04.13.14 — 07:28 — Sunday morning — Hotel Mercure, Tilburg
Morning in Tilburg. Got back to the hotel last night and tried to get writing immediately but kept falling asleep at the keyboard. I’d wake up a couple seconds later and find a string of semi-colons a line long. It’s been a while since that happened. It finally came to the point where I semi-consciously reasoned that I’d be better off sleeping than having it take seven times as long to write because I couldn’t stay awake. I guess we’ll see how the reasoning works out.
Roadburn 2014 Day Three started for me more or less immediately after I closed the lid of my laptop in the afternoon. It was a day of kickass bands, noble intentions, and in my case, dragging ass. Some tough decisions. Will it be Indian or Old Man Gloom, Loop or -(16)-? Mansion or Horisont? A lot depended on my energy level at any given second, and a telling moment was when during YOB I was upstairs on the balcony of the Main Stage room and I opened the package of a protein bar only to have it be broken and two-thirds of it fall out of the wrapper onto the floor. Oh, I was a sad little monkey. I went and got myself dinner and said it was going to be okay. And it was, but for a second there the god damn world was about to end.
Better news is that all the bands I saw yesterday completely destroyed. In very different ways, to be sure. I watched more full sets than in the prior two days, bands like Noothgrush, Gozu, YOB, and Old Man Gloom offering thrills to the dedicated many who stuck around for the duration. When Noothgrush came out to open the Main Stage, vocalist Dino Sommese — in addition to referring to his band as “DIY punk; kinda angry, kinda slow” and backing up his punker perspective by talking some shit on corporate sponsorship — set about unleashing some of the nastiest screams I’ve heard the whole festival. Real, crusty, sludge. It wasn’t “post-” anything. It was visceral.
They’re a West Coast band, were gone for a while and came back a couple years ago. 11Paranoias were on at Het Patronaat, but Noothgrush set the tone for the day in both their unbridled riff-led filth and the fact that it compelled me to stay where I was for just about the whole time. Admittedly, I did poke my head into the Green Room to check out the beginning of Monster Truck – stoner rock; good for the soul — but from there I basically sat tight until Gozu were going on in the Green Room. For them, Roadburn 2014 is the start of a European tour that’ll go until they hit Desertfest in a couple weeks, and for me, it was a pleasure to watch them kill it so hard in that space.
Because that’s the thing about Roadburn. Well, one of the things. You can see a band 100 times, then see them at Roadburn and know it’s different. I’ve had that happen in years past and itwas the same with Gozu. Every band is on top of their game and from the lights to the sound to the projections behind, the 013 crew is so professional that it all looks and sounds great. I could not tell you how many times I’ve seen those dudes — Marc Gaffney, Douglas Allen Sherman, Joe Grotto and Mike Hubbard – play a song like “Meat Charger” from 2010′s Locust Season(review here). I suppose it’s less with this lineup, but still, no matter how many more times I catch Gozu at places in Boston, I will have seen them at Roadburn and know that means something.
I had a moment with Gozu similar to watching Hull the other day, and I realized that it was being happy for hometown guys making good at Roadburn, and that’s the first time I’ve really thought of Boston as being my hometown as well as New York (or New Jersey, but in the Netherlands, you just say New York). One more reason the 2014 fest is special to me. Getting to see YOB twice — and getting to hear their forthcoming album, Clearing the Path to Ascend, didn’t hurt either. It’s their third time here, and each time, the Eugene, Oregon, trio have played two sets, which is efficient if nothing else. Yesterday was The Great Cessationin full. Seems redundant to say it was fantastic, or at least needless, but YOB on the Main Stage at Roadburn. If there’s ever a band who ever fit in a place, it’s them and there. What a pleasure to watch.
The Great CessationI would count as the angriest of YOB‘s record, and especially in the context of hearing the new record a couple hours before, it’s material and a method of writing they’ve progressed beyond. Anger is still a factor, but The Great Cessationis so rife with disappointment, with frustration and rage. Of course that only made the songs more vicious. I was genuinely surprised when I walked out from the balcony to go back downstairs and closer to the front that it was still day outside. If anything was ever going to darken the sky, it would have to be “Silence of Heaven.” I look forward to seeing them again today and to becoming acquainted with their new songs. The second track on Clearing the Path to Ascend has some of the most furious drums I’ve ever heard from Travis Foster. We’re talking Through Silver in Blood-level. Can’t wait to see that live.
There was a bit of a break before Old Man Gloom went on. I thought I’d check out Carlton Melton instead, but they’re doing a jam with Dr. Space today and I started remembering the good times I had with Seminar II: The Holy Rites of Primitivism Regressionismand stuck it out in the Main Stage room. I haven’t listened to much Old Man Gloom since, and probably should’ve picked up their 2012 return outing, No, but for funds. They were fairly incredible and, as I thought just about no one would be able to do, managed to follow YOB. That shouldn’t be such a surprise with the all-star lineup of guitarist/vocalist Aaron Turner (Isis), guitarist/vocalist Nate Newton (Converge), bassist/vocalist Caleb Schofield (Cave In) and Santos Montano (Zozobra), but at one point I had to stop and say to myself, “So this is probably what it was like to see Neurosis 15 years ago.” Not a bad response for a band to evoke. “To Carry the Flame” from Nowas a particular highlight, and had me wondering if Roadburn might see an Isis reunion maybe in 2015 or sometime in the future beyond.
Part of the appeal of seeing Old Man Gloom was that I’ve never seen them before and may or may not ever get to see them again. That’s what kept me there the whole time. With Finland’s Mansion, the situation was similar. Their 2013 We Shall LiveEP (review here) intrigued with its cultish leanings and semi-psychedelic churn and the new single Congregation Hymns Vol. 1 has only furthered interest. Dressed all in black, in turtlenecks save for their bassist, who had a button-down (heathen!), Mansion projected religious righteousness well, and that’s cool since it’s part of their aesthetic, but it was really the songs I was there for. Vocalist Alma Mansion had a calm intensity that came to bursts of energy in the title-track from the EP, the band behind her following suit in both atmosphere and presence. I think a lot of people were getting ready for Loop to hit the Main Stage, but the Green Room was still pretty full as Mansion got going, and they delivered something I’ve seen no one else here have on offer. Chalk their new single on my list of records I wish I’d bought.
To be fair, Loop are touring the US this coming week — especially after seeing them play here, I can’t help but think that’s the wrong choice, and not because of the band– but to see them headline at Roadburn, particularly after their reunion came about following Loop guitarist/vocalist Robert Hampson sitting in with Godflesh last year, seemed fitting. I won’t profess to be an expert on Loop‘s records, Heaven’s Endand A Gilded Eternityare certainly top quality psych-gaze and were decades ahead of their time, but they’re not something I put on every day or every week, so for me it was more about just watching the band and seeing Loop for what they brought to the show. They seemed aware of the gravity of the situation, but handled themselves expertly and where Old Man Gloom had been about bombast and urgency, Loop were a more patient, gradual vibe. It worked well, but I was about ready to close out the night and so headed over to Het Patronaat for the first time of the day to catch Los Angeles noise rockers -(16)-.
I caught wind of Zoloft Smilearound the time it was released, and the sludgy outfit’s return over the last several years has only furthered appreciation. They were West Coast hardcore intense, but with thicker tones right on the edge where noise rolls into sludge. Fast. Mean. Loud. Perfect for Het Patronaat‘s relatively compact stage, incredible volume and otherworldly vibe, the stained glass church windows, woodwork, all of it covered in -(16)-‘s spilled guts. They were a steamroller from word one, vocalist Cris Jerue bounding from one side of the stage to the next while founding guitarist Bobby Ferry and the relatively recently-added rhythm section of bassist Barney Firks and drummer Dion Thurman did likewise. Their energy was infectious, and brought fitting symmetry to the crust with which Noothgrush had started my day.
That bookend in mind, I decided it was time to call it a night and headed back to the hotel, exhausted by grinning. Today is the Afterburner, which cuts the number of stage from five to three, and while it’s supposed to be the laid back finish to Roadburn similar to how the Hard Rock Hideout on Wednesday eased attendees into the festival mindset, I’ve got no real letup in terms of bands I want to see, from Selim Lemouchi’s Enemies honoring the fallen The Devil’s Blood guitarist to YOB again and Triptykon. Plus a fanzine to put together. Much to do this last day here. I better get to it.
Posted in Whathaveyou on April 7th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
This week, Boston’s own Gozu fly to Europe to begin a tour that will carry them for the next two weeks from Roadburn to the Desertfest in Berlin. It’s an enviable trip with what’s sure to be extra-righteous beginning and endpoints, and though it will have only been about half a month since I last watched them play, I consider Gozu among my gotta-see Roadburn bands. Why? Because everybody brings it toRoadburn. Tired? Jetlegged? Whatever the circumstances are, if you’re ever gonna kill, you’re gonna kill there. I’m looking forward to it.
Dates and whatnots follow, as dictated by the PR wire:
GOZU: Massachusetts Riff Rockers To Embark Upon First-Ever European Tour; The Fury Of A Patient Man Limited Edition Vinyl Out Now
Massachusetts hellions, GOZU, will take their riffs overseas next week for their first-ever European takeover! Set to begin at the legendary Roadburn Festival, the band will wage a full-on volume ambush through ten select locales in the Netherlands, Germany, Slovenia and Italy, concluding with a performance at Desertfest in Berlin.
GOZU will be touting the fruit of their The Fury Of A Patient Man full-length released last Spring via Small Stone. The self-produced ten track monster earned widespread praise for its Chris Cornellian vocal swells and robust, heavy rock swagger.
A special deluxe edition of The Fury Of A Patient Man was recently released via Small Stone in celebration of the upcoming European journey. Limited to 500 copies, the 2XLP set comes on 180-gram wax with a wide spine jacket, poly-lined sleeve, and two colors – LP one is “clear green” while LP two is “solid purple.” Sides one, two and three feature tracks from the original album, while side four offers up exclusive vinyl-only numbers with one original tune (“Break You”) and GOZUed renditions of Simply Red’s “Holding Back The Years” and D’Angelo’s “Shit, Damn, Motherfucker.”
GOZU Spring Tour 2014: 4/12/2014 Roadburn – Tilburg, NL 4/13/2014 Hafenklang – Hamburg, DE 4/15/2014 Feierwerk – Munich, DE 4/16/2014 Channel Zero – Ljubiljana, SI 4/17/2014 Magnolia – Milano, IT 4/18/2014 E20 Underground – Montecchio, IT 4/19/2014 TBA 4/20/2014 TBA 4/22/2014 Das Bette – Frankfurt, DE 4/23/2014 Musicon – Den Haag, NL 4/24/2014 The Underground – Cologne, DE 4/25/2014 Astra Kulturhaus Desertfest – Berlin, DE
Order the vinyl edition of The Fury Of A Patient Man atTHIS LOCATION.
Posted in Reviews on March 31st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’ve had some pretty landmark good times at Small Stone showcases over the last 10 or so years. Some of them — admittedly, the more recent ones — I’ve even remembered. The last one in Massachusetts was 2012 at Radio in Somerville (review here) was a monster, and as my first time in the upstairs room at the Middle East in Cambridge, I can’t imagine a more fitting occasion. A six-band bill with a shared love of riffs and a record label in common, it was a front-to-back night of volume, distortion, and groove, and from Neon Warship through Roadsaw, Gozu, Lo-Pan, Wo Fat and Mellow Bravo, there was no letup. No moment when you’d want to go outside and smoke or get some air. No moment when the place to be wasn’t in front of the stage.
That’s rare enough when three acts are playing, let alone twice as many. The same lineup minus Mellow Bravo and plus Geezer would play the next night at St. Vitus bar in Brooklyn, but as I had family coming north Saturday and zero dollars for gas, this was my fix. Parking in Cambridge on a Friday night is a singular joy between what’s campus housing for this or that elite-perpetuation factory and other sundry restrictions, but I found a spot and made it into the Middle East well enough in advance of Neon Warship starting off the night. Here’s how it went down from there:
Of all the acts who’d take stage Friday night, Neon Warship were the most recent addition to the label’s roster. Picked up late in 2013, the Dayton, Ohio, three-piece gave a taste of Small Stone to come with their steady rolling riffs and the post-The Sword vocal stylings of guitarist Kevin Schindel, who when he hit into his higher register made up for some of Freedom Hawk‘s absence from the bill. It was my first exposure to them live, though their 2013 self-titled debut had made an impression, and though they’ve been a band for three years, they came across initially as still getting their feet under them on stage. They were well received by what was rightly a friendly crowd, however, and flourished as their set progressed, getting more comfortable as they went on. It was short sets for everybody, however, so just as Neon Warship were hitting their stride, they were also wrapping up. I doubt it’ll be my last encounter with them, and I’d be interested to see them go longer and have more of a chance to engage the audience. They seemed to be headed in that direction.
I knew when I left the house that it was going to be an evening of top-notch guitar work. What I didn’t realize was that Ian Ross of Roadsaw was going to meet the quota on his own. Don’t get me wrong — situated as early headliners no doubt to bring in the local crowd early and get them drinking; a nefarious plot that worked wonders — all of Roadsaw was on fire, including new drummer Kyle Rasmussen (Phantom Glue) who recently came aboard to replace Jeremy Hemond for reasons yet undisclosed, but Ross seemed particularly to rise to the occasion that the night presented, and whether he was tearing ass through “The Finger” from 2001′s Rawk ‘n’ Roll or leading the way through the undulating stonerism of “Black Flower,” if it wasn’t the best I’ve ever seen him play, it was certainly close. They finished out with two from their 2011 self-titled (review here) — which at this point is begging for a follow-up — “Long in the Tooth” and “Weight in Gold,” and were nothing if not in headliner form, frontman Craig Riggs sharing a mic with bassist Tim Catz after swinging his enough to dislodge its cable and all four bringing their still-too-short set to a monstrously noisy finish. Sometimes earplugs just don’t matter.
Never say never in rock and roll, but at least for the time being this night marked the end of Gozu‘s three-guitar experiment. Lead player Jeff Fultz, who’d pull double-duty with Mellow Bravo, is reportedly on the move out of the area, so there goes that. And while his farewell with Mellow Bravo would be drunker/more emotional later on — he’d been in Mellow Bravo five years, a few months playing with Gozu — it was nonetheless a stellar sendoff. For me, they seemed to affirm the potential for Gozu as a five-piece they showed when I saw this lineup make its debut at the Great Scott back in January (review here), songs like “Irish Dart Fight” and “Meth Cowboy” benefiting both from the extra heft and and still nascent dynamic between Fultz and Doug Sherman‘s soloing. Guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney brought his own edge via a Gretsch hollow-body guitar — I don’t play, but if I had the money to spend I’d buy one just to look at it — and Joe Grotto, his foot up on the monitor, was duly animated holding down the low end, while still-relatively-new drummer Mike Hubbard made himself comfortable in the slower, more swinging terrain of “Alone,” the closer from 2010′s Locust Season(review here) and a rare enough inclusion in the set that I don’t think I’d ever seen them play it before. Certainly not since 2013′s The Fury of a Patient Man(review here) was released, anyway. They didn’t get to “Meat Charger,” but “Ghost Wipe” had been a raucous enough opener that all was well. They’re ready to hit Europe next month.
Oh, it had been too long. Too long. Not quite a year since they headlined the third Eye of the Stoned Goat fest in Brooklyn (review here), but still, that’s too long to go without seeing Lo-Pan. They played a set comprised almost entirely of new material, songs from the fourth album, Colossus, they’re recording with Andrew Schneider in Brooklynthis week, some I’d heard — “Colossus,” “The Duke” — others that were completely new. Hearing a runthrough of something once live is no way to judge how it will sound on record, but as guitarist Brian Fristoe nestled into the open, winding grooves of his own riffs backed by bassist Scott Thompson and drummer Jesse Bartz while vocalist Jeff Martin soul-man crooned behind, Lo-Pan sounded like Lo-Pan, and yes, I mean that as a compliment. It means the Ohio four-piece have established their sound and know what sides of what they do they want to develop and they’ve set to the work of that. I pulled my earplugs about halfway out for “El Dorado” from 2011′s Salvador(review here), but even the stuff I hadn’t heard before was easy to appreciate. As the hardest-touring band on Small Stone, Lo-Pan lack nothing for presence on stage, and though I almost got cracked in the head by Thompson‘s bass once or twice and when the night was over, I’m pretty sure it was Bartz‘s crash cymbal ringing in my ears, they silver-plattered a reminder of how vital an act they are. It would be premature to say their best days are ahead of them since Colossus is just now in progress, but they showed the room at the Middle East that anything’s possible, even topping Salvador.
Getting to see Texas trio Wo Fat play a packed room was one of the highlights of my Roadburn 2013 (review here), and with their second Small Stone outing (fifth overall), The Conjuring, on the way, brief as it was, their set was no less enjoyable here. At the same time they’re probably the best advertisement for Texan tourism I can think of, it’s probably also a good thing they’re from so far away, otherwise I’d probably wind up saying something like, “Oh, it’s only 10 hours. That’s not too far to drive to see Wo Fat again.” The TSA had rifled through guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump‘s gear, so they had to set everything up from scratch before they got going, but once they did, it was a weekend’s worth of fuzz condensed and served in a three-song can. Bassist Tim Wilson was dug in deep for “The Conjuring,” which took hold following a noisy transition from “Nameless Cults” from their 2013 Cyclopean Riffs split LP with Egypt (review here) and in turn shifted via jam into “Sleep of the Black Lotus” from 2012′s The Black Code(review here), the whole set coming across as one consistent riff and fuzz fest, grounded by the plod of drummer Michael Walter. Wo Fat are masters of getting the most out of a slow stoner groove and pushing it into or out of a faster rush (“The Conjuring” does this really well), and the swamp-voodoo lyrical themes they’ve paired with their Fu Manchu-worthy tonality fits perfectly. They don’t have Lo-Pan‘s road experience, but like their Ohio compatriots, Wo Fat clearly know what works in their approach. They wrapped up with a big rock finish — no other way to do it, really — and suddenly the night seemed too short…
…But the fact of the matter is when you want to round out a party in Boston, Mellow Bravo are the way to go. As noted, it was guitarist Jeff Fultz‘s last show with the band, and they were in top form to say goodbye. Irrepressibly outspoken frontman Keith Pierce warned the audience that they were going long in his honor, and while the local six-piece left the room thoroughly entertained — aside from borrowing my camera to take a house-lights-up shot of the crowd, I also saw Pierce at the bar at one point, and he finished the set in the audience — it was readily apparent that for them this was more than just another show or even a label showcase. For Pierce, keyboardist/vocalist Jess Collins, guitarist Andrew Doherty, bassist/vocalist Seager Tennis and drummer Dave Jarvis, they were losing a bandmate and a friend and paying him bittersweet tribute. That’s how it felt watching, anyhow. I’ve seen Mellow Bravo a few times at this point, as well as Collins and Pierce in their acoustic side-project, Tastefulnudes (live review here), and while this was hardly the tightest, crispest set I’ve watched from them, they gave the night a suitable finale, more or less starting an afterparty while they were still playing. To say the very least of it, it was worth sticking around for.
Other bands had started to pack up, but there was still a good deal of milling about, drinking, band-bonding, etc. going on. It was just hitting two in the morning, which had the bar in get-the-fuck-out mode, so I hiked the several blocks back to my car made my way home, more than a little bummed to know what I’d be missing the next night in Brooklyn but feeling fortunate to have been able to see the show I did.
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 7th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Gozu have a busy spring planned, between the Small Stone showcases later this month in Boston and Brooklyn and their inaugural European tour, which includes slots at Roadburn and Desertfest in Berlin. Couple that with a vinyl release for 2013′s stellar The Fury of a Patient Man(review here) which includes no fewer than three bonus tracks, and it’s a hell of a lot for the Boston four-piece to take on. To help with expenses, they’ve started an Indiegogo campaign to allow supporters to, well, support them as they make their way across the capital-C continent. There are a smattering of cool rewards as well, up to and including spending time in the studio as they record their next album (sounds good to me), signed vinyl, a guitar lesson from Doug Sherman and more.
Guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney smooth-talks his way into hearts and wallets alike in the video below, and if the style of the following PR wire info on the tour looks familiar, it’s because I wrote it.
Have at you:
GOZU Announce European Touring; Confirmed for Roadburn & Desertfest Berlin
The Fury of a Patient Man Vinyl Release Coming
Boston’s GOZU will be making their first trip to Europe this Spring, supporting their 2013 Small Stone release, The Fury of a Patient Man. The four-piece, who recently added drummer Mike Hubbard (ex-Warhorse) to their lineup, are slated to appear at April 12 at Roadburn 2014 in Tilburg, the Netherlands, and at Desertfest Berlin on April 15.
To mark the occasion(s), the band will release a limited 2LP edition of The Fury of a Patient Man through Small Stone and Germany’s Cargo Records, with 500 copies pressed and vinyl-exclusive tracks, including covers of Simple Red and D’Angelo. The LPs will be 180g vinyl and should be out in March.
Before they head overseas, GOZU will play two Small Stone showcases in Cambridge and Brooklyn, joining labelmates Roadsaw, Lo-Pan, Wo Fat, Neon Warship and others at The Middle East and the Saint Vitus Bar on March 28 and 29, respectively. All confirmed dates follow:
GOZU Tour Dates: 03/28 Cambridge, MA, The Middle East w/ Mellow Bravo, Wo Fat, Lo-Pan, Roadsaw, Neon Warship 03/29 Brooklyn, NY, Saint Vitus Bar w/ Wo Fat, Lo-Pan, Roadsaw, Neon Warship, Geezer 04/12 Tilburg, Netherlands, 013, Roadburn Festival 04/13 Hamburg, Germany, Hafenklang 04/14 Germany, TBA 04/15 Munich, Germany, Feierwerk 04/16 Ljubiljana, Slovenia, Channel Zero 04/17 Milano, Italy, TBA 04/18 Montecchio, Italy, E20 Underground 04/19 Italy, TBA 04/20 CH, TBA 04/22 Frankfurt, Germany, Das Bett 04/23 Germany, TBA 04/24 Cologne, Germany, Underground 04/25 Berlin, Germany, Astra Kulturhaus, Desertfest 2014
GOZU lineup: Marc Gaffney: vocals/guitar Joe Grotto: bass Mike Hubbard: drums Doug Sherman: guitar
They’ve been out for a minute at this point, but I had to get these up. Small Stone Records will host showcases in Boston and Brooklyn March 28 and 29, respectively. Roadsaw, Lo-Pan, Gozu, and Neon Warship will play both in Boston at the Middle East and in Brooklyn at the St. Vitus bar, and both shows also mark the Northern debut of Texas fuzz-giants Wo Fat! The Dallas trio will be touring to herald the coming of their fifth album, due in June. If you couldn’t tell by the exclamation point, I’m excited to be seeing them again.
Mellow Bravo (whose lead guitarist, Jeff Fultz, will now be pulling double duty as a member of Gozu) also feature in Boston, while Geezer will add some New York heavy blues to the Brooklyn lineup. Both posters come courtesy of Chris Smith, whose DeviantArt page is here. As you can see below, the two posters are set up to complement each other, and the Boston one is angrier. That more or less sums up the relationship between Boston and NYC as I currently understand it. Extra kudos to Smith for the subtle social commentary.
Click either poster to enlarge, and check out the lineups and other sundry information about both shows below, along with the Bandcamp stream of Wo Fat‘s The Black Code (review here), just for the hell of it:
Small Stone Showcase Boston- March 28th
THE MIDDLE EAST RESTAURANT & NIGHTCLUB www.mideastclub.com/ 472-480 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139
Mellow Bravo Wo Fat Lo-Pan GOZU Roadsaw Neon Warship
Posted in Reviews on January 13th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Fun fact: I saw Gozu in Allston just about a year ago, down the street from Great Scott at O’Brien’s (review here). Oh, what a difference a year can make. For me, now I live here. For them, after the early 2013 release of The Fury of a Patient Man (review here), they spent much of the ensuing 12 months playing out in various Eastern Seaboard haunts while reaping international praise for their second Small Stone outing the likes of which landed them a slot at the impending Roadburn 2014 and Berlin Desertfest in April, between which they’ll presumably tour (unless they’re going for frequent flier miles, which is possible) their inaugural European run. Late last year, they also swapped out drummer Barry Spillberg (ex-Wargasm) for former Warhorse basher Mike Hubbard and added Jeff Fultz on third guitar alongside Marc Gaffney and Doug Sherman. I guess their year was somewhat busier than mine. Fair enough.
That last move in particular I found puzzling. Fultz is an experienced, classy player — one might recall his tenure in Seemless last decade, and he currently holds a spot in Mellow Bravo in addition to having joined Gozu — but I wasn’t sure what a five-piece incarnation might add to Gozu‘s dynamic that wasn’t already there in the four-piece. And so curiosity was part of what got me out of the house; the other part was cabin fever. I’d been treating home more or less like a cocoon for the whole week while riding out what the Weather Channel’s website couldn’t seem to stop calling the “Polar Vortex” (which sounds like a stoner rock song if it isn’t one yet). A break in the blistering cold, though it was raining, didn’t hurt either. Seems the mettle of my Mid-Atlantic sensibilities is being tested by my first winter in New England. If I forfeit can it be May?
The night was a five-band bill with Gozu, Never Got Caught, Township, Await Rescue and Thunderbloods, and I won’t pretend to have seen the whole show. I understand that’s how it goes here and bills are stacked regularly and shows are dirt cheap (two bucks per band on this occasion), but with respect for the fertile creative ground that is the Boston scene, I had work still to do. Never Got Caught were on stage when I walked into the Great Scott – a room I dig a lot despite their apparent stance against lighting acts while they play — and though it was catching Gozu that got me out the door like the misshapen pupa I am, I was glad to run into the native four-piece, whose guitarist/vocalist Bryan “Uzi” Hinkley and his brother, drummer Bill Hinkley, trace their pedigree back to ’90s hardcore/heavy rockers Tree.
A double-guitar outfit with Bryan on lead vocals backed by fellow guitarist Dave Ward and bassist Jesse Sherman, they were somewhat moodier live than I recalled from their 2009 Creepshowfull-length, but still rich in tone with the guitars tapping at times into Wino-style fuzz without ever relinquishing their own identity to do so. Their songs were catchy and had character, but weren’t overly poppy, and when Bryan and Sherman and Ward all got on mic at the same time, the vocal interplay was clear, professional and made the songs all the more engaging. I’d never seen Never Got Caught before, but it’ll be worth keeping an eye out for a chance to do so again. They’ve reportedly got a new album in the works to release in Spring on Mad Oak Records.
Gozu followed immediately and played a set of eight songs evenly split between their two Small Stone records, 2010′s Locust Season(review here) and the aforementioned The Fury of a Patient Man, looking somewhat crowded on the Great Scott stage, but sounding tight although they’re clearly still smoothing out the presentation of the new lineup. Fultz seemed to have stage left to himself at first, while Gaffney was in the center, leaving bassist Joe Grotto and Sherman (Doug, as opposed to Jesse from Never Got Caught) packed on the right — neither of them has ever been wont to stand still while playing in my experience, but there were no collisions that I saw — and Hubbard behind. By the time they finished, they were more comfortable than they had been when they started. Fultz‘s amiable confidence meshed well with the rest of the band, Hubbard hit hard and slaughtered his way through the changes in “Signed, Epstein’s Mom” and “Ghost Wipe.” If nothing else, it was probably the loudest set I’ve seen from Gozu, and at this point I’ve seen a few.
And as they relaxed, sort of letting the songs do their work, the potential for Gozu as a five-piece really began to sink in. I had a forehead-slap moment of “holy shit, duh,” when Sherman and Fultz kicked into dueling solos for Locust Season highlight “Regal Beagle.” Gaffney held down the melody smoothly on vocals, and when the chorus was done and it was time for the guitars to take the lead, all of a sudden it was Gozu doing Thin Lizzy harmonies, adding a completely new twist on a familiar song, and whatever mental block I had to understanding why the band might want to add a third six-stringer evaporated. While Gaffney‘s a more than capable rhythm guitarist, before, it was clearly Sherman‘s role to handle the vast majority of the soling. With Fultz, not only is there a dynamic between lead and rhythm guitar, but between the lead guitars themselves as well. I don’t know why I didn’t get that before I actually stood there to see it — actually yes I do, it’s because I don’t play guitar — but being there made all the difference.
I was suddenly very glad to have left the house, and I felt like I also could relax from that point on in Gozu‘s set, which, as it stormed through “Meth Cowboy” and “Ghost Wipe” en route to closing out with “Mr. Riddle” only gained momentum. If it hadn’t been one before — and I think it had been — it was a party when Gozu were finished, but I beat a quick retreat like the misfit ogre I am and headed out into the moist but above-freezing air to slip on melting ice on the way back to my car. Served me right for not staying for the whole show.
Some more pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
The end of any year always brings a barrage of best-ofs. Lists, radio shows, award ceremonies, and even podcasts. What no one tells you about any of them is there’s no fucking way they can ever be comprehensive. My Top 20 list? It was damn good and I worked really hard putting it together, but was I toiling under the delusion that it was going to be an accurate and complete representation of everything 2013 had on offer? Hell no. That’s why we have the Readers Poll, the Albums Unheard list (still to come) and all the rest of the wrap-up stuff.
So as you check out this happens-to-be-the-last-of-2013 podcast, please keep in mind that though it does feature a sampling of some of 2013′s most killer songs from some of its most killer albums, it’s not at all intended to be a total roundup of this year. It’s a part of it, and I’m cool with that if you are.
It’s Xmas Eve as I put this together, and it’s looking like this’ll be my only post for today, so I’ll take another opportunity to wish you a happy holiday if you’re celebrating. Please be safe and enjoy time with family, gift-giving, and of course, good music. I don’t know if grandma would really get down to some Phantom Glue, but seems like it’s worth a shot.
Clutch, “D.C. Sound Attack” from Earth Rocker (2013)
Monster Magnet, “Last Patrol,” from Last Patrol (2013)
Church of Misery, “Cranley Gardens (Dennis Andrew Nilsen)” from Thy Kingdom Scum (2013)
Phantom Glue, “Bow in the Dust” from A War of Light Cones (2013)
Pelican, “The Tundra” from Forever Becoming (2013)
Young Hunter, “Trail of Tears” from Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain (2013)
All Them Witches, “The Death of Coyote Woman” from Lightning at Your Door (2013)
Black Thai, “Doors to Nowhere” from Season of Might (2013)
Gozu, “Charles Bronson Pinchot” from The Fury of a Patient Man (2013)
Geezer, “Ancient Song” from Gage EP (2013)
T.G. Olson, “Unsung Everyone” from Hell’s Half Acre (2013)
Fuzz, “One” from Fuzz (2013)
Wooden Shjips, “Servants” from Back to Land (2013)
Fever Dog, “Lady Snowblood/Child of the Netherworlds,” from Lady Snowblood (2013)
Samsara Blues Experiment, “Brahmin’s Lament” from Waiting for the Flood (2013)
Vista Chino, “Planets 1 & 2” from Peace (2013)
Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, “Valley of the Dolls” from Mind Control (2013)
The Golden Grass, “One More Time” from One More Time b/w Tornado (2013)
Beelzefuzz, “Lonely Creatures” from Beelzefuzz (2013)
Posted in Features on December 16th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Please note: These are my picks, not the results of the Readers Poll, which is still going on. If you haven’t added your list yet, please do.
It’s always strange to think of something so utterly arbitrary as also being really, really difficult, but I think 2013 posed the biggest challenge yet in terms of getting together a final list of my favorite records. As ever, I had a post-it note on my office wall (when I moved, it moved with me) and I did my best to keep track of everything that resonated throughout the year. I wound up with over 40 picks and had to start putting them in order to whittle the list down.
I wound up with a top 20 that, even though it feels somewhat incomplete, I’ve found that I can at very least live with. That’s what I’ve done for the last week: Just lived with it. Even up to this morning, I was making changes, but in general, I think this gives some scope about what hit me hard in 2013. Of course, these are just my picks, and while things like my own critical appreciation factor in because that affects how I ultimately listen to a record, sometimes it just comes down to what was stuck in my head most often or what I kept putting on over and over.
That’s a simple formula to apply, but still, 2013 didn’t make it easy. Please note as you go through that there are some real gems in the honorable mentions. I thought about expanding the list to 30 this year, but the thought made my skull start to cave in, so I reconsidered.
Anyway, it only comes around once a year, so let’s do this thing. Thanks in advance for reading:
20. All Them Witches, Lightning at the Door
Traditionally, I’ve reserved #20 for a sentimental pick. An album that’s hard to place numerically because of some personal or emotional connection. This year wasn’t short on those, but when it came to it, I knew I couldn’t make this list without Lightning at the Door included, and since it was released just last month as the follow-up to the earlier-2013 Elektrohasch reissue of the Nashville, Tennessee, outfit’s 2012 debut, Our Mother Electricity (review here), I didn’t feel like I’ve had enough time with it to really put it anywhere else. It needed to be here, and so it is, and though I’ve listened to it plenty in the month since its release, I still feel like I’m getting to know Lightning at the Door, and exploring its open-spaced blues rocking grooves. All Them Witches are hands down one of the best bands I heard for the first time this year, and I’m looking forward to following their work as they continue to progress.
For a while after I first heard …Like Clockwork and around the time I reviewed it, I sweated it pretty hard. By mid-June, I had it as one of the year’s best without a doubt in my mind. Then I put it away. I don’t know if I burnt myself out on it or what, but I still haven’t really gone back to it, and while the brilliance of cuts like “Kalopsia” and “Fairweather Friends” and “I Appear Missing” still stands out and puts Josh Homme‘s songwriting as some of the most accomplished I encountered in 2013, that hasn’t been enough to make me take it off the shelf. I doubt Queens of the Stone Age will cry about it as they tour arenas and get nominated for Grammy awards, but there it is. I wouldn’t have expected …Like Clockworkto be so low on the list, certainly not when I was listening to “My God is the Sun” six times in a row just to try and get my head around the chorus.
Gorgeously produced and impeccably textured, The Winter Ward by Stockholm-based I are Droid aren’t generally the kind of thing I’d reach for, but the quality of the craft in songs like “Constrict Contract” and “Feathers and Dust” made it essential. Bits and pieces within harkened back to frontman Peder Bergstrand‘s tenure in Lowrider, but ultimately The Winter Wardemerged with a varied and rich personality all its own, and that became the basis for the appeal. As the weather has gotten colder and it’s gotten dark earlier, I’ve returned to The Winter Wardfor repeat visits, and as much as I’ve got my fingers crossed for another Lowrider album in 2014, I hope I are Droid continue to run parallel, since the progressive take on alternative influences they managed to concoct was carried across with proportionate accessibility. It was as audience friendly and satisfying a listen as it was complex and ripe for active engagement.
There was just nothing to argue about when it came to the self-titled debut from Massachusetts-based doomers Magic Circle, but what worked best about the album was that although the songs were strong on their own and seemed to have lurching hooks to spare, everything throughout fed into an overarching atmosphere that was denser than the straightforwardness of the structures might lead the listener to initially believe. It was a record worth going back to, worth getting lost in the nod of, and as the members are experienced players in a variety of New England acts from The Rival Mob to Doomriders, it should be interesting to find out what demons they may conjure in following-up Magic Circle, if they’ll continue down the path of deceptively subversive “traditionalism” or expand their sound into more progressive reaches. Either way they may choose, the material on their first outing showed an ability to craft an enigmatic, individualized sonic persona that never veered into cultish caricature.
If you’re into doom and you have a soul, I don’t know how you could not be rooting for Iron Man in 2013. Produced by Frank Marchand and the first full-length from the long-running Maryland doomers to feature vocalist Dee Calhoun and drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann alongside guitarist/founder “Iron” Al Morris III (interview here) and longtime bassist Louis Strachan. The difference in South of the Earthwas palpable even in comparison to 2009′s I Have Returned(review here). With more professional production, excellent performances all around in the lineup, memorable songs like “Hail to the Haze” and “The Worst and Longest Day,” and the considerable endorsement of a release through Rise Above/Metal Blade behind them, the four-piece sounded like the statesmen they are in the Maryland scene and showed themselves every bit worthy of inclusion in the discussion of America’s finest in traditional, Sabbathian doom. May they continue to get their due.
Whether it was what the lyrics were talking about or not, the message of “The Message” was clear: Never count out a catchy chorus. Now in operation for a decade, Sasquatch practice an arcane artistry with their songwriting. Void of pretense, heavy on boogie, they are as genuine a modern extension of classic heavy rock as you’re likely to find. The Los Angeles power trio outdid themselves with IV, veering boldly into psychedelia on “Smoke Signal” and honing their craft over various moods and themes on “Sweet Lady,” “Me and You” and “Eye of the Storm.” They remain one of American heavy rock’s key and consistently underestimated components, and the three years since the release of their third album, III(review here), seemed like an eternity once the quality grooves of “Money” and “Drawing Flies” got moving, the former an insistent rush and the latter open, dreamy and atmospheric, but both executed with precision and confidence born of Sasquatch‘s familiarity with the methods and means of kicking ass.
It was hard to know what to expect from Black Pyramid‘s Adversarial, their first release with guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard at the fore with bassist Dave Gein and drummer/engineer Clay Neely, but the Massachusetts outfit flourished on tracks like “Swing the Scimitar,” incorporating a heavy jamming sensibility with marauding riffs and grooves carried over from the style of their first two albums. Adversarial took the band to Hellfest in France this past summer, where they shared a stage with Neurosis and Sleep, and whether it was the raging chorus of “Bleed Out” or the clarion guitar line of “Aphelion,” the band showed their war ensemble could not be stopped. Their future is uncertain with Neely having relocated and Gein having an impending move of his own, but if Adversarialis to stand as the final Black Pyramid outing, they will at very least have claimed enough heads in their time to line fence-posts for miles. Still, hopefully they can find some way to continue to make it work.
Even the interlude “Seasick Serenade,” just over a minute and a half long, was haunting. Electric Relicsmarked the first full-length from Nashville’s Across Tundras to be released on their own label and the first since they issued Sage through Neurot in 2011 (review here), and as rolling and exploratory as its vibe was, songs like “Solar Ark,” “Pining for the Gravel Roads” and “Den of Poison Snakes” also represented a solidification of Across Tundras‘ sound, another step in their development that refined their blend of rural landscapes and heavy tones. Issued in April, it’s been an album that throughout the course of the year I’ve returned to time and again, and the more I’ve sat with it and the more comfortable it’s become, the more its songs have come to feel like home, which it’s easy to read as being their intent all along. Guitarist/vocalist Tanner Olson (read his questionnaire answers here), bassist/vocalist Mikey Allred and drummer Casey Perry hit on something special in these tracks, and one gets the sense their influence is just beginning to be felt.
Initially a digital self-release by the Washington, D.C. riff purveyors, Oculus just this month got a tri-color, tri-label and tri-continental vinyl issue, and the fanfare with which it arrived was well earned by the five songs contained on the two sides. Borracho‘s second album behind 2011′s Splitting Sky(review here) also marked a lineup shift in the band that saw them go from a four-piece to a trio, with guitarist Steve Fisher (interview here) stepping to the fore as vocalist in the new incarnation with Tim Martin on bass and Mario Trubiano on drums. The results in songs like “Know the Score” and closer “I’ve Come for it All” were in line stylistically with the straightforward approach they showed on their first offering, but tighter overall in their presentation, and Fisher‘s voice was a natural fit with the band’s stated ethic of “repetitive heavy grooves” — a neat summary, if perhaps underselling their appeal somewhat. Oculusshowed both that the appeal of Splitting Skywas no fluke and that Borracho with four members or three was not a band to be taken lightly.
Like the bulk of Ice Dragon‘s work to date, Born a Heavy Morning was put out first digitally, for free or pay-what-you-want download. A CD version would follow soon enough on Navalorama, with intricate packaging to match the album’s understated achievements, taking the Boston genre-crossers into and through heavy psychedelic atmospheres added to and played off in longer pieces like “The Past Plus the Future is Present” and the gorgeously ethereal “Square Triangle” by thematic slice-of-life set-pieces like “In Which a Man Daydreams about a Girl from His Youth” and “In Which a Man Ends His Workweek with a Great Carouse” that only enriched the listening experience and furthered Ice Dragon‘s experimental appeal. Ever-prolific, Born a Heavy Morningwasn’t the only Ice Dragon outing this year, physical or digital, but it stood in a place of its own within their constantly-expanding catalog and showcased a stylistic fearlessness that can only be an asset in their favor as they continue to chase down whatever the hell it is they’re after in their songs and make genuine originality sound so natural.
It seemed like no matter where I turned in 2013, Devil to Pay‘s Fate is Your Musewas there. Not that it was the highest-profile release of the year or bolstered by some consciousness-invading viral campaign or anything, just that once the songs locked into my head, there was no removing them, and whether it was straightforward rockers like “This Train Won’t Stop,” “Savonarola” and “Tie One On,” the moodier “Black Black Heart” or the charm-soaked “Ten Lizardmen and One Pocketknife” — which might also be the best song title I came across this year — it was a pretty safe bet that something from the Indianapolis four-piece was going to make a showing on the mental jukebox if not in the actual player (it showed up plenty there as well). Devil to Pay‘s first album since 2009, first for Ripple and fourth overall, Fate is Your Musewas a grower listen whose appeal only deepened over the months after its release, the layered vocals of guitarist Steve Janiak (interview here) adaptable to the varying vibes of “Wearin’ You Down” and “Already Dead” and soulful in classic fashion. They’ve been underrated as a live act for some time, and Fate is Your Musetranslated well their light-on-frills, heavy-on-riffs appeal to a studio setting.
9. Beast in the Field, The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below
Such devastation. Even now, every time I put on Beast in the Field‘s The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below, it makes me want to hang my head and wonder at the horror of it all like Marlon Brando hiding out in a cave. If anything at all, there wasn’t much I heard in 2013 that hit harder than the Michigan duo’s fifth long-player, released on CD in March through Saw Her Ghost with vinyl reportedly on the way now. Toward the middle of the year, it got to the point where I wanted to go door to door and say to people, “Uh excuse me, but this is absurdly heavy and you should check it out.” I settled for streaming the album in full and it still feels like a compromise. I tried to interview the band, to no avail — sometimes instrumental acts just don’t want to talk about it — but what guitarist Jordan Pries and drummer Jamie Jahr were able to accomplish tonally, atmospherically and bombastically in expansive and overwhelmingly heavy cuts like the 22-minute “Oncoming Avalanche” or the noise-soaked riffing of “Hollow Horn” put The Sacred Above, the Sacred Belowinto a weight class that it had pretty much to itself this year. It’s a good thing they had no trouble filling that space. I still feel like I haven’t recommended the album enough and that more people need to be made aware of its existence.
When I finally listened to Beelzefuzz‘s self-titled debut, I was really, really glad I had seen the three-piece — its members based in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania — play some of the material live. I don’t know if otherwise I’d have been able to distinguish between the progress elements of effects and looping and the live creation of layers and organ sounds through the guitar of Dana Ortt (interview here) and the simple humdrum of studio layering one finds all the time. I almost think for their next record they should track it live, just the three of them, and heavily advertise that fact to help get the point across that it’s actually just three players — Ortt, bassist Pug Kirby and drummer Darin McCloskey (also of PaleDivine) — creating the richness of sound on “All the Feeling Returns” and the eerie, gleefully weird progressive stomp on “Lonely Creatures.” The album became a morning go-to for me, and I don’t know how many times I’ve been through it at this point, but “Reborn” and “Hypnotize” and “Lotus Jam” continue to echo in my head even when it’s been a few days. That said, it’s rarely been a few days, because while I appreciate what the trio accomplish on their first record on an analytical level, the reason it is where it is on this list is because I can’t stop listening to the damn thing. Another one that more people should hear than have heard.
7. Samsara Blues Experiment, Waiting for the Flood
One of the aspects of Samsara Blues Experiment‘s third offering that I most enjoyed was that it wasn’t the album I expected German four-piece to make. After their 2011 sophomore album, Revelation and Mystery (review here), shifted its focus away from the jam-minded heavy psychedelia of their 2009 debut, Long Distance Trip (review here), my thinking was that they would continue down that path and coalesce into a more straightforward brand of heavy rock. Instead, when the four extended tracks of Waiting for the Floodshowed up with no shortage of swirl or sitar or open-ended expansion in their midst, it was a legitimate surprise. Repeat visits to “Shringara” and “Don’t Belong” show that actually it’s not so much that Samsara Blues Experiment turned around and were hell-bent on jamming out all the time, but that rather for their third, they took elements of what worked on their first two LPs and built lush movements on top of those ideas. As a happy bonus, this having grown more and more into their sound has helped push the band — guitarist/vocalist Christian Peters, guitarist Hans Eiselt, bassist Richard Behrens and drummer Thomas Vedder — into their own niche within the wider European heavy psych scene, and they’ve begun to emerge as one of its most enjoyable and consistent acts.
Kind of inevitable that there would be a lot of comparisons made between Mind Controland the preceding Uncle Acid album, Blood Lust. Certainly the newer outing — their third and first for Rise Above/Metal Blade – is more psychedelic, more tripped out and less obscure feeling than its predecessor. It didn’t have the same kind of crunch to the guitar tone, or the same kind of horror-film atmosphere or psychosexual foreboding, but the thing was, it wasn’t supposed to. The UK outfit continue to prod cult mentality even as their own cult grows, and as I see it, Mind Control made a lot of sense coming off Blood Lustin terms of the band not wanting to repeat the same ideas over again, but grow from them and expand their sound. Of course, with the strut at the end of opener “Mt. Abraxas,” they’ve set a high standard on their albums for leadoff tracks, but where Mind Controlreally made its impression was in the hypnosis of cuts like the Beatlesian “Follow the Leader,” the lysergic “Valley of the Dolls” or the maddening “Devil’s Work.” The deeper you went into side B, the more the band had you in their grasp. It was a different kind of accomplishment than the preceding effort — though “Mind Crawler” kept a lot of that vibe alive — and it showed Uncle Acid had more in their arsenal than VHS ambience and garage doom malevolence while keeping the infectiousness that helped Blood Lustmake such an impression.
Of the ones reviewed, Lumbar‘s The First and Last Days of Unwelcomewas the most recent inclusion on this list. Having worked with Lumbar multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Aaron Edge (interview here) in the past with his band Roareth releasing what would be their only album on The Maple Forum, this was a project to which I felt an immediate connection given the circumstances of its creation: Being written almost in its entirety and recorded in everything but vocals during a bedridden period following Edge‘s diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. The contributions of YOB/Vhöl frontman Mike Scheidt and Tad Doyle of TAD and Brothers of the Sonic Cloth were what got a lot of people’s attention for Lumbar‘s The First and Last Days of Unwelcome, but with the situation are the core of the seven tracks named “Day One” through “Day Seven,” what stood out to me even more than those performances was the utter lack of distance and the level of rawness in the album’s presentation. It puts you there. What you get with Lumbar is the direct translation of a range of emotions from hopeful to hopeless, angry, sad, beaten down and wanting answers, wanting more. There’s no shield from it, and as much in concept as in its execution, there’s no other word for it than “heavy.” The intensity Edge packed into just 24 minutes — and not all of it loud or over the top doomed or anything more than atmospherics — was unmatched by anything else I heard this year.
From just about any angle you want to view it, the situation that turned Kyuss Lives! into Vista Chino was unfortunate. However — and I know I’ve said this before — I really do believe that becoming Vista Chino, that furthering the distance from the Kyuss moniker, brand, legacy, and so on, was for the better of the band creatively. And not because the songs don’t stand up. I doubt it helped their draw much, but for vocalist John Garcia and drummer Brant Bjork (interview here), working as Vista Chino for the creation of Peace, and especially or Bjork working with guitarist Bruno Fevery for the first time in the writing process, it allowed them to step outside of what would’ve been insurmountable expectations for a “fifth Kyuss album” and create something honest, new, and ultimately, more true to the spirit of that now-legendary band. Let’s face it, you hear John Garcia, Brant Bjork and Nick Oliveri are working on a project together, you’re immediately comparing it to Kyuss anyway. At least with Vista Chino, they’ve given themselves the potential for growth beyond a preconceived idea of what Kyuss should sound like. Well what does Vista Chino sound like? It sounds like whatever the hell they want. On Peace, though many of the lyrics dealt with their legal battles over the Kyuss name, the vibe stayed true to a desert rock ethic of laid back heavy, and the round-out jam in “Acidize/The Gambling Moose” left Peacewith the feeling that maybe that’s where they’ve ended up after all. Fingers crossed Mike Dean (of C.O.C. and the latest live incarnation of Vista Chino) winds up playing bass on the record, but other than that, wherever they want to go with it, as a fan, I’m happy to follow along.
The second outing from Gozu on Small Stone, The Fury of a Patient Man tapped into so much of what made the Boston band’s 2010 Locust Season label debut (review here) work so right on and just did it better. Don’t get me wrong, I still dig on “Meat Charger,” but with tracks like “Snake Plissken,” “Bald Bull,” “Signed, Epstein’s Mom” (note: it was “signed, Epstein’s mother” on Welcome Back Kotter) and the thrashing “Charles Bronson Pinchot,” Gozu put forth a collection of some of 2013′s finest heavy rock and did so with not only their own soulful spin on the tropes of the genre, but a mature and varied approach that was no less comfortable giving High on Fire a run for their money than reveling in the grandiose chorus of “Ghost Wipe,” which was also one of the best hooks of the year, guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney (interview here) delivering lines in crisp, confident layers, perfectly mixed by Benny Grotto at Mad Oak Studios and cutting through the fray of his own and Doug Sherman‘s guitars, the bass of Paul Dallaire (who split duties with J. Canava; Joe Grotto has since taken over the position) and Barry Spillberg‘s drumming. What the future might hold for Gozu with the recent shift in lineup that replaced Spillberg with drummer Mike Hubbard (ex-Warhorse) and added third guitarist Jeff Fultz (Mellow Bravo) remains to be seen, but with European touring on the horizon for 2014 and appearances slated for Roadburn and Desertfest, the band seem to be looking only to expand their reach, and with the material from The Fury of a Patient Man as a foundation, they’ve got some major considerations acting in their favor. Another album from which I simply could not escape this year, and from which I didn’t want to.
Billed largely and at least in-part accurately as a return to the group’s psychedelic roots, Last Patrol was Monster Magnet‘s ninth full-length, their first in three years and their second for Napalm. The New Jersey outfit led by guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, founder and, in this case, co-producer Dave Wyndorf (interview here) did indeed delve into the space rock side of their sound more than they have in over a decade, and the effect that doing so had was like a great shaking-off of dust, as though the Bullgod in the John Sumrow cover art just woke up after a long slumber. Perhaps even more than tripping on the Donovan cover “Three Kingfishers” or on the more extended freakouts “Last Patrol” and “End of Time,” what really made Last Patrolsuch a complete experience was the depth of emotion. Wyndorf wasn’t just standing above an overproduced wall of distortion talking about how he’s the best lay in the galaxy or whatever — fun though that kind of stuff is and has been in the past — but songs like “I Live behind the Clouds,” “The Duke (of Supernature),” “Paradise” and “Stay Tuned” offered a humbler take, a spirit of melancholy that rested well alongside the unmitigated stomp of “Hallelujah” or the driving heavy rock of “Mindless Ones.” Even in its most riotous stretches, Last Patrolwas a humbler affair, with a more honest vibe than their last four, maybe five albums. A Monster Magnet release would’ve been noteworthy no matter what it actually sounded like, because that’s the level of impact they’ve had on heavy psych and underground rock over the last two decades-plus. The difference with Last Patrolwas that it was a refreshing change from what had started to sound like a formula going stale, and it was just so damn good to have them be weird again.
Finally, an album that asked the question, “What it was I’m going to do I haven’t done?” I knew at the year’s halfway point that Clutch‘s Earth Rockerwas going to be the one to beat, and that it wasn’t going to be easy for anyone else to top the Maryland kings of groove, who sounded so reinvigorated on songs like “Crucial Velocity,” “Book, Saddle and Go,” “Unto the Breach,” and “Cyborg Bette,” and on funkfied pushers like “D.C. Sound Attack!,” “The Wolfman Kindly Requests…” and “The Face.” They’d hardly been in hibernation since 2009′s Strange Cousins from the West, but four years was the longest they’d ever gone between albums, and it was past time for a new one. To have it arrive as such a boot to the ass just made it that much better, the band shifting away from some of the blues/jam influences that emerged over the course of 2005′s Robot Hive/Exodusand 2007′s From Beale Street to Oblivion — though those certainly showed up as well in the subdued “Gone Cold” and elsewhere — but thanks in no small part to the production of Machine, with whom the band last worked for 2004′s Blast Tyrant, Earth Rockerwas huge where it wanted to be and that gave Clutch‘s faster, more active material all the more urgency, where although the songwriting was quality as always, Strange Cousins from the West languished a bit at a more relaxed pace. The difference made all the difference. Whether it was the hellhounds on your trail (what a pity!) in “D.C. Sound Attack!” or the Jazzmasters erupting from the bottom of the sea to take flight, Clutch‘s 10th album was brimming with live, vibrant, heavy on action and heavy on groove, and on a sheer song-by-song level, a classic in the making from a band who’ve already had a few. At very least, it’s a landmark in their discography, and though vocalist Neil Fallon (interview here), guitarist Tim Sult, bassist Dan Maines and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster always change from record, but it’s the unmistakable stamp they put on all their outings that have earned them such a loyal following, and that stamp is all over Earth Rocker. Front to back, it is a pure Clutch record, and while I’ll happily acknowledge that it’s an obvious pick for album of the year, I don’t see how I possibly could’ve chosen anything else. Like the best of the best, Earth Rockerwill deliver for years to come.
The Next 10 and Honorable Mentions
I said at the outset I had 40 picks. The reality was more than that, but here’s the next 10 anyway:
21. Blaak Heat Shujaa, The Edge of an Era
22. The Freeks, Full On
23. Luder, Adelphophagia
24. The Flying Eyes, Lowlands
25. Black Skies, Circadian Meditations
26. At Devil Dirt, Plan B: Sin Revolucion No Hay Evolucion
27. Kadavar, Abra Kadavar
28. Naam, Vow
29. Mühr, Messiah
30. Uzala, Tales of Blood and Fire
Further honorable mention has to go to Pelican, Endless Boogie, Earthless, Phantom Glue, Goatess, Windhand, Gonga, TonerLow, Jesuand Sandrider.
Two More Special Records
I’d be unforgivably remiss if I didn’t note the release in 2013 of two albums that wound up being incredibly special to me personally: I vs. the Glacierby Clamfight and A Time of Hunting by Kings Destroy. Since it came out on this site’s in-house label, I didn’t consider the Clamfight eligible for list consideration and while I didn’t help put it out, the Kings Destroy I also felt very, very close to — probably as close as I’ve felt to a record I didn’t actually perform on — so it didn’t seem fair on a critical level, but I consider both of these to be records that in a large part helped define my year, as well as being exceptional in and of themselves, and they needed very much to be singled out as such. These are people whom I feel whatever-the-godless-heathen-equivalent-of-blessed-is to know.
Before I end this post, I want to say thank you for reading, this, anything else you may have caught this year, whatever it might be. To say it means a lot to me personally is understating it, but it’s true all the same. I’m not quite done wrapping up the year — I’ll have a list of the best album covers, another for EPs and singles and demos, and of course the albums I didn’t hear — so please stay tuned over the next couple weeks, but it seemed only fair to show my appreciation now as well. Thank you.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 3rd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
The actual announcement is pretty short, but the implications are fascinating. Today, Boston heavy rockers Gozu announced not only that they’ve added a third guitarist in the form of Jeff Fultz, but also that drummer Barry Spillberg is out of the band and replaced by Mike Hubbard, formerly of Warhorse and currently in Cheap Leather. Anyone who’s seen Fultz rock it with Mellow Bravo or who recalls his work in Seemless after their first album can attest that he’s a killer lead guitarist, and he should be a good match for Gozu‘s Doug Sherman, whose own shred is not to be understated. Adding a third guitar alongside Sherman and guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney is going to have an immediate effect on the songs, new material and old, but I’m even more curious to hear how Gozu sounds with someone other than Spillberg drumming.
With songs like “Charles Bronson Pinchot” and “Ghost Wipe” from this year’s The Fury of a Patient Man(review here) in mind, it’ll be interesting to find out how Hubbard takes on the underlying metal influence in those parts, if he adopts them more or less as Spillberg played them, or if he brings his own edge to the tracks as well, either changing or rewriting stretches of the drum parts for a live setting. An even bigger tell is when Gozu get around to writing a follow-up to The Fury of a Patient Man, but by all accounts it seems like that’s a while off, with European touring and appearances at Desertfest and Roadburn on the horizon and a few East Coast shows before that happens.
Gozu‘s first gig with the semi-new lineup is at Great Scott on Jan. 10 with Never Got Caught, Thunderbloods, Township and Await Rescue. Info follows, culled from Thee Facebooks:
It’s been a real crazy month on our end and just wanted to welcome some new cats into the fold!! We are super super excited to have Drummer Mike Hubbard (Warhorse, Cheap Leather) and Guitarist Jeff Fultz (Seemless, Mellow Bravo) on board.
Jan 10th. Great Scott. See you there.
“It’s a new dawn. It’s a new day. It’s a new life.” – Nina Simone.
Posted in Reviews on October 16th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I won’t lie: The fact that Saint Vitus were playing on a Tuesday night had added nerdy glee for me for Wino Wednesday prospects. I was going to the show one way or another, but the fact that I could do two years in a row of live reviews for Wino Wednesday was an extra appeal. Last September, they played Brooklyn on my wedding anniversary and it was one of the best shows I’d ever seen. Doesn’t feel like more than a year ago, but the numbers tell it. Been a hell of a year.
Including, apparently, for Saint Vitus, who rolled through the downstairs space at Boston’s famed Middle East – a name I’ve seen on lists of tour dates forever but hadn’t actually ever been to until this show; the fact that I’ve only lived here for two months might have something to do with it — with Pallbearer and The Hookers in tow. Now well past their “reunion band” novelty and into the sphere of working a tour cycle, Saint Vitus delivered probably the most professional set I’ve seen from them. Gozu had joined the bill as local support, so I made sure to arrive early at the Middle East, which was a fortunate decision for the traffic I sat in getting there, and catch the start of the show.
That itself was also early, with Gozu going on around 7:30 following 7PM doors. I parked a couple blocks away and hustled in my lurching way to get into the venue and to the front of the stage, and here’s how it went from there:
Stop me if you’ve heard me say this about Gozu before, but the Beantown natives have hit that echelon of performance where the only thing that can possibly bring them to another level is touring. A band gets to a point where they’re so tight, so crisp in their delivery and so cohesive as a unit that just doing a show, even a relatively big one, which this was — that Middle East stage is wide, and deep; you could put a couch up there and make it your living room — is only going to do so much for them. Two albums in, Gozu have hit that point, so with the prospect of European dates around their impending Roadburn performance in the Netherlands next spring, it was a joy to watch them take a victory stomp over the hometown crowd. I hadn’t heard “Jan-Michael Vincent” from Locust Season in a while, with its funky vocal riding atop a fervent heavy rock groove, and though I still think they could milk that chorus for another round or two, it fit in well accompanied by “Ghost Wipe” from this year’s The Fury of a Patient Man (review here), from which the majority of the set was derived, though both swaggering opener “Meat Charger” and closer “Mr. Riddle” came from the earlier record, the latter following a blistering run through “Charles Bronson Pinchot” from the 2013 album. That song is about as aggressive as Gozu – guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney, guitarist Doug Sherman, bassist Joe Grotto and drummer Barry Spillberg, who seems only more righteously destructive every time I watch him play — have gotten to date, but even “Bald Bull,” which was comparatively unobtrusive in its studio form, was brought to life with considerable movement of air. Ditto that for “Signed, Epstein’s Mom.” I know for a fact that I’ll catch them again before they hit the road in Europe, but I’ll really be interested to see what some solid touring brings to their approach. As it was, they were an early treat well worth the rush-hour traffic to catch.
Monks of the First Church of Lemmy, Scientist, the Kentucky-based metalopunks The Hookers were demented, loud, energetic, and fun. How they wound up on a touring bill with Pallbearer and Saint Vitus, I have no idea, but they were a good time all the same, and seemed to revel in their standout position, frontman Adam “Rock ‘n’ Roll Outlaw” Neal pumping his fist to the d-beat sprint in songs like “Rock ‘n’ Roll Motherfucker,” “Black Magic” and “Black Thunder.” Even their “slow” stuff was fast and they knew it, and I’m not sure if they’ve gotten a mixed response at other shows, but they seemed to think they’d be worse received than they were. Maybe that’s part of the show, positioning themselves as hated to play up the scumbag aspect, but it’s worth noting that toward the end of the set, when bassist/backing vocalist Juan Badmutha came down from the stage into the crowd, he was almost immediately invited to partake in somebody’s PBR, which that showgoer even carefully poured into his mouth so he didn’t have to stop playing. That’s courtesy. They were a long way away from being “my thing,” but they hit hard from the stage and made no effort to pretend they weren’t enjoying themselves or that it wasn’t fun to sing songs about horror movies and booze and whatever else, and I certainly respect the hell out of that. Even from Gozu, who can be plenty uptempo when they get to it, The Hookers were a swift change, covering themselves and their audience in whiskey-soaked grit metal, unabashed in a high-speed AC/DC kind of way with several shredding guitar solos tossed off with foot-on-the-monitor command.
Most of what Arkansas doomers Pallbearer played was new, as in, after the release of their 2012 full-length debut, Sorrow and Extinction(review here). Two of the songs — the set opener and another of the total three (I think) new ones — didn’t yet have vocals, but the double-guitar four-piece still used one of the instrumentals as the wrap of their set proper because, as guitarist/vocalist Brett Campbell put it, “It’s fun to play.” Campbell is emotive enough on stage to cover for lyrics most of the time anyway, and Pallbearer‘s leads, provided either by him or fellow guitarist Devin Holt, are so mournful that the feeling is conveyed one way or another as bassist Joseph D. Rowland and drummer Mark Lierly hold together the huge, spacious-sounding plod of the material, the former also putting on a headbanging clinic for anyone fortunate enough to be there to watch. Rowland had a whole side of the stage to himself, which was different from every other time I’ve seen Pallbearer – Campbell was front and center, splitting Rowland and Holt, where in the past he’s been to the left, with the bassist and guitarist in subsequent left-to-right line. The shift made Campbell come across all the more like a frontman, particularly for that portion of the set which had vocals, including the distinct “Devoid of Redemption” from Sorrow and Extinction, and a surprising but potent take on Black Sabbath‘s “Over and Over,” the closing track from Mob Rules, which was the finale/epilogue to their time. It’s always a bold choice to take on Dio material, whether it’s Sabbath or not, but to their credit, Pallbearer were wise not to try to capture the same kind of feel as the original version, instead slowing it down, thickening it out, and letting Campbell deliver the lyrics — which actually fit pretty well with Pallbearer‘s consistent downer thematics — in his own style. Not only was it the shortest song in their set, but it played to an influence I wouldn’t have expected on the part of the band. A young woman in the crowd shouted, “Put out another fucking album!” and that seemed to be the prevailing sentiment all around. Hopefully in 2014.
Right in the middle of their set, just before they launched into “Let Them Fall” from last year’s über-excellent return outing, Lillie: F-65(review here), Saint Vitus guitarist Dave Chandler got on his mic — which was there solely to address the crowd in such a manner — and say that the song was their first-ever music video and that it got panned by “internet critics,” so let the internet critics fall. That’s always a bummer. Nonetheless, Vitus absolutely destroyed. A Tuesday night, still the beginning the week, I don’t really know what I was expecting, but they came out to “Vertigo” from Lillie: F-65and with a one-two of “Blessed Night” and “Clear Windowpane,” ignited the crowd and proceeded from there to pummel with classic after classic from their catalog. They’ve toured with some consistency since the record came out, and among the encouraging signs I took from their set was that cuts like the aforementioned “Blessed Night” and “Let Them Fall,” as well as “The Bleeding Ground” and “The Waste of Time” fit exceedingly well with essential Vitus tracks like “Living Backwards,” the anthemic “I Bleed Black” and “War is Our Destiny.” Chandler, vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich, bassist Mark Adams and drummer Henry Vasquez looked like a band who’d been playing shows for the last 11 nights in a row — that is, set in their execution like the whole thing was muscle memory — and the crowd couldn’t have been more into it. Moshing broke out during “The Bleeding Ground,” as Chandler noted, and a couple of surprise inclusions later on like “Shooting Gallery” from 1988′s Mournful Criesand “White Stallions” from 1985′s Hallow’s Victim, which seemed to take the place of their eponymous song in closing out their regular set, made for welcome additions to “The Troll” and the other older material. Vasquez got on mic before the encore to talk up the crowd and introduce the band coming back out. Mark Adams was “Original Member Number 69″ and “the King of Beers” both, and Chandler was “Mr. Doom Himself” or something thereabouts, while Wino was the “Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla” (somebody was a wrestling fan). Each of the three came out on cue and Saint Vitus capped the night with “Dying Inside” and, of course, “Born too Late” – Wino and Chandler both hopping off stage and into the crowd during the course — which only underscored how on their game the band is some four years into what’s apparently (and thankfully) an ongoing reunion. I had some hopes in the back of my mind for a new song, as they put word out in July that Chandler has started writing for their next album, but no dice there. As dead on as they were, I could hardly call it a loss, though, especially with the comfort I get to have in saying “maybe next time” about a band who, a few short years ago, I was convinced I’d never get to see live. Fucking awesome.
As a side note to the review, I just want to say that I met John Perez from Solitude Aeturnus at the show. A personal landmark. There working for Vitus along with former The Gates of Slumber drummer J. Clyde Paradis –which if nothing else should be indicative of the respect doom has for its forebears — he’s someone I’ve been in contact with periodically for the last decade or so who’s been perennially awesome to me, whether I’ve been covering his band or stuff on his Brainticket Records label, whatever it might be, or even just generally offering me advice and shooting the shit back and forth. An all-around great dude and a hand I was very glad to have an opportunity to shake after so long.
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 12th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Well established that I’m a sucker for a cool rock show and a cool rock poster, so when greeted by both, I’ve little choice in the matter of posting it. Enfectious Erf out of Memphis concocted the classy design below for what was previously announced taking place a week earlier as Small Stone‘s Detroit fall showcase and now seems to be less that than just another killer show with bands on the label, though it will also serve as the release party for Detroit-native progressive heavy rockers Luder‘s new album, Adelphophagia. In town for the night will be Freedom Hawk, Gozu, The Brought Low and Lo-Pan, so whether or not it’s an official showcase is immediately secondary to how much ass the night is going to kick. The Brought Low rarely get out that far, so Midwesterners take note, and any time Lo-Pan and Gozu get together, trouble is made. Very loud trouble.
Here’s the poster for the show, which you can click to enlarge if its current size isn’t big enough:
Small Stone Records Presents: Freedom Hawk, Gozu, Lo-Pan, Luder, The Brought Low
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 12th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Hot damn! Nothing like starting off the week with good news, and the announcement below that Gozu will play Roadburn 2014 certainly qualifies as that. The Boston natives will travel to the Netherlands to play the 013 venue on April 12 as part of the four-day fest from April 10-13. Earlier this year, Gozu released The Fury of a Patient Man (review here) on Small Stone and most recently, they demolished the stage at The Eye of the Stoned Goat 3 in Brooklyn (review here). Kudos to the band, who are going to kill it in Tilburg.
Here’s the latest:
Gozu to Play Roadburn Festival 2014
Following the instant critical success of their sophomore recording, Locust Season in 2010, Boston’s Gozu continues to go deep into stoner chug territory on their latest album, The Fury of A Patient Man. Dropping colossal bombs of pure rock fury, Gozu thrive on fuzzed-up guitars, tight motorik drumming, sharp melodies that a lot of bands would die for, and the magic ingredient – pure downright soul!
From the swaggering glory of ‘Bald Bull’ to the 12 bar buzzing boogie of ‘Salty Thumb’ and the upright yet dark guitar crunch of ‘Disco Related Injury’, Gozu will totally raze Roadburn Festival 2014 when they take the stage on Saturday, April 12th at the 013 venue in Tilburg, The Netherlands.
On their first ever European tour, Gozu will take no prisoners and leave no room to breathe, cuz the band’s stripped down highly infectious riff rock is as mountainous as it is undulating — Gozu will throw us a rocking bone and fight it out to the end! Hell, we didn’t even mention the band’s ability to bust out a loose yet structured jam like on ‘The Ceaseless Thunder Of Surf’, which sees Gozu invoking the spirit of Neurosis.
Roadburn‘s ready, bring it all on!
Roadburn Festival 2014 will run for four days from Thursday, April 10th to Sunday, April 13th, 2014 at the 013 venue in Tilburg, The Netherlands.
Posted in Reviews on July 29th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Though most of the acts were out-of-town imports, there was a strong familial vibe at The Acheron even before The Eye of the Stoned Goat 3 got started. Not knowing what traffic wonders awaited on a Saturday evening — could be nothing, could be armageddon — I headed into Brooklyn early so as to catch the start of the nine-band bill and got there well in advance of commencement. Plenty of time to sit outside and chat with fest organizer Brendan Burns, who’d later take the stage with his band Wasted Theory, Pat Harrington of Geezer and the Electric Beard of Doom podcast — who were among the presenters of the show along with The Obelisk, Small Stone Records, Wendigo and Burns‘ own SnakecharmerBooking — the cats from Lo-Pan and plenty of others coming through.
It was still sunny out with a few hours of daylight to come, but people were beginning to assemble. Word of the show had spread pretty well, so although people came and went throughout the evening and seemed to split their time between The Acheron‘s venue room and The Anchord Inn, which occupies the other half of the space, there wasn’t any point where I’d say it cleared out, and right up to when Lo-Pan took the stage as headliners, there was a steady build of heads filling the room. The bar next to the stage was certainly busy all night.
Soon enough, though, it was time to go inside as the night started to get underway with Philly merchants of stone, Wizard Eye. From there, it was a one-after-the-next succession of heavy. Here’s how it all went down:
They’re veterans of Eye of the Stoned Goat by now, but where the second installment earlier this year in Delaware had them teamed with fellow Philadelphia natives Heavy Temple, Thee Nosebleeds and Clamfight, in Brooklyn, they were on their own in representing the City of Brotherly Love. Not only that, but it was their third show with new drummer Mike in the trio with the dreaded guitarist/vocalist Erik Caplan and bassist/backing vocalist Dave. If there was any anxiety on their part, they didn’t show it. Wizard Eye seemed as comfortable as ever as they nestled into their thick, air-pushing Sleep-style stoner grooves, Caplan moving from his guitar to the theremin at just the moment when it seemed the former wouldn’t deliver anymore wail than that which had already been extracted from it. My overarching impression of the band remains the same as when I saw them in February — they need to get an album out. It’s time and even being 33 percent new, their presentation was tight enough to make me think they’re more than ready to go. Hopefully soon.
If Wizard Eye were the stonerly start, then NYC’s Geezer were the answer for anyone looking for a taste of blues, guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington working in a liberal use of slide while bassist Freddy Villano and drummer Turco filled out a heavy rocking stomp behind the classically fuzzed distortion and gravelly vocals. The band is still fresh off the release of their impressive 2013 Gage EP (discussed here), and they brought that jammier sensibility to their set, seeming right at home in slower progressions that they made move when they needed them to and offering unpretentious drinkin’ man’s music well met by the getting-started crowd. Harrington‘s was among the most believable “whiskey-soaked” style singing that I’ve heard in years, and he and Villano (who also play in Gaggle of Cocks together) obviously had years’ worth of chemistry working in their favor, despite Geezer being a relatively recent advent. Closer “Ghost Rider Solar Plexus” was a highlight, and as they’re reportedly working on a vinyl release for Gage, they seem to be building some momentum going into whatever they have in the works for after that. A solid blues-based heavy rock jam is something I’ll never argue with, and Geezer had that in spades.
Up from their home in Bear, Delaware, double-guitar unit Wasted Theory handled themselves well on The Acheron‘s stage, as Eye of the Stoned Goat 3 organizer Brendan Burns sat back for drums behind guitarist/vocalist Jackson, lead guitarist M. Kramer and bassist J., the four-piece striking hard on a balance of post-Down Southern metal and more driving stoner fare. They seemed in good spirits after having performed about a month ago at the Moving the Earth festival in Baltimore, and as they hit into songs off this year’s GodSpeedEP and Jackson swung his guitar around his back, they seemed to have come far even since I got my first glimpse of them earlier this year, locking in some fervent Pepper Keenan-style chugging on guitar while J. gave the riffs a thick foundation to rest on. They were energetic and engaged the whole way through, and though they didn’t pull in the biggest crowd of the night, they capped off with a motor-boogieing new song, Jackson half on guitar, that positioned them well coming out of GodSpeed. By the time they were done with their short set, the fest seemed like it was moving along quickly.
I’d reviewed it the day before, so I don’t think Borracho‘s second album, Oculus, would’ve been any fresher on my mind if I’d listened to it on the way to the show. The D.C.-based trio had been out the weekend before for a set of four gigs with Lo-Pan, so I expected they’d be pretty tight and they did not disappoint. Owing to time constraints, they only played three or four songs, starting out with “Empty” and “Stockpile,” the opener and centerpiece from Oculus. Guitarist Steve Fisher has taken to the vocalist role well, and he seemed right at home on both of the Oculus cuts, the set as well giving me a whole new appreciation for the richness of bassist Tim Martin‘s tone. Dense and packed with low end push, it created the waves on which Borracho‘s slower grooves rode, punctuated and given further physicality during the jammier stretches of “Stockpile” by drummer Mario Trubiano. Dipping back to their 2011 debut, Splitting Sky, the trio capped off with the quick burst of “Concentric Circles,” Fisher showing no hesitation to deliver the lines shouting up into a dangling microphone, Motörhead-style. The earlier sets were all pretty short — 25 minutes for the first couple bands, then 30 for the next several — but Borracho had enough time to pack in maximum riffage and give anyone there who’d never seen them before a good idea of where they were coming from as a three-piece.
Here’s where I’m at with New Haven, Connecticut, four-piece Lord Fowl. They’re so tight and so professional that on stage they look like they could be playing one of those all-day amphitheater commercial radio shows with a goofy name. You know the ones: “WFUK presents the Summer Fling this Saturday at the Giant Corporate Bank Park,” and so on. Only snag is Lord Fowl don’t suck and all those bands do. It’s been over two years since I first saw them, and while they may not have the same kind of surprise factor going as they did that night, my enjoyment for what they do has only increased as they’ve gotten signed to Small Stone and last year released, Moon Queen(review here). Opening with the same wow-that-cop-is-saying-some-racist-shit sample that starts the song on the album, they kicked into the funk-riffed “Dirty Driving” as guitarists Vechel Jaynes and Mike Pellegrino traded off vocal parts, setting the tone for the rest of their all-too-short set. “Split” and “Hollow Horn” were welcome inclusions, bassist John Conine and drummer Don Freeman locking in with the starts and stops of the latter, balancing classic rock and modern heavy off each other with born-to-do-it ease. I asked Jaynes afterwards and he said a new record’s in the works, which was some of the best news I heard all night.
To my knowledge, no such award was handed out, but if Eye of the Stoned Goat wanted to start handing out prizes for the prettiest guitars, one would almost certainly have gone to Supermachine‘s Jay Fortin. I don’t even play guitar and the sight of his gold-trimmed, hollow-body Gretsch had me in awe, both in look and sound. As Fortin, bassist Dave Jarvis, drummer Mike McNeil and vocalist David Nebbia stepped into the New Hampshire biker rock groove of “Buffalo,” I could hear a touch of the tonality Fortin and Jarvis brought to their prior outfit together, Scissorfight, and while I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to listen to Supermachine and not consider that context — which isn’t really fair to the band, who are going for a different style altogether; it’s also why I’ve not to date reviewed their self-titled debut — there’s no doubt they’re a crisp, clear-headed and heavy four-piece who can put together a dead-on, ballsy set. “Crutch” was absurdly catchy and correspondingly full sounding, new song “Broiled Alive” was, well, also those things, and I came away from their set glad I had seen them before and had some sense of what to expect, since it allowed me more of a chance to relax and take Supermachine in on their own level. That being the case, I wondered if maybe repeat exposure would continue the trend, and if so, I could think of far worse things.
Black Black Black
The first two words in the page of notes I took during the Black Black Black set were “holy” and “shit.” The only New York band on the bill besides Geezer — also the only other act playing Eye of the Stoned Goat 3 besides Geezer that I hadn’t seen live before — Black Black Black took the stage in unassuming-enough fashion and proceeded to demolish the space around them. It was like they decided to bring their self-titled debut (see here, here and here) to life and then punch everyone in the face with it. “Light Light Light” crushed in a manner that threw down a gauntlet that dared Gozu and Lo-Pan to match its weight, and “Pentagram On,” “Wisdom, Knowledge and Fucked,” the raging “ReDeath” and “Son of Bad” brought a zero-genre-allegiance sonic versatility that was lethal in kind to the band’s presentation of the material. As their time wore on — it went quickly, make no mistake — and guitarist Jacob Cox manipulated feedback to add atmosphere to the pummel, I tried to think back to the last time I got a recommendation as good as when Jesse Bartz from Lo-Pan put me onto them. I couldn’t come up with anything. With no loss of energy or assault in their delivery, Black Black Black – Cox, vocalist Jason Alexander Byers, bassist Jonathan Swafford and drummer Jeff Ottenbacher – included two new songs near the end, the latter of which offset a shuffling riff with vocals that bordered on airy before they shifted into their final round of intense bludgeoning. It was, in short, a fucking delight.
It made a strange kind of sense to me as I watched Boston’s Gozu load onto the stage that, last weekend, I should be in Boston watching The Brought Low at a show which members of Gozu were attending just to hang out, while this weekend, I’m in New York watching Gozu, who are from Boston, and here’s Ben Smith from The Brought Low, come to check out the gig. I feel like there’s some element of symmetry there and I just don’t have a brain able to process mathematics complex enough to enjoy it. Nonetheless, at The Acheron, Gozu played the heaviest set I’ve ever seen them play. Whether it was “Bald Bull,” the thrashing “Charles Bronson Pinchot” or the boogie-ready “Snake Plissken” from this year’s The Fury of a Patient Man(review here), or “Regal Beagle” from their 2010 Locust Seasondebut, everything they played seemed to pack some extra bite, and particularly in the case of drummer Barry Spillberg, the band hand-delivered a rager that set back some of their soul influence in favor of showing off hardcore roots, closing out with “Mr. Riddle” from Locust Season, which had thrust enough to its groove alone to justify Gozu’s place on the bill. I don’t generally think of Gozu as putting such an emphasis on heaviness — yeah, they’re a heavy rock band and guitarists Marc Gaffney and Doug Sherman and bassist Jay Grotto obviously have heft to their tones — but this was a different league entirely. They were almost metal, but if metal pulled its head out of its ass and remembered how good it felt to groove every now and again. Whatever symmetry I may have enjoyed in seeing them in New York this weekend, that was trumped easily by their actual performance, which was downright threatening.
It had been a long day. Lo-Pan were slated to hit the stage at midnight, and by the time they did — give or take a few minutes, but basically on time — I was long since beat, but already eight bands deep, there was no way I was missing anything the Ohio fuzz rockers had to offer. And I was even gladder I didn’t cut out early once they actually started playing; the setlist was packed with new material. “Eastern Seas” and “Colossus” were aired — familiar titles from recent shows — but “Hunters,” which if I’m not mistaken Jeff Martin said was being played for the first time (don’t quote me), brought out guttural, soulful shouts from the singer powerful enough to cut through the volume of the three players — bassist Scott Thompson, drummer Jesse Bartz and guitarist Brian “It’s His Tone, We’re Just Living in It” Fristoe — positioned in front of him. Light moshing occurred, which I guess is what happens when people 25 and under show up to gigs. New songs were joined by the familiar rush of “Deciduous” and “Generations” from 2011′s there’s-no-hyperbole-left-for-me-to-use-so-I’ll-just-say-it’s-fucking-awesome Small Stone debut, Salvador (review here), but Lo-Pan returned to new material to close out, ending off their set with “The Duke,” on which Martin‘s voice was presented sort of answering itself in delay. The final locked-in groove of that song justified its position as the finale, but when Lo-Pan were done, the shouts of “one more!” were immediate. Bartz had already gotten off the stage, but he came back up and Martin said they’d only do one more if someone bought Scott a shot of whiskey. It arrived during the first verse of “Kurtz” and was fed into his mouth as he played. More moshing ensued — heathens! — and Lo-Pan capped a killer night with a spectacle well worth sticking around to see. Until next time.
The efforts of Brendan Burns in making Eye of the Stoned Goat 3 happen are worth reiterating and commending. The Acheron also made an excellent host for the show — the sound straight through left nothing wanting in either volume, devastation or clarity — and each of the bands stepped up to deliver a fitting answer to the one in front of them, starting with Wizard Eye and ending with Lo-Pan. I got out of Brooklyn on the quick since it was already pushing 1AM, got back to my humble river valley a little after two and crashed out, satisfied that there was no more I could’ve asked of the night.
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 16th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
This is just the preliminary of the preliminary announcements, but a Small Stone label showcase is always a good time — seriously, I’m the most miserable bastard you could ever hope to (not) meet and I have a blast whenever I’m fortunate enough to attend one of the things — so I figured better to get the word out early so anyone interested in making the trip could mark the calendar now. The lineup for this year’s Detroit gig is still coming together, but already you’ve got Gozu, Lord Fowl, Lo-Pan and Luder on the bill, so for a whopping $10, it officially qualifies as what I believe the kids might call a “sick show.”
Oct. 12 is the date, The Magic Stick is the place. Here it is from the source:
Date: 10/12/2013 Venue: The Magic Stick Location: Detroit, MI Line Up: Gozu, Lord Fowl, Lo-Pan, Luder, TBA (most likely Freedom Hawk or Sasquatch). Doors: 7:30 – All Ages Price: $10.00
Posted in Features on June 18th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
This is always fun, and because the year’s only (just about) half over, you always know there’s more to come. The last six months have brought a host of really stellar releases, and the whole time, it’s felt like just when you’ve dug your heels into something and really feel content to rest with it for a while, there’s something else to grab your ears. So it’s been for the last six months, bouncing from one record to the next.
Even now, I’ve got a list of albums, singles, EPs, tapes, demos, whatever, waiting for attention — some of which I’m viciously behind on — but it’s time to stop and take a look back at some of what the best of the first half of 2013 has been. Please note, I’m only counting full-lengths here. While I’ve heard a few killer EPs this year — looking at you, Mars Red Sky — it doesn’t seem fair to rate everything all together like that. Maybe a separate list.
If you’ve got a list of your own or some quibbling on the numbers, please leave a comment and be heard. From where I sit, that’s always the best part of this kind of thing.
The third Endless Boogie album on No Quarter was basically the soundtrack to the end of my winter, with smooth grooving cuts like “The Artemus Ward” and the classic rock shake of “On Cryology” providing a soundtrack as cool as the air in my lungs. It was my first experience with the longform-jamming improv-heavy foursome, and a CD I’m still stoked to put on and get lost in, having found that it works just as well in summer’s humidity as winter’s freeze, the off-the-cuff narrations of Paul Major (interview here) carrying a vibe unmistakably belonging to the rock history of the band’s native New York City. Was a sleeper, but not one to miss for its organic and exploratory feel.
Proffering righteous traditional doom and misery-drenched atmospherics, the debut full-length from Massachusetts-based Magic Circle hit hard and showed there’s life yet to the old ways. It never quite veered into the cultish posturing that comprises so much of the trad doom aesthetic these days, and from the grandiose riffing of guitarists Dan Ducas and Chris Corry and the blown-out vocals of frontman Brendan Radigan, it found the band carving a memorable identity for themselves with clear sonic ideas of what they wanted to accomplish. Out of all the bands on this list, I’m most interested to hear what Magic Circle do next to build on their debut.
Berlin trio Kadavar had a tough task ahead of them in releasing a sophomore answer to their self-titled, which I thought was the best first album of 2012, but when Abra Kadavar surfaced as their debut on Nuclear Blast, it was quickly apparent that the retro heavy rockers had put together a worthy follow-up. Cuts like “Come Back Life” and “Doomsday Machine” underscored the straightforward triumphs of the prior outing, while late-album arrivals “Liquid Dream,” “Rhythm for Endless Minds” and “Abra Kadabra” gave a sense that Kadavar were beginning a journey into psychedelia the results of which could be just as rewarding as even the most potent of their choruses. Their potential remains one of their biggest appeals.
It wasn’t without its rough edges, but at the core of Indianapolis heavy rockers Devil to Pay‘s fourth record was an unflinching songwriting quality that quickly established it among my go-to regulars, whether it was the quirky doom hook of “Ten Lizardmen and One Pocketknife,” the darkly progressive riffing of “Black Black Heart” or the suitably propulsive rush of “This Train Won’t Stop.” The double-guitar four-piece didn’t have much time for frills in terms of arrangement or structure, but by building on the developments over the course of their three prior releases, Devil to Pay delivered a slab of deceptively intricate standouts that made hard turns sound easy and demanded the attention it deserved.
6. Beast in the Field, The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below
Unfuckwithable tone set to destructive purpose. Immediately upon hearing the unsung Michigan drum/guitar duo’s fourth album, the impact of The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below — overwhelming though it is at times throughout the album; hello, “Oncoming Avalanche” — refused to be denied. Beast in the Field haven’t gotten anything remotely close to the attention they should for this devastating collection, but it’s one I absolutely can’t put down, cohesive in theme and full of skull-caving riffs as dynamic as they are brutally delivered by the instrumental twosome. If it’s one you missed on CD when Saw Her Ghost put it out in March (as I did), keep your eyes open for a vinyl release coming on Emetic in the next couple months. Really. Do it.
Massachusetts trio Black Pyramid quickly dispatched any doubts of their ability to continue on after the departure of their previous guitarist/vocalist, bassist Dave Gein and drummer Clay Neely joined forces with Darryl Shepard (Hackman, Blackwolfgoat, Roadsaw, etc.) to reinvigorate their battle-ready doom, and whether it was the extended jamming on “Swing the Scimitar” or the surprisingly smooth riffing on “Aphelion,” the results did not disappoint. Regardless of personnel, I’ve yet to hear a Black Pyramid album I didn’t want to hear again, and though I’ll freely admit they’re a sentimental favorite for me at this point, Adversarial is a suitable dawn for their next era. Long may they reign.
True, I will argue tooth and nail that Boston four-piece Gozu should get rid of their goofball, sitcom-referential song titles, but that’s only because I believe the band’s lack of pretense speaks for itself through the music and their tracks are too good to give listeners a chance not to take them seriously. When it comes to The Fury of a Patient Man — their second full-length behind the impressive 2010 debut, Locust Season (review here) — I knew the first time I heard it toward the end of last year that it was going to be one of 2013′s best, and while I’ve heard quibbles in favor of the debut, nothing has dissuaded me from thinking the sophomore installment outclasses it on almost every level. Expect a return appearance when the year-end list hits in December.
There’s a big part of me that feels like a sucker for digging …Like Clockwork, the first Queens of the Stone Age full-length since 2007′s relatively lackluster Era Vulgaris, but when it comes right down to it, I hit the point in listening to the album that I came around to its sheen, its up-and-down moodiness and its unabashed self-importance. I hit the point where I was able to separate …Like Clockwork from its “viral marketing” and just enjoy Josh Homme‘s all-growed-up songwriting for what it is. Would I have loved a second self-titled album? Probably, but it wasn’t realistic to think that’s what …Like Clockwork would be, and as much as I’ve tried out other spots for it, I’d be lying if I put this record anywhere else on this list but here. So there you go. I understand the arguments against it, but reason doesn’t always apply when it comes to what gets repeat spins.
I was late to the party on the second Uncle Acid offering, 2011′s Blood Lust, as I often am on records where the hype gets to din levels, but by the time the subsequent Mind Control was announced, I knew it was going to be one to watch out for. Aligned to Rise Above/Metal Blade, the UK outfit began to unravel till-then mystery of itself, playing live and developing the brazen psychedelic pop influences hinted at in the horrors of Blood Lust so that the swing of “Mt. Abraxas” and the acid-coated psych of “Valley of the Dolls” could exist within the same cohesive sphere. Between the death-boogie of “Mind Crawler” and mid-period Beatlesian exploration of “Follow the Leader,” Mind Control continues to be an album I hear as much on the mental jukebox rotation as one I actually put on to listen to again. Either way, there’s no getting away from it — the eerie melodies of guitarist/vocalists Kevin “Uncle Acid” Starrs and Yotam Rubinger are hauntingly ever-present.
Obvious? Probably, but that doesn’t make it any less genuine. To set the scene, here’s me on the Masspike a couple weeks ago in the Volvo of Doom™ with the little dog Dio, 90 miles an hour shouting along to “Crucial Velocity” at the top of my never-on-key lungs. I couldn’t and wouldn’t endeavor to tell you how many times I’ve listened to Earth Rocker since I first got a taste, but from the title-track on through the surging groove at the end of “The Wolfman Kindly Requests…,” front to back, the 10th Clutch album still does not fail to roil the blood with not a dud in the bunch. The Maryland road dogs of course shine best on a stage, and Earth Rocker‘s polished, layered production is a studio affair in the truest sense, but all that does is make me hopeful they’ll complement it with a live record soon. Clutch could easily have phoned in a follow-up to 2009′s Strange Cousins from the West and their fanbase probably would’ve still salivated over it, myself included, but by boldly pushing themselves to write faster, more concise material, they’ve reenergized one of heavy rock’s best sounds. Whether you’re a longtime fan or a brand new listener, Earth Rocker is utterly essential.
Two more records I have to mention: Kings Destroy‘s A Time of Hunting and Clamfight‘s I vs. the Glacier. I wasn’t involved in releasing the Kings Destroy, but felt close to it nonetheless, and since the Clamfight came out on The Maple Forum, it wouldn’t be appropriate to include it in the list proper, but hands down, these are my two favorite records of the year so far and made by some of the best people I’ve had the pleasure to know over the course of my years nerding out to heavy music.
Some other honorable mentions go to Toner Low, Cathedral, Church of Misery, Serpent Throne, Naam, The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic and All Them Witches. Like I said, it’s been a hell of a year so far.
You may note some glaring absences in the list above — Black Sabbath, ASG, Orchid, Ghost, Kvelertak and Voivod come to mind immediately. Some of that is a result of my disdain for digital promos, and some of that is just a matter of what I listened to most. Please understand that although release profile is not something discounted, at the heart of what’s included here is one individual’s personal preferences and listening habits.
Thanks for reading. Here’s to your own lists and to the next six months to come!