mars Red Sky, The Midnight Ghost Train and others. Watching Colour Haze play a hometown show in Munich with Radio Moscow and Mars Red Sky? Yeah, I’d catch that if the opportunity were to present itself.
PR wire info comes courtesy of Sound of Liberation, who put the whole thing together:
COLOUR HAZE – Up In Smoke Tour (with RADIO MOSCOW and guests) kicks off in 1 month – Check Videotrailer, Dates and News
2011 seems like yesterday when we decided to pack up 3 to 4 awesome bands in a bus to tour Europe and rock your ears! 4 editions have gone by, 2 packed indoor festivals have witnessed your love for the music and the concept, so ladies and gentelmen, get ready!
In a month, we will write a new volume in the UP IN SMOKE history, and it will be a blast!! The fifth edition of your favorite roadfestival will feature 3 awesome bands for your pleasure:
Europes most well known psychedelic institution COLOUR HAZE which have their brand new album “To the Highest Gods we Know” in their suitcase!
America’s most heavy blues machine RADIO MOSCOW whose last album “Magical Dirt” (released in June 2014) sent all of us on another trip into heavy psychedelic headphone heaven.
UK’s fuzz driven psych rockers CHERRY CHOKE (from March 1st to 7th only) whose new album “Raising The Waters” will be released in the next weeks! Stay tuned for updates, you don’t wanna miss it!
On the other shows, Colour Haze and Radio Moscow will go with other outstanding special guests. Watch the amazing TRAILER made by Stonnerrock.eu, and check-out the listing below for details and tickets’ links. We invite you to join the trip! Come on and blow up your mind at the UP IN SMOKE ROADFESTIVAL!
Colour Haze & Radio Moscow
Plus Special Guests 27.02 (D) Stuttgart, Universum (w/ The Sun & The Wolf) 28.02 (D) Cologne, Live Music Hall (w/ The Sun & The Wolf) 01.03 (UK) London, The Garage (w/ Cherry Choke) 02.03 (FR) Paris, Le Divan du Monde (w/ Cherry Choke) 03.03 (BEL) Brussels, Magasin 4 (w/ Cherry Choke) 04.03 (D) Hamburg, Markthalle (w/ Cherry Choke) 05.03 (D) Berlin, SO36 (w/ Cherry Choke) 06.03 (A) Vienna, Arena (w/ Cherry Choke) 07.03 (A) Salzburg, Rockhouse (w/ Cherry Choke) 08.03 (D) Leipzig, Taubchenthal (w/ Kalamahara) 09.03 (D) Munich, Feierwerk (w/ Mars Red Sky) 10.03 (IT) Milano, Lofi (support band tba) 11.03 (D) Frankfurt, Das Bett (w/ The Midnight Ghost Train) 12.03 (NL) Tilburg, 013 (support band tba) 13.03 (D) Würzburg, Posthalle (w/ The Grounding) 14.03 (D) Hannover, Faust (support band tba)
Posted in On Wax on January 22nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Oh, I love this album. I really do. Quite frankly, I consider it a treat to even be writing about it again. From Wendy Rae Fowler singing about how she lost her heart at Wounded Knee on “Ghostship – Deadwater” to Mario Lalli stepping in for a croon on “Meadows,” the instrumental depth brought to “Tomahawk Watercress” and “Wetlands” by Yawning Man‘s Gary Arce and UK atmospheric heavy rockers Sons of Alpha Centauri, and Scott Reeder‘s layered harmonies on “Garden Sessions III” — the echoes of “waves on a distant shore” feature in my mental jukebox regularly — Yawning Sons‘ 2009 debut, Ceremony to the Sunset (review here), is among the most beautiful executions of heavy psychedelia I’ve ever heard. And the only reason I call it a “debut” instead of “only album” — they also have a split out with WaterWays, another Arce-inclusive project — is because no small part of me is still hoping for a follow-up at some point even six years later. It’s not impossible. This is an album that has kept me warm in winter, has soundtracked summer nights and has come with me on every significant bit of travel I’ve undertaken since its release. I think of it as an “airplane” album, because if I’m going to crash out of the sky and fall 35,000 feet to my demise, it’s I want to have the chance to be listening to it as I go down. No bullshit.
Alone Records has seen fit to reissue Ceremony to the Sunset, giving the album its first vinyl release after the original CD version came out via Cobraside in the US and Lexicon Devil in Australia. The pressing is 500 copies in translucent red, orange or yellow (I got yellow and it doesn’t look like it lets light through in the pics above because of the white background, but it does). It comes in a gatefold with a reworked cover no less suited to the spaciousness conjured throughout the record by Arce and Sons of Alpha Centauri – the lineup of guitarist Marlon King, bassist Nick Hannon, texturist Blake and drummer Stevie B. is the same now as it was then — and it’s even more distinguished from the original offering by the inclusion of closer “Shores of Desolation,” an instrumental added to the back of side B that was tracked during the initial sessions in the UK and never released. While Alone pretty much had me at the word “go” on a reissue for Ceremony to the Sunset, I will say that the chance to hear a piece of music yet-unissued from this collaboration added significant appeal to the thought of giving the record a revisit. And no regrets. Blake must feature heavily on a song so textured, and sweet-toned guitar feedback is used to bring out further waves of melody before a final fadeout and back in and back out ends the new version of the album on a contemplative, sans-drums note following the bounce of “Japanese Garden.” Somewhat similar to “Whales in Tar,” but with a more foreboding undertone.
Since I usually put on Ceremony to the Sunset for a front-to-back listen, the vinyl does change the dynamic with two sides, and in that, “Shores of Desolation” serves a secondary function in evening out the halves. I hadn’t thought of “Meadows” as an opener, but it works well to start off side B after the flip, regrounding the proceedings after the three instrumentals “Tomahawk Watercress,” “Wetlands” and “Whales in Tar” appear in succession following album-opener “Ghostship – Deadwater” on side A. That track and “Tomahawk Watercress” continue to provide a tonal bliss that is largely unmatched in desert rock, Arce and King weaving guitar lines around each other while Hannon‘s bass and Stevie‘s drums give them a foundation on which to play out the memorable progression, descending and wistful. “Wetlands” brings the drums more forward, as does “Japanese Garden,” Yawning Sons‘ original closer, and like “Ghostship – Deadwater” and “Meadows” mirror each other as eight-minute side-starters, so too do “Whales in Tar” and “Shores of Desolation” work in conversation to end each half. I’ll make no attempt to hide my appreciation for Reeder‘s vocals on “Garden Sessions III,” but the guitar movement he tops is accordingly lush and open-spaced, relieving the almost-tense buildup that follows Lalli‘s guest spot on “Meadows.” Even with the rush of underlying percussion, it is a song to drift away by, and Reeder‘s voice is the tidal pull that carries you off. A one-man Beach Boys. Brilliant.
Granted I’m hardly impartial, but I can’t imagine that if you haven’t heard Ceremony to the Sunset before that the vinyl edition of it won’t grab you with its atmospherics and hooks both vocal an instrumental. In the history of desert rock, it’s probably a footnote, but for me it’s a landmark and an album that I’ve spent six years with at this point and found only a richer experience as time has passed. If Alone‘s reissue gets more people to hear it, or if those who appreciated it before have another excuse to take it on again and hear it in a different way, then all the better. Maybe one of these days Arce and Sons of Alpha Centauri can get together again and make a follow-up. Here’s hoping.
There’s a fair amount of strobe in “A Killing Pace,” the new video from San Francisco metallers Castle, the song taken from their Billy Anderson-produced 2014 album, Under Siege, so if that kind of thing bothers you, be forewarned, but with some relatively simple ideas — shots of the band, visual metaphors of people as beasts of burden, etc. — the clip makes an atmospheric impression that adds to the intensity of the song itself. Consistently, there’s something brooding that underlies Castle‘s material, which has just as much thrash to it, if not more, as it does doom, and the video clearly works toward that in a minimalist-looking-but-definitely-not-minimalist-editing kind of aesthetic.
Castle – the three-piece of vocalist/bassist Liz Blackwell, guitarist Mat Davis and drummer Al McCartney — have been on the road since Jan. 16, bringing their darker themes out for a run up and down their native California for a total of 13 shows that will culminate on Jan 31 at The Garage in Ventura on a tour they’re aptly calling “California Cult.” California is probably one of two states in the Union where you could get away with such a thing — Texas is the other, and you’d be roughing it on some of those shows — but Castle seem to have picked the right spots for maximum coverage of their home state. I wouldn’t mind a two-week road trip in CA either, especially as it comes ahead of a European tour announcement.
The video for “A Killing Pace” and their remaining tour dates follow:
Castle, “A Killing Pace” official video
“A Killing Pace”, the new video from San Francisco doom-tinged heavy metal trio CASTLE, can be seen below. The clip was directed by Jaan Silmberg for Toronto-based Pistoltrixx.
“A Killing Pace” is taken from the bands third album “Under Siege” – which was produced by Billy Anderson (Cathedral, Sleep, Neurosis).
CASTLE guitarist and songwriter Mat Davis stated about the new music video, “We wanted to dial in the brooding intensity of the song with claustrophobic images and make it play visually like a haunted roller-coaster ride to the psyche”.
To coincide with the release of the video CASTLE is set to embark on the “California Cult Tour”, a two week headlining trek through California beginning January 16th in Riverside, CA. The band has also recently been confirmed to play Van Records “Acherontic Arts Fest” in Oberhausen, Germany on May 1st. A full European tour will be announced in the coming weeks.
TOUR DATES 1/21 Fresno, CA – Audies Olympic 1/22 San Francisco, CA – The Eagle 1/23 Sacramento, CA – Starlite Lounge 1/24 Redding, CA – Bombays 1/27 Santa Cruz, CA – Blue Lagoon 1/28 San Jose, CA – The Rock Shop 1/29 Oakland, CA – The Golden Bull 1/30 Los Angeles, CA – Five Star Bar 1/31 Ventura, CA – The Garage
It’s the shortest track on the album, but “Zephyr” is a pretty efficient summary of what Oakland-based Mondo Drag have going on their self-titled offering (review here), newly released as of Jan. 16 on Kozmik Artifactz. The keys-laden shuffle and resonant psychedelic boogie that fades in to start the record continues as a running theme throughout, and though it’s just a snippet of the fleshed-out and expansive whole, “Zephyr” serves well along with the trippy imagery, animated cover art and stellar photography that get interlaced along with the video itself, the whole thing feeding into a space rock thick on vibe and progressive in tone. So like I say, an efficient summary of the album.
Recorded in Iowa before the band relocated to the West Coast, Mondo Drag features the rhythm section of Zack Anderson and Cory Berry, both formerly of Radio Moscow, who would go on to found Blues Pills after recording with Mondo Drag guitarists Nolan Girard and Jake Sheley and vocalist/keyboardist John Gamino, who have continued on in Oakland, bringing in bassist Ventura Garcia and drummer Andrew O’Neil to help forge the next stage of the five-piece. When output might arrive from Mondo Drag as they are now, I don’t know, but for being the result of a brief period in the band’s history, the self-titled offers a glimpse at something special. So think of the new clip as a glimpse at the glimpse, if that makes any sense. Either way, those must have been some jams that birthed these songs.
Video for “Zephyr” below, followed by the album release announcement and live dates off the PR wire:
Mondo Drag, “Zephyr” official video
HEAVY PSYCH ROCKERS MONDO DRAG RELEASE NEW ALBUM; OFFER FIRST VIDEO SINGLE
Heavy psych / prog band MONDO DRAG has just released their Self-Titled LP and a music video for the single, ‘Zephyr’. The Oakland, CA-based outfit’s heavy-hitting Self-Titled LP has been released via Kozmik Artifactz – on CD and vinyl (180-gram, gatefold LP).
Mondo Drag “Zephyr” Album: Mondo Drag Label: Kozmik Artifactz Artwork by: Robert Beatty Video: Matt Robeson
This album features the lineup of John Gamino (vocals / keyboards), Nolan Girard (guitar), Jake Sheley (guitar), and the rhythm section of Zack Anderson (bass), and Cory Berry (drums), both formerly of Radio Moscow and founding members of Blues Pills.
UPCOMING LIVE DATES January 25 – San Francisco, CA – Brick And Mortar Music Hall February 13 – Oakland, CA – Leo’s Music Club (RECORD RELEASE SHOW) February 27 – San Francisco, CA – Brick And Mortar Music Hall (NOISE POP)
Posted in audiObelisk on January 19th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Clearly, Los Angeles three-piece Wake up Lucid are not playing it subtle on “Get Fucked.” The song is a nine-minute languid roll of a groove, somewhere between Dead Meadow-style shoegaze drawl and rawer, underfed Stooges-style snarling heavy rock, taken from their soon-to-be-released second full-length, Gone with the Night. Effects add an otherworldly choppiness to the guitars on what becomes an extended jam, the lineup of Ryan Baca, Ian Baca and Jamie Baca — all cousins — devolving what seems at first like a relatively straightforward structure into a smoldering pile of noise-wash goo topped with unhinged shouts.
And the best part of the whole thing? That’s when the bassline kicks back in and they easy-ride that groove into the fadeout ending a progression that sounds more or less like it could just keep going into perpetuity, the final lyric, “Look what I started,” vigilantly ominous over the hazy atmosphere that emerges. It’s a long way from where “Get Fucked” started, its invitation handed out liberally in between, and while I haven’t heard the rest of Gone with the Night, both the initial bounce of the track and the fluidity with which it shifts into off-kilter heavy psych weirdness — synth and swirl never quite gone, but swelling to the fore later on — speak of a vicious approach at work.
We’ll find out on March 31, when Wake up Lucid releases Gone with the Night on their own WUL Records. The album was produced by The Icarus Line‘s Joe Cardamone, and you can find out more in the PR wire info that follows the track below.
On their upcoming fourth release Gone With The Night, Los Angeles gutter rock trio Wake Up Lucid puts it simply: “Give us something real, something we can feel. Or get fucked.” This statement resounds as both rejection of fakery and pursuit of honest music, which have remained Wake Up Lucid’s only guidelines for writing and performing throughout the half decade’s worth of their existence. The new album was produced by Icarus Line’s Joe Cardamone at his studio, Valley Recording Co. in Burbank and is being released March 31 on WUL Records.
Gone With The Night is a sampling of the fruits of the group’s determined efforts to develop further as song-writers, offering songs that are much more focused and realized, and diversely dynamic — a departure from the band’s usual m.o. of grit and groove hammered-out at high volumes — while still maintaining the inimitable Wake Up Lucid vibe that has crept around L.A. for the past few years.
Their authenticity and immediacy as writers and performers is rooted in their experience of growing up together in the same extended family—a musical one to boot. After pursuing their respective musical aspirations in other outfits, they formed their own some six years ago, distilling their now matured, ripened abilities into the woozy juggernaut that is Wake Up Lucid.
Posted in audiObelisk on January 15th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Moorpark, California, four-piece Black Sheep Wall will issue their third album, I’m Going to Kill Myself, on Jan. 27 via Season of Mist (preorders available here). It is a full-length as distinguished by its brazen sonic assault as by its unfuckwithable cover art, comprised of just four tracks that total 64 minutes, more than half of which is dedicated to 34-minute closer “Metallica.” Billed as doom, Black Sheep Wall are probably even more in league with sludge, bringing a post-hardcore sensibility and irreverence to disaffected themes and massive dual-guitar chugging. Opener “The Wailing and the Gnashing and the Teeth” (the title of which I can’t help but hear in Professor Frink’s voice) begins with a single cymbal hit from drummer Jackson Thompson and proceeds to fade in guitars and bass around it, but ultimately cuts back when Brandon Gillichbauer‘s vocals enter to a steady march and ambient, subdued notes. Those vocals, by the way, are vicious. So what you have is Gillichbauer (also bass) screaming over a military snare and the sparse guitars of Scott Turner and Andrew Hulle. I’m pretty sure the line “Fuck this band” features in the first verse.
The tension is excruciating, and made more so by Trae Malone‘s guest vocals in the midsection, but they finally pay it off in the second half of the track, ending with feedback and piercing, abrasive noise that continues into the immediate start of “Tetsuo the Dead Man,” the chug of which soon takes full hold with consciousness-demolition in mind, a tonal largesse sliced through by the screams, Thompson‘s drum fills past the three-minute mark not so much trying to anchor the piece as push it off the pier. Already, I’m Going to Kill Myself has shown a tendency toward brutal weight and attack, and there’s very little letup as the album plays out. “Tetsuo the Dead Man” stomps past its midpoint with insert-your-favorite-CGI-monster-here abandon and seems to celebrate its destructive triumph with a riff change around six minutes in that will consume the next two minutes before Black Sheep Wall devolve the track into a savagery of noise and feedback, peppered by what my or may not be a wail of crowd noise. The change into “White Pig” comes from a stop, but is ultimately no less fluid than that which brought on “Tetsuo the Dead Man,” the third track’s tension coming from a series of stops and starts that would almost be breather moments if you weren’t just waiting the whole time for the next pounding to arrive.
It does, without fail. And even with a second, clean-vocal guest spot from Malone in the second half, “White Pig” retains its extremity, rounding out with more amp noise punishment that bleeds into the opening riff of “Metallica.” The song, at 34 minutes, is a beast unto itself, centered largely around one riff accompanied by vicious screams in what proves an absolutely unhinged execution. Quite simply, Black Sheep Wall lose their shit. 2012’s No Matter Where it Ends and their 2008 debut, I am God Songs, also had closers longer than what preceded them, but the scale of “Metallica” is something different entirely. What, if anything, it has to do with the band of the same name, I don’t know — somehow asking would feel like missing the point — but the song is an overwhelming album-unto-itself onslaught, breaking around 24 minutes in to vague conversation and sparse guitar only to resume its bludgeoning course and give I’m Going to Kill Myself the riotous ending it deserves, repeating the title line along the way as a kind of final argument over that last riff, by then molded and remade into something other than what it started as, an off-time sludgeshuggah chugging that cuts out as brashly as it arrived.
Today, I have the pleasure of hosting “Tetsuo the Dead Man” for streaming. These songs are not going to be for everyone, but the second track serves as more than solid summary of what I’m Going to Kill Myself has on offer. Black Sheep Wall‘s latest is out, once again, Jan. 27 on Season of Mist. Ready your ears and enjoy “Tetsuo the Dead Man” on the player below:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
SoCal doom-dirge purveyors BLACK SHEEP WALL deliver their most oppressive and challenging material to date with their newest album ‘I’m Going to Kill Myself’. ‘I’m Going to Kill Myself’ is a unique take on the modern doom/sludge paradigm. It’s at once stark, oppressive, unsettled, despondent, and unwavering: wholly unlike any of their big-volume/down-tempo contemporaries.
Tracklisting: 1. The Wailing and The Gnashing and the Teeth (9:58) 2. Tetsuo the Dead Man (10:03) 3. White Pig (10:12) 4. Metallica (34:24)
Lineup: Brandon Gillichbauer – Vocals/Bass Scott Turner – Guitar/Bass Andrew Hulle – Guitar Jackson Thompson – Drums
Additional vocals on “The Wailing and The Gnashing and the Teeth” and “White Pig” performed by Trae Malone.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 15th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
True to their word, it’s Jan. 15 and Psycho California 2015 has announced the headliners for what looks like the best American festival lineup I’ve seen since the days of Emissions from the Monolith. That’s not to take away from the hard work anyone else is doing, but just look at the list of bands. It’s unreal. You’d want to be everywhere at the same time to see all of it. Absolutely wild.
Sleep and Pentagram were pretty clear choices to headline. Not only for being legends in the heavy underground, but for also being just about two of the only bands left. Sweden’s Cult of Luna were something of a surprise, but for a festival already showing a European reach in bringing aboard the likes of Samsara Blues Experiment and Stoned Jesus, they make sense. Hell of a bill. Kudos to anyone who actually gets to go to the thing.
Announcement follows, courtesy of the PR wire:
PSYCHO CALIFORNIA ANNOUNCES HEADLINERS: SLEEP, PENTAGRAM AND CULT OF LUNA
WEST COAST METAL FESTIVAL HAPPENING MAY 15, 16 & 17 AT THE OBSERVATORY IN SANTA ANA
FIRST WAVE OF ARTISTS ANNOUNCED INCLUDED KYLESA, EARTH, OM AND RUSSIAN CIRCLES
Psycho California, the west coast’s first annual metal festival and a must see for fans of doom, heavy psych and sludge, has announced the headliners for this year’s event: Cult of Luna (May 15), Sleep (May 16) and Pentagram, who will perform First Daze Here in its entirety (May 17).
“2015 is going to be a slow year for Cult of Luna. However as much as we are musicians we are also fans,” said Cult of Luna’s Johannes Persson. “Evaluating if the offer to play Psycho California was worth dusting off our instruments was not hard after looking on the line-up. Being on the same bill as Pentagram, Sleep and a festival packed with the best bands around is a privilege in itself and we’ll try to live up to that honor.”
The lineup for Psycho California is: Sleep, Pentagram, Cult of Luna, Kylesa, OM, Earth, Russian Circles, Bedemon, Conan, Wrench, Eyehategod, Indian, Earthless, Pallbearer, Stoned Jesus, Old Man Gloom, Cave In, Acid Witch, Truckfighters, Tombs, Bang, Electric Citizen, Coffinworm, SubRosa, Eagle Twin, Mammatus, True Widow, Anciients, Bellwitch, Dead Meadow, Lord Dying, Death By Stereo, Radio Moscow, Ancient Altar, Samsara Blues Experiment, Atriarch, Elder, Mothership, The Well, Deathkings, Wo Fat, Rozamov, Destroyer of Light, Highlands, Bloodmoon, Slow Season, Goatsnake, Crypt Trip, Wrench, Lords of Beacon House, Tumbleweed Dealer, Sinister Haze, Blackout, Red Wizard, Banquet and Loom.
Festival interludes will be provided by Housecore Records’ artist Author & Punisher and vinyl DJ set from Bob Lugowe (Relapse Records) and Sean Pellet (Last Daze Here).
Previously announced early bird tickets sold out immediately. Tickets for the festival are on-sale this morning with both a 3-day pass ($149.50) and a 3-day VIP pass available ($256.66)
VIP packages include a 3-day festival pass, a signed screen print concert poster by David D’Andrea, express entry via artist check-in booth, access to artist VIP lounge, a limited edition Thief X Obey festival tee, a Psycho record bag and patch as well as access to a complimentary craft tequila bar, premium microbrews and artisan snacks.
Posted in Reviews on January 8th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
The story gets kind of complicated, so stick with me. In 2010, then-Iowa-based psych/prog five-piece Mondo Drag released their Alive Naturalsound debut, New Rituals (review here), which was full of ’70s-style lysergic serenity, open spaced guitars and heady vibes. It was, in short, a winner. The next year, Mondo Drag‘s labelmates Radio Moscow — who also have their roots in Iowa — imploded. It was the stuff of viral video. Radio Moscow bassist Zack Anderson and drummer Cory Berry moved home shortly thereafter, to Iowa, and got together with Mondo Drag vocalist/keyboardist John Gamino, guitarist Nolan Girard (also synth), and guitarist Jake Sheley. At the same time they were recording as the new rhythm section of Mondo Drag, Anderson and Berry were also putting together Blues Pills with Swedish vocalist Elin Larsson. That band took off, and the bass player and drummer moved to Sweden as a result, but not before Mondo Drag had recorded — mostly live — the seven tracks of their self-titled sophomore outing, which also found Gamino taking the vocalist role, using a host of vintage gear and analog tape to further play into a classic feel. After the departure of the rhythm section, the remaining three members of Mondo Drag picked up and headed for the West Coast, where swing-drummers and warm-toned bassists looking for psych rock acts to join rule the land, and in Oakland, California, they met up with bassist Ventura Garcia and drummer Andrew O’Neil, who along with Gamino, Girard and Sheley, comprise the current lineup of the band.
Got all that?
When you whittle down all the complexities of comings, goings and relocatings, what you’re left with is the fact that Mondo Drag‘s Mondo Drag (released on wax by Bilocation Records) captures a very special moment in the life of the group. It’s a credit to Mondo Drag that it exists at all, and not just because Anderson and Berry would go on to attain a higher profile in Blues Pills (Berry has since left that band as well), but also for the cohesion they managed to make out of all that flux. With ultra-organic atmosphere across the board — guitar, bass, keys, drums, vocals — the seven-song/35-minute run of Mondo Drag is gripping on side A, hypnotic on side B and wonderfully progressive throughout. Later moments like the penultimate instrumental “Pillars of the Sky” call to mind a wash of keys Astra might be able to conjure, but the analog spirit of the recording is relentless, and the album winds up with its own character, warm and welcoming. No need for pretense here, whether it’s the key-led fade-in and shuffle of “Zephyr” or the organ-soaked build of side A closer “Plumajilla,” which comes brilliantly to an instrumental head after swinging verses and choruses that foreshadow the sleazier side B finale “Snakeskin,” the guitars providing a highlight solo to transition into the quiet start of the build. Second cut “Crystal Visions Open Eyes” brings Gamino‘s vocals forward to create an immediately memorable impression, moving quickly through verses of subtle intricacy toward a descending instrumental finish in an early showing of how well the guitar and synth work together throughout, and of course how well that work rests atop the rhythmic foundation of the bass and drums.
Some jabbing starts and stops pervade the three-minute “The Dawn,” but nothing about its garage psych roll is abrasive or interrupting the overarching flow, a boogie solo and run emerging in the midsection to help ease the way into “Plumajilla”‘s two-movement run, which in linear form — i.e. digital — makes a fitting centerpiece solid transition into the second half of the record, which slips into more exploratory material with the tense undercurrent of synth and bass on “Shifting Sands” and the interwoven lines of keys and synth on “Pillars of the Sky,” which follows, taking the best of pre-noodling progressive heavy psych and topping it with a bluesy-but-not-overdone plotted guitar lead. A peaceful mood emerges, the song in conversation with the back half of “Plumajilla,” and the richness of Mondo Drag‘s layering becomes a hook unto itself, despite no actual chorus present. Closer “Snakeskin” arrives quietly but unfolds a Doors-style throb given bluesy fervor not unlike the echoing output of Maryland’s The Flying Eyes, but perhaps more atmospherically dense. A final reaffirmation of swagger at the heart of Mondo Drag‘s Mondo Drag only makes the album more impressive, both in the actual listening experience and in context when one considers how quickly such fluid chemistry emerged between the five players involved, two of whom would soon enough be gone. As Mondo Drag was recorded in 2011/2012, and since the band has moved to the fertile psych ground of the West Coast, one can’t help but wonder what conjurations they may have come up with since these songs were written, and when those might appear and follow-up the lush but humble resonance of this self-titled. More important right now, however, is the achievement Mondo Drag managed in capturing this fleeting incarnation of the band, which will be plainly evident to any among the converted whose ears it reaches.
If you’re gonna start something — a year, for example — you might as well do it right, so yeah, it’s Fu Manchu‘s 1997 fourth album, The Action is Go. And so it was. Arriving just a year after their landmark third outing, In Search Of…, The Action is Go marked the beginning of a new era for the SoCal fuzz progenitors, who had in the time between the two records traded out guitarist Eddie Glass and drummer Ruben Romano for Bob Balch and Brant Bjork, respectively.
That’s no minor switch. In fact, I’d go so far as to argue it’s a pivotal moment in the development of American heavy rock in the mid and late ’90s. That sounds like hyperbole, but I don’t think it is. Glass and Romano would go on to form Nebula, whose first EP surfaced in ’98 and who went on to have a significant impact on the US and European stoner and heavy psych scenes in the ’00s until dissolving in 2010. Romano can currently be found in The Freeks, while Glass is MIA. Meanwhile, for Brant Bjork – who had produced Fu Manchu‘s 1994 debut, No One Rides for Free — filling the drummer role was his first solid gig since his departure from Kyuss, and it was a position he’d hold until 2001’s California Crossing, only four years but also three records later, also releasing the debut from Ché and his first solo record, Jalamanta, in the meantime. And as for Balch, well, his lead work and style of play has become an institution in and of itself and is as integral to Fu Manchu‘s sound as the riffs and attitude-dripping vocal style of guitarist Scott Hill or the density of Brad Davis‘ bass. Fu Manchu‘s with-Balch discography — records like The Action is Go, 1999’s Eatin’ Dust, 2000’s King of the Road, 2001’s California Crossing, all the way up to last year’s stellar Gigantoid (review here) — reads like a riff-lover’s dream playlist, and Fu Manchu simply wouldn’t be who they are today without him.
So yeah, The Action is Go was a very important time for US heavy rock, but I doubt it would be half as much so if the record itself didn’t kick so much ass. From “Eagle Eye” down through “Laserbl’ast” and “Saturn III,” it’s the kind of album that feels so much of its place and time — its fisheye-lens cover photo of a late-’70s skater dude is almost too perfect — that it manages to translate that atmosphere even going on 18 years later. I know I’ve written about The Action is Go a lot over the years. A live clip of “Eagle Eye” was one of the first week-closers I ever did. But it’s one of those albums that, well, if you like stuff that doesn’t suck, it’s worth going back to over and over. I’ve yet to not have my ass kicked by it.
Happy New Year, and enjoy.
Please note, this isn’t actually the close of the week since at midnight I’m premiering a new video from When the Deadbolt Breaks. No, it’s not the Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’ll all make sense later.
No New Year’s resolutions for me. Not that I couldn’t stand some self-improvement on any number of fronts — intellectual, physical, spiritual, sarcasm-mitigation — just that tying such things to days of the week has always seemed silly. If it’s your bag, good luck. Enjoy the satisfaction of knowing you’re doing something good for yourself — at least that’s usually how resolutions go; I don’t think anyone ever resolved to start smoking — while I’m still the same jerk I’ve always been. This guy in his frickin’ pajamas talking about riffs all day.
Oh yeah, and by the way, I wrote 50 fucking reviews this week. Five. Zero. Fifty. That’s one more than 49! The stack of discs on my desk? Demolished. It was a god damned thrill. I don’t know what the previous record was, but I beat it.
Gonna try to establish some post-holiday normalcy this coming week. Monday I’ve got a track stream from Spidergawd going up, and I want to get back to the stack of vinyl waiting for writeups. I’m pretty burnt out on lists, and after doing all those shorter reviews this week I feel like I’m ready to tackle something like the new Colour Haze, so I’ll do that sometime before next Friday. And despite being burnt out on lists, I’ll be continuing to put together my 2015-most-anticipated assemblage, which at this point is up over 70 entries. Not sure yet how I’m going to organize it, but it’ll be week after next anyway. Need to catch my breath a little.
Before I roll out, thanks to everyone again for checking out the best of 2014 coverage, be it the top 30, the Readers Poll, short releases list, debuts list, or whatever. I had more I wanted to do, but I think it might be time to let it go, save it for this Dec., and start looking forward instead. But especially with Facebook deciding all my posts don’t backtrack anymore to the Like button on this page (a more significant source of stress for me this week than it should have been), I appreciate you checking stuff out and sharing links, etc. That means a lot to me.
Hope you dig the Fu Manchu, hope you had a great New Year’s, hope you check out the forum and radio stream, and hope to see you back here at midnight for that Deadbolt video and on Monday. Cheers.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 31st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
I was lucky enough to be able to watch Yawning Man and Fatso Jetson play back to back at Desertfest London 2013. What an absolute blast it was, to see those two bands who by all rights should walk the earth as gods among men get on stage and show the entire room the roots of a sound they obviously hold very dear, myself included. Yawning Man looked like they could’ve played for four hours and Fatso Jetson were a punk/blues rager with Mario and Dino von Lalli nailing blinding turns on classic early material. So cool. Their split was new at that point, and Yawning Man‘s Nomadic Pursuits was fresh in mind as well, but even just to stand in front of the stage was one of those lucky-to-be-there moments.
And that’s my story about it. I’d call their upcoming European run nothing if not well named:
Yawning Man & Fatso Jetson to tour Europe in February 2015
Fatso Jetson and Yawning Man, two legendary bands whose roots are from the low desert area of Southern California and are well regarded amongst the underground heavy music community as pioneers of the “desert rock” scene will be pairing up to embark on a month long trek across The Old World in the month of February for a tour properly and respectively called “Legends Of The Desert” tour. Masterminds Mario “Boomer” Lalli and Gary Arce have considerable musical history with one another, having contributed to each other’s projects (Fatso Jetson and Yawning Man respectively) and playing live with one another on both domestic and international level all throughout their humble/experimental beginnings to the present as the established/experimental artists they are revered as today.
The Palm Desert music scene’s most notable names have credited their beginnings in music through attending witnessing the well documented generator parties that took place in various spots around the low desert area in the late 80s. These gatherings is where Gary Arce and the Lalli cousins (Mario and Larry) and notable desert drummer Alfredo Hernandez would enchant and hypnotize spectators with colorful and dynamic reverb drenched tones and seemingly endless improv jam sessions that echoed through the barren, rocky landscapes of La Quinta all the way to Yucca Valley as the first incarnation of Yawning Man was birthed and would assist in planting the seeds of a sound that would define a geographic areas.
Fast forward a few years later (1994 to be exact) and enter Rhythm and Brews, a drinking hole/live venue venture that the Lallis helmed and it was there, the idea of the riff monolith known as Fatso Jetson was materialized between Mario, Larry and Tony Tornay. Forging a sound that combines the elements of what has been coined “stoner rock”, punk and surf their catalog has seen the light of day on such labels as SST, Bongload, Man’s Ruin Records (Flames For All – Gary Arce was recruited as second guitar player for this release and joined Fatso on tour in support of the album as support for Queens of The Stone Age on their first European run), Rekords Rekords Cobraside and Go Down Records since their formation and they’ve shared the stage/toured with some of the most iconic acts in heavy rock including Queens Of The Stone Age and an appearance at Dynamo Open Air in Eindhoven alongside Mercyful Fate and Metallica.
Now fast forward into the new century and the evolution of both bands , recent activities in the past few years have been a new recordings amongst the two bands released by various labels across the world (including a split 12” of the two released in 2013), appearances at festivals across the world: Desertfest Berlin (both), Roadburn (Fatso Jetson) With Fatso Jetson now expanded from a trio to a quintet via the addition of the next generation of the Lalli family, Dino Von Lalli on second guitar and exploring jazz textures through Boomer’s recruitment of Vince Meghrouni on sax and harmonica. Yawning Man has revamped their lineup as well with the inclusion of Bill Stinson on drums.
At the present, Yawning Man are currently in the middle of writing a new record that is set for a 2015 release and Fatso Jetson are setting their sights upon recording of new material as well with plans for a US tour in the works for the coming year.
Tour Dates Feb 5 – Dortmund, Germany (The Piano) Feb 6 – London, UK (The Purple Turtle) Feb 7 – Leuven, Belgium (Orange Factory) Feb 8 – Drachten, Netherlands (Iduna) Feb 9 – Hamburg, Germany (Hafenklang) Feb 10 – Bielefeld, Germany (Forum) Feb 11 – Berlin, Germany (Cassiopeia) Feb 12 – Jena, Germany (Kulturbanhof) Feb 13 – Deventer, Netherlands (De Hip) Feb 14 – Mons-en Baroeul, France (Le Trait d’Union) Feb 15 – Paris, France (Glazart) Feb16 – Karlsruhe, Germany (Alte Hackerei) Feb 17 – Munich, Germany (Feierwerk) Feb 18 – Linz, Austria (Stadtwerkstatt) Feb 19 – Vienna, Austria (Arena) Feb 20 – Innsbruck, Austria (PMK) Feb 21 – Bozen, Italy (Pippo Stage) Feb 22 – Brescia, Italy (Latteria Molloy) Feb 23 – Rome, Italy (Sinister Noise) Feb 24 – Ravenna, Italy (Bronson) Feb 25 – Padova (Go Down Festival), Italy – Mame Club Feb 26 – Milan, Italy (Magnolia) Feb 27 – Lucerne, Switzerland (Sedel) Feb 28 – Frankfurt, Germany (Das Bett)
Fatso Jetson Mario Lalli – Vocals/Guitar Dino Von Lalli – Guitar Larry Lalli – Bass Vince Meghrouni – Saxophone and Harmonica Tony Tornay – Drums
Yawning Man Gary Arce – Guitar Mario Lalli – Bass Bill Stinson – Drums
Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Please note: These are not the results of the Readers Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t added your list yet, please do.
This was a hard list to put together. The top three have been set in my mind for probably the last month, but trying to work my way backwards from there was a real challenge — what’s a top 10 record, a top 20 record, a top 30, honorable mentions and all the rest. I’ve never done a full top 30 before, always 20, but the truth is there was just too much this year to not expand.
I’m still juggling numbers even as I put together this post, and I’m sure that by the time I’m done several records will have switched places. That’s always how it seems to go. What I’m confident that I have is a list accurately representing critique and my own habits, both what I gravitated toward in listening throughout the year and what I feel is noteworthy on a critical level. This site has always been a blend of those two impulses. It’s only fair this list should be as well.
Before we dig in, you should note this is full-length albums only. I’ll have a list of short releases (EPs, singles, demos) to come, as well as a special list of debut releases, since it seemed to be a particularly good year for them. And since I’m only one person, I couldn’t hear everything, much as I tried.
The kings of London’s heavy scene offered more powerhouse heavy rock with their eighth album and second for Candlelight, and their rabid and ever-growing fanbase ate it up. Back from the Abyss proved yet again that few can attain the kind of vicious force that seems to come so natural to Orange Goblin, and made it clear their domination shows no signs of losing momentum.
A darker affair from Port Orchard, Washington’s Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty still found its core in the songwriting led by guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed. They’re a band with some changes on the horizon, and I’ll be interested to hear what hindsight does to these songs. As it was, the hooks and downer vibes may have been in conceptual conflict, but the execution was inarguable.
Richer in the listening than 2012’s Misery Wizard debut, Pilgrim‘s II: Void Worship nonetheless held firm to the doomly spirit that’s made the Rhode Island outfit such a sensation these last couple years. Its longer songs, “Master’s Chamber,” “Void Worship” and the emotionally weighted “Away from Here,” were particularly immersive, and they remain a bright spot in doom’s future.
His long-awaited solo debut, John Garcia‘s John Garcia offered memorable tracks culled from years of songwriting from the former Kyuss, Slo Burn, Unida and Hermano frontman, performed in the classic desert rock style he helped define. I’m not sure it was worth trading a second Vista Chino record for, but it was hard to argue with “The Blvd” and “All These Walls.”
An overwhelming two-disc barrage from a relentless creativity that, more than 30 years on from its first public incarnation, is still to be considered avant garde. I’m not sure planet earth realizes how lucky it is to have Swans running around unleashing all this chaos, but I hope they don’t stop anytime soon. To be Kind was brutal and beautiful in like measure.
Icelandic four-piece Sólstafir hit on a rarely attained balance of gorgeousness and melancholy, and while Ótta is expansive, it’s also gripping front to back and is the best execution of its style I’ve heard since Anathema‘s Alternative 4, which is not a comparison I make lightly. A challenging record, but satisfying in kind and universal in its expressiveness.
The follow-up to Greenleaf‘s stellar 2012 outing Nest of Vipers (review here) brought lineup changes and stripped away many of the textural elements of the band’s sound — guest appearances, arrangement flourishes — in order to get back to a classic heavy rock sound and translate better to the stage. With guitarist Tommi Holappa‘s songwriting ever at the core, it would be unfair to call the process anything but a success.
Most of the headlines went to the fact that Primitive and Deadly had vocals, where the generally-instrumental Earth had avoided singers for 18 years prior, but even putting aside Mark Lanegan and Rabi Shabeen Qazi, whose performance on “From the Zodiacal Light” was the high point of the record, presented Earth‘s always progressive tensions in a rawer, heavier production, and was a joy for longtime fans.
Six years and one breakup later, Portland, Maine, doom trio Ogre returned with The Last Neanderthal, neither afraid to revel in Sabbathian traditionalism or rock out a more upbeat cut like opener “Nine Princes in Amber.” For bassist/vocalist Ed Cunningham, guitarist Ross Markonish and drummer Will Broadbent, it was a welcome resurgence of pretense-free heavy riffs and grooves.
Of course, at the time we didn’t know it would be the final outing from this lineup of UK doomers The Wounded Kings, whose guitarist/founder Steve Mills has now reunited with original vocalist George Birch, but Consolamentum was a hell of a closing statement anyway for this era of the band, showcasing their murky, increasingly progressive style still waiting for wider appreciation.
Wasn’t sure where to put Floor‘s reunion offering, Oblation, on this list at first, since I kind of fell off listening to it as the year went on, but I’ve gone back to it over the last couple weeks and it has held up to the revisit, whether it’s songs like the extended “Sign of Aeth” or shorter, catchy pummelers like “Rocinante” or “War Party.” Floor‘s 2002 self-titled holds an untouchable legacy in heavy rock, but I think the years will prove Oblation a worthy successor. Nobody knew what they had with Floor at the time either.
Little on 2011’s Motherfucker Rising (review here) or their 2010 demo (review here) prepared for the kind of assault that Druglord‘s Enter Venus brought to bear. Four stomp-laden slabs of tectonic crash and distortion, vocals buried under and calling up from the amp-bred fog. The Virginian trio were in and out on the 27-minute 12″ release, but had enough heavy for a record twice as long, and the tinges of darkened psychedelia made their songs like a lurking presence just on the edge of consciousness, a threat waiting to be unleashed.
For the sheer variety of Ararat‘s third album in rockers like “Nicotina y Destrucción,” “El Hijo de Ignacio,” the experimentalism of “El Arca” and the piano-driven “Los Viajes” and the acoustic closer “Atalayah,” and the assured, flowing manner in which the Argentina trio pulled it all off, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz should be higher on this list than it is. Part of that might be my frustration at my apparent inability to buy a copy, but don’t let that take away from the quality of the material here, which is wonderfully chaotic, memorable and engaging, rushing in some places and stopping to weep in others.
You won’t hear me deny that Radio Moscow‘s primary impact is as a live band, but their fifth album, Magical Dirt, managed to bring forth much of their psychedelic blues presence in “Death of a Queen,” “Before it Burns” and “Gypsy Fast Woman,” the blinding rhythmic turns and wah-soaked guitar supremacy of Parker Griggs front and center throughout. Together with bassist Anthony Meier (also Sacri Monti) and drummer Paul Marrone (also Astra and Psicomagia), Radio Moscow are hitting their stride as one of heavy rock’s most powerful power trios. One never knows what to expect, but hopefully they keep going the way they are.
Four years isn’t the longest time I’ve ever waited for a record to come out, but in the case of Indianapolis’ Apostle of Solitude, it felt like an especially long stretch. Their third full-length and first for Cruz del Sur, Of Woe and Wounds followed the anticipation-building Demo 2012 (review here) and a couple splits and brought aboard bassist Dan Dividson and guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak (also Devil to Pay), who fit well with drummer Corey Webb and guitarist/vocalist Chuck Brown to result in a payoff worthy and indicative of the time that went into its making. Hands down one of the finest acts in American doom.
Stubb‘s second long-player, also their debut on Ripple, gets a nod for the sense of progression it brought in answering the potential of the trio’s 2012 self-titled debut (review here), guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson, bassist Peter Holland and new drummer Tom Fyfe expanding the scope to include more heavy psych influence and soul along with the fuzz riffs and steady rolling while giving no ground in terms of the level of craft at work. Cry of the Ocean has become one of those albums where all I have to do is look at a title, be it “Cry of the Ocean Pt. I” or “Sail Forever” or “Heartbreaker,” and the song is immediately stuck in my head. With these tracks, that’s not at all a complaint.
14. Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, Black Power Flower
Brant Bjork has worn many hats, literal and figurative, over the years, whether it’s drummer in Kyuss or Fu Manchu, producer, solo artist or bandleader. With Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, he steps once again into the latter role, and with guitarist Bubba DuPree, bassist Dave Dinsmore and drummer Tony Tornay, presents not only on his heaviest record to date, but what could easily begin a sustainable full-band progression that can go just about anywhere his songwriting wants to take it. “Stokely up Now,” “That’s a Fact Jack,” “Controllers Denied” and “Boogie Woogie on Your Brain” made for some of 2014’s best in desert rock, and Black Power Flower was an stellar return for Bjork to his “solo” work.
An earlier version of this list had Pagan Fruit at a lower number, but I couldn’t live with it not being closer to the top 10. Salt Lake City’s Dwellers pushed deeper into laid back psych and blues on their second album, and in doing so, crafted an atmosphere entirely their own. From “Creature Comfort” down to “Call of the Hollowed Horn,” with triumphs along the way like “Rare Eagle,” “Totem Crawler” (“Ohh, my queen… To whom, I crawl…) and “Son of Raven,” Pagan Fruit became a staple of my 2014, building off their 2012 debut, Good Morning Harakiri (review here), but presenting their stylistic growth with a confidence and poise that can only come from a band who’ve figured out what they want to be doing and how they want to do it. Front to back, Pagan Fruit sounds like an arrival.
What made Brooklyn trio The Golden Grass‘ self-titled debut such a special released wasn’t just that it was heavy, or that the tracks were catchy, or that guitarist Michael Rafalowich and drummer Adam Kriney could harmonize over Joe Noval‘s warm-toned basslines. That was all great, don’t get me wrong, but what really stood out about The Golden Grass was its irony-free positivity, the way it was able to capture an upbeat, sunshiny feel without having to smirk about it on the other side of its mouth. It was self-aware, to be sure — knew what it was doing — but the way I see it, consciousness only makes the stylistic choices more impressive. Add to that the nuance they brought to ’70s revivalism, and all that stuff about catchiness and the harmonies, and there just wasn’t a level on which the album didn’t work.
My appreciation continues to grow for The Well‘s Samsara, which successfully pulled together influences from garage doom and heavy psychedelia while crafting an identity for the Austin, Texas, three-piece at once raw and melodically accomplished, guitarist Ian Graham and bassist Lisa Alley sharing vocals to classic effect on “Refuge” while otherwise trading off lead position to bolster variety in the material. The high point might’ve been the eight-minute “Eternal Well,” on which Graham, Alley and drummer Jason Sullivvan conjured some of their grooviest demons, but the hooks of “Mortal Bones,” “Trespass” and the attitude-laced “Dragon Snort” were no less engaging. One of many strong releases from their label this year — Slow Season, The Picturebooks, etc. — they seemed to come ready to serve notice of a stylistic movement underway.
10. Montibus Communitas, The Pilgrim to the Absolute
Peruvian psych adventurers Montibus Communitas more or less blew my mind when I heard their late-2013 offering, Harvest Times earlier this year, and the narrative, conceptual 2014 release, The Pilgrim to the Absolute, is even more of an achievement in its portrayal of improvised exploration, sonic ritualism and open creativity. The weaving of longer pieces against shorter ones with the various steps along the path as presented in the titles, some journeying, some arriving, some descriptive, almost all accompanied by nature in one form or another, gives The Pilgrim to the Absolute an almost impressionistic quality, so that even as you listen to it, you engage it as much as it carries you along its vibrant, breathtaking progression en route to the closing title-track, which is a destination every bit worthy of the journey. This is the most recently reviewed inclusion on this list, but Montibus Communitas‘ latest readily earns its place in the top 10. It is unique in its surroundings.
Looking back at the last two Fu Manchu records, 2007’s We Must Obey and 2009’s Signs of Infinite Power, it seemed reasonable to expect the groundbreaking SoCal fuzz foursome to put out another collection of big-sounding riffs in a big-sounding production. Nothing to complain about, but probably not a landmark. By going the other way completely — stripping their buzzed-out riffing down to its punkish core thanks in no small part to recording with Moab‘s Andrew Giacumakis — Fu Manchu served up a raw reminder both of where they came from and how top notch their songwriting remains. Reissuing their earliest work and being on their own label might’ve had something to do with it, but whatever it was, the 35 minutes of Gigantoid was as efficient a heavy rock outing as one could hope from an already legendary band, whether it was the hook-prone opening salvo of “Dimension Shifter,” “Invaders on My Back,” “Anxiety Reducer” and “Radio Source Sagittarius” or the righteous ending jam “The Last Question.”
Given the origins of The Skull — ex-Trouble members Eric Wagner, Jeff “Oly” Olson and Ron Holzner joining with Lothar Keller and a series of other guitarists, finally Matt Goldsborough, working essentially as a tribute band to their former outfit — I think not only did the quality of the material and performance on For Those Which are Asleep surprise, as well as the classically doomed feel that resonates throughout the album, but the sheer heartfelt nature of songs like “Sick of it All,” “Send Judas Down” and the title-track itself. This wasn’t a cynical attempt to make a go of an already set legacy. It was an expression of appreciation both for what they accomplished as Trouble and a desire to continue that work. The Skull‘s whole thing has been that they’re “more Trouble than Trouble,” and in their lineup that’s been true since they brought Olson on board. For Those Which are Asleep demonstrated that the classic spirit of that band is alive and well, its address has just changed. Moreover, it’s the beginning of a new progression for that spirit, and I hope it continues.
Nineteen years after releasing their self-titled debut, New York’s Blood Farmers contended for 2014’s comeback of the year with their sophomore outing, Headless Eyes — a morose, horror-obsessed six-track collection that on “Night of the Sorcerers” owed as much to Goblin as to Sabbath. The closing cover of David Hess‘ theme from The Last House on the Left, “The Road Leads to Nowhere,” was a late bit of melodic flourish to add depth, but how could the highlight be anything other than the 10-minute title-track itself, with its samples from the 1971 horror flick The Headless Eyes, bassist Eli Brown in a call and response with lyrics comprised of lines directly taken from the movie? That after playing shows the last several years, Blood Farmers managed to get a record out was impressive enough. That Headless Eyes turned out to be the year’s best traditional doom release was an entirely different level of surprise. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for their third, but Brown, guitarist David Szulkin and drummer Tad Leger gave plenty to chew on with Blood Farmers‘ second. It was better than would’ve been fair to expect.
A lot of what you need to know about Lo-Pan‘s fourth album you learn in the first five seconds of opener “Regulus.” There’s no fancy intro, no time wasted, nothing to take away from the directness of the song itself. Tones are crisp — the verse is already underway — and guitar, bass and drums are laser-focused in their forward movement. Even when vocalist Jeff Martin enters the song, roughly six seconds later, his arrival comes with no indulgence, no pomp. Colossus is easily Lo-Pan‘s most immediate work to date, and throughout, Martin, guitarist Brian Fristoe (since replaced by Adrian Zambrano), bassist Scott Thompson and drummer Jesse Bartz retain that focus no matter where the material takes them, delivering a clinic in how to kick as much ass as possible at any given moment on cuts like “Marathon Man” and “Eastern Seas,” or even bringing in guest vocalist Jason Alexander Byers, who also designed the album cover, for a spot on “Vox.” They had a hard task in following up 2011’s Salvador (review here), but the Columbus, Ohio, unit stood up to the challenge and met it and everyone else head-on.
What to do with All Them Witches‘ Lightning at the Door? The Nashville four-piece released the album last fall digitally, but it wasn’t until this September that it saw a physical manifestation. In fact, if you go back, it was included on the Top 20 of 2013 as well. Which is the release date? I don’t know. What I know is that in terms of the sheer amount of time spent listening, I put on Lightning at the Door more than any other record this year. From where I sit, that alone gets it a place in the top five. Yeah, it might be a cop-out to do a “5a,” but sometimes exceptions have to be made, and All Them Witches have proved to be nothing if not exceptional in their still relatively brief, jam-laden history, the psych-blues dynamic between bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, Fender Rhodes specialist Allan van Cleave and drummer Robby Staebler pushing them quickly to the fore of American heavy rock’s innovators, their natural, improv-sounding material feeling brazen and exploratory while reshaping the elements of genre to suit their needs. One can only see this dynamic developing further as they continue to grow as a live band, so Lightning at the Door may just be the start, and that’s perhaps most exciting of all.
A beautiful, stunning work made even more powerful by the honesty driving it. Portland, Oregon’s Witch Mountain completed a trilogy with the Billy Anderson-produced Mobile of Angelsthat brought about some of the best doom of this young decade, their 2011 return from a years-long hiatus, South of Salem (review here) serving as the foundation for a stylistic progression that continued on the following year’s Cauldron of the Wild (review here) and onto Mobile of Angels itself as the four-piece’s most accomplished album to date. The reason it feels like such a concluding chapter is because of the departure of vocalist Uta Plotkin, whose voice helped establish Witch Mountain both on stage and in the studio, leaving founders Rob Wrong (guitar) and Nathan Carson (drums) with the sizable task of finding a replacement. That situation will be what it will be, but Mobile of Angels remains a gorgeous, lonely testament. Plotkin gives a landmark performance on “Can’t Settle” and “The Shape Truth Takes,” which in the context of what was happening in Witch Mountain at the time ring with a truth that’s rare in or out of doom, and she seems to have left the band just as they were hitting their finest hour. So it goes.
In all of heavy, there is no assault so severe as Conan‘s. With their second full-length and debut on Napalm Records, the UK trio solidified the two sides of the preceding 2012 outing, Monnos (review here), in constructing material that, fast or slow, short or long, retained an epic feel melded with their ungodly tonality and memorable songwriting. Their first recording at guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis‘ Skyhammer Studio, it affirmed Conan‘s will to conquer in its two massive bookends, “Crown of Talons” and “Altar of Grief,” and in the High on Fire-worthy gallop of “Foehammer” — a bludgeon commandingly wielded by Davis, bassist/vocalist Phil Coumbe and drummer Paul O’Neil, the latter to of whom have since left the band to be replaced by longtime-producer Chris Fielding and Rich Lewis, respectively. What effect the changes might have on the band — except apparently more touring, which isn’t a bad thing — have yet to be seen, but Conan are already in the process of writing a follow-up to Blood Eagle, so it doesn’t seem like it’ll be all that long until we find out. With Davis still steering the band in songwriting and overall direction, one severely doubts they’ll be fixing what obviously isn’t broken anytime soon. None heavier.
Dallas riff-rockers Wo Fat have grown steadily over the course of their five albums, from the nascent heavy roll of 2006’s The Gathering Dark, to the hooks of 2008’s Psychedelonaut (review here), the jamming that started to surface on 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra (review here) and was pushed further on 2012’s The Black Code (review here). And their approach has been as steady as the frequency of their releases. In making The Conjuring, the three-piece were simply engaging the next step in their progression, but the material on the five-track/48-minute outing goes further than just that. Putting aside (momentarily) the 17-minute closer “Dreamwalker,” the other cuts, “The Conjuring,” “Read the Omens,” “Pale Rider from the Ice” and “Beggar’s Bargain” each found a place for themselves in pulling together jammed-sounding elements with a memorable construction, and when guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer Michael Walter did kick into “Dreamwalker,” they hit on not only their longest piece yet, but their most accomplished showcase of the chemistry that has developed between them. That song is a beast unto itself, but as has been the case with Wo Fat each time out so far in their career, there’s nothing on The Conjuring to give the impression the band can’t or won’t continue to keep going on the path that’s worked so well for them on this point. They’ve spent the last eight years on the right track and have yet to waiver. The Conjuring should be played at top volume for anyone who contends there’s no life left in heavy rock and roll.
Mars Red Sky‘s second LP and first for Listenable, Stranded in Arcadia was originally supposed to be recorded in the California desert, but visa problems kept the French trio of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matgaz in Brazil, where they’d previously been touring. Thus, “stranded in Arcadia,” which is basically another way of saying “lost in paradise.” Can’t say the Bordeaux three-piece didn’t make the most of it, though. Songs like “The Light Beyond” and “Hovering Satellites” — not to mention the utter melodic bliss of “Join the Race” — took cues from their 2011 self-titled debut (review here) in terms of memorable songwriting and melodic craft, but added to that heft and tonal richness more of a psychedelic vibe, so that not only was there fuzz and wah, but a spacious world in which the songs took place. With Kinast on lead vocals, the sneaky boogie of “Holy Mondays” became a highlight, and the one-two swing ‘n’ stomp of “Circles” and “Seen a Ghost” were a perfect demonstration by the band of the various sides of their sound, particularly following after the dreamy instrumental “Arcadia,” an echoing jam distinguished by Pras‘ wistful guitar lead and coming before the closing “Beyond the Light,” which reprises the opener’s resonant unfolding. It probably wasn’t the record they intended to make, but Stranded in Arcadia became one of my go-to albums for 2014, and like the best of any given year’s output, I’ve no doubt it will transcend the passage of time and continue to deliver for years to come. Hell, I was barely done with the debut when this one came out.
Can’t imagine this is any great surprise. Not only did Clearing the Path to Ascend – YOB‘s seventh album and first for Neurot — produce my pick for song of the year in its sprawling, emotionally weighted 18-minute closer, “Marrow,” but in the three full-lengths the Eugene, Oregon, trio of drummer Travis Foster, bassist Aaron Rieseberg and guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt have released since the latter reformed the band after breaking it up following 2005’s The Unreal Never Lived, all three have been my album of the year. The Great Cessation was in 2009, and Atma was in 2011. Consistency aside, I’ll point out specifically that each of the same three records has earned that position, perhaps Clearing the Path to Ascend most of all for its progressive feel, moving past genre even at its most raging moment, second cut “Nothing to Win,” the chorus of which proved that among everything else YOB could be, they could be anthemic. The cosmic, spiritual questing that has always been present in their songs, that feeling of searching, showed up in opener “In Our Blood,” but even there, it was evident YOB were pushing themselves beyond what they’ve done before, rewriting their own formulas incorporating lessons from their past in among their other points of inspiration. “Unmask the Spectre” could have easily been an album closer itself, with its patient exploration and feverishly intense payoff, but with the melodic progressivism of “Marrow” and the soul poured into every second of that track, every verse and chorus, solo and build — including the Hammond added to the last of them by producer Billy Barnett — YOB created a landmark both for themselves and the increasing many working under their influence. I’ve said on several occasions (bordering on “many” at this point) that YOB are a once-in-a-generation band, and it feels truer in thinking of Clearing the Path to Ascend than it ever has. Without a doubt, album of the year and then some.
First, special note to Colour Haze‘s To the Highest Gods We Know. I’ve decided to count it as a 2015 release since the vinyl will be out in Spring, but otherwise surely it would earn a place on this list. Blackwolfgoat‘s Drone Maintenance also deserves note.
A few other honorable mentions:
Mothership, Mothership II — It’s hard to argue with a classic heavy rock power trio kicking ass. I won’t try.
Alunah, Awakening the Forest — Every time I make a list, no matter what kind of list it is, there’s a band I wind up kicking myself for forgetting about at the time. This is the case 100 percent with why Alunah aren’t in the Top 30. In fact, I might go in and swap them out with somebody.
Ice Dragon, Seeds from a Dying Garden — Boston experimental psych/garage doomers continue to defy expectation. May their weirdness last forever and continue to produce material so satisfying.
Truckfighters, Universe – I thought at some point I’d go back to Universe again, but never really did. A problem with me more than the album.
Steak, Slab City — An impressive debut following two strong EPs.
Godflesh, A World Lit Only by Fire — I never got a review copy, so I never reviewed it. Its name is here because I’m a fan of the band and glad they’re back.
Thou, Heathen — Just recently purchased this and am only getting to know it, but a ridiculously strong album.
Corrosion of Conformity, IX — Everybody who gets a boner whenever Pepper Keenan is mentioned in connection with this band has missed out. This record and the self-titled kick ass.
Spidergawd, Spidergawd — Holy shit they’re over here! No they’re over there! No wait over here again! Oh my god I’ve just gone blind!
Monster Magnet, Milking the Stars — I wasn’t sure what to do with this since technically it’s not a new album, mostly reworked songs from the last one. I still listened to it a ton though, whatever it is.
Slomatics, Estron — Another one I’m just getting to know, but am very much digging.
Electric Wizard, Time to Die — People seem to do this thing where Electric Wizard puts out a record, everyone slathers over it for a few months and then spends the next two years talking about how it sucked. I guess I’ll be on the ground floor with not having been that into Time to Die.
Pallbearer, Foundations of Burden — Had to put their name somewhere on this list or someone would burn my house down. Album of the year for many.
The list goes on: Monolord, Comet Control, Mammatus, Triptykon, Eyehategod, Fever Dog, Moab, Karma to Burn, Atavismo, Grifter, 1000mods, Megaton Leviathan, Wovenhand, Mr. Peter Hayden, Primordial, and many more.
Before I check out and go sit in a corner somewhere to try and rebuild brain power after this massive dump of a purge, I want to sincerely thank you for reading. If you check in regularly, or if you’ve never been to the site before, if you don’t give a crap about lists or if you’re gonna go listen to even one band on here, it’s fantastic to me. Thank you so much for all the support this site receives, for your comments, for sharing links, retweeting, whatever it is. I am a real person — I’m sitting on my couch at this very moment — and being able to do this and have people see it and be a part of it with me is unbelievable. I realize how fortunate I am. So thank you. Thank you.
More to come as we close out 2014. I’ll have a list of short/split/demo releases, a year-end podcast, a list of the best debuts, a round up of the best live shows I saw, as much more as time allows. Please stay tuned.
And again, thank you. If I left anyone off the list, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments and contribute your own top albums, however many there are, to the Readers Poll.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Consider my day made. I’ve been waiting for word of the new Acid King record, and here it is. Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere is the title, and the release date is April 14. The band will do digital release directly and Svart has the CD and LP on lockdown. I don’t know what more you need to hear to get stoked. I can’t wait to hear what they’ve come up with after so long. More nerdly glee to follow.
Fresh off the PR wire:
ACID KING RELEASE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, CENTER OF EVERYWHERE ON APRIL 14
Acid King, pioneers of the San Francisco doom scene and one of the genre’s first bands to be helmed by a woman, return from their self-imposed 10-year recording hiatus on April 14 with the release of Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere.
“We had several songs in the works over the years that we spent most of our time touring Europe but in between working our day jobs, we didn’t put the effort into recording,” explained singer/guitar player Lori S. “I really wanted to accelerate the process and get new music out. It’s time. This music that we’ve been playing for so long, that was initially obscure and underground, seemed to grow over these past 10 years and the timing was right to release this now!”
Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere was recorded at both Sharkbite and Tiny Telephone Studios in San Francisco, mixed at Different Fur Studios and produced by Acid King and Billy Anderson. The digital release will be released independently via Acid King while physical copies, both CD and vinyl, will be available via Svart Records.
Acid King bubbled up from San Francisco in 1993 through a fog of revved up riffs, thunderous drums, and a hypnotic vocal howl. They unleashed three EPs and three full-length albums, starting with Zoroaster in 1995, the 1999 full-length Busse Woods, and their most recent release, Acid King III, coming in 2005. Their seismic chemistry transfixed audiences everywhere from high-profile festivals such as Hellfest and Roadburn to now iconic shows alongside peers such as Sleep and Mystick Krewe of Clearlight.
The band recently confirmed their participation in Desertfest, April 24 to 26 in the UK. North American tour dates will be announced soon.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 15th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
The tones are warm, the vibe is free and the vinyl is limited. Oakland heavy psych outfit Mondo Drag‘s forthcoming self-titled sophomore outing is set to release in January on Bilocation Records. The cover is a triptych, but the album itself seems to break up nicely into two sides of the LP, which will arrive in gatefold form in an edition of 500 copies as the follow-up to 2010’s New Rituals (review here) debut, recorded in 2011/2012 with Blues Pills‘ Cory Berry and Zack Anderson as the rhythm section. A pretty special moment to bring to light, even if that’s not the current lineup of the band, which features vocalist/keyboardist John Gamino, guitarists Jake Sheley and Nolan Girard (also synth), bassist Andrew O’Neil and drummer Ventura Garcia.
MONDO DRAG to release new album on 16/01/15. Pre-sale started!
The highly anticipated second album by Oakland’s finest heavy-psych-rockers MONDO DRAG will see the light of day through Kozmik Artifactz on January 16th, 2015. It contains seven analogue recorded tracks. To be released on CD & high performance 180g vinyl!
Under the spiritual guidance of the forefathers of heavy psych, prog, and proto-metal, Mondo Drag has created an amalgamation of sounds the likes of which have not resounded through the atmosphere for decades. The band’s unique sound, and rare cohesion probably stem from the fact that core members John Gamino, Nolan Girard, and Jake Sheley actually grew up within a one mile radius from each other, attended the same schools, were a part of the same scene, and have played music with each other for 15 years.
Produced, engineered & mixed by Mondo Drag and Patrick Stolley. Mastered by Jim Brick. Artwork by Robert Beatty.
Available as CD & limited Vinyl
VINYL FACTZ – 100x marbled (EXCLUSIVE MAILORDER version) – 200x yellow – 200x black – Plated & pressed on high performance vinyl in Germany – Matt laquered 300gsm gatefold cover – Handnumbered – Mastered for vinyl
TRACKS A1. Zephyr 2:34 A2. Crystal Visions Open Eyes 4:36 A3. The Dawn 3:04 A4. Plumajilla 6:40
B1. Shifting Sands 5:24 B2. Pillars Of The Sky 6:45 B3. Snakeskin 6:10
At the time, I was still so hung up on Los Angeles trio Sasquatch‘s 2004 self-titled debut that I don’t think I properly appreciated the classic-rock-is-ours-now feel and heaviness of “Let it In,” “The Judge,” the vinyl-style symmetry of “Nikki” and “Catalina” and the rawness of character on display. Where the first album is kind of an outlier now in terms of sound for them, made formative by hindsight where at the time it seemed nothing if not accomplished — their songwriting was always top notch — II became more of the model with which they’d work, their ’70s-meets-’90s vibe running a riffy current through the tracks. Both 2010’s III (review here) and 2013’s IV (review here) built off what they did here, and their craft has never wavered.
They played one of Small Stone‘s by-then-legendary SXSW showcases as well during this era, and it was the first time I got to see the band, which only solidified my fandom. They haven’t been out east much — though they hit the Uninvited festival this year in Brooklyn; from what I hear it was a “Pleasure to Burn” — but I’ve been fortunate enough to see them once or twice more over the years and they’ve always delivered. II is a work of straightforward, perpetually-underrated heavy rock, and it’s easy to look at a band like Sasquatch and think about “oh, if X and Y and Z, these guys would be huge,” and I wouldn’t begrudge them making a ton of money or anything, but these guys make for an excellent underground secret too, like a litmus for those who know.
Small Stone put this one out on vinyl not too long ago, but I’m pretty sure they’re gone by now. Not bad for a record eight years later to continue to inspire such devotion, and I’ve no doubt that II will continue to do so no matter how high Sasquatch‘s numbers end up going. Please enjoy.
So, why a day late? I left home yesterday at 12:30PM to go to Brooklyn and see the first of YOB‘s two nights at the St. Vitus bar. I got to the venue around 6PM. That’s usually a four-hour trip. I was utterly fried after the show — turns out that not eating or drinking anything all day was the wrong choice; I was dizzy and nauseous in the packed room and stayed up front through “Marrow” but had to move back after that and get some water — and then afterwards, there was a solid hour of traffic getting to the Lincoln Tunnel. Got in to Jersey at about two in the morning. It was far less thrilling than the show itself, which was fantastic. I’ll be going back for round two tonight.
More year-end stuff next week. Look out for a list of the year’s best debuts at some point, and maybe one of the best live gigs and some other stuff. I’ll also be reviewing these two nights at the Vitus bar, and anything else I might have time for. I feel like I say this all the time, but if you’re waiting on a review of something, I’m sorry. I’m one person. Most other sites have a staff of writers working on stuff, or at least a few people. I have me. If something takes me longer, or if I don’t get to it, I wholeheartedly and sincerely apologize. I’m doing the best I can to do as much as I can. If I had eight of me, it would be easier. As it is, I can barely answer email.
But anyway, I hope you dig the Sasquatch and I hope you have a great and safe weekend, wherever you’re at. Thanks for checking in, and please don’t forget to hit up the forum and radio stream.