Desertfest Berlin 2016 First Announcements: Electric Wizard, Elder, Wo Fat, Mothership and Somali Yacht Club Confirmed

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 11th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

desetfest berlin 2016 banner

Seemed likely after the first announcements for Desertfest London 2016 came down the wire that those for Desertfest Berlin 2016 wouldn’t be too far off, and so here we are. Particularly interesting to note that between the two fests happening the same weekend under the Desertfest banner in Berlin and London, as is tradition, only two of the first five acts confirmed publicly for each are shared between them. That is, Electric Wizard and Elder will also play in London, but Berlin seems to have Wo FatMothership (doesn’t seem unreasonable to think they’ll be touring together, though I’ve yet to see dates that would affirm that supposition) and Somali Yacht Club all to itself.

Whether or not that will remain the case we’ll find out over the next few months, but I think it’s fair to say that each fest has begun to carve out its own identity these last several years, and it’s cool to see them start out the 2016 season in the manner they are. More to come, of course.

For now:

desertfest berlin 2016 poster

Desertfest Berlin 2016 – ELECTRIC WIZARD, Elder, Wo fat, Mothership & Somali Yacht Club confirmed!

We are back! Today we are thrilled to unveil the first five bands who are going to play at DESERTFEST BERLIN 2016 (happening from APRIL 28th to 30th), including our first massive headliner: doom titans ELECTRIC WIZARD!! We are already a bit scared and we expect you to be too: get out your satanic ritual kits on and watch out for maybe the most trippiest experience of your life.

Also on board for this next edition, we’re glad to see the return of Massachusett’s ultimate progressive stoner rock trio Elder and to spice up the menu the addition of Texas’ swampadelic fuzz rockers Wo Fat, as well as their state mates supersonic juggernaut Mothership and Ukrainian progressive-leaning stonerheads Somali Yacht Club!!

Find more infos as well as tickets’ links below, and see you all in 231 days!

The very last early bird tickets will be on sale on Saturday, September 12th during Greenleaf & Stoned Jesus’ gig at Cassiopeia (Berlin). Regular HARD TICKETS or E-TICKETS can be purchased on our WEBSITE! Our ticketprices remain the same, that’s 85 Euros for all you newbies! But remember that we were sold out last time about 7 weeks ahead, and we think we may top that this year!

Elder, “Compendium” live in Scotland, July 1, 2015

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Front to Back: Vultures of Volume II Day Two in Hagerstown, MD, 09.05.15

Posted in Reviews on September 9th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

vultures of volume ii poster

The hotel breakfast — not so much. I woke up pretty early after Day One of Vultures of Volume II, drawn by the allure of free scrambled eggs or at very least some carbs to start the day, but some lumpy-looking sausage and a weird egg/potato/cheese combo deal scared me off. A cup of coffee and a rigid search of the interwebs later, I found a cafe up the road a little ways.

A quick lunch would turn out to be my only meal of the day, because once it got going, Vultures of Volume II Day Two simply did not stop. First band, on at 1PM. Last band, off a little before 2AM. It was 13 acts and very nearly 13 hours of front-to-back performances, and by the time the day was a quarter over, the Delmar Inn in Hagerstown had developed full-on as a festival ecosystem. Just about everyone knew everyone else, and the vibe was thick throughout. Some were dragging after getting down a little too hard the night before, or at least hard enough, but the only thing to do was keep going. This festival, in the fine tradition of gatherings like Emissions from the Monolith, Stoner Hands of Doom, Days of the Doomed and the Eye of the Stoned Goat, would brook no absence.

Yeah, I was beat, but fuck it. It was rock and roll and I drove a long way to be there. The lineup for Day Two was Elder, Dorthia Cottrell of Windhand playing a solo set, Wretch, Weed is Weed, Carousel, Righteous Bloom, Foghound, Witch Hazel, Thousand Vision Mist, Wizard Eye, Wasted Theory, Buzzard Canyon and Heavy Temple, and the latter had the illustrious task of getting things rolling:

Heavy Temple

Heavy Temple (Photo by JJ Koczan)

It had been more than two years since the last time I saw Philadelphia’s Heavy Temple, which was also the first time, and in between, bassist/vocalist High Priestess Nighthawk has completely revamped the trio’s lineup — she’s now joined by drummer Siren Tempestas and guitarist Archbishop Barghest — and has moved forward following the release through Ván Records of the band’s self-titled debut EP (review here), which by my estimation was one of last year’s finest short releases. They played four songs, all of them new, and I was glad for the glimpse at what’s to come, finding creative progression evident in how smoothly Heavy Temple seemed to weave in and out of parts, the fluidness with which they utilized classic stoner riffing without necessarily being beholden to it, and the dynamic between Nighthawk and her newcomer cohorts, Barghest an almost shoegazing presence on stage while Tempestas seemed to throw her whole body at the kit while she played. Some presentation nuances to be ironed out between the three of them — that is, I think at this point the band could do away with the stage names, and Nighthawk is the only one in a ritual robe, though that was the case last time as well — but past those crucial decisions to be made between robes and denim shorts, they were sonically more than dead on, rounding out their set with well-timed starts and stops and off-mic screams that were effective in adding drama to a set that showed Heavy Temple as a band well on their way. Looking forward to their next EP, which is reportedly already recorded.

Buzzard Canyon

Buzzard Canyon (Photo by JJ Koczan)

There was little one might reasonably ask of a hard rock act that Buzzard Canyon didn’t offer, whether it was the soul behind the dual vocals of Amber Leigh and guitarist Aaron Lewis, or the straight-ahead but still weighted grooves of bassist Randall Dumas and drummer Matt Raftery. Actually, there was one thing one probably could’ve asked of them: the second guitar they left behind in Connecticut when they departed for Maryland early in the morning on Saturday in time to make their slot at Vultures of Volume II. Pretty much everything else they had covered. There was just about no way I was going to go into their set thinking of them as something other than Lewis‘ band — I’ve just known that dude for simply too long, been a part of projects with him, done shows with his other band, When the Deadbolt Breaks, etc. — but it was not only great to see him play after what’s been too long, but likewise great to see him explore the more upbeat, rocking side. Buzzard Canyon‘s debut, which they decided on stage was eight tracks, maybe nine, probably 11 by the time it’s done, is apparently in the works, and though they were down a guitar, they did well as a four-piece, playing both songs from the two-songer CDR they brought with them to give away, “Wyoming” and “Not My Cross,” the former of which seemed a long-enough time to wait to break out the cowbell and the latter of which closed their set in reinforcement of the active feel of the material, not at all afraid to have a good time or encourage the crowd to do the same.

Wasted Theory

Wasted Theory (Photo by JJ Koczan)

You know, I do dig Wasted Theory. The Delaware four-piece have come a long, long way since the first time I saw them, and they’ve done a couple tours and weekenders since they put out their 2014 full-length, Death and Taxes (review here), and that has only furthered their cause in both the tightness of their execution and their confidence on stage. Sometimes though, I feel like I’m just not quite dudely enough for it. Here’s these guys, and they’re killing it, singing songs about running ‘shine through the southland and this and that, and I’m standing there watching them feeling like I should probably call up my primary care physician and see if I can get some testosterone supplements or something so as to properly appreciate what’s going down on stage. As has been the case the last couple times I’ve seen them — and I’ll see them again before the month is out, if all goes according to plan — “Hellfire Ritual” and “Black Widow Liquor Run” were highlights, guitarist Larry Jackson, Jr. having his “whiskey-soaked” in full effect while on either side, bassist Jonathan Charles and guitarist Dave McMahon followed a hairpin course of riffs propelled by Brendan Burns‘ drums. They would not be the day’s last kick in the ass, but they were a vehement one all the same, even for one so apparently hormonally imbalanced as I. In all seriousness, Wasted Theory are scary tight for being still-recently off their first record, and by all appearances they’re only continuing to nail down what they do. Not trying to tell anyone their business, but Ripple Music, keep an eye out.

Wizard Eye

Wizard Eye (Photo by JJ Koczan)

We’re just about a month out from the release date of Wizard Eye‘s much-awaited self-titled second album on Black Monk Records, and the Philadelphia three-piece — Erik on guitar/vocals/theremin, Dave on bass/vocals, Mike on drums — seemed very much to be in good spirits ahead of the release. It was, as it was the last time I saw them, an absolute pleasure to watch them play. What they do isn’t overly complex or painstakingly crafted for nuance, but it’s impeccably well done and deceptively individualized. Most of what they played was culled from the impending Wizard Eye, which finds their semi-crusted rolling grooves firmly intact on songs like “Flying/Falling,” “Thunderbird” and “Eye of the Deep,” but there was one inclusion on the setlist I didn’t recognize — “Revenant” — which isn’t from the tracklisting I’ve seen for the new record, or from their 2010 debut, Orbital Rites, so I’m not sure if maybe it’s new or was left off the new album or what. Doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that after five years between outings they might have more material than just what’s showing up on the new LP. Either way, I’ll take their fuzz-overdosed nod any time I can. They were locked in tight at Vultures of Volume II, and remain a much better band than people seem to know, which is something that the new album will hopefully work to correct. Erik went to the theremin just once, earlier in the set — was it “Gravebreath” or “Flying/Falling?” — but even so, they were a blast to see again and offered stone-baked groove in plenty for their afternoon set.

Thousand Vision Mist

Thousand Vision Mist (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Given that they take their moniker from the name of Life Beyond‘s 2002 debut/swansong full-length, and given that they share guitarist/vocalist Danny Kenyon with that defunct MD trio, I guess I just assumed that when they got started, Thousand Vision Mist would essentially be an incarnation of the same kind of straight-ahead, post-The Obsessed/Revelation Maryland-style doom. That was not the case. Together with be-chapeaued bassist/vocalist Tony Comulada and drummer Chris SebastianKenyon led the charge through a set of fiery but progressive metal. Doom was definitely a part of it, and listening to the studio versions on their 2015 debut demo of cuts like “Garden of Ghosts,” “Drifter” and “Tears of the Moon” — which was particularly proggy coming from the Delmar stage — that holds up, but by no means was it the sum-total of what they had to offer. Instead, they pulled off quick turns and shifts while also having a heavy sensibility, and the technical intricacies came across fluidly as the crowd clearly loved on a hometown act. As a power trio, the dynamic looked to be more the guitar and bass, then the drums, rather than the standard guitar/rhythm section divide, but I’d by no means consider the matter settled considering they just have the five-song demo out, and for what it’s worth, they played a new song “Skybound and Beyond,” which they said had been written on Thursday, just two days prior, and though it seemed like it was about to come flying apart at any moment, it never actually did, and Thousand Vision Mist‘s impressive control over their sound can only continue to suit them as they move forward.

Witch Hazel

Witch Hazel (Photo by JJ Koczan)

It might have been enough for York, Pennsylvania, four-piece Witch Hazel to earn sympathy points for the recent loss of their hometown venue, The Depot, and it might have been enough that they broke out the weekend’s first tambourine to go along with their post-Pentagram ’70s-ish shuffle, but they also featured some especially passionate cowbell/headbang action in the last song (when else?) from frontman Nate Tyson, and dedicated a song to Iron Man, so if there were bases to cover, they were duly covered. Some of it was a little over-the-top — as intended — with the eyeliner, elaborate pants, and so on, but hard to fault Witch Hazel for keeping an eye toward presentation. Their new album, Nocturnity, is available now, and is a 28-minute concept piece that seems to be about a family with a bloodline that cures vampires, but though I don’t think “Moon People Unite” comes from that record, the crowd started to make its way back in to get a glimpse at what Witch Hazel — Tyson, guitarist Andy Craven, high-cymbal drummer Nick Zinn and bassist Seibert Lowe, who was playing his first show with the band — had to offer with their shuffling style and weirdo neo-classic edge. They closed with “Secret Door” from their 2013 debut, Forsaken Remedies, which only furthered their boogie cred.


Foghound (Photo by JJ Koczan)

No sooner did Baltimore’s Foghound walk on the stage than they owned it. Seriously. Before they even started playing, the entire room was theirs. Last time I saw the band was Eye of the Stoned Goat IV in Worcester, MA (review here), and they killed then, but this was a different league entirely. No doubt part of that stems from relatively-new bassist Rev. Jim Forrester, who, like Foghound drummer Chuck Dukehart III, is a Sixty Watt Shaman expat. Forrester was kinetic on stage — and off it, as he hopped down on the regular throughout — and seemed to pull the rest of the band along with him, Dukehart sharing vocal duties with guitarists Bob Sipes and Dee Settar all the while, the three of them switching back and forth here, coming together there, racing through material from their upcoming second album. They were a shot of life just when I was feeling like I needed it most, and while the locals, who obviously have more occasion to see them than I do, weren’t necessarily surprised by what they delivered, I was utterly blown away. Their new stuff was faster, meaner and tighter than 2013’s Quick, Dirty and High (review here), and I liked that CD plenty. The tempo of the songs, the stomp and the energy they brought made them the band of the day up to that point, and cuts like “Serpentine” and “Rockin’ and Rollin'” were absolutely propulsive alongside the other “Dragon’s Tooth” and “Resurrect the Throwaways,” which remains almost insidiously catchy. That song was a bit of a slowdown comparatively, but the momentum held up anyway to the end of the set, and if Foghound brought even half of that level of vitality to the studio, their second record’s going to be a stunner.

Righteous Bloom

Righteous Bloom (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Whatever unfortunate drama brought about the change in the first place, I have to think particularly after seeing them play at Vultures of Volume II that the changeover from Beelzefuzz to Righteous Bloom will be a positive in the longterm for the band. Not even because Bert Hall — speaking of chapeaus; his deserves its own Facebook page just so I can like it, unlike it, then like it again — is such a monster player, though rest assured he is, as he’s proved over the years in Revelation and Against Nature, but just for how much easier it is to take them seriously with the new name. I never saw Beelzefuzz as a four-piece after they added Pale Divine frontman Greg Diener as a lead guitarist, but he serves in that capacity well in Righteous BloomHall is indeed a master of groove, and Darin McCloskey‘s fluid drumming is every bit as effective in the new band as it was in the old, adding classic style to underscore the eerie progressivism in frontman Dana Ortt‘s effects-heavy guitar work and live-multitracked vocals. Some of what they played came from Beelzefuzz‘s 2013 self-titled debut (review here) — “All the Feeling Returns,” “Lotus,” “Hypnotize” and “Reborn” garnering knowing appreciation from the crowd, myself included — but newer songs like “Within Trance” (posted here) and “Nazz Riff” went over with no trouble, as well as older demo cuts “Peace Mind,” which opened, “The Soulless” and “Hard Luck Melody,” Ortt‘s wide-eyed delivery throughout playing off a quiet “hey man” hippie routine between the songs that was Akerfeldtine in its entertainment value. Fact of the matter is that he could easily become the kind of dude who, years from now, people will talk about the first time they saw him play and try to compare notes for who got in lowest on the ground floor. I can’t make any such claim, but watching Righteous Bloom for the first time post-Beelzefuzz sure felt like a landmark anyway. Hall fit in perfectly, Diener‘s soloing was tasteful, McCloskey‘s timing and swing are as close to a sure thing as life has to offer and Ortt was the madman front and center. There was nothing — and I mean nothing — not to dig. Their album can’t get here fast enough.


Carousel (Photo by JJ Koczan)

If you’re having a good time, Carousel want to be the reason why. The Pittsburgh natives’ sophomore LP, 2113, was still pretty fresh in my head after its recent stream and review, so I was glad to have the chance to catch the four-piece live and experience the songs first-hand. They played the first three of them in a row — “Trouble,” “Photograph” and the unrepentantly hooky “Buried Alive in Your Arms” — and guitarist/vocalist Dave Wheeler took the time to note between the second and third that the band is very well known for their expert sequencing. That was something I mentioned in my review, but I wouldn’t flatter myself to think they had any idea who I was other than drummer Jake Leger, who also plays in reactivated ’70s rockers Bang, who toured with Kings Destroy last year for a run on which I tagged along. I’m sure it was a happy coincidence. Still, Wheeler was right, 2113 was a well put together album, and I’m not really sure what might be wrong with that. Either way, their boozy classic-heavy good times carried over remarkably well live — turns out they know how to structure a set as well, dipping back to the title-track from their 2013 debut, Jeweler’s Daughter (review here), after “Buried Alive in Your Arms” — and their cardiovascular-style delivery felt like an all-around win. Wheeler took the time to introduce the band, starting with bassist Jim Wheeler before getting to Leger and guitarist/backing vocalist Matt Goldsborough, who he noted handles guitar as well in Pentagram from time to time and in Trouble offshoot The Skull, and ending with himself: “And I’m Dave,” the band playing behind him all the while in classic showman fashion. They slowed down the set and brought the energy level back up effectively with the 2113 title-track, and their catchy songcraft, ’70s vibes and, yes, sequencing, found much welcome.

Weed is Weed

Weed is Weed (Photo by JJ Koczan)

You could give me a pad and paper and two full weeks to brainstorm ideas, but I’m not sure I could come up with anything more stoner rock than Dave Sherman fronting Weed is Weed while singing through a mic on a custom stand made to look like a bong. It even had incense burning near the bottom so there was smoke coming out. That, my friends, is charm, and Weed is Weed have plenty of it to go around between Sherm clearly having a blast with the entire thing and the riffery provided by three — three! — guitarists: Gary Isom (ex-Spirit Caravan), Russ Strahan (ex-Pentagram) and Rob Portillo. With Darren Waters holding down yet more low end on bass throughout such family-friendly hits as “Cleptus Butanus” — a song about stealing lighters that featured a line about having enough in your pocket to build a butane rocket — and “The Bong Remains the Same,” Weed is Weed also introduced their new drummer, Tyler Lee, age 18. Gotta start ’em young. Worth noting that “The Bong Remains the Same” will also be the title of the six-piece’s next EP, and it must have been a hard call between that and “Reign in Bud,” which closed out, Lee teasing a Slayer drum thud reference at the beginning before they took off on another stoner-for-stoner onslaught, their groove as undeniable as their central theme was dank. Does anyone say dank anymore? I don’t even know. In any case, Weed is Weed‘s particular brand of fun was infectious, and even as a non-smoker, their puns were second to none. Not a stem in the nugget.


Wretch (Photo by JJ Koczan)

In much the same way that Righteous Bloom is a continuation of Beelzefuzz, so too does Wretch feel born directly from the demise of The Gates of Slumber. The Indianapolis three-piece had traveled the farthest to get to Hagerstown — headliners Elder would be no slouch in that department either — and they were heavy enough that the head sitting on top of guitarist/vocalist Karl Simon‘s full-stack of cabinets was at several points very close to vibrating off and falling to the floor. It didn’t, thankfully, and Simon, drummer J. Clyde Paradis — who, like Simon, is a The Gates of Slumber alum — and bassist Bryce Clark held down some of the weekend’s most thoroughly doomed vibes, morose plod and downer tones emanating at max volume. “R.I.P.” was a highlight, which feels strange to even say, and a couple of songs from the final The Gates of Slumber album, 2011’s The Wretch (review here), were aired, among them “Bastards Born” and “The Wretch” itself. They finished out with “The Jury,” which originally appeared on 2004’s …The Awakening debut from the defunct outfit, their set having been cut short on account of the usual running late, but ending on a faster note somehow suited them. From what I’ve seen, Wretch have a few studio tracks floating around, but I’ve yet to hear of anything recorded being due for public consumption. Seems like a no brainer that they’re one to watch given their pedigree and Simon‘s established post-Vitus doom supremacy, but it’ll be even more interesting to see how they manage to stand themselves out from The Gates of Slumber and how much of what that band was will ultimately carry forward into the new one.

Dorthia Cottrell

Dorthia Cottrell (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Only one problem with putting Windhand vocalist Dorthia Cottrell on so late in the day for a solo acoustic set — everyone’s sloshed. Much to the room’s credit, people actually did really well policing themselves to keep conversation to a minimum as Cottrell ran through a set of dark neofolk accompanied only by the Delmar‘s fog machine and laser lights, the response to which was mixed but which I thought worked well. Anyone can play a sad twanger like “Maybe it’s True” from Cottrell‘s 2015 self-titled solo debut in the dark, but to do it with a lightshow going? That’s impressive. Those committed to being loud either moved to the back bar or went outside, but everyone who stayed was treated to Cottrell‘s quiet, alternately traditional and minimalist atmospherics, her breathy delivery calling to mind any number of blues singers who earned the first name Mama” while keeping consistent in its downtrodden feel to work with her main outfit. Influences were worn on her sleeve in covering Townes Van Zandt‘s “Rake,” a song both Wino and Scott Kelly have taken on previously, and the traditional “Wayfaring Stranger” — the mere mention of which immediately sends my mind reeling back to David Eugene Edwards and 16 Horsepower‘s version on 2000’s Secret South full-length, though everyone from Burl Ives to Neil Young has given it a shot — was slowed-down and given due melancholy to comport with the rest of the set. A marked change in sound from the rest of the day, but more consistent in overall mood with Wretch than one might initially think, Cottrell offered a moment of clarity as Vultures of Volume II made ready to round out its journey on a sea of riffs.


Elder (Photo by JJ Koczan)

“Dead Roots Stirring” made for an especially righteous opener. I hadn’t seen Massachusetts trio Elder since the release show for their 2015 third album, Lore (review here), which continues to rightly garner praise from all corners of the globe and has positioned the three-piece as headliners for the first time both on tour and at fests like this one. They are quite possibly the East Coast’s most pivotal up and coming act at this point — the great heavy hope of an entire seaboard’s next-gen scene — and with Lore, they’ve moved into a progressive style that’s entirely their own without giving up the sonic impact of their earlier work. And where the turns of “Compendium” were somewhat choppy back in March, two full tours (US and EU) later, they’re no less fluid than was “Dead Roots Stirring” at the start or “Release” from their 2012 Spires Burn/Release EP (streamed here), guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo having apparently long since mastered the complex notations of his own design while bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto held together the tight turns of that song and “Spirit at Aphelion,” also from the new album. Between songs, DiSalvo apologized to anyone who might’ve run into the band the night before, and that got a laugh from the crowd who had very clearly stuck around to see them specifically. They’ve grown not just tighter on the more recent songs, but in terms of their stage presence as well, and particularly with Donovan and Couto, they were so locked in that they didn’t even really have to look at each other to know where they were and where they were going. That kind of chemistry only really develops with touring acts, which of course Elder have become, and and they continue to move forward with Lore and beyond, it will continue to serve them well. They are distinct sonic personalities, between Couto‘s swing, Donovan‘s smooth, warm-toned basslines and DiSalvo‘s penchant for exploring progressive psychedelic passages, but the way they’ve come to work together is truly something special, and they showed that in top form at Vultures of Volume II, building and releasing tension throughout “Spirit at Aphelion” and closing out their set and the fest as a whole with “Gemini” from Dead Roots Stirring (review here), which seemed tailor made to be suited to the task. They’re still growing. They’re not done. But still, don’t be surprised a couple years from now when new bands are coming out and noodling like you hear on Lore, because people have picked up in a serious way to what Elder are doing. They’ll get no argument from me.

In the back of my mind I’d had the thought of starting to drive home directly after the fest ended, getting in my car and pushing through all night on the highways of Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, maybe beyond. Didn’t happen. Instead, I not only went back to the hotel to crash out, but overslept and wound up making my return home even later than I’d intended. After 13 bands, the extra two hours of sleep might well have enabled my survival.

Before I wrap this up, I have to note the hard work of Kathy Reeves in putting Vultures of Volume together. No way a two-dayer like this is easy to make happen, but she pulled it off and made it look that way anyhow. Job well done, and thanks for having me down for the reminder of just how unique and welcoming the Maryland heavy scene is.

Thanks also to Darin McCloskey, Matt Dayton, Mike Smith, Fanny Shamer, Ron McGinnis, Jaki Cunha, Dustin Davis, Chris Wolfe, Don Welch, Lisa Hass, Melanie Streko, Jon Pacella, Jim Forrester, Håkan Nyman, Kesha Atwood Nyman, Elyse Mitchell, Ron, Andrew Thornhill, Nick DiSalvo, Jack Donovan, Matt Couto (though, man, those are some fierce looks in those shots), and everyone else whose names I’ll hope to add over the next however long.

Most of all, thanks again to you for reading. More pics after the jump.

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Desertfest London 2016 First Announcements: Electric Wizard, Conan, Elder, Witchsorrow and Raging Speedhorn Confirmed

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Desertfest London 2016 will be held April 29 through May 1 in the (black) heart of London: Camden Town. This is the fifth year the fest has been held, and while I’m not sure that was on their minds when they decided to open their season with an opening shot of five band announcements, it works out nicely all the same.

That’s true in no small part because of the bands announced. For a first headliner, Desertfest London 2016 unveils Electric Wizard, and they’re joined by a considerable battalion comprised of Conan, Elder, Witchsorrow and reactivated sludge rockers Raging Speedhorn, whom I once saw play — true story — in a hotel bar way off the beaten path at SXSW in Austin, Texas, maybe 2005 or 2006? I mean that show was so far out it might as well have been in Houston. Long walk. They were worth it though, and I don’t think they ever came back to the US, which is fair enough. Hard to beat “Fuck You, Pay Me.”

Anyhoo, of course we’ll have a ton more to come on Desertfest London 2016 by next April, though for now it’s cool to see Elder will apparently be making their way back to Europe. Very interested to find out how London’s lineup will interact with that of the Berlin-based Desertfest. When I see something, I’ll say something.

For now:

desertfest london 2016 banner


Hello all! We at Desertfest HQ hope you’ve had a great summer so far and as we sidle into September we’re thrilled to bring you some great news about the fifth annual Desertfest in Camden this coming April. Our first headliner to creep out of the shadows are those mighty legends of true British doom Electric Wizard! Marching behind the standard they bear for us all come Liverpool’s battle-hardened warriors Conan, Boston’s heralded masters of heavy psych Elder, the UK’s blackened doomsters Witchsorrow and those heroes of sludgy hardcore Raging Speedhorn!

Head over to our new-look website to find out more about these incredible bands and stick with us in the coming weeks as we bring you yet more of the world’s greatest doom, psyche, stoner, sludge and all things in between this April in Camden!

Conan, Live at Desertfest London 2013

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Various Artists, Electric Ladyland [Redux] & The Best of James Marshall Hendrix: Scope Worthy of the Source

Posted in Reviews on August 24th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster


Even before you press play on Electric Ladyland [Redux] or its companion piece, The Best of James Marshall Hendrix, it’s hard not to admire the coordinating prowess of Magnetic Eye Records in making it all happen. Most people couldn’t corral three bands to put together a single show bill, and the label’s Mike Vitali has wrangled 20 acts from the US and European heavy rock underground to pay homage to Jimi Hendrix in time for what would’ve been the supra-legendary guitarist’s 75th birthday, topped it of with artwork by David Paul Seymour, whose piece for Electric Ladyland [Redux] easily stands among the best covers of 2015, and Caitlin Hackett, whose three-eyed-bird portraiture perfectly suits Hendrix‘s groundbreaking psychedelic blues. Packaged separately on 2CD and 2LP but clearly intended as complements, both tribute collections showcase staggering ambition on the part of the label putting them together, and the fact that Electric Ladyland [Redux] and The Best of James Marshall Hendrix materialized at all is an automatic, unqualified triumph. Here are the full tracklistings:

VA, Electric Ladyland [Redux]
1. Elephant Tree, “…And the Gods Made Love” 01:44
2. Open Hand, “Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)” 03:01
3. Superchief, “Crosstown Traffic” 03:32
4. All Them Witches, “Voodoo Chile” 14:59
5. Origami Horses, “Little Miss Strange” 03:52
6. The Heavy Eyes, “Long Hot Summer Night” 04:17
7. Earthless, “Come On (Let the Good Times Roll)” 05:03
8. Wo Fat, “Gypsy Eyes” 04:34
9. Mos Generator, “Burning of the Midnight Lamp” 03:34
10. Gozu, “Rainy Day, Dream Away” 08:07
11. Summoner, “1983… (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)” 12:56
12. Claymation, “Moon, Turn the Tides… Gently Gently Away” 01:24
13. Mothership, “Still Raining, Still Dreaming” 06:20
14. King Buffalo, “House Burning Down” 04:44
15. Tunga Moln, “All Along the Watchtower” 03:28
16. Elder, “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” 07:08

VA, The Best of James Marshall Hendrix
1. Child, “In from the Storm” 04:57
2. Elephant Tree, “Manic Depression” 04:10
3. Wo Fat, “Machine Gun” 12:49
4. Stubb, “Little Wing” 04:18
5. Rosy Finch, “Foxy Lady” 05:17
6. Geezer, “Little Miss Lover” 04:50
7. Wo Fat, “Gypsy Eyes (Extended)” 07:13

As I said, staggering. Even more so in the case of Electric Ladyland [Redux], since not only do the usual comp and tribute album concerns apply of getting everything together and turning it into a cohesive listening experience, but also because in paying homage to a full-length album specifically, it’s also pivotal that Electric Ladyland [Redux] flows front to back while being comprised of 16 separate recordings taking place in 16 separate studios with 16 separate performances and treading on some of rock and roll’s most sacred, pivotal ground. Covering Hendrix? Unless you’re Stevie Ray Vaughan — and hell, even if you are — it’s a tricky proposition for one song, let alone a full record. It’s like someone asked Magnetic Eye if they wanted to go mountain biking and the label built a rocket, went to Mars, terraformed the planet and then decided to tackle Olympus Mons, on a Huffy.

va the best of james marshall hendrix

Okay, an exaggeration, but you take my meaning. And Electric Ladyand [Redux] mostly succeeds in its decidedly Herculean mission. There are one or two changes that come across choppy — an early one in the jump from the groovy vibes of Elephant Tree and Open Hand into the burlier Superchief, who give an able showing of what they do but ultimately feel out of place — but on the whole, it’s hard to argue with the results as they’re presented throughout, whether it’s King Buffalo‘s dreamy “House Burning Down” or groups making the material their own, like Wo Fat‘s “Gypsy Eyes,” Summoner‘s re-envisioned “1983… (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)” and Gozu‘s adventurous “Rainy Day, Dream Away,” which leads off the second CD of the collection after Mos Generator‘s “Burning of the Midnight Lamp” finds the Washington-based act showing the roots of their own approach to landmark hooks, as do Mothership with their “Still Raining, Still Dreaming.”

Hearing Earthless with vocals is something of a surprise, and their take on “Come on (Let the Good Times Roll)” (an Earl King cover) not only is true to their Hendrix influence, but is a decided showcase of just how influential they’ve been on the West Coast underground — there are a good number of bands out there striving to sound like Earthless covering Jimi Hendrix — and having Swedish rockers Tunga Moln perform “All Along the Watchtower” in their native language puts an unexpected spin on arguably Electric Ladyland‘s most recognizable piece. All Them Witches are right in their element jamming on “Voodoo Chile,” and Elder do justice to the album’s closer in their “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” capping the tribute with one last highlight to round out the many before it.

There are several acts who reappear on The Best of James Marshall Hendrix, including Wo Fat and Elephant Tree, but as the latter only had the intro “…And the Gods Made Love” to lead off Electric Ladyland [Redux], it seems fair enough. In the case of Texas fuzz forerunners Wo Fat, I’m not at all going to fight with their extended jam on “Gypsy Eyes” as it closes out The Best of James Marshall Hendrix, and their 12:49 run through “Machine Gun” suits just as well. Leading off the companion tribute are Australian blues rockers Child, who give “In from the Storm” due soul and sway, and after Elephant Tree‘s “Manic Depression” and Wo Fat‘s “Machine Gun,” hearing Stubb take on the sweet melodies of “Little Wing” couldn’t be more perfect, especially leading into Rosy Finch‘s stomping “Foxy Lady,” which in turn gives way to Geezer‘s “Little Miss Lover,” coated in wah and right in the New York band’s wheelhouse, even as it gives way to a deconstructing long-form fadeout.

Wo Fat‘s extended “Gypsy Eyes” picks up from that silence with a bonus track-style vibe, but really, both releases feel like a bonus the whole time through. There are some variances in sound and style and some bands are more suited to the source material than others, but the effort that has been put into Electric Ladyland [Redux] and The Best of James Marshall Hendrix and the passion that bleeds from every second of each of these tracks are simply inarguable. It may be preaching to the choir to have heavy rock and psych bands covering Hendrix tracks, but the vibe throughout both of these tribute comps is much more of a genre paying homage to one of its founders who, sadly, didn’t live long enough to see the generation-spanning impact of his work realized. Equally admirable in mission and execution.

VA, Electric Ladyland [Redux] (2015)

VA, The Best of James Marshall Hendrix (2015)

Magnetic Eye Records on Bandcamp

Magnetic Eye on Thee Facebooks

Magnetic Eye website

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Day of the Shred 2015 Announces Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 21st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

day of the shred banner

Thief Presents continues to throw down a gauntlet with its festivals. It seemed fair after so thoroughly upping the game earlier this year with Psycho CA that big things would be in store for that fest’s autumnal counterpart, the Day of the Shred, but when you come out of the gate like it’s no big deal and be like, “Oh hey Captain Beyond is playing our fest year whatever,” you’re officially killing it. You’ve got John Garcia, Yawning Man and Ides of Gemini together, which makes me wonder if Zun won’t make an appearance, and Spirit Caravan, Elder and Crowbar, along with a righteous ton of others, up to and including Portugal’s Black Bombaim. It gets a hearty and heartfelt fucking a.

Details from the PR wire:

day of the shred 2015

Day of the Shred Festival to Light Up Southern California November 1

Dia de los Muertos-themed Concert Event to Feature Performances from Captain Beyond, Spirit Caravan, Crowbar, John Garcia, Mondo Generator, Torche and More

This fall, The Day of the Shred Festival returns to Southern California, presenting a diverse lineup of heavy music acts. Billed as an experience “to gather the living and remember the dead”, The Day of the Shred will take place on November 1 (Dia de los Muertos) in Santa Ana, CA. Celebrating monolithic riffs, skateboarding and the souls of the departed, the second annual festival will be an all day, all ages event. Presented by Thief – also the creators of the annual Psycho California Festival — The Day of the Shred will feature headliners Captain Beyond, Spirit Caravan, Crowbar, Torche, John Garcia (of Kyuss fame), Elder, Saviours, Mondo Generator and more.

Tickets for the 2015 Day of the Shred Festival are on sale now at this location. Early bird general admission tickets are $59 (+ tax) and a limited VIP ticket package (which includes express entry, a signed festival screen print, access to the artist lounge, complimentary microbrew and snacks, a limited edition record bag and an exclusive Thief X Obey concert shirt) is also available.
What: Day of the Shred Fest 2015
Where: The Observatory, Santa Ana, CA
Time: 2PM – 2AM

The just-announced lineup for The Day of the Shred 2015 is as follows:

Stay tuned in to The Day of the Shred Fest via the Facebook event page and follow THE DAY OF THE SHRED on social media:

Weedeater, “Gimme Back My Bullets” Live at Day of the Shred 2014

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Earthless and Elder Announce Australian Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 16th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

File this one under “Damn Those are Gonna be Some Good Shows” as Earthless and Elder pair up to tour Australia beginning Oct. 22. It’s a quick run, but an utterly badass pairing of bands, that, if I happened to be on the other side of the planet, I’d be sure to hit up. This will be Elder‘s first time down there — you might recall a couple years back they were all set to go with YOB (who will be there next month as well) but it didn’t pan out — while I’m pretty sure Earthless have made the trip before. Either way, there’s just nothing about those two getting together that doesn’t flat out rule.

News came down off the PR wire a couple minutes ago:




LIFE IS NOISE is proud to announce the heavy-psych double-bill of the year, as Elder and Earthless tour Australia this October.

Earthless want you to know how it feels to touch the sky. With smoldering guitar riffs that stretch from here to infinity, the San Diego trio are at once cosmic and timeless, rooted in a profound respect for the Zeppelin/Sabbathian tradition yet with eyes firmly cast forward. Never mind the retro rock revivalists or the ’70s throwbacks – Earthless aren’t nostalgists; they’re sonic luminaries dragging psychadelia by the wah pedal into the 21st century and beyond.

Isaiah Mitchell is the kind of guitar prodigy that comes along only once in a generation. Underpinned by the military precision of Mario Rubalcaba’s drumming and Mike Eginton’s fundamental grooves, Mitchell’s chaotic fretwork is as unpredictable as it is ambitious.

Elder are a sleeper cell of colossal talent. Never has three-piece so seamlessly merged the atmosphere of doom with the depth of stoner rock and the vitality of psychedelic rock. Their latest album, Lore, is a quiet masterpiece – a blizzard of riffs that shine with melody, dynamism and songwriting sophistication well beyond the young band’s years.

Few bands have the gall to cover Jimi Hendrix, and even fewer can do it well, but Elder did just that in June when they released a rip-roaring cover of Voodoo Child (Slight Return) for the Hendrix tribute Electric Ladyland Redux. Nick DeSalvo’s guitar sounds on the brink of bursting into flames as he blazes through solo after solo.

Elder’s sonic mastery extends beyond the studio – the trio’s live documents and show-stealing sets at Roadburn and Psycho California are a testament to Elder’s limitless potential.

Elder and Earthless have never shared a stage before. There’s no telling what havoc these two riff lords will wreak. Don’t miss the psych trip of the year. Witness these two blow minds on the following dates:

Perth – The Rosemount Hotel – October 22,
Melbourne –The Corner – October 23, 2015
Sydney – Newtown Social – October 24, 2015
Brisbane – Crowbar – October 26, 2015

Tickets on sale now through, Oztix and venue outlets.

Earthless, “Violence of the Red Sea”

Elder, Lore (2015)

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San Francisco Trip, Pt. 3: The Calling

Posted in Buried Treasure, Features on July 16th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

aquarius records

07.15.15 — 10:10PM Pacific — Wed. night — Hotel California (yes, really)

It occurred to me this evening that I’ve had about two and a half hours of “free time” on this trip and I’ve spent it all record shopping. That’s not a complaint, but I’ve had people offer to meet up and stuff and I haven’t quite had the time I anticipated for such things between work obligations and writing at night. Again, I’m not complaining. I’ve worked for a company for less than two months that’s willing to fly my ass quite literally across a continent and trust me to represent them to the best of my admittedly limited ability at a meeting of potential clients and professional cohorts. I’m remarkably fortunate to be here. I’m also very, very tired.

Still, when it came to it, and I had that little bit of time to spare today, I jumped in the first cab that I saw with its light on and told the dude to make for Aquarius Records. It was payday and I had an itch that only another round of record shopping was going to scratch. I probably could have gone back to Amoeba Music and found more stuff in that giant space, but the smaller, curated vibe of Aquarius was just my speed this evening.

I took my time, thumbed through the CD racks of the San Francisco section, the rock/pop, the metal sections both new and used, eyed up some stuff in the boxes under the used section — two albums by Mammoth Volume there, but I have them already — and reminded myself that between yesterday and today, this has kind of become my celebration of returning to the working world, so yeah, I splurged a bit. I picked up a thing or two that on some other days I might have let go, decided to let it ride and be what it is. The fact that it was also payday might have been a factor. That’s a question for hindsight and I don’t have the proper distance to evaluate.

The haul? Here it is, once more alphabetically:

Aarni, Bathos
Across Tundras, Old World Wanderer
Bedemon, Child of Darkness
Carlton Melton, Out to Sea
Children of Doom, Ride over the Green Valley
Elder, Spires Burn/Release
Elder, Lore
Evil Acidhead, In the Name of all that is Unholy
Holy Serpent, Holy Serpent
Pyramido, Sand
Pyramido, Saga
Slough Feg, Made in Poland
The Warlocks, The Warlocks
White Hills, So You Are… so You’ll Be

aqurius records haulOnce again, all CDs. I know it’s not as cool as vinyl, but fuck it. If any of you vinyl hounds want to sell me your CD collection, let me know. I’ll buy that shit. I’ll be the last dude on earth buying CDs for all I care. Whatever. They’re still making them for the most part, so yeah, I’ll still buy them.

The find of the bunch is probably that self-titled EP by The Warlocks, which came out in 2000 on Bomp! Records and was their debut. It was used and cheap, so that was cool. Two of the bunch I already own, but the Across Tundras was also about $5 and the Bedemon is the newer Relapse Records version, so I figured what the hell. True, I was here last year and stopped by the shop when I was out on tour with the Kings Destroy guys — SF resident Jim Pitts included, while I’m thinking of good people I haven’t had the chance to see — but it’s not something I do every day. I pick up things here and there, mostly online at this point, so to actually be in a store and have the chance to browse and enjoy the process, I wanted to do precisely that.

I know Carlton Melton are local to NorCal, so I grabbed that seeing it on the counter by the register, and Evil Acidhead was one of the staff recommendations — if you ever go to Aquarius Records, pay attention; these people know what they’re talking about — and since I knew it’s a reissue of old recordings by John McBain (Monster Magnet, Wellwater Conspiracy) it seemed like one to grab. Both of those Elder discs I have on vinyl, but I wanted the CDs, and while it would make the most sense to go to Armageddon Shop one of the apparently multiple times of a week I drive past Providence on I-95 and pick them up there, I haven’t actually managed to make that happen. Seeing an opportunity, I took it.

Slough Feg‘s 2011 live record, Made in Poland, was used, so that was a no-brainer, and I ran into both Pyramido albums — their first, Sand, used and a buck, their third, 2013’s Saga, new — on opposite sides of the store and picked them up almost independently of each other, hesitating but ultimately nabbing the recently-reviewed self-titled from Holy Serpent because, fuck it, it’s a RidingEasy release and I don’t see that every day in a store. The White Hills was used and I grabbed it thinking of their set at Roadburn this year and how underappreciated they are generally — not that my buying a disc makes up for that, but you know what I mean.

Two purchases I went into completely blind: the Aarni and Children of Doom. Aarni is a one-man Finnish outfit for whom Bathos served as a debut full-length in 2004, and knowing nothing about it, I saw the cover was all mushrooms and that it was on the Firedoom Music label — actually it’s the first release on the label; catalog number FDOOM001 — so I assumed I would be getting something Finnish, strange and doomed, and sure enough that’s how it’s played out so far. French trio Children of Doom‘s self-released 2009 debut EP, Ride over the Green Valley, won me over both for its cover art and for the written-out description of the album, which rightly compared its tones to namesake act Saint Vitus. I hear a bit of Ice Dragon‘s swaggering fuckall in there as well. No complaints. The band’s debut LP, Doom, Be Doomed, ör Fuck Off, came out in 2011, but if Aquarius had it, it wasn’t in my line of sight.

Back to the hotel after to start writing and get my head around the day. I ate the same thing I had for dinner last night — flautas from the taqueria across the street — while checking email to try and keep up on that. As one might expect, it didn’t really work. Still, at least if I have to be behind on absolutely everything, at least I managed to pick up some good records in the process.

I fly out tomorrow night late on a redeye to Boston that gets in Friday morning. The only way to travel. Maybe it’ll also be five hours delayed and turn into a morning flight. Haven’t slept at an airport in a while anyway.

Children of Doom, “Hangover”

Aquarius Records website

Aquarius Records on Thee Facebooks

Aquarius Records on Twitter

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The Debate Rages: What are the Best Songs of the Last Five Years?

Posted in The Debate Rages on July 10th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

what are the best songs from the last five years

Mostly around here I concentrate on albums. Best albums of the year. Best albums of the decade. Still, kind of on a whim this morning I was thinking about the shape of heavy of the last half-decade — or rather, the shapes of it.

Different scenes moving in various directions, the emergence of the Pacific Northwest as a hotbed, the growth of West Coast psych and how in-conversation that seems to be both with California’s skater past and the current European market, itself branched out between heavy psych and ’70s traditionalism, which has also begun to take root throughout the US while, at the same time, a new generation has come up to embrace full-on stoner riffing and/or desert rock ideals.

While I have my album lists going back six years to refer to, this time around, I was wondering specifically about individual songs from the same era. What are the best songs from the last five years?

It’s not always the best album that has the best single piece of work on it, so it seemed worth asking the question separately.

Me, I go in for epics: YOB‘s “Marrow” (2014), Ancestors‘ “First Light” (2012), Colour Haze‘s “Grace” (2012), Hypnos 69‘s “The Great Work” (2011), Witch Mountain‘s “Can’t Settle” (2014), Elder‘s “Lore” (2015) definitely is worth having in the conversation, Solace‘s “From Below” (2010), Grayceon‘s “We Can” (2011), and so on.

But then you have Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats‘ “I’ll Cut You Down,” which has had a massive influence since it came out in 2011. And what about a cut like Clutch‘s “D.C. Sound Attack,” or Goatsnake‘s “Grandpa Jones,” or Graveyard‘s “Ain’t Fit to Live Here,” or Mars Red Sky‘s “Strong Reflection?” Does a track have to be long to make an impact? What if there’s a perfectly-executed two-minute verse/chorus trade? Shouldn’t that also be considered?

I guess that’s the question.

We haven’t done one of these in a while, so I’m hoping you’ll take the time to add your answers and picks for the best songs of the last five years 2010-2015 in the comments to this post. I know we’re not through 2015 yet, but we’re just trying to have some fun anyway.

Thanks to all who take the time to leave a note in the comments below.

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