Friday Full-Length: The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Are You Experienced

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 23rd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Are You Experienced (1967)

Earlier today I had what I can only refer to as a Hendrix-panic. I was minding my own business this afternoon and all of a sudden, nothing else would do. It was Jimi Hendrix or it was nothing, and it’s almost never nothing, so there you go. I put on “May this be Love,” so it seemed only fair to cap the week with the record it comes from, 1967′s Are You Experienced, the debut from The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Yeah, it’s an obvious choice — nothing underground about it unless you’re listening for the proto-heavy that’s in there that others won’t hear — but what the hell, it’s about as classic as classic gets.

This is the version with bonus tracks. Under normal circumstances, I’d prefer to keep it to the original tracklisting, but in this age of at-no-cost immediate access, I won’t play the choosy beggar. At least not this time. I figured there wasn’t much likelihood of complaint about an hour of Hendrix either way, and Are You Experienced is one of those records that’s so omnipresent I feel like it’s almost passed over. It’s a given. Think of listening to it again like re-reading Huck Finn, or watching Spaceballs or Young Frankenstein again as an adult. Totally different level of enjoyment. When was the last time you really listened to this album?

For me it was a couple hours ago, but I think the point stands. There ain’t no life nowhere.

Pretty wild couple days this week. Monday feels like forever ago for only having been the usual number of hours. Next week’s even farther away from sane with the Thanksgiving holiday and all. I’ll have a new podcast put together sometime, maybe have it go up on Thursday if I’m feeling fancy and want to mark the occasion. The Patient Mrs. and I are headed out of town to see family for the weekend — traveling from Massachusetts to Maryland, to Jersey, to NYC, to Massachusetts over the course of four days — so I won’t have much else up toward the end of this week coming up, but things will get back to normal after that. At least for a month.

I’ll also be back in New York on Dec. 5 and 6 for shows. Want to see Mountain God and The Golden Grass and it just happens they’re playing on successive nights. I’d call myself a citizen of the East Coast if I didn’t think it’d make me sound like a pretentious jackass. Cough cough.

Before my wife and dog and I hit the road, look out for reviews of Sylvia and Black Skies, new audio from Elliott’s Keep and the aforementioned podcast, as well as whatever else I can think of to toss in there and whatever it might be that I know I’m forgetting to mention. There’s something. I know there’s something. Ah well. If I can think of it, I’ll let you know.

And if not, I’m pretty sure you’ll survive. In so doing, I hope you’ll have a great and safe weekend and that you’ll please take some time to check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Friday Full-Length: Black Sabbath, Heaven and Hell

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 4th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Black Sabbath, Heaven and Hell (1980)

I just wanted to end this week with an album I love. On a high note, maybe, but even more than that, just something that I can’t see being the person I am without. So here we go, Black Sabbath, Heaven and Hell. It’s not a record I can claim to be Johnny Groundfloor on — it came out a year before I was born — but it has touched me profoundly over the years and I’ve gone back to it over time the way you do to things when they become a part of who you are. It’s been a while since last I made my way through, and I’ve missed it. Fucking “Children of the Sea.”

Yeah, you can go ahead and argue in favor of Ozzy-fronted Sabbath. I don’t even necessarily disagree. The way I see it, Master of Reality is just about the best heavy album ever made. It’s apples and oranges — or for a comparison of two even more disparate things — Ozzy and Dio. I’m glad both exist, I’m glad Geezer Butler played in both and I’m happy to leave it at that.

What a week. If I was drinking, I’d already be drunk. I was out this afternoon to meet with a guy from the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center to explore funding options for buying a bar. It went like this: “Uh, I see here you’re poor. There’s no funding for poor people.” I’m not out yet, though that was a fun hit to take. Then I went to the grocery store and had — not one, but two! — debit cards declined. I was doing a pretty good job on the maintaining thing, keeping my head together, but then it was time to break out Heaven and Hell, which is right up there in my book with watching Futurama in the dark.

Normally — though using such a word feels like a perversion of the concept — I’d probably follow up the one (Heaven and Hell) with the other (Futurama in the dark), but instead of sitting on my ass and wallowing in the waste of space and precious oxygen I’ve let myself become, I’m going out tonight. Gonna go catch Cortez and Pants Exploder at Radio in Somerville, then tomorrow there’s an early show for Esoteric and I might just hit that too, because fuck it, music’s still good.

There was a lot this week I didn’t get to post. In addition to reviews for one or both of the shows above, look for reviews to come of The Freeks and Mos Generator, an interview one way or another with Dave Wyndorf of Monster Magnet and some new audio from Supervoid. So there’s a lot as ever. I’ve got some work-type work to finish up, so I’m going to get through that while Heaven and Hell rounds out and then have a bite to eat before I head to Radio for that show. If you’re going, I hope I’ll see you there.

And even if not, I hope you have a great and safe weekend. If you get the chance, please hit up the forum and the radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Here’s the One Question I Got to Ask Ozzy Osbourne about Black Sabbath’s 13

Posted in Features on July 18th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Prepare to be underwhelmed…

About two weeks ago, I took part with a slew of other alt-weekly journo types in a conference call with Ozzy Osbourne about the new Black Sabbath album, 13 (review here). It was an hour long and there were I think 20 or so writers involved. Everyone, I was told, would get to ask at least one question.

I had never done a conference call before, and the idea seemed lame, but it was my only chance to get even a smattering of phone time with Ozzy and not-at-all-blown-away-by-13 though I was, I wasn’t going to miss probably the only chance I’d ever have to ask him anything, let alone something about the process of making this album after talking about it for so long.

Before calling in to the weird phone chat thing — like a partyline of people who’ve made terrible life choices — I made a list of questions to pick from should I be lucky enough to actually get a word in. All my questions were among the first asked, and not by me. By the time it was finally my turn to ask something, I had nothing left and had to come up with one on the fly.

So, after being a Sabbath fan for more than half my life and finally getting an opportunity to speak to Ozzy Osbourne himself (a man who has clearly had no shortage of media training), here’s how it went down — my question and a follow-up:

I just wanted to ask you a little bit about the sort of reception to the new material live. Obviously, there’s Sabbath’s catalog of classics, but in terms of mixing new songs in and the shows you’ve already done…

Ozzy Osbourne: So we recently went to New Zealand, Australia, and Japan, and we did a couple of the new songs. We said they’re all new. God, you’d think it had been released as a single or a first track off album, and so that – I remember when we played two shows in Auckland, New Zealand.

The first night they didn’t really respond much to it. The second night they’re all singing the lyrics with me. I’m going, I can’t even remember them that good. I mean, it’s good for us as well to do new stuff, because you know, we’re all tuned into “Iron Man,” “War Pigs,” “Paranoid,” and all of the old classics, but instead, it gives us as a band something refreshing to put into the show, and so I’m just glad that people have bought into the new songs.

You mentioned before the songs being in sort of a middle range you could bring live. How much of a consideration when you guys were writing the album was doing the songs live?

Ozzy Osbourne: Well, after keeping the people waiting for as long as we did, I certainly — I can still get the range, but I can’t do it onstage. Maybe one gig I can do it onstage, but then it’d be every other night, I mean, my voice gets tired you know? And so I personally specifically went in the studio and kept it a little comfortable range that I could do onstage, you know.

On the other end of the line from one of heavy metal’s true gods and I’m left asking about… playing the new songs live. As if he doesn’t shout, “Here’s one off the new album!” and everyone goes to get a beer in time to be back for “Into the Void.” I’d call it a bummer if it wasn’t so much better than nothing.

I didn’t attempt to dial in for another round, but didn’t hang up either, and just listened to the rest of the hour as other writers from around the country took turns flattering and lobbing softballs. The first question had been about Bill Ward and that got shut down pretty quickly to more or less set the tone. By the end of it, charismatic though Osbourne is and though — as with the record — I’d expected no more than I got, I had gone back to checking my email.

And there you have it.

Black Sabbath, “Naïveté in Black” (2013)

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Black Sabbath, 13: At the End of the Storm

Posted in Reviews on June 17th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

I can no more pretend to be impartial about a new Black Sabbath album than I can about a member of my own family. Further, I don’t think any critic who can claim otherwise has any business reviewing 13, the first studio full-length by Black Sabbath proper since 1995’s Forbidden ended a lackluster streak with vocalist Tony Martin prior to a 1997 reunion with Ozzy Osbourne, the successor in many ways to guitarist Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler’s 2007 reunion with Ronnie James Dio that resulted in Heaven and Hell’s 2009 outing, The Devil You Know (review here), and an album which – had Dio survived his bout with stomach cancer – probably wouldn’t exist. Prior to Dio’s passing, Iommi – whose band Sabbath has always been – showed roughly no interest in getting back together with Osbourne at the fore and seemed content to let Black Sabbath’s original frontman languish on his path of a declining solo career. Sabbath had done live stints between 1997 and 2006, and in 1998 released the “Psycho Man” single to promote their aptly-titled Reunion double-live album, but another studio full-length with Iommi, Osbourne, Butler and drummer Bill Ward seemed like a daydream. Of course, it still is. In 2011, when the band announced they were together with the completion of an album in sight, the shockwave resonated far and wide, but a contract dispute with Ward resulted in Rage Against the Machine drummer Brad Wilk joining in his place for the recording of the Rick Rubin-produced 13. This would be narrative context enough were it not for 13’s being touted as an attempt to recapture the feel of the original Sabbath – untouchable records like 1970’s self-titled debut, the same year’s follow-up, Paranoid, the stonerly perfection of 1971’s Master of Reality and 1972’s Vol. 4 – and were it not for Iommi’s own cancer battle, which it’s easy to read 13 tracks like “End of the Beginning,” “Live Forever,” “God is Dead?” and “Damaged Soul” as reaction toward, regardless of whether or not they actually are.

First, whoever decided to bill 13 as a return to Sabbath’s heyday was a fool. 13 neither picks up where the band’s last Osbourne-fronted outing, 1978’s Never Say Die, left off, nor harkens back to the band’s earliest glories in any way other than periodically recycling a riff. As regards the production, it is stale in the modern commercial metal sense, and if Rubin’s stamp is anywhere on it, it holds about as much meaning in terms of authenticity as the “organic” produce at WalMart. Drums are triggered – for the most part, Wilk is a nonentity here, personality-wise, injecting simple fills and keeping a beat when called upon to do so (good work if you can get it) – guitars and bass are “corrected” and if there was any thought that Osbourne’s vocals were going to be presented in anything close to their natural state, let it be corrected by the ending apex of 13 opener “End of the Beginning,” on which he goes from his half-spoken drawl suddenly to suddenly pitch-perfect high notes for the line, “I don’t want to see you, yeah, yeah,” and then does it again – the irony being that in the prior verse come the lyrics, “You don’t want to be a robot ghost/Occupied inside a human host.” Granted, Dio’s vocals on The Devil You Know had pitch correction as well, and he sang to backup tracks on Heaven and Hell’s final tours, but he could sing! Osbourne could never hit the kinds of notes in “End of the Beginning.” In Sabbath, he had maybe three years where one would be right on a technical level to call him a singer and not only a frontman – 1974-1976 – and even then he knew better than to attempt such theatrics. It’s the first of many instances throughout of Black Sabbath playing it safe on 13, creating a sterile and in some cases cynical collection of self-aware heavy metal that only in the work of Iommi and Butler does any justice whatsoever to the band’s legacy. It’s an album they’ll be able to go out and tour on, but for fans of Sabbath who had some hope that 13 might come along and revitalize the career of one of the acts singularly responsible for the creation of heavy metal and its many subgenres – most particularly doom – all these eight tracks do is realize how foolish and unrealistic those hopes were in the first place.

All this I know, and then that utter lack of impartiality kicks in and I think of 13 as being Black Sabbath’s final album. I think of how closer “Dear Father” ends with the same sampled thunderstorm that starts their eponymous song at the beginning of Black Sabbath, the sheer foreboding meaning of that bookend in light of Iommi’s cancer – that this is it, that he’s dying – and even the lame, watered-down revisit of that atmosphere on “End of the Beginning” and the hackneyed lyrics of the following “God is Dead?” and “Loner” seem excusable as pathways to one last collection of Iommi riffs and solos, best accompanied as they’ve always been by Butler’s trailblazing bass work (the easy argument is that he’s the most vital member of the band, and 13 bears that out), and though it’s a shame Ward isn’t a part of it, shouldn’t I just take what I can get and as someone who’s had his life changed by Sabbath’s work be happy? Isn’t it enough that Sabbath have another record? Does it really need to be good, too?

Yes and no. As I said, 13 is an album that Black Sabbath Iommi, Butler, Osbourne and Wilk or whoever they get – will be able to go out and tour arenas. They’ll put a couple new songs in the set along with the hits they’ve played on and off for over a decade, and if it’s to be Iommi’s last hurrah, no one will ever be able to say he didn’t earn it. Fans who saw them in their first run will go, younger fans will go, headbangers of all kinds of all generations, everywhere they go, the venues will be full. It will be successful. Even being panned by critics won’t matter – Sabbath have the armor of never having been a “critic’s band,” so  that even though the critics now may be two generations’ worth of Sabbath fans critiquing a hollow representation of what made them legends, they’re protected by the number of people who show up, the sheer scale of their profile. Fine. Records like Master of Reality, Black Sabbath and 1973’s Sabbath Bloody Sabbath will belong to the underground no matter how many copies they sell, and for every one oldschool Sabbath fan who refuses to see what he or she alleges is a false version of the original band, two more are willing to buy that ticket. Neither side of the argument needs the other at this point, and history is on the band’s side – with over 20 people in and out of the lineup over the years, who’s to say what’s genuine? Sabbath will do what they will do to reach as broad an audience as possible – reuniting with Osbourne instead of, say, Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, with whom Iommi recently collaborated for the Whocares benefit single, speaks to wanting to gather maximum interest – and those unable to reconcile themselves to what the band has become don’t need to have a part in it if they choose to not. If Sabbath know the difference at this point, I certainly can’t imagine they give a rat’s ass. Ward was their tie to the authenticity they purported to be tapping into for the recording of 13, and they were quick enough to let him go. Does the album need to be good? Well, it needs a logo.

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Ronnie James Dio — Three Years Ago Today

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 16th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

I just wanted to take a minute to mark out three full years since the passing of Ronnie James Dio. Short of thinking of every scumbag motherfucker still roaming the earth while he’s not and making myself angry, I’d rather not get lost in memorializing — everything’s been said and by people with better sentence structures than mine — but if heavy metal has a hall of immortals it’s only because Ronnie James Dio built it from the ground up. He remains, and will remain, much missed.

This clip of Dehumanizer-era Sabbath doing “Children of the Sea” is one of literally thousands out there, and if you find yourself lost among them and exploring one into the next into the next, I’m sure there are worse ways you could spend that time. Ronnie James Dio, 1942-2010.

Black Sabbath,”Children of the Sea” Live in Rio de Janeiro, 1992

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Frydee Monty Python’s Flying Circus

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 5th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Monty Python’s Flying Circus, s01e03: “How to Recognize Different Types of Trees from Quite a Long Way Away”

And now for something completely different…

Yes, I decided to end this week with a full episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, because it’s brilliant. Do I really need to present arguments in its favor? Some highlights of this episode include — of course — the Larch, Bicycle Repair Man, and the Nudge Nudge sketch, which is worth half an hour of viewing time on its own. If you don’t make it through the whole thing, I’ll just assume it’s because you already know it by heart.

Also one of the best (or at least most honest) YouTube comments I’ve ever seen: “i love how they dont have any girls…….. its just them :P

Congratulations, bro. That’s why girls don’t like you or Monty Python. That comment has 14 thumbs up responses. No shit. Comedy is everywhere.

Sometimes it’s handy to remind yourself of that, which I suppose to is part of why I decided to roll with “How to Recognize Different Types of Trees from Quite a Long Way Away.” I’ll keep this brief because frankly I want to get back to watching Monty Python and get away from bitching about work, etc., so whatever. I’m just glad it’s over. Never enough time, never enough energy. Whatever. If you’ve emailed me this week, I apologize for not getting back. I’ll be catching up this weekend.

This coming week, reviews of Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Kadavar and Serpent Throne. Yeah that’s right, I’m breaking out the big guns. Also, on Monday, a full-album stream from Devil to Pay and, on Wednesday, one from Small Stone newcomers Isaak, formerly known as Gandhi’s Gunn. Also, so help me Robot Jeebus, I’ll get that Pombagira interview posted. I don’t care how long the transcription takes, it’s fucking time so there you go. Stay tuned for all that and much more.

Alright now, back to Monty Python. Have a great and safe weekend. See you on the forum and back here Monday for that Devil to Pay stream and other good time whathaveyou.

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At a Glance: Jimi Hendrix, People, Hell and Angels

Posted in Reviews on February 21st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

The rightful position when it comes to a disc like Jimi Hendrix‘s People, Hell and Angels (they used to call them “catalog releases,” but there’s probably a new word for it now because I’m old and there’s a new word for everything) is almost invariably one of disdain. As much albums as this, or Sony Legacy/Experience Hendrix‘s previous mining operation, 2010′s Valleys of Neptune, are so often predicated on the idea of “new material,” and so often that’s a load of bunk, the cynicism on the part of a certain segment of the fanbase is invariable. The Jimi Hendrix Experience put out three records. Since Hendrix‘s death in Sept. 1970, more than 40 studio, live and compilation albums have appeared, and that’s not counting bootlegs, official and otherwise. It’s easy to see a release like People, Hell and Angels as part of an ongoing effort to take advantage of fan loyalty and squeeze people for their hard-earned cash by recycling the same old “previously unreleased” songs and jams.

I’m not going to argue with that position. At all. I get it completely and I won’t even say I disagree. Nonetheless, let me offer an opposing view just for fun: People, Hell and Angels presents very, very little that hasn’t been heard before, either in the form of these exact recordings or others like them, but as a fan and as someone passionate about Hendrix‘s work, doesn’t a new collection present an exciting opportunity to explore the material, even if it’s been heard before? This could be a new mix, or a new master, or hell, even a new track order makes a difference in the listening experience, so while “Hear My Train a Comin’” is so very, very familiar, can’t a fan also just enjoy the way it leads into the funky jam “Baby Let Me Move You?,” fronted by Lonnie Youngblood, with whom Hendrix had worked prior to getting big with the Experience? If we take away the idea of “previously unreleased,” couldn’t it possibly be okay to dig on People, Hell and Angels for being a shiny new Hendrix collection?

And I do mean “shiny.” Literally, the digipak reflects light. Metallic ink or foil paper may not be any newer than these recordings, but between that and the 24-page booklet packed with recording information and photos for each and every track, no one can say that effort wasn’t put into the package and the design. And while I’m on board with bootleg purists in eschewing overly clean remastered releases, listening to “Earth Blues” open People, Hell and Angels or the later cool jam “Hey Gypsy Boy” — recorded March 18, 1969, according to the liner — these songs do sound damn good. The thing of it is, there comes a point where the righteous anger of the superfan has to meet with the realization that not everyone in the world has the time, the interest or the passion to dedicate themselves to the project of hunting down and memorizing the entire recorded output of an artist. I’d love to be able to afford to chase down every Hendrix bootleg ever pressed, but I can’t do that or my wife will leave me. She’s all but said so.

So while we all know the implication of “newly unearthed recordings” or the image of some hapless studio employee finding this stuff in a basement and dusting it off to read the label and see “Jimi H. session, 6/11/68″  on there isn’t how it happened, I’ll take the rehashed blues jam of unfinished closer “Villanova Junction,” a different version of which was included in 1996′s Burning Desire for what it is. Tell me, even if you’re a diehard Hendrix fan, is there something you’d rather be hearing? I don’t think Sony Legacy is sitting on a pile of unreleased finished, mastered, never-heard songs going, “No, these are mine! Give them the same shit over again!” Pretty sure if they could sell that stuff, they’d do it, and even if it’s one or two songs on here that’s never seen light in this form, how much more can you really expect after 43 years of posthumous albums? If releases like this are for super-nerds and those who don’t know any better, I guess what I’m having a hard time with is seeing the problem in that if they enjoy listening to it.

And hell, if there’s some kid out there who picks up People, Hell and Angels as the first Hendrix album they own, can’t we just be glad that someone under the age of 25 knows who Jimi Hendrix is and assume that kid will use the internet research skills seemingly endemic to their generation to figure out that he or she probably should’ve started with Are You Experienced instead? Yeah, I know People, Hell and Angels has its downsides. It’s not short on them, but really, I’ve enjoyed listening to it so much while I sat here to write this and I’ve had so much fun reading about each of the songs in the liner notes, that I guess I’m limited in how much I can really tear it apart in a review. If that makes me a sucker, then I’m a sucker. We all are, to one extent or another. If you need me, I’ll be the sucker fuzz-rocking “Crash Landing” on repeat while he compiles a list of bootlegs to chase down.

Credit where it’s due, Antiquiet put together a great piece last year on where this material has been heard before. Commendable effort and excellent for the curious.

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Saint Vitus Announce Three-Weeks of European Tour Dates with Mos Generator

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 7th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

As if you needed an excuse to with you could be in Europe this spring, Saint Vitus are headed over for a three-week round of dates with Mos Generator. The connections between the two bands are manifold, with Mos Generator leader Tony Reed having produced Vitus‘ 2012 full-length, Lillie: F-65 (review here), and worked with drummer Henry Vasquez in his other band, Blood of the Sun on their own 2012 outing, Burning on the Wings of Desire (review here), so if nothing else, you can bet the vibes will be cordial.

All the better for Mos, whose Nomads (review here) is still fresh on the consciousness. Hard to imagine even the doomiest of Vitus devotee couldn’t be won over by their ultra-catchy heavy rocking. Here’s the poster for the Vitus tour, followed by a couple other dates Mos Generator will be playing between now and then. Dig it:

UPCOMING SHOWS
MOS SHOWS 2013

1/12 coo coos nest – port angeles
1/18 rendezvous – port orchard
1/19 ash st. – portland
1/ 25 filling station – kingston
1/26 acme – tacoma
2/1 flights pub – everett
2/9 the breakroom – bremerton
2/23 club 21 – portland
3/1 chop suey – seattle

March 2013 – SAINT VITUS & MOS GENERATOR
5th Cologne, Germany @ Underground
6th Berlin, Germany @ C-club
7th Dresden, Germany @ Beatpol
8th Arnhem, Holland @ Willemeen
9th Paris, France @ La Maroquinerie
10th Vosselaar, Belgium @ Biebob
11th Brighton, England @ The Haunt
12th Southampton, England @ The Cellar
13th Birmingham, England @ O2 Academy 2
14th Glasgow, Scotland @ The Cathouse
15th Newcastle, England @ Northumbria Uni
16th Pwhelli, Wales @ Hammerfest
17th London, England @ The Garage
18th Rouen, France @ Le 106
19th Esch-sur-alzette, Luxembourg @ Kulturfabrik
20th Lyon, France @ Le Ninkasi Kao
21st Winterthur, Switzerland @ Salzhaus
22nd Vienna, Austria @ Szene
23rd Bologna, Italy @ Zr
24th Milano, Italy @ The Tunnel
25th Nürnberg, Germany @ Rockfabrik
26th Aschaffenburg, Germany @ Colos-sal
27th Hamburg, Germany @ Logo

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So, I Think Sleep Might Need to Release a New Album in 2013

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

Okay, let me rephrase right off the bat — Sleep don’t need to put out an album at all. Sleep don’t need to do anything. With Al Cisneros in Om, Matt Pike in High on Fire and Jason Roeder in Neurosis, it’s not like the dudes in Sleep are lagging either on output or asskickery. However,  “I think Sleep should put out a new record in an attempt to capture a special moment in the creative lives of its three members” hardly makes for a catchy headline. So here we are.

I’ve got a couple different levels of argument in favor of a new Sleep album, which would be their first since the epic Dopesmoker finally saw the light of day officially in 2003. At the most basic level is the nerdy, “OMG more riffs”-type impulse — the side of me that wants to hear new Sleep just because it would be new stuff from the band who put out Sleep’s Holy Mountain 20 years ago. I’m not about to invalidate that response. Fanboyism is what it is.

More than that, however, I think when you take a look at the response to the periodic shows Sleep have played over the last two-plus years (I first saw them in Brooklyn, Sept. 2010), their continued interest in performing live, their continued influence in the sphere of stoner metal, heavy psych, etc., and — because yes, this matters — the fact that there’s more of an audience for Sleep now than there ever was before, a new studio album is a logical next step. Most of all, creatively.

Take a look at this year’s releases from Om, High on Fire and Neurosis. All three bands had a records out in 2012, and all three were incredibly different. Cisneros explored lush melodies and a wider psychedelic expanse than ever before on Advaitic Songs (review here), while Pike issued High on Fire‘s most aggressive offering to date in De Vermis Mysteriis (review here), and in Neurosis, Roeder provided creative rhythms to ground some of the pioneering Bay Area outfit’s most complex material on Honor Found in Decay (review here). Each was a triumph completely on its own terms.

And that’s why I say now is the time for new Sleep. I’m not thinking that you put Cisneros, Pike and Roeder in a jam space and out comes “From Beyond Pt. 2.” Especially since it would be their first outing with Roeder on drums, I’d hope that a new Sleep record — while obviously steeped in Iommic tradition — sounded like nothing they’ve ever done before. If I wanted to hear what Sleep sounded as they were in their original incarnation, I’d put on one of the old albums. I want to hear what Sleep can put together sound-wise today. I want to hear Sleep with Roeder‘s drum fills, or some of the warmth of tone that Cisneros has developed in Om, or with the kind of solo that Pike wouldn’t have dared attempt at the time but has been decapitating audiences with ever since.

They’ve got their blueprint to work from in terms of riffs, tones and overall approach, but with as distinct as the three personalities have proven to be over the course of this year — and especially with how well the trio works on stage at this point; their set at Roadburn 2012 was hands down one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen — it just seems like there’s an opportunity now to stand up to the challenge of bringing together something that captures the different sides of each member’s personality while also remains uniquely Sleep‘s own, adding to the breadth of their ever-expanding influence.

It seems like a ludicrous idea, right? Well, Black Sabbath have a new record in the works. Saint Vitus put out an album this year. Hell, even the dudes from Kyuss have something going at this point. So why not Sleep? I never thought I’d get to see the band live, and it’s been a couple times now. We live in a universe of infinite possibilities, and though it’s hardly the likeliest announcement to come down the PR wire, would you really have thought they’d get back together for shows in the first place? It’s been over two years now.

So yeah, they don’t need to release an album in 2013 — or ever, for that matter — but if they did, they’d be coming together at just the time when they each seemed to be most on their own path. Whatever that might result in, whether it’s another Dopesmoker or something completely different, it seems like a worthwhile endeavor no matter how you want to look at it.

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Wino Wednesday: Saint Vitus, “Dying Inside” Live in Hamburg, 2010

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 5th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

The alarm went off three times this morning. Each one was more painful than the last. Even as I type this, I’m still burping last night’s wine. So of course, when it came time to pick a track for this week’s Wino Wednesday, “Dying Inside” by Saint Vitus was an obvious pick. The song’s a little more tragic than I feel about it — I got my standard greasy breakfast sandwich, took some ibuprofen, drank some coffee and the recovery is well under way — but I wasn’t far off from “I have ruined my soul” when I hit snooze for the second time.

This footage was filmed in 2010 in Hamburg, and I’ve posted other clips from the same show before, because they kick ass and because they’re pro shot. “Dying Inside” comes off 1986′s ultra-classic Born too Late album and is just one of that record’s several anthems, along with the title-track and “The War Starter.” And, you know, all the rest. The lyrics make it a standout, though, written with Dave Chandler‘s classic no-bullshit ethic and delivered — in this clip and every time I’ve seen them play it — with visceral conviction by Wino.

So yeah, while I continue to get my head together and face the rest of this afternoon, please enjoy “Dying Inside” and have a happy Wino Wednesday:

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Friday Long-Player: Dio, Holy Diver (1983)

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 2nd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

What a fascinating and confusing clusterfuck this week has been. Well, when you want to make sense of the universe around you desperately enough to drink cheap, shitty wine out of a La Quinta styrofoam cup, there’s only one place to turn: Dio‘s Holy Diver. Putting this record on is like putting on a pair of old pajamas: A little worn in, but just right on so many levels.

I was all set to catch Elder and Infernal Overdrive tonight in New Bedford, MA, but then The Patient Mrs. and I spent the better part of the afternoon hunting down sterno for her also-out-of-power grandmother, and by the time we left Connecticut, it presented a primo opportunity to sample Boston’s Revolutionary War-era civil engineering and city planning schematic. We sat in traffic for longer than I care to remember — such that, by the time we landed here at the hotel in Somerville, I not only would’ve been too late to the show to catch InfOv (that’s right, that’s what I call them), but the thought of getting back out in my car and getting to he No Problemo taqueria for the show sent a shudder down my mid-Atlantic spine.

I’m sorry, but no one in this fucking state knows how to merge. I know a lot of good people from here — Tim Catz, John Arzgarth, and on and on — but seriously, it’s called manual feed. One from this side, one from the other, and you should probably already know that.

So The Patient Mrs. and my sorry self grabbed dinner and a couple big cans of Sapporo — crisp and delicious — and I’ll just look forward to the Small Stone showcase tomorrow night at Radio here in scenic Somerville, and a week next week largely devoted to making up for all the ground I’ve lost in the wake of Hurricane Sandy over the last several days. Expect track streams from Pharaoh Overlord and Mala Suerte/Uzala, reviews of said Small Stone showcase and At Devil Dirt, among others, an interview with Curse the Son, news about Toner Low and much, much more. I’m so far behind, I feel like all I can do is drink and hope the power comes back on.

Oh, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, click here. And while I’m thinking about it, let me underscore the point of how lucky I fucking am to be alive and to have suffered nothing more than what in the context of the rest of my beloved Garden State is a minor inconvenience at best.

I can drink and be bummed about all the shit I didn’t get done this week, but at least I’m not drinking and being bummed about the tree that fell on the house, I guess is my point.

Though I still worry about the roving gangs of marauders breaking into the house and stealing my Queens of the Stone Age promos and Sabbath bootlegs. Please — they’re all I’ve got. Take the tvs and the formerly-frozen pesto instead. Leave the CD rack alone.

“And here it comes again/Straight through the heart.” Fucking a.

Wherever you are, I hope you have a great and safe weekend. If you’re in the area and headed to the Small Stone show tomorrow — as I am; have I mentioned that yet? — please, no matter what I tell you, I’d love a Palm. Cheers.

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Video Premiere: Sleep Live at Scion Rock Fest 2012 & Interview

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 29th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster


How could you not love those faces? So bright-eyed and innocent.

Today, I have the absurdly extreme pleasure of premiering three clips of heavy gods Sleep performing and being interviewed at the 2012 Scion Rock Fest. As with the Church of Misery premiere last week, these videos come courtesy of Scion A/V Metal, and I’m grateful for being given the chance to post them. With a hurricane bearing down outside my window and not knowing how long electricity is going to last, I can think of no better use for it than making public the videos of “Dragonaut,” “Jerusalem Pt. 1″ and the interview below. Well, maybe showering, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

If you’ve been lucky enough to see Sleep in the last couple years, you already know both that the three-piece are something special to behold and that the dynamic between bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros (also Om), guitarist Matt Pike (also High on Fire) and drummer Jason Roeder (also Neurosis) more than lives up to the legacy they made for themselves with landmark releases like 1993′s classic Sleep’s Holy Mountain, from which “Dragonaut” comes, and the ultimate stoner epic Dopesmoker, from which “Jerusalem Pt. 1″ is derived. As they’ve been playing live the last couple years — Roeder came aboard to replace original drummer Chris Hakius — they’ve broken up the pieces of the hour-long monster and dispersed them into the set, giving the whole thing an unhinged feel and continuing flow. I don’t feel the slightest bit hyperbolic when I say it’s among the heaviest things I’ve ever seen.

Please enjoy “Dragonaut,” “Jerusalem Pt. 1″ and the following interview with Cisneros and Roeder.

Sleep, “Dragonaut” Live at Scion Rock Fest 2012

Sleep, “Jerusalem Pt. 1″ Live at Scion Rock Fest 2012

Sleep Interview at Scion Rock Fest 2012

Thanks again to Scion A/V Metal for the permission to host these clips, and to Sleep, for all the riffs and badassery and crimson dragons and whatnot.

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Canon of Heavy: Black Sabbath, Master of Reality (1971)

Posted in Canon of Heavy on October 24th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster


What do you say when staring into the face of the greatest album of all time? Fuck if I know.

For months, I’ve been kicking around the idea of starting a periodic feature highlighting the best and most influential albums in heavy rock, stoner rock, doom, whatever — a Canon of Heavy. All along I’ve known that, though I didn’t want it to be like a top-10 or to go by number or date or any other particular order, the first inductee into said canon would have to be Black Sabbath‘s 1971 masterpiece, Master of Reality. The rest of the time since has been trying to figure out what the hell to say about it.

Because while endless words have been written in its praise and its singular influence has bled into enough bands and records to make Helen of Troy’s thousand ships look paltry, the basic fact of the matter is that Master of Reality was and is perfect, and that’s all the explanation it really needs.

No doubt I could stop right there and an entire section of the population who might see this post could only nod in agreement — “Yup.” — but it would be half-assed, and frankly, it’ll be more fun this way. Here are just a few of my reasons why it had to be Geezer Butler , Tony Iommi, Bill Ward and Ozzy Osbourne, and why Master of Reality had to be the first Canon of Heavy inclusion.

Is it the Best Album Ever?

Yeah, pretty much. Opinions vary and we can go back and forth forever about this or that record, what’s better about what, but when it comes down to it, Master of Reality really is flawless. From the coughs that open “Sweet Leaf” to the last chord that closes “Into the Void,” there isn’t a moment misspent. Sure, you have interludes “Embryo” and “Orchid” and the whispered section after “Children of the Grave,” but even these are perfectly suited to their purpose, no longer than they need to be to bridge the gap to and from the song before into the next track while adding to the atmosphere.

And each of its main tracks was a defining moment. “Sweet Leaf,” “After Forever,” “Children of the Grave,” “Lord of this World,” “Solitude” and “Into the Void” — you could look at any one of those songs and mark out its influence, whether it’s “Sweet Leaf” codifying what decades later would in no small part define stoner rock or  “After Forever” offering the earliest template for Christian metal — but more importantly to the idea of Master of Reality as a whole is how well they work with each other, driving you forward into the culmination of “Into the Void,” which comes as the final answer to successive exclamations of “this is the heaviest thing ever,” “no, this is the heaviest thing ever!” No matter how many times I hear Master of Reality, it never loses its power. One does not listen to it so much as one is brought into its countenance.

It was The Birth of The Heavy — and though it’s sold over two million copies since, it remains an underground treasure. You listen to Master of Reality and it’s not like putting on anything else, any other big release. The album connects on an individual level, and not just in a handshake-from-a-famous-person kind of way. Its thickened, sludgy lumber is the stuff of legend, but each legend is a personal, human story as well.

Third Time Around

We all know the cliche about thirds, so I’ll spare you that, but arriving in July 1971, Master of Reality came not even a full year after Black Sabbath‘s landmark second album, Paranoid and only 17 months after their self-titled debut, which is widely regarded as the moment that hard rock became heavy metal. Nonetheless, the growth the band underwent in that time — they toured as well, astoundingly — is stunning, and where Black Sabbath was formative and raw and Paranoid was chaotic and bitter, the third album refined all of Sabbath‘s ideas to that point into a drug-fueled lurch that they’d never again match. In their rush to get the next LP out and maintain their chart position, they wrote the single best collection of songs heavy music has ever known.

They were, by their own admission, drugged out of their minds at the time. And yet, their songwriting would never be in this space again. Black Sabbath and Paranoid are both truly great albums, and I don’t doubt that in time they’ll be included here as well, but the reason it’s Master of Reality first is because Master of Reality marks that crucial moment where “heavy” became more than just a mindset and truly manifested itself sonically in Iommi‘s guitar and Butler‘s bass, where the riffs came to ultimate prominence, and where the band hit the intersection of knowing what kind of music they wanted to be making without over-thinking their processes. The bassline of “After Forever,” the unmitigated stomp of “Lord of this World,” the percussive thrust of “Children of the Grave” — how much time did they actually spend on these songs? Hours?

With Master of Reality, Sabbath found the balance sound-wise they’d never be able to find in a real life filled with narcotic excess and personal drama. Further, it’s the most efficient album they ever made. By the time they’d record Vol. 4 in May 1972, that moment had simply passed, and while they were by no means done and there was still plenty more for them to say in their original incarnation, Master of Reality was as crucial as they ever got.

“Solitude”

There’s ongoing debate about whether it’s even Osbourne singing or Ward, but what’s special about the penultimate cut on the album is that it’s no less heavy than anything around it for its lack of assault. Sure, “Black Sabbath” from the same album was a creeper and “Planet Caravan” is a better execution of psychedelia, but “Solitude” is among the purest executions of doom ever recorded. You’re not journeying through space so much as through the depths of your own wretchedness, and long gone are tales of mysterious demons at the foot of your bed. All that’s left is yourself and the miserable bastard you’ve become:

My name it means nothing, my fortune means less
My future is shrouded in dark wilderness
Sunshine is far away, clouds linger on
Everything I possessed, now they are gone

Even “Paranoid,” which one could argue covered some of the same depressive lyrical ground, didn’t dare unmask itself to such an extent, and when they tried again to cover similar ground on “Changes” from Vol. 4, the result was a laughable farce of emotionality. The minimalist blues of “Solitude” is unmatched in the Sabbath catalog, which even elsewhere offers righteous judgment (“Lord of this World”) and brazen defiance (“Children of the Grave”), but never again the same kind of peculiar ambience and first-person exploration of damaged psyche. It is beautiful and doomed in like measure, and the lead-in it provides the introductory and signature riff of “Into the Void” gives both songs a context emblematic of the strength of the album as a whole work.

The Legacy

Goes without saying, again. Go grab a CD or record off your shelf of any even moderately heavy variety, and there’s a good chance that whether or not the band knows it, there’s some aspect of Master of Reality to be found therein. The album is elemental in the actual, scientific sense — providing the pieces through which compounds can be made. A lot of Black Sabbath from this period is like that. With Master of Reality though, this was the record the first two were driving toward and the record that the remaining five released by the original lineup were coming from.

In terms of a Canon of Heavy, Blue Cheer and Hendrix were heavy before it, and others like Budgie, Atomic Rooster, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin ran concurrent, but none could stand in line with its crushing weight or sheer sonic mass. And none have since, Sabbath included. One need only name a band from either the heavy rock, doom or sludge genres to find someone who’s tried, pivotal or obscure, but Master of Reality stands unto itself, carved in stone. Time has not diminished it, and I think if time tried, the record would simply kick its ass, which is the same treatment it has dealt out to everything else in its path for the last 41 years.

Like I said: perfect.

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EXCLUSIVE: Saint Vitus Offer Free Download of New Scion A/V Live EP; Tour Starts Tonight!

Posted in Features on September 13th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

I’ve done some cool shit in my day. Traveled places I thought I’d never go, seen things I never thought I’d see, and today, it’s my extreme fucking honor to exclusively host for free download a new Scion A/V Metal live EP from the gods themselves, Saint Fucking Vitus.

Get it right here:

 

The three songs on this new Saint Vitus live EP were recorded earlier this year at the Scion Rock Fest in Tampa, Florida, and there’s a good chance you’ve never heard Dave Chandler‘s guitar sound as buzzsaw-vicious as it does on this version of “The Bleeding Ground.” Full tracklist is as follows:

1. Mystic Lady
2. The Bleeding Ground
3. Born too Late

The occasion we’re marking — other than heretofore unseen levels of awesomeness — is the beginning tonight of Saint Vitus‘ tour with Weedeater and the reportedly at-least-somewhat-revamped lineup of Sourvein.

Saint Vitus will have a limited run of 600 copies 12″ vinyl pressing of the EP available at shows starting early next week, with the Jermaine Rogers artwork screenprinted on the cover.

Don’t miss the tour when it dooms through:

Scion A/V Presents Saint Vitus, w/ special guests Weedeater and Sourvein

9/13 Fort Worth, TX **
9/14 Little Rock, AR *
9/15 Memphis, TN
9/16 Nashville, TN
9/18 Atlanta, GA
9/19 Raleigh, NC
9/20 Richmond, VA
9/21 Huntington, WV
9/22 Lexington, KY
9/23 Pittsburgh, PA
9/24 Boston, MA
9/25 Brooklyn, NY
9/27 Washington, DC
9/28 New York, NY **
9/29 Cleveland, OH
9/30 Chicago, IL
10/1 Minneapolis, MN
10/2 Lawrence, KS
10/3 Denver, CO
10/4 Salt Lake City, UT
10/5 Boise, ID
10/6 Portland, OR
10/7 Seattle, WA
10/9 San Francisco, CA
10/10 Los Angeles, CA
10/11 Sacramento, CA
10/12 Santa Cruz, CA
10/13 Pomona, CA **
10/14 Santa Ana, CA
10/15 Tempe, AZ
10/16 Albuquerque, NM
10/18 Austin, TX

*No Sourvein
**No Weedeater/Sourvein

Scion A/V will also be hosting ticket giveaways, one winner per city, at their @ScionAV Twitter, so hit that up for even more “don’t have to pay for it”-type goodness.

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Album of the Summer of the Week: Black Sabbath, Live in Paris 1970

Posted in Features on August 7th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Strictly speaking, the name of the CD is War Pigs, but I wanted there to be no confusion that what I’m talking about is Black Sabbath‘s gig at L’Olympia in Paris, France, from December 20, 1970. I know I’ve posted about it here before, and it’s probably the most famous of the many Sabbath bootlegs out there (if it’s second to anything, it’s Asbury Park, 1975; even that’s debatable), but it’s something I’ve gone back to a few times this summer for repeat listens, and it well earns its place as the Album of the Summer of the Week.

Whatever happened afterwards and whatever seemingly unending trail of bullshit infighting follows the band to this very day, in December 1970, Black Sabbath were basically dopey kids. This show was recorded a mere two months after Paranoid was released, and the performance is signature. From Geezer Butler‘s bass righteousness in “Hand of Doom” to Ozzy Osbourne even then not being able to remember the lyrics to “Iron Man,” Tony Iommi‘s burgeoning mastery of the riff and Bill Ward‘s manic fills, listening to War Pigs they sound like a band poised to create the greatest album ever — which of course they’d do with Master of Reality, released the following summer.

But War Pigs is overflowing with potential and if there’s a better way to end an hour-long set than “Fairies Wear Boots” — the verses of which are murdered here to hilarious effect — I’ve never encountered it. This being the age of ubiquitous online bootleggery (the up and down merits of which are a debate for another time altogether), the entire Paris 1970 set has made its way onto YouTube in glorious high definition, so please feel free to enrich your overheated summer afternoon with it below.

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