Posted in Features on May 14th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
At the end of April, Boston four-piece Gozu released The Fury of a Patient Man. It is their second full-length behind 2010′s Locust Season, which was also issued on Small Stone, and a point of marked stylistic refinement for the band. Whether it was the clarity that holds sway beneath the fuzz of Marc Gaffney and Doug Sherman‘s guitars or the soul that shines through the vocals, the thickness that they seem to turn into shuffle at will, everything that made Locust Season(review here) such an engaging debut has been given a sense of progress on The Fury of a Patient Man, and Gozu, as a unit, have never sounded tighter.
That’s saying something, considering that even as The Fury of a Patient Man(review here) came together, their lineup was going through changes and Gaffney had an extended hospital stay. Bassists Jay Canava and Paul Dellaire both play on the record — put to tape, like the first one, by Benny Grotto at Mad Oak – and the position is now filled by Joe Grotto (yup, related), who joins the rhythm section alongside the scary precision of drummer Barry Spillberg, who makes the High on Fire-style gallop of “Charles Bronson Pinchot” as visceral as he makes the later “Disco Related Injury” swagger and groove.
But Gozu is no more Spillberg‘s show than it is any single member’s, and rather, The Fury of a Patient Manfinds its best moments when everyone comes together around a central idea, as on “Ghost Wipe,” which excellently melds some of their heaviest push with an unabashedly pop-minded chorus, the line “The loudness of a broken heart” serving as a takeaway not just from the song but from the full-length as a whole — a sort of complement to the title, furthering the emotional crux and making a point of its melodicism even as its melodies top some of Gozu‘s most fervent riffing, culmination coming in the hypnotic tidal repetitions of the 23-minute “The Ceaseless Thunder of Surf,” on which the band doesn’t so much let go of the song as they do let it wander where it might, sustained lines meeting their deconstruction in a poignant, patient finale. Even this, Gozu makes asongand not a part showcase.
A triumph through the record is — it’s one of 2013′s best, make no mistake — it’s easy to imagine Gozu‘s finest hours yet lay ahead of them. The band have been recruited for a slot at The Eye of the Stoned Goat 3 in Brooklyn this July (more info here), and they’ll tour with Ohio-based labelmates Lo-Pan to get there. In addition, for the 2LP release of The Fury of a Patient Man, Gozu have recently put together a collaboration with Lo-Pan vocalist Jeff Martin – reportedly a cover of D’Angelo‘s “Brown Sugar” — and while gigging in April with Fu Manchu might seem like a high point for anyone who ever based a song around a riff, on May 20, they’ll be at the Great Scott with Norwegian rippers Kvelertak, so the hits, as it were, keep coming. Well deserved.
Please find the 3,500-word Q&A with Marc Gaffney of Gozu after the jump, and please enjoy.
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 6th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’m very, very proud to be involved in helping promote The Eye of the Stoned Goat 3 in the way that I am. After checking out the second in the festival series back in February, it’s an honor to have signed on to help spread the word about the third, which boasts a strong lineup of bands at a choice venue on what I’ve no doubt will be a sweltering weekend night of heavy rock and roll. The fest sent over a victory lap of a press release, which you’ll find below:
The Eye of the Stoned Goat 3 set for Brooklyn, NY
Snake Charmer Booking announces its 3rd installment of its stoner rock and doom metal themed concert event “The Eye of the Stoned Goat”. The event will take place at The Acheron in Brooklyn New York on Saturday, July 27th 2013 at 6pm.
The Acheron, known to the locals as “the second coming of CBGB’s” is the perfect spot to host such a powerhouse line up, including Small Stone Records bands: Lo-Pan, Gozu, SuperMachine, and Lord Fowl. Washington, D.C.’s own Borracho, Delaware band Wasted Theory, and Philadelphia’s Wizard Eye will be making the trip up, while local support will be provided by Brooklyn’s Black Black Black, and Kingston, New York’s own Geezer.
In February 2013, Snake Charmer Booking hosted the second Eye of the Stoned Goat show in Delaware, home of event organizer Brendan Burns. Only a month later, Burns teamed up with Pat Harrington at the ‘Electric Beard of Doom’ podcast to announce that they would be bringing the event to New York.
Some of the bands who have previously played the ‘Stoned Goat events include- Pale Divine, Iron Man, Clamfight, Beelzefuzz, Blackhand, Skeleton Hands, Thee Nosebleeds and Black Cowgirl to name a few. “I’ve been fortunate being able to work with so many great bands, and this time around is no different” according to Burns. “This roster of artists are bands that I enjoy listening to regularly, and I am just absolutely thrilled to be working with them, it’s a promoter’s dream to work with bands that you listen to in your daily life”. Burns has also begun working on his roster for the Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 for 2014.
This summer’s event will also features such sponsors as Small Stone Records, The Obelisk, Wendigo Promotions and Electric Beard of Doom Podcast.
Tickets go on sale May 1st 2013 for $12.00 (online price), and will also be available at the door for $15.00 to first come first served. For more information, visitwww.TheEyeoftheStonedGoat.com.
Posted in Whathaveyou on April 12th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
They’re the titans of tone! The rulers of riffs! The fugelmen of fuzz! Okay, you get the point, which is that Gozu and Lo-Pan teaming up for a tour is a very, very cool thing and if you’re lucky enough to be in an area where one of these four July shows is happening, then you’re probably gonna want to endeavor to show up. Gozu at that point will still be riding high on the release of The Fury of a Patient Man, and Lo-Pan — who were already playing new material late last year — should only have more of it by now with the rare time they’ve spent off the road, so all the better to get an advance glimpse at their next album.
It’s four-nights-only that thelabelmates and soulful forerunners will be teamed up, and they’re playing in Worcester, Massachusetts, Manchester, New Hampshire and Boston on their way to join their Small Stone brethren in Supermachine and Lord Fowl, as well as Borracho, Black Black Black, Wasted Theory, Wizard Eye and Geezer at The Eye of the Stoned Goat 3 at The Acheron in Brooklyn. More on that here.
Rumor has it — and by rumor I mean the interview I did a couple weeks back with Gozu guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney that I haven’t had time to transcribe yet — that Lo-Pan singer Jeff Martin was recently invited to collaborate with Gozu on a track for the vinyl release of The Fury of a Patient Man, which given the sheer pipes involved is bound to improve the quality of life of anyone who hears it once it comes out. Very much looking forward to that.
Here’s the poster and the dates for the Lo-Pan/Gozu, with more info coming soon:
If that’s not enough to get your rock glands in a tizzy, Gozu are also opening for Fu Manchu (who are playing The Action is Gofront to back) this coming week at The Sinclair in Cambridge. More on that here. Lo-Pan play April 20 at Red Sun‘s 10th anniversary show, as reported here the other day. Rock and roll abounds. Let’s make some eggs:
Ahead of the April 23 CD release of their second full-length, The Fury of a Patient Man — now available for pre-order through the Small Stone Bandcamp — Boston soul riffers Gozu have a brand new video for the track “Bald Bull.” The clip was directed and produced by none other than Roadsaw‘s Tim Catz, and it’s got all the milk-dripping-through-beard action you could ask for. Also head-sawing!
Mark it a win for that and of course for the song itself, a highlight of the album (review here) that Gozu will support with two nights at Radio in Somerville May 3 and 4 ahead of making a stop in Brooklyn this July for a slot at The Eye of the Stoned Goat 3 at The Acheron (more info here). Here’s “Bald Bull,” followed by the flyer for the Radio gigs with each night’s lineup. Enjoy:
Gozu, “Bald Bull” Official Video
On May 3, Gozu will be joined by Streight Angular (whose name is somehow so hard to type it hurts), Mellow Bravo and Birch Hill Dam. The next night, it’s Cocked ‘n’ Loaded, Black Pyramid, Thunderbloods and Hey Zeus. Either way, you can’t really go wrong:
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 14th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Presented by Snakecharmer Booking, Small Stone Records, the Electric Beard of Doom podcast and yours truly once I manage to track down my hi res Obelisk logos, the Eye of the Stoned Goat 3 is set to take place July 27 at The Acheron in Brooklyn. It will have only been months since Eye of the Stoned Goat 2 suckerpunched Delaware upside its still-bragging-about-being-the-first-state head (review here), but with a lineup that includes Lo-Pan, Gozu, Supermachine, Black Black Black, Borracho, Wizard Eye, Lord Fowl, Geezer and Wasted Theory, I’m not about to complain.
As I’ll be helping present the damn thing, expect much more to come, including interviews with the artists, reviews and updates on their whathaveyou and maybe even a giveaway if I can square it with the powers that be. Till then, stare at the preliminary flyer below marvel at the wonders summer will bring:
Posted in Features on March 12th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
…Yeah, I know, 24 is a buttload of records to buy in the span of about a month and a half. To do the division, it would mean buying a new album every 2.04 days. Probably not feasible in terms of time, let alone budget, but hell, it’s a nice thought and seeing the onslaught of new stuff coming between now and the end of April, I thought maybe a list would help keep it all straight. Even if I’m only helping myself, I could probably spend my time in worse ways.
Worth noting that even with 24 albums, presented below in order of release, I feel like there’s stuff I’m forgetting. Frankly, it’s an overwhelming amount of material, so if I’ve missed something or there’s something you’d like to see added to the list, as always, that’s why there’s a comments feature.
Okay. These are numbered just for fun, but listed by date:
1. Orange Goblin, A Eulogy for the Fans (March 12)
My understanding is that London’s foremost doom scoundrels, none other than Orange Goblin, have been selling copies of A Eulogy for the Fans since starting their US tour with Clutch on March 8 in Cincinnati, Ohio, but today is the official release date, and I can think of no better place to start than with the four-piece’s ferocious performance at the 2012 Bloodstock festival, captured audio and video in all its bloodsoaked glory. Not to be missed or taken lightly because it’s a live record. Album review here.
2. Borracho, Mob Gathering 7″ (March 13)
Even though it’s comprised of older tracks, the new Mob Gathering 7″ from Borracho is welcome by me for two reasons: I’ve never heard the songs before and Borracho rocks. The Washington D.C.-based riffers recorded “Mob Gathering” and “Short Ride (When it’s Over)” in 2009 and are set to release the cuts on a limited platter in black and orange swirl through Spain’s Ghost Highway Recordings and Germany’s No Balls Records. They’ve been playing live as a mostly-instrumental outfit while guitarist/vocalist Noah is out of the country on what I can only assume is an awesome spy mission, so if you need a Borracho fix — and it’s obvious from the way your hands are shaking that you do — this might be the way to go. More info here.
3. Inter Arma, Sky Burial (March 15)
Like Windhand below, Inter Arma are recent Relapse Records signees from Richmond, Virginia, and Sky Burial will serve as their first release for the label. Literally and figuratively, the album is expansive, topping 69 minutes and pummeling the whole way through with a genre-transcending concoction of bleakness that’s not so much aligned to any particular heavy aesthetic so much as it is set to its own atmospheric purposes. Through this, Inter Arma emerge terrifyingly cohesive where many others would falter, and their second LP behind 2010′s Sundown (review here) leaves a progressive impression despite an almost complete lack of sonic pretense. Mostly, it’s fucking heavy. Track stream and info here.
4. Clutch, Earth Rocker (March 19)
If 2013 ended tomorrow, Clutch‘s Earth Rocker would be my album of the year. That’s not saying the situation will be the same nine months from now when I actually start putting that list together (already dreading it), but as of March 12, it’s the cat’s pajamas and no foolin’. The long-running Marylanders outdid themselves and put together a surprisingly fast, energetic collection of songs that don’t forsake the bluesy tendencies of their last album, 2009′s Strange Cousins from the West, so much as they put some of the jamming on lockdown in favor of all-out pro-grade heavy rock and roll. The velocity is crucial and the wolfman is out, but it feels like the party’s just starting. Look for them on tour sometime between now and forever. Album review here.
5. Black Mare, Field of the Host (March 20)
Black Math Horseman and Ides of Gemini frontwoman Sera Timms (who’s also recently collaborated with Yawning Man‘s Gary Arce in the new outfit Zun) steps further out on her own with the solo-project Black Mare, from whom Field of the Host is the first album. Due March 20 on LP through The Crossing and on cassette through Breathe Plastic, limited in both cases and sure to be gone shortly after release if they’re not already taken through pre-orders. Fans of Timms‘ past works will be glad to hear the misty wash of melody and dreamy, somehow sad, languid roll of “Blind One,” for starters. Audio and info on the forum.
6. Kvelertak, Meir (March 26)
Short of setting themselves on fire, Norwegian triple-guitar six-piece Kvelertak did just about everything they could to get noticed in support of their 2010 self-titled debut LP (review here), and sure enough, their work paid off in getting signed to Roadrunner Records for all territories outside their native Scandinavia (where Indie Recordings holds sway) and trumpeting up a wave of anticipation for their second full-length, Meir. Their energetic, genre-crossing approach might not be for everybody, but the band have turned a lot of heads and I wouldn’t at all be surprised to find them on bigger tours this year with Roadrunner behind them. More info on the forum.
7. Black Pyramid, Adversarial (April 2)
This is actually the first time the Eli Wood cover art for Black Pyramid‘s Adversarial has been seen in full, so you know. The Hydro-Phonic Records release of the third Black Pyramid album and first to be fronted by guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard along with bassist David Gein and drummer Clay Neely punctuates the beginning of a new era for the Massachusetts trio. If the advance listen to closing track “Onyx and Obsidian” is anything to go by, they could very well be at their most potent yet, and though I’d hardly consider myself an impartial observer, as a fan of the band, this is one I’ve been looking forward to for a while now. More to come. Track stream here.
8. Moss, Horrible Night (April 2)
I’ve yet to hear the complete album, but UK trio Moss seem poised to surprise with a cleaner vocal approach on Horrible Night, their first offering since 2008′s impressive Sub Templum LP and two EPs in 2009, so in addition to wondering how they’ll pull it off, the level of the shift remains to be seen. That is, how big a deal is it? Should I call my mom? Is this something grandma needs to know about? Time will tell, but for it having been five years since the last time a Moss record reared its doomly head, it seems only fair to give the band a little breathing room on their evolution. More info and video here.
9. Mars Red Sky, Be My Guide EP (April 8)
How glad am I that French fuzz rockers Mars Red Sky have a new EP coming? Well, I’m not as happy that it’s coming as I am that it’s frickin’ awesome. The trio keep the weighted bass tones that gave so much depth to their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), but they’ve also clearly set to work expanding the formula as well, adding stomp to second track “Seen a Ghost” and an eerie repetitive sense to side B closer “Stranger,” while also broadening their melodic reach and taking claim of whichever side of the line they want between fuzz rock and heavy psychedelia while remaining so much more to the ears than either genre descriptor can offer to the eyes. At half an hour, my only complaint with it is it’s not a full-length album. Video trailer and info here.
10. Blaak Heat Shujaa, The Edge of an Era (April 9)
A sample of the poet Ron Whitehead — who also featured on Blaak Heat Shujaa‘s late-2012 debut EP for Tee Pee Records, The Storm Generation (review here) — comes to clarity just in time for the gonzo Boomer poet to let us all know that, “America is an illusion” (that may be, but it’s an illusion with an army of flying killer robots), and from there, the youngin’ desert transplants embark on a low-end-heavy freakout topped with sweet surf rock guitars and set to use in intricate, sometimes surprisingly jagged, rhythmic dances. Mario Lalli of Fatso Jetson guests, Scott Reeder produced. Review is forthcoming, but till then, there’s more info here.
11. Devil to Pay, Fate is Your Muse (April 9)
Fate is Your Muse serves not only as Indianapolis rockers Devil to Pay‘s Ripple Music debut, but also as the double-guitar foursome’s first outing since 2009′s Heavily Ever After. With tales of lizardmen attacks and the alleged end of the world, it’s got its fair share of personality, and set to the chugging riffs, melodic vocals and straightforward heavy grooves, that personality still goes a long way. I’ll have a review up before this week is out (I hope), but still, I wanted to make sure to include Devil to Pay here too, since their songs command both attention and respect. To wit, I just can’t seem to get “This Train Won’t Stop” out of my head. Video and info here.
12. Cough & Windhand, Reflection of the Negative Split (April 15)
Virginian doomers Cough and Windhand share a hometown in Richmond, a love of volume, a bassist in Parker Chandler and now a label in Relapse Records, so yeah, a split makes sense. Reflection of the Negative will be Windhand‘s first release through Relapse ahead of their sophomore full-length, scheduled for later this year (info here). For Cough, this split marks their first outing since 2010′s An Introduction to the Black Arts split with UK masters The Wounded Kings (review here), and they’ll present the 18-minute “Athame,” while Windhand bring forth “Amaranth” and “Shepherd’s Crook.” More info here.
13. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Mind Control (April 15)
What the last Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats album, 2011′s Blood Lust (semi-review here), did so well was capture the atmosphere and the grainy imagery of late ’60s/early ’70s psychedelic horror and put it into audio form. For that, Blood Lust earned massive praise, but I still think that without the central core of songwriting underneath the genre trappings, it would’ve fallen flat. When it comes to Mind Control, the question waiting to be answered is if the band wants to stick to the blueprint they’ve established or go brazenly into uncharted weirdness. I’m not really sure they can lose, either way. Info and music here.
14. Kadavar, Abra Kadavar (April 16)
Their debut on new label Nuclear Blast and the quick-arriving answer to my pick for 2012 debut of the year, Abra Kadavar arrives with plenty of anticipation leading the way. The retro-rocking German trio have their work cut out for them in following that self-titled, but however it turns out in the comparison, it will be fascinating to learn how Kadavar develops the band’s sound and whether or not they prove able to push the boundaries of their aesthetic while simultaneously setting a new standard for promo photos. New video here.
15. Spiritual Beggars, Earth Blues (April 16)
I guess when it comes to these long-running Swedes, everybody’s got their favorite lineup, their favorite tunes, etc., but for me, I’m just impressed that Michael Amott — now more than 20 years on from starting Spiritual Beggars as a side-project while still in grindcore pioneers Carcass — still has any interest in keeping the classic rock Hammond-loving outfit grooving. Their last outing, 2010′s Return to Zero (review here), was the first to feature vocalist Apollo Papathanasio, formerly of Firewind, and though those songs were solid, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re more settled in on Earth Blues when it drops via InsideOut Music on April 16. More info on the forum.
16. Beastwars, Blood Becomes Fire (April 19)
Alternating between periods of brooding intensity and all-out crushing heaviness, the second full-length from New Zealand’s Beastwars, Blood Becomes Fire, is nasty, nasty, nasty. It’s nasty when it’s quiet and it’s nasty when it’s loud. It’s the kind of record you put on and you’re like, “Damn that’s nasty.” And you’re not wrong. The four-piece — touring shortly with Unida — upped their game even from 2011′s self-titled debut (review here), and for anyone who heard that record, you know that’s saying something. I’m still in the “getting to know it” phase, but so far all that nasty feels pretty right on. More info here.
17. Ghost, Infestissumam (April 19)
Man, this one just kind of happened, huh? I suck — and I mean S-U-C-K suck — at keeping up with band hype. I’m the dude who hears the record three months later and goes, “Yeah, I guess that’s cool,” as countless reviews here can attest, including the one for Ghost‘s 2010 debut, Opus Eponymous, but with the Swedish cult heavyweights, all of a sudden I turned around and blamo, major label deal, semi-name change to Ghost B.C., and enough slathering over the impending Infestissumam to make the first album seem like less than the hyperbole it was treated to initially. Funny how that happens. Out in April? I’m sure I’ll review in June and go, “Yeah, I guess that’s cool.” More info on the forum.
18. One Inch Giant, The Great White Beyond (April 19)
Now signed to Soulseller Records, Swedish heavy rockers One Inch Giant will unveil their debut full-length on April 19 and as three of my favorite words in the English language are “Swedish heavy rockers,” I’m excited to find out how this Gothenburg four-piece follow-up their Malva EP, and if they can capture some of the extreme dynamic they brought to their live show when they toured the US last summer — a run of shows that included a stop at SHoD. Hard not to pull for a band after they come over to play club dates. More info and music here.
19. The Heavy Co., Midwest Electric (April 20)
It was actually the other day writing about The Heavy Co.‘s Midwest Electric that I had the idea for this feature, so however high the profile might be for some of these albums — Ghost walks by on their way to cash a check — it was these unpretentious Hoosier rockers and their new outing, Midwest Electric, that started me off. From what I’ve heard so far, the new collection sounds a little more confident in exploring psychedelia than did the trio’s 2011 debut EP, The Heavy (Please Tune In…) (review here), so I’m looking forward to hearing if and how that plays out over the course of the whole thing. Video trailer here.
20. Gozu, The Fury of a Patient Man (April 23)
I have an interview slated for later this week with Gozu guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney, and I’m even more excited for this time than I was when we last spoke, around their 2009 Small Stone debut, Locust Season (review here), since in everything but its goofball song titles, the sophomore outing marks a huge developmental step in the band’s melodic reach and songwriting chemistry. Stay tuned for that interview and check out the Bandcamp stream included with the album review here.
21. Yawning Man & Fatso Jetson, European Tour Split 7″ (April 26)
Note: I don’t actually know that April 26 is the day that what’s sure to be 2013′s most desert-rocking split is due to arrive, I just know that it’s Fatso Jetson and Yawning Man‘s European tour split, and that’s the day the Euro dates start — with performances at Desertfests London and Berlin, to be more specific. Given both the greatness of Fatso Jetson‘s last record, 2010′s Archaic Volumes (review here), and of Yawning Man‘s own 2010 outing, Nomadic Pursuits (review here), the bands’ shared lineage and the relative infrequency of their touring, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to hope that, even for a single, they pull out all the stops. And starts. And riffs. More info on the forum.
22. Serpent Throne, Brother Lucifer (April 29)
Philly-based instrumental heavy rockers Serpent Throne will follow-up 2010′s White Summer/Black Winter (review here) with Brother Lucifer, and while no one can ever really know what to expect, it’s a safe bet that the dual-guitar outfit will have the solos front and center once again. Having seen them do a couple new songs back in December, I can’t blame them in the slightest. Looking forward to letting these songs sink in for a while and having those solos stuck in my head. Track stream here.
23. Melvins, Everybody Loves Sausages (April 30)
Hey wow, a Melvins covers album. Finally, an opportunity for the band to let their hair down and go wild a bit, right? I mean, at long last, they can really feel free to indulge a little and explore their musical roots in a free and creative way. Okay, you get the point. In all seriousness, it’s a pretty cool idea and anything that teams the Melvins with Scott Kelly to do a Venom song is probably going to be a worthy cause. The most amazing part of it is they haven’t already done a version of “Black Betty.” More info on the forum.
24. Revelation, Inner Harbor (April 30)
Their most progressive outing yet and their first album since 2009, Revelation‘s Inner Harbor (review here) is bound to surprise some who thought they knew what to expect from the Maryland doom stalwarts who double as the classically rocking Against Nature. Good thing Inner Harbor had a digital release last year through the band’s Bland Hand Records to act as a precursor to this Shadow Kingdom CD issue. Rumor has it vinyl’s on the way as well, so keep an eye out, since John Brenner‘s guitar tone should be heard on as natural-sounding an apparatus as possible. More info here.
Okay, so you’re saying to yourself, “Golly, that’s a lot of stuff.” You’re absolutely right. But even as I was typing up this feature, I got word of a new Queen Elephantine full-length coming in April, so even as much as this is, it’s not everything. And that’s not even to mention May, which will bring a new Shroud Eater EP, a new Kylesa record and a new Mark Lanegan collaboration, among however much else. Tons of stuff to keep your ears out for, and like I said way back at the top of this thing, if you have something to add, a comment’s always appreciated.
Posted in Reviews on January 28th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Foremost, it was cold. I don’t know what part of the world you live in, but here on the US East Coast, we got slammed last week with temperatures that ranged on the wrong side of zero degrees fahrenheit, and even walking into the dark bar O’Brien’s in Allston, I could feel the wind through my shoes. My jacket, shirt, etc. weren’t even a consideration. But for public courtesy, they might as well have not been there. It was so cold the wind cut through my shoes. Welcome to Boston, Mass.
The Patient Mrs. and I were in town for the night and into Sunday to look at residences, and as I’d seen earlier in the week that Gozu had a gig booked, I decided to hit it up and also get the chance to check out another local venue. If I’m gonna live there, I might as well get to know the spots where shows are, and I know O’Brien’s has had many in the past just from reading lists of tour dates, so even with the unreasonable temperatures and did-someone-just-cut-my-face wind, the rock and roll must get through.
I knew little about Hey Zeus and nothing about Whitey or The Humanoids, but fortunately ran into Black Pyramid/Blackwolfgoat guitarist and all-around super dude Darryl Shepard, who was kind enough to act as my sort of tour guide for the night’s bill, pointing out guitarist Pete Knipfing and drummer Todd Bowman from Hey Zeus, both formerly of Lamont whom I’ve been subjecting to some posthumous appreciation (see here and here), vocalist Bice Nathan and bassist Ken Cmar, who ran the label Wonderdrug Records and with it released records by the likes of Tree, Roadsaw and Scissorfight, among others. Cmar reportedly hadn’t been on a stage in two decades and it was Hey Zeus‘ live debut, but they basically killed it with an opening set of that Small Stone-style rock that Boston seems to have at a permanent bleed. Straightforward, heavy, dangerous and even if you’ve heard it a thousand times before, somehow fresh.
Knipfing added vocals here and there, and he, Bowman and Cmar were tight behind the Nathan, who periodically picked up a drum stick to smash one of Bowman‘s cymbals or bang on a cowbell. The songs were familiar but engaging and if this was a first-show type of performance, these guys are going to be lethal once they really get going. Before they played, I thought it was cool to see their premiere gig, as kind of a curiosity. By the time they were finished, it felt much more like an event, and though I didn’t know anything about Whitey or The Humanoids, I knew immediately they had a hard act to follow.
The place was fairly packed out for Hey Zeus as well. O’Brien’s isn’t big, and the stage rests on an angle — it reminded me of like a smaller mirrored version of Jersey’s Brighton Bar, with a lower ceiling and a lower stage (a good thing, lest someone bump their head) — but even in a bigger room, the crowd would’ve been considerable, and though people came and went as the night wore on, Whitey still had enough people watching for vocalist/guitarist Randy to toss out a couple snide comments between songs about the sold out show they were playing. Shepard had described them to me before they went on as bluesier, but still heavy, rock, and he was dead on. Double-slide guitar made more than one appearance and there was an healthy dose of down-home rocking to what they did, drummer Kyle Rasmussen (also of Phantom Glue) punctuating as shades of grown-up punk and rockabilly worked their way in as well.
Hightlights “Rainy and Wendy” and “Straight A’s” made me interested in hearing how they might sound on a studio version — Whitey have four records up on their Bandcamp — and though they weren’t as riotous on stage as was Hey Zeus, they were still fun to watch and made a solid setup for The Humanoids, who followed. They were, by Darryl‘s much-appreciated estimation and subsequently my own, more metal. They had the vests to prove it, and I was foretold of a Manowar cover of “Black Wind, Fire and Steel” that the double-guitar four-piece sometimes used for a set closer. They’d almost have to. What else could you possibly play after that?
Power metal was a factor for sure, but there was a gritty side to The Humanoids as well, fitting for their garage-punk moniker. The crowd at O’Brien’s ate it up, and with good reason. From their upright posture to their pumping fists to three-part vocals to the classic riffing, The Humanoids‘ metal-infused-rock was battle ready against poseurs and all that was non-metal or at least non-metal and in a close enough proximity to bother anybody. They were fun and they were clearly having fun with their sound, but as in the best of cases, the musicianship backed them up and kept them from seeming clownish.
They did in fact close with “Black Wind, Fire and Steel,” and sure enough they just about nailed it. I knew I was in good hands from the time I saw the Lock up the Wolvespatch on back of the bassist’s vest and the drummer’s Bible of the Devil t-shirt, and The Humanoids lived up to those lofty ideals. Gozu was setting up and it was getting late, but I knew I wasn’t going anywhere until they were done. Their The Fury of a Patient Manrecord was still about as fresh in my head as could be, having just reviewed it two days earlier, and I grabbed a water from the end of the bar and waited for the four-piece to get going.
It hadn’t been that long since the Small Stone showcase at Radio in Somerville, so I’d had a recent enough memory of Gozu live to work from in knowing what to expect. Bassist Joe Grotto (brother and Motherboar bandmate to Mad Oak Studios‘ producer Benny Grotto) seemed more comfortable in his role than the last time out, and drummer Barry Spillberg challenging the rest of the band — Grotto, vocalist/guitarist Marc Gaffney and guitarist/backing vocalist Doug Sherman – to keep up with him as he blasted through “Charles Bronson Pinchot.” That was just one of the cuts off the new album that received a welcome showing, “Ghost Wipe” being another high point.
I guess the difference seeing Gozu this time was I was more familiar with the material so could enjoy it more. They hit up “Meat Charger” and “Meth Cowboy” from 2010 debut Locust Season(review here) and for an otherwise unremarkable Saturday night — that is, it wasn’t a showcase or a fest or anything other than a regular, albeit pretty good, show — they tore through it. At one point, Grotto blew out his head, but another was brought out on the quick and that was really the only hiccup Gozu had. The rest of the time, they spent dealing out riff after riff, Gaffney belting out the verses and even getting a little booty-shake in here and there while Sherman‘s high-hoisted guitar left him room for thrashing out and walking back and forth on the stage, picking up, it seemed, the gauntlet Spillberg was throwing down.
You don’t often see a band who are actually on the same side challenging each other like that. It was exciting, and Spillberg was as expressive in his drumming as he was precise, so all the better. I was beat when they were finished — it had been a pretty long day and there was still another to come behind it — but Gozu‘s set still felt short, which I take as a good sign. They’re an act I’m hoping to see much more often following this move (which unless a piano falls on me or The Patient Mrs.is going to happen sometime before the fall), and I think once more people get a handle on The Fury of a Patient Man, I won’t be the only one. I certainly wasn’t the only one into them at O’Brien’s, as they seemed to sum up elements from each of the prior three bands while appealing to anyone who might’ve been there to see someone earlier and stuck around. Even knowing what I was getting, I was impressed.
Gaffney had apparently been sick, not that you could tell in his vocals, so I wished him well and said goodnight to Shepard and others and made my way out of O’Brien’s and back to the hotel where The Patient Mrs. and I were staying. The wind still whip-snapped at us as we crossed the street to the car and I was glad to finally crash out when I did, but the show had been the right choice, no question. Looking forward to many more.
Posted in Reviews on January 24th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
When Boston rockers Gozu made their debut in 2010 with Locust Season, the album was greeted with no shortage of hyperbole within the heavy rock set. Their strong sense of songwriting, ballsy riffing, diversity of approach and penchant for melody made the four-piece an immediate standout among a crowded scene, and they came out of the gate with the professionalism of a band putting out their third album, not their first. Locust Season (review here), however, was a first album, and so it’s not necessarily surprising to find that on the sophomore outing, The Fury of a Patient Man (Small Stone), Gozu seem to have undergone some shifts in sound in the three years since their last time out. The above-listed elements, thankfully, remain consistent, and if you were someone who heard and upon whom the debut made an impression, there will be little doubt when you put on The Fury of a Patient Man that you’re listening to Gozu. Guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney has the same soulful sensibility in his voice, a little melancholy but still able to keep pace with fellow six-stringer Doug Sherman’s riffing (bass duties are split throughout by Jay Canava and Paul Delair; Joe Grotto has since joined as a permanent bassist), and Barry Spillberg’s drums are likewise at home punctuating movements either stomping, as on “Disco Related Injury” or rife with a more furious galloping, as on “Charles Bronson Pinchot.” Gozu’s penchant for joke and/or referential song titles – another piece of the puzzle returned from the first album – winds up undercutting some (not all) of the emotionality on display throughout, as on the later “Ghost Wipe” and “Traci Lords” or even opener “Bald Bull,” but the 10 component tracks on the 62-minute album nonetheless convey a range of moods, from the earlier more rocking swagger of “Signed, Epstein’s Mom” (sorry boys, on the show it was “Signed, Epstein’s Mother”) to the echoing largesse of 24-minute closer “The Ceaseless Thunder of Surf,” and no matter what heading they’re given, the songs do a lot of speaking for themselves. I’m not sure if the tradeoff of grabbing attention with a clever play on names like “Charles Bronson Pinchot” is worth the distraction from the contents of the track, but it’s moot. They are what they are, and what matters most from the point of launch is the strength of the material.
In that department, Gozu deliver a record to justify the three-year wait since the debut. However seriously they may or may not wish to present the superficial trappings of their band-dom, Gozu are no joke. Their arrangements are rich and complex without being pretentious, and immediately from the deft switches to and from falsetto in the verse of “Bald Bull,” Gaffney leads the charge through material that shows just how much growth the band has undertaken. “Bald Bull” and “Signed, Epstein’s Mom” make a strong opening duo and effective summary of Gozu’s approach on the album – both three and a half minutes long, perfect for hard rock radio in some alternate universe – balancing soulful layering and harmonies against top quality stonerly riffing and driving heavy groove. There is just the slightest undertone of metal, and certainly “Charles Bronson Pinchot” ups that with a High on Fire-type riff that Spillberg meets with thrashy aplomb, nestling into the quickened chug clearly in his element and winding up no less at home in the increasingly dreamy midsection of the song as it develops with airier guitars and a slow build. It’s a switch from the more grooving heavy rock of the first two tracks, but that’s clearly the idea. Gozu are shifting the expectation of their audience – putting listeners where they want them – and in terms of the album as a whole, it’s the right move. Because the material is still basically accessible and “Charles Bronson Pinchot” catchy and not out of line vocally with what Gaffney brings to either “Bald Bull” or “Signed, Epstein’s Mom,” the listener is more apt to go along with the change, and likewise as “Charles Bronson Pinchot” gives way to the quirky verse of “Irish Dart Fight,” more alike to some of earlier Queens of the Stone Age’s start-stop progressions, but given different context by the vocals and the fuller payoff in the chorus. Sherman and Gaffney don’t spend much time playing off each other on guitar, but the solo in the second half of “Irish Dart Fight” sounds all the more accomplished for the backing rhythm, and it seems that altogether Gozu are tighter as a unit in terms of their performance than they were three years ago. Progress has been made.
Posted in Features on January 15th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Last year was a monster. You might say I’m still catching up on reviews for records that came out in October. Yet here we stand in 2013. It’s a whole new year and that means instead of looking back at some of the best releases, it’s time to look ahead and nerd out at what’s to come. Frankly, either way is a good time, but with some of what’s included on this list, 2013 has the potential to be yet another incredible year for lovers of the heavy.
Across a range of genres and subgenres, there are bands big and small, known and unknown, getting ready to unleash debuts, follow-ups and catalog pieces that by the time December rolls around, will have defined the course of this year. It’s always great to hold an album in your hands, to put it on and listen to it for the first or 19th time, but part of the fun is the excitement beforehand too, and that’s where we’re at now.
Some of these I’ve heard, most I haven’t, and some are only vague announcements, but when I started out putting this list together, my plan was to keep it to 10 and I wound up with twice that many because there was just too much happening to ignore. The list is alphabetical because it doesn’t make any sense to me to rate albums that aren’t out yet, and I hope if you find something you’d like to add, you’ll please feel free to leave a comment below.
Thanks in advance for reading, and enjoy:
Acid King, TBA
We begin with only the basest of speculations. Would you believe me if I told you that 2013 makes it eight years since the heavier-than-your-heavy-pants San Francisco trio Acid King released their last album, III? Of course you wouldn’t believe me. You’d be like, “Dude, no way,” but it’s true. Eight friggin’ years. They’ve hinted all along at new material, toured Europe and played fests in the States like Fall into Darkness, but really, it’s time for something new on record. Even an EP. A single! I’ll take what I can get at this point, so long as it’s Lori S. riffing it.
Chances are, the above isn’t the final art for Argentinian Los Natas-offshoot Ararat‘s forthcoming III, but frontman Sergio Chotsourian has posted a few demos over the last several months and the logo image came from that. Either way, with as far as last year’s II(review here) went in expanding their sound, I can’t wait to hear the final versions of the tracks for the next one. They’re still flying under a lot of people’s radar, it seems, but Ararat are quickly becoming one of South America’s best heavy psych acts. Do yourself a favor and keep an eye out.
Brooklyn trio Bezoar‘s 2012 debut, Wyt Deth, might have been my favorite album that I never reviewed last year, and needless to say, that’s not a mistake I’m going to make twice. The new songs I’ve heard the three-piece play live have ruled and an alliance with engineer Stephen Conover (whose discography includes Rza and Method Man) is intriguing to say the least. I’m sure whatever Bezoar come out with, the performances from bassist/vocalist Sara Villard, guitarist Tyler Villard and drummer Justin Sherrell will be as hard to pin down as the debut was. It’s a record I’m already looking forward to being challenged by.
Blaak Heat Shujaa, The Edge of an Era
Due out April 9, Blaak Heat Shujaa‘s The Edge of an Era will mark the full-length debut for the ambitious trio (now based in L.A.) on Tee Pee Records following on the heels of the impressive The Storm Generation EP (review here). From the Scott Reeder production to the band’s engaging heavy psych/desert rock blend, this one seems bound to win Blaak Heat Shujaa a lot of new friends, and if the advance EP is anything to go by, The Edge of an Eracould prove to be aptly-titled indeed.
Black Pyramid, Adversarial
No release date yet, but so far as I know, Adversarial, which is Massachusetts doom rockers Black Pyramid‘s third album and first to be fronted by guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard, is recorded, mixed and mastered. Song titles include “Swing the Scimitar,” “Onyx and Obsidian,” “Issus,” “Bleed Out” and “Aphelion” (the latter was also released as a limited single in 2012 by Transubstans as a split with Odyssey), and having seen the band live with this lineup, expect no less than a beheading. Also watch for word from the recently announced side-project from Shepard and bassist Dave Gein, The Scimitar.
Black Sabbath, 13
There was a bit of a shitstorm this past weekend when the title of Black Sabbath‘s first Ozzy Osbourne-fronted album since 1978 was revealed in a press release. Nonetheless, 13is set for release in June and will feature Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine on drums in place of Bill Ward, who last year was engaged in a well-publicized contract dispute with the band. Bummer though that is and as crappy and generic a title as 13 makes — especially this year — let’s not forget that Heaven and Hell‘s The Devil You Know also had a crap title and it was awesome. I’m not sure if I’m willing to stake anticipation on the difference between the vocals of Ronnie James Dio circa 2010 and Ozzy Osbourne in 2013, or Rick Rubin‘s production, but hell, is Geezer Butler playing bass on it? Yes? Well, okay then, I’ll listen. The world can do a lot worse than that and another batch of Tony Iommi riffs, whatever else may be in store.
Clutch, Earth Rocker
It’s a ripper. With Earth Rocker, Clutch reunite with Blast Tyrant producer Machine and the results are a record varied enough to keep some of the recent blues elements of the past couple albums (“Gone Cold”) while also showcasing a reinvigorated love of straight-up heavy rock numbers on tracks like “Crucial Velocity,” “Book, Saddle & Go” and “Cyborg Betty.” Longtime Clutch fans can expect a bigger guitar sound from Tim Sult, killer layering and much personality from vocalist Neil Fallon and yet another stellar performance from the best rhythm section in American heavy, bassist Dan Maines and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster. No doubt in my mind it’ll prove one of the year’s best when 2013 is done. Once more unto the breach!
Devil to Pay, Fate is Your Muse
Last month, I hosted a Devil to Pay video premiere for the Indianapolis-based rockers’ new track, “This Train Won’t Stop,” from the 7″ single of the same name that precedes the release of their Ripple Music debut full-length (fourth overall), Fate is Your Muse. If the 575-plus Thee Facebook “Likes” are anything to go by, anticipation for the album is pretty high. Reasonably so. When I saw Devil to Pay at last year’s SHoD fest, the new material was killer and the band seemed more confident than ever before. Stoked to hear how that translates to a studio recording and how the band has grown since 2009′s Heavily Ever After.
Egypt, Become the Sun
Technically speaking, Become the Sun is the full-length debut from North Dakota doomers Egypt. The band released their self-titled demo through MeteorCity in 2009 (review here), were broken up at the time, and reassembled with a new guitarist for Become the Sun– which is the only album on this list to have already been reviewed. I don’t know about a physical release date, but it’s available now digitally through iTunes and other outlets, and however you do so, it’s worth tracking down to get the chance to listen to it. Underrated Midwestern riffing, hopefully with a CD/LP issue coming soon.
The Flying Eyes, TBA
Currently holed up in Lord Baltimore Studios with producer Rob Girardi, Baltimore’s The Flying Eyes are reportedly putting the finishing touches on the follow-up to 2011′s immersive Done So Wrong, an album full of young energy and old soul. Along with Blaak Heat Shujaa above, I consider these dudes to be right at the forefront of the next generation of American heavy psych and I’m excited to hear what kind of pastoral blues works its way into their tracks when the album finally gets released. They’re a band you’re probably going to hear a lot about this year, so be forewarned.
Gozu, The Fury of a Patient Man
The melodicism of Boston-based Gozu‘s second Small Stone full-length, The Fury of a Patient Man (I swear I just typed “The Fury of a Patient Mrs.”) is no less striking than its album cover. I’ve had this one for a while, have gotten to know it pretty well and my plan is to review it next week, so keep an eye out for that, but for now, I’ll just say that the sophomore outing is a fitting answer to the potential of Gozu‘s 2010 debut, Locust Season (review here) and marks the beginning of what already looks like another strong year for Small Stone. I never thought I’d be so into a song called “Traci Lords.”
Halfway to Gone, TBA
What I’d really like to see happen is for Halfway to Gone – who are high on my list of New Jersey hometown heroes and who haven’t had a new LP out since their 2004 self-titled — to put out a new record in 2013, for it to lay waste to everyone who hears it, and for the band to finally get the recognition they’ve long since deserved. I’ve been charged up on revisiting their three albums since I saw them at the Brighton Bar this past July and after a long wait, rumors, breakups, makeups, etc., I’ve got my hopes up that this year is when these dudes pull it together and make a new one happen. It’s been too long and this band is too good to just let it go.
Kings Destroy, TBA
Confession time: I have the Kings Destroy record. I’ve had it for a bit now. It rules. I don’t know when you’re gonna hear it, but it’s strange and eerie and kind of off the wall stylistically and it doesn’t really sound like anything else out there. Last I heard they’re looking for a label, and whoever ends up with it is lucky. I use a lot of descriptors for bands and their albums, but rarely will I go so far as to call something unique. This album is. If you’ve had the chance to check out songs like “The Toe” and “Turul” live, you know what I’m talking about, and if you haven’t, then stick around because with all the sessions I’ve had with the tracks, I still feel outclassed by what these guys are doing. Shine on, you doomed weirdos.
The Kings of Frog Island, Volume IV
I keep going back to the video for “Long Live the King” that Leicester, UK, fuzz rockers The Kings of Frog Island put up back in October. No, really, I keep going back. It’s a good song and I keep listening to it. Just about any other details regarding their fourth album and first without guitarist/vocalist Mat Bethancourt (Josiah, Cherry Choke), Volume IV, are nil, but periodic updates on the band’s Thee Facebooks have it that progress on the recording is being made, and in the meantime, I don’t seem to have any trouble paying return visits to “Long Live the King.” Hopefully Elektrohasch stays on board for a CD release, and hopefully it happens soon.
Several times over the last couple months I’ve had occasion to say it to people and I’ll say it here as well: I think Lo-Pan are the best American stoner rock band going right now. I was interested to see how they handled the bigger stage for their opening slot for High on Fire and Goatwhore (review here), and as ever, they killed. I haven’t the faintest idea what their recording plans might be, if they’ll even sit still long enough to put an album to tape in time to have it out in 2013 — I suspect it depends on what tour offers come up in the meantime — but new songs “Colossus” and “Eastern Seas” bode well for their being able to continue the course of momentum that the excellence of 2011′s Salvador(review here) and all their hard work before and since has put them on.
Queens of the Stone Age, TBA
It probably wouldn’t be fair to call the upcoming Queens of the Stone Age album a reunion between Josh Homme and Dave Grohl since the two also played together in Them Crooked Vultures and Grohl only drummed on Songs for the Deaf, but it’s exciting news anyway and could mean good things are coming from QOTSA, whose last outing was 2007′s comparatively lackluster Era Vulgaris. The big questions here are how the time apart from the band may or may not have affected Homme‘s songwriting and where he’s decided he wants to take the Queens sound. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Sungrazer & The Machine, Split
With the Strikes and Gutters tour already booked to support it (dates above; or here), Dutch upstart heavy psych jammers The Machine and Sungrazer have teamed up for a split release as well that’s bound to feature some of the year’s best fuzz. The two bands have a lot in common, but they’re pretty distinct from each other sonically too, and with The Machine guitarist/vocalist David Eering helming the recording, you can safely bet it’ll capture the live, jammy feel both groups share. Latest word has it that the mastered tracks are in-house, so watch for more to come as we get closer to the Valentine’s Day launch of the tour.
The Swedish fuzz juggernauts’ fourth album overall, this will be Truckfighters‘ first with new drummer McKenzo alongside the core songwriting duo of Dango and Ozo. They’ve been teasing recording updates and threatening song clips, but as soon as I run into something concrete, I’ll share. I’m especially looking forward to the Truckfighters album since it means they’ll likely come back to the US for another tour, and since 2009′s Mania (review here) was so damned brilliant. Not sure on a release date, but it’s high on the list of necessities anyway, however low it may appear alphabetically.
Valley of the Sun, TBA
All I’m going on in including Ohio-based desert rockers Valley of the Sun on this list is a New Year’s message they put out there that read, “Happy New Year, Brothers and Sisters!!! You can count on a Valley of the Sun full-length in 2013.” Hey, I’ve relied on less before, and even if you want to call it wishful thinking, the Cincinnati trio are due a debut full-length behind 2011′s righteous The Sayings of the Seers EP (review here). Even if it doesn’t show up until November or December, I’ll basically take it whenever the band gets around to releasing. Riffs are welcome year-round.
Well, I mean, yeah. Right? Yeah, well, sure. I mean. Well. Yeah. I mean, sure. Right? It’s a supergroup with YOB‘s Mike Scheidt on vocals, John Cobbett of Hammers of Misfortune on guitar, Sigrid Sheie of Hammers of Misfortune on bass and Aesop Dekker of Agalloch and Worm Ouroboros on drums. Album’s done, set for release on Profound Lore. So, I mean, you know, yeah. Definitely. No music has made its way to the public yet — though that can’t be far off — but either way, sign me the fuck up. Anywhere this one goes, I’m interested to find out how it gets there.
Vista Chino, TBA
After that lawsuit, it’s not like they could go ahead and call the band Kyuss Still Lives!, so the recently-announced Vista Chino makes for a decent alternative and is much less likely to provoke litigation. But still, the Kyuss Lives! outgrowth featuring former Kyuss members John Garcia, Nick Oliveri and Brant Bjork along with guitarist Bruno Fevery is of immediate consequence. I’m not sure what the timing on the release is, but they’ve already been through enough to get to this point that one hopes a new album surfaces before the end of 2013. What I want to know next is who’s recording the damn thing.
Yawning Man, Gravity is Good for You
Not much has been said in the time since I interviewed Gary Arce, guitarist and founder of influential desert rock stalwarts Yawning Man, about the 2LP Gravity is Good for Yourelease (the Raymond Pettibon cover for which you can see above), but the band has been confirmed for Desertfest since then and they’re playing in L.A. on Jan. 25, so they’re active for sure and presumably there’s been some progress on the album itself. It remains to be seen what form it will take when it surfaces, and the lineup of the band seems somewhat nebulous as well, but when there’s a desert, there’s Yawning Man, and there’s always a desert. 2010′s Nomadic Pursuits(review here) was a triumph, and deserves a follow-up.
Anyone else notice that the “20 Albums to Watch for” list has 22 albums on it? Maybe I wanted to see if you were paying attention. Maybe I can’t count. Maybe I just felt like including one more. Maybe I had 21 and then added Vista Chino after someone left a comment about it. The possibilities are endless.
So too is the list of bands I could’ve included here. Even as I was about halfway through, a new Darkthrone track surfaced from an album due Feb. 25 called The Underground Resistance, and news/rumors abound of various substance concerning offerings from YOB, Eggnogg, When the Deadbolt Breaks, Mars Red Sky, Asteroid, Apostle of Solitude, Windhand, Phantom Glue, the supergroup Corrections House, Kingsnake, Sasquatch — I’ve already made my feelings known on the prospect of a new Sleep record — news went up yesterday about Inter Arma‘s new one, and you know Wino‘s gonna have an album or two out before the end of the year, and he’s always up to something good, so 20, 22, 35, it could just as easily go on forever. Or at least very least the whole year.
If there’s anything I forgot, anything you want to include or dispute, comments are welcome and encouraged.
Posted in Reviews on November 5th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
It was the night of a thousand riffs. At very least 100-150 very well purposed. A Small Stone Records showcase is always an occasion and this year’s Boston to-do was no exception. The scene was the Radio bar in Somerville, and though The Brought Low dropped off at the last minute owing to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the lineup boasted nine bands — Boston natives Mellow Bravo stepped in to fill the hole, playing earlier than the NYC trio would have — and it was front to back quality between them, Blackwolfgoat, who opened and also played in between sets, Supermachine, Infernal Overdrive, Lord Fowl, Freedom Hawk, Roadsaw, Lo-Pan and Gozu.
What do you do with a night like that? Well, you drink. And I did. Hard. I have a tradition — someone choosing their words less carefully might call it a “habit” — going back nearly a decade at this point of showing up to Small Stone events and promptly getting obliterated. At last year’s Philly showcase (review here and here), I played it cool for the most part. Less so this weekend. Maybe it was just that it was Saturday and I knew I had Sunday to recover, maybe it was the fact that I still didn’t know if the power was on back home yet. Whatever it was, I opened a tab and didn’t look back. My storm-refugee ass needed a night of reckless abandon.
After being dropped off in front of Radio by The Patient Mrs. as though I was on my way to my first day of kindergarten — schooled indeed — I walked in to find Darryl Shepard of Blackwolfgoat early into his set. Downstairs in the basement, a matinee of three sets of Beatles covers would soon give way to a sweaty, smelly night of punk rock. Seems as good a jump-off point as any, so here goes:
With a cocktail straw in his mouth and a bounce in his step (minus the bounce), Blackwolfgoat‘s lone resident, Darryl Shepard — also of currently of Black Pyramid and Milligram and formerly of Hackman, Roadsaw and no shortage of others — showed off some of the latest wares from his one-man act. Shepard would soon adjourn to Radio’s semi-balcony off to the left of the stage, where he’d sit at the ready and wait to drone out a tune or two between other acts, but before he got there, he played some material from last year’s Dronolithand some newer stuff. The newer songs find him using more dynamic loops, setting a droning bed for himself and then launching into — in at least one instance — a grandiose classic rock solo over it. It was awesome to see, and the melody in that solo and around it proved just one more way the project is expanding sonically. He’ll reportedly be recording soon, and of course that’s something to look forward to. Pretty much any day you get to see this dude play guitar is a good day. If you get to see him do a full set to start a show and a bunch of mini-sets between seven or eight other acts, well then, all the better.
There was an interesting mix of stage presences when it came to Boston’s own Mellow Bravo. The first full band on the bill was also the newest to Small Stone‘s roster save for Supermachine, who followed, and they released their self-titled debut album (review here) on the label via a Mad Oak Recordings imprint earlier this year. In the case of charismatic vocalist Keith Pierce and guitarist Andrew Doherty, they seemed birthed of Boston’s formidable hardcore/metalcore scene, whatever soul records they may have dug into since those days, keyboardist/vocalist Jess Collins came off more on the heavy metal end, while guitarist Jeff Fultz (ex-Seemless) had the lead licks and enviable hair of a modern classic rocker. Mix all that with the rhythm section of sunglasses-clad bassist Seager Tennis and drummer Dave Jarvis, and it’s a strange six-piece stew resulting from Mellow Bravo‘s recipe. Nonetheless, they were resoundingly cohesive, putting on a professional show — staged in parts, like when Collins came out from behind the keyboard to front “Ridin’” — and looking like a band who should and expected to be paid for their work. “Love Hammer” was a highlight, but really just one of the memorable songs on their debut that the band did well bringing to life.
There are few phrases that will earn respect in my book as quickly as “ex-Scissorfight.” In the case of label newcomers Supermachine, bassist Paul Jarvis and guitarist Jay Fortin were founding members of that most excellent New Hampshire outfit — both also played in Mess with the Bull – and so interest in what they might be doing musically was automatic, especially as this was my first time seeing them or hearing any of their songs. Joined in the four-piece by drummer Mike McNeill and vocalist David Nebbia, there was a moment where I stood in front of the stage at Radio and was reminded of hazy afternoons and evenings at Room 710 on Red River in Austin, Texas, at many a Small Stone showcase years back there, when I was still relatively just getting my feet wet in terms of appreciating and being exposed to this kind of music. If that’s a long way around to saying Supermachine sounded fresh, so be it. Their performance was organic and unpretentious — though there was no question which of them was the lead singer, even before they got on stage — and while they seemed to still be feeling out their identity as a band, they gave a good first impression.
True enough, I’d had some beers by the time Infernal Overdrive started playing, maybe visited the basement Beatles show downstairs to weird everyone in the room out by singing along to “Can’t Buy Me Love” way louder than was called for. I nonetheless recall being entirely of sound mind when I scribbled my first note about Infernal Overdrive‘s performance. It was as follows: “New shit is right on.” I stand by that 100 percent. They might need to hit the road for a while to really step into what and where they want to be as a band, but short of that, they’ve got their aesthetic down. No less so at Radio than at Stoner Hands of Doom XIIin September. Part of me wants them to just go ahead and get the next record out so they can start closing with “Viking” already, but as the room was beginning to fill up, the Jersey/Massachusetts-native double-guitar foursome treated an eager and thirsty crowd to “Motor” and “The Edge” from their Last Rays of the Dying Sun2011 debut full-length (review here) and those songs rested well alongside newer cuts like “Quints Revenge” and “Ride to the Sun.” As ever, they tore through their set, capping with the cowbell/fuzz swiftness of “I-95,” which set the stage well for Connecticut’s Lord Fowl, who followed.
Continue to impress. Despite an apparently ongoing throat problem for guitarist/vocalist Vechel Jaynes — I actually take it as a sign of someone giving a shit both about what they do and what I think about what they do when artists tell me about their various injuries, illnesses, aches and pains; that kind of thing can be good to know sometimes, though Jaynes‘ trouble did little to hold back Lord Fowl at Radio — the New Haven, Connecticut, four-piece dove headfirst into material from their Moon Queenlabel debut (review here), rising to the occasion of directly following Infernal Overdrive and making me remember why I like this kind of shit so much in the first place. They also gave a fitting sequel to when I saw them at SHoD XII, guitarist/vocalist Mike Pellegrino comfortable as he always seems to be fronting the band alongside Jaynes while bassist Jon Conine and drummer Don Freeman locked in grooves thick and slick in equal measure. “Streets of Nevermore” was a highlight, and the one-two punch of “Quicksand” and the insistent swirl of “SOS” was no less engaging on stage than it was late into Moon Queen. I wondered a bit what their next album might bring, if they’d keep to a thematic, semi-psych heavy rock approach or branch out elsewhere as they move forward, and then The Patient Mrs. showed up looking all fine and I got distracted. Ha.
Quietly, more than a year had passed since I last caught Virginia’s fuzz buzzards live, but Freedom Hawk were the most in their element at Radio that I’ve ever seen them. The songs from their Holding On 2011 label debut (review here) have cooled and tightened into a fine, viscous ooze, and the set had more than a few killers to it, including the recent video track “Indian Summer.” They’re a good band, and fresh on my mind as I’d just that very afternoon acquired their first demo in a haul of old promo material (more on that tomorrow), so I was glad to have our paths cross again at last. A less raucous delivery than either Lord Fowl or Infernal Overdrive – both of whom put on a hell of a show — Freedom Hawk were nonetheless in the right place at the right time. The crowd was boozed and well warmed up, and Freedom Hawk‘s “all fuzz, no bullshit” was right at home, guitarists TR Morton (also vocals) and Matt Cave leading with ’90s-style stoner rock riffing while bassist Mark Cave and drummer Lenny Hines provided weight and pulse to the rolling groove. I don’t know if someone thought they were being clever by playing Ozzy before they went on (Morton‘s vocals being geared in that direction), but Freedom Hawk showed they’re moving more toward becoming their own outfit and incorporating whatever influence it might be — Ozzy, Fu Manchu, Kyuss, etc. — into a sound more fully theirs. Worth noting that at this point there hadn’t yet been a band whose next album I wasn’t stoked at the thought of hearing.
In true showcase fashion, Roadsaw delivered a set that not only showed why they’re the godfathers of Boston’s heavy rock scene, but ran a gamut through their own catalog — opening with “Look Pretty Lonely” from 2008′s See You in Hell!, and also including “Keep on Sailing” and “Thanks for Nothing” from 1997′s Nationwide — on which Shepard joined on lead guitar from his spot on the balcony — “Buried Alive” and “Disconnected” from 2007′s Rawk ‘n’ Roll, “Monkey Skull” from 2012′s Roadsaw EP, and “Weight in Gold” and “Long in the Tooth” from their 2010 self-titled full-length. I said earlier this year at London Desertfest that I wanted to see them on their home turf, and I was glad to have the opportunity at last. If it’s any indicator of how it all went down, they delayed the start of their set to get another round of drinks. Yes, it was that kind of party. The stage at Radio wasn’t as small as that at the Small Stone showcase in Philly last year — it was somewhere between that and the more spacious at the El ‘n’ Gee in Connecticut, where SHoD was held, and which Roadsaw also played — so I didn’t think vocalist Craig Riggs was about to bean bassist Tim Catz or guitarist Ian Ross with his spinning microphone (ever-shirtless drummer Jeremy Hemond being well out of range), but they made short work of it nonetheless, and even went so far as to bring up Infernal Overdrive guitarist/vocalist Marc Schleicher for an encore of “The Gentle Butcher,” from Nothing that a Bullet Couldn’t Cure by the band Antler, of which he, Ross, Catz and Riggs were a part. As ever, they were in classic form.
A scant two weeks before leaving for a tour with High on Fire and Goatwhore that will have them playing in the biggest venues of their career to date, Columbus, Ohio’s Lo-Pan looked ready. I think they’ve already discovered that the reward for the hard work they’ve been putting in over the last couple years is actually just a bunch of even harder work, but they seemed hungry nonetheless. It had been more than a year since I’d seen them as well, and along with a new shorter haircut for guitarist Brian Fristoe, they had two new songs in the set alongside cuts from 2011′s brilliant-and-yes-I-fucking-mean-brilliant Salvador(review here). Both “Eastern Seas” and “Colossus” had Fristoe‘s steady progressive-edged fuzz, made thicker by Skot Thompson‘s basslines, but seemed to push vocalist Jeff Martin farther into his range as well as Jessie Bartz — front and center as always — tied it all together on drums. As I told Bartz when they were done, I’d like to hear them 85 or 87 more times before I make final judgment, but they sounded pretty dead on, and fit well with “Kurtz” from 2009′s Sasquanaut(which Small Stone reissued) and “Chichen Itza,” “Deciduous,” “Bird of Prey” and set closer “El Dorado” from Salvador, all of which remain as powerful in a live setting as they were the first time I saw them. Lo-Pan was my only real headbang of the show. When they were done, I stumbled my drunk self around the side of the building and threw up barely a fraction of the beer I’d drank, taking care to keep it out of my hair and beard, then went back inside, washed up downstairs while trying to ignore the stench of punker sweat, lest I retch again, and headed back into civilization in time for the start of Gozu, who rounded out the night. I’d been a wreck despite having my last beer sometime during Roadsaw, but with just one band still to go, there was no turning back now.
Much to his credit, it was Gozu guitarist Doug Sherman – he of the perilously short guitar strap — who put the whole gig together. From the second I was walking into the venue, way back before anyone played other than Blackwolfgoat, before all the beer, the barbecue, the more beer, the rock and roll and the more beer, Sherman was outside greeting people, there the whole time, and he and his band very quickly showed by they were just right to close out. Guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney (above, left) has a subdued presence on stage, quiet and reserved — a good balance for Sherman‘s energy — and his performance has been spot on every time I’ve seen him, making vocal up and down vocal dexterity look easy while also joining Sherman on guitar and driving the songs forward with driving riffage. Bassist Joe Grotto was a new addition to the band since I saw them in March — also at Radio, as it happens — but he fit right in the rhythm section with drummer Barry Spillberg, and being revived following my ritualistic purge, I was in decent enough shape to appreciate their even-thicker take on “Meat Charger” and “Meth Cowboy” from their 2010 Locust Seasondebut (review here), on which they were joined by Ian Ross of Roadsaw (above, on right guitar). Their sound is too thick to really be a boogie, but that forward motion is there, and Gaffney brings a sense of drama to their choruses that stood them out from everyone else on the bill at Radio. They had a couple new songs as well, and whatever they do next, it’ll be a welcome arrival.
I know I post a lot of shit about Small Stone bands. I go see them play when I can, I review the records, I do interviews, post tour news, posters, and so forth, but the fact of the matter is this: That’s not coincidence. It’s a short list of American labels contributing anything of merit to the genre of heavy rock — by my estimation there are maybe five, with a few others who’ve glommed onto this or that trend within the sphere of Riff — and Small Stone are right there at the top. From the label’s days providing a haven to bands like Acid King and Sons of Otis in the wake of Man’s Ruin‘s demise, to fostering its own upstart acts like Sasquatch (not that they’re upstarts now, but they were when their debut was released), Infernal Overdrive, Gozu, Lo-Pan, Sun Gods in Exile, and Lord Fowl, while still keeping a commitment to what he does best, label head Scott Hamilton has patronized some of the best American heavy rock out there today, to the point where “the Small Stone sound” is an influence unto itself for bands around the world to pick up on. To be perfectly honest about it, it’s a cause I feel is worth supporting.
Small Stone’s next showcase is in Detroit at the Magic Stick on Dec. 1. More info here.
When the show was done, I was so tired I thought I’d fall asleep walking to catch a cab back to the hotel. There were goodbyes to be said, tales of hurricane survival to regale with and be regaled by, and a bar tab to close out, but I was quick about it, and before too long, The Patient Mrs. generously corralled me into a taxi. I was more lucid than I had been at several points in the evening by then, but still, sleep came as quick and as heavy as the riffs still stuck in my head. We had to drive back to Jersey on Sunday and figure out if the lights were back on yet after the storm (they were as of that afternoon), but if that was to be the finale of “refugee living,” I didn’t make out so bad.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 1st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’ve never been to a Small Stone showcase in Boston before. Sure, I was at both nights of the Philly one last year (review here and here) and I caught Gozu and Infernal Overdrive together at Radio this past March (review here), and looking at the list, the only band on it I’ve never seen is Supermachine — and I saw Scissorfight, from whence they come — but still, Boston’s a different beast. To tell you the truth, every time I hit the town, I feel a little bit like I’m going to get my ass kicked.
Perhaps then, it would be wise for me to hit the warm-up show slated to happen one day before the showcase proper. Elder (who so far as I know are not on Small Stone) and Infernal Overdrive will play at the taqueria No Problemo in New Bedford at 10PM. If you’re north of there, Gozu and Freedom Hawk will be on a bill at Asylum in Portland, ME. Drummer Mike Bennett of Infernal Overdrive posted the following notice and flyer:
Tomorrow night there will be a few warm up gigs starring some of your favorite Small Stone bands….
Asylum -Portland, ME w/ GOZU, Freedom Hawk, Murcilago and Whitcomb No Problemo – New Bedford, MA w/ Infernal Overdrive and Elder….. All leading up to the big event Sat. !!!
And then of course there’s the showcase itself on Saturday at Radio in Somerville. As awesome an assemblage of Small Stone acts as I’ve had the privilege to see. Here are the details, courtesy of the Thee Facebooks event page:
Nov. 3rd-Radio, Boston Small Stone Showcase 10 dollars!!! Dudes- BEER-PETTING ZOO!! Purchase Tickets HERE:
Brian Mercer (interview here) killed it this time. He really, really did. Check it out. Small Stone‘s Boston showcase is Nov. 3 at Radio, with Gozu, Lo-Pan, The Brought Low, Roadsaw, Freedom Hawk, Lord Fowl, Infernal Overdrive, Supermachine and Blackwolfgoat.
You might also note whose logo is on the bottom left. Bad ass. Can’t wait to get me one framed and then not have a house to put it up in (zing! Oh wait, I just zinged myself, damnit).
Showcase is Nov. 3 at Radio in Somerville. For more info on it and on the upcoming Detroit showcase, which I’m just waiting to get up the courage to ask Halfway to Gone for a ride out to, hit up Small Stone on Thee Facebooks.
Founded in 1995 by Scott Hamilton, Detroit imprint Small Stone Records is the single most influential American heavy rock label of the post-Man’s Ruin era. What started as Hamilton releasing local Detroit acts of varied genres like Morsel, 36D and Perplexa soon took on a dedication to the heavy aesthetic that remains unmatched in both its scope and its reach of influence. Looking back, Five Horse Johnson‘s 1997 Double Down debut, seems to have been the beginning of Small Stone‘s turn down the fuzzly path. It’s like Hamilton followed the riff right down the rabbit hole and never looked back.
Now, 17 years on, Small Stone has a reach that goes beyond even the distribution of the albums it puts out. Thanks to the diligent work of Hamilton and oft-encountered names like Mad Oak Studios engineer/mixer Benny Grotto, mastering engineer Chris Gooseman, graphic artist Alexander von Wieding, among others, the label has earned a reputation for quality output that new releases are constantly reaffirming. Over the years, Man’s Ruin refugees like Sons of Otis, (The Men Of) Porn, Acid King and VALIS have come into the fold, but the crux of Small Stone‘s catalog is made up of acts like Roadsaw, Dixie Witch, Halfway to Gone, Throttlerod, Puny Human and Novadriver, who no matter what else they put out or who they put it out with, will always be considered “Small Stone bands.”
That designation and those groups specifically have helped establish a core American-style heavy rocking sound that the label seems to delight in toying with even as it continues to promulgate. Next generation bands like Gozu, Lo-Pan, Freedom Hawk, Backwoods Payback and even newer newcomers Wo Fat, Supermachine, Lord Fowl and Mellow Bravo — who don’t yet have albums out on the label — are expanding its breadth, and recent international signees Asteroid, Abrahma, Mangoo, Nightstalker and Mother of God should help ensure that Small Stone keeps pushing both itself and genre boundaries well into the next several years.
One of the hazards, however, of an ever-growing catalog, is that it can be hard to figure out where to start taking it on, and to that end, I’m happy to provide you with 10 essential Small Stone picks. Note I didn’t say “the 10 essential Small Stone picks,” because the reality of the situation is this is just the tip of the fuzzberg. If it’s any indication, I started out with five and couldn’t leave the rest out.
Here they are, ordered by the date of release:
1. Novadriver, Void (ss-022/2001)
Still an album that’s more or less impossible to pin to just one genre, the stoner/space/weirdo jams of Novadriver‘s 2001 outing, Void, reside somewhere between Monster Magnet‘s early Hawkwind worship and the unbridled intensity of groove that came out of Detroit’s early- and mid-’70s heavy rock and proto-metal. The fact that Novadriver also came from the Motor City speaks to the label’s local roots, but if Void was coming out even today, it’d be coming out on Small Stone.
2. Los Natas, Corsario Negro (ss-028/2002)
Personally, I think 2005′s El Hombre Montaña is a better album and 2009′s Nuevo Orden de la Libertad is an even better album than that, but Corsario Negro earns the edge as a starting point because it was the beginning of the Argentinian rockers’ relationship with Small Stone (they too were left without a home in the wake of Man’s Ruin folding). Plus, if you haven’t heard them before and you get this, you can still marvel at the subsequent offerings. Either way, totally necessary.
3. Various Artists, Sucking the ’70s (ss-032/2002)
In a lot of ways, this is what it’s all about. Badass bands playing badass songs. By this point, The Glasspack, Los Natas, Fireball Ministry, Halfway to Gone and Five Horse Johnson (who lead off the first disc) had already put out at least one album through Small Stone, but Sucking the ’70s made the most of the label’s burgeoning reputation, bringing in Clutch, Alabama Thunderpussy and Lowrider, along with bands who’d later add records to the catalog like Roadsaw, Suplecs and Lord Sterling, all covering hits and obscurities from the heavy ’70s. A gorgeous collection that would get a sequel in 2006. Still waiting on part three.
4. Dixie Witch, One Bird, Two Stones (ss-037/2003)
The Austin, Texas, trio would go on to become one of the most pivotal acts on the Small Stone roster, and they’d do so on the strength of their Southern riffs and the soul in their songwriting. Led by drummer/vocalist Trinidad Leal, Dixie Witch hooked up with Small Stone on the heels of their 2001 debut, Into the Sun, which was released by Brainticket, and quickly gained a reputation for some of the finest classic road songs that Grand Funk never wrote (see “The Wheel”). Their 2011 offering, Let it Roll, affirmed their statesmen status among their labelmates.
5. Sasquatch, Sasquatch (ss-044/2004)
I was pretty well convinced that when the L.A.-based Sasquatch released their self-titled debut in 2004, rock and roll was saved. Whoever it needed saving from, whatever needed to take place to make that happen, this record did it. Truth is, rock and roll didn’t really need to be saved — it needed a stiff drink, as we all do from time to time — but Sasquatch would’ve been right there even if it had. They’re a Small Stone original with all three of their records to date out through the label, and still one of the strongest acts in the American rock underground, even though they’d never be quite this fuzzy again.
6. Dozer, Through the Eyes of Heathens (ss-061/2005)
Even now, seven years later, I can’t look at this album cover without hearing the chorus to “The Roof, the River, the Revolver.” Between that and songs like “Man of Fire,” “Born a Legend” and “From Fire Fell,” Swedish rockers Dozer made their definitive statement in their label debut (fourth album overall). Another former Man’s Ruin band, they’d already begun to grow past their desert rock roots by the time they hooked up with Hamilton, and Through the Eyes of Heathens played out like what heavy metal should’ve turned into after the commercial atrocities of the late-’90s. A gorgeous record and still a joy to hear.
7. Greenleaf, Agents of Ahriman (ss-074/2007)
It’s like they built nearly every song on here out of undeniable choruses. Even the verses are catchy. I’ve championed Agents of Ahriman since before I started this site, and I feel no less vehement in doing so now than I did then. A side-project of Dozer guitarist Tommi Holappa that on this, their third album, included and featured members of Truckfighters, Lowrider, The Awesome Machine and others, Greenleaf became a distillation of many of the elements that make Swedish heavy rock unique in the world. It wasn’t aping classic rock, it was giving it a rebirth, and every Hammond note was an absolute triumph.
8. Iota, Tales (ss-084/2008)
Once, I had a t-shirt with the cover of Iota‘s Tales on the front. I wore it until it got holes, and then I bought another. That’s the kind of album Tales was. A trio crawled from out of Utah’s Great Salt Lake, Iota took Kyuss, launched them into space, and jammed out for five, 10 or 20 minutes to celebrate the success of the mission. Recently, guitarist/vocalist Joey Toscano has resurfaced in the bluesier, more earthbound Dwellers, which teams him with the rhythm section of SubRosa. Their debut, Good Morning Harakiri, was a highlight of early 2012, building on what Iota was able to accomplish here while pushing in a different direction.
9. Solace, A.D. (ss-093/2010)
It took the better part of a decade for the Jersey-bred metallers to finish what became their Small Stone debut after two full-lengths for MeteorCity, but when it finally dropped, there was no denying A.D.‘s power. My album of the year in 2010, the band delivered front to back on seven years’ worth of promise, and though it was recorded in more studios than I can count over a longer stretch than I think even Solace knows, it became a cohesive, challenging album, giving listeners a kick in the ass even as it handed them their next beer. I still get chills every time I put on “From Below,” and I put it on with near-embarrassing regularity.
10. Lo-Pan, Salvador (ss-116/2011)
If you know this site, this one’s probably a no-brainer pick, but the Columbus, Ohio-based riff merchants took on unabashed stoner rock fuzz for their Small Stone debut (third album overall) and made some of 2011′s most memorable songs in the process. Subversively varied in mood and heavy as hell no matter what they were doing, every part of Lo-Pan‘s Salvador worked. There was no lag. Small Stone also reissued the band’s 2009 outing, Sasquanaut, in 2011, but Salvador surpassed it entirely, bringing the band to new heights of professionalism they’d confirm by touring, well, perpetually. They’re still touring for it. You should go see them and behold the future of fuzz.
That’s the list as much as I could limit it. If you want to immediately add five more, throw in Roadsaw‘s self-titled (they’re writing the best songs of their career right now, I don’t care how attached to the early records you are), Puny Human‘s Universal Freak Out, Halfway to Gone‘s High Five, Milligram‘s This is Class War and Five Horse Johnson‘s Fat Black Pussycat. If you want to semi-immediately add five more than that, get the reissue of Acid King‘s Busse Woods, Mos Generator‘sSongs for Future Gods, The Brought Low‘s Third Record, Tummler‘s Early Man and Erik Larson‘s The Resounding. There. We just doubled the length of the list.
And the real trouble? I could go on. We didn’t even touch on curios like Axehandle, Lord Sterling and Brain Police, or The Might Could‘s Southern aggression, Hackman‘s instrumentalism or the druggy post-grunge of VALIS. Suffice it to say that Small Stone is one of very few labels out there from whom any output will at least be worth a cursory investigation. As the label continues to grow and develop in 2012 and beyond with new bands and new releases from its staple acts, taking on new avenues of commerce — like releasing vinyl for the first time, which it did in 2011 — whatever changes might crop up, Small Stone seems ready to meet the future, distortion pedal first. Can’t ask more of rock than that.
Posted in Reviews on March 5th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Hard to remember which came first, the idea of the weekend getaway with The Patient Mrs. or the idea to drive up to Boston and see Gozu, Infernal Overdrive and the Darryl Shepard-fronted incarnation of Black Pyramid play at Radio in Somerville. The place, reportedly new, looked it, with good lighting and hardwood floors, a brick wall behind the door and Palm beer — who were sponsoring the night somehow, some way (I wish they’d sponsor my life, or at very least this site) — on tap and ready to go. So was I.
Because, you see, the three-beer rule was even more out the window than it had been at Windhand a couple nights earlier. After a quick stop at Armageddon Shop (same store as in Providence, but different locale), I’d begun a long process down downing draught Chimay Blanc, and, well, it’s made by monks. That should pretty much say it all. By the time I walked into Radio following some food and further imbibing at Redbones BBQ with the internet’s own Arzgarth, I was well on my way to a few things, and drunk was one of them.
Fortunately I conducted myself with the usual amount of class and social finesse (ha) and set to work almost immediately on arrival trying to snap some pictures of Lunglust, who were already on stage when I got there. A double-guitar fivesome with standalone vocals, they were an easy pick for being a Boston band — the way Jeff Sykes cups his mic is as much a tradition in New England as hating the Yankees, never mind their two-words-put-together moniker — but their heavy, semi-hardcore approach was tempered with an awareness of doomed groove, and with as much rock as the rest of the night promised, they brought diversity to a bill long on riffs but not necessarily fueled by aggression.
Heavy is heavy, and they were most certainly that. A decent break to change over the gear on stage helped make the transition less awkward for Infernal Overdrive, whose showtime charm is only getting more prevalent the more comfortable they get with their material. It was the CD release show for Last Rays of the Dying Sun (review here), and the band seemed to be in good spirits, whether it was guitarist/vocalist Marc Schleicher raising his rock and roll preacher’s arm up before they even got going or his brother, bassist Keith Schleicher, trying to give me his Shiner Beer t-shirt after I made fun of him for wearing it all the time when I posted their video.
Schleicher kept his shirt — a favorite shirt is hard to find; I couldn’t take it — and showed off his new Captain America-logo bass as Infernal Overdrive got going. The room was ready for the party they brought, but though the times they foster are invariably good, they’ve grown immensely since their demo, and each successive show proves it further. Lead guitarist Rich Miele, who might have been the only dude in the room with a tie, tore through leads as well as he classed up the joint amid a squelch of beardos (the official beardo grouping classification as of right now), grounding the overall chicanery left to the capable hands of drummer Mike Bennett, who made sure that nobody got out of line.
No easy task when Marc‘s put his guitar down for a little off-stage stoner rock softshoe, but Bennett‘s a pro by now and the solo in “Electric Street Cred” was short compared to other times I’ve seen it. Some of Infernal Overdrive‘s best stuff — “The Edge,” “I-95″ and so on — was that which brought Keith and Miele in on backing vocals, and that bodes well for their next outing, but that was far from my mind when they closed out with “Duel.” Just right for the occasion, it might win the hard battle for catchiest track on Last Days of the Dying Sun, and was involved in another fight, this one with Black Pyramid‘s “Mercy’s Bane” for being most stuck in my head after the show.
And really, it was the whole bill that made me make the trip, but Black Pyramid had an added element of intrigue thanks to it being among the first of their shows to feature new guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard. The ex-Hackmanand Milligram guitarist — who also put out the album Dronolith from his one-man drone project Blackwolfgoat through The Maple Forum last year and has vinyl of the same album on the way courtesy of Bilocation Records — has been in all my dealings with him and is by all other accounts I’ve heard an exceptionally good guy. Being a fan of his and a fan of the band’s work since the days leading up to the release of their self-titledMeteorCity debut in 2009, four hours in the car seemed a small price to pay, even if I’d be catching them at London Desertfest in April as well.
They did not — seemingly could not — disappoint. The familiar components of be-chapeaued bassist Gein and drummer Clay Neely (interview here) seemed at ease and right at home with Shepard on guitar, and the air was more of excitement than of tension, both on their part and the crowd’s. Older material sounded fresh and from “Mercy’s Bane,” which led off their set to “No Life King,” which closed it, the trio excelled. Shepard came in as a replacement for Andy Beresky, who left after the recording of Black Pyramid‘s recently-released II, and more than filled the shoes vacated. His adaptations of Beresky‘s solos were spot on, and of all the songs they played (the set list is after the jump), the one that sounded the best was “Aphelion,” the first of hopefully many to come from the Shepard/Gein/Neely lineup.
That’s probably to be expected, that the players playing would sound most fluid on the song they wrote, but the cut, which comes from a Transubstans Recordssplit 7″ with Swedish doomers Odyssey, also fit well with Black Pyramid‘s older material, and Shepard‘s vocals were neither trying to match Beresky‘s idiosyncratic phrasing nor purposefully be different. It was a natural shift taking place, and one I was glad to be there to see. Heads banged, claws were thrown, and when they were done, it was like we’d all come through something together and survived. Maybe that was the beer. Whatever. Doom above all.
Ultimately, it was Gozu‘s night. Boston natives, they’d helmed a plundering of Radio the evening before with Motherboar and Livver, among others, and remembering the current of melody at work along with their heavy riffs and upbeat pacing that played out at the Small Stone showcase in Philly back in September of last year, especially in the vocals of guitarist Marc Gaffney, I was excited to hear them on their home turf. Propelled by drummer Barry Spillberg‘s near-frenetic pacing and thickened by Paul Dallaire‘s bass, Gaffney and Doug Sherman‘s guitars were given proper treatment and respect in the mix and the material from their 2011 debut, Locust Season, sounded tight and crisp and engaging.
For a finishing move, they picked Locust Season highlight “Meth Cowboy,” and it was a great way to round out the night, Sherman adding backing vocals to Gaffney‘s even as the riffing toward the end gave new meaning to “post-hardcore.” That record seemed to be well regarded, but I get the feeling Gozu will have more to say stylistically next time around, and I look forward to it. Dallaire adds a lot of character to the lineup, and Sherman and Gaffney work well together and with Spillberg‘s drumming. They’re a better band than people know.
Was it a cab at the end of the night? Yeah, it was. One of several in which I heard processed electronic pop soap operas playing out “mixed live,” as though such a thing could exist on commercial broadcast media. By “mixed live,” I’ll assume you meant “pressed play.” Next to what I’d just seen those four bands lay down, which was created live, there was no comparison… not that I’d have been sober enough to make one anyway.
Because it was Boston after all, someone leaned out of their car to call me “faggitt” as I and The Patient Mrs. walked back to the hotel from making a 7-Eleven stop — not the first time that evening I’d heard the word used; two dudebros at the bar before the show were throwing out hatespeech with the blissful abandon of ignorance even as they groped each other at a level that I’d probably be uncomfortable if it was my wife doing it to me in a public setting — and someone in an Escalade as well seemed to want to start a fight. Sweet, sweet regionalism.
Little did any of the bastards know my victory had already been earned well before they came along to flare their jackets and pretend to pose a challenge. Some nights you win outright.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 18th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
I know I’ve talked before about the amazing times and staggering drunken debauchery I’ve (allegedly) witnessed and/or been involved in at Small Stone‘s SXSW showcases. For all the years I went to SXSW, it was unquestionably the high point, and if I was going to go now, it would be just about the only reason.
The label just announced their 2012 schedule with an exceptionally well-constructed press release — I mean, seriously, whoever wrote the thing should be hired for some cushy work-from-home newsletter-writing gig at a major corporation with money to spend so he can spend his days blogging about European heavy psych records — and the lineup is enough to make me wistful for the hazy memories that could be.
Now entering its 17th year of operation, SmallStoneRecords has announced the final lineup for its 2012 SXSW showcase, set to take place Friday, March 16, on the outside back patio at Headhunters on Red River in Austin, TX. The label, home to the best in heavy and ‘70s-fueled motor rock, has assembled a roster of new and old blood for a night that’s sure to remind Austin why it loves volume so much in the first place.
Says label honcho ScottHamilton, “We are very much looking forward to our yearly showcase in Austin. We have a great lineup that we’ll stuff into Headhunters, which is also one of our favorite little watering holes on Red River. It is always nice to tilt some back with some old friends, and some new ones too! Save the date, Friday March 16th!”
Spanning genres from the fuzz-drenched psychedelic improv jams of Austin natives TiaCarrera, who will close out the night, to the crunchy, noise-driven blues of NewOrleans trio Suplecs, SmallStone’s showcase is an annual high point of South by Southwest for those who manage to remember it the next morning. The complete lineup is as follows:
Friday, March 16 Headhunters (Outside Back Patio) 720 Red River at 8th St.: 1am: Tia Carrera 12am: DixieWitch 11pm: Suplecs 10pm: Lo-Pan 9pm: Gozu 8pm: Backwoods Payback 7pm: Dwellers
Original 18″x24″ silk screen concert poster available by NewYork-based artist and illustrator Joshua Marc Levy.