Posted in Whathaveyou on February 23rd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
The occasion is a slot during the final day of Freak Valley 2015, but I’m sure that whatever else it might’ve been, North Dakota trio Egypt are happy to be going to Europe for the first time since forming a decade ago. They’ll be keeping good company on the road with Oslo doom trio Tombstones, and while there are still a few gigs to be solidified, the two bands will start out on May 23 and on June 2, they hit Paris for Abrahma‘s release show for their new album, Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird.
Egypt‘s most recent outing is a vinyl reissue of their original self-titled demo (review here), but their latest studio release is the 2013 Cyclopean Riffs (review here) split they shared with Texas fuzzrunners Wo Fat on Totem Cat Records, the label that also issued Egypt‘s 2012 full-length, Become the Sun (review here). Tombstones will also appear at Roadburn 2015 and their latest album, Red Skies and Dead Eyes (review here), came out in 2013.
Tour dates and a quote from Egypt‘s Aaron Esterby follow:
Tombstones (NO) & Egypt tour Europe 2015
More than a decade after starting out, Egypt were more active and more widely known than they’d ever been, having racked up shows alongside the likes of Dead Meadow, Jucifer, Today is the Day, Acid Mothers Temple, Weedeater, Church of Misery, and Orange Goblin.
There’s nothing happenstance about it, and in an age where word can travel faster than it ever has, Egypt have slow-burned their way to the fore of the American stoner rock underground. In 2015, they’ll look to expand beyond those borders with their first European tour in support of a new album, set to release this winter. Where they go beyond that is up in the air, but for a band who regrouped by popular demand and have only gathered momentum since, Egypt are just beginning to shape their empire.
Tombstones has been brewing on dirtier filth this time, and their new, third, studio album; “Red Skies and Dead Eyes” will tear holes in your ears and speakers. Norwegian doom has never been played with more confidence and style, and the riffs and grooves penetrate your soul like a demon from ancient caves.
Says Egypt’s Aaron Esterby: “We are extremely stoked to announce the dates of our first European tour this Summer with the killer band from Norway, Tombstones. We couldn’t be more excited to head to Europe. It’s been a long time coming. There are still a couple holes to fill, but for the most part the tour is fully booked. Here are the dates.”
23-5 Underworld – London, England 24-5 TBC – Brighton, England 25-5 TBC 26-5 Cab L´Usine – Geneva, Switzerland 27-5 Kulturcafe Schlachthaus – Dornbirn, Austria 28-5 Coq D´Or – Olten, Switzerland 29-5 PMK – Innsbrück, Austria 30-5 Arena – Vienna, Austria 31-5 Zentralkafe K4 – Nürnberg, Germany 1-6 Le Bunker – Brussels, Belgium 2-6 Le Glazart – Paris, France 3-6 AMC – Antwerp, Belgium 4-6 Onderbroek – Nijmegen, Netherlands 5-6 HELP NEEDED!!! 6-6 Freak Valley Festival – Netphen, Germany
Posted in Whathaveyou on June 10th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
After the success of 2013’s return/debut full-length, Become the Sun (review here) and their Cyclopean Riffs split with Texas’ Wo Fat (review here), North Dakotan three-piece Egypt have overseen a new vinyl issue for their original 2008 self-titled demo, which MeteorCity originally picked up in 2009 (review here). Got all that?
Good, because the reissue is out now on Doomentia Records in four different vinyl colors — blue, yellow, green and red — and each is limited to 125 copies. Egypt are also slated to play this year’s Days of the Doomed Fest with Jex Thoth, Age of Taurus and many others, and they’ll head out on tour beginning next week bringing copies along for the ride. It’s a Midwestern run, but they’re booked with some very cool acts as well, so if you’re in that part of the world, it seems like a solid way to go.
The following info was lovingly cobbled together from Thee Facebooks posts:
We are sold out of S/T reissue on bandcamp. If we have any left when we come back from our Midwest tour we’ll make them available. If you missed out on grabbing a copy of the S/T reissue from us, they are still available at the Doomentia Records webstore. Thanks again for the support. You guys are killer. Cheers.
2014 MIDWEST SUMMER TOUR 6/18 – The Aquarium – Fargo, ND – w/Go Murphy and Benefactor 6/19 – Triple Rock Social Club – Minneapolis, MN – w/Witchden, Wicked Inquistion, and Flintlock 6/20 – JB’s Speakeasy – La Crosse, WI – w/TBA 6/21 – Days of the Doomed Fest IV – The Metal Grill – Cudahy, WI – w/Tons of killer bands 6/22 – Cobra Lounge – Chicago, IL – w/Pilgrim, Fister, and Neverender 6/23 – The Firebird – St. Louis, MO – w/White Fire, Rowsdower, and TBA 6/24 – The Riot Room – Kansas City, MO – w/Hossferatu, Merlin, and Brimstone Crow 6/25 – Hull Avenue Tavern – Des Moines, IA – w/Crown King Revival and Nest of Snakes 6/26 – The Hexagon, – Minneapolis, MN – w/Nightosaur, God Came From Space, and Rat Lord
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 13th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
With the additions of Jex Thoth and Egypt to the bill, I think it’s safe to say that Days of the Doomed IV is the biggest edition of the festival yet. Set for June 20-22 at The Metal Grill in Cudahy, Wisconsin, the lineup already boasted the likes of Blackfinger, The Mighty Nimbus, Age ofTaurus, Stone Magnum, Orodruin and Devil to Pay, and it seems only to be kicking more ass as it goes along.
A witchy new logo/t-shirt design by Kathy Reeves has been unveiled as well, continuing to expand the Midwestern fest’s aesthetic reach.
Here’s the latest:
OK! You’ve seen it on the DOTD website, and I debuted this earlier on Facebook, and you all seem to dig it! So to answer your question… YES! This will be on a limited run of t-shirts available at Days Of The Doomed Fest IV! All bands will be listed on the back! Many thanks to Kathy Reeves for capturing that vintage occult/horror theme I was going for in our newest logo! Great job! Another announcement in 30 minutes!
There are certain bands that lock you in, taking you on a transcendental journey with each spin of their album. 2013’s “Blood Moon Rise” is one such album, delivering not only a collection of catchy doom ballads, but a flowing tapestry of cursed, psychedelic heavy metal. So it is with great pleasure and honor that I announce a rather rare stateside appearance at Days Of The Doomed Fest IV for… JEX THOTH!
Over the past 4 years, this band has been brought up in more than one conversation, and spoken very highly of! I am stoked that the time is finally right to bring all of you some doomed tunage from the great state of North Dakota! Days Of The Doomed Fest IV welcomes… EGYPT!
Posted in Features on January 2nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’ve been trying to get this one on the page for a couple weeks now — really since last year if you want to go back that far — and I finally just decided to do it. Granted, it’s already 2014, but I’m pretty used to being behind the times, so I hope you’ll indulge me on this one.
The thing is, of course we already did the Top 20 Albums of 2013, but that leaves an awful lot out in terms of quality shorter releases. Demos, singles, EPs, splits — whatever it might be — there’s a lot more to the story of a year in music than who’s putting out what full-length. That might be true now more than ever, with digital releases and artists having the ability to more or less give a song-by-song feed of new material should they so choose. Since this is the first time I’ve done this list, I’ve kept the presentation pretty basic, but there’s a lot to dig into here anyway in terms of the quality of the music and what people were able to accomplish in, in some cases, just one or two tracks.
My basis for judgment here is basically the same as with the full-albums list, and by that I mean how much I listened to something played a huge role, and it’s not just how important I think an EP or a split or a demo was that got it included on this list — though of course that stuff matters as well. Like spelling, repeat listens count. And it goes without saying these are my picks and have nothing to do with the Readers Poll, the results of which are here.
Okay, let’s do this:
The Top 20 Short Releases of 2013
1. The Machine/Sungrazer, Split
2. Dozer, Vultures
3. Mars Red Sky, Be My Guide
4. Black Thai, Seasons of Might
5. Wo Fat/Egypt, Cyclopean Riffs Split 12″
6. Young Hunter, Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain
7. Shroud Eater, Dead Ends
8. Steak, Corned Beef Colossus
9. Geezer, Gage
10. The Golden Grass, One More Time b/w Tornado 7″
11. Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight, Underground
12. King Buffalo, Demo
13. Groan, Ride the Snake
14. Crypt Sermon, Demo MMXIII
15. Stubb, Under a Spell b/w Bullets Rain 7″
16. Salem’s Pot, Watch Me Kill You Tape
17. Undersmile/Coma Wall, Wood and Wire Split
18. Second Grave, Antithesis
19. Sinister Haze, Demo
20. Olde Growth, Owl
Honorable mention has to go to the Fatso Jetson/Yawning Man split, C.O.C.‘s MegalodonEP, which was right on but which I didn’t really hear enough to include. The Gates of Slumber‘s Stormcrow as well.
Just a couple notes: In the case of Olde Growth, putting them last was actually more about not being sure when the official release date of Owlwas than anything else. I actually listened to that quite a bit, and “Tears of Blood” remains my favorite work of the duo’s to date. In terms of demos, it was a good year for doom debuts, with Crypt Sermon and Sinister Haze both showing some malevolent classicism, and King Buffalo‘s demo grew on me almost immediately upon hearing it and right away made me look forward to whatever might come next from them.
I was a little hesitant to put a split in the number one spot, but The Machine‘s riff for “Awe” alone made it necessary. I’ve kept this disc on my person for almost the entire year and continue to have no regrets in doing so. For Dozer, yeah, it was a collection of older material, but I still enjoyed the crap out of it. Both Mars Red Sky and Black Thai signaled considerable creative growth in four-song EPs, and the Wo Fat and Egypt split more than lived up to its mission. The riff lives in bands like that, and as we get further into stylistic nuance and subgenre development, it’s those groups who are holding on to the Heavy.
Young Hunter are one of the most promising bands I’ve heard in the last three years. Flat out. Killer release. Ditto that in a much different context for Shroud Eater, whose take on heavy only got more sinister and more effective with Dead Ends. Steak emerge as tops among the five British bands — a quarter of the list! — here. Their Corned Beef Colossus also had the best title I heard all year, and though Trippy Wicked, Groan, Stubb, and Undersmile/Coma Wall (the latter earning bonus points for putting out a split with themselves) all thrilled, Steak‘s potential got them that spot. Time for a full-length, guys.
Not to leave out New York — though the geographical alignment is a coincidence — Geezer‘s Gagetapped into a jammier feel that I thought suited the band remarkably well, and The Golden Grass‘ debut single offered one of the most charming irony-free good times I’ve heard in a long while. The Salem’s Pot cassette was one of my most-listened-to tapes this year, last mentioned but not at all least, Second Grave‘s Antithesisprobably would’ve clocked in higher if I’d had more time with it, but was definitely one I wanted to put in here anyway.
As I said, a lot of really astounding shorter outings, and worthy of attention in their own right. If I missed anything, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments.
Had I been there longer than two days, I probably would’ve visited more shops than I did, but as it was, two weeks ago, The Patient Mrs. and I escaped to Montreal for a couple days and as is my habit in places I’ve never been before, I decided to do some CD shopping. I asked and was immediately given many helpful pointers on Thee Facebooks, and that was excellent, but again, with limited time, limited funds and a limited ability on my part to be like, “No honey I don’t want to go take a walk by the river I want to go sift through musty record stores,” I picked the two that showed the most immediate promise: Cheap Thrills on Metcalfe St. and Soundcentral on Rue Coloniale.
Cheap Thrills was first since it was closer to where I was staying. Located on the second floor of its building — an older structure surrounded by taller, newer ones, it looks a little bit like something out of a time warp — getting there required a walk up a staircase that was warped almost to the point of psychedelia but proved to be worth the risk. A table of used paperbacks outside the door provided greeting and inside, a varied selection of vinyl and CDs and more books (half the store was dedicated to books, half to music) awaited perusal. The LPs looked like the way to go, but I wasn’t looking to pick up vinyl and so, finding nothing in metal, waded through the retro section hoping for Chicken Shack or some other heavy ’70s obscurity.
There were a couple that piqued my interest, but nothing so much so that I actually bought it. Tapes were behind the counter and I looked at some of them as well, but well, it was early, I was only halfway through my coffee and barely awake. It wasn’t until I found the cheapo bin — three discs for $5 — that I started to really feel inspired. Going for some local flavor, I grabbed the 2007 Blackhorse full-length from native dronegazers Aun, and was dumbfounded when I stumbled on a copy of the 1999 outing from Floridian sludgers Cavity, Supercollider. Not only was it that album, but the original Man’s Ruin pressing. Yeah, I already owned it, but it seemed like an issue of principle. No way I could leave it there. I didn’t wind up hitting that three for $5 special, but between those and some books The Patient Mrs. picked up, I felt like I did reasonably well.
My magical track-my-movements-and-tell-me-where-to-go robot (aka my phone) didn’t work above the border, so finding Soundcentral was something of a challenge, but it worked out in the end. I knew I was in the right place when, as I started to check out the bins by the door, the dude behind the counter took one look at my Vitus shirt and told me the sludgy, doomy, stoner stuff was in the back. Off I went. Sure enough, up a couple stairs — Soundcentral is deceptively spacious, but creatively laid out, and again, there are books in back (also VHS tapes) — and around the hardcore section, there was a pretty wide variety of heavy styles, used and new, neatly enough organized and running a full gamut of subgenres.
Montreal has a history of diverse metal, from Cryptopsy to The Great Sabatini, but I knew from the modicum of research I did beforehand that Soundcentral was the official distro point for local trio Dopethrone, and having bought their two prior offerings at Roadburn 2012, I knew I didn’t want to leave without picking up a physical copy of the third.The aptly-titled IIIwas readily on hand, so I snagged that, and have been delighting in its Bongzilla-style stone-sludge ever since. For further Montreal-atry, I got Hell in Montreal by Mister Bones, who are from — wait for it — Montreal, and veering from the local stuff, was glad to find a CD copy of Egypt‘s 2013 return outing, Become the Sun(review here), and the 2012 debut, Wild Beyond Belief!, by Virginian outfit Satan’s Satyrs.
Those four probably would’ve been enough to send me out of Soundcentral confident I’d come out on the winning end, but my interest was also piqued by a self-titled outing in a sleeve by a band called Gruel. Normally, I wouldn’t shell out the cash for something in a sleeve — at a show, maybe — just as a moral standpoint, but already being out of my element in an unfamiliar city, I went with my gut and picked it up. The UK band released it in 2009 and played their last show in 2011, it was limited to 500 copies and it’s got a vicious threatening ambience to its sludge, something like Thou but with the additional off-puttingness of being an hour’s worth of material broken into four tracks that are slabs of 15 minutes apiece. Vinyl sides, in other words. On CD they make for a formidable challenge.
Knowing nothing about that, I got it basically just for the fun of taking a chance on it and on my way out, was given a copy of Coloniale, an also-limited 2010 3.5″ CDR from local and affiliated instrumentalists Squalor. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to play it when the time came — those tiny CDs can be trouble — but it wound up working fine in my laptop, and Squalor‘s garage-sounding noise-rock hit with suitable bombast. There are just three tracks on it, sort of like the compact disc version of a 7″ with one song on one side and two shorter ones on the other, but though the sound was raw the band kept my attention anyway, middle cut “Dos de Mayo” holding a line somewhere between psychedelia and caustic punk. They’ve reportedly got a new one in the works, so that’s something to keep an eye out for.
By the time I was done in Soundcentral, the afternoon was starting to wear on. Plans to hit the contemporary art museum proved ambitious and were tossed in favor of a nap. Poutine dinner and a semi-comatose walk by the aforementioned river followed, and in the morning, The Patient Mrs. and I started the long drive back down south. We’d talked about hitting Montreal for about a decade before we finally got to do it — we’ve stopped a few times over the years because of the sheer distracting gorgeousness of the Adirondacks — but if I make it back anytime soon, at least I’ll know where to get my shopping in.
Posted in Reviews on July 10th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Texas fuzz mavens Wo Fat and resurgent North Dakota riff rockers Egypt join forces on a new limited-to-500 split LP released via Totem CatRecords. Dubbed Cyclopean Riffsperhaps because the two bands see through one eye or as a play on the fact that the parts work in cycles, the 12″ smoke-colored splatter vinyl features two cuts from each trio. So, to go by the numbers it’s one eye, one release, two bands, two songs each, three members in each band. If you want to keep it going, there’s four songs total and each band has five letters in its name. To draw further correlation, each three-piece also recorded and mixed their own material, with Wo Fat guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump playing the role of engineer for the extended “Nameless Cults,” which starts off their side, and “Electric Hellhound,” while Egypt‘s own six-stringer, Neal Stein, helmed “Blood Temple Hymn” and “Ancient Enemy.” Both have done their own recordings before — Stump has grown into his own as a producer over the course of Wo Fat‘s four albums and Stein proved himself up to the task earlier this year on Egypt‘s comeback LP, Become the Sun(review here) — and with a little over 18 minutes apiece, both bands give a firm sense of where they’re coming from sonically while making a surprisingly good pairing for each other. It’s not necessarily a shock that two fuzzy, heavy rock bands would go together well — that happens all the time — but front to back, Cyclopean Riffsmakes the most of a palpable stylistic kinship between Wo Fat and Egypt, its songs based around top quality riffing and classic jamming swagger.
There aren’t sides, per se, but Wo Fat are given top billing, and they launch Cyclopean Riffswith “Nameless Cults,” a song that plays into a similar kind of swamp-mystic thematic that has presented itself across their last two full-lengths, 2012’s The Black Code(review here) and 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra(review here), while remaining consistent on a musical level as well. One thinks of 10-minute-plus jamming excursions like “The Shard of Leng” from last year’s outing or the title-track of the record before it and it seems Wo Fat‘s penchant for improv-style fuzz wandering has remained strong in the time since they put The Black Codeto tape. They continue to hone a blend between that side of their approach and a knack for memorable choruses, as both “Nameless Cults” and the considerably less open-structured “Electric Hellhound” offer a hook worthy of their reputation, the former using a straightforward verse/chorus beginning as a springboard for an instrumental jam that holds sway for the entirety of the second half of the track — Stump taking leads here and there while bassist Tim Wilson and drummer Michael Walter (also backing vocals) keep a sense of motion and build rolling along — while the latter works largely the same, only without the departure from its initial base structure. An increase in stomp from Walter and build throughout the song itself would make an extended jam almost redundant, not to mention the fact that they just did one and would run out of room on the side of an LP.
Posted in Features on January 15th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Last year was a monster. You might say I’m still catching up on reviews for records that came out in October. Yet here we stand in 2013. It’s a whole new year and that means instead of looking back at some of the best releases, it’s time to look ahead and nerd out at what’s to come. Frankly, either way is a good time, but with some of what’s included on this list, 2013 has the potential to be yet another incredible year for lovers of the heavy.
Across a range of genres and subgenres, there are bands big and small, known and unknown, getting ready to unleash debuts, follow-ups and catalog pieces that by the time December rolls around, will have defined the course of this year. It’s always great to hold an album in your hands, to put it on and listen to it for the first or 19th time, but part of the fun is the excitement beforehand too, and that’s where we’re at now.
Some of these I’ve heard, most I haven’t, and some are only vague announcements, but when I started out putting this list together, my plan was to keep it to 10 and I wound up with twice that many because there was just too much happening to ignore. The list is alphabetical because it doesn’t make any sense to me to rate albums that aren’t out yet, and I hope if you find something you’d like to add, you’ll please feel free to leave a comment below.
Thanks in advance for reading, and enjoy:
Acid King, TBA
We begin with only the basest of speculations. Would you believe me if I told you that 2013 makes it eight years since the heavier-than-your-heavy-pants San Francisco trio Acid King released their last album, III? Of course you wouldn’t believe me. You’d be like, “Dude, no way,” but it’s true. Eight friggin’ years. They’ve hinted all along at new material, toured Europe and played fests in the States like Fall into Darkness, but really, it’s time for something new on record. Even an EP. A single! I’ll take what I can get at this point, so long as it’s Lori S. riffing it.
Chances are, the above isn’t the final art for Argentinian Los Natas-offshoot Ararat‘s forthcoming III, but frontman Sergio Chotsourian has posted a few demos over the last several months and the logo image came from that. Either way, with as far as last year’s II(review here) went in expanding their sound, I can’t wait to hear the final versions of the tracks for the next one. They’re still flying under a lot of people’s radar, it seems, but Ararat are quickly becoming one of South America’s best heavy psych acts. Do yourself a favor and keep an eye out.
Brooklyn trio Bezoar‘s 2012 debut, Wyt Deth, might have been my favorite album that I never reviewed last year, and needless to say, that’s not a mistake I’m going to make twice. The new songs I’ve heard the three-piece play live have ruled and an alliance with engineer Stephen Conover (whose discography includes Rza and Method Man) is intriguing to say the least. I’m sure whatever Bezoar come out with, the performances from bassist/vocalist Sara Villard, guitarist Tyler Villard and drummer Justin Sherrell will be as hard to pin down as the debut was. It’s a record I’m already looking forward to being challenged by.
Blaak Heat Shujaa, The Edge of an Era
Due out April 9, Blaak Heat Shujaa‘s The Edge of an Era will mark the full-length debut for the ambitious trio (now based in L.A.) on Tee Pee Records following on the heels of the impressive The Storm Generation EP (review here). From the Scott Reeder production to the band’s engaging heavy psych/desert rock blend, this one seems bound to win Blaak Heat Shujaa a lot of new friends, and if the advance EP is anything to go by, The Edge of an Eracould prove to be aptly-titled indeed.
Black Pyramid, Adversarial
No release date yet, but so far as I know, Adversarial, which is Massachusetts doom rockers Black Pyramid‘s third album and first to be fronted by guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard, is recorded, mixed and mastered. Song titles include “Swing the Scimitar,” “Onyx and Obsidian,” “Issus,” “Bleed Out” and “Aphelion” (the latter was also released as a limited single in 2012 by Transubstans as a split with Odyssey), and having seen the band live with this lineup, expect no less than a beheading. Also watch for word from the recently announced side-project from Shepard and bassist Dave Gein, The Scimitar.
Black Sabbath, 13
There was a bit of a shitstorm this past weekend when the title of Black Sabbath‘s first Ozzy Osbourne-fronted album since 1978 was revealed in a press release. Nonetheless, 13is set for release in June and will feature Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine on drums in place of Bill Ward, who last year was engaged in a well-publicized contract dispute with the band. Bummer though that is and as crappy and generic a title as 13 makes — especially this year — let’s not forget that Heaven and Hell‘s The Devil You Know also had a crap title and it was awesome. I’m not sure if I’m willing to stake anticipation on the difference between the vocals of Ronnie James Dio circa 2010 and Ozzy Osbourne in 2013, or Rick Rubin‘s production, but hell, is Geezer Butler playing bass on it? Yes? Well, okay then, I’ll listen. The world can do a lot worse than that and another batch of Tony Iommi riffs, whatever else may be in store.
Clutch, Earth Rocker
It’s a ripper. With Earth Rocker, Clutch reunite with Blast Tyrant producer Machine and the results are a record varied enough to keep some of the recent blues elements of the past couple albums (“Gone Cold”) while also showcasing a reinvigorated love of straight-up heavy rock numbers on tracks like “Crucial Velocity,” “Book, Saddle & Go” and “Cyborg Betty.” Longtime Clutch fans can expect a bigger guitar sound from Tim Sult, killer layering and much personality from vocalist Neil Fallon and yet another stellar performance from the best rhythm section in American heavy, bassist Dan Maines and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster. No doubt in my mind it’ll prove one of the year’s best when 2013 is done. Once more unto the breach!
Devil to Pay, Fate is Your Muse
Last month, I hosted a Devil to Pay video premiere for the Indianapolis-based rockers’ new track, “This Train Won’t Stop,” from the 7″ single of the same name that precedes the release of their Ripple Music debut full-length (fourth overall), Fate is Your Muse. If the 575-plus Thee Facebook “Likes” are anything to go by, anticipation for the album is pretty high. Reasonably so. When I saw Devil to Pay at last year’s SHoD fest, the new material was killer and the band seemed more confident than ever before. Stoked to hear how that translates to a studio recording and how the band has grown since 2009’s Heavily Ever After.
Egypt, Become the Sun
Technically speaking, Become the Sun is the full-length debut from North Dakota doomers Egypt. The band released their self-titled demo through MeteorCity in 2009 (review here), were broken up at the time, and reassembled with a new guitarist for Become the Sun— which is the only album on this list to have already been reviewed. I don’t know about a physical release date, but it’s available now digitally through iTunes and other outlets, and however you do so, it’s worth tracking down to get the chance to listen to it. Underrated Midwestern riffing, hopefully with a CD/LP issue coming soon.
The Flying Eyes, TBA
Currently holed up in Lord Baltimore Studios with producer Rob Girardi, Baltimore’s The Flying Eyes are reportedly putting the finishing touches on the follow-up to 2011’s immersive Done So Wrong, an album full of young energy and old soul. Along with Blaak Heat Shujaa above, I consider these dudes to be right at the forefront of the next generation of American heavy psych and I’m excited to hear what kind of pastoral blues works its way into their tracks when the album finally gets released. They’re a band you’re probably going to hear a lot about this year, so be forewarned.
Gozu, The Fury of a Patient Man
The melodicism of Boston-based Gozu‘s second Small Stone full-length, The Fury of a Patient Man (I swear I just typed “The Fury of a Patient Mrs.”) is no less striking than its album cover. I’ve had this one for a while, have gotten to know it pretty well and my plan is to review it next week, so keep an eye out for that, but for now, I’ll just say that the sophomore outing is a fitting answer to the potential of Gozu‘s 2010 debut, Locust Season (review here) and marks the beginning of what already looks like another strong year for Small Stone. I never thought I’d be so into a song called “Traci Lords.”
Halfway to Gone, TBA
What I’d really like to see happen is for Halfway to Gone — who are high on my list of New Jersey hometown heroes and who haven’t had a new LP out since their 2004 self-titled — to put out a new record in 2013, for it to lay waste to everyone who hears it, and for the band to finally get the recognition they’ve long since deserved. I’ve been charged up on revisiting their three albums since I saw them at the Brighton Bar this past July and after a long wait, rumors, breakups, makeups, etc., I’ve got my hopes up that this year is when these dudes pull it together and make a new one happen. It’s been too long and this band is too good to just let it go.
Kings Destroy, TBA
Confession time: I have the Kings Destroy record. I’ve had it for a bit now. It rules. I don’t know when you’re gonna hear it, but it’s strange and eerie and kind of off the wall stylistically and it doesn’t really sound like anything else out there. Last I heard they’re looking for a label, and whoever ends up with it is lucky. I use a lot of descriptors for bands and their albums, but rarely will I go so far as to call something unique. This album is. If you’ve had the chance to check out songs like “The Toe” and “Turul” live, you know what I’m talking about, and if you haven’t, then stick around because with all the sessions I’ve had with the tracks, I still feel outclassed by what these guys are doing. Shine on, you doomed weirdos.
The Kings of Frog Island, Volume IV
I keep going back to the video for “Long Live the King” that Leicester, UK, fuzz rockers The Kings of Frog Island put up back in October. No, really, I keep going back. It’s a good song and I keep listening to it. Just about any other details regarding their fourth album and first without guitarist/vocalist Mat Bethancourt (Josiah, Cherry Choke), Volume IV, are nil, but periodic updates on the band’s Thee Facebooks have it that progress on the recording is being made, and in the meantime, I don’t seem to have any trouble paying return visits to “Long Live the King.” Hopefully Elektrohasch stays on board for a CD release, and hopefully it happens soon.
Several times over the last couple months I’ve had occasion to say it to people and I’ll say it here as well: I think Lo-Pan are the best American stoner rock band going right now. I was interested to see how they handled the bigger stage for their opening slot for High on Fire and Goatwhore (review here), and as ever, they killed. I haven’t the faintest idea what their recording plans might be, if they’ll even sit still long enough to put an album to tape in time to have it out in 2013 — I suspect it depends on what tour offers come up in the meantime — but new songs “Colossus” and “Eastern Seas” bode well for their being able to continue the course of momentum that the excellence of 2011’s Salvador(review here) and all their hard work before and since has put them on.
Queens of the Stone Age, TBA
It probably wouldn’t be fair to call the upcoming Queens of the Stone Age album a reunion between Josh Homme and Dave Grohl since the two also played together in Them Crooked Vultures and Grohl only drummed on Songs for the Deaf, but it’s exciting news anyway and could mean good things are coming from QOTSA, whose last outing was 2007’s comparatively lackluster Era Vulgaris. The big questions here are how the time apart from the band may or may not have affected Homme‘s songwriting and where he’s decided he wants to take the Queens sound. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Sungrazer & The Machine, Split
With the Strikes and Gutters tour already booked to support it (dates above; or here), Dutch upstart heavy psych jammers The Machine and Sungrazer have teamed up for a split release as well that’s bound to feature some of the year’s best fuzz. The two bands have a lot in common, but they’re pretty distinct from each other sonically too, and with The Machine guitarist/vocalist David Eering helming the recording, you can safely bet it’ll capture the live, jammy feel both groups share. Latest word has it that the mastered tracks are in-house, so watch for more to come as we get closer to the Valentine’s Day launch of the tour.
The Swedish fuzz juggernauts’ fourth album overall, this will be Truckfighters‘ first with new drummer McKenzo alongside the core songwriting duo of Dango and Ozo. They’ve been teasing recording updates and threatening song clips, but as soon as I run into something concrete, I’ll share. I’m especially looking forward to the Truckfighters album since it means they’ll likely come back to the US for another tour, and since 2009’s Mania (review here) was so damned brilliant. Not sure on a release date, but it’s high on the list of necessities anyway, however low it may appear alphabetically.
Valley of the Sun, TBA
All I’m going on in including Ohio-based desert rockers Valley of the Sun on this list is a New Year’s message they put out there that read, “Happy New Year, Brothers and Sisters!!! You can count on a Valley of the Sun full-length in 2013.” Hey, I’ve relied on less before, and even if you want to call it wishful thinking, the Cincinnati trio are due a debut full-length behind 2011’s righteous The Sayings of the Seers EP (review here). Even if it doesn’t show up until November or December, I’ll basically take it whenever the band gets around to releasing. Riffs are welcome year-round.
Well, I mean, yeah. Right? Yeah, well, sure. I mean. Well. Yeah. I mean, sure. Right? It’s a supergroup with YOB‘s Mike Scheidt on vocals, John Cobbett of Hammers of Misfortune on guitar, Sigrid Sheie of Hammers of Misfortune on bass and Aesop Dekker of Agalloch and Worm Ouroboros on drums. Album’s done, set for release on Profound Lore. So, I mean, you know, yeah. Definitely. No music has made its way to the public yet — though that can’t be far off — but either way, sign me the fuck up. Anywhere this one goes, I’m interested to find out how it gets there.
Vista Chino, TBA
After that lawsuit, it’s not like they could go ahead and call the band Kyuss Still Lives!, so the recently-announced Vista Chino makes for a decent alternative and is much less likely to provoke litigation. But still, the Kyuss Lives! outgrowth featuring former Kyuss members John Garcia, Nick Oliveri and Brant Bjork along with guitarist Bruno Fevery is of immediate consequence. I’m not sure what the timing on the release is, but they’ve already been through enough to get to this point that one hopes a new album surfaces before the end of 2013. What I want to know next is who’s recording the damn thing.
Yawning Man, Gravity is Good for You
Not much has been said in the time since I interviewed Gary Arce, guitarist and founder of influential desert rock stalwarts Yawning Man, about the 2LP Gravity is Good for Yourelease (the Raymond Pettibon cover for which you can see above), but the band has been confirmed for Desertfest since then and they’re playing in L.A. on Jan. 25, so they’re active for sure and presumably there’s been some progress on the album itself. It remains to be seen what form it will take when it surfaces, and the lineup of the band seems somewhat nebulous as well, but when there’s a desert, there’s Yawning Man, and there’s always a desert. 2010’s Nomadic Pursuits(review here) was a triumph, and deserves a follow-up.
Anyone else notice that the “20 Albums to Watch for” list has 22 albums on it? Maybe I wanted to see if you were paying attention. Maybe I can’t count. Maybe I just felt like including one more. Maybe I had 21 and then added Vista Chino after someone left a comment about it. The possibilities are endless.
So too is the list of bands I could’ve included here. Even as I was about halfway through, a new Darkthrone track surfaced from an album due Feb. 25 called The Underground Resistance, and news/rumors abound of various substance concerning offerings from YOB, Eggnogg, When the Deadbolt Breaks, Mars Red Sky, Asteroid, Apostle of Solitude, Windhand, Phantom Glue, the supergroup Corrections House, Kingsnake, Sasquatch — I’ve already made my feelings known on the prospect of a new Sleep record — news went up yesterday about Inter Arma‘s new one, and you know Wino‘s gonna have an album or two out before the end of the year, and he’s always up to something good, so 20, 22, 35, it could just as easily go on forever. Or at least very least the whole year.
If there’s anything I forgot, anything you want to include or dispute, comments are welcome and encouraged.
Posted in Reviews on October 2nd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
The tale of Fargo, North Dakota, doomers Egypt is winding and easy to lose track of along the way, but what it rounds out to is that nine years after first getting together, the trio have completed their first album, Become the Sun. Their initial run was from 2003-2005. During that time, the lineup of bassist/vocalist Aaron Esterby, drummer Chad Heille and guitarist Ryan Grahn released a self-titled demo. In the meantime, thanks to word of mouth and a few choice reviews, that demo caught the attention of the heavy rock underground, which resulted in a vinyl release in 2008 and an accompanying CD issue through MeteorCity (review here). May 2010, Egypt reunited for a gig in their native Fargo, and now the lineup of Esterby, Heille and guitarist Neal Stein (who also recorded and mixed; James Plotkin mastered) have prepared a full-length debut as tonally rich as it is long in arriving. Some of the material on Become the Sun(released by Totem Cat Records) dates back to the first incarnation of the band – Grahn is giving a partial writing credit alongside Esterby, Heille, Stein and Deep Purple, whose “Black Night” serves as the penultimate track – but far from dated, the 10 cuts tap into 40-plus years of power-trio history to emerge with an album rooted in ‘70s groove but delivered with modern thickness and forays into jazz and boogie rock. Esterby’s bass tone exudes a particular warmth on a more languid cut like “Greenland,” but even on the guitar led “World Eater” or earlier “Orb of the Wizardking,” isn’t to be understated as a formative aspect of Egypt’s sound, even as his gruff, throaty, sometimes echoing vocals alternately remind of Alabama Thunderpussy, Crowbar, and in the case of the fuzzy “Snake Charmer,” a bit of The Midnight Ghost Train’s blues-based testifying preacherisms. He walks no less a thin line between clean and more abrasive singing than the band walks between motoring heavy rock and lumbering doom – the expanses covered between opener “Matterhorn,” “Greenland” and closer “Elk River Fire” perhaps somewhat exaggerated in geography in relation to the stylistic jumps Egypt are making within the genre, but still indicative of the band’s interest in covering a wide swath of ground. Either way, at just under an hour long (58:42), Become the Sun seeks to encompass nearly a decade’s worth of progression, tone worship and bluesy riffage.
In that, it’s successful. Egypt don’t emerge from Become the Sun’s 10 tracks as the reshapers of the genre they inhabit, but they unquestionably show the potential to leave their mark upon it, “Matterhorn” beginning the album with a plodding progression leading to a last-minute shuffle outro as though to hint at some of the pacing interplay to come. “The Village is Silent” nestles comfortably into a mid-tempo nod, and though Stein’s fuzz is front and center, Heille’s bass drum seems to be setting the tone just as much, with full punctuating kicks that resonate from within the thickness of the guitar and bass. There’s nothing much fancy to it – even when Stein takes his solo and more guitar layers emerge, Esterby following along on bass, Egypt stay forward-minded – but in its second half, the song breaks to a stillness evocative of the titular silence and the bass comes to the forefront, warm in a style more associated with European heavy psych these days than American rock and roll. Esterby lays the foundational melody of an engaging build, and Egypt know a good thing when they have it; locking in that groove, they hold it to the song’s conclusion, letting some sweet feedback ring out “The Village is Silent” directly into the contrasting aggressive immediacy of “Orb of the Wizardking.” With farther back vocals, the nine-minute third track aligns itself to a more epic feel, but transitions into a more open chorus and semi-psychedelic bridge that sets up the Sabbathian lead section to follow, Stein and Esterby hitting their wah in kind while Heille keeps Sleep-style time on his snare beneath. The long instrumental break accounts for much of the extra time in “Orb of the Wizardking,” but Egypt never lose total hold of the structure, and so when the thudding verse reemerges at the halfway point, it’s not so much a surprise as it is a testament to the band’s complexity of construction. They embark on a build to a slower riff that serves as the musical crux for the remaining 3:40 of the track, Esterby offering a last verse in time to the guitar that enhances both the sonic largesse and the structured feel, contributing largely to the final triumph.