Psycho California 2015 Announces Initial Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 15th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

The list of bands, quite frankly, is astonishing, but even more astonishing is the fact that  Thief Presents‘ Psycho California 2015 (formerly Psycho de Mayo) hasn’t announced its headliners yet, because these sure as shit look like headliners to me.

A three-day festival set to take place at The Observatory in Santa Ana, CA, Psycho California will feature the following acts:

psycho california

Here’s that list again: Kylesa, Om, Earth, Russian Circles, Orange Goblin, Bedemon, Conan, Indian, Pallbearer, Cave In, Old Man Gloom, Tombs, Earthless, Truckfighters, Bang, Eyehategod, Crowbar, SubRosa, Lord Dying, Acid Witch, Electric Citizen, Coffinworm, Eagle Twin, Stoned Jesus, Mammatus, True Widow, Bell Witch, Death by Stereo, Radio Moscow, Samsara Blues Experiment, Anciients, Elder, Mothership, Ancient Altar, The Well, Deathkings, Wo Fat, Rozamov, Destroyer of Light, Highlands, Bloodmoon, Slow Season, Crypt Trip, Lords of Beacon House, Tumbleweed Dealer, Sinister Haze, Blackout, Red Wizard, Banquet, Loom.

Plus interludes by Author and Punisher.

God damn.

Not only does it cover both coasts, huge bands, legends and up and comers, but the reach is international. Take special note of Conan, since their appearance means that Maryland Deathfest won’t be their only US date, and also Samsara Blues Experiment and Stoned Jesus – two killer European bands that you don’t even go after unless you know what the fuck you’re doing. That also hugely extends the possibilities for headlining acts. It’s an assemblage that’s beyond impressive, and if you haven’t already looked up flights to Southern California, I don’t know what to tell you. As I write this it’s after one in the morning on Sunday night, and you know I wouldn’t be doing that if my mind wasn’t leaking out of my ears at the thought of experiencing this thing.

Stay tuned for more to come, since as the poster says, headliners will be announced on Jan. 15. I’ll be looking forward to finding out who else is in store.

Psycho California on Thee Facebooks

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Revisiting 2014’s Most Anticipated Albums

Posted in Features on December 11th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

tomorrows-dream-REVISITED-Original-etching-by-Wenceslas-Hollar

[PLEASE NOTE: This is not my Top Albums of 2014 list. That’s coming later in the month.]

First of all, the math was wrong. The list went to 42, not 40…

I did two major “stuff is coming out” posts this year. The first was January’s Tomorrow’s Dream: 42 of 2014’s Most Anticipated Albums, and the second was July’s 30 Before ’15: Records Not to Miss Before the New Year Hits. Apparently I have thing for cumbersome titles.

At best, this stuff is a crapshoot. Until something’s just about in your hand, you never really know when or if it’s going to come out. But they’re fun, and it’s exciting to think of good music being released, so you do it anyway. On the whole, I don’t think I did that badly between the two lists. Of course there was stuff that wasn’t anticipated — Colour Haze‘s new album, To the Highest Gods We Know, walks by and waves en route to its Dec. 15 release date — but for what we got, it worked out well.

That’s the general overview, but because I hold myself to a standard of accountability more rigorous than, say, my nation’s torture-happy secret police, here’s a full rundown of the list as it was, now (as then), presented alphabetically and with the titles listed as they were at the time:

42 of 2014’s Most Anticipated Albums — REVISITED!

 

1. Acid King, TBA: Word is Acid King‘s first in 10 years was mastered last month and will be out in Feb. 2015 on Svart.
 

2. Alcest, Shelter: Was way less post-black metal than their prior stuff, and I think it threw a lot of people off. Not a bad record (review here), but worked against lofty expectations.
 

3. All Them Witches, TBA: I remember including this because they said they were going back into the studio. Turned out they were recording the Effervescent EP/jam (review here). No regrets.
 

4. Alunah, TBA: Their new one was their Napalm Records debut, Awakening the Forest (review here). It was awesome. Score one for the list.
 

5. Blackwolfgoat, Drone Maintenance: Yeah, it was cheating to include this since I was there when it was recorded. Still a killer record though.
 

6. Causa Sui, Live at Freak Valley: Ruled. Reviewed and streamed here. Made me want to see them even more.
 

7. Conan, Blood Eagle: What does complete dominance sound like? Sounds like Conan to me.
 

8. Eggnogg, You’re all Invited: Was dying to hear what the Brooklyn trio came up with. No word on it yet.
 

9. Elder, Live at Roadburn 2013: Still don’t have a copy of this. Maybe I can pick one up when I get their forthcoming third studio album, Lore, out early next year.
 

10. 40 Watt Sun, TBA: More like “MIA” than TBA. Anyone heard from these guys?
 

11. The Golden Grass, TBATheir self-titled debut (review here) was one of the finest first-albums I heard all year.
 

12. Greenleaf, Trails and Passes: Any Greenleaf is a treat. Trails and Passes (review here) was no exception.
 

13. Grifter, The Return of the Bearded Brethren: Solid follow-up (review here). Grifter‘s humor and lack of pretense serves them well.
 

14. Hull, TBA: Well, they had the Legend of the Swamp Goat single (review here) to coincide with their Euro tour. Waiting on the album.
 

15. Lowrider, TBA: I wouldn’t mind if this materialized right now. Or now. Or now. Or 2015. Or 2016.
 

16. The Machine, TBA: Might’ve jumped the gun on this. Hopefully in 2015.
 

17. Mars Red Sky, TBA: Easily one of the year’s best records. Stranded in Arcadia (review here) continues to get regular spins.
 

18. Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty: A highlight of early 2014. Darker record (review here), but inarguable songwriting.
 

19. Mr. Peter Hayden, Archdimension NowFitting end to their trilogy and hopefully not their last outing.
 

20. Pallbearer, TBA: Their Foundations of Burden has topped year-end lists already. It’s still on my desktop. I’ve barely listened to it.
 

21. Papir, IIII: Very, very good. They seem to be developing, but IIII (review here) was a satisfying chronicle.
 

22. Pilgrim, TBA: Can’t say II: Void Worship (review here) wasn’t a win for the band since they did a month on the road with Spirit Caravan. Maybe overshadowed by more recent stuff, but a quality record.
 

23. Radio Moscow, Magical Dirt: Their incendiary heavy blues was in top form on Magical Dirt (review here). Glad I got to see them live once or twice (or 18 times) as well this year.
 

24. Sigiriya, Darkness Died Today: Also residing on my desktop. A vocalist switch caught me off guard and I feel like I still haven’t given it a fair shot.
 

25. Sixty Watt Shaman, TBA: Really? I had Sixty Watt on the list? That seems ambitious. No doubt they’ll have something new eventually, but that was a pretty high expectation it would be out this year.
 

26. Skraeckoedlan, Gigantos: If this came out, no one told me. Seems like not yet.
 

27. The Skull, TBA: A stunner. As much as I looked forward to it, For Those Which are Asleep (review here) exceeded the excitement.
 

28. Sleep, TBA: Included as wishful thinking. Their The Clarity single (review here) was something to celebrate.
 

29. Slough Feg, Digital Resistance: I was really looking forward to this one. Kind of fell off with Digital Resistance (review here) after a while. Hard to argue with Slough Feg though.
 

30. Snail, FeralWaiting on it for 2015.
 

31. Steak, TBAThe London four-piece followed two strong EPs with Slab City (review here), as heartfelt a showing of desert rock loyalty as I’ve heard.
 

Damn, this was a long list.
 

32. Stubb, TBA: I had my doubts it would arrive, but Stubb‘s Ripple Music debut, Cry of the Ocean (review here), found welcome when it did.
 

33. SunnO))) & Ulver, Terrestrials: One of two collaborations SunnO))) would have out in 2014. Heard a lot about it at the beginning of the year. Less now.
 

34. Tombs, Savage Gold: Good band, doing interesting stuff. I have a hard time transitioning from appreciating it to actually being a fan.
 

35. Triptykon, Melana ChasmataSorry, but when Tom G. Warrior puts out a record, you hop to. I didn’t review it to save myself having to buy a copy, but dug it anyway.
 

36. Truckfighters, Universe: I feel like this one picked up steam as the year went on. I didn’t go back to it as much as its predecessor, but Universe (review here) was a logical next step for them.
 

37. Valley of the Sun, Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk: Nothing to complain about with the Ohio three-piece’s debut (review here) or the effort they put into supporting it throughout the year.
 

38. Weedeater, TBA: Nope. At least I knew it at the time.
 

39. Wolves in the Throne Room, TBA: Surprised a lot of people when Celestite (review here) was a companion piece for their last record instead of a new album proper, myself included.
 

40. The Wounded Kings, Consolamentum: 2014 was quite a year for doom, and The Wounded Kings were right there at the start. This lineup may be gone, but Consolamentum (review here) holds up.
 

41. Yawning Man, Gravity is Good for You: Rumor is guitarist Gary Arce has a few projects in the works for next year. Not sure if this is one of them or not.
 

42. YOB, TBA: We certainly know how this worked out, don’t we? If the votes in the Readers Poll are anything to go by, yes. Clearing the Path to Ascend (review here) was a landmark, and this won’t be the last year-end list around here on which YOB make a showing.
 

The list from July had a few winners on it as well — Apostle of Solitude, Blues Pills, Bongripper, Brant Bjork, Earth, Lo-Pan, The Well, Witch Mountain, etc. — but I think we’ve probably got enough as it is.

With the year starting to wind down, I’ll be putting together my Top 30 Albums of 2014 in the next week or so. Please keep an eye out for that, and thanks for reading.
 

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Conan Begin Writing New Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

conan

After last month announcing the acquisition of drummer Rich Lewis, UK planet destroyers Conan have put word out that they’ve begun writing for their next album. It will be their third full-length and will arrive as the follow-up to early-2014’s Napalm Records debut, Blood Eagle (review here), which furthered the band’s penchant for over-the-top-if-the-top-was-the-very-bottom-of-low-end tonality, vicious hooks and minimally lyricized tales of slaughter — all things that have become Conan‘s hallmarks as much as the cavernous footprint left behind after they play.

Whatever they title their next LP, it will be a landmark for the band. Not only because it’s their second for Napalm or the always-pivotal third album, but because it will be the first outing since their 2010 Horseback Battle Hammer EP (review here) not to feature drummer Paul O’Neil and the first with longtime producer Chris Fielding on bass and sharing vocal duties with guitarist, vocalist and founder Jon Davis (interview here). Lewis comes to the band from Cardiff metallers Intensive Square, who’ll reportedly have a new record out next year as well. Conan also being confirmed for their live debut on US shores at the 2015 Maryland Deathfest and having a UK tour in the works for earlier in the year and no doubt much more to come, it seems like Lewis‘ intro to the band’s touring cycle is going to be a busy one. You could say it already has been since they recently put in a couple weeks on the road together and made their first appearance in Britain at the Underworld in Camden Town on Oct. 30.

Still, only going to get busier. The three-piece confirmed work in progress thusly:

conan studio

NEW ALBUM UNDERWAY…..

This week we have begun writing a new full length album.

You can understand that we will not commit anything to the recording until it is heavier than Blood Eagle – that would be pointless.

When it is ready we will update further but so far things are sounding totally ridiculous.

Hails.

https://www.facebook.com/conandoom/
http://www.hailconan.com/
http://conan.bigcartel.com/

Conan, “Altar of Grief,” Live in Osnabrück, Germany, Oct. 15, 2014

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Amplifest 2014 Announces Finalized Lineup and Runtimes

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 19th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Here’s a thing that’s happening. I won’t get to go, but it looks like a killer weekend, and seeing the finalized schedule — which you can click to enlarge below — I already made out my plan for each of the two days of Amplifest 2014. Will that do me any good when I’m sitting on my ass and not in Porto, Portugal, on Oct. 4 and 5? No, but it’s fun to pretend.

I like the flow of this festival. YOB before Marissa Nadler and SwansConan before Wovenhand. There’s a clear aesthetic there that I find admirable. The lineup’s ready to roll and they’ve got film screenings, listening sessions and a whole lot of etc. doing as well, so dig in:

amplifest 2014

AMPLIFEST 2014

OCTOBER 4th & 5th

PORTO, PORTUGAL

Amplifest has been a fantastic ride since its inception in 2011. In the three past editions, we had the pleasure of sharing many unforgettable moments with all of you who joined us: Godflesh in one of the first shows since their reunion; the long awaited return to our country of Godspeed You! Black Emperor; the first time in Portugal of bands like Amenra, Bohren & Der Club of Gore, Ufomammut, Chelsea Wolfe, Jesu and many more, all of them giving all their energy to stun the audience; the art exhibitions at Hard Club; the engaging Amplitalks at O Meu Mercedes; the bonding between artists and audience in between shows.

These are just a few examples – if you have been here before, we’re sure you have your own highlights and special memories. If you haven’t, well, this will be the year. Amplifest will be back in 2014 in the weekend of 4 and 5 of October, taking place in the city of Porto, which was recently elected as European’s Best Destination. This will be Amplifest’s most ambitious edition to date: expect a challenging and eclectic lineup, expect an event from and to music lovers. This will be an edition with a lot of heart so let’s keep riding together – the path is upwards. Thank you for joining us.

Alhousseini Anivolla
Ben Frost
Black Shape Of Nexus
Bosque
Conan
Cult Of Luna
Hexis
Marissa Nadler
Pallbearer
Peter Brötzmann & Steve Noble
Pharmakon
Swans
Urfaust
Vvovnds
?
Wolvserpent
Wovenhand
Yob
David D’andrea
Chelsea Wolfe: Lone
March Of The Gods: Botswana Metalheads
Terminal Tower

Amplifest is more than a festival, it’s an experience. It is due to happen in Porto, Portugal, on the 4th and 5th of October. Tickets available at AMPLISTORE:
2-day passes: 65 euros
1-day pass: 35 euros

https://twitter.com/amplificasom
https://www.facebook.com/Amplificasom
http://amplificasom.com/amplifest/2014/

YOB, Live in Glasgow, Scotland, Sept. 6, 2014

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Conan Interview with Jon Davis: This Beast of Wrath

Posted in Features on July 10th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Any discussion of 2014 highlights is incomplete without Conan‘s Blood Eagle. Their second full-length and Napalm Records debut (review here), it cemented the UK trio’s place among the planet’s heaviest bands and solidified the songwriting that their 2012 debut, Monnos (review here) and preceding 2010 Horseback Battle Hammer (review here) and 2007 Battle in the Swamp EPs first announced to an audience who’ve been only too willing to be crushed by it since. Cuts like “Crown of Talons,” “Gravity Chasm” and the galloping “Foehammer” once again demonstrate that there’s more to Conan than ungodly tones, abyss-born shouts and chest-shaking thud — they’re also a growing, progressing band.

This year, part of that progression has led to bassist/vocalist Phil Coumbe leaving the band and being replaced by Chris Fielding, also the producer who’s helmed Conan‘s recordings for the last four years. Fielding, now transplanted from Foel Studios to Conan guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis‘ own Skyhammer Studio, is a natural fit, and European touring, as well as stops at Roadburn (review here) and Hellfest have brought to bear the reality that Conan – DavisFielding and drummer Paul O’Neil – haven’t missed a step and that their lumbering riffs are as cleaving as ever. They move forward with unmatched pummel, and the sheer force of their material has rightfully won them acclaim worldwide from riff-worshiping masses humbled by their hoods-up assault.

We spoke just before their appearance at Hellfest in France, and Davis — who in addition to owning Skyhammer also founded the label Black Bow Records in 2013 — had much to say about running his own imprint and studio in addition to the band. In the interview that follows, he talks about upcoming releases, his itch to start writing again for Conan, the founding steps being taken for a side-project called Overthrone, how he prefers to write without bassists present, long tour drives, the prospect of going to Australia for the first time (they’re booked for a tour in September), reissuing material on Black Bow and more.

Even as I put this interview together, they’ve announced being confirmed for Amplifest in Portugal this October, as well as supporting High on Fire for some of their upcoming European shows, so much continues to take shape for Conan in the wake of Blood Eagle. No surprise. When an object as massive as Conan‘s sound builds up any amount of momentum, there’s rarely hope of slowing it down.

The complete, 5,200-word Q&A is after the jump. Please enjoy:

Read more »

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The Top 15 of the First Half of 2014

Posted in Features on June 23rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

It’s custom around here to do a Top 10 of the First Half of the Year, in advance of doing a Top 20 of the Year in December. The idea is that the later list will basically build on the earlier one. That’s never really how it works out — albums always drop off or appear unexpectedly depending on what gets listened to most, what gets reviewed late, etc. — but it always works out to be a good time anyway, and that’s really what it’s all about.

The difference this year is that instead of doing a Top 20 in December, I’m planning on expanding to a full Top 30, so to do a Top 10 of the stuff from January until now makes less sense. So here we are with a Top 15. A slightly longer list, but still the same basic idea as years past otherwise. These are albums I’m expecting will turn up again at the end of the year on the final Top 30, and though some will and some won’t and almost all of them will move around, there are more than a handful — particularly if we’re counting by fingers — of essential records released over the last six months recounted here.

If you missed something, I hope it’s something cool you get to check out, and if I missed something (as I inevitably did), I hope you’ll let me know in the comments. Please note that this is full albums only, no EPs, splits, singles or demos.

Enjoy:

 

15. Greenleaf, Trails and Passes

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed April 25.

I’ll freely admit I was more than a little thrown off by the change in approach on Greenleaf‘s fifth album. Where prior outings like 2012’s Nest of Vipers (review here) and 2007’s megatriumph Agents of Ahriman had been lush heavy rock affairs helmed by Dozer guitarist Tommi Holappa with a slew of guests on vocals, organ, etc., Trails and Passes dialed back the “extras” in favor of a more stripped down, stage-ready approach. Holappa‘s songwriting alone would likely be enough to have Greenleaf on this list one way or another, and Trails and Passes is one of the year’s best. The turn was just unexpected and I feel like I’m not caught up to it yet.

 

14. Druglord, Enter Venus

Released by STB Records. Reviewed Feb. 14.

Initially put out in a limited tape run in late 2013 (review here), the Enter Venus full-length from Richmond-based sludgers Druglord codified the noisy murk of their prior outings into one devastating wave of lurching riffage and echoing shouts. The Virginian three-piece recorded with Garrett Morris of Windhand and the STB vinyl topped off with artwork by W. Ralph Walters, making for a package both visually and sonically devastating, and though it’s short for an album at under a half-hour, the 12″ still earns the nod for the unmitigated heft its four songs carry. It’s one you can either dig or miss out, but Druglord show there’s more room for invention in sludge.

 

13. Wovenhand, Refractory Obdurate

Released by Deathwish Inc. Reviewed May 15.

There really isn’t much left to say when it comes to Wovenhand and their driving force, frontman David Eugene Edwards. Their first for Deathwish Inc., Refractory Obdurate is the latest document of one of this generation’s most accomplished songwriting progressions. It follows a brilliant record in 2012’s The Laughing Stalk (review here) and likely precedes one in whatever they decide to do next, and the enduring fascination on Edwards‘ part with tonal weight and groove continues to push Wovenhand into a creative territory that is without genre. Nobody else comes close.

 

12. Papir, IIII

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Jan. 24.

Quick-working Danish jammers Papir made a strong impression with IIII early in the year, offering a progressive take on the style of heavy instrumental jamming that has flourished throughout Europe over the last half-decade or so. Immediately individualized, the Copenhagen three-piece carried across four intricately constructed pieces, most open with the 21-minute “III” but never lacking for twists and turns that were an utter joy to follow. A band that has already collaborated with the even-jammier Electric Moon and who’ve aligned themselves with Causa Sui‘s El Paraiso Records, they seem like a safe bet to continue to grow into reliable purveyors of high-quality instrumental heavy psychedelia.

 

11. Ogre, The Last Neanderthal

Released by Minotauro Records. Reviewed March 10.

Its arrival was heralded by the righteousness of a Lego video for “Nine Princes in Amber,” though even that was little preparation for the classic doomery that would take place on the return long-player from Portland, Maine’s Ogre. The trio of guitarist Ross Markonish, bassist/vocalist Ed Cunningham and drummer Will Broadbent broke up in 2009, got back together in 2012, and with their fourth album, they made it clear they still had plenty to offer those who worship trad-style riffing, Sabbathy grooves and the kind of hooks that stay with you for days. The Last Neanderthal had plenty of those, and “Warpath,” the aforementioned “Nine Princes in Amber,” “Bad Trip” and “Son of Sisyphus” tapped into what makes the best of doom so ready for repeat listens.

 

10. Floor, Oblation

Released by Season of Mist. Reviewed April 22.

Another reunited trio, Floor had it tough coming into their first album in a decade, Oblation. The legacy of their 2002 self-titled would loom large over anything they put out, and guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks had since gained a huge following as the spearhead of Torche, but four years after they started playing shows again, Floor met the challenge head-on with Oblation‘s 14 tracks, showing a natural progression from where they left off so long ago without seeming like they were trying to recapture a past that inevitably would prove irretrievable. Instead, they’ve set themselves on a course for continuing to develop as a band, and though Torche have a new album expected out this summer on Relapse and doubtless that will take some time and focus away from Floor, hopefully they keep pursuing that growth.

 

9. Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed March 14.

I’ll claim no impartiality when it comes to Port Orchard, Washington, heavy rock purveyors Mos Generator or the craftsmanship of guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed, but if half the point of a list like this is to nerd out over albums you dig (and I’ll gladly argue that it is), then Electric Mountain Majesty is right where it should be. Reed, bassist Scooter Haslip and drummer Shawn Johnson are clockwork-reliable when it comes to putting out high-grade material, and their second record since getting going again after Reed‘s few years in Stone Axe pushed beyond the considerable accomplishments of 2012’s Nomads (review here) and brought their sound to new and at times surprisingly doomed places while still keeping their core in a love of classic heavy rock songwriting. From where I sit, new Mos Gen is never one to pass up.

 

8. Blood Farmers, Headless Eyes

Self-released. Reviewed March 24.

Not that I didn’t expect a new Blood Farmers release to be cool, but Headless Eyes was still a surprise when it arrived earlier in 2014. Who was to say what the New York trio would concoct after a 19-year studio absence? Of course, what they came out with was dead-on horror-loving doomly plod, cuts like the instrumental “Night of the Sorcerers” and the deceptively catchy “Headless Eyes” not only worthy of Blood Farmers‘ substantial legacy but building on it. Void of pretense, Headless Eyes resonated with a brooding atmosphere capped by the surprising closer, “The Road Leads to Nowhere,” a cover of the theme from The Last House on the Left and positioned the three-piece of vocalist Eli Brown, guitarist/bassist David Szulkin and drummer Tad Léger among the fore of traditional doom’s practitioners.

 

7. The Golden Grass, The Golden Grass

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 25.

After seeing them live late last year (review here), digging their 456th Div. tape (review here) and putting their debut single on the best short releases of 2013 list, I had little doubt that their self-titled debut full-length would deliver a satisfying listen. Sure enough, the five-tracks of the quality-over-quantity release did precisely that, the Brooklyn three-piece harnessing unashamed positive vibes to mesh with a burgeoning psychedelic feel, catchy hooks and classic-style road songs serving as a reminder of the good times that rock and roll both provides and complements. Now that summer is here, I expect to revisit The Golden Grass plenty of time over these sunny, hot months, since it would seem the year has finally caught up with the band’s warmth and day-long spirit. The Golden Grass are reportedly headed to Europe later this year, so more to come on them for sure.

 

6. Ararat, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz

Released by Oui Oui Records. Reviewed April 4.

Every time I think I’m out, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz pulls me back in. The third full-length from Argentina trio Ararat seems to hit me with a different song each week. This week, it’s the six-minute “El Hijo de Ignacio,” with the insistent, punkish drums from Alfredo Felitte, backing noise and later keyboard eeriness from Tito Fargo and the low bass rumble of Sergio Chotsourian (ex-Los Natas), whose vocals seem to hover over the rest of the mix as though piped in from someplace else entirely. The whole album had a hypnotic effect that pulled the listener away from how diverse it actually was, moving into and out of heavy psych atmospherics with expert smoothness, but the more attention you paid, the more rewarding the experience became, as Ararat defied any expectations that might have come from their 2012 sophomore outing, II (review here), and boldly pushed toward new avenues of progression.

 

5. Conan, Blood Eagle

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Jan. 22.

Who’s heavier than Conan? The superlative UK trio have spent the two years since the release of their full-length debut, Monnos (review here), solidifying their dominance, and their first album for Napalm Records plays out like a victory lap over the skulls of lesser riffs. Opening with the near-10-minute lumber of “Crown of Talons,” Blood Eagle solidified the two-sidedness of Monnos into a back-breaking doom assault, and their pummel remains unparalleled as they continue to grow as players and songwriters. This year has also seen producer Chris Fielding join the band on bass, and as badass as Blood Eagle is — one would rarely think of a song called “Gravity Chasm” as being so aptly-named — I can’t help but look forward to hearing what Conan do from here and how they continue to refine one of doom’s most bludgeoning approaches.

 

4. Dwellers, Pagan Fruit

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed May 22.

It’s the songs. I really, really dug Dwellers‘ 2012 debut, Good Morning Harakiri (review here) as well, and I won’t say a bad word about that album, but Pagan Fruit is in a different class altogether. And you know, it’s not just the songs. It’s how the songs play next to each other, the mood they create, and the hooks that Dwellers bring to the table with so much stylistic poise, calling the bluffs of any number of heavy psych blues rockers on “Totem Crawler,” or “Creature Comfort,” or “Son of Raven” or “Spirit of the Staircase.” The Salt Lake City-based trio of guitarist/vocalist Joey Toscano, bassist Dave Jones and drummer Zach Hatsis brought new levels of cohesion to their sound throughout Pagan Fruit and it remains an album that I have yet to get enough of hearing, one that seems to offer more each time I put it on and let my mind drift to its patient, open spaces.

 

3. Fu Manchu, Gigantoid

Released by At the Dojo Records. Reviewed May 14.

From here on out, on any given day, any one of these is my album of the year. What a thrill it was to put on Fu Manchu‘s first album in five years, Gigantoid, and have it roll out such a tight-knit collection of heavy rolling excellence. The West Coast stoner riff gods of gnarl stripped down their production inspired in part by a reissue campaign of their earlier work on their own At the Dojo Records label, and the punkish feel suited them better than even they likely could’ve expected. With its opening four-song punch, the no-frills shot of “No Warning” and the closeout jam at the end of “The Last Question,” Gigantoid felt like more than one could’ve reasonably asked from a Fu Manchu long-player 20 years on from their debut, but the vitality they showed in its tracks, paired with the efficiency with which the songs were executed, showcased a timeless, perpetual appeal. They know what they’re doing and how they want to do it, and just because there was no doubt going into Gigantoid doesn’t make the end product any less of a payoff.

 

2. Mars Red Sky, Stranded in Arcadia

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed on March 11.

I’ve gone on at some length about what I find so appealing in the second full-length from Bordeaux trio Mars Red Sky, so even putting aside the deft hand with which they incorporated further heavy psych soundscapes into their songwriting, let me just focus on how memorable Stranded in Arcadia actually is. That was true as well of Mars Red Sky‘s 2011 self-titled debut (review here), but these songs are more ambitious, from the eight-minute opener “The Light Beyond” to the gorgeous melody-wash in the chorus of “Join the Race” and the stomp in the de facto closer “Seen a Ghost” before the leadout/refrain “Beyond the Light” calls all the way back to the first track. The development of Mars Red Sky‘s take isn’t necessarily such a surprise — the debut had its psychedelic, jammy feel as well — but the fact that the trio of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matgaz managed to elicit such development while remaining true to the warm tones and humble, unpretentious vibe of the debut only makes Stranded in Arcadia more remarkable. I wouldn’t stop listening to it if I could.

 

1. Wo Fat, The Conjuring

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed June 18.

It wasn’t easy to hold off on reviewing the fifth album from the Texas power trio for as long as I did, but I thought the record was too good to jump the gun on, and so yeah, it’s a pretty recent writeup, but I feel comfortable putting The Conjuring at number one here because I’ve actually had a while to live with these songs. Or maybe “live in” them would be a better way to say it, since the dense wall of fuzz and jammed-out distortion Wo Fat create across this record is basically thick enough to take up residence. Recently back from a European tour, Wo Fat hit the road supporting their finest work to date, and as the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer/backing vocalist Michael Walter are more or less self-sustaining in their own Crystal Clear Sound studio in Dallas, there’s no reason they can’t just keep developing along the path they are. The Conjuring boasts their best jams yet but also holds firm to the already-planted-in-your-consciousness hooks that Wo Fat have long since established a penchant for, and one could just as easily put the band at the fore of traditional heavy rock riffing as of American heavy psych jammers. Any way you look at them, they’re at the top of their class.

Quick honorable mention goes to Radio Moscow, The Wounded Kings, 1000mods (review forthcoming), Eyehategod, Abramis Brama, Truckfighters, Valley of the Sun, the live Causa Sui record and Alcest. Been a hell of a year so far, and I’m already putting together a list of anticipated records for the next six months, so there’s much more to follow.

Thanks as always for reading.

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Roadburn 2014 Day One: “So Much Still Lingers…”

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 10th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

04.11.14 — 00:08 — Thursday night/Friday morning — Hotel Mercure, Tilburg

This afternoon and this morning both seem like a really, really long time ago. I got asked a few times today when I got into town and I couldn’t seem to remember. 2009 maybe? Breakfast was two double-double espressos. Dinner was a protein bar and two bottles of water, some ibuprofen. No time for anything else. It’s Roadburn. There are places to be.

After much vigorous folding of the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch issues — I was handed one when I walked into the venue this afternoon, which was a cool feeling — I went downstairs from the 013 office to check out Sourvein‘s soundcheck and found their “Dirty South” had gotten a little northern flair thanks to the addition of Halfway to Gone‘s Lou Gorra on bass. When they were done, I went up to Stage01 to watch Hull get their sounds and was treated to a preview of “Fire Vein,” about which I had no complaints. They’d be my first two bands of the day, in that order, so it was like I was getting ahead of myself. Which is fitting for how completely out of time the entire day seemed.

If I’m not mistaken, and I’m pretty sure I’m not, Sourvein is a completely different lineup, Gorra included, than played here in 2011. The one constant, of course, is vocalist T-Roy Medlin. To his credit, no matter who he seems to bring aboard in the band — people come, people go — it always sounds like Sourvein. You’d think after a while a polka player would slip in unnoticed or something, but their Southern sludge has seen no diminishing of its aggressive potency over the years. One imagines if that happened, whoever was responsible wouldn’t be in the band long. They grooved angry and gave the fest a wake up call from which it didn’t look back.

Knowing that Hull were playing Stage01, I made sure to get there early, as in by like half an hour. Say what you want for the practicality, the same thing did me no good later on trying to get up front for Conan at Het Patronaat. Sometimes you need to show up and wait if you want a place up front. Pretty much every time, actually. I was hoping for some new stuff from Hull – who are on tour in Europe with Boston’s Elder, also Roadburn veterans — but cuts from 2011’s Beyond the Lightless Sky (review here) like “False Priest” and “Earth from Water” were hardly time wasted, and both the old-made-new-again “Legend of the Swamp Goat” and “Architect” from 2009’s Sole Lord were right on, as was the extended closer, “Viking Funeral,” which shook the floor with volume that seemed ready for it to be later in the day than it was.

I didn’t hear the Beastmilk album, but I certainly heard a lot about the Beastmilk album, so I thought I’d check out their set, what with Hexvessel‘s Mat McNerney fronting the band. McNerney brought a good deal of Joy Division-style drama to songs like “Void Mother” and “You are Now Under Your Control,” and the music behind him was probably what someone will step up and call neo-goth in a few years if they haven’t yet, mining the moodiness of late ’80s dark rock and presenting it in a we-could-be-playing-black-metal-if-we-wanted-to context. Fair enough, but with Samothrace going on at Het Patronaat across the street, I wasn’t sticking around all that long.

Merch is outside this year, which is different from at least the previous five Roadburns. I stopped myself at a copy of the second Rotor CD and Monster Magnet‘s Love Monster. I didn’t buy the gatefold version of Colour Haze‘s All, or any of this year’s Roadburn exclusives. It was the first money I’ve spent since I got to Europe, and it was 22 of the 70 euro I had in my wallet left over from the 2013 fest. My unemployed ass was as sparing as it could be en route to Het Patronaat.

For Samothrace, I wound up standing in front of one of the house P.A. stacks near the side of the stage, and needless to say, I didn’t stay there long, as the throb of Joe Axler‘s kick drum felt like the pedal was hooked up to my rib cage. I had been looking forward to seeing them, since 2012’s Reverence to Stone was so killer and I missed them on their East Coast tour supporting it, and they justified my anticipation, both in tonal weight and atmosphere, the latter which it’s easy to overlook in their sound because the rest of the time they’re so damn heavy, but which ultimately made both the record and their set stand out from the rest of the day, guitarists Renata Castagna and Brian Spinks taking time to space out in a way that presaged some of what I’d catch later with Mühr at the Cul de Sac, Spinks furthering the dynamic with assorted screams and growls. Was glad to finally see them play and witness their shifts between tumbling lurch and excruciating crawls for myself. It seemed overdue. And oh yeah, then Napalm Death played.

More than several years have passed since the last time I caught a Napalm Death show, and while Roadburn 2014 seems an odd fit for the British grindcore progenitors — vocalist Mark “Barney” Greenway, guitarist Mitch Harris, bassist Shane Embury and drummer Danny Herrera – they tailored their set to the occasion, culling some of their more experimental, less blastbeaten, Swans-y material into something unique for the Main Stage crowd. It must be nice to be in a band for more than 30 years and still have the drive to change things up, and seeing them do so only furthered my opinion that they should tour in art galleries exclusively. Five or six bands formed and started writing songs while Napalm Death were still on stage — that’s how influential they are. They’ll never have the same kind of reputation for experimental rock as for grind, but their lead-in for Corrections House wound up as one of the smoothest transitions of the day, both bands having industrial elements at work.

In the case of Corrections House, those come courtesy of beats delivered via laptop from Sanford Parker, who took the stage first as he did when I saw them in Brooklyn early in 2013 (review here). Whether it’s Parker, who was in Buried at Sea, Yakuza‘s Bruce Lamont, Scott Kelly of Neurosis and Eyehategod vocalist Mike IX Williams, it’s hard separating the members of Corrections House from what they’ve brought to and done in their other bands, though Lamont‘s sax, played to lower end to cover where a bass might otherwise be, definitely had an appeal distinct from that in his main outfit. Their debut album, Last City Zero, came out last year and I didn’t give it enough time. Watching them play was my punishment for not knowing the songs better than I did, and I’d have stayed longer, but Philly’s Nothing were just finished at Het Patronaat and I wasn’t about to miss the start of Conan.

Seemed to me that 25 minutes before their set started would be plenty of time to get front and center. It was not. Not only were there people already up front when I got there, but they were already shouting requests at the UK trio, whose 2014 outing, Blood Eagle (review here), I consider one of the year’s best records, and who had a new bassist in the form of Chris Fielding, known perhaps best as the recording engineer who’s done their studio stuff and worked with Electric Wizard, Undersmile, and many others in the UK’s fertile scene. That was something of a surprise, as I hadn’t known he joined the band with Jon Paul Davis (guitar/vocals) and Paul O’Neil (drums), but he fit in well with the destructive path beaten out by “Crown of Talons,” which made for an ultra-doomed opening statement.

Conan were one of my gotta-see bands for the day, and their set at Het Patronaat with the line of people waiting to get in running most of the way back to the door from the 013 only emphasized how far they’ve come in the two years since they played Stage01 at Roadburn 2012. One expects utter dominance from them and they did not disappoint. Still, they were one of my gotta-see bands, and the other happened to be Amsterdam space-doomers Mühr, whose slot overlapped at Cul de Sac. They were not the highest-profile act on the bill, but I only watched one complete set today, and it was Mühr doing “Messiah” from their 2013 single-song full-length of the same name (review here). With ambience heavier than many bands at their most crushing, seeing Mühr, which seemed unlikely from the start, was a highlight of what was by then a long stretch.

You could almost call what they do post-metal, but for the fact that where a lot post-metal comes across as claustrophobic, Mühr make efforts to sound as expansive as possible. Their psychedelic, cosmic droning was rich in tone and righteously loud, vocals sparse, but a presence, the whole five-piece lit mostly by candles set up in front and to the sides of the stage. It was something I’d probably only ever see at Roadburn, and when they were done and left the stage one at a time after an extended wash of feedback and effects noise, they came back out to take a well-earned bow before still-cheering crowd. I was so into it it was silly, and I know already that the ability to say I saw Mühr live is among the things I’ll be most grateful to carry with me in a few days when I leave Tilburg.

There were so many bands I missed today. There always are. You can’t see everything. I got back to the Main Stage in time to catch Crowbar doing “All I Had I Gave,” “Planets Collide” and “The Cemetery Angels” and had every intent of sticking around to see Freedom Hawk close out in the Green Room, but the weight of needing to write and the thought of getting up for more Weirdo Canyon Dispatch work in the morning got the better of me. Not the first time that’s ever happened, at least as regards the former.

Tomorrow is Mikael Åkerfeldt‘s curated day. Only Day Two which feels odd for how immediately immersed in the vibe of Roadburn I and seemingly everybody else was by when afternoon became evening. If you told me we’d been here two or three days already, I’d believe it, but maybe lack of sleep is a factor there as well. All the more reason to nod.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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audiObelisk Transmission 035

Posted in Podcasts on February 21st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Click Here to Download

 

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

I like making these podcasts because I never really know where they’re going to end up once I get started. One song leads to the next leads to the next, and before you know it, you’re all spaced out on how cool some brand new acoustic At Devil Dirt sounds coming out of the brutal dead-sludge of Coltsblood, or deep into the ultra vibes of a second hour loaded with interstellar meanderings. Some of these go brutal. This one just went far out.

That At Devil Dirt EP was just released yesterday, so if you don’t recognize the title, that’s probably why. A lot of this stuff is pretty recent, and while some of the songs you might’ve seen around, whether it was the Conan song they did the video for or the Druglord track that was streamed here with the full album, still other cuts, like the Trilogy, Black Moon Circle and Mope are new to these parts. As ever, I think it winds up with a decent blend and I hope you agree.

First Hour:
Ogre, “Nine Princes in Amber” from The Last Neanderthal (2014)
Sun Shepherd, “Awaiting the Firepit” from Procession of Trampling Hoof (2014)
Trilogy, “Invade and Occupy” from Burned Alive (2013)
Young Hunter, “Welcome to Nothing” from Split with Ohioan (2014)
Sergio Ch., “La Familia y las Guerras” from 1974 (2013)
Hull, “Legend of the Swamp Goat” from Legend of the Swamp Goat 7” (2014)
Conan, “Foehammer” from Blood Eagle (2014)
Druglord, “Feast on the Eye” from Enter Venus (2014)
Coltsblood, “Beneath Black Skies” from Into the Unfathomable Abyss (2014)

Second Hour:
At Devil Dirt, “Mirame” from Dinner is Ready (2014)
Black Moon Circle, “Enigmatic SuperBandit” from Black Moon Circle (2014)
Eidetic Seeing, “A Snake Whose Years are Long” from Against Nature (2014)
Goya, “Death’s Approaching Lullaby” from 777 (2013)
Mope, “La Caduta” from Mope (2014)
Mike Scheidt, “Rake” from Songs of Townes Van Zandt Vol. II (2014)

Total running time: 1:56:49

 

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 035

 

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Here’s a Conan Bio I Wrote

Posted in Features on February 20th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Every now and again I get asked to write a band bio. I’m happy to do it when I’m able, but  it always takes me an absurdly long time to get it completed. Still, when Conan comes calling, it’s either step up or face some kind of doomly ceremonial beheading, so I figured I’d better get on it. If nothing else, I was happy to have an excuse to put on their new album, Blood Eagle (review here), which will be out late this month/early next month on Napalm Records.

After a few rounds back and forth correcting my many uses of the literary device known as the “typo,” here’s how it came out:

CONAN, Blood Eagle bio

With monolithic tones and barbarian tales, Conan were born to destroy. The Northwestern UK trio of guitarist/vocalist Jon Paul Davis, bassist/vocalist Phil Coumbe and drummer Paul O’Neil began in 2006 with the Battle in the Swamp EP as their first outing in 2007, but it was 2010’s Horseback Battle Hammer EP that first caught the attention of the international underground, and the impression of Conan’s “caveman battle doom” was immediate. Songs like “Satsumo” and “Krull” showed that just because the band sounded big didn’t mean they couldn’t also write a song, and when their debut long-player, Monnos, followed in 2012 preceded by a 2011 split with Slomatics, the response was duly huge.

A slot at the Netherlands’ prestigious Roadburn festival in 2012 resulted in 2013’s Mount Wrath live album, and Conan continued to shake venue floors and cave in chest cavities wherever they played. Touring Europe, they shared the stage with Sleep in Norway and in 2013, Conan featured at Desertfest in London, laying waste to Camden’s famed Underworld club alongside Chicago’s Bongripper, with whom they also released a split EP, Conan’s contribution coming in the form of the sprawling, droned-out “Beheaded,” their longest song to date at over 17 minutes.

After tracking them using forensic experts and analysis of the footprints the band left stomping across the UK and Europe to support Monnos, including at the 2013 Damnation Festival, Napalm Records signed Conan for the release of their second album. Davis, in turn, set about building a temple. Working with the band’s longtime producer Chris Fielding, he constructed Skyhammer Studio, where,  as the house engineer, Fielding would helm 2014’s Blood Eagle for Napalm as both Conan’s and the studio’s reputation continued to grow.

To celebrate their return with their most accomplished blend yet of riff-largesse and memorable hooks, topped off as always by Tony Roberts artwork featuring their mascot “The Sentinel,” Conan set forth a full European tour for Spring 2014, including a return to Roadburn and appearances at Doom Over Leipzig, Droneburg Festival, Temples Festival, the St. Helena Doom Fest and France’s famed Hellfest. Their shows already the stuff of legend and the Blood Eagle songs being their most bludgeoning material, Conan’s conquering days have just begun.

Conan, “Foehammer” official video

Conan’s website

Conan on Thee Facebooks

Napalm Records

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Conan Debut “Foehammer” Video and Announce UK and European Tour Dates

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 13th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

The lesson of Conan‘s new video for the track “Foehammer” from their forthcoming Napalm Records debut, Blood Eagle (review here), is timeless: If you’re going to awaken a giant tentacle-grasshopper monster that can absorb forests and skyscrapers, take over the planet and cut the moon in half, you’re gonna want some extra insurance. Seems to me that’s really the message of “Foehammer,” which takes a digital kind of stop-motion approach to tell its tale of ultimate and final destruction. Also in the beginning, the tentacle-grasshopper kind of surfs on the sky altar on which it was born as it comes down from the mountains to destroy the world. Needless to say it’s worth watching.

Conan will release Blood Eagle in March in North America on Napalm Records, and they’ve announced a month-plus of UK and European touring to coincide.

Behold:

Conan, “Foehammer” official video

CONAN & NAPALM RECORDS just unveiled the official video of “Foehammer”, a new song from the imminent CONAN’s “Blood Eagle”! Enjoy!

“Blood Eagle” will be available on Gatefold Vinyl, Digipack CD and digital format very soon ! Here are the dates :

28/02/14 : GER, AT, CH, FIN & Benelux
03/03/14 : UK & rest of Europe
05/03/14 : SP, SWE & NOR
11/03/14 : USA, CAN

This release will be followed by an extensive European Tour from March to June!

14.03 (Uk) NOTTINGHAM, STUCK ON A NAME STUDIOS
15.03 (Uk) BOURNEMOUTH, THE ANVIL
17.03 (Uk) GLASGOW, AUDIO
19.03 (Uk) MANCHESTER, KRAAK GALLERY
20.03 (Uk) CARDIFF, THE FULL MOON
21.03 (Uk) BRIGHTON, THE PRINCE ALBERT
22.03 (Uk) LONDON, ELECTROWERKZ
09.04 (Bel) LIEGE, LE HANGAR
10.04 (Nl) TILBURG, ROADBURN FESTIVAL
11.04 (Ger) WUERZBURG, CAFE CAIRO
12.04 (Ger) LEIPZIG, DOOM OVER LEIPZIG
13.04 (Dk) COPENHAGEN, KB 18
14.04 (Nor) OSLO, REVOLVER
16.04 (Fin) JYVÄSKYLÄ, LUTAKKO
17.04 (Fin) HELSINKI, KUUDES LINJA
18.04 (Fin) TAMPERE, KLUBI
19.04 (Fin) OULU, NUCLEAR NIGHTCLUB
22.04 (Swe) LUND, HEMGARDEN
23.04 (Ger) BERLIN, JAEGERKLAUSE
24.04 (Ger) WIESBADEN, KULTURPALAST
25.04 (Nl) GRONINGEN, VERA
26.04 (Ger) HAMBURG, DRONENBURG FESTIVAL
27.04 (Ger) COLOGNE, UNDERGROUND
02.05 (Uk) BRISTOL, TEMPLES FESTIVAL
23.05 (Bel) DIKSMUIDE, 4 AD
24.05 (Bel) BRUSSELS, MAGASIN 4
25.05 (Fr) PARIS, GLAZART
27.05 (Ch) GENEVA, L´USINE
28.05 (Ger) STUTTGART, KELLERCLUB
29.05 (A) VIENNA, ARENA
30.05 (Ch) WINTERTHUR, GASWERK
31.05 (Ger) MUNICH, ST HELENA DOOM FEST
21.06 (Fr) CLISSON, HELLFEST

Conan on Thee Facebooks

Conan’s website

Napalm Records

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Jon Davis of Conan

Posted in Questionnaire on February 3rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

His hood up, his mouth stretched wide in a guttural shout that seems to shake his whole body, Conan guitarist/vocalist Jon Paul Davis gives the impression that there’s little of his being not being hurled from the stage at his audience. As the trio of Davis, bassist/vocalist Phil Coumbe and drummer Paul O’Neil, Conan make their debut on Napalm Records in 2014 with their second full-length, Blood Eagle (review here), an album that arrives as the payoff of a creative and popular ascent that began with 2010’s Horseback Battle Hammer EP (review here). Through that release, the subsequent 2011 split with Slomatics (review here), their 2012 debut long-player, Monnos (review here), and 2013’s Mount Wrath: Live at Roadburn 2012 and split with Bongripper, Conan have established a base of rumbling low end tone that few seem to be able to match. With thematics drawn from the fantasy conquests of Robert E. Howard, J. R. R. Tolkien and others, Conan‘s aesthetic has become focused on the big, the brutal and the badass. It is a near-perfect amalgam of theory and practice.

Before recording Blood Eagle, Davis built Skyhammer Studio, a professional, live-in facility adjacent to his home in Cheshire, UK, and hired engineer Chris Fielding — with whom he’d previously worked at Foel Studios in Wales — to take up residency. Already, Skyhammer has become a hub of the UK scene, with the likes of Serpent Venom, Coltsblood, Stubb and Greenhorn tracking there, and to complement, Davis has started a record label, Black Bow Records, putting out Conan‘s Horseback Battle Hammer and Monnos on tape as well as releases by Bast and a split between Fister and Norska.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Jon Paul Davis

How did you come to do what you do?

I was 15 or 16 and had just started playing guitar (a cheap Spanish acoustic). I begged my parents for a guitar after they tried to get me into playing keyboard. I remember having a couple of lessons, a year or two later, and I wasn’t very good but one lunch time I told a friend of mine that I was going to play guitar on stage when I was older. Since then I have stopped and started being in various nondescript bands and then Conan happened and I get to do what my 16-year-old self promised himself back in 1992. I’ve just been been really driven to do this.

Describe your first musical memory.

Two early ones, not sure which is the first. Dancing to Shakin’ Stevens when I was three or four years old in a cafe and people were clapping, I was able to go up onto my tip toes the way he did. Another memory is of my Great Grandmother, who was brought up in Tipperary but brought up her side of our family in Kirkby (North of Liverpool), who used to sing a song like “Irish Eyes are Smiling” or “If You’re Irish Come into the Parlour” or something like that. We always used to have sing-alongs in our house whenever we had that half of my family over. It was awesome and I remember a real sense of belonging and “family” at that young age.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

A tough one. But I would say there was a few weeks when Horseback Battle Hammer was released when it suddenly became apparent that we had unknowingly created something that people we’re into. When Uge from Throne Records emailed me to say that he would put it out in vinyl it made me think, “Wow, we’re actually going to release something on a proper record label.” This sticks out for me because up until that point I had just played in bands as a hobby, and always wished I could get “signed” to a label… Those first stages of becoming aware of people noticing us was very intense, I’ll never forget it. There have been many since that I have already discussed before so I’ll leave them for another time.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

I always believe that losing loved ones should be an “occasion,” something you build up to and kind of prepare for. The world wouldn’t just take people away without warning. This has been challenged twice so far with the death of my Grandmother Harriet Fitzsimmons, and my oldest friend Ted Evans. My Grandmother died suddenly on her way to a friend’s house back in 1998 and I still miss her now. Last year, at the end of March I was watching my children playing on a trampoline in Spain when I got a phone call to say that my mate Ted had died. I couldn’t believe it. Ted was the same age as me and died suddenly of a heart attack. He was a great old friend and has left a huge hole in my heart. My Grandfather John Fitzsimmons (someone who I will always look up to as a great example of a hard working honest Liverpool man) died after a long illness and his passing was almost bearable because it had seemed that his time had come and we had all been able to prepare for it. I will always remember sleeping over in my Grandparents house in Norris Green, waking up the next day and being taken by my Nan on the bus to meet my Grandad. When I got a bit older I started going the game with my friends (Ted and a few others) but I would always meet my Grandad in the pub (The Top House in Walton) and I never thought those times would go so fast. Those moments that you never feel as they slip through your fingers. These losses have always made me realise that things aren’t going to last forever and you should enjoy everything you have. I never used to bother with this, I used to take things for granted, but not anymore.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

I feel that progression leads to sharpness and you can never stop sharpening your blade. It can always be “sharper” no matter what you think of yourself. Progression often means diversification to some people. Take certain bands, as they progress they sometimes change from what made them them in the first place. I guess it is a process of taking what you have and making the most of it.

How do you define success?

I think bring successful is gaining what you want from a given situation. For me, being happy by doing something I enjoy makes me feel successful. It makes me feel like I am spending my time wisely. I once had a well paid job as HR Manager in a profitable business but I swapped that nine-to-five stuff for a recording studio, a record label and a touring band. I earn less in a monetary sense from these things than I did from the day job but I feel “successful” every day because I get to be at home with the kids at home time and I get to cook their meals every day, I can also tour much more easily. That is real success in my opinion, enjoying life while doing things you want and keeping those around you happy. If you apply this to being in a band some will say that successful bands are those on the biggest label doing the coolest tours. However, that situation might be beneficial financially but it does not necessarily make you happy — it might not keep your soul warm.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

I saw my Grandmother Harriet Fitzsimmons lying in hospital in the final minutes of life following a fatal heart attack. I was a young boy but I sat at her bedside with the rest of my family as she slipped away, talking to her, asking her not to go. She was a lovely woman and I was very attached to her, her memory brings a tear to my eye every single time without fail and I still remember chatting to her earlier that day and wished I had done so for longer. But after we heard of her heart attack I was taken to hospital by an Uncle and he wouldn’t talk to me or confirm what had happened and the first I saw of her was in bed, obviously slipping away. I held her hand and talked to her but seeing her die this way led to many years of anxiety attacks and mild depression. I decided to develop my own coping mechanisms rather than take medication, and now I am no longer affected in the same way but seeing my Nanna pass away in the manner that I did was obviously something my young mind couldn’t cope with.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

My wife and I are currently in the early stages of having an office built in the cellar of our house. I wish to create in this space a solid base for Skyhammer Studio and Black Bow Records. With this set up I hope to progress both of these businesses so I can help bands who are under the radar to get a great quality recording and, hopefully, they can get the same feelings I got back when Horseback Battle Hammer was released, should the recording be picked up by my own label or a different one. Additionally the studio is of such a high quality, and with the very talented Chris Fielding as resident producer, I hope it will continue to attract the high calibre of established bands that we have booked in so far. Chris and I can hopefully create a go-to studio for music recording in the UK.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

Three things:

1. I’m getting the stop lights fixed on the band’s tour bus tomorrow. I’ve been driving round for a month with no brake lights!!!!

2. On Saturday it is my daughter’s fourth birthday and I am really looking forward to seeing her at the centre of attention.

3. Conan touring starts in March and I just cannot express how much I want to get back playing live again.

Conan, “Gravity Chasm” Live at Desertfest London 2013

Conan on Thee Facebooks

Napalm Records

Skyhammer Studio

Black Bow Records

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Conan, Blood Eagle: Monolithic Dispatch

Posted in Reviews on January 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

It has been a substantial two years since UK megadoomers Conan made their full-length debut with Monnos (review here) through Burning World Records in 2012. That album followed a 2011 split with Slomatics (review here) and Conan‘s 2010 hello to the world, the thunderous Horseback Battle Hammer EP (review here), and in its wake, Conan made their way around Europe several times, stopping at Roadburn that year — their set was released as the live album Mount Wrath in 2013 — and at Desertfest in 2013 along with a slew of other appearances, including opening for Sleep in Norway (which, if you have a resume, is the line you want on it). All this and a 2013 split with Chicago’s Bongripper led to their signing with Napalm Records, and it’s as their label debut that their sophomore full-length, Blood Eagle, now emerges, marking the beginning of a new era for the band not just for the additional distribution at Napalm‘s disposal, but also for being the first Conan release recorded at Skyhammer Studio, built and owned by guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis and already host to a swath of UK acts, from Coltsblood to Stubb and beyond. If where it was captured has changed, who helmed it remains consistent in Chris Fielding (many, many, many others, including Electric Wizard), who switched from Foel Studios in Wales to set up shop at Skyhammer. His partnership with Conan continues to be to the benefit of all involved on Blood Eagle, which is the band’s most expansive work to date at six tracks/45 minutes.

Those who heard Monnos or have been subject somewhere along the way to Conan‘s immense, plodding doom — they’re among the heaviest bands on the planet, period — will find that all is as it should be on Blood Eagle. Conan, comprised of Davis, bassist/vocalist Phil Coumbe and drummer Paul O’Neil, have progressed, to be sure, and Blood Eagle is distinct in the band’s growth from its predecessor, but they’re also not going to fix what wasn’t broken. A big enough risk was being taken in recording in a new, just constructed space that if Conan were ever inclined to depart from the low-end largesse that has typified their work to date, this probably wouldn’t be the time. Still, there is progression evident in the cuts on Blood Eagle — the album taking its name from a maybe-mythical torture in which a victim’s ribs are torn open from the back (spread to look like wings) and the lungs are removed; anyone who watched the first season of the tv show Hannibal might recall a reference to the practice — whether it’s the 9:48 opener “Crown of Talons” setting a grim and lumbering course or the dash-and-pummel of “Foehammer.” Coumbe also takes a lead vocal on second track “Total Conquest,” so Conan are trying new things, however much their core remains intact, but more pivotal to the overall effectiveness of Blood Eagle is how fluidly they move through the material. To compare, with Monnos, shorter songs like the dug-in hook of “Grim Tormentor” and “Hawk as Weapon” appeared first, and the remainder spread out in linear fashion from there, tracks getting more malevolent en route to the closing duo of “Headless Hunter” and “Invincible Throne.”

With Blood Eagle, it’s less a case of multiple personalities. Conan were right to lead with the catchier tracks their last time out — one can hardly argue with the success of that album — but the substance here is different and it calls for a different structure. One of Blood Eagle‘s most infectious moments arrives amid the shuffling riff of “Gravity Chasm,” which is also one of its longer cuts at 8:12, indicating that the separation between methodologies has at least begun to give way. Ultimately, this makes Blood Eagle a stronger front-to-back listen, since by the time nine-minute closer “Altar of Grief” arrives, it’s not like Conan have cast off hooks in favor of all-out excruciation. Opening with “Crown of Talons,” the longest song here (immediate points) and also perhaps the slowest, is a particularly interesting choice on the part of the band, since they’re essentially saying to their audience, “This is as brutal as it gets,” and then developing the album’s character working off that foundation. Sure enough, “Crown of Talons” is among the most weighted songs Conan have yet crafted, and paired with “Total Conquest,” which brings Coumbe‘s growling shouts to the fore, they right away show that though they’ve held firm to some of their general ethic, neither are they completely interested in repeating themselves. It’s a framework in which they continue to thrive, and Davis and Coumbe continue to rumble out some of doom’s deepest, lowest tones. One imagines a new studio had to be built only after the last one crumbled to the ground.

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Tomorrow’s Dream: 42 of 2014’s Most Anticipated Albums

Posted in Features on January 13th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Getting ready to type this list is like standing on the precipice of a canyon. Maybe that’s a little dramatic, but you get the idea. Last year was an all-out assault of music. I couldn’t have heard it all even if I’d wanted to, and while it’ll probably be June before I feel like I’m sufficiently caught up on 2013, the new-car-smelling rush of 2014 is already underway.

And the only thing to do is press on — though I’ve tried on several occasions, I can’t seem to stop time and review everything that I’m fortunate enough to encounter — and that means glancing ahead to what’s coming in 2014. I know I said so before, but once again, Happy New Year.

One of my favorite things to do is to look forward to a new album. I consider it a sign of the endurance of the human spirit not only that new creative works are being completed and distributed at such a constant rate, but that we can still anticipate the resonance of those works upon their arrival. I don’t mind telling you this is the largest of any such list I’ve ever written for this site. Even as I start it, I’m finding more to add, and I’m sure when it’s done it won’t be complete. So it goes.

There’s more to say, but I’ve delayed enough. We’ll go alphabetically, which is only unfortunate because it puts YOB last. Thanks in advance for reading.

 

1. Acid King, TBA

We start the same place we started in 2013, with Acid King. The San Francisco giants have sworn up and down they’ll have a new record out this year, and while I’ve yet to see any solid word of its coming manifest, I remain hopeful that it happens. Of course, that was also pretty much the case going into 2013, but they toured Europe last fall and even came out to the East Coast for a show and played some new material (review here), so if it’s to be that III finally gets a follow-up some nine years later, it’s worth keeping an eye out ahead of time. Acid King on Thee Facebooks.

 

2. Alcest, Shelter

To be released this coming week on Prophecy Productions, the fourth Alcest full-length, Shelter (review here), is billed as a major sonic turn away from the France-based outfit’s black metal influences toward brighter sonic fare. It is that, but the nostalgic melodies and crucial emotionality that has always been the root of Alcest’s sound remains intact. It will be interesting to see what the response is upon its release, but Shelter is an early point of fascination for 2014. Alcest on Thee Facebooks.

 

3. All Them Witches, TBA


I’m not sure what they’re doing in the studio, if it’s a single, an EP or a full-length album, but this past weekend, on Jan. 11, Nashville heavy psych rockers All Them Witches posted the above picture with the simple tagline “Recording.” Fair enough. It seems soon for them to have another LP after 2013’s excellent Lightning at the Door (discussed here), but that album seemed to arrive soon after 2012’s Our Mother Electricity (reissued by Elektrohasch in 2013; review here), so who knows? It’ll be fun to find out either way. All Them Witches on Bandcamp.

 

4. Alunah, TBA

UK doomers Alunah will make their debut on Napalm Records with yet-untitled third album. With wider distribution at their disposal than that received by their 2012 outing, White Hoarhound (review here), I wouldn’t be surprised to see Alunah really leave a mark on 2014, but more fascinating to me than how many people get to hear it is how the band — who’ve swapped out bassists since their last outing — will follow-up the tremendously memorable songs on White Hoarhound. No doubt they can do it, it’s just hard not to be impatient. Alunah on Thee Facebooks.

 

5. Blackwolfgoat, Drone Maintenance

I was fortunate enough to be invited down to Amps vs. Ohms in Boston when Blackwolfgoat (aka Darryl Shepard, also of Black Pyramid, The Scimitar, ex-Hackman, Roadsaw, etc. and a new project I don’t think I’m allowed to talk about yet) was tracking the follow-up to 2011’s Dronolith, which was released on this site’s in-house label, The Maple Forum. Raw tracks can sometimes prove to tell little about the finished product of an album, but each piece on Drone Maintenance that I heard had a distinct atmosphere, and “Cyclopean Utopia” was heavy enough on its own to warrant inclusion here. Rumor also has it that Black Pyramid offshoot The Scimitar will release a studio debut this year. Blackwolfgoat on Bandcamp.

 

6. Causa Sui, Live at Freak Valley

Holding the promise of over 90 minutes of live-recorded material from the 2013 Freak Valley festival in Germany, Causa Sui‘s Live at Freak Valley will see release through the band’s own El Paraiso Records and should provide further insight as a companion piece to their 2013 studio full-length, Euporie Tide. As that album boasted such an engaging live and progressive feel, successfully meshing desert and krautrock influences, I’d expect no less from the live outing, which though they’ve put out studio jams before — their three-volume 2008-2009 Summer Sessions is a joy worthy of the season — is their first official concert recording. El Paraiso Records website.

 

7. Conan, Blood Eagle

Six devastating tracks that both continue Conan‘s sonic dominance and usher in a new era for the band. Not only is their second full-length, Blood Eagle, their debut on Napalm Records, but it’s also the first Conan LP to be recorded at Skyhammer Studios, which was built and is owned by guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis. Producer Chris Fielding worked with the band previously on 2012’s Monnos (review here) and 2010’s Horseback Battle Hammer EP (review here), and Blood Eagle benefits from that now familiar collaboration, bridging the gap between the faster, catchy sides of Monnos and the complementing ultra-plod of its longer tracks. Album opener “Crown of Talons” also ranks among the heaviest things they’ve ever done, and “Foehammer” takes it’s name from Gandalf’s sword, Glamdring, so I don’t know what more you could ever ask of a full-length than that. Conan on Thee Facebooks.

 

8. Eggnogg, You’re all Invited

With the addition of bassist Corey Dozier to the rhythm section with drummer Jason Prushko, Brooklynite doom-funk stompers Eggnogg have been able to move vocalist Bill O’Sullivan to guitar from bass, giving Justin Karol a chance to act all the more as a lead player. How this new four-piece dynamic might play out on You’re all Invited — or even if Dozier played on it — remains to be seen, but from what I’ve caught live, it’s turned them into a thicker, fuller-sounding band, and on new material and old, Eggnogg are coming into their own. They’re still a better band than they know, and one hopes they can get some road time in as well as release the LP to continue to refine their approach. Eggnogg on Thee Facebooks.

 

9. Elder, Live at Roadburn 2013

Granted it’s been available through Burning World Records digitally since last November, but Elder‘s Live at Roadburn 2013 is set for physical issue early this year through the label, and having stood in front of the stage to witness the set myself at Het Patronaat in Tilburg and then seen the line running outside the venue and down the block, I can tell you it’s a beast. Put it on vinyl with cover art by Adrian Dexter and maybe a photo or two by yours truly and you’ve got a good way to get a preview for what their sets at the two Desertfests might hold this year. Elder on Thee Facebooks.

 

10. 40 Watt Sun, TBA

Speaking of Roadburn, emotive UK doomers 40 Watt Sun are set to make a return appearance at the fabled fest in the Netherlands, and the word was they’d do so with material from the follow-up to their 2011 Metal Blade debut, The Inside Room (review here), which established the band, led by guitarist/vocalist Patrick Walker (Warning), as a deeply affecting act with a rich sonic texture. No word of an exact release date for the sophomore effort yet, but one expects it will receive no shortage of fanfare prior to and upon its arrival. 40 Watt Sun on Thee Facebooks.

 

11. The Golden Grass, TBA

Brooklyn trio The Golden GrassOne More Time b/w Tornado debut single was one of the best short releases of 2013, and the sunshiny classic heavy rockers will look to follow it with a first long-player this year. Recording is completed — the tracking was helmed by Andréa Zavareei, who also did the 7″ — and so is mixing, done by Jeff Berner (Naam, etc.), so with mastering in progress, hopefully it’s not too long before The Golden Grass can offer a right-on cure for wintry blues. It will be interesting to hear how they sustain and work within their positive vibes over the course of a complete LP. The Golden Grass on Thee Facebooks.

 

12. Greenleaf, Trails and Passes

Trails and Passes will be Greenleaf‘s first outing since 2003’s Secret Alphabets not to be fronted by Oskar Cedermalm (also of Truckfighters) and also finds the Swedish unit both with a new drummer (hello, Sebastian Olsson) and down from two guitars to one. It was five years between their third album, 2007’s Agents of Ahriman and 2012’s Nest of Vipers (review here), so with a quicker turnaround and a stripped-down songwriting approach that seems geared more toward a live-sounding heavy rock presentation, Greenleaf could easily be positioning themselves as a full(er)-time touring act. The more the merrier. Greenleaf on Thee Facebooks.

 

13. Grifter, The Return of the Bearded Brethren

UK power trio Grifter surprised some with the quality of songwriting on their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), the lacking pretense of which was in proportion to its classic heavy rock influence, but The Return of the Bearded Brethren, which is set to release on Ripple Music, won’t have the advantage of sneaking up. If they’re throwing down a gauntlet, the confrontational pose of the shirtless tattooed beardo on their LP cover would seem to indicate it’s a considerable one indeed, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Grifter made following up on their self-titled sound as easy as they made infectious hooks sound the last time out. Grifter on Thee Facebooks.

 

14. Hull, TBA

Down from a five-piece to a foursome after having lost one of their three guitars since the release of 2011’s stellar second LP, Beyond the Lightless Sky (review here), 2014 marks an interesting point for singular Brooklyn post-thrashers Hull. With a Roadburn appearance slated and a limited vinyl reissue of their 2007 Viking Funeral debut EP in hand, they’ll look to bring their conceptual songwriting into a new presentational arc, and while that’s a fascinating prospect, I’m also looking forward to their new album because it promises to be heavy as fuck whenever it happens to arrive, hopefully by the end of the year. Hull on Thee Facebooks.

 

15. Lowrider, TBA

Were this list numbered in anticipatory rather than alphabetical order, Lowrider would be much closer to the top than lucky number 13. The Swedish four-piece will be recording their first outing since 2000’s genre-landmark Ode to Io this year after reuniting on stage at Desertfest 2013 — they’ll return to London next month with Dozer — and while I don’t know if it’ll be out by the time 2014 is done, I do know that the sheer prospect of a new Lowrider makes this year much better than it would be otherwise. I already invited myself to Sweden for an in-studio. More to come. Lowrider on Thee Facebooks.

 

16. The Machine, TBA

A couple weeks back, Dutch heavy psych rockers The Machine — whose split with now-defunct countrymen Sungrazer (review here) was my favorite short release last year — held a poll on their Thee Facebooks page to name their upcoming fifth album, which will follow 2012’s Calmer than You Are (review here) on Elektrohasch. My suggestion? Come to Light. It has the advantage of sounding psychedelic with an undertone of enlightenment to speak to the band’s continuing progression and it keeps with the prior album in being a reference to The Big Lebowski. No word on whether or not they’ll use it, but I’ve got my fingers crossed. The Machine’s website.

 

17. Mars Red Sky, TBA

Currently in the mixing stage, the second Mars Red Sky long-player will arrive on the heels of 2013’s Be My Guide EP (review here) and the Bordeaux fuzz trio’s self-titled 2011 debut (review here) and a host of tours and festival appearances. While their plans to record in the California desert reportedly didn’t pan out, the trio put much of the album to tape over the course of a week in Brazil following dates in South America, so it should boast plenty of sunshine either way. The album is due for release in April — a pro-shot live video of the new song “Satellites” was recently unveiled — and Mars Red Sky will also play at Hellfest in their native France in June. Mars Red Sky on Bandcamp.

 

18. Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty

The Washington trio’s first album for Listenable Records and their second since picking back up after several years of inactivity while guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed concentrated on Stone Axe, Electric Mountain Majesty is done and mastered as of Jan. 5. Recorded by Reed himself, it will follow a pair of live outings in 2013 (reviews here and here) and 2012’s infectious return, Nomads (review here). I am fully prepared to have these songs stuck in my head for most of 2014, so bring it on. A March release has been floated, which would come ahead of an appearance at Freak Valley in late May. Mos Generator on Thee Facebooks.

 

19. Mr. Peter Hayden, Archdimension Now

Triumphantly creative Finnish cosmic doomers Mr. Peter Hayden will complete a trilogy with Archdimension Now that began with 2010’s Faster than Speed (review here) and 2012’s single-song 68-minute LP, Born a Trip (review here). Crushing tones and a formidable scope don’t seem like unreasonable expectations, though what really interests me is how the Satakunta five-piece will expand on the sound of their last album, which still seems to reveal something new each time I put it on. Their new single “We Fly High,” was streamed here recently and bodes well. Mr. Peter Hayden on Bandcamp.

 

20. Pallbearer, TBA

Pallbearer have toured hard since their 2012 debut, Sorrow and Extinction (review here), hit a nerve with doomers across the globe, and the four-piece from Arkansas are set to begin recording their next LP (presumably) for Profound Lore in February. If that puts a release for sometime in late Spring/early Summer, I would imagine it will come coupled with no shortage of live dates, since the band seems most at home on tour. Should be intriguing to have a document of how all that stage time has manifested in solidifying and adding confidence to their approach, and this is another one preceded by much anticipation. Pallbearer on Thee Facebooks.

 

21. Papir, IIII

It would seem I have some purchases to make in order to catch up with Danish heavy psych jammers Papir. Aside from their recent collaboration with Electric Moon, the upcoming IIII will sure enough be their fourth album. Available now to preorder through El Paraiso Records, it is a vinyl-ready 47 minutes of smoothly shifting transitions between lush atmospherics and driving fuzz-heavy rock, ready to stand in line with progressive European instrumentalists like 35007, My Sleeping Karma and indeed their label honchos, Causa Sui. I had caught wind of 2013’s III previously, but deeper back catalog investigation is definitely warranted. Papir on Thee Facebooks.

 

22. Pilgrim, TBA

Just before they left to tour Europe with Windhand, Providence, Rhode Island, doomers Pilgrim recorded their sophomore full-length at Moonlight Mile Recording in scenic Jersey City, NJ. After the huge response garnered — and, I should say, earned — by their 2012 debut, Misery Wizard, the band jumped from Alan Averill of Primordial‘s Metal Blade imprint, Poison Tongue Records, to Metal Blade proper for the new one, which along with Pallbearer, 40 Watt Sun, Serpent Venom and The Wounded Kings (and no doubt others) makes a prospect for a thoroughly doomed 2014. So be it. Pilgrim on Thee Facebooks.

 

23. Radio Moscow, TBA

As I type these words, heavy rockers Radio Moscow are mixing their yet-untitled fourth album (fifth if you count 2012’s 3 & 3 Quarters, which was comprised of early unreleased material) at Big Fish Recording in Encinitas, CA. Details on the release are sketchy at best at this point, and by that I mean nil, but at least there’s progress being made, and since it’s still January, it seems entirely likely the album will surface one way or another in the next 11 months, barring disaster. The bombastic blues jammers led by Parker Griggs toured Europe last fall and rumor is there’s a run in the works for the US at the end of February into March. Radio Moscow on Thee Facebooks.

 

24. Sigiriya, Darkness Died Today

What’s not to like about a new Sigiriya album? The UK four-piece premiered “Tribe of the Old Oak” from Darkness Died Today here last month, and in addition to the considerable pipes of new vocalist Matt Williams, the track showcased a somewhat moodier psychedelic vibe from the band, who continue to distance themselves from Acrimony, of which bassist Paul Bidmead, guitarist Stuart O’Hara and drummer Darren Ivey were members, while also exploring new avenues from those of Sigiriya‘s debut, 2011’s Return to Earth (review here). I haven’t heard the whole thing yet, but they set a high standard last time. Sigiriya on Thee Facebooks.

 

25. Sixty Watt Shaman, TBA

Reason to Live, was released by Spitfire Records (remember them?) in… wait for it… 2002. Some 12 years ago. Now, these dudes have been kicking around in other bands since Sixty Watt Shaman sort of melted away in the manner that underrated bands often unfortunately do, but with the announcement of their appearances this year at Desertfest (info here) in April and The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 in May (info here) came word of a new studio release. EP or LP unknown at present. As killer as Reason to Live was, it just doesn’t seem fair to expect Sixty Watt Shaman to be the same band they were more than a decade ago. As such, I don’t know what’s coming, but I’m keen to find out. Sixty Watt Shaman on Thee Facebooks.

 

26. Skraeckoedlan, Gigantos

The 2011 debut from upstart Swedish heavy-hitters Skraeckoedlan, titled Äppelträdet (review here), was recorded by Oskar Cedermalm of Truckfighters and had much of that band’s fuzzy compression in blend with their own Mastodon-ic plod. It was a combination that worked so well I thought for sure the young outfit would return to Studio Bombshelter for their next outing, but no dice. As a result, I’m not sure what to expect from Gigantos, but I dug what I heard in a recent live video from them, so we’ll see how it turns out when the LP is done and I’m not about to judge either way until then. Skraeckoedlan on Thee Facebooks.

 

27. The Skull, TBA

I have no interest in downplaying any of the original members of Trouble‘s contributions to that legendary Chicago doom band (nor the work they’re doing now or those contributing to it), but there can be no question that Eric Wagner‘s voice is a signature element, and right now, that’s something The Skull has over the outfit from whence they sprang. Add to that Ron Holzner‘s bass and Jeff “Oly” Olson‘s drums and you’re well on your way to some foundational heavy. Among the best signs is that The Skull were recording with Billy Anderson (Sleep, the Melvins, Acid King, etc.), who obviously knows his shit and is likely to capture their sound as it should be: Completely doomed. Also keep an eye out for Wagner‘s side-project, Blackfinger, who have an LP coming. The Skull on Thee Facebooks.

 

28. Sleep, TBA

This would be the mother of them all, I guess. A new Sleep album. In addition to hinting at new studio outings by his own three-piece Om and Matt Pike‘s High on Fire, bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros let it slip casual-style in an interview somewhere that Sleep were working on new material, thus snapping my Thee Facebooks feed in half. Fair enough. Working on material doesn’t mean we’ll see a record this year, or at all, but obviously if there’s a chance a new album might happen (I’ve been nerding out about the idea for a while; see here and here), it would be proof of justice in the universe. Seems an obvious thing that Billy Anderson would record this as well, and all the better. Can the Sons of Sabbath prove there’s life after Dopesmoker? For now, only the Antarcticans know. Sleep’s website.

 

29. Slough Feg, Digital Resistance

Slated for release through Metal Blade — they’re taking preorders — what if I’m not mistaken is the 32nd Slough Feg LP is due on Feb. 18. As much as I’m looking forward to the release of the record itself, having very, very much enjoyed 2010’s The Animal Spirits (review here), I’m even more interested to see if I finally get up the gumption to interview guitarist/vocalist Mike Scalzi. Something about a dude who doubles as a philosophy professor and who’s been putting out records in his band since I was nine and long before anyone gave a shit I’ve always found intimidating. We’ll see if I’m up to it this year. @Slough_Feg.

 

30. Snail, Feral

Last summer, West Coast riffers Snail announced the departure of guitarist Eric Clausen, which means that their fourth outing, Feral, will be their first as the trio of guitarist/vocalist Mark Johnson, bassist Matt Lynch and drummer Marty Dodson since their 1993 self-titled debut full-length (reissue review here). Should be interesting to see how the shift to their original lineup changes the tenor of Feral as opposed to their two albums with Clausen, 2009’s comebacker Blood (review here) and 2012’s Terminus (review here), but as the first audio from the record begins to surface, Snail‘s sound seems to still very much have its core intact. Terminus brought in something of a rawer heavy metal influence coming off the languid, dreamy Blood, but as they’ve been back together now for going on half a decade, no doubt a few more twists are in store. Snail on Thee Facebooks.

 

31. Steak, TBA

Quickly emerging at the fore of London’s enviable up and coming heavy rock scene — and, in the case of guitarist Reece Tee, helping shape it as one of the architects of DesertfestSteak are set to debut this year on Napalm Records with what will be their first full-length following two EPs, 2012’s Disastronaught (review here) and 2013’s Corned Beef Colossus (review here). They’ve put in time on tour — they’ll play in Spain with Monster Magnet and in London with Lowrider and Dozer in February — and seem to be ready to take the next step in releasing an album, and after the conceptual elements of both EPs, I’m eager to see where the next chapter of their story goes. Steak on Bandcamp.

 

32. Stubb, TBA

Tracking is to begin a few weeks from now for Stubb‘s second album at Jon Davis of Conan‘s Skyhammer Studios. After the release of their 2013 single, Under a Spell (review here), and the departure of drummer Chris West, guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson and bassist/vocalist Peter Holland acquired Tom Fyfe to fill the position, and subsequently found a label home on Ripple Music. It’ll be a different Stubb than they were on their 2012 self-titled debut (review here), but the fuzz runs strong in them however the changes might manifest in the finished product from the studio, and I can’t even think of “Under a Spell” without hearing the chorus in my head, so yeah, I’m on board. Stubb on Thee Facebooks.

 

33. SunnO))) & Ulver,Terrestrials

A collaboration between drone lords SunnO))) and Norwegian post-black metal progenitors Ulver probably isn’t the kind of thing that’s going to make you crush a beer can on your forehead and call your bros to come over and check it out (actually, I don’t know what kind of music does that, but it probably sucks), but Terrestrials has the potential to be one of 2014’s most unique releases all the same. After Ulver‘s delving into orchestral minimalism on 2013’s Messe I-IX, it’s really anyone’s best guess what this will sound like when it comes out on Feb. 4. SunnO))) explored some cinematic ground with 2009’s Monoliths and Dimensions (review here), but still, to speculate seems like setting myself up to be a fool later. Southern Lord Recordings website.

 

34. Tombs, Savage Gold

For their third album for Relapse, Brooklyn three-turned-four-piece Tombs headed south to Florida to record with Hate Eternal‘s Erik Rutan. If vague Thee Facebook posts are anything to go by, the resulting LP is 57:18 and titled Savage Gold. I’m not sure when it’ll be out, but as the follow-up to 2011’s widely and loudly lauded Path of Totality, whatever it’s called and whenever the new Tombs shows up, chances are it’s going to receive as much extremity as it doles out. Tombs on Thee Facebooks.

 

35. Triptykon, Melana Chasmata

Heirs to the black, shiny and probably spiky throne of Celtic Frost, ultra-dark metallers Triptykon will answer 2010’s Eparistera Daimones (review here) with Melana Chasmata, which though it’s somewhat easier to type is no doubt even more gleefully excruciating a listen. As with the debut, they’ll mark the release with an appearance at Roadburn (info here). No audio has surfaced yet, but with a release date set for April 24, that can’t be too far off. Will Tom G. Warrior push Triptykon further away from their Celtic Frost lineage? I don’t know, but if there’s beauty in darkness, he’s the one to find it. Triptykon on Thee Facebooks.

 

36. Truckfighters, Universe

Feb. 4 is the stated release date for Universe (review here), the fourth album from Örebro fuzzdudes Truckfighters. The Swedish three-piece explore ground that at the same time is more emotionally complex than their last outing, 2009’s Mania (review here), and also more straightforward in the songwriting, resulting in a collection of tracks not necessarily as upbeat as some of what they’ve done in the past, but ultimately working toward a different kind of realization. No doubt hard touring will follow throughout the rest of this year, so if you want to catch Truckfighters, you’re likely to get your chance. Truckfighters on Thee Facebooks.

 

37. Valley of the Sun, Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk

Like Truckfighters, Midwestern heavy rockers Valley of the Sun will issue their new album, the somewhat cumbersomely-titled Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk on Fuzzorama Records, and the two acts are slated to tour together in Europe from Feb. 8 through March 14 ahead of Valley of the Sun‘s April 1 release date. If you contributed to their crowdfunding campaign, you might already have a copy of Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk on vinyl, but either way, the official release is worthy of note, particularly for as much growth as the full-length (their debut) shows from 2011’s already-impressive The Sayings of the Seers (review here). Valley of the Sun on Thee Facebooks.

 

38. Weedeater, TBA

Not certain how to tell you this, but I’m not sure we’re going to see a new Weedeater album this year. Between the North Carolina sludgers’ busy tour schedule and Season of Mist reissuing their other four albums, it seems like an awful lot for Weedeater to then also write and record a follow-up to 2011’s Jason… the Dragon (review here). I’m not saying it can’t be done — hell, for all I know they’ve finished writing and the studio is booked — but if a new Weedeater arrives, although it was mentioned with their West Coast tour dates that start this week, right now it seems like it would be later in 2014 or maybe early 2015 by the time it gets here. Hey, I could be wrong. I’d prefer it that way. Weedeater on Thee Facebooks.

 

39. Wolves in the Throne Room, TBA

They put out BBC Session 2011 Anno Domini last year as a kind of holdover release, but last month brought news of new songs for 2014, which would be Wolves in the Throne Room‘s first since Celestial Lineage in 2011. They toured their heaviest yet that record, so a bit of a break wasn’t necessarily out of order, but for an act who inspire the kind of loyalty that Wolves in the Throne Room do, three years can be a long time. Not much by way of specifics on the new release, whether it’s a full-length or not, when they might record, where, or when it might surface, but we know they’ve got new material, and that’s a step. Wolves in the Throne Room’s website.

 

40. The Wounded Kings, Consolamentum

Due Feb. 24 on Candlelight, Consolamentum is the fourth long-player in the tumultuous career of British progressive doomers The Wounded Kings, who despite a seemingly endless series of lineup shifts have managed to release their four albums in a span of six years. With guitarist/founder Steve Mills at the core and the eerie but powerful vocals of Sharie Neyland over top, The Wounded Kings have tapped into a doom quick to separate itself from the pack, and Consolamentum conjures some of their most oppressive atmospherics yet, with expansive cuts like “Gnosis” and “The Silence” fed into by ambient passages and interludes. The Wounded Kings on Thee Facebooks.

 

41. Yawning Man, Gravity is Good for You

Desert legends Yawning Man released a split with Fatso Jetson in 2013 — only appropriate, since the two acts share Mario Lalli — but Gravity is Good for You, like whatever Acid King might have in store, is a holdover from last year’s list. Guitarist Gary Arce of the long-running and hugely influential instrumental jammers has reportedly been in the studio with Lalli and Third Ear Experience drummer Erik Mouness (video surfaced), but there’s yet to be concrete word on when Gravity is Good for You, reportedly a double album and the band’s follow-up to 2010’s Nomadic Pursuits (review here), might be finished. Got my fingers crossed it’s this year. Yawning Man on Thee Facebooks.

 

42. YOB, TBA

Feels like a terribly long way to go only to get to one of the albums I’m most looking forward to hearing, but the alphabet works in mysterious ways sometimes. On Jan. 7, Eugene, Oregon, überdoomers YOB posted the following on their Thee Facebooks: “Had an amazing YOB practice. The new songs are fully in focus. 2 mega DOOM bludgeoners, one “faster” song, and the most beautiful arrangement we’ve ever written to close. 4 songs, 55 minutes.” Last I heard, they were to begin recording for their seventh (man, time flies) LP this week with a release in the months to follow, and since YOB haven’t put out an album since 2004 that I didn’t pick it as my Album of the Year, you can bet your ass I’m looking forward to what they do next. Particularly that part about “the most beautiful arrangement we’ve ever written.” Sold. YOB on Thee Facebooks.

Others to keep an eye on, some mentioned above, some not:

Ararat, III (Another 2013 holdover)
The Atlas Moth, The Old Believer (Out in June)
Brant Bjork, Jakoozi
Blackfinger, Blackfinger
Godhunter, City of Dust
Ice Dragon (Some older releases are being physically pressed and new stuff is never far off)
King Buffalo (Their demo ruled)
King Dead (First audio just surfacing, but holds promise)
Lo-Pan (Been a while in the making at this point, hopefully 2014)
Pet the Preacher, The Cave and the Sunlight
The Proselyte (EP coming on Gypsyblood Records)
Rainbows are Free, Waves ahead of the Ocean
Saint Vitus (Began writing last Fall)
Salem’s Pot, Lurar ut dig på prärien
The Scimitar (Debut from Black Pyramid offshoot)
Seedy Jeezus (Recording in Australia now with Tony Reed)
Serpent Venom, Of Things Seen and Unseen
Spirit Caravan (Nothing announced but you never know)
Various Artists, Songs of Townes Van Zandt Pt. II
Wino & Conny Ochs (Maybe, maybe not)
The Wisdoom, Hypothalamus
Wo Fat (New album recorded)

I’m quite positive that the first thing to happen after this is posted is that someone will chime in with something I forgot. At least I hope that’s what happens. As large as this list has turned out to be (much, much larger than I thought it would be when I started taking notes for it), there’s no way it could cover everything, and I hope if there’s an upcoming release in particular that you’re looking forward to, you’ll please let me know in the comments.

Thank you so much for reading and for all of your support. Here’s to an amazing 2014.

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Conan Reveal Blood Eagle Details and Artwork

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 5th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Conan know what it’s all about: Heads on spikes. Go ahead and click the image above to enlarge the Tony Roberts artwork for their second full-length and Napalm Records debut, Blood Eagle, and see if you don’t agree. You’ll probably notice the crowns on a couple of those heads, including that being shown off by The Sentinel, who’s more or less become the band’s mascot over the course of their releases. I’ve got an interview in the can with Conan guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis in which he talks about the album, so now that the info’s public, I’ll get on transcribing it to post sometime before the New Year, and as you can see in the announcement below, Blood Eagle is out in Feb./March.

It’s the heaviest news you’re going to read all day:

The Wait Is Over; Details & Artwork Of Our New Album ‘Blood Eagle’ Revealed

We are proud to show you the tracklist and artwork for our next album and our debut for Napalm Records entitled ‘Blood Eagle’.

Recorded at SkyHammer Studio, by Chris Fielding, and mastered by James Plotkin this album follows on from ‘Monnos‘ and ‘Horseback Battle Hammer‘ and combines elements of both sporting amazing inner and outer sleeve art by Tony Roberts. We look forward to playing these tracks live on our upcoming UK and European tours.

‘Blood Eagle’ will be available on Gatefold Vinyl, Digipack CD and Digital formats with the official street dates as follows:

28/02/2014: G/A/S, FIN & Benelux
03/03/2014: UK & Rest of Europe
05/03/2014: ESP, SWE & NOR
11/03/2014: USA/CAN

‘Blood Eagle’ Tracklist:
1. Crown of Talons
2. Total Conquest
3. Foehammer
4. Gravity Chasm
5. Horns For Teeth
6. Altar of Grief

And to celebrate the release of ‘Blood Eagle’, Napalm Records will also reissue our debut album ‘Horseback Battle Hammer’ as a strictly limited collector’s vinyl edition.

http://www.hailconan.com/news/
https://www.facebook.com/conandoom

Conan, “Gravity Chasm” Live at Desertfest London 2013

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Revisiting the Top 20 of 2012

Posted in Features on June 27th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

They always say you there’s no going back. I don’t know who they are, but they’re right. As I searched back through posts to find the Top 20 of 2012, I realized it had been way too long since I heard some of these records. It’s so easy to get caught up with what’s current and what’s coming next that sometimes I forget to actually listen to albums I already enjoyed. That happened a couple times along the way.

When a year ends and the lists start coming out, it’s like records as numbered, stocked and then forgotten. I guess I’m guilty of it too. With that in mind, here’s a quick revisit to what I had as my favorites of 2012:

The Top 20 of 2012 Revisited

20. Mos Generator, Nomads
I can’t even look at this album cover without hearing the chorus to “Lonely One Kenobi” play in my head. Still a sentimental favorite.

19. Golden Void, Golden Void
Haven’t put it on in a while, but probably should.

18. Wight, Through the Woods into Deep Water
Ditto. This record was great and if I made the list today, it would probably be higher than it is here.

17. Lord Fowl, Moon Queen
Didn’t I start this week off with Moon Queen? Well, I guess it’s pretty fresh on my mind.

16. Pallbearer, Sorrow and Extinction
I’ve seen them three times so far this year and they’ve delivered each time, but haven’t put on the album itself in a while. Still looking forward to new stuff though.

15. Kadavar, Kadavar
I think I’ve had more fascinating conversations about Kadavar than any other band in the last year. So many opinions, so widely varied. I dig the self-titled, will probably have the follow-up on my list at the end of 2013. Nuclear Blast needs to bring them over to tour, maybe opening for Witchcraft?

14. Stubb, Stubb
Yay fuzz! Catchy songs, easy formula, well structured and impeccably performed.My favorite straight-up heavy rock record of 2012.

13. Orange Goblin, A Eulogy for the Damned
Hard to fuck with these dudes. The production here was a presence, but the songs still hold up.

12. Ararat, II
No shit, I live in terror of having Ararat release their third album and missing it. Like all of a sudden the album will have been out for three months and I’d have no idea.

11. Ufomammut, Oro
Haven’t listened to Opus Primum or Opus Alter since. Can’t help but think if Oro was released as one record, I’d put it on from time to time.

10. Conan, Monnos
I put this in the top 10 for a reason. Because it’s fucking ridiculously heavy. I stand by my reasoning. Looking forward to their new one.

9. My Sleeping Karma, Soma
An album I couldn’t manage to put down even when I wanted to, and one I still pick up from time to time. Glad I finally gave in an bought a copy to get away from the shitty digital promo version.

8. Graveyard, Lights Out
Maybe I burnt myself out on this? I went on a binge after their show in January for a bit and then put Lights Out away and that was that.

7. Saint Vitus, Lillie: F-65
Every time I’m in a record store, flip through the Vitus selection and see my quote on the sticker on the front of the jewel case of Lillie: F-65, I feel like an entire decade of shitty career decisions is justified. No bullshit.

6. Ancestors, In Dreams and Time
Brilliant. Mostly brilliant for closer “First Light,” but that song was brilliant enough to get this spot on the list anyway.

5. High on Fire, De Vermis Mysteriis
Hard to argue with its intensity. Not much staying power as I would’ve thought, but god damn that’s a heavy record.

4. Neurosis, Honor Found in Decay
An overwhelming listen. I have to prepare my head for putting it on, but I continue to find it worth the effort.

3. Greenleaf, Nest of Vipers
It was the highlight of my year last year to see this material live. Greenleaf have a new lineup now and another album in the works, but if Nest of Vipersis how the last one was going out, they killed it.

2. Om, Advaitic Songs
Sometimes I fantasize about living in a temple where I wake up and Advaitic Songs is playing every day. That is 100 percent true.

1. Colour Haze, She Said
I’d probably listen to it even more if it was on one CD, but god damn, this record is amazing. Another one that’s kind of overwhelming, but it gets regular play as I expect it will continue to do into perpetuity.

All in all, pretty great year. Some stuff that’s fallen by the wayside, but a few landmarks as well that have carried over, and more importantly, some that seem like they’ll continue to carry over and grow in appeal as more time passes. Wight should’ve been higher on the list, but other than that, I’ll take it.

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