I remember when YOB‘s 2000 demo got re-released in 2009, I held off buying it. My thinking was that sooner or later the thing would show up on CD and I didn’t need to shell out for the vinyl, which, well, wasn’t a format I wanted to deal with anyway. Sure, YOB occupy a slot on my ever-rotating list of favoritist favorite bands, but what was the point in buying a copy of their demo on vinyl and feeling stupid later when I finally got it on the CD I wanted in the first place?
Well, the point turned out to be that there was no CD coming. Probably I could’ve asked someone and found that out, or done even the most cursory level of research and found out that Raven’s Eye Records, the label run by the artist Sean Schock (also of Geistus and H.C. Minds), wasn’t doing a CD pressing and that once the vinyl run was gone, that was it. That the label, like the band, was based in Eugene, Oregon, and that even in this day of interwebular immediacy, it might not be so easy to come by. But yeah, I didn’t do that research or ask anyone if a CD was coming. Hey, it was 2009. I was busy not having a job.
YOB‘s demo retreated to that place in my mind that holds the list of music I should pick up at some point. I guess half of me was still holding out hope that a compact disc release would come along sooner or later, and it just took that long for me to finally resign myself to the fact that one wasn’t, but at long last, I snagged a copy of the 12″ version on eBay late last year. It was my Xmas present to myself, a little something to get me through the cold months. Calling it a treat in such a manner didn’t really take away from the fact that I was a stubborn dumbass for not buying it in the first place, but it did give that all-too-familiar feeling of dumbassery a nicer frame than it usually gets.
The package showed up a couple weeks back. Not exactly timely for the holidays, but whatever. I was still happy to see it, except for the fact that at this point, I own two turntables and neither of them works. So yeah, after three-plus years, I decided to buy YOB‘s very first demo — three tracks, “Silence,” “Revolution” and “Dogma,” coupled with a live recording of a song called “White Doom” recorded in 2005 at CD World in Eugene, pressed up with artwork by Brian Mercer – and I don’t have a way to play it.
One of these days, I’m gonna hear this fuckin’ thing. “Revolution” is up on the YouTubes, so that’s easy enough to check out, but hearing how different it is from the version that appeared two years later on YOB‘s 2002 12th Records debut full-length, Elaborations of Carbon, does little more than tantalize and make me want to listen to the other tracks. I’m sure it’s up for download somewhere, but screw that. I’ve waited this long, I can keep on staring at the LP sleeve until one of the two turntables — which are stacked one on top of the other with posters on top, for that extra touch of class — is repaired or a third is acquired. Patience has always been one of my stronger qualities.
Posted in Reviews on July 19th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Much of the derisive end of the response I’ve seen to YOB frontman Mike Scheidt’s first solo outing — given the title Stay Awake and released last month via Thrill Jockey – seems to center around the simple point that, “This isn’t YOB.” This is true. One imagines that had the Eugene, Oregon, native wanted to follow-up YOB’s 2011 Atma full-length, no one would’ve argued. The quick turnaround would’ve been hailed near universally and it would’ve been a great way to continue the momentum from their run of shows opening for Tool and a way to mark their ascendancy as a touring act (new West Coast dates were just announced). Thinking about that, maybe part of the appeal of doing an album like Stay Awake for Scheidt is the purposeful defiance of that expectation, checking that forward push and not losing sight of a personal creative drive. I don’t know that to be the case, but it makes for easy conjecture. Most pivotally, what the album does is balance neo-folk intimacy with Scheidt’s own particular psychedelic lushness, and amid a slew of heavy/doom solo outings – this year alone has brought acoustic works from Nate Hall of U.S. Christmas and Scott Kelly, as well as Kelly’s three-way split with Wino and Neurosis bandmate Steve Von Till tribute to Townes Van Zandt – it’s the flourishes that work to distinguish what is by now a familiar form at its root. Couple that with Scheidt’s relative inexperience in the style – he has said on stage that he’s very new to it – and Stay Awake can’t help but be individualized, whatever aspects of others’ work it might draw on. Some Kelly influence is there, and the interplay of electric backing chords and acoustic picking that forms the musical basis of “Until the End of Everything” is something I tend always to attribute in my head to Ben Chasny’s Six Organs of Admittance or perhaps even Angels of Light, but Scheidt maintains his wavering melodic vocal delivery and puts it to use in a variety of constants on the six-track/43-minute Stay Awake, which was recorded by the venerable Tad Doyle at his Studio Witch Ape.
That it’s a genuine studio production would on paper seem to run counter to the album’s bedroom folk intimacy, but in terms of the actual sound of the record, it doesn’t. Whatever room space is added to the third cut, “In Your Light,” the solitary mood pervades, and that’s true from the gradual fade-in of opener “When Time Forgets Time,” which keeps Scheidt’s unique (though increasingly imitated) riff patterning despite the shift in context. Of all the songs on Stay Awake, the first is probably the closest he comes to YOB’s style, but he’s neither near it nor a stranger to straightforward opening tracks – see any of the last four YOB records – so don’t think I’m making a direct comparison. “When Time Forgets Time” does much to establish the overarching aesthetic, but little to set up the dynamics that play out over the course of the ensuing Stay Awake, fading out as it came as though we’ve just glimpsed a piece of a larger whole. The shift toward more radical experimentation first shows itself on “Until the End of Everything,” which dedicates the first 1:45 of its total 4:49 to a slow spoken word piece formed at least in part from the lyrics on which a breathy Scheidt reminds his listeners that “Reason has no place in this,” and “Until the end of everything/You will be loved.” The turn from the momentum of the first track might be set as an analogy for the album itself, but that spoken part also marks a misstep – not so much in concept or recording, but in execution – and it’s the moment on Stay Awake where Scheidt’s inexperience with singer-songwriter material feels most apparent. By the time his jarringly distorted electric guitar kicks in at 1:46, the words he’s saying feel forced and overperformed. The reason I say this relates to inexperience is because once the song starts and the lyrical cycle begins again, that’s not the case. “Until the End of Everything,” on which he backs himself vocally and touches on harmonies here and there, marks one of Stay Awake’s most effective arrangements and most lasting melodies. Even the feedback shortly before the four-minute mark and that fades back and forth through the last minute of the song feels purposeful and impeccably placed behind Scheidt’s soft picking. Really, it’s the pacing and, at the end, the drama in the spoken delivery that derails the beginning and forces the music to reclaim the momentum that “When Time Forgets Time” set into motion, which, thankfully, it does. (I’ll say here as well that in the two times I’ve seen Scheidt perform “Until the End of Everything” live, he’s delivered the spoken part quicker and more effectively.)
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 5th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
By now, you probably know that YOB were hand-picked to open for apparently-revived progressive metallers Tool — who are also supposedly going to have a new album out this year — on Tool‘s upcoming winter tour. If you hadn’t heard, no worries, the info’s here. Just a bit ago, YOB announced a string of headlining dates around the run of shows, some of which will also include a solo set from frontman Mike Scheidt, whose acoustic debut is also set to be released in 2012. Look forward to that, but in the meantime, here’s the poster with the info. Click to enlarge, as always:
Posted in On the Radar on December 27th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
I have the feeling that if my geographical situation was different and I lived on the other side of the country, I probably would’ve heard Rye Wolves by now. Maybe literally, given the loudness that seems to come across on their three-song Species Battle in the Branches full-length, which was released earlier this year. The Eugene, Oregon, trio meld neo-psychedelic bombast with post-metal’s inhuman tonality, finding room in the 23-minute “Malnutrition Bends the Beak” to go all USBM for a little while. What it all rounds out to is a heady and crushing sonic mix that loses nothing in atmosphere for its heft and occasional foray into the maniacal.
Some mid-period Neurosis sway arises in eight-minute opener “Tearing at the Shapes,” but I wouldn’t put Rye Wolves in the post-metal category outright before I’d put them in three or four others, among them doom and whatever it is we’re calling angular sub-technical Mastodonic noise riffing this week. Vocals are harsh but varied, shouts and screams permeate thick tones and complex structures, highlighting an energy pulsing through Species Battle in the Branches, which is Rye Wolves‘ second release behind the less-distilled 2008 debut, Oceans of Delicate Rain.
The primary difference between the two releases seems to be that on the newer, the ideas have better blended together to create a whole, so that the beginning of “Hey David” will be rife with ethereal post-rock guitar echoing, the end will stomp to an agonizing, Khanate-esque doom conclusion, and the middle will provide flow from one to the next. “Malnutrition Bends the Beak” has enough diversity to be an EP unto itself (and some more Khanate as well; this time with tortured vocals included), but also rests well in the context surrounding, its sustained and thickened low-end rumble all the more foreboding for the pace it has divided seemingly in half.
Anyone noticing the band is from Eugene and looking for a YOB connection will find it more in the fact that Species Battle in the Branches was recorded by former bassist Isamu Sato than in Rye Wolves‘ actual sound — though their locale and their playing extended post-doom songs is bound to lead to comparisons. Rye Wolves have put the whole of Species Battle in the Branches on their Bandcamp page for streaming (they’re also on The Facebooks here), and I grabbed the player and put it here in case anyone wants to check it out. I’d recommend doing so, anyway:
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 22nd, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
This news was kicking around the forum and Thee Facebooks yesterday, but the official release came in on the PR wire last night, so it seemed only appropriate to post it here. Congratulations to Eugene, Oregon, space doomers YOB, who just happened to release my favorite album of 2011, on landing an opening spot for Tool‘s upcoming North American dates. I’m not sure how I actually feel about it, as I hadn’t really planned on seeing Tool (ever) again but don’t think I can let a YOB gig pass unattended, but whether or not I show up, it’s well-deserved on the band’s part. No argument from me there.
Here’s the press release:
Oh, what a year it has been for the mighty doom metallers YOB! First they release one of the most highly respected albums in recent memory with Atma via Profound Lore. Now the band is happy to announce that they will be direct support to TOOL on the progressive titans’ upcoming Jan/Feb North American tour. With two behemoths such as this, fans can expect one of the most impressive tours of the year!
The following dates have been announced with more to be unveiled in the coming days.
01/28 TD Garden Boston, MA 01/29 Susquehanna Bank Center Camden, NJ 01/31 Mohegan Sun Arena Uncasville, CT 02/01 Izod Center East Rutherford, NJ 02/03 TBA 02/04 Bojangles’ Coliseum Charlotte, NC 02/06 Bank Atlantic Center Sunrise, FL 02/07 UCF Arena Orlando, FL 02/08 Gwinnett Center Arena Duluth, GA
Posted in Features on July 20th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
This past weekend, I made my way south to Philadelphia to catch the current YOB/Dark Castle tour. I’d already seen the two bands as they stomped Manhattan into the ground earlier in the week, but the prospect of another show within a meager two hours’ drive, on a Saturday, was too much to resist. When I got to the Kung Fu Necktie and saw it was basically a small bar with a stage area in back, I was all the more thrilled at the chance to witness YOB‘s powerful live sound in such a confined space. It was gonna rule, I assured myself.
I assume because Kung Fu Necktie is in a residential neighborhood and they’ve had noise complaints, the show had an 11PM curfew. When irono-post-punkers Psychic Teens finished at 9PM or so and neither Dark Castle nor YOB were to be found in the venue, it was immediately apparent something was up. As it turned out, they’d been stuck for however long in traffic coming from their Canadian show the night before. They were rushing to get to Philly, but for the crowd standing there, we didn’t know if or when they’d arrive.
And if they’d canceled the show, saying that they wouldn’t have enough time to play and get done by the curfew, well, shit happens, that’s life. But they didn’t. YOB and Dark Castle rolled in a bit after 9:45, immediately set up their gear and got to work kicking ass. Even Rob Shaffer — Dark Castle‘s drummer pulling double-duty filling in for Travis Foster in YOB — breaking his bass drum pedal didn’t curb the momentum. Curfew was extended till 11:30PM, YOB got to play four songs in 40 minutes, and peace and doom reigned in the City of Brotherly Love.
What was most striking about it, though — aside from the fact that they did it — was that before their set started, YOB guitarist, vocalist, principle songwriter and, on this tour, sole founding member Mike Scheidt told the crowd, “We’ve got 40 minutes and we’re going to give it everything we have. We are YOB” (or something thereabouts), before launching into the most righteous rendition of “Quantum Mystic” from 2005′s The Unreal Never Lived that I’ve ever heard. By the time they finished playing, the delay didn’t matter, the lost songs didn’t matter. There was nothing that was going to stop that crowd from loving every minute of YOB‘s performance. Damn what could have been, we were there for what was, and Scheidt, Shaffer and bassist Aaron Reiseberg kept true to his word.
YOB‘s second album for Profound Lore, called Atma, will see release Aug. 16. The record, as Scheidt explains in the interview to follow, takes its name from the spiritual concept of the self as being a part of an underlying current of selves, all joined in one essential experience. Where Western tradition has gummed this into theistic dogma, the notion of “atma” is more obscure and thus even more universal: The self as connection to everything around it. As I stood in Kung Fu Necktie and watched the crowd around me get absorbed into Atma opener “Prepare the Ground,” it was hard not to feel some understanding of what Scheidt was talking about. They were transcendentally heavy.
We spoke at the beginning of the tour, via phone, as the two bands ran errands in Iowa, and I’ll say flat out it’s the best interview I’ve done in a long time. The guitarist’s openness, honesty and genuine nature is apparent in his every answer, and his discussion late in the conversation of the nature of ambition and how it relates to YOB presents an awareness of perspective that, much like his musical approach, is entirely his own.
I won’t delay it further. Please find enclosed the 5,700-word Q&A transcription of my interview with Mike Scheidt of YOB, and enjoy.
Posted in Reviews on July 13th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
I can’t remember the last time I felt so glad to be in the city. With Batillus opening for them (who I unfortunately missed) at Le Poisson Rouge on the venerated and expensive Village stretch of Bleecker Street, YOB and Dark Castle each stormed through a monstrously doomed set of riff-based communion. The sharing of drummer Rob Shaffer only added to the sense of camaraderie and community, and though it was some of the heaviest, darkest, thickest tonality I’ve heard in a live setting this year, I couldn’t help but smile, and by no means was I the only one.
Hard to know what to say about this kind of night without getting bogged down in hyperbole, because even the next afternoon, I still feel charged up from it — and while we’re talking about after effects, my ears are also still ringing (or at least the left one; the right doesn’t so much do that anymore) — but it was like everything came together. Dark Castle have already released one of 2011′s most complex albums, and YOB‘s Atma has yet to leave my CD player since going in. Both bands have an obvious and spiritual connection to their music, and last night, it was like they stood on stage and held their arms out and invited everyone else in. Who wouldn’t go?
Le Poisson Rouge is a medium-size room. Not a bar (though there is one), but not a bigger venue. Short ceiling, but I knew from seeing Shrinebuilder there in 2009 that that would only mean the sound had no choice but to pummel your skull. I’d never seen Dark Castle before, which is kind of hard to believe considering how much they tour, but I knew enough from hearing Surrender to all Life Beyond Form that I didn’t want to miss them now. Following a sushi dinner with The Patient Mrs., I made my way to Bleecker and got in a bit before they went on.
One thing about Dark Castle — and I consider it an admirable thing about them — is it’s just the two of them on stage. The recently-interviewed Stevie Floyd on guitar and vocals and double-duty trooper of the night Rob Shaffer on drums. Where on Surrender to all Life Beyond Form, the songs are filled out by the synth/Moog/noise contributions of producer Sanford Parker and several guest vocalists, including YOB‘s own Mike Scheidt, that kind of thing just can’t be replicated in a live setting without excessive sampling or time spent in front of a laptop and not actually playing the songs.
I won’t say one approach is better or worse than the other, because when it came down to the material itself last night, Dark Castle killed it. The sound may not have been as full as on the record, but “Surrender to all Life Beyond Form” was one of the highlights of the show, and the rawer feel was a big part of why. That Floyd and Shaffer would be on the same page in their presence isn’t necessarily surprising — because, again, they tour all the time — but the power in their delivery was readily apparent and picked up most if not all of the slack in the noise department. Even without YOB following, it would have been well worth the trip for their set alone.
But YOB was following, and having seen them before at the Planet Caravan fest in North Carolina, I had some idea of what to expect. I parked myself up front while they were setting up and stayed there for most of their show, which — and I say this with all the nerdy glee I can muster — was amazing. It’s not that you listen to those records and think to yourself, “Wow, I bet this band sucks live,” but until you actually see it, until you actually feel the rumble of Scheidt‘s guitar and of Aaron Reiseberg‘s bass. Scheidt played with a full stack of Emperor cabs behind him and neither Reiseberg nor Shaffer (filling the role of Travis Foster for the tour) were lacking in volume or presence. It being YOB‘s first time in New York in more than half a decade — oh, the story I could tell you about the show they did at the Pyramid way back when — as a fan, I wanted everything to sound perfect, and it did.
They opened with “Quantum Mystic” from The Unreal Never Lived, an album the influence of which is only beginning to be felt six years after its release. Immediately, the crowd was on board, fists were raised, toasts were made, and heads — including my own — banged with abandon for the neck stiffness that might ensue this morning. I pulled my earplugs out. Worth it. “Quantum Mystic” led into “Prepare the Ground,” the opener from Atma, and that in turn to “Burning the Altar” from 2009′s The Great Cessation. One imagines that with a couple more albums under their belt, YOB will be able to do a full set of nothing but the killer tracks they start their records with. Certainly it was a welcome opening trio and a half-hour well spent. The crowd pressed and shifted and stumbled and loved it and I did likewise. I haven’t seen a set with that kind of impact since Neurosis at Roadburn.
Their ethereal space elements showed up in “The Great Cessation,” the titular closer of the album, which followed Atma‘s title cut — a little more complicated than the opener and thus not as immediately grasped by the audience who doesn’t have the record yet — and YOB shifted the tone of the show from planetary aural crush to dark matter drift. That album was my favorite of 2009, but I still feel like I got a new appreciation for “The Great Cessation” hearing it live. Reiseberg and Shaffer ran into some trouble during one of its drawn-out, patient instrumental passages, but were able to recovery swiftly enough. I don’t think anyone was about to complain, anyway.
For a finale, Scheidt called Floyd up to the stage for a scathing rendition of “Grasping Air” from The Unreal Never Lived, and (if I remember correctly; I might have this order wrong and if I do, I hope someone will correct me) rounded out the night with “Ball of Molten Lead” from 2004′s The Illusion of Motion. Considering the mass of pulp that YOB had by then beaten Le Poisson Rouge into, I can’t think of a more fitting conclusion. Like the rest of the show, I was just really, really glad to have been there to see it.
It’s a rare performance that pulls you out of everything else, that commands not only full attention, but a kind of dedication to it. When YOB finished, I felt like I’d been to the end of the universe and back. I don’t want to make it more than it was, because what it was was enough. If you were there, you know, and if not, hopefully next time you’ll find out.
More pics after the jump. As always, click any photo to enlarge.
Posted in Reviews on July 6th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
YOB’s 2009 return, The Great Cessation, was fueled by a seething anger so visceral it practically stabbed its way out of the speakers. The Eugene, Oregon, trio’s first release for Profound Lore following a breakup after 2005’s landmark The Unreal Never Lived and the ensuing unsuccessful legal battle for frontman Mike Scheidt over the name of his subsequent project, Middian, its vitriol was well justified, but in the wake of the full-length’s release, YOB ascended, more or less, to the fore of their generation of doomers. Scheidt, then-new bassist Aaron Reiseberg and drummer Travis Foster were able to capitalize on a reception left for dead after The Unreal Never Lived and earned near-universal acclaim from fellow artists, critics and listeners at large.
That leaves Atma, the new follow-up to The Great Cessation and second Profound Lore offering, in a curious position. For the first time in their career, YOB are coming into an album as an established act with a widespread reputation and an expectation placed on their sound. Whether that played consciously or not into the writing process for these five tracks, I don’t know, but there exists on Atma a delicate balance of familiar elements and stylistic progressions that hints to a growing self-awareness on the part of the band.
All the more appropriate is the title, then, which refers to the Buddhist concept of the complete, spiritual self. This is lyrical ground that Scheidt – as YOB’s principal songwriter, guitarist and vocalist – has tread going back to the band’s beginnings in 2002’s Elaborations of Carbon or 2003’s Catharsis, but there’s a maturity of approach on Atma that speaks to the musical and personal growth they’ve undertaken since then. That self-awareness is pervasive, and one gets the sense from opener “Prepare the Ground” that Scheidt, who seems to pepper in grunts timed just to when the song’s several builds are paying off (the exclamation “Prepare!” at 6:43 that leads into the final movement being especially satisfying, though there’s still another “oogh” to come), and who also produced Atma, knows the effect each move the band is making will have.
What this essentially means is that the processes of figuring out how to be heavy, and of deciding what YOB should be on the most basic level, appear to be over. Atma signals the beginning of the refinement of those processes, and of their mastery.
I should say at this point (actually, I probably should have said already) that when it comes to YOB, I can’t even pretend at impartiality. I’m a fan of this band, having found them around Catharsis and nerded out at every step of their progression since then. Simply put, I think they’re one of the best acts of their generation, and I’ve long held the belief that their influence will be felt for a long time to come. One could argue it can already be seen in YOB’s peers, and Atma – the anticipation for which you could turn into bricks and build a skyscraper – has managed to meet every expectation I had for it. Scheidt’s production is (predictably) rawer than was Sanford Parker’s for The Great Cessation, but the songs here prove that YOB are unrelenting in their creative drive.
Conceptually, that’s even more respectable than the now-characteristic riffs and pulsating kick of “Prepare the Ground,” but when it comes to actually listening, it’s hard not to be engulfed by the sheer heaviness of Atma’s launch and leave all other contextual concerns behind. YOB started The Great Cessation with one of its strongest cuts as well – that being “Burning the Altar” – and “Prepare the Ground” has shades of that track in terms of methodology. From Scheidt’s contrasting growls and spacey wailing to Reiseberg’s huge-sounding low end and Foster’s groove-setting tom runs, it is YOB at their most YOBian and some of the most memorable material Atma has on offer. Beginning with a barely-audible exclamation and launching immediately into a series of chugging hits that sounds like it’s never going to end, the song gradually unfolds to a flowing monstrosity that, nonetheless, is underscored by a contemplative edge present on much of Atma – all the more fitting an opener.
Also evident in “Prepare the Ground” is an increase in melodic awareness on the part of Scheidt, and while that’s usually code for “They’re not as heavy as they used to be,” YOB avoid that trap entirely. Rather, the clean vocals of the verse and chorus complement the sway in the guitars and bass, and the song as a whole sounds that much heavier leading into the title track, which is both more lumbering musically and more tortured in its vocals. Mournful, semi-spoken cries and held chords take hold after an intro of a sampled storm, and “Atma” feels all-around more plodding than was “Prepare the Ground,” less outwardly riff-based.
That said, Atma’s title cut also has the honor of playing host to the chugging guitar triplets that have been a staple of YOB’s sound since they were so effectively put to use on The Unreal Never Lived closer, “The Mental Tyrant.” It was “Burning the Altar” on The Great Cessation, and like that song, the bass and drums drop out initially while Scheidt introduces the movement on guitar, but where “Atma” proves different is that instead of launching right into an über-groove and giving Atma an early apex, they sustain a complex pattern of off-time hits behind a sampled speech that explains the concept of atman as the spiritual self, complete self. In the song’s final moments, deathly growls lie under canned-sounding (there’s a name for that effect) vocals, providing a glimpse of YOB at their most tectonic that echoes into a couple seconds of silence before centerpiece “Before We Dreamed of Two” kicks in with an Eastern-scaled solo from Scheidt – perhaps some reciprocating influence from Dark Castle there – and more lowly-mixed samples topping one of Reiseberg’s most effective bass lines.
At 16 minutes, “Before We Dreamed of Two” is Atma’s longest track. This is a distinction usually reserved for the closer – see “The Great Cessation,” “The Mental Tyrant,” “The Illusion of Motion” from the 2004 Metal Blade debut of the same name, or the title-track from Catharsis – but the break from the pattern is welcome and more than justified by the song itself, which features one of Atma’s two guest appearances from Neurosis guitarist/vocalist Scott Kelly and is an indisputable high point of this stage in YOB’s tenure. In thinking back to the many ambient stretches that have cropped up in songs throughout their catalog, I can’t pull a match for it in terms of atmosphere, and when the build of the prior seven minutes comes to an excruciatingly slow close and the song drops to a sort of minimalist run of guitar lines, you just know something’s coming.
Posted in Reviews on April 19th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Front to back, the first demo from stoner rockers Witchasaurus Hex is all about charm. Appropriately titled Our First Demo, from the band’s name on down to the hand-drawn cover and the Sharpie marker smell of the track list to the two tracks themselves that comprise it, everything about Witchasaurus Hex has an almost childlike appeal to it, and the songs themselves, “The Great Wolf Lodge” and “Country Fried Snake” bear that out in easygoing riffs and grooves. The Eugene, Oregon (known chiefly as the home of YOB), four-piece dial into nod-worthy stoner vibes and simple structures too make songs that are unquestionably for the converted and stylistically basic, but again, built on that charm, I’m more inclined to roll with it than pan them for not reinventing the stoner rock formula, especially on a release that, as noted, is their first demo.
Beginning with a riff that says “follow me” right from its start, “The Great Wolf Lodge” keeps a middle pace throughout, giving the fuzz from Tristan Tower’s guitars time to sink in as complemented by Andy Ritenour’s bass before the drums or the vocals kick in. Our First Demo was recorded and mixed by Sam Wartenbee (Take 92), and Dylan Ferguson’s drums are a little far back in the mix as compared to Tower’s guitar (at least in the solo sections of “The Great Wolf Lodge”), but it’s the guitar leading the song anyway. Vocalist Brian Michael Cooper has a high-in-the-mouth tenor to his voice, reminiscent of some of the higher-register vocals in Asteroid, or if you want to trace it back to doom, Apostle of Solitude or any number of the oldschool acts who influenced them. His voice too is a little high in the mix, but again, this being Witchasaurus Hex’s first time out, and the grooves they elicit being so formidable, I’m more than willing to let it slide. Cooper fits the music well, in any case, and I think bringing Ritenour up in any subsequent mixes would probably resolve a lot of the issues sound-wise on Our First Demo. I’m a sucker for a warm bass sound, though, so take that for what it’s worth.
Posted in Features on January 18th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Please don’t think I’m breaking any news here one way or the other about any of these releases. This post is basically just me talking about albums I’d like to see this year. Some have been formally announced, some just alluded to, but if these and the records listed yesterday were all that 2011 had in store, we’d probably still come out of it on the winning side.
Once again, the headline says “Rampant Speculation” and that’s what this is. Maybe in reading it, you’ll agree with something, maybe you’ll disagree. Either way, any comments are appreciated as always.
Let’s have some fun:
YOB: Sad as it is that Oregon doom forerunners YOB had to cancel their appearance at Roadburn and European tour, one can only hope their follow-up to 2009′s blistering The Great Cessation comes out that much sooner as a result. It will be interested to hear where the band goes stylistically. Guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt had plenty to be pissed about going into the YOB reunion, following all that Middian/Midian legal nonsense, but now that that’s through with, will he bring the same kind of vitriol to bare in the songwriting? Hopefully it’s not too long before we find out.
Colour Haze: They’re one of the classiest bands on the planet, and their last album, All, was hands-down my favorite record of 2008. They’ve released the Burg Herzberg two-disc live recording since then, but it’s time for new album, and according to the last Elektrohasch Schallplatten, it’s not far off. All had a more live, more organic feel than anything Colour Haze ever did before — the snare drum’s reacting to the bass and guitar rumble like a nod to everyone listening that it was done with everyone in the same room — and I’m looking forward to hearing how they try to top it.
Clutch: 2010 saw numerous reissues and the usual insane amount of touring, but in 2011, it’s time to see where the next stage in Clutch‘s ongoing development is leading. Maybe they’ll continue the blues-laden path they’ve taken on their last couple records, or maybe they’ll decide it’s time to confuse the hell out of everyone and do something completely different. Aside from being an astounding live act, Clutch are a fantastic group of songwriters, and it’ll be exciting to get to know a new batch of tunes both live and on disc.
Elder: Their self-titled was some seriously riffy business, and I haven’t heard the follow-up yet, but all accounts from those who have say it’s a more ethereal, more open and stonery sound these young Massachusetts rockers have taken on, and that’s just fine by me. MeteorCity is supposed to have the release out later this year, and I have the feeling that when ti finally hits, it’s going to catch a lot of people off guard, in a good way. Hard not to expect big things for a band like Elder, who have so much potential.
Dixie Witch: When it’ll be out, I have no idea, but Dixie Witch‘s fourth full-length will be the band’s first without guitarist Clayton Mills. His tone and natural bluesy shred was a huge part of what made Dixie Witch‘s prior offerings so killer, and by the time the album gets out, it’s likely to have been five full years since they released the excellent Smoke and Mirrors. This one’s long overdue.
Argus: True, I said I’d only list five bands, and these Pennsylvanian metallers make it six, but I’m genuinely curious to hear what they come up with for their Cruz Del Sur label debut. I dug heavily on the trad doom of their Shadow Kingdom Records self-titled debut, and vocalist Butch Ballch (formerly of Penance) never fails to deliver, so it’s definitely worth keeping an eye out.
There’s other stuff too: Olde Growth, Hour of 13, Wo Fat, Graveyard and a slew of albums that may or may not happen in time for December to roll around. Again, this is just the stuff I want to hear, so if you’ve got anything on your mind or something I should look out for, leave a comment. There’s nothing better than being exposed to new music.
Sometimes you just don’t need a clever headline. Walter from Roadburn was kind enough to send me the embed information for this pro-shot video of YOB‘s first European performance at the 2010 Roadburnfest in The Netherlands, with video by Lee Sakura and audio mixed by Marcel van de Vondervoort of Astrosoniq.
Say goodbye to the next hour of your life and hello to awesome:
As always, thanks to Walter and Roadburn. The video was originally posted on the festival’s site, which you can check out here.