Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
If you’re in the States and celebrating Thanksgiving this week, I thought maybe a new podcast would be good to have along for the travel. Maybe you take it with you on the road, or maybe put some headphones on in one of those need-to-get-away moments that invariably crop up over the holidays. I always get very stressed out at this time of year. I’d be lying if I putting this together wasn’t a bit of therapy for my own anxiousness, but I also thought that if someone else was in the same boat, they might also appreciate it. Or maybe not and you just want to rock without using it as an escape for deep-rooted psychological issues. That’s cool too.
This one has a lot of good stuff that I’ve come across lately, from the opening Foghound track on through the Clamfight single that was featured here a couple weeks back, and on to the B-side of the single that Ice Dragon released just this weekend, finally rounding out with the closing track from Uzala‘s new album, Tales of Blood and Fire, “Tenement of the Lost,” which was so captivating when I saw them in Providence last month. It’s a wide variety, but it flows well from song to song and I think it’s a good time.
Hopefully you agree. I’m especially happy with how well the last three songs, which make up the bulk of the second hour, came together. My hope is you’ll be too hypnotized by one song to realize when it’s gone into the next. Whether or not that happens, please enjoy.
Foghound, “Dragon Tooth” from Quick, Dirty and High (2013)
Lizzard Wizzard, “Total Handjob Future” from Lizzard Wizzard (2013)
Summoner, “Into the Abyss” from Atlantian (2013)
Groan, “Slice of that Vibe” from Ride the Snake EP (2013)
The Vintage Caravan, “Let Me Be” from Voyage (2013)
Run After To, “Melancholy from Run After To/Gjinn and Djinn (2013 Reissue)
Clamfight, “Bathosphere” from single release (2013)
No Gods No Masters, “Lie to Me” from No Gods No Masters EP (2013)
Horseskull, “Arahari” from 2013 Promo
Gudars Skymning, “Gåtor I Mörkret” from Höj Era Glas (2013)
Ice Dragon, “Queen of the Black Harvest” from Steel Veins b/w Queen of the Black Harvest (2013)
T.G. Olson, “Return from the Brink” from The Bad Lands to Cross (2013)
EYE, “Lost are the Years” from Second Sight (2013)
Øresund Space Collective, “Black Sabbath Forever in Space” from Live at Loppen 2013.11.19
Selim Lemouchi and His Enemies, “The Ghost of Valentine” from Earth Air Spirit Water Fire (2013)
Uzala, “Tenement of the Lost” from Tales of Blood and Fire (2013)
Whoever you are and whatever you’re doing, chances are Groan are having a better time. The UK-based chicanery rockers are at it again on “Women of Doom,” the lead track from the forthcoming Ride the SnakeEP, which is due out Dec. 10 on Superhot Records, pumping out a thick groove and ’80s metal gang shout hook and every bit living up to their stated “67% true doom” ethic. The clip itself follows a long-standing tradition from what’s evolved over the last couple years into a double-guitar five-piece — the photo above is already outdated; guitarist Chris West (who also recorded Ride the Snake) having been recently replaced by Jimmy Beedham — of snagging clips from cult ’70s horror flicks and putting them to songs. Video done.
And while I’m not sure I’ve ever thought of Elizabeth Taylor as a “woman of doom,” I’m no one to question Groan – vocalist Mazzereth, bassist Leigh Jones, guitarists Beedham and Mike Pilat and drummer Zel Kaute – on the subject, since they seem to have a clear idea what they’re going for. I doubt they’ll enter the canon of great feminist texts of our age with the chorus of, “Make room for the women of doom,” but given the context of what the band does, it’s encouraging to hear them continuing to have a good time amid all these Hammer Horror film pieces, for which I’m sure all the proper rights were secured. It must’ve been quite a legal process.
Keep an eye out for more on Groan‘s Ride the SnakeEP as we get closer to the Dec. 10 release, but until then, “Women of Doom” gives a decent idea of where the band are headed coming off of their last full-length, The Divine Right of Kings(review here), which saw them depart their earlier, more stonerly fare in favor of the metal-rooted take they’re continuing to develop here.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 15th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Who knows what kind of chicanery might be in store when UK mischief metallers Groan unveil their new Ride the SnakeEP? Well, they probably do. And I guess whoever else has heard it. But still — who knows???
Groan‘s last album, 2012′s The Divine Right of Kings (review here), pushed the band past their stoner rock beginnings and into a we-just-won-the-contest-for-not-taking-ourselves-too-seriously classic metal, enjoying the grandiose pretense in a way both tongue in cheek and intelligently dumb. When I ask who knows what’s to come on Ride the Snake, well, going from the title alone, the attitude seems to be in check, but with more lineup shuffles and an apparent tendency toward impulsiveness, I’m not even going to guess at where these songs might go.
They’ll be touring around the Dec. 10 Superhot Records release. Dates and info follow, courtesy of the PR wire:
English doom ‘n’ rollers GROAN announce new EP, Ride The Snake, out December 10th
The UK’s finest in reefer-based doom metal, the mighty GROAN, are proud to announce that they are releasing their new EP, Ride The Snake, via Superhot Records on December 10th. Much to the delight of each and every 67% TRUE DOOM fan who has awaited fresh thunder-boogie tunes since the critically-acclaimed, ego-inflating party-doom record The Divine Right of Kings of 2012, these new tracks will once again seal Groan’s position as the royalty of all doom ‘n’ roll.
After an incredible live show at London’s Desertfest 2013, the band returns with an all new lineup: founding members Mazzereth (vocals) and Leigh Jones (bass) are now joined by Mike Pilat (ex-Ocean Collective) and James Beedham on guitar with Zel Kaute (ex-Pettybone, Vodun) smashing the skins. The band self-produced, recorded and mixed a new five track EP named Ride the Snake with former drummer and guitarist Chris West that will be released on December 10th through Superhot Records, with a UK tour to follow that week, too.
As this is a highly anticipated EP, the band is available for interviews upon request and the album will be sent out for review soon.
Here are the details, including a video which depicts the deeply serious creation of Ride The Snake:
Ride The Snake Track Listing:
1. Women of Doom 2. Drug Lord 3. Slice of That Vibe 4. Blessed Is My Blade 5. Citadel of Chaos
Groan will also head out on a UK tour following the release of the EP: November 29th – Hard Rock Hell – Pwllheli, North Wales December 11th – Manchester – Star & Garter (w/ Ovvl (USA), Ten Foot Wizard) December 12th – London – The Windmill, Brixton (w/ The Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Sons of Merrick) December 13th – Birmingham – Scruffy Murphy’s (w/ Iron Hearse, Nukebox, +1 TBA) December 14th – Edinburgh – Bannerman’s (w/ Bacchus Baracus + others TBA)
Housekeeping kicked me out of my hotel room. While I’m staying somewhere, I usually don’t like to have people come through and clean — I’m not making that much of a mess, and what mess I make, I can clean up myself — but sometimes it just has to be done. So they gave me the boot, but I was still early to head down for the official start of London Desertfest 2013. Or late, depending on how you want to look at it. I’ll explain as we go along, though before we get down to it and the rest of my night gets its course, let me just say that some of what I saw today is the kind of stuff that I’ve no doubt will stay with me for as long as I have the capacity to remember it. Really. It was like that. From watching friends kick ass to seeing bands I never thought I’d be lucky enough to see, it was the perfect start to a landmark weekend.
In the spirit of doom, let’s do a slow count-in: 1… 2… 3… 4…
Native British trio Crystal Head were my favorite find of last year’s Desertfest — a band about whom I really knew nothing who just blew me away on stage. Obviously the surprise factor wasn’t there this go around, but the Londoners were perhaps even more satisfying to watch in 2013 since I knew most of the songs, which came from their 2011 self-titled debut (review here). As such, they made a great launch point for day one of this year’s Desertfest and though the setting was different at the Jazz Cafe, guitarist/vocalist Tom Cameron, bassist/backing vocalist Jon Deal and drummer Dean Deal nonetheless made short work of the room. Self-titled opener “Perfect Weirdo,” was a highlight, and Cameron‘s hollow-body Gretsch was as righteous as I remembered. Curiously, since I thought it was a shoo-in, they didn’t play “True to Say,” but I guess the DJ beforehand had gotten wind of the fact that they weren’t going to, and it was aired over the P.A. nonetheless before they took the stage. I had thought that was weird. Along with “Wouldn’t You Know” — which I might very well have stuck in my head for the rest of this weekend — they kicked into a new song called “Bellicose” that was introduced as being, “about how nice the world is.” So be it. Moody as they get, and they get plenty, Crystal Head never stray too far from the next hook, and even “Bellicose” had a solid crash groove from Dean that slammed into half-speed at just the right moment. When they closed with “Truth Hurts,” I wanted to hear a new record as badly as I wanted to hear the self-titled after they finished at The Underworld in 2012.
I went back and looked, and I haven’t called a band a hoot yet on this trip. Well, that’s what Groan were. They were a hoot. Just lots and lots and lots of fun. Fun to watch, fun to hear, fun from the moment of their ultra-pretentious classical intro to every over-the-top grandiose song of their set. I dug the hell of it. Not like I’d seen them before, but the now-fivesome have been through some lineup changes since they released The Divine Right of Kings (review here) in the latter half of 2012, shifting drummer Christopher West (also of Trippy Wicked) over to guitar while bringing on new drummer Zel Kaute and new guitarist Mike Pilat to join forces with bassist Leigh Jones and frontman extraordinaire Andreas “Mazzereth” Maslen. They brought the house down early with their unabashed heavy metal shuffle, dipping into their split with Vinum Sabbatum (review here) for “Cosmic Boogie” before “Magic Man” showed off some of the more metallic riotousness that showed up on the last album. They were a top-notch stage act, Mazz playing host to a chaotic carnival while Jones followed suit and the three relative newcomers kept the material in check while adding to the energy. Pilat contributed some vocals along with Jones in a few choruses, and it was cool to hear older songs from 2010′s The Sleeping Wizard(review here) like “Witchy Woman” and their finale, “Sleeping Wizard,” get treated to the band’s newer tones. Foremost, though, Groan were a really good time as they rushed through their set, and Mazz got in the last word of wisdom before they walked off stage: “Let’s have a party!” It seemed like we just had.
Mars Red Sky
The warmth. I guess in the intervening year since I saw them at Roadburn, I’d somehow tricked my brain into thinking there was no way France’s foremost ministers of fuzz Mars Red Sky could actually sound that thick and still be so languid, dreamy, psychedelic on stage. But no, they were. At The Underworld, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast (left above), vocalist/guitarist Julien Pras (middle above) and drummer Matgaz (right above) had the perfect balance of tonal weight and melodic sweetness, and of all the fuzz I’m bound to hear in the next few days, I’ve no doubt that at the end, theirs will have been some of the most satisfying. Most of the new Be My Guide EP (review here) was played, including “Clean White Hands” and the title-track before the trio moved on to “Curse” and “Marble Sky” from their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), Kinast coming to the fore vocally for the latter. “Strong Reflection” from the full-length was even slower coming from the stage, which I didn’t expect, but that only made the rolling, nod-inducer of a riff even richer, Pras‘ vocals echoing but still conveying a single-layer’s fragility that doubling inherently removes from the studio versions of the material, giving what’s already ultra-natural-sounding a rawer vibe. The EP is still new, but the album cuts got a great response, and as Mars Red Sky capped with “Way to Rome,” I felt like I was being issued a reminder that summer is on the way and will be here before I know it. All the better for having Mars Red Sky‘s temperate fuzz to bake in solar scorch. They also let me take their picture outside the venue later. Right on.
Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight
My original intention had been to watch cumbersomely-named appreciated amigos Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight (oft just Trippy Wicked) start the day with an acoustic set at the Vans store in Camden. The downside to this plan? I had no idea where said retail outlet was. This was a two-fold downer: First, because I like Trippy Wicked‘s acoustic stuff a lot — they break out a ukulele and really make it interesting and moody and varied — and Second, because the friggin’ Vans store in Camden was right in front of my god damn face the whole time. I walked past it on my way to Jazz Cafe for the start of Crystal Head and actually did a facepalm. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone back and forth in front of it since getting into town, but it’s several. Fortunately, my feeling like a jackass (familiar as it is) was tempered by knowing that Trippy Wicked were also booked for a full-on slot at The Black Heart, which is where I caught the St Albans trio, whose drummer Chris West and guitarist/vocalist Peter Holland had been kind enough to host me earlier this week. Time was a factor, but I did get to see them play a new song, and that was awesome, and I got to see them fill up The Black Heart such that people were queued (yeah, I’m in the UK) through the door and into the hallway to get in. Not really surprising, since last year they played The Purple Turtle (not a part of Desertfest 2013, which has already saved a few long walks, I’m sure) and garnered much the same reaction, and if not for the power of their oh-so-heavy rock and roll, certainly the fancy shirts of Holland and bassist Dicky King would’ve packed the house. I don’t know if anything will ever beat seeing them in Eindhoven last year, but whenever I get to watch them play I’m glad to be there. My only regret of the day was I didn’t get my dose of “Hillbilly Moonshine.”
What could’ve possibly drawn me away from such rock-your-socksery? The thing is, to say I have an enduring affection for the Sons of Alpha Centauri/Gary Arce collaboration — he being the “Yawning,” as in his main outfit, Yawning Man, and they being the “Sons” as in the first word of the name of their band — and their 2009 debut album, Ceremony to the Sunset (review here), is to grossly understate the situation. Theirs was the first in a trio of desert-based sets (Sons of Alpha Centauri are from the UK, but Arce counts in atmosphere as well as geography, so we’ll give them credit at least this time), that went from Yawning Sons to Yawning Man to Fatso Jetson as the closers for The Underworld. Frankly, it wasn’t the kind of thing I was going to be able to live with myself if I missed, and it seemed I was lucky when I got there and Yawning Sons hadn’t started yet. Unfortunately, in a couple short seconds within beginning to play, Arce‘s guitar cut out. Gone. The Sons portion of the lineup — guitarist Marlon King, bassist Nick Hannon, soundscaper Andrew Blake and the drummer who held together much of the jams that would ensue — locked in the gorgeousness of “Tomahawk Watercress” on their own while Arce figured out his situation, and just when it seemed to be up and running, off his guitar went again. It went on like that for a while, and was a genuine, visible bummer that cut into their set time. King and company were pros all the way, and the tech crew for Desertfest and even Arce‘s Yawning Man bandmate, Mario Lalli (also of Fatso Jetson), came out to help. Finally they got the guitar working and were able to build a bit of momentum over the remainder of their set. Lalli returned to guest on vocals for “Meadows” from the album, and that helped, and they ended with just King and Arce playing off each other on guitar, which was a cool moment to see, though I don’t think the set turned out the way anyone had anticipated or hoped. Still, I can’t call it a disappointment from where I stood. Getting to see Yawning Sons play any of their material at all was an automatic win.
I don’t know if it gets more of-the-desert than the Yawning Man lineup of Gary Arce, Mario Lalli and drummer Alfredo Hernandez. There’s plenty of acts and artists who’ve emerged from that vast, beautiful wasteland expanse, but aside from being pivotal to the creation of desert rock — period — is there anyone who so singularly embodies the heavy sound associated with that region? Maybe having Yawning Man play Desertfest 2013 was a way to find out, and if so, I’ll take it. I know they’re American and I’m American, but America’s a big country, and I honestly didn’t ever think I’d get to watching Yawning Man live, so this was something really special for me to witness — these three players jamming out still-unheralded classics for an audience that, if they went through and hand-picked a crowd, they couldn’t have found one more appreciative of what they do and what they’ve done for heavy rock and heavy psychedelia as a whole. And their albums, 2005′s Rock Formationsand 2010′s Nomadic Pursuits(review here) — even the latter, for which I still carry a nerd’s torch, don’t do them justice live. The songs are heavier, yeah, but also just plain deeper tonally, Arce‘s guitar expanding to full echo breadth as he signaled changes to Lalli and Hernandez for when to move to the next part. I know Yawning Man have had some lineup shuffles in their time and even recently, but to have these guys come out and start running through “Sand Whip” and “Perpetual Oyster” and get a real flow going from one jam into the next, the massive influence they’ve had on the probably thousands of bands who’ve taken bits and pieces of their sound over the course of a generation — some without even knowing they did it — made a lot of sense. By way of new material, they played “Dark Meet” from their split 12″ with Fatso Jetson, which is only the second piece of vinyl I’ve bought since I left home, and before they started, I got to hold Gary Arce‘s guitar for him while he went and grabbed a replacement part, and I felt honored just for standing where I was even more than I had already.
Boomer’s Blues! Boomer’s Boogie! Moving to guitar and getting a microphone for vocals, Mario Lalli commenced Fatso Jetson‘s set by asking the existential question, “What is desert rock, anyway?” I was going to yell out, “rebranded post-punk!” but thought better of it. In any case, Lalli isn’t quite post his punk. Joined in this iteration of his seminal outfit by drummer Tony Tornay, bassist/cousin LarryLalli, both mainstays,and his son, guitarist/backing vocalist Dino von Lalli — who may or may not be 16 now; Mario said something on stage about pulling him out of high school to do this show — Lalli and the band answered his question to whatever degree Yawning Man could possibly have left it unanswered. They ran through a fortified, boogie-fied groover set that touched on Fatso Jetson albums like Cruel and Delicious (2002), Toasted(2001), Flames for All(1999) and Power of Three(1997), but conspicuously absent was anything from 2010′s Archaic Volumes(review here). I don’t know if maybe the band decided to leave that material be on account of not having Vince Meghrouni on-hand to contribute sax and vocals as he did on the record, “New Age Android,” “I’ve Got the Shame” and “Tutta Dorma” go a long way. There wasn’t any new material to be had, but having seen them at Roadburn in 2010, I knew Fatso Jetson delivered live, and they did precisely that. To my misfortune, I was standing up front next to The Most Fucked Up Couple In London™ (my only challenge was deciding which between the two was, in local parlance, the bigger cunt) and promptly had beer spilled all down my back, so I wasn’t long for being there, and once wrenched off the floor level of The Underworld, soon decided to pick up that Yawning Man/Fatso Jetson split and head back to The Black Heart to close out the night in local style.
It was a little like walking into Mos Eisley with the lights off, going back to The Black Heart. All around me, drunken murmurs and shouts in a variety of mumbled languages couldn’t be placed to their source, and even as I turned the corner to go down the alleyway to get to the bar, I knew I was in for it. I’d already been doused — I mean, covered — in beer, so whatever was coming, I felt like I was ready. I saw Steak here last year and dug them, and dug as well their sci-fi/comic thematic Disastronaught EP (review here), and with a new one coming called Corned Beef Colossus, figured this would be a chance both to get in some last-minute fuzz for the day and sample their latest material. The band features guitarist Reece Tee, who also organized Desertfest (not totally on his own, as no great feat is accomplished single-handedly, but still), vocalist Kippa, who set up his mic on the monitor box at the front of the stage, bassist Cam and new drummer Sammy, replacing Dan Kinsey, now of Wizard Fight, and Sammy would soon make the presence of his doubly-floor-tommed kit felt in more than just a busted hammer on a kick pedal as the London four-piece unrolled tones and grooves sliced even thicker than I remembered. Kippa, not content to be on the box, climbed onto the monitor itself to get to the ceiling, and the assembled masses seemed to treat it more as a start to the inevitable after party than the final set of the night. No doubt that was exactly the intent. This is their scene, their friends, their party, and the moment was well earned, both on Tee‘s part and the band’s.
It’s nearly four in the morning as I type this and I still have pictures to sort. Tomorrow is fewer bands, more full sets, and I’m looking forward to that for sure, but today was fantastic front to back, so I’m not about to complain. You can really get a sense being here of the spirit of appreciation with which this fest is executed, and I hope that comes across both in this and in the posts to come tomorrow night and Sunday. Thanks as always for reading.
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 29th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Similar to being grateful for having the opportunity to catch bands like Alunah, Grifter and Trippy Wicked at last year’s Desertfest in London, I’m excited at the chance to see Groan on stage. Having so thoroughly nerded out over their metallicized 2012 offering, The Divine Right of Kings (review here), it should be fun to see them do some of that material live, and all the more interesting now that they have two guitars. Seems like they can never quite keep still. All the better for the stage show.
Here at DesertFest HQ we’ve been doing some experiments. We ain’t messing around here – there are Bunsen burners, SPSS datasets and white lab coats lying around all over the place! So what have we learned from this cactus-tax funded piece of analysis? Well, during our careful dissection of a certain infamous British hard rock band, we have successfully proven the hypothesis that Groan are, in fact, 67% TRUE DOOM.
So what does this mean for the remaining 33% I hear you exclaim? Well, you can fill out the rest of that pie-chart with righteous segments of HARD rock, THUNDER BOOGIE heavy metal, INSANE trouser choices and a significant quantity of FACIAL hair. Groan were formed roughly around 1967 by guitarist The Riff Wizard who then met lead singer Lord Mazzereth in a field of frolicking, opium-fuelled virgin pagans; such fields as I’m told were in abundance at that time. Soon however the initial line-up became a forgotten myth confined to Celtic folklore and the rarest of parchment inscriptions sealed in a series of long lost mountain caves. Yet in 2009, Groan were resurrected and rose like a phoenix silhouetted by several glow-sticks from their tomb of rock. Lord Mazzereth, who some say is older than Jesus, had forgotten all of the old hymns, but a new line-up of devout worshippers to the altar of the noble ryffe were nonetheless recruited and they wrote some new, better gospels together in haste. Now rounded out as a well-drilled five-piece with the addition of former Invasion and Pettybone drummer Zel Kaute, plus Trippy Wicked drummer Chris West and Mike Pilat (ex-Ocean Collective) on guitars joining frontman Mazzereth and corduroy comedian Leigh Jones on bass, the time to Groan is now!
Here to rock your life out of control with the likes of ‘Witchy Woman’, ‘Throne of Weed’ and ‘Gods of Fire’, this is one party train of David Coverdale fanatics, playing the best riffs that Sabbath threw away, that you’d be a fool to miss. A FOOL I TELL YOU! And if that’s not enough for you, the last time I saw this band, they were all dressed as bananas. Be there, or be somewhere sensible.
Whatever medium you enjoy music through, LPs, CDs, digital, tapes, reel-to-reel, Edison cylinders, the fact of the matter is that artwork — the visual representation of the album — makes a huge difference in the overall impression a record makes. There are bands who slave away for months negotiating fine details with artists and there are bands who snap a picture of themselves and throw it out front on their way to grab their next beer. Both methods have yielded classic results.
As 2012 winds down, I thought it might be fun to go back to the start of the year and take a look at some of the best album art that accompanied some killer albums. This isn’t the Best Albums list, just some of what I think is the Best Art. I’ll try my best to keep my reasons short as we go along alphabetically:
Alcest, Les Voyages de l’Âme
The sort of gloomy lushness that artist Fursy Teyssier brought to the cover for Alcest‘s Les Voyages de l’Âme was breathtaking from the first glance. Teyssier (also of Les Discrets; interview here) wonderfully captured the morose beauty in Alcest‘s music and painted a masterpiece that transcended “rock art” as much as the album itself transcended black metal or any other genre in which one might try to pigeonhole it.
The sentinel that has now graced the cover of the last couple Conan releases has mirrored the British act’s ascent in joining the ranks of great heavy metal mascots. Tony Roberts, who drew the piece on the cover of Monnos, has become an essential part of the band’s mythology, meeting their ultra-crushing tonality with visuals that seem to work in atmospheres no less oppressively brutal. If art was ever heavy, it was heavy here.
A pretty simple idea, but wonderfully executed, the front of Portland neo-traditionalists Doomsower‘s debut EP, 1974, came from an EPA photo documentary project that took place the same year. I picked it for this list not because it was so intricate or anything like that, but proof that sometimes something that seems basic can also be just right for the songs — the rails parallel, but joining, seeming to indicate Doomsower‘s journey undertaken.
Electric Moon, The Doomsday Machine
The question wasn’t so much would there be an Electric Moon cover on this list, but which one? The prolific German heavy psych jammers have a cache of treasure in the work of bassist Komet Lulu, and when it came time to choose from among the several recordings the band released in 2012, The Doomsday Machine stood out as a departure from the bright colors and classic psychedelia, being a painting by Lulu‘s father, Ulla Papel. Here’s to genetics.
Groan, The Divine Right of Kings
Having also handled Groan‘s split with Finnish trad doomers Vinum Sabbatum, W. Ralph Walters outdid himself with Groan‘s full-length follow-up, The Divine Right of Kings. With strong References to Hieronymus Bosch‘s vision of hell, Walters visualized the band’s move into classic metal and mixed it with manic get-stoned-and-stare kitchen-sinkery much as Groan continued to consort with brash heavy rock and doom. Walters‘ work on Blue Aside‘s The Moles of a Dying Race was no less distinct an achievement.
Larman Clamor, Frogs
Aside from thinking frogs are awesome in general, I was stoked to see how incredibly well Alexander von Wieding‘s art for his band Larman Clamor‘s 2012 offering fit the music. Otherworldly, darkly psychedelic and caked in haze, the dead stare of the frankenfrog on the front of Frogs perfectly matched von Wieding‘s swampy, bluesy style and looked even better on vinyl. Having also contributed to records by Lord Fowl, Wo Fat, Cortez and others this year, von Wieding has made himself one of the most essential heavy rock artists the world over.
Neurosis, Honor Found in Decay
Were it not for the discussion about the process of putting it together in the interview I did with Neurosis guitarist/vocalist Steve Von Till at the end of October, Josh Graham‘s cover for Honor Found in Decay — especially being so similar in idea to his work on Soundgarden‘s King Animal — probably wouldn’t have made this list, but knowing the level of construction that went into making the piece, from painting the jawbones to using artifact arrowheads from Slovakia, I couldn’t help but see it in a different light. Graham‘s ended his association with Neurosis, but if this is how he went out, they couldn’t have asked for more.
I had spent some serious time with Summoner‘s Phoenix by then, had been in talks with the band about releasing it on The Maple Forum, but it wasn’t until I held the LP in my hands at SHoD and really saw the Alyssa Maucere cover in-person that I realized what I was looking at. And once you see it, it’s not really subtle at all. Get it yet? There’s a cock and balls on the right side. I gotta give it to the Boston outfit and to Maucere for sneaking and yet not at all sneaking that one in there. Hey, if you don’t appreciate some phallic humor every now and again, you’re probably not going to start a website called The Obelisk.
Ufomammut, Oro: Opus Primum & Oro: Opus Alter
Is it cheating to include both covers from Ufomammut‘s Oro two-album series? Probably. Do I give a shit? Not in the slightest, because the Italian collective — who for visual purposes go by the name Malleus — tapped into new territory of psych art with the pieces for Oro: Opus Primum and Oro: Opus Alter, manifesting the idea of “psychedelic metal” in the actual style and inks used, while also contrasting dark and light and conveying the permanent nature of gold itself and the notions of hypnotic ritual that show up in their music. These covers were proof that Ufomammut are more than just the masters of their sound.
Another Tony Roberts creation, but in a completely different style from Conan‘s Monnos above, the bleak cover of UK nautical doomers Undersmile‘s 80-minute debut LP Narwhal seemed to embody everything the band had to offer on the album. It was dark, with hard drawn structural lines, but also sprawling, encompassing every panel of the digipak and running into the liner much as Undersmile‘s oceanic themes ran into every minute of the music, crushingly heavy or minimalist and ambient. Less about the titular creature within and more about the sea itself, it conveyed an utter hopelessness and the smallness of humanity when set against something so massive as the sea.
There were plenty more I could’ve included here — records from High on Fire, Om, Graveyard, Wight, Caltrop, Ancestors, Samothrace, Vulture and several others all are worthy of honorable mention, but for one reason or another, these were the standouts to me and I hope you agree that even in this go-ahead-and-download-it age of immediate convenience, the visual art remains pivotal to an album experience.
Someone you think got left out? If you’ve got any suggestions to add, agreements or disagreements, I’d love to get a discussion going in the comments, so please, have at it.
Posted in Reviews on September 28th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Groan’s second full-length, The Divine Right of Kings barely gives you a second to think before it gets its hooks in you. The album, boasting artwork by W. Ralph Walters and following a split with Finnish proto-doomers Vinum Sabbatum (review here) and their 2010 debut, The Sleeping Wizard (review here), also marks their first outing on Soulseller Records, opening with an immediate rush of three songs that run one into the next While I’m a fan of the band and have been since that debut – so I’m freely willing to admit that’s the perspective from which I’m writing – the momentum comes on quick and speaks for itself. Opener “Weeping Jesus” aligns the UK four-piece to both ‘70s and ‘90s-style doom ‘n’ roll quirk, and the ensuing “Sacrificial Virgins” sets the tone for much of the quality songwriting to follow, hooky choruses delivered with lighthearted arrogance by Andreas “Mazzereth” Maslen – the last holdout in the band as regards adopted stage names, as both guitarist Dan Wainwright and bassist Leigh Jones have dropped theirs and newly recruited drummer Chris West (also Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight and Stubb) never had one – but it’s really not until the extended introduction of the third track, “Magic Man,” that Mazzereth really lays down the ethic at the heart of what Groan does. In preaching spoken word echoes atop tension-creating guitar feedback, he states:
Some days the bad, some days unworthy people, unrighteous business and the conventional grind brings you down. But you’re wise — you’re clever — you know how to deal with this bad situation. I’m talking about reaching for the Sabbath, the DC, the Priest. I’m talking about reaching for the Halen, the Quo, the Creedence. You fight the world with some tasty Stooges. You make your body move with some Grand Funk, some Foghat. These timeless motherfuckers bring forth the power that enables you to deal with it, to get off your ass and fight back. Hell, they may even inspire you to form a shitty rock and roll band. Never forget the healing power of rock. Never forget the crucial truth they bring. Friends, to you, I say this: When in doubt, rock it out.
From there, West taps his snare and they launch full-speed into “Magic Man,” one of The Divine Right of Kings’ best and most swaggering cuts, but more than that, it’s how much the mentality of the above defines the course of the album that stands Groan out from their peers. There are bands who would say the above and offer some ironic pose-out behind it. Hearing Groan as they present themselves on their second album, I totally believe they listen to Foghat. While drunk. Possibly with their shirts off, weather permitting.
It’s the ability to skirt the line between tongue-in-cheek chicanery and sincere appreciation for classic heavy rock, classic heavy metal and modern doom and stoner riffing that serves as the difference between Groan and any ironic shitbag act you’d want to put next to them. Groan means it. The Divine Right of Kings touches almost immediately on British horror cinema atmospheres in the spoken lyrics of “Weeping Jesus,” which has doomed plod behind it but still keeps a relatively accessible pace musically, and “Sacrificial Virgins” is as much about the up and down nod of its riff as it is the titular virgins, Jones and West proving a formidable rhythm section quickly while they underscore the perfectly-paced groove. Mazzereth urges the listener to “get down” and “feel the doom” before Wainwright takes a few measures of a solo and either a sample or more spoken vocals – they’re murky, so it’s kind of hard to tell – round out the track, leading directly into the above-noted intro to “Magic Man” and the song that follows, which is nothing if not the payoff the first two tracks built toward. Through these three tracks – which take only about 10 of the album’s total 39 minutes – Groan barely give the listener time to catch their breath or process what they’re hearing, such is the demented ADD mentality of them. Emerging on the other side of “Sacrificial Virgins,” one almost remembers the chorus in spite of the song, its start-stop cadence reminiscent of Cathedral at their most unabashedly rocking. “Magic Man” is made all the more a landmark both by its motoring musical and lyrical brashness, but also because it leads to the first genuine stop on The Divine Right of Kings, the track ending cold to precede the slowdown to come in “Dissolution.” Prior to, “Magic Man”’s groove is all punkish stoner, West’s drums providing critical engine to Wainwright’s leads as a brief slowdown in the second half picks up for a final run through the chorus.
In comparison, “Dissolution” is infinitely more doomed. The tempo is cut to a slower groove, and the atmosphere is darker in the guitar, a semi-choral opening giving the march some melodic context in the intro, though by the chorus, it’s Mazzereth who seems to be all over it, unwilling to relinquish some of the energy that “Magic Man” pushed forward. He’s mixed high and echoing, but that only adds to the classic metal vibe of the track, which is maintained despite a modern-sounding production, handled by the band themselves with a mastering job by West. Still, as the chorus comes back in the final slowdown Mazzereth moves further back in the mix to let the chants through, announcing that “our god is dead,” and while it’s clear the band are aware of their methods and the atmospheres they’re trying to concoct, it’s also a lot of fun to listen, that slowdown only serving to highlight the point that you never quite know where Groan are headed until they get there. That remains true even as The Divine Right of Kings moves into its next phase, “Dissolution” setting the tone for more straightforward presentation of the band’s balance between doom and heavy rock. The lighthearted feel is maintained – even in its darkest moments, as with the ending of “Dissolution,” Groan can’t help but be a good time – but there’s a shift in momentum. “Dissolution” and the following “Atomic Prophets” and “Gods of Fire” play into each other less than did the opening salvo, each song coming to its own end without bleeding directly into the next. It’s a shift in vibe to match the sonic turn between “Magic Man” and “Dissolution,” but what remains consistent is the level of songwriting as “Atomic Prophets” gets underway, West’s kick setting the pace soon to be picked up by the whole band while Mazzereth hangs back a bit before unleashing the first verse. For all intents and purposes, “Atomic Prophets” is the stoner rock to stand up to “Dissolution”’s doom, but there aren’t any feelings of inconsistency going from one to the next – the first three tracks having done well to set up an open expectation.
Ever the troublemakers, British stoner specialists Groan have announced a few lives dates around the release of their new album, The Divine Right of Kings. The four-piece will unleash the new album, featuring alternate-universe future classics like “How Black was Our Sabbath” and “Let’s Have a Pint at the Crooked Cock,” on Oct. 26 through Soulseller Records, and joining them for the shows will be none other than Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight.
Here are the dates, courtesy of the band:
Tue 23rd Oct Oxford, The Wheatsheaf (support TBC) Wed 24th Oct Manchester, The Bay Horse (w/Arke) Thu 25th Oct Sunderland, Venue TBC (w/Witch Charmer + Ashes of Iron) Sat 27th Oct London, The Black Heart (w/Valve, Crumbling Ghost, Dead Existence)
And to give a first look at the chicanery on tap for The Divine Right of Kings, Groan put together the following album trailer, which I’m happy to host for your perusal. Dig it and then go back to the start and dig it again:
When I reviewed Groan‘s split with Finnish trad doomers Vinum Sabbatum, a large part of the discussion centered around the departure of vocalist Andreas “Mazzereth” Maslen and drummer Steve “Thor’s Hammer” Burnett. Well, as the band’s new video for the song “Magic Man” from their forthcoming The Divine Right of Kings album shows, Mazzereth is back in the band and they’ve also joined forces with the increasingly-ubiquitous Christopher West to fill the drummer slot. You might recognize West from the recently-reviewed Stubb or Trippy Wicked, who are also expected to have a new record out this year. Busy busy.
Dig the righteous rawness below, and don’t be surprised when the room starts spinning. That’s kind of Groan‘s thing:
Posted in Reviews on October 11th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Nestled right in between the touring Groan did for last year’s The Sleeping Wizard debut (review here) and the dissolution of what future generations will no doubt re(e)fer to as their “Mk. I” lineup, the UK four-piece put to tape the final two tracks of their initial incarnation for a Doomanoid Records split with laudable Finnish doomly Hammond-philes Vinum Sabbatum. Groan’s young, brash and just-slightly doomed take on stoner rock was presented on The Sleeping Wizard with a rehearsal room rawness that fit the songs perfectly. They’ve hardly cleaned up their act on the Vinum Sabbatum split, but I wouldn’t call it lacking fidelity either. The guitars of Dan “The Riff Wizard” Wainwright sound full and are lent extra thickness by their interplay with Leigh “Forest Dwelling Fuzz Creature” Jones. It’s fortunate that they play so well together, since they’re the two members left in the band after the departure of vocalist Andrew “Mazzereth” Maslen and drummer Steve “Thor’s Hammer” Burnett, but then, locking in a solid groove has never been a problem for Groan since the start. The divide between bands time-wise is uneven — with Groan’s two songs totaling about six and a half minutes while Vinum Sabbatum’s two songs are about twice that and half again – but both acts use the space they’re given on the CD well, and seem to embody in their own way the stonerly art that American artist Ralph Walters has concocted for the Eden-evoking cover.
Their approaches vary. Groan are more modern-sounding if not actually more modernly influenced. Their two songs, “Cosmic Boogie” and “Throne of Weed,” feel short, upbeat and about as straightforward as you can get. They are stoned with the sort of abandon that only youth and a genuine love of the riff can bring, and where Vinum Sabbatum injects elements like acoustic guitars, the aforementioned Hammond, mellotron and a more mournful flow to closer “Disillusioned Pilgrims,” even the catchy “Sinister Sister” (the ‘70s backing vocals are a must-hear) which precedes feels more grown up. Part of that could be that the Finns – who released their full-length debut, Songs From the Convent, on Eyes Like Snow last year to a positive response – have an older presentation. They hone in not so much on the relatively-updated ‘70s methodology that comes through the filter of 21st century stoner rock, but unabashedly take on the original sound as a retro ethic. It works well for Vinum Sabbatum, who one could probably concoct in a petri dish by melding the methods and influences of Witchcraft and their countrymen in Reverend Bizarre, but probably have the record collection to back up their aesthetic. That inevitably plays into their favor, as does the analog-sounding production and the patience with which they execute the material. Neither they nor Groan are “intense” sounding, at least not as the word might apply to heavy music, but there is something immediate in the overall atmosphere of the split.
It had been my initial intent to post the following Groan video with a probably-way-too-long rant about how the bastard YouTubes had again thwarted my ability to include the orange video frames I hold so dear — but alas! — through some crafty (and probably novice) HTMLing, I have managed to once more subvert their will toward what they think of as “progress” and “streamlining.” This is doom. Stow your progress elsewhere.
Thus, it’s with victory in mind now that I embed this Groan clip for the new and appropriately-titled track “Cosmic Boogie.” It’s short at 2:53, but Mazzareth and company still manage to pack in Cathedral influence, dancing forest pagan girls, The Wizard of Oz, chest hair and some classic British television, so be ready to be impressed:
Posted in Whathaveyou on April 20th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
I dug the hell out of The Sleeping Wizard, the first album from UK über-stoners Groan (review here, if you doubt me), so it’s good news come in that they’re going to record the follow-up, the name of which you can see below, toward the end of this summer, and tour in the meantime before its release. The band sent this info in while I was away at Roadburn, but I wanted to make sure it got put up anyhow, in case anyone missed it.
The PR wire has it like this:
UK doom ‘n’ rollers Groan are scheduled to record their second album in mid-August. The four-piece, based in different parts of the UK, will record their second album, tentatively titled The Divine Right of Kings, in Mid-Wales’ Foel Studios with ChrisFielding (Electric Wizard, Napalm Death, Serpent Venom) with an anticipated release towards the end of 2011. Among current tracks being worked on for the album are “Gods of Fire,” “Sacrificial Virgins” and “Dissolution.”
Bass player, Forest-Dwelling Fuzz Creature says: “We’re trying to get a good balance between classic hard rock and traditional doom for the songs we record for this album. In writing these new songs, I think we’ve really found our voice. We hope to emulate our heroes by recording and releasing an album which is meant to be played from start to finish as opposed to today’s culture of disposable, individual mp3 files; all whilst off our tits.”
Groan’s debut album, The Sleeping Wizard, was released in October 2010 through Doomanoid Records to vast critical praise. A split EP with Finnish doom rockers Vinum Sabbatum is to be released this summer through DoomanoidRecords (release date TBC).
After recording The Divine Right of Kings, Groan will hit the road for a short co-headlining tour of the UK with another highly-regarded up-and-coming English band. Details of this tour to be announced at a later date.
Posted in Reviews on December 20th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
With a binding self-awareness and unashamed worship of the riff, young UK doom rockers Groan make their Doomanoid Records debut on The Sleeping Wizard. At 26 minutes, it’s a record whose green and purple artwork is not misplaced, earning every bit of its psychedelic edge and pushing it through a screen of driving metallic riffs. More Sabbath than Sleep in their song structures, Groan make short work of neo-proto metal right away with “Ride of the Antichrist,” which revels in its use of cliché in a manner that cheekier acts like The Sword never could. It’s not original, and it doesn’t want to be, and I don’t even think The Sleeping Wizard cares whether you call it an EP or a full-length (my vote’s for full-length, whatever that’s worth), so long as you riff out. That part they make easy.
What The Sleeping Wizard lacks in revolutionizing, it more than makes up for in charm. The short, 2:52 cut “Witchy Woman,” which follows “Ride of the Antichrist” stops in its middle to deliver its title line with such gusto that it’s hard not to be sucked in. Likewise for the catchy “Psychedelic Demons” or “The Martyr King,” which rocks like mid-period Cathedral and aspires to doing little more than that. Guitarist The Riff Wizard (fake names only add to the appeal) leads the way in unmired simplicity, often stumbling on the kinds of progressions that are head-slappingly obvious but still killer, and drummer Thor’s Hammer (what else to call a drummer?) and bassist The Forest-Dwelling Fuzz Creature have no problem keeping up. The production of The Sleeping Wizard is raw and live-feeling, but not lacking clarity, and especially in Thor’s Hammer’s drum sound, is just crisp enough to give the album an underlying sense of professionalism. Clearly Groan aren’t in danger of taking themselves too seriously, but neither are they just jerking around. Vocalist Mazzereth keeps his effects on for the duration, but is well balanced with the music behind him, his approach linking Groan to a lineage of British heavy psych that started well before anyone in this band was born.
UK stoner/doom rockers Groan have put up a preview of their new collection of psych-soaked rituals, The Sleeping Wizard, which you’ll find for viewing below. Vocalist Mazzareth (who introduces the clip) reached out to me via StonerRock.com bmail — if you want to do the same, my I.D. on there is h.p. taskmaster. The Sleeping Wizard is due out this summer on Doomanoid Records.