Posted in Reviews on June 20th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
They’ve made a beeline for the rock, have Michigan’s Mean Mother. The Detroit/Grand Rapids four-piece – who formed in 2003 as a side-project of more metallic acts like Ganon and Today I Wait – make their full-length debut (I think; there seems to be one release before it, but info is scarce) in the form of Rock ‘n’ Roll Shakedown (Saw Her Ghost Records), an album the name of which pretty much tells you everything you need to know about it. The first lines of the opening title cut read as follows: “Make a fist for rock ‘n’ roll/Yeah/Come on/Right now,” and from right there, it only gets more apparent that Mean Mother have no interest in poetry, no interest in brooding melancholy, no interest in pompous artistic posing. They’re here to drink, riff and groove, and Rock ‘n’ Roll Shakedown only asks that you come along for the catchy 42-minute joyride.
It’s the kind of heavy rock one expects to come more from Texas than Michigan – acts like Blood of the Sun and SuperHeavyGoatAss springing to mind as comparison points; or maybe even the new school of Small Stone rockers like Backwoods Payback and Lo-Pan (neither of whom is Texan) – but no question the double-guitar foursome have their papers in order when the issue is heavy rock influences. From Clutch to Deep Purple to the obvious Sabbath and Motörhead cues, they only want to rock, and the utter lack of pretense of anything else is what makes Rock ‘n’ Roll Shakedown work. A track like “Easy Livin’” makes its bones on ‘70s riffing and the white-guy-soulful delivery of guitarist Roxy Vega as backed by bassist Clint Debone, and there’s a million directions one could go in saying, “I’ve heard this before” in citing bands, but Mean Mother do what they do well and write a solid heavy rock song. Vega and fellow guitarist Cobra O’Kelly offer righteous riff-grooves and soloing, and Debone and drummer Bronco Johnson consistently lay down warm foundational rhythms. There’s a reason it’s become the heavy rock formula over the last 40 years, and the reason is it sounds cool.
Posted in Reviews on May 31st, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Hailing from the oh-so-pastoral climes of Grand Rapids, Michigan, the four-piece Lights at Sea traffics in a kind of wispy ethereal instrumental post-rock. It’s a sound most commonly associated these days with acts like Explosions in the Sky, but as Lights at Sea’s full-length debut, Palace Walls (Mind over Matter/Barrett Records) has some crunch to its low-end, I’m inclined to cite earlier Pelican as well, the two guitars of Scott Adams and Ryan Harig playing off each other in rhythms and echoing tonality. The album, which is a full-length at a bit under 35 minutes, is comprised of seven explorations that feel somewhere between improvised jamming and pointedly linear structures. Doubtless the band, which is rounded out by drummer Rob Burt and bassist Nick Rhodes, had some direction in mind for these tracks before pressing record, but with this kind of effects swirl, there are bound to be moments and sounds that pop up as part of the studio experience that simply couldn’t have been foreseen, and these are often some of the most magical stretches that albums like this have to offer.
What’s holding Palace Walls back, then, is the ease with which it can be pigeonholed into a genre. Cuts like the title-track, which follows a softly droning, minimalist intro dubbed “Fireside,” set up an effective build across their span, but it’s simple to write these and many of the other moves Lights at Sea are making here as derivative. One of their most engaging cuts is the centerpiece “Mantracker,” and even here Lights at Sea aren’t accomplishing anything in their encompassing all of sound that Red Sparowes wasn’t doing with their Godspeed You! Black Emperor influence on their own first album in 2005. To Lights at Sea’s credit, the flow from one track to the next on Palace Walls is immaculate, but I’m not convinced even after multiple listens that that alone is going to be enough to save them amidst fickle ears or heads bored of spaced out noodling. It’s a young sound anyway – one half expects to hear someone start post-hardcore screaming at several intervals on the album, “This is a House of Learned Doctors” among them – but even so, it’s one long since established, and Lights at Sea don’t bring much to it that wasn’t there to start with.
They’re young, and they have some work yet to do in refining their sound and figuring out what they want to accomplish as players, but Grand Rapids sludge trio Mountain Goat are off to a killer start. Their debut Hydro-Phonic Records 7″, Smoke Filled Land, and their recent split with Christian black metallers The Crowned Virgin (also from Grand Rapids; review here) show the outfit among the brightest and riffingest the next generation of sonic mudslinging has to offer.
Mountain Goat eschew a lot of the atmospheric pretense of modern sludge — I don’t need to list bands, you know what I’m talking about — and instead embrace the rudimentary elements of the genre: “What would Buzzov*en do?” Buzzov*en would get fucked up, play as loud as possible and occasionally throw a punch on a syndicated talk show. So be it.
The band is comprised of Monte Davis, Keith Ortiz and Derek Kasperlik. The former two took some time out to collectively answer the following six dumb questions:
1. Give me the secret origins of how you guys got together. How did you get started and how did you get hooked up with Hydro-Phonic Records?
Well, we (Monte and Keith) started Mountain Goat in our sophomore year of high school. We went through several lineup changes… those being drummer related. Everyone we tried out didn’t seem to get the simple, heavy drumming style we wanted. No one was familiar with the music. Eventually, Derek was called over for a jam practice and afterwards he was in the band as second guitar. We still had tons of drummer problems. After months of going nowhere, Derek decided he would play bass, and Keith would move to drums. We knew what sound we wanted. Why keep searching for someone to slow us down? It was the best decision we made. We’re really rolling on shit now, and it’s going great!
We eventually started playing around town. Someone told us about another Grand Rapids sludge band called Bullpig. We checked out their MySpace and couldn’t wait to check them out live because we really thought we were the only sludgy doom band in GR. We’ve now played numerous shows with them, and saw that they were on Hydro-Phonic Records. They told us to send a message to them and see if they were interested. Travis from HPRX came out to a show, and we talked afterwards. He really liked it. We played “Streetside” by The Obsessed, ha ha. We started hanging with him at his house talking classic horror movies and stoner rock in general. We eventually all decided on doing a 7” vinyl, and we also help with the label with new releases and help HPRX put everything together.
2. When did you first realize there was an indie band called The Mountain Goats? Did you ever think about changing your name?
After about six months of being a band, people would constantly remind us of The Mountain Goats. It eventually got to the point of annoyance that we decided to change our name and we did for one show. The name didn’t stick and everyone still knew us as Mountain Goat. At this point, we really don’t care. Someone reviewed us a while ago and mentioned, “In the great words of Michael Bolton when being asked, ‘Why not go by Mike instead?’ ‘Why should I change if he’s the one who sucks?’” ha ha.
3. How do you know The Crowned Virgin? How did the split release come about?
The Crowned Virgin started six months before we did, so we’ve known them for a really long time. They are really good friends of ours and we’ve been talking about doing a split for about two years now. That’s about all we really have to say about them. Pretty straight to the point. Good guys.
4. Talk about recording those tracks. Was it any different from doing the Smoke Filled Land 7”? What do you have planned for recording next?
These songs (from TCV split, and Smoke Filled Land 7”) were all recorded at Postman Dan’s — The Mailbox (or Malebox) — at the same time. We did them live, and it was a pretty straightforward recording.
Coming up next year we have a Split 10” with Sollubi, courtesy of HPRX. Other than that, we are just working on more songs during practice. Hopefully, we’ll see where that takes us with later releases.
5. Tell me about the rock scene out in Michigan. I know some killer bands from out that way, but what are the shows like? How has the response to Mountain Goat been?
There’s a pretty big hardcore/punk rock scene. We mostly play with punk rock acts more than we do metal acts. There’s only a couple of places to play in Grand Rapids that aren’t bars. The response we get is usually really good no matter what/where we play, or whom we play with. We really just put everything we can into our live show, and it definitely shows.
6. Will Mountain Goat tour? Any other closing words plans you want to mention?
Yes, we do have plans to tour, but with all three of us having jobs and dealing with school, it’s kind of hard at the moment to find the time, or funds to go out on the road. We are in talks right now of doing a few dates with our friends Blue Aside (from Massachusetts) in mid-July. Other than that, we are just working on new songs, and toying with the idea of putting out a full-length someday, but we are in no rush at the moment because we hate Rush. If anyone has any questions, feel free to message us on our MySpace or on our Facebook page. And if anyone wants to buy our 7”, or our split with The Crowned Virgin, do so on the Hydro-Phonic Records MySpace page or the many distributors that carry them.
Posted in Reviews on December 8th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
Not to be confused with the ultra-hip Californian indie band The Mountain Goats, the Grand Rapids, Michigan, sludge outfit Mountain Goat offer aural cruelty and scraping madness on their Hydro-Phonic Records split with fellow hometown heroes, black metallers The Crowned Virgin. Even with both bands contributing a total of eight tracks, I’d still count it as an EP, since with just four cuts each and a total runtime of 29 minutes, the release gives more of a sampling from Mountain Goat and The Crowned Virgin than it expresses a complete idea from either, but in letting people know what they’re all about, it succeeds entirely. Between Mountain Goat’s (again, not The Mountain Goats) riotous doom maelstrom and the rasping primitivism of The Crowned Virgin, it’s not hard to get what both bands want out of the split. They want you, in pain.
The Mountain Goat formula is relatively simple, but remarkably effective. Feedback, riffs, crashes, screams; the makings of sludge modernity brought to life. But Mountain Goat, particularly from the placement of the vocals – which have a similar unsettling edge to their screams as the original leaders of American black metal or even some of Pig Destroyer’s earliest work – bring the established tropes of the genre into their own context. Their four songs (“Tuskin,” the faster “Necromatik,” “Slumber” and “Covenance Cauldron”) groove like undulating stoner metal, but the sounds are undeniably evil. With production rawer than that of the band’s prior Smoke Filled Land 7” (also on Hydro-Phonic), the meanness of the tracks comes through sounding live and brutal. The droning feedback that ends “Necromatik” more or less sets the atmosphere on its own, and that atmosphere carries across the other tracks to come. As the next wave of sludge rises with bands like Thou and Salome, it’s easy to see how Mountain Goat could fit in that echelon of disturbing sonics.