Stoned from the Underground 2013 Lineup Finalized — Lowrider, Acid King, Earthless and More

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 22nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

I really, really don’t have a spare grand-plus lying around at this point, but golly that’s a cool lineup posted for Stoned from the Underground this year in Erfurt, Germany. It seems Lowrider‘s reunion — they were a highlight of the London Desertfest in a one-two punch of Swedish awesomeness completed by a set from Dozer immediately following — continues, which is unmistakably good news, and along with the likes of Earthless, Acid King, Troubled Horse, The Gates of Slumber, Pelican and the many others listed below, it seems like it’s going to be a killer weekend July 11-13. The kind of weekend I’d like very much to see, let’s say with a camera and laptop in tow. One of these years, maybe.

Indulge a bit of escapism with me, won’t you?

Welcome to the Mother of all German Stoner Rock Meetings

July 11th , 12th & 13th – Alperstedter Lake near ERFURT

Festival founded in 2001 and located in the very geographical center of Germany, in the area of Erfurt (Thuringen): Stoned From The Underground grew from a one day indoor event with 400 visitors in 2001 to a 3 days outdoor event with 3000 visitors last year !

Located a few kilometers away from the city, in a nest of nature bordered by the Alperstedter Lake, the festival is the perfect location for a very first relaxing summer weekend !

Whether you want to sit in the grass, puffing up clouds of smoke, sipping a beer while checking out the best Rock & Stoner acts of the moment,

Or whether you want to chill out laying on your belly on the sand of the beach with your toes cooling down in Lake’s water…..

STONED FROM THE UNDERGROUND is the place where all your dreams will come true.

LINE- UP 2013:
EARTHLESS ( Usa)
MUSTASCH (Swe)
POTHEAD (Ger)

TRUCKFIGHTERS (Swe)
THE GATES OF SLUMBER (Usa)
BEEN OBSCENE (At)
LOWRIDER (Swe)
HORISONT(Swe)
TROUBLED HORSE (Swe)
ISOPTERA (Ger)
LORD VICAR (Fin)
MIRROR QUEEN (Usa)
ACID KING (Usa)
PELICAN (Usa)
THE OPERATORS (Ger)
THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX (Usa)
FIVE HORSE JOHNSON (Usa)
SARDONIS (Bel)
HYNE (Ger)
DEVILLE (Swe)
BLACK BOMBAIM (Por)
HERKULES PROPAGANDA (Ger)
TRECKER (Ger)

Stoned from the Underground 2013 Trailer

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Small Stone Records Detroit Showcase: A Great Way to Lose Your Liver

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 28th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

A friendly reminder that this very Saturday is Small Stone‘s showcase at The Magic Stick in Detroit. Since the one in Boston earlier this month was such an unholy good time, I can only heartily recommend that the entire Midwest shows up and prepares itself for riffy communion. Even if The Obelisk wasn’t presenting it, it’d still be a kickass rock gig, and probably as far east as we’re going to get Sasquatch anytime soon.

Label honcho (and Luder guitarist, as it happens) Scott Hamilton was recently interviewed by Detroit’s Metro Times about how he manages to thrive where so many others have succumbed to the likes of internet piracy, generational disinterest in rock, and so on. Pretty fascinating read, but before you click over, make sure you’ve got the skinny on the gig Saturday, because you don’t want to miss it.

Info comes courtesy of the Thee Facebooks event page:

Since many folks have been asking us for a few years now, we have finally caved in… So here it is in all its glory, a full blown SSR Showcase in the state that we actually live in. We have put together a top notch line up which features the return of New Jersey’s Halfway To Gone for the first time since 2005! Come early, stay late… The Magic Stick is great venue, and the drinks will be flowing at reasonable prices too… It should be an epic evening of rawk… Hell, we might even have copies of the new album from Five Horse Johnson at the show too.

Featuring:

Halfway To Gone (Long Branch, NJ)
Five Horse Johnson (Toledo, OH)
Sasquatch (Los Angeles, CA)
Freedom Hawk (Virginia Beach, VA)
Luder (Ferndale, MI)

Doors: 7pm
Tickets: $10.00

The Fine folks over at Tito’s Vodka are helping us and the Magic Stick will have Tito’s Drink Specials All Night!

Advance tickets can be purchased here.

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Five Horse Johnson, The Taking of Black Heart: Roped In

Posted in Reviews on November 19th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

[NOTE: Five Horse Johnson will play Small Stone’s Obelisk-presented Detroit showcase on Dec. 1 at the Magic Stick, with Halfway to Gone, Sasquatch, Freedom Hawk and Luder. Also note: You should go.]

It has been a quick six years since bluesy Ohio stalwarts Five Horse Johnson released The Mystery Spot. In that time, frontman Eric Oblander toured the world with Clutch during what I’ve come to think of as their “family band” period that also included an organ and was brought in to sing for Sorcen, a partial Necros reunion. Guitarist Phil Dürr (also of Big Chief) joined forces with Luder, Five Horse Johnson’s Small Stone compatriot act which also features label head Scott Hamilton on guitar. And Jean-Paul Gaster, who played drums on The Mystery Spot, also happens to play in Clutch. The ties especially between Five Horse Johnson and Clutch prove pervasive throughout the former’s upcoming seventh album, The Taking of Black Heart. Gaster makes a return appearance on drums for the 11-track outing, and the record was produced in everything but Oblander’s vocals by longtime Clutch engineer J. Robbins at The Magpie Cage in Baltimore. Robbins, also of Jawbox, also contributes organ and percussion throughout The Taking of Black Heart, and Cheap Trick vocalist Robin Zander steps up for a take on Rod Stewart’s “You’re My Girl (I Don’t Want to Discuss It)” that trades off the parenthetical “Discuss” for the more genial “Talk About.” Through several of its tracks, The Taking of Black Heart seems to rely on some consistent lyrical thematic, though if there’s a narrative arc to the tracks, I don’t know what it is. Nonetheless, on opener “The Job,” Oblander mentions his horse, named Mexico, which appears a short time later on the track “Mexico” and tracks like “Black Heart Baby,” “Smash and Grab” and the closing pair of “Shoot My Way Out” and “Die in the River” seem to work in a successive progression toward the unhappy ending of the last cut, and the atmosphere remains relatively close to the Western-style vibing evident on the cover art. So if nothing else, there’s a lot of context behind Five Horse Johnson’s seventh, though the songs themselves arrive with as little pretense as possible, coated in blues influence and driving heavy rock that, unsurprisingly, finds a lot of common ground with latter-day Clutch.

There are, however, numerous distinctions to be pointed out between the two. A huge factor in Five Horse Johnson’s sound is Oblander’s blues harp. Filling the space between verse lines, doing call and response with Dürr and Brad Coffin’s guitars on “Keep on Diggin’,” taking the occasional solo throughout the record, it’s a defining element of what the band does, no less an instrument at play than either of the guitars, Gaster’s drums or Steve Smith’s bass. Another difference is influence. While Gaster is bound to be a consistent element, and his snare work early into “Black Heart Baby” or the later highlight “Hangin’ Tree” (not a Queens of the Stone Age cover) is easily pegged as his style, the songs he’s playing on are more straightforwardly influenced by classic rock. Clutch’s funky guitar progressions are all but absent here, and even when blatant commonalities show up, as they do toward the middle of the record on “Beating in My Hand” – Robbins’ organ helps drive the comparison as well – or the following “Quick on the Trigger,” which treads close in its bounce to “Electric Worry,” the track on Clutch’s 2007 outing, From Beale Street to Oblivion, on which Oblander’s guest appearance led him to tour with the band in the first place, those elements have a different stylistic context. Five Horse Johnson’s blues come stuffed tight into classic rock swagger on The Taking of Black Heart, and in that way, the album makes a solid follow-up to The Mystery Spot, and one can hear that the last six years has furthered the maturity level that that album showed coming off of 2003’s The Last Men on Earth, though were it not for the consistent quality of songwriting I’d be hesitant to even compare the two with so much time having elapsed between them. Nonetheless, “Mexico” and the ultra-catchy “Beating in My Hand” and “Quick on the Trigger” carry the record through its halfway point and Five Horse Johnson offer a new-feeling take on their trademark brashness, sounding all the more dynamic for the realization that you don’t necessarily have to go as hard as possible at all times.

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Where to Start: The Obelisk’s Guide to Small Stone Records

Posted in Where to Start on May 3rd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Founded in 1995 by Scott Hamilton, Detroit imprint Small Stone Records is the single most influential American heavy rock label of the post-Man’s Ruin era. What started as Hamilton releasing local Detroit acts of varied genres like Morsel, 36D and Perplexa soon took on a dedication to the heavy aesthetic that remains unmatched in both its scope and its reach of influence. Looking back, Five Horse Johnson‘s 1997 Double Down debut, seems to have been the beginning of Small Stone‘s turn down the fuzzly path. It’s like Hamilton followed the riff right down the rabbit hole and never looked back.

Now, 17 years on, Small Stone has a reach that goes beyond even the distribution of the albums it puts out. Thanks to the diligent work of Hamilton and oft-encountered names like Mad Oak Studios engineer/mixer Benny Grotto, mastering engineer Chris Gooseman, graphic artist Alexander von Wieding, among others, the label has earned a reputation for quality output that new releases are constantly reaffirming. Over the years, Man’s Ruin refugees like Sons of Otis, (The Men Of) Porn, Acid King and VALIS have come into the fold, but the crux of Small Stone‘s catalog is made up of acts like Roadsaw, Dixie Witch, Halfway to Gone, Throttlerod, Puny Human and Novadriver, who no matter what else they put out or who they put it out with, will always be considered “Small Stone bands.”

That designation and those groups specifically have helped establish a core American-style heavy rocking sound that the label seems to delight in toying with even as it continues to promulgate. Next generation bands like Gozu, Lo-Pan, Freedom Hawk, Backwoods Payback and even newer newcomers Wo Fat, Supermachine, Lord Fowl and Mellow Bravo — who don’t yet have albums out on the label — are expanding its breadth, and recent international signees Asteroid, Abrahma, Mangoo, Nightstalker and Mother of God should help ensure that Small Stone keeps pushing both itself and genre boundaries well into the next several years.

One of the hazards, however, of an ever-growing catalog, is that it can be hard to figure out where to start taking it on, and to that end, I’m happy to provide you with 10 essential Small Stone picks. Note I didn’t say “the 10 essential Small Stone picks,” because the reality of the situation is this is just the tip of the fuzzberg. If it’s any indication, I started out with five and couldn’t leave the rest out.

Here they are, ordered by the date of release:

 
1. Novadriver, Void (ss-022/2001)

Still an album that’s more or less impossible to pin to just one genre, the stoner/space/weirdo jams of Novadriver‘s 2001 outing, Void, reside somewhere between Monster Magnet‘s early Hawkwind worship and the unbridled intensity of groove that came out of Detroit’s early- and mid-’70s heavy rock and proto-metal. The fact that Novadriver also came from the Motor City speaks to the label’s local roots, but if Void was coming out even today, it’d be coming out on Small Stone.

2. Los Natas, Corsario Negro (ss-028/2002)

Personally, I think 2005′s El Hombre Montaña is a better album and 2009′s Nuevo Orden de la Libertad is an even better album than that, but Corsario Negro earns the edge as a starting point because it was the beginning of the Argentinian rockers’ relationship with Small Stone (they too were left without a home in the wake of Man’s Ruin folding). Plus, if you haven’t heard them before and you get this, you can still marvel at the subsequent offerings. Either way, totally necessary.

3. Various Artists, Sucking the ’70s (ss-032/2002)

In a lot of ways, this is what it’s all about. Badass bands playing badass songs. By this point, The Glasspack, Los Natas, Fireball Ministry, Halfway to Gone and Five Horse Johnson (who lead off the first disc) had already put out at least one album through Small Stone, but Sucking the ’70s made the most of the label’s burgeoning reputation, bringing in Clutch, Alabama Thunderpussy and Lowrider, along with bands who’d later add records to the catalog like Roadsaw, Suplecs and Lord Sterling, all covering hits and obscurities from the heavy ’70s. A gorgeous collection that would get a sequel in 2006. Still waiting on part three.

4. Dixie Witch, One Bird, Two Stones (ss-037/2003)

The Austin, Texas, trio would go on to become one of the most pivotal acts on the Small Stone roster, and they’d do so on the strength of their Southern riffs and the soul in their songwriting. Led by drummer/vocalist Trinidad Leal, Dixie Witch hooked up with Small Stone on the heels of their 2001 debut, Into the Sun, which was released by Brainticket, and quickly gained a reputation for some of the finest classic road songs that Grand Funk never wrote (see “The Wheel”). Their 2011 offering, Let it Roll, affirmed their statesmen status among their labelmates.

5. Sasquatch, Sasquatch (ss-044/2004)

I was pretty well convinced that when the L.A.-based Sasquatch released their self-titled debut in 2004, rock and roll was saved. Whoever it needed saving from, whatever needed to take place to make that happen, this record did it. Truth is, rock and roll didn’t really need to be saved — it needed a stiff drink, as we all do from time to time — but Sasquatch would’ve been right there even if it had. They’re a Small Stone original with all three of their records to date out through the label, and still one of the strongest acts in the American rock underground, even though they’d never be quite this fuzzy again.

6. Dozer, Through the Eyes of Heathens (ss-061/2005)

Even now, seven years later, I can’t look at this album cover without hearing the chorus to “The Roof, the River, the Revolver.” Between that and songs like “Man of Fire,” “Born a Legend” and “From Fire Fell,” Swedish rockers Dozer made their definitive statement in their label debut (fourth album overall). Another former Man’s Ruin band, they’d already begun to grow past their desert rock roots by the time they hooked up with Hamilton, and Through the Eyes of Heathens played out like what heavy metal should’ve turned into after the commercial atrocities of the late-’90s. A gorgeous record and still a joy to hear.

7. Greenleaf, Agents of Ahriman (ss-074/2007)

It’s like they built nearly every song on here out of undeniable choruses. Even the verses are catchy. I’ve championed Agents of Ahriman since before I started this site, and I feel no less vehement in doing so now than I did then. A side-project of Dozer guitarist Tommi Holappa that on this, their third album, included and featured members of Truckfighters, Lowrider, The Awesome Machine and others, Greenleaf became a distillation of many of the elements that make Swedish heavy rock unique in the world. It wasn’t aping classic rock, it was giving it a rebirth, and every Hammond note was an absolute triumph.

8. Iota, Tales (ss-084/2008)

Once, I had a t-shirt with the cover of Iota‘s Tales on the front. I wore it until it got holes, and then I bought another. That’s the kind of album Tales was. A trio crawled from out of Utah’s Great Salt Lake, Iota took Kyuss, launched them into space, and jammed out for five, 10 or 20 minutes to celebrate the success of the mission. Recently, guitarist/vocalist Joey Toscano has resurfaced in the bluesier, more earthbound Dwellers, which teams him with the rhythm section of SubRosa. Their debut, Good Morning Harakiri, was a highlight of early 2012, building on what Iota was able to accomplish here while pushing in a different direction.

9. Solace, A.D. (ss-093/2010)

It took the better part of a decade for the Jersey-bred metallers to finish what became their Small Stone debut after two full-lengths for MeteorCity, but when it finally dropped, there was no denying A.D.‘s power. My album of the year in 2010, the band delivered front to back on seven years’ worth of promise, and though it was recorded in more studios than I can count over a longer stretch than I think even Solace knows, it became a cohesive, challenging album, giving listeners a kick in the ass even as it handed them their next beer. I still get chills every time I put on “From Below,” and I put it on with near-embarrassing regularity.

10. Lo-Pan, Salvador (ss-116/2011)

If you know this site, this one’s probably a no-brainer pick, but the Columbus, Ohio-based riff merchants took on unabashed stoner rock fuzz for their Small Stone debut (third album overall) and made some of 2011′s most memorable songs in the process. Subversively varied in mood and heavy as hell no matter what they were doing, every part of Lo-Pan‘s Salvador worked. There was no lag. Small Stone also reissued the band’s 2009 outing, Sasquanaut, in 2011, but Salvador surpassed it entirely, bringing the band to new heights of professionalism they’d confirm by touring, well, perpetually. They’re still touring for it. You should go see them and behold the future of fuzz.

That’s the list as much as I could limit it. If you want to immediately add five more, throw in Roadsaw‘s self-titled (they’re writing the best songs of their career right now, I don’t care how attached to the early records you are), Puny Human‘s Universal Freak Out, Halfway to Gone‘s High Five, Milligram‘s This is Class War and Five Horse Johnson‘s Fat Black Pussycat. If you want to semi-immediately add five more than that, get the reissue of Acid King‘s Busse Woods, Mos Generator‘s Songs for Future Gods, The Brought Low‘s Third Record, Tummler‘s Early Man and Erik Larson‘s The Resounding. There. We just doubled the length of the list.

And the real trouble? I could go on. We didn’t even touch on curios like Axehandle, Lord Sterling and Brain Police, or The Might Could‘s Southern aggression, Hackman‘s instrumentalism or the druggy post-grunge of VALIS. Suffice it to say that Small Stone is one of very few labels out there from whom any output will at least be worth a cursory investigation. As the label continues to grow and develop in 2012 and beyond with new bands and new releases from its staple acts, taking on new avenues of commerce — like releasing vinyl for the first time, which it did in 2011 — whatever changes might crop up, Small Stone seems ready to meet the future, distortion pedal first. Can’t ask more of rock than that.

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