Posted in Whathaveyou on October 17th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Three quick years since Berlin heavy psych progressives Samsara Blues Experiment made their most expansive statement to-date with their third album, Waiting for the Flood (review here). That record, which was hands down one of that year’s best, found them traveling Stateside for the first time since they were a demo band, playing a slot at Psycho California in 2015. There was a minute there where I thought that trip was the end of them. After transitioning from a four-piece to a trio already, they seemed to take a break after returning to Germany as guitarist/vocalist Chris Peters focused on solo work and bassist Hans Eiselt turned his attention more to producing.
Good news is they’re not, in fact, done. In addition to being confirmed last week for Desertfest London 2017 (info here), Samsara Blues Experiment have a fourth album in progress now. They’ll also be playing a hometown gig at the end of next month — their only show for 2016 — alongside Muddy Orchid, who are about to release a new single.
I’d guess the timeline on the new full-length will put it somewhere around that Desertfest appearance, but in addition to noting that the band isn’t going to sign with “a metal label” — I’m assuming that means Napalm Records or Century Media, both based in Germany — there’s nothing actually confirmed for a date. Peters, meanwhile, will have a follow-up solo effort as well to this year’s The Hermit (review here), which came out on his own Electric Magic Records imprint.
And now that I’ve just told you everything they’re about to tell you, here’s them telling you:
Samsara Blues Experiment have almost finished writing songs for the 4th album.
We will present all of these five new tracks live for the first time at our November show in Berlin. The release of the album can be expected in around next Spring.
And: We have not, neither will we sign with a Metal label.
Chris a.k.a. Surya Kris Peters has also finished recording a follow-up to his solo debut LP “The Hermit”, which shall be released in very early 2017 on Electric Magic Records.
Recently there´s also been a collaboration with a friend band of ours, which is Muddy Orchid (feat. first SBE-drummer Robin Niehoff). Chris put down some Slide Guitar and Sitar on their new and coming 7″ record, which shall be released in late November 2016.
First string of shows for next year will be announced over the coming weeks as well. One of the very first is Desertfest London!
Posted in Reviews on October 13th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
If you want to check Lo Sound Desert‘s credentials as a labor of love, look no further than the fact that it exists. Directed and produced by Berlin-based filmmaker Jörg Steineck, it is the result of a full decade’s labors and not one, but two crowdfunding campaigns, and through a wide swath of interviews, archival footage, old photos and stories, it undertakes an ambitious exploration of what it is about the area outside of Los Angeles that led to the birth of desert rock.
Steineck, who splits the film into two smaller chapters — titled “Backyard Rebellion” and “The Outskirts of Town” — should be remembered from his work on the 2011 documentary Fuzzomentary: A Film About a Band Called Truckfighters (review here). He speaks with figures and figureheads out of the scene that sprang up from punk teens in the 1980s and paints a general portrait of what we now call desert rock as the result of some of the same impulses that gave birth elsewhere to grunge and alt rock, or for that matter to punk itself: bored kids with energy to spend, looking to spend it.
Appropriately, the first voice we hear is Brant Bjork. The former Kyuss and Fu Manchu drummer and head of his own Low Desert Punk Band sets us underway with a discussion of the landscape, but it’s not long before Lo Sound Desert digs its heels into the music itself, which becomes the clear center of attention throughout. Along the way, we hear extensively from the likes of Throw Rag‘s Sean Wheeler, guitarist/vocalist Mike Moracha and bassist/vocalist Nick Nava of Hornss, who trace their roots back to desert outfit Solarfeast, Zach Huskey and Joe Dillon of Dali’s Llama, Scott Reeder (we even get to see his chihuahua, Scooter, in a couple shots), Nick Oliveri, Mario Lalli — who, it seems to be unanimously agreed, started the whole thing — as well as members of acts like Unsound, Nebula, You Know Who, House of Broken Promises, Slo Burn, Half Astro, and so on.
There are a few conspicuous absences — Yawning Man is discussed but Gary Arce never appears, and neither John Garcia nor Chris Goss are there to participate in the discussion of Kyuss — but an interview with Josh Homme (footage from which also appeared in the Fuzzomentary) produces some choice one-liners, and by no means is Lo Sound Desert light when it comes to story.
Rather, it seems the central challenge of the film, perhaps apart from making it actually happen, is that it’s trying to encompass 30 years of rock and roll history into one 90-minute spread. Many of these players could fill that time just with their own story. Certainly Lalli, whose time as a club owner, show-organizer and restaurateur in addition to playing with Across the River, Fatso Jetson, the Sort of Quartet and Yawning Man, is touched upon, but could fill out a feature-length documentary by himself.
And Homme, Bjork, Huskey, Reeder are also fodder for further exploration. Hell, you could do 120 minutes on Kyuss getting signed to Elektra — something touched on, somewhat humorously — and still have enough left over for bonus footage, though for what it’s worth, Lo Sound Desert offers plenty of that as well; about an hour front-to-back divided into smaller clips.
So one imagines that Steineck‘s principal task as sorting all those stories of playing in garages, working shitty jobs — Moracha and Nava win in that regard; I won’t spoil it — finding spaces out in the desert beyond the reach of law enforcement, opening and closing clubs and the rest into a cohesive, linear story. He gives the film the full title, Lo Sound Desert: Two Chapters on Rock Music by Jörg Steineck. Yes, it could easily be eight chapters, or 10, but Steineck‘s success in bringing form to the amorphous life experiences of these players and characters is undeniable.
After an initial inhale giving background on the setting around Palm Springs, Palm Desert and the small towns surrounding, he moves quickly through the evolution of sound that took place through the ’80s and ’90s and which continues today both in the output of desert-based bands and heavy rockers worldwide taking influence from them. The stories told entertain, the music is brash and rough and formative and suitably romantic for that, and while the audience to which Steineck is speaking is expected to have some knowledge of the genre, he does well to balance broad overview and deep-dive personal narrative in such a way as to provide an engaging experience for newcomers as well as longtime converts.
Some interviews lean more toward performance than others, and sometimes it feels like there’s simply too much tale to tell, but through clever editing and interludes, Steineck provides a steady hand to guide the viewer through this barrage of tales of playing out in the middle of nowhere, underage drinking and partying, skateboarding and trying to define what happened in the desert that made desert rock different from grunge or anything else happening at the time.
Several of the answers to that question are practical. Desert rockers tuned lower, allowing for a meatier sound than the post-punk that emerged in the same era elsewhere, but it’s Lalli who ultimately nails the core difference in a bonus feature discussion of what is stoner rock when he says it’s about the jam. Principally, we find out that the freedom provided to these bands via the landscape, via playing outside — the second chapter here centers largely on generator parties and their effect on emerging acts like Kyuss and Fatso Jetson, Yawning Man, etc. — and via an utter lack of expectation on the part of their audience allowed for a freeform approach to essentially recast punk rock in their own image.
That era may have been short-lived, just a couple years, but its effects are broad reaching, as an included family tree of bands in the DVD liner and as the interviews included show. While Steineck joins Huskey and Wheeler and Reeder in looking around at what the desert was and the creative community that flourished there seemingly unaware of the odds it was working against, he also brings a look at the continued vitality of the scene in footage captured from the 2011 Desert Moon Ranch fest, at which Wheeler, Waxy, Fatso Jetson, You Know Who, Hornss, House of Broken Promises, Dali’s Llama and more played.
Though the conversation inevitably doesn’t go as in-depth as that of the history behind these acts and their influence/influences, it does give an opportunity to glimpse modern desert rock as a mature, varied sound that has continued to thrive across a span of years that has seen competing styles like grunge rise perhaps to greater heights of commercial success, but likewise dissipate wholesale. Like the land itself, desert rock has worked on a longer timeline. So be it.
Later on, nods to Homme‘s work as ambassador for the scene and sound in Queens of the Stone Age is acknowledged, and we get to see footage of Fatso Jetson in Germany at Stoned from the Underground, while backstage, guitarist Dino von Lalli (also of BigPig; son to Mario) discusses the rise of a new generation of rockers out in the vast nowhere, working out the same energy as their forebears, perhaps more extreme in style but recognizable in their restlessness for sure. That conversation leaves room for the summary of what “desert rock,” as an idea, ultimately means.
Opinions, as one might expect, vary — but as Lo Sound Desert has made plain by then, that variety is half the point. As much as heavy rock and roll worldwide has taken on genre characteristics over particularly the last two decades in the wake of Kyuss‘ relatively widespread influence, the roots from which this particular branch of it grew seem only to have benefited from the huge sky and open land surrounding.
I don’t know if it’s fair to expect more chapters in Steineck‘s narrative, since Lo Sound Desert itself was such an undertaking. There’s room certainly to ask about what could’ve been in a post-grunge commercial movement for desert rock, which some might argue was attempted and ultimately floundered outside perhaps of Queens of the Stone Age, but among shorter clips of driving through canyons, band rehearsals, technical issues at the Desert Moon Ranch fest, etc., the bonus features also include a fascinating and much needed reflection on what is “stoner rock” and what the difference between that and desert rock might be.
This question, which plainly irks Nebula even in the asking, is core to the feature and if Steineck were ever to engage the larger issue of how the sound translated from the Californian desert into the worldwide underground phenomenon it has become, would be all the more necessary, but even as it’s presented here, it’s one more insight that allows these players a voice they’ve long since deserved to discuss their work and the context of the history it has made and is still making.
In its pace, balance, editing and the clear passion as its driving force, Lo Sound Desert holds a mirror up to one of rock’s most crucial movements of the last 30 years and allows it to speak for itself at last, unfiltered and as raw as a speaker cone with sand blown in it. It should be considered essential viewing, whatever one thinks they already know of its story.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 10th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Even as Europe — yes, the entire frickin’ continent — reels from an autumn filled with successive weekend festivals, the next season begins. Germany-based Freak Valley has put its early-bird tickets on sale for Freak Valley 2017, which will be held June 15 through June 17 in Siegen, and as I understand it, they’ve already blown through the lot of them. At very least the ones they were selling at the Brutus and Godsleep show this weekend, also in Siegen. And the ones they subsequently put up for sale online? Apparently they sold twice as many as they’d planned to sell, so it seems safe to say that Freak Valley 2017 is off to a good start.
Fair enough. Would be hard not to trust the taste of Jens Heide and company at this point not to deliver a rock-solid lineup of heavy in its various incarnations and permutations. For example, just before tickets went on sale, they posted the first band added to the lineup, and of course it’s a monster. From Italy. Named Ufomammut.
If you’ve never seen Ufomammut — and you probably have, because I know you’re down, but just go with me on this — it’s one of life’s great joys. Here’s the first of many announcements from Freak Valley 2017 that I expect to come over the next eight months, probably one at a time, just like this year:
°!° First Band Announcement & Early Bird Tickets °!°
Here we go! Please welcome Italy’s psychedelic metal heavyweights UFOMAMMUT !!
UFOMAMMUT is a power trio formed in 1999 in Italy by Poia, Urlo and Vita, worldwide recognized as the creator of a unique brand of psychedelic sludge. With long songs, droning vocals and massive effects the band combines a monumental riffing attitude with the psychedelia of the more visionary Pink Floyd. UFOMAMMUT’s status as one of the most potent, powerful and artistic contemporary doom artists in existence, continues to captivate the masses, and the band’s worldwide grasp grows wider with each release.
Ufomammut’s live show is supported by the internationally acclaimed video and graphic art of Malleus ROCK ART LAB, a rock artists’ collective who conjure the entirety of Ufomammut’s visual impact.
Posted in Reviews on October 5th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Today we hit the halfway mark on the Fall 2016 Quarterly Review. Always an occasion worthy of song — or, you know, another batch of 10 records — which happens to be precisely the plan. We pick up much where we left off yesterday in working across a broad spectrum of heavy, and though there are some major releases in here as seems to be the case increasingly, please make sure to note some of the deeper underground stuff as well, whether it’s Hands I Annul Yours or Astral Cult, as nothing here is included by mistake. Some of this I’m late on, some of it isn’t out yet, but all of it is pretty current, so if there’s something here you’ve missed, bigger name or smaller, I hope you get some use out of the lot of it. Here goes.
Quarterly Review #21-30:
Blues Pills, Lady in Gold
Blues Pills – like their Nuclear Blast labelmates in Witchcraft, Graveyard and Kadavar before them – have modernized. Their second album behind what became a landmark self-titled debut (review here) in 2014, Lady in Gold arrives with a slick production casting off the vintage vibes while holding onto classic sensibility and rightfully continuing to feature the soulfulness of vocalist Elin Larsson, joined in the band by guitarist Dorian Sorriaux, bassist Zack Anderson (ex-Radio Moscow) and drummer André Kvarnström (ex-Truckfighters). Its 10 tracks/40 minutes are unmistakably pop in their construction, and deftly, complexly arranged, and play to an alternative vision of commercial accessibility in rock that I’m not sure exists anymore even in Europe. Or needs to for an album like Lady in Gold to be successful. As they weave into and out of gospel and R&B conventions, Blues Pills take a bold step away from what one might have expected coming off their debut and ultimately define themselves precisely through that boldness. Whether that works for them in the longer term will have to remain to be seen. For now, Lady in Gold can be jarring at first, but one would be hard pressed to come up with something else out there that sounds quite like it.
Los Angeles three-piece Arctic make their entry into Southern California’s crowded sphere of heavy/psychedelic rock with their self-titled debut on Outer Battery Records. To call them skate rock seems fair enough, since guitarist Justin “Figgy” Figueroa (also Harsh Toke), bassist Don “The Nuge” Nguyen and drummer Frex are all professional skateboarders, but the core of Arctic’s five-track/half-hour-flat runtime is in mixing classic stoner impulses with heavy psych jamming. Most of the record is instrumental, including 8:51 opener and longest track (immediate points) “Over Smoked,” but vocals pop up to surprise on centerpiece “Burnt Ice” and return again in form drawled enough to justify their having called the nodding closer “High” as they do. At very least they make it believable. Between the dankness throughout, the guitar-led fuzz boogie of “Cryptic Black Sun,” the natural vibes, the Arik Roper cover art and the utter lack of pretense, Arctic summarize much of the appeal of the West Coast’s current heavy movement, and so, should have no trouble continuing to make their name as part of it.
Three new tracks from Poland’s Major Kong is nothing to complain about. The Lublin trio have been not-at-all-quietly stomping out quality riffs for more than half a decade now, and with “Energy Whip,” “Escape from the Holodeck” and “Pollution Halo,” the instrumentalists are in and out of Brave New Kong in under 14 minutes, working quickly and efficiently with a crisp but still thick production that pulls away from some of the focus on crush from late last year’s Galactic Cannibalism EP (review here). That may well be the Brave New Kong to which the title refers, or it’s entirely possible they’re just having fun with their own moniker – subsequent offerings will tell the tale – but Major Kong continue to be a well-kept secret for Poland’s fertile heavy underground, and if nothing else, they sound like a group due for a third full-length album, which will hopefully arrive sooner than later.
One could make the argument that given the swath of cultural icons passed away, 2016 is the Year of Death to which Hands I Annul Yours are alluding to in the title of their latest Major Destroyer Records three-song tape, but aside from the fact that they specify it was 2013, one seriously doubts they give a shit about famous people dying. Beginning with the drone and feedback noise of “Year of Death Part I,” the cassette moves into a 19-minute stomp and crush that’s as misanthropic as it is weighted, and much as there is one, the prevailing sentiment is less reflecting on loss than it is rolling out claustrophobic heft. Fair enough. Following the tape-only “Verloren,” “Year of Death Part II” boasts more sample manipulation and a discernible lead from the guitar, but finds its way toward abrasion as well, rounding out Year of Death with a dissolution into feedback that would seem to bring it full circle.
Fortunately, the fact that Storm Ross named the opening track of Welcome, Sunshine “We Need to be Fugazi Now, More than Ever” is only the start of the 37-minute/10-track LP’s experimentalist charms. The follow-up to the Michigan-based guitarist’s 2014 return full-length, The Green Realm (review here), this new collection finds Ross himself once again making his way through soundscapes manic and pastoral with like ease, and as one piece feeds into the next on “Please Don’t Kill My Family” and “Benzie County Farm Fire, 1973” or the synth-infused, tech-shredding “Atheon” fading into the penultimate post-rock drift of “The Smiler” later (think Dylan Carlson solo gone sentimental for the West, plus a late uptick of noise), the sense of Welcome, Sunshine as a whole work is even more palpable than was the last outing, even as Ross jumps from one style to another or incorporates keys, percussion, etc., following various whims toward a universally progressive payoff. Limited to 300 copies on yellow vinyl or on cassette through Already Dead Tapes and Records.
Virginian doomers Sinister Haze follow-up their 2015 debut EP, Betrayed by Time (review here), with the raw and scummed up Laid Low in the Dust of Death LP on STB Records. Recorded by Chad Davis (Hour of 13), it’s their first outing to feature Naam’s Eli Pizzuto on drums, and they do trip out a bit on guitar, but if you’re thinking slow space rock here you’ve got the wrong picture. Guitarist/vocalist Brandon Marcey (ex-Cough) and bassist/vocalist Sam Marsh lead the charge – the low-end is particularly satisfying in its roll throughout – and fellow newcomer JK (Lost Tribe) adds to the mix as well, so the spirit of Laid Low in the Dust of Death is bare-bones and classic, but positively covered in its titular dust. And maybe one or two other kinds. Six tracks split easily onto two sides, Sinister Haze’s first full-length outing comes across as a reaction against cleanliness in doom – call it gutter doom – flowing in its 12-minute closer “A Buried Dream,” but still clearly from the gut.
The flute-laden heavy rock with which Denver’s Love Gang open their debut EP might stand among the best outcomes of Colorado’s marijuana legalization. A four-piece with a full sound only enhanced by the organ/woodwind work of Leo Muñoz, Love Gang self-release their first outing as four tracks that sap classic prog of its pretense and offer ‘70s heavy chemistry without leaning on vintage production. Guitarist/vocalist Kam Wentwork, bassist Grady O’Donnell and drummer Shaun Goodwin, together with Muñoz, get down to business on “Can’t Seem to Win” and the instrumental “Lonely Man,” go bluesy on “Highway” and boogie to a finish in “Sands of Time,” all the while sounding ready in their songcraft and execution for whatever label might come calling to stand behind their work. It’ll be somebody. Some bands take time to develop into their own sound, and some break the doors down out of the gate. Love Gang are the latter. Whenever they get around to a first full-length, I hope they remember to weird out a little bit.
Though five of the eight tracks on Nap’s debut, Villa, have words at one point or another, it’s probably still fair to note the psych-inflected German trio as a mostly-instrumental outfit. The lyrics, when they’re there, arrive in short verses, lines included it seems more to create the impression of a human presence rather than affirm a structure. They are vague in theme for the most part, but there, though there isn’t a song in the bunch that goes as far as a chorus. No complaints. Nap, as a project, feel much more given toward the spacious and atmospheric exploration one finds in the midsection of second cut “Sabacia” than the four or five lines in the driving riff subsequent. As the record plays out, they incorporate elements of surf – surprisingly more on “Duna” and closer “Autobahn” than “Xurf,” but it could also be a Yawning Man influence surfacing – resulting in an overarching progressive feel that serves their fluidity on this first album.
Heavy rocking Buenos Aires three-piece Manthrass issued their debut, Blues del Destino, last year and were subsequently snagged for release through South American Sludge Records, no doubt for the record’s cohesive, hard-driving bluesy push, natural tones and easy-grooving feel. The shuffle of “Una Flor” is a highlight, but neither will you find me arguing with the Pappo’s Blues cover “El Brujo y el Tiempo,” with a burlier vocal and a rolling progression that seems to sum up a lot of where Manthrass are coming from to start with, though closer “Navegar” gets down with more raucous fare. A quality first full-length with a crisp production balanced by a fervent live feel in the energy from the trio of guitarist/vocalist Mariano Castiiglioni, bassist/vocalist Ángel Rizzo and drummer/backing vocalist Fede Martínez, who are clearly versed in modern heavy as well as the classics, and are able to control their own destiny here accordingly.
Commencement comes on Astral Cult’s second album, The Sacred Flame, via the ritualized psychedelic incantations of “Prayer,” and from there, the Californian four-piece unfold a molten vision of heavy space rock that stands apart from a lot of what bands further sound in San Diego or even San Francisco are doing, vocalist Alexandre Lapuh, guitarist Ryan Musser, bassist Stefan Henskens and drummer Brazdon Goodwin (since replaced by Cristian Gonzalez) finding their footing in a lumbering and deceptively doomed “Quetzalcotl” after so much lysergic preaching on “Call of the Wild” and “Beacon of Darkness.” The range is surprising, but more so is the fluidity Astral Cult conjure between what are often disparate styles, the four-piece nearly hitting the 13-minute mark on the closing title-tack as they lay the two sides together, one into the next. It’s a rarer blend, but The Sacred Flame, at nearly an hour long, gears itself for maximum immersion.
Posted in Reviews on October 4th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Day Two starts now. I don’t know if you’re ready for it. I don’t know if I’m ready for it. Ah hell, who am I kidding? I love this stuff. No place I’d rather be right now than pounding out these reviews, batch by batch, all week. This one gets heavy, it goes far out, it rocks hard and relentless and it gets atmospheric. And more. But don’t let me try to sell you on reading it. Even if you skim through and click on players, I hope you find something you dig. If not today, then yesterday, or tomorrow or the next day. Or hell, maybe the day after. It’s 50 records. There’s bound to be one in there. Here we go.
Quarterly Review #11-20:
Monolord, Lord of Suffering / Die in Haze
A relatively quick two-songer issued via RidingEasy to mark the occasion of the Swedish trio’s first US headlining tour this summer, Lord of Suffering / Die in Haze offers a more stripped-down feel than did Monolord’s second full-length, Vænir (review here), which came out last year. The roll elicited by guitarist/vocalist Thomas V. Jäger, drummer Esben Willems and bassist Mika Häkki, however, remains unspeakably thick and the band’s intent toward largesse and nod continues to ring true. They’re in and out in 11 minutes, but the ethereal, watery vocal style of Jäger and the more earthbound pummel of the three-piece as a whole on “Lord of Suffering” and the grueling spaciousness of “Die in Haze” – not to mention the bass tone – show that Monolord are only continuing to come into their own sound-wise, and that as they do, their approach grows more and more dominant. They make it hard not to be greedy and ask for a new album.
Seattle two-piece Teacher served notice early this year of their then-forthcoming self-titled, self-recorded debut LP, and it was easy to tell the Tony Reed-mastered full-length would be one to watch out for as it followed-up their prior EP1812, released in 2015. Arriving via Devil’s Child Records, the 10-track Teacher does indeed dole out a few crucial lessons from drummer/guitarist/vocalist Jonathan Ethan Mercer and guitarist/vocalist Solomon Arye Rosenschein. Whether it’s “Heavy Metal Parking Lot 1979” or the swinging “Peripatetic Blues” or the gone-backwards psych interlude “Wildcard Jambalaya” that immediately follows, the record basks in an organic diversity of approach drawn together by the clear chemistry already present between Mercer and Rosenschein. A harder edge of tone keeps a modern feel prevalent, but even the forward punker charge of “Mean as Hell” has classic roots, and as they finish with “Home for the Summer” as the last of three out of the four EP tracks included in a row to round out the LP, they seem to have entered the conversation of 2016’s most cohesive debuts in heavy rock. Their arrival is welcome.
There’s an element of danger to Rosy Finch’s debut long-player, Witchboro (on Lay Bare Recordings). Actually two. One: it sounds like it could come apart at any given moment – it never does. Two: any given one among its nine component tracks could wind up just about anywhere. Though the Spanish trio of bassist/vocalist ElenaGarcía, guitarist/vocalist Mireia Porto and drummer Lluís Mas keep individual songs relatively raw sounding – or at very least not overproduced as something so progressive could just as easily have wound up – but even the soothing “Ligeia” holds to a driving sense of foreboding. Punk in its undercurrent with more than a touch of grunge, Witchboro is as much at home in the atmospheric crush of “Polvo Zombi” as the quick-turning finale thrust of “Daphne vs. Apollo,” and its overarching impression is striking in just how readily it manipulates the elements that comprise it. Ambitious, but more defined by succeeding in its ambitions than by the ambitions themselves.
Holy Mountain Top Removers, The Ones Disappearing You
Psychedelic surf? Wah-soaked, bass rumbling foreboding? Euro-inflected lounge? All of the above and much more get a big check mark from Nashville instrumentalists Holy Mountain Top Removers, whose The Ones Disappearing You LP covers an enviable amount of stylistic ground and still leaves room near the end for bassist/keyboardist Mikey Allred to lead a blues dirge on trombone. He’s joined by drummer/percussionist Edmond Villa and guitarist Anthony Ford, as well as guest trumpeter Court Reese and violinist Allan Van Cleave, and as they careen through this vast terrain, Holy Mountain Top Removers only seem to revel in the oddness of their own creation. To wit, the early jangle of “Monsieur Espionnage” is delivered with gleeful starts and stops, and the later “Serenade for Sexual Absence” given a mournful snare march and what sounds like tarantella to go with Van Cleave’s violin lead. Playful in the extreme, The Ones Disappearing You nonetheless offers rich arrangements and a drive toward individuality that stands among its core appeals, but by no means stands there alone.
Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band, The Rarity of Experience I
Philadelphia four-piece Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band must have worked quickly to turn around so soon a follow-up to last year’s debut album, Intensity Ghost (review here), but their second offering, The Rarity of Experience lacks nothing for growth. A two-disc, 72-minute 10-tracker also released through No Quarter, The Rarity of Experience hops genres the way rocks skip on water, from the exploratory psychedelic vibing of “Anthem II” to the Talking Heads-style jangle of “The Rarity of Experience II” and into horn-infused free-jazz fusion on “The First 10 Minutes of Cocksucker Blues” – which, by the way, is 12 minutes long. A big change is the inclusion of vocals, but the penultimate “Old Phase” still holds to some of the pastoral atmospherics Forsyth and company brought together on the first record, but principally, what The Rarity of Experience most clearly shows is that one doesn’t necessarily know what’s coming from Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band, and as much as they offer across this massive stretch, I wouldn’t be surprised if they continue to expand their sound.
Initially released by the band in January, the self-titled debut from Munich heavy rockers Swan Valley Heights sees wider issue through Oak Island Records in an edition of 200 LPs. After rolling out the largesse of welcome-riff in opener “Slow Planet,” the three-piece dig into longform groove on “Alaska” (9:09), “Mammoth” (11:02) and “Let Your Hair Down” (9:35), finding a balance between hypnotic flow and deeply weighted tones. Riffs lead the way throughout, and while there aren’t a ton of surprises, once they make their way through “Caligula Overdrive,” the shimmer at the start of “Mountain” and some of the more patient unfolding of closer “River” called Sungrazer to mind and I couldn’t help but wonder if Swan Valley Heights would make their way toward more lush fare over time. Whether they do or not, their debut engages in its warmth and cohesion of purpose, and offers plenty of depth for those looking to dive in headfirst.
I can’t help but feel like Portland, Oregon’s Cambrian Explosion are selling themselves a little short by calling The Moon an EP. At five songs and 35 minutes, the follow-up to their 2013 The Sun outing boasts a richly progressive front-to-back flow, deep sense of psychedelic melodicism and enough crunch to wholly satisfy each of the payoffs its hypnotic wanderings demand. Sure sounds like a full-length album to my ears, but either way, I’ll take it. The four-piece set an open context in the intro noise wash of “Selene,” and while “Looming Eye” and “Mugen = Mugen” push further into ritual heavy psych, it’s in the longer “Innocuous Creatures” (9:24) and closer “Crust of Theia” (8:23) – the two perfectly suited to appear together on the B-side from whatever label is lucky enough to snap them up for a release – that The Moon makes its immersion complete and resonant, blowing out in glorious noise on the former and basking in off-world sentiment as they round out. Gorgeous and forward-thinking in kind. Would be an excellent debut album.
Not sure if there’s any way to avoid drawing a comparison between Italian five-piece Haunted’s self-titled debut (on Twin Earth Records) and Virginian doomers Windhand, but I’m also not sure that matters anymore. With the two guitars of Francesco Bauso and Francesco Orlando meting out post-Electric Wizard churn and Cristina Chimirri’s vocals oozing out bluesy incantations on top as Frank Tudisco’s low end and Valerio Cimino’s drums push the lumber forward, it’s all doom one way or another. “Watchtower” has a meaner chug than opener “Nightbreed,” and the centerpiece “Silvercomb” delves into feedback-laden horror atmospherics, but it’s in the closing duo of “Slowthorn” and “Haunted” that Haunted most assuredly affirm their rolling intention. They’ll have some work to do in distinguishing themselves, but there’s flourish in the wash of guitar late and some vocal layering from Chimirri that speaks to nuance emerging in their sound that will only serve them well as they move forward from this immersive first offering.
Taking their name from a track off Monster Magnet’s 2010 outing, Mastermind, Brazilian heavy rockers Gods and Punks mark their debut release with The Sounds of the Earth, a self-released five-track EP awash in classic influences and bolstered through a double-guitar dynamic, maybe-too-forward-in-the-mix vocals and a rock solid rhythm section. These are familiar ingredients, granted, but the Rio de Janeiro five-piece present them well particularly in the mid-paced “The Tusk” and the catchy, more extended closer “Gravity,” and are able to put a modern spin on ‘70s vibing without becoming singularly indebted to any particular band or era, be it ‘70s, ‘90s or the bizarre combination of the two that defines the ‘10s. Gods and Punks are setting themselves up to progress here, and how that progression might play out – more space rock to go with the theme of their excellent artwork, maybe? – will be worth keeping an eye on given what they already show in their songwriting.
Mostly instrumental, deeply atmospheric and clearly intended to divide into the two sides of a vinyl for which it seems more than primed, A Cure for Time is the second album from Copenhagen post-metallers Gaia. Each half of the four-track/39-minute outing pairs a shorter piece with a longer one, and the flow the trio set up particularly on the closing title cut calls to mind some of YOB’s cosmic impulses but with a spaciousness, roll and context that becomes their own. Shades of Jesu in the vocals and the balance of rumble and echo on the earlier “Nowhere” make A Cure for Time all the more ambient, but when they want to, Gaia produce a marked density that borders on the claustrophobic, and the manner in which they execute the album front to back emphasizes this spectrum with a progressive but still organic flourish. I wouldn’t call A Cure for Time directly psychedelic, but it’s still easy to get lost within its reaches.sh
Posted in Reviews on October 3rd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
This is always a kind of nervewracking moment, sitting here in my chair as I do every couple months and introducing the next Quarterly Review. Between now and Friday, somehow, some way, I’ll post 50 reviews in batches of 10 per day. It will cover more ground than, frankly, I yet know, and by the time it’s done it’s going to feel (at least to me) like way more than a week has passed, but hell, at this point I’ve done this enough times to be reasonably confident I can get through it without suffering a major collapse either of heart or brain. I’ve taken steps beforehand to make it easier on myself and listened to a lot, a lot, a lot of music in preparation, so there’s nothing left to do but dive in and actually kick this this thing off. So let’s do that.
Quarterly Review #1-10:
Sumac, What One Becomes
With their second album, What One Becomes (on Thrill Jockey), post-metal trio Sumac move forward from what their 2015 debut, The Deal (review here), established as their crushing and atmospheric modus. Starting with a wash of blown-out noise in “Image of Control,” the collective of guitarist/vocalist Aaron Turner (ex-Isis), bassist Brian Cook (Russian Circles) and Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists) eventually settle into a barrage of chug and inhuman lumber over the course of the five-track/58-minute progression, testing tolerance on the 17-minute march “Blackout” and tapping into a satisfying moment of melody in centerpiece “Clutch of Oblivion” that, by the time it arrives, feels a bit like a life raft. There are stretches that come across as part collections, but the whole seems to be geared toward overwhelming, consuming and devastating, and ultimately What One Becomes accomplishes all of those things and more besides, finishing closer “Will to Reach” with the sense they could easily keep going. I believe it.
Prior to making their full-length debut, Dunsmuir issued a series of 7” singles, so if you picked up any of that, the straightforward pulse running through the 10-track self-titled will probably be familiar. Likewise if you’d previously caught wind of The Company Band, the supergroup in which vocalist Neil Fallon (also Clutch), guitarist Dave Bone and bassist Brad Davis (also Fu Manchu) previously joined forces. Here they’re joined by drummer Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath, etc.), and the material is suitably metallic in its aftertaste, but while Fallon’s presence is irrepressible and it’s the songwriting itself that shines through in cuts like “Our Only Master” and “…And Madness,” both barnburner riffs in classic metal fashion, where the later “Church of the Tooth” draws back the pace to add sway leading into the mid-paced closing duo “The Gate” and “Crawling Chaos.” Not many surprises, but with the ingredients given, knowing what you’re getting isn’t anything to complain about.
Across a span of 12 tracks and 72 minutes, Swiss heavy progressives Monkey3 unfurl the massive scope of Astra Symmetry, their fifth album and the follow-up to 2013’s The 5th Sun. It is an immediately immersive listening experience and does not become any less so as it plays out, the generally-instrumental four-piece frontloading early songs like “Abyss,” “Moon” and the nodding, synthed-out “The Water Bearer” with vocals and backing that with “Dead Planet’s Eyes” on the second LP for good measure. Delving into Eastern-style melodicism gives Astra Symmetry a contemplative air, but Monkey3’s heavy psychedelia has always provided a free-flowing vibe, and as “Astrea,” “Arch,” “The Guardian” and “Realms of Lights” roll through ambient drones toward the album’s smoothly delivered apex, that remains very much the case. Taken as a whole, Astra Symmetry is a significant journey, but satisfying in that traveling atmosphere and in the hypnosis it elicits along the way.
Big progressive step from London four-piece Oak on their second self-released EP, Oak II. They follow last year’s self-titled (review here) with four more tracks that build on the burl established last time out but immediately show more stylistic command, vocalist Andy “Valiant” Wisbey emerging as a significant frontman presence and the band behind him – guitarist/engineer Kevin Germain, bassist Scott Masson and drummer Clinton Ritchie – finding more breadth, be it in a nod to djent riffing in “Mirage” or more melodic post-Steak desert rock in “Against the Rain.” In addition, “A Bridge too Far” showcases a patience of approach that the first EP simply didn’t have, and that makes its build even more satisfying as it hits its peak and goes quiet into the stonerly swing of “Smoke,” which ends Oak II with due fuzz and some social commentary to go with. Sounds like more than a year’s growth at work, but I’ll take it.
One word for Swedish one-man outfit Lightsabres? How about “underrated?” Since the 2013 Demons EP (review here), it has been nearly impossible to keep a handle on where John Strömshed (also Tunga Moln) might go on any given song, and his latest offering, the full-length Hibernation (on HeviSike with a tape out on Medusa Crush) works much the same, rolling out a melodic mellowness on the opening title-track before topping off-time chug with garage vocals on the subsequent “Endless Summer.” Elsewhere, “Throw it all Away” marries swallow-you-in-tone riffing with a surprisingly emotionally resonant lead, and “Blood on the Snow” offers a downtrodden vision of grunge-blues like what might’ve happened if Danzig had never gone commercial. It’s all over the place, as was 2014’s Spitting Blood (review here) and 2015’s Beheaded, but tied together through a wintry theme, and anyway, variety is the norm for Lightsabres, whose reach seems only to grow broader with each passing year.
Knowing the context of Helen Money’s Become Zero having been written by cellist Alison Chesley following losing both her parents, and knowing that songs like the 10-minute “Radiate” and the effects-less “Blood and Bone” (which features pianist Rachel Grimes) deal directly with that loss, only makes it more powerful, but even without that information, the sense of melancholy and loneliness is right there to be heard. Chesley, who released the last Helen Money album, Arriving Angels (review here), in 2013, once again brings in drummer Jason Roeder (Sleep, Neurosis) to contribute, and his work on the title-track and the later churn of “Leviathan” make both standouts, but whether it’s the empty spaces of “Vanished Star” or the ambient wash of “Radiate” – I don’t even know how a cello makes that sound – the emotional force driving the music is ultimately what ties it together as a single work of poignant, deeply resonant beauty.
It has been nearly three years since desert-dwelling rockers Dali’s Llama celebrated their two-decade run with the Twenty Years Underground vinyl (review here) and almost four since their last proper full-length, Autumn Woods (review here), was issued. For them, that’s an exceedingly long time. One can’t help but wonder if the band – now a five-piece, led as ever by guitarist/vocalist Zach Huskey and recorded as ever by Scott Reeder – went through a period of introspection in that span. After some stylistic experimentation with darker and more doomed influences, the seven tracks of Dying in the Sun would seem to reaffirm who Dali’s Llama are as they approach the quarter-century mark, bringing some of the gloom of Autumn Woods to extended centerpiece “Samurai Eyes” as easily as “Bruja-ha” seems to play off the goth-punk whimsy of 2010’s Howl do You Do? (review here). The fact is Dali’s Llama are all these things, not just one or the other, and so in bringing that together, Dying in the Sun is perhaps the truest to themselves they’ve yet been on record.
Making their debut on Napalm Records, Berlin five-piece Suns of Thyme exhibit immediate sonic adventurousness on their second album, Cascades, melding krautrock and heavy psych keys and effects with a distinctly human presence in the rhythm section, engaging in songcraft in the new wave-ish “Intuition Unbound” while topping shoegaze wash with organ on “Aphelion.” It’s a vast reach, and with 14 tracks and a 55-minute runtime, Suns of Thyme have plenty of chance to get where they’re going, but the dynamic between the psych-folk of “Val Verde” and the drift of closing duo “Kirwani” and “Kirwani II” and the push of the earlier “Deep Purple Rain” impresses both in theory and practice alike. The task ahead of them would seem to be to meld these influences together further as they move forward, but there’s something satisfying about having no idea what’s coming next after the proggy sway of “Schweben,” and that’s worth appreciating as it is.
Two huge, side-consuming slabs of primordial improvised heavy psychedelia making up a 45-minute LP with a pun title and enough wash throughout that I don’t even feel dirty looking at it? Yeah, there really isn’t a time when I don’t feel ready to sign on for weirdo exploratory stuff like that which Seattle’s Fungal Abyss elicit on Karma Suture. Available as a 12” on Adansonia Records, the album brings together “Perfumed Garden” (22:12) and “Virile Member” (23:22), both sprawling, massive jams that launch almost immediately and are gone for the duration. Way gone. I won’t discount the consumption that takes place on side A, but I think my absolute favorite part of Karma Suture might be the guitar lead on “Virile Member,” which about eight minutes in starts to lose its way and you can actually hear the band come around and pick it back up to an exciting swing. It’s moments like that one that make a group like Fungal Abyss exciting. Not only are they able to right their direction when they need to, but they’re brave enough to put the whole thing on record: as raw and genuine as it gets.
It’s an encouraging and unpretentious start that Malaysian four-piece Wicked Gypsy make on their self-titled, self-released three-song EP. In the 22-minute span of “Wicked Gypsy,” “Heavy Eyes” and “Gypsy Woman,” the band – vocalist/guitarist Mahmood Ahmad, bassist Mohd Azam, keyboardist Azyan Idayu and drummer Ahmad Afiq – bring together influences from modern doom and classic heavy rock, Idayu’s keys providing a distinct ‘70s flair to the opener while Azam’s wah bass and of course a liberal dose of rifffing from Ahmad lead a proto-metallic charge in “Heavy Eyes,” topped with gritty vocals reciting lyrics about smoking weed, black magic, the devil, etc. What one really hears in these tracks is Wicked Gypsy’s initial exploration of dark-themed doom rock, and while the going is rough in its sound, that adds to the appeal, and the drum solo/progressive flourish worked into “Gypsy Woman” speaks well of where they’re headed as they walk the Sabbathian path.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 30th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
You gotta call your debut EP something, I guess. Rock heads will probably find it pretty easy to get initiated into Wendigo‘s Initiation. Despite the militaristic cover art, they’re not hammering nails into anybody’s chest — sonically speaking or otherwise — and instead proffer a straightforward type of heavy rock with some more classic metal-style vocals. The entire three-song offering can be streamed now below, as well as a couple cover tracks from Mountain, The Cult, AC/DC, that give a pretty decent sense of where the German five-piece are coming from. Some growing to do, but they’re young yet for the most part.
Background and audio:
WENDIGO – Initiation (EP)
Frisia is a region in northwestern Germany where endless pastures meet cow dung and where sheep’s legs grow askew due to them standing on the levee all the time. Frisia is a region both idyllic and calm… but there’s been not much to say about rock music from Frisia so far. So far. Or better: until 2012. Because 2012 has been the year in which four Frisians, back then still underage, came together to found WENDIGO and to teach some classic Rock to their flat homeland.
At first, WENDIGO, completed by changing singers on stage, enthused the people of Frisia with cover versions from AC/DC to ZZ TOP. Charity concerts for kids with cancer, fairs, underground concerts in youth clubs… the Frisian quartet plus guest vocalists took any chance to give people a taste of Rock and Metal classics. And they do that with success: Their concerts kept (and keep) getting bigger and bigger, and soon they found a constant singer and fifth regular band member in Jörg “Schorsch” Theilen.
Their success on stage also is what put enough wind under WENDIGO’s wings to write and record their own compositions. Years of experience as cover band taught the young band what works fine and what doesn’t, and thus their debut EP “Initiation” is full of their influences without bringing one of the influences so much into the foreground that one might speak of a “rip-off”. “Initiation”, that is quick Hard Rock in connection with cool Blues Rock attitude and hot, dry Stoner Rock atmosphere… music that makes you think about smoky pubs and sweaty clubs, but also works outside in the open air. Music, that makes you loose your temper and invites you to bang your head, but is also perfect if you just want to bop along with a cold beer in your hand.
Tracklisting: 1. Play It 2. Sail On 3. Holy Hypocrite
Band members: Vocals: Jörg Theilen Lead Guitar: Eric Post Rhythm Guitar & Vocals: Jan Ole Möller Bass & Vocals: Lennard Viertel Drums: Steffen Freesemann
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 21st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
With the news that former Kyuss vocalist John Garcia has pulled the plug on his Fall 2016 European tour plans, Munich-based Keep it Low festival has had to accordingly update its already-completed festival lineup. I’m not sure if they’ll add someone to replace Garcia — also not sure how the tour cancellation coincides with the planned late-2016 release of a new solo record from him; as there’s been no word from Napalm Records on it, I wouldn’t necessarily count on it arriving before 2017 — but the fest is exactly one month away, so it seemed only fair to post the new lineup, which remains strong with the likes of Colour Haze, Elder, Greenleaf, Karma to Burn, and so on.
The following comes direct from Keep it Low 2016. Dig it:
Keep It Low Festival 2016
Keep it Low is a cozy 2 days Indoor Festival with family character and loads of good vibes.Fans of Heavy Rock, Psychedelic, Doom, Stoner and Rock´n Roll should mark 21 & 22 October 2016 in their calendar.The first three editions were sold out and the upcoming 4 th edition will also see an excellent line up. The “Feierwerk”-Areal is only 2 subway stations away from the centre of Munich. KIL 2016 greets with 3 stages and around 20 bands, cozy and rain protected outside beergarden, next to a skatepark. For the ones keeping it really low, we decided to end both festival nights with an aftershow party (+DJ) in one of the concert rooms.
LINE UP 2016: FRIDAY Oct 21: COLOUR HAZE – KARMA TO BURN – ELECTRIC CITIZEN – SALEM´S POT – MOTHER´S CAKE – SWAN VALLEY HEIGHTS – COJONES
KEEP IT LOW 2016 will happen on October 21st and 22nd in FEIERWERK (Munich) and will greet with 3 stages and outside beergarden & skatepark. On this upcoming edition we are setting up a cozy and rain protected outside area with food and drink station. We also decided to play already on 2 stages on the Friday night and ending both KIL nights with aftershow parties and Dj Sets (Friday until 3 am and Saturday until 5 am).
Hard Tickets (2-day passes) are available on Woolheads for 65 €! Online tickets are also available on Eventim!