Quarterly Review: Motörhead, Owl, Waingro, Frank Sabbath, The Sonic Dawn, Spelljammer, Necro & Witching Altar, Stone Machine Electric, Pale Horseman, Yo Moreno

Posted in Reviews on January 5th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk quarterly review winter

Pushing through the first batch of reviews and into the second. Always seems easier on the downhill somehow, but if the worst thing that ever happens is I have to put on 10 records a day, you aren’t likely to hear me complain. Today we get deeper into the round, and that while I’ll note that the context for today’s first review has changed decidedly for the unfortunate since it was slated for inclusion in this roundup, I’m trying still to take it on its own level, which is what any record deserves, regardless of its circumstances. No sense in delaying. Let’s go.

Quarterly review #11-20:

Motörhead, Bad Magic


The four ‘X’es on the cover of Motörhead’s 23rd album, Bad Magic (on UDR Music) are placed there each to represent a decade of the band’s existence, and while the context of the 13-track/42-minute offering will be forever changed due to the recent passing of iconic frontman/bassist Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister and because the remaining members – guitarist Phil Campbell and drummer Mikkey Dee – have said it will be their final new studio release, it goes to show that one of metal and punk’s most landmark acts came in raging and went out raging. To wit, barnburners like “Thunder and Lightning” and “Teach Them How to Bleed” are quintessential Motörhead, and the propulsive “Shoot out All of Your Lights” is a blueprint for both their righteousness and relentlessness. A closing Rolling Stones cover of “Sympathy for the Devil” borders on poignant in hindsight, but on cuts like “Evil Eye,” “Electricity” and “Tell Me Who to Kill,” Bad Magic is basically Motörhead being Motörhead, which was of course what they did best.

Motörhead on Thee Facebooks

UDR Music

Owl, Aeon Cult

owl aeon cult

Topped off with some of the least-pleasant cover art one might (n)ever ask to see, the Aeon Cult EP is the third from German progressive sludge outfit Owl in two years’ time after two initial full-lengths. It comprises three songs that span genres from the slow-motion lurch of “The Abyss” to deathly intricacy – preceded by a groove that doesn’t so much roll as slam – on “Ravage” to an atmospheric extremity of purpose on “Mollusk Prince,” and is over in a whopping eight and a half minutes. Seriously, that’s it. At the center of the tempest are multi-instrumentalis/vocalist Christian Kolf, also of Valborg, and drummer Patrick Schroeder, formerly of Valborg, who elicit inhuman heft and bleakness across a relatively brief but nonetheless challenging span, and who seem to revel in the melted-plastic consistency of the sounds they create. Creative rhythms and ambience-enhancing keyboard work give Aeon Cult a futuristic edge, and if this is the world into which we’re headed, we should all be terrified.

Owl on Thee Facebooks

Zeitgeister Music

Waingro, Mt. Hood

waingro mt hood

The self-titled debut from Vancouver trio Waingro (review here) was a half-hour affair brimming with intensity and forward motion, and while the band’s second outing, Mt. Hood, follows suit tonally and in its neo-progressive thrust, the 11-track outing also provides a richer all-around experience and shows marked growth on the part of the band. “Desert Son” opens the album with an expansive solo section and intricate vocal layering to go with its metallic crunch, and while Waingro keep a short, efficient songwriting process at their core, that track and the slower, seven-minute “Mt. Hood” show their process has become more malleable as well. Likewise, while the methods don’t ultimately change much, shorter instrumental pieces like “Raleigh” on the first half of the album and the rolling “Frontera” on the second add variety of structure and make Mt. Hood as a whole feel more widespread, which, of course, it is. Waingro still have plenty of intensity on offer throughout, but their sophomore LP proves there’s more to them than unipolar drive.

Waingro on Thee Facebooks

Waingro on Bandcamp

Frank Sabbath, Frank Sabbath

frank sabbath frank sabbath

A self-titled debut full-length that breaks down into two subsections – the first is tracks one through five and is titled Emerald Mass and the second is tracks six through 12 and is titled The Quétu – clearly the intentions behind Frank Sabbath’s opening statement are complex. All well and good, but more importantly, the work of the Parisian trio of guitarist/vocalist Jude Mas, bassist Guillaume Jankowski and bassist Baptiste Reig is cohesive across the record’s 12-track span, and those two parts not only meld the songs that make them up together fluidly, but work set one into the next to bring a full-album flow to the proceedings, spanning classic progressive (the kind that’s not afraid to let the guitars get jazzy) rock and psychedelic mind-meld into a sometimes-strange, sometimes-in-Spanish brew of potent lysergics. The three-piece set a vast range from “Waves in Your Brain” onward and wind up delivering the “Fucking Moral,” which seems to be “Never be afraid of who you are/Never be ashamed of what you are.” Clearly, while their moniker might be playing off acts who came before, Frank Sabbath are not afraid to stand on their own sonically.

Frank Sabbath on Thee Facebooks

Frank Sabbath on Bandcamp

The Sonic Dawn, Perception

the sonic dawn perception

Sweet soul and classic psychedelic methods pervade The Sonic Dawn’s Perception (on respected purveyor Nasoni Records) debut album, and the Copenhagen trio of guitarist/vocalist Emil Bureau, bassist Neil Bird and drummer Jonas Waaben find an easy, spacious flow through songs that, despite being relatively straightforward, retain an expansive feel. Shades of Jimi Hendrix and The Doors make themselves felt early on, but Bureau’s voice shifts smoothly into and out of falsetto and the tonally The Sonic Dawn seem immediately in search of their own identity. The effects-soaked finish of “All the Ghosts I Know” and the apex of “Wild at Heart” would seem to indicate success in that process, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they push the psychedelic impulses of “Watching Dust Fall” even further their next time out, and if they can do so while holding onto the accessible foundation of Perception, all the better. An impressive debut from a three-piece who do right in making a show of their potential.

The Sonic Dawn on Thee Facebooks

Nasoni Records

Spelljammer, Ancient of Days

spelljammer ancient of days

Ancient of Days follows two impressive EPs from Swedish tonal constructionists Spelljammer (on RidingEasy), and is the trio’s full-length debut, a pretense-less 39-minute offering that basks in post-Sleep riff idolatry while leaving room in a cut like the 12-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Meadow” for nodding atmospherics as well. “Meadow” and the 11-minute closer “Borlung” sandwich the rest of Ancient of Days, which moves between the acoustic minimalism of the quick “Laelia” to the already-gone centerpiece “From Slumber,” which rises gradually, swells in its midsection, and recedes again – beautifully – and the eight-minute groove-roller “The Pathfiner,” which would be the apex of the record if not for the crashing finale of “Borlung,” which churns and plods and caps the record – how else? – with a swirl into empty space. Following a cult response to 2012’s Vol. II EP, that Spelljammer would deliver big on their debut album isn’t necessarily a surprise, but it remains striking just how easy it is to get lost in the morass of riffs and outward vibes they present in these five cuts. Should’ve been on my Best Debuts of 2015 list.

Spelljammer on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records

Witching Altar & Necro, Split

necro witching altar split

This doomy twofer from Hydro-Phonic Records plants a veritable garden of unearthly delights in bringing together Brazilian doom outfits Witching Altar and Necro and highlighting the similarities and the differences between them. Pressed to CD late in 2015 with vinyl impending, it offers four cuts from Witching Altar, whose take on doom is ultra-traditional to the point of working in a Sabbathian “All right now!” for “She Rides the Seventh Beast,” and three from Necro (shortened from Necronomicon), a yet-unheralded trio of ‘70s progressive traditionalists who offer up the new single “Contact” and two tracks revisited from their two to-date full-lengths. Both prove immersive in their own right, Witching Altar setting a course for weird quickly on “The Monolith” which some theremin that reappears later, and Necro vibing out on the warm bassline of “Holy Planet Yamoth,” but each has their own ideas about what makes classic doom so classic, and the arguments on both sides are persuasive.

Necro on Thee Facebooks

Witching Altar on Thee Facebooks

Hydro-Phonic Records

Stone Machine Electric, The Amazing Terror

stone machine electric the amazing terror

One never knows quite what to expect from Texas two-piece Stone Machine Electric, and that seems to be precisely how the duo of guitarist William “Dub” Irvin and drummer/thereminist Mark Kitchens like it. The Amazing Terror is something of a stopgap EP, released on CDR by the band as a follow-up to late-2014’s Garage Tape (review here) and a lead-in for their next full-length, reportedly recorded last month with Wo Fat’s Kent Stump at the helm. Taken from the Garage Tape sessions, The Amazing Terror makes a standout of its languid, jammy title-track and surrounds it by three more instances of the band’s exploratory ideology, delving into the quietly cosmic on “Before the Dream” and feeding a cyclical delay expanse on closer “Passage of Fire,” a likely companion-piece to the opening “Becoming Fire,” which may or may not play thematically into where Stone Machine Electric are headed with their next record. As always with these guys, I wouldn’t dare place a bet either way and look like a fool on the other side.

Stone Machine Electric on Thee Facebooks

Stone Machine Electric on Bandcamp

Pale Horseman, Bless the Destroyer

pale horseman bless the destroyer

Chicago post-sludgers Pale Horseman featured a remix by Justin K. Broadrick (Godflesh/Jesu), originally on their 2013 self-titled debut, on their second outing, 2014’s Mourn the Black Lotus (review here), and their third full-length, Bless the Destroyer, boasts a mixing job by Noah Landis of Neurosis. All three records were also recorded by Bongripper guitarist Dennis Pleckham, so it seems fair to say that Pale Horseman know who they want to work with and why. The results on Bless the Destroyer speak for themselves. With the 15-minute penultimate cut “Bastard Child” as an obvious focal point, the four-piece give a clear sense of progression in terms of their patience and overall range. The earlier “Caverns of the Templar” still boasts plenty of post-Godflesh chugging intensity – elements of death metal, see also centerpiece “Pineal Awakening” – but closer “Olduvai Gorge” sleeks along with a poise that even in 2013 Pale Horseman would’ve driven into the ground on their way to doing the same to everything else in their path. Their growth has made their approach more individual, and it suits them well.

Pale Horseman on Thee Facebooks

Pale Horseman on Bandcamp

Yo, Moreno, Yo, Moreno EP

yo moreno yo moreno ep

A self-titled four-track debut EP from Argentina heavy rockers Yo, Moreno finds the band coming out swinging. The San Miguel de Tucumán-based four-piece of vocalist Marcos Martín, guitarist Lucas Bejar, bassist Noel Bejar and drummer Omar Bejar elicit a surprisingly aggro mood on “A Lot of Pot,” the opener, but groove remains paramount, and fuzz abounds. “Noelazarte” is more adventurous all around, an early build setting a tone with prevalent bass before Martín comes in after the halfway mark. Since “Para Noico” returns to the angrier spirit of “A Lot of Pot” and closer “3,000” heads outward on an instrumental exploration that blends grounded, weighted tones with spacier impulses, it seems easy to think that someone, somewhere would pick Yo, Moreno up for a 10” release. Especially as their first offering, it skillfully blends doomier atmospheres with fuzz-heavy nods, and stakes its claim in a niche that’s never completely one side or the other. Even formative as it is, it’s an intriguing blend.

Yo, Moreno on Thee Facebooks

Yo, Moreno on Bandcamp

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Bongzilla: Stash Deluxe and Limited LP Reissue out Today

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 13th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

I’ll admit, I’m deeply interested to see what comes of the current Bongzilla reunion. Not just if the long-underappreciated Wisconsin stoner-sludgers put out another record — though certainly that too — but also what kind of response they’re able to glean from their audience as a resurgent band. I haven’t had the chance to see them live yet, but I want to know how people liking the idea of Bongzilla as the embodiment of this ultra-reefered sludge ethos translates into making them a sustainable group. One way or another, I think 2016 will be a fascinating year for them.

Today, they reissue their 1999 debut, Stash, on Hydro-Phonic Records. It is by no means the first time the band and label have worked together, Hydro-Phonic having also put out the 15th anniversary edition of Bongzilla‘s Methods for Obtaining Extreme Altitudes EP in 2013, as well as the 10th anniversary edition of their second album, Gateway, in 2012.

If you know Hydro-Phonic‘s work, then you know their packaging is always creative and something special to behold, and from the fuzzy nuggets on the cover of the test pressings to the glow-in-the-dark slipmat and foil cover on the deluxe, Stash is clearly no exception.

As it would almost have to, the sale begins at 4:20PM Eastern.

Click any of the images below to enlarge for a better look:

Bongzilla – Stash LP

BONGZILLA: Stash LP first time ever on vinyl from Hydro-Phonic Records Friday the 13th at 4:20pm EST. Versions for every budget available.

100 Deluxe Edition on Ultra Clear with glow-in-dark slip-mat, foil-stamped cover and poster….Handmade numbered Test Press with four-color “fuzzy nugs” (like black-light posters or The Scimitar Test Press you may have) in a “Cadillac” style cover… 50 made, less than 30 for sale. Also 200 Gold, 300 Black and 200 Green with purple/gold splatter! …every copy comes with some “hidden stash” as well…if you find it!

Don’t be late!

100 Deluxe on Ultra Clear wax with a glow-in-dark slipmat and poster, housed in a foil stamped cover
50 handmade “Fuzzy” test pressings
200 Green Splatter
200 Gold
300 Black


Bongzilla, Stash (1999)

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On Wax: Kings Destroy, A Time of Hunting

Posted in On Wax on June 11th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster


When it finally came to it, I couldn’t bring myself to review Kings Destroy‘s A Time of Hunting around the time of its original 2013 release. Aside from having helped put out their 2010 debut, And the Rest Will Surely Perish, on this site’s in-house label, The Maple Forum, and the invariable conflict of interest there — though by the time they got around to putting out the second album, the first was long gone, so it’s not like I was trying to sell anything — I felt way too close to the songs to even try to muster a sense of impartiality as regards the Brooklyn five-piece’s achievement. What’s changed? A bit of distance from the record itself, maybe, but more than that, and more than protecting the illusion of critical perspective as much as I could ever claim to have such a thing, there was a lot about A Time of Hunting that I don’t think I really understood, and it took a long time before the character of its eight songs really set in.

kings-destroy-a-time-of-hunting-side-aThe biggest help of all may have been the release of their third album, Kings Destroy (review here), which hit at the beginning of last month. In a strange bit of coincidence, that record’s arrival on War Crimes Recordings landed awfully close to Hydro-Phonic Records‘ LP issue of A Time of Hunting, so I had occasion to visit both in pretty close proximity to each other. The vinyl edition, which does justice to the beautiful and intricate album art with its relative size and with the blue and brown splatter on the record itself, also takes a step in explaining the structure of the album. Take it as evidence of how far away I was from being able to offer any valid critique of Kings Destroy‘s sophomore outing if you wish, but I never thought of it as having two sides until I listened to it that way.

It makes mountains more sense. Righteous moments like the huge-sounding drums of Rob Sefcik that launch opener “Stormbreak” and the lurching groove of “The Toe” are preserved on side A, which even as it moves into “Casse-Tête” and “Decrepit” keeps a more straight-ahead and aggressive sound built around the guitars of Carl Porcaro and Chris Skowronski and with the foundational low end of then-newcomer bassist Aaron Bumpus, while side B moves outward from the soft intro of “Shattered Pattern” to a more emotive lumbering before the lurch of the title-track and the subsequent “Blood of Recompense” take hold, the album’s two longest cuts served up one into the next with spliced in leads, an immersive sprawl, and particularly in the case of the latter, a grandiosity that’s still miles away from anything And the Rest Will Surely Perish had on offer, pulled off with sincerity in Steve Murphy‘s voice at the fore — see also the side A closer, “Decrepit,” which hinted of the turns to come — and a fullness of sound surrounding that no doubt benefited from being the second production collaboration with Sanford Parker.

And then “Turul.” Fucking “Turul.” It’s four and a half minutes long and I’ve spent the last two years trying to get my head around it. A strange shift in its storytelling and a guitar figure to match, “Turul” flips the entire record on its head — but somehow, on the vinyl, its context feels different since so much of side B is branching out from what they were doing on “The Toe” or even “Casse-Tête” in reinterpreting the confrontationalism of their New York hardcore kings-destroy-a-time-of-hunting-gatefoldpast into an anti-genre stew past doom and still decidedly un-metal. I won’t go so far as to say I get it now, but in light of “Time for War” from the self-titled, I don’t think I’m supposed to. It’s supposed to be as far out as they go, and it winds up exactly that.

In a way, it’s fitting that the LP version of A Time of Hunting should show up so close to the album after it, because with Kings Destroy‘s Kings Destroy for comparison, the vibe on these tracks is really more like a second debut following the lineup change that saw Ed Bocchino leave the band and Bumpus join. These are the origin points for the songwriting methodology that the third offering continues to refine. I guess that’s not such a crazy thing to say about one record into the next, but with A Time of Hunting, it was a big jump sonically, and as enthralled with it as I was — I didn’t review it, but I think I said enough about it along the way to get that point across to anyone paying minimal attention — I feel like there’s a lot about it that’s made clearer with this revisit, so I’m glad to have the chance to approach it again as a new release.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still claim no impartiality when it comes to Kings Destroy or whatever they’re putting out in a given week, but as well as I know these songs, and as close as I’ve come to feel to them over the last two-plus years, it should say something that I can put on the LP and be able to gain a new appreciation for how rich and ambitious a listening experience A Time of Hunting actually is.

Kings Destroy, A Time of Hunting (2013/2015)

Kings Destroy on Thee Facebooks

Kings Destroy on Bandcamp

Hydro-Phonic Records

Hydro-Phonic on Thee Facebooks

War Crime Recordings

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audiObelisk Transmission 048

Posted in Podcasts on May 26th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Click Here to Download


Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

The second hour starts a little early this time around, and what I mean by that is when you’re like five minutes into hour two and trying to figure out on the tracklisting below what improv-sounding brilliant cut you’re hearing, pay careful attention to when hour one ended. Just 11 seconds from the start of the second half of the podcast. So yeah, that 18-minute wonder gets filed under hour one instead, but it comes with a wink and a nod. I just couldn’t bring myself to file something under hour two without a one at the front of the time stamp, which shows you how sad and compulsive I am because I’ve only been time-stamping these podcasts for two months now. What a dork.

It’s good stuff this. Always is, I suppose, but starting out with Goatsnake into The Machine and then on from there, it builds a flow that makes some sense one into the next in a way that, listening back to it after I put it together, was especially satisfying. Hopefully you agree as you make your way though.

As always, hope you enjoy:

First Hour:
0:00:00 Goatsnake, “Grandpa Jones” from Black Age Blues
0:04:36 The Machine, “Coda Sun” from Offblast!
0:09:55 Galley Beggar, “Pay My Body Home” from Silence and Tears
0:18:51 Steve Von Till, “Night of the Moon” from A Life Unto Itself
0:25:48 Venomous Maximus, “Through the Black” from Firewalker
0:29:42 Black Pyramid, “Open the Gates” from Dead Star 7”
0:34:59 Ape Skull, “A is for Ape” from Fly Camel Fly
0:39:54 Sunder, “Deadly Flower” from Demo
0:43:53 Eternal Fuzz, “Sea Change” from Nostalgia
0:47:37 Geezer, “Long Dull Knife” from Long Dull Knife
0:53:31 Fogg, “Joy of Home” from High Testament
0:59:49 Shiggajon, “Sela” from Sela

Second Hour:
1:18:07 Blown Out, “Thousand Years in the Sunshine” from Planetary Engineering
1:34:01 Les Lekin, “Loom” from All Black Rainbow Moon
1:47:14 Undersmile, “Knucklesucker” from Anhedonia

Total running time: 1:59:00


Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 048


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Sons of Tonatiuh Touring East Coast in June

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 8th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

sons of tonatiuh

Atlanta sludge crushers Sons of Tonatiuh will hit the East Coast for 11 shows in 11 nights starting June 17. The trio, who also toured in Japan last year, are set to make a return to the UK and Europe this Fall alongside Grey Widow as well, though those dates are less firmed up at this point as the band looks to begin a round of heavy road-time in support of their still TBA third full-length, which will be the follow-up to 2012’s Parade of Sorrow.

More to come, I’m sure, but with that in mind, here are the East Coast dates and some comment from the band, hot off the PR wire:

sons of tonatiuh east coast tour

SONS OF TONATIUH: Atlanta Sludge Trio Set For East Coast Takeover Next Month

Atlanta sludge trio, SONS OF TONATIUH, will take to the streets next month on another round of lead-footed live invasions touting psalms from their impending new full-length. The tour will kick off on June 17th on their home turf and stomp its way through eleven metropolises in eight states – some of which the band has never performed — concluding on June 27th in Raleigh. Ears will be deafened. Children will cry.

“Seven years running and the coals are still blazing bright,” offers the band of their latest bout of onstage annihilation. “With our first time up to Buffalo and Boston, the Armageddon will ensue. This tour will be in support of our upcoming third release. Touring will be non-stop for the next couple of years as we plan to cover new ground across the pond as well as within this great mud bowl. We hope to see some old friends as well as meet some new ones so don’t be a stranger and come out and support our venom towards authority.”

6/17/2015 529 – Atlanta, GA w/ Rapturous Grief, Waste Layer
6/18/2015 The Milestone – Charlotte, NC w/ From the Gun
6/19/2015 Strange Matter – Richmond, VA w/ Backwoods Payback
6/20/2015 O’Brien’s Pub – Boston, MA w/ Finisher
6/21/2015 Lucky 13 – Brooklyn, NY
6/22/2015 My Place Pizza – Poughkeepsie, NY
6/23/2015 The Hoyt House – Buffalo, NY
6/24/2015 The Smiling Mouse – Pittsburgh, PA
6/25/2015 Kung Fu Necktie – Philadelphia, PA w/ Repellers
6/26/2015 Guido’s – Frederick, MD
6/27/2015 Slim’s Downtown – Raleigh, NC w/ Squall

SONS OF TONATIUH – guitarist/vocalist Dan Caycedo, bassist Twitch and drummer Josh Lomanto – released their Parade Of Sorrow long player via Hydro-Phonic Records in 2012.


Sons of Tonatiuh, Parade of Sorrow (2012)

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Necro’s Necro Preorders Start this Weekend

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 18th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster


Originally released late last year digitally by the band, Necro‘s self-titled album will be available to preorder from Hydro-Phonic Records starting this Saturday. A partial revisit of their 2011 debut — also self-titled, but released under the band’s original name, Necronomicon — it reworks songs like “Dark Redemption” and “Creatures from the Swamp” to suit Necro‘s more modern sound and configuration, with Lillian Lessa taking over lead vocals and sharing parts with bassist Pedrinho while drummer Thiago Alef holds together the fluid grooves behind.

As ever for Hydro-Phonic, the vinyl is gorgeous-looking, and in addition to Necro‘s self-titled, they’ll also have preorders up for new vinyl from Black Pyramid and Kings Destroy. The label posted the following update/announcement about the forthcoming releases. Not sure on the exact due date for Necro, but one assumes it’ll be included in the preorder, and if you’re desperate, the trio has the whole thing streaming on their Bandcamp.


necro lp

NECRO S/T LP is on its way! Pre-orders start this Saturday at 4:00pm EST (along with Black Pyramid and Kings Destroy vinyls).

Formerly known as Brazil’s Necronomicon, this 70’s inspired doom trio has returned with their second LP (a re-interpretation of their original demo cd). Along with the name shortening, we also have the addition of female lead vocals provided by Lillian Lessa, taking Necro to the next level! Fans of the original Necronomicon releases will not be disappointed!

This addition will be available in two color choices, Gold/Blue (LTD 100) and Splattered wax (LTD 200) along with a poster and lyric sheet insert. For fans of retro 70’s heavy prog, Black Sabbath, Witch Mountain, Blood Ceremony, occult rock and of course doom!

Lillian Lessa: Electric and Acoustic Guitars, Moog, Vocal
Pedrinho: Bass, Acoustic Guitar, Mellotron, Vocal
Thiago Alef: Drums, Percussion

Diogo Oliveira: Vocal in “Mente Profana”
Cristiano Suarez: Pencil
Arranged and produced by Necro
Recorded at Pedrada between January and March ’14
MIxed by Dácio Messias

Available at http://hydro-phonicrecords.com/


Necro, Necro (2014)

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Wrapping up 2014: The Year in Darryl Shepard

Posted in Features on December 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

darryl shepard

I knew already when I moved to the Boston area that Darryl Shepard was an exceedingly good guy. We’d been in touch for years at that point and I’d helped press up the CD run of Blackwolfgoat‘s second album, Dronolith, plus been a fan of his work in that one-man outfit as well as past bands like MilligramRoadsaw, and so on. What I didn’t know was how universally respected he is. It’s not a celebrity thing, and part of that I’ll attribute to his own down-to-earth sensibility, but whether it’s people showing up to watch him play, peers in other bands, musicians he plays with or just people he knows from having been around the city’s rock underground for as long as he has, there’s a deep-running appreciation for who he is and what he does. The only person I’ve ever heard talk shit about Darryl, is Darryl, and even he’s doing it for laughs.

He’s had a busy 2014, between releasing albums with The Scimitar and Blackwolfgoat, recording Kind‘s first demo, playing shows and so on, and it seems only fitting to wrap up “The Year in Darryl” (not literally in him, in a Martin Short/Inner Space kind of way, but at very least in his work) by giving a rundown of the things he’s done over the last 12 months. Here goes:

Blackwolfgoat, Drone Maintenance

blackwolfgoat drone maintenance

After Dronolith, I knew I probably wouldn’t get to review Drone Maintenance, Shepard‘s third outing under the Blackwolfgoat moniker (released by Small Stone) since I was still pretty close to it, only one record removed from direct-ish involvement in its making, but don’t think for one second that’s a statement about the quality of Drone Maintenance itself. To be honest, the third record blows the second one out of the water. In cuts like “Sunfall,” “White Hole” and the relatively brief “Night Heat,” his tendency toward songwriting comes out, and structures begin to show themselves amid tracks that are varied in mood and feel while still largely instrumental — he vocalizes bleak, feedback-laden closer “Cyclopean Utopia” in a vaguely black metal kind of way — and tied together by three spoken interludes that foster Drone Maintenance‘s underlying concept: The drone is broken, and Shepard is the repair man sent to fix it, as portrayed in Alexander von Wieding‘s cover art. Though the plotline works out otherwise, Shepard fixes the drone in wonderfully progressive fashion, an experimental feel pervading the material that — miraculously, given the context — avoid pretense even at its most ambient moments. I was lucky to be invited to the studio while it was being recorded, and could tell then that Darryl had something special on his hands and that the first two Blackwolfgoat releases were just scratching the surface of what he was looking to accomplish with the project. To hear the finished product after the release party at O’Brien’s in Allston was to see that realization affirmed. Blackwolfgoat on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.

The Scimitar, Doomsayer

the scimitar doomsayer

Though it was released on gorgeous clear/bone vinyl by Hydro-Phonic Records (also digipak CDR and a name-your-price download from the band’s Bandcamp), it seemed for a minute there that The Scimitar was over before Doomsayer could get started, having been effectively derailed when bassist Dave Gein moved to the West Coast, his last show with the band coming at The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 (review here) in early May. This supposition was, in a word, mistaken. True to their slaughterhouse doom sound, the trio of ShepardGein and drummer Brian Banfield wouldn’t be so easily ended. Doomsayer‘s seven tracks earned their centerpiece Motörhead cover, both continuing the warrior mentality Shepard fostered when he stepped into the guitarist/vocalist role alongside Gein in Black Pyramid for 2013’s Adversarial (review here) and branching out to distinct triumphs on songs like “Void Traveler” and “World Unreal,” finding a balance between the catchy and the brutal that, even on their first outing, The Scimitar made their own. Gein being on the opposite side of the country may have made weekly practice unlikely, but The Scimitar played both Northeastern shows to support the release with a stand-in bassist and, earlier this month, traveled out west for a weekender in California with the album’s lineup. It would seem they’re hardly done, and all the better for the chance to get more of both the raw explosiveness of “Babylon” and the exploratory heavy of Doomsayer instrumental closer “Crucifer” as The Scimitar continues to come into their sound. The Scimitar on Thee Facebooks, Hydro-Phonic Records.


kind (Photo by Doug Sherman)

I’ve been fortunate this year to see Kind play twice (reviews here and here), and both times have been markedly different. The roots of the project go back (I’m pretty sure) to late last year, when Shepard and Elder drummer Matt Couto began to jam with an intent toward not much more than that. Bassist Tom Corino of Rozamov was brought in to handle low end and vocalist Craig Riggs of Roadsaw rounded out the four-piece, whose style still finds its basis in those wide-spaced jams. They’ve recorded a demo, with Benny Grotto at Mad Oak, from which the 10-minute “Hordeolum” has surfaced, showcasing both their heavy psych and more forward-driving tendencies, the balance they find and seem to gleefully upset between the two. I hear a full-length is in the works for a summer release via a respected American outlet who, since it hasn’t been announced yet, shall remain nameless, but until that happens, Kind will continue to hone their live sound regionally, opening for Karma to Burn next month at Geno’s in Portland, Maine. Not sure if it will ever be anyone’s main project — ElderRoadsawRozamov and Shepard‘s bevvy of other bands make for some significant commitments — but Kind have quickly found a stylistic niche for themselves and I’m interested to find out what they do with it on their debut. Kind on Thee Facebooks.

Solid-Color Demos

roadsaw 98 demos

There are many for whom three active bands would be enough projects, but in the middle part of 2014, Darryl also found time to release a slew of accumulated recordings from over the years, all as name-your-price downloads via Bandcamp. Each recording — most were demos, but a Milligram radio appearance (review here) was also included — was given a different solid color as a cover, and a total of six have made their way out to date, including a completely solo acoustic album (with vocals) recorded by Andrew Schneider in 1998, the aforementioned Milligram performance, some Roadsaw demos also from ’98 (first streamed here), the final three songs tracked by instrumental outfit Hackman, early ’90s demos from Deslok and various collected four-track demo/experiments from the early ’00s on which some of the roots of Blackwolfgoat can be heard. These weren’t put out for any kind of profile, just made available for anyone who might want to explore them, but in both the stylistic variety and the performance value Shepard brings to each project, there’s much to dig into. Perhaps most impressive of all is that, though they cover a considerable swath of ground, they’re still just a fraction of Shepard‘s total output. Hopefully he has more tapes/hard drives in a closet somewhere and the series can continue, or maybe even get added to with newer material over time. Just a thought. Darryl Shepard on Bandcamp.

Looking Ahead

darryl shepard by alexander von wieding

Well, despite Gein living in California and drummer Clay Neely living in Georgia while Shepard continues to reside in Massachusetts, Black Pyramid will once again spring to life in 2015. They’re already confirmed for Desertfest in London and Berlin alongside Lo-Pan, and from what I hear, they’ll have a new 7″ on Hydro-Phonic to mark the occasion. There’s a mysterious Soundcloud demo called “Donor Kebab” by an outfit named Iron Malden, and who knows what that portends. As noted, Kind will also continue to play shows ahead of their full-length debut release, tentatively set for the summer, and one imagines Darryl will continue to keep busy otherwise gigging and recording as he always seems to do, his work ethic as admirable as the results it produces.

Keep up at the following:

Darryl Shepard on Thee Facebooks

Darryl Shepard on Soundcloud

Darryl Shepard on Bandcamp

Black Pyramid on Thee Facebooks

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Necro Find Boogie Bliss in “Dark Redemption” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 4th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Young Brazilian classic heavy rockers Necro — shortened from their original name, Necronomicon — are gearing up to release their second LP on Hydro-Phonic Records. The Maceio-based trio of guitarist/vocalist Lillian Lessa, bassist/vocalist Pedro Ivo Araujo and drummer Thiago Alef have released two singles to-date ahead of the forthcoming and as-yet-untitled full-length, and “Dark Redemption” was the first of them — the second, “Grito,” is streaming on their Bandcamp — and it continues the adherence to catchy, natural heavy ’70s vibes and classic Sabbathian doom riffing that Necronomicon showed on their first two releases, 2011’s self-titled debut EP and 2012’s conceptual follow-up The Queen of Death, though where it’s ultimately headed thematically remains as yet a mystery.

Still, the coming months will tell on that, and in the meantime, the video for “Dark Redemption” finds Necro slow-boogieing hooks in defiance of their years, the vocals of Lessa and Araujo underscored by organic, analog tones and a welcome retro groove. I heard their first EP a couple years back and dug the living hell out of it, but missed The Queen of Death, and so will look forward to checking out what the new one has to offer upon its arrival, whenever that might be, and while Necro unfortunately share their moniker with that death metal rapper who had Dan Lilker and the Tardy brothers from Obituary playing with him — as well as 30 or 40 other metal outfits — they still manage to carry their material across in such a way as to stand out from the pack. They don’t suck, and that always helps.

More to come on their new album as soon as I hear it, I hope, and in the meantime, “Dark Redemption” is a good way for anyone who maybe hasn’t heard them before to get introduced.


Necro, “Dark Redemption” official video

Necro on Thee Facebooks

Necro on Bandcamp

Hydro-Phonic Records

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