Posted in Reviews on July 7th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
German trio Kadavar set a formidable standard with their self-titled 2012 debut (discussed here), released on Tee Pee and This Charming Man to a swath of multi-continental acclaim and seeming to take on immediate influence particularly in the European underground. When Abra Kadavar (review here) arrived in just the next year as their Nuclear Blast label debut, it rightly thrust the band into another echelon of heavy rock acts worldwide. Touring commenced and continued heavily, and it’s in the context of Kadavar as a substantial international act that Berlin — their third full-length, second for Nuclear Blast and first to feature bassist Simon “Dragon” Bouteloup alongside guitarist/vocalist Lupus Lindemann and drummer Tiger — arrives. An 11- or 12-track collection that runs 45 or 52 minutes depending on which version you get, Berlin is hands down the best thing Kadavar have done to-date.
A sure-fire top-tenner that gets down to the business of boogie immediately with opener “Lord of the Sky,” it never seems to relinquish the hold that cut takes, Lindemann‘s leads careening as memorable hooks on the standout third track “Thousand Miles away from Home” — which follows the irresistible riffy bounce of “Last Living Dinosaur” — as well as on “Pale Blue Eyes,” “The Old Man,” “Spanish Wild Rose” and “Circles in My Mind,” while elsewhere “See the World with Your Own Eyes” kicks into a megachorus of its own, closer “Into the Night” fuels classic proto-metallic street-strut vibes, “Stolen Dreams” launches from full-on shimmy into a jet-engine of a breakdown in its second half and “Filthy Illusion” stomps like a single-guitar Thin Lizzy with standout basslines from Bouteloup.
Granted, that’s jumping around a bit through the running order, but taken front to back, there isn’t one song in the bunch that feels like a comedown from the track before it. Even the bonus track, which is a comparatively subdued, near-seven-minute cover of Nico‘s “Reich Der Träume” (“realm of dreams”), boasts keyboard flourish from Tiger that serves to distinguish it from the pack preceding. Nothing about Berlin comes across as forced, the songs are stuck in your head almost before you realize it, and while swing and ’70s-style fuzz are central to Kadavar‘s approach here as they were on their last two albums, the sense of presentation, confidence and chemistry the band fought for and obviously won on the road bleeds through a songwriting method varied enough to produce the wash and farther-back echo in the verse of “Last Living Dinosaur” and the unabashed good times of “Pale Blue Eyes,” only bolstered by a production less outwardly dedicated to a vintage sound than on either of their prior LPs.
That’s not to say Kadavar‘s methods have shifted away from ’70s heavy loyalism — quite the opposite — just that they’ve hit a point where they clearly feel they can carry across the spirit without directly aping the sound. They’re right. Entirely possible Berlin was recorded analog, in fact I wouldn’t doubt it, but it’s a clearer production, and it serves the material well, allowing a song like “Lord of the Sky” to concentrate on nailing Berlin‘s initial momentum or the chills-up-the-spine hook of “See the World with Your Own Eyes” to be utterly propelled by a build in Tiger‘s drums, or “Last Living Dinosaur” to highlight Lindemann‘s growth as a vocalist, switching register between verse and chorus as fluidly as the track soon enough shifts instrumentally into its rolling finish.
As with their last two outings, Berlin is an easy album to be excited about, and no doubt many will be. Its upbeat movement and vividness are infectious. What distinguishes Kadavar‘s work up to this point, however, is that the quality of the songs stands up after the record’s freshness gives way. Multiple listens to Berlin only make it sound richer, only reveal it to be a more complex outing than its brainwashing choruses at first declare. Subtle moments like the Rolling Stones-style noodling at the start of “Thousand Miles away from Home,” the way “Stolen Dreams” seems to echo the push of “Lord of the Sky” while doing something of its own as well, or how Lindemann‘s voice echoes when he says “night” in the title-line of “Into the Night” and the light Sabbathian touch in that song’s finish make Berlin all the more special.
Not just because they show attention to detail on the part of the band, but because they — like the tones, pacing, melodies and rhythm of the album overall — sound natural, grown out from Kadavar and Abra Kadavar but seeing the world with their own eyes (I just made that up; no idea where I might have gotten it from), the band’s progression evident in both the style they present on the surface and the substance that acts as the foundation beneath. The native-language bonus track makes a suitable finale even as it undercuts a prevailing hopeful sentiment, however, because its somewhat otherworldly melancholy reminds both of Kadavar‘s psychedelic side — something touched on elsewhere but not widely represented — and that at the best of times very often a downturn awaits. Going back to the start to give Berlin another go, one hopes that turn never comes and that, as much as Kadavar have found a new peak and captured a defining moment with these songs, there’s another around the next corner.
Posted in Whathaveyou on June 19th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
No question that Kadavar‘s upcoming third album, Berlin, is one of the most anticipated releases of the summer. It is set for release on Aug. 21 through Nuclear Blast, and the classic rocking trio will tour Europe this winter to support it. That leaves me to wonder if they won’t hit the US beforehand, either later in summer or early fall, but I’ve yet to see any confirmation of that one way or another, so don’t quote me. Either way, the record is legitimately one to look out for, the band’s ’70s traditionalism having made their first two outings, 2013’s Abra Kadavar (review here) and 2012’s Kadavar (discussed here), both high points of their respective years and cast an increasingly influential net over organically-toned retro heavy rock.
So what’s news? News is that the cover can be customized for the Berlin vinyl depending on how you adjust the insert, and news is the tracklisting for the album. I’ve got my fingers crossed one or another of these cuts is a psychedelic freakout, as that’s something of an underrated aspect to Kadavar‘s sound. Oh, and preorders are available now too. Have at it:
KADAVAR – BERLIN TRACKLIST, 4 MORE VERSIONS OF THE COVER ANNOUNCED, NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER!
After working nonstop in the studio for the last 4 months, Berlin, Germany-based classic rock overlords KADAVAR have finalized the production process of their brand new album. The third KADAVAR record will be entitled Berlin and is tentatively scheduled for an August 21, 2015 release.
Today, the band announces the album’s tracklist, as well as 4 more versions of the cover that will be available for everyone buying the vinyl version of the album. The glasses of the cover model will be cut out, depending on how you insert the inlay, the cover will change. See above.
Pre-Order your copy of Berlin as well as any of the t-shirt bundles on the Nuclear Blast Webshophttp://goo.gl/S3uzwd
Below is the track list for Berlin: 01. Lord Of The Sky 02. Last Living Dinosaur 03. Thousand Miles Away From Home 04. Filthy Illusion 05. Pale Blue Eyes 06. Stolen Dreams 07. The Old Man 08. Spanish Wild Rose 09. See The World With Your Own Eyes 10. Circles In My Mind 11. Into The Night
BONUS TRACK 12. Reich der Träume (Nico cover)
KADAVAR’s drummer Tiger shared the following about the upcoming album: “About ten years ago, when we, independently of one another, moved to Berlin, we just wanted to break free from home and do something new. I thought it was comfortable to blend in and just live from day to day. A lot of very long nights and so many completely different people in one place. We all come from different places but have managed to create something together we all like. Where there are opposites, you can always ground yourself. I think the Berlin lifestyle has influenced our band very much and therefore fits perfectly as the album’s title.”
The band recently released the official video for the song “Eye Of The Storm” which comes off their most recent album Abra Kadavar and marks the end of the 2 year cycle promoting the album by relentless touring across the globe. The video combines contemporary artist Dust’s grandiose mural painting in action, with a unique concert by KADAVAR at the legendary ISC Club Bern.
KADAVAR live 2015 Supports: The Shrine + Horisont + Special Guest (tbc) 05.11. F Strasbourg – La Laiterie 06.11. D Cologne – Kantine 07.11. NL Nijmegen – Doornroosje 08.11. UK Manchester – Sound Control 09.11. UK Glasgow – Audio 10.11. UK Leeds – The Brudenell Social Club 11.11. UK Wolverhampton – Slade Rooms 12.11. UK Bristol – Marble Factory 13.11. UK Cardiff – The Globe 14.11. UK London – The Dome 18.11. F Nantes – Stereolux 19.11. F La Rochelle – La Sirene 20.11. E Madrid – Penelope 21.11. E Barcelona – Razzmatazz II 22.11. F Bordeaux – Le Krakatoa 23.11. F Lyon – Ninkasi Kao 25.11. CH Zurich – Dynamo 26.11. CH Geneva – L’Usine 27.11. D Stuttgart – Wizemann 28.11. D Munich – Backstage 30.11. D Frankfurt – Batchkapp 01.12. D Hamburg – Markthalle 02.12. DK Copenhagen – Pumpehuset 03.12. N Oslo – Vulkan 04.12. S Gothenburg – Brewhouse 05.12. S Stockholm – Debaser Medis 07.12. FI Jyväskylä – Lutakko 08.12. FI Helsinki – Nosturi 09.12. EE Tallinn – Club Tapper 10.12. LT Vilnius – Propaganda 11.12. PL Gdansk – B90 12.12. PL Warsaw – Progresja 13.12. PL Krakow – Fabryka 16.12. D Nuremberg – Hirsch 17.12. B Brussels – Vk* 18.12. D Berlin – Astra 19.12. D Oberhausen – Turbinenhalle II 20.12. NL Amsterdam – Melkweg
Posted in Whathaveyou on June 1st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Some awaited news from German trio Kadavar today in that their third album, titled Berlin, will be released by Nuclear Blast this August. The dead heat of summer seems a fitting time for a new Kadavar record to show up, and after the overwhelming responses both their albums to date — 2012’s self-titled debut (discussed here) and 2013’s Abra Kadavar (review here) — received, it’s only fair to say Berlin will be one of the season’s most anticipated full-lengths. It’s available to preorder now for those inclined toward such precautions, but something tells me they’re going to make plenty of these to go around.
Album art, details, and tour dates with The Shrine and Horisont were all just announced, if you please:
*** NEW ALBUM + TOURDATES w/ The Shrine + Horisont ***
KADAVAR – announce new album and headlining tour for winter 2015!
After spending the last 4 months in the studio, working on it non-stop, Berlin, Germany-based classic rock overlords KADAVAR have finalized the production process of their brand new album. The third KADAVAR album will be entitled »Berlin« and is slated for an August 21, 2015 release.
Commented drummer Tiger: „About ten years ago, when we – independently of one another – moved to Berlin, we just wanted to break free from home and do something new. I thought it was comfortable, to blend in and just live from day to day. A lot of very long nights and so many completely different people at one place. Where there are opposites you can always ground yourself. We’re all different, come from different places but have managed to create something together we all like. I think the Belrin lifestyle has influenced our band very much and therefore fits perfectly as the album’s title.“
Furthermore the band has announced to tour Europe this winter. Find the dates below. KADAVAR live 2015 Supports: The Shrine + Horisont + Special Guest (tbc) presented by CLASSIC ROCK, ECLIPSED, MUSIX, NUCLEAR BLAST MAGAZINE, PIRANHA, ROCK HARD, VISIONS & METALNEWS.DE 05.11. F Strasbourg – La Laiterie 06.11. D Cologne – Kantine 07.11. NL Nijmegen – Doornroosje 08.11. UK Manchester – Sound Control 09.11. UK Glasgow – Audio 10.11. UK Leeds – The Brudenell Social Club 11.11. UK Wolverhampton – Slade Rooms 12.11. UK Bristol – Marble Factory 13.11. UK Cardiff – The Globe 14.11. UK London – The Dome 18.11. F Nantes – Stereolux 19.11. F La Rochelle – La Sirene 20.11. E Madrid – Penelope 21.11. E Barcelona – Razzmatazz II 22.11. F Bordeaux – Le Krakatoa 23.11. F Lyon – Ninkasi Kao 25.11. CH Zurich – Dynamo 26.11. CH Geneva – L’Usine 27.11. D Stuttgart – Wizemann 28.11. D Munich – Backstage 30.11. D Frankfurt – Batchkapp 01.12. D Hamburg – Markthalle 02.12. DK Copenhagen – Pumpehuset 03.12. N Oslo – Vulkan 04.12. S Gothenburg – Brewhouse 05.12. S Stockholm – Debaser Medis 07.12. FI Jyväskylä – Lutakko 08.12. FI Helsinki – Nosturi 09.12. EE Tallinn – Club Tapper 10.12. LT Vilnius – Propaganda 11.12. PL Gdansk – B90 12.12. PL Warsaw – Progresja 13.12. PL Krakow – Fabryka 16.12. D Nuremberg – Hirsch 17.12. B Brussels – Vk* 18.12. D Berlin – Astra 19.12. D Oberhausen – Turbinenhalle II 20.12. NL Amsterdam – Melkweg
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 8th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Who’s gonna argue with new Kadavar? Not me. The German heavy ’70s rock forerunners feature the new song “Into the Night” on the Scion A/V-sponsored Northwest Blow Out EP, curated by pro-skater Riley Hawk (also the son of Tony Hawk) and also boasting inclusions from The Black Angels, Hot Lunch and Loom. The track is fascinating both for its barnburner pace and how the trio, whose two albums to-date have already spread an influence throughout the Euro and American undergrounds, take a more modernized production approach. Very few in the retro style have managed to make a transition to a more updated aesthetic — I’d argue Witchcraft‘s Legend was a complete overhaul, rather than simple production shift — but if “Into the Night” is a glimpse at things to come from Kadavar, they might just be able to pull it off.
Mind you, I’ve zero confirmation that it is or isn’t a sign of things to come, but it’s interesting to speculate. Scion has made “Into the Night” available to stream and download for free, and I’m sure the other songs on the Riley Hawk: Northwest Blow Out EP will follow soon. For now, we turn to the PR wire:
SCION AUDIO VISUAL PRESENTS RILEY HAWK: NORTHWEST BLOW OUT EP
FOUR-SONG COLLECTION HANDPICKED BY HAWK FEATURES NEW MUSIC FROM THE BLACK ANGELS, KADAVAR, LOOM AND HOT LUNCH
Scion Audio Visual presents Riley Hawk: Northwest Blow Out EP, a four-song collection of new music from the skateboarder’s favorite bands: Kadavar, Loom, The Black Angels and Hot Lunch.
The collection, curated by Riley, will be released as free downloads courtesy of Scion Audio Visual with Kadavar’s “Into The Night,” available today: (https://soundcloud.com/scionav/kadavar-into-the-night). The full collection will be available on Jan. 20, and will double as the soundtrack to Scion x Riley Hawk Driven, a four-part video series featuring Riley and the Shep Dawgs skating their favorite parks in the Northwest.
“Music is an important part of skateboarding, I think the two worlds have often been tied to each other,” explained Riley. “So, when Scion came to me with an opportunity to create a collection of music from my favorite bands, I jumped at the chance to get involved.”
Scion’s involvement with Riley was recently highlighted as the company created a custom, project car dubbed the “Scion x Riley Hawk Skate Tour xB”, which premiered at SEMA. The car was inspired by Riley’s interests and features wood-grain décor, a mini fridge, shag carpet, an 8-track player, a custom Pioneer Sound System and the ability to play a guitar through the audio system using an iPad mini as a mixer. The xB also features a 1970s style custom paint pattern with a “fish bowl” side window and captain-style chairs in front and back.
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 14th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Having a cool festival lineup is one thing — it’s a huge thing — but driving toward an aesthetic is something completely different and pivotal in creating a vibe for any event, whatever it might be. Germany’s Void Fest, which is set for Aug. 1 and 2 in Kötzting in Bavaria with tickets limited to 1,000, seems to be well on its way to that end. The bill runs from the progressive black metal of Sun Worship to the riotous stoner rock of Church of Misery, and with film screenings and a focus on local culture, it seems like an experience that begins with the music and will encompass much more than just that. It looks like a great way to spend a couple days.
They put it thusly:
The Void society was established in spring 2012. Up from its creation Void was planned as an altruistic friendly society with unpaid workforce and do it yourself intention. The idea behind Void is to join forces of people who are interested in music. The goal was to score with new innovative bands and through that strenghten our local cultural landscape.
Since the founding Void organized several well visited shows in the bavarian forest and its surrounding cities, such as Bad Kötzting and Regenburg. While allways keeping it familiar and friendly the shows soon drew big attention. Meanwhile a few bands had some of their last gigs at Void Fest before getting signed a major label contract.
D.I.Y. has always been a big point for the societies work. Next to fairtrade screenprinted merchandise shirts, patches and bags, each band playing at Void Fest gets its own hand drawn posters. The whole festival structure is set up by society members during their spare time.
Allways trying to create unique music events for every people, Void is still trying to do things different than others. Merely the best ideas fit the demands the young society has given itself.
Confirmed lineup so far: The Atomic Bitchwax Church of Misery Kadavar Rose Windows Suns of Thyme H A R K Atlantis Brahm The Wulffs Doomina Oddjob Men Mother’s Cake Sun Worship
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 15th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Wild enough that Scorpion Child are heading out on a headlining run, but the news that they’re bringing German traditionalists Kadavar along with them for what will mark their longest US run yet puts this one over the top, never mind the inclusion of Texas boozers Mothership and much-heralded L.A. outfit Gypsyhawk. It’s a five-band package rounded out by Wilson, so you’ll probably just want to go ahead and book that liver transplant ahead of time. I don’t know how any of them will come out of it remembering a damn thing, but this one has all the makings of several legendary nights.
Good news off the PR wire:
SCORPION CHILD ANNOUNCE HEADLINING FALL TOUR WITH KADAVAR
Fresh off the just-completed Rockstar Mayhem festival circuit which took them to 17 different U.S. states & Canada, Austin rockers SCORPION CHILD are set to heat up the last days of summer with a headlining trek this September/October with direct support from labelmates KADAVAR from Germany plus GYPSYHAWK from Los Angeles, WILSON from Detroit (select dates), and openers MOTHERSHIP from Dallas, Texas.
SCORPION CHILD will perform a one-hour+ headlining set featuring music from their self-titled debut album, which debuted at #26 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart & #99 on the Hard Music Album chart the week following its June 25th release.
Checking in from their rehearsal space in Texas, the band shares:
“We met a LOT of new supporters while we were out on Rockstar Mayhem and the time has come for THE CHILD – along with friends KADAVAR, GYPSYHAWK, WILSON, and MOTHERSHIP – to deliver you hours of unforgettable sonics making this roadshow one of legendary modern day proportion. Together we ask you to join us in creating this epic segment in history. Come one, come all!!!”
SCORPION CHILD & KADAVAR will make a festival appearance at the Snowboard On The Block Festival in Denver, Colorado on Saturday, September 14th prior to the tour launch in Chicago, Illinois on September 16th. The 15-date tour ends on Saturday, October 5th a mere 2 hours away from where Woodstock was held back in 1969: Brooklyn, New York.
Praised for their “old school spirit, kick-ass hard rock, killer riffs and vocals… a band worth watching & listening to!” by radio & television personality Eddie Trunk, SCORPION CHILD’s music has been played on Eddie Trunk’s live show on SiriusXM satellite radio, on “Eddie Trunk Rocks” on New York City’s Q104.3 FM, and on Nights with Alice Cooper.
SCORPION CHILD & KADAVAR solo date: 09/14/2013 Snowboard On The Block – Denver, CO
Dates for SCORPION CHILD’s headlining tour with KADAVAR, GYPSYHAWK, WILSON, and MOTHERSHIP are: 09/16/2013 Cobra Lounge – Chicago, IL # 09/17/2013 Skyway Theater – Minneapolis, MN # 09/20/2013 The Astoria – Vancouver, B.C. – CANADA 09/21/2013 Neumos – Seattle, WA 09/23/2013 Slim’s – San Francisco, CA 09/24/2013 Roxy Theatre – West Hollywood, CA 09/25/2013 Rocky Point Cantina – Tempe, AZ 09/27/2013 Red 7 – Austin, TX 09/28/2013 Tomcats – Ft. Worth, TX 09/29/2013 Fitzgerald’s – Houston, TX 10/01/2013 The Firebird – St. Louis, MO # 10/02/2013 Peabody’s – Cleveland, OH 10/03/2013 Hard Luck Bar – Toronto, ON 10/04/2013 II Motore – Montreal, QC – CANADA 10/05/2013 Saint Vitus – Brooklyn, NY # – SCORPION CHILD, Kadavar, Gypsyhawk, and Mothership only
Posted in Features on June 27th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
They always say you there’s no going back. I don’t know who they are, but they’re right. As I searched back through posts to find the Top 20 of 2012, I realized it had been way too long since I heard some of these records. It’s so easy to get caught up with what’s current and what’s coming next that sometimes I forget to actually listen to albums I already enjoyed. That happened a couple times along the way.
When a year ends and the lists start coming out, it’s like records as numbered, stocked and then forgotten. I guess I’m guilty of it too. With that in mind, here’s a quick revisit to what I had as my favorites of 2012:
The Top 20 of 2012 Revisited
20. Mos Generator, Nomads
I can’t even look at this album cover without hearing the chorus to “Lonely One Kenobi” play in my head. Still a sentimental favorite.
19. Golden Void, Golden Void
Haven’t put it on in a while, but probably should.
18. Wight, Through the Woods into Deep Water
Ditto. This record was great and if I made the list today, it would probably be higher than it is here.
16. Pallbearer, Sorrow and Extinction
I’ve seen them three times so far this year and they’ve delivered each time, but haven’t put on the album itself in a while. Still looking forward to new stuff though.
15. Kadavar, Kadavar
I think I’ve had more fascinating conversations about Kadavar than any other band in the last year. So many opinions, so widely varied. I dig the self-titled, will probably have the follow-up on my list at the end of 2013. Nuclear Blast needs to bring them over to tour, maybe opening for Witchcraft?
14. Stubb, Stubb
Yay fuzz! Catchy songs, easy formula, well structured and impeccably performed.My favorite straight-up heavy rock record of 2012.
13. Orange Goblin, A Eulogy for the Damned
Hard to fuck with these dudes. The production here was a presence, but the songs still hold up.
12. Ararat, II
No shit, I live in terror of having Ararat release their third album and missing it. Like all of a sudden the album will have been out for three months and I’d have no idea.
11. Ufomammut, Oro
Haven’t listened to Opus Primumor Opus Altersince. Can’t help but think if Oro was released as one record, I’d put it on from time to time.
10. Conan, Monnos
I put this in the top 10 for a reason. Because it’s fucking ridiculously heavy. I stand by my reasoning. Looking forward to their new one.
9. My Sleeping Karma, Soma
An album I couldn’t manage to put down even when I wanted to, and one I still pick up from time to time. Glad I finally gave in an bought a copy to get away from the shitty digital promo version.
8.Graveyard, Lights Out
Maybe I burnt myself out on this? I went on a binge after their show in January for a bit and then put Lights Outaway and that was that.
7. Saint Vitus, Lillie: F-65
Every time I’m in a record store, flip through the Vitus selectionand see my quote on the sticker on the front of the jewel case of Lillie: F-65, I feel like an entire decade of shitty career decisions is justified. No bullshit.
6. Ancestors, In Dreams and Time
Brilliant. Mostly brilliant for closer “First Light,” but that song was brilliant enough to get this spot on the list anyway.
5. High on Fire, De Vermis Mysteriis
Hard to argue with its intensity. Not much staying power as I would’ve thought, but god damn that’s a heavy record.
4. Neurosis, Honor Found in Decay
An overwhelming listen. I have to prepare my head for putting it on, but I continue to find it worth the effort.
3. Greenleaf, Nest of Vipers
It was the highlight of my year last year to see this material live. Greenleaf have a new lineup now and another album in the works, but if Nest of Vipersis how the last one was going out, they killed it.
2. Om, Advaitic Songs
Sometimes I fantasize about living in a temple where I wake up and Advaitic Songsis playing every day. That is 100 percent true.
1. Colour Haze, She Said
I’d probably listen to it even more if it was on one CD, but god damn, this record is amazing. Another one that’s kind of overwhelming, but it gets regular play as I expect it will continue to do into perpetuity.
All in all, pretty great year. Some stuff that’s fallen by the wayside, but a few landmarks as well that have carried over, and more importantly, some that seem like they’ll continue to carry over and grow in appeal as more time passes. Wight should’ve been higher on the list, but other than that, I’ll take it.
Posted in Features on June 18th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
This is always fun, and because the year’s only (just about) half over, you always know there’s more to come. The last six months have brought a host of really stellar releases, and the whole time, it’s felt like just when you’ve dug your heels into something and really feel content to rest with it for a while, there’s something else to grab your ears. So it’s been for the last six months, bouncing from one record to the next.
Even now, I’ve got a list of albums, singles, EPs, tapes, demos, whatever, waiting for attention — some of which I’m viciously behind on — but it’s time to stop and take a look back at some of what the best of the first half of 2013 has been. Please note, I’m only counting full-lengths here. While I’ve heard a few killer EPs this year — looking at you, Mars Red Sky — it doesn’t seem fair to rate everything all together like that. Maybe a separate list.
If you’ve got a list of your own or some quibbling on the numbers, please leave a comment and be heard. From where I sit, that’s always the best part of this kind of thing.
The third Endless Boogie album on No Quarter was basically the soundtrack to the end of my winter, with smooth grooving cuts like “The Artemus Ward” and the classic rock shake of “On Cryology” providing a soundtrack as cool as the air in my lungs. It was my first experience with the longform-jamming improv-heavy foursome, and a CD I’m still stoked to put on and get lost in, having found that it works just as well in summer’s humidity as winter’s freeze, the off-the-cuff narrations of Paul Major (interview here) carrying a vibe unmistakably belonging to the rock history of the band’s native New York City. Was a sleeper, but not one to miss for its organic and exploratory feel.
Proffering righteous traditional doom and misery-drenched atmospherics, the debut full-length from Massachusetts-based Magic Circle hit hard and showed there’s life yet to the old ways. It never quite veered into the cultish posturing that comprises so much of the trad doom aesthetic these days, and from the grandiose riffing of guitarists Dan Ducas and Chris Corry and the blown-out vocals of frontman Brendan Radigan, it found the band carving a memorable identity for themselves with clear sonic ideas of what they wanted to accomplish. Out of all the bands on this list, I’m most interested to hear what Magic Circle do next to build on their debut.
Berlin trio Kadavar had a tough task ahead of them in releasing a sophomore answer to their self-titled, which I thought was the best first album of 2012, but when Abra Kadavar surfaced as their debut on Nuclear Blast, it was quickly apparent that the retro heavy rockers had put together a worthy follow-up. Cuts like “Come Back Life” and “Doomsday Machine” underscored the straightforward triumphs of the prior outing, while late-album arrivals “Liquid Dream,” “Rhythm for Endless Minds” and “Abra Kadabra” gave a sense that Kadavar were beginning a journey into psychedelia the results of which could be just as rewarding as even the most potent of their choruses. Their potential remains one of their biggest appeals.
It wasn’t without its rough edges, but at the core of Indianapolis heavy rockers Devil to Pay‘s fourth record was an unflinching songwriting quality that quickly established it among my go-to regulars, whether it was the quirky doom hook of “Ten Lizardmen and One Pocketknife,” the darkly progressive riffing of “Black Black Heart” or the suitably propulsive rush of “This Train Won’t Stop.” The double-guitar four-piece didn’t have much time for frills in terms of arrangement or structure, but by building on the developments over the course of their three prior releases, Devil to Pay delivered a slab of deceptively intricate standouts that made hard turns sound easy and demanded the attention it deserved.
6. Beast in the Field, The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below
Unfuckwithable tone set to destructive purpose. Immediately upon hearing the unsung Michigan drum/guitar duo’s fourth album, the impact of The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below — overwhelming though it is at times throughout the album; hello, “Oncoming Avalanche” — refused to be denied. Beast in the Field haven’t gotten anything remotely close to the attention they should for this devastating collection, but it’s one I absolutely can’t put down, cohesive in theme and full of skull-caving riffs as dynamic as they are brutally delivered by the instrumental twosome. If it’s one you missed on CD when Saw Her Ghost put it out in March (as I did), keep your eyes open for a vinyl release coming on Emetic in the next couple months. Really. Do it.
Massachusetts trio Black Pyramid quickly dispatched any doubts of their ability to continue on after the departure of their previous guitarist/vocalist, bassist Dave Gein and drummer Clay Neely joined forces with Darryl Shepard (Hackman, Blackwolfgoat, Roadsaw, etc.) to reinvigorate their battle-ready doom, and whether it was the extended jamming on “Swing the Scimitar” or the surprisingly smooth riffing on “Aphelion,” the results did not disappoint. Regardless of personnel, I’ve yet to hear a Black Pyramid album I didn’t want to hear again, and though I’ll freely admit they’re a sentimental favorite for me at this point, Adversarial is a suitable dawn for their next era. Long may they reign.
True, I will argue tooth and nail that Boston four-piece Gozu should get rid of their goofball, sitcom-referential song titles, but that’s only because I believe the band’s lack of pretense speaks for itself through the music and their tracks are too good to give listeners a chance not to take them seriously. When it comes to The Fury of a Patient Man — their second full-length behind the impressive 2010 debut, Locust Season (review here) — I knew the first time I heard it toward the end of last year that it was going to be one of 2013’s best, and while I’ve heard quibbles in favor of the debut, nothing has dissuaded me from thinking the sophomore installment outclasses it on almost every level. Expect a return appearance when the year-end list hits in December.
There’s a big part of me that feels like a sucker for digging …Like Clockwork, the first Queens of the Stone Age full-length since 2007’s relatively lackluster Era Vulgaris, but when it comes right down to it, I hit the point in listening to the album that I came around to its sheen, its up-and-down moodiness and its unabashed self-importance. I hit the point where I was able to separate …Like Clockwork from its “viral marketing” and just enjoy Josh Homme‘s all-growed-up songwriting for what it is. Would I have loved a second self-titled album? Probably, but it wasn’t realistic to think that’s what …Like Clockwork would be, and as much as I’ve tried out other spots for it, I’d be lying if I put this record anywhere else on this list but here. So there you go. I understand the arguments against it, but reason doesn’t always apply when it comes to what gets repeat spins.
I was late to the party on the second Uncle Acid offering, 2011’s Blood Lust, as I often am on records where the hype gets to din levels, but by the time the subsequent Mind Control was announced, I knew it was going to be one to watch out for. Aligned to Rise Above/Metal Blade, the UK outfit began to unravel till-then mystery of itself, playing live and developing the brazen psychedelic pop influences hinted at in the horrors of Blood Lust so that the swing of “Mt. Abraxas” and the acid-coated psych of “Valley of the Dolls” could exist within the same cohesive sphere. Between the death-boogie of “Mind Crawler” and mid-period Beatlesian exploration of “Follow the Leader,” Mind Control continues to be an album I hear as much on the mental jukebox rotation as one I actually put on to listen to again. Either way, there’s no getting away from it — the eerie melodies of guitarist/vocalists Kevin “Uncle Acid” Starrs and Yotam Rubinger are hauntingly ever-present.
Obvious? Probably, but that doesn’t make it any less genuine. To set the scene, here’s me on the Masspike a couple weeks ago in the Volvo of Doom™ with the little dog Dio, 90 miles an hour shouting along to “Crucial Velocity” at the top of my never-on-key lungs. I couldn’t and wouldn’t endeavor to tell you how many times I’ve listened to Earth Rocker since I first got a taste, but from the title-track on through the surging groove at the end of “The Wolfman Kindly Requests…,” front to back, the 10th Clutch album still does not fail to roil the blood with not a dud in the bunch. The Maryland road dogs of course shine best on a stage, and Earth Rocker‘s polished, layered production is a studio affair in the truest sense, but all that does is make me hopeful they’ll complement it with a live record soon. Clutch could easily have phoned in a follow-up to 2009’s Strange Cousins from the West and their fanbase probably would’ve still salivated over it, myself included, but by boldly pushing themselves to write faster, more concise material, they’ve reenergized one of heavy rock’s best sounds. Whether you’re a longtime fan or a brand new listener, Earth Rocker is utterly essential.
Two more records I have to mention: Kings Destroy‘s A Time of Hunting and Clamfight‘s I vs. the Glacier. I wasn’t involved in releasing the Kings Destroy, but felt close to it nonetheless, and since the Clamfight came out on The Maple Forum, it wouldn’t be appropriate to include it in the list proper, but hands down, these are my two favorite records of the year so far and made by some of the best people I’ve had the pleasure to know over the course of my years nerding out to heavy music.
Some other honorable mentions go to Toner Low, Cathedral, Church of Misery, Serpent Throne, Naam, The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic and All Them Witches. Like I said, it’s been a hell of a year so far.
You may note some glaring absences in the list above — Black Sabbath, ASG, Orchid, Ghost, Kvelertak and Voivod come to mind immediately. Some of that is a result of my disdain for digital promos, and some of that is just a matter of what I listened to most. Please understand that although release profile is not something discounted, at the heart of what’s included here is one individual’s personal preferences and listening habits.
Thanks for reading. Here’s to your own lists and to the next six months to come!