Posted in Whathaveyou on February 22nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
True, if you read the recent interview with Arthur Seay, you already knew that House of Broken Promises would be playing Desertfest this year, but it’s nice to have confirmation, anyway. Official announcements have dropped from both the London and Berlin Desertfest camps, and it seems like every time I stop and think the lineups can’t get any stronger, they go ahead and do precisely that. I think we might be looking at a landmark in the making.
Here’s word from the Desertfest folks:
What’s better than having one of the all-time grand masters of desert rock, head-honchos of stoner-metal, chief cactus-cultivators of the underground, Unida playing live on our humble little island as part of
DesertFest 2013? Well, how’s about three quarters of them playing AGAIN as part of their ‘other’ band in House of Broken Promises for a start!!
Formed during Unida’s many years of inactivity, HOBP are simply the urban coyotes very own guitarist Arthur Seay, bassist/vocalist Eddie Plascencia and drummer Mike Cancino, and collectively they kick more ass with their crunching, metallic hard rock than Chuck Norris surrounded by a strikeforce of ninja donkeys. Although igniting their flame as far back as 2004, the band’s debut album Using the Useless didn’t rupture out of the outer-Californian consciousness until 2009 via (who else!) Small Stone Records. Although not as widely celebrated as their peers in COC, Fu Manchu, Clutch and Monster Magnet, HOBP blaze their own trail whilst at the same time encapsulating the best of desert rock, sledgehammer blues, swaggering hard rock and grooving biker-punk into their offer of purist, unadulterated, riffed-up fury. With Arthur’s E-string-butchering chops and solos hot enough to cause a mirage, Mike’s metronomic tub-thumping and Eddie’s cap-down, foot-on-monitor frontman approach, there are few power trios who could match this tour-de-force of heavy metal thunder.
When it comes to the sounds of the sand, it’s the guys who made it happen in the first place back at Sky Valley HQ who still play it harder and louder than anyone else on earth, and HOBP are no exception to The Law. So don’t just write them off as “just another side-project”, get down the front, soak your shirt in beer and party like you’re on Dave Wyndorf’s stag-do on Jupiter in 1995. And if nothing else, just go check them out simply as a way to get a second glimpse of Arthur’s beard! Seriously, have you seen that beard?!! It’s fucking righteous!
Words courtesy Pete Green
Formed from the ashes of Unida, desert trio HOUSE OF BROKEN PROMISES composed of righteously-bearded guitarist Arthur Seay, bassist/vocalist Eddie Plasciencia and drummer Mike Cancino will play at DesertFest 2013 !!
HOUSE OF BROKEN PROMISES is no-holds-barred double shot of classic, pure and hot desert rock whose songs are clearly based around the riffs. The rhythm section mounts a considerable presence with downright huge guitar sounds, equally massive bass and drumming, and catchy refrains that move along in a very dynamic way due to several tempo changes.
After their “Death in Pretty Wrapping” four-song demo and their split with Duster 69, both in 2007, Small Stone Records released their full-length debut “Using the Useless” in 2009, which should have been followed by an European Tour in 2010… but an Icelandic volcano decided it differently, and the tour was cancelled !!.
But this year, working on a new album, they will be in Europe to play at DesertFest !!
House of Broken Promises, “Obey the Snake” Official Video
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 21st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Following up on the recent unveiling the cover art for their forthcoming full-length label debut on Tee Pee Records, L.A. heavy psych rockers Blaak Heat Shujaa have announced even more details about The Edge of an Era. The PR wire a moment ago sent over the tracklisting and confirmed the album for an April 9 release.
Los Angeles Space Psych Trio BLAAK HEAT SHUJAA to Release New Album “The Edge of an Era” April 9
“Heavy Mental” psych rock band BLAAK HEAT SHUJAA will release their sophomore LP The Edge of an Era, on April 9. The follow up to the Los Angeles trio’s critically acclaimed Tee Pee debut, The Storm Generation, The Edge of an Era sees the über-talented group’s enticing blend of genres combine to shape a sound unlike anything you’ve likely heard before; one that has been called “a dissonant symphony unveiling visions of great natural expanses”. Produced by desert session legend Scott Reeder (Sunn O))), The Obsessed) and mastered at Ventura, CA’s Golden Mastering (Primus, Sonic Youth, Calexico),The Edge of an Era boasts guest appearances by both Nobel Prize-nominated gonzo poet Ron Whitehead and desert rock pioneer Mario Lalli (Yawning Man, Fatso Jetson) adding even more color to BLAAK HEAT’s signature psych.
BLAAK HEAT SHUJAA’s transcendental tension between its heavy rock roots and an organic inclination to drift towards psychedelia pays homage to the vast collection of mind-expanding sounds the trio grew up on: neo-psychedelia, surf rock, spaghetti westerns, Middle Eastern scales and even Far Eastern melodies! Striking, imaginative cover art courtesy of Paris-based Arrache toi un oeil! collective (Brian Jonestown Massacre, TV on the Radio, Acid Mothers Temple) and inspired by the album title adds to the kaleidoscopic lean of the record from the band who boasts a cinematic sound that has been called “Heavy Spaghedelia” and “Kyussian”, featuring “psychedelic, meditative, trance-inducing” and “spacey atmospheres”. Prepare to take a windswept magic carpet ride over vast plains of astral soundtrack psychedelia!!
1.) Closing Time, Last Exit (0:57) 2.) The Obscurantist Fiend (The Beast Part I) (10:21) 3.) Shadows (The Beast Part II) (8:11) 4.) Society of Barricades (8:20) 5.) Pelham Blue (5:19) 6.) Land of the Freaks, Home of the Brave (8:22)
Posted in Radio on February 20th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
This Spring, Los Angeles rockers Heavy Glow will head out on their second West Coast tour, and they’re marking the occasion with the release of a new two-song 7″. Boasting the tracks “Mine all Mine” and “Headhunter” — as well as art from Mad Alchemy — the single was all set to arrive last week but for a problem with the shipping that caused a delay. Undeterred by misfortunes of fate or record-warping cold, Heavy Glow still have Mine all Mine/Headhunterup for pre-order through their Bandcamp page.
Marching the line between the desert crunch of Queens of the Stone Age and Foo Fighters‘ fluid pop delivery, Heavy Glow‘s “Headhunter” is coolly atmospheric and engagingly grooving at once. Movement is a key element, and even as guitarist Jared Mullins indulges in a bluesy solo, bassist Joe Brooks and drummer Michael Amster (also Blaak Heat Shujaa) hold down a solid, relaxed vibe that comes to prominence in the start-stop end of the song. “Mine all Mine,” as the A side, is more chorus centered, with Mullins tossing in a bit of falsetto vocally and matching the guitar line in the post-chorus, but both tracks offer a switched-on take on classically structured desert-isms without losing themselves completely in the psychedelic aspects of their genre.
Both tracks bode well for Heavy Glow as they move forward this year in following up their 2011 full-length, Midnight Moan, and I’m glad to have the chance to highlight Mine all Mine/Headhunteras The Obelisk Radio‘s Add of the Week. You’ll find it in regular rotation on the playlist, and the band have “Headhunter” up for streaming on their aforementioned Bandcamp. Heavy Glow are on Thee Facebooks here.
Posted in audiObelisk on February 15th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’ll be reviewing this one as well in the next month or so, but as California’s The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic made their self-titled debut available for streaming today through Bandcamp, it seemed only fair to cap the week with it. I hope you’ll forgive the preemptive doubling up. I’ve been stoked for this album since interviewing guitarist Ed Mundell and premiering a track from the band last year, so to finally hear the record in full is a boon.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen a band moniker as ripe for acronymic representation as is The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic — a trio completed by the formidable rhythm section of bassist Collyn McCoy (Trash Titan) and drummer Rick Ferrante (Sasquatch) — and the band even occasionally refers to themselves as “The UEMG.” As such, though I don’t usually like to abbreviate band names, I’m on board this time around, and I’ve decided that should they come up in conversation, I’ll be pronouncing UEMG as “oo-meg,” which, you know, is fun.
As always, I hope you dig the selection.
What I week this was, and I hope you can hear me exhale as I type that knowing it’s “over” as much as it ever is. I feel like between The Eye of the Stoned Goat 2 last Saturday and the YOB show on Sunday, I was finished before I even crossed the starting line, but a couple late nights at work and my ass is pretty well kicked. We’re supposed to get some snow between now and then — nothing like last week — but my plan for tomorrow is to head into Brooklyn and catch Elder at The Acheron with It’s Not Night: It’s Space, Eidetic Seeing and Ancient Sky. Should be an evening of heavy reverb. If you’re going, I’ll see you there.
That review should be posted Monday if all goes to plan, and also look for writeups on new records by Magic Circle and Endless Boogie next week. The latter outfit are NYC native and playing Brooklyn tonight with Arbouretum. That’s actually a show I’d have loved to have seen, but Williamsburg on a Friday night’s a pretty daunting prospect these days, driving, parking and existence-wise. Still, the record’s killer so far and I’m looking forward to digging in deeper for the review this week.
Going to try and maybe work in some shorter-type reviews as well, with the thought that not every record benefits from the 1200-word treatise and that time is limited whereas my backlog is dauntingly infinite, but maybe that’ll be this week or maybe it’ll be never. In the more immediate is fixing The Obelisk Radio, which has been down for several days now and is bumming me out. Glad to say Slevin seems to be on the case. I registered this afternoon with a different company to host the stream and last I heard he’s got it in process in terms of switching over with minimal upset to anyone who may have put the playlist in iTunes or anything like that. I’ll keep you posted when I have some better sense of when it’ll be up and running. My hope is sometime over the weekend, but these things are rarely as simple as they seem or would preferably be.
Whatever you spend your weekend listening to, I hope it’s a great and safe one and that you enjoy the holy hell out of it. I’m down to 32 copies of the Clamfight CD, and if you haven’t bought one yet, I’d sure appreciate the support if you could. Either way, thanks as always. I’ll see you on the forum and back here Monday for more keyboard-driven shenanigans.
Currently based in L.A., psychedelic desert rockers Blaak Heat Shujaa will make their full-length debut on Tee Pee Records with The Edge of an Eraon April 9. Today I have the pleasure of hosting for your check-it-outs the cover art by the Paris-based Arrache toi un oeil! collective. Below, artist Emy Rojas give some background on the inspiration for the pieces. The Edge of an Erawas produced by none other than Scott “Yes that Scott Reeder” Reeder and follows on the heels of BHS‘ Tee Pee debut EP, The Storm Generation(review here).
According to guitarist/vocalist Thomas Bellier, The Edge of an Erawill have two separate covers — one for the digipak CD release and one for the vinyl, both courtesy of Rojas, who offered the following:
“Arrache toi un oeil! made many silk screened gig posters in Paris, that’s how Thomas from Blaak Heat Shujaa discovered my work and then asked me to work on the cover of the album. The title “The edge of an era” inspired me a lot, something psychedelic, mystical, cosmic that flies away…and, at some point, ends but then announces something new. So I tried to have an image of this idea which also matched the style of the band. When I draw a cover, I always listen to the band to get closer to its universe, that’s very important for me.”
Here is the artwork in hi-resolution. Please click either image to enlarge.
The Edge of an Era is due out April 9. Stay tuned for more on the album ahead of the release.
So I’m watching this Scott Reeder video for the song “Thanks,” when all of a sudden, he’s rocking out on the roof of a trailer, and I think to myself, gee, I wonder if that’s the same trailer where Goatsnake took those press shots for Trampled Under Hoof when he was in the band. The pictures of Pete Stahl and Greg Anderson and Reeder, some are with goats, but some they’re just sitting on lawn furniture outside of a trailer, and yeah, I think it is the same spot. Check it out:
If you go to 1:46 in the video, you can see those wicker chairs from the picture above and that swing, and the angle is different, but that stuff is pretty distinct. To answer your next question, yes, this is what I do on a Friday night. Sorry ladies, I’m taken.
Even putting aside the continuity of outdoor furniture, I dig the song. “Thanks” is apparently an outtake from Reeder‘s lone solo effort to date, TunnelVision Brilliance. The album came out in 2006, and was cool if a little disjointed — as you’d have to expect it to be with songs written over the course of a decade and a half. I had hoped Reeder would follow it up with a new collection, but nothing’s surfaced since, though he’s made a stamp as producer for Dali’s Llama, Blaak Heat Shujaa, Black Math Horseman and Whores of Tijuana, among others, leaving a mark on desert heavy one way or another.
Long week, but god damn it, it felt good to finally get that Arthur Seay interview posted, and everyone was awesome about the whole four-years thing, and that was hugely appreciated on my end. Next week I’ve got a Q&A with Low Man slated to go up, and reviews of GurT, Arbouretum, Propane Propane and others, so there’s plenty worth staying tuned for, even if my brain is too tired to remember the rest of it. Which apparently it is. You’re just gonna have to trust me on this one.
Sunday, The Patient Mrs. and I are driving back north to Massachusetts to take another look at one of the houses we saw the day after that Gozu show last weekend. There are a mountain’s worth of steps between this and making an offer, having the offer accepted, closing, moving, etc., but it’s exciting to even have this stuff in motion. I’ve wanted to move for a while, even if it means I’ll need to pack up all my CDs.
Plenty of time before I get there, and in the meantime, I’m gonna go crash out as I think I exhausted the last bit of mental energy making that connection between the Reeder video and the Goatsnake pic. If you’re around, there’s good stuff doing on the forum that’s worth checking out, and not for nothing, but I was listening to The Obelisk Radio last night and I heard Truckfighters into EyeHateGod into Orange Goblin and today I heard Steve Von Till‘s “Hallowed Ground” right into The Awesome Machine‘s “Scars.” It was fucking awesome. If you’ve been digging that, or anything else around here, thanks. Really. Thank you.
I hope you have a great and safe weekend. As always, I’ll see you back here Monday for more fuzz worship and run-on indulgences.
Posted in Reviews on February 1st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Los Angeles-based cellist Alison Chesley has been releasing albums under the Helen Money moniker since 2007, and in the interim, became something of a staple in Chicago’s formidable heavy underground. Contributing to Yakuza and Russian Circles (among many others) while also following up her self-titled debut with 2009’s excellent In Tune (review here), Chesley returns with her Steve Albini-produced third album, Arriving Angels. The 40-minute mostly-solo full-length also marks her Profound Lore debut (which makes Yakuza among her many labelmates), and features guest contributions from Neurosis/Sleep drummer Jason Roeder on the tracks “Beautiful Friends,” “Radio Recorders,” “Shrapnel” and the closer “Runout,” but though the circumstances of the release has changed and the drums and appearances from jazz pianist Dennis Luxion on “Beautiful Friends” and “Runout” note a shift in approach toward a less singular, cello-based musicality, there’s a lot about Arriving Angels that remains consistent with Chesley’s prior work in/as Helen Money, most notably the evocative atmospherics she creates using the cello and a range of loops and effects. She can be alternately minimalist, as on the Pat Metheny cover “Midwestern Nights Dream” that begins the second half of the tracklist or build layer upon layer to mount a consuming and dynamic swell as on “Upsetter,” filling out the starts and stops of one progression with the higher-register movements of another. All this results in an album varied and progressive, but also working (obviously) around a central musical thematic, that is, the cello itself. There are no vocals, no guitar or bass, no keys other than Luxion’s piano – which admittedly plays a significant role in the closer – and even Roeder’s drums on “Beautiful Friends,” “Radio Recorders” and “Runout” are looped, so Arriving Angels is still very much Chesley’s record, a showcase for what she does with the cello, opening with a full-toned volume swell of drone and foreboding echoes of distortion on “Rift,” which serves as much as an introduction to the album as a track in its own right, patiently developing and then abandoning a build to bring on layers of rhythmic chugging (yes, a cello can chug) that act as a bed for biting leads and complex interplay between the cello and itself.
The song turns vaguely psychedelic with backwards swirls and a devolution back into the droning noise from whence it came, and in its course, it establishes much of Chesley’s modus for the rest of the LP, “Upsetter” opening with creepy repetitions before bursting into jarring avant rhythm – you could call it aptly-titled, since whether it’s the threat of the atmosphere in the first cycle or the unwillingness of the second to let you get ahold of it, something here is probably going to upset you – running through the course twice before the three-minute mark, at which point a higher swell draws the song to what feels like a close, only to have the initial repetition resume as an outro that serves just as much as an introduction to “Beautiful Friends,” which sets clean and distorted lines against each other almost immediately – Chesley showing a bit of Neurosis influence in the distorted march – only to set a start-stop chug to what feels like an extended tom fill from Roeder, both stopping, then starting again. Luxion’s piano comes on as the drummer takes to his ride cymbal, but it’s Chesley that ultimately emerges, first in the right channel, then the left, to draw the cut to its conclusion with a part that, if she took another eight or nine minutes to ride it out to a massive tide of post-doom heaviness with a full band behind her, bass, guitar, drums and keys, I don’t think I’d complain. That, however, isn’t how Arriving Angels runs its course, and “Radio Recorders” begins with sustained notes and drums from Roeder that up the intensity even from what he was doing on the prior cut. I don’t know if that’s a loop (Michael Friedman is credited with programming loops on “Beautiful Friends,” “Radio Recorders” and “Runout”), or if Roeder is playing that part live, but either way, it sounds like a good way to blow out a shoulder. The drums come and go amid effected cello churn and swirls, and massive-sounding distorted line soon makes a bed for a lead that’s melancholic almost to the point of being doomed, the song lulling the listener into a false sense of security only to have Roeder’s drums pick up again and themselves layer to a faded finish.
Posted in Features on February 1st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
With the announcement that post-Kyuss desert rock outfit Unida would headline this year’s Desertfest in London and Berlin, one of the genre’s most incomplete chapters was reopened. Unida, you see, has been through their fair share of what guitarist Arthur Seay — also of House of Broken Promises — rightly calls “bullshit,” having recorded an album with Rick Rubin only to have it sit shelved and go (officially) unreleased to this day.
Like Sleep, whose contractual immobility also resulted in their dissolution, there was really nowhere for Unida to go. They’d had the Coping with the Urban Coyotefull-length out on Man’s Ruin and a split with Dozer, but what was supposed to begin their ascent was this full-length — varyingly titled For the Working Man or The Great Divide, depending on from whom you download it — and with it sitting in the can,Unida were shot down before they even took flight. The list is long, but it’s up there with stoner rock’s bigger bummers.
It wasn’t long before vocalist John Garcia resurfaced in Hermano with a promising first album in 2002 — his movement from Kyuss to Slo Burn to Unida having led him to that point — and the rest of Unida moved ahead as well. By 2004, Seay and drummer Mike Cancino had aligned with bassist/vocalist Eddie Plascencia in House of Broken Promises (Scott Reeder, who played bass in Unida, went on to produce acts, put out a solo record and join a slew of other bands, among them Goatsnake), though it would be half a decade before their debut LP, Using the Useless, showed up via Small Stone.
With Seay and Cancino in HoBP and Garcia devoting his last several years to revitalizing the Kyuss brand in Garcia Plays Kyuss, Kyuss Lives! and now Vista Chino, it’s been a winding road to get back to the unfinished business of Unida. But though there’s enough backstory to fill a book and then some, mostly it was the future that Seay wanted to talk about in our recent interview. New touring, new albums for both Unida and HoBP, and plans for things to come. Seay also built his own recording studio and works traveling the globe as a guitar tech for commercial metal acts like Slipknot and Limp Bizkit, so there was much to discuss.
Fortunately, Seay‘s a bit of a talker. There was a lot of the interview that was off the record, some talk about the desert scene, etc., but there’s a tremendous amount of information contained in his answers, so even if you’re a relative newcomer to Unida or just heard about them through Desertfest, I hope you’ll agree it’s worth a read.
Please find the complete 3,900-word Q&A with Arthur Seay after the jump, and please enjoy.
Every time Chris “Woody High” MacDermott sends in one of these Spine of Overkill columns, I just want to spend the whole day listening to classic thrash. So it goes with this month’s, in which — after hearing Ben Smith of The Brought Low talk a bit of smack — he rallies to the defense of Exodus‘ 1985 ripper, Bonded by Blood. Could a Brought Low/Mighty High feud be in the works? Only time will tell.
Recently Ben from The Brought Low said on the internets that Exodus is whack and that he’s OK going on record with it. Chances are he’s thinking of the stupid videos for “Toxic Waltz” and “Low Rider” that he watched on channel U68 in Queens as a kid. Somehow I doubt in 1984 he was trying to track down a copy of their Whipping Queen demo or live tapes through the pages of low budget fanzines. Everyone’s entitled to their opinions but I’m here to set the record straight. Bonded by Blood is absolutely their greatest album and it fuckin’ kicks major ass!!
Formed in 1980 as a traditional Judas Priest/Iron Maiden-style metal band, the core Exodus members were drummer TomHunting along with the guitar tag team of KirkHammett and GaryHolt. It wasn’t until they discovered belligerent heavy metal maniac PaulBaloff and made him their singer that the Exodus attack was under way. A demo in 1982 unleashed the songs “Whipping Queen,” “Death & Domination” and “Warlords.” A live demo the following year contained a killer song called “Die by His Hand.” An important part of this song would later wind up in Metallica‘s “Creeping Death” and cause a lot of arguments in parking lots, basements and woods for years to come. It wasn’t until Kirk quit that the Exodus sound would really take shape. Under the direction of Gary, the band starting cranking out the ultra-violence jams that we all know and love as Bonded by Blood.
Opening with a bomber sound effect, the song “Bonded by Blood” explodes out of the speakers and causes immediate psychotic reaction. The first time you hear Baloff screaming lyrics like “Metal and blood come together as one/Onlookers they gasp in dismay,” there’s no going back to “Hot Rockin’” by Judas Priest. “Onlookers they gasp in dismay” is a key line for the time period. If you put this tape on at a party and started raging you might actually get to hear the entire song due the stunned nature of the non-metal brethren, especially when you scream “INTENSE METAL IS ALL THAT YOU NEED!” in the face of a cheerleader. And as you’re getting muscled out the door at least you get deliver the gospel of “Metal takes its price – BONDED BY BLOOD!!”
Now that you’ve been kicked out of the party, it’s time to rage to the rest of it in the safety of an empty field or, if you’re really lucky, in a moving car. Start to finish, this album is the definition of drunken, anti-social pugnaciousness. Their theme song “Exodus” has a pummeling riff that will give you that extra bit of adrenaline you need to pull stop signs out of the ground. “And Then There Were None” is a little slower but is just the right tempo for when you’re rocking a parked car back and forth trying to flip it over. “A Lesson in Violence” is great thing to threaten the old man at the liquor store with who wants to see your ID. All of this means you’re under the “Metal Command” of Exodus, “A wall of sonic sound with amps turned up to 10!” And that’s just side one!
Flip it over and Tom Hunting‘s drums set you up for an attack of “Piranha.” One of their fastest songs, it’s also a great warning not to try and do battle with this “deadly school.” Almost a full minute of solo acoustic guitar starts off “No Love.” That would be totally unacceptable if it wasn’t such a heavy song about human sacrifice. “Deliver Us to Evil” is what Mercyful Fate might have sounded like with John Brannon of Negative Approach singing instead of the caterwauling of Queen Rhinestone. The bloody mess of side two wraps up with the absolutely vicious “Strike of the Beast,” one of Gary‘s best riffs.
Recorded in 1984, Bonded by Blood was actively being passed around by tape traders long before its official release in the spring of ‘85. Exodus were huge in their native San Francisco but had not yet done a lot of touring. By that time Metallica was touring their second album Ride the Lightning and Slayer had put out their debut album and two EPs. But when Exodus finally did go on tour, it was with Slayer as they took turns blowing Venom off the stage. It’s well documented on the incredible VHS tape called The Ultimate Revenge, filmed at Studio 54 in New York City (later to become the “new” Ritz). You get to witness Baloff‘s giant afro, hilarious stage banter and the band’s methed up metal attack. Slayer‘s portion is unbelievably heavy. Poor Venom never stood a chance. Touring on the weak Possessed album and without original guitarist Mantas, they refused to let the live footage shot be used in the video. Instead there’s an interview with Cronos and Abaddon while promo videos take the place of their performance. It is to my eternal regret that I was not at this show.
Paul Baloff got the boot from Exodus not long after and things were never the same. Exodus went on to have some successful albums but they always seemed to be competing with Anthrax as to who could be silliest with the shorts and moshing business. They’ve been cranking out some brutally heavy albums for the past 10 years but a big portion of their set remains the Bonded by Blood album. This album was also a good bridge to the Master of Puppets fans who initially found stuff like Hell Awaits, War & Pain, Heavy Metal Maniac and Morbid Tales way too raw. As Baloff would say “metal rules & if you don’t like it, die!” Rage in peace, Paul. YEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!
If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “But wait a second… Didn’t Snail already make a video for the song ‘Ritual’ from their most excellent 2012 album, Terminus, and didn’t The Obelisk premiere it?” Well, okay, maybe you weren’t thinking in those exact terms, or thinking that at all, but either way the answer is the same: Kinda.
Back before Terminus was released, I put up an interview with guitarist/vocalist Mark Johnson and bassist Matt Lynch about the making of the album, and indeed, there was a video premiere along with that Q&A, and indeed, that video was for the song “Ritual.” The difference is that this new clip wasn’t made by the band and it’s an original project by an outsider rather than compiled with found footage by the band themselves. I liked the other video, but you know, I like this one too, and they’re both (mostly) black and white, so there’s even a bit of continuity between them.
Actually, to be perfectly honest, my first thought when I was watching the “Ritual” clip below directed by Maxime Weber was to wonder if the office park that appears at around the two-minute mark and again later in some of the color section wasn’t the same one that was used for filming Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, but no, it turns out it was all filmed in Luxembourg, and I’m a jerk. Glad I got that one settled.
Enjoy “Ritual,” and if you’ve enjoyed it before, take it as a cue to break out Terminusfor another listen. I did:
Any discussion of all-time essential heavy albums is incomplete without Kyuss‘ 1994 full-length, Welcome to Sky Valley.
Officially self-titled, the Palm Desert four-piece’s third album following 1992′s also pivotal Blues for the Red Sun and 1991′s Wretch debut is to this day the single blueprint on which the desert rock aesthetic is based. The album was recorded at Sound City by Chris Goss and included the simple instructions to, “Listen without Distraction.” Rarely in heavy rock has such sound advice been given.
You could argue that Blues for the Red Sundeserves induction into the Canon of Heavy first — I’m not sure you’d be wrong. The difference, however, is that where Blues for the Red Sunestablished Kyuss as a band apart from the grunge movement that was then sweeping radio, print mags and the greater rock and roll consciousness, it was Welcome to Sky Valleythat showcased specifically the alternative they presented, the weight of their grooves, the loosely jammed feel of driving, punk-derived rhythms, the sheer power of a riff like that of “Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop” to stomp itself into the brain of a listener — I still try to tap out the hits at the end and get it wrong more often than not — and ultimately set the stage for the massive and ongoing influence Kyuss has today on bands all around the world.
Then comprised of vocalist John Garcia, guitarist Josh Homme, bassist Scott Reeder and drummer Brant Bjork, Kyuss would become a standard for those to whom even the commodified strains of alt rock left cold, and the sheer something else-ness of Welcome to Sky Valleycontinues to resonate and make it one of the best heavy records of all time, the best and most formative desert rock release ever, and an utterly timeless listen.
If nothing else, let the fact that Welcome to Sky Valley is included second to Black Sabbath‘s Master of Realityin the Canon of Heavy be a testament to its standing among the classics. And yet how can we call Kyuss anything but underrated?
“The Desert Sound”
Among others, Kyuss cited local jammers Yawning Man as having an influence on their sound, and one can hear that in Homme‘s guitar work on “Space Cadet” and elsewhere, but in a way that’s both unpretentious and undeniable, Welcome to Sky Valleywas representative of the Californian desert to its very core. Weird and a little hippie, there was nonetheless heat in the tonal fuzz of the guitars and an ecosystem at work in Reeder‘s basslines, and while Garcia mused with stoned, brazen abandon about who the hell knows what, Bjork solidified every move the band made with understated percussive brilliance. Whether it was the single-worthy psychedelia of “Demon Cleaner” or the landmark thrust of “Odyssey,” Kyuss was as much about the rhythm section as it was about riffs or melodies.
The closing duo of “N.O.” (a cover of Reeder‘s prior outfit, Across the River) and “Whitewater” emphasized that perfectly, but really, it can be heard throughout Welcome to Sky Valley, and the photos that comprise the album’s artwork, of cracked sands and a foldout of a windmill, only speak to the band’s connection to its geography and their intent in conveying that musically. Whatever it was that did it, Kyuss never quite fit sonically with either the hard rock or the metal of their day. A jammed-out instrumental like “Asteroid,” placed as the second track behind opener “Gardenia” in the first of the album’s three movements, is unlike anything radio would’ve touched at the time, and at the time, radio was how a band like Kyuss would’ve gotten big. So what we have is an act necessitating a new vocabulary that didn’t exist when they did — ahead of their time — an act forcing those who’d approach them to realize that heaviness didn’t necessarily have to come hand in hand with anger or some teenaged grunge moping.
How did all this come from the desert? Hell if I know. Thinking about a landscape like that, beaten by the sun, dry and cracked like in the liner note pictures, it looks heavy, making a subtle, nonchalant threat just by being there. You can get lost in the desert and you can get lost in this music. The two almost can’t help but go hand in hand.
Let’s say you’re a rock band signed to a major label. You see that the audience is becoming less and less dependent on a full-album listening experience and to counteract this — because you’ve just gone to the trouble of writing a full-length’s worth of material and perhaps you believe in all of it and want it to be heard — you decide to block the 10 component tracks of your album into three movements, three in the first, three in the second and four in the third. Basically, you’re demanding that your audience engage the songs on the level you’ve chosen for them. They no longer have the power to skip to whichever track they want. The terms are yours.
First of all, you’d never get away with it. Today’s corporate label strata is so client friendly that so long as you’re willing to give even the slightest bit of money as opposed to just stealing an album by downloading it illegally, record companies will basically spoon-feed the music to your ears (that’s not to mention the homogenizing effect that the desperation to reach as broad an audience base as possible has had on commercial hard rock as a whole; it’s an issue for a different time), and if you want singles, singles you’ll have. Even Welcome to Sky Valleyfeels like the result of a compromise in this way. Kyuss could just as easily have presented the individual pieces as one 51-minute track. One wonders at the negotiation process that resulted in the three blocks of tracks that the final CD housed, a new meaning given to the proverbial numbers game of contract talks.
Promo copies of Welcome to Sky Valleywent out to radio stations with the pieces split up individually, but for the general listening populace, Sky Valleymore or less forced you to take it on as a whole and on that level flew in the face of its own potential for commercial success. In a climate that was having less and less time for a whole album, Kyuss decided they’d refuse to give anything less.
Unless you’ve done it, I’m not sure you can understand quite how difficult it is sometimes to review heavy rock records and not just be like, “Well, it kinda sounds like Kyuss on Welcome to Sky Valley.” At this point, approaching 19 years since its original release, the album continues to have an appeal past any expiration date one might’ve ever wanted to put on it, and from California to Moscow, bands have tried to make even the slightest bit of its magic their own. Most fall short, but the mere fact that their inspiration can be traced back to Kyuss and in particular to Welcome to Sky Valleymakes the album a standout in its generation.
The basic fact is that when Kyuss released this album on Elektra, yeah, there was a market for creative hard rock — the Melvins put out Houdinion Atlantic late in ’93, and Monster Magnet‘s second album, Superjudge, founding them riding high on A&M — but the number of bands taking the approach Kyuss were taking to psychedelia, to rock-after-punk (that’s not to call them post-punk), on the level they were doing it, well, it was pretty much them and nobody. The desert from whence they hailed may have had a vibrant scene at the time, with bands like the aforementioned Yawning Man or Fatso Jetson, whose guitarist Mario Lalli guests on lead for “N.O.,” but Kyuss became the ambassadors for that scene to a wider public consciousness.
Really, it’s a title they continue to hold to this day, and with the boom in awareness of what they were doing that came with the rise of the internet as a musical conveyance, their reach went global just a few years after they’d broken up. Already by the mid-to-late ’90s, Man’s Ruin Records was having an impact on listening habits, but today, the sound that took root in Palm Desert can just as likely be heard in Poland or New Zealand.
So Why Weren’t They Huge?
How can that be true — how can Welcome to Sky Valleyhave had such an impact on heavy rock — and Kyuss still be an underground band? Well, the commercial success that Josh Homme eventually found with Queens of the Stone Age — and let’s not forget it took three albums and a collaboration with Dave Grohl to get there — eluded Kyuss for the entirety of their career. Singles like “Demon Cleaner” and “One Inch Man” from subsequent album …And the Circus Leaves Town(1996) brought some attention, and the band toured hard, but they never quite took the steps that Homme would later take to embrace their audience. Songs were loose and half-jammed, Garcia‘s vocals biting and guttural, and like several others of their musical generation, Kyuss inhabited a curious zone somewhere in between hard rock and heavy metal. The difference is now two decades’ worth of bands have lined up behind them in that position.
The way I look at it is like “Lick Doo” — the “secret” fourth track after the glorious finish of “Whitewater” that’s a minute-long faux doo-wop organ number with Garcia singing, “Oh honey, you know that you can and will lick my doo,” etc. Kyuss by this time were getting to be professionals at their sound, realizing that they had something unique to offer on a stylistic level and setting themselves to the work of capturing that on tape, but they were also a bunch of desert-dwelling stoners goofing around. You think if they were up to taking themselves too seriously they’d have put “Lick Doo” after “Whitewater?” No way. “Hey, here’s probably the best song we’ll ever write, let’s end the record with it and then put this stupid outtake on after it for absolutely no reason.” Sorry, but if you’re considering your position in rock history, that’s probably not the choice you’re gonna make.
And ultimately, maybe that’s part of what makes Welcome to Sky Valleyso special — that Kyuss may have been reinventing a long forgotten classic rock wheel, but they were basically doing so just by being who they were. And maybe that’s why all the people who’ve come along since, including Kyuss themselves, have never quite managed to harness the same feeling in a recording as these guys did at that particular moment in time, in that studio, with those instruments, those songs.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 2nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Sometimes it feels like every other post around here is about Matt Pike, but what can I say? The dude makes news as much as he makes noise. Fresh off coming in second in The Obelisk’s Readers Poll for 2012, High on Fire have been announced as taking part in this year’s Metal Alliance (aka Metalliance)tour, set to run from March 23 to April 20.
And it’s not so much the fact that they’re on the tour that makes it news, so much as the company they’re keeping. I know High on Fire and Municipal Waste have done shows together in the past, but it puts the Oakland trio in a way thrashier context to have them alongside Anthrax doing all of Among the Livingand Exodus on Metalliance. They’ve already long since won over lovers of the riff, so it should be interesting to see how they do with a more straightforwardly metal crowd.
Here’s the info and dates, hot off the PR wire:
High On Fire Join The Metal Alliance Tour
The Metal Alliance Tour is back and now has added the mighty HIGH ON FIRE to its already impressive Festival line up. The band has just completed their own very successful headlining tour with GOATWHORE and LO-PAN. Their latest release De Vermis Mysteriis by eOne Entertainment was garnered as one of the Best Metal Records of 2012 and winning the Revolver Magazine Best Video of 2012.
The Metal Alliance Tour is scheduled to roll out in March and continue through April. It features the greatest bands within the genre including ANTHRAX performing their fan favorite 1987 classic Among The Living in its entirety along with San Francisco thrash legends EXODUS, HIGH ON FIRE, MUNICIPAL WASTE and HOLY GRAIL. This is a tour will go down as one of the greatest shows to hit the stage.
General Admission Tickets will be available on January 11th but fans can now order their VIP Tickets. There are only 50 VIP Tickets per market and will quickly sell out. Each VIP Ticket will include the following items:
General Admission Ticket Meet & Greet 30 Minutes Before Doors Limited Edition VIP Laminate Limited Edition 11 x 17 Tour Poster Metal Alliance Beer Koozie Bottle of High River Sauce’s Hellacious Hot Sauce (The Official Hot Sauce of The Metal Alliance Tour) Issue of Revolver Magazine
Sharing the stage each night and crushing heads on the Metal Alliance Tour will be San Francisco thrash legends EXODUS, MUNICIPAL WASTE, HOLY GRAIL and a couple of additional bands will be announce at a later date.
3/23 House of Blues Las Vegas, NV 3/24 Marquee Theatre Tempe, AZ 3/25 House of Blues San Diego, CA 3/27 House of Blues West Hollywood, CA 3/28 Regency Ballroom San Francisco, CA 3/29 The Crystal Ballroom Portland, OR 3/30 Commodore Ballroom Vancouver, BC 3/31 Showbox SoDo Seattle, WA 4/2 Summit Music Hall Denver, CO 4/4 First Avenue Minneapolis, MN 4/5 House of Blues Chicago, IL 4/6 The Fillmore Detroit Detroit, MI 4/7 Bogarts Cincinnati, OH 4/9 House of Blues Dallas, TX 4/10 House of Blues Houston, TX 4/12 House of Blues Lake Buena Vista, FL 4/13 Tremont Music Hall Charlotte, NC 4/14 The Fillmore Silver Spring, MD 4/16 House of Blues Cleveland, OH 4/18 Theatre of the Living Arts Philadelphia, PA 4/20 Irving Plaza New York, NY
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 1st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
San Diego-based trio Heavy Glow will have a new album out this year on Purge Records. To herald its coming as the follow-up to 2011′s MidnightMoan, the band have a new 7″ ready and they’ll be taking off on a 15-date West Coast tour starting next Thursday, with Michael Amster of Blaak Heat Shujaa filling in on drums.
As science has proven time and again, people who go to shows in January rule. Here’s the info:
Heavy Glow is officially announcing the following West Coast U.S. Tour Dates in support of an upcoming 7″ Vinyl Release. They will be joined by Michael Amster of Tee Pee Record’s recording group Blaak Heat Shujaa:
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 28th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Okay, let me rephrase right off the bat — Sleep don’t need to put out an album at all. Sleep don’t need to do anything. With Al Cisneros in Om, Matt Pike in High on Fire and Jason Roeder in Neurosis, it’s not like the dudes in Sleep are lagging either on output or asskickery. However, “I think Sleep should put out a new record in an attempt to capture a special moment in the creative lives of its three members” hardly makes for a catchy headline. So here we are.
I’ve got a couple different levels of argument in favor of a new Sleep album, which would be their first since the epic Dopesmokerfinally saw the light of day officially in 2003. At the most basic level is the nerdy, “OMG more riffs”-type impulse — the side of me that wants to hear new Sleep just because it would be new stuff from the band who put out Sleep’s Holy Mountain20 years ago. I’m not about to invalidate that response. Fanboyism is what it is.
More than that, however, I think when you take a look at the response to the periodic shows Sleep have played over the last two-plus years (I first saw them in Brooklyn, Sept. 2010), their continued interest in performing live, their continued influence in the sphere of stoner metal, heavy psych, etc., and — because yes, this matters — the fact that there’s more of an audience for Sleep now than there ever was before, a new studio album is a logical next step. Most of all, creatively.
Take a look at this year’s releases from Om, High on Fire and Neurosis. All three bands had a records out in 2012, and all three were incredibly different. Cisneros explored lush melodies and a wider psychedelic expanse than ever before on Advaitic Songs (review here), while Pike issued High on Fire‘s most aggressive offering to date in De Vermis Mysteriis (review here), and in Neurosis, Roeder provided creative rhythms to ground some of the pioneering Bay Area outfit’s most complex material on Honor Found in Decay(review here). Each was a triumph completely on its own terms.
And that’s why I say now is the time for new Sleep. I’m not thinking that you put Cisneros, Pike and Roeder in a jam space and out comes “From Beyond Pt. 2.” Especially since it would be their first outing with Roeder on drums, I’d hope that a new Sleep record — while obviously steeped in Iommic tradition — sounded like nothing they’ve ever done before. If I wanted to hear what Sleep sounded as they were in their original incarnation, I’d put on one of the old albums. I want to hear what Sleep can put together sound-wise today. I want to hear Sleep with Roeder‘s drum fills, or some of the warmth of tone that Cisneros has developed in Om, or with the kind of solo that Pike wouldn’t have dared attempt at the time but has been decapitating audiences with ever since.
They’ve got their blueprint to work from in terms of riffs, tones and overall approach, but with as distinct as the three personalities have proven to be over the course of this year — and especially with how well the trio works on stage at this point; their set at Roadburn 2012 was hands down one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen — it just seems like there’s an opportunity now to stand up to the challenge of bringing together something that captures the different sides of each member’s personality while also remains uniquely Sleep‘s own, adding to the breadth of their ever-expanding influence.
It seems like a ludicrous idea, right? Well, Black Sabbath have a new record in the works. Saint Vitus put out an album this year. Hell, even the dudes from Kyuss have something going at this point. So why not Sleep? I never thought I’d get to see the band live, and it’s been a couple times now. We live in a universe of infinite possibilities, and though it’s hardly the likeliest announcement to come down the PR wire, would you really have thought they’d get back together for shows in the first place? It’s been over two years now.
So yeah, they don’t need to release an album in 2013 — or ever, for that matter — but if they did, they’d be coming together at just the time when they each seemed to be most on their own path. Whatever that might result in, whether it’s another Dopesmoker or something completely different, it seems like a worthwhile endeavor no matter how you want to look at it.
Some awesome people involved in this faux behind-the-scenes clip of Queens of the Stone Age working on their new album, due in the first half of 2013. Talking with frontman Josh Homme for most of the video is British comic actor Matt Berry, who’s probably best known for playing the boss, Douglas Reynholm, on the sitcom The IT Crowd, but who’s also been in excellent stuff like Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace and the gosh-I-wish-they-made-more-episodes-of-it show Snuff Box, both of which are recommended viewing for anyone who can get ahold of them.
Joining Berry in finding the “Secrets of the Sound” is Steve Agee, who was on The Sarah SilvermanProgram as Brian Posehn‘s pot-smoking, video-game-loving boyfriend. The clip of Agee “interviewing” QOTSA bassist Michael Shuman is pretty awesome, as is the footage of Berry with guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen, whom I don’t think I’ve ever seen outside of a sport jacket and open button-down. Everyone’s gotta have a uniform, I guess.
The nine-minute video was also directed and edited by Liam Lynch, who has worked with QOTSA and Foo Fighters in the past (he appeared on Queens‘ last album, Era Vulgaris, in 2007), and who created Sifl and Olly and has directed a host of stuff for Tenacious D. One big family.
Also watch for: Josh Homme art, the dog dragging its ass on the rug, “the Swayz,” etc. Dig it: