Posted in Reviews on August 4th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s a cavernous and mystical sound that Heavy Temple have conjured for their self-titled debut EP. After impressing with a single for “Unholy Communion” last year — that song is also presented third of the extended three cuts on Heavy Temple and is out as a cassingle via Sarlacc Productions — the Philadelphia outfit were picked up by Germany’s Ván Records for the vinyl and digipak CD issue of this more complete first outing, and it’s an endorsement of no small consequence, Ván having long since proved the mettle of its tastes via picking up cult-minded acts like Year of the Goat and The Devil’s Blood. Heavy Temple – here a trio but now a duo with bassist/vocalist Elyse “High Priestess Nighthawk” Mitchell as the sole remaining founder — present a more laid back style of grooving than either of those two, but remain plenty heavy nonetheless across “Dirty Ghost” (8:17), “Legendary Conversations with Ants” (7:31) and the aforementioned “Unholy Communion” (13:15) and offer atmosphere to match the intermittent full-thrust tonal heft. They are, in fact, notably cohesive in their approach, and particularly for their first time out, Heavy Temple seem to arrive with a firm notion of their intent, what they want to sound like and how they want to achieve it. Mitchell‘s voice is dynamic and her approach shifts smoothly between “Dirty Ghost” and “Legendary Conversations with Ants” before delivering its most powerful performance on the closer, and in guitarist Shawn “Rattlesnake” Rambles and drummer Andy “Bearadactyl” Martin (also of Maple Forum alums Clamfight), she had a formidable complement with which to establish the range heard in these songs.
About those songs: They are spacious, psychedelic, heavy and they manage to avoid much of the cult rock cliché while proving both immersive and memorable over the course of Heavy Temple‘s 29-minute span. Working together as a debut EP, they more than succeed in giving the band’s audience a sense of what Heavy Temple want to do moving forward, and whether it’s the quiet doom blues in “Legendary Conversations with Ants” that gives way to a slow-motion effects-drenched freakout led by Rambles‘ guitar or the jammy bliss that emerges at the end of “Unholy Communion,” they retain their hold of the proceedings and excellently showcase the potential for what the band might or might have become going forward. “Dirty Ghost” commences with an otherworldly volume swell — minimal, quiet — before gradually unfolding itself with Martin‘s drums and Mitchell‘s bass and vocals, and it’s not until well past the halfway point of its eight-minute run that it finally explodes into full-on psych-grunge heft, like if someone wanted to turn peak-era Soundgarden production into a religion. That patience becomes a central element as Heavy Templeplays out, and the trio are just as likely to ride out a loud part as a quiet one, not shying either from crafting a void or filling it with distortion. The malleability of Mitchell‘s voice between the sultry croon in the first minutes of “Dirty Ghost” and the rawer shouting at the apex of “Unholy Communion” — the EP flowing smoothly between the two; something else that bodes well for a full-length — is another major asset working in their favor, and the stoner-mass of “Legendary Conversations with Ants,” while apparently more worldly in its lyric than the title might have you believe, executes a subtle linear build that ends with some classic doom riffing that bleeds right into the start of “Unholy Communion,” the whole release tying together seamlessly.
The first couple minutes of “Unholy Communion” are dedicated to building up tension, but at about 2:50, the song opens up and begins a payoff that will carry it through its midpoint, where it breaks to minimal ambience to set the stage for the EP’s final build and ultimate heavy psych payoff, Rambles‘ soloing meshing with layers of effects swirl that still keep enough room in the mix to sound human-made, though by then all three sound completely engrossed in the stirring concoction, even as they emerge from it for the big-riff finish and last-second string epilogue. Whatever Heavy Temple do from here is bound to be vastly different. I don’t know whether Mitchell intends to form a new trio or keep the band as a two-piece — she’s currently joined by drummer Saint Columbidae – but in any case, the change from the guitar, bass/vocals and drums lineup here is sure to manifest itself in subsequent output, even if her songwriting remains at the core. With that in mind, Heavy Templemay or may not be telling of the band’s future, and one would wonder about releasing it at all but for the fact that when a label like Ván comes calling, you answer. If this EP is to be Heavy Temple‘s beginning point, it starts them with a tumult marked by material of striking quality. It’s a familiar enough story for bands working under a principle songwriter, and if that’s to be the tale of Heavy Temple, the hope is they can find consistency in the chaos. Taken on its own merits, however, Heavy Templeis among the best short releases I’ve heard so far this year, and if it can serve as even the most rudimentary standard of quality from which the band can expand their sound, then they’re going to be just fine. Point is, even just in Mitchell‘s performance there’s potential here and a lot of it. How she handles that and what she does with it the next time out will be a big tell in terms of Heavy Temple‘s longer-term prospects, and either way, it seems likely that their sophomore studio outing will be as much a debut as this one. A live release in the interim would go a long way in giving a look at where Heavy Temple are headed.
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 20th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
If you’ve got a minute to type in your email to get a free download from Bandcamp, then the new Progstravaganza 13 compilation has 76 tracks with your name on ‘em. Progstravaganza 13follows on the heels of the Progstravaganza I-IXcomp-of-the-comps released in June and features the likes of Heavy Temple, Sleestak, and Temple of the Smoke… among 73 others. These things are always huge, and while you know not everything is going to be up everybody’s alley, it’s a great way to discover new bands.
Announcement and stream follow:
Progstravaganza 13 has been unleashed, highlights progressive music in all its glory.
The Progstravaganza compilation series has as its sole purpose to discover new bands. Since its inception in 2010, Prog Sphere has made it its goal to make each compilation special. Every part in the series comes with specially designed artwork. They are all available via Bandcamp in different audio formats.
Progstravaganza 13 sampler brings 76 bands from all around the world, proving that progressive music in 2013 is alive and kicking. The compilation itself is accompanied with the officialProgstravaganza websitewhere all the artists-participants have profiles. The website also brings interviews with the bands, as well as the reviews of their releases. Chris van der Linden(Linden Artwork) provided once again design for the art cover and PDF booklet which contains bands photos and links, as well as the editor’s note.
Progstravaganza 13 brings 76 bands from all around the world for your listening pleasure.
Along with Progstravaganza 13 going on, Prog Sphere is allowing submissions for the upcoming, fourteenth edition. Prog Sphere invites bands from all around the world to take part and reach out to a wide audience by promoting the sampler. The compilations are actively promoted by continuous radio streams on more than 50 radio stations around the world. Bands and musicians interested in being a part of the upcoming compilation can get in touch with Prog Sphere by sending an email firstname.lastname@example.org through the contact form atTHIS LOCATION.
Progstravaganza 13 is available fromTHIS LOCATION. For all the news and updates concerning the sampler visit its official websiteHERE.
Posted in On the Radar on June 19th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
With a crowley rock aesthetic already firmly in their grasp, Philadelphia trio Heavy Temple emerge from the ether bearing an early bit of organic, autumnal tonality and a nascent experimental breadth. Their debut demo comes in the form of the single track “Unholy Communion,” which tops 13 minutes and features enough fuzz for at least twice that, bassist/vocalist Elyse “Nighthawk” Mitchell standing at the fore of the mix with an authoritative command both of her voice and presence in the songs alongside guitarist Shawn “Rattlesnake” Rambles and already-former drummer Andy “Bearadactyl” Martin, who anyone who’s happened by this site once or twice will probably recognize from Maple Forum alums Clamfight.
For anyone who heard that band’s latest record, it offers little to no context for even the percussive style employed on Heavy Temple‘s “Unholy Communion,” which is headed to more patient, richly psychedelic and unfolding moods. There are more effects employed than I care to or could count, but one of the most encouraging aspects of “Unholy Communion” is that as far out as Heavy Temple go — and yes indeed, they go — no indulgence feels unwarranted. Martin has established a strong, tom-running beat by the time Mitchell arrives, rising to a swell as Rambles‘ guitar picks up a churning, progressive riff, and she unleashes a chorus of long-held notes over the emergent storm of the music, backing off only to allow Rambles space for a solo to begin an instrumental exploration.
There’s a structure at work, but it’s obscure befitting the band’s somewhat cultish aesthetic. As “Unholy Communion” veers toward the five-minute mark, Mitchell coos out a verse over tense bass and the drums’ steady beat, and the build begins again, one part into the next into the next — that last being the chorus paying off the anxious vibe prior. The riffs are intricate but accessible, turning in the chorus with a fill that in another context might be stoner rock before dropping out altogether for a droning stretch that at first calls to mind King Crimson‘s “Moonchild,” but soon moves into more active territory, Martin punctuating a steady-if-minimal riff that Mitchell can’t seem to help topping with echo-laden vocals.
That riff — you’ll know it when you hear it — is the basis for much of the second half of the song, and rightly so. In capital ‘h’ Heavy tradition, they do just about everything with it they can over the next few minutes, raising it up from its unassuming creep, making it as heavy as it’ll go, giving it vocals, adding effects, theremin, and the shouts that serve as a driving apex within “Unholy Communion” as it marches out its distorted course. Past 10 minutes in, Heavy Temple shift back toward the opening progressivism — Martin returns to that drum beat — but the weirdo theremin noise remains and the atmosphere is changed as Rambles follows his leads wherever they might take him. The drums announce the change coming, but it’s no less satisfying when the three of them turn the song upside down and with just over a minute to go, lock into a return of the chorus, somewhat slowed, to give the track closure and a frightening sense of accomplishment.
Ending with some last-second cello from Mitchell, Heavy Temple seem to be announcing that anything is fair game within their sound, and I for one look forward to where their sonic push takes them next. I knew they had something cool going on earlier this year when I was fortunate enough to catch them at The Eye of the Stoned Goat 2 in Delaware, but I don’t think that gig could’ve foretold the spirit they’ve been able to capture in what it’s still important to remember is just their first recording as a band. They’ll need to find a new drummer (Martin having split amicably), but I know when they do I’ll be eager to hear what they come up with next.
Posted in Reviews on February 11th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
What was clear at the outset was that it was going to be a long night. With 10 bands in a matter of seven and a half hours, The Eye of the Stoned Goat 2 was going to have to be a well-oiled machine to keep itself running anything close to smoothly. I arrived in New Castle, Delaware, shortly before the 5:30 start time and readied myself for the tide of riffs to come. The acts, there were many, did not disappoint in this regard.
JB McGinnes was the venue, located in a strip mall along a stretch shortly off I-95. I was immediately reminded of Krug’s Place in Frederick, Maryland, though the layout was different — Krug‘s is two separate rooms where JB McGinnes is a bar up front with the surprisingly large stage in back and no partition between — but the vibe was roughly the same. Food service available, some decent-enough beers if you’re looking for them, and an unpretentious vibe, somewhere between local townie, Irish and sports bar; pool tables off to one side, the kitchen (and ice cream parlor?) off to another.
The lineup ranged as far north as Pennsylvania and as far south as Maryland, and with Delaware acts Blackhand and Wasted Theory, the First State had its representation as well. Very much a regional representation, and clearly intended to be that. Thee Nosebleeds, one of several acts from Philly, started off just about on time and like a schmuck, I took notes throughout the course of the night. Here’s how it all went down:
The West Philly trio got up to speed as their set went on, and I took it as a telling sign that two out of the three members wore shirts with Small Stone bands on them. Their music played out that grown-up punker sensibility, but the idea was heavy rock and it was an idea Thee Nosebleeds worked well within, playing songs that were strong in the chorus and straightforward without necessarily being boring. Vocalist/guitarist Kermit Lyman tore into several killer solos that immediately set a high standard for the night, and the band brought up Erik Caplan of Wizard Eye (a favor Caplan‘s unit would later return for Lyman) for a theremin guest spot that added some variety to the set. It was an energetic start, no frills and riffy, and in that way set the course for a lot of the evening to come.
Also a trio from Philly, but barely more than a month old and steeped in an entirely different kind of heaviness, Heavy Temple hit the stage quickly after Thee Nosebleeds wrapped. Acts shared backlined equipment all the way up until Iron Man however many hours later, but though they’re pretty clearly just starting out, Heavy Temple got their point across, blending thickened post-rock mysticism with rolling Sleep-style stoner groove. Bassist/vocalist Elyse Mitchell (ex-ChromeLord) donned a robe and black lipstick while guitarist Shawn Randles and drummer Andy Martin (the latter also of Clamfight) opted for more everyday costuming, but while they may have some presentation issues to work out, this being their first show, the songs seemed to be right where the band wanted them, and it was enough to make me look forward to how their organic tonality might develop. They had a different take than just about any other band on the bill, and the shift was welcome, if early.
Last seen with Truckfighters in their native Philadelphia, single-guitar foursome Skeleton Hands had the first standalone frontman of the night in Pete Hagen, who introduced the band with suitable burl in a rasp of “Skeleton Hands, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania!” before the testosterone-driven riffing began. Their set was tight, crisp and professional, heavy Southern metal guitar work with touches of Down or a much-less-Virginian Alabama Thunderpussy. That kind of thing doesn’t always work when yankees try it out — I didn’t even know Philadelphia had a bayou! — but Skeleton Hands were entertaining all the same and suited to the bigger stage at JB McGinnes. People were beginning to really file in as they played and they seemed to work quickly in getting a hook into the crowd, while also setting up a smooth transition into Blackhand to come, who shared a lot of their stylistic traits.
Newark, Delaware’s Blackhand (two “hand” bands in a row!) brought The Eye of the Stoned Goat 2 to its apex of burl. The chest-thumping, boot-stomping double-guitar man-metal was like a supplement ad on late-night tv, but like Skeleton Hands, it was also a tight, pro set. Blackhand went even further into the Down/Pepper Keenan school of riffing, the two axes only adding to the overarching metallicism of what they were doing, and though their influences weren’t that far off from what Skeleton Hands or Wasted Theory still to come were working with, Blackhand were nothing if not distinct, proffering heavy rock for those perhaps looking to transition off Black Label Society into something with a little more underground flair. They also drew and held a solid crowd and I imagine made some new friends among those in the marching path of frontman Bruce Marvel, who made use of his wireless mic to stand on the speaker cabinets in front of the stage and make a rousing call to arms.
Tone! Don’t get me wrong, I get the appeal of the whole dudeliness-for-dudeliness’-sake thing, but when Wizard Eye got going, I felt like I’d just come home. The Philly three-piece — Erik Caplan on guitar/vocals/theremin, Dave on bass/vocals and Scott on drums — were the fuzziest band of the night, with a heaviness not so much displayed through aggression, but through the weight of the music itself. Caplan and Dave traded back and forth vocals and brought Thee Nosebleeds‘ Lyman up for a guest spot fronting the band, which he did with vicious energy and a more decidedly hardcore punk presence. Wizard Eye were refreshing and just the first of several acts still to come who need to get a record out. Their sound is too cohesive and too developed to have a demo’s production do it justice. Low end for days.
Fun fact: It was Wasted Theory drummer Brendan Burns who put together the whole bill for The Eye of the Stoned Goat 2. The fest was clearly a labor of love for Burns, who moonlights as SnakeCharmer Booking, and there’s little more respectable than that. His band brought the fest past the 9PM line and found the event running smoothly and with a good crowd at JB McGinnes between rocker heads, curious locals and a couple pool players toward the front, and Wasted Theory shifted the vibe sonically back toward the straightforward heavy rock of Thee Nosebleeds earlier, if blended with elements out of the more C.O.C.-inspired camp. They weren’t quite as nascent as Heavy Temple, but for having been together for less than a year, they seemed to have the idea down and guitarist/vocalist Jackson answered back Blackhand‘s Marvel by jumping on the speaker cabinet and the drum riser. The gauntlet? Thrown down.
It’s worth giving the disclaimer at this point that there’s just about no way I can be impartial when it comes to Clamfight. Aside from the whole helping them release I Versus the Glacier thing, I just dig them too much to offer any kind of valid critique. And so, from where I stood, from Andy Martin‘s first roar (no sign of exhaustion from the double-duty he pulled in Heavy Temple) to Sean McKee‘s first shrieking solo (wow was he loud in the mix), Joel Harris‘ riffing two-step and Louis Koble‘s in-pocket fills, I was on board already. “Sandriders” and “The Eagle” were awesome, don’t get me wrong, but the surprise of the night might have been when they broke out the ultra-brutal “Rabbit” from the first album as a closer. Clamageddon! Clampocalypse Now! A Clamtastrophe! It wasn’t like they’d been lacking in heavy up to that point, because they hadn’t, but that brought it to a different level entirely, the scathing intensity in the culminating groove an entirely different kind of chest-thumping — namely that done by the volume coming out of their cabinets and the air pushed through Martin‘s kick drum. Again, I’m not impartial in saying so, but they were the heaviest thing I saw all night, and the scariest part about it was that I don’t think they’ve even begun to peak as a band yet. I could go on. I won’t. But I could.
Not living near them, I have too easy a time forgetting how good Beelzefuzz actually are. Conclusion? They need to get an album out. They had their 2012 demo for sale — along with some awesome-looking custom stash boxes that bassist Pug Kirby apparently crafted — and guitarist/vocalist Dana Ortt even mentioned the possibility of a new record on stage, citing the release date as, “eventually.” Bummer. Beelzefuzz have apparently hooked up with The Church Within Records, so I guess whenever it arrives, it’ll do so through that venerable imprint, but in the meantime, they had a killer set at Eye of the Stoned Goat much as they had at SHoD, and were greeted with due revelry by a host of the Maryland doom faithful who’d made the trip to New Castle. Ortt‘s guitar-as-organ and live multi-tracked vocals distinguished Beelzefuzz from everyone else in the lineup, and with Kirby and drummer Darin McCloskey‘s tight trad doom grooves, I just hope that when they finally get that album together, they manage to capture the depth of their approach as well as they carry it across live.
For the life of me, there needs to be a statue of “Iron” Al Morris III. Cast it in bronze and stick it right in the town center in Frederick, Maryland. I don’t know who you write to in order to make something like that happen, or even if Frederick has a town center, but seriously, Morris — 20 years on from putting out the first Iron Man CD — is worthy of inclusion in the discussion of Doom Capitol legends like Wino, Bobby Liebling and Dave Sherman. I mean that. The guy’s an icon and no one knows it, and he continues to press on with riff after riff, year after year. Frontman Dee Calhoun assured the crowd in a lengthy tuning break that the band would have a new full-length out this year — they’ve released two EPs since Calhoun joined — and the news was well met. Nothing against prior vocalist Joe Donnelly, but this being my second time seeing the band with Calhoun up front, his presence and singing style is a little more classic metal and it fits the band much better. The rhythm section of bassist Louis Strachan and drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann made the rich grooves of “Groan” from the Dominance EP a highlight, but really, Iron Man‘s set just made me look forward to hearing what they’ll be able to do on their next record.
It was late and I was beat. I don’t mind saying it. I sat at one of the tables by the side of the bar — I’d kind of moved around all night as I took notes in one spot and the next — and looked up to notice that JB McGinnes had left the tvs on for the entirety of the fest. Pale Divine and Avon Cosmetics commercials make for some pretty strange bedfellows. No wonder they didn’t book that licensing gig. The Pennsylvanian trio featured their latest album, 2012’s Painted Windows Black (review here), with cuts like “The Prophet” and set-highlight “Angel of Mercy,” and essentially playing in the dark suited the mood of their doom overall. With McCloskey returning on drum duty after playing with Beelzefuzz, guitarist/vocalist Greg Diener and bassist/vocalist Ron “Fez” McGinnis (also of Admiral Browning) explored a wrenching emotionality set to classic and traditional downtrodden riffing. Diener‘s voice in my experience is never lacking in power and presence, and anytime you put McGinnis on bass, it’s only going to make your band stronger. As technically proficient as he is bearded (and he’s plenty bearded), he’s apt to put all six of his strings to work at any given moment, and where on paper, considering Admiral Browning‘s frantic progressive instrumentalism, it might not seem like a natural fit, in reality he’s a highly adaptable musician as much at home in Pale Divine as I expect he would be on any end of the heavy spectrum. Some dudes can just play. Between his prowess, the band’s pervasive melancholy and lurching heaviness, Pale Divine made for a suitable finish to Eye of the Stoned Goat 2 and those who stuck around long enough to find out seemed to agree.
It was getting on 1:30AM by the time I left and a two-hour drive and some late-night diner burgers with good friends later, finally crashed out around four to get up the next morning and finish the drive home. As I’d known from the start it would be, it was a hell of a night, but there was a lot to see and I’ve no regrets for making the trip.
Thanks to Brendan Burns, Dustin “D-Money” Davis, Pamela Wolfe-Lyman, Chris Jones, Lew Hambly, George Pierro, John Eager and everyone else I was fortunate enough to be able to meet and hang out with in New Castle. Here’s looking forward to doing it all again next time.