Posted in audiObelisk on June 14th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Earthen Grave, “Death is Another Word” from Earthen Grave LP
I’m still not sure about these new Bandcamp players, and by that I mean I hate them because I’m not used to them, but here we are. What was I gonna do, not end the week with “Death is Another Word,” the bonus track from the forthcoming Ripple Music reissue of Earthen Grave‘s Earthen Grave? Obviously that’s not an option.
So while what has become the standard purveyor of streaming music and direct-to-or-from-band commerce departs its earlier unintrusiveness in favor of the page-consuming behemoth you see above (ah, but you could choose one of the smaller players that oh wait no one can fucking see them because they’re terrible), I hope you’ll know I take consolation for the lost screen real estate in the form of Earthen Grave‘s melodic semi-traditional doom, which is brought all the more into focus approaching “Death is Another Word…” as a single. I don’t know when this was recorded in relation to the album, but it’s a cool sound and it’s interesting to think how Earthen Grave might’ve grown by the time their next album — which will presumably also show up on Ripple – surfaces. A million possibilities.
Among my own possibilities is that this weekend The Patient Mrs. and I buy a house. Got an offer accepted on a place and an inspection tomorrow, so pending what that turns up and yet another round of mortgage haranguing, I may yet wind up with somewhere to live by the time summer’s over. However that winds up, I’ll be up in Massachusetts, and barring disaster will head out to catch It’s Not Night: It’sSpace, Queen Elephantineand Elder side-project Gold and Silver at P.A.’s Lounge in Boston, so whether I’m drowning my sorrows in riffs or celebrating the glorious future to come [NOTE:Actually, I had to turn around and head back home, so I drowned in I-95 traffic], I’ll at least be making the most of the drive from Jersey. A drive which is becoming a familiar staple of my weekends at this point and a drain on my overall energy level — in short a drive I look forward to not needing to make anymore.
I’ll let you know how it works out.
Next week, reviews of that show and the new Sabbath – we’ll doom like bastards — and a countdown of the Top 10 Albums of the Year so far, plus whatever videos, news, audio, etc. I can dig up. My plan is to head out Wednesday for Days of the Doomed III in Wisconsin next weekend. I’ve put in for the time off work(s), so we’ll see if both I and my car make there in one piece. I wouldn’t be reviewing that until the week after this one coming, obviously, but if I get the chance, I might throw up a picture or something. Or, since I’m not drinking, maybe I’ll just live-blog the whole thing. Again, a million possibilities. Let me get through tomorrow afternoon before I decide anything about anything.
Keep your fingers crossed for me and please have a great and safe weekend.
Posted in Reviews on May 24th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Whatever else you might want to say about Cathedral‘s catalog as it’s developed over the course of their massively influential more than 20-year run, the band has always made the album they wanted to make. Even during the British doom legends’ mid- and late-’90s period of wandering through the stoner rock wilderness — see 1996′s Supernatural Birth Machineand 1998′s Caravan Beyond Redemption– they didn’t wind up there by happenstance. Still, their legacy will always be for morose, stomping, thoroughly British doom, and it’s that side of their approach that their fans have most clamored for over the years. Their last studio outing, 2010′s The Guessing Game(review here), offered two discs of classic prog-influenced songs that asked much of their audience but offered much in return. Where the prior full-length, 2005′s The Garden of Unearthly Delights, had sought to marry some of the rock and doom sides together, The Guessing Gamemarked the band’s 20th anniversary with a bold and uncompromising progression of their sound. The results were never going to be as heralded as the band’s earliest works on landmark albums like 1991′s Forest of Equilibriumdebut (presented in its entirety on the Anniversarylive album; review here) or the subsequent offerings The Ethereal Mirror(1993) and The Carnival Bizarre (1995), but again, it was the album Cathedral felt compelled to write, and that was what mattered at the time.
Now Cathedral have called it quits, played their last live show, made their last video and the somewhat cleverly titled The Last Spire (released through Rise Above/Metal Blade) is reportedly to be their final album. One never knows for sure — surely over their time together the band must have amassed suitable fodder for rarities collections, live albums, greatest hits, cover records and so forth — but if it actually is the end of their run, The Last Spire is also the point at which the album Cathedral wants to make meets with the album that fans want to hear. It is an 56-minute victory lap that — far from actually sounding like one — presents eight songs of the dark, dreary doom that has come to be thought of as traditional in no small part because of Cathedral‘s crafting of it. The band’s lineup of vocalist Lee Dorrian, guitarist Gary “Gaz” Jennings, bassist Scott Carlson and drummer Brian Dixon present some progressive moments reminiscent of or at very least nodding toward The Guessing Game– the synth interlude that interrupts the sluggish lumber of “An Observation” comes to mind; David Moore‘s contributions of Hammond, Moog, synth and mellotron aren’t to be understated in establishing The Last Spire‘s murky atmosphere — but in their structure and in their intent, cuts like the early “Pallbearer,” “Cathedral of the Damned” and “Tower of Silence” underline the doomed feel for which Cathedral have become so known both in their home country and abroad. They are Cathedral at their most Cathedral. And rightly so. One couldn’t possibly hope for more of them than that.
The aforementioned trio occur sequentially following the intro “Entrance to Hell,” which finds Dorrian repeating the phrase “Bring out your dead” — which in my mind always goes right back to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but he sells it well — over suitably plague-addled atmospheres, with “Pallbearer” as the longest track on The Last Spireat 11:39 and marked aside from its strong hook by the backing vocals of Rosalie Cunningham behind Dorrian‘s signature semi-spoken delivery and the chorus of “War, famine, drought, disease” repeated to memorable effect. There’s a mournful acoustic break in the middle, but by and large, Jennings, Carlson and Dixon sound big, thick and threatening, and when the acoustics (backed by organ) give way to the resurgent groove and faster push of the song’s peak movement, the effect is fluid and entirely metal. They end slow and offer a more mid-paced distortion on “Cathedral of the Damned,” which is marked out by the spoken guest vocal by Chris Reifert of Autopsy and the line “Living in the shadow of a damned cathedral,” which may or may not be Dorrian dealing with his own legacy and the prospect of moving on after ending the band. Either way, it’s the riff and the buzzsaw guitar tone that stands out most as the band meet their longest track with the shortest full song (that is, non-interlude or intro), slamming head-on into the chorus as they do with no diminished returns on the subsequent “Tower of Silence,” the pair affirming Cathedral‘s potency on all levels as they round out The Last Spire‘s first half, whether it’s the vocals, Jennings‘ righteous solo, the heavy nod of the bass and drums, or the overarching catchiness of the chorus itself: “A tower of silence/Is waiting for me/Looming before/An astral sea.”
Posted in Whathaveyou on April 8th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
It just wouldn’t be hypocrisy if I hadn’t said it’d never happen. Many things change in four years’ time, and I’ve signed up for a Twitter account for The Obelisk. What does this mean to you? Well, if you don’t use Twitter, probably not a whole lot. If you do, it means you can keep up with The Obelisk-y doings via that most brevity-inducing of social media platforms by using the image on the right or the link below:
I’ve never been an early adopter of this kind of technology, so if I’m late to the party here, you won’t find me claiming otherwise. Nonetheless, if you’re on Thee Twitters, I hope you’ll take a second to follow along with my many fumbles as I figure out how to use a hashtag — it’ll always be a pound sign to me — and all the rest of it.
Lee Dorrian ain’t no dummy. He knows what time it is. And if their new video for the track “Tower of Silence” from their forthcoming final album, The Last Spire, is anything to go by, it’s about doom o’clock. The UK legends seem to be enjoying their farewell, and why not? Dorrian, guitarist Garry “Gaz” Jennings and bassist Scott Carlson already have a new project in the works called Septic Tank, and they’ll make their live debut in May, so what the hell? Live it up a little in the meantime. Certainly a victory lap well earned over the last 24 years.
Assuming the tracklisting stays as it was in the release announcement late last year, “Tower of Silence” is the centerpiece of The Last Spire, surrounded by three tracks on either side. I don’t want to make predictions about the rest of the record having only heard this one track, but at very least it bodes well.
Cathedral, “Tower of Silence” Official Video
The final promo video from the final album by UK Doom Legends Cathedral. Thanks to all our friends, followers and supporters over the year. This is for you!
Inspired by classic cult British Film Institutions such as Amicus and Hammer House of Horror, “Tower of Silence” was shot on location during the British Winter of 2012 at Gunnersbury Park Tower, London. It features a guest appearance from Purson’s Rosalie Cunningham, who places a symbolic black orchid on the tombstone of each member in the clips closing scenes.
Directed by UK based Paraffin City Productions, Tower of Silence will be the last full production promo video ever made by this British Doom Metal institution and is taken from their final album, The Last Spire, out April 29th on RISE ABOVE Records.
The Last Spire is released in the following territories;
UK via Rise Above Records on April 29th 2013. www.riseaboverecords.com USA via Metal Blade Records on April 30th. www.metalblade.com Japan via Trooper Entertainment on May 1st. www.trooper.co.jp Pre-order at iTunes from March 29th. Die-hard vinyl editions will be available from the Rise Above webstore soon.
Lee Dorrian – Vocals Garry Jennings – Guitar Brian Dixon – Drums Scott Carlson – Bass Guitar
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 20th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Funny, I just last night had Alunah‘s “Oak Ritual” from last year’s White Hoarhound stuck in my head, and now here I am with an excuse to revisit the album. Having already reissued the full-length through Spinning Goblin Productions/Napalm Records, the naturalist British psych-doomers have announced a handful of tour dates as a result of joining forces with Euro-booking powerhouse Sound of Liberation. An announcement on that just came down the PR wire, as well as a link to where one fortunate enough to be within range of going can purchase a ticket to see Alunah at the 02 Academy in Birmingham with Saint Vitus and Mos Generator. Damn that’s a good show.
In case you were also looking for an excuse to revisit White Hoarhound, I humbly submit the following:
ALUNAH JOIN WITH SOUND OF LIBERATION BOOKING & ANNOUNCE FIRST EUROPEAN TOUR DATES!
Alunah are proud to be working with Sound Of Liberation, the well respected booking agency will be handling all future European dates for Alunah, starting with dates in March, April and May. These dates mark Alunah’s first gigs outside of the United Kingdom.
Sound Of Liberation are the booking agency behind such events as DesertFest Berlin, Up in Smoke, Brainbanger’s Ball and Santa Psychedelia. Artists who Alunah will be joining on the roster include Ahab, The Atomic Bitchwax, Belzebong, Black Pyramid, Colour Haze, Fatso Jetson, Truckfighters and Ufomammut amongst many others.
European Alunah Dates:
Sound Of Liberation proudly presents the following Alunah dates. Please forward any European booking enquiries regarding Alunah to email@example.com or visit their website at www.soundofliberation.com. Booking enquiries within the UK should still be forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org.
31/03: Alunah, The Skeletons, Cultura Tres @ Les Combustibles, Paris 27/04: DesertFest Berlin @ Astra Kulturhaus – Berlin, Germany 28/04: Date TBC – email email@example.com for booking requests 29/04: Belzebong, Alunah @ Römer – Bremen, Germany 30/04: Ufomammut, Belzebong, Alunah + 1 TBC @ Club Puschkin – Dresden, Germany 01/05: Date TBC – email firstname.lastname@example.org for booking requests 02/05: Date TBC – email email@example.com for booking requests 03/05: Heavy Days in Doom Town Festival @ Ungdomshuset – Copenhagen, Denmark
Alunah will also be supporting St. Vitus in Birmingham at The O2 Academy on 13th March, reduced £10 tickets are available from Alunah’s Bandcamp!
In his latest column for The Obelisk, Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of Danish psych jammers Øresund Space Collective takes us through a gem of obscure Japanese psychedelic heaviness, the 1987 debut LP No More Pain, by Tokyo trio Doom. Please enjoy:
Doom, No More Pain (Explosion Records EXP-HM283Q24)
DOOM were an amazing Japanese three-piece band that made some pioneering records in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. They were led by fretless bass player Koh Moroto, who sadly passed away in 1999. No More Pain was released only in Japan and came in April 1987. I received a copy on a promo tape earlier in the year and then the real vinyl copy arrived in April. I ran my own heavy metal fanzine called Metal Madness from 1984-1988 and followed the Japanese scene closely due to a good Japanese friend.
Anyway, I was totally blown away by this record and still am today. The band had previously released a 7” also on Explosion Records in 1986. This record starts off with the very intense, “Death to Wimp!” It has a slow looping Japanese drone, drum intro as the sound gets louder and louder and faster and faster then, bang – it just hits you full-force (especially if you have it cranked up loud!). Takashi Fujita was the brilliant riff master and psychedelic guitar solo deliverer and also the vocalist. The riff is heavy metal, thrash but then Takashi plays these really intense solos like in the slow part of this opening track which then suddenly switches after the slow section into Slayer-like thrash metal. Very intense stuff.
The record production is also really excellent and powerful. “Body No Body” starts with some really intense bass before the main section takes off at a fast pace. It is really the bass and intense time changes that drive this track. The solo section takes you to some otherworldly dimension as the sound floats over the top of the clear and intense bass lines. This was clearly way ahead of its time and some of the first what I would call psychedelic experimental metal. The spacey section in this track is just so cool. They had dynamics.
“I ‘m Your Junky Doll” is probably my favourite track on this record as it has this hypnotic rhythm and just cool strangeness to it and a killer guitar riff. Wow, what a powerful number. “Cry of You No Long Life” ends side A. The riff is very influenced by the fast songs of Slayer and Metallica of this era but has a really complex rhythm, amazing bass and dynamics. Again, Takashi plays some really psychedelic shredding and crazy guitar. You have to remember these guys were a three-piece and did not have two guitars so Koh, his bass playing is so powerful, they could just drive the tracks without the rhythm guitar when Takashi was soloing.
Flip the record over and you have the title-track, “No More Pain.” It starts slowly and quiet with a solo melodic guitar line, some ideas and things you hear on the first Dark Buddha Rising LP appear (I wonder if they ever heard this record) and the bassline comes in alone and then the band takes off with a massive intensity, but only briefly before a super-cool beautiful guitar section and an almost whispered vocal is mixed to a quite psychedelic effect.
Again, amazing dynamics. And the midsection is totally psyched-out with crazy guitar and voice and other effects, getting really intense before the beautiful parts return and repeat several times. “Iron Card” is a fast one with more cool bass and the band is tuned in a different way on this track, giving it a different sound. It is a bit like Motörhead almost at times. “Kick it Out” has a heavy riff and changing rhythm like Metallica, but they do it in their own way, and “Til Death” is a super-fast thrash number. Takashi returns with that really cool psychedelic guitar soloing sound that just lifts the solo out of the sound somehow.
This might not be for everyone but it was the first metal that I heard that I considered psychedelic. Two years ago, Victor in Japan rereleased four of the band’s CDs from the Killing Fields EP (1988) to Human Noise (1991). This record has still never been re-released. The CD is available in Japan with the first EP on it as well.
I’m sure that in your lifetime you’ve heard a line so catchy that you wanted to make a whole song out of it. Well, Electric Wizard have too. The only difference is they actually wrote the song with the catchy line in the first place as well. So what you get with “Legalise Drugs & Murder” is some of the most stripped down Electric Wizard to date, the seminal UK doomers referencing themselves lyrically — the title being taken from a verse in “The Chosen Few” from 2007′s landmark Witchcult Todayfull-length — even as they continue to reference a slew of horror flicks, Sabbath, and, of course, the devil.
The Dorset mainstays released “Legalise Drugs & Murder” as a 7″ single earlier this year through Rise Above, coupled with the track “Murder & Madness.” Decibel magazine included a new 2012 demo of the track “Satyr IX,” which originally appeared on 2010′s Black Masses. And ever ones for outdoing themselves, the Jus Oborn-led troupe (of which I believe the picture above is outdated in terms of rhythm section) culled together those three songs as side A of a cassette EP called, of course, Legalise Drugs & Murder, that’s included exclusively with the Oct. 2012 issue of Terrorizer, the cover story of which — well look at that — also just happens to be on Electric Wizard.
So it’s an exclusive, limited Electric Wizard tape, that they’ve released to go with this one issue of Terrorizer and then it’s gone, off into catalog completist obscurity. Should go without saying I was dying to get my hands on one. I put word out on Thee Facebooks that if any kind soul in the UK could help me out, I’d gladly pay for the mag, shipping, etc., and it wasn’t five minutes before a hero emerged. Huge thanks go out to Phil Steventon of Stafford for taking it upon himself to send me a copy of the mag and the tape. It’s been kicking ass all over the tape players in my car and office since.
The song itself emphasizes the best parts of Wizard‘s do-a-lot-with-a-little ethic, cycling its title line as a chorus a chant while peppering in a few verses for good measure and rounding out with hypnotic repetition of the line “children of the grave.” I had thought maybe they’d include a “Satan’s slaves” to complement, since that’s how it worked in “The Chosen Few,” but they don’t even go that far, just letting the sleepy groove and malevolent fuzz carry the song out. “Satyr IX” is a grittier version of the original and “Murder & Madness” is five and a half minutes of horror atmospherics, nodding low end and whispering creepiness — a decent setup for the perversions that ensue on side B.
One might recognize “Patterns of Evil” from Black Masses, but not by much. The remix Electric Wizard – Oborn is credited as producer/mixer, though guitaristLiz Buckingham shares songwriting credit — have given the song has made it altogether rougher-sounding than it was on the album, and if they weren’t pleased with the original version, I can only wonder what that might mean for the sound of their next record, if they’re thinking that far yet. “Lucifer (We’ve Gone too Far)” is darkly psychedelic as was “Murder & Madness,” though more manic, with repetitive incantations of either one portion of its title or the other amid samples and a bizarre rush, and though the closer “Our Witchcult Grows…” is no less referential than the track “Legalise Drugs & Murder,” the song itself actually has little in common with the Witchcult Todaytitle-cut from which it’s derived.
Instead, they close out the Legalise Drugs & Murdertape with strange, effects-laden chanting. It might be filler, but if so, it’s effective on the level of mood, keeping the cult horror vibe at the fore to end of an already strange listen. If this tape is any indication of where Electric Wizard are headed with their next full-length, then things could be taking a turn for the weird any minute now. Of course there’s no sure guarantee that it is or isn’t a sign of their direction overall, but it’s fun to speculate, and Legalise Drugs & Murdermay just end up as a blip on the band’s discography, but it’s a cool listen and something I was glad to get while the getting was good.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 15th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
We begin this week with the disturbing noise-based avant sludge of Toronto’s Godstopper. What Matters, their new album, was released Sept. 25, and it follows last year’s Empty Crawlspacetape (streaming here) and a couple of disturbing videos (see here and here) that mirrored the underlying core of violence that seems never to be distant in the double-guitar four-piece’s approach. That threatening sensibility comes paired with a more melodic vocal style on What Matters, giving songs like “Right up to Heaven” or the later culmination of “Clean House” another level on which to strike, while surprises like the post-punk of the penultimate “Lyman” or nigh-unbearable tonal weight of “Blame Them” show the diversity in Godstopper‘s still burgeoning approach.
It’s a lot to take in from song to song, and by no means easy listening, but worth the effort ultimately. As always, I hope you enjoy it, and for more Godstopper, check out their Bandcamp or Tumblr.
Kind of a wild weekend, otherwise I probably would’ve posted this on Friday as per usual. Got sufficiently loaded on Friday and Saturday and then spent the better part of yesterday in the hospital waiting room while The Patient Mrs.‘ brother had surgery on his leg following — what else? — a chainsaw mishap. He’s alright, recovering, still has all his limbs, etc., but it put an unanticipated stress on the day as that kind of thing will and set me back a ways in terms of the work I wanted to do in advance of this week.
Nonetheless, I plan on having interviews posted this week with Steve Von Till of Neurosis and with Brooklyn-based noise rockers Family. I’ll be reviewing albums from Velvet Elvis (that’ll be today, hopefully) and Altar of Oblivion, and I’ll have a report on the new Clutch record and a live review from the Heavy Planet CMJ showcase with Eggnogg and Borracho, among others. Looking forward to that one a lot.
Maybe a random thought, but is it just me or is Bandcamp taking over the universe for music? Don’t get me wrong, it’s a decent quality stream in an easy interface — I dig it as much as I’ve ever dug listening to music that way (not saying much, I guess) — but it just seems like all of a sudden, everything new is on there and that the post-MySpace “well what now?” question that Facebook never quite stepped up to answer seems to have settled. I don’t know how much they take in sales, but I guess underground bands could do worse. It’ll do till the next thing gets here, anyhow.
Hope you had a great and chainsaw-accident-free weekend. I’m gonna check back in momentarily with some news about new releases from Black Shape of Nexus and Don Juan Matus, so stay tuned for that, and there’s a lot to come this week as per usual and some, like Godstopper, pretty unusual. It’ll be good fun either way.
Posted in Reviews on October 12th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
I wasn’t sure what the deal was with the giant painted egg at the front of the stage before and during It’s Not Night: It’s Space‘s set last night at Public Assembly, but I liked it a lot. Like the trio’s music, it had more than a touch of ritual to it, with the lettering and all, and the instrumental trio didn’t mention anything about it while they were on stage, made no mention of its purpose that I caught, instead Kevin Halcott introducing the instrumental band by saying, “We’re It’s Not Night: It’s Space, and we’re from space,” before leading the way through wah-drenched heavy space-jamming.
Thursday night. I’d already had more than enough week by the time I left the office at about 8:30 to head into the show, but sometimes these things can’t be helped. I’ll spare you the moaning of my insignificant dramas — more because I’m too embarrassed to put them into words than out of time/place considerations — but what it rounds out to is it’s been a shitty week and I needed to get out in a bad way. The decision to hit Public Assembly and catch Bezoar and It’s Not Night: It’s Space was a last-minute thing, but Tommy Guerrero — dreadlocked bassist in the opening act — wasn’t through his first low-end shuffle before I knew I’d made the right choice.
Funny timing on the show, as It’s Not Night: It’s Space have a new CD available called Bowing Not Knowing to What that drummer Michael Lutomski emailed me this week to see about getting reviewed. I didn’t get to meet him at the gig, but hopefully I’ll have that review forthcoming, since I dug what they were doing on stage. The bass was heavy in the mix, and Halcott‘s guitar had some trouble standing up — at one point I realized I was standing by Guerrero‘s side of the stage and thought perhaps that was the issue and so switched sides, but even then the bass was dominant — but so much of that kind of heavy jam’s success comes from the chemistry of the players involved, and though it still felt nascent, they definitely had that going for them.
The band got together in 2010 and Bowing Not Knowing to Whatisn’t their first outing, but it doesn’t feel unreasonable to think of the New Paltz unit as still getting their bearings in a live setting. There were stretches where Halcott seemed in his own world while Lutomski and Guerrero held down the rhythm and some of the timing on his weaving in and out of joining them felt more plotted than the jam preceding, and that undercut a bit of the spontaneity, but honestly, I’m not convinced it was anythingHalcottplaying through a full stack couldn’t have easily fixed, volume adding presence and authority.
But they’ve got time to get there, and in the meantime, they offered engaging jams — “Vibration Eater” from the new album was a highlight — and gave a solid showing of themselves ahead of Brooklyn natives Bezoar, who took the stage around 11PM. Between the sets, I ran into Drew Mack, now formerly of Hull, who said he’s joined the ranks of the band Clean Teeth and that they had a new album in the works — he also said to check out Dead Sands and Blackout, which were appreciated recommendations — so that’s good news, and before too long, Bezoar had loaded up the full stacks belonging to bassist/vocalistSara Villard (who recently curated a playlist for this very site) and guitarist Tyler Villard as well as Justin Sherrell‘s extensive kit-of-many-toms, and they were ready to go.
This was my second time seeing Bezoar after catching them over the summer at the Saint Vitus bar (review here), and though I never reviewed it to my regret, I very much enjoyed their debut CD, Wyt Deth, released earlier this year. Watching them last night, they seemed like the kind of band that could be dangerous if they decide to tour over the long term. I know it’s rarely as simple as “deciding,” but the trio have very quickly honed a surprisingly individualized approach out of a gamut that runs from droning doom to raging post-black metal musically, and while the material was plenty tight, they without a doubt have the potential to do something really special both as a stage act and in terms of their songwriting, which already showed growth in the new song they shared with the crowd.
Here’s the thing about Justin Sherrell: He’s a fucking great drummer. You know those drummers who, when they’re warming up before the set even starts, seem to announce their awesomeness by busting out some wild fill to “test the mics?” Sherrell plays like that but with less ego. In the new song Bezoar played — I don’t think the name was offered and if it was, I didn’t catch it — as Sara and Tyler locked into a huge grooving riff — one of those riffs you call “The Riff” — Sherrell seamlessly kept pace with the changes, playing crisply and creatively in a way most drummers dream of, making the hard parts sound easy. I’m usually in the “if you have more than two mounted toms, you’re just jerking off” camp, but the dude earns every piece of that kit.
And even better, that new song was the best the band played, and they played it like they knew it. Gave me something to look forward to in the follow-up to Wyt Deth, whatever form it might take when it surfaces. They’re getting really good really quickly, and it was exciting to watch.
The Phantom Family Halo was still to come, but I made it an early night knowing there was still more week to come today — the right move, as it turns out, since the 45 minutes it took to get across Manhattan and back to the Lincoln Tunnel would’ve been even more grueling past 1AM — and split after Bezoar were finished. The Yankees were soon to lose to tie up the playoff series with the Orioles, and I rolled back into my humble river valley just a couple minutes after the postgame wrapped, slathered some leftover pizza in pesto and called it a night. It was the most relaxed I’d been in seven days.
The lighting at Public Assembly‘s always pretty rough-going in that back room, but there are a few extra pics after the jump. Thanks for reading, as always.
Next Saturday, Oct. 20, will mark three full years since Shrinebuilder‘s self-titled debut was released on Neurot. The most super of supergroups unleashed five tracks and just under 40 minutes of exploration, at times devastatingly heavy, at times contemplatively ambient, but always in motion and never predictable. Three years later, I still don’t think I have a grip on all of it — though I did a review when it came out — and even though the status of the band is unclear at this point, I’m not sure more time is going to help.
If you have to be outclassed, though, Shrinebuilder is the cast to do it. I’ll run down the list because it’s fun: Scott Kelly (Neurosis), Scott “Wino” Weinrich (The Obsessed, this feature, etc.), Al Cisneros (Sleep, Om) and Dale Crover (the Melvins), all contributing to the complex, driving psychedelic heaviness that successfully blended the approaches of its members. I spent a year in fanboy nerd-out mode waiting for it, and when it came, was certain my days were well spent.
I’ve griped about the longevity of Shrinebuilder‘s Shrinebuilderbefore, that I didn’t go back to it after 2009 and so forth, and I suppose that’s true, though I think it’s more on me than the album. In any case, with zero prospects of a follow-up anytime soon, I figure the full-length is ripe for a revisit, and if you’re gonna listen to a record with Wino on it, Wednesday’s the day.
Posted in Reviews on September 17th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
One thing Massachusetts is never short on is heavy. The mostly-doomed foursome Second Grave no sooner made their existence public than they had their first EP ready to go, and the self-titled, self-released six-tracker is a vinyl-ready half-hour of surprising cohesion. As one might expect from such a fertile scene, there’s something of a pedigree involved – bassist Dave Gein doubles in Black Pyramid and guitarist/vocalist Krista Van Guilder is formerly of Warhorse and Obsidian Halo, in which fellow guitarist Chris Drzal also played, while drummer Chuck Ferreira is ex-Nodscene – so maybe the cohesive sound on the first outing shouldn’t come as such a surprise. It’s nobody’s first time out, in other words, and that prior experience has obviously bled into Second Grave. The sound blends doom, riff rock and an overarching sense of traditional metal darkness, and while the material isn’t bleak to the extent of some modern doom, neither is Second Grave in the business of upbeat heavy rock. They’re in the process of casting their own blend, rather, and even extended songs like the highlights “Covet” and “Mountains of Madness,” both of which top eight minutes, have a purposeful sense of structure and don’t veer too far into indulgence as to be accessible. The band flirts with horror culture – the title “Mountains of Madness” is a Lovecraft reference – but don’t seem to be committed to that aesthetic anymore than they’re ultimately willing to sign up and fill out their “Underground Doom Band” membership card, which if such a thing would exist one imagines might entitle them to discounts on cheap beer and Electric Wizard reissue LPs. Still, while some bands’ refusal to consent to genre signifies bold forays in defiance thereof, Second Grave remain easily accessible for any doomer who might undertake a listen while also giving a proper sampling of the various elements their sound incorporates now and might continue to bring in going forward. In that way, it’s very much a first release, however solidified the band is in their methods and the reasoning behind them.
They’ve pressed CDs – and of course Second Grave is available digitally as most releases are in this glorious future we all share – but the structure of the EP is clearly set up with vinyl in mind, even more so than the actual production of the songs, which was helmed by the band in conjunction with Gein’s Black Pyramid bandmate, Clay Neely, at Black Coffee Sound. Each theoretical “side” begins with an introduction-type piece, the first of which is “Through the Red Door.” An appropriate opener even more because of the EP’s red-door-inclusive artwork, contributed by Van Guilder, the first two minutes of Second Grave set creepy ambience off vague riffing, crafting what actually turns out to be the biggest sense of space in any of the six tracks as Van Guilder and Drzal’s guitars layer in and echo out before giving way to the rumble that leads into “Covet” and “Mountains of Madness.” Similarly, “Salvation” begins the second half of Second Grave’s Second Grave with a minute of classical acoustic guitar that also sets up a pair of tracks, the shorter “Soul Extinction” (4:32) and the finale “Divide and Conquer” (7:50). The sweet simplicity of “Salvation” is a long way, however, from the metal-minded doom that precedes it, and as “Covet” is shortly underway with engaging riffs, thundering drums and Van Guilder’s bluesy classic rock-style vocal, the vibe is chugging, more than capably melodic, and well-soloed. I keep looking for where its 8:48 runtime goes, and though there are leads and instrumental breaks, none of them accounts for any sense of ranging past the stated structure, and it seems like Second Grave are just effectively patient in their songwriting. There’s some similar crunch in how Neely captures the instruments to his own band – one can hear it in the snare sound and of course Gein’s tonality – but the mood is utterly different even as “Mountains of Madness” begins with a bass introduction to set the bounce of its more stonerly opening progression, giving way to a classic metal verse and a much stronger chorus to follow. At first, the ideas driving “Covet” and “Mountains of Madness” seem to be roughly the same, but following another impressive guitar solo in the second half of the latter, Second Grave embark at 6:39 on what’s unquestionably the most thoroughly doomed section of any of these songs.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 11th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
After suffering some technical setbacks in the process, recently On the Radar’ed UK duo Wolfshead have just today released a new single called “Sword of Fire,” and if you heard their prior self-titled outing when it was posted from their Bandcamp page, then you already know they set themselves up to cover a pretty wide swath of creative ground across those four tracks. “Sword of Fire” was recorded during the same session as the prior EP, so it’s not inappropriate to think of it as an extension of some of the same ideas.
And since the EP offered various sides of what will hopefully emerge over time as Wolfshead‘s own sonic personality, “Sword of Fire” follows suit, taking their self-proclaimed “garage doom” — they may or may not actually play or record in a garage; there’s very little of the lo-fi sensibility implied by using “garage” as a genre tag in their sound — to someplace altogether catchier. I don’t know what the situation was that led guitarist/vocalist Mart Anthony and bassist/drummer/vocalist Leigh McSharry to hold it back for single release, but it actually works really well on that level.
Particularly so because of its chorus, which is a hook punctuated by McSharry‘s steady snare. There isn’t much fancy about it – basically it’s just a delivery of the title line — but it makes the track all the more memorable, and the fact that the Hampshire outfit kept it back from the initial EP speaks to a patience and awareness of their songwriting that has already served them well.
And in terms of building goodwill, there’s nothing quite like a free download to get the job done. Here’s “Sword of Fire,” courtesy of the band:
If you want to drop a line to Wolfshead to say thanks for giving their stuff away, feel free to hit them up on Thee Facebooks.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 7th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Black Pyramid, Kings Destroy and Clamfight. Well damn.
They should just go ahead and call it the “WEEKENDER TO END ALL WEEKENDERS.” I think maybe I’ll get in my car and follow them around for all three dates, but like, not tell them I’m going to do it and just keep showing up at the shows and being like, “What?”
Black Pyramid, fresh off SHoD XII and the recording of a new album, Kings Destroy, also fresh off recording a new album (and also playing with Pallbearer next week in Brooklyn), and Clamfight, the album art for whose Maple Forum debut is apparently done at last — all three teamed up? That’s worth the price of gas for sure.
Good bands and good people mean good shows. You should go to any and all of the following:
Friday, 11/9 – Union Pool, Brooklyn, NY
Saturday, 11/10 – Monty’s Krown, Rochester, NY
Sunday, 11/11 – Radio, Somerville, MA
Expect more news to come in the next few weeks and months about new records from all three of these bands — and by “news,” I mean fanboy slobbering. Awesome.
Posted in The Numbers on September 4th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Feels more like 3,002, doesn’t it? Well it isn’t. According to my WordPress dashboard — which I trust the way most people trust gods — this is post number 3,000 since the site went up. I just wanted to take a second and mark the occasion and of course to say thanks to everyone who has read, commented, signed up on the forum, contributed, sent in albums for review, tipped me onto new bands or shared their love of music in any way as we’ve gone along.
It’s been a hell of a trip so far, and I don’t think when I started this site three and a half years ago I had any idea what I was getting myself into (maybe a little), but it’s been great up till now, and as this past weekend proved, there are still plenty of adventures to be had. Thanks so much for being a part of it.
Posted in Features on August 31st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’m not sure how long my laptop battery is going to last, or what I’m going to do when it dies, but the idea for tonight is to write as much as I can while I’m actually at the El ‘n’ Gee in New London for the second night of Stoner Hands of Doom XII. Tomorrow starts earlier, so I don’t know when else I’ll have time to write.
In other words, I basically said “Fuck it, I’ll do it live.”
What you see in the photo above is the view from the couch I’m sitting on in the corner of the bar area. There are no plugs in the walls save for one that’s otherwise occupied. Tonight’s lineup is seven bands, which is one more than yesterday. Connecticut natives When the Deadbolt Breaks are setting up their gear behind me on the stage, and they’ll be followed in turn by Wizard Eye from Philadelphia, Long Island’s own John Wilkes Booth, Massachusetts’ Faces of Bayon, CT’s Lord Fowl, Maryland doomers Revelation. Rhode Island upstarts Pilgrim will close out the night. They’re here already wandering around, as are the Wizard Eye dudes.
Gonna be a good time no matter what else goes down, I’ve got no doubt. It’s also fest organizer Rob Levey‘s birthday tonight, so to Rob, happy birthday from the couch.
Night two of SHoD XII gets underway in about an hour, give or take. I’ll hopefully have updates as we go along, added to this post.
When the Deadbolt Breaks
UPDATE 7:43PM: As ever, Connecticut natives When the Deadbolt Breaks dipped their audience in a distortion caked coating of the truly deranged. They’ve gotten a new bassist since I last saw them, guitarist/vocalist Aaron Lewis perpetually chasing a rhythm section that can keep pace with him, both in tempo and tone. And by “keep pace,” I mean play slow as fuck. Reportedly, the second platter of Deadbolt‘s forthcoming 2LP release is one 60-minute-long song. That’s probably a solid format for the band to work in, as Lewis‘ songs have always tended to wander into these sort of pits of ambient quicksand. When he spaces out thusly, the atmospherics are almost always hypnotic, such as 10 minutes ago, when John Wilkes Booth vocalist Kerry Merkle had to rouse me back to conscious before handing me a couple stickers. The crux of Deadbolt‘s approach though is playing those sections off the droning doom that follows and metering them with sections of mournful, Danzig-style clean singing. There still isn’t a subgenre designation for what they do, but maybe sooner or later someone will come up with something. In any case, with all the lights turned low and a projector going, they were a suitably menacing start to tonight’s diverse roster of acts.
UPDATE 8:41PM: Guitarist/vocalist Erik from Philly trio Wizard Eye looked the part of the wizard manning his theremin, his dreadlocks dragging on the floor of the stage behind him, impossibly long. Long like you think of roads as being long. The three-piece blended Weedeater sludge with Fu Manchu stonerisms, had some Sabbath in there of course, but did not short either on aggression. Erik does guest leads on the new Clamfight CD and he showed off a bit of that prowess as well, in between bursts of dual-vocals with bassist Dave while Scott slammed away behind. They’ve got a CD for sale that I’ll pick up before the night is through, I’ve no doubt. This despite the incense on the stage behind Erik, which has now made the front of the El ‘n’ Gee smell like a teenager’s bedroom. Part of the package, I guess, and if it’s to be a total sensory experience, I suppose I shouldn’t complain. They were — what’s the word again? — heavy. Some familiar elements, but put to good use, and the theremin went a long way in adding to the overall wash of noise. Stone and tone: It’s not exactly the new math when it comes to this kind of thing, but Wizard Eye did well with it. The balance of the vocal mics was a little off coming through the house, but I get the sense in a smaller room, they’d be absolutely crushing. Philly’s Kung Fu Necktie, perhaps, or some basement where the soundwaves have no place to go and no choice but to cleave your skull.
John Wilkes Booth
UPDATE 9:33PM: I’ve known these dudes for years. Played shows with them, seen them come into their own as a band. It’d been a while though, and in the interim, John Wilkes Booth — as bands will do — wrote a shitload of new material. Also, apparently at some point Kerry Merkle‘s megaphone had babies and grew an entire family of effects pedals for the vocalist. Well done, proud papa. It’s been over three years since they released their Sic Semper Tyrannisfull-length (review here), so maybe they’re due for a new record as well. In any case, their crunching ’90s riffs — not quite stoner, not quite noise, but definitely heavy and skirting the line between the two — did not fail to satisfy, and Merkle‘s effects added complexity to what, admittedly, I used to enjoy the rawness of, without necessarily distracting from what bassist Harry, drummer Christian and subdued guitarist Jason were doing. Solid heavy rock band, as ever, and it’ll be interesting to hear how the vocal extras factor into a new recording. Actually, I guess I’d just like to hear a new recording, however the pedals may or may not play into it. These guys pretty obviously just do it because they love to do it, and that’s always welcome on any stage I happen to be in front of.
Faces of Bayon
UPDATE 10:25PM: If the next wave of stuff people decide to give a shit about was to be doom riffing mixed with old school death metal, I’d be happy to watch Massachusetts’ own Faces of Bayon lead the charge. Before the set even started, the charm was evident, as guitarist/vocalist Matt Smith asked the crowd in a low growl if they liked stoner doom. Later, after his amp cut out in the middle of one of the tracks from their Heart of the Fire LP — which, pros to the last, bassist Ron Miles and drummer Mike Brown kept going — Smith apologized to the crowd with a simple, “Sorry,” before resuming his tale of the fall of Lucifer in a low, throaty whisper. No substitute for that kind of charm, and to go with it, Faces of Bayon were crushingly heavy, Miles playing a six-string in the deathly tradition. I don’t think the winds of trend will ever blow in their favor, but I also don’t think they give a shit. They closed with a new song from an upcoming album which Smith said would be recorded this fall, and I guess someone needs to tell these dudes Labor Day’s on Monday so they can get on it. That last album got a huge response, so I’ll look forward to seeing how the next one comes out. If their closer was anything to go by, you can bet on slow, heavy and evil, with more than just a dash of stoner.
UPDATE 11:11PM: Double kudos to Connecticut’s Lord Fowl for not only rocking the house, but for rocking the house after the ultra-doom bestowed upon it by Faces of Bayon. I had wondered how the transition would go from Faces of Bayon‘s downer moodiness and morose heavy to Lord Fowl‘s upbeat arena-ready hooks, but the latter more than pulled it off. Their record, being the last one I reviewed before leaving to come up here on Thursday, was still pretty fresh in my head, but even those who didn’t know the songs were hooked by the time the four-piece were through album and set opener “Moon Queen” and its follow-up “Touch that Groove.” Another transition straight off the Moon Queen album that worked really well was “Streets of Evermore” into “Dirty Driving,” guitarist/vocalists Vechel Jaynes and Mike Pellegrino trading off lead spots in the process. I don’t know how much of the audience knew the songs going into the set, but Lord Fowl’s brand of rock is basically undeniable if you’ve ever had a ’70s chorus stuck in your head. They were unafraid to smile on stage, and everywhere they went, they made sure the crowd came with them. It was a lot of fun, and I still think there’s a lot more potential to them even than they showed tonight, though they showed plenty.
UPDATE 12:17AM: Of the handful of times I’ve seen Maryland doom stalwarts Revelation, this was easily the best. If you want to think of this weekend as one huge tone-off, then John Brenner and Bert Hall are the dudes who sneak in just at the last minute totally unsuspecting and walk away with the prize. They didn’t play anything new — as Brenner said on stage, they don’t know the songs — but their set was tighter and more energetic than I’ve ever seen from them. They weren’t jumping around the stage by any means, not thrashing about, but they delivered all the same. Brenner’s Laney sounded gorgeous, Hall played a bass that had an axe built into the body — one assumes it’s in case he has to chop wood in the middle of the set — and drummer Steve Branagan held down both quiet and loud with ease. Like several of the acts tonight – When the Deadbolt Breaks, John Wilkes Booth, Faces of Bayon – they’ve got new material in the works (as a recent audio stream will attest), but as the penultimate band of the night, they did well bridging a sizable gap in modus between Lord Fowl and Pilgrim still to come. The room has mostly cleared out and it’s getting late, but the people still here are glad to be, alternating between partying outside in the fenced patio area of the El ‘n’ Gee and just getting drunk(er) at the bar. Either way.
UPDATE 1:14AM: That picture above of Pilgrim was taken before the show started. Much to the credit of the hot-as-hell Rhode Island trio, they were here the whole show, and didn’t leave so far as I know as so many who played did. Maybe they went and got a bite to eat or something like that — to be fair, I wasn’t keeping tabs on them all night. Before their set started, they asked specifically to play in the dark, and the request was granted, so I was doubly glad to have snapped a few shots outside of them on the couch outside on the sidewalk. They’re the first band to play this fest that everyone in the place went right to the front of the stage to see. I stood back, and I think doing so helped me to see what it is about them that has the hype rolling so hard. To share: They’re young, and they’re frighteningly cohesive. They play off familiar elements — slow riffs, emotional anguish — but do so with strong performances and an air of sincerity. If you wanted to paint a picture of an exciting young act in the genre, that picture would probably look a lot like Pilgrim, and whatever excitement they have around them, they do well to justify it with the promise they show both on stage and in their recorded work. They were a great cap for the night and had a tremendous response. No complaints from my end. The only x-factor is if they can keep it together, but pending that, they’re most definitely on the right track. If nothing else, they’ve proven they’re a band worth pulling for.
UPDATE 2:25AM: Blue moon indeed. It’s full and up there and hard to argue with, and I’m down by the shoreline of the Long Island Sound outside with the laptop and I’m tired but things have been far worse. The trip back from New London to here was uneventful, at least in comparison to the evening preceding. Tomorrow I’m going to have to figure out a way to see every band play and also provide myself with some basic kind of nutrition. There’s a grease truck in the public parking lot across the street from the El ‘n’ Gee. The last two nights in a row I’ve been tempted to get a cheeseburger for the ride and both times I’ve chickened out and just gotten a bottle of water. Maybe tomorrow will be my day.
Akris are slated to open the gig at noon. I doubt they’ll actually start on time, but that’s what’s slated to go down, so I’m going to try to be there before then. I’ll crash out in a couple minutes, but not just yet.