Posted in Whathaveyou on November 28th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
A friendly reminder that this very Saturday is Small Stone‘s showcase at The Magic Stick in Detroit. Since the one in Boston earlier this month was such an unholy good time, I can only heartily recommend that the entire Midwest shows up and prepares itself for riffy communion. Even if The Obelisk wasn’t presenting it, it’d still be a kickass rock gig, and probably as far east as we’re going to get Sasquatch anytime soon.
Label honcho (and Luder guitarist, as it happens) Scott Hamilton was recently interviewed by Detroit’s Metro Times about how he manages to thrive where so many others have succumbed to the likes of internet piracy, generational disinterest in rock, and so on. Pretty fascinating read, but before you click over, make sure you’ve got the skinny on the gig Saturday, because you don’t want to miss it.
Since many folks have been asking us for a few years now, we have finally caved in… So here it is in all its glory, a full blown SSR Showcase in the state that we actually live in. We have put together a top notch line up which features the return of New Jersey’s Halfway To Gone for the first time since 2005! Come early, stay late… The Magic Stick is great venue, and the drinks will be flowing at reasonable prices too… It should be an epic evening of rawk… Hell, we might even have copies of the new album from Five Horse Johnson at the show too.
Halfway To Gone (Long Branch, NJ) Five Horse Johnson (Toledo, OH) Sasquatch (Los Angeles, CA) Freedom Hawk (Virginia Beach, VA) Luder (Ferndale, MI)
Doors: 7pm Tickets: $10.00
The Fine folks over at Tito’s Vodka are helping us and the Magic Stick will have Tito’s Drink Specials All Night!
Posted in Reviews on August 22nd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Not to be confused with the early ‘70s occult folk outfit of the same name, the metal band Coven formed in Detroit in 1985. Soon after the release of their 1987 debut album, Worship New Gods, the foursome would be contacted by the Jinx Dawson-fronted unit who once reminded us that witchcraft destroys minds and reaps souls, and forced to change their name to Coven 13, but for the first record, which came to enjoy a kind of limited cult appeal over the years since its initial issue, they were still Coven, and so it is on the new Shadow Kingdom Records repress of Worship New Gods. The new version is billed as a 25th anniversary celebration release, but it’s not bloated with special bonus tracks, interviews or anything like that, instead just focusing on the album itself. Frankly, that’s treat enough. Shadow Kingdom have spent the last few years paying direct homage to the NWOBHM and classic metal, but Coven are a bit harder to place stylistically, aligning themselves to fantasy metal on songs like “Riddle of Steel” and the Camelot-themed “Wicked Day,” a sort of non-industrial proto-goth on “Kiss Me with Blood” and keep a semi-pagan sensibility in their use of runes on the album cover and in the memorable finale, “Loki.” Whatever else it has going for it, Worship New Gods bleeds personality. The vocals of David Landrum are more swaggering than one might expect for something so stylistically varied and roughly produced (the album sounds both of its era and of its budget), and bassist/keyboardist Roger Cyrkiel, who also recorded, adds a flourish of melody and atmosphere that goes beyond the traditional metal songwriting. A song like “Ruler” may have gang-chant-esque backing vocals in its chorus, but “Threshold of the New,” despite having a near-Misfits punkish forward drive in Brian McGuckin’s drums, is as atmospheric as it is abrupt, Landrum’s vocals holding to a sub-swirl of compression and echo and guitarist Todd Kreda offering surprising shred in his solo.
It’s pretty easy to see why Worship New Gods earned its reissue. Apart from the fact that Coven have reunited as Coven 13 with second guitarist Richie Karacynski and reportedly begun work on a new album to be released on Shadow Kingdom, this nine-track/39-minute collection seems to feed off its blend, and while in the years since its initial release, some of the elements at work across this material have broken off into their own styles – goth, doom, pagan metal, etc. – these songs arguably capture a crossroads moment in the growth of metal as a whole. Apart from that, it sounds cool. More to the point, it sounds Old, and mysterious, and obscure, which no doubt accounts for a good portion of its appeal. That said, Coven had a surprising grasp on their aesthetic, multifaceted as it was, and songs like “Burial Ground,” “Wicked Day,” “Ruler,” and “Threshold of the New” sound dated here, but not at all irrelevant. “General’s Eyes” is memorable in more than just its commonality of progression with Metallica’s “Four Horsemen” (and, by extension, Megadeth’s “Mechanix”), and whether the foursome is thrashing out as they are early in that track or working in the more open, plodding style of “Loki,” they maintain a strong undercurrent of craft and pop hooks that works to tie Worship New Gods together as a cohesive whole. Landrum’s vocals are rough in some places – on the closer he seems to be struggling to keep up with the chorus – and his over-the-top approach probably isn’t going to sit well in all ears, but he effectively caps the atmosphere in “Riddle of Steel” and “Kiss Me with Blood,” and despite only being three tracks apart, the stylistic gap between those songs is much wider. I don’t know if Coven set out to make an album so varied – it’s hard to listen to a reissue like this and divorce hindsight from what actually went into making it a quarter-century ago – but the nuances they bring to their approach make Worship New Gods a richer listen than one might initially think on the first or second time through.
Founded in 1995 by Scott Hamilton, Detroit imprint Small Stone Records is the single most influential American heavy rock label of the post-Man’s Ruin era. What started as Hamilton releasing local Detroit acts of varied genres like Morsel, 36D and Perplexa soon took on a dedication to the heavy aesthetic that remains unmatched in both its scope and its reach of influence. Looking back, Five Horse Johnson‘s 1997 Double Down debut, seems to have been the beginning of Small Stone‘s turn down the fuzzly path. It’s like Hamilton followed the riff right down the rabbit hole and never looked back.
Now, 17 years on, Small Stone has a reach that goes beyond even the distribution of the albums it puts out. Thanks to the diligent work of Hamilton and oft-encountered names like Mad Oak Studios engineer/mixer Benny Grotto, mastering engineer Chris Gooseman, graphic artist Alexander von Wieding, among others, the label has earned a reputation for quality output that new releases are constantly reaffirming. Over the years, Man’s Ruin refugees like Sons of Otis, (The Men Of) Porn, Acid King and VALIS have come into the fold, but the crux of Small Stone‘s catalog is made up of acts like Roadsaw, Dixie Witch, Halfway to Gone, Throttlerod, Puny Human and Novadriver, who no matter what else they put out or who they put it out with, will always be considered “Small Stone bands.”
That designation and those groups specifically have helped establish a core American-style heavy rocking sound that the label seems to delight in toying with even as it continues to promulgate. Next generation bands like Gozu, Lo-Pan, Freedom Hawk, Backwoods Payback and even newer newcomers Wo Fat, Supermachine, Lord Fowl and Mellow Bravo — who don’t yet have albums out on the label — are expanding its breadth, and recent international signees Asteroid, Abrahma, Mangoo, Nightstalker and Mother of God should help ensure that Small Stone keeps pushing both itself and genre boundaries well into the next several years.
One of the hazards, however, of an ever-growing catalog, is that it can be hard to figure out where to start taking it on, and to that end, I’m happy to provide you with 10 essential Small Stone picks. Note I didn’t say “the 10 essential Small Stone picks,” because the reality of the situation is this is just the tip of the fuzzberg. If it’s any indication, I started out with five and couldn’t leave the rest out.
Here they are, ordered by the date of release:
1. Novadriver, Void (ss-022/2001)
Still an album that’s more or less impossible to pin to just one genre, the stoner/space/weirdo jams of Novadriver‘s 2001 outing, Void, reside somewhere between Monster Magnet‘s early Hawkwind worship and the unbridled intensity of groove that came out of Detroit’s early- and mid-’70s heavy rock and proto-metal. The fact that Novadriver also came from the Motor City speaks to the label’s local roots, but if Void was coming out even today, it’d be coming out on Small Stone.
2. Los Natas, Corsario Negro (ss-028/2002)
Personally, I think 2005′s El Hombre Montaña is a better album and 2009′s Nuevo Orden de la Libertad is an even better album than that, but Corsario Negro earns the edge as a starting point because it was the beginning of the Argentinian rockers’ relationship with Small Stone (they too were left without a home in the wake of Man’s Ruin folding). Plus, if you haven’t heard them before and you get this, you can still marvel at the subsequent offerings. Either way, totally necessary.
3. Various Artists, Sucking the ’70s (ss-032/2002)
In a lot of ways, this is what it’s all about. Badass bands playing badass songs. By this point, The Glasspack, Los Natas, Fireball Ministry, Halfway to Gone and Five Horse Johnson (who lead off the first disc) had already put out at least one album through Small Stone, but Sucking the ’70s made the most of the label’s burgeoning reputation, bringing in Clutch, Alabama Thunderpussy and Lowrider, along with bands who’d later add records to the catalog like Roadsaw, Suplecs and Lord Sterling, all covering hits and obscurities from the heavy ’70s. A gorgeous collection that would get a sequel in 2006. Still waiting on part three.
4. Dixie Witch, One Bird, Two Stones (ss-037/2003)
The Austin, Texas, trio would go on to become one of the most pivotal acts on the Small Stone roster, and they’d do so on the strength of their Southern riffs and the soul in their songwriting. Led by drummer/vocalist Trinidad Leal, Dixie Witch hooked up with Small Stone on the heels of their 2001 debut, Into the Sun, which was released by Brainticket, and quickly gained a reputation for some of the finest classic road songs that Grand Funk never wrote (see “The Wheel”). Their 2011 offering, Let it Roll, affirmed their statesmen status among their labelmates.
5. Sasquatch, Sasquatch (ss-044/2004)
I was pretty well convinced that when the L.A.-based Sasquatch released their self-titled debut in 2004, rock and roll was saved. Whoever it needed saving from, whatever needed to take place to make that happen, this record did it. Truth is, rock and roll didn’t really need to be saved — it needed a stiff drink, as we all do from time to time — but Sasquatch would’ve been right there even if it had. They’re a Small Stone original with all three of their records to date out through the label, and still one of the strongest acts in the American rock underground, even though they’d never be quite this fuzzy again.
6. Dozer, Through the Eyes of Heathens (ss-061/2005)
Even now, seven years later, I can’t look at this album cover without hearing the chorus to “The Roof, the River, the Revolver.” Between that and songs like “Man of Fire,” “Born a Legend” and “From Fire Fell,” Swedish rockers Dozer made their definitive statement in their label debut (fourth album overall). Another former Man’s Ruin band, they’d already begun to grow past their desert rock roots by the time they hooked up with Hamilton, and Through the Eyes of Heathens played out like what heavy metal should’ve turned into after the commercial atrocities of the late-’90s. A gorgeous record and still a joy to hear.
7. Greenleaf, Agents of Ahriman (ss-074/2007)
It’s like they built nearly every song on here out of undeniable choruses. Even the verses are catchy. I’ve championed Agents of Ahriman since before I started this site, and I feel no less vehement in doing so now than I did then. A side-project of Dozer guitarist Tommi Holappa that on this, their third album, included and featured members of Truckfighters, Lowrider, The Awesome Machine and others, Greenleaf became a distillation of many of the elements that make Swedish heavy rock unique in the world. It wasn’t aping classic rock, it was giving it a rebirth, and every Hammond note was an absolute triumph.
8. Iota, Tales (ss-084/2008)
Once, I had a t-shirt with the cover of Iota‘s Tales on the front. I wore it until it got holes, and then I bought another. That’s the kind of album Tales was. A trio crawled from out of Utah’s Great Salt Lake, Iota took Kyuss, launched them into space, and jammed out for five, 10 or 20 minutes to celebrate the success of the mission. Recently, guitarist/vocalist Joey Toscano has resurfaced in the bluesier, more earthbound Dwellers, which teams him with the rhythm section of SubRosa. Their debut, Good Morning Harakiri, was a highlight of early 2012, building on what Iota was able to accomplish here while pushing in a different direction.
9. Solace, A.D. (ss-093/2010)
It took the better part of a decade for the Jersey-bred metallers to finish what became their Small Stone debut after two full-lengths for MeteorCity, but when it finally dropped, there was no denying A.D.‘s power. My album of the year in 2010, the band delivered front to back on seven years’ worth of promise, and though it was recorded in more studios than I can count over a longer stretch than I think even Solace knows, it became a cohesive, challenging album, giving listeners a kick in the ass even as it handed them their next beer. I still get chills every time I put on “From Below,” and I put it on with near-embarrassing regularity.
10. Lo-Pan, Salvador (ss-116/2011)
If you know this site, this one’s probably a no-brainer pick, but the Columbus, Ohio-based riff merchants took on unabashed stoner rock fuzz for their Small Stone debut (third album overall) and made some of 2011′s most memorable songs in the process. Subversively varied in mood and heavy as hell no matter what they were doing, every part of Lo-Pan‘s Salvador worked. There was no lag. Small Stone also reissued the band’s 2009 outing, Sasquanaut, in 2011, but Salvador surpassed it entirely, bringing the band to new heights of professionalism they’d confirm by touring, well, perpetually. They’re still touring for it. You should go see them and behold the future of fuzz.
That’s the list as much as I could limit it. If you want to immediately add five more, throw in Roadsaw‘s self-titled (they’re writing the best songs of their career right now, I don’t care how attached to the early records you are), Puny Human‘s Universal Freak Out, Halfway to Gone‘s High Five, Milligram‘s This is Class War and Five Horse Johnson‘s Fat Black Pussycat. If you want to semi-immediately add five more than that, get the reissue of Acid King‘s Busse Woods, Mos Generator‘sSongs for Future Gods, The Brought Low‘s Third Record, Tummler‘s Early Man and Erik Larson‘s The Resounding. There. We just doubled the length of the list.
And the real trouble? I could go on. We didn’t even touch on curios like Axehandle, Lord Sterling and Brain Police, or The Might Could‘s Southern aggression, Hackman‘s instrumentalism or the druggy post-grunge of VALIS. Suffice it to say that Small Stone is one of very few labels out there from whom any output will at least be worth a cursory investigation. As the label continues to grow and develop in 2012 and beyond with new bands and new releases from its staple acts, taking on new avenues of commerce — like releasing vinyl for the first time, which it did in 2011 — whatever changes might crop up, Small Stone seems ready to meet the future, distortion pedal first. Can’t ask more of rock than that.
Posted in Reviews on December 8th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Some days it just feels like we’re all living in the echo of Dead Meadow’s ringing tones. The impression is reinforced by the full-yet-somehow-minimalist-sounding Detroit trio, Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor, whose fashion-worthy, restrained distortion blends the shoegaze wanderings of the aforementioned East Coast expats with some of The Doors’ storm-riding slinkiness (Baltimore‘s The Flying Eyes come to mind as compatriots in that regard). The album is Spectra Spirit, and it’s Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor’s second self-release behind a 2009 self-titled, comprised of nine varied tracks of tilt-your-head-back cave pop, open-spaced Americana and the kind of neo-psychedelic spirit fostered in Tee Pee sub-hipster bands like Quest for Fire and Weird Owl. Periodic hooks like “You go downtown to the hole in your brain” from the centerpiece “The Hole in Your Brain” serve as landmarks for would-be travelers, and though at this point the line between poser indie and American heavy psych is about as blurry as a hipstamatic press shot, Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor’s warmth of tone and occasional shift into thickly-delivered bliss makes Spectra Spirit work on its own terms. Greatly aided by a natural-feeling production, the songs can’t help but flow smoothly in themselves and between each other, setting a vibe of grander exploration without ever really going full-on experimental or lapsing into more self-indulgence than is warranted by the style.
And “style” is a keyword when it comes to Spectra Spirit. As their European counterparts seem to be morphing into jam-based, lengthier compositions, American acts like Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor present a darker take. The later cut “Sweet Girl Insanity” is the longest on the album at 5:46 and has probably the most effective build of any of the songs here, with drummer/backing vocalist RickSawoscinski announcing the payoff with the loudest snare hits on the whole of Spectra Spirit and guitarist/vocalist SeanMorrow clicking whichever of what I can only assume is a vast collection of pedals puts his tone into full-rock mode. By contrast, bassist/backing vocalist EricOppitz (who also handles organ when there’s organ to handle) stands out more in the song’s subdued beginning, cutting through the subtle swirl with an anchoring tone that not only keeps the rhythm, but enhances the atmosphere. Earlier, in the upbeat opening duo of “Untitled” and “Black Mind” – the latter which features Oppitz’s long-held organ notes – the bass occurs as part of a larger barrage of noise, and it’s absent from the acoustic-based “Howlers on the Roam,” but where it’s brought to the fore, Spectra Spirit is fuller and more effective for it. Morrow’s guitar leads most of the material, unsurprisingly, and his vocals are responsible for much of Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor’s chic feel. The Jim Morrison comparison has already been hinted at and is worth reiterating for Morrow’s delivery of “Howlers on the Roam” and the post-centerpiece “Did You Hear the Lion Roar, Mr. Wig,” the latter of which sets its late-night boozery and pill-popping against a backdrop of late ‘60s echoing and would fall utterly flat in its first half as the low point of the album were it not for Oppitz’s work on bass.
Posted in On the Radar on November 23rd, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s a rare band that will have me throwing the horns at my desk, but so help me Robot Jeebus, the first time I listened to the self-titled EP from Detroit five-piece Knife, up they went at the end of opening track, “The Mess.” It was a gut reaction. No choice in the matter. The song is the perfect balance of catchy choruses and bearded burl, like the first Queens of the Stone Age record after getting its ass kicked a couple times.
As much as Detroit has seen the growth of a hipster culture the last few years, Knife have nothing to do with any of that. In the same vein as like-minded heavy Motor City bastards Chapstik and Mean Mother, they rock straightforward and more than a bit angry, pulling back some on the aggression for “Lake of Tar” (especially as compares to “This Field was Made for Killing” preceding) but giving little slack in the momentum. Knife is only six songs, 25 minutes, but in that time, the band establishes a firm pattern of riffs and solos, earning their two guitars and still leaving room for the standalone vocals of Curt Massof, which more than earn it.
Whether it’s the start-stop semi-Southern chugga groove of “Outrider” (little Danzig in there) or the unbridled energy of “Lineage,” Knife make sure their foot is right at home in the ass of their listener, and though I don’t know what the deal is with them and a label, them and a full-length, them and touring, them and their lineup, etc., I just wanted to put these songs on here because I actually dig the music. Figure the rest will work itself out.
Posted in Reviews on June 20th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
They’ve made a beeline for the rock, have Michigan’s Mean Mother. The Detroit/Grand Rapids four-piece – who formed in 2003 as a side-project of more metallic acts like Ganon and Today I Wait – make their full-length debut (I think; there seems to be one release before it, but info is scarce) in the form of Rock ‘n’ Roll Shakedown (Saw Her Ghost Records), an album the name of which pretty much tells you everything you need to know about it. The first lines of the opening title cut read as follows: “Make a fist for rock ‘n’ roll/Yeah/Come on/Right now,” and from right there, it only gets more apparent that Mean Mother have no interest in poetry, no interest in brooding melancholy, no interest in pompous artistic posing. They’re here to drink, riff and groove, and Rock ‘n’ Roll Shakedown only asks that you come along for the catchy 42-minute joyride.
It’s the kind of heavy rock one expects to come more from Texas than Michigan – acts like Blood of the Sun and SuperHeavyGoatAss springing to mind as comparison points; or maybe even the new school of Small Stone rockers like Backwoods Payback and Lo-Pan (neither of whom is Texan) – but no question the double-guitar foursome have their papers in order when the issue is heavy rock influences. From Clutch to Deep Purple to the obvious Sabbath and Motörhead cues, they only want to rock, and the utter lack of pretense of anything else is what makes Rock ‘n’ Roll Shakedown work. A track like “Easy Livin’” makes its bones on ‘70s riffing and the white-guy-soulful delivery of guitarist Roxy Vega as backed by bassist Clint Debone, and there’s a million directions one could go in saying, “I’ve heard this before” in citing bands, but Mean Mother do what they do well and write a solid heavy rock song. Vega and fellow guitarist Cobra O’Kelly offer righteous riff-grooves and soloing, and Debone and drummer Bronco Johnson consistently lay down warm foundational rhythms. There’s a reason it’s become the heavy rock formula over the last 40 years, and the reason is it sounds cool.
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 10th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Coming off yesterday’s bummer news of Backwoods Payback‘s partial tour cancellation, Small Stone Records has revealed their schedule for their first-ever batch of vinyl releases. Small Stone, who’ve traditionally stuck to the smaller-form plastic discs, are preparing to launch limited editions of records new and old, starting with Californian classic rockers Sasquatch‘s 2010 release, III, next month.
Label honcho Scott Hamilton sent over the following update with the schedule in tow, links to preorder (click the band names) and notice that two additional vinyls are to come before 2011 is over:
So, we just got word from the folks at United Record Pressing that the Sasquatch III vinyl is scheduled to get pressed on Monday, March 7. If you happened to pre-order a copy, we estimate that your order will go out sometime in the next two weeks. Literally, whatever day we have them back from URP, all pre-orders will get processed and mailed out on that same day. Unless of course, the LPs show up when we are down at the SXSW Festival, in which case, all pre-orders will be sent out on Monday, March 21.
We have also been getting a ton of emails about our forthcoming vinyl releases, so here is a rough vinyl release schedule that we currently have in the works for 2011. Also, all of these will be specially remastered for vinyl, and printed in limited edition, one-time-only runs between 300-500 copies. So when they are gone, they will be Sold Out and Out Of Print.
Sasquatch – III - 180g LP (April) Roadsaw- S/T – 180g LP (May) Tia Carrera – Cosmic Priestess - Gatefold/ 180g LP (June) Lo-Pan – Salvador - 180g LP (July) Ironweed – Your World of Tomorrow – Gatefold/ 180g LP (August) Gozu- Locust Season – 180g LP (September) The Brought Low- Right on Time – 180g LP (October)
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 3rd, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Coming off an exceptionally bright 2010 that had killer albums from Red Giant, Gozu, House of Broken Promises and Solace, Detroit‘s Small Stone Records is showing no signs of slowing down. Their first releases of 2011, Suplecs and The Might Could are available now, and there’s more to come in April with Roadsaw and Austin, Texas, improv artists Tia Carrera.
Let’s let the label take it from here:
We hope that you all survived the holidays. We have kept ourselves rather busy here at Small Stone HQ, so here is some quick news to keep you all in the loop.
The brand new recordings (in the CD format) from both The Might Could and Suplecs are now in stock and ready for your consumption… Buy them both, and thank us later. They just smoke, plain and simple!
The brand new recordings from Roadsaw and Tia Carrera are now getting mastered. The new self-titled album from Roadsaw will hit the streets in March, andTia Carrera’s new album Cosmic Priestess will hit the streets in April. Both of these releases will be coming out on the LP and CD formats…
Both of the new albums (coming later this Spring) from Ironweed and Lo-Pan are currently in the mixing process at Mad Oak Studios, with our main man Benny Grotto working his engineering and production mojo on ‘em.
Finally, we are getting all geared up for the 2011 SXSW festival, which will include both a Small Stone Day Party and our official SXSW Evening Showcase… Lot’s of propaganda, details, and hype to soon follow.
Posted in Reviews on November 30th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
The second full-length from Detroit horror-obsessed doom and rollers Acid Witch might be the most aptly-named album of the year. They called it Stoned. Their first release through the extreme metal imprint Hell’s Headbangers (an appropriate home given Acid Witch’s deathly leanings), Stoned follows on the hooves of the Midnight Mass vinyl-only EP, released just a couple weeks prior, and fleshes out the ideas nascent on 2008’s Witchtanic Hallucinations debut. In many ways, the opening track, “Satanic Faith,” says it all. Spooky organs, horror movie samples, gleeful reveling in devil-worship; it’s all in good fun for the duo of Shagrat and Slasher Dave, and with the level of riffly mischief they get up to on tracks like “Trick or Treat,” there’s plenty of heaviness to back up the lighthearted approach.
It’s riff-led all the way. “Witchfynder Finder” sets the tone with Sabbath-worship and Trouble’s classic straightforward structures, but the death growled vocals give Stoned an atmosphere like a Hammer Horror version of Carcass’ Heartwork LP. Acid Witch know their doom, clearly, and they’re obviously not shy about showing off a stoner rock influence. “Trick or Treat” is among the catchiest songs on Stoned and an early highlight, but “Thundering Hooves” — its title line delivered in a cadence reminiscent of Electric Wizard’s “Dunwich” from Witchcult Today – proves no less exciting. Samples have been done to death and we all know it, but Acid Witch is so much fun to listen to, and so self-aware, that the cliché aspects of Stoned are more than half of what’s to enjoy. While I doubt either Shagrat or Slasher Dave sit around and pray to Satan, they’re not being ironic either. Rather, Acid Witch seems hell-bent on paying homage to the horror culture of the ‘70s in a way similar to a band like Hooded Menace, though their doing so takes a much less extremely metallic form. The organ on “Live Forever,” following the guitar into the solo as it does, is straight-up Deep Purple and not a move Hooded Menace would make.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 17th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
Detroit rock kingpins Small Stone Records — who are the subject of this month’s podcast in honor of their two-day label showcase in Philadelphia next weekend — issued an update this week via the PR wire giving everyone the skinny on the label’s recent doings. Behold the report in its informative entirety:
First off, the new album from Denver’s Black Sleep of Kali, Our Slow Decay is now available at a better record store near you. If you can’t find it, feel free to get it from us.
The long awaited new album from Cleveland’s Red Giant, titled Dysfunctional Majesty rolls out to stores on the 28th of this month, but you can get it a little early right here on the Small Stone Online Store.
On the recording front, the new albums from both Suplecs and Roadsaw are almost finished (they just need to get mixed and mastered), and will both get released sometime between January and March of 2011. Also, the boys in Ironweed are still plugging away on their follow-up to Indian Ladder. Lo-Pan are scheduled to hit MadOak to record their follow up to Sasquanaut, and we will also be reissuing a new version of the Sasquanaut album that will be completely remixed by Benny Grotto and remastered by Mr. Goosman. This Winter both Dixie Witch and Sun Gods in Exile are scheduled to hit Mad Oak to record new albums for us as well.
You asked for it, so we are going to give it to you… Sasquatch’s III will be coming out on vinyl very shortly via Small Stone… That’s right folks, we are going to finally take the plunge into the vinyl game. We are currently getting the art together, and having the album remastered for the pressing plant.
Finally, we hope to see many of you in Philly next week… We have two rather kickass night of rock music all laid out for you at the Philadelphia Film and Music Festival.
In honor of the label’s upcoming showcase in Philadelphia (info here) later in September, I’ve decided this month’s audiObelisk transmission should highlight some of the best contributions from Detroit‘s Small Stone Records. The biggest challenge in making this installment wasn’t deciding what to include in terms of bands, but where to stop. It’s about three hours long, and I probably could have gone another easily.
I wanted to include some of Small Stone‘s classic output, from bands like Acid King, The Men of Porn and Five Horse Johnson, and I had to make sure the current and new faces were represented as well: Gozu, Skanska Mord, House of Broken Promises. And just when I thought I was all set to go, I realized I’d forgotten to include Sasquatch. Don’t even ask me how. I was all converted, uploaded, labeled and live, and the next thing I knew I broke out III and ripped the opener, reconverted, re-uploaded, so on and so forth. I don’t know if that’s dedicated or dumb.
Either way, it’s worth being both, given all that Small Stone has done for the genre over the course of the last decade-plus. We start off with some love for Jersey, which the label has always been ready to show. Halfway to Gone, doing “Great American Scumbag.” It’s a song I think sums up a lot of what it means to be into this kind of music in this day and age. As always, I hope you dig it and the rest of the transmission, which is the longest yet at over three hours and featuring 35 bands. This one’s easily my favorite so far.
And if you’re wondering what the image is above, it’s the Detroit airport.
You know the drill: Full tracklist after the jump, stream the file above or download it here. As requested, I included time stamps for when each song starts.
Posted in Reviews on June 1st, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
Many bands sound angry. Many fewer of them actually are. With Year of the Pig, however, I buy it. I buy it completely. They certainly have enough to be angry about, being from Detroit, and given the political/socio-economic bent to their presented rage, there’s nothing about it that strikes as a put-on or disingenuous in any way. They’re pissed. Seriously.
On the six-track Year of the Pig EP (released through Spider Cuddler Records), the trio run through raging anti-corporatism and sub-Marxist commentaries. The lyrics – printed clearly and distinctly when you open the jewel case; clearly meant to be seen – being almost if not equally central to the music in terms of Year of the Pig getting their point across. With lines like “Primetime they evangelize and pray that our minds remain devoid,” there’s little danger of the audience not getting it, as guitarist/vocalist VinceWilliams (ex-7,000 Dying Rats, The Christpunchers) spits fury in the direction of the capitalists who have, admittedly, eaten our world alive, backed by the jabbing barks of bassist Hank Pardike and the technically precise yet somehow passionate drum work of JohnLehl (both ex-Diegrinder).
Pardike and Lehl have a tightness to their playing that underscores their years together in bands, and in Year of the Pig, they’re a huge portion of what makes the self-titled work. Lehl’s timely hi-hat hits in the intro of “Incinerator” bolster the beginning of the track and pave the way for Williams’ memorable lead lines to come. Throughout Year of the Pig, he doesn’t show himself to be a soloist in the shredding sense, but Williams’ leads on that song are what make it a highlight of the EP (there are several others), and Lehl and Pardike give him enough dynamic space so that he can shine where appropriate and be bolstered as necessary.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 5th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster
Detroit‘s Small Stone Records has a whole batch of good news, including release updates on House of Broken Promises, Sasquatch, Gozu and more. Be sure you make it to the end where it talks about Sk?nska Mord, the new project from the dudes who brought us Half Man. Wholesome Swedish goodness. Check it out:
We are pleased as punch to let you all know that the debut album Using the Useless from California‘s House of Broken Promises is now here and in stock. If you were one of the smarter folk who pre-ordered the album from us, your copy was mailed out to you earlier today. For those of you who are not quite self starters, the rawk and roll dinner bell is now ringing for you… Come and get it!
In other news, Benny Grotto has been busing recording the debut Gozu full length Locust Season over at Mad Oak. The album should be completed sometime in December, and is due for release sometime in 2010 (perhaps late Winter or Spring). The word on the street is that the new Gozu album is one of the best soundings recording to come out of the boards and gizmos at Mad Oak Studios. We are very much looking forward to hearing it!
Mr. Grotto will also be mixing the new Sasquatch album III in the next two weeks (or less). We already know how good that one sounds, and it sounds damn good! The new Sasquatch album will be coming out in March of 2010, just in time for their headline appearance at the Small Stone Showcase at SXSW 2010. The Sasquatch band is also gearing up for their first European Tour which will is tentatively scheduled to begin sometime in the Spring of 2010.
Finally, Mr. Goosman hand delivered us the mastered master of the debut album from Sweden’s Sk?nska Mord today. If you are not all that familiar with them, perhaps you may recall the band Half Man from about a decade ago (same guys, new band). Their debut album is called The Last Supper, and it will be our first release of 2010. We will also have a track from them up on our Jukebox sometime next month. If you are a fan the retro classic rock, ala The Want, Stone Axe, Greenleaf,Five Horse Johnson, and The Brought Low then you are going to really dig this band. Big guitars, big songs, big tones, all delivered with soul! Quite a dying art if you ask us.
Posted in Reviews on September 14th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster
As a careful parsing of the syllables reveals, the title of Luder?s Small Stone Records debut, Sonoluminescence refers to the process by which an object is lighten by sound. It?s an appropriate, if cumbersome, tag for the album, which finds the doubly-guitarred Detroit four-piece adventuring into darkly progressive metal and rock while incorporating elements like desert riffing (?Cold Hands, Warm Pants?) and heavy/ambient dynamics. They seem pretty lit up by what they?re doing.
The story goes that it was at the 2007 SXSWSmall Stone showcase that the seeds for Luder were planted in the form of a performance from Slot, whose The Sweet Black Bear was released on Small Stone in 2006. After the death of founding guitarist Billy Rivkin, Phil D?rr (Big Chief) and Small Stone?s own Scott Hamilton were brought in to fill the position alongside bassist/vocalist Sue Lott and drummer Eddie Alterman. The band wanted to continue, but out of respect for Rivkin, under a different name. Thus Luder. Alterman left citing real life and Novadriver?s Eric Miller came aboard for Sonoluminescence. (Hardly) The end.
Posted in Reviews on February 22nd, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster
When I say it’s hard to classify Detroit experimentalists Giant Brain‘s new album, Thorn of Thrones (Small Stone), understand it is a compliment, because the band’s obvious intention is to be more than one thing at one time. Complexity is a virtue, and if their electronically-influenced stoner/Kraut groove is anything, it is that; drawing on classic ’70s prog as much as heavily distorted modern power riffing (you can hear it on the charmingly and cumbersomely titled “This is Where the Robot Escapes His Evil Captor, Finds Raygun, Plots Revenge”), their sound could put off a lot of heads who either can’t get past the inorganic sound of programmed beats (there are natural drums as well) or who are just unwilling to dig through the band’s sonic puzzle and identify the familiarities beneath, but if we all didn’t have to work once in a while, boundaries would never get pushed.
The mostly instrumental outfit could easily be put off as a vanity project from Al Sutton, producer for the likes of avant-mathematicians Don Caballero and Small Stone mainstays Five Horse Johnson, but together with his brother Andy (who handles the programming and bass), former Big Chief guitarist Phil D?rr and drummer, etc., Eric Hoegemeyer (Deep See Sound System), Sutton taps into a level of versatility that goes beyond mere showing off. The Porcupine Tree-esque acoustic/electric interplay of “Empyrian” — think In Absentia-era — and the straightforward driving riff that propels the eight-minute-long “Gooser” gives the impression that rather than jam out parts and see what happens, Giant Brain pieces begin with specific sound ideas and are fleshed out from there. Little wonder Andy is also listed as responsible for “concepts.”