Posted in audiObelisk on March 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Once, a very, very long time ago — okay, it was last December — thoroughly-synthed doom rockers From Beyond traveled from their native Houston to a much different land, Los Angeles. There, they met head to head in riffy combat with North Carolina’s ASG. Alright, so maybe it was less “riffy combat” and more of a Scion Rock Show, but either way, it happened. The date was Dec. 4, the show was free with an RSVP, and to continue their Rock Show series of releases that’s already resulted in the pairings of Fu Manchu/Moab and The Dirty Streets/Indian Handcrafts, Scion A/V is set to issue a split between ASG and FromBeyond, and I’m happy to be able to present the latter’s “The Fall to Earth” as a streaming debut to mark the occasion.
That gig, held at the Satellite, was From Beyond‘s first in L.A. and their first as a four-piece. When they put out their 2012 The Color out of Space EP (track stream here), they were a trio, but it was the lineup of Robert McCarthy (guitar/vocals/synth), David Grooman (guitar), Dick Beeman (drums/vocals) and Stephen Finley (bass, Moog Taurus) that landed in Silver Lake, and their Moogery and theatrical atmospherics obviously made an impression. “The Fall to Earth” makes the most of both of these, but that doesn’t take away from the crunching largesse of the rolling riff itself once it gets going. Shades of Electric Wizard give way to spaced-out vocal harmonies, creating a strong hook and a rare balance of emotional resonance, lyrical narrative and doomly engagement.
Structurally, “The Fall to Earth” is pretty simple, setting an ambient bed with its intro before launching into verse/chorus tradeoffs and finally marching out on its fuzzy central figure, but From Beyond remain cohesive in the atmosphere and make the track more than just a meandering freakout while also keeping a decidedly open feel. The Color out of Spacewas an impressive release from a band who knew where they wanted to be in terms of aesthetic, but we may have only seen the beginnings of From Beyond.
Please find “The Fall to Earth” on the player below, courtesy of Scion A/V, and please enjoy:
The ASG track is set to release March 25. Scion A/V announced yesterday that this year’s Scion Rock Fest will take place in Pomona, CA, on May 17. More info at the links.
Newcomer Houston trio Funeral Horse only pressed 100 copies of their debut tape, Savage Audio Demon — its title seeking to describe a deceptively wide stylistic range in classic demo fashion — but from what I understand, at the time of this post a few still remain for sale. The three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Paul Bearer, bassist Jayson Adams, and drummer Kevan Harrison (apparently since replaced by Chris Larmour) formed in 2013, and sure enough, Savage Audio Demon has a feeling-it-out kind of vibe across its six songs presented three-each on two sides, but both within the tracks and in the presentation of the cassette, which is professionally dubbed clear red plastic and packed with a six-panel (the inside is blank) glossy J-card containing the art, tracklisting, thanks list and links (not that you can click a piece of paper, but it’s good to know anyway), they make it clear that they have some idea of what they want to do as a band, whether it’s the Om-style drone-infused meditation of opener “The Fedayeen” or the stripped-down punk ragers “Crushed under Shame and Misery” and “Invisible Hand of Revenge.”
The Melvins come up as an influence at several points throughout Savage Audio Demon, most notably on side two’s “Wings Ripped Apart,” but though the recording is raw and the vocals on the punkier songs coming across somewhat dry — obviously not on the megaphoned verses of “Funeral Horse” — what stands out most about Funeral Horse‘s debut is that they seem not only aware of the influences under which they’re working, aural and perhaps chemical, but actively striving to craft something of their own from them. At the start of side two, “Scatter My Ashes along the Mississippi” provides a steady Southern heavy bounce that serves as the bed for the highlight of the tape, gradually fading in over the course of a vaguely cultish first verse before speeding up to a more aggressive second half. A chop in the guitar line toward the end of that song feeds the warts-and-all feel of the recording, but they tie it up nicely with a return to the initial riff, leaving the leadoff cut as the real mystery of the release. Probably it could’ve closed just as easily as it opens (immediate points for starting off with the longest song; always a bold move), but it’s the background drone, the Cisneros-style vocals and the meditative spirit — though actually the breaks in the central progression remind most of Orange Goblin‘s “Cities of Frost” — that ultimately distinguish it from everything else on the tape.
Particularly because it arrives first, it throws the listener off guard when they shoot into the faster, more garage-sounding “Crushed under Shame and Misery,” but it’s easy to figure that was the idea in the first place. And while “The Fedayeen” is somewhat incongruous with the rest of what follows, it serves its purpose as as the opener in establishing an expectation that Funeral Horse can immediately and effectively work against. Call it trickery if you want, it’s hard to argue with the results, and in the end, it’s “The Fedayeen” that makes me the most curious about where Funeral Horse might go stylistically after Savage Audio Demon and in what direction their sound might continue to develop, or if the sides of their personality will cohere into something else entirely. It’s a common-enough experience in listening to bands getting their feet wet, but nonetheless true about what the trio accomplish on their first tape that it’s an enticing prospect to see how the progression might play out across their blend of punk, heavy rock and doomed riffing.
Having had occasion to see Texan cult metallers Venomous Maximus this summer at Days of the Doomed III — you might say that’s my ogre-paw wrist and hand at bottom left in the screen-grab above — I can tell you from experience that they’re a band who put genuine effort into their presentation. They celebrated the Napalm Records release of their debut full-length, Beg upon the Light(review here), by going on tour in June around the aforementioned fest, and they brought along photographer Ray Traboulay to make sure it was all properly documented. The results of that partnership between band and camera have been compiled together into a new picture video for the song “Dream Again (Hellenbach),” which I have the pleasure of premiering below.
“Dream Again (Hellenbach)” is one among a slew of catchy high points of the gleefully debauched Beg upon the Light. Guitarist/vocalist Gregg Higgins is at his most commanding, and along with guitarist Christian Larson, bassist Trevi Biles and drummer Bongo Brungardt, Higgins wields a careful balance of classic metal and heavy rock influences, the band winding up indebted to Judas Priest and other NWOBHM axe heroes en route to territory usually reserved for Coven worshipers and preachers of vaguely Sabbathian seance. That blend, in combination with an electric performance ethic, was what helped their reputation spread quickly and garner not just label attention, but a fervent critical and audience response to the album.
Texas hasn’t been short on riffs since ZZ Top were in diapers, but Venomous Maximus bring a spin to their approach that comes off less genre-adherent and more multifaceted than most and than it might at first seem. If you haven’t yet had the chance to get introduced to their classic metallurgy and lunatic swirl, “Hellenbach” makes a hell of a first impression, and Traboulay‘s live shots are an excellent companion to the otherworldly sensibility in the music.
In the PR wire info under the clip, Higgins and Traboulay give some background on the project and the theories that went into it. Please enjoy:
Venomous Maximus, “Dream Again (Hellenbach)” picture video
VENOMOUS MAXIMUS Debut Photo-Video – Announce Contest
Beg Upon the Light Out Now on Napalm Records
The Texan Dark Heavy Metal outfit VENOMOUS MAXIMUS has already risen to the status of a heavy hitter in the depths of the underground. This was showcased with the release of their debut album Beg Upon The Light earlier this year via Napalm Records. The album is available for purchase oniTunesandAmazon.
Today the band has released what they are describing as a “photo-video”. The “photo-video” is set to the song “Dream Again (Hellenbach)”. With this “photo-video” VENOMOUS MAXIMUS have started a contest to see who can share and spread the video the most online. The winner will be determined by whomever gets the most shares of their Facebook post or Tweet. The winner of the contest will receive a VENOMOUS MAXIMUS, T-shirt, CD, LP, trucker hat, patch and buttons.”
What exactly is a “photo-video”? Photographer and artist Ray Traboulay who is responsible for the project explains:
“VENOMOUS MAXIMUS is an “experience” or “state of mind” as opposed to a band. Photographing them proved to be an extremely fluid process as our collective energies aligned with ease.
Capturing their Spiritual energy and inserting it aesthetically into the photograph was achieved through multiple exposure and shutter drag photographic techniques as well as sensing their Kinetic energy seep into my pores. My initial thoughts and emotions after viewing them for the first time were hard to categorize.
After recently photographing Carnival in Trinidad and having an appreciation and respect for the pagan past, I was naturally drawn to them where their lyrical subject matter touch on these occult topics in their own manner.
I hope these photos do justice to the band’s live performance and convey to viewers to the best of my ability what they encompass as individuals and collectively once they hit the stage as a four piece. Once on stage they become a different beast incorporating spiritual elements of The Holy Mountain, Asian Mysticism, Deepak Chopra, and King Diamond are fused together to form their unique brand of Occult Rock. Infectious, big hooks and relevant subject matter in their lyrical make up…. they’ve got it all as far as modern rock and metal goes, not to mention down to earth and charismatic folk as well.
This is the central axis of Houston’s finest and is a band you want to look out for if you have not already and a band that should be best observed on a full moon.”
Frontman Greg Higgins commented on the photo video as well:
“Hopefully one day we will be able to see and understand things the way Ray captured us in these photographs. Ray has a way of making his photographs where it makes you wish you were there. Even if you’re in the photo it looks better than you remember and makes you want to go back to it.”
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 1st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
We’re just 10 days out from the fist-ever Bayou Doom Fest, set to take place May 11 in Houston, Texas, with a killer lineup of native and regional acts who run a gamut of heaviness from the thrashing Warbeast all the way to the heavy rock of Orthodox Fuzz with no shortage of doom in between. I know Las Cruces have been working on new material — they’ll also play Doom in June 3 in a couple weeks — so maybe they’ll have something on tap for the setlist, and with Wo Fat just back from Europe and Mothership just off the road with Gypsyhawk, you know these guys are going to deliver an awesome night.
Details came down the PR wire:
Warbeast and Venomous Maximus to Headline Inaugural Bayou Doom Fest
Presented by the Houston Doom Brigade, the inaugural Bayou Doom Fest, to be held at Fitzgerald’s in Houston, TX on May 11, 2013, will be headlined by DFW thrash-masters Warbeast and Houston’s occult metal kings, Venomous Maximus. The show marks the first time that Warbeast and Venomous Maximus have shared the stage since a run of shows in January supporting the legendary Down. The show will also be Warbeast’s first since returning from a successful tour supporting GWAR and Venomous Maximus’ first hometown appearance since signing to Napalm Records. Making the festival even more special is the fact that it will be a free event for those 21 and up ($10 under 21).
Joining Warbeast and Venomous Maximus on the bill are psychedelic fuzz rockers Wo Fat (fresh off appearances at Roadburn and Desertfest), Maligno (Mexico), Sanctus Bellum (Houston), Mothership (DFW), Las Cruces (San Antonio), Project Armageddon (Houston), Orthodox Fuzz (DFW), and Serpent Sun (Houston).
Houston Doom Brigade Presents: Bayou Doom Fest I Saturday, May 11, 2013 Fitzgerald’s 2706 White Oak, Houston, TX Doors, 5:00 – Show 5:15 Free for 21+ (under 21: $10)
Warbeast (Housecore Records) Venomous Maximus (Napalm Records) Wo Fat (Small Stone Records) Mothership (Ripple Music) Las Cruces (Brainticket Records) Maligno Sanctus Bellum Project Armageddon Orthodox Fuzz Serpent Sun
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 21st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
The band let the news out earlier, but the PR wire makes it official: Texas metallers Venomous Maximus have joined forces with Napalm Records, who will reissue the band’s previously self-released Beg upon the Light(review here) come this summer ahead of a new studio album for 2014. Congratulations to the band, who will also put in an appearance at Days of the Doomed III this June, perhaps right around the time Beg upon the Light gets its second look.
That release date is still to come, so stay tuned for more on that and on Venomous Maximus‘ next effort. Until then, the news is good:
VENOMOUS MAXIMUS signs with NAPALM RECORDS, prepare summer release
Today, NAPALM RECORDS announces the signing of Texan doom occultists VENOMOUS MAXIMUS. The label will be releasing the band’s debut album, Beg Upon the Light, worldwide this summer, with their first new album for NAPALM slated for 2014. Says vocalist/guitarist Greg Higgins, “We are pleased to announce that we’ve signed with NAPALM RECORDS. They are going to release Beg Upon the Light this summer and another new full-length we are working on in 2014. All of this comes to a surprise, because this project was meant to be something that no one would ever hear about. So as time went on and we started to be successful, we always agreed to do everything ourselves, to keep it our way. The only way we were ever going to work with anyone was if we knew they were dedicated to worship the past as we were. Now that we are here with NAPALM, we will continue to create this hidden message. But with their help, they will be revealing this to the masses, and we are okay with that now. Because of the records we first created only for ourselves will be released with everything we dreamed from the beginning, destiny has come for us to work with NAPALM RECORDS. Our hearts are in Texas but our souls come from Europe. Now having a family in Europe that takes care of the land where we arose, our spirits fly, where we are able to focus on the beautiful.”
Adds Sebastian Muench, A&R for NAPALM RECORDS, “Sometimes, very seldom, you get the chance to discover a band that brings back the same feelings you first had when you listened as a teenager for the first time to Metallica’s Ride the Lightning or Black Sabbath’s Paranoid – you just know you’ve found something very magical and you are hooked for life. VENOMOUS MAXIMUS is such a band, and and we are thrilled, excited, and tremendously honored to call them part of the NAPALM family.”
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 20th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’ve never been big on birthdays — something about a complete lack of self worth — but apparently the dudes in Houston dark metal outfit Sanctus Bellum have no such reservations. In celebration of the shared birthday of guitarist Jan Kimmel and bassist Ben Yaker, Sanctus Bellum have gone so far as to import Bobby Liebling for a set of Pentagram classics and James Rivera of Helstar for a round of heavy ’70s rock gems, pulling a bit of triple-duty with a set of their own material as well on a bill that also includes Serpent Sun, Cauldron, H.R.A. and Owl Witch.
The show is set for this Saturday at Rudyard’s British Pub in Houston, and if you’re in the neighborhood, it sounds like it’s going to be a blast. Check it out:
Pentagram’s Bobby Liebling and Sanctus Bellum’s Ben Yaker Interviewed on Upcoming Collaborative Performance
Bobby Liebling of doom metal legends Pentagram and Ben Yaker of Houston’s Sanctus Bellum have been interviewed by Free Press Houston in preparation for their upcoming collaborative performance at The El Birthday Metal Fest II on Saturday, Dec. 22.
At the festival, which takes place at Rudyard’s British Pub in Houston, TX, Liebling will take the stage with members of Sanctus Bellum (collaboratively styled as Sanctus Bellum Sanctuary) to perform a one-time-only set of classic 70s Pentagram songs, many of which have not been performed since the 1970s, and some of which have never been performed live at all.
In the interview, which can be read in its entirety here: http://www.freepresshouston.com/music/the-el-birthday-metal-fest-ii/, Yaker states “…Not only do I get to essentially be in my favorite band for the night, but I get to hand pick the set list. These are my favorite, unheralded Pentagram songs–songs that I always wish would have gotten more play. I would always go to Pentagram shows, hoping to get them to play some of these songs, knowing it would never happen, but now I can make it happen.”
Speaking on the set, Liebling says “We’ll be doing songs I haven’t played in close to 40 years, most of ‘em. They decided to pick a lot of off the wall ones [laughs]… You know, the bands I used to listen to, I would have given anything to have gotten to do a set with Mountain or Grand Funk or Cactus. I’m very happy to do this show with them.”
The El Birthday Metal Fest II also features a set of classic metal covers performed by Sanctus Bellum and James Rivera of Houston metal legends Helstar (styled Sanctus Bellum Sanctus), in addition to sets by Sanctus Bellum, H.R.A., Owl Witch, and Serpent Sun.
The festival, which is 21+, is scheduled to begin promptly at 6:00 pm. Admission is $15. Advance tickets and commemorative posters can be purchased at www.sanctusbellum.bigcartel.com.
Okay, so it works like this. Houston stoner garage rockers The Linus Pauling Quartet – who are a five-piece — have a 3CD box set coming out next week called Assault on the Vault of the Ancient Bonglords. They’ll be releasing it themselves on their own Homeskool Records, as they did earlier this year with their eighth album, Bag of Hammers(review here). To mark the occasion of the release, they’ve written a theme song for the box set. No surprise, it’s called “Assault on the Vault of the Ancient Bonglords.”
But make no mistake. This is a new song — as in, it doesn’t actually appear on the box set for which it’s named. What it does do, however, is make fantastic accompaniment to the charming and Shiner Bock-fueled video the band put together, half as a commercial for the box set and half as a showcase for the track itself. Because I’m a firm believer in the power of charm and the power of killer riffing, here’s the clip for the song:
If you find yourself digging the track and wishing you could hear more of it, you’re in luck as along with the video, The Linus Pauling Quartet also sent along the song itself, which is apparently just a couple weeks old. My understanding is this version isn’t mastered and they’ll have a final up soon as a free download, but here’s “Assault on the Vault of the Ancient Bonglords” to stream in the meantime if you’re up for digging in:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
The Linus Pauling Quartet will release the 3CD box set Assault on the Vault of the AncientBonglordson Dec. 18 through Homeskool Records. For more info, hit them up at their Thee Facebooks page.
Posted in Reviews on November 15th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
The sound that Houston-based four-piece Venomous Maximus capture on their Beg upon the Light full-length debut is a Frankenstein’s monster of influence. Here and there, one gets flashes of NWOBHM gallop in the guitars of Gregg Higgins and Christian Larson, that, combined with Higgins’ trad metal vocal style brings to mind a modernized version of Pagan Altar or some such cult curio. Theirs is heavy metal thunder, no doubt about it, and while some of the “occult” elements on Beg upon the Light (out, by no coincidence, on Occulture Records) feel like a put-on, there’s a genuine sense of atmosphere underlying the dudely thrust and all the talk of witches and “What name is this carved in my body?” The record is dark, as one might expect from its name, the band’s name (though it actually comes from G.I. Joe), the artwork, the song titles, etc., but also accessible musically in a way that reminds a bit of the horror rock that the Misfits once made seem so dangerous even though it was essentially pop songwriting sped up. Venomous Maximus’ prior EP, the self-released The Mission (review here), was by no means rudimentary, but one gets a clear sense of development in listening to Beg upon the Light, whether it’s the guitars, vocals, the bass work of Trevi Biles or the drumming of Bongo Brungardt, whose grounding effect seems at points to be the roots from which the album’s memorable hooks spring. Higgins proves a strong vocalist as the intro “Funeral Queen” gives way to “Path of Doom,” his approach straddling the line between semi-spoken and dramatic heavy goth metal wailing. They take elements from the genre, but more than they’re doom or singularly anything else, Venomous Maximus are a metal band, and these songs bear that out. With crisp production and flourishes of organ on “Funeral Queen” – it’s the first thing you hear on the album – and the soon to follow interlude “Father Time,” which also boasts spoken word vocals and acoustic guitar – violin on closing duo “Mother’s Milk” and “Hell’s Heroes” and a rich variety of vocal arrangements – a few guest spots persist there as well – the album never veers close to redundancy of method, and yet there’s a pervasive sense of cohesion throughout, heard as early as “Give up the Witch” follows from “Path of Doom” that underscores the professionalism at work throughout these tracks.
“Give up the Witch” is a highlight, and also likely among the oldest material here included, since Venomous Maximus made their debut with a 7” single of the same name. Still, if it has wear and tear for the band having trudged it through the last couple years since they got together, it doesn’t show. One of the strongest hooks plus one of the strongest riffs equals one of the strongest songs – it’s a pretty easy formula. Higgins lets out a couple screams as he backs himself on vocals, and the guitars behind showcase a touch of the extreme as well. More than enough to qualify as dangerous. Yet an overlying groove remains, and in that, “Give up the Witch” does even more of the work in setting a course for what follows than did the opener. Larson and Higgins bust out classic riff after classic riff, so that you’re through “Father Time” – curious to place your interlude two tracks after your intro, but it works in the overall context – and into “Dream Again (Hellenbach)” and the ensuing “Moonchild” (not a King Crimson cover, though part of me hoped for a dramatic reinterpretation) in the center of Beg upon the Light before you even realize the considerable amount of momentum the band has amassed. With 10 tracks and a runtime just under 46 minutes, the album is right in line with what one commonly thinks of as “full-length,” but it moves remarkably quick from one cut to the next, keeping a strong flow while not sacrificing a sense of the songs as individual pieces. “Dream Again (Hellenbach)” culminates with well-mixed interplay between the two guitars and formidable thud from Brungardt, and when Higgins says, “Everybody,” urging an imagined crowd to join him on the final chorus, it’s emblematic of the accessibility at the root of what Venomous Maximus are doing. There’s an audience for this kind of metal, they know it, and that’s who they’re reaching out toward. The push continues on “Moonchild,” which features guest spoken vocals, more strong screaming, and the begging question, “Why did the gods have to make us this way?” backed by mounting chants in the bridge, offering one of the most dramatic moments of the album.
Posted in audiObelisk on October 16th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Houston-based doom classicists From Beyond will start taking orders for their new The Color Out of SpaceEP on Halloween. When could be better? The newcomer trio have a pretty strong sense of their aesthetic, blending the brash swagger of the heavy ’70s with American doom’s longstanding horror fetish. Their One Year EP was a solid introductory collection, and it’s no surprise they’re in a hurry to follow it up with The Color Out of Space. Momentum is as momentum does.
The track “The Dead Still Ride” leans more toward heavy biker rock than some of their slower, more atmospheric material, but From Beyond — who seem to have recorded The Color Out of Space with just the duo lineup of guitarist/vocalist Robert McCarthy and drummer/vocalist Richard Beeman, adding bassist/vocalist Tony Kaelin at some point afterwards — remain cohesive in their approach and it’s a fine enough line stylistically that, if you’ve never encountered the band before, you should still be able to get some sense of what they’re about sound-wise.
The band took it upon themselves to release the track yesterday via their Bandcamp, where it follows the previously-unveiled “Hexagram” in advancing The Color Out of Space, but as we had talked about streaming the track over the last week, I’m happy to feature it below, followed by a history contributed by the trio themselves. Please enjoy:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
From Beyond was started in Houston, TX, about a year ago.
Our debut EP, One Year, was released in May of 2012. We played a show with Saint Vitus to celebrate the release of the EP. Saint Vitus loved the EP. Dave and Wino both said that One Year was “killer, man”. We loved hearing that, since One Year wouldn’t have happened without their influence.
We are very much a D.I.Y. band, and this upcoming EP is no exception. We have pulled together all of our resources to produce and release The Color Out of Space EP on 12″ vinyl. Due to the fact that we are putting all of this together without the help of a label or even a Kickstarter, we are only able to release 300 copies of the 12″ EP, but we have made certain that these will be very special editions, with high emphasis on artwork and packaging.
We will have a preorder for The Color Out of Space EP starting on Halloween. The preorder will include some gifts from us, but will be extremely limited.
“The Dead Still Ride” is a pre-release to The Color Out of Space EP. The song is available now to stream or purchase online for only one dollar from our Bandcamp. “The Dead Still Ride” is a departure from some of the music we have made in the past, but showcases our love for biker metal, vocal harmonies, the movie Psychomania, and fits in well with the themes of the upcoming EP.
The artwork for “The Dead Still Ride” was designed by Goatess Dommwych, who also designed the artwork for “Hexagram.”
The record was recorded in a cavernous, dark warehouse, and we put all the songs on tape. In our opinion, tape brings out the warmth of our instruments, and will sound even better once it gets on your turntable.
Texas-based five man foursome The Linus Pauling Quartet have a new video for the track “Victory Gin” from their new album, Bag of Hammers (review pending). The long-running psych rockers show off plenty of charm, though perhaps its best to let them describe what’s actually going on. Via the PR wire:
“Victory Gin” includes a cast of dulcimer-playing, liquor-guzzling sock puppets performing the catchy, post-apocalyptic jam they unleashed with BoH’s release. “Anyone who has seen us play live will attest to the fact that I play with a stuffed Jake the Dog and Lady Rainicorn on my Marshall amp for good luck,” says guitarist Ramon Medina, who also directed the video with the help of singer/guitarist Clinton Heider. After shooting, and joining their puppet stand-ins in some light drinking, the LP4 guys realized they might have gotten a little off-track. “The original inspiration was Dinosaur Jr.’s video for ‘Just Like Heaven,’” explains Ramon. “It wasn’t until I was done editing that I realized that the result was more akin to the Sifl and Olly.”
So there you have it. When I started this website, I sliced my hand open and swore a blood oath to post any genre-appropriate video that featured sock puppets, so here goes:
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 11th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
The PR wire sends along word of a new full-length from Texas-based Venomous Maximus, whose 2011 EP, The Mission(review here), provided horrific thrills. Even on that release, they skirted the line between heavy rock and metal, so it should be fun to see how the groove and the shred play out over the course of a whole record.
VENOMOUS MAXIMUS to Release New Album “Beg Upon the Light” on October 30, 2012
Texas occult metal band VENOMOUS MAXIMUS will release its new album Beg Upon the Light on October 30 via Occulture Records. The award winning group recorded at Origin Sound in Houston with a head space described as ”somewhere between a Alejandro Jodorowsky film and a New Orleans voodoo den.” Beg Upon the Light‘s striking cover art was designed by artist Dann Miller and builds on the band’s ever-evolving thematic that involves, among other things, magic, alchemy, extra-sensory perception and astrology; wide-eyed themes that lay “on the outermost fringe of accepted forms of knowledge and discourse.” This is some heavy shit, people.
VENOMOUS MAXIMUS is one of the most successful metal bands to emerge from Houston in years, beloved of headbangers and headbanging blogs from across the U.S. and points beyond (maybe even astronauts). Since its formation in 2010, the group has become the go-to metal band in the country’s third-largest city, winning back-to-back titles at the Houston Press Music Awards as the Space City’s “Best Metal Band” and has shared the stage with the like-minded Mastodon, Pentagram, Saint Vitus, The Sword, Graveyard and more. Now, with the release of Beg Upon the Light, VENOMOUS MAXIMUS is ready to show the world that its reputation precedes it for a reason.
VENOMOUS MAXIMUS’ sound combines intense, unabashed metal riffing that locks into heavy rock grooves featuring interjected dual leads and surprisingly darkened atmospheres. Add to it the distinctive voice of towering front man Gregg Higgins and his unorthodox, unsettling tone, unholy sinister laugh and unchained lyrics described as “primal psychomagic”, detailing “paths of doom”, dying witches, moon worship, haunted graveyards and travel through space and time, and the speed of the band’s bat out of hell success becomes surprisingly clear.
When asked to describe the band’s sound in eight words or less, Higgins replied “Dark, Chrome, Leather, Snuff, Smoke, Sweat, Death, Apparitions.” When asked to comment on the new album, the singer arcanely answered: “It’s something you can’t describe with words. You’re either born hearing it or not. When it finally has a mind of its own, the best you can hope for is that it will keep talking to you.”
Beg Upon the Light track listing: 1.) Funeral Queen 2.) Path Of Doom 3.) Give Up The Witch 4.) Father Time 5.) Dream Again (Hellenbach) 6.) Moonchild 7.) Battle for the Cross 8.) Venomous Maximus 9.) Mothers Milk 10.) Hell’s Heroes
Posted in Reviews on August 2nd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s not easy to tell where the focus is for Sanctus Bellum on their second self-released full-length, The Shining Path. Upon pulling the disc out of its eight-panel digipak (preceded, of course by a few moments to admire the Santos Illustration artwork adorning the cover), you’ll see that Jan Kimmel is listed as contributing “lead, rhythm, slide and classical guitar” as well as Hammond, and that Maurice Eggenschwiler handles “lead, rhythm and classical guitar,” as opposed to, say, Ben Yaker, who plays “bass,” Cory Cousins, who plays “drums” and Justin Waggoner, whose “vocals” could easily have a few more modifiers attached to them, “gruff and melodic” being two that come to mind. Eggenschwiler, a live-only guitarist for Sanctus Bellum when they released their 2010 debut, Return to Dust (review here), has since (well) earned a permanent place in the band, and while they were guitar-heavy to start with, it’s clearly made a difference in the overall sound of The Shining Path. He and Kimmel trade solos back and forth on more than one occasion – who’s playing where is marked in the liner notes along with the lyrics Waggoner is singing and presumably wrote (a reference to Billy Pilgrim from Slaughterhouse Five in the opening title-track is a tell) – and if that’s following a tradition of classic metal, it’s only one of Sanctus Bellum’s signs of allegiance to it. The album, comprised of six mostly extended tracks (the shortest being “Vessel” at 6:16 and the longest the immediately following “Dumb Luck Divinity” at 10:06) and totaling out at a manageable, relatively concise 46:38, never seems to settle completely into one style of heavy or another. Cousins and Yaker offer no shortage of groove in the rhythm section, and Kimmel and Eggenschwiler have an obvious awareness of classic doom, but their tones are distorted, not fuzzed, and they also shred, and Waggoner’s voice is more brooding and grungier than it’s ever sounded before, either with this band or his prior outfit, Mr. Plow, so it’s a challenge to get a sense of just where Sanctus Bellum are coming from for the first couple listens.
Obviously that’s the idea. You’re not supposed to listen to The Shining Path as it launches with its nine-minute titular cut and say definitively, “this is doom” or “this is metal.” “The Shining Path” has elements of both and more, Yaker honing in on a creepy bassline as Waggoner shoots references off of Vonnegut and the Bible prior to the guitars taking over for a barrage of leads that set the tone for what the rest of the album has to offer. “The Shining Path” has one of the strongest choruses of any of these songs, and so makes an excellent opener, but the shorter “Spiral Jacobs” (6:47) follows up with affirmation of the dreary, metallic atmosphere, and as the song cycles through its opening progression a second time, the parts establish a kind of familiarity for themselves before a break after 3:45 leads, feedback-soaked into the second movement. Eggenschwiler busts out formidable leads and, following another four-line verse, Kimmel answers with some of his own, and as becomes the pattern for the songs, it’s Waggoner who gets the last word. Nonetheless, an uptick in the guitar presence has clearly served the band well, and even moments of flourish like that at the end of “Spiral Jacobs” show an increase in confidence in the malleability of the songs. “Vessel,” appropriately, opens with a lead from Eggenschwiler, but finds its culmination later in its chorus. Running at a faster pace, it’s all the more appropriate for Waggoner to throw in a few screams at the end of bridge lines, and though it’s the shortest track, it’s also the most lyric-heavy on the whole of The Shining Path, that chorus of “I don’t aim the gun/I am the gun/Make me the vessel/The deed is done” coming around for a second time before the ending churn thrashes its way to a Slayer comparison.
Posted in audiObelisk on May 22nd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
The debut album from Houston, Texas’ Sanctus Bellum, Return to Dust (review here) was rife with references, mostly to the work of H.P. Lovecraft. It was also a tour-de-force of classic metal influences, from the given Sabbath leanings to NWOBHM as represented by Iron Maiden to the dirtier death rock of Danzig, taking darkened atmospherics and setting them against a backdrop of crusty riffing. I haven’t yet heard the whole of the follow-up, The Shining Path, but from what I can tell listening to eight-minute closer “Ephaniah” — which I’m fortunate enough to be able to host for streaming on the player below — the key elements are still there, if a bit more refined.
As one might expect, Sanctus Bellum seem to have more of an idea of their own style the second time out, blending the classic metal guitar of Jan Kimmel and Maurice Eggenschwiler (the latter previously only involved in the live incarnation of the band) with the doomly groove seemingly inherent in Cory Cousins‘ drumming and the wildly diverse bass work of Ben Yaker — one minute, he’s in the pocket with Cousins, but by the middle of the song, he’s leading the charge Steve Harris-style through a faster stretch. Add in some Slayer-type riffing and lead work and the post-grunge vocals of Justin Waggoner (ex-Mr. Plow), who on “Ephaniah” shifts smoothly from shouts to deceptively complex melody lines, and Sanctus Bellum come off as more assured and confident without sacrificing their edge.
I dug the first Sanctus Bellum and I’m looking forward to hearing the second — particularly if the interplay on the rest of the tracks between Kimmel and Eggenschwiler stands up to what I’ve so far heard — and I thought that if you like metal with a flair for the doomed that doesn’t necessarily feel the need to commit to one genre or another, you might also be into it. Check it out and feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
Posted in Reviews on February 7th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Texas has a long history within the heavy underground, whether it’s ZZ Top casting a heavy Southern influence for the likes of Honky to take as gospel or Solitude Aeturnus reaching into the depths of doomed emotionality and emerging with one of the genre’s most formative approaches. Houston-based Venomous Maximus are a kind of one-band melting pot. On their 2011 12” EP, The Mission (Cutthroat Records), the double-guitar four-piece bring together old and new, brash and foreboding, to result in a stew that’s remarkably their own. From the cover art, one might expect something in league with the likes of Doomriders, and I suppose there’s a bit of that thrash to a song like side A’s “The Rider,” but the gallop in the riffs of Christian Larson and Gregg Higgins feels more culled from Iron Maiden via High on Fire, and Higgins’ vocals – often doubled – are more trad doom and harder to place specifically. It’s a nuanced blend across The Mission’s four component tracks – “The Mission,” “The Rider,” “The Gift” and “Wicked Ways” – and it might take a few listens for the full breadth to reveal itself, but the way the songs touch on and reference other bands’ works without ever being fully derivative of them justifies both time and effort.
Presented on a gorgeous purple platter, The Mission also comes with a CD version called MMIX-MMXI that includes Venomous Maximus’ two-song debut 7”, Give up the Witch/The Living Dead. Even so, the whole thing accounts for a little over 26 minutes and 17 of it belongs to The Mission proper, so it’s a quick listen and the band adhere to pretty straightforward metallic structures, making the songs accessible as well as fast. Stylistically new school in a kind of post-Mastodonic punk, the title-track launches with forward push on the upper end of mid-paced, like doom sped up and energized without losing sight of its bluesy base. The rhythm section of Trevi Biles (bass) and Bongo (drums; duh) do well behind Larson and Higgins’ guitars, setting a bed of groove for interjected leads and adding to the sometimes surprisingly darkened atmosphere. The artwork might be part of it, but something in Venomous Maximus feels darker than the music would be on its own otherwise. Higgins’ vocals play to it as well. He laughs in horrific and metallic triumph in “The Rider” and tops the solos with a drama that’s stylized without undercutting the seriousness of the music. His contributions in terms of singing – which still feel rudimentary in comparison to the potential they show for growth given subsequent studio experience – are the band’s closest tie to doom or traditional metal. While “The Gift” starts off with a bombast that reminds distinctly of Through the Eyes of Heathens-era Dozer, the verses don a different character entirely once the wind begins to blow in the first lines of the song. It’s Higgins’ best performance vocally, and probably the best cut on The Mission altogether, but still just a fraction of what Venomous Maximus seem to offer in terms of their creative range.
Posted in Reviews on May 13th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
Without delving full-on into the sundry mythologies involved in the works, I’ll say that every song on Houston, Texas, metallers Sanctus Bellum’s self-released debut full-length, Return to Dust, relates in some way to the writing of H.P. Lovecraft. Using a well-honed combination of Google and Wikipedia, I’ve confirmed it for all six of the songs; the doomy “God’s Own Warrior” proving the most challenging and referencing The Nyarlathotep Cycle in its chorus. “Shoggoth’s Ascent,” “Dagon’s Bride,” “Curwen,” “The Reddening West” and “White Cat” were much easier to figure out. So hey, it’s a metal band with songs about Lovecraft stories. Not that it’s never happened before, but bands these days are few and far between willing to take it to the level Sanctus Bellum does.
Some – not nearly enough – will remember Sanctus Bellum vocalist Justin Waggoner from his work in prior, more directly stoner, outfit Mr. Plow, whose lighthearted lyrics about Carlo Rossi and The Dude seem miles away from Return to Dust, although, Mr. Plow’s third and final album, Asteroid 25399, was based entirely on the work of Kurt Vonnegut, so the literary theme isn’t completely unprecedented, and with Houston being such a hotbed for the doom underground, Waggoner’s joining forces with guitarist Jan Kimmel, bassist Ben Yaker and drummer Cory Cousins (Maurice Eggenschwiler also plays guitar in the live incarnation) in the decidedly metallic Sanctus Bellum makes sense, the songs having echoes of early Danzig, Iron Maiden, those moments when Slayer come up for air, and by default, Black Sabbath. But for “God’s Own Warrior,” they keep mostly a quick pace, all things relative, with Kimmel leading the charge by way of fleet riffage and the occasional blistering solo.