Posted in Whathaveyou on March 5th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Though as of this post, we’re still waiting on some official word of the cause, it’s been reported today and confirmed by his management that Selim Lemouchi, former guitarist and founder of Dutch cult rockers The Devil’s Blood, has died. Lemouchi, who was 34, disbanded The Devil’s Blood in 2013 just prior to the release of their third and final album, III: Tabula Rasa or Death and the Seven Pillars, and had already issued a full-length from his follow-up project, Selim Lemouchi and His Enemies, who were also slated to play Roadburn this year. As of now, there has been no comment from either Metal Blade, who released the last two The Devil’s Blood records in the US, or Lemouchi‘s European label, Ván Records, which released Earth Air Spirit Water Fire, the 2013 debut from Selim Lemouchi and His Enemies.
That LP showcased a more psychedelic side of the ritual-minded songwriter, but Lemouchi will likely be most remembered for his work in The Devil’s Blood in which, along with his sister, frontwoman Farida Lemouchi, he provided much of of the foundation of the modern cult rock revival. The Devil’s Blood‘s 2008 EP, Come, Reap, and ensuing 2009 full-length debut, The Time of No Time Evermore, were met with massive popular response and have proven influential in the half-decade since, elements of the band’s Satanic devotion and chaos-minded rock showing up in groups from both Europe and the US, as though The Devil’s Blood were the reminder point of the marriage between evil and beauty that once permeated underground rock and folk musics. In delivering that reminder, The Devil’s Blood was a groundbreaking outfit, and their live performances — soaked in blood — quickly became the stuff of legend.
On behalf of this site and myself, I wish to extend condolences to Lemouchi‘s family, friends and acquaintances. I know that when I interviewed him in 2012, I found him to be personable and deeply charismatic, and his loss is significant.
The Devil’s Blood, The Time of No Time Evermore (2009)
Posted in Features on April 17th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
04.17.13 — 15.56 — Wednesday — Best Western Arthotel, Eindhoven
It was a foggy, wet kind of morning when the plane landed at Schiphol, and as towns whizzed by on the train, it was a measure to see it had rained here, hadn’t rained there. It’s about an hour and a half by rail from Amsterdam to Eindhoven — and did I sleep on the plane no of course I did not sleep on the plane — so I got out of the airport as quickly as possible. 35007 (Phase V was perfect for the weather and made me realize again how much one less tired than I could argue they set the stage for the explorations of bands like My Sleeping Karma) and the new split between The Machine and Sungrazer were my accompaniment, as well of course as my luggage Big Blue, which according to the scale back in Newark weighs over 60 pounds this year. It doesn’t even have any CDs in it yet! They put a tag on the handle that says, “Heavy.” Fat people can’t go anywhere these days.
There was some debate on my part whether to bring them, but in the end, I think lugging the DVDs of Arrested Development along for this trip was the right idea. When I told The Patient Mrs. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to have them with me on account of thinking that when you’re traveling you should sort of put yourself out of your comfort zone — as if I fucking am ever comfortable anywhere, ever, ever — she more or less said to drop the hackneyed bullshit, grow up, and put them between the t-shirts and my socks so they didn’t get bounced around. I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea. She was right, in any case. As I slammed into bed to crash out for a few hours, it was a much appreciated comfort of home.
And anyway, I brought my fucking pillow and the place I’m staying calls itself an “Arthotel,” so I’m hardly roughing it. I have no idea what “Arthotel” means, but it’s easily the nicest Best Western I’ve ever set foot in. Even at reception, Mike, whose last name according to the tag was Trainee, checked me in from behind a giant transluscent plastic flower. There were three of them set up instead of a registration counter. It being the Netherlands, I went to the orange one. So far what I can surmise about the “Arthotel” aspect of the thing is that the signs with the room numbers in the atrium-type hallway are whacky and don’t match and the walls have different paints and wallpapers on them. Apparently in Eindhoven, the artists also enjoy 10-ft. ceilings. Also the toilet is in a little room separate from the shower and the sink, which means you have to pee in one spot and then go over to the next room to wash your hands. That’s performance art.
Eindhoven is beautiful though, which is more or less why I’m here. I got off the train and stumbled, dragging Big Blue — whose wheels made loud clacky sounds on the brick walkways as I went as if in a gallop announcing to anyone awake that, yes, there was an American in town — and had some trouble finding this place. Thinking it was a Holiday Inn didn’t help, and neither did not knowing what street it’s on. I turned on my cell phone, which I’ll be keeping off as much as possible to avoid incurring roaming data charges, and looked in my email for the note from The Patient Mrs. with the confirmation. Of course she booked the room. She booked this whole thing. I’d be lost without her.
For evidence, I’ll give you the picture of greasy, post-flight, no-sleep me, clomping around early morning Eindhoven trying to find a hotel when I’ve got the name wrong and no address. I went a couple blocks in the direction of the Markt, where I stayed last year, and then looped around after checking the address and eventually found it on my way back to the train station to look at the map. Surprisingly, “Holiday Inn” wasn’t on the map when I looked on the way in. No word on Best Western.
In a couple minutes I’ll jump in the shower (while I’m giving pleasant images), and then find coffee and get on a train to Tilburg to do a bit of record shopping at a place called Sounds that I’ve wanted to visit for a few years now but never had time. In case I need to fire up this post and look later, it’s down Stationstraat (which is by the station) after it merges with Nieulandstraat. I love the Dutch language, the sounds of it, and wish I was not entirely ignorant of it as I am. There’s a lot I feel that way about, but I’m away and lucky enough to be here in this gorgeous place, and if feeling like you’ve just said all the most embarrassing things you ever said in your life all at the same time every time you open your mouth is the price to pay (aside from the actual price), I’ll chalk it up to being an American abroad.
It felt good to sleep, and I’m confident that if I got back in bed, I could do it for much, much longer, but it’s time to get up and get out of this room. So that’s what I’m going to do.
Posted in Features on April 17th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
04.16.13 – 7:45PM Eastern – Tuesday – Over Atlantic
The pigeon pigeon (yes, I know I typed it twice) above was walking around under the benches at Gate C72, Newark Liberty Airport. Wildlife, man. Nature is nothing if not persistent.
Airline food smells like chemicals and I consider refusing it a grand act of defiance. The staff always look at you so surprised. “Really? Nothing?” Even the salad is made of pink slime, I’m sure of it. Like the scientists usually in charge of seeing what we can learn by spraying flame retardant chemicals in rabbit eyes suddenly stumbled on the formula for potatoes au gratin. No. Nothing. Thanks.
We’ve been in the air for a little more than an hour. Our cruising altitude is 35,007 feet and we have a little more than 3,000 miles to go before we reach Schiphol. If we were on the ground, we’d be doing 577 miles per hour. I can see it’s gotten dark through the peephole on the cabin door, but last I looked out the window next to me, the engine and the wing were still there. It’s important to know these things.
They have on-demand movies now. They sell drinks now – credit or debit cards only; before we took off, the flight attendant referred to it as a “cash-free plane,” and I immediately wanted to make a Leno joke about the cost of airfare, but I don’t think the four-year-old in the seat next to me would’ve gotten it, and I hate making toddlers feel like they should laugh just to be polite – and duty free catalogs are around here somewhere. The marketing is astounding. The budgets. If they actually gave a fuck and invested, those rabbit-blasting scientists surely could’ve come up with a better, less flying-death-trap-y mode of transportation by now. Hoversomethingorother. Teleportando. Anything but Economy Class on United.
I have headphones on, because Mama Koczan didn’t raise no fool. First was Olde Growth in the airport, then Anciients, now Colour Haze. A double-album is all the better for long-distance travel, and I expect I’ll revisit She Said several times before this trip is over.
Unless of course we plummet into the ocean at a thousand miles an hour, in which case I won’t have the opportunity.
I suppose that’s what you’re really paying for: the distraction. The in-flight entertainment, the on-demand movies, the toxic food, the beverage carts – it’s like they’ve all been focus tested to draw your mind away from the fact that with each minor tumble could come immediate, irrevocable, explosive death in the sky, from which you will then drop out, to die a fearful death alone as you lose a one-sided fight to gravity, never to be found again among the expanse of flaming, floatable debris.
If it happens and I go, I want to be eaten by an octopus. It seems only fair.
My wife asked me today if I was excited for the trip. She wasn’t the only one. I guess it wasn’t showing, the thrill of it all. That starts after this.
It’s -74 degrees outside. I can see it on the monitor. Fasten seatbelt light on. Shake shake.
Posted in Reviews on October 16th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
I am constantly working at a deficit. Financially, yes, because like many of my countrymen I’m am tens of thousands of dollars in debt — but also in terms of reviews. I’malwaysbehind on reviews. Hell, it was into July of this year before I finally put the kybosh on writing up anything from 2011, and I’m pretty sure if I hadn’t put my foot down on it, I’d still have year-old albums going up or older. My to-do list grows like a witchcult.
It’s not something to complain about and I’m not complaining. I’m stoked people give enough of a shit to send their CDs in to be reviewed — especially those who actually send CDs — and it’s for that reason that I do this second reviewsplosion (first one here).
Yeah, as ever, I’m behind on reviews, but I’m also working on being more concise — I swear I am; check out the At a Glance reviews if you don’t believe me — and one of the things I liked so much about the last reviewsplosion was it forced me to get to the fucking point. As direct a line as possible to a review. Boiling the idea down to its essential core.
With that in mind, here’s my attempt to both balance my review budget and be as clear as humanly possible. Hope you dig:
Altar of Oblivion, Grand Gesture of Defiance
The subject of some spirited debate on the forum, the second record from Danish five-piece Altar of Oblivion revels in traditional doom methods. There’s an air of pomp in some of the songs — “Graveyard of Broken Dreams” lays it on a little thick — but by and large, Grand Gesture of Defiance(Shadow Kingdom) is a more than solid showing of genre. Classic underground metal flourishes abound, and while it’s not a record to change your life, at six tracks/34 minutes, neither does it hang around long enough to be overly repetitive. You could do way worse. Altar of Oblivion on Thee Facebooks.
Blooming Látigo, Esfínteres y Faquires
Primarily? Weird. The Spanish outfiit Blooming Látigo make their debut on Féretro Records (CD) and Trips und Träume (LP) with the all-the-fuck-over-the-place Esfínteres y Faquires, alternately grinding out post-hardcore and reciting Birthday Party-style poetry. They reach pretty hard to get to “experimental,” maybe harder than they need to, but the on-a-dime stops and high-pitched screams on tracks like “Onania” and “Prisciliano” are well beyond fascinating, and the blown-out ending of “La Destrucción del Aura” is fittingly apocalyptic. Who gave the art-school kids tube amps? Blooming Látigo on Bandcamp.
Five years since their second offering, Green Magic, left such a strong impression, Italian stoner rock trio El-Thule return with Zenit (Go Down Records), which makes up for lost time with 50 minutes of heavy riffs, fuzzy desert grooves and sharp, progressive rhythms. The band — El Comandante (bass), Mr. Action (guitar/vocals) and Gweedo Weedo (drums/vocals) — may have taken their time in getting it together, but there’s little about Zenit that lags, be it the faster, thrashier “Nemesis” or thicker, Torche-esque melodic push of the highlight “Quaoar.” It’s raw, production-wise, but I hope it’s not another half-decade before El-Thule follow it up. El-Thule on Thee Facebooks.
Botanist, III: Doom in Bloom
It’s a nature-worshiping post-black metal exploration of what the History Channel has given the catchy title “life after people.” If you’ve ever wondered what blastbeats might sound like on a dulcimer, Botanist‘s third album, III: Doom in Bloom has the answers you seek, caking its purported hatred of human kind in such creative instrumentation and lyrics reverent of the natural world rather than explicitly misanthropic. The CD (on Total Rust) comes packaged with a second disc called Allies, featuring the likes of Lotus Thief and Matrushka and giving the whole release a manifesto-type feel, which suits it well. Vehemently creative, it inadvertently taps into some of the best aspects of our species. Botanist’s website.
Say what you will about whiteboys and the blues, the bass tone that starts “Nobody Get Me Down” is unfuckwithable. And Seattle trio GravelRoad come by it pretty honestly, having served for years as the backing back for bluesman T-Model Ford. The album Psychedelta (on Knick Knack Records) jams out on its start-stop fuzz in a way that reminds not so much of Clutch but of the soul and funk records that inspired Clutch in the first place, and though it never gets quite as frenetic in its energy as Radio Moscow, there’s some of that same vibe persisting through “Keep on Movin’” or their Junior Kimbrough cover “Leave Her Alone.” Throaty vocals sound like a put-on, but if they can nail down that balance, GravelRoad‘s psychedelic blues has some real potential in its open spaces. GravelRoad on Thee Facebooks.
The Linus Pauling Quartet, Bag of Hammers
Texas toast. The Linus Pauling Quartet offer crisp sunbursts of psychedelic heavy rock, and after nearly 20 years and eight full-lengths, that shouldn’t exactly be as much of a surprise as it is. Nonetheless, Bag of Hammers(Homeskool Records) proffers a 41-minute collection of heady ’90s-loving-the-’70s tones while venturing into classic space rock on “Victory Gin” and ballsy riffing on “Saving Throw.” Being my first experience with the band, the album is a refreshing listen and unpretentious to its very core. Eight-minute culminating jam “Stonebringer” is as engaging a display of American stoner rock as I’ve heard this year, and I have to wonder why it took eight records before I finally heard this five-man quartet? Hits like its title. LP4′s website.
Odyssey, Abysmal Despair
It’s the damnedest thing, but listening to Abysmal Despair, the Transubstans Records debut from Swedish prog sludge/noise rockers Odyssey, I can’t help but think of Long Island’s own John Wilkes Booth. It’s the vocals, and I know that’s a really specific association most people aren’t going to have, but I do, and I can’t quite get past it. The album is varied, progressive, and working in a variety of modern underground heavy contexts nowhere near as foreboding as the album’s title might imply, like Truckfighters meets Entombed, but I just keep hearing JWB‘sKerry Merkle through his megaphone. Note: that’s not a bad thing, just oddly indicative of the greater sphere of worldwide sonic coincidence in which we all exist. If anything, that just makes me like Abysmal Despair more. Odyssey on Soundcloud.
Palkoski, 2012 Demo
Conceptual Virginian free-formers Palkoski released the three-track/67-minute 2012 demo earlier this year through Heavy Hound. Most of it sounds improvised, but for verses here and there that emerge from the various stretches, and the band’s alternately grinding and sparse soundscapery results in an unsettling mash of psychotic extremity. It is, at times, painful to listen, but like some lost tribal recording, it’s also utterly free. Limited to 100 CDs with a second track called “The Shittiest EP Ever” and a third that’s a sampling of Palkoski‘s ultra-abrasive noise experimentation live, this one is easily not for the faint of heart. Still, there’s something alluring in the challenge it poses. Palkoski at Heavy Hound.
Radar Men from the Moon, Echo Forever
Following their charming 2011 EP, Intergalactic Dada and Space Trombones, the Eindhoven instrumental trio Radar Men from the Moon (On the Radar’ed here) return on the relative quick with a 51-minute full-length, Echo Forever. More progressive in its jams, the album’s psychedelic sprawl shows the band developing — I hesitate to compare them to 35007 just because they happen to be Dutch, but the running bassline that underscores “Atomic Mother” is a tempter — but there’s still an immediacy behind their changes that keeps them from really belonging to the laid-back sphere of European jam-minded heavy psychedelia. They’re getting warmer though, stylistically and tonally, and I like that. Interesting to hear a song like “Heading for the Void” and think Sungrazer might be burgeoning as an influence. Cool jams for the converted. Radar Men from the Moon on Bandcamp.
Sound of Ground, Sky Colored Green
There are elements of of Yawning Man, or Unida or other acts in the Californian desert milieu, but basically, Moscow’s Sound of Ground sound like Kyuss. They know it. Their R.A.I.G. debut full-length, Sky Colored Green, makes no attempt to hide it, whether it’s the “Green Machine” riffing of “Lips of the Ocean” or the speedier Slo-Burnery of “El Caco,” though the metallic screaming on “R.H.S.” is a dead giveaway for the band’s youth, coming off more like early Down than anything Josh Homme ever plugged in to play. While not necessarily original, the trio are firm in their convictions, and Sound of Ground tear through these 11 tracks with engaging abandon. The Russian scene continues to intrigue. Sound of Ground on Thee Facebooks.
Starting off your EP with a three-minute clip of Muhammad Ali‘s braggadocio sampled over your riff metal is a pretty bold move. Ali‘s talk of wrestling alligators and being so mean he made medicine sick was arrogant when he let it loose in 1974, and it remains so 38 years later as it starts the six-track self-titled debut from Eindhoven four-piece Komatsu. That’s not to say every band isn’t convinced of their ultimate supremacy — or even that they shouldn’t be; I’ll gladly argue it essential for any artistic success whatsoever to at least have the balance of arrogance and self-consciousness tipped more toward the former — but still. Maybe Ali is less of a god in the Netherlands than American culture has built him up to be. I’d certainly believe that.
That opener is “The Mountain…” and it leads Komatsu into the High on Fire-style stoner metallurgy of their eponymous track. The real twists begin with the more melodic “Believe,” which offsets ’90s noise riffing à la Helmet with a smooth vocal — at least until the screams start and the band goes full-on into heavyweight groove. Guitarist/vocalist Erik van Schenk Brill and fellow six-stringer Mo Truijens work mostly in tandem, but there’s room for some interplay on “Komatsu” and “Believe” both, and they even work a little (just a little) harmony into the quick “Gator,” which is not only about the 1973 Burt Reynolds film White Lightning, but actually features a sample that I assume is taken from the trailer as its only vocals. It seems to be all bassist Martijn Mansvelders and drummer Miriam Bekkers can do to keep the charm from simply devouring the song whole, but the uptempo metal chug of the rhythm manages to do just that.
“Comin’” sounds like partial homage to Queens of the Stone Age, but van Schenk Brill‘s vocals are coming from somewhere else entirely, especially during the verse, the start-stop choppiness of which is near industrial compared to the more straightforward rock groove of the chorus. Komatsu — whose name you’ve seen advertised around construction zones for years now — do well with the change, and seem never completely to align themselves with one genre or another, other perhaps than the overarching tag of “heavy,” which, you know, no complaints. To underscore their pop-culture charm, they finish the EP that bears their moniker with “Hail to the King,” which boasts their strongest chorus and most engaging blend of influences, like Dozer met with Prong or something like-mindedly hypermasculine.
The EP was released late last year — I’ll admit, they got in touch a good long time ago — so a follow-up may or may not already be in the works, but in any case, I figured they were worth a look if you haven’t encountered them yet and were looking for something a little tougher this evening than the usual bit of fuzz and roll. You can hit up Komatsu on their website or check out the EP stream from Bandcamp before you drop a line on Thee Facebooks and tell them I said hi and that I apologize for it taking so long for me to write on their tunes. Here’s that Bandcamp stream if you’re up for digging in:
Posted in Features on April 11th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
04/11/12 — 22.41 — Wednesday — Hotel in Eindhoven
As a means of giving my wanderings some direction, I tried and failed twice this early afternoon to find the correct route to Memory Music here in Eindhoven. That whole no cellphone thing biting me in the ass really for the first time this whole trip. Embarrassed for myself to myself, I stopped in at a sushi joint in the marketplace area and got a few rolls to drown my sorrows in. Crab and corn, tuna salad. Stuff you can’t get at home. Some gyoza, which were exceptionally good.
My lunch suitably devoured, I fired up the laptop to one more time give a shot at finding this record store, when, in a moment of distracted email checking, I saw a comment from a lovely couple named Chris and Maggie, whom I’d met at Desertfest and seen again at the show last night — it was Chris who told me Gentlemans Pistols were the best band in Britain — asking me if I’d made my way yet to Bullit Records Well, I hadn’t, but upon looking it up and finding out that it was closer than Memory Music and that I knew exactly where it was because of my wanderings looking for the other shop, I was back on my way in no time.
Right on my way to finding the store with no trouble whatsoever after about a five minute walk listening to Queens of the Stone Age (having gotten an itch to do so at The Rambler), I ran into said couple, who were just on their way out and full of praise for the goodies Bullit contained. They made it easy to get my hopes up, and sure enough, I did manage to find a few decent records. Actually, strike that. I found a ton of really good records, and if I was buying vinyl, I’d have been up a creek, but a lot of it was stuff I already owned or could otherwise get back in the US for far less than 18 Euro.
Still, I grabbed the Skraeckoedlan album that was reviewed a while back, a Space Probe Taurus self-titled on Buzzville, a 1996 UK reissue of Hawkwind‘s self-titled, an album called Soulful Man by young German four-piece Cliffsight (there was a sticker on it that cited Colour Haze, so I figured I’d take a chance and it’s not too bad as of the 10-minute opener) and the original issue of 35007‘s Especially for You, which I mark as the find of the day, definitely. Killer to get that CD in this place, 35007 having been so pivotal to the Dutch scene. 1994 that disc is from. Almost 20 years old.
Great find, great recommendation, and as I spoke to the dude behind the counter at Bullit — who was very kind as everyone I’ve encountered here as been and even gave me a tote bag that I will take home for The Patient Mrs., who enjoys a good tote — about Roadburn, Desertfest and whatnot (I guess he pegged me from my picks) it occurred to me just how much more present heavy rock is here than back home. Bullit was not a big store, and it was mostly metal and rock, but even so, you’d be hard pressed to find a shop like that open in the US that’s even heard of a band like Backwoods Payback, let alone one that has not one, but two of their CDs just sitting on the rack. I guess it’s getting better than it was a few years ago — thinking of places like Armageddon Shop in Providence/Boston, Rock ‘n’ Roll Graveyard in Maryland, to a certain extent Amoeba in California (though any of those three stores is much bigger) — but still, it seems more integrated here as something that’s just a given. At home, if I can go somewhere and find Goatsnake in a CD store, that’s an event. I suppose it depends on where you shop, too.
There ain’t shit for rock and roll in Jersey, is the problem. And New York’s a hipster-filled pain in the balls.
Keeping in line with my emergent tendency to heed comments on this website on issues like train connections, record stores, etc., when I found out noodly, crescendo-happy Norwegian prog rockers Motorpsycho were playing in town and that the venue was, you guessed it, a five-minute hike from the hotel here, I immediately considered going as an option for how to spend my evening. Yeah, I know I was going to relax tonight ahead of Roadburn starting up tomorrow, but seriously, what the hell. What was I going to do, sit here and watch tv on my computer for eight hours until I finally fell asleep later than I wanted to because I was all pissed at myself for not leaving the room and fidgety because I hadn’t moved in all that time? Better to just take the walk. I knew I wasn’t drinking, and I didn’t feel like getting dinner, so fuck it. I’ll go stand in a place for a while. Couldn’t hurt.
It was a little after 20.00 when I walked in. I left both my camera and the iContraption at the hotel because I knew I didn’t want to task myself with reviewing the show and I knew that, if I had either, I wouldn’t be able to resist. Sure enough, I walked in, they came on stage at exactly the same time I got there, and I immediately regretted not bringing some picture-taking apparatus with me. For the best, though. The room at the Effenaar was packed out and people were nodding along. I wouldn’t have wanted to push my way through. The light show made me dizzy, which is something that’s never happened before. The program I was given at the door — because, yes, I was given a program at the door — billed it as “Motorpsychoand Ståle Storløkkken perform The Death Defying Unicorn.”
Turns out The Death Defying Unicorn is their new double-CD, their 14th album, and they were set to play it front to back. “Ambitious” would be one way of putting it. “Noodly” would be another. But the crowd ate it up. I guess you don’t normally attend that kind of thing unless you’re a fan, and if you’re into prog like that, you’ve already got a pretty high tolerance level for self-indulgence — seriously, the program has little bios for each band member like they’re doing a play — for me, I liked the part that was slow and heavy and some of the droney stuff, but the “let’s play scales while the drummer tries his hardest not to keep time” thing, yeah, you can keep that. They did it well and the audience loved it, but it just wasn’t my thing. After about 20 minutes in, I got antsy and wanted to go see something else, which I’m taking as a sign I’m ready for Roadburn to kick off. I remembered seeing Motorpsycho there briefly in 2009 and their not really doing it for me. At least I’m consistent.
However, I’ll say it was probably still a better option than sitting here in the hotel and stewing on not having gone, restlessly waiting for the baseball game to come on so I can stream it online and trying repeatedly and to no avail to call The Patient Mrs. on Skype (not that I can’t use Skype, she just doesn’t pick up her phone). Star Trek and Game of Thrones will still be there when I get back home. Eindhoven will not. I didn’t really dig what Motorpsycho and Ståle Storløkkken were doing, but hell, at least I went and found that out for myself. For a five-minute walk and a few Euros, I could’ve done a lot worse than I did.
Checkout of this hotel is at noon tomorrow, but I might try to get out a little earlier and catch the train to Tilburg, check in at the Mercure and give myself a little time to get settled before doors open at the 013 and Het Patronaat. We’ll see how that goes, but I’m looking forward to it either way. By now, I know what to expect, and the next four days are going to be absolutely insane, but this will be my fourth Roadburn and I’m absolutely stoked to be heading into it. If you’re going, hope to see you there.
First, you have to understand that The Rambler, shady though the name might be, was awesome. The kind of awesome that has Westmalle at 3.50 Euro. I thought I was playing it safe — hell, I had the dubbel and not the tripel — but the fact that I’d eaten nothing up to that point in the day but a protein bar came back to haunt me. By the time I sauntered out of The Rambler, I was sloshed.
The good news is that tragedy — and by that I mean vomit — was avoided. And between arrival at and departure from The Rambler, massively good times ensued watching Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight, Stubb and Stone Axe play to an enthusiastic room that included several faces I recognized from Desertfest this weekend. I’d gotten into Eindhoven just a few hours prior, and was ready to have a little beery fun.
Chatted it up with the bands for a while, all of whom I saw last Friday (Stone Axe twice) and already had a few in me by the time Trippy Wicked took the stage. They’d soundchecked prior and the room — Xmas lights, wood floor, racks of CDs in the corner, full-size coffins to mark the men’s and women’s restrooms and Queens of the Stone Age‘s Lullabies to Paralyze on the P.A. — had pretty good acoustics. For rock. The stage area was wider than it was long, and I guess The Rambler was kind of a dive, but classier than that, even with the coffins. It was toying with country, is another way to put it. Again, it turned out to be a cool spot.
Unfortunately, riding around in a tour van all weekend had left Trippy Wicked guitarist/vocalist (and Stubb bassist/vocalist) Peter Holland with a cold. He looked and reportedly felt like hell, but wasn’t about to cancel the set; the show, going on, so forth. He rested up and before they played and when they got going, he played most of the set with his distortion off and changed the setlist to accommodate. I’ve seen Holland and drummer Christopher West do Trippy Wicked acoustic, so hearing the songs not as loud as they might otherwise be wasn’t really anything new, and in the semi-country surroundings, with the slight twang Holland puts on his singing voice, it actually sounded pretty good when they did “Southern” and “The Water.”
Later into their time, Stone Axe frontman Dru Brinkerhoff brought Holland some whiskey and, his voice already pretty blown out, I guess he figured there was no more harm he could do. The distortion was kicked on and he was full-on dry-throating it through the end. Admirable, and again, it didn’t sound that bad. Heavy rock works with a gravely voice, so while it wasn’t necessarily the most representative outing for the band, though Holland, West and bassist Dicky King all played really well and the songs got their point across. I’m looking forward to checking out their new album, not just because Holland has grown so much as a vocalist, but also because both times I’ve seen the band now, their chemistry has been top notch. It was a casual night — at one point, Holland remarked on how he knew everyone in the crowd — but even so, Trippy Wicked rocked like pros and only got better as they kept going.
Holland still had to get through Stubb‘s set, so he wasn’t yet off duty. After a bit of a break, West went back to the drums, Holland moved over to bass, opting out of a microphone, which left guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson in charge of covering all the vocals. He did it, and did it well, and since most of the audience, myself included had already seen the band in the last week, everyone knew what was up and it was fine. Stone Axe drummer Mykey Haslip got up and shared Dickinson‘s mic for the chorus of “Mountain,” and “Hard Hearted Woman” and “Road” were great to hear again, even with the single vocals. Straight-backed and keeping perfect time while also executing a barrage of fills, West showed his versatility as a drummer and was a pleasure to watch, and by the end, even Holland was singing along. It was more of a party than a show, almost.
“Galloping Horses,” which closes their new, Superhot Records self-titled debut (review here) was especially killer, Dickinson shifting his inflection and timing just a bit to make a full verse out of the repeated line, “The skies are crimson red” and taking a long solo in the semi-psychedelic midsection before coming back for one last chorus. They’re pretty straightforward in terms of style, but more even than the record showed potential, the live show confirmed it. I’d say I’m excited for what Stubb do next — and I am — but don’t let that imply that I’m at all finished with the self-titled, because it’s got way more than two months of staying power. Classic fuzz is timeless.
And speaking of classic, Stone Axe are a band I could very easily get used to seeing on a regular basis. This was the third set in five days (granted, one was the Free covers set, but still), and I was only more stoked for having some idea of what was in store. They got going as I was wrapping what would not turn out to be my last beer, and seemed more relaxed than at Desertfest. Brinkerhoff looked to be pretty well in the bag, but his voice was spot on, and the hooch only added to the swagger of his stage presence, which along with Tony Reed‘s guitar, is an essential element of the band. The aforementioned Haslip on drums and bassist Mike DuPont showed their prowess as a rhythm section behind, and though standing on the left side of the stage, it was almost like watching two acts at once, they were undeniably on the same page with the same mission in mind.
Their set ran long, which, you know, was awesome, and they threw in “The Skylah Rae” and “Taking Me Home” along with “Black Widow” and “Riders of the Night” from the first album and “Chasing Dragons,” “Just a Little Bit” and the excellent “Ain’t Gonna Miss It” from the second. “The Skylah Rae” in particular was something special, but Stone Axe‘s AC/DC stomp was in top form the whole time, and everyone was smiles and laughs and drinks and seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves through each catchy as hell chorus, Brinkerhoff driving home the memorability of Reed‘s songwriting every chance he got. And for his part, Reed demonstrated once again his clear mastery of the classic heavy rock form, backing Brinkerhoff on vocals every now and again and tearing through worship-worthy solos with what he made look like ease.
When it was over, I was more or less finished with the day. Several nights of less than stellar sleep had left me tired enough, and Westalle, though delicious, makes a lousy energy drink, so I said goodbyes and thanks and split out for the two block walk back to my hotel room, stopping along the way for pommes frites and more beer which I ended up crashing out before I could drink. It seems funny to say it, since all I’m going to be doing starting tomorrow for four days straight is seeing bands at Roadburn, but it was awesome to see a show over here that was just a gig, not a fest. Just another stop on a tour. Eindhoven’s a beautiful town and this was a really good night I won’t soon forget. I’m just glad I remember it.
Posted in Features on April 11th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
04/11/12 — 11.06 — Wednesday — Hotel in Eindhoven
I called the Mercure Hotel in Tilburg last night to see if I could get my room a day early and got a big “no dice” — actually, they were much more polite than that; they always are there — so, whilst Skyping with The Patient Mrs., I decided to just stay here in Eindhoven the extra day and take the intercity train the one stop over tomorrow. In the meantime, where I am in Eindhoven is gorgeous, and I’m thrilled to get to spend another day here.
Since I started off the last post talking about something I was missing, it seems only fair to do the opposite this time around and mention something I’m really glad I have with me, which is Febreeze. Yes, the clothing de-stinker. I brought two flannels and a hoodie for outerwear and at this point, none of it is especially pleasant to put on, but at least with the spray-stuff, I know I’m just grossing myself out. Hopefully anyway.
Had some pommes frites last night after the Stone Axe, Stubb and Trippy Wicked show, and though I asked the dude to leave them in the fryer for a while longer — well-done fries being where it’s at, as far as I and fries are concerned — he didn’t believe me. I got two cans of beer to top off an already considerable evening of drinking, and came back to the hotel to put on the Yankee game and crash out. The frites were delicious. No mayo, please.
Being here the extra day, staying over tonight as well, meant no check-out this morning, which was a big part of sealing that deal. The chance to sleep in and wake up without “gotta go”-type stress. Hard not to appreciate that after waking in London to go to Paris and waking in Paris to come to Eindhoven. Today I woke up in Eindhoven and I’m staying in Eindhoven. Nice to have solid ground under my feet.
And nicer still to wake up to a sky that’s at least partially blue. Quite a novelty. I might be about half hungover, but forget it, I’m going to go walk around the gorgeous market center here and make an afternoon of it, try to exist for a while someplace that’s not a hotel room. Maybe a shower first to get the beer sweat and the sleep sweat off. Yeah, that’s probably the way to go.
Posted in Features on April 10th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
04/10/12 — 17.33 — Tuesday — Hotel in Eindhoven
To contrast the great many things that have gone right with this trip, my biggest mistake so far has been not bringing my notebook with me. I thought about it. It’s at home in the typewriter case I generally carry on my person to and from work, in the car, etc., that’s also filled with CDs. My reasoning in not bringing it was that I had the laptop and this site would fill any note-taking need that might arise.
That’s been one of the most surprising things about it since the beginning, over three years ago now. I used to write furiously in notebooks. Creative nonfiction, memoir, personal journal, poems, any other word you might want to substitute for “diary,” and I was right in there — I just called it “taking notes” — but I guess the daily writing itch got transposed onto The Obelisk. Apparently, anyway. I haven’t filled a notebook in years. It used to be a matter of months. And I’d just buy one here somewhere, but (of course) I have a very specific kind I use and wouldn’t want to start one that’s the wrong kind and not have it be in another one that’s already started and it’s a big weirdo complex obsessive compulsive thing, so sorry if it doesn’t make sense.
Nonetheless, there have been things I’ve seen that I’ve forgotten to note, images that I’ve wanted to remember, that I’ve had to let go of in that moment. The tall trees lining Avenue de la Bourdonnais in Paris. Listening to Mars Red Sky and Alcest at Gare du Nord this morning on the iContraption while staring up at the big board and waiting to find out what track my train would be on, drinking the espresso I properly ordered in French (bit of vindication there for fucking up that same process two years ago in Brussels). Today I started to take pictures to help me remember, though I wasn’t sure how to convey the fact that I couldn’t stay still for too long at Gare du Nord without being asked for change in a way that wasn’t totally rude.
Paris was beautiful though. I know it might not seem like I “did it up” or anything like that, but just because a bottle of wine and a sandwich is probably what I’d be doing were I back in my humble river valley doesn’t mean that I also didn’t enjoy myself immensely. It was more about being there. And I was there. I saw the Eiffel Tower. I smelled the Seine. I took in equestrian statues and gorgeous architecture and felt totally overwhelmed by what to my outsider eyes looked like the total perfection of the European ideal. If it wasn’t so miserable weather-wise, I might have explored more, but maybe not. It was less than 24 hours that I was there, but fuck it, I was there.
Last night when I posted that I was heading to Schiphol to come to Eindhoven, the faulty logic in my routing was responded to almost immediately, and that’s genuinely appreciated. I wound up taking a train from Paris to Rotterdam and then switching trains to go from Rotterdam to Eindhoven, and I just got here a little more than an hour ago. It was a Thalys, which wasn’t as lush as the Eurostar I took yesterday from London to Paris (was that yesterday?), but still nicer than any airliner I’ve ever had the misfortune to occupy. The train passed through Tilburg on route, and I saw they had giant Roadburn 2012 banners outside the Tilburg station, like the flags you’d see in a college town in the States the first week of the semester. I could only assume there’s a big, “Welcome, Awkward Doomers” sign on the ground level, but I’ll have to wait until I get there tomorrow to find out for sure. Got my fingers crossed.
It’s good to be back in the Netherlands. I’m still almost completely ignorant of the language beyond “dank u wel” and “alstublieft,” so it hardly feels like home, but even in being out of my element, the Netherlands is more familiar to me than was Paris, though I have more command of the French language — just enough to be initiate a conversation and then have the other person switch to English because they’re tired of hearing me murder their mother tongue. I had on the new The Machine record on the way and was listening to the quiet beginning of “Behind” by Sungrazer as I rolled past a group of rabbits chasing each other around open farmland just outside Dordrecht. The iContraption has weak bass, even with the boost turned on in the EQ, but the warmth of tone came through anyway.
My point is that the relative familiarity of it here is comforting. When I came out of the train station, I just followed a couple turns through the market square until I recognized a statue from looking at it on Google Maps last night and found my hotel from there. I had no directions, and just made the turns that felt right. That’s more bearings than I’ve had in five days, though by the end of Desertfest, I was beginning to feel like I had a handle on those couple blocks of Camden Town. Still. I just got here, and I’ve never been to Eindhoven before, so I think it’s a different scale all around.
I also passed by The Rambler on my way out of the train station, which is where I’ll go in a little bit to catch Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight with Stubb and Stone Axe. I guess I’ll probably bring the camera, just for fun, and maybe do a writeup tonight or tomorrow. I’ll have some time tomorrow and if I can just find a spot to relax when I go to Tilburg in advance of Roadburn starting up on Thursday, that’d be ideal. No problem spending all day in front of the laptop at some outdoor cafe or something like that, weather permitting. It’s rained more or less every day of this trip. Made me glad I’m not flying, what with the whole “airborne deathboxes” thing and all.
Posted in Features on February 3rd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
At its heart, the approach of Dutch occult rockers The Devil’s Blood comes down to two words: “Hail Satan.” It’s a rallying cry of contradiction, the basis for their musical and lyrical perspective, and what lies at the very heart of their influence. In everything they do, it remains the calm center around which they swirl their storm.
Founded by guitarist/songwriter Selim Lemouchi and his sister, the powerful vocalist Farida Lemouchi, the Eindhoven-based band were subject to fervent reactions almost immediately. Following a 2007 demo and the 2008 single, The Graveyard Shuffle, their Come, Reap EP was a blatantly devilish call to arms that stood in stark musical contrast with the thematic conventions of extreme metal with which it was toying. On their first full-length, 2009′s The Time of No Time Evermore (review here), The Devil’s Blood set about offsetting classic rock with ethereal psychedelic washes, and on their latest album, The Thousandfold Epicentre (review here), they’ve mastered their form.
With a massive, 74-minute sprawl, The Thousandfold Epicentre makes no attempt to hide its grandiosity or self-indulgence, instead celebrating its blatant atmospherics while also maintaining a strong core of songcraft that can be heard on the flagrant hooks in “Die the Death” or the centerpiece “She.” Through it all, Farida keeps supreme hold of her charisma, and Selim‘s instrumental melodicism behind her makes for one of the underground’s most intriguing pairings. The Devil’s Blood owe more to Coven‘s “Black Sabbath” than Black Sabbath‘s “Black Sabbath,” but as Selim hints in the interview that follows, the band revels in doing what’s unexpected.
And since in order to hold onto an element of Satanic mysticism one must be vague in discussing processes, the word “hints” is all the more appropriate. Nonetheless, Selim, who often goes by the initials SL, was open in acknowledging his band’s theatricality and his own classic pop and heavy rock influences, from The Beatles and Thin Lizzy to Roky Erickson and Black Widow. If you make it that far, a particularly fascinating moment came near the end, in talking about touring and playing high-profile festivals (The Devil’s Blood will be on the Decibel magazine North American tour with Watain, In Solitude and Behemoth this spring; dates included below) as opposed to club shows. Just something to watch out for, if you’re interested.
Please find the enclosed Q&A with Selim Lemouchi after the jump, and enjoy.
A self-recording and self-releasing instrumental guitar and drum duo, you could probably call Dutch stoner rockers Het Droste Effect experimental or progressive if you take it in the context of the genre at large. On their debut EP, Het Droste Effect, there are a few twists to be found among the riffs and noodles from guitarist Hermann Blaupunkt, and with the slew of guests contributing bass, sax, vibrawhathaveyou and so forth, the band is definitely trying to make themselves stand out sonically, which pays off on these four tracks.
“Balsem voor de Oren” is pretty straightforward riff rock à la Karma to Burn with an edge of the smartness that 35007 brought to the table, but Het Droste Effect delves into psychedelic territory with the longer “Sweet Dreams Bandito,” and at just over a minute, “Helluva Dirty K9″ shows a willingness to be playful with their songwriting that one might liken to Queens of the Stone Age and their many followers, but that’s more of a comparison of ethic than sound.
The EP rounds out with “Lolita Can Dance,” where Blaupunkt and drummer Thompson Dubé are joined by Siem Nozza on bass and Edward Capel on the aforementioned saxophone, which complements the guitar surprisingly well. The song breaks in the middle to some studio-type shenanigans, showing one more time Het Droste Effect‘s penchant for experimentation, but for a band who’s been together little more than a year, they have a surprising grasp on what works for them.
If you want to check out Het Droste Effect, they’re on Facebook here. The EP is available for free download through their Bandcamp page and for sale on cassette via their website, and because this is an age of technical wonders, you can stream the whole thing on the player below:
Posted in Reviews on May 26th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
Dutch witch rockers The Devil’s Blood issue a sprawling invitation to buy in with their first Ván Records full-length, The Time of No Time Evermore. Based out of Eindhoven and thoroughly in league with Satan, the as-many-as-six-piece play high-energy classic occult prog with sonic references to Jefferson Airplane, Heart, Coven and Black Widow, most notably showing up in the form of the powerful female vocals that front the band. They’re on a no-name basis, so all you get with The Devil’s Blood is The Devil’s Blood, but we do know that Erik Danielsson of Swedish black metallers Watain co-wrote “The Yonder Beckons” with the band, and that that dude knows the Devil personally, so at most there’s one degree of separation there.
In listening to The Time of No Time Evermore, I was surprised in comparing it to the prior Come, Reap EP that Profound Lore put out last year at how relatively metal it is. The guitars don’t shy away from carrying across an ‘80s metal vibe, as heard in songs like “Christ or Cocaine,” the stomping “Queen of My Burning Heart” and even the soloing on “The Yonder Beckons.” Think Iron Maiden, Scorpions, Vivian Campbell’s work on Dio’s The Last in Line and so on, both tonally and in terms of the riffs, The Devil’s Blood seem to have superimposed ‘70s acid prog and classic metal on top of each other in an offering to their (and, they hope, everyone’s) dark lord.