Posted in Reviews on October 20th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
It was madness, I tell you. Utter madness. Madness from which there was no escape, unless you went outside, which if you were me you didn’t want to do. A five-band Saturday night bill at Ralph’s Rock Diner in Worcester with Faces of Bayon — who as I understand it don’t literally run the place, but show up there often enough that one might get that impression — Clamfight and Wizard Eye up from Philly and Conclave, who as they put it were a “new band with the same old guys” opening, it was an evening to settle in and just let the steamroller run you down because, quite frankly, it was going to whether you wanted or not. Gwar, Life of Agony and a bunch of other bands were playing at The Palladium down the way, and that probably had some impact on the overall draw, but people came upstairs and milled about the venue throughout the night, a birthday party downstairs and balloons with “Over The Hill” on them getting a chuckle out of me on my way by.
Ralph’s at this point I consider to be a pretty well kept secret. I’ve yet to see a band there and not have the sound hold up. The room is open, the ceiling high enough to let amps breathe, the stage is the right height for it. There are stools at the bar if you want to take a load off for a minute, and the lighting — though it can change from band to band — is better than every room I’ve been to in Boston save perhaps for the Middle East Downstairs, which is also a venue that holds at least three times as many people. Were Worcester a more major urban center, Ralph’s is probably the kind of place people from elsewhere would’ve heard of, a spot that could be in league with Brooklyn’s The Acheron if not the Vitus bar, or someplace like Johnny Brenda‘s in Philly, minus the balcony. I dig it, in other words, and enjoy seeing bands there. For being maybe 75 minutes from me where Boston is about an hour and Providence about 45 minutes, I’ve so far found it’s worth the trip.
The flyer said five bucks for five bands. I paid seven as the door and it should’ve cost more than twice that. Here’s how this one went down:
As I understand it, it was Conclave‘s second show, but true to their “same old guys” declaration, the members of the band have been around. Bassist/vocalist Jerry Orne counts the due-for-a-reunion Warhorse in his pedigree, and guitarist Jeremy Kibort is his bandmate in once-and-again death metallers Desolate. Completed by drummer Dan Blomquist, Conclave played doom like death metallers often do. Even before you get to harsh vocals or anything like that, you can hear it in the precision of the changes, in some of the angularity of their approach. Blomquist‘s kit and Kibort‘s guitar were a dead giveaway, but for being a new band, they clearly knew their way around a doom riff, and it was easy to get a sense of the balance of harshness and groove they were shooting for, the lack of pretense at the heart of their presentation, and their penchant for periodically working in faster tempo shifts, as on “Walk the Earth (No Longer)” or the set closer “Black Lines,” which seems likely to also feature on their forthcoming debut EP, Breaking Ground. And so they were.
Bedroom Rehab Corporation
I wondered if it had been a month since the last time I saw Connecticut’s Bedroom Rehab Corporation while bassist/vocalist Adam Wujtewicz and drummer Meghan Killimade set up their gear. Yes, it had — just over a month, in fact. Still close enough that they were fresh on the brain, though. Their set had a couple new songs to go with “Basilosaurus” from their Red over Red debut long-player (review here). They’ll record in January, and I’ll look forward to what comes out of that for 2015, but the primary impression in watching them at Ralph’s, which is also where I first saw them over the summer, was much the same, in how completely their live show outclasses their studio material. They’ve got their work cut out for them in translating the energy they bring to the stage — the consuming, noisy sensibility in both of their approaches, the variety of tone and gruff vocals of Wujtewicz — but Justin Pizzoferrato, who also helmed the debut, should be able to capture it with the right balance of rawness and clarity. At Ralph’s, they were playing the second night of an NY/MA weekender with Clamfight and Wizard Eye, and it was clear the company they were keeping was pushing them to give it their all on stage.
Sometimes there’s a band — and I’m talking about Wizard Eye here — and they’re the right band for their time and place. They fit right in there. That was Wizard Eye as the centerpiece act in the lineup of five in Worcester. Their grooves smoother than Bedroom Rehab Corporation, more stoned out than even the newer Clamfight material — give me a minute, I’ll get there — the Philly trio rolled out fuzz and heavy with the assured vibe of seasoned veterans. They’re not a new band, formed in 2007, but with one record out it would be easy to walk into a Wizard Eye set and be surprised at how much they have their shit together on stage. I knew what was coming, but new songs “Flying/Falling,” “Phase Return” and “Drowning Day” set in well with the promise of a follow-up to 2010’s Orbital Rites, from which “C.O.C.,” “Psychonaut” and “Gravebreath” were aired, guitarist/vocalist Erik Caplan trading out guitar solos for theremin, which added noisy edge to the Iommic groove and stoner-because-stoner vibe the three-piece got across. That second album may yet be a little ways off, but from what I’ve heard it’ll be worth the wait.
There are few things I’ll argue with less than watching Clamfight play. Up from Philly and sharing what I’m sure was a mightily dudely van with the Wizard Eye cats, Clamfight were primed to destroy as always, but opening and closing with new songs, they pulled away from the riffy thrash with which I tend to associate them, driving toward a more classic-rocking — and, pivotally, more dynamic — take. I knew they were growing, but they brought into relief just how far their progression was pushing them, or vice versa, and as satisfying as it was to see them tear into the title-track from their second record, I vs. the Glacier, with drummer Andy Martin roaring while lead guitarist Sean McKee tried to shake his cranium loose by headbanging it off while alternately facing and not facing the crowd, guitarist Joel Harris locked into a swaggering kind of waltz and bassist Louis Koble nestled into foundational grooves behind, it was even better to watch them come out from behind all that assault and volume and still have both the performance and songwriting hold up as they branched out. I anxiously await the chance to hear their new stuff properly recorded.
Faces of Bayon
It did not seem to me that Faces of Bayon had a particularly easy task in following Clamfight, but ultimately the Fitchburg trio were on such a different wavelength that by the time they were about 30 seconds into their set, it was apples and oranges. It’s been over two years since the last (and first) time I saw guitarist/vocalist Matt Smith, bassist Ron Miles and drummer Mike Lenihan. Smith threatened a second album that night to follow-up 2011’s debut, Heart of the Fire (review here), but one has yet to surface. It wasn’t mentioned at Ralph’s that I heard, but Faces of Bayon‘s blend of stoner and death-doom impulses was a stirring reminder of why I’d been looking forward to such a thing. Riffs came slow and patient, Miles subdued on the right side of the stage while Lenihan throttled his skull-covered drums and Smith – also a former member of Warhorse – gurgled out tales of woe. Some clean singing added Euro-style drama to the proceedings, and they finished with a deathly cover of Pentagram‘s “All Your Sins,” which was shouted out to photographer Hillarie Jason, who had rolled in presumably after the Gwar show ended. By then, it was well past 1AM, but some riffs get better the later they come.
The highways were basically clear on the way home, a couple cops pulling over a couple out-of-state-plate types as I streamed past with “Oh yeah I’ve been there” empathy. Got in a little before 3AM and called it a night on the quick, once again reveling in how overjustified the trip had been.
I haven’t walked away from seeing Clamfight play in the last four years without thinking to myself how devastating a live act they’ve become, so their new live tape, Thank You Delaware, is a welcome arrival as documentation of that phenomenon. Released by Contaminated Tones Productions with the first 20 copies in a limited blue liner, the six-song set seems to have been recorded late in 2013 in a North Jersey club called Dingbatz. At very least, that’s where the pics in the j-card insert come from, and at the start of side two — actually the sides are divided into “Side Clam” and “Side Strips” — drummer/vocalist Andy Martin makes some mention of being in Jersey playing with Tarpit Boogie, so it seems like a safe assumption. The title is a gag as it winds up, since at the end of the set, Martin says, “It’s been real, Delaware,” when they’re most definitely in NJ. They can thank whatever state they want, I’m still going to be on board.
That bias level for the Maple Forum alums and my personal affection for these dudes — Martin, lead guitarist Sean McKee, guitarist Joel Harris, bassist Louis Koble – no doubt colors my opinion of Thank YouDelaware, but I’ve found since the “tape revival” began that some of the stuff I enjoy most of all are releases just like this one; live, raw recordings that you can’t get anywhere else. It’s not a bootleg, because it’s on a legit label — Contaminated Tones specialize in varying forms of extremity — and endorsed by the band, but it’s of that ilk. The label on the tape is pasted on, there aren’t a lot of them around, and while it’s not a DAT-in-the-pocket audience recording from 1974, neither is it overly clean in such a way as to detract from the impact of the live feel. A solid balance, in other words. You get the brutality from “The Eagle” and you get a taste of McKee‘s soaring lead work in the jam around the title-track from 2013’s sophomore full-length, I vs. the Glacier, from which the bulk of the material on the tape comes.
“The Eagle” and “Sand Riders” as a one-two are more or less staples of Clamfight gigs, and they sit well together in that role. I’m glad to have a live recording of “Block Ship,” and “Ghosts I Have Known” was a favorite from their 2010 debut, Vol. 1, that doesn’t always get played, so cool to hear that put to tape as well. If you’ve ever gone to see a band and then heard one of their live albums, you know that sometimes they can come off completely different recorded. Vocals are off, there’s too much separation. You lose the feeling of watching them. With Thank You Delaware, the four-piece’s wall of noise and vicious stage domination is preserved. It’s a big, heavy-slamming sound, and it rounds out at its most raucous with “Stealing the Ghost Horse,” though the intro jam has since developed even further than how it sounds here to boast some of McKee‘s best lead work. The tape finishes with excerpts from an interview conducted by Contaminated Tones in 2010 that recounts, among other things, some vomit-related band shenanigans. Very Clamfight, to say the least.
If you’re not into tapes, fair enough. I’m not likely to change your mind about that. For those not immediately biased along format lines, Thank You Delawaresuccessfully captures the thrashing heft that Clamfight bring to their live performance. Maybe it’s a fan-piece and I’m a fanboy, but that’s not about to diminish my enjoyment at all, and if you’ve dug into I vs. the Glacier, this makes a more than satisfying companion.
Clamfight, “Ghosts I Have Known” from Thank You Delaware (2014)
Posted in Reviews on May 6th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
You learn the same lessons over and over at a festival. Being ibuprofen. Hydrate. If you’re going to be somewhere all day, know the spots to stand, to lean, to sit if you’re lucky, and if you want to sit early, do it for an investment in standing later. No one wants to bum out while the headliner’s on and the days are long. You do these things because it’s what you love to do. You’re not young anymore, you get tired. Your head aches. Your back aches. You smell. You’re in people’s way when you stand up front. Minimize that if you can. Be mobile. Enjoy yourself. This is where life gets good, after all.
There are cavernous potholes in the unpaved parking lot of Ralph’s Rock Diner. I kicked up dust even at crawling speed to park for Day Two of the Eye of the Stoned Goat 4, making sure I was plenty early to catch Skrogg lead off a day that also included Geezer, Foghound, Clamfight, Rozamov, Ichabod, Volume IV, Curse the Son, The Scimitar and Order of the Owl. Had enough time to sit at the counter in the dining car, watch a little bit of the original Star Trek on the tv there and have a cup of coffee, which I was warned against ordering from one of the guys who wasn’t working that day for fear of being yelled at. I’d have to laugh at someone getting pissed at a patron ordering coffee in what claims to be a diner, but I’m glad to have avoided the issue altogether. Two bucks and about 15 minutes later and I was back upstairs and dug in for the start of the show.
A Sunday vibe is different from a Saturday vibe. You know this. Plague of hangovers, plus Monday’s looming threat of the return to real life — these things bleed in, even if subconsciously. Eye of the Stoned Goat came prepared for such an eventuality:
New Hampshire heavy-toned rockers Skrogg were a hair-of-the-dog start to Day Two and they knew it. The ink is barely dry on their later-2013 outing, Blooze (review here), but they’ve got a follow-up in the works called Done a Bad, Bad Thingand they aired the single “Wheels, Women and Whiskey” from that, as well as a slower, wah-loaded jam that would provide the prevailing impression of their set in laid back, weeded-out evil-woman boozer blues grit. If I hadn’t actually heard guitarist/vocalist Jeff Maxfield speak in the same voice with which he sings, I’d likely swear up and down his “whiskey-soaked” vocals were an affectation, but no, that’s how he sounds, and with the chemistry between him, bassist Jason Lawrence and drummer Felix Starr – who traded out the house kit in favor of his own, much larger set — what struck me most about Skrogg was how well they jammed. Last time I saw them, at Stoner Hands of Doom XII in 2012, they didn’t come across nearly as comfortable on stage. They were supporting their Raw Heatdemo/EP (review here) then, so obviously the intervening two years haven’t been misspent on their part. I wondered what they’d do with more time to maybe elongate their songs and really stretch out and improvise. In hindsight, Bloozehad some of that going in “Born to Blooze.” Hopefully they keep developing that side with their new one.
If Skrogg were the first shot of the day, Geezer were a fitting chaser. The New York trio were jamming before they even started. Their soundcheck was a jam, and a good one. They opened with “Ghost Rider Solar Plexus,” and between that and “Ancient Song,” also from the 2013 Gage EP (review here) which has a vinyl issue impending on STB Records, they offered a support lesson in the importance of chemistry for a three-piece to work. Guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington gets a lot of the attention in the band, between his Electric Beard of Doom podcast, gravelly voice and accompanying facial hair, but bassist Freddy Villano and drummer Chris Turco carried the psych-blues jams on which Harrington spaced out, and it was a classic dynamic made that much stronger by how well particularly Harrington and Villano know each other on stage, having played together for some time in Gaggle of Cocks in addition to developing Geezer‘s bluesier take over the last couple years. One of just two acts alongside Lord Fowl to carry over from 2013’s Eye of the Stoned Goat 3 in Brooklyn, Geezer rounded out with “Pony” from 2013’s Electrically Recorded Handmade Heavy Bluesdebut full-length and drew the early crowd in like moths to a lightbulb with the song’s quirky stoner bounce and nod-ready groove. Easy to dig these guys, and they’ve only gotten better the couple times I’ve seen them. If ESG needed a house band, they’d be a good bet.
The second appearance in two days for Sixty Watt Shaman drummer Chuck Dukehart III, Foghound were a much different band. I don’t know if they planned their set to highlight the fact that all four members — Dukehart, guitarists Dee Settar and Bob Sipes, bassist Geoffrey Freeman IV – also contribute vocals, but it worked out that way and it was a major distinguishing factor not only between Foghound and Sixty Watt — who of course had a completely different presence anyway with one guitar and a standalone frontman who only sometimes added guitar — but between Foghound and the vast majority of the Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 bill. And not only did everyone sing, but they all could. Foghound‘s late-2013 Quick, Dirty and Highdebut CD (review here) boasted the same elements, but of course it’s different seeing it play out on stage. Underlying that was a swing that was among the weekend’s finest as Foghound pulled more toward the heavy rock end from Day Two’s bluesy beginning, the standout “Resurrect the Throwaways” from the album reminding of Foghound‘s potential to land a hook when they need to and the new song “Truth Revealed” finding Dukehart taking the lead vocal on drums for yet another driving groove. They seem to be getting their approach together quickly, and as impressive as they already were, I wouldn’t be surprised to find Foghound even more solidified when next I’m fortunate enough to see them play.
Like the marauding bastards they are, Clamfight rolled into Ralph’s, set up, destroyed the place, and were gone. I’m obviously biased as regards the double-guitar foursome split between Jersey and Philly, but if the day had a quota of thrash, Clamfight met it head on and then some, kicking out “Sand Riders,” “Age of Reptiles” and staple closer “Stealing the Ghost Horse” from 2013’s Maple Forum release, I vs. the Glacier in addition to “Block Ship” and a new song called “Selkie” (or was that “Selfie?”) that will reportedly be on their next album. Perhaps the highlight of their whole set was watching lead guitarist Sean McKee shred his was through solos in the intro to “Stealing the Ghost Horse,” but there’s some stiff competition in that regard. I’ve been watching Clamfight play for the better part of eight years now and they have never been so good. I mean it. They’ve become an absolutely devastating live act, and their brutal groove has become a signature that’s their own much more than derived from any influence. Between McKee and Joel Harris‘ guitars, Louis Koble‘s bass and Andy Martin thud ‘n’ roar on drums and vocals, Clamfight barely stopped to let Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 catch its breath before their next round of pummeling began. Unreasonably heavy — and immediate. Barely half an hour off I-95, they locked into “Sand Riders” and didn’t look back. I can’t wait to hear their new stuff recorded.
Five bands in, it was pretty easy to see fest-organizer Brendan Burns‘ logic in how Day Two of Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 was going to flow, from the blues-styled start to more rock-minded push and into heavier, more thrashing terrain. In that regard, Boston’s Rozamov would take the evening to its most bludgeoning, darkest place. The trio of guitarist/vocalist Matt Iacovelli, bassist/vocalist Tom Corino and drummer Will Hendrix — who also earned my vote for best shirt of the weekend with his Maggot Brain tee — have some riff-minded aspects to what they do, but on the whole, their sound is much more rooted in the extreme. They were a step further into the abyss after Clamfight, impressively tight as a trio after scaling down from a four-piece since I saw them last fall (review here). Likewise, they seemed to have a fair amount of new material in tow, but “Famine” from last year’s Of Gods and FleshEP was insistent and violent in kind, and no matter where the songs took them, Rozamov remained in control of their course, alternately blasting and bleeding out thickened and ferocious thrashing grooves, Iacovelli and Corino coming together periodically for dual screams that only added to the extremity at hand. I don’t know what their plans are for putting their new stuff together and getting it out, but they carried the songs across with such urgency that I had to stop and remind myself of how far the day had come since its start still just a short time before.
Mean, volatile and given to fits of utter sonic cruelty, Ichabod were nonetheless a pullback toward heavy rock from Rozamov‘s assault. Also native to Boston, the double-guitar five-piece were the band on the Stoned Goat bill I’d seen most recently, back in in late-March in Allston, but of course the setting and compulsion toward a half-hour set between Rozamov and Volume IV – not to mention the sound and lighting at Ralph’s, which, again, are among the finest I’ve found since moving to Massachusetts– gave this go a different context. Vocalist John Fadden, guitarists Dave Iverson and Jason Adam, bassist Greg Dellaria and drummer Phil MacKay have reportedly finished work on the follow-up to 2012’s Dreamscapes from Dead Space, titled Merrimack, and as last time, some new material was showed off prior to Dreamscapes cuts like “Baba Yaga” — introduced as a “stoner rock song” — and “Hollow God,” which seems to take a similar angst-fueled approach to Boston’s Irish Catholicism that a lot of Southeast heavy takes to the Southern Baptist Church, Fadden‘s screams proving particularly visceral on the lines “Your god is irrelevant,” driving home a passionate if somewhat familiar argument, reminding of just how devastated the cultural landscape of this region has been by corruption in its religious institutions. That’s the kind of thing one might think of seeing the band twice in little more than a month, but the bulk of the room seemed more consumed with the general nastiness in Ichabod‘s sound. Justifiably so.
Building on the more rock side of Ichabod‘s sound, Atlanta natives Volume IV steered the fest back toward crisp, pro-grade heavy. A somewhat odd pairing in all but geography, they arrived at the Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 on tour with Order of the Owl having played in New York the night before, supporting their Ripple Music debut, Long in the Tooth (review/stream here). A solid, cohesive trio, and particularly interesting to watch after Sixty Watt Shaman in giving a modern look at how similar influences have developed in the time since the Day One headliners’ first run. Their being from Atlanta, it was tempting to try and read some measure of Mastodon influence into Volume IV‘s approach, but apart from some eye-squinting on the part of guitarist Joe Carpenter while he delivered his vocals, there was next to nothing in common. Both bands use guitars, if you want to reach that far. Songs were straightforward in their structure and well executed, and whether it was the chug of “Awake the Dreamer” or the ZZ Top-style motoring of “Locust Have No King,” they made a more effective presentation than I had expected. Set closer “Iron Fist” would be the first of two Motörhead covers for the evening, and Volume IV – Carpenter, bassist/vocalist Blake Parris and drummer Troy King — took one of classic metal’s most recognizable hooks and made it their own much the same way they added an individual sense to Southern heavy in the material from Long in the Tooth. I was into the record well enough, but they were better live without question.
Curse the Son
In a word: Tone. Playing in front of two full-stacks topped with custom heads from Dunwich Amplifiers that glowed from inside through a clear front with the word “weed” etched on it, guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore of Hamden, Connecticut, trio Curse the Son had thickest guitar sound of the entire two-day festival. Order of the Owl would outdo them for volume, but in terms of the sheer viscosity of their sound — which, as Vanacore joked in reference to his amps, was “brought to you by the power of weed” — Curse the Son was an overdose of righteously engrossing fuzz. Bassist Richard “Cheech” Weeden made the sound even fatter, and with Mike Petrucci (also of Vestal Claret) bringing subtle touches of complexity to the drums, cuts like “Goodbye Henry Anslinger” and the particularly catchy “Spider Stole the Weed” were rolling-groove high points of the day, the “whoa”s in the chorus of the latter seeming to come in layers even though Vanacore was the only one with a mic. Their 2012 full-length, Psychache(review here) is set to come out on STB Records vinyl any day now, and while it was “Pulsotar Bringer” from 2011’s Klonopain(review here) that closed out the set, the nod was constant throughout the room in Ralph’s as Curse the Son built successive walls of distortion. They’re a pretty well-kept secret at this point, though with that LP version of Psychachecoming, I can’t help but wonder how much longer that will be the case. Tetrahydrocannabinolic riff worship of the highest order, and since the last time I saw the band play on all their own gear was 2011, it seems I’m about due for a trip to New Haven.
No doubt Boston will miss Gein‘s gallop. The bassist’s technique has been a key element in Black Pyramid‘s warmongering, in Second Grave‘s explorations of the melancholic and in The Scimitar‘s still-nascent branching off from Black Pyramid‘s roots, but Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 Day Two brought the second and final of his last shows. Guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard, who has said he’ll continue to make music in this vein under his own name after the release of The Scimitar‘s debut and likely only full-length, Doomsayer, noted it as The Scimitar‘s last gig with Gein “for a while,” and it’s true you never know what’ll happen, but Los Angeles is a long way from Ralph’s Rock Diner, so yeah, a while indeed. I noted that drummer Brian Banfield cut his hair since the last time I saw The Scimitar, which at least meant we didn’t look so much alike, but more of a focal point was how well The Scimitar carried across the songs from Doomsayer, “World Unreal,” “Babylon” and even the night’s second Motörhead cover, “Metropolis,” leading to the longer album-closer “Crucifer,” which seemed like it was going to be their last song until they added “Forever and Ever and Ever.” The show was running early, and they started early as well, so there was plenty of time to spare, and that hook was worth including one way or another, Gein as ever reliably riding a foundational groove in the low end. He’ll make a good SoCal surfer. There wasn’t any grand farewell or anything like that when The Scimitar were done — he has always had a calm, collected stage presence — but it was still no doubt an emotional set for the bassist, who again, will be missed around these parts.
Order of the Owl
Imagine volume as a weapon. You knew some serious noise was about to be doled out when Atlanta’s Order of the Owl loaded no fewer than six Orange cabinets onto the stage, but I don’t think even the actual sight of such things prepared the room at Ralph’s for what was coming. To see that many dollars’ worth of amps in a single band, you know the parties involved have made a life choice. There had been a few instances throughout the day when I could feel my earplugs vibrate in my head — during Clamfight, during Curse the Son – but Order of the Owl went further and just rendered them useless from the start. Feedback proved no less essential to the sound than the trio’s riffs and lumbering grooves, but basically, Order of the Owl came through as a wash of noise. Bassist/vocalist Brent Anderson, formerly of Zoroaster, brought some of his ethic (not to mention his posture as he bent way over to the low microphone) from that band to this one, but with guitarist Casey Yarbrough and drummer Joe Sweat, Order of the Owl had a personality of their own carved from the massive tones emanating from that impressive backline. To Sweat‘s credit, the drums cut through, which Anderson‘s vocals didn’t — even a place with decent sound like Ralph’s can only put so much power into the P.A. before the lights shut off — and even in the back of the room was consumed by the overload. I couldn’t tell you what they played, but clearly the intent wasn’t so much to dazzle with individual songs or ideas so much as create a whole of such overwhelming push, and Anderson, Yarbrough and Sweat clearly had that working in their favor. Again, they seemed like a strange fit to hit the road with Volume IV, but they made a suitable closer for Eye of the Stoned Goat 4, giving the festival one final dose of ultra-heavy that nobody in their right mind would want to follow anyway. Their new album is probably finished being recorded at this point. One shutters to think of the devastation that awaits.
My ears were ringing fairly hard by the time I left Ralph’s. Sunday was an earlier night than Saturday had been anyway, and the last few bands had run short anyway, so it wasn’t yet midnight, but after running the full front-to-back of 20 bands over the two days, I’d hardly say I was up for more action than I got. The Masspike and news stories of Cinco de Mayo lime shortages carried me home and I’m not sure I’ve woken up since.
Thanks to Brendan Burns for his diligent efforts putting together The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4. Thanks as well to Derek and Jenn Bradshaw, Bill Kole, Ray Dickman, Jaki Cunha, Mark, everybody else who stuck it out for the weekend, and of course you for reading.
God. Damn. Quite a lineup, quite a poster. I’ll give credit to Hollow Leg‘s Brent Lynch who first brought my attention to the poster for his band’s March 26 gig at St. Vitus Bar in Brooklyn. The evening, on which Kings Destroy (fresh off their West Coast tour) headlines with Hollow Leg, Holly Hunt, Clamfight and The Scimitar supporting, is a benefit for Aaron Edge, the Seattle-based graphic designer and former Roareth (etc.) guitarist, whose struggle with multiple sclerosis led to the creation last year of Lumbar‘s The First and Last Days of Unwelcome(review here) and whose medical bills continue to accumulate.
True to oblivious form, I actually wasn’t aware The Obelisk was sponsoring the show or I’d have been plugging it much sooner. There were some discussions earlier on and I had thought it just kind of petered out as these things sometimes do, but I’m honored to have the name of this site associated with such a lineup, with War Crime Recordings who released Kings Destroy‘s A Time of Hunting last year, and of course with St. Vitus Bar, whose reputation at this point spreads well beyond the bounds of Brooklyn. I won’t be sorry to catch Hollow Leg and Holly Hunt when they come through Boston with Ichabod and Balam, but no doubt this is something special, and the poster, by Searing Limb‘s Connor Anderson, certainly lives up to the occasion.
Click the image to enlarge for a more detailed look (click it again to remove). For more on the Anderson‘s work, this show, the Holly Hunt/Hollow Leg tour dates and how you can contribute to Edge‘s continuing fight, check the links below.
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
If you’re in the States and celebrating Thanksgiving this week, I thought maybe a new podcast would be good to have along for the travel. Maybe you take it with you on the road, or maybe put some headphones on in one of those need-to-get-away moments that invariably crop up over the holidays. I always get very stressed out at this time of year. I’d be lying if putting this together wasn’t a bit of therapy for my own anxiousness, but I also thought that if someone else was in the same boat, they might also appreciate it. Or maybe not and you just want to rock without using it as an escape for deep-rooted psychological issues. That’s cool too.
This one has a lot of good stuff that I’ve come across lately, from the opening Foghound track on through the Clamfight single that was featured here a couple weeks back, and on to the B-side of the single that Ice Dragon released just this weekend, finally rounding out with the closing track from Uzala‘s new album, Tales of Blood and Fire, “Tenement of the Lost,” which was so captivating when I saw them in Providence last month. It’s a wide variety, but it flows well from song to song and I think it’s a good time.
Hopefully you agree. I’m especially happy with how well the last three songs, which make up the bulk of the second hour, came together. My hope is you’ll be too hypnotized by one song to realize when it’s gone into the next. Whether or not that happens, please enjoy.
Foghound, “Dragon Tooth” from Quick, Dirty and High (2013)
Lizzard Wizzard, “Total Handjob Future” from Lizzard Wizzard (2013)
Summoner, “Into the Abyss” from Atlantian (2013)
Groan, “Slice of that Vibe” from Ride the Snake EP (2013)
The Vintage Caravan, “Let Me Be” from Voyage (2013)
Run After To, “Melancholy from Run After To/Gjinn and Djinn (2013 Reissue)
Clamfight, “Bathosphere” from single release (2013)
No Gods No Masters, “Lie to Me” from No Gods No Masters EP (2013)
Horseskull, “Arahari” from 2013 Promo
Gudars Skymning, “Gåtor I Mörkret” from Höj Era Glas (2013)
Ice Dragon, “Queen of the Black Harvest” from Steel Veins b/w Queen of the Black Harvest (2013)
T.G. Olson, “Return from the Brink” from The Bad Lands to Cross (2013)
EYE, “Lost are the Years” from Second Sight (2013)
Øresund Space Collective, “Black Sabbath Forever in Space” from Live at Loppen 2013.11.19
Selim Lemouchi and His Enemies, “The Ghost of Valentine” from Earth Air Spirit Water Fire (2013)
Uzala, “Tenement of the Lost” from Tales of Blood and Fire (2013)
Posted in audiObelisk on October 28th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
From their demo and early days of “Fuck Bulldozers” and “Viking Funeral” on down to “Stealing the Ghost Horse,” I’ve heard just about everything that Philly brain-bruisers Clamfight have come up with to date. So when I tell you that the new song “Bathosphere” from a forthcoming limited compilation CDR that the four-piece will have exclusively on hand at this year’s Stoner Hands of Doom fest — taking place at Strange Matter in Richmond, Virginia, Nov. 7-10 — is the heaviest thing I’ve ever heard them play, please understand there’s the slightest chance I know what I’m talking about. Heavier than “Rabbit” from the first record? Yes, heavier than “Rabbit.”
As the band begins to move past their earlier-2013 sophomore full-length, I vs. the Glacier– released on The Maple Forum, this site’s in-house semi-label — they do so with the utmost brutality. At 3:49, “Bathosphere” is brief compared to some of Clamfight‘s more spacious material, the guitars of Sean McKee and Joel Harris having somewhat less room to spread out over the pummeling groove of bassist Louis Koble and drummer/vocalist Andy Martin, but what it lacks in runtime, it accounts for in intensity, biting down hard with an initial tension build of feedback and tom runs before unleashing its thrashing course following an introductory growl from Martin. It’s a heads-down push, but Clamfight handle it well, letting off the gas just slightly for a chorus before resuming what’s among their most vicious riffs en route to a squibbly churn and unbridled slam of a finish.
“Bathosphere” is set to be included as one of two new tracks on the SHoD-only release (presumably they’ll have a couple for the other shows on their tour south, but who knows?). The other is “Blockship,” and unlike that song, “Bathosphere” won’t appear on Clamfight‘s next album. It’s for this CDR only.
Martin gives some details on the release and tour dates, under the player below on which you can check out “Bathosphere.” Bring a helmet:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
We’ll be making one hundred CD-R copies of “Bathosphere” and they will available on the cheap at SHOD 13 on November 7th at Strange Matter in Richmond, VA and after that until they run out. Once they’re gone, they’re gone and we have no plans of making it available in any other format. Also included on the CD will be “Blockship” a track which will be appearing on our third record, as well as many of our old demos as we can lay our hands on.
The CD will also include art by Chris Jones of the mighty Rukut.
From Richmond we’ll be heading to Uncle Lou’s in Orlando Florida to team up with our good friends in Hollow Leg, Shroud Eater and Ad Nauseum on November 8th. November 9th sees us at The Jinx in Savannah Georgia with Hollow Leg, Shroud Eater, and Crazy Bag Lady, and November 12th sees us at JR’s in Philly with Heavy Temple, the Cloth, and Devil to Pay.
“Bathosphere” and “Block Ship” were recorded by Steve Poponi at the Gradwell House in Haddon Heights New Jersey over a day and half last May. “Bathosphere” is probably my favorite thing we’ve done with Steve. We recorded the instruments in the early afternoon and I wrote the lyrics in my car as the guys did over dubs. With the exception of the death growls, the vocals were recorded in one go, so all told, from start to finish “Bathosphere” was recorded in less than four hours. I can’t speak for everyone but for me something about the speed and aggression of this song makes it feel the closer to what we do live than of any of our recordings, and that sort of “fuck it, let’s just destroy” attitude we had about the session itself made the whole day a blast.
Oh and I got disco fries after I tracked my vocals.
Posted in Reviews on September 30th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I was on my way back north after seeing Vista Chino in New York the night before, embroiled in an all-too-familiar stretch of I-95. I’d left New Jersey following dinner with my mother and grandmother just past 8PM, and was hitting the 70s exits on the highway well after 10. It was right around then that my brain — clever devil — remembered Maple Forum alums Clamfight had a show in New London at The El ‘n’ Gee as the first of two nights they were doing with Philly rockers Thee Nosebleeds. New London is exit 83 headed northbound on I-95, and I remembered from Stoner Hands of Doom last year that The El ‘n’ Gee is about five minutes off the highway. I called Clamfight drummer/vocalist Andy Martin to ask him if they’d played yet. They hadn’t.Thee Nosebleeds were just going on. It looked like I’d make it.
Indeed, Thee Nosebleeds were on stage when I rolled into the club, hurried and haggard and my blood that specific kind of tense that comes from sitting in the car for a couple hours. At the door, I had to pay two dollars of the eight-dollar cover in quarters because I didn’t have that many singles, but it wouldn’t have made much difference in how much of Thee Nosebleeds I caught anyway. They were well into their set by the time I got there. In my experience, they’re a raw joy to watch once they’re warmed up, and that proved to be the case at The El ‘n’ Gee as well. The show wasn’t crowded, and there were four bands on the bill, but though my timing wasn’t perfect, I probably couldn’t have planned it better if I tried. Thee Nosebleeds are an underrated rager of a band. They don’t get out of Philly much — for that matter, neither do Clamfight; or at least not enough — but in the couple times I’ve seen them, they’ve impressed. I was glad I made it in time to catch their shots-of-something-brown toast at the end of “Crackula.” It was apparently the rhythm section’s birthday. Right on.
The two acts have done more shows together than I think either could be bothered to count — toss in Wizard Eye and you’ve rounded out a three-band bill of dude-on-dude appreciation whose match you’re not likely to find in that City of Bro’ly Love — but it was good to see as they heckled each other that the spark hasn’t gone out. Them Clams loaded onto the stage quickly and proceeded to play their first gig in several months, Martin having taken the summer off to embark on an archaeological dig in Scotland. Yes, that’s true. Rejoined with guitarists Sean McKee and Joel Harris and bassist Louis Koble, Clamfight proved as riotous as ever on the large stage of The El ‘n’ Gee, the sound echoing off the back walls of that cavernous space and creating an even more vicious wash of noise and distortion to go along with their heavy riffing through “Mountain” and “Sand Riders” from earlier-2013’s I vs. the Glacier. Even with Martin‘s ride cymbal winding up broken and looking like Cookie Monster took a bite out of it, they were plenty, plenty loud.
New song “Block Ship” was aired with its insistently nodding groove, and I vs. the Glacierfinale “Stealing the Ghost Horse” was given an extended and classically rocking instrumental intro that brought a whole new feel to the track and gave McKee a chance to show off some of his growth as a lead player, able to affect swagger as much as belt out burly, chugging riffage. Dipping back to 2010’s aptly-titled debut full-length, Volume I, they broke out “Ghosts I Have Known,” with Martin pushing into cleaner singing as called for, but ultimately it was the hyper-aggro “Rabbit” that finished out the set, shouted out by Martin (ever the gentleman) to yours truly. That song goes a long way to portraying the central penchant for groove that makes Clamfight such a special act, and it’s interesting that it endures in their live sets where more immediate cuts like “Fuck Bulldozers” and “Viking Funeral” have been put to rest. I’m sure it doesn’t hurt the cause that it looks like they’re having so much fun playing it.
Empty Vessels were still to come in finishing out the night, but it was getting on midnight and I still had about two hours to go on my trip back to Massachusetts, so I rushed back to the car and back to I-95. As far as driving breaks go, however, I certainly won’t complain. I should be so lucky to have such satisfying detours every time I make that journey. Between this show and Vista Chino the prior evening, I had seen a lot of really good people in a short span of time and it was nice to be reminded that just because you leave a place doesn’t mean you don’t still have friends there.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 26th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Returning with a vengeance — and also a new song — after their summer hiatus, Maple Forum alums Clamfight have announced a slew of fall tour dates. In addition to a slot at Stoner Hands of Doom at Strange Matter in Richmond, Virginia, on Nov. 7, the four-piece are doing two gigs THIS. VERY. WEEKEND. with Philly rockers Thee Nosebleeds and in addition to regular-type local stuff, they’ll head south following SHoD to bang out a couple evenings in the good company of Hollow Leg and Shroud Eater, among others.
In their typical style, the band sent along this update:
We’re back gang….and find ourselves another season’s worth of Neolithic archaeology lyrical fodder richer, but one gall bladder poorer.
So it goes.
Here’s where to get palm muted/yelled at about rock art:
This weekend we’re out and about and possibly falling over with Philly’s best rock and roll band, THEE NOSEBLEEDS (sorry, rock that nasty requires all caps).
Friday 9/27 we’re at the El ‘N’ Gee in New London, Connecticut with Thee Nosebleeds, the Cryptics, and Empty Vessels.
Saturday 9/28 we’re at the Firehouse Saloon in Rochester, New York with Thee Nosebleeds, Baba Yaga, and Pink Elephant.
October 26th we’re at the Boot and Saddle in Philadelphia with Screaming Rattler and Wizard Eye (who a little bird with 6 foot long dreadlocks tells me are hitting the studio shortly to record a new full length).
November 7th we’re at Strange Matter in Richmond, Virginia for the opening night of Stoner Hands of Doom 13 with A.P.F, Pill Buster, Compel, and more In honor of how excited we are to be part of such an amazing festival (the rest of the weekend includes Wizard Eye, Beelzefuzz, Admiral Browning, Lo-Pan, Backwoods Payback, Faces of Bayon, Second Grave, Wasted Theory and many, many more) we’ll pressing 100 copies of a seven inch of our new song “Bathosphere.” We have no plans to release it in any other format and once it’s gone, it’s gone.
November 8th we’ll be in Orlando Florida to challenge Hollow Leg and Shroud Eater in between some serious air boat racing/alligator wrasslin’ we’re going to play a show at a location to be announced.
November 9th we’re at the Jinx in Savannah Georgia with Hollow Leg and Shroud Eater and Crazy Bag Lady.
November 12th we’re at JR’s in Philadelphia with Devil to Pay, Heavy Temple, and the Cloth.
November 22 we’re at Mojo Main in Delaware with Braincandle and Count Von Count.
Posted in Label Stuff on June 12th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
…That’s right, your Clamfix.
Everybody knows these Clamfight guys are jerks, but they’re also some of my favorite jerks, so even though all the copies of their second album, I vs. the Glacier, that I was selling through The Maple Forum are gone, and even though I saw them last week, I just can’t seem to stop myself from nerding out on their doings. Their Clammery, if you will. You probably won’t.
They’re about to take a bit of a break as drummer/vocalist Andy Martin departs to dig up fossils (yes, really) in Scotland. Last I heard, he was looking for the cave with the alien doodles from Prometheus – because that’s just how much he l-o-v-e-d that movie and found it to be a well-crafted addition to the Alien mythos — but he might’ve found it last year. In any case, before he splits out for the remainder of the summer, Clamfight will be sharing a bill July 6 at the North Star Bar in Philly with Skeleton Hands and Wizard Eye.
From what I gather and have witnessed, all those dudes are pretty tight, so I expect nothing but sloppy manhugs and shout-launched beerspittle, but if you’re in the neighborhood it should be a good time.
Even more importantly, the Clambros have posted the entirety of I vs. the Glacieron their Bandcamp page. It’s up their with their first record, Vol. 1, and obviously I consider them both recommended listening. If you didn’t get to pick up a physical copy while they were being sold on The Maple Forum, there are limited quantities available from what Clamfight were selling at shows, and I’m told a CD repress is in discussion while an outlet for vinyl is also sought out.
But if you want the first edition of I vs. the Glacier, once however many the band has are gone, that’s it. And if you never got the chance to take a listen to the album while I was plugging it, here’s that full stream on some terrible, wasn’t-broke-but-we-just-fixed-it new kind of player from Bandcamp:
Posted in Reviews on June 10th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Tropical Storm Whoever was raging outside — and by that I mean it was raining hard — but there was no way I was going to miss the Kings Destroy release party for their second album, A Time of Hunting, at the St. Vitus bar in Brooklyn with Windhand, Clamfight and Belus. The record, out on War Crime Recordings, is a killer, and as I was watching the last of the Clamfight CDs go from the Maple Forum store even as I stood in front of the stage to see them play, it was the perfect occasion at the perfect time.
Grim Brooklynite trio Belus opened the evening’s four-band bill, their feet firmly planted in a blackened type of doom that was brooding one minute, raging the next, but never quite letting go of its tension completely. They were already on by the time I got there, but I saw enough to get a basic feel for their approach, varied in tempo more than atmosphere but still effectively done in bringing a frigid feel through warmer tones than one would probably expect. They had demo tapes for sale, and though I didn’t get to pick one up (kind of backlogged on tapes, believe it or not), they gave a solid showing to the early arrivals at the St. Vitus, broiled in a specifically crusted malevolence that gave an extreme start to the proceedings.
They were more or less a surprise, but the rest of the night was about knowing what was coming and being thrilled at the twists. Clamfight and Kings Destroy are friends, bands about whom I couldn’t be impartial even if I had any interest in trying, and even Windhand I’ve seen a couple times by now, so yeah, familiarity reigned. It hadn’t even been that long since I last saw Clamfight in Philly with Borracho, Been Obscene and SuperVoid (review here), but being the nerd I am for the band, I’ll take whatever opportunities I can get, particularly as they’ve started now writing for the follow-up to I Versus the Glacier.
Speaking of, new song “Block Ship” was trotted out and fit in well with the band’s established bashers from their first two albums. Their plan for the track last I heard was to include it on a split they’re putting together in honor of their appearance in November at Stoner Hands of Doom XIII in Virginia, but I have the feeling they’re going to decide it’s too good to leave just for that and I wouldn’t be surprised if it shows up on the inevitable next Clamfight full-length as well. Along with that and regular suspects “Sand Riders” and the motor-grooves of “Mountain” from I Versus the Glacier, the Philly foursome tossed in a curve with “Ghosts I Have Known” from their 2010 Volume Idebut.
That wound up being the highlight of the set for me personally, with the slower, semi-Southern sludge feel and the interplay of shouts, growls and screams over top from frontdrummer Andy Martin, not to mention the guitarmonies of Joel Harris and Sean McKee. I caught bassist Louis Koble and Harris laughing on the far side of the stage during the faster section of the song while the band thrashed out behind McKee‘s squibbling solo, and it only underscored for me the good time being had by all. They’ve gotten to be pretty tight with the Kings Destroy cats following a couple weekenders and other shared gigs, so it was cool to see those guys up front digging the Clamfight set as well. It seemed too much to hope for that Clamfight would bash into “Rabbit” after “Ghosts I Have Known,” and it was, but “Stealing the Ghost Horse” made a suitable closer as it does on the record, its build vicious and clean-vocal payoff never failing to exceed expectation.
It was, it’s worth repeating, Kings Destroy‘s record release show for A Time of Hunting — their second album behind the 2010 debut, …And the Rest Will Surely Perish, which like Clamfight‘s I Versus the Glacier, was issued on The Obelisk’s in-house label, The Maple Forum – and there was no doubt by the time the five-piece dug into “The Toe” and “Casse-Tête” whose party it was. The band, in addition to being a legitimate draw at this point, seemed to import a variety of family and friends for the occasion, and but for the title-track and “Shattered Pattern,” they played the record in its entirety, if out of order, putting “Stormbreak,” which starts A Time of Hunting, after “Casse-Tête” and following it with “Decrepit,” track four on the new one, and “The Mountie” from the first album.
With those last two in succession particularly, Kings Destroy demonstrated just how far they’ve come in the last three years. After shows up and down the East Coast, a tour through Europe and more to come — not to mention the pedigree of the band’s members, which is an exhaustion to contemplate, let alone type — they are locked in as a band and full-on in a way I’d credit few NYC-based acts as being. True to their name, they destroyed, drummer Rob Sefcik holding “Decrepit” steady on stage with guitarists Carl Porcaro and Chris Skowronski and bassist Aaron Bumpus while vocalist Steve Murphy hopped off stage — introducing yours truly in the process; I caught “This is JJ, he’s an awkward metal guy,” but the rest didn’t come through — to walk through the crowd during the quieter break and the melodic later vocals, repeating the line “Hold on…” and talking of a brand new start. The lyrics are runes in the liner notes to the album. Good luck with that.
But the dichotomy: To go right from that into the raw, viscerally doomed groove of “The Mountie” highlighted for me the expansion in Kings Destroy‘s sound and how well they can carry across ideas, be they simple or complex. There was some not-quite-moshing going on in front of the stage, but everything was self-contained and everyone was familial, having a good time and so forth, myself included in my awkward metal guy way. Closing out with “Blood of Recompense” and their own album finale, “Turul” — the working title for the record itself — Kings Destroy saved the weirdest for last. I still hear “Too Many Puppies” in the vocal cadence for “Turul,” whether it’s meant to be there or not. There was a good portion of the room for whom the night was over when Kings Destroy were finished. The rest reaped the volume excess of Windhand as a reward.
I’d seen the band before, true, but this was the first time I’d caught them with Parker Chandler of Cough on bass. I picked up a CD of the recent split between the two acts prior to their set, and heard nothing in Windhand‘s ultra-thick double-guitar drudgery to make me regret the purchase. Frontwoman Dorthia Cottrell paced back and forth with manic intensity while Chandler, drummer Ryan Wolfe and guitarists Asechiah Bogdan and Garrett Morris emitted wave after vicious wave of low-end riffage. If even a fraction of that energy comes across on their Relapse label debut full-length (it’ll be their second LP overall), the album is going to be one that well earns its anticipation.
Only snag as regards Windhand‘s set was that I had an hour-plus ride home and had to be up in about five hours to head north to Massachusetts and continue my hunt for housing, so while I might’ve liked to stay and lost myself further in the rise and crash of each cresting undulation, I had to run. In the rain. To my car. And then drive for a long time, sleep for not a long time, then drive for a really long time. Still, it was a gig that more than justified what I considered mandatory attendance, and for seeing good friends doing good work, I was glad to be there to bear witness.
Posted in Label Stuff on June 8th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
This CD is sold out. Thank you so much for your support.
Well, we knew we’d get here sooner or later, and I had a feeling it would be sooner, which this is. From my original 105, I’m down to just three remaining CD copies of Clamfight‘s I vs. the Glacier. Three copies, and then they’re gone.
I know I’ve said this before, but I suck as a salesman. I’m not the kind of guy who can get up and start working a room. It’s not my thing. Fortunately, when it comes to Clamfight, the band has been steadily busting its ass to spread the word and play as many shows as possible, and for that, I owe them thanks.
Not nearly as much as I owe them thanks for the record itself, though. There have been just a few releases, but I’m extremely proud to be associated with everything The Maple Forum has helped release up to this point, and I vs. the Glacier has been twice the joy because in addition to being friends with the band for (as we discussed just last night) going on eight years now, I’ve watched them get to the point where they can unleash a bastard of a record such as this. These songs continue to amaze me, these guys continue to amaze me, and I couldn’t be happier with how this album came out. I’m lucky to have been involved in the small way I was.
If you bought a copy because you saw the band posting about it somewhere, be it Facebook or whatever else, or you ran into them at a show, or you saw another review someplace — special thanks to everyone who took the time — it means an awful lot. Thank you for deciding this project is something worthy of your support and for taking the extra step and actually making that support happen. I hope you’ve enjoyed the album as much as I have.
So as always, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, and if you pick up one of these last three copies, kudos on getting in under the wire.
Posted in Reviews on April 2nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I was asked to take the above pic shortly before Borracho went on at Kung Fu Necktie Saturday night. It was the last of three shows the three bands in question — Borracho, Pittsburgh’s SuperVoid and Austria’s Been Obscene – were playing together, so it was an end-of-tour kind of deal. Been Obscene had done a fuller tour out on the West Coast alongside Ape Machine, and with just the trio of dates on the Eastern Seaboard before they headed back to Europe, I felt lucky to catch them as I did. They had just finished playing, second after SuperVoid with Borracho still to come and current Maple Forum interlocutors Clamfight closing out the night as the local act on the bill.
Actually, they weren’t closing out the night, exactly. Word had come down earlier in the week that the venue had a late-night gig starting at 11, so the four bands would all need to be finished by 10:30PM. On my end, it was nothing but convenient; from a morale standpoint, it’s much easier to start the two-hour drive back north from Philadelphia at 11PM than it would be at 1AM or sometime thereafter. If it was the final gig of three before I left the country, say, or even if I’d come from Pittsburgh or Washington D.C. to play, I might have felt differently about it, but a club’s gotta stay in business to put on good shows in the first place, and if that’s what it takes, then so be it. Like I said, it worked to my benefit as someone with a long ride ahead.
Speaking of convenience, the trip south to Philly also provided a decent excuse to stop at Vintage Vinyl in Fords, NJ, and pick up a few odds and ends that I’ll have more on hopefully later this week. Even with that detour, I got to Kung Fu Necktie early. One thing about these last several months of not drinking: It’s way harder to kill time at a bar — even after paying a cover to get in — if you don’t order a beverage. I met and chatted with the cats from Been Obscene for a while, who’d been staying in New York and told me they had a new song included in their set called “Pilot the Pirates” that turned out to be one more reason I was glad I made the trip.
Soon enough, SuperVoid got going with some new material of their own along with the screamier “Wake the Smoke Jumper” from their 2012 debut EP, Endless Planets (review here). These three shows represented the first the band were playing outside their native ‘burgh, so it was expected that the five-piece would seem to be getting their bearings on stage, but they still ran through their songs well and showed personality from within their double-guitar framework. Vocalist Brian showed more melodic range live than on the EP, which bodes extremely well, and the interplay of lead and rhythm guitars balanced metal and rock influences while the rhythm section of John (bass) and Greg (drums) locked in heavy foundational grooves. At one point, they seemed to find their niche between Kyuss and Mastodon, and if that’s going to be their starting point for whatever might come next from them, they could do a hell of a lot worse.
I’d have been happy enough to watch a show with Borracho, Clamfight and SuperVoid on the bill, and might’ve even hiked to Philly to see it, but the chance to catch Been Obscene, and catch them so close to home, was something special even before they started to play. Their two albums to date — 2010’s The Magic Table Dance(review here) and 2011’s Night o’ Mine(review here) — have gotten multiple return visits, and though their set was short, they represented themselves well for the growing populace who made it out to Kung Fu Necktie. There was an eight-band fest happening upstairs, so people were coming and going between the one and the other, but I didn’t move.
I know I already said it was something special to see them make the trip over, and more so to be able to see the last show, but really, it’s worth saying again. Been Obscene played four songs — opening with “Alone” (it also could’ve been “Snake Charmer,” and I’m hoping someone tells me which, as both have been stuck in my head) before hitting their stride in “Demons,” unveiling the jagged desert hues of “Pilot the Pirates” and closing out with Night o’ Mineopener “Endless Scheme,” the clarion lead lines of which were presented perfectly fuzzed in spite of the fact that the four-piece — guitarist/vocalist Thomas Nachtigal, guitarist Peter Kreyci, bassist/backing vocalist Philipp Zezula and drummer Robert Schoosleitner – were running through Borracho‘s gear. But even as an abridged sampling of their warm heavy psych grooving, it was immediately clear they were running on a different wavelength. I dug the hell out of it, and was reminded of some of the other acts from modern European fuzz set that I’ve been fortunate enough to see: Sungrazer, The Machine, Mars Red Sky, Samsara Blues Experiment and of course the godfathers of the sound, Colour Haze.
As someone who enjoyed how Been Obscene grew into their sound on Night o’ Mine, to be able to see them bring that sensibility and confidence to the naturalist jams of “Demons” from the first album, Nachtigal‘s “Watch the weather changing/Is it my fault” proving standout lines that carried me home after the show nearly as much as I-95. “Pilot the Pirates” was less outwardly jammy, featuring some solid backing arrangements from Zezula on vocals, but still had room for a bit of meandering amid a straightforward Queens of the Stone Age start-stop given vitality and fitting attitude from Kreyci rocking out with Schoosleitner. I’m sure it wasn’t the best gig they played in the States — doubtless that happened out west in a clime more fitting to the open space in their aesthetic — but who the hell knows when or if they’ll come back, and even if they do, aren’t the circumstances bound to be different? On a certain level, every show is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This one more so than many.
When they were done, it was picture time as noted above. Borracho were in the process of setting up their gear, but they ran out to take part and then back inside in time to start their set. Similar to the last couple times I’ve seen them — in October in Manhattan and at SHoD in Connecticut — they played as a trio, but in the last few months, guitarist Steve Fisher has further stepped up as a vocalist in place of the fourth in their four-piece, Noah, who last I heard was out of the country and may or may not still be involved in the band on some level. Either way, Fisher — whom I’ll admit I didn’t at first recognize without his long beard — more than held his own in the frontman role, taking on Noah‘s parts without doing an impression of the missing party and sounding comfortable as well in what I discerned to be newer material, presumably from a forthcoming release.
I’d dug them as a mostly-instrumental outfit, but as Fisher tossed off a joke about memorizing lyrics and bassist Tim Martin and drummer Mario Trubiano ran through “Concentric Circles” from their 2011 debut full-length, Splitting Sky, they made a more than solid power trio, and I’d be interested to see how they continue to develop if indeed they stay a three-piece. By the time they were done, Kung Fu Necktie was pretty full. It hadn’t been dark outside for all that long. The SuperVoid and Been Obscene guys were hanging out — I bought their two albums on vinyl and paid in Euros I had leftover from Roadburn last year — and people were up and down the stairs, in and out of the door, back and forth. Some knew what was coming, some were entirely unassuming.
And then it happened. Like the primordial riff-thrashing bastards that they are, Clamfight took the stage. Having helped release their second album, I Versus the Glacier(buy one here), on The Obelisk’s in-house semi-label, I won’t even feign impartiality where they’re concerned, but as I see it, a Clamfight set is always a good way to cap an evening. They got off to a rough start — bassist Louis Koble playing usual opener “The Eagle” where guitarists Sean McKee and Joel Harris and drummer/vocalist Andy Martin had decided to go with “Mountain” instead — but once they locked it in, they were lethal as ever. They dipped back to their first album, 2010’s Volume 1for “Viking Funeral” and the set closer “Rabbit,” but the highlight for me was new song “Block Ship,” which in the span of about five minutes affirmed my suspicions that I Versus the Glacierwas the realization of just a fraction of their overall potential. No bullshit, I got chills up my spine twice.
But as I said, I’m hardly an unbiased observer, so take that for what it’s worth. When their whiplash melee was done, I said a few quick goodbyes and headed back to my car. I know it wasn’t the optimal situation for the bands involved, but for me, it was my favorite kind of show — not because it was early, because it was something I may or may not ever get the chance to see again. Compared to Floor the evening prior, it wasn’t nearly so crowded in Philly, but doesn’t that just make it more exceptional for the people who are there? Maybe it’s the wrong attitude, but I think it does. Been Obscene were obviously a standout, but the whole night delivered, front to back. It was everything I could’ve asked it to be and then some.
Posted in Label Stuff on March 25th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
21 3 Copies Left.
Once again, if you’ve managed to pick up a copy of Clamfight‘s new CD, I Versus the Glacier, either using the Paypal button above or through the Maple Forum BigCartel store, you have my sincere thanks as well as that of the band.
We’re in the home stretch — a scant 21 copies remain in my possession and they’re going at a steady pace. If you’ve been on the fence, it’s a get-it-now-or-regret-it-later kind of deal. The Maple Forum doesn’t do second runs. It’s in the charter. Okay, there isn’t a charter, but seriously, the discs are moving, so thank you for that and they won’t be around for much longer. I guess that’s the point.
If you’re in Philly this coming weekend, as I know I’ll be, catch them Saturday, March 30 at Kung Fu Necktie with Borracho, Been Obscene and Supervoid. Friday, they’re at Cafe 611 in Frederick, MD, with Ichabod, War Injun, Beelzefuzz and Hollow Leg, and the band has sent along word of more shows to come, including confirmation that they’re looking to hit the West Coast this summer and news about new material in progress!
Anyone can bring you a Clamfight update with show news. Here’s one from drummer/vocalist Andy Martin that has a unicorn:
Forgive me for the bullet points folks, but I’m bashing this out on a borrowed laptop in a hotel somewhere deep in the wilds of Pennslytucky, and time is of the essence…
We’ve got two great shows this weekend, we’re at Cafe 611 in Fredrick Maryland with Ichabod, War Injun, Beelzefuzz, and Hollow Leg on Friday the 29th, and we’ll be hooking up with Supervoid, Been Obscene, and Borracho at Kung Fu Necktie in Philly on Saturday, March 30.
April 6th we’re atThe Depot in York PA with Crobot, Kingsnake, and Witch Hazel.
April 25th we’re back at Kung Fu Necktie with Holly Hunt, Sunburster, and the mighty Shroud Eater, in a show that’s sure to start our great southern weekender off with aching heads and rumbly tummies.
April 26th-29th with our bosom chums/band-I-am-also-in, Heavy Temple, we’ll be rampaging through the southeast. Friday the 26th sees us both at the Oasis in Charleston, South Carolina, with Compel, Greenseer and possibly one more TBA, Saturday will likely see us in Virginia (details still getting ironed out on that one), and Sunday the 29th we’ll be wrapping it up with the Akris at Lallo’s in Knoxville Maryland.
The other massive (for us anyway) show news is that we will be slipping the surly bonds of the east coast this summer. We can’t say when or with who but trust us, Clamfight will be heading west this summer.
The final bit of big news is that we are actively writing the next record. We’ve demoed about 25 minutes of material and have rolled out one new song, “Block Ship” live. Obviously things are very premature at the moment but we’re aiming to be in the studio by next winter. Saying much more would almost feel like cursing a process that’s been going really, really well for us, so we’ll just say this, we aim to be studio bound not long after hitting Richmond, Virginia, for Stoner Hands of Doom XIII this November.
Speaking of SHOD and “Block Ship,” we’ll be heading back to Gradwell House as soon as our schedules allow to record both “Block Ship” and a reworked version of a tune that shall remain nameless (for the time being) from our first record for our special SHOD-only split with Wizard Eye and Allthing.
Finally we’d just like to say one last thanks to Thump Box, Brain Candle, The Workhorse 3, Black Hand, and the many, many friends who came out to see us in Delaware last week. Delaware’s somehow always been incredibly cool to us and due to our show/my digging schedule last week’s show may have been our last in Delaware till the fall. Fear not first staters… We shall return.
Posted in Label Stuff on February 13th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
37 21 Copies Left.
Thanks to everyone who ordered a copy of Clamfight‘s I Versus the Glacier, either by clicking the Paypal button above or hitting The Maple Forum‘s Official BigCartel Store. I’ve been floored by the response to the record and couldn’t be more psyched to have so many people in agreement about its badassery. As of this post, I’ve got 37 copies of the record left, and I don’t expect them to last.
Clamfight have been busting their collective hump to get word out about the album, taking ass and kicking names along the way, and as anyone lucky enough to witness their assault this weekend at The Eye of the Stoned Goat 2 in Delaware can tell you, the dudes are firing on all cylinders at this point. More shows are in the works — I’ve heard rumors of touring outside the Eastern Seaboard over the summer, though nothing’s confirmed yet — and they’re currently writing new material as well ahead of their appearance at this year’s Stoner Hands of Doom, set to take place in Richmond, Virginia, Nov. 7-10.
Oft-shirtless frontdrummer/drunk-hugger Andy Martin has issued an update on the band’s multi-pronged doings that we should all tremble to behold. So, uh, do that:
This last Saturday we played the “Eyes of the Stoned Goat 2″ fest in Delaware. It was an incredible show and we shared the bill with a lot of good friends from Philly and Delaware such as Thee Nosebleeds, Heavy Temple (a band I’m also in), Skeleton Hands, Blackhand, Wasted Theory, Wizard Eye, and some of Maryland doom’s heaviest hitters, Beelzefuzz, Iron Man, and PA’s Pale Divine.
The show was a great time, Delaware’s always been kind to us, and it was ten hours of beers, buxotic babes, and hugging bearded dudes, and was a preview of the madness that will be SHOD. Thanks to Brendan Burns of SnakeCharmer Booking for making it happen, the guy should be commended for pulling that show off.
Speaking of SHOD madness—
We’ll be doing a split with Wizard Eye for SHOD. They’re an amazing Philly band and also happen to be some of our closest friends, and this split’s a celebration of how stoked we are to be playing such an incredible festival together. Not sure of the exact format yet (most likely CD), but the pressing will be limited to 100 copies, forever, and as of yet we don’t have any plans of making it available for download post SHOD, so it’s get it off us at SHOD or get it never.
It’ll be two songs from both bands, with a bridge tune in between featuring Erik Caplan of Wizard Eye and Sean from us on guitar, myself on drums, and since we didn’t want to pick between our own bass players, Elyse Mitchell of Heavy Temple on bass. Vocals will be handled by some unholy combination of Erik and I.
Upcoming Clamfight Shows: 03/15 Mojo Main, Newark, Delaware, with Thump Box, Braincandle, Workhorse 3, and Black Hand 03/29 Cafe 611, Fredrick, Maryland, with Ichabod, War Injun, the mighty Beelzefuzz and our brothers from Southern mothers, Hollow Leg 03/30 Kung Fu Necktie, Philly with Supervoid, Been Obscene, and Borracho 04/25 Kung Fu Necktie, Philly with Holly Hunt, Sunburster, and Shroud Eater
April 26 Begins a weekender with Heavy Temple in South Carolina that will end on the 28th in Fredrick, Maryland. Details on venues and other bands coming very soon.
Posted in Reviews on February 11th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
What was clear at the outset was that it was going to be a long night. With 10 bands in a matter of seven and a half hours, The Eye of the Stoned Goat 2 was going to have to be a well-oiled machine to keep itself running anything close to smoothly. I arrived in New Castle, Delaware, shortly before the 5:30 start time and readied myself for the tide of riffs to come. The acts, there were many, did not disappoint in this regard.
JB McGinnes was the venue, located in a strip mall along a stretch shortly off I-95. I was immediately reminded of Krug’s Place in Frederick, Maryland, though the layout was different — Krug‘s is two separate rooms where JB McGinnes is a bar up front with the surprisingly large stage in back and no partition between — but the vibe was roughly the same. Food service available, some decent-enough beers if you’re looking for them, and an unpretentious vibe, somewhere between local townie, Irish and sports bar; pool tables off to one side, the kitchen (and ice cream parlor?) off to another.
The lineup ranged as far north as Pennsylvania and as far south as Maryland, and with Delaware acts Blackhand and Wasted Theory, the First State had its representation as well. Very much a regional representation, and clearly intended to be that. Thee Nosebleeds, one of several acts from Philly, started off just about on time and like a schmuck, I took notes throughout the course of the night. Here’s how it all went down:
The West Philly trio got up to speed as their set went on, and I took it as a telling sign that two out of the three members wore shirts with Small Stone bands on them. Their music played out that grown-up punker sensibility, but the idea was heavy rock and it was an idea Thee Nosebleeds worked well within, playing songs that were strong in the chorus and straightforward without necessarily being boring. Vocalist/guitarist Kermit Lyman tore into several killer solos that immediately set a high standard for the night, and the band brought up Erik Caplan of Wizard Eye (a favor Caplan‘s unit would later return for Lyman) for a theremin guest spot that added some variety to the set. It was an energetic start, no frills and riffy, and in that way set the course for a lot of the evening to come.
Also a trio from Philly, but barely more than a month old and steeped in an entirely different kind of heaviness, Heavy Temple hit the stage quickly after Thee Nosebleeds wrapped. Acts shared backlined equipment all the way up until Iron Man however many hours later, but though they’re pretty clearly just starting out, Heavy Temple got their point across, blending thickened post-rock mysticism with rolling Sleep-style stoner groove. Bassist/vocalist Elyse Mitchell (ex-ChromeLord) donned a robe and black lipstick while guitarist Shawn Randles and drummer Andy Martin (the latter also of Clamfight) opted for more everyday costuming, but while they may have some presentation issues to work out, this being their first show, the songs seemed to be right where the band wanted them, and it was enough to make me look forward to how their organic tonality might develop. They had a different take than just about any other band on the bill, and the shift was welcome, if early.
Last seen with Truckfighters in their native Philadelphia, single-guitar foursome Skeleton Hands had the first standalone frontman of the night in Pete Hagen, who introduced the band with suitable burl in a rasp of “Skeleton Hands, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania!” before the testosterone-driven riffing began. Their set was tight, crisp and professional, heavy Southern metal guitar work with touches of Down or a much-less-Virginian Alabama Thunderpussy. That kind of thing doesn’t always work when yankees try it out — I didn’t even know Philadelphia had a bayou! — but Skeleton Hands were entertaining all the same and suited to the bigger stage at JB McGinnes. People were beginning to really file in as they played and they seemed to work quickly in getting a hook into the crowd, while also setting up a smooth transition into Blackhand to come, who shared a lot of their stylistic traits.
Newark, Delaware’s Blackhand (two “hand” bands in a row!) brought The Eye of the Stoned Goat 2 to its apex of burl. The chest-thumping, boot-stomping double-guitar man-metal was like a supplement ad on late-night tv, but like Skeleton Hands, it was also a tight, pro set. Blackhand went even further into the Down/Pepper Keenan school of riffing, the two axes only adding to the overarching metallicism of what they were doing, and though their influences weren’t that far off from what Skeleton Hands or Wasted Theory still to come were working with, Blackhand were nothing if not distinct, proffering heavy rock for those perhaps looking to transition off Black Label Society into something with a little more underground flair. They also drew and held a solid crowd and I imagine made some new friends among those in the marching path of frontman Bruce Marvel, who made use of his wireless mic to stand on the speaker cabinets in front of the stage and make a rousing call to arms.
Tone! Don’t get me wrong, I get the appeal of the whole dudeliness-for-dudeliness’-sake thing, but when Wizard Eye got going, I felt like I’d just come home. The Philly three-piece — Erik Caplan on guitar/vocals/theremin, Dave on bass/vocals and Scott on drums — were the fuzziest band of the night, with a heaviness not so much displayed through aggression, but through the weight of the music itself. Caplan and Dave traded back and forth vocals and brought Thee Nosebleeds‘ Lyman up for a guest spot fronting the band, which he did with vicious energy and a more decidedly hardcore punk presence. Wizard Eye were refreshing and just the first of several acts still to come who need to get a record out. Their sound is too cohesive and too developed to have a demo’s production do it justice. Low end for days.
Fun fact: It was Wasted Theory drummer Brendan Burns who put together the whole bill for The Eye of the Stoned Goat 2. The fest was clearly a labor of love for Burns, who moonlights as SnakeCharmer Booking, and there’s little more respectable than that. His band brought the fest past the 9PM line and found the event running smoothly and with a good crowd at JB McGinnes between rocker heads, curious locals and a couple pool players toward the front, and Wasted Theory shifted the vibe sonically back toward the straightforward heavy rock of Thee Nosebleeds earlier, if blended with elements out of the more C.O.C.-inspired camp. They weren’t quite as nascent as Heavy Temple, but for having been together for less than a year, they seemed to have the idea down and guitarist/vocalist Jackson answered back Blackhand‘s Marvel by jumping on the speaker cabinet and the drum riser. The gauntlet? Thrown down.
It’s worth giving the disclaimer at this point that there’s just about no way I can be impartial when it comes to Clamfight. Aside from the whole helping them release I Versus the Glacier thing, I just dig them too much to offer any kind of valid critique. And so, from where I stood, from Andy Martin‘s first roar (no sign of exhaustion from the double-duty he pulled in Heavy Temple) to Sean McKee‘s first shrieking solo (wow was he loud in the mix), Joel Harris‘ riffing two-step and Louis Koble‘s in-pocket fills, I was on board already. “Sandriders” and “The Eagle” were awesome, don’t get me wrong, but the surprise of the night might have been when they broke out the ultra-brutal “Rabbit” from the first album as a closer. Clamageddon! Clampocalypse Now! A Clamtastrophe! It wasn’t like they’d been lacking in heavy up to that point, because they hadn’t, but that brought it to a different level entirely, the scathing intensity in the culminating groove an entirely different kind of chest-thumping — namely that done by the volume coming out of their cabinets and the air pushed through Martin‘s kick drum. Again, I’m not impartial in saying so, but they were the heaviest thing I saw all night, and the scariest part about it was that I don’t think they’ve even begun to peak as a band yet. I could go on. I won’t. But I could.
Not living near them, I have too easy a time forgetting how good Beelzefuzz actually are. Conclusion? They need to get an album out. They had their 2012 demo for sale — along with some awesome-looking custom stash boxes that bassist Pug Kirby apparently crafted — and guitarist/vocalist Dana Ortt even mentioned the possibility of a new record on stage, citing the release date as, “eventually.” Bummer. Beelzefuzz have apparently hooked up with The Church Within Records, so I guess whenever it arrives, it’ll do so through that venerable imprint, but in the meantime, they had a killer set at Eye of the Stoned Goat much as they had at SHoD, and were greeted with due revelry by a host of the Maryland doom faithful who’d made the trip to New Castle. Ortt‘s guitar-as-organ and live multi-tracked vocals distinguished Beelzefuzz from everyone else in the lineup, and with Kirby and drummer Darin McCloskey‘s tight trad doom grooves, I just hope that when they finally get that album together, they manage to capture the depth of their approach as well as they carry it across live.
For the life of me, there needs to be a statue of “Iron” Al Morris III. Cast it in bronze and stick it right in the town center in Frederick, Maryland. I don’t know who you write to in order to make something like that happen, or even if Frederick has a town center, but seriously, Morris — 20 years on from putting out the first Iron Man CD — is worthy of inclusion in the discussion of Doom Capitol legends like Wino, Bobby Liebling and Dave Sherman. I mean that. The guy’s an icon and no one knows it, and he continues to press on with riff after riff, year after year. Frontman Dee Calhoun assured the crowd in a lengthy tuning break that the band would have a new full-length out this year — they’ve released two EPs since Calhoun joined — and the news was well met. Nothing against prior vocalist Joe Donnelly, but this being my second time seeing the band with Calhoun up front, his presence and singing style is a little more classic metal and it fits the band much better. The rhythm section of bassist Louis Strachan and drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann made the rich grooves of “Groan” from the Dominance EP a highlight, but really, Iron Man‘s set just made me look forward to hearing what they’ll be able to do on their next record.
It was late and I was beat. I don’t mind saying it. I sat at one of the tables by the side of the bar — I’d kind of moved around all night as I took notes in one spot and the next — and looked up to notice that JB McGinnes had left the tvs on for the entirety of the fest. Pale Divine and Avon Cosmetics commercials make for some pretty strange bedfellows. No wonder they didn’t book that licensing gig. The Pennsylvanian trio featured their latest album, 2012’s Painted Windows Black (review here), with cuts like “The Prophet” and set-highlight “Angel of Mercy,” and essentially playing in the dark suited the mood of their doom overall. With McCloskey returning on drum duty after playing with Beelzefuzz, guitarist/vocalist Greg Diener and bassist/vocalist Ron “Fez” McGinnis (also of Admiral Browning) explored a wrenching emotionality set to classic and traditional downtrodden riffing. Diener‘s voice in my experience is never lacking in power and presence, and anytime you put McGinnis on bass, it’s only going to make your band stronger. As technically proficient as he is bearded (and he’s plenty bearded), he’s apt to put all six of his strings to work at any given moment, and where on paper, considering Admiral Browning‘s frantic progressive instrumentalism, it might not seem like a natural fit, in reality he’s a highly adaptable musician as much at home in Pale Divine as I expect he would be on any end of the heavy spectrum. Some dudes can just play. Between his prowess, the band’s pervasive melancholy and lurching heaviness, Pale Divine made for a suitable finish to Eye of the Stoned Goat 2 and those who stuck around long enough to find out seemed to agree.
It was getting on 1:30AM by the time I left and a two-hour drive and some late-night diner burgers with good friends later, finally crashed out around four to get up the next morning and finish the drive home. As I’d known from the start it would be, it was a hell of a night, but there was a lot to see and I’ve no regrets for making the trip.
Thanks to Brendan Burns, Dustin “D-Money” Davis, Pamela Wolfe-Lyman, Chris Jones, Lew Hambly, George Pierro, John Eager and everyone else I was fortunate enough to be able to meet and hang out with in New Castle. Here’s looking forward to doing it all again next time.