The blown-out Morricone guitar and mounting depressive folk build of Ice Dragon‘s “Season of Decay” first showed up around these parts back in October. Today the Boston trio announced that Vesa Lähde had put together a video for the song and after watching its dark, saturated and vintage-looking atmospherics, it seems like a pretty good fit for the song itself, which boasts no shortage of moody psychedelia.
Even as an excuse to revisit the song (not that you really need one), I dig it. Ice Dragon‘s latest offering is the alternately stoned/drunk The Soul’s Midnight, which you can hear in full at their Bandcamp.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 18th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
So here’s how it apparently went down. A week ago, the dudes in Boston-based doomly three-piece Ice Dragon got loaded on a bottle of mead gifted to them by the band Merlin. One imagines from listening to Ice Dragon‘s prolific level of output that it’s not the first time they’ve been drunk on mead, nor will it be the last. While bombed in the viking tradition, they decided to record a new single, called “The Soul’s Midnight.”
The result was fittingly dark, moody and languid. Here’s what they had to say about it at the time:
We just finished a great bottle of homemade mead, given to us from our friends in the band Merlin. We can’t figure out how to tag them because we’re drunk. Anyway we made a new song too and rather than be assfaces and give a “release date” and leak the cover art and tracklisting and all that stupid bullshit bands do nowadays. HERE YOU GO. It’s free. Don’t make fun of us if it sounds bad, please. We made it tonight. We’re drunk.
Fair enough. Last night (Jan. 18), they posted a revisited version of “The Soul’s Midnight,” this time recorded while high. What could possibly drive them toward such scientific aims, discovering — at last — the differences between putting a song to tape under varying influence? I don’t know, but the track is killer and the nihilism only adds to the enjoyment level.
Ice Dragon posted the results of this bold experiment last night. Here’s that post, followed by both versions of “The Soul’s Midnight,” which is up for pay-what-you-will download at the Ice Dragon Bandcamp:
So, we made a HIGH version of “The Soul’s Midnight”. The original is still on there and that is now the drunk version. We’re not “signed” so we can do whatever the hell we want, and this is what we want. We hope you want it too.
Might want to re-download if you already did. Or not.
My intent when I started putting questions together for an email interview with Boston-based trio Ice Dragon was to keep it to the usual six, but then something happened. I realized it wasn’t enough. For a band who’ve already released three full-lengths this year — greyblackfalconhawk, Dream Dragon and Tome of the Future Ancients– there was just more I wanted to know than Six Dumb Questions could hold. Nine seems to have done the trick.
The thing about Ice Dragon – Ron on vocals/synth/drums/theremin, Carter on guitars/backing vocals and Joe on bass/guitar/etc. (also pictured above is Werner; the fluffy one) — is that not only do they put out all this stuff, but each album is a different stylistic blend as well. Plenty of bands who record themselves release a lot of albums, and with material as lo-fi as Ice Dragon‘s and the fact that they don’t seem to have an interest in large-scale touring, it’s not unreasonable for them to focus on songwriting at such a rate. What makes it fascinating is that the material on each record seems to stem from a musical or conceptual thematic. They’re all different to some degree, but still identifiably Ice Dragon‘s own, and they’re strikingly cohesive.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, they’ve got a new digital single. Season of Decay/The Humble Titanfinds Ice Dragon once more pushing into new sonic territory, offsetting late ’60s/early ’07s folk influences and acoustics with bizarre in-studio noise experimentation. Each of the two songs on the new release has its own progression, “Season of Decay” filtering a blown-out rehearsal room dirge march through airy Neil Young-style acoustic/electric interplay, and “The Humble Titan” taking sweet Eurofolk topped with psych swirls and echoed vocals and marrying it to tense and cinematic electronic beats, rising to a disturbing culmination before cutting short at the end of the song. The band’s willingness to throw caution and convention to the wind is all-consuming.
Still, though the sounds are loose and the production, well, minimal, you don’t get to the point of issuing three full-lengths in a year — even digitally — if you’re not severely dedicated to what you do. Today, I’ve got the pleasure of premiering the Season of Decay/The Humble Titansingle in its entirety, and you’ll find it below, followed by the interview questions, as fielded by Ron.
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
1. How did Ice Dragon first get together? What first got you going and how has the relationship between you all changed over time? How many releases have you actually put out, and at what point did you realize you wanted to be so prolific?
Me and Carter started it pretty much by accident after recording two tracks for a shitty blues project we were working on. The tracks didn’t fit at all for that project so we figured we’d just start something new and recruited Joe to help us out. Everything is way better now, musically speaking. I think we’ve really hit our stride in terms of knowing exactly what we want a song to sound like and then making that happen. It used to just be dumb luck, or experimentation until we got something worthwhile. Ryan was our drummer for the Burl album, but he got mad at me and took off. I get drunk and yell at people, but isn’t that what all lead singers do? I think it’s a rule. You have to have a troubled soul in order to write anything good, let alone sing it at the top of your lungs and not care what people think, and that comes with all the baggage of being an asshole sometimes. Oh well. Everything we’ve put out is on the Bandcamp, I can’t even remember what it’s up to now, like five albums and three splits, I think? We’ve always worked fast, and I think having three people who can/do write songs makes things get out of hand even more. Haha.
2. What are your five favorite crappy and/or cult horror movies and why?
Excellent question. My favorites change a lot from day to day, but here’s what I’m thinking off the top of my head.
1. The Thing, mostly due to MacReady’s hat.
2. Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, a beautifully made, truly haunting film, with a great soundtrack to boot. 3. The Abominable Dr. Phibes, amazing in every way, I could watch it over and over again.
4. Definitely a Jean Rollin film, toward the arty side – The Nude Vampire, the cheesier side – The Grapes of Death. Though all his movies are fantastic I think.
5. The Mummy’s Tomb, best of the series I think. The way the old high priest has the shaky hands in the beginning, so good. And Lon Chaney Jr. is bad fucking ass.
3. Ice Dragon albums vary so much from the one to the next. Do you have a specific sound in mind when you approach making a record? Thinking of the difference between Dream Dragon and Greyblackfalconhawk, did you know when you started writing those records how you wanted them to sound?
We definitely knew how we wanted each of those to sound as we were going into them. Those were the first two like that really – the others weren’t as thought out in terms of overall sound. Dream Dragon was supposed to just be a fun summertime rock album, no pretentiousness, no worrying about how heavy it was, etc. Going for that ‘60s kinda vibe. Greyblackfalconhawk was supposed to be a full-on drone album, but then ended up getting a little more “involved” sounding as it went on. Just kinda naturally from all of our influences on it, and it sounds better because of that anyway. From a lyrical point of view I wanted to make something more like what I listen to when I’m alone. I like very dark, depressing lyrics and songs in general, but not these so-called “doom,” “black,” or “evil” songs you hear about wizards and warriors or fantasy shit. REAL doom, that comes from a man’s heart and soul and the pain of existence. People find it easy to talk about killing other things, or death when it’s this sort of distant idea. But try and get one of these same people to talk about how they felt like ending it all that one time, or how lonely they are, or the sadness they feel from day to day. That is true pain, and most people won’t talk about it. Or they are afraid to talk about it because of what their friends and relatives and whoever else will say. I don’t know, I’m rambling, but hopefully making some sort of sense here. We do our fair share of fantasy bullshit too, but for this one I wanted it to be as sincere as possible.
4. Does the writing process change at all depending on the aesthetic of the album? Are you ever working on more than one record at one time?
Sometimes we’ll have a song that doesn’t really fit with the vibe of an album we’re working on, so we tuck it away for a rainy day, but mostly we try and work on album stuff straight through so we get a more cohesive feel to everything. The process is definitely different for say a dark kind of song/album, to a more psych/happy/rocker kind of song. Usually the latter is more fun to make and gets done easier and quicker, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily more rewarding in the end.
5. With Greyblackfalconhawk, how did the bird theme come about, and what was behind putting the names of the tracks together into one word?
I’ve always been really into Native American culture and philosophy, so I think it sort of bled out from that a bit, but other things as well. We definitely didn’t want it to be overly that kind of vibe or anything. I liked the sound of it more than anything else. greyblackfalconhawk. It feels good to say. With that title in place, we thought that it just made sense to run the titles together into one word. Sort of a language of its own, specific to this album. It is set away from our other albums in that way, in sound, in language, and in philosophy.
6. How does the recording process work? How long are you in the studio and how much freedom does self-recording allow? Has the process changed at all since the self-titled?
We record in a basement, with a washing machine and dryer in the same room. Haha. It’s not very fancy. We have it all decorated up and everything, and sexy lighting. We get together every Friday and shoot the shit for a bit, go down to the liquor store and chat with the guys down there, get a pizza or subs and then finally get recording around 7PM or so. Usually go until about 10 or 11 and then go upstairs to listen to records and argue over pointless nonsense (see my answer to question one for more on that). The process has pretty much always been the same, only we used to record in various living rooms of other apartments we’ve had. We always record basics on tape, either the 4-track or an old 1/4” 2-track. Then we dump that into the computer and do overdubs in there. We have like 4 mics, nothing very fancy, and no condensers at all. A bunch of beat up old amps, mostly Peavey. It doesn’t take much, and people shouldn’t get hung up on the gear when recording, it’s all in how you use it.
7. What goes into selecting the cover art for each release, and how important is it to find an appropriate cover when the album is released digitally? What does the cover say about the album?
Basically we try and get a cover that expresses the overall feel of the album in picture form. We’ve been very lucky working with some great artists so far. A few of the albums have sort of “placeholder” art up there right now. Tome of the Future Ancients is going to be done by Josh McAlear and the sketches we’ve seen are incredibly cool. So I guess that kind of says how important they are in the digital realm, not very, at least to us. We like to get the music out there first and foremost. When it comes time to getting things put to a physical format then we definitely want it looking exactly how it should. The only other one at this point is the self-titled and Adam Burke is working on something for that too. I’m very happy with the covers we have thus far.
8. With material that’s so diverse and with all three of you doing so much on each record, what are Ice Dragon shows like? Do you pull songs from different albums and mix it up, or will you do a show that’s all one record? It seems like recording and releasing is more important to the band, but will Ice Dragon ever tour?
We used to just do stripped down versions of songs, just get the basics of it and make it rock. There’s definitely certain songs that will just never work live. We don’t really care too much about playing live, there’s very little creativity in it, and we’re into creating songs a lot more than just playing them. I’m sure at some point we’ll play out again, not sure when, but we will I think.
9. What’s in the works next for you guys and are there any other plans or closing words you want to mention?
We just finished a song for a compilation ThrashHead is putting out, and another that Joe wrote that came out really amazing. Total opposites, the first one is a heavy ripper old-school metal style and the other is a dreamy classic rock kinda thing. We’re always making something. Hopefully no one is getting sick of us, or thinks I’m too much of a dickhead. Have a margarita and be yourself.
Posted in On the Radar on September 12th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Things just keep getting weirder and weirder. I mean it. After recently basking in the droning strangeness of the latest Ice Dragon outing last Friday (it’s the latest unless they’ve put another one out already), I find I’m even less sure of my footing when it comes to the related project Tentacle, whose Void Abyss debut hits a mainline of blasted ultra-dark psychedelics, Lovecraftian horror and sludge-laden disgust. The Void Abyssin which the five songs of the EP reside is one of their own making.
Tentacle released Void Abyssin a CD edition of 100 that promptly sold out, with a black sleeve featuring a photo of the cover art and an all-black (front and back) disc that hides in its depths an even-more-distorted secret track. Also included is a xerox-type booklet — my tendency with photocopied anything is to call it a ‘zine, but it’s really just a handmade CD booklet, proportionally and in the fact that it just basically includes the lyrics with some pictures of snails, octopi and other creatures traditionally slime-covered — that offers little information other than the words to the songs and the year of release, which is 2012. Full lineup, recording info, etc., remains a mystery.
No coincidence there, it would seem. Other than seeing three members in the photos on Tentacle‘s Thee Facebooks, there’s nothing to mark them a trio — from the murky sounds on “Talking, Bending, Dripping, Breaking,” there could be two people in the band or 20 — but Void Abyssproves all the more disturbing for the mystique, and as the songs remain completely wretched for the duration despite hinting at some stylistic variety, the tracks prove remarkably consistent for sounding like they just crawled out from between Cthulhu’s barnacled buttcheeks: Totally and unreasonably fucked.
Posted in audiObelisk on September 7th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Bear witness to the prolific nature of Boston doomers Ice Dragon and duly tremble. The band self-released their new full-length, Greyblackfalconhawk, on this very day and I figured its bleak, dronely sprawl was a decent way to wrap the week. Of course the album is available over at Ice Dragon‘s Bandcamp page as a pay-what-you-will download as well. It is their third full-length of 2012 along with two splits, and what it lacks in “space key,” it more than makes up for in hopelessness. I know the custom around here is to end the week with a YouTube clip, but what can I say, I’m shifting paradigms all over the place. It’s a new day.
I might get a couple posts up over the weekend if I have time. There’s some job-type work I need to do tomorrow afternoon, and provided I have the mental capacity to do so, there’s some more I want to post on here before next week starts, so keep an eye out. Either way, next week brings track premieres from Colour Haze – yes, She Saidexists, yes, I’ve heard it and yes, it fucking rules — and fellow German outfit Obelyskkh, who are nothing if not suited to the surroundings around here, what with the name and all. Both songs are well worth staying tuned for, and I’ll also have reviews up of Undersmile and Curse the Son, among others. Kings Destroy is playing with Inter Arma, Pallbearer and Royal Thunder next Tuesday, and I might hit that up if I can get out of work on time, but that’s a cool show, so good for them. In any case, I’m looking forward to their new material and to catching them on their previously-announced November weekender with Black Pyramid and Clamfight. That’ll be fun.
Also to be posted next week is an interview with Enslaved guitarist Ivar Bjørnson, about their new album, Riitiir (review here), and I don’t usually say this kind of thing, but it’s epic. One of the best interviews I’ve ever done, hands down. The conversation was more than an hour long, and Bjørnson was excellent, open and honest the whole way through. It’s going to be murder to transcribe but I know it’ll be worth it in the end. Keep an eye out, it’ll probably be up next Thursday or Friday.
Before I split out to finish this glass and get some more wine, special thanks to everyone who responded to the Top 10 Greatest Stoner Albums post. That’s been amazing and I’m glad people seem to be responding to each other’s comments and having fun with it. That’s awesome. I’ll probably leave that up top on the frontpage over the weekend in case anyone else wants to chime in, then maybe get a master list going and at very least use it as a basis for a podcast or something like that. Get all the essentials together in one place. We’ll see how it goes, but seriously, thank you for being involved. Makes me feel way less like I’m talking to myself.
Alright y’all, time to put on some Colour Haze and hang out with The Patient Mrs. for a while, but once again, thanks. I hope you dig the Ice Dragon and support those guys by digging into their wealth of material, and I hope to see you on the forum and maybe back here sometime over the next couple days. Be safe and enjoy.
The sun-drenched wonder you see in the photo above is the shelf unit at my office (I work here). Top to bottom, it’s got a turntable that needs a new belt, a Mini-Disc player (I used to use them for interviews and just kind of happened into the thing; it’s there now because I think it’s neat), dual cassette deck, 5-CD changer and receiver. The speakers on either side are Infinity studio monitors acquired at a discount for review, and there’s a subwoofer below that’s not pictured. I don’t always use it, because frankly my computer has some decent speakers as well and so I don’t really need it all the time, but sometimes, when I’m working late and no one else is around, there’s nothing else quite like it.
Of the components, the cassette deck is the newest. I hooked it up just this afternoon after finding it the other day laying around the house. I asked The Patient Mrs. what was up with it and she said it was part of the stereo she had as a kid (we’ve been together long enough that I already knew that), and as it was currently not in use, I immediately raised an eyebrow at the possibility.
That was a few days ago, and it wasn’t until today that I finally brought the thing to work and plugged it in. Thinking I was all smart, I grabbed what I thought were some spare A/V cables to go with but turned out to be the camera connector. Fortunately, also at the office, I found these laying around:
Monster Cables! That’s right. Today, I hooked up a cassette player with Monster Cables. A format that’s only “come back” as much as it has over the last couple years because it sounds crappy — hooked up like it’s part of an overpriced home theater. Hey, I roll with what I can find that I don’t have to pay for.
The impetus for this whole thing was the recent purchase of three tapes from Acid Punx Records. I’ve bought tapes here and there for a while now — I have a cassette player in my car and have considered it a point of pride for the seven years I’ve had it — but these were different. Mostly those tapes cost about 50 cents. These tapes cost $10 each.
Yes. I spent $30 on tapes. $35, actually, when you add shipping. I’d been turned onto Boston doomers Ice Dragon‘s newest album, Dream Dragon, in a thread on the forum, and I really dug it. In an all-too-familiar mix of impulse and strategy, I thought as I investigated various purchase options that I’d better pick up some older stuff that was available in limited runs before I missed out. The psychedelically cinematic Dream Dragon — which came out last month and is a pay-what-you-want download at Ice Dragon’s Bandcamp page — doesn’t seem to have a physical pressing yet anyway, so from Acid Punx, I got their 2007 self-titled and 2011′s The Sorrowful Suninstead.
Both tapes are first pressings, limited to 100 copies (the self-titled is a reissue) and pretty clearly homemade — all of which I like about them. While I was putting them in my virtual shopping cart, I stumbled on an Elder tape also for sale called Demos & Live (2007-2010)and couldn’t resist. The result:
It was actually pretty nerve-racking waiting for them to come in the mail. Not that Acid Punx took an exceedingly long time to send them or anything, but I’ll admit to feeling a little silly having shelled out $35 for three tapes. If I was at the grocery store, I’d be staring at the “Unit Price” sticker and punching myself in the head. Nonetheless, when they finally came, I heaved a sigh of relief and immediately put the Elder on in the car.
With the anticipation of seeing them over Labor Day weekend at SHoD in Connecticut mounting and that recent stream of their Armageddon Records vinyl, Spires Burn/Release, I’ve been on something of a kick. Of the tape, I’ll say that Elder were a much, much different band in 2007 than they are half a decade later. Guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo lets loose some pretty vicious sludgy screams, and especially on tape, it sounds like the material was recorded right on a room mic in the rehearsal space.
There are three demo tracks — “1162,” “Red Sunrise” and “Black Midnight” — and two live cuts — “Gemini” recorded at SHoD in 2009 and “Riddle of Steel” from Valley Homegrown TV in 2010. As you might expect, the newest is the cleanest-sounding of the bunch, but overall, it’s a pretty concise look at how far the three-piece has come in their time together. Whatever faux-authenticity might come from listening to a bona fide demo tape in this day and age, Demos & Live (2007-2010)is legitimately a cool release, and I was glad to have picked it up.
I’ve got more digging into the two Ice Dragon tapes (both of which are also streaming on their Bandcamp) — and wanting to do that was a big part of why I finally caved and brought the tape player into the office — but on a cursory listen, they sound righteous in their lo-fi classicism, The Sorrowful Sun being more melodically developed than its self-titled predecessor. Both feel caked in blown-out-cone distortion and are pretty well suited to the format. I was glad to get them out of the car so they wouldn’t get any further warped by the heat. From what I’ve heard so far, they’re plenty warped on their own.
And while I get to know them better, I’ve got the joy of staring at the spines on my desk:
Even for $35, I could do much worse than that. Just for kicks, here’s the stream of Ice Dragon‘s Dream Dragon, which inspired all this silliness: