Quarterly Review: Russian Circles, Salem’s Pot, Bridesmaid, Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Landing, Reign of Zaius, Transcendent Sea, Red Teeth, Sea of Bones & Ramlord, Holy Smoke

Posted in Reviews on October 6th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


I’ll admit I’m a little surprised at the shape this Quarterly Review has taken. As I begin to look back on the year in terms of what records have been talked about over the span, I find it’s been particularly geared toward debut albums, both in and out of wrap-ups like this one. There’s less of that this time around, but what’s happened is some stuff that doesn’t fall into that category — releases like the first two here, for example — are getting covered here to allow space for the others. Let’s face it, nobody gives a shit what I have to say about Russian Circles anyhow, so whatever, but I’m happy to have this as a vehicle for discussing records I still think are worth discussing — the first two releases here, again for example — rather than letting them fall through the cracks with the glut of new bands coming along. Of course things evolve as you go on, but I wish I’d figured it out sooner. Let’s dive in.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Russian Circles, Guidance


From the warm wash of guitar that begins “Asa” onward, and no matter how weighted, percussive and/or chug-fueled Russian Circles get from there, the Chicago trio seem to be offering solace on their latest outing, Guidance. Recorded by Kurt Ballou and released through Sargent House, the seven-track offering crosses heavy post-rock soundscapes given marked thickness and distinct intensity on “Vorel,” but the record as a whole never quite loses the serenity in “Asa” or the later “Overboard,” crushing as the subsequent “Calla” gets, and though the spaces they cast in closer “Lisboa” are wide and intimidating, their control of them is utterly complete. Six albums in, Russian Circles are simply masters of what they do. There’s really no other way to put it. They remain forward thinking in terms of investigating new ideas in their sound, but their core approach is set in the fluidity of these songs and they revise their aesthetic with a similar, natural patience to that with which they execute their material.

Russian Circles on Thee Facebooks

Sargent House website


Salem’s Pot, Pronounce This!


Following their 2014 RidingEasy Records debut, …Lurar ut dig på prärien (discussed here) – which, presumably met with some pronunciation trouble outside the band’s native Sweden – Salem’s Pot return with Pronounce This!, further refining their blend of psychedelic swirl, odd vibes and garage doom riffing. They remain heavily indoctrinated into the post-Uncle Acid school of buzz and groove, and aren’t afraid to scum it up on “Tranny Takes a Trip” or the slower-shifting first half of “Coal Mind,” but the second portion of that song and “So Gone, so Dead” take a more classically progressive bent that is both refreshing and a significant expansion on what Salem’s Pot have accomplished thus far into their tenure. Still weird, and one doubts that’ll change anytime soon – nor does it need to – but as Pronounce This! plays out, Salem’s Pot demonstrate an open-mindedness that seems to have been underlying their work all along and bring it forward in engaging fashion.

Salem’s Pot BigCartel store

RidingEasy Records website


Bridesmaid, International House of Mancakes


International House of Mancakes – yup – is the follow-up to Bridesmaid’s 2013 long-player, Breakfast at Riffany’s, and like that album, it finds the Columbus, Ohio, instrumentalists with a penchant for inserting dudes’ names into well-known titles – see “Hungry Like Nick Wolf” and “Ronnin’ with the Devil” – but it also expands the lineup to the two-bass/two-drum four-piece of Scott Hyatt and Bob Brinkman (both bass) and Cory Barnt and Boehm (both drums). Topped off with KISS-meets-Village People art from W. Ralph Walters, there are shortages neither of snark nor low end, but buried underneath is a progressive songwriting sensibility that doesn’t come across as overly metal on cuts like “Ricky Thump” and doesn’t sacrifice impact or heft for the sake of self-indulgence. Opening with its longest track (immediate points) in “It’s Alectric (Boogie Woogie Woogie),” International House of Mancakes unfolds a heavy rock push that, while obviously driven in part by its sense of humor, earns serious consideration in these tracks for those willing to actually listen.

Bridesmaid on Thee Facebooks

Bridesmaid on Bandcamp


Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Keep it Greasy!


Too thick in its tones to be a completely vintage-style work, the sleazy vibes of Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell’s Keep it Greasy! (on Rise Above) are otherwise loyal to circa-1971 boogie and attitude, and whether it’s the rewind moment on opener “U Got Wot I Need” or proto-metallic bass thrust of the “Hawkline Monster” or the brash post-Lemmy push of “Tired ‘n’ Wired,” the album is a celebration of a moment when rock isn’t about being any of those things or anything else, but about having a good time, letting off some steam from a shit job or whatever it is, and trying your damnedest to get laid. Radio samples throughout tie the songs together, but even that carries an analog feel – because radio – and the good Admiral are clearly well versed in the fine art of kicking ass. Familiar in all the right ways with more than enough personality to make that just another part of the charm.

The Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records website


Landing, Third Sight


The invitation to completely immerse comes quickly on the 13-minute “Delusion Sound,” which opens Landing’s Third Sight (on El Paraiso), and from there, the Connecticut four-piece sway along a beautiful and melodic drift, easing their way along a full-sounding progression filled out with airy guitar and backing drones, moved forward patiently by its drum march and topped with echoed half-whispers. It’s a flat-out gorgeous initial impression to make, and the instrumental “Third Site” and “Facing South” follow it with a tinge of the experimentalism for which Landing are more known, the former led by guitar and the latter led by cinematic keyboard. To bookend, the 14-minute “Morning Sun” builds as it progresses and draws the various sides together while creating a rising soundscape of its own, every bit earning its name as the vocals emerge in the second half, part of a created wash that is nothing short of beautiful. One could say the same of Third Sight as a whole.

Landing on Thee Facebooks

El Paraiso Records website


Reign of Zaius, Planet Of…


While they’ve spent the last few years kicking around the deeper recesses of Brooklyn’s heavy underground, Reign of Zaius mark their debut release with the 26-minute Planet Of… EP, bringing together seven tracks that show what their time and buildup of material has wrought. Opener “Hate Parade” reminds of earliest Kings Destroy, but on the whole, Reign of Zaius are rawer and more metal at their core, the five-piece delving into shuffle on “Out of Get Mine” and showing an affinity for classic horror in both “They Live” – which starts with a sample of Roddy Piper being all out of bubblegum – and “Farewell to Arms,” previously issued as a single in homage to Evil Dead. The charm of a “Dueling Banjos” reference at the start of “Deliver Me” leads to one of the catchier hooks on Planet Of…, and the shorter “Power Hitter” closes with a bass-heavy paean to smoking out that digs into punkish summation of where Reign of Zaius are coming from generally as they continue to be a band up for having a good time without taking themselves too seriously.

Reign of Zaius on Thee Facebooks

Reign of Zaius on Bandcamp


Transcendent Sea, Ballads of Drowning Men


Kind of a mystery just where the time goes on Sydney rockers Transcendent Sea’s self-released 50-minute first album, Ballads of Drowning Men. Sure, straightforward cuts like “Over Easy” and “Mind Queen” are easily enough accounted for with their post-Orange Goblin burl and boozy, guttural delivery from vocalist Sean Bowden, but as the four-piece of Bowden, guitarist Mathew J. Allen, bassist Andrew Auglys and drummer Mark Mills get into the more extended “Throw Me a Line,” “Blood of a Lion” and closer “Way of the Wolf” – all over 10 minutes each – their moves become harder to track. They keep the hooks and the verses, but it’s not like they’re just tacking jams onto otherwise structured tracks, and even when “Way of the Wolf” goes wandering, Bowden keeps it grounded, and that effect is prevalent throughout in balancing Ballads of Drowning Men as a whole. It takes a few listens to get a handle on where Transcendent Sea are coming from in that regard, but their debut proves worth at least that minimal effort.

Transcendent Sea on Thee Facebooks

Transcendent Sea on Bandcamp


Red Teeth, Light Bender


Brothers Rael and Ryan Andrews, both formerly of Lansing, Michigan, art rockers BerT, revive their heavy punk duo Red Teeth with the four-song Light Bender 7” on GTG Records. Both contribute vocals, and Ryan handles guitar and bass, while Rael is on drums and synth through the quick run of “Light Bender, Sound Bender,” “Tas Pappas,” “134mps” and “Elephant Graveyard,” the longest of which is the opener (immediate points) at 4:49. By the time they get down to “Elephant Graveyard,” one can hear some of the Melvinsian twist and crunch that often surfaced in BerT, but whether it’s the ‘90s-alt-vibes-meet-drum-madness of “134mps” or the almost rockabilly riffing of “Tas Pappas,” Red Teeth – whose last release was eight years ago – have no trouble establishing personality in these songs. Approach with an open mind and the weirdness that persists will be more satisfying, as each track seems to have a context entirely of its own.

Red Teeth on Bandcamp

GTG Records website


Sea of Bones & Ramlord, Split


One can hear the kind of spacious darkness and through-the-skin cold of New England winters in this new split EP from Connecticut crushers Sea of Bones and grinding New Hampshire compatriots Ramlord from Broken Limbs Recordings. What the two share most of all is an atmosphere of existential destitution, but there’s an underlying sense of the extreme that also ties together Sea of Bones’ “Hopelessness and Decay” (10:36) and Ramlord’s “Incarceration of Clairvoyance (Part III)” (10:10), the latter of which continues a series Ramlord started back in 2012 on a split with Cara Neir. Both acts are very much in their element in their brutality. For Sea of Bones, this is the second release they’ve had out this year behind the improvised and digital-only “Silent Transmissions” 27-minute single, which of course was anything but, and for Ramlord, it’s their first split in two years, but finds their gritty, filthy sound well intact from where they last left it. Nothing to complain about here, unless peace of mind is your thing, because you certainly won’t find any of that.

Broken Limbs Recordings on Bandcamp

Sea of Bones on Thee Facebooks

Ramlord on Thee Facebooks


Holy Smoke, Holy Smoke! It’s a Demo!


Philadelphia-based five-piece Holy Smoke formed in the early hours of 2015, and the exclamatory Holy Smoke! It’s a Demo! three-track EP is their debut release. Opening with its longest cut (immediate points) in “Rinse and Repeat,” it finds them blending psychedelic and heavy rock elements and conjuring marked fluidity between them. As the title indicates, it’s a demo, and what one hears throughout is the first material Holy Smoke thought enough of to put to tape, but on “Rinse and Repeat” and the subsequent “Blue Dreams” and “The Firm,” they bring the two sides together well in a way it’s easy to hope they continue to do as they move onto whatever comes next, pulling off “The Firm” particularly with marked swing and a sense of confidence that undercuts the notion of their being their first time out. They have growing to do, and by no means would I consider them established in style, but there’s a spark in the songs that could absolutely catch fire.

Holy Smoke on Thee Facebooks

Holy Smoke on Bandcamp


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Quarterly Review: Sumac, Dunsmuir, Monkey3, Oak, Lightsabres, Helen Money, Dali’s Llama, Suns of Thyme, Fungal Abyss, Wicked Gypsy

Posted in Reviews on October 3rd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


This is always a kind of nervewracking moment, sitting here in my chair as I do every couple months and introducing the next Quarterly Review. Between now and Friday, somehow, some way, I’ll post 50 reviews in batches of 10 per day. It will cover more ground than, frankly, I yet know, and by the time it’s done it’s going to feel (at least to me) like way more than a week has passed, but hell, at this point I’ve done this enough times to be reasonably confident I can get through it without suffering a major collapse either of heart or brain. I’ve taken steps beforehand to make it easier on myself and listened to a lot, a lot, a lot of music in preparation, so there’s nothing left to do but dive in and actually kick this this thing off. So let’s do that.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Sumac, What One Becomes


With their second album, What One Becomes (on Thrill Jockey), post-metal trio Sumac move forward from what their 2015 debut, The Deal (review here), established as their crushing and atmospheric modus. Starting with a wash of blown-out noise in “Image of Control,” the collective of guitarist/vocalist Aaron Turner (ex-Isis), bassist Brian Cook (Russian Circles) and Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists) eventually settle into a barrage of chug and inhuman lumber over the course of the five-track/58-minute progression, testing tolerance on the 17-minute march “Blackout” and tapping into a satisfying moment of melody in centerpiece “Clutch of Oblivion” that, by the time it arrives, feels a bit like a life raft. There are stretches that come across as part collections, but the whole seems to be geared toward overwhelming, consuming and devastating, and ultimately What One Becomes accomplishes all of those things and more besides, finishing closer “Will to Reach” with the sense they could easily keep going. I believe it.

Sumac on Thee Facebooks

Thrill Jockey Records


Dunsmuir, Dunsmuir


Prior to making their full-length debut, Dunsmuir issued a series of 7” singles, so if you picked up any of that, the straightforward pulse running through the 10-track self-titled will probably be familiar. Likewise if you’d previously caught wind of The Company Band, the supergroup in which vocalist Neil Fallon (also Clutch), guitarist Dave Bone and bassist Brad Davis (also Fu Manchu) previously joined forces. Here they’re joined by drummer Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath, etc.), and the material is suitably metallic in its aftertaste, but while Fallon’s presence is irrepressible and it’s the songwriting itself that shines through in cuts like “Our Only Master” and “…And Madness,” both barnburner riffs in classic metal fashion, where the later “Church of the Tooth” draws back the pace to add sway leading into the mid-paced closing duo “The Gate” and “Crawling Chaos.” Not many surprises, but with the ingredients given, knowing what you’re getting isn’t anything to complain about.

Dunsmuir on Thee Facebooks

Dunsmuir webstore


Monkey3, Astra Symmetry


Across a span of 12 tracks and 72 minutes, Swiss heavy progressives Monkey3 unfurl the massive scope of Astra Symmetry, their fifth album and the follow-up to 2013’s The 5th Sun. It is an immediately immersive listening experience and does not become any less so as it plays out, the generally-instrumental four-piece frontloading early songs like “Abyss,” “Moon” and the nodding, synthed-out “The Water Bearer” with vocals and backing that with “Dead Planet’s Eyes” on the second LP for good measure. Delving into Eastern-style melodicism gives Astra Symmetry a contemplative air, but Monkey3’s heavy psychedelia has always provided a free-flowing vibe, and as “Astrea,” “Arch,” “The Guardian” and “Realms of Lights” roll through ambient drones toward the album’s smoothly delivered apex, that remains very much the case. Taken as a whole, Astra Symmetry is a significant journey, but satisfying in that traveling atmosphere and in the hypnosis it elicits along the way.

Monkey3 on Thee Facebooks

Napalm Records


Oak, Oak II


Big progressive step from London four-piece Oak on their second self-released EP, Oak II. They follow last year’s self-titled (review here) with four more tracks that build on the burl established last time out but immediately show more stylistic command, vocalist Andy “Valiant” Wisbey emerging as a significant frontman presence and the band behind him – guitarist/engineer Kevin Germain, bassist Scott Masson and drummer Clinton Ritchie – finding more breadth, be it in a nod to djent riffing in “Mirage” or more melodic post-Steak desert rock in “Against the Rain.” In addition, “A Bridge too Far” showcases a patience of approach that the first EP simply didn’t have, and that makes its build even more satisfying as it hits its peak and goes quiet into the stonerly swing of “Smoke,” which ends Oak II with due fuzz and some social commentary to go with. Sounds like more than a year’s growth at work, but I’ll take it.

Oak on Thee Facebooks

Oak on Bandcamp


Lightsabres, Hibernation


One word for Swedish one-man outfit Lightsabres? How about “underrated?” Since the 2013 Demons EP (review here), it has been nearly impossible to keep a handle on where John Strömshed (also Tunga Moln) might go on any given song, and his latest offering, the full-length Hibernation (on HeviSike with a tape out on Medusa Crush) works much the same, rolling out a melodic mellowness on the opening title-track before topping off-time chug with garage vocals on the subsequent “Endless Summer.” Elsewhere, “Throw it all Away” marries swallow-you-in-tone riffing with a surprisingly emotionally resonant lead, and “Blood on the Snow” offers a downtrodden vision of grunge-blues like what might’ve happened if Danzig had never gone commercial. It’s all over the place, as was 2014’s Spitting Blood (review here) and 2015’s Beheaded, but tied together through a wintry theme, and anyway, variety is the norm for Lightsabres, whose reach seems only to grow broader with each passing year.

Lightsabres on Thee Facebooks

HeviSike Records website


Helen Money, Become Zero


Knowing the context of Helen Money’s Become Zero having been written by cellist Alison Chesley following losing both her parents, and knowing that songs like the 10-minute “Radiate” and the effects-less “Blood and Bone” (which features pianist Rachel Grimes) deal directly with that loss, only makes it more powerful, but even without that information, the sense of melancholy and loneliness is right there to be heard. Chesley, who released the last Helen Money album, Arriving Angels (review here), in 2013, once again brings in drummer Jason Roeder (Sleep, Neurosis) to contribute, and his work on the title-track and the later churn of “Leviathan” make both standouts, but whether it’s the empty spaces of “Vanished Star” or the ambient wash of “Radiate” – I don’t even know how a cello makes that sound – the emotional force driving the music is ultimately what ties it together as a single work of poignant, deeply resonant beauty.

Helen Money on Thee Facebooks

Helen Money at Thrill Jockey Records


Dali’s Llama, Dying in the Sun


It has been nearly three years since desert-dwelling rockers Dali’s Llama celebrated their two-decade run with the Twenty Years Underground vinyl (review here) and almost four since their last proper full-length, Autumn Woods (review here), was issued. For them, that’s an exceedingly long time. One can’t help but wonder if the band – now a five-piece, led as ever by guitarist/vocalist Zach Huskey and recorded as ever by Scott Reeder – went through a period of introspection in that span. After some stylistic experimentation with darker and more doomed influences, the seven tracks of Dying in the Sun would seem to reaffirm who Dali’s Llama are as they approach the quarter-century mark, bringing some of the gloom of Autumn Woods to extended centerpiece “Samurai Eyes” as easily as “Bruja-ha” seems to play off the goth-punk whimsy of 2010’s Howl do You Do? (review here). The fact is Dali’s Llama are all these things, not just one or the other, and so in bringing that together, Dying in the Sun is perhaps the truest to themselves they’ve yet been on record.

Dali’s Llama on Thee Facebooks

Dali’s Llama Records website


Suns of Thyme, Cascades


Making their debut on Napalm Records, Berlin five-piece Suns of Thyme exhibit immediate sonic adventurousness on their second album, Cascades, melding krautrock and heavy psych keys and effects with a distinctly human presence in the rhythm section, engaging in songcraft in the new wave-ish “Intuition Unbound” while topping shoegaze wash with organ on “Aphelion.” It’s a vast reach, and with 14 tracks and a 55-minute runtime, Suns of Thyme have plenty of chance to get where they’re going, but the dynamic between the psych-folk of “Val Verde” and the drift of closing duo “Kirwani” and “Kirwani II” and the push of the earlier “Deep Purple Rain” impresses both in theory and practice alike. The task ahead of them would seem to be to meld these influences together further as they move forward, but there’s something satisfying about having no idea what’s coming next after the proggy sway of “Schweben,” and that’s worth appreciating as it is.

Suns of Thyme on Thee Facebooks

Suns of Thyme at Napalm Records


Fungal Abyss, Karma Suture


Two huge, side-consuming slabs of primordial improvised heavy psychedelia making up a 45-minute LP with a pun title and enough wash throughout that I don’t even feel dirty looking at it? Yeah, there really isn’t a time when I don’t feel ready to sign on for weirdo exploratory stuff like that which Seattle’s Fungal Abyss elicit on Karma Suture. Available as a 12” on Adansonia Records, the album brings together “Perfumed Garden” (22:12) and “Virile Member” (23:22), both sprawling, massive jams that launch almost immediately and are gone for the duration. Way gone. I won’t discount the consumption that takes place on side A, but I think my absolute favorite part of Karma Suture might be the guitar lead on “Virile Member,” which about eight minutes in starts to lose its way and you can actually hear the band come around and pick it back up to an exciting swing. It’s moments like that one that make a group like Fungal Abyss exciting. Not only are they able to right their direction when they need to, but they’re brave enough to put the whole thing on record: as raw and genuine as it gets.

Fungal Abyss on Thee Facebooks

Adansonia Records website


Wicked Gypsy, Wicked Gypsy


It’s an encouraging and unpretentious start that Malaysian four-piece Wicked Gypsy make on their self-titled, self-released three-song EP. In the 22-minute span of “Wicked Gypsy,” “Heavy Eyes” and “Gypsy Woman,” the band – vocalist/guitarist Mahmood Ahmad, bassist Mohd Azam, keyboardist Azyan Idayu and drummer Ahmad Afiq – bring together influences from modern doom and classic heavy rock, Idayu’s keys providing a distinct ‘70s flair to the opener while Azam’s wah bass and of course a liberal dose of rifffing from Ahmad lead a proto-metallic charge in “Heavy Eyes,” topped with gritty vocals reciting lyrics about smoking weed, black magic, the devil, etc. What one really hears in these tracks is Wicked Gypsy’s initial exploration of dark-themed doom rock, and while the going is rough in its sound, that adds to the appeal, and the drum solo/progressive flourish worked into “Gypsy Woman” speaks well of where they’re headed as they walk the Sabbathian path.

Wicked Gypsy on Thee Facebooks

Wicked Gypsy on Soundcloud


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Thor, Bible of the Devil, Bloodcow and More Confirmed for Alehorn of Power IX

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 6th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

I’ll admit, it feels pretty good to write about a festival in a country that also happens to be the one in which I live, but the lineup for Alehorn of Power IX also gives me another excuse to remind of how frickin’ awesome the last Bloodcow record (review here) was and to post a song from it, so all the more reason for the post. The news came down the PR wire through the Bible of the Devil newsletter, which I’ve been on the mailing list for since I don’t even remember when. They’ll be playing (obviously), along with ThorArgusProfessor Black (a former Metal Maniacs colleague), and The Lurking Corpses.

Show is Nov. 12 at Reggies in Chicago, as the what’s-wrong-with-being-sexy poster below confirms:

alehorn of power ix


At last! Chicago’s longest-running heavy metal festival ALEHORN OF POWER has raised its ninth banner high and revealed its heaviest and most provocative lineup to date!

Without further fanfare we are proud to introduce a headliner who needs no introduction: Hailing from Vancouver, BC, Canada, the one and only THOR! The man is a legend many times over, with a prolific musical career reaching back to the 70s and further acclaim as a body-builder and B-movie actor. More recently, he was the star of his own documentary, I am Thor, in which he overcame many obstacles to mount a return to the heavy metal stages of the world. Nevertheless, THOR will always be an underground icon, and his deep catalog of heavy metal smash-hit songs (literally!) and uniquely theatrical live show make him the ultimate headliner of ALEHORN OF POWER IX! Additionally, THOR will be promoting his new release “Metal Avenger” now out on Deadline/Cleopatra Records.

Slated for Saturday, November 12, 2016 at Reggies in Chicago, this year’s Alehorn of Power features an eclectic and formidable lineup of bands with one thing on their minds: exceptional heavy metal entertainment from the independent realm.

BLOODCOW will travel from Omaha, Nebraska to open the show, self-described as “beard metal” but with an unexpected mad-sci-fi twist, as evidenced on their most recent and fourth full-length, 2015’s Crystals & Lasers.

THE LURKING CORPSES will follow, bringing their heavy metal horror show from Fort Wayne, Indiana to Reggies for the first time. The Corpses’ wide range of influences both musically and lyrically, not to mention their unforgettable image, have made them quite a favorite in many underground circles.

Long-running Chicago act BIBLE OF THE DEVIL is not only Alehorn’s spiritual guidepost but also its musical cornerstone. The band’s unmistakable brand of heavy metal rock and roll embodies every bit the twin-guitarred, big-chorused, epic FM sound perhaps most associated with the festival’s history. This year’s set will include a selection of new material alongside hits from the band’s vast catalog.

From Pittsburgh, ARGUS will make a much-awaited return to this year’s Alehorn lineup, fresh from the stages of Ireland and mainland Europe where the band is in high demand. It’s easy to see why: the trademark Argus sound of majestic and anthemic heavy metal is precisely what the European audiences crave. Of course, fans on this side of the Atlantic have also taken notice of the band’s musical accomplishments and will no doubt give them a hero’s welcome back to Reggies this year.

PROFESSOR BLACK’s live debut rounds out this year’s lineup, a unique concept that will feature songs and musicians from namesake frontman Chris Black’s entire recorded catalog. It is the first show of its kind for the Chicago-based musician/songwriter, although it could also be described as a return of sorts: Chris and his bandmates have played Alehorn of Power several times in the past, variously as members of Pharaoh, Superchrist, Dawnbringer, and High Spirits.

As if that weren’t enough, the stage will then be handed over to THOR, the Legendary Rock Warrior himself, who will personally show you the power of heavy metal, song after song, with all of the subtlety of a hammer to the skull! It will be a fast, loud, crushing, crucial, spirited, and highly memorable Alehorn of Power in November!

Alehorn of Power

Professor Black
Bible of the Devil
The Lurking Corpses

Saturday November 12, 2016
Doors 7 PM / $20 / Ages 17+
Reggies, 2101 S. State, Chicago IL USA


Bloodcow, “Exploding Head”

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Saint Vitus, The Skull and Witch Mountain Announce US Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 6th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

This is one of those tour-to-end-all-tours tours. Beginning in Austin on Sept. 27, including a stop Oct. 14 at Erosion Fest and culminating Oct. 23 at Southwest Terror Fest, the newly-announced tour with Saint VitusThe Skull and Witch Mountain also covers both coasts in nearly its month-long stretch. I’ll admit the prospect of seeing these three bands together at the Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn has my arm hair standing on end, remembering the Vitus-at-Vitus gig from 2012 (review here) as one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, at that venue or anywhere else. It’ll be a different lineup of the band this time, with original vocalist Scott Reagers back in that position as the Die Healing-referential poster art indicates, but they’re keeping excellent company in The Skull and Witch Mountain as well, so kudos all around, including to Nanotear, which put the package together.

Witch Mountain have a couple dates as well en route to meeting up with the others. Find the complete routing, including those shows, below:

saint vitus the skull witch mountain tour

SAINT VITUS tour dates
Sept. 27 Austin, TX @ Midway Field House
Sept. 28 Dallas, TX @ Gas Monkey Dallas
Sept. 29 San Antonio, TX @ The Mix
Sept. 30 Shreveport, LA @ Riverside Warehouse
Oct. 1 New Orleans, LA @ One Eyed Jack’s Saloon
Oct. 2 Atlanta, GA @ The EARL
Oct. 3 Raleigh, NC @ Kings
Oct. 5 Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts
Oct. 6 Boston, MA @ @Middle East
Oct. 7 Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus Bar
Oct. 8 Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop
Oct. 9 Indianapolis, IN @ 5th Quarter Lounge
Oct. 10 Chicago, IL @ Reggie’s Bar
Oct. 11 Madison, WI @ High Noon Saloon
Oct. 12 St. Paul, MN @ Turf Club
Oct. 14 Missoula, MT @ Erosion Festival
Oct. 15 Seattle, WA @ El Corazon
Oct. 16 Portland, OR @ Star Theater Portland
Oct. 18 Sacramento, CA @ Starlite Lounge
Oct. 19 Oakland, CA @ Oakland Metro Operahouse
Oct. 20 Costa Mesa, CA @ Wayfarer.
Oct. 21 Los Angeles, CA @ The Viper Room
Oct. 22 San Diego, CA @ Brick By Brick
Oct. 23 Tucson, AZ @ Southwest Terror Fest

Witch Mountain shows on the way to meet up with Saint Vitus + The Skull:
9/22 Portland, OR – Dante’s (WM only)
9/23 Boise, ID – Neurolux (WM only)
9/24 Salt Lake City, UT – Metro (WM only)
9/25 Denver, CO – Hi-Dive (WM only)


Saint Vitus, “Born too Late” Live at Hellfest 2015

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Sanford Parker to Release Lash Back July 22

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 3rd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

sanford parker

Known for his work as a producer in addition to adding the foundation of beats to Corrections House alongside members of Eyehategod, Neurosis and Yakuza, as well as for pioneering doom extremity in Buried at Sea and exploring the low-end depths of post-metal in Minsk, Chicago’s Sanford Parker can now check “solo artist” off his list. His debut album, Lash Back, will be issued by My Proud Mountain in July and is also available to preorder through War Crime Recordings (yup, the same label that put out my book), in which he’s also a partner.

This is at least the second LP Parker has had out this year, and it seems like it should pair pretty well with Mirrors for Psychic Warfare, the atmospheric two-piece consisting of Parker and his Corrections House bandmate Scott Kelly, who made their debut this Spring on Neurot, but I wouldn’t actually go so far as to speculate what this thing will sound like until I hear it. Even then, one might hesitate.

From the PR wire:

sanford parker lash back

Sanford Parker to release debut solo album ‘Lash Back’ via My Proud Mountain on July 22nd

Sanford Parker is the reputed producer and electronics wrangler behind some of metal’s most exploratory outfits, breaking new territory in his work as a fixture of Buried At Sea, Minsk, Corrections House and Mirrors For Psychic Warfare, and featuring on and producing numerous records from respected names across the experimental spectrum. His trademark paranoid atmospherics slalom from the nuanced to the crushingly direct, siphoning elements of industrial, cold-wave and power electronics to give bleak, brutalist clout to his work.

Now, Parker is striking out on his own with Lash Back, a full length record of mechanical, dystopic, beat-driven menace. Due out on the My Proud Mountain label on July 22nd, Lash Back is a marked departure from his metallic legacy, retaining some of the hallmarks of his impressive work to date but moving towards a distilled, gruesome interpretation of the electronic world’s darkest operators like Perc, Youth Code and Pharmakon. Scathing kick detonations establish anti-dance rhythms to lose consciousness to, and vast swathes of swarming disintegrated synths wrap around the beats until they obscure all that existed below. Whilst intentionally disorientating and confrontational (with titles like ‘Sheep Slaughter’ and ‘Knuckle Crossing’ underlining his aesthetic), Parker still provides enough coherence and mastery to make Lash Back a record of searing hot excellence, and with tracks like ‘Your Feral Blood’ impinging on Kevin Martin styled earthquake beats, and opener ‘Psychic Driving’ uniformly loud yet majestic like Dominick Fernow, each gap a gasp for breath, Parker has broken into a wicked and characteristic style.

1. Psychic Driving
2. Knuckle Crossing
3. Slow Children
4. Low Gaps
5. Your Feral Blood
6. Sheep Slaughter


Mirrors for Psychic Warfare, Live at Roadburn 2016

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The Skull and Witch Mountain Announce European Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 27th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Have to chuckle a bit at The Skull calling a tour ‘November of Doom,’ when they’re from Chicago and that same city is host to Novembers Doom, but hey, sometimes coincidences happen. On their latest run of Europe, which follows two earlier this Spring, including one that stopped for a total of three sets at Roadburn 2016, they’ll be joined by Portland, Oregon’s Witch Mountain. As coordination would have it, the two bands share a guitarist in Rob Wrong at this point, so though he’ll be pulling double-duty, the pairing makes an awful lot of sense. The Skull, who are continuing to support their 2014 debut, For Those Which are Asleep (review here), as well as a self-titled follow-up EP (review here), features vocalist Eric Wagner, bassist Ron Holzner, guitarist Lothar Keller and drummer Sean Saley, in addition to Rob Wrong.

To my recollection, this is the first time Witch Mountain will be headed to Europe since acquiring vocalist Kayla Dixon. They toured North America last Spring alongside Enslaved and YOB and are about due for a follow-up to 2014’s Mobile of Angels (review here), their gorgeous and fraught fourth full-length.

Both bands also play Erosion Festival 2016 (info here) in Missoula, Montana, this October.

From the PR wire:

the skull witch mountain

THE SKULL featuring former Trouble members including vocalist Eric Wagner and bassist Ron Holzner are returning to Europe in November 2016!

The Skull & Witch Mountain:
11/04 Bristol, UK Exchange
11/05 Milton Keynes, UK Crauford Arms
11/06 London, UK Underworld
11/07 Tilburg, NL Little Devil
11/08 Utrecht, NL DBS
11/09 Karlsruhe, DE Jubez
11/10 Vienna, AT Doom Over Vienna
11/11 Arnstadt, DE Rockjunfer
11/12 TBA
11/13 Drachten, NL Iduna
11/14 Wiesbaden, DE Schlachthof
11/15 Kassel, DE Schlachthof
11/16 Hamburg, DE Hafenklang
11/17 Dortmund, DE Piano
11/18 Würzburg, DE Hammer Of Doom
11/19 Winterthur, CH Gaswerk


The Skull, Live at Roadburn 2016

Witch Mountain, Live at King’s Barcade, Raleigh, NC, March 26, 2015

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Russian Circles to Release Guidance Aug. 5; US Tour Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 17th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

russian circles

Chicago’s Russian Circles will release their new, Kurt Ballou-recorded LP, Guidance, Aug. 5 on Sargent House. US tour dates have been announced to coincide, and a trailer for Guidance has been posted that you can see/hear below. It’s an immediately tense impression, propulsive drums leading a heavier crunch than what the trio’s last outing, 2013’s Memorial, presented. That’s not surprising necessarily with Ballou at the board, but it will be interesting to hear how the whole record plays out, which I wouldn’t dare make a guess on based off of 46 seconds of one of its tracks, whichever one it happens to be.

Fresh-chopped off the PR wire:

russian circles guidance


LP due out August 5th from Sargent House

Celebrated Chicago post-metal/rock trio Russian Circles are thrilled to announce their highly-anticipated sixth studio album, Guidance, due out August 5th from Sargent House. This 7-song, 40-minute LP was recorded by Kurt Ballou at GodCity Studio in Salem, MA and showcases Russian Circles at their best and most realized yet in their decade-long career. Check out the teaser video for Guidance now on YouTube.

In support of Guidance, Russian Circles have announced an extensive North American headlining tour that spans August through October and features Cloakroom and Helms Alee on select dates. This tour follows Russian Circles’ forthcoming appearances at Levitation Fest Vancouver and Crucial Fest in Salt Lake City in June. Most recently, Russian Circles toured the UK and Europe (where they headlined DesertFest in London, Dunkfest in Belgium among others) and their live show has been highly regarded since their inception; Seattle Times said, like their albums, Russian Circles’ “…live performance is a rhythmic experience. Their timbre and chord sequences are powerful, but their masterful control of tempo and shocking entry and exit points are perhaps their most prominent feature. Their breakdowns don’t only kill with brute force, but often catch you off guard when they fly in from the side.” While their recorded output is worthy in its own right, Russian Circles have long shined bright as a live act – check out all shows listed below with more to be announced soon

Guidance will be released on CD, LP and digital formats on August 5th from Sargent House. More news, and song premiere, coming soon.

Guidance, Track Listing:
1. Asa
2. Vorel
3. Mota
4. Afrika
5. Overboard
6. Calla
7. Lisboa

Jun 16 Vancouver, BC – Levitation Vancouver
Jun 18 Salt Lake City, UT – Crucial Fest

RUSSIAN CIRCLES – with Cloakroom
Aug 26 Madison, WI – High Noon Saloon
Aug 27 Minneapolis, MN – Cedar Cultural Center
Aug 29 Missoula, MT – Palace Lounge
Aug 30 Seattle, WA – Neumos
Aug 31 Portland, OR – Doug Fir Lounge
Sep 2 San Francisco, CA – Great American Music Hall
Sep 3 Los Angeles, CA – The Teragram Ballroom
Sep 5 Phoenix, AZ – Crescent Ballroom
Sep 6 Albuquerque, NM – Launchpad
Sep 7 Englewood, CO – The Gothic Theatre
Sep 8 Kansas City, MO – The Riot Room
Sep 9 Chicago, IL – Metro

RUSSIAN CIRCLES – with Helms Alee
Sep 25 Detroit, MI – El Club
Sep 26 Toronto, ON – Lee’s Palace
Sep 28 Cambridge, MA – The Sinclair
Sep 29 Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer
Sep 30 Brooklyn, NY – Warsaw
Oct 1 Washington, DC – Rock & Roll Hotel
Oct 2 Durham, NC – Motorco Music Hall
Oct 4 Atlanta, GA – Aisle 5
Oct 5 Birmingham, AL – Saturn
Oct 6 Baton Rouge, LA – Spanish Moon
Oct 7 Houston, TX – Warehouse Live Studio
Oct 8 Austin, TX – Barracuda
Oct 9 Dallas, TX – RBC


Russian Circles, Guidance trailer

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Helen Money Touring with Magma; New Album Soon on Thrill Jockey

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 26th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

helen money

Chicago-based experimental cellist Helen Money was in the studio as of December recording a new album that will see release at some point this year on Thrill Jockey Records. Like its predecessor, 2013’s Arriving Angels (review here), the new LP will feature a guest appearance from Neurosis/Sleep drummer Jason Roeder (at least if the studio pic is anything to go by) and Helen Money, aka Alison Chesley, is set to tour with prog legends Magma ahead of the release on that band’s first major-market run of the US in I don’t even know how many years. A lot, presumably.

Shows are presented by Nanotear, and the tour starts March 15 in San Diego. More on the new release as I hear it:

magma tour

Magma tour featuring Helen Money

HELEN MONEY TOURS WITH FRENCH PROG ROCK MASTERS MAGMA including dates in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York

Helen Money will tour the U.S. with Magma and play all but two dates (Atlanta and Toronto). “These shows with MAGMA are really special for me,” Chesley explains. “Their music comes from such a pure, inspired place and their audience is so open minded and willing to listen. To do this tour with them is a once in a lifetime thing and I can’t wait.”

“The first time we saw Helen Money play her cello we immediately thought about former Magma bass player Jannick Top, who was also playing cello,” Magma stated, adding “Her playing is genuine and intense! It will be a perfect introduction to our show”

Cellist/composer Alison Chesley, a.k.a. Helen Money, merges her classical training with a lifelong affinity for punk rock and a taste for heavy metal. She has toured with Shellac, Bob Mould, Mono, Aggaloch to name only a few. Chesley has also recorded with and/or directed string arrangements for artists like Anthrax (Worship Music), Russian Circles (Geneva), Broken Social Scene (Forgiveness Rock Record) and Yakuza.

Helen Money Tour Itinerary (all dates with Magma, check local listings for set times):
Tuesday, March 15th at Brick By Brick in San Diego, CA
Wednesday, March 16th at The Regent Theater in Los Angeles, CA
Friday, March 18th at Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, CA
Saturday, March 19th at Wonder Ballroom in Portland, OR
Sunday, March 20th at Crocodile in Seattle, WA
Tuesday, March 22nd at Gothic Theater in Denver, CO
Wednesday, March 23rd at Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, OH
Friday, March 25th at Reggies in Chicago, IL
Saturday, March 26th at Reggies in Chicago, IL
Sunday, March 27th at Mohawk in Austin, TX
Wednesday, March 30th at Underground Arts in Philadelphia, PA
Friday, April 1st at Le Poisson Rouge in New York, NY

Helen Money’s current release, Arriving Angels is out now on Profound Lore, and was recorded and mixed by Steve Albini at Electrical Audio and features drummer Jason Roeder (Neurosis, Sleep). Her next album will appear on Thrill Jockey Records and the release date will be announced soon.


Helen Money, “Beautiful Friends”

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