If You Only Buy 24 Records Between Now and May 1…

Posted in Features on March 12th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

…Yeah, I know, 24 is a buttload of records to buy in the span of about a month and a half. To do the division, it would mean buying a new album every 2.04 days. Probably not feasible in terms of time, let alone budget, but hell, it’s a nice thought and seeing the onslaught of new stuff coming between now and the end of April, I thought maybe a list would help keep it all straight. Even if I’m only helping myself, I could probably spend my time in worse ways.

Worth noting that even with 24 albums, presented below in order of release, I feel like there’s stuff I’m forgetting. Frankly, it’s an overwhelming amount of material, so if I’ve missed something or there’s something you’d like to see added to the list, as always, that’s why there’s a comments feature.

Okay. These are numbered just for fun, but listed by date:

1. Orange Goblin, A Eulogy for the Fans (March 12)

My understanding is that London’s foremost doom scoundrels, none other than Orange Goblin, have been selling copies of A Eulogy for the Fans since starting their US tour with Clutch on March 8 in Cincinnati, Ohio, but today is the official release date, and I can think of no better place to start than with the four-piece’s ferocious performance at the 2012 Bloodstock festival, captured audio and video in all its bloodsoaked glory. Not to be missed or taken lightly because it’s a live record. Album review here.

2. Borracho, Mob Gathering 7″ (March 13)

Even though it’s comprised of older tracks, the new Mob Gathering 7″ from Borracho is welcome by me for two reasons: I’ve never heard the songs before and Borracho rocks. The Washington D.C.-based riffers recorded “Mob Gathering” and “Short Ride (When it’s Over)” in 2009 and are set to release the cuts on a limited platter in black and orange swirl through Spain’s Ghost Highway Recordings and Germany’s No Balls Records. They’ve been playing live as a mostly-instrumental outfit while guitarist/vocalist Noah is out of the country on what I can only assume is an awesome spy mission, so if you need a Borracho fix — and it’s obvious from the way your hands are shaking that you do — this might be the way to go. More info here.

3. Inter Arma, Sky Burial (March 15)

Like Windhand below, Inter Arma are recent Relapse Records signees from Richmond, Virginia, and Sky Burial will serve as their first release for the label. Literally and figuratively, the album is expansive, topping 69 minutes and pummeling the whole way through with a genre-transcending concoction of bleakness that’s not so much aligned to any particular heavy aesthetic so much as it is set to its own atmospheric purposes. Through this, Inter Arma emerge terrifyingly cohesive where many others would falter, and their second LP behind 2010’s Sundown (review here) leaves a progressive impression despite an almost complete lack of sonic pretense. Mostly, it’s fucking heavy. Track stream and info here.

4. Clutch, Earth Rocker (March 19)

If 2013 ended tomorrow, Clutch‘s Earth Rocker would be my album of the year. That’s not saying the situation will be the same nine months from now when I actually start putting that list together (already dreading it), but as of March 12, it’s the cat’s pajamas and no foolin’. The long-running Marylanders outdid themselves and put together a surprisingly fast, energetic collection of songs that don’t forsake the bluesy tendencies of their last album, 2009’s Strange Cousins from the West, so much as they put some of the jamming on lockdown in favor of all-out pro-grade heavy rock and roll. The velocity is crucial and the wolfman is out, but it feels like the party’s just starting. Look for them on tour sometime between now and forever. Album review here.

5. Black Mare, Field of the Host (March 20)

Black Math Horseman and Ides of Gemini frontwoman Sera Timms (who’s also recently collaborated with Yawning Man‘s Gary Arce in the new outfit Zun) steps further out on her own with the solo-project Black Mare, from whom Field of the Host is the first album. Due March 20 on LP through The Crossing and on cassette through Breathe Plastic, limited in both cases and sure to be gone shortly after release if they’re not already taken through pre-orders. Fans of Timms‘ past works will be glad to hear the misty wash of melody and dreamy, somehow sad, languid roll of “Blind One,” for starters. Audio and info on the forum.

6. Kvelertak, Meir (March 26)

Short of setting themselves on fire, Norwegian triple-guitar six-piece Kvelertak did just about everything they could to get noticed in support of their 2010 self-titled debut LP (review here), and sure enough, their work paid off in getting signed to Roadrunner Records for all territories outside their native Scandinavia (where Indie Recordings holds sway) and trumpeting up a wave of anticipation for their second full-length, Meir. Their energetic, genre-crossing approach might not be for everybody, but the band have turned a lot of heads and I wouldn’t at all be surprised to find them on bigger tours this year with Roadrunner behind them. More info on the forum.

7. Black Pyramid, Adversarial (April 2)

This is actually the first time the Eli Wood cover art for Black Pyramid‘s Adversarial has been seen in full, so you know. The Hydro-Phonic Records release of the third Black Pyramid album and first to be fronted by guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard along with bassist David Gein and drummer Clay Neely punctuates the beginning of a new era for the Massachusetts trio. If the advance listen to closing track “Onyx and Obsidian” is anything to go by, they could very well be at their most potent yet, and though I’d hardly consider myself an impartial observer, as a fan of the band, this is one I’ve been looking forward to for a while now. More to come. Track stream here.

8. Moss, Horrible Night (April 2)

I’ve yet to hear the complete album, but UK trio Moss seem poised to surprise with a cleaner vocal approach on Horrible Night, their first offering since 2008’s impressive Sub Templum LP and two EPs in 2009, so in addition to wondering how they’ll pull it off, the level of the shift remains to be seen. That is, how big a deal is it? Should I call my mom? Is this something grandma needs to know about? Time will tell, but for it having been five years since the last time a Moss record reared its doomly head, it seems only fair to give the band a little breathing room on their evolution. More info and video here.

9. Mars Red Sky, Be My Guide EP (April 8)

How glad am I that French fuzz rockers Mars Red Sky have a new EP coming? Well, I’m not as happy that it’s coming as I am that it’s frickin’ awesome. The trio keep the weighted bass tones that gave so much depth to their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), but they’ve also clearly set to work expanding the formula as well, adding stomp to second track “Seen a Ghost” and an eerie repetitive sense to side B closer “Stranger,” while also broadening their melodic reach and taking claim of whichever side of the line they want between fuzz rock and heavy psychedelia while remaining so much more to the ears than either genre descriptor can offer to the eyes. At half an hour, my only complaint with it is it’s not a full-length album. Video trailer and info here.

10. Blaak Heat Shujaa, The Edge of an Era (April 9)

A sample of the poet Ron Whitehead — who also featured on Blaak Heat Shujaa‘s late-2012 debut EP for Tee Pee Records, The Storm Generation (review here) — comes to clarity just in time for the gonzo Boomer poet to let us all know that, “America is an illusion” (that may be, but it’s an illusion with an army of flying killer robots), and from there, the youngin’ desert transplants embark on a low-end-heavy freakout topped with sweet surf rock guitars and set to use in intricate, sometimes surprisingly jagged, rhythmic dances. Mario Lalli of Fatso Jetson guests, Scott Reeder produced. Review is forthcoming, but till then, there’s more info here.

11. Devil to Pay, Fate is Your Muse (April 9)

Fate is Your Muse serves not only as Indianapolis rockers Devil to Pay‘s Ripple Music debut, but also as the double-guitar foursome’s first outing since 2009’s Heavily Ever After. With tales of lizardmen attacks and the alleged end of the world, it’s got its fair share of personality, and set to the chugging riffs, melodic vocals and straightforward heavy grooves, that personality still goes a long way. I’ll have a review up before this week is out (I hope), but still, I wanted to make sure to include Devil to Pay here too, since their songs command both attention and respect. To wit, I just can’t seem to get “This Train Won’t Stop” out of my head. Video and info here.

12. Cough & Windhand, Reflection of the Negative Split (April 15)

Virginian doomers Cough and Windhand share a hometown in Richmond, a love of volume, a bassist in Parker Chandler and now a label in Relapse Records, so yeah, a split makes sense. Reflection of the Negative will be Windhand‘s first release through Relapse ahead of their sophomore full-length, scheduled for later this year (info here). For Cough, this split marks their first outing since 2010’s An Introduction to the Black Arts split with UK masters The Wounded Kings (review here), and they’ll present the 18-minute “Athame,” while Windhand bring forth “Amaranth” and “Shepherd’s Crook.” More info here.

13. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Mind Control (April 15)

What the last Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats album, 2011’s Blood Lust (semi-review here), did so well was capture the atmosphere and the grainy imagery of late ’60s/early ’70s psychedelic horror and put it into audio form. For that, Blood Lust earned massive praise, but I still think that without the central core of songwriting underneath the genre trappings, it would’ve fallen flat. When it comes to Mind Control, the question waiting to be answered is if the band wants to stick to the blueprint they’ve established or go brazenly into uncharted weirdness. I’m not really sure they can lose, either way. Info and music here.

14. Kadavar, Abra Kadavar (April 16)

Their debut on new label Nuclear Blast and the quick-arriving answer to my pick for 2012 debut of the year, Abra Kadavar arrives with plenty of anticipation leading the way. The retro-rocking German trio have their work cut out for them in following that self-titled, but however it turns out in the comparison, it will be fascinating to learn how Kadavar develops the band’s sound and whether or not they prove able to push the boundaries of their aesthetic while simultaneously setting a new standard for promo photos. New video here.

15. Spiritual Beggars, Earth Blues (April 16)

I guess when it comes to these long-running Swedes, everybody’s got their favorite lineup, their favorite tunes, etc., but for me, I’m just impressed that Michael Amott — now more than 20 years on from starting Spiritual Beggars as a side-project while still in grindcore pioneers Carcass — still has any interest in keeping the classic rock Hammond-loving outfit grooving. Their last outing, 2010’s Return to Zero (review here), was the first to feature vocalist Apollo Papathanasio, formerly of Firewind, and though those songs were solid, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re more settled in on Earth Blues when it drops via InsideOut Music on April 16. More info on the forum.

16. Beastwars, Blood Becomes Fire (April 19)

Alternating between periods of brooding intensity and all-out crushing heaviness, the second full-length from New Zealand’s Beastwars, Blood Becomes Fire, is nasty, nasty, nasty. It’s nasty when it’s quiet and it’s nasty when it’s loud. It’s the kind of record you put on and you’re like, “Damn that’s nasty.” And you’re not wrong. The four-piece — touring shortly with Unida — upped their game even from 2011’s self-titled debut (review here), and for anyone who heard that record, you know that’s saying something. I’m still in the “getting to know it” phase, but so far all that nasty feels pretty right on. More info here.

17. Ghost, Infestissumam (April 19)

Man, this one just kind of happened, huh? I suck — and I mean S-U-C-K suck — at keeping up with band hype. I’m the dude who hears the record three months later and goes, “Yeah, I guess that’s cool,” as countless reviews here can attest, including the one for Ghost‘s 2010 debut, Opus Eponymous, but with the Swedish cult heavyweights, all of a sudden I turned around and blamo, major label deal, semi-name change to Ghost B.C., and enough slathering over the impending Infestissumam to make the first album seem like less than the hyperbole it was treated to initially. Funny how that happens. Out in April? I’m sure I’ll review in June and go, “Yeah, I guess that’s cool.” More info on the forum.

18. One Inch Giant, The Great White Beyond (April 19)

Now signed to Soulseller Records, Swedish heavy rockers One Inch Giant will unveil their debut full-length on April 19 and as three of my favorite words in the English language are “Swedish heavy rockers,” I’m excited to find out how this Gothenburg four-piece follow-up their Malva EP, and if they can capture some of the extreme dynamic they brought to their live show when they toured the US last summer — a run of shows that included a stop at SHoD. Hard not to pull for a band after they come over to play club dates. More info and music here.

19. The Heavy Co., Midwest Electric (April 20)

It was actually the other day writing about The Heavy Co.‘s Midwest Electric that I had the idea for this feature, so however high the profile might be for some of these albums — Ghost walks by on their way to cash a check — it was these unpretentious Hoosier rockers and their new outing, Midwest Electric, that started me off. From what I’ve heard so far, the new collection sounds a little more confident in exploring psychedelia than did the trio’s 2011 debut EP, The Heavy (Please Tune In…) (review here), so I’m looking forward to hearing if and how that plays out over the course of the whole thing. Video trailer here.

20. Gozu, The Fury of a Patient Man (April 23)

I have an interview slated for later this week with Gozu guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney, and I’m even more excited for this time than I was when we last spoke, around their 2009 Small Stone debut, Locust Season (review here), since in everything but its goofball song titles, the sophomore outing marks a huge developmental step in the band’s melodic reach and songwriting chemistry. Stay tuned for that interview and check out the Bandcamp stream included with the album review here.

21. Yawning Man & Fatso Jetson, European Tour Split 7″ (April 26)

Note: I don’t actually know that April 26 is the day that what’s sure to be 2013’s most desert-rocking split is due to arrive, I just know that it’s Fatso Jetson and Yawning Man‘s European tour split, and that’s the day the Euro dates start — with performances at Desertfests London and Berlin, to be more specific. Given both the greatness of Fatso Jetson‘s last record, 2010’s Archaic Volumes (review here), and of Yawning Man‘s own 2010 outing, Nomadic Pursuits (review here), the bands’ shared lineage and the relative infrequency of their touring, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to hope that, even for a single, they pull out all the stops. And starts. And riffs. More info on the forum.

22. Serpent Throne, Brother Lucifer (April 29)

Philly-based instrumental heavy rockers Serpent Throne will follow-up 2010’s White Summer/Black Winter (review here) with Brother Lucifer, and while no one can ever really know what to expect, it’s a safe bet that the dual-guitar outfit will have the solos front and center once again. Having seen them do a couple new songs back in December, I can’t blame them in the slightest. Looking forward to letting these songs sink in for a while and having those solos stuck in my head. Track stream here.

23. Melvins, Everybody Loves Sausages (April 30)

Hey wow, a Melvins covers album. Finally, an opportunity for the band to let their hair down and go wild a bit, right? I mean, at long last, they can really feel free to indulge a little and explore their musical roots in a free and creative way. Okay, you get the point. In all seriousness, it’s a pretty cool idea and anything that teams the Melvins with Scott Kelly to do a Venom song is probably going to be a worthy cause. The most amazing part of it is they haven’t already done a version of “Black Betty.” More info on the forum.

24. Revelation, Inner Harbor (April 30)

Their most progressive outing yet and their first album since 2009, Revelation‘s Inner Harbor (review here) is bound to surprise some who thought they knew what to expect from the Maryland doom stalwarts who double as the classically rocking Against Nature. Good thing Inner Harbor had a digital release last year through the band’s Bland Hand Records to act as a precursor to this Shadow Kingdom CD issue. Rumor has it vinyl’s on the way as well, so keep an eye out, since John Brenner‘s guitar tone should be heard on as natural-sounding an apparatus as possible. More info here.

Okay, so you’re saying to yourself, “Golly, that’s a lot of stuff.” You’re absolutely right. But even as I was typing up this feature, I got word of a new Queen Elephantine full-length coming in April, so even as much as this is, it’s not everything. And that’s not even to mention May, which will bring a new Shroud Eater EP, a new Kylesa record and a new Mark Lanegan collaboration, among however much else. Tons of stuff to keep your ears out for, and like I said way back at the top of this thing, if you have something to add, a comment’s always appreciated.

Thanks for reading.

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Melvins Lite, Freak Puke: Proving the Melvins are the Melvins, Even When They Aren’t

Posted in Reviews on March 8th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

The thing about the Melvins — nearly 30 years into their career and too many releases to count when you factor in live records, compilations, splits, tour-only specials, elaborately-presented box sets, etc. – is that you can really only compare them to themselves. And even that’s not fair, because their progression over all this time has been relentless — and never mind the fact that guitarist/vocalist Buzz Osborne and drummer Dale Crover have for a long time anchored a fluid lineup of bassists, second drummers, outside collaborators and other contributing artists — studying the path of those two alone is fodder enough for a two-year Masters program in the sludgy arts. They are among the most influential active bands in the heavy underground the world over, and they boast a cult of followers like none other, ready at a moment’s notice with hyperbole and open wallets for whatever brilliance the Melvins are able to churn out next at a rate that continues to be astoundingly prolific. Their latest outing – a full-length complemented by a Scion-sponsored EP called The Bulls and the Bees – comes under the moniker of Melvins Lite, and finds Osborne and Crover partnered with bassist Trevor Dunn for a collection of 10 tracks charmingly titled Freak Puke.

Dunn is no stranger to the Melvins. He’s played with them before, and both he and Osborne were members of the much-revered Mike Patton-fronted avant garde outfit Fantômas. Dunn also traces a pedigree back to Mr. Bungle (also with Patton), and has worked with the likes of John Zorn, Secret Chiefs 3 and his own Trevor Dunn’s Trio-Convulsant. What’s unique about his appearance here alongside Osborne and Crover is that the band took the time to signify that Freak Puke (released, as most of their records are these days, through Ipecac Recordings) is separate from the ongoing lineup Melvins lineup of the two mainstays and bassist Jared Warren and drummer Coady Willis. Indeed, that four-piece Melvins incarnation appears on The Bulls and the Bees, so is clearly ongoing, and one might look at Melvins Lite as a side-project still under the umbrella of the band’s output. In that way, it’s not so different from Melvins past collaborations with Lustmord or Jello Biafra, separated mostly from them by the name – which seems more suited to any number of the bands the Melvins have influenced along their way than to their own output in whatever form it might come. Whatever shifts in the band’s songwriting processes may have come into play with Dunn’s involvement, there are still a few characteristically Osborne riffs on display, from the sleepy groove of opener “Mr. Rip Off” to the single-worthy album highlight “A Growing Disgust,” on which Dunn seems to have switched from the bowed upright of the earliest cuts to a more standard rock approach.

He makes his presence felt early, though, and maintains it throughout, standing up every bit to Crover’s percussive mastery and the personality that always seems to ooze from whatever Osborne touches. Introduced with a big rock crash, “Inner Ear Rupture” is essentially two minutes of Dunn freaking out with his bow that’s led into excellently by the finish of “Mr. Rip Off.” The two tracks don’t run one right into the next (at least not on the promo download), but work well together in establishing Freak Puke’s breadth early. It’s the Melvins, even if the “Lite” in the moniker refers to their being a trio and not a four-piece, so they could and do take the album anywhere they damn well please, but it’s still good to make that clear at the outset, even if some of the strongest moments on the record are the most straightforward. To that end, “Baby, Won’t You Weird Me Out” seamlessly integrates Dunn’s bass runs with a righteously fuzzed solo from Osborne and handclap-ready snare hits from Crover before a chorus revival leads to a rhythm section-only showoff. Crover and Dunn are paired well, and the rocking stomp at the beginning of “Worm Farm Waltz” further shows the variety they’re capable of, moving from riff-led chugging into a more open chorus and back again before the titular waltz aspect kicks in. Dunn leads the charge amid double-layered vocals and tom hits from Crover, and if it sounds odd, well, that’s pretty much the point. Welcome to the Melvins.

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The Book of Knots, Garden of Fainting Stars: The Alchemy that Turns Moondust into Gunpowder

Posted in Reviews on June 16th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

The third installment in New York experimental rockers The Book of Knots’ alleged trilogy of concept albums, Garden of Fainting Stars, released by Ipecac Recordings, follows 2007’s Traineater and 2004’s Book of Knots (issued via Anti- and Arclight, respectively) and concludes the thematic string of “sea, land, air” the band undertook as its initial project. Like its predecessors, Garden of Fainting Stars is rife with an extremely particular atmosphere and artistry, and probably has more in common sonically with the second album than the first, on which the core four-piece of Carla Kihlstedt (vocals and violin mostly; also of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and Two-Foot Yard), Joel Hamilton (guitar and engineer), Tony Maimone (bass; also of Pere Ubu) and Matthias Bossi (drums, synth and occasional vocals; also of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum) was still feeling its way into what has become over the subsequent (now) two albums The Book of Knots’ sound. That sound, typified by invented instrumentation – Kihlstedt plays a “marxophone” on the track “Yeager’s Approach” – and the integration of an array of guest performers, makes Garden of Fainting Stars a subtle but complex listen, and in just 40 minutes, The Book of Knots draws upon a Cold War sense of fear, American arrogance and wonder at modernity to cover a wide berth of moods and feelings, all the while remaining consistent in terms of songwriting and overall flow. As did Traineater from Book of Knots, Garden of Fainting Stars justifies every minute of the time it took to put it out.

Heavy moments like those bookending the album in opener “Microgravity” and closer “Obituary for the Future” offset an array of ambient tracks, and if nothing else, Garden of Fainting Stars proves The Book of Knots have amassed some good friends along the members’ varied creative travels. The likes of Mike Watt, Blixa Bargeld (of The Bad Seeds/Einstürzende Neubauten) and Ipecac owner and Faith No More frontman Mike Patton show up here, alongside others including Nils Frykdahl and Dawn McCarthy of Faun Fables (the former also of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum), actor/singer Aaron Lazar (whose performance on “Third Generation Pink Slip” was a highlight of Traineater), vocalist Elyas Khan (Nervous Cabaret), stage director/writer Allen Willner, guitarist Trey Spruance (Secret Chiefs 3/ex-Mr. Bungle), John Vanderslice (Mk Ultra/The Mountain Goats), John Davis (Superdrag), Shahzad Ismaily (Secret Chiefs 3), engineer Ian Pelicci (who’s worked with Kihlstedt and Bossi in their theatrical excursions)… and more.  It’s an overwhelming amount of people, as the personnel list and publishing credits in the liner notes show, and one doesn’t at all envy Hamilton the task he had in mixing it, but somehow, The Book of Knots come out with an album that’s as cohesive as it is challenging, and although each track by the very nature of who’s contributing offers something different, the record as a whole retains its central theme and is drawn together by it. Of the total 10 tracks, only “Microgravity,” “All This Nothing” and “Nebula Rasa” feature Kihlstedt, Hamilton, Maimone and Bossi alone, and even there the instrumentation is varied. So yeah, you could easily say there’s a lot going on with Garden of Fainting Stars. I wouldn’t argue.

Nonetheless, and perhaps either in spite of or in complement to their experimental and ambient stretches, The Book of Knots leave room for several righteous choruses, striking a balance across Garden of Fainting Stars as though to give their audience something to hook onto in the face of the material’s vast breadth. Kihlstedt recounts the tale of launching monkeys into space on “Microgravity,” centered around the melodic titular question of whether or not they’ll survive, leaving room for both Hamilton’s guitar crunch and a spoken part from Bossi that’s not dissimilar from what he did on the Traineater cut “Hands of Production.” It’s telling that, even with all the contributing personalities that begin to pile up as soon as Bargeld begins his narration of “Drosophila Melangaster,” Garden of Fainting Stars would launch with just the four players in the band proper. Not that they’re starting off simple, but a foundation is established with “Microgravity” on which the rest of the album builds, starting with the aforementioned “Drosophila Melanogaster,” which undercuts the anxiety of the opener by reveling in the banality of commercial air travel as it is today. Bargeld assumes the role of passenger waiting for a variety of flights, reading as though from a journal flight numbers and recounting tales of fruit flies in his drinks and the lack of space in economy, eventually launching into drunken singing as The Book of Knots behind him pick up from the foreboding ambience of the beginning into the swaying, otherworldly weirdness that makes up the end of the track, giving way to “Moondust Must,” on which Frykdahl and McCarthy offer lead vocals with a group backing them for probably Garden of Fainting Stars’ most infectious chorus – the lines “Moondust looks like gunpowder/Moondust smells like gunpowder/Moondust tastes like gunpowder/Moondust must be gunpowder” approaching nursery rhyme memorability even as they mock the sort of down-home ignorance of “the farther shore” and religious ideas of walking among the dead in the verse. “Moondust Must” has a bouncing rhythm to it, and is simple on its surface, but there’s an underlying absurdity at play as well, and the amount of noise thrown in the mix behind Frykdahl and McCarthy is consistent with both what backed Bargeld on “Drosophila Melanogaster” and what next comes to the fore on “Lissajous Orbit.”

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The Book of Knots: New Album Due Out June 14 on Ipecac

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 18th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

The last installment in the long-spaced trilogy from avant rockers The Book of Knots was 2007’s Traineater, released by Anti-. The third and final piece is titled Garden of Fainting Stars, and it finds the core four-piece once again taking on a host of collaborators and signing with Mike Patton‘s Ipecac Recordings for a June 14 release. I was a huge sucker for Traineater, and for the 2004 self-titled debut (released by Arclight) before that, so expect much more on this to come.

For now, though, here’s the news off the PR wire:

The Book of Knots has had the pleasure of collaborating with some of the worlds most talented musicians, including Tom Waits, Mike Patton, David Thomas, Blixa Bargeld, Jon Langford, and Carla Bozulich.

Founding members Matthias Bossi (Skeleton Key, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum), Joel Hamilton (producer/engineer for BlakRoc, Pretty Lights), Carla Kihlstedt (Tin Hat Trio, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum) and Tony Maimone (Pere Ubu, Frank Black, Bob Mould) forge a sound both epic and intimate, empowering and devastating. Cinematic, symphonic landscapes give way to crumbling acoustic chamber ballads. Broken guitars and beautifully warped orchestras describe the ungraceful demise of boats, blast furnaces and bloated industries. Accounts of the failed adventures of tragic would-be heroes are given voice in the band’s two previous critically-acclaimed releases.

Their newest album serves as the final chapter in the band’s “By Sea, By Land, By Air” trilogy. Garden of Fainting Stars, slated for release by Ipecac Recordings on June 14, gives dissonant sendoffs to the doomed travelers and early astronauts that plied the skies in a quest for the final frontier: Space.

The imagined utopias that await them at the other end of their fantastical journeys inevitably give way to the grim realization which mankind has faced again and again: at every hopeful turn, commonplace realities await us. A vast and empty universe, stretching far beyond infinity, capable of containing the countless imaginary creatures, civilizations, and otherwise terrestrial impossibilities that inhabit our dreams, dies in the fluorescent lighting of the laundry soap aisle at WalMart.

The Book of Knots once again cast a wormless, rusty hook into the lifeless seas of the music industry, expecting to reap only sorrow.

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Home is Where the Tour Goes for the Melvins

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 23rd, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

That the Melvins are touring is no big surprise. That’s kind of their thing. What’s different this time is that they’re taking the format of their recent Los Angeles residency shows on the road hitting a couple of the major markets, playing albums like Houdini and Stoner Witch in their entirety. That’s the new part, and good news all around, since at this point those records are classics.

No stopping that PR wire:

The Melvins, who recently completed a sold-out residency at Los AngelesSpaceland, are taking the idea mobile with two-night stints in six US cities this May.

The upcoming performances will feature the same setlist in each city with the first night kicking off with the band performing songs from Lysol and Egg Nog followed by a second set of music from Houdini. The second night in each mini-residency will be Bullhead for the first set and Stoner Witch for the second. There will be no opening artists for this tour.

The Melvins‘ next release is Sugar Daddy Live, a 13-track live recording set for release on May 31 via Ipecac Recordings.

The dates are:
05/13 Seattle, WA The Crocodile
05/14 Seattle, WA The Crocodile
05/16 San Francisco, CA Great American Music Hall
05/17 San Francisco, CA Great American Music Hall
05/27 Austin, TX Mohawk
05/28 Austin, TX Mohawk
05/31 Chicago, IL Double Door
06/01 Chicago, IL Double Door
06/03 Boston, MA Paradise Rock Club
06/04 Boston, MA Paradise Rock Club
06/06 Brooklyn, NY Music Hall of Williamsburg
06/07 Brooklyn, NY Music Hall of Williamsburg

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New Melvins Live Album Due in May

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 22nd, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

Call me crazy, but I feel like I’ve used that headline before. Entirely possible, since The Melvins are among the most prolific creative forces known to man, and their constantly-expanding discography requires the utmost attention to be kept up with. One might have thought they’d record some of the shows from their recent residency at Spaceland in Los Angeles for their next live installment, but as the PR wire informs, only fools assume when it comes to The Melvins.

Check it:

The Melvins‘ latest offering, Sugar Daddy Live, a 13-track live recording, will see a May 31 release on Ipecac Recordings. Recorded at The Busta-Guts Club in Downey, California, the album features fan favorites such as “Boris,” “A History of Bad Men” and “The Kicking Machine.”

The band recently completed a month-long residency at Los AngelesSpaceland and are currently in New Zealand with a forthcoming round of Australian dates as part of the Soundwave Festival. The Melvins were in Christchurch when the Feb. 21 earthquake struck but escaped unscathed and are due to resume their tour later this week.

Sugar Daddy Live tracklisting:
1. Nude with Boots
2. Dog Island
3. Dies Iraea
4. Civilized Worm
5. The Kicking Machine
6. Eye Flies
7. Tipping the Lion
8. Rat Faced Granny
9. The Hawk
10. You’ve Never Been Right
11. A History of Bad Men
12. Star Spangled Banner
13. Boris

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Melvins Announce January Spaceland Residency

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 14th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster

They’re the Melvins. They do cool shit. Witness this from the PR wire:

The Melvins perform each Friday throughout January at Spaceland (Silver Lake, CA) with a different set and featured albums including the band’s current lineup, a 1983 incarnation with Mike Dillard and several albums in their entirety.

Performance information is as follows:

Jan. 7: Melvins set (current lineup performing songs from Colossus of Destiny); Lysol and Eggnog records in their entirety.

Jan. 14: Melvins 1983 (Buzz, Dale and Mike Dillard); Melvins set (current lineup performing normal set) and Houdini in its entirety.

Jan. 21: Melvins Lite (Buzz & Dale only); Melvins set (current lineup performing normal set) and Bullhead in its entirety.

Jan. 28: Melvins set (current lineup performing normal set) and Stoner Witch in its entirety.

For ticket information, please visit ClubSpaceland.com or call (323) 661-4380.

In February, the Melvins head to Australia (Soundwave Festival) and New Zealand. The band visits Japan and Mexico in March.

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Top 20 of 2010 #19: Melvins, The Bride Screamed Murder

Posted in Features on December 2nd, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster

One of the most interesting things about putting together an end-of-year list for me is that, as I go through like this and explain why each release is in the spot it is (confession: this isn’t my first time), I break out the album and give it another listen. And in some cases, like with the Melvins‘ 2010 release, The Bride Screamed Murder (Ipecac), I haven’t heard the record in months. It’s like visiting an old friend. Or a still semi-new friend, anyway.

The Bride Screamed Murder was released on June 1, and I saw them on the 18th in NYC. I don’t want to say it was immediately after, but probably a week or two later, I put the album away — filed appropriately, of course — and never went back to it again. It’s nothing against either the Melvins or the album itself, I guess I was just done with it.

So, if it seems like The Bride Screamed Murder — which legitimately has some killer tracks (“Evil New War God,” “Pig House,” “Electric Flower” and the creepy “PG X 3″ all come to mind) — is low on the list, that’s why. It was a good album, certainly much better than 2008’s Nude with Boots outing, but it wasn’t enough to hold me for the rest of the year, and my fickle attentions turned elsewhere.

And sure, I’ll allow my crap-tastic interview with Buzz Osborne and the hellish nightmare that paying $30 to see them at Webster Hall turned out to be might have something to do with it, but hey, it’s my list, and there are still 18 other albums I listened to and enjoyed more than this one in 2010, so take it for what it’s worth. If you’ve got a complaint, that’s why the comments are there.

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Live Review: The Melvins and Totimoshi in Manhattan, 06.18.10

Posted in Reviews on June 21st, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster

Some context: I was in Connecticut with The Patient Mrs. for some familial-type obligations and a couple days of the madness known as relaxation, but that wasn’t going to keep me from seeing the Melvins and Totimoshi at Webster Hall in NYC, so I hopped in I-95 South last Friday after posting the Frydee video and sat for about three hours to make an hour and a half trip.

It was only stressful because I didn’t see Totimoshi at Roadburn, and so wanted to catch their set. The show was early because Webster Hall knows what pays the bills, and that’s dance parties for yuppie assholes. 10:30 or so, and they come in and the Melvins crowd is out. Fine. Totimoshi were on stage as I paid my $30 to get in at 7PM. I barely made it.

Isis headlined. It was their last tour, and no, I didn’t stay. I’m sorry. I wasn’t interested enough to even listen to the free promo download I got of their last album, so I would have felt disingenuous staying for their set just because it’s allegedly the last time I’ll get to see them. I already have my good memories of killer Isis shows. I don’t need any more. Plus I had three more hours of traffic to sit in to get back to The Patient Mrs., and I didn’t want to miss out on that.

I like Totimoshi. I’ve liked Totimoshi for a long time now and I still like them. I think that was probably the biggest stage I’d ever seen them on, and even with drummer Chris Fugitt using half of the Dale Crover/Coady Willis combined megakit, they sounded good. But really, I’m just pulling for Totimoshi because I think they should be headlining tours instead of this perennial “always the bridesmaid” thing they seem to have going on. They could very well have sucked and I’d be blinded by my affection for them. Doesn’t mean I enjoyed the set any less.

Although, one thing about this show: it was fucking packed. And hot. And after three hours of 95, I was, well, a grumpy little bitch. About everything. I was grumpy shelling out $30 for a show I knew I wasn’t going to see all of, I was grumpy they were sold out of Melvins box sets (though the new album was just $10, which I happily paid), and I was grumpy smashed in with a douchetastic NYC crowd in the sweltering Webster Hall main room. Normally, beer is the solution to this, but the last thing I wanted was a dooey (I think that’s how it’s spelled, though I’ve seen it as D-U-I too), so I just stewed in it.

And then came the Melvins. They kicked ass. That’s all there is to it. They were really tight, the material sounded really good — highlights being the call and response of “The Water Glass” and “Electric Flower” from The Bride Screamed Murder and a couple nods to the Lysol record in the form of the Flipper cover “Sacrifice,” “Hung Bunny” and “Roman Bird Dog” — bassist Jarred Warren was dressed as a super hero, Crover and Willis‘ two-man drumset looked and sounded killer, and Buzz Osborne led the charge as only he could. Leaving when they were done, I didn’t feel like I was missing the highlight of the evening.

I took some pictures, but they sucked. I took some video, but the batteries died (hence the Bonnaroo clip below). And finally, I took myself back to Connecticut, where I watched the Black Sabbath Classic Albums: Paranoid DVD again (thanks, Pete), and called it a night. I don’t know whether to mark it a win or not — I think the math works out in the red, though I haven’t drawn up any charts — but fuck it, two killer sets is a big help when it comes to focusing on the positive, and I’m going to try to do just that.

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Melvins Interview with Buzz Osborne: A Tale of Reluctance, or: Several Considerably Sized Undertakings Come to Fruition

Posted in Features on June 16th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster

Melvins guitarist/vocalist Buzz Osborne is notorious for not enjoying the interview process. In fact, a quick search produced an exchange from 2006 where he says, “Almost every interview I’ve ever done has been nothing but complete bullshit.” So there you go.

Of course, the counterpoint to that is simple: They are what you make them. But let’s assume — just for the sake of argument — that Osborne probably didn’t feel like talking about the Melvins‘ new album, The Bride Screamed Murder (Ipecac), about how the band has changed over the course of its three albums with bassist/vocalist Jared Warren and drummer Coady Willis (collectively also known as Big Business) in the lineup with himself and drummer Dale Crover, or even really about why or how they put together their new 13-CD box set. I guess that’ll happen.

Nonetheless, as Osborne, Crover, Willis and Warren made their way to Phoenix, Arizona, for the second date of their current tour, questions were asked and answered with a minimum of condescension and scolding, and I still made it to the ballgame that evening on time. In the end, everyone wins, one way or another.

I’ll say this about it: I still like the Melvins. The Bride Screamed Murder rules and I’m still looking forward to seeing them in New York this Friday — and if I have the cash, I’m still going to plunk down $200 for that box set, assuming there are any left. I’ve come out of interviews before and never been able to listen to the artist or band again, so take that for what it’s worth.

Please find enclosed after the jump a Q&A with Buzz Osborne of the Melvins, and enjoy the ensuing bullshit.

Read more »

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Unsane to Tour Their Way Out to AmRep’s 25th Anniversary Party

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 11th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster

It seems like every time Unsane do anything these days, it’s a comeback. I like that. They should just do comebacks for the rest of their career, and since they rule, I’m glad they’re throwing in the added shtick of playing Scattered, Smothered and Covered in its entirety. I hope it works out for them.

The PR wire informs of a comeback already in progress:

Legendary NYC rock powerhouse Unsane has announced summer, 2010 US tour dates. The revered trio — guitarist/vocalist Chris Spencer, drummer Vincent Signorelli and bassist Dave Curran — will kick off its plan of attack with a string of special US live shows this August that will see the band perform its classic 1995 album Scattered, Smothered and Covered from start to finish.

The announcement of the special Unsane live shows coincides with the 25th anniversary of Amphetamine Reptile Records, once home to the band. As part of the cut to the bone August tour, Unsane will perform alongside The Melvins, Boss Hog and more as one of the featured artists at the AmRep 25th Anniversary Bash, set to take place August 27 and 28 in Minneapolis, MN.

“We’re really looking forward to the Unsane shows in August,” Chris Spencer comments. “The idea of performing Scattered, Smothered and Covered in its entirety is something that I have wanted to do for a very long time. To do an album that I like that much from start to finish is going to be incredible. We’ve never done this before, and it’s going to be both challenging and very exciting. The thought of being able to also do this at the AmRep anniversary show really kicks it up a notch!”

Unsane tour dates:
August 5 New York, NY Santos Party House (w/ Keelhaul and Pigs)
August 7 Baltimore, MD Otto Bar (w/ Keelhaul)
August 22 Toronto, ON Sneaky Dee’s (w/ Today is the Day, Keelhaul)
August 23 Akron, OH Backstage Concert Club (w/ Today is the Day, Keelhaul)

August 24 Chicago, IL Empty Bottle (w/ Today is the Day, Keelhaul)
August 26 Madison, WI High Noon Saloon (w/ Today is the Day, Keelhaul)
August 27 Minneapolis, MN Grumpy’s Bar (* As part of Amphetamine Reptile Records’ 25th Anniversary Art Show)

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We all Scream for The Melvins

Posted in Reviews on June 4th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster

Whatever’s left that hasn’t yet been said about Melvins, I don’t know what it is. Good and bad, they’ve been polarizing audiences since the mid-‘80s, and with The Bride Screamed Murder (Ipecac), which kicks off with a killer doomed-out riff and moves into percussive jaunts and military march cadences, I’m going to guess that’s not going to end anytime soon. At this point, you probably already know who they are and you probably already know how you feel about them. Guitarist/vocalist Buzz Osborne and drummer Dale Crover are still working with drummer Coady Willis and bassist/backing vocalist Jared Warren of Big Business, and if you dug this incarnation’s previous studio full-lengths (as opposed to the countless singles, live albums, limited releases, splits and others that pop up), namely 2006’s (A) Senile Animal and 2008’s Nude with Boots, you’re going to dig The Bride Screamed Murder as well.

That’s not to say the seminal Aberdeen, Washington, outfit is treading water either creatively or performance wise. The magic of Melvins has always been Osborne’s ability to keep the songwriting fresh and maintain the experimental edge – at times balancing the output in one direction or the other as regards accessibility – and The Bride Screamed Murder is no exception, from the aforementioned call and response of opener “The Water Glass,” on through the memorable runs in “Pig House” and the warning “Don’t look down/You might regret it” in album highlight “Electric Flower.” Their take on The Who’s “My Generation?” (here with an added question mark as though they’re not certain whether or not it is) is bound to surprise some, but it’s not without precedent when you consider their take on Kiss’ “Going Blind” from 1993’s Houdini. “Evil New War God,” being the first cut to follow “The Water Glass,” is a decent example of what The Bride Screamed Murder’s more “straightforward” – this is still the Melvins we’re talking about – material has to offer.

Read more »

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Isis Call it Quits; Announce New EP and Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 19th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster

There are numerous reactions I could have to the following announcement that Isis has broken up. Here is a sampler:

There’s the snide: “That’s about five years too late.”

There’s the sad: “Well that’s a bummer, they did some great work (and they did).”

The realistic: “See you in three years, guys.”

The observant: “Funny how they say they want the music to do the talking in the middle of one of the biggest paragraphs I’ve ever seen.”

The critical: “They must have gotten tired of always being second fiddle to Neurosis.”

And the fanboy: “Oh nooooooooooes!!!!111!!!!!1!!”

However you feel about them, there’s no denying that a couple Isis albums have had a huge influence on the metal that’s come since, and on that level, it’s too bad to hear they won’t be making music together anymore. On the other hand, this is by no means the saddest news I’ve heard this week, so perhaps I’m just taking it with levity because everything’s relative. Whatever the case, here’s the statement from the band via the PR wire:

ISIS has reached an end. It’s hard to try to say it in any delicate way, and it is a truth that is best spoken plainly. This end isn’t something that occurred overnight and it hasn’t been brought about by a single cataclysmic fracture in the band. Simply put, ISIS has done everything we wanted to do, said everything we wanted to say. In the interest of preserving the love we have of this band, for each other, for the music made and for all the people who have continually supported us, it is time to bring it to a close. We’ve seen too many bands push past the point of a dignified death and we all promised one another early on in the life of the band that we would do our best to ensure ISIS would never fall victim to that syndrome. We’ve had a much longer run than we ever expected we would and accomplished a great deal more than we ever imagined possible. We never set any specific goals when the band was founded other than to make the music we wanted to hear and to play (and to stay true to that ideal), so everything else that has come along the long and winding path has been an absolute gift. As with any momentous life-changing decision (which this certainly is for the five of us), we feel a very dynamic range of emotions about this and cannot express all of it within the space of a few sentences, and perhaps it’s best to do what we’ve always done and let our music speak for us. It is and has been the truest expression of who we are as a collective and in some ways who we are as individuals for the 13 years in which we’ve been together. The last and perhaps most important thing we might say in relation to all this is how grateful we are for the people that have supported us over the years. It is a lengthy list that would include those who put out our records, those that played on them and put them to tape, the many bands with whom we shared the stage, all of our family, friends and companions who supported us in our individual lives and thus made it possible for us to continue on in the band, and most importantly those who truly listened to our music whether in recorded form or by coming to out to our shows (or both). It is quite true that we would never have done what we have without those people, that is many of you who are reading this. Our words can never fully express what we feel, but we hope that our music and the efforts made to bring it into being can serve as a more proper expression of gratitude for this life and for everyone in it. Thank you.

In more immediate and practical terms the tour we are about to embark upon is indeed our last. We are hoping that these final live rituals can help us bring a close to the life of this band in a celebratory and reverent way, and also provide us with a chance to say goodbye to many of those that have supported us over the years. While there is a measure of sadness that comes with the passing of this band, we hope that the final days can be joyous ones during which any and all that wish to come and join us will do so. It seems fitting that the last show of the tour and of our active existence will take place in Montreal, the site of the very first ISIS show in 1997 (though that was an unintentional move when booking the show initially). After the tour we also plan to follow through with other projects set in motion some time ago — pursuing the completion of a final EP, compiling live audio and visual material for future releases, and generally doing whatever we can to make our music available for as long as there are people who wish to hear it.

Thanks again to any and all,

ISIS, May 18 2010

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New Melvins Album Due June 1; Tour Dates Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 8th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster

To be fair, it has been a couple months since the last Melvins album, a remix affair called Chicken Switch came out. They are due. It should come as no surprise, then, that the PR wire has details on a new record, The Bride Screamed Murder, set for release on June 1 through Ipecac Recordings. Anyone else thinking redemption for the Melvins/Big Business lineup? Here’s hoping:

The Melvins release The Bride Screamed Murder on June 1 via Ipecac Recordings with a US tour launching the same day in San Diego and including a stop at the Bonnaroo Festival.

The Bride Screamed Murder is the third release featuring Buzz Osborne, Dale Crover and Big BusinessCoady Willis and Jared Warren. While Melvins recently celebrated their 25 anniversary, the latest incarnation debuted with the highly-praised (A) Senile Animal (2006) and continued with Nude with Boots (2008).

Joining the Melvins on tour for a half dozen shows will be label mates Isis (who will also perform at this year’s Bonnaroo Festival) while Totimoshi will be along for the full run of Melvins dates.

Tour dates:
June 1   San Diego, CA   Casbah
June 2   Tempe, AZ   The Clubhouse
June 3   Albuquerque, NM   The Launchpad
June 5   Austin, TX   Emo’s
June 7   Houston, TX   Warehouse Live
June 8   Baton Rouge, LA   Spanish Moon
June 9   New Orleans, LA   One Eyed Jacks
June 10   Birmingham, AL   Bottle Tree
June 12   Manchester, TN   Bonnaroo Festival **
June 14   Athens, GA   40 Watt Club *
June 16   Washington, DC 9:30 Club *
June 17   Philadelphia, PA   TLA *
June 18   New York, NY   Webster Hall *
June 19   Brooklyn, NY   Music Hall of Williamsburg *
June 20   Boston, MA   Paradise *
June 21   Boston, MA   Paradise *
June 23   Cleveland, OH   Grog Shop
June 24   Detroit, MI   Small’s
June 25   Chicago, IL   Double Door
June 26   Madison, WI   High Noon Saloon
June 27   Des Moines, IA House of Bricks
June 29   Denver, CO   Ogden Theatre
July 2   Calgary, AB   Sled Island Festival +
July 3   Calgary, AB   Sled Island Festival +
July 5   Vancouver, BC   Rickshaw Theatre
July 6   Seattle, WA   Showbox at The Market
July 7   Eugene, OR   John Henry’s
July 9   San Jose, CA Blank Club
All dates feature Melvins (two sets) w/Totimoshi except:
* = Melvins/Isis/Totimoshi
** = Melvins/Isis
+ = Melvins

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Isis Have a New Video. No, I Haven’t Watched it.

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Whathaveyou on November 11th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster

In the interest of honesty and professional courtesy, I’m going to admit that I never listened to the last Isis record, Wavering Radiant. You’ll note it wasn’t reviewed here. That’s because I figured after 2006’s In the Absence of Truth, which I found to be phoned in and largely uninspired, the band didn’t have anything else to offer, and unless they underwent some radical change or progression, that was going to remain true for the duration.

That might sound harsh, but really, how many songs have Isis made in the last seven years with the exact same drum beat? I’m glad Aaron Turner learned how to sing, and I think he does it well, and I appreciate the influence Isis has had over the post-metal genre as second only to Neurosis, but anything they do at this point, they’re not going to be the first to do it. Neurosis is like The Simpsons to IsisSouth Park: “Simpsons did it.” Doesn’t mean South Park sucks, but it’s never going to be first.

And though I relished Oceanic and still think Panopticon is one of the best albums to come out this decade, my mind isn’t really open to what Isis are doing now. It’s simply lost my attention, and furthermore, nothing I’ve heard about Wavering Radiant or any of the reviews I’ve read have done much to change my mind. When I got the press release about their new video for the song “20 Minutes/40 Years,” yeah, I clicked on it and played the video, but I skipped my way through. From what I can tell, it looks like Tool. For the sake of fairness, here it is so you can make up your own mind.

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