Posted in Reviews on March 23rd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Driving the four-plus hours from Massachusetts to NYC to see Enslaved, YOB, Witch Mountain and Ecstatic Vision on Saturday wasn’t the practical choice, but it was the only choice. True, three of the four would be much, much closer to me this week, but to catch them in a bigger room and with Witch Mountain wasn’t an opportunity I wanted to miss. I left much earlier than I needed to, leaving as little as humanly possible to chance in terms of sitting in traffic, stressing out, etc. Turned out to be one of the easier rides south that I’ve had.
A positive omen? Maybe. I had time to hit Academy Records before the the show, which was a rare pleasure, and plenty of opportunity to catch my breath before doors to Gramercy Theatre opened. Last time I was there was for Pentagram, Kings Destroy, Bang and Blood Ceremony, and as ambivalent as I was at being back in Manhattan itself, it would prove to be a night surrounded by old friends, laughs and good vibes. More than anything, that made trip worthwhile.
But there was a show on as well, and a killer one at that. An early start for a packed night had Witch Mountain on at 7:30, and here’s how it went from there:
A couple new faces in Portland’s scene-preceding four-piece, Witch Mountain. Very new, as it happened. As in, this was their second show. Led by founding guitarist Rob Wrong and drummer Nate Carson, the band had played Pittsburgh the evening prior, and that was the first gig with newcomer vocalist Kayla Dixon and bassist Justin Brown (also of Lamprey). Night two of the band’s Mk. III lineup was a short set, but they made the most of it and showcased the potential for continued growth. Dixon had a distinctly metallic presence as frontwoman, and the entire band, Brown included, seemed to relish the opportunity to have a bigger stage on which to unfurl their doom. Again, their time was brief, but “Psycho Animundi” from last year’s Mobile of Angels (review here) more than ably demonstrated Dixon‘s vocal range, while “Veil of the Forgotten” and particularly the end of “Shelter” from 2012’s Cauldron of the Wild (review here) thrust into an almost power metal presentation, already edging up to the boundaries of a shifting personality for the band. Especially for it being night two, it was an encouraging sight. I’d expect over time Witch Mountain will loosen up further in presence as they continue to tighten sonically, but I felt fortunate to see that process at its beginning.
Of the four bands on the bill, I wondered most about how Ecstatic Vision‘s sound would translate to the spaciousness of Gramercy Theatre. The Philly three-piece would hardly be the first act in history to play space rock in a high-ceiling room, but for their being a newer band despite the experience of guitarist/vocalist Doug Sabolik and drummer Jordan Crouse in A Life Once Lost, it was a point of curiosity. Some of Sabolik‘s flourish, the chimes on his mic stand and melodica, weren’t as prevalent as they had been when I saw the band open for YOB at the Saint Vitus Bar in December (review here), but they did well all the same, and bassist Michael Connor‘s tone came through the house clear and warm in kind. Their custom lighting, the rope lights around the drums, strobe, and so on, left Connor more or less out of the equation, and that seemed to create some imbalance on stage, but unless you happened to be the black metal purists positioned in front of me as I watched Estatic Vision space out on encompassing, fluid psychedelic jams, there was little to argue with as they warmed up and settled into their engaging vibe. They still don’t have much recorded but are expected to make a debut sometime later this year on Relapse. Still worth keeping an eye on.
Would YOB do “Marrow” in that room? Yes, they would. Three of the four cuts from last year’s Clearing the Path to Ascend (review here) — also my pick for the best album of 2014 — were aired, with opening duo “In Our Blood” and the scorching “Nothing to Win” leading to the aforementioned 19-minute record-closer, which was followed in turn by the title-track of their 2011 sixth album, Atma (review here), the Eugene, Oregon, three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt, bassist Aaron Rieseberg and drummer Travis Foster crisp in their delivery but not at all dead-eyed in the here’s-another-show way one might expect after their having spent the better part of the last three weeks on the road. The run with Enslaved ends this week, but YOB will continue to tour their way back west before returning in May to the East Coast for Maryland Deathfest in Baltimore. In New York, their response showed a considerable crossover response from the clearly-there-for-Enslaved contingent, particularly as the culmination of “Marrow” hit and they followed it by the gallop-laden “Atma,” which seemed all the more furious in comparison. I’ve seen YOB at least five times in the last 12 months and have yet to come out of a set without any regrets. Foster‘s snare was loud in the house mix, but so was everything else, so, you know, it kind of worked itself out. Every accolade YOB gets, they earn. I know they did that European stint last year with Pallbearer, and that was a month-plus on the road, but it’s still a change to think of YOB as a touring band after their years of keeping shows limited. While I wonder what the rest of 2015 will hold for them, I also couldn’t help but notice how sustainable and decidedly un-worn they looked on stage, like they could just keep going. I doubt they’d have met any complaints if they had.
Last time I saw Enslaved in New York was early 2013. They played the Bowery Ballroom (review here), which is a not-insignificant space in itself, but not as sizable as the Gramercy, and I think it says something about the long-running Norwegian outfit’s growing US fanbase that their return to Manhattan would be in a larger venue. They’re supporting the release of their 13th full-length, In Times (review forthcoming) on Nuclear Blast, but new material or old, they had the room on their side from the word go. Bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson joked with the crowd between songs, and by the time they got down to playing the title-track from In Times laughingly promised the crowd that it would be the last new song they played. For what it’s worth, I didn’t notice much of a change in reception for recent or older material. Sure, a song like “The Watcher” from 2008’s Vertebrae, with its mega-chorus, or a by-now staple like “Ruun” from the 2006 LP of the same name is bound to get a response, but “Thurisaz Dreaming” and “Building with Fire” sat well alongside those and “Death in the Eyes of Dawn” from 2012’s RIITIIR (review here), and wherever the band headed, the crowd went along. Of course, their stage presentation was air-tight, Kjellson holding down a frontman role flanked on either side by guitarists Ivar Bjørnson and Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal, while keyboardist/vocalist Herbrand Larsen made a case for up-front featuring of his own with stellar command of the clean-sung parts — I saw Enslaved for the first time eight years ago at SXSW, and I’d mark Larsen‘s growth as a vocalist among the foremost catalysts enabling their musical progression in that time; that growth was, I’ll note, already underway for several years by then — and drummer Cato Bekkevold sat swallowed up by his expansive kit surrounding. They came out one at a time to start their set and for the encore, and each time Bekkevold sat down, he disappeared. Good for a laugh, but he also used that whole drumset, and flawlessly. Their encore was “As Fire Swept Clean the Earth” from 2003’s Below the Lights, “Fenris” from 1994’s sophomore outing, Frost, and the title-cut from 2004’s landmark Isa, and when it was over, there was nothing left for the audience to do but leave, having so thoroughly been handed its ass on a platter by the five-piece, whose reach seems only to continue growing with time.
If you want the short version, the show was a win, but what made it even better was seeing old friends throughout the night and catching up, and that was something that continued even as security started shuffling people out of the downstairs lounge. On my way back north on Sunday, it was the memories of good times and good music that seemed to make the trip shorter, both thoroughly appreciated.
Speaking of old friends, this review is dedicated to Loana dP Valencia of Nuclear Blast, alongside whom it has been my complete and utter pleasure to work for the last decade.
Posted in Features on January 21st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
This is the longest list of anything I’ve ever done, and it might be the longest I ever do. The truth is, when I started keeping track of things coming out in 2015, back around October/November, I had no idea what I was getting into. More and more names just kept getting added to the list, and between solid release dates, bands entering the studio, writing sessions underway and the usual round of vague “they’re due”-type speculation, it kept growing. Even now, I’m quite sure that by the time I’m finished with this, I’ll add something else, and 90 will become 91, and then someone will point out something glaring I forgot and 91 will become 92, and so on.
I don’t think I could reasonably expect anyone to read 90 complete entries, so I’ve broken it down somewhat. There are 52 weeks in a year, so my thinking is that if you buy one record per week, I’ve got recommendations to carry through till December (with the acknowledgement that we’re already a couple weeks into 2015) and then more beyond that. Even asking you to skim 52 entries is a lot, but hell, we’ve got 12 months until 2016, so there’s plenty of time. We’ll do 52 entries and then list the others, both alphabetically.
Thank you in advance for reading.
1. Acid King, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere
If this was my year-end list instead of my year-start list, Acid King‘s Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere would be my album of the year. Best album of 2015 about 20 days into it? Maybe. The Oakland trio’s first outing in nearly a decade is a joy of languid riffing and heavy spaceout, songs like “Coming down from Outer Space” and “Center of Everywhere” reminding of just what it is we’ve been missing about Acid King all these years. They’ve continued to play live all that time, of course, and Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere, which is due April 14 on Svart, plainly demonstrates that they’ve lost none of the potency for years absent from studio work. More to come. Acid King on Thee Facebooks, Svart Records.
2. All Them Witches, TBA
The Nashville four-piece blew up following the 2013 digital release of their second album, Lightning at the Door, which saw a physical pressing last year (review here), and with a growing public at their heels and a salivating underground press anxious to hear what they come up with next, All Them Witches hit the studio this month to put together their third full-length. They’re on tour in Feb., and it seems reasonable to expect they’ll be trying out new material on the road, but as free-flowing as Lightning at the Door was, it’s hard not to consider the follow-up one of 2015’s most anticipated records, whenever it arrives and whatever shape(s) it takes. All Them Witches on Thee Facebooks, official website.
3. Anthroprophh, U.F.O.
Guitarist/vocalist PaulAllen, formerlyof TheHeads,teamed up with Jesse Webb and Gareth Turner of the duo Big Naturals as his rhythm section for 2014’s Outside the Circle (review here), and for his new release under the Anthroprophh moniker for Cardinal Fuzz, Allen centers around different U.F.O. abduction reports from the UK between 1954 and 1978, each of the eight tracks taking its name from the date and location of a reported incident. Sound fucking awesome? Yeah, I agree. Expect raw psychedelic experimentation, heavy swing and interpretive instrumentalism galore on the two-sided release when it gets declassified on Feb. 2, pressed in an edition of 500 copies. Anthroprophh on Thee Facebooks, Cardinal Fuzz.
4. Arenna, TBA
Spanish heavy psych outfit Arenna will release the follow-up to their 2011 Nasoni Records debut, Beats of Olarizu (review here), and they just this week posted the 10-minute opener “Butes” from their sophomore outing (listen here). The first album earned them a hearty following, and it’s been four years since it came out, but somehow I doubt Arenna will have much trouble picking up where they left off in their wide-open, jam-heavy sound. They mark a decade together in 2015, and they seem to just be getting started, so I’m particularly interested to learn how the European heavy underground takes to their second LP, which is due to be mastered next month and released sometime thereafter. Arenna on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
5. The Atomic Bitchwax, Gravitron
New Bitchwax? Sold. The stalwart New Jersey three-piece — now featuring two members of Monster Magnet – will release Gravitron on April 21 via Tee Pee Records, just in time to make a stop a few days later at Desertfest London 2015. They toured Europe last summer as well, and I think the fact that they’ll be over that way when they put Gravitron out speaks volumes to their priorities at this point, but who can blame them? Perpetually underappreciated in the US, they’ll follow-up 2011’s The Local Fuzz (review here) in grand form at Desertfest (they play Berlin as well), finally getting their due even if they have to get on a plane to get it. The Atomic Bitchwax on Thee Facebooks, Tee Pee Records.
6. Black Cobra, TBA
Hints were dropped back in November that raging two-piece Black Cobra were working on material for a new album. Whenever it arrives, this year or next, it will be their sixth and first since 2011’s Invernal (review here), which I don’t think I’m alone in counting as their finest moment to-date. They’ll also be at Desertfest for a return appearance, and wherever they go, devastation follows. They posted this week that their tour van has passed the 300,000-mile mark, which is emblematic of the workout they’ve given it over the last decade-plus, and I’d expect no slowdown, tempo or itinerary-wise, from them in 2015, regular oil changes notwithstanding. Black Cobra on Thee Facebooks, Southern Lord Recordings.
7. Black Rainbows, Hawkdope
There are 90-someodd bands included in this feature, all told. Might be over 100. I’m not sure anybody beats Italian trio Black Rainbows in the album-title department, however. Hawkdope, man. Hard to mess with that. Guitarist/vocalist Gabriele Fiori continues to keep his finger on the pulse of European heavy rock with his Heavy Psych Sounds imprint, and while I haven’t heard Hawkdope yet, it seems likely they’ll continue the push toward heavy psychedelia that 2013’s Holy Moon EP (discussed here) and their inclusions in last year’s four-way split (review here) spoke of, but of course, they can always throw down some top notch fuzz riffing as well. Black Rainbows on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
8. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth
Six years after the arrival of their demo (review here), Brothers of the Sonic Cloth will make their self-titled debut through Neurot Recordings on Feb. 17. Immediately notable for being the brainchild of guitarist/vocalist Tad Doyle (ex-TAD), bassist Peggy “Pegadeth” Doyle and drummer Dave French, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth pushes plodding heavy into seething aggression with a lumber only made more potent by Billy Anderson‘s production. It’s been a while in the making, true, but the album’s execution leaves no room for argument in its lung-deflating tonal density. Justifies the wait and then some. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.
9. Chiefs, Tomorrow’s Over
With vinyl to follow in May on Battleground Records, Arizona/SoCal heavy rockers Chiefs will release their debut LP, Tomorrow’s Over, via Roosevelt Row on Feb. 24. Its striking cover art by David Paul Seymour offers immediate intrigue, as did Chiefs‘ inclusion on their 2014 split 7″ with Fuzz Evil (streamed here). The song from that, “Stone Bull,” won’t be featured on the album, but all four cuts from Chiefs‘ 2013 Buffalo Roam demo will, which should give you some indication as to how much the trio got it right the first time around. The title-track of the demo opens, and the album takes its name from one of the demo tracks as well, so it all ties together. Chiefs on Thee Facebooks, Battleground Records, Roosevelt Row Records.
10. Clutch, TBA
Clutch‘s Earth Rocker (review here) was the undisputed high point of 2013, and the long-running Maryland four-piece have returned to the Machine Shop studio (now located in Texas) to record the follow-up to it. They’ve been playing new material live for a while now, as they’ll do, and while they always manage to change things up from album to album, the fact that they’ve going back to work with Machine again makes in plain that they’re where they want to be at this point sound-wise. As if there was ever any doubt. Their forever-tour will continue, but it’s good to know they’re taking a little break from the road to put together another slab for their always-expanding, always-frothing fanbase. Clutch on Thee Facebooks, Weathermaker Music.
11. Conan, TBA
I’m not sure if it will be out before the end of 2015, but whenever it arrives, the next Conan should be a much different affair than we’ve yet heard from the UK thunderplodders, whose 2014 Napalm Records debut, Blood Eagle (review here), further established their dominance among the heaviest bands in doom. Since that album hit, guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis has traded out two-thirds of the trio, bringing in producer Chris Fielding on bass/vocals and new drummer Rich Lewis. Davis‘ riffs have always been at the core of what makes Conan the beast they are, so I wouldn’t expect much fixing of what isn’t broken, but don’t be surprised if some different personalities emerge in Fielding and Lewis as well. Conan on Thee Facebooks, Conan’s webstore.
12. Colour Haze, To the Highest Gods We Know
Yeah, I’m sneaking this one in here. Sorry, but frankly, I think Colour Haze deserve more than a toss-it-out-there mid-December album release date, so instead of the CD release, which was last month, I’m choosing to think of the impending Feb./March vinyl issue as the official one for To the Highest Gods We Know (review here), which is both a fascinating and fitting answer to Colour Haze‘s 2012 outing, She Said (review here). Feels strange so early in the year to start calling out end-of-year highlights, but between this and Acid King, I feel like two of my top five are already set in stone, and that’s a pretty good start to any year. Colour Haze are one of the most important heavy rock bands of their generation, and they continue to expand their form and the genre as a whole. Colour Haze’s website, Elektrohasch Schallplatten.
13. Corrections House, TBA
Their totalitarian fetishizing well intact, the it’s-a-supergroup-but-don’t-call-it-a-supergroup Corrections House announced back in November that they’d have a sophomore effort out this year to follow their 2013 debut, Last City Zero. The returning lineup of guitarist Scott Kelly (Neurosis), vocalist Mike Williams (Eyehategod), saxophonist Bruce Lamont (Yakuza) and keyboardist/programmer Sanford Parker (Buried at Sea, etc.) is enough to warrant attention in itself, and while their industrial tinged output isn’t really my thing sound-wise, they’re not an assemblage easily ignored. Hopefully a recently canceled round of tour dates doesn’t derail the new release plams. Corrections House on Thee Facebooks, at Neurot Recordings.
14. Corsair, One Eyed Horse
Virginian dual-guitar classic heavy rock/metallers Corsair are now three years removed from their Shadow Kingdom Records self-titled debut (review here), and their new album, One Eyed Horse, arrives with a striking-almost-disturbing cover and a refined progressive edge. Their melodic sensibility has never been in question, and guitarists Marie Landragin and Paul Sebring, bassist Jordan Brunk (who, like the guitarists, contributes vocals) and drummer Michael Taylor will look to expand their reach even further with the eight new vinyl-ready tracks. One looks forward to the album and hopes for a tour in equal measure. Corsair’s website, Shadow Kingdom Records.
15. Crypt Sermon, Out of the Garden
Classic doom bleeds through the cover of Philly five-piece Crypt Sermon‘s debut full-length, Out of the Garden. Set to release Feb. 24 on Dark Descent Records, I’d expect Out of the Garden to be an early highlight for the year in doom despite being Crypt Sermon‘s first outing. Their Demo MMXIII (review here) found them well schooled in the tenets of the downtrodden, and while the record may end up a sleeper, it’s one that no doubt will find its way to the right ears; namely those of the old school doomers tired of psychedelic idolatry, who want something dark, beaten and grueling without concern for genre-melding or novelty. So, doom on. Crypt Sermon on Thee Facebooks, Dark Descent Records.
16. Ecstatic Vision, TBA
Also based in Philadelphia, heavy psych troupe Ecstatic Vision signed to Relapse on the strength of a demo and an apparent willingness to hit the road — they’ll do so this spring alongside YOB and Enslaved — and as just about any band who’s ever sent that label a rough recording will likely tell you, that’s no small feat. I was fortunate enough to catch them in Brooklyn last month (opening for YOB, as it happened), and the appeal was easy to see in their space rock jamming, lighting effects and propensity for deceptively quick rhythmic turns. A debut offering is reportedly due this year, and as it will come after they spend a month on the road, I expect it will be something to behold. Ecstatic Vision on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
17. Elder, Lore
What to say about Elder? They’re a bright spot in the hope for the next generation of heavy rock, but they were that already. What really distinguishes their third album, Lore, is the fiercely progressive bent of the tracks, songs like “Compendium” (streamed here) taking the hypnotic rhythms of 2012’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here) and refining what Elder – the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto – do with a newfound clarity of purpose and precision execution. They make well-thought-out songs sound exciting front to back, and if you’ve ever dug anything they’ve done, you’re going to shit a brick when you hear the title-track of Lore. Elder on Thee Facebooks, Armageddon Shop, Stickman Records.
18. Enslaved, In Times
I make no bones or apologies about being an Enslaved fan. The Norwegian progressive black metallers strip down their presentation with In Times, the follow-up to 2012’s Riitiir (review here), solidifying some aspects of their approach while nodding at the brutality of yore in a still-somehow-forward-thinking manner. They never fail to deliver, and they’ve long since hit a stride where they can deliver album after album and come up with ways to advance their sound each time out. Recording themselves has only made them bolder over their last couple records, and In Times benefits from this in its brought-to-fruition experiments as well. It would take a lot for these guys to do wrong in my eyes. Enslaved on Thee Facebooks, Nuclear Blast Records.
19. Eye, TBA
They’re the Midwest’s inadvertent answer to the West Coast’s Moog-prog vibing, and Ohio’s Eye want for nothing in comparison to any of their coastal contemporaries. The photo above was taken recently in the studio — I’ll just assume the room is actually that color when they record and that that is not, in fact, an Instagram filter — tracking their third record and follow-up to 2013’s brilliant-yes-brilliant Second Sight (review here), which rightfully garnered attention far and wide. No release date yet for the new one from what I’ve seen, but the album is reportedly done, so hopefully it won’t be too long before it sees release, most likely on vinyl since that seems to be where the band’s heart lies. Eye on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
20. Freedom Hawk, TBA
After an appearance last year at Roadburn and confirmation of a return trip to Europe this spring for Freak Valley in Germany, Virginia’s Freedom Hawk would seem to have considerably expanded their reach. Last year saw them lose guitarist Matt Cave and transition from a four-piece to a trio, and they were in the studio in the fall to record their second album for Small Stone behind their 2011 label debut, Holding On (review here), and while I’m not sure if it’s finished or if it will be out in time for the band’s sojourn abroad, one assumes it will be out sooner or later. Their late-2013 Live at the Jewish Mother download makes a decent stopgap if you’ve got a hankering, but they’re due for a new one for sure. Freedom Hawk on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
21. Glowsun, Glowsun
In a recent discussion about finally picking up Glowsun‘s 2012 outing, Eternal Season, I said I wasn’t going to miss their next record, so I guess you could call this me holding myself to that task. The French heavy psych outfit have a new one, apparently self-titled — though of course I could be wrong; I’m just going by the album art — due out for release this Spring. I haven’t seen an official date from Napalm for when it’s due, but it’s not one I’m going to let slip by one way or another as I did for far too long with Eternal Season. Some mistakes don’t bear repeating, and Glowsun‘s output is of a quality that demands immediacy. At least now I know it. Ha. Glowsun on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
22. Goatsnake, TBA
Rumors abound about a new Goatsnake. They’re in the studio, this is done, that isn’t done, they’re over here, over there. They’re headlining Freak Valley and playing Psycho California, and they headlined Southwest Terror Fest III last fall, but the last official word I saw about a new album — it would be their first since their 2004 Trampled Under Hoof EP — was last Sept., when word came down that it was happening at all and that Southern Lord would put it out. A timetable on when would be convenient, but maybe that’s asking too much and I should be grateful it’s even being discussed. They remain on my bucket list of bands to see before I die. One of these days I’ll get there. Southern Lord Recordings, Southern Lord on Thee Facebooks.
23. Gozu, TBA
Probably the biggest change for Boston’s Gozu since the 2013 release of their second album for Small Stone, The Fury of a Patient Man (review here), is the solidification of their lineup. As they enter into the process for their third Small Stone outing, they’ll do so with bassist Joe Grotto and drummer Mike Hubbard. Grotto played on part of Fury, but Hubbard (ex-Warhorse) is a new presence entirely in the band. They’ve also experimented with a third guitarist, so they might not be so solidified, but they’ve got a monster of a core four-piece to work with in Grotto, Hubbard, guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney and guitarist Doug Sherman, and they seem poised to get the most out of the chemistry they’ve busted their collective ass to develop. Gozu on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
24. High on Fire, TBA
I feel like a new High on Fire record isn’t even just an event for heavy rock at this point but for metal as a whole. The Matt Pike-fronted three-piece hit the studio this month (this week?) after a quick tour up the East Coast, returning to Massachusetts to work with Converge‘s Kurt Ballou at his Godcity Studios, where they also busted out 2012’s De Vermis Mysteriis (review here). For anyone who heard that record, it should be plain why they’d want to work with Ballou again — even enough to go to Massachusetts in January — and whenever their next one shows up, no doubt it will do so as one of 2015’s most anticipated offerings. I’m not sure what to expect other than “heavy,” but that’s enough to go on for now. High on Fire on Thee Facebooks, eOne Metal.
25. Hollow Leg, TBA
My interest was piqued early last year when Floridian sludgers Hollow Leg issued their God-Eater single and spoke of it as the beginning of a change in direction. The change? More melody, a less outright aggressive style, more of an emphasis on thickness rather than rawness. As a starting point, the song “God-Eater” seemed to bode well, and I’m hoping in 2015 that Hollow Leg follow through at least partially on its promise. Not that the viciousness of 2013’s second LP, Abysmal (review here), left me particularly wanting, just that they seemed to be following a fulfilling new-ish path, and I thought the sound was one worth pursuing. They’ve said their third will be out this year, so I’ll take it. Hollow Leg on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
26. Horsehunter, Caged in Flesh
Australian four-piece Horsehunter made an impression a few weeks back with the 16-minute “Stoned to Death,” the opening track from their Magnetic Eye Records debut LP, Caged in Flesh, and it stands to reason why. Crushing tones, brutal vibes and hints of psychedelic wash abounded on what was a gripping sample of the album, which the band had recorded, scapped because it wasn’t heavy enough and then recorded again. There are four songs on Caged in Flesh, so “Stoned to Death” is literally just the beginning for Horsehunter, whose foreboding atmospherics come across no less punishing than their most weighted of tones. Horsehunter on Thee Facebooks, Magnetic Eye Records.
27. Kind, TBA
I’ve been lucky enough to see Boston four-piece Kind play twice, the lineup of vocalist Craig Riggs (also Roadsaw), guitarist Darryl Shepard (also Black Pyramid, Blackwolfgoat, etc.), bassist Tom Corino (also Rozamov) and drummer Matt Couto (also Elder) taking shape visibly from one show to the next. Their debut full-length is in progress now at the Riggs-owned Mad Oak Studios in Allston, and while I don’t think I can say yet what label it’s coming out on (it’s not Small Stone), the latest word I’ve gotten is that a summer release is booked. Definitely interested to hear how the jams I’ve seen live translate to a studio recording, and how Corino‘s tone comes through Mad Oak‘s board. Kind on Thee Facebooks, on Soundcloud.
28. Kings Destroy, Kings Destroy
So, you’d think the pic of Kings Destroy bassist Aaron Bumpus above is from some recent studio shot while they’re tracking their third album, right? Nope. The self-titled’s been in the can for months. It’s out in April on War Crime Recordings. What Kings Destroy are doing now is working on album number four, and I bet before it comes out, they’ll be on number five. Fiercely creative. I’ve had the KD record for I don’t know how long at this point, and it’s the best thing they’ve done yet. I can’t even pretend to feign impartiality after being asked to tour with them twice last year — a fucking blessing both times — but it’s the closest they’ve come to their live sound so far and that progress suits them remarkably well. Kings Destroy on Thee Facebooks, War Crime Recordings.
29. Lamprey, TBA
The two-bass Portland trio Lamprey‘s recent stop-motion video for “Iron Awake” served due notice of their impending album, as yet untitled, and while it’s the shortest track on there by a considerable margin, it nonetheless represents the big-crash, big-impact severity of the outing as a whole. Not sure through what label it will surface if one at all or on what media it will be pressed — the word burning above, which I hope is the album cover, may or may not be — but the full-length seems poised to establish them as a force after 2012’s The Burden of Beasts EP (review here) brought their sometimes-plodding, sometimes-sprinting heavy rock into focus. Also, one of the songs is called “Lament of the Deathworm,” and that just rules. Lamprey on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
30. Lord Dying, Poisoned Altars
The hard-touring Portlanders teamed up with Dark Castle drummer Rob Shaffer for their sophomore outing for Relapse Records, Poisoned Altars (review here), and though he’s since out of the band, his presence bolsters the songs in Lord Dying‘s blend of High on Fire-style thrash and Crowbar-loyal sludge. A pervasive sense of simplicity helps the material achieve maximum force, but the hard-won nature of Lord Dying‘s cohesion isn’t to be understated or underappreciated — they did about 18 months of touring in support of their first effort, Summon the Faithless. At least they know their time wasn’t misspent. Seems likely they’ll continue to pound the pavement throughout 2015, so keep an eye open. Lord Dying on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
31. Magic Circle, TBA
Rest assured, I’ve seen zero confirmation that a new Magic Circle album is under way. There’s been no word from the by-now-notoriously secretive Massachusetts-based band or their label, Armageddon Shop, on the subject of a follow-up to their 2013 self-titled debut (review here). This is rampant speculation. Their first 7″ was recently re-pressed, though, so there’s activity in their camp one way or another. They also made their way out to Seattle in October to open for Satan, which only emphasizes the fact that you never really know when they’re going to show up until they do. Ditto that their next album, I suppose. Hopefully this year it happens. Armageddom Shop website, on Thee Facebooks.
32. The Midnight Ghost Train, Cold was the Ground
Riotous Southern heavy rockers The Midnight Ghost Train have outdone themselves with their Napalm Records debut, Cold was the Ground, taking the rager blues of 2012’s Buffalo (review here) to new heights of manic push. After several years of steady touring, the Kansas-based trio of guitarist/vocalist Steve Moss, drummer Brandon Burghart and bassist Mike Boyne are an explosive live act, and as the recent video premiere for “Gladstone” showcased, their third album reaps the rewards of their labors. It’s due to release March 10 in North America, but I really don’t need to note the date, because you’ll hear it coming a mile away like the freight train that it is. The Midnight Ghost Train on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
33. Minsk, TBA
A new Minsk full-length is an utterly fascinating thought. Sorry if that sounds cold or overly clinical, but it’s true. Consider that it’s been six years since the Chicago post-metallers last released an album. That record, 2009’s With Echoes in the Movement of Stone (review here), hit at what was arguably the pinnacle of post-metal’s stylistic movement, the waters having since receded in no small part because Minsk wasn’t around to push forward creatively. Now, with slots booked at Roadburn and Desertfest, they’ll make a return to the studio as well, and I have absolutely zero idea of what to expect from them. A partially-revamped, Sanford Parker-less lineup only adds further intrigue. Minsk on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
34. Mondo Drag, Mondo Drag
This is one of I think two or three releases on this list that’s already out. The self-titled Mondo Drag (review here) nonetheless warrants inclusion for its heavy psych boogie concoctions and natural-toned spirit, not full-on retro but still well-indebted to the heavy ’70s in its use of organ and guitar and the swing of its rhythm section. That rhythm section? Zack Anderson and Cory Berry, who, fresh out of Radio Moscow, stepped in to record with fellow Iowans Mondo Drag in 2012 before founding Blues Pills. A shortlived moment in Mondo Drag‘s history, perhaps, but they got a killer record out of it, and while the recordings are already three years old, they’re well worth the time to appreciate. Mondo Drag on Thee Facebooks, Bilocation Records.
35. Monolord, Vaenir
Swedish trio Monolord won over hearts and minds bigtime with their 2014 RidingEasy Records debut, Empress Rising, earning a spot on the 2014 Readers Poll right between Eyehategod and Mastodon. That’s rather significant company to keep — and all the more so for a band’s first record — and with Vaenir, we’ll get to hear how the intervening year has seen them progress. They’ve already proven a favorite among the converted, and they’ll tour in Feb./March with Salem’s Pot ahead of an appearance at Roadburn prior to Vaenir‘s April 28 arrival date, so it looks like they’ll keep their momentum moving forward through the release and most likely beyond. Monolord on Thee Facebooks, RidingEasy Records.
36. Neurosis, TBA
Okay. I don’t know that Neurosis‘ next album will be out in 2015. It’s just not a thing I know. What I know is that the ultra-seminal five-piece are getting together to write in Feb., and that they’re a no-bullshit band when it comes to writing and recording, so the timing works that, if they make new songs happen this winter, their record would probably be ready for release sometime in the summer or early fall. That’s what I’m going on. It might be that they write half the album now and half in 2016, but from what I hear they’re planning on doing some more significant touring this year, so it would stand to reason they’d want to do it with a follow-up to 2012’s Honor Found in Decay (review here) under their collective belt. We’ll see what we get. Neurosis on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.
37. Pentagram, TBA
I saw Pentagram play 20 shows last year. Believe me when I say the pairing of frontman Bobby Liebling and guitarist Victor Griffin has never seemed stronger musically, and with bassist Greg Turley and drummer Sean Saley, Pentagram head into the making of their next album firing on all proverbial cylinders. Metal Blade, who also issued their 2011 comeback album, Last Rites (review here), seems the likely outlet for the yet-untitled offering, which the band will herald with a headlining performance at Psycho California alongside Sleep and Cult of Luna on May 15-17, and which will no doubt dig deep into Pentagram‘s long history of doom for a trove of classic-style riffs. Pentagram on Thee Facebooks, Metal Blade Records.
38. Ruby the Hatchet, Valley of the Snake
A not-so-subtle Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats influence permeates Ruby the Hatchet‘s Tee Pee Records debut, Valley of the Snake, which is something the Philly-based band seems to acknowledge willfully on “Vast Acid,” frontwoman Jillian Taylor crooning “I’ll cut you down” toward the end of the song in a call-out of one of the UK outfit’s most resonant hooks. Otherwise, the organ-laced five-piece get down on more psychedelic vibes, though the heavy ’70s swing in the drums could be taken as another common factor, if you really wanted to stretch it. Either way, a laid back, less murderous atmosphere persists, and that suits me just fine. Out Feb. 24. Bonus points for the gorgeous Adam Burke cover art. Ruby the Hatchet on Thee Facebooks, Tee Pee Records.
39. Saturnalia Temple, To the Other
The entire meaning of being a “cult” band has changed since Sweden’s Saturnalia Temple released their UR demo in 2007, but after their 2011 debut, Aion of Drakon, hit with such a low-end wash of psychedelic obscurity, I’m intrigued to hear what they’ve come up with on To the Other, the cover’s foreboding darkness, consuming swirl and bizarre patterning seeming a fit for their sonic methodology. To the Other is out April 7 on The Ajna Offensive, and features Tim Call of The Howling Wind and Aldebaran on drums alongside Saturnalia Temple guitarist/vocalist Tommie Ericksson and bassist Peter. Saturnalia Temple on Thee Facebooks, The Ajna Offensive.
40. Six Organs of Admittance, Hexadic
I’ll make no claims toward understanding the theoretical basis driving the latest outing from the Ben Chasny-helmed project Six Organs of Admittance, which in its 17-year history has gone from bedroom folk and avant electronics to the far-ranging heavy psych jamming of 2012’s Ascent (review here). Chasny, joined by members of Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound and Deerhoof on the album — which is due out Feb. 17 on Drag City – seems to have developed a compositional method based around a system involving playing cards and varying tonal intensities. No idea what the hell any of it means, but it sounds like a freakout to me, so I’m in. Six Organs of Admittance website, Drag City Records.
41. Snail, Feral
Come on, Snail. Even if Feral‘s not coming out until later in the year, you can send it to me. I won’t tell anybody if you don’t want me to. I can keep it to myself. Hell, I won’t even review it until I get word that it’s cool to do so, I just want to hear the damn thing. Alright, Snail, have it your way. I’ll just sit here and remember how awesome Terminus (review here) was when that came out in 2012, and Blood (review here) before that in 2009 back when I did snarky headlines for reviews. That’s cool. I’ve waited this long for your Small Stone debut to make its way into my ears, I guess I’ll just keep waiting until it shows up. Which it would be awfully nice if it did as soon as possible. Today works. Now works. Snail on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
42. Sourvein, Aquatic Fanatic
At the risk of being sincere, I’ll say it warms my cold, doomed heart to know that Sourvein‘s next album is going to be released by Metal Blade Records. After trudging the Southern sludge underground for, what, 20 years?, the Cape Fear-based outfit led by T-Roy Medlin (whose lineage goes back to Buzzov*en, lest we forget their role in establishing the sound) are finally poised to get their due, and I think it’s fucking awesome. Mike Dean‘s producing the thing, and you know Sourvein are going to tour the hell out of it because that’s what they do whether they’ve got a new record or not. I’m calling it the feelgood story of the year, which is perfect since the music will most likely be utterly scathing. Sourvein on Thee Facebooks, Metal Blade Records.
43. Spidergawd, II
Just stop reading and go fucking listen to Spidergawd. Here, I did a track premiere a little bit ago for the song “Tourniquet.” It rules. Go listen to that. For the life of me I have no idea why this band’s name isn’t on the lips of every boogie-loving heavy rocker in the universe. Stickman has the new album, Spidergawd II, sold out in the special edition preorders, but there’s a regular version still available and apparently en route from the plant, and for the love of all things riffed, it’s glorious. So get on it. I implore you. And no, I don’t have any idea what’s going on with the album cover, so don’t ask. No time for questions anyway. Get listening. Spidergawd on Thee Facebooks, Stickman Records.
44. Stoned Jesus, The Harvest
Ukrainian heavy rockers Stoned Jesus posted the opening track from their third album, The Harvest, a while back on their Bandcamp page, and my goodness it does swing. They’ll make their way to the US for the first time in support of The Harvest, appearing at the Psycho California fest and hopefully elsewhere, and they do so having built up a steady following with their first two long-players, 2010’s First Communion (noted here) and 2012’s Seven Thunders Roar (review here), their most stonerly of names spread far and wide ahead of the latest offering’s early March arrival following 2013’s jams collection, The Seeds, Vol. 1. Stoned Jesus on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
45. Torche, Restarter
I haven’t heard it yet, but Torche‘s awaited Relapse Records debut, Restarter, is due out Feb. 24 and the band are kicking into gear once again to mark its coming. They’ve already announced US and European tours to carry them through June, and I don’t imagine there are many markets they’ll leave un-hit by the time they’re through. Their last album, 2012’s Harmonicraft (review here), was a solid showing of what’s come to be expected of them in terms of hooks, upbeat heaviness and melodies, but especially with the ambitious title, the new label and the energized-seeming schedule, I’m hoping that Restarter gives the band the same kind of boot to the ass they’ve been to delivering the heavy underground for the last decade. Torche on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
46. Ufomammut, Ecate
Very, very much looking forward to hearing Ecate, the newest outing from Ufomammut and their “second” album for Neurot Recordings behind the 2012 two-parter Oro (reviews here and here). Why is kind of a silly question — new Ufomammut is its own excuse for anticipation — but truth be told, they’ve always managed to get bigger-sounding and more expansive with each LP, and after having to break their last album in half and release the two pieces months apart from each other, I’m dying to know where they go with Ecate, what shifts in their sound the last couple years — including last year, which was their 15th anniversary — have brought and where in the cosmos they might be headed now. Ufomammut on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.
47. Valkyrie, TBA
During what I guess we’ll call Valkyrie‘s original run, the Virginia two-guitar four-piece released a pair of albums, 2006’s Valkyrie and 2008’s Man of Two Visions – both of which were reissued through MeteorCity in 2010 — before guitarist Peter Adams, who founded the band with his brother, guitarist/vocalist Jake Adams, got signed to Relapse with his other group, Baroness. Now back with Earthling‘s Alan Fary on bass and drummer Warren Hawkins, they’ve got their new LP recorded with Sanford Parker and reportedly in the can for an early 2015 release, also through Relapse. They’ll no doubt be greeted as heroes when they play the Maryland Doom Fest in June, and understandably so. Valkyrie on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
48. VA, Electric Ladyland Redux & The Best of James Marshall Hendrix
Magnetic Eye Records launched a Kickstarter campaign last fall with the ambitious aim of paying homage to Jimi Hendrix by having current heavy rock artists (Elder, Earthless, Wo Fat, Gozu and more; full list here) re-record Electric Ladyland in its entirety. The project, on track to be released this year to coincide with what would’ve been Hendrix‘s 73rd birthday in November, expanded to include a tribute best-of collection as well, and has grown in repute ahead of its actually being issued to stand as a gathering of some of the finest the underground has to offer playing some of the best rock and roll ever crafted. From the idea to the impending reality of it, there’s really no arguing with this one. Magnetic Eye Records on Thee Facebooks, Magnetic Eye webstore.
49. Wino & Conny Ochs, Freedom Conspiracy
When Scott “Wino” Weinrich entered rehab late last fall, he mentioned in a public statement several projects in the works. Spirit Caravan‘s reunion is ongoing. Saint Vitus are due for a next album, but he also noted the second release for his collaboration with German singer-songwriter Conny Ochs, Freedom Conspiracy, as being in early 2015. Particularly after the ultra-intimate, solo feel of Wino‘s 2010 acoustic debut, Adrift (review here), the first collaboration with Ochs, 2012’s Heavy Kingdom (review here), was an unexpected expansion of the form that paid sonic dividends in both the songwriting and performance of both players. A second installment should benefit from the chemistry they built on the road for the debut. Conny Ochs on Thee Facebooks, Exile on Mainstream.
50. Wizard Eye, TBA
Heard it. Slays. Actually, I’m not sure if the version of Wizard Eye‘s sophomore full-length I got was final, but the songs were killer either way, and the Philly stoner-toner three-piece will have the album out on vinyl later this year through a newcomer label that I don’t think I’m supposed to mention yet so I won’t. Either way, they’re included here because the more heads they reach the better, their blend of rolling grooves, sludged out vocals and the occasional bout of theremin is just right for the riff-loving purist in all of us. Their recent live outing, Riff Occult Live (review here) says it better than I could, so make a note to yourself to dig into that at your next convenience. It’s name-your-price on Bandcamp. Wizard Eye on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
51. Wretch, TBA
Listed as the “bastard spawn” of The Gates of Slumber, Wretch finds that band’s guitarist/vocalist Karl Simon teamed with bassist Bryce Clark and drummer Chris Gordon, the prior outfit having been laid to rest in 2013 after what seemed like an excellent return to form in 2011’s The Wretch (review here) and subsequent Scion-sponsored EP. I haven’t heard the new band yet, but some demos have made their way out thus far, and you’d have to figure it won’t be too long before Simon, Clark and Gordon make their proper debut as Wretch and start a new chapter in one of modern traditional doom’s most pivotal legacies. Wretch on Thee Facebooks, Tone Deaf Touring.
52. Zun, TBA
Early in 2013, a song called “Come through the Water” (review here) appeared as the first audio from a new project helmed by guitarist Gary Arce of Yawning Man called Zun. It was to be used as Zun‘s portion of a split with Fatso Jetson and while I’m not sure that ever materialized, it drew immediate attention for the collaboration between Arce and vocalist Sera Timms of Ides of Gemini and Black Mare, also formerly of Black Math Horseman. A significant duo for sure. With Bill Stinson (also Yawning Man) on drums, they’re set to debut later this year on Small Stone with their first album, and if Timms and Arce aren’t enough to draw your attention so late in the feature — the hazards of alphabetics — the one and only John Garcia is set for a guest appearance on the record. Dig that, desert rockers. Yawning Man on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
Going Into Overload…
So, okay. At this point, you could literally buy a different record each week of this year and hear something that, unless there’s some disaster between the idea of the album and the actual thing itself, is most likely worth your time. That’s not too bad. But we’re not at 88 yet, so with those 52 already set, I’ve got 36 more that you might want to keep on your radar.
Some of these are solidly lined up, some are slated to be recorded, etc., so the same rule of “things don’t always work out the way they’re supposed to” applies. With that caveat:
53. Abrahma, TBA — Their second album for Small Stone is due sometime this year.
54. Bedroom Rehab Corporation, Fortunate Some — From what I hear, the Connecticut twosome have their second record in the can.
55. Black Black Black, TBA — Brooklyn outfit featuring former members of Disengage should have a sophomore album out in 2015.
56. Black Pyramid, New 7″ — The trio will release a new single to coincide with their Euro tour that includes a stop at Desertfest.
57. Bright Curse, New 10″ EP — It was mentioned the new lineup would record an EP before taking on their next album.
58. Camel of Doom, TBA — Was announced in December there’d be a new Camel of Doom along with a vinyl of their last album.
59. Cherry Choke, Raising the Waters — Should be out this month on Elektrohasch.
60. La Chinga, TBA — Vancouver group’s Small Stone debut is reportedly being mixed.
61. Curse the Son, TBA — I’m hoping this one gets out by the end of the year. It will be the CT trio’s first with their new bassist.
62. Egypt, Endless Flight – North Dakota’s favored sons will return with a new full-length this summer. Album trailer posted with a clip of the new song “Tres Madres.”
63. Enos, TBA — Not sure where they’re at with it, but worth keeping an eye out.
64. Foghound, TBA — The Maryland rockers have finished tracking their new album with Mike Dean of Corrosion of Conformity at the helm.
65. Funeral Horse, TBA — They’ve been full of surprises on their first two releases and they work quick, so I wouldn’t be surprised if something new showed up.
66. Fuzz Evil, TBA — Interested to see where they go on an LP after their split with Chiefs.
67. The Glasspack, Moon Patrol — A snippet clip has been posted that bodes well. Supposed to be done recording in the spring. They’re currently sorting out label whatnots.
68. Graves at Sea, TBA — Yeah, it’s been more than a decade since their demo, but a split and an EP into their reunion, they just signed to Relapse, so now might be the time a debut album shows up.
69. House of Broken Promises, TBA — Should be a change from the first album after swapping out bassist/vocalists. They killed live last I saw.
70. Ice Dragon, TBA — No solid word of a new release from the Boston garage doom forerunners, but they’re always up to something.
71. Killer Boogie, Detroit — The debut from this Black Rainbows offshoot is out this month on Heavy Psych Sounds.
72. Krautzone, TBA — German synth-heavy prog-jammers have hit a groove and hopefully they continue to ride it as well as they have thus far.
73. Leeches of Lore, TBA — Wishful thinking on my part? Maybe. Got my fingers crossed, though.
74. Legion of Andromeda, Iron Scorn — They’re about as extreme as extreme doom gets. Album out next month.
75. Lord Fowl, TBA — I think they’re writing. Might be 2016 before it gets here, but I’ll take it whenever it comes. They’re worth a mention either way.
76. The Machine, TBA — Been a minute since we last heard from the Dutch heavy psych jammers. They were on this list last year as well.
77. Mirror Queen, Scaffolds of the Sky — Should be out in April on Tee Pee, and that suits me just fine. Choice grooves for springtime.
78. Mountain God, Forest of the Lost — A single-song EP from the Brooklyn post-sludgers is out in Feb. with a release show booked.
79. Om, TBA — I’ve yet to see solid evidence that a new Om is in the pipeline, but no one knew that Sleep single was coming last year either.
80. Planes of Satori, Planes of Satori — Dug their single, hope the full-length follows suit.
81. Pombagira, Flesh Throne Press– Their sixth album and Svart debut is due on March 23 as per this week’s announcement.
82. Righteous Bloom, TBA — My understanding was the Beelzefuzz offshoot are writing. Would be good if they can pick up where the prior act left off.
83. Royal Thunder, Crooked Doors– The Atlanta outfit’s second album for Relapse is due out April 7.
84. Sandrider/Kinski, Split — Don’t know much about Kinski, but new Sandrider is enough to sell me on it. Out Feb. 17 on Good to Die.
85. SardoniS, TBA — Expect big lumbering riffs from this Belgian duo, always. A new album is en route, last I heard.
86. Sun Voyager, TBA — Didn’t get to hear their last tape, but a five-song EP is due out sometime soon.
87. Sweat Lodge, Talismana — Not much word since they signed to Ripple, but they said this year, so until I hear otherwise…
88. Throttlerod, TBA — A teaser clip of new riffage came out over this past weekend. New Throttlerod is never something to complain about.
89. Venomous Maximus, Firewalker — When they signed to Shadow Kingdom in November, they gave it the ol’ “sometime in 2015.”
90. Weedeater, TBA — After a whole series of reissues, their Season of Mist debut is due.
91. Wight, Love is Not Only What You Know — Alphabetically last but not at all last in my heart, Germany’s Wight have their third record in progress. More in the comments.
92. Wo Fat, Live Juju at Freak Valley– Wo Fat‘s live set from the 2014 Freak Valley fest in Germany is due to release on vinyl March 17 in an edition of 500 copies.
Others to Keep an Eye On…
Guitarist Ian Gerber of Indianapolis’ The Heavy Co. has a couple side-projects going, but new stuff from his main band doesn’t seem unlikely either. New York’s Geezer might also have something new before December in addition to Ripple‘s CD version of their Gage release, and labelmates King Buffalo are continuing their relationship with STB Records via a new spit next month, so hopefully a debut LP follows that. Let it Breathe should make their debut on the label too in 2015.
Recently streamed trio Wake up Lucid release their EP on March 31. Last I heard The Body had a new one coming too in collaboration with Thou. Sixty Watt Shaman have plans to record tracks for a split due out later this year, and they’ll reissue their first album, 1998’s Ultra Electric, as well. Look out for Godhunter‘s split/collaboration with Amigo the Devil, and the second offering from Black Moon Circle is on the way. Balam‘s full-length should also be out sometime this year, and I anxiously await news of a solid release date for the third Clamfight record.
Murmurings abound also for new ones from Graveyard, Greenleaf, The Sword, Vhöl and others.
Plus, Sleep still exist and that simple fact probably makes them worth more of a mention than this quick aside. Their 2014 single The Clarity was an offering of pure Iommic idolatry. A sign of things to come? Who the hell knows.
If you don’t have enough to go by yet, labels like Sulatron, Tee Pee, El Paraiso, Ripple, Small Stone, STB, Napalm and so on are always worth a keen watch what’s next. There’s always something.
Which I guess is the point of this whole thing. I’m sure, even as huge as this list is, someone is going to drop a comment immediately that will make me slap my forehead and wonder how I ever forgot whatever it is. It’s always something. It looks like it’s going to be a tremendous year, so if you’ll pardon me, I’ll cut out quick and get started making my way through it.
No doubt I’ll add to this post over the next couple days, so if the numbers change, don’t be surprised. In any case, if you made it this far, thanks again for reading. May your 2015 be filled with excellent music and even better times.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 16th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Yet another reason to like Enslaved: 13 albums deep, one of metal’s most brilliant progressions under their belt, and they’re still not going to shy away from throwing a “that’s what she said!” into a quote for a press release. Congratulations, you wonderful bastards. Truly a band for all seasons.
Particularly, as regards North American major markets, a band for early spring 2015. Enslaved will hit the road alongside the formidable ranks of YOB and Ecstatic Vision (wasn’t I just talking about those bands?) in support of their lucky 13th long-player, dubbed In Times. The tracklist and cover for the record have just been unveiled along with the tour dates, and you can find all of it courtesy of the PR wire below.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve already started marking the calendar for 2015. Might have to hit NYC for this one:
ENSLAVED Announces North American Headlining Tour!
The long ships will return to North America once again when Norwegian-progressive-extreme-metal-Vikings, ENSLAVED, embark on their headlining tour this upcoming March! “Some days are greater than others,” commented guitarist Ivar Bjørnson. “Announcing the release of our new album In Times at the same time as a North American tour, both in early March 2015, makes for one hell of an event horizon. We’ve had such great tours in the US and Canada the last years; we simply cannot wait to come back! Ah, this can’t get much better. Hey, wait – masters YOB has accepted our invitation to be special guests, and ECSTATIC VISION is supporting. Now, there’s an amazing package for you (that’s what she said)!”
ENSLAVED, YOB, ECSTATIC VISION 3/05/15 San Diego, CA – Brick By Brick 3/06/15 Los Angeles, CA – El Rey Theatre 3/07/15 San Francisco, CA – Slim’s 3/09/15 Portland, OR – Hawthorne Theater 3/10/15 Vancouver BC – Rickshaw Theatre 3/11/15 Seattle, WA – El Corazon 3/13/15 Salt Lake City, UT – Bar Deluxe 3/14/15 Denver, CO – Summit Music Hall 3/16/15 Minneapolis, MN – Mill City Nights 3/17/15 Chicago, IL – Thalia Hall 3/19/15 Toronto, ON – Opera House 3/20/15 Montreal, QC – Les Foufounes Électriques 3/21/15 New York, NY – Gramercy Theatre 3/22/15 Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer 3/23/15 Baltimore, MD – Baltimore Soundstage 3/24/15 Boston, MA – Sinclair
In Times, the thirteenth studio album by ENSLAVED will be released on March 6 (Europe) and March 10, 2015 (N. America). The album was produced by band members Ivar Bjørnson, Grutle Kjellson & Herbrand Larsen together with Iver Sandøy. Mixing was completed by Jens Bogren at Fascination Street Studios in Örebro, Sweden. Hand-painted artwork was created by long-time collaborating artist and “sixth ENSLAVED member” Truls Espedal.
The track listing for In Times is:
01 – Thurisaz Dreaming 02 – Building With Fire 03 – One Thousand Years Of Rain 04 – Nauthir Bleeding 05 – In Times 06 – Daylight
Main recordings for In Times took place at Duper Studios to Solslottet Studio in Bergen, Norway with additional recordings sessions at Conclave & Earshot Studios (presided over by ENSLAVED members Larsen and Ice Dale), and Ivar Bjørnson’s Peersonal Sound Studios. Additional experimentation and sonic exploration was conducted deep in the woods of Valevåg south of Bergen where a mobile studio recorded additional sounds.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 30th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
There are very few bands out there who actually get to the point of putting out 13 albums, but even fewer still whose 13th album would actually be something you’d look forward to hearing. Enslaved, however, are one of those few. Their 2012 full-length, Riitiir (review here), found the Norwegian five-piece continuing to expand the walls of their creative wheelhouse, pushing further into grandiose progressivism while retaining their roots in black metal. It was an exciting record, and as they’ve shown no signs of stagnation since — guitarist Ivar Bjørnson is a co-curator of Roadburn 2015 and Enslaved will perform their Skuggsjá collaboration with Wardruna there — it makes it easy to look forward to their next outing.
The short version? Greatness assumed. This from the PR wire:
ENSLAVED ENTER THE STUDIO TO RECORD 13th ALBUM
Last week’s autumn equinox brought equal illumination to Earth’s Northern and Southern Hemispheres, but it also sparked other blood-warming news: the thirteenth studio installment by Norway’s progressive extreme metallers ENSLAVED is now underway.
From his home in Bergen, Norway, ENSLAVED guitarist, songwriter, and founding member Ivar Bjørnson takes some time to provide the following update:
“My favorite time of year is whenever we enter the studio with ENSLAVED to record a new album. Now the season of creative madness, endless days, and bleeding fingertips is upon us again… O joy! As before, it is the unholy trinity that forms the first line of attack: I (guitar), Grutle (Kjellson, bass & vocals), and Cato (Bekkevold, drums), are recording the foundations of the album live, while Ice Dale (lead guitar) and Herbrand (Larsen, vocals & keys) will add their instruments and voice in their own studios after these initial core sessions. Then I will add some wackiness at my home studio, before we all get together again to finish it.
“I feel that I have delivered basic material that is rock solid. I have poured my very life and heart into these compositions while the rest of the band have refined it, shaped it, and delivered it like their very lives depended on it. It has been challenging to keep up the pace with the way the songs wanted to go; life flows its ways and takes its turns regardless of your artistic ambitions. However, the music led the way through the fog and I just followed, and never doubting the oncoming album for a second.”
Main recordings for the as-yet-untitled new album are taking place at Duper and Solslottet Studios in Bergen, Norway with additional recordings done at Conclave & Earshot Studios (presided over by ENSLAVED members Larsen and Ice Dale), and Ivar Bjørnson’s Peersonal Sound Studios.
Additional experimentation and sonic exploration will be conducted deep in the woods of Valevåg south of Bergen where the band took a mobile studio to record the infamous “Thorn” 7” single in 2012.
The album will be produced by band members Ivar Bjørnson, Grutle Kjellson & Herbrand Larsen together with Iver Sandøy. Mixing will be done by Jens Bogren at Fascination Street Studios in Örebro, Sweden.
Cover artwork will once again be illustrated by long-time collaborating artist and “sixth ENSLAVED member” Truls Espedal, who has painted all album covers since 2001’s Monumension.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 17th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Unbelievable. I’m not even sure where to start with the latest round of additions to Roadburn 2015.
The Enslaved and Wardruna collaboration Skuggsjá, or the not-gonna-miss-‘em-again Virus, or Floor or Bongripper doing two sets. It’s overwhelming, to be perfectly honest with you. I’m exhausted right now. Well, I was exhausted anyway, but still. You get my point.
I’ve heard from a couple other acts who can’t announce yet but definitely have “April European tour plans,” and there are one or two other names I’m dying to see if they get added to the fest, but gadzooks, that’s a lotta Roadburn. All I can say is dig in, there’s a lot to catch up on:
Enslaved and Wardruna To Perform Skuggsjá, The Sound of Norway’s Norse History at Roadburn Festival 2015
Roadburn Festival 2015 Ticket Pre-Sales Start Thursday, Oct 16th 2014 at 21:00 CET; Pre-Sales Party at The 013 Venue (NL)
Bongripper, Floor, Sólstafir, Virus, White Hills, Messenger, Junius, Skeletonwitch, Svartidaudi, Mortals, The Osiris Club and Zoltan also confirmed for the 20th edition of Roadburn Festival.
We’re elated to announce that Enslaved and Wardruna will perform Skuggsjá, the sound of Norway’s Norse History at Houses of the Holistic, Ivar Bjørnson’s and Einar “Kvitrafn” Selvik’s curated Roadburn event on Friday, April 10 at the 013 venue in Tilburg, The Netherlands.
Written by Bjørnson and Selvik for the 200th anniversary of the Norwegian Constitution and premiered this past weekend at the Eidsivablot festival, this will be Skuggsjá’s first performance outside of Norway, and will certainly be one of the highlights of the 20th edition of Roadburn Festival.
Skuggsjá translates into ‘mirror’ or ‘reflection’ in the Norse language, and the commissioned piece not only contextualizes harder music’s role in the democracy in Norway in 2014, but also joins threads from the country’s ancient musical history and solidifies harder music’s position as Norway`s most important cultural export.
By highlighting ideas, traditions and instruments of their Norse past, Skuggsjá will tell the history of Norway and reflect relevant aspects from the past into the present day. In light of this they will reflect on themselves as a people and nation. In a magnificent tapestry of metal instrumentation, a wide variety of Norway and Scandinavia’s oldest instruments, and poetry in Proto-Scandinavian, Norse and Norwegian, Skuggsjá will be a fusion between past and present, both lyrically and musically.
We simply can’t wait to experience it ourselves, to hear how how Norwegian metal has developed from its rebellious roots into the highly acclaimed artistic expression of a complex music genre, under Norway’s constitutional right to freedom of speech.
In related news, Virus, Junius, Skeletonwitch, Svartidaudi and Icelandic heathens Sólstafir, who are currently making huge waves with their latest release, Ótta, are also confirmed for Houses of the Holistic, Ivar Bjørnson’s and Einar “Kvitrafn” Selvik’s curated Roadburn event on Friday, April 10 at the 013 venue.
Tickets for the 20th edition of Roadburn Festival, set for April 9 – 12 at the 013 venue in Tilburg, The Netherlands, will go on sale on Thursday, October 16, 2014. Set your alarm and get ready to score your tickets at 21:00 CET!
The majority of Roadburners live outside The Netherlands, which is why ticket pre-sales will start at 21:00 CET. This should be convenient for most time zones. Apologies to our friends in Oceania who will have to wake up early (or just stay up late)!
We are pleased to report that there will be NO price increase this year.Three-day tickets will be available for 165 Euros (excl. servicefees); four-day tickets will cost 185 Euros (excl. service fees). Afterburner-only tickets will cost 32.50 Euros (excl. service fees). Please note that one-day tickets are not available for the Thursday, Friday or Saturday Roadburn dates. Online buyers can order a maximum of four tickets.
For everyone in the Netherlands and Belgium: we are aware that your local ticket outlets will not be open when pre-sales start, which is why we are throwing another pre-sales party at the 013 venue in Tilburg (NL). From 19:00 CET – 20:30 CET you will be able to purchase a maximum of four paper tickets for Roadburn Festival 2015. Guaranteed!
In addition to making it easy to get tickets, the pre-sales party is going to be a blast! This year, we have invited The Machine and Radar Men From The Moon to provide the soundtrack.
The live music part of the evening starts at 20:30 CET. Roadburn’s artistic director/promoter Walter Hoeijmakers will be on hand to share the latest festival updates, too.
Chicago instrumental band Bongripper will make a welcome return to the 20th edition of Roadburn Festival with two sets that feature their unique brand of devastating doom. The first will see them play their latest album, Miserable, in its entirety at the main stage on Thursday, April 9. The second will be later that weekend (more info about the date to be determined).
If you are a fan of stellar riffs and molasses-thick distorted guitar tone, Floor has everything you want in music. These Floridian sludge/pop pioneers get a lot of comparisons to lead singer/guitarist Steve Brooks other band, Torche — and rightfully so — with his instantly recognizable singing style and guitar tone. Floor, however, is the essence of pure heaviness, with just a nod to the pop melodies that have spurred Torche on to crossover success. Come feel the downtuned thunder of Floor’s bassless power trio attack when Floor plays the main stage of the 013 venue at the 2015 Roadburn Festival on Thursday, April 9.
Combining many of the essential themes of Roadburn music in their volatile sonic elixir — psych, space rock, stoner rock, kraut rock and noise — have made White Hills one of Roadburn’s favorite bands. Their bespangled and energetic live shows have a life and chaotic energy of their own that reshapes their music and creates powerful sonic programming driven by pure energy, exactly the kind of thing that Roadburn celebrates, and fans seek. White Hills will make a very welcome return to Roadburn for a main stage performance on Sunday, April 12.
After winning the limelight category for the brightest young rising stars in the progressive sky today at this year’s Progressive Music Awards this past weekend, Messenger will bring their acid folk/prog and psychedelica to the 20th edition of Roadburn on Saturday, April 11.
Mortals, The Osiris Club and Zoltan have also been confirmed for the 20th edition of Roadburn Festival.
Curated by Ivar Bjørnson (Enslaved) and Wardruna‘s Einar “Kvitrafn” Selvik, Roadburn Festival 2015 (including Skuggsjá, Enslaved, Wardruna, Fields of the Nephilim, Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin performing Dawn of The Dead and Susperia in its entirety, Zombi, Sólstafir, White Hills, Bongipper, Floor and The Heads as Artist In Residence among others) will run for four days from Thursday, April 9 to Sunday, April 12 at the 013 venue in Tilburg, The Netherlands.
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 23rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Here’s what I know: I know that between having Enslaved‘s Ivar Bjørnson and Wardruna‘s Einar Kvitrafn Selvik curating and having The Heads as artist-in-residence, Roadburn 2015 is going to make for one adventurous weekend. The craziest thing about it? It’ll totally work. It’ll be amazing. Don’t doubt it. At this point Roadburn‘s vibe is so dead-on that if, say, you want to have a day hand-picked by dudes in black and folk metal bands while off in a corner somewhere there’s a handful of British psych rockers jamming out, rest assured, the crowd’s gonna have no problem rolling with the spirit of the event. Further, it’s stuff like this that makes Roadburn what it is.
Looking forward particularly to seeing what Bjørnson adds to his curated day, since my understanding is he’s into heavy rock of various stripes, but special performances by both Enslaved and Wardruna as a part of the evening’s events is an excellent way to start while we wait for further announcements.
IVAR BJØRNSON OF ENSLAVED AND WARDRUNA’S EINAR KVITRAFN SELVIK TO CURATE ROADBURN FESTIVAL 2015
(Special shows by Enslaved and Wardruna)
We’re beyond thrilled to announce that Ivar Bjørnson of Enslaved and Wardruna’s Einar Kvitrafn Selvik will curate the 20th edition of Roadburn Festival, on Friday, April 10, 2015 at the 013 venue in Tilburg, The Netherlands.
As curators, both Ivar and Einar will personally select the bands for their curated Roadburn event, named ‘Houses of the Holistic’, and play special shows with Enslaved and Wardruna respectively as well.
The Norwegian pair, both former Roadburn performers, have played an important role in bringing together the past, present and future sounds of hard rock, progressive metal, and alternative scenes, which makes them the ideal choice to carry on the tradition that began in 2008 with David Tibet of Current 93, and continued with Neurosis, Tom G. Warrior, Sunn 0))), Voivod, Jus Oborn of Electric Wizard and Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth.
One of the most hard-hitting and progressive bands to come out of Norway, Enslaved has drawn other musical genres and artistic expressions into the realm of metal, while being recognized for merging tradition and modernity in a unique blend of rock, prog and black metal, earning them Spellemann Awards (Norwegian Grammys) for much acclaimed and groundbreaking albums such as ‘Isa’, ‘Ruun’, and ‘Vertebrae’ among others.
Enslaved’s performance, dubbed ‘House of Northern Gods’, will consist of a set list specially put together for ‘Houses of the Holistic’, featuring songs from the band’s entire catalogue that embody the Norse gods, with accompanying visuals created by revered Romanian artist, Costin Chioreanu. Be prepared for a surprise or two, or even more.
Ivar Bjørnson comments: “To say that my dream as a kid was to one day curate the Roadburn Festival would perhaps be to take it a tad too far – but it isn’t that far from the truth. There’s some ridiculously big shoes to fill, but luckily negative pressure, idea draught and performance anxiety aren’t something I’m into. It is my favourite festival in one of my favourite parts of the world; so this is nothing short of one the biggest honours I’ve been given! It is a privilege to undertake this challenge in twosome with Einar; an artist I truly feel in tune with artistically and philosophically – now it is all about hard work and dedication to ensure that the audience and the festival itself is given a Friday to enjoy, experience and remember. I for one can’t wait!”
Winning the award for Best Underground Band at the 2104 Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards, Wardruna has taken Einar Kvitrafn Selvik’s musical visions out of the contemporary framework and back into the authentic sounds and instrumentation of ancient Northern Europe. Wardruna (featuring Gaahl and Lindy Fay Hella, alongside Einar) received rave reviews for their mesmerizing 2009 debut ‘Gap Var Ginnunga’ and equally exciting follow up, ‘Yggdrasil’, the first two albums in the planned ‘Runaljod’ trilogy that interprets the ancient runic alphabet of the Elder Futhark.
Wardruna’s special ‘Houses of the Holistic’ performance will definitely add another dimension to the kaleidoscope of styles and sounds associated with Roadburn.
“It is such a great honour for me; to be awarded the responsibility of carrying out the traditional role of the Roadburn curator”, says Einar Kvitrafn Selvik. “Doing it together with Ivar makes it even more special. Roadburn is in my opinion such a high-level music festival – all quality to the fingertips. It is also a festival where presenting high quality musical art is more important than anything else, such as genre distinctions and scene divisions. We will work hard to deliver a program that both explore territories one has come to expect at Roadburn, while at the same time continue to expand its boundaries into new sonic realms.”
While the two curators’ musical output differs instrumentally and stylistically, Bjørnson and Selvik have a common direction towards the primeval and undiluted, not only in their own artistic expressions but also in their taste for other music, which is ultimately what they wish to present at Roadburn 2015 during ‘Houses of the Holistic’. We look forward to this collaboration and cannot wait to see how both Ivar and Einar will expand Roadburn Festival‘s musical horizons as well as explore more familiar territory from new angles. We will definitely be in for some artistic surprises, and Norway’s Norse history, too!
Roadburn Festival 2015 (including The Heads as Artist In Residence) will run for four days from Thursday, April 9 to Sunday, April 12 at the 013 venue in Tilburg, The Netherlands.
Posted in Reviews on February 25th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Work kept me late, but as soon as I could, I hauled ass into Manhattan and got downtown to Bowery Ballroom. Parking right across the street from the venue was nothing short of a miracle — it’s embarrassing how much time I think about traffic and parking as relates to going to shows — but I still missed a decent portion of Austin, Texas, natives Ancient VVisdom‘s set opening for Royal Thunder, Pallbearer and Norwegian progressive black metal stalwarts, Enslaved. When I got there, the shenanigans were already well under way.
And I do mean shenanigans. It was the last night of the tour and all four bands had been on the road for a solid month together, so at times it felt less like a show and more like a blowout, but though the crowd hadn’t actually spent a month on the road with Enslaved (ah, to dream), the lighthearted atmosphere was infectious. When I walked in, Ancient VVisdom had been invaded by Enslaved drummer Cato Bekkevold and keyboardist Herbrand Larsen, who were holding up signs with synonyms for the band’s name. My favorite was “Early Medieval Know-How,” but then, I’ve always been a sucker for linguistic humor.
That continued throughout the night, culminating in a free-for-all late into Enslaved‘s set, but there was actually some music played as well. Though I’ve heard their stuff and certainly seen their name around the last few years, I’d never actually seen Ancient VVisdom before, and from the stand-up drums/percussion to frontman Nathan Opposition‘s charismatic delivery, what I saw of their time intrigued. On a basic level, they’re playing metal, but blending acoustic and electric guitar, they revel in a folkish tradition that adjusts the form. I don’t know how much I missed, but I wouldn’t shy away from seeing them again sometime if the occasion should arise.
A quick changeover and Royal Thunder were underway. I probably didn’t give enough attention to the Atlanta natives’ 2012 Relapse Records debut, CVI, but I was glad to finally get the chance to see them, having missed their roll-through with Pallbearer last year. Royal Thunder and Ancient VVisdom would keep on for another week after the Enslaved tour ended, so they were still well into the business end of a show, playing a crisp, tight set of tracks from CVI that culminated in the extended moodiness of “Blue,” which was hypnotic enough to convince me I need to buy the album and dig in further.
They performed as a trio, bassist/vocalist/eschewer-of-vowels Mlny Parsonz, founding guitarist Josh Weaver and drummer Evan DiPrima, and brought a subdued progressive sense to the show, not entirely unaware of their own pop leanings when they came up, but actively avoiding simpler approaches in favor of a headier take while making the complex sound easy. My impression might have been totally different had I spent more significant time with the album, but at very least seeing them made me want to rectify that situation. When they were done, “Blue” having exhausted its course, I wondered how much of Ancient VVisdom I’d actually missed, since the first two of the four bands had blasted through so quickly. It wasn’t yet 10PM by my Casio (yeah, that’s right), and the night was half over. I’d gotten word beforehand that Enslaved were due at about 10:45, so Pallbearer still had a decent amount of room to work with.
No doubt there were a few in the crowd who thought of the gig as a Pallbearer show with Enslaved headlining, and though I wasn’t one of them — sorry, my heart belongs to Norway — such was the level of impact of Pallbearer‘s Profound Lore debut, Sorrow and Extinction (review here), when it hit last year. The Little Rock, Arkansas, four-piece have been through a couple times since then and their NYC fanbase seems only to have grown since I caught them at a packed-out St. Vitus bar last spring. No secret why, with the viscosity of their tones, psychedelic flourish and mournful emotionality.
I stood in front of guitarist/vocalist Brett Campbell, who did well in balancing the melancholy of the songs with a sense that he still wanted to be playing them. Might’ve helped that on the other side of the stage, guitarist Devin Holt and bassist Joseph D. Rowland (interview here) were having a contest to see who could headbang hardest, or that drummer Mark Lierly kept such propulsive time, but though Pallbearer‘s music is inherently contemplative, regretful and lumbering, they weren’t boring to watch as they played it. Even Campbell, who was hardly thrashing around, gave a physical sense of performance to what he played, and it went a long way. The end-of-tour pranking continued when Enslaved bassist Grutle Kjellson came out wearing a Mastodon shirt with a giant fake joint and proceeded to play paddleball by Lierly‘s kit. The band did about as well as one could hope in holding it together.
From what I could see, the room was more or less full by the time Pallbearer started, and the crowd was as interesting a blend as the lineup of acts playing. Metal dudes, rockers and doomers might occupy roughly the same subcultural niche, but I’ll be damned if you could pick out who was who in the audience at Bowery Ballroom. All things considered, everybody got along well enough while Pallbearer wrapped with an unnamed new song that was long, heavy and bleak, making a solid follow-up to Sorrow and Extinction highlight “An Offering of Grief,” the rise and crash of which is nothing if not tidal. Presumably they’d been playing it the whole tour — which would make it decidedly less new from their perspective — but it should say something that even after the reception of their last album, they still believed enough in the strength of their latest work to end with it.
My intent had been at some point during the week prior to give myself an Enslaved refresher, running through the last four or five albums in their catalog in preparation for seeing them for the first time in I don’t know how long — they last came through NYC with Dimmu Borgir in 2011 and I arrived at Terminal 5 just as they were announcing the last song in their set as the title-track to 2004’s Isa; I also missed them at Roadburn in 2010 — but time didn’t permit such luxuries. Not that I don’t know those records, just that Enslaved have a dozen and I’d been immersed in the most recent of them, last year’s Riitiir (review here), to exclusion of everything else and Vertebrae (2008) and Ruun (2006) were ripe for a revisit. Forget it. I don’t have to justify my pre-show rituals to anyone. Point is, I wanted to listen to more Enslaved last week than I actually did. It’s kind of a common affliction for me.
Early into their time, Kjellson said that on the tour they’d been beset by blizzards, power outages and a number of other obstacles to cut them short, but on the last night, they were doing a full set, and they followed through. Most of the material was from their Nuclear Blast era — the last three albums: Riitiir, 2010’s Axioma Ethica Odini (review here) and Vertebrae — but earlier material was sprinkled throughout, beginning with the title cut from Ruun, with followed “Riitiir” at the very start of the setlist. The intricate, proggy rhythm patterning was welcomed by the crowd, well familiar with its twists and turns, and leading to the grand chorus of “The Watcher,” Enslaved did well immediately to show the diversity in their sound more than 20 years on from their beginnings.
If anything was missing, it was “Fusion of Sense and Earth” from Ruun, but the varying textures of “Ruun” and “The Watcher” covered a lot of ground, guitarists Ivar Bjørnson and Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal creating a wash of distortion through which Larsen‘s clean vocals and Kjellson‘s signature rasp cut with little difficulty. When “The Watcher” gave way to “Thoughts Like Hammers,” the Royal Thunder crew came out dressed in a Halloween costume holding up a sign that said “Thor Likes Hammers,” and that was a good bit of fun to go along with the Riitiir opener, though whichever dude it was — nothing against him — hardly made for an attractive valkyrie. “Ethica Odini” led to Riirtiir highlight “Roots of the Mountain,” which alone was worth the drive into Manhattan, and though by then more people had come out on stage — some in their underwear, Royal Thunder‘s Weaver spitting beer on the crowd — Enslaved played through it all coolly.
Bekkevold led the way into “Materal” from the new album, and the shenanigans subsided for a time, though the energy in Enslaved‘s set was consistent throughout. After “Roots of the Mountain,” and more particularly after having beer spit on me, I headed toward the back to watch the rest of the show from a fuller vantage, and while I never considered “Materal” one of Riitiir‘s more engaging tracks, it was different from everything else Enslaved played, and made a good setup for their dip more than a decade back to 2001’s Monumension for “Convoys to Nothingness” and even further to 1993’s Hordanes Land EP for “Slaget I Skogen Bortenfor,” which Kjellson seemed to note would probably be lost on the crowd but clearly enjoyed playing nonetheless. Their regular set capped with a cover of Led Zeppelin‘s “Immigrant Song,” arranged as Kjellson noted, by Ice Dale — and that’s pretty much when all hell broke loose.
In addition to a joke from Bjørnson and a few words from Ice Dale making fun of Kjellson, the bassist also opined while drinking that cognac was France’s only contribution to world cuisine — good for a laugh and a toast from the crowd, whose spirits were likewise high — “Immigrant Song” brought forth members of Ancient VVisdom, Royal Thunder and Pallbearer all, who took to the stage for a brodown the likes of which I’ve rarely seen at a gig. Weaver jumped on Bjørnson‘s back as the band jammed out, and Pallbearer‘s Campbell hit up a Robert Plant falsetto while “sharing” Larsen‘s mic. The chicanery continued on and I don’t think Enslaved were fooling anyone when they took a bow and left the stage, though they were gone a while, presumably doing pre-encore shots. Time well spent and hooch well earned.
“Fenris” from 1994’s Frost and the title-track of 2004’s Isa — “One more short one,” said Kjellson — made for a substantial encore, the raw raging of the former leading to the still-brutal hook of the latter, and when the show and their month-long North American tour was over, Enslaved took a boozy bow and split. Lights came up, house music came on, and I shuffled my way out of the Bowery Ballroom with everyone else who’d stuck it out through the encore, maybe not feeling the same sense of job-well-done accomplishment as the bands, but at very least feeling lucky to have been able to catch the final night of a tour that was clearly so special to everyone involved.
Time was limited. It was Monday morning and I was supposed to go to work after all, but as I was in New England anyway, a quick run to Armageddon Shop in Providence didn’t seem all that unreasonable. I’ve never come out of there feeling less than satisfied, and even back in December at the Boston store, I was able to pick up a few winners. Plus, Armageddon‘s been on my mind lately with their handling the repress of Elder‘s Spires Burn EP and the release of Magic Circle‘s self-titled, for which I have a review pending. All that, coupled with my general desire to crane my neck before a CD rack, made the stop a necessity. Turned out work was still there when I finally showed up anyway. Go figure.
On the wall of my office is a post-it with albums I’ve been meaning to pick up — mostly review stuff that labels won’t send out physical copies of anymore that I’ll grudgingly buy and devalue the effort I put into writing about them while also diminishing my appreciation for the record out of the pervasive annoyance. It’s a vicious cycle. Anyway, most of what’s on it I couldn’t remember, but it was fine. I managed to find enough and then some, as you can see in the stack above. The new Bedemon (track stream here) and Seremonia (track stream here) records were a must, and I hadn’t actually gotten a CD of the last Enslaved (review here), so I figured if I was going to give someone the cash for it, at least I could feel good about it going to Armageddon. The rest was gravy.
The first Hooded Menace full-length, Fulfill theCurse,Orodruin‘s Claw Tower and Other Tales of Terror and the repress of Life Beyond‘s Ancient Worldswere cool finds, but I was even more stoked on the 2003 Cream Abdul Babar/Kylesa split on At a Loss. I think they came by their progression honestly and I think Spiral Shadow(review here) bears that out, but it’s easy to forget how blisteringly heavy that band was at one point, all noise and fury and potential. With the unbridled weirdness of Cream Abdul Babar to complement, that split was a killer. The punkish War and Wineby the UK’s The Dukes of Nothing was something I had my eye on for a while, with Orange Goblin‘s Chris Turner on drums, bassist Doug Dalziel (ex-Iron Monkey) and Stuart O’Hara (ex-Acrimony, current Sigiriya) as one of two guitars, and more on the hardcore end, the self-titled collection from Hard to Swallow was a pleasant surprise, spanning the short tenure of the outfit that featured Jim Rushby (Iron Monkey)on guitar and Justin Greaves (Iron Monkey and even later of Crippled Black Phoenix) on drums and a host of others from that sphere ripping out primitive, violent bursts in rapid succession.
With 13 tracks in 27 minutes, there’s little room for screwing around, so Hard to Swallow get right to it, blending raw riffage with extreme punk fuckall. The compilation was released on Armageddon‘s own label, and though it’s more hardcore than what I’ll generally grab, it’s a solid, intense listen. A secret track incorporating Sabbath‘s “Under the Sun” into a grind medley made a decent, meaner answer to The Dukes of Nothing‘s album on Tortuga, and the metallic outing from Enslaved and Seremonia‘s distinctly Finnish weirdness. More local to home, I grabbed Halfway to Gone‘s split with Alabama Thunderpussy, which I already own but figured for six bucks I’d take a double, and the 1997 debut from underrated Jersey-based psychedelic rockers, Lord Sterling.
Your Ghost Will Walkwas one of those albums I figured I’d probably never happen upon, perhaps even less so in Rhode Island. I haven’t been chasing it down for years and years or anything like that — a preliminary search can find copies out there — but neither was I going to pass up the chance to get a new one. The pressing is on Chainsaw Safety Records, may or may not be original, and for anyone who heard Lord Sterling‘s Weapon of Truth(2002, Rubric) or Today’s Song for Tomorrow(2004, Small Stone), the first one is a little more jagged, a little more post-hardcore, somewhat less psychedelic, though the ethereal garage via The Doors vibes of the later albums are definitely present in some nascent form. I always dug those guys, so it was cool to hear where they came from a little bit.
Because I can’t resist a CD on Man’s Ruin and because I’m forever a sucker for NYC noise, I impulse grabbed The Cuttroats 9‘s self-titled. The band had Chris Spencer and Dave Curran from Unsane in it, so I figured I couldn’t go wrong and I was right. It was a last-minute thing as I was looking through, but I’ve done way worse. All told, the haul was well-rounded and with a cup of coffee from the bakery down the street, I felt like the win was even more complete. About five hours later, I strolled into my office like I owned the place.