The chorus of the eponymous opener of Weed is Weed‘s self-released Blunt Force Trauma full-length debut sums up the band’s mentality neatly. It goes:
Weed is weed So plant the seed Oh yes indeed.
If there was ever any doubt about what weed is, let it be answered: Weed is most definitely weed. Weed is Weed culls together some of Maryland’s favorite sons of doom, fronted by Dave Sherman of Earthride himself with his former Spirit Caravan bandmate Gary Isom on lead guitar. Jason Fisher plays guitar, Darren Waters plays bass — though Mark Ammen (Unorthodox, Pentagram) and Johnny Kotsioukis (Wretched) both also play on the album, and Rob “Cougin” Brannigan (Wretched) plays drums. As you’d have to expect, the songs on Blunt Force Trauma are stoner rock to the end of each leaf, led by the riffs and Sherman‘s inimitable growl, but there’s a rough edge to the production that gives each piece a rawer feel, whether it’s the low-end boogie of “Low to No” or the later percussion/bass-driven “Goin’ Down to Harlem.”
So far as I can tell, the only track that has no mention of reefer is the sixth cut, “Eat Pussy,” which charmingly gets a PG-rated reworking as the unlisted bonus track “Eat Cookies” — “Eat them cookies when you come home from work/Eat them cookies don’t you be no jerk,” and so on, with an “Oooh, snickerdoodle” thrown in for good measure. This kind of tongue-in-cheek shenanigans is to be found all over Blunt Force Trauma– the album’s name itself turned into a pun thanks to the pot leaf on the cover — but between the mega-chug of the riffs, Sherman‘s vicious vocals, which harness some of his roughest growls to date, and Isom‘s how-did-this-dude-wind-up-playing-drums lead work, there’s more to be had throughout than inside jokes about pot. Though of course there are plenty of those as well.
Prior to that aforementioned bonus cut, the album proper rounds out with its title-track, which is plenty raucous enough even before the six minutes of noise and feedback round out its full 10:49 stretch, but if you’ve not yet climbed into Weed is Weed‘s smoke-filled van, you’re probably gonna have to get your fix somewhere else anyway. More downer crash and heavy THC-addled dirt ensue, which has more or less been the course of the album, though not without some sense of changing things up in terms of tempo if not overall method. It’s a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of affair. They didn’t call is Weed is Something Else, did they?
Certainly not. As the group has been together since 2005 in one shape or another and since Blunt Force Trauma just came out this year, I won’t dare speculate on the timing of a follow-up, but whether you look at Weed is Weed as a sidebar to Sherman‘s work in Earthride or as a bunch of dudes from Maryland who’ve probably known each other for ages getting together to riff out and have a good time, the band makes no pretense about being anything more than just that. You might have to work to get a copy (and by “work” I mean send them a message on Thee Facebooks), but for those who can’t get enough of the grittier side of Maryland doom, Weed is Weed will be as welcome as cookies after work.
Posted in audiObelisk on July 5th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
In listening to the long-in-the-making Passion Rift debut full-length from Frederick, Maryland, prog/doom instru-metallers Chowder (please note, that’s about as loose a genre designation as you can get), it was exceedingly hard to come up with one song that summarized the rest of the record. So, with the kind permission of guitarist Joshua Hart (also formerly of Unorthodox and Revelation and currently handling bass in Earthride), we’ll stream two.
We begin with “Insidious,” mostly because it appears first on the tracklist, but also because it’s shorter and starts with the sample of Fry from Futurama talking about his all-Rush mixtape. That Rush nod is apt, as Chowder soon embark on a surprisingly technical and intricate progressive instrumentalism. Thickened up with doom’s tonality, Passion Rift nonetheless makes no sacrifice of clarity, as bassist Doug Williams (also electric cello) and drummer Chad Rush join Hart, who also handles 12-string, mellotron, synth and theremin throughout the album.
“Custody” is longer and by its nature more spacious, but still not as far into ambience as Chowder go on tracks like “Mazuku” and “Mysterioid.” Beginning with a sample from what I’m pretty sure is the 1982 Conan: The Barbarian movie, the track gives some idea as to the band’s overall scope, setting prog complexity against hardcore rhythms and still coming across memorably in the process. As widely varied as Passion Rift is, it’s also remarkably cohesive, residing in a similar sphere as fellow Marylanders Admiral Browning, but perhaps even more given to its technical side.
Check out “Insidious” and “Custody” on the player below and please enjoy:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
Chowder‘s Passion Rift is the follow-up to 2007′s self-titled EP and is available now through I, Voidhanger Records. For more info on the band and to read John Brenner from Revelation/Against Nature‘s bio, check out the label’s artist page. Special thanks to Hart for letting me host these tracks.
I alluded to it the other day in the third SHoD post, but wanted to save the details for this. To briefly recap: I got to Krug’s early Sunday for the third day of Stoner Hands of Doom XI in Frederick, Maryland, and having an hour to kill, decided to go record shopping. Not the first time in my life I’ve made that decision.
Using my magic cellophone, I got directions to CD/Game Exchange on N. Market St., and while on my way there, passed a sign on E. Patrick with Rock & Roll Graveyard printed on it. With hopes that it wasn’t some shitty irono-fashion boutique with $50 torn up Iron Maiden t-shirts on sale for dumb hipster girls who’ve never heard Killers, I nonetheless parked my car and decided to investigate.
A fucking treasure trove, this place was. If I bought vinyl — which I don’t — I wouldn’t have gotten out of there without putting down at least $100, but as it was, I spent only one-tenth of that (or $10) and still got a host of goodies for the effort. From a brief perusal of the CD bin, it was apparent that the owner, whose name is Chris Wolfe, knows his heavy. There was a lot I already had, but I did manage to find the SPV digipak reissue of the self-titled album from Uriah Heep offshoot Weed. It’s another one of those lost heavy ’70s classics that five people in the world preach like gospel and no one else has ever heard of, but man, it’s a pretty killer record. A bit all over the place, but when it locks in, it locks in hard. Dig it.
So that accounts for $5 of the total $10 I blew. The next $4 went to Black Sabbath tapes. Yes, plural. I spent $4 and got four tapes: Master of Reality, Vol. 4, Sabotage and Heaven and Hell. At a buck each, I couldn’t really ask for more. The only one I haven’t played is Vol. 4, because it would require clever fast-forwarding to get past “Changes,” but it was awesome to hear the little differences in the sound on Master of Reality, or the live version of “Sweet Leaf” tacked onto Sabotage — and Heaven and Hell, well, I’ll pretty much take that record on any format I can get it. An all-time favorite for one measly dollar, no way I was leaving that.
Wolfe, who also plays bass in Fat Chick Meat Haul, is a genuine record hoarder and has had the store open for about three months. Most everything he was selling came from his personal collection, and that included the tapes and the lime green 8-track edition of Jethro Tull‘s Aqualung that accounts for the last of the $10 I spent at Rock & Roll Graveyard. Yeah, the tape’s ripped, but what the hell do I care? Jeebus save me, it’s Aqualung on 8-track! I don’t have a player anyway — for a buck, I’m happy just to look at the damn thing and sing “Wind-Up” to myself.
The best part? Well, all this stuff was pretty great, especially for the price, but the best part came in talking to Wolfe about old records and heavy rock and whatever else. He told me about an album from a band called Tin House he’d picked up not too long ago, and when I said it sounded cool (because it did), he went ahead and burned me a copy, right there on the spot, free of charge. And he was right, it’s rightout proto-proggy heavy blues, from the Beatles “oooh-la-la-la” on “30 Weight Blues” to the driving lead of “Silver Star” and the string arrangements on “Lady of the Silent Opera.” I think I might dig it more even than the Weed record.
I don’t know when I’ll be back in Frederick again, but whenever it is, you can bet your ass I’ll be checking in on Rock & Roll Graveyard. Until then, I’ve got the Sabbath tapes in my car, the Tull on my office shelf, and the Weed ready to go. I never made it to CD/Game Exchange, but finding a shop of the niche caliber I did, I’m hardly crying over it.
Posted in Features on August 15th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
It was early when I pulled into the parking lot of the strip mall that houses Krug’s — around 1PM for a show that wouldn’t start for another hour. I nonetheless made my way inside, mostly to see if there had been any obvious schedule changes or anything like that, and on the way, passed the front door of the Baptist church next door, only to hear the songs and testimony happening inside. I stood there for a minute and listened. Seemed pretty exciting. Since stuff like SHoD is about as close as I get to religion, I felt like I could relate to all the yelling and singing. I’m pretty sure what I witnessed the crowd doing during Earthride‘s set last night counts as “testifying.”
Being early today, I decided rather than sit there by myself for the extra hour, I was going CD shopping. On my way to CD and Game Exchange in downtown Frederick — which is charming in the way that white people find expensive boutiques and wine bars charming — I passed a sign that read “Rock and Roll Graveyard” on E. Patrick St., and immediately parked my car in the next spot I could find. More to come on that later, but I’ll spill it now that it was a pleasurable way to pass that time. Here are the notes from when I got back to Krug’s Place:
Heavy Burner: I don’t know if the 2PM start time was to allow church to get out or what, but the last day of SHoD XI got off to a strong start with this Virginian trio. They were definitely of the scene, but the bass had thick fuzz to it that approached — especially in a couple jammed out parts which were complemented by subdued vocals — the Colour Haze-style low end I’ve been bemoaning the complete lack of in the American scene. Of course, the fact that Chris Kozlowski of Polar Bear Lair Studio had been handling sound for the whole weekend might have had something to do with it too. Everyone’s bass sounded good. The guy recorded the last Blue Cheer album! Of course the bass sounds good. Nonetheless, Heavy Burner had a good balance between jams and structure, and though I’m not sure it would be on a recording what it was live, I was disappointed they didn’t have CDs yet. In progress, reportedly.
Fire Faithful: First heard these guys when I reviewed their split with the revitalized Lord, and they were heavy Southern riff metal both then and now. More doom than stoner hands, but still definitely a Maryland band. Some harsh vocals from Brandon Malone reminded me of Alabama Thunderpussy‘s more metallic moments, set to some Pepper Keenan riffs, and it was a good fit. They brought their female companions (two of them, anyway) on stage to provide backing vocals on a song called “A Devil in London” that I had to strain to hear, but the song was catchy anyway, and they were clearly looking to impress whoever showed up early, even going so far as to break out their Orange cabinets instead of using the house Mesas. Growth to be had, but they fit right in.
Acid Queen: Were not at all what I expected. Totally thought they were going to be a super-fuzzed out stoner doom band, you know, like friggin’ Acid King. No dice. A four-piece hailing right from Frederick, they were entirely instrumental and played a thrash/NWOBHM hybrid that’s bound to go over well at the Defenders of the Old fest the bassist — who seemed to be in charge, or at very least was the one who had a mic for saying thanks — said they were playing with their original lineup. SHoD was also their last show with their current drummer, so there seemed to be a bit of upheaval in the band. On the most basic song level, their material sounded like it would benefit from a singer, so it wasn’t necessarily a surprise to find out they had one at some point. Whatever else happens, I hope they hold onto their young lead guitarist. Kid was a ripper.
Earthling: Following Jake from Valkyrie‘s recommendation yesterday, I was legitimately excited to check these guys out. They played a crusty Virginian blackthrash that sounded like their dads locked them in a closet with nothing for sustenance but what they could get from Motörhead, Darkthrone and Venom records — and if that’s the case, kudos to pops for raising them up right. They too were young, and pummeling. They had a couple slower parts and enough groove to keep the doom heads into it, but were coming from somewhere else entirely. Super heavy, and with the kind of urgency that can only come from a total lack of self-consciousness. Punk rock arrogance as filtered through thrashing fuckall and tectonic tonality. If they lived in Brooklyn, they’d be playing museums.
Demonaut: It was about time someone covered “Supernaut.” If you think about it, it was bound to happen. Demonaut stepped up to the plate for all of us, and with their two basses and lead guitar cutting through, they did the massive low-end heaviness of Master of Reality justice. Not a compliment easily earned: it did take them two bassists to do it. Between the two four strings and the three vocals (both bassists and the guitarist), Demonaut had a lot going on, but none of that was enough to distract me from the fact that drummer Dwayne had the deepest snare of the weekend, which he bought from a Texan high school marching band on eBay. Thing sounded huge, and where the lone guitar might have otherwise had a hard time standing up to the noise surrounding, a White Matamp and Rectifier labeled “Boogie” did the job quite nicely.
Wrath of Typhon: I was getting tired by the time they went on, and they had some radio-voice DJ from a Pennsylvanian metal show in a Fear Factory hat introduce them. The guy thanked everyone for coming out for the whole weekend, and yet I hadn’t seen him either Friday or Saturday, or even earlier this afternoon. Yeah, thanks for coming out. Anyway, soured though I was, Wrath of Typhon‘s upbeat semi-trad metal pulled a good response as the afternoon began to transition to the evening, but Cough had just shown up and a bunch of people went outside to hang out by their van, so that cut attendance inside somewhat. I went to my car and placed a call to The Patient Mrs. before going back in to catch the end of their set. They brought up a hooded Sickie Wifebeater, who’d been sitting behind the cabinets the whole time, for a song, and then the SHoDmaster himself, Rob Levey, took the stage for the second time of the weekend to lead vocal for an “Electric Funeral” cover. Two Sabbath covers right in a row. Someone really should’ve put in dibs beforehand. All the same, it was a rousing rendition of the song.
Nagato: Probably the most pleasant surprise of the day. They had also played SHoD X back in 2009, but I missed them then. More the fool I, because the West Virginian two-guitar four-piece played an unassuming kind of rock that was a reminder of how much a band can accomplish when they set out to be heavy in mood and not just volume. Nagato were easily the most subdued act of the day, and since Against Nature played Friday night, but there was no dip in heaviness or power in terms of the effect on the crowd. Their dark fuzz blues seemed an odd fit at first, ultimately showing what a guitarist can do when making the most of the mystic side of Orange reverb, and the songs were psychedelic not so much in swirls or overarching echo, but if you closed your eyes, the music wanted to take you somewhere. Exhausted as I was, I hadn’t expected to be blown away, but I was. They were a joy to watch, and it was a letdown that they didn’t have any music for sale. I’d have bought everything.
Cough: Death by volume. Quite a contrast coming off Nagato, and even before they went on, I was counting down the minutes until I could justify to myself getting in the car and starting the drive back to Jersey. They also looked like they were counting the minutes, and in the case of drummer Joseph Arcaro — who was the hardest-hitting percussionist of the weekend, hands down — it felt like minutes between each slamming of the toms toward the end of “Ritual Abuse.” Cough played two songs that I could discern, and I was surprised they didn’t have more of a crowd than they did, as they seem sonically to have transcended this scene and moved onto the touring market, but they were loud as fuck and doomed likewise, and they thanked Rob and Cheryl for doing another SHoD and plugged Lord‘s upcoming set, so rockstar assholes they weren’t. That’s more than you get from some returning heroes. Part of me had been hoping that, in the wake of Hour of 13‘s last-minute cancellation, that Cough would move into the headliner spot and Lord would play earlier, so I could leave sooner and start the trip north, but I was glad to have seen Cough without the hipster audience baggage they might otherwise be surrounded by.
Lord: And then it happened. The first song they played was typified by the chorus line “The wait is over,” and when Lord finally got going, that’s exactly how I felt. I basically stuck around today and tonight as long as I did just to see Lord. Everything else was gravy. I’ve been a fan of this band since 2005/2006, and I was stoked to learn they had gotten back together and started going again in the wake of Ol’ Scratch‘s demise. They were ridiculous in how heavy they were. I dug the hell out of it, I really did. I wish we could get bands like this up here. I wish people up here gave a shit. Fuck ‘em. I’ve driven four hours for a set like that before and I’m sure I’ll do it again. I didn’t stay the whole time, though — that was never the plan — but I did score a copy of their new record, which I’ll be reviewing in the coming weeks, once I manage to get my head around it. If the songs I saw them play at SHoD were any indicator, that might take a while. Heavier, louder, meaner. Lord is righteousness personified. I was ready to raise my hand up like the Baptists next door and give praise.
The ride back up, I nailed. I missed Backwoods Payback and Weed is Weed, but got back here just before 2AM (right around when I’d probably get to the hotel if I’d stayed at the show), and it’s 3:30 now. I listened to Tin House and Weed and then did a Sabbath trio of Sabotage, Heaven and Hell and Master of Reality, and by the time that was done, I’d arrived. I love driving when no one else is on the road. It was raining, and I don’t know how many 18 wheelers saw me pumping my fist to “Lady Evil” or “Children of the Grave,” but who gives a shit? I live for days like today, for weekends like this one. Much thanks to Rob and Cheryl Levey and Krug’s Place for their hospitality, to Ken-E Bones, Joe Wood and Andrew Jude Riotto, George Pierro, Jason Clemins, Kyle from Rochester, Tim Otis, Jake Adams, Fez McGinnis and everyone else down there for making Stoner Hands of Doom XI such a special experience for me and everyone else who was lucky enough to see it. Here’s to keeping doom doomed.
Posted in Features on August 13th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Taking the day off work to get down here in time was the right choice. I sat in traffic on I-83 for long enough that, had I put in even the most temporary, in-and-out-type appearance at the office, I’d have been late. And the south side was just rubbernecking. There was an overturned 18-wheeler that had spilled whatever it was carrying on the northbound side, and it was closed off. They were redirecting traffic through wherever the hell it was, and it added an hour onto my trip, easy, but it could’ve been much worse. I could have been driving that truck.
Because it’s already two in the morning, and because I’m tired, and because there’s a lot to get to, I’m going to cover Stoner Hands of Doom XI in note form. That seems like the most direct line between point A (the show) and point B (the coverage). Tomorrow, pending sobriety and/or the requisite energy — both of which are in short supply at the moment — I might decide to do something completely different. I reserve that right. For now, here goes:
Borracho: After the ride down from NJ and the arrival at the Days Inn where I’m staying, I opened up the bottle of wine I brought with me, turned on the stream of the Yankees radio broadcast and tried to relax a bit before heading back out over to Krug’s Place. Needless to say, the “fuck it” demons were out in full force, but not missing Borracho was a big part of what got me off my ass and back in the car over to the venue. Really. They were even better tonight than they were with Truckfighters, and they basically started their set with the soundcheck. I guess it was kind of a stutter way to kick off the fest, but once they got going, they were locked in for sure. They still need to tighten up their presentation, but already they were too good for the early-showing crowd that caught them. I felt fortunate to be in that number.
Ancient Astronaught: I didn’t realize it until I talked with guitarist/vocalist Skipper (who identified himself as such) following their performance, but all three members of the Fairfax, Virginia, three-piece are formerly of Ol’ Scratch. Skipper was in the band in 2008 and toured with them, and some of the lessons he learned in that now-defunct outfit he’s obviously brought to Ancient Astronaught — most pivotally in tone. Theirs was the first of several truly sick Sunn tones throughout the night, and though their songs were basically vehicles for conveying riffs and shouts and the occasional bit of stonerdelia, I’ve zero complaints with that. They were loud as hell and I dug it as one of several instances tonight in which my earplugs were rendered useless.
Against Nature: They’re another one. Speaking of Sunn amps, Against Nature guitarist/vocalist John Brenner played pedal-less (quite a contrast to Skipper‘s setup during Ancient Astonaught; his pedal board literally lit up) through a Sunn Beta Lead, and it was one of the most gorgeous tones of the night. Bassist Bert Hall, Jr., also won out on the night’s best bass sound, as it was crisp and clear, but still full and totally fuzzed. Having been a fan of Against Nature‘s work for so long from the albums, it was excellent to finally see them live. The laid back air Brenner brings to the recordings was still intact, but they definitely had a vibrancy to their set as well. Killer to get some classic rock on the SHoD bill. I spent their whole set thinking about how much ass a tour of them and Stone Axe would kick.
Windhand: I’d seen their name forever, and they had the drummer from Facedowninshit (he might also be in The Might Could — and where the hell, might I ask, are those guys this weekend?), so I was excited to finally see Windhand in-person, and they didn’t disappoint. They laid it on thick and viscous with Electric Wizard-style riffing, and that was enjoyable enough, but their considerable noise element only made the whole affair heavier. Strange to have that kind of noise following Against Nature, but it worked. It was that kind of bill, and the people who were there were more than willing to go along for the ride. They were a lot of fun, and I tried to acquire a CD, asking both vocalist Dorothea Cottrell and guitarist Garrett Morris, to no avail. The Richmond outfit continue to elude me, but they killed.
Apostle of Solitude: Here’s who I was at the show. I was the guy who, as Apostle of Solitude — now featuring Devil to Pay axeman Steve Janiak on second guitar/vocals alongside bassist “Iron” Bob Fouts, drummer Corey Webbb and guitarist/vocalist Chuck Brown — was setting up, yelled out “Celtic Frost!” I have zero regrets at having done so, especially since they wound up closing with “Procreation of the Wicked.” They played one or two new songs before getting there (I seem to recall one was called “Good Riddance” or something like that), and were generally awesome. I’d seen them in NYC a while back and they were good enough at that time for me to buy not one, but two, t-shirts, both of which I still wear on the regular. If they’d had a third to go with their SHoD set, I’d totally have picked it up. Their split CD with The Flight of Sleipnir and Rituals of the Oak would have to suffice, and as I’m sitting here in survival testimony, indeed it did.
Negative Reaction was supposed to headline tonight in place of The Gates of Slumber (Lord, also listed on the poster above, will play Sunday), but fest organizer Rob Levey got on stage as Apostle of Solitude were finishing what would have been their regular set to announce that a member of the band had an immediate medical emergency. Guitarist/vocalist Ken-E Bones and drummer John “Old” MacDonald were hanging out in the Krug’s parking lot, so pretty safe to assume it was bassist Damon who had the trouble. They’ll hopefully be able to round out the bill tomorrow.