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.
Posted in Label Stuff on January 22nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
56 37 Copies Left.
The day has arrived, and Clamfight‘s I Versus the Glacier is now officially available for purchase! HUGE thanks to everyone who put in preorders for the album. I’ve heard from a few already who are digging it and of course the reviews around the interwebs have been fantastic and much appreciated on this end.
I Versus the Glacier is the fifth release through The Obelisk’s in-house label, The Maple Forum, and it’s an album I feel really strongly about. I’ve been kicking around the idea of doing some kind of review-ish post on it, something basically just to talk about the songs (if you missed it, the band did a track-by-track and it was awesome), and though I won’t out of some misguided cloy at critical integrity, let me say that this is a record I’m proud to be a part of releasing, front to back. I believe in what Clamfight are doing, I have a tremendous amount of respect for them as artists, and I wouldn’t have offered to get involved if that wasn’t the case.
These guys are friends going back years, but the basic fact is I was a Clamfight fan even before I knew them, and I continue to be a fan to this day. I loved their last album and still do, but the songs on I Versus the Glacier put the band in a different league entirely, and it’s my sincere hope that when you get to hear the it, you agree.
As always with Maple Forum releases, this is a one-time pressing and once they’re gone, that’s it. I currently have 56 of my initial 100 copies left.
Posted in Label Stuff on January 15th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
We’re one week away from the release date for Clamfight‘s I Versus the Glacier on The Maple Forum. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t moments when I doubted we’d ever get here, but this thing’s actually going to happen. Most of the preorders have gone out — the post office was giving me shit for the amount of international shipments, but I’ll chip away at them over the next couple days — and more have come in to go out, so I know I’m not the only one stoked on the album. The reviews have been great so far, the band has been kicking ass live, and everything seems to be going in the right direction for an awesome release. No complaints whatsoever on my end.
Last week, Clamfight joined the ranks of Gozu, Order of the Owl, Lo-Pan, Admiral Browning, Weed is Weed and many others on the lineup for Stoner Hands of Doom XIII, set to take place in Richmond, Virginia, from Nov. 7-10 at Strange Matter. Much more on that to come (the fest is on Thee Facebooks here).
Between now and then, Clamfight have been booking weekenders like the workingman riffy bastards they are, and with the release coming next week, they’re once more heading out this coming weekend. Also keep an eye out later this week for a stream of I Versus the Glacier in its entirety via another site whose support is much appreciated. Drummer/vocalist/wiseacre Andy Martin issued the following update last night:
YOUR CLAMFIGHT UPDATE FOR 1/14/13:We’ll be at the El N Gee in New London CT w/ Blue Aside and When the Deadbolt Breaks this Friday, and at the Bug Jar with Baba Yaga and more at the Bug Jar in ROCKchester NY Saturday.
Friday January 25th we’re at Johnny Brenda’s in Philly w/ It’s a King Thing and the Three Six Mafia (or somebody like that, I can’t remember). Feb. 9th it’s double duty for this guy with Heavy Temple, Clamfight, and literally everyone I know’s band at J.B. McGuiness in Delaware, then March 15th at Mojo Main in Delaware w/ Brain Candle and Blackhand, and finally March 29th w/ Hollow Leg, Beelzefuzz and more at Cafe 611 in Fredneck Maryland.
There are a literal fuck-ton more shows being put together as we speak, including at least two more weekenders, and since the Heavy Temple cats and I are enjoying each other’s company so much a potential mess of shows with them as well.
I’m going to be shirtless in public so much this spring that I should probably get my chest hair did.
Posted in Label Stuff on January 10th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
We’re almost there. Reviews have been coming in for Clamfight‘s I Versus the Glacier and all of the ones I’ve seen have been spectacular. As a fan of the band it makes me really excited to see good things happening for them and I hope the momentum continues right into the proper release of the album on The Maple Forum on Jan. 22, just 12 days from today.
As I promised, the preorders are ready to go out today. You can see in the stacks above — separated by international and domestic shipping destinations — that the discs and stickers are packed up and headed to the post office. I have to run out of work early today, so it might be in the morning they actually get mailed, but sooner rather than later, in any case. Of course, if you still want to preorder a copy, you can do so at The Maple Forum store. Is it still a preorder if it ships right away? Shh. I won’t tell if you don’t.
Because they’re awesome people and because they’ve made an awesome album that, if I haven’t yet mentioned it, I’m ultra-excited to finally get out to the public after over a year of discussing it, drummer/vocalist Andy Martin and lead guitarist Sean McKee have sent in a new track-by-track examination of I Versus the Glacier, complete with notations on the references they’re making, points of inspiration and stories about recording. It is an excellent read front to back.
To celebrate the release of the album, Clamfight have booked a couple gigs for next weekend that will take them north, and next month, they’ll also be taking part in the Eye of the Stoned Goat II festival alongside the likes of Pale Divine, Iron Man, Wasted Theory and a slew of others. I’ve included flyers for all the gigs below (click any to enlarge), and hope you get to check them out live in the near future.
Clamfight are Andy Martin and Sean McKee, guitarist Joel Harris and bassist Louis Koble. I Versus the Glacier was recorded by Steve Poponi at Gradwell HouseRecording and also features Erik Caplan of Wizard Eye on guitar and theremin.
1. The Eagle
Sean: This song is a natural opener, and it only makes sense that it’s our oldest song on the album. Most of it was done even before we recorded Volume I but we had some parts to work out, namely the chorus. I think the main riff was so simple, we were trying to come up with something more complex for the chorus. We tried it a few ways but nothing sounded natural. A lot of my ideas come to me when I’m nowhere near a guitar. I remember sitting at work thinking about this song, just running riffs through my head. I thought about taking it back a step to something simpler, mainly so I could remember it when I got home, and I thought it would sound bigger with those open E and D chords ringing. It worked, and I think it really creates a natural chorus, or as much of a chorus as we’re going to have.
Andy: One thing I do remember about the writing of “The Eagle” is that we essentially took what would have been the half-time crushing end riff and made it the whole song. This ended up being a guiding principle behind most of the songs on I Versus the Glacier. At one point early on, we essentially had two halves of two different records written, a handful of direct bruisers like “Eagle” and a few songs that fit more into the melodic “rock” side of the stoner thing we do. I remember sitting in Sean’s basement with two competing lists of songs written down and trying to find a way for them to make sense together. Once we realized they were never going to make a cohesive record, we had to make the call: either go direct and heavy or fuzzy and melodic. Since we have far too much fun being cavemen and trying to smash our equipment it was a no-brainer, and the rock songs were consigned to Riff Jail, probably for all eternity.
2. Sand Riders
Andy: Ahhhhh sweet Dune, is there anything more metal than songs about Dune? I’m sure Dune needs no introduction to the Obelisk crowd, so I’ll stick to the song. I’m a little fuzzy on the writing of this one but I feel like it came together pretty quickly. For me this song is all about two things: Sean‘s solo in the beginning which I love because it’s a very bluesy/’70s rock solo that he manages to work into a pretty driving metal tune and the end breakdown. It’s a stick/floor tom destroyer and I think [engineer] Steve Poponi‘s best work on this entire record… the end of this song kills live and Steve managed to capture that same intensity as well.
Sean: I can remember writing the main riff and instantly knowing we had a bruiser. The song came together very naturally, and we felt after the uptempo first half we had to pull it back but maintain the heaviness. The second half is a blast to play live and really crushes with Andy‘s thumping bass pedal. We can’t resist a good reprise.
3. The Shadowline
Sean: Lyric-wise, “The Shadowline” is one of Andy‘s most personal songs on the album. It’s also a song that went through a lot of changes from the time we first wrote the main riff. The opening phrase was always the same, however, we used to play the main riff with fast palm-muted downstrokes. We liked it at first, but it just started to lose its luster after a while and we felt like it needed to be nastier. I remember one day at work, after a practice session in which Andy and I hammered on the song for two hours with little progress, we were trading texts with ideas of how to play it. He said he wanted to try laying back on the drums while I sped up the riff, kind of like Led Zeppelin‘s “Black Dog.” I think I said it’s already fast as shit, how do you want me to speed it up? His reply was “gallup!” I thought he was crazy, but I ran over to Guitar Center at lunch and worked out the riff, and I loved it. Because of this exchange, I now have a guitar and small practice amp in my office so I can work stuff out immediately if I get an idea in my head.
4. I Versus the Glacier
Andy: In 1845, Sir John Franklin and 128 men set out for the Northwest Passage, none of them ever returned. I don’t set out with the idea that every Clamfight record needs a song about a shipwreck and cannibalism (see Vol. 1‘s “Ghosts I Have Known”) but it keeps shaking out that way. The Franklin expedition fascinates me for more than just the tabloid aspects of what happened to the crew, as a student of history I feel like it’s noteworthy because it’s one of those “nothing ever changes” moments that brings me a little comfort every time I fear our leaders are going to steer us into the ditch. A lot of the current work on the Franklin expedition’s fate points the finger at Franklin‘s men being underequipped and the British government’s hiring of the cheapest and quickest cannery to provision the expedition (some of the bodies of the dead have tested positive for botulism), playing a role in dooming these men, and governments taking the cheap way out at the expense of human life is something that resonates to this day.
Musically it’s a driving riff and a lot of fun live — the end doom-down may be responsible for spilling more of my blood than any part of any Clamfight song ever… and though we’ve yet to make it happen live (our fault not his) Erik Caplan from Wizard Eye swoops in to deliver some really chilling theremin work. Erik came by the studio and pulled this off in one take. He asked about the mood of the song and I said something vague along the lines of, “Give me something arctic and chilly sounding,” and he absolutely crushed it. The guy’s a miracle worker and we were lucky to have him on the record.
5. Age of Reptiles: Rhedosaurus
Andy: There’s songs on this record that are intensely personal and were born of the hardest time in my life… and then there’s “Age of Reptiles: Rhedosaurus,” which was born of a hangover, medicinal fried chicken, and Frank Frazetta and Ralph Bakshi‘s Fire and Ice. I was loafing around one Saturday afternoon, knowing that I was due to record vocals on Monday night and true to form I didn’t have a single line written. I already had the title, minus the “Rhedosaurs” bit, and being a huge dinosaur nut (I count Charles R. Knight paintings and my dad’s Zeppelin records as probably my two most formative musical influences) I had a general theme. I tried, and failed thank god, to pull some real freshman English dinosaurs-as-a-metaphor-for-closing-factories shit, and when that wouldn’t work, I decided to take a break and watch a movie. Luckily for me that movie was Fire and Ice. Once I got to the part where the dinosaur pops out of the pond and rescues Princess Tit-tania or whatever her name is I knew I had my lyrics. It felt right, the bridge for “Age of Reptiles” is maybe the jiggliest, most ass-shaking riff we’ve ever written, so it made sense to write about the most boob-tastic dinosaur chase in cinema history instead of trying to be a budget ass Bruce Springsteen.
6. River of Ice
Andy: “River of Ice” is one of those rare Clamfight songs that basically wrote itself in the space of one practice. While on the train to Jersey, I’d finished Wallace Breem‘s amazing The Eagle in the Snow, a novel about the failed defense of the Rhein by a Roman Legion in the waning days of the Roman Empire. I’ve read enough historical fiction to know that a lot of it’s crap, the kind of thing you’re only reading for the beheadings and the pillaging but Eagle in the Snow is more or less literature (whatever that means beyond “I know it when I see it”) and the ending is devastating. It was a particularly bleak winter night and I got off the train stunned by what I had just read and staggered into practice where I began clawing away at the wardrums that begin the song and Sean caught the mood and laid our most somber riff over it.
Sean: My favorite part about recording “River of Ice” is that I got to play through Erik‘s rig. I knew I wanted a certain big type of sound to come in right after the first verse. I asked Erik to help me dial in the sound he uses on Wizard Eye‘s song “The Dying Earth.” He told me to grab his guitar and after he hit a few pedals he said “try that.” Oh man, it was perfect. It’s some type of combination of a phaser and custom fuzz pedal that, to this day, I still haven’t mastered myself. I wouldn’t want to copy it perfectly either, because he’s crafted such a unique tone that it deserves to stand alone.
Sean: The main riff for “Mountain” was actually born of a jam session we had with Kris, the drummer from the band we had prior to Clamfight. We were practicing for a “reunion” show and started messing around with this crushing, slow, droney beat. We really had no intentions of writing any new material with Kris and it was too slow for his style anyway, but we knew there was something to it, so we recorded it to revisit at a later date. As anyone who writes music knows, some songs come together so naturally and easily and some really take time to construct. “Mountain” is definitely one of the latter, and as easily as that opening riff and the chorus were developed, we really struggled mightily finding where we were taking the rest of the song. Around this time, we were struggling with another song, “Indian Fire.” It had a really cool bridge, but had grown stale. Andy suggested using that bridge in “Mountain” and seeing where it led. The bridge fit so well it really was like the song was leading us to a natural ending rather than us taking it there. The last big riff just flowed out of the bridge.
Recording “Mountain” was a particular high point on this album because I got to directly collaborate with Erik. I felt like the song was the right vibe for him and the solo was long enough so we could each add enough flavor to it. We were able to jam on it once before entering the studio, which really helped me more than it did him. I think we have similar styles except Erik is more spontaneous, and he was able to improvise something in the studio where I had to have something pretty solid ahead of time. I love hearing the different guitar tones in the solo and the key change leading to those high notes makes me smile whenever I hear it. He also loaned me an awesome pedal to use for the leads over the bridge and helped me work out the harmonies. I’m honored we were able to put something like this together with Erik and I hope to do it again in the future.
8. The Green Gods of Yag
Sean: We don’t necessarily set out to write instrumentals, some songs just end up that way. We had three-quarters of “Green Gods” in the bag before we decided to make it an instrumental. It just had that feeling. We initially called it “Tower of the Elephant II” after “Tower of the Elephant” from Volume I, but that sounded too Metallica. Andy kept with the Robert E. Howard theme, though, and went with “The Green Gods of Yag.” We actually sat on the song for a while because we thought the “chorus” was too much like Black Sabbath‘s “Fairies Wear Boots.” We were going to change it, but we finally decided a little Sabbath influence is not necessarily a bad thing. We also pulled off a last minute change to the bridge just before we went into the studio because we felt it sounded too much like “Mountain.” I really like the change. It brings the tempo down just enough before we kick it in the balls again. I don’t really have a traditional solo, but I had a lot of fun in the studio layering the leads toward the end of the song. I remember telling Steve I had one more thing I wanted to try, and he gave me a look that I knew meant I had one shot at nailing it. I added the high scale ending with a long bend right before we come back around to the main riff. I asked him how it sounded and he replied, “Ridiculous.” Done!
9. Stealing the Ghost Horse
Sean: “Stealing the Ghost Horse” and “Age of Reptiles” were written one after the other. With these songs, two things became evident: we knew what direction we were going with the sound of this album, and we had our closer. “Ghost Horse” just flows into bigger riffs and I think it could really go on and on, which is why we chose to fade it out. It’s the type of song where Andy and I needed Louis and Joel to kind of reel us in, because we’d just keep adding riffs and play it forever. I don’t really remember how we composed the main riff, I just know it’s very fluid and a lot of fun to play. I love the big chorus and the galloping bridge really adds another dimension to the song. The solo was a bitch to compose. I worked on it for weeks until I had something I was happy with, and it’s still challenging to pull off live. I particularly enjoy the second half of the song, starting after the solo. I love the way it sounds with the guitars pounding away on a single note while Louis takes it away with an underlying progression. And then the riffs keep getting bigger, and Andy gets angrier, until we fade into the distance. I think perhaps we’ll have to start the next album with a “Ghost Horse” fade in… Damn, that’s good. I’m going to work on that right now.
Andy: A little ways back we were doing a run of shows with the mighty Rukut, and they were staying with us so the usual post show Euro-horror and Miller Hi-Life soaked shenanigans resulted. Cut to the foggy next morning and finding that one of us had written in huge letters on a legal pad “STEALING THE GHOST HORSE,” which a character in Amando De Ossororio‘s excellent Tombs of the Blind Dead actually does (an act repeated several times in the series, which always struck me as odd because I’m not sure if I saw a ghost horse I’d be tempted to abscond with it), and I knew I finally had a title and a theme for this massive song that we’d just written. Finally, the death metal bits at the end are my tribute to Hooded Menace, a band that I love, and one that also loves the Blind Dead movies.