Dwellers Premiere “Son of Raven” from New Album Pagan Fruit

Posted in audiObelisk on April 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Given the chance to pick a track for streaming ahead of the May 6 official release date for Dwellers‘ second album, Pagan Fruit, my mind immediately gravitated to “Son of Raven.” It’s not a raging rocker by any means, and Pagan Fruit – which follows the Salt Lake City trio’s 2011 debut, Good Morning Harakiri (review here) — has a few of those, but it’s among the record’s most memorable anyway, with guitarist/vocalist Joey Toscano (ex-Iota) howling out a psych-blues chorus that sticks relentlessly in the listener’s head, all the while he, bassist Dave Jones and drummer Zach Hatsis (both culled from SubRosa) elicit a smooth progression, dynamic and flowing naturally between open, spacious verses and the return to the infectiously moving hook, subtle keys throughout leaving a mark almost unconsciously. “Son of Raven” is the centerpiece of Pagan Fruit, and for good reason.

Setting aside the quality of the songwriting itself, which is consistent throughout the nine-track/48-minute outing, what “Son of Raven” shows even more than opener “Creature Comfort” or a cut like the later, cello-infused “Spirit of the Staircase” is the level of growth between Dwellers‘ first time out and where they are now. Having recently revisited Good Morning Harakiri on vinyl, it sets up much of the soul one finds refined on Pagan Fruit, but just in terms of the sheer confidence of the three-piece in their approach, the newer album allows them to push further into their sound and come up with something that’s more their own. “Son of Raven” is a showcase of patience. Unhurried but not still, it’s the kind of song that would be all but impossible to find on a band’s first album and even on Dwellers‘ second, it makes an impressive accomplishment and is a landmark in the tracklist, among other highlights like the hard-driving “Devoured by Lions,” which follows, and the extended finale “Call of the Hollowed Horn,” which revels in the unpretentious atmospherics the entirety of Pagan Fruit has managed to maintain.

In part, it’s the balance between that atmosphere and the sonic forcefulness of Dwellers that makes the long-player such a special, engaging listen. The band pushes the traditional boundaries of rock, psychedelia and blues, and in so doing, finds an individual place within them.

Give it a couple seconds to start, and please enjoy “Son of Raven” on the player below:

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Pagan Fruit was recorded by Andy Patterson at The Boars Nest in Salt Lake City, mixed by Eric Hoegemeyer in Brooklyn and mastered by Chris Gooseman in Michigan. Cover art is by Adrian Brouchy of Coven Illustración, and the album will be released on May 6 through Small Stone. More info at the links.

Dwellers on Thee Facebooks

Pagan Fruit at Small Stone’s Bandcamp

Small Stone Records

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On Wax: Dwellers, Good Morning Harakiri

Posted in On Wax on April 4th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

I think when Salt Lake City trio Dwellers released their 2011 debut, Good Morning Harakiri, I was still too enamored of guitarist/vocalist Joey Toscano‘s previous outfit, Iota, to fully appreciate it on its own level. Iota‘s 2008 full-length, Tales, presented a masterful and forward looking blend of Hawkwindian psychedelics and Kyuss-style stoner rockery, and though I enjoyed Good Morning Harakiri (review here) thoroughly at the time and have only grown to dig the band more since, its unrepentant bluesiness — made a vital element thanks in no small part to the swinging rhythm section of bassist Dave Jones and drummer Zach Hatsis (both of SubRosa) — fit oddly with the context of what I was expecting. I was thrown off by it and had to right my assumptions before I could really dig in.

Listening to Small Stone‘s LP edition of Good Morning Harakiri — limited to 500 copies and pressed either in cyan/red swirl (as mine is), black or transparent purple 180g vinyl — I have no such momentary hesitation, thanks both to the time I’ve already spent listening to Dwellers‘ debut and time spent with its forthcoming follow-up, Pagan Fruit (review pending), due out May 6. Particularly in light of the sophomore outing coming up, Good Morning Harakiri seems ripe for a revisit, and the vinyl version provides a perfect excuse, its six tracks rearranged from the CD such that what was the fourth track, “Ode to Inversion Layer,” is repositioned as the opener and the relatively brief “Lightening Ritual” moves up to end side A, leaving side B to the combined sprawl of “Vulture” and “Old Honey,” both of which hover around the 10-minute mark.

That change makes sense practically — there’s only so much room on a given side — and sonically. “Ode to Inversion Layer” unfolds more gradually than did “Secret Revival,” the former opener and here the second cut, setting the listener up to expect a more languid roll than the swaying tension of “Secret Revival” might have, with no sacrifice of hook from one to the other. As it is on the platter, “Ode to Inversion Layer” draws you in and “Secret Revival” provides a smack to the face, Hatsis slamming hard on his crash in the chorus while Toscano – who seems apprehensive in his vocal approach as compared to the new album; this is shown largely in where he sits in the mix in one compared to the other — drawls out a resonant chorus, slowing fluidly in its midsection to smooth the shift into “Blackbird,” which worked well on CD also, his vocals a far back swirl of echo amid the weighted fuzz of his guitar and rumble of Jones‘ bass.

A dead stop precedes “Black Bird”‘s arrival, but the changeover is easy nonetheless, and of the tracklisting shuffles between the CD and LP editions of Good Morning Harakiri, putting “Black Bird” and “Lightening Ritual” next to each other gives the album a midsection comprising its strongest hooks, the stomp of “Black Bird” and the blown-out intensity of “Lightening Ritual” playing exceedingly well together. And when it comes to “Vulture” and “Old Honey” on side B, 20 solid minutes of Dwellers jamming out supernova blues is not a proposition with which I’m about to argue. Seated together, “Vulture” and “Old Honey” offer more than simple long-form indulgences, the former making deft rhythmic turns into a newly-paved groove that runs a highway right through the wandering nighttime desert ritualism of the latter. I don’t have to pick a favorite from between them, so I won’t. Better just to enjoy them back to back as what makes for half an album more immersive than most full-lengths.

As Dwellers come more into their own in 2014 with Pagan Fruit, I’m glad to have the chance to give Good Morning Harakiri another spin and appreciate some of what seemed like unevenness at the time for the progressivism it actually represents. One can only hope the second album holds up so well three years later.

Dwellers, Good Morning Harakiri (2011)

Dwellers on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records on Bandcamp

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audiObelisk Transmission 034

Posted in Podcasts on January 20th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Click Here to Download


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I was all set to pat myself on the back for making a podcast and posting it when someone might actually see it, unlike the last two (033 and 032), which rather impractically both went up on the eve of a major holiday, and then I remembered today was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Whoops. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Oh well. There’s always next month.

This one took kind of a strange and fun turn in the making and got very languid, very spaced out and sort of dreamy but still heavy in the bottom end. We start out with new stuff from We Hunt Buffalo, Truckfighters and Dwellers right in a row, and I guess that set the tone for a heavy roll that carried through a lot of the rest of the nearly-two-hour span. Not a complaint. I think it flows really well, and of course I hope you do too.

Once again, no real theme, though in addition to the aforementioned, you’ll also find new tracks from Sahg, Papir, Radar Men from the Moon, Pontiak and The Wounded Kings, the latter providing a grim finish after All Them Witches and Black Skies offer prime terrestrial psychedelia. It’s a good mix, all told. It grooves. It nods.

First Hour:
We Hunt Buffalo, “Blood from a Stone” from Blood from a Stone (2014)
Truckfighters, “Get Lifted” from Universe (2014)
Dwellers, “Creature Comfort” from Pagan Fruit (2014)
Salitter, “But I am Not Consoled” from Salitter EP (2013)
Papir, “I” from IIII (2014)
Radar Men from the Moon, “Surrealist Appearance” from Strange Wave Galore (2014)
The Ravenna Arsenal, “The Desert Shows No Mercy” from I (2013)
Pontiak, “Surrounded by Diamonds” from Innocence (2014)
Sahg, “Blizzardborne” from Delusions of Grandeur (2014)

Second Hour:
Doctor Cyclops, “Cobweb Hands” from Oscuropasso (2014)
Mammatus, “Brainbow/Brain-Train” from Heady Mental (2013)
Sun Voyager, “Space Queen” from Mecca (2013)
All Them Witches, “Swallowed by the Sea” from Lightning at the Door (2013)
Black Skies, “Lifeblood” from Circadian Meditations (2013)
The Wounded Kings, “Consolamentum” from Consolamentum (2014)

Total running time: 1:58:52


Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 034


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Dwellers, Backwoods Payback and Sasquatch L.A. Show Switches Venues

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 7th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

I’m taking the rest of today off because, fuck it, I need to. Before I run out of here to rent a 55-gallon drum and hide myself inside it, I wanted to post word that the Los Angeles gig previously referred to in the announcement of Backwoods Payback‘s March tour has switched venues.

It’ll now be taking place at Los Globos Nightclub on Sunset Blvd. I hear it’s lovely. And yeah, it’s a Monday night, but seriously, I know this site gets a bunch of hits from out that way, so if you can read this and you’re somewhere within showing-up range, I promise you this will be better than the Monday night of watching television, scratching your ass and not doing laundry you had previously planned.

Dig it:

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Dwellers Interview with Joey Toscano: Singing Odes to the Rituals of Inversion, OR: Tales Yet to be Told

Posted in Features on February 13th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

With his former trio, Iota, beginning to fizzle out, guitarist/vocalist Joey Toscano began Dwellers as a duo with SubRosa drummer Zach Hatsis. The Salt Lake City natives worked together when they could until Toscano, frustrated at missed practices and a band that seemed to be stagnating — practically if not creatively — said it was time to really make Dwellers happen.

Iota had released their Small Stone debut, Tales, in 2008. The album’s blend of space rock jamming and heavy riffs, combined with Toscano‘s far-back vocals and the thick production of Andy Patterson (who also played drums in the band), was well received and became over the next couple years something of a stoner rock cult classic outside of Salt Lake City. Interest endured in finding out how the band would follow it up, but when word finally came, it in the form of an avant garde Dwellers EP that preceded the now-trio’s own first Small Stone outing, Good Morning Harakiri.

The album (review here) takes its name from the Japanese ritualistic suicide by disembowelment and decapitation otherwise known as “seppuku,” and in terms of being honest about their influences and crafting what they want their music to be, innards are suitably spilled. Recorded by Patterson, Toscano‘s vocals are less drenched in effects and farther forward in the songs than they were on Tales; the direction of Dwellers has more in common with swampy marshes than Californian deserts. Hatsis and bassist Dave Jones are a complex but accessible rhythm section, providing stylistic depth and adding to Toscano‘s riffs more than just tonal weight.

As compares to the Peace and Other Horrors EP that came before it, Good Morning Harakiri is more straightforward and song-based, which Toscano says is on purpose. Along with discussion of blending the two sides of the band in the future, he also spoke about transitioning from Iota to having Dwellers as his main project, the growth of the heavy underground in the last several years, Iota‘s misadventures at SXSW, Dwellers‘ recent show with YOB, and much more.

Full Q&A is after the jump. Please enjoy.

Read more »

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Small Stone Announces SXSW Showcase Schedule

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 18th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

I know I’ve talked before about the amazing times and staggering drunken debauchery I’ve (allegedly) witnessed and/or been involved in at Small Stone‘s SXSW showcases. For all the years I went to SXSW, it was unquestionably the high point, and if I was going to go now, it would be just about the only reason.

The label just announced their 2012 schedule with an exceptionally well-constructed press release — I mean, seriously, whoever wrote the thing should be hired for some cushy work-from-home newsletter-writing gig at a major corporation with money to spend so he can spend his days blogging about European heavy psych records — and the lineup is enough to make me wistful for the hazy memories that could be.

Mic check!

Now entering its 17th year of operation, Small Stone Records has announced the final lineup for its 2012 SXSW showcase, set to take place Friday, March 16, on the outside back patio at Headhunters on Red River in Austin, TX. The label, home to the best in heavy and ‘70s-fueled motor rock, has assembled a roster of new and old blood for a night that’s sure to remind Austin why it loves volume so much in the first place.

Says label honcho Scott Hamilton, “We are very much looking forward to our yearly showcase in Austin. We have a great lineup that we’ll stuff into Headhunters, which is also one of our favorite little watering holes on Red River. It is always nice to tilt some back with some old friends, and some new ones too! Save the date, Friday March 16th!”

Spanning genres from the fuzz-drenched psychedelic improv jams of Austin natives Tia Carrera, who will close out the night, to the crunchy, noise-driven blues of New Orleans trio Suplecs, Small Stone’s showcase is an annual high point of South by Southwest for those who manage to remember it the next morning. The complete lineup is as follows:

Friday, March 16
Headhunters (Outside Back Patio) 720 Red River at 8th St.:
1am: Tia Carrera
12am: Dixie Witch
11pm: Suplecs
10pm: Lo-Pan
9pm: Gozu
8pm: Backwoods Payback
7pm: Dwellers

Original 18″x24″ silk screen concert poster available by New York-based artist and illustrator Joshua Marc Levy.

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What to Look Forward to in 2012, Pt. 1: The Sure Bets

Posted in Features on January 4th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

I’m a sucker for consistency, so I’m going to keep this to the same kind of format as last year’s 2011 preview — real low key, real stuff I’m actually looking forward to being released. It’s not about what band is the biggest, or who has the most hype, but about who’s kicking what ass and how much it’s happening. Pretty simple parameters we’re working with here.

If you don’t recall last year and didn’t already click that link in the paragraph above out of curiosity, here’s how it works: I take five records I”ve heard and five I haven’t, and over the course of two days, we get a list of 10 albums reportedly to come in 2012 (these things don’t always work out, as we’ll get into more tomorrow with Colour Haze) that hopefully most people can agree with or at least be only mildly outraged at.

Today, it’s the sure bets. These are records that’ll see release early this year that I’ve already heard and can vouch for. I haven’t reviewed all of them yet, but I will, so consider this a precursor to that if you want. They’re not in any order but that in which they occurred to me to write down. In any case, here goes:

Snail, Terminus: Their 2009 reunion album, Blood, has stood the test of the going-on-three years since its release on MeteorCity, and the four-piece are set to follow it up this year with Terminus, an album that hopefully doesn’t live up to its name in being their last. The songwriting, which made for ultra-memorable tracks on Blood, is just as epic here, and each cut seems to have a personality of its own while still flowing together as a whole. What you really need to know about it — it’s heavy as hell. I wouldn’t be surprised to see myself typing about it again come list time this December.

Orange Goblin, A Eulogy for the Damned: Another foreboding album title, this seventh full-length from the London doomers (review here) finds them embracing the anthemic on “The Filthy and the Few” and going full-on spooky for “The Fog.” It’s a mature album, and maybe a little too clean in terms of production, but these guys never fail to deliver, and A Eulogy for the Damned can only add to the increase in profile the last couple years has seen for Orange Goblin. When it comes down to it, they’re one of the best live acts in doom, so they can’t lose in bringing this material to the stage.

Dwellers, Good Morning Harakiri: Iota, the prior outfit of Dwellers guitarist/vocalist Joey Toscano, found a small but loyal cult when they released Tales on Small Stone in 2008. I’d expect no different for Dwellers, which teams Toscano with the rhythm section of SubRosa‘s last album, bassist Dave Jones and drummer Zach Hatsis. The album balances bluesy riffs and spacey ambience with terrifying ease, saving expansive jamming for its two side-closers while bolstering a classic songwriting feel elsewhere. A great mix and a welcome return from Toscano. Full review here.

Corrosion of Conformity, Corrosion of Conformity: I’ve got this slated to be reviewed tomorrow, and next week I’ll have my Q&A with bassist/vocalist Mike Dean posted, so between that, the live review Monday, and the announcement of their headlining tour, it’s an awful lot of C.O.C. around here lately. Can’t say they didn’t earn it. Their upcoming self-titled seems to distill about 30 years of growth into 11 high-quality tracks that not only recall the trio’s Animosity-era glory days, but push them further into places they’ve never gone before. It’s a fascinating and surprising album on a lot of levels, and I think once people have a chance to hear it, they’re going to really embrace what the band is doing.

Black Pyramid, II: A song from this went up just yesterday, so I admit, it’s on my mind lately, but the second LP from Massachusetts trio Black Pyramid is one of early 2012′s highlights for sure. If you don’t believe me, you can get it yourself ahead of its release date from MeteorCity at All That is Heavy, and when you do, I think you’ll find that it’s the melodies making the songs as epic as the riffs and the tales of battles and conquests. As the final statement from this incarnation of the band, it’s also the strongest work they’ve done yet.

There’s more, obviously. No matter how much you do, there’s always more. Records from The Devil’s Blood (which had its Euro release last year but will be out in North America this month), Infernal Overdrive (review here) and Sun Gods in Exile come to mind as being particularly killer, and in the “heard some already” category, the field expands to include the likes of Blood of the Sun, Pagan Altar, Stubb, Crippled Black Phoenix and others as well, so it already looks like it’s going to be a busy year.

The real challenge though is going to be narrowing tomorrow’s speculation picks down to just five. Not sure I’m going to be able to do it, but I’ll try my best.

Stick around — more tomorrow!

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audiObelisk: Dwellers Stream “Vultures” from Good Morning Harakiri

Posted in audiObelisk on December 29th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

Some diligent internet research on Dwellers (and by that I mean looking up their ReverbNation and Bandcamp pages) will result in a couple tracks already available from their Good Morning Harakiri debut full-length. The album is also already available on iTunes for those inclined to download it there, and will be pressed to CD by Small Stone at the end of January.

It hasn’t yet been a full week since I reviewed Good Morning Harakiri, so I’ll spare the long-winded descriptions of how the album as a whole functions and just say that the pairing of former Iota guitarist/vocalist Joey Toscano with the rhythm section of bassist Dave Jones and drummer Zach Hatsis — both of post-metal unit  SubRosa — results in a unique mixture of riff-driven heaviness and thickened jam explorations. While this elements aren’t necessarily uncommon, Dwellers‘ blend of space and blues winds up being almost entirely their own.

Case in point, “Vultures” is the longest track on Good Morning Harakiri at just over 10 minutes. It’s got a bluesy semi-Southern riff and Toscano‘s vocals are graveled as they deliver the initial verses, but the song soon opens up to an expansive heavy jam with a waltzing progression that feels born as much from willful exploration as from its classic rock soloing.

Small Stone was kind enough to let me host “Vultures” for your streaming pleasure, and you’ll find it on the player below. Hope you enjoy:

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DwellersGood Morning Harakiri is available now on iTunes through Small Stone Records, and is set for CD release at the end of January. The band will be playing Burt’s Tiki Club in their native Salt Lake City, Utah on Jan. 21 with YOB and Old Timer, and will also take part in Small Stone‘s annual showcase at SXSW in Austin, Texas, on March 16. More info on that is here, and you can check out Dwellers on Thee Facebooks here.

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Dwellers, Good Morning Harakiri: Rituals of Skin and Bones

Posted in Reviews on December 23rd, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

Also written as “seppuku,” the traditional Japanese practice of harakiri is a form of samurai ritual suicide wherein one plunges a short blade into one’s own belly and slices the blade from left to right. A second person stands behind with a sword and, at a previously-agreed-upon time after the person has disemboweled himself, strikes a decapitating blow. How the notion came to be incorporated with the debut full-length from Salt Lake City, Utah, heavy trio Dwellers, I don’t know, but if there’s some tie in with the theme of “spilling one’s guts,” I’d believe it. Good Morning Harakiri (Small Stone) rocks heavy and naturally for its vinyl-ready 41-minute duration, and is not without its sense of ritual. The band, which unites guitarist/vocalist Joey Toscano of Iota with the same rhythm section that propelled SubRosa’s excellent 2011 offering, No Help for the Mighty Ones – that being bassist Dave Jones and drummer Zach Hatsis – is surprisingly assured in its approach for Good Morning Harakiri being the first album, and the six tracks play out with an organic, blues-based steadiness offset by genre-straddling excursions into psychedelia and doom.

In that way, Good Morning Harakiri is a fitting follow-up to Iota’s excellent 2008 Small Stone debut and swansong, Tales, which melded heavy and space rock together seamlessly and added psychedelic flourish even in Toscano’s vocals, which were melodic echoes from the deep reaches of the Andy Patterson mix (the label’s go-to knob-twiddler, Benny Grotto, also got a word in that regard). Patterson, who also drummed in Iota, handled production for Dwellers (he also did the SubRosa), and dials back that echo somewhat on Toscano’s singing, bringing him forward more early in the album so that, aside from closer “Old Honey,” the singing sounds more confident. And as much as one can read Good Morning Harakiri as an extension of some of Iota’s ideas – Toscano presumably being at the fore creatively in both bands adds to the validity of that read – there’s no discounting the fluidity and the depth of Jones’ and Hatsis’ contributions. Not only do they hold down the extended side A and B closers “Vultures” (10:12) and the aforementioned “Old Honey” (9:53) but they do so with range and personality befitting players well accustomed to working with each other. Also, rather than let Toscano range, so that it’s melody on one side and rhythm on another, with Dwellers, it’s the guitar, bass and drums working together as a solid unit, which is the power trio ideal, so that although every cut on Good Morning Harakiri begins with guitar, the album never strays too far in its indulgences.

Rather, it keeps somewhat to the sort of duality Iota showed in songwriting on Tales, balancing shorter, more straightforward material against longer pieces. With the exception again of “Old Honey,” the songs on Good Morning Harakiri are less space-oriented (and certainly less space-thematic), and though opener “Secret Revival” sets a bruising course after its crisply-strummed intro, the overall affect is more like an expansion on Facelift-era Alice in Chains, particularly given the tone of Toscano’s vocals. Hatsis’ kick is prominent but not dominating, and the already-considerable fuzz in Toscano’s guitar is given low-end boost by Jones on bass, which is smoothly toned and rich. Still, the song is notable in comparison to “New Mantis,” which opened Tales, for the intensity it doesn’t have. Where that song and “We are the Yithians” seemed almost in a rush get through themselves, both “Secret Revival” and “Black Bird,” which follows, replace that intensity with a firm grasp on a bluesy approach, and in the case of the latter, dead-on grooving stomp to match a semi-Southern riff. Not to belabor the point, but Good Morning Harakiri’s clear LP-minded presentation (that is, the two distinct sides that come through even on a CD or digital listen) marks another departure from Iota’s method, which bunched its longer songs together in a linear flow. Both work, but Dwellers shows more diversity in songwriting, so that while “Black Bird” veers into psychedelic guitar layering in its second half, “Vultures” is out of place neither with that nor the verses and chorus preceding, despite being longer and providing more room to jam.

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On the Radar: Dwellers

Posted in On the Radar on September 29th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster

Hairy.They’re not signed, they don’t have a release ready yet, I don’t even know if they’ve played any shows, but Salt Lake City fuzz duo Dwellers come with built in interest due to guitarist/vocalist Joey Toscano‘s presence in the criminally under-noticed Iota and drummer Zach Hatsis‘ in I Hate Records doomers Subrosa. Does that officially make Dwellers a side-project? Probably.

In any case, there are two tracks over at their MySpace that are easily worth the time (hardly any at all) and expense (absolutely none at all) it takes to check them out. Go forth and groove.

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