Posted in Features on October 25th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
10.25.14 — 2:00PM Central — Saturday afternoon — In van somewhere outside Chicago
“My fuckin’ fist is gonna be ‘solid.'” — Steve Murphy
En route from Tomah, Wisconsin, to Grand Rapids, we hit a truckstop pretty early on for coffee. I’d woken up around seven and taken in some of scenic Tomah around the motel, a truck wash next door called “Power Shine,”the sign of which became I guess the.equivalent of a back yard tire for the football Water tower, parking lot, not much else unless you’re into Long John Silver. Rest stop was next to a porn shack and had an Arby’s and a convenience store. Standard the whole way around. Guy in front of me in line was mumbling some unintelligible shit and when I got to the counter, the woman working said that he goes into the place every day and says fucked up perverted things to her. Her coworker chimed in that he did the same to her and he was a registered sex offender. Every fucking day, the same shit. It was a bummer story and bummer coffee. There was art outside the porn shack. You take the positives where you can get them.
Then we sat in traffic for a solid hour after making the jump from Wisconsin to Illinois. I don’t think we went three miles the whole time. It was brutal. I didn’t count how many “this fucking sucks” there were, but suffice to say consensus was reached, and rightly so. At least for me, things got pretty fucking dire pretty fucking quick, my head spiraling fast into you’re-33-years-old-and-you’re-not-even-playing-these-shows-what-the-fuck-are-you-doing-here and all the rest of it. Oh, the drama. Tough five minutes until I remembered that I hadn’t eaten since fucking yesterday morning and took out a protein bar from my bookbag. Traffic cleared up, my head did likewise, and life improved. A quick stop was made, I think as much to catch breath and stretch legs after sitting in that construction — the nation’s highways: a vision of America’s future world-stage dominance -- as to take a leak and grab food. I took a pass on lunch. Have to feel like it was the right call.
There’s a time zone change between here and Grand Rapids, but a lot of good people are coming out to the show tonight, and so I’m looking forward to that and the place we’re staying overnight looks sweet as well, so sign me up. Was in a pretty shitty headspace for a couple minutes there, but tonight and tomorrow are some of what I was most looking forward to about this trip. There’s a little press because time’s a factor and it was even before we sat for an hour and stewed in it, but we’re hauling ass to Grand Rapids now, so that’s something.
Posted in Reviews on October 25th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
As advertised, Mill City Nights was a legit room. The exposed brick walls were lined with soundproofing, but you could still hear the bands from outside. Doors were at 7PM or somewhere thereabouts, people soon started milling in slowly. It turned out to be a five-band night, with locals Vulgaari joining the bill, effectively splitting the touring lineup in half, with Kings Destroy opening, then Bang, then Vulgaari, Radio Moscow and Pentagram. They were obviously anticipated to pull a good crowd and they did just that. Apparently one or more of the dudes in the band is involved in the Surly Brewing Co., who are putting on a big fest this weekend to release a Russian Imperial Stout collaboration with Three Floyds. The Midwest likes its craft beer.
Kings Destroy went on at 8:15, just about on the dot. It was early on a five-band Friday night, but the place wasn’t empty, and it was big enough that you’d have noticed if it was. The balcony was closed off, but there were people up there for most of the night, myself included for part of Bang‘s set, and Mill City Nights was professional all the way. Pro sound, pro lights, pro atmosphere. It’s the kind of joint that would exist everywhere if the US government subsidized artists, or maybe I’m just saying that because the tiered balcony reminded me of the 013 in Tilburg. Either way, cool space to see a show in a very different way than was Reggie’s in Chicago, where the grit was half the appeal. I’ll take it either way, I guess
The set was switched up from the first night of the tour, with “The Toe” brought in instead of “The Mountie.” “Old Yeller” was kept as the opener and it’s hard to argue, that song sort of mirroring the lurching to life of any given set Kings Destroy play. It was the same story in Minneapolis it always is: Band place, people stare, then get it, then get into it, then it ends. I wonder how it would be if they opened with a faster song like “Mr. O” or even “Smokey Robinson,” which has its quicker parts mixed in there, if that would affect the immediacy of it, but it seems like people would just be scratching their heads by the time the band got around to a closer like “Blood of Recompense,” and I like that at the end of the set, which is where it was at Mill City Nights, with “Smokey Robinson” before it, and “W2″ from the new record before that.
It was a pullback on the overall thrust to go from “Mr. O” into “W2,” as the latter song has its groove but is less energetic, but it’s that way on the album too, so I’ve gotten used to it. Hard to believe it was just the second night of this run. Last time around, it took three or four shows before things really felt like they were rolling along. This time everything has locked in quicker, and I’d extend that to the other bands as well. Radio Moscow and Pentagram have been out recently, but even Bang, who, again, haven’t toured in 40 years, seem to have smoothed out rough edges if they had any. They came on after Kings Destroy in an immediate stylistic shift that I think I’m only going to enjoy more as this tour goes on, and gave the same set as Chicago a once-over, including the ballad “Last Will and Testament” — when bassist/vocalist Frank Ferrara hit the line about a “private whore” in the song, someone shouted back, “whore!” I think just to be happy to use a semi-dirty word — and “Questions,” which rounded out in suitable fashion, emphasis on the smooth ’70s-style groove and of course the lead work of guitarist Frank Glicken.
Drummer Jake Leger is largely hidden behind his kit, but even so, it was easy to get a sense of how crucial he is to what Bang are doing at this point. He’s not an original member, obviously, but he fits in exceedingly well with Ferrara and Glicken, and his drums sounded fantastic at Mill City Nights. I feel like most of the time a snare sound isn’t something that really makes you stop and appreciate it, but Leger‘s snare had this rich, almost resonant clap that was just perfect, even if the ghost notes didn’t really get picked up by the mic. When he came down on it, you knew it. I guess the same could be said of his whole kit, but the snare stood out, particularly in watching from the balcony, the bird’s eye view allowing for a different perspective as the band continued to look like they were genuinely having a good time being back out on the road. It can’t be easy after so long away to just hit it for 10 dates or whatever it is, but they’re carrying it with class and the crowd ate it up, which of course is what matters.
Another real stylistic turn when Vulgaari took the stage. A triple-guitar five-piece, they lumbered out a deathly take on doom and sludge, vocals coming on in growls over riffs that in another context probably wouldn’t be so far off from Pallbearer, a current of instrumental melody running through what you’d still definitely call brutal metal. They were well received by the hometown crowd — even the guy up front who yelled “fuck you!” to the guitarist was clearly joking — and I intended to buy a CD but didn’t get the chance, but like Iron Reagan in Chicago, they were the odd men out in having the most metallic influence at play. Didn’t really matter one they got going. No dissension among the audience that I saw, and I think particularly a lot of the younger attendees — the show was all ages, so there were a few kids around — had no trouble getting into it.
I didn’t either, for whatever it’s worth, but with a drive to Grand Rapids ahead, it was decided that Kings Destroy would split early. I’d seen Pentagram soundcheck earlier in the evening, and yesterday, and I will again today, and Radio Moscow too, so I got it. Grand Rapids is a nine-hour ride from Minneapolis around Lake Michigan, and that’s with no stops. Even with putting in two-plus hours last night, it’s a bit of a crunch. Not really worried, though. Plenty of open spaces to stare at in the interim.
More pics from last night after the jump. Thanks for reading.
Posted in Reviews on October 24th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Stickers on the wall, a dim, red-hued bar next door, record store upstairs and rooftop deck that I didn’t venture out to see, Reggie’s wasn’t short on vibe. It’s one of those places I’ve seen listed on tour dates for years, but to be there and see the place, turn it from an abstraction on a list of mostly unfamiliar rooms to someplace with actual sights, sounds and beat-up couches on the balcony was an opportunity I genuinely appreciated. And the place lived up to expectations, as much as I had them, with a bare concrete floor, high ceiling, graffiti art all on the walls and a t-shirt shop out toward the front door. Very cool space, and good for them making it work.
Doors were at 7PM, and Richmond, Virginia’s Iron Reagan were opening. Here’s how it went from there:
They showed up not too long before the slated start of their set, which was 7:30 – a perfectly reasonable time to start a five-band bill on a weeknight; the venue had a 1:15 curfew in place – and set up their gear and thrashed in likewise manic fashion, tossing off period Slayer riffs amid an ‘80s-worship onslaught that was further conceptually than sonically from vocalist Tony Foresta and guitarist Phil “Landphil” Hall’s other band, Municipal Waste. They played under a huge banner featuring the visage of the former president from whom they derive their name – because the ‘80s – and were more than solid in their delivery if something of the odd men out on the bill. Didn’t stop a circle pit from forming as they quickly ran through a recent EP they put together for Decibel, five songs in about three minutes, which was a solid way to keep momentum going into the highlight “Miserable Failure,” a Cannibal Corpse cover and the finale, “Eat Shit and Live,” which had fists pumping up front. Not really my thing, but I couldn’t argue with the presentation.
First night of the tour. I’ve seen Kings Destroy enough times by now to know when it’s a rough night, but that wasn’t the feeling I got at Reggie’s. They opened with two older songs, “Old Yeller” and “The Mountie,” which seemed a fitting way of easing into a short half-hour set, and then broke out “Smokey Robinson” and “Mr. O” from the new album, one right into the next. That worked well, and by the time they got to “Smokey Robinson,” they were visibly into it. As much as I dig the speedier “Mr. O,” and I’m glad to hear “The Mountie” whenever able, “Smokey Robinson” was the high point of the set, though I won’t discount the sheer bizarro-doom thrust of rounding out with “Blood of Recompense” into “Turul,” both songs slow, lurching and vicious from the second album, last year’s A Time of Hunting, bringing the record’s closing pair right into people’s faces, loud and stomping and mean. As ever, people at the start didn’t know what was happening and by the end were into it enough that they stopped trying to figure it out and just went with it.
Guitarist Frank Glicken announced this as Bang’s first tour in 40 years, which got a laugh out of drummer Jake Leger, who most certainly wasn’t there when Glicken and bassist/vocalist Frank Ferrara last hit the road. Disparity of years notwithstanding, Bang were a tight classic-styled power trio breaking out cuts from their ‘70s era, injecting something a little newer with “The Maze,” and even finding room for a ballad in “Last Will and Testament.” Vintage amps pushed out warm tones, Leger added a swinging sensibility that fit really well, and Ferrara’s vocals had that smooth ‘70s vibe. It was funny to think of both Iron Reagan two bands before, whose idolatry was directed at a different decade entirely, and Radio Moscow still to come, who find the core of their influence in heavy ‘70s blues-inspired acts like Bang. Add to that Pentagram’s ‘70s lineage, and Bang made a lot of sense for the bill, since whether their material was newer or older, they played through with a classic feel and sense of poise, the two Franks coming together on stage regularly to share laughs and grooves alike.
I’ve never seen Radio Moscow that they didn’t show up to play, and I’ve never seen Radio Moscow not show up. I don’t think the San Diego classic heavy rockers have come off the road since their Spring run with Kings Destroy and Pentagram, or at least not for any great stretch of time, having done Europe and South America since, in addition to releasing the album Magical Dirt (review here), from which the bounce-happy “Death of a Queen” was aired. There were some issues before they started with guitarist/vocalist Parker Griggs’ gear, but they were solved quickly enough, and he, bassist Anthony Meier and drummer Paul Marrone sprinted through regular suspects like “Just Don’t Know,” “Broke Down,” “Before it Burns,” “250 Miles” and “Gypsy Fast Woman,” the latter closing out after Marrone ran off stage quickly to replace a busted kick pedal. The boogie was as fervent as ever, and Radio Moscow delivered the kind of air-tight rager of a set that I’ve come to expect from them since the last tour, Marrone and Meier reminding that while it’s Griggs who gets the most solos – at some point on this tour, I’m going to count who’s got more, him or Frank Glicken from Bang – it’s just as much the rhythm section that makes the songs move.
Pentagram played a much bolder set than I expected. I guess after watching them do basically the same batch of songs last time around, my head was just positioned to think this would be more of that, but it wasn’t. “Sign of the Wolf (Pentagram)” was early in the set, after “Death Row,” “All Your Sins” and a cover of The Animals’ “Don’t Let Me be Misunderstood,” which Pentagram guitarist Victor Griffin also did with In~Graved when I saw them last year at Days of the Doomed III in Wisconsin. Even more notably, a new song called “Lay Down and Die” was aired, and frontman Bobby Liebling announced from the stage that the plan was to hit the studio this winter to record a follow-up to 2011’s Last Rites. Hopefully they’ll record with the same lineup they have now – Liebling, Griffin, bassist Greg Turley and drummer Sean Saley – since they’ve developed some genuine chemistry on stage, which one could see and hear both in that song, which had some double-time hi-hat from Saley and a fast verse delivery, and in the encore as they jammed out an extended take on “When the Screams Come,” which followed “Be Forewarned” in a raucous finale of sleazed-out doom well met by the Reggie’s crowd, fired and liquored up in kind.
We poured out of the venue circa 1AM and I drove to some town in Wisconsin – after getting much advice on how to get the van out of its spot, most of it bunk. The next show is in Minneapolis, which is another town I’ve never been to and am greatly looking forward to seeing, the land starting show some more hills on the way where it’s been pretty flat since Pennsylvania up to this point. No complaints either way.
Posted in Features on October 23rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
10.23.14 — 4:47PM Central Time — Thursday afternoon — Reggie’s upstairs balcony, Chicago, Illinois
“You guys are dorks.” — Jim Pitts, in response to copious whistling of Peter Frampton’s “Show Me the Way”
Rolled into Reggie’s a couple minutes ago, a lot of handshaking, smiles and how-ya-doins. A lot of these guys kept in touch after the spring tour, so there’s already a familiarity to the proceedings, at least between the Pentagram camp and the Kings Destroy guys — Radio Moscow isn’t here yet but I’m sure they’ll be along — though I also met Bang and they seem like friendly cats. There’s a kind of happy-anxiousness in the room, but Reggie’s is a cool space, and there’s a balcony, so I’ve more or less already planted here while Pentagram does a soundcheck.
Got into (Walt) Clyde, Ohio, in time last night to watch the end of the second game of the World Series. Guys had beers and whatnot, and as there are some tough drives ahead, it was good to crash out relatively early and get up this morning, hit the road leisurely and finish the drive to Chicago. A couple bathroom breaks, a lot of gags in the van, gas station coffee — and, in Rob’s case, gas station hard-boiled eggs — and we still got into town early. I’ve never actually been in Chicago before, just driven through on the highway, which cuts into the city but above the streets. It’s the kind of place you’d have to spend years in to feel like you’d know it, like any city, but at least I can say I’ve been here at this point and not feel like I’m exaggerating.
Because it’s a band traveling, a trip to Chicago’s famous heavy metal burger joint, Kuma’s Corner, was in order for lunch. I had the Kuma Burger, which I guess is the house standard — essentially a bacon cheeseburger with a fried egg on top — and a salad on the side. There were a bunch of burgers named after bands, which is kind of their thing. Aaron had the High on Fire. Had peppers on it and I don’t know what else. Jim Pitts bought a sweatshirt. The place played Pentagram and Weedeater over the P.A. after a bunch of grindcore and black metal. Cool vibe with some vinyl on a rack, Chicago represented by Minsk, Indian and so on. I dug it, and if you’re ever going to be in a burger coma, Weedeater’s God Luck and Good Speed isn’t a bad way to go.
It was countered in the van by Tony Orlando and Dawn, Cheap Trick power ballads, Frampton, and “Dream Weaver.” Take that, heavy metal. We found Sean and Greg from Pentagram playing basketball in the alley behind the venue when we pulled in, but they and Victor Griffin have started soundchecking now. Bobby Liebling is around here somewhere, he’s been back and forth. I think everybody’s ready to get the tour started, or maybe that’s just me projecting. Either way, I’m glad to be here.
Posted in Features on October 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
10.22.14 — 8:34PM — Wednesday evening — The van, somewhere in PA
“Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the angel dust.” — Rob Sefcik
Pennsylvania is deep. Pennsylvania is so deep that Hawkwind should’ve been writing songs about it. As predicted, most of the day has been spent on Route 80, headed westbound to a town called Clyde, Ohio, plucked at just-a-little-less-than-random for its placement between New York and Ohio. It was an early start but we still wound up running late, not that it really matters when we get there. Pretty sure the Red Roof Inn in Clyde will stay open until we get there.
Steve and I got out pretty early this morning and headed to Lyndhurst, NJ, to pick up the van from the rental company. Right off Rt. 3 — familiar terrain. After that, we went in Manhattan to pick something up from his apartment and I snuck in a bacon, egg and cheese on a bagel and a cup of coffee, felt like I was getting away with something. It was glorious. Bagels like that don’t exist in Massachusetts. I had no idea so many of my tastes were regional until I moved. Whatever. Another great sandwich duly chronicled. Aaron met up with us there and we headed into Brooklyn to pick up the rest of the band at Kings Destroy’s practice space and get the gear packed up. It was a little before one when we hit the road, crossed over the George Washington Bridge and headed west on Rt. 80 like the warriors on the edge of time that we might as well be.
Few stops today. It’s mostly been about putting hours in. One piss break at a rest stop where some dude with “Don’t Tread on Me” and a $40,000 SUV gave me sideways looks as I stood outside the van. I’d like to know who he thinks is treading on him but I know the answer he’d give and I’d rather not hear it. We stopped in a town called Clarion not too long ago for dinner at a place called Captain Loomis — much pirate-voice ensued — that has apparently been open since before the Civil War. Stoner Girl who was our waitress wound up telling us about the pretty serious charges she copped in the last month or so and how she might face felony jail time. For pot. I kept thinking about Mr. Tread Upon and the general fucking cluelessness that surrounds us every day. Accordingly was quiet at dinner, not that I had much to add to the discussion of how much old hardcore singles bring in on eBay. Jim Pitts was on that shit. Admirably so.
Carl is driving now, and he’s got a solid playlist going: Sleep, Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age, old Helmet, Prong’s “Prove You Wrong,” some Nick Cave or something that sounds close enough to it to fool me. I’ll take it. It’s dark now but earlier in the day I got a decent look at some of what’s apparently a gorgeous autumn in Pennsylvania, leaves all different yellows and reds like bubbles on hillsides. I’ve seen it before, but nice to look without running off the road, which is usually the case driving way out here. It was pretty gray all day, and even now there’s cloud cover, but no major weather troubles or any other kind to report. Just putting in time to get to Chicago tomorrow so these guys can play the first show and start the tour, and I can do whatever it is I do out here.
Eager to see this thing start, but feeling good. Looking forward to getting to Clyde, Ohio, which isn’t something I ever really imagined myself saying.
Posted in Features on October 21st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
10.21.14 — 3:21PM — Tuesday afternoon — East Bridgewater, MA
“Guess you ain’t driving!!!!” — Steve Murphy
Pesto dribbled down my beard from the hot soppressata, salami and fresh mozz sandwich I made myself for lunch. I drank today-fresh homemade iced tea out of the fridge and had pistachio-laden unsalted mixed nuts on the side while listening to the new Stubb album for the first time. The little dog Dio curled up on the doormat in a rare spot of New England autumn sunshine. I don’t think of the next two weeks as a hardship, but if you’re about to leave the place you live for any stretch of time, you might as well enjoy yourself before you go.
The tour starts on Thursday in Chicago. For the most part, it’s the same lineup as this past Spring — I’ll be traveling with Kings Destroy while they tour with Pentagram and Radio Moscow — only this time it’s reunited proto-metallers Bang as well. Blood Ceremony will play the Halloween show in Burlington and the NYC show on Nov. 1, and there’s an off-day on Sunday for which KD has a gig booked in Lansing, Michigan, with Beast in the Field and Hordes and Cruthu. It will be a good time and still a doable drive to Cleveland the next day. There’s a lot I’m looking forward to seeing, never having been to Chicago or Minneapolis, Grand Rapids or Pittsburgh, and a lot of familiar terrain for me as well. That will be a big change from earlier this year, and I’ve spent some time the last few days wondering if the rounded tops of the Appalachians will hold the same visual appeal as the pointed Rockies did in February, considering I grew up between them.
I’ll find out and let you know when I know. I leave here in three hours or so to head to New York. I’ll be crashing with KD vocalist Steve Murphy tonight, then tomorrow we pick up Jim Pitts, who’s driving once again — it was thought I’d do some road-time as well and may yet, but there’s something stupid with the rental company and my insurance that needs ironing out because they want to charge extra or some shit; I fucking hate paperwork — and the rest of the band and start the drive west. I expect a lot of Route 80 in the next 36 hours, but consider myself fortunate to have been asked along again by the band and am looking forward to watching them play each night on this run.
No, I haven’t packed yet. I haven’t even showered yet, if you want to know the truth, and I still need to charge the camera battery so I have it ready to go, but what the hell. If it happened on time, it wouldn’t be rock and roll.
Here is the full routing for the tour. If you’re planning to hit one of these shows, please say hi. I’ll hope to see you out there.
10/23 Chicago, Il Reggies*
10/24 Minneapolis, MN Mill City Nights*
10/25 Grand Rapids, MI Pyramid Scheme*
10/26 Lansing, MI, Ave Cafe^
10/27 Cleveland, OH , House of Blues*
10/28 Pittsburgh, PA, Mr Smalls*
10/29 Baltimore, MD, Soundstage Baltimore*
10/30 Phildelphia, PA, Johnnie Brendas*
10/31 Burlington, VT, Arts Riot#
11/1 NYC, Gramercy Theater#
11/2 Providence, RI, The Met*
* w Pentagram, Radio Moscow, Bang
^ w Beast in the Field, Cruthu, Hordes
# w Pentagram, Blood Ceremony, Bang
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 27th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Today I couldn’t be more pleased to announce that even though they already spent nine days in a van with me earlier this year, Kings Destroy have been kind and charitable enough to invite me back along with them as they rejoin Pentagram and Radio Moscow for a Midwest/East Coast tour to follow-up on the West Coast dates this past spring. Coming along this time will be reunited proto-metallers Bang, and I’m all the more thrilled and honored to have been invited back by the KD guys for this second round with their participation.
Once again I’ll get to see places I’ve never seen, meet people I’ve spoken to for years, and watch killer bands night after night as they refine what they do in the best way possible. I can’t wait to get back out and see cities like Chicago and Minneapolis for the first time. It’s going to be incredible. Of course, I’ll have my laptop and my camera along for the trip, and I will update and review as the trip plays out.
Radio Moscow gave the dates. They’ll do the whole tour save for the NYC show at the Gramercy Theater, for which Blood Ceremony will fill in. The full run is as follows:
USA DATES supporting PENTAGRAM this October! Also joining us are legendary 70’s proto-metal hard rockers BANG and Kings Destroy! So stoked to be part of this amazing tour. Dates below. See you soon!
10/23/14 Chicago IL @ Reggie’s 10/24/14 Minneapolis MN @ Mill City Nights 10/25/14 Grand Rapids MI @ Pyramid Scheme 10/27/14 Cleveland OH @ House of Blues 10/28/14 Pittsburgh PA @ Mr Smalls Theater 10/29/14 Baltimore MD @ Soundstage 10/30/14 Philadelphia PA @ Johnny Brendas 11/01/14 New York NY @ Gramercy Theater* 11/02/14 Providence RI @ The Met
Posted in Features on July 8th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Before I even start, let’s get one thing out of the way. I want a new Sleep album too. My not including them on this list isn’t due to the fact that I don’t think a new Sleep album is a good idea, but just because I haven’t seen anything about it being recorded or released in the next five-plus months. If it hits on Jan. 1, 2015, I’ll be the happiest Baby New Year you ever saw, but that’s a different list altogether.
Ditto that Om and High on Fire. The latter were writing as of May, and I know Om did some recording way back in January, but I’ve yet to see solid word of new records at all, let alone before the end of the year. Either or both or all three may happen, but until I see some hint of it, all I can go on is the info I can find.
Seriously though, how badass would it be if all three put out albums before the New Year? That excitement is kind of what this list is about. Some of these records I’ve heard, but most I haven’t, so it’s just basic speculation about what I think could be some of the best releases in the next couple months. You’ll note that while there are plenty of dates TBA, nothing listed arrives in November, so as 2014 winds down, there’s bound to be even more quality stuff than appears here.
In fact, I struggled to take things out to get it down to 30. And it still goes to 31! I figured no one would mind. They’re numbered, but the list is in alphabetical order.
If I left something out you’re dying to hear, please let me know in the comments.
Thanks in advance for reading:
1. Alunah, TBA (Sept.)
Birmingham’s Alunah, like several others below, are a holdover from the Most Anticipated Albums list back at the start of the year. The difference between now and then is that, while its title still hasn’t been revealed so far as I know, their Napalm Records debut has been recorded, mixed and mastered, the latter by Tony Reed, the former by Greg Chandler of Esoteric, and given a September release date. Two years after Alunah made riffy doom sound easy on their sophomore outing, White Hoarhound (review here), I look forward to hearing how they’ve grown and shifted in their approach to warm-sounding tones and memorable hooks. They’ve set a pretty high standard for themselves. Alunah on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
2. Apostle of Solitude, Of Woe and Wounds (Oct.)
These guys. I don’t mind telling you it was a thrill when Indianapolis doomers Apostle of Solitude were announced as having signed to Cruz del Sur to release their third album, Of Woe and Wounds, this fall. Their second outing, 2010’s Last Sunrise (review here), didn’t get the attention it deserved, but the handful of songs they’ve made public since have shown much promise, and as the first Apostle of Solitude full-length to feature guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak (also Devil to Pay) in harmony with guitarist/vocalist Chuck Brown — the band is completed by bassist Dan Davidson and drummer Corey Webb — this is definitely going to make for a doomly autumn. Apostle of Solitude on Thee Facebooks, Cruz del Sur Music.
3. Blackwolfgoat, Drone Maintenance (Aug. 26)
Recorded late last year at Amps vs. Ohms in Boston, the third album from Maple Forum alum Blackwolfgoat — the prog-drone alter ego of guitarist Darryl Shepard (Milligram, Black Pyramid, The Scimitar, Roadsaw, etc.) — is the project’s most expansive outing yet, and it seems Shepard is moving more in a song-based direction, rather than some of the building loops of the past two offerings. Of course, there will be plenty of those as well, but watch out for some acoustic guitar, and deep-in-the-mix vocals, as they could easily hint of things to come. Or Darryl could turn it on its head and do a calypso record. Either way, I’m on board with no pretense of impartiality. Blackwolfgoat on Bandcamp, Small Stone’s Bandcamp.
4. Blues Pills, Blues Pills (Aug. 5)
The much-heralded Swedish/French/American psych-blues conglomeration Blues Pills will make their self-titled debut (short review here) next month, and while it’s probably going to be a bigger deal in Europe than in the States — at least until Nuclear Blast brings them over here for a tour, then the country is going to go apeshit for them — the songwriting and soulful execution of their tracks justifies the hype. There’s a bit of retro posturing to what they do, some Graveyard shuffle (it feels inevitable at this point with a ’70s-influenced band), but the grooves are easy to dig into and the potential is basically limitless for where they want to go. It’s scary to keep in mind, but this is just the beginning. Blues Pills on Thee Facebooks, Nuclear Blast.
5. Bongripper, Miserable (July 7)
You may notice something strange about the date above for a list of upcoming albums in that July 7 was yesterday. Well, Chicago’s Bongripper posted their new three-track full-length monster Miserable on their Bandcamp for stream and download ahead of the vinyl’s arrival, and it was just too righteous to leave out. Those seeking landmark riffing need look no further than the 19-minute centerpiece “Descent,” which meters out stomp enough that future “scientists” will study its footprint, and closer “Into Ruin” (28:25) is guaranteed to be the heaviest half-hour you’ll spend today. Miserable feels like a no-brainer, but maybe that’s just because Bongripper have such a propensity for pounding skulls into mush. Bongripper on Thee Facebooks, Miserable on Bandcamp.
6. Botanist, VI: Flora (Aug. 11)
I feel like I missed a couple numbers from San Francisco-based environmentalist black metal unit Botanist along the way, but they’ll nonetheless issue VI: Flora on The Flenser next month, furthering their marriage of destruction and beauty and insistent percussive expression. The spaces Botanist — a one-man project from Robert Martinelli — create feel ritualistic without the dramatic posturing that pervades much of the genre, and sound, somewhere between raging and mournful, is hypnotic. Whatever your expectation might be, Martinelli seems pleased to use it to their advantage, and ultimately, defy it. Post-human, hammered dulcimer-laden black metal. It would be harder for Botanist to not be unique. Botanist on Thee Facebooks, The Flenser.
7. Brant Bjork, TBA (TBA)
When Brant Bjork‘s next album might show up, I don’t know. I know he’s signed to Napalm, and I know the photo above was snapped as he finished some vocals before going on tour with his Low Desert Punk band that includes guitarist Bubba DuPree, bassist Dave Dinsmore and drummer Tony Tornay, but whether or not the album they made is the funk-inspired Jakoozi that’s been in the offing for a while, or another collection of songs, and if Napalm will get it out before the end of the year remain a mystery. I do find it interesting that for his first “solo” outing post-Vista Chino (that band being on hiatus), Bjork has assembled a new band to work with rather than record multiple instruments himself, but no matter who’s involved, when it’s Brant Bjork writing the songs, it’s gonna be high rock from the low desert. Can’t wait to dig into whatever comes. Brant Bjork on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
8. Earth, Primitive and Deadly (Sept.)
The headline for Earth‘s new album is it’s the one where they experimented with vocalists. And hey, if you’re going to toy around with the idea, you might as well get Mark Lanegan involved. The former Screaming Trees frontman is one of several singers appearing on Primitive and Deadly, due in September on Southern Lord, and it would appear that Earth‘s sound — always evolving, always somehow changing — is about to take another considerable turn. Fortunately, the Seattle band, led by guitarist Dylan Carlson and now approaching their 25th year, have long since proven worthy of trusting with their own direction. Earth will never be huge, by the simple nature of what they do, but their influence resounds and the quality of their output is unmatched. Earth on Thee Facebooks, Southern Lord Recordings.
9. Electric Wizard, Time to Die (Sept.)
“Wake up baby/It’s time to die.” So goes the title-track hook of Electric Wizard‘s new album and Spinefarm Records debut, Time to Die. As ever, it’s simple, hateful, drenched-in-fuzz misanthropy, and Electric Wizard revel in it accordingly. Their witchcult continues to grow in their native UK and abroad, and while their last two records have divided some listeners, they’ve invariably gained more ground than they’ve lost. A legal dispute with Rise Above finds them on the new label, and if there’s even the slightest chance that change will bring them to the US for a tour, I’ll take it. Expect 66 minutes of glorious filth. Electric Wizard on Thee Facebooks, Spinefarm Records.
10. Fever Dog, Second Wind (TBA)
Palm Desert youngsters Fever Dog have been kicking around the last few years finding their sound in varying elements of heavy rock and psychedelic experimentation. Most recently, they impressed with the single “Iroquois” (review here) taken from their new album Second Wind, and in looking forward to the full-length, I’m eager to learn how their style has solidified and what sort of vibes they conjure over its course. They’ve shown plenty of propensity for jamming in their prior work, so hopefully there’s a bit of that on hand as well. I’ve said before they’re a trio of marked potential, and nothing I’ve yet heard has dissuaded me from that impression. Fever Dog on Thee Facebooks, Fever Dog on Bandcamp.
11. Goat, Commune (Sept. 23)
Somehow, a band from Sweden who dress up in tribal costumes (problematic) and play Afrobeat psychedelia became a very, very big deal. I couldn’t explain it if I wanted to, and I won’t try, but I know that when Sub Pop releases Goat‘s second album, Commune, it’s going to be to a flurry of hype and heaps of critical fawning. It would be tempting to call Goat a novelty act, but their 2012 debut, World Music (discussed here), showcased a legitimately creative musical approach to go with the visual aspects of their presentation, and I find the fact that I have no idea what to expect from Commune to be refreshing. Goat on Thee Facebooks, Sub Pop Records.
12. Grifter, The Return of the Bearded Brethren (Aug. 11)
UK heavy rockers Grifter will make a welcome resurgence on Ripple Music with The Return of the Bearded Brethren, an album that builds on the straightforward, catchy sounds of their 2011 self-titled label debut (review here) and takes their infectiousness to new places lyrically, such as exploring issues of aging via an ode to Princess Leia from Star Wars. That particular brand of humor and is writ large on Grifter‘s second Ripple outing, and the trio set to work refining their take without losing the engaging feel of their self-titled. It feels like a long three years since that record hit, and I’ll be glad to have a follow-up in-hand. Grifter on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.
13. Ice Dragon and Space Mushroom Fuzz, New Blue Horizon/A Peak into the Future (TBA)
Unclear at this point whether Boston outfits Ice Dragon and Space Mushroom Fuzz collaborated on New Blue Horizon/A Peak into the Future, or if it’s a split. Either way, the prolific acts make a sound pairing. Both are vehemently creative and exploratory, psychedelic and progressive each in their way, and if what’s presumably a single finds them working together, all the better, but even if not, new material from either is nothing to balk at, particularly when topped off by such gorgeous artwork. Neither act is ever long from putting something out, so to have them come together one way or another makes a weird brand of sense, which I’m relatively sure the songs will as well. Ice Dragon on Thee Facebooks, Space Mushroom Fuzz on Thee Facebooks.
14. Ides of Gemini, Old World New Wave (Sept. 16)
Ides of Gemini‘s 2012 Neurot Recordings debut, Constantinople (discussed here), established the three-piece as freely inhabiting either side of the imaginary line between ambience and heaviness, J. Bennett and Kelly Johnston providing sometimes minimal, sometimes consuming foundations for vocalist Sera Timms (ex-Black Math Horseman, also Black Mare) to cast ethereal melodies. What Old World New Wave will hold sound-wise, I don’t yet know, but Ides of Gemini‘s otherworldly resonance and ultra-patient approach makes it well worth finding out. Ides of Gemini on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.
15. John Gallow, Violet Dreams (Aug. 4)
Frontman of Blizaro and Orodruin guitarist John James Gallo adds a ‘w’ to his last name and steps out solo on the I, Voidhanger Records release, Violet Dreams, the title hinting at some of his on-his-sleeve affinity for Italian psych-doom master Paul Chain and Swedish legends Candlemass. Gallo‘s work in Blizaro has a tendency to lean toward the progressive and cinematic, but as John Gallow, the focus is more on classic doom riffing and darkened metallurgy. As one would expect, he’s well in his element on the hour-long album, and I hope he decides to call the next one Ancient Theatre. Also note the incredible artwork of Costin Chioreanu. John Gallo on Thee Facebooks, I, Voidhanger Records.
16. John Garcia, John Garcia (Aug. 5)
A long-discussed solo debut for the former Kyuss frontman following a stint alongside Brant Bjork in Vista Chino, John Garcia‘s John Garcia (review here) finds the singer right in his comfort zone, topping desert rock riffs with his trademark guttural vocals. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I’d trade a second Vista Chino outing for it if given the choice — that band seemed to be on course for a sound of its own, separate from Kyuss‘ legacy, and that struck me as worth pursuing — but these songs have a similar enough production style that it’s easy to think of the one as an offshoot of the other, and of course Garcia calls his shots well throughout. John Garcia on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
17. King Buffalo, TBA (TBA)
Including King Buffalo here was pretty speculative on my part, but I dig the Rochester, NY, outfit and didn’t want to leave the prospect of their STB Records debut long-player out. It probably won’t land until 2015 — the future! — but their demo (review here) still gets regular plays around these parts, and I’m very much looking forward to catching them with similarly-minded Nashville blues rockers All Them Witches when they tour together next month. Whatever King Buffalo‘s recording/release plans might be, they’re definitely one to keep an eye on in the back half of this year. King Buffalo on Thee Facebooks, STB Records.
18. Kings Destroy, Kings Destroy (TBA)
Love these guys, love this band. I make no bones about it. Their third record, self-titled and produced as the last two were by Sanford Parker, is as close as they’ve yet come to capturing their live sound, and while they’ve yet to nail down an exact release date, they have a couple very cool tours in the works for this fall, including dates next month with Eric Wagner‘s Blackfinger, that will make a fitting lead-in to their best outing yet. I’ve heard this and had the chance to see some of the material live, and they’ve outdone themselves again, which, considering the esteem in which I continue to hold their 2013 sophomore full-length, A Time of Hunting, is really saying something. Kings Destroy on Thee Facebooks, War Crime Recordings.
19. The Kings of Frog Island, V (Fall)
Easily one of the LPs I’m most eager to hear over the next few months, and specifically on vinyl. The Kings of Frog Island have shown themselves to be so dedicated to the format that their early-2013 album, IV (review here), was presented as two bundled sides even digitally. They recently gave a taste of what their fifth album will in-part hold via a video for “Sunburn” and I’m told more jamminess ensues elsewhere to complement that track’s easygoing flow and platter-ready hook. All the better. The Kings of Frog Island on Thee Facebooks, The Kings of Frog Island on YouTube.
20. Lonely Kamel, Shit City (Sept. 9)
I’d be lying if I said part of my immediate interest in Oslo heavy rockers Lonely Kamel‘s fourth record wasn’t due to the cheeky title, but it’s been three years since the Napalm Records four-piece released their last album, Dust (track stream here), and as they’ve put in plenty of road-time, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to go into this time around with elevated anticipation. I’m not sure you could get away with calling an album Shit City unless you meant business. Got my fingers crossed that’s precisely the case with Lonely Kamel. Lonely Kamel on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
21. Lo-Pan, Colossus (Oct. 7)
Fucking a. Doing the research for this list was the first I’d seen the Jason Alexander Byers cover art for Lo-Pan‘s fourth album, Colossus, or its Oct. 7 Small Stone release date. I haven’t heard the tracks yet — they recorded in Brooklyn back in March, and while I got 2012’s Salvador (review here) pretty early, the Columbus four-piece seem to be keeping a tighter lid on the follow-up — and I can’t help but feel like that’s my loss. Judging by what I’ve heard of the material live, Lo-Pan have dug further into their individual brand of riff-led soulful heavy, and I’ve got a high wager that a few months from now, Lo-Pan‘s latest will make an appearance on another list. More to come. Lo-Pan on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
22. Novembers Doom, Bled White (July 15)
One of doom’s most fascinating and largely ignored progressions is that of Chicago melancholists Novembers Doom, who, when they started out 25 years ago, did so largely as a death metal band, and then moved on to pioneer an American interpretation of what’s commonly thought of as European doom, until, over their last several records, as they’ve started to move back to a more extreme, double-kick-drummed style. Bled White, on The End Records, continues along this path, but especially in the cleaner vocals of frontman Paul Kuhr there remain shades of the morose emotionality that typified what’s now become their mid-period doom idolatry. Unheralded, Novembers Doom keep exploring deeper, darker terrain. Novembers Doom on Thee Facebooks, The End Records.
23. Pallbearer, Foundations of Burden (Aug. 19)
Foundations of Burden is unquestionably among the second half of 2014’s most anticipated albums. Arkansas-based doom four-piece Pallbearer will mark its release with extensive European and North American tours, and where their 2012 Profound Lore debut, Sorrow and Extinction (review here), came out and caught listeners off-guard with its unabashed emotional core, their sophomore outing finds them positioned at the forefront of American doom. Already the hype machine is rolling out the red carpet for the Billy Anderson-produced Foundations of Burden, but no one can say these guys haven’t put their work in, and the record is indeed one to look forward to. Pallbearer on Thee Facebooks, Profound Lore Records.
24. The Skull, TBA (TBA)
For The Skull to put out an album of original material is a unique challenge. Their earlier-2014 first single (stream/review here) found them standing up to it on the new song “Sometime Yesterday Mourning,” but at least half the point of the band since its inception has been to pay homage to legendary doomers Trouble, from whence vocalist Eric Wagner, bassist Ron Holzner and drummer Jeff “Oly” Olson come. For their Tee Pee Records debut full-length — yet untitled and hopefully out before 2015 — it’ll be most interesting to see how guitarists Matt Goldsborough (ex-Pentagram) and Lothar Keller (Sacred Dawn) rise to the occasion of building off some of doom metal’s most celebrated tones. Fingers crossed on this one. The Skull on Thee Facebooks, Tee Pee Records.
25. Snail, Feral (TBA)
Nothing has been formally announced yet, but on Small Stone Records‘ website, they list Snail‘s Feral among their upcoming releases. It would make a suitable pairing, the West Coast riffers having previously worked with MeteorCity on their 2009 post-reunion outing, Blood (review here), prior to independently releasing 2012’s Terminus (review here), and Small Stone seems like a good home for their fourth overall record and return to form as a trio, which was their original incarnation before their original dissolution circa 1994. How they expand on the heavier crunch of Terminus remains even more a point of fascination, and surely their cult following will be glad to find out. I know I will. Snail on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
26. Steak, Slab City (Sept. 9)
After two strong EPs in 2012’s Disastronaught (review here) and 2013’s best-title-ever-boasting Corned Beef Colossus (review here), it’s time for London stoner rockers Steak to step up their game for their Napalm Records debut full-length. The four-piece headed to the Californian desert to record Slab City, and so it’s fair to think some of that atmosphere may have worked its way into the material. Would be an awfully long way to go, otherwise. In either case, Steak have showcased considerable songwriting chops already, now it’s just a matter of sustaining it for a full album’s runtime and keeping enough variety in their approach. I have no doubt they’re ready for this next step. Steak on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
27. Stubb, Cry of the Ocean (TBA)
It is with simple, unabashed warm feelings that I look forward to hearing Cry of the Ocean, the second long-player and Ripple Music debut from UK riffers Stubb. They’ve traded out drummers since 2012’s self-titled (review here), bringing aboard Tom Fyfe with guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson and bassist/vocalist Peter Holland, but I’m excited to hear what changes and shifts in sound Cry of the Ocean might have in store to match its provocative title. Goes without saying the photo above isn’t the final artwork, but instead Tony Reed‘s mastering sheet from back in May when he worked on the tracks. No solid release date yet, but hopefully soon. Stubb on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.
28. Torche, TBA (TBA)
Torche‘s new album and Relapse Records debut was originally slated for the end of the summer. Given that no official word has come out about a title or anything like that and the members of the band have been busy with other projects, it seems unlikely as of now that they’ll hit that target, but after something of a break so frontman Steve Brooks could focus on the resurgent trio Floor, Torche are in fact getting going again, beginning with their first tour of Australia this fall. Maybe their LP will be out by the time they go and maybe it won’t, but word on the street is that whenever the thing arrives, it’s gonna be heavy, which I have no problem believing. Torche on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
29. The Well, Monomyth (Late Summer)
I’ve been waiting since the March announcement that Austin trio The Well signed with RidingEasy Records for further word of their debut full-length, Monomyth (pretty sure that’s not the cover above), but thus far to no avail. Their 2012 single, Seven (review here), was a repeat-listen thriller, and anticipation abounds for what sort of psychedelic garage riffing they’ll conjure up for the album itself. It’s been a couple months at this point, and maybe it’ll be 2015 before Monomyth gets out, but screw it, a boy can hope. The Well on Thee Facebooks, RidingEasy Records.
30. Witch Mountain, Mobile of Angels (Sept.)
Please note: The original cover art with this post was not final and has been replaced with the above band photo.
Portland, Oregon’s Witch Mountain have spent much of the two years following their 2012 third LP, Cauldron of the Wild (review here) on tour in the US and abroad, playing fests, headlining, supporting, but generally putting in a lot of time. As such, Mobile of Angels, which will be out on Svart in Europe and Profound Lore in North America, comes as the end product of a considerable touring cycle. Has all that gigging worn Witch Mountain into the ground, or will they rise above it with metal-loving doom-blues supremacy? They’ve got a vinyl-ready 38 minutes on tap for September and if they’ve ever been in a position to make their case, it’s now. Watch out for the killer sway in “Can’t Settle,” the title of which seems a fitting theme for the band. Witch Mountain on Thee Facebooks, Profound Lore Records.
31. YOB, Clearing the Path to Ascend (Sept. 2)
Yet again — as was the case back in January — alphabetical order forces me to end with YOB, whose seventh full-length and Neurot debut might just be my most anticipated of all on this list. The recently-unveiled Orion Landau cover speaks to a brooding sentiment, and from the one time I was fortunate enough to hear it to-date, the four-track album from the Eugene, Oregon, natives corresponds to its visual side in being a more aggressive push than was 2012’s Atma (review here), but also more exploratory and contemplative in its approach. Now statesmen in American doom and the forebears of a cosmic-minded sound, YOB stand ready to showcase a creative progression that has yet to find its end point. YOB on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.
Other Notable Mentions
Just a couple of these I’d be remiss if I didn’t note. Some were carried over from earlier this year, others just come up along the way. Not sure on all the release dates, but these are worth keeping an ear out for:
Acid King — Were listed in January, but their record has a Feb. 2015 release date.
Bright Curse — Second album recorded at Skyhammer Studios.
Brothers of the Sonic Cloth — My understanding is the album is done and they’re waiting to secure a label. Seems like a good occasion for Southern Lord to step forward, if not Profound Lore or Neurot.
Eggnogg — Not sure if it’s their full-length, You’re all Invited, or something else that’s coming, but whatever. More stoner-funk riffing needs to be had.
40 Watt Sun — There was some word of this early in the year, but nothing since.
Godflesh — Their first in 15 years, A World Lit Only by Fire, will be out Oct. 7. A fuckup not including them on the list proper.
It’s Not Night: It’s Space — Eagerly awaiting the Small Stone debut from this instrumental outfit, but it might be next year.
Karma to Burn — New album, Arch Stanton, out in August. I emailed for a review promo and never heard back. Always a great feeling.
Larman Clamor — Solo-project from Alexander von Wieding has a new one in the can, but I’m not sure on the release schedule.
Lowrider — They’re working on it, but don’t hold your breath to have it out by December.
The Machine — Kind of a slow year for Elektrohasch, but the new one from these Dutch fuzzers would be a nice way end up.
Nachtmystium — Century Media releases their final album, The World We Left Behind, on Aug. 5.
Orange Goblin — Seriously debated putting them on the list, since I know they’ve recorded, but they seem to be promoting a recent reissue of 2007’s Healing through Fire and their upcoming European tour with Saint Vitus rather than their new album, so unless news comes out about it like this week from Candlelight, I wouldn’t expect it until early in 2015.
Pink Floyd – Believe it when I see it, but I honestly couldn’t care less either way if I tried.
Ruby the Hatchet — Their full-length Tee Pee debut is due sometime in the next couple months.
Sun Voyager — Upstate NY youngsters had hinted at new recordings.
Again, if I forgot anything — and I’m sure I did — please let me know in the comments.
Posted in Reviews on May 5th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
It was a 20-band bill spread out evenly across two days, so right away, The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 was going to be a considerable undertaking. Fortunately for me, it was close. Worcester is precisely 75 minutes from where I live. I’ve driven further to see three bands, let alone 20, so a trip down the Masspike and there I was, back in Worcester. It had been a decade-plus since the last time I was in that town — famed in metal circles most probably for the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival held at the Palladium — and it was way less of a dump than it was back then, though with much to see in Ralph’s Rock Diner, I obviously wasn’t taking a tour of the local infrastructure. Ralph’s had plenty to catch the eye anyway, even apart from the Saturday lineup with Birch Hill Dam, SET, John Wilkes Booth, Second Grave, Beelzefuzz, Lord Fowl, Ogre, Kings Destroy, Cortez and Sixty Watt Shaman.
There is, sure enough, a classic-style dining car when you walk in, and building that’s sort of sprouted up out of it, the way one tree grows out of another. Turn a corner, you’re in a bar, tv on, pool table, etc., but find your way up a flight of stairs and you’re in the venue itself. Decent-size stage, bar in back along the side wall with plenty of room for merch, a little side-stage area for equipment, and the best lighting I’ve seen since I moved to this state last year — this being my first time at Ralph’s, I was immediately relieved at the quality of the place. Very, very cool room, and sound to match. It made a fitting home for Eye of the Stoned Goat, which last nestled itself into Brooklyn’s The Acheron in July 2013 (review here) and this year was expanded to two days for the first time, organizer Brendan Burns of Snakecharmer Booking and the band Wasted Theory pulling out the stops in mixing locals and out-of-towners, which I’ve found is a balance one should be careful to maintain around these parts. Fortunately there’s no shortage of quality acts.
A 5PM start got underway on time with Birch Hill Dam leading off, and there was no turning back from there:
Birch Hill Dam
As I made my way through the downstairs part of the venue and bought my weekend pass, I was handed a copy of Birch Hill Dam‘s 2011 CD, Colossus, which the MA natives had donated as a door giveaway. A nice touch. I had known I wanted to see them anyway — been more or less waiting to run into Birch Hill Dam again since I moved here — but even if I hadn’t, that would certainly make me more inclined to check them out. My last experience with the band was in 2012 at Stoner Hands of Doom XII in Connecticut, and my prevailing impression was a Kyuss influence. That was far less the case this time around. With some Down/C.O.C. chug in their thick-toned riffs and some double-guitar antics featured later on in the set, Birch Hill Dam were way further into their own sound than when last we met. Frontman Mike Nygard was one of the weekend’s few standalone vocalists (six out of the 20 bands, most of them on Saturday), and he held down his position well with unforced throatiness and just a hint of metal underneath all that rock. They played a decent amount of new material along with “2600” and finale “Boozehound,” both culled from Colossus, and as slick as that album was, I’ll be fascinated to hear the direction their new stuff takes in the studio.
There were two bands on the Saturday bill I’d never seen before — Worcester’s SET (which they seem to prefer written all-caps) and headliners Sixty Watt Shaman — and SET were the surprise of the weekend. Part of that owes to the fact that in my head, I had imagined they were a completely different band, but to find their newer-class doom tempered with thrash and even some crusty black metal, I was blown away by the quality and cohesion in what they were doing, and how natural they made it sound. A two-guitar, two-vocal four-piece, they seemed to have clearly worked on their tone and presentation, and if it had been the West Coast instead of the East, I’d call the results “gnarly.” They were tight, worked fluidly in moving between fast and slower tempos, and looked to be working from a fairly wide swath of influences. They had tapes for sale in the back at $3 each, but I missed my shot at one. Still, I’ll look forward to seeing them again and knowing a little bit more of what I’m getting when they kick into the badass roll of “Wolves behind the Sheep,” taken from their Valley of the Stonedebut long-player, apparently set to release on vinyl this summer. I don’t know if they tour, but they should.
John Wilkes Booth
Among the few things I’ll never argue against is a chance to catch John Wilkes Booth live. The house band of Mr. Beery’s out on Long Island and I go way back at this point, but they were another one I hadn’t seen since SHoD in Connecticut, so I felt somewhat overdue. They were doing their thing, which is fine by me since they’re good at it. They had a fair amount of what seemed to me to be newer material, and as he stood in front of the weekend’s most elaborate pedal board, vocalist Kerry Merkle plugged a new EP in the works that would BE done “as soon as [they] get [their] shit together.” I had thought that was going to be a full-length, but it’s been long enough at this point that I’d take whatever came. I’ve seen them burn rooms to the ground with brash riffing, thick groove and megaphoned-incantations, but this was a somewhat moodier set, more exploratory feeling, and that suited them just as well, as they managed to maintain their underlying crunch. I’ve said it of the Booth before that they’re a ’90s NYC noise rock band and they just don’t know it, and I got that vibe again at Ralph’s, but they showed a brooding side to complement, and that made the heavier parts land that much harder in comparison. Made me wonder where their EP might be headed.
Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 marked two last shows, both of them for Massachusetts’ own David Gein. The now-former Black Pyramid four-stringer was playing his final (never say never in rock and roll, but at least for the time being) gigs with Second Grave on Saturday and with The Scimitar on Sunday ahead of a move to the West Coast, so it was twice the occasion. I don’t know if you could really call anything Second Grave do “celebratory,” however, unless you’re celebrating slow, plodding and every now and again viciously extreme metal — which, now that I think about it, is fun to do — but the four-piece did justice to their bass player in delivering a crisp, tight-wound set, the clean vocals and apex-topping screams of guitarist Krista Van Guilder cutting through a morass of tonal bite courtesy of her own and Chris Drzal‘s guitars and Gein‘s bass while drummer Chuck Ferreira shoved the lumbering progressions forward. During their last song — was it “Mountains of Madness?” — the lights went blood red and the visual change helped put their final payoff over the top. I’m not sure how, being in a band that can be so utterly ruthless, they resist the temptation to be that way all the time, but Second Grave‘s restraint, however momentary it may or may not be in a given track, is part of why the band works so well.
Maryland trio Beelzefuzz released one of 2013’s best in the form of their self-titled debut (review here), and having spent so much time with that material since the record came out last August, I felt like I was seeing them in a different context than before. I wasn’t the only one in the crowd who knew the songs, whether it was “Hard Luck Melody,” or “Hypnotized” and “All the Feeling Returns” from the album, they got a welcoming response from the ESG4 crowd. Between Dana Ortt‘s guitar tone, bassist Pug Kirby‘s trancelike-state stage presence and the classy, carefully-understated drumming of Darin McCloskey (also of Pale Divine), Beelzefuzz took the stage at Ralph’s well in command of their sound and bizarre, progressive take on traditional doom. Ortt thanked the audience for being so “cool,” and mentioned he’d taken some pills before going on — Claritin, for hay fever — but if he was under the weather, there was little sign of it as they tackled “Ride the Sky” by Lucifer’s Friend to close out. I couldn’t help but think of their taking on the same song last year at Days of the Doomed III in Wisconsin with Trouble‘s Eric Wagner joining in on vocals, but they handled it well on their own as well, though I’m not sure if that was as much a highlight as “Reborn” from the self-titled, which would remain stuck in my head for the rest of the evening.
Granted, after Beelzefuzz just about anything is a left turn, but I was curious to see how Connecticut’s Lord Fowl — who, if you’ve never seen them, are a boot to the ass; an absolutely kinetic live band — would follow their more languid predecessors. I’m not sure what I was hung up on, but about two seconds into Lord Fowl‘s set, they had the crowd on their side, and they had no trouble keeping them there for the duration of their all-too-short half-hour set. It hasn’t quite been a year since the last Stoned Goat fest, which the two-guitar foursome also played, but I would’ve hoped to see them again before this weekend, fantastic as they are on stage. I was glad to see them get a response when they kicked into the title-track from 2012’s excellent Small Stone debut, Moon Queen(review here), with guitarists Vechel Jaynes and Mike Pellegrino trading vocals back and forth in the chorus while bassist John Conine and drummer Don Freeman thrashed suitably on the Ralph’s stage. For an act who puts so much effort into their shows, it’s worth noting that Lord Fowl don’t come across as forced, or like they’re trying to cloy their way into fan-appreciation. It’s just a good time, and that goes even more for the boogie-fied new jam they locked into. Still instrumental and formative though it was, it was also plain to see why they’d want to break it out.
The Portland, Maine, trio were pretty fresh on my mind, having seen them in March at the release show for their fourth album, The Last Neanderthal (review here), but a quick check-in was cool by me, particularly with “Nine Princes in Amber” as the opening song — that hook was among the day’s most irresistible. They dipped back to their 2003 Dawn of the Proto-Mendebut for “The Jaded Beast,” and “Dogmen (of Planet Earth)” from 2006’s Seven Hellswas time well spent, but as had been the case last time, it was the new stuff that had them excited, the raw Sabbathery of “Bad Trip” and the classic metal of “Warpath” coming through with what felt like an especially fervent delivery. For Ogre to emerge as the most singularly indebted to Sabbath on a fest like this is saying something — and they did, at least for Day One if not for both — but the closing cover of The Bags‘ “Naked Lady” which they once again squeezed in the few remaining minutes of their time found them in a higher gear distinct from some of the doomy wanderings of “Bad Trip” and “The Jaded Beast,” formidable as the impressions those tracks left were, particularly “The Jaded Beast” with bassist Ed Cunningham moving into and out of screams in the chorus while guitarist Ross Markonish belted out a steady series of solos and drummer Will Broadbent stomped away behind.
I had missed hearing “Embers.” After being so lucky to accompany Kings Destroy on their West Coast run earlier this Spring, I guess I had been spoiled hearing their new material each night, but I took out my earplugs for song on the first day of Eye of the Stoned Goat 4, and that was for “Embers,” from the New York five-piece’s reportedly-recorded but as-yet-untitled third album. Aside from being good to see them, as people, I was delighted to catch them on stage for the eighth time this year. All the more for the new songs “W2″ and “Smokey Robinson,” which I hadn’t heard yet, as well as opener “Old Yeller,” and the closing whallop of “Blood of Recompense” — another one I’d missed — and “Turul,” which is so wonderfully strange that I almost enjoy watching people hear it as much as hearing it myself. Probably goes without saying that the follow-up to 2013’s A Time of Huntingis among my most anticipated releases for the rest of 2014, but I’ll say it anyway and add to that how fortunate I feel to have seen this band come into their own over the last few years. They’ve hit the point where their sound is utterly separate from what one might classify it genre-wise, and the weirder they go into their blend of slow, mournful heavy, brash confrontationalism and dead-on rock — watch out for “Mr. O.” when the album hits — the more righteous they become. There’s not a lot about New York that I miss, but I miss Kings Destroy.
When the weekend was over, it would be Cortez who pulled the best crowd. Massachusetts’ reputation for loving its own is well earned, but even more than that, the four-turned-fivesome legitimately rocked the pants off of Ralph’s, guitarists Scott O’Dowd and Alasdair Swan trading leads as the set progressed with a completely fluid charge, bassist Jay Furlo joining vocalist Matt Harrington on vocals in a chorus here and there all the while sticks tossing into the air behind from drummer Jeremy Hemond. Putting Cortez in the context of outfits like Roadsaw and Lamont, they’re just about everything right in Boston’s brand of heavy rock. They opened with “Johnny” from their 2012 self-titled debut (review here), which Darryl Shepard and I agreed should be the closer, and offered new material in “Vanishing Point” from their split 7″ with Borracho (discussed here) and “Keeping Up,” which carried no shortage of swagger. It was “Monolith” that finished out their time in grand fashion, and propelled by Hemond‘s cymbal wash, theirs was as big a big-rock-finish as the two days of Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 would boast. They played the veterans they are despite only having one LP out, and that’s my polite way of saying they should do more. Frankly, they’re a better band than most people know. Fortunately, the crowd at Ralph’s seemed reasonably well informed.
Sixty Watt Shaman
Before they went on, Sixty Watt Shaman drummer Chuck Dukehart III — who’d pull double-duty on Sunday in Foghound — had the room cracking up with some classic Paul Stanley stage rants: “Do you people like the taste of AL-CO-HOL?” “Alright listen,” and so on. Fucking great. The reunited Maryland (etc.) bruisers were in a rough spot following Cortez and starting after midnight as the headliners, and while they started out to a packed house, by the time they were done much of the evening was as well. Still, for a band who haven’t played more than a handful of shows in the last decade, it was hard to argue with what Sixty Watt Shaman — bassist Rev. Jim Forrester (interview here), Dukehart, guitarist Todd Ingram (also of King Giant) and vocalist Daniel Soren — were getting up to with a barrage of dudely grooves that only underscored the influence they’ve had on Maryland and Southern heavy rock in general over the last 10-plus years. Though still newly-reactivated, they were tight and fresh from the London and Berlin Desertfest‘s as well as Dukehart‘s own Moving the Earth festival in Baltimore (go O’s!) prior. The title-track from 2000’s Seed of Decades was a highlight for me, though neither “Cactus Mexicali,” “Southern Gentleman” nor “Pull the Strings” from 1998’s Ultra Electricprompted argument. As they’d have to, they closed out with “Red Colony” from Seed of Decadesand capped a day full of heavy with some of its burliest groove. Some bands you don’t expect to ever get the chance to see, and given the limited nature of their doings as of now — two shows in Europe, two in the US, this being one — I felt lucky to see them and they were fitting closer for a raucous night.
I pulled out of the Ralph’s Rock Diner parking lot at 1:30AM, having left shortly after Sixty Watt Shaman finished. The ride home was uneventful, which is probably for the best, and I managed to knock two or three minutes off the trip. That doesn’t seem like much now, but as I crashed out in anticipation of waking up and making my way back to Worcester for Day Two of Eye of the Stoned Goat 4, I knew every little bit was going to count.
Day Two coverage tomorrow, and more pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.
God. Damn. Quite a lineup, quite a poster. I’ll give credit to Hollow Leg‘s Brent Lynch who first brought my attention to the poster for his band’s March 26 gig at St. Vitus Bar in Brooklyn. The evening, on which Kings Destroy (fresh off their West Coast tour) headlines with Hollow Leg, Holly Hunt, Clamfight and The Scimitar supporting, is a benefit for Aaron Edge, the Seattle-based graphic designer and former Roareth (etc.) guitarist, whose struggle with multiple sclerosis led to the creation last year of Lumbar‘s The First and Last Days of Unwelcome(review here) and whose medical bills continue to accumulate.
True to oblivious form, I actually wasn’t aware The Obelisk was sponsoring the show or I’d have been plugging it much sooner. There were some discussions earlier on and I had thought it just kind of petered out as these things sometimes do, but I’m honored to have the name of this site associated with such a lineup, with War Crime Recordings who released Kings Destroy‘s A Time of Hunting last year, and of course with St. Vitus Bar, whose reputation at this point spreads well beyond the bounds of Brooklyn. I won’t be sorry to catch Hollow Leg and Holly Hunt when they come through Boston with Ichabod and Balam, but no doubt this is something special, and the poster, by Searing Limb‘s Connor Anderson, certainly lives up to the occasion.
Click the image to enlarge for a more detailed look (click it again to remove). For more on the Anderson‘s work, this show, the Holly Hunt/Hollow Leg tour dates and how you can contribute to Edge‘s continuing fight, check the links below.
02.29.14 — 12:30AM Mountain — Fri. night / Sat. morning — The van
“Altitude…” — Carl Porcaro
Completely different vibe from last night. There was some space between the bands and the crowd at Sister because of monitors out front, but Summit Music Hall was just another species of animal. Both, I suppose, are shooting for a certain kind of authenticity of experience. In the case of the Albuquerque club from last night, it’s a rawer kind of feel, more punk rock, right there, you were involved as it happened, very much the purity mindset that also comes into play with the vinyl resurgence over the last few years — analog or death; find us on Facebook — whereas tonight in Denver, it was more a previous generation’s professional, commercial-style rock venue.
Not taking sides one over the other. I’ve seen great shows in both kinds of rooms, and this one was the biggest of the tour. I was quoted a capacity of 1,100, which is a substantial amount of people. An all-ages show, I don’t think it was sold out, but it was plenty packed, and though the crowd was more withdrawn than last night’s — again, the kind of room was a big factor as well as the people who showed up — they got plenty wild for Pentagram, who continued a run of solid headlining gigs. The tour ends tomorrow. I’m sorry to see it over, but probably best I get back to real life at some point.
Show ran pretty early with doors at seven and the first band on at 8:45. Local rockers Space in Time got things started:
Space in Time
Pretty straightforward stuff. Classic-style, one guitar, bass, drums, vocals, with organ for a total five-piece who made their most lasting impression with closer “Cheating Death.” For some of their set, it seemed like the Denver natives hadn’t yet decided if they wanted to go full-on retro or if more modern heavy rock impulses might win out. Either way, their songs were well composed and though its presence in the mix depended in no small part on where you were actually standing on the floor, the organ made a big difference in their sound. This tour has seen some openers who are ready to go and some who’d benefit from more time on stage, more time hammering out their songwriting, and so on. Space in Time don’t fit neatly into either category, but for not knowing the band before the show, I wasn’t sorry to have seen them play.
“Embers” came third tonight and was the tightest yet. If I didn’t know it hadn’t been recorded, I’d probably just assume it was an album track from A Time of Hunting, and that would seem to be a good sign. Crazy build in that song, and very satisfying to hear it take shape on stage as it has. Kings Destroy opened tonight with “The Mountie” and went immediately into “The Toe,” which made for a riffy start that I think the audience took to. Not really a shock that the attendees at the Pentagram gig would like the doomy tracks, but though it was a half-hour set, Kings Destroy still fit a decent serving of their wares, pushing “Blood of Recompense,” which has been in my head all day, ahead of “Old Yeller” in the closing spot. They’ve got some genuine momentum in their performance at this point, and though there are different personalities to different shows, they’ve managed to build one onto the next in a manner I can only really describe as professional without slipping into hyperbole. The bigger stage suited them.
Well, okay. Here it is. Time to think of another way to say Radio Moscow kick ass. Maybe I’ll keep it simple and just note that, yes, they do, and tonight they did so extra gloriously on “I Just Don’t Know,” which provided a raucous opening to the set. Of the three bands in this writeup whom I’ve seen over the course of this week, they were probably the most affected by the distance between the stage and the crowd. I couldn’t help but think of Las Vegas and the group of kids up front who were practically on top of guitarist/vocalist Parker Griggs as he tore into one or another solo. Not really possible when there’s a barrier between, though I still definitely got a spritz of beer from behind and above, so someone was rowdy enough. Radio Moscow have been insanely tight all along, so to say so seems redundant, but it was a different experience to watch them on the Summit Music Hall stage even than at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco.
I continue to be fascinated by the obvious impact that the Last Days Here (review here) documentary that came out in 2012 has had on Pentagram‘s draw, and while there have been some on this trip who made clear by shouting various things at Bobby Liebling both before he got on stage and after, Denver was cool for the most part. Still, it’s a level of spectacle I hadn’t expected, and as someone who saw Pentagram before the movie came out, the difference is palpable. That’s a shame in a way, because with Victor Griffin on guitar, Greg Turley on bass and Sean Saley on drums, Pentagram — the full band — are as tight now if not tighter than I’ve ever seen them. A minor flub tonight at the start of “When the Screams Come” was barely there in a crisp set, and of course Liebling worked the crowd into the proverbial frenzy so that even with the barrier there were people spilling over each other. Griffin, Turley and Saley followed suit, and Pentagram were exciting to watch for so much more than just the (well told) narrative of their frontman.
Today was payday, so I bought a couple shirts. One from a brewpub across the street whose chicken caesar salad was the best thing I’ve eaten since I left home, and one from Pentagram. Tomorrow, again, is the final night of this tour, and yeah, I’ll miss it. It’ll be good to be home, to see The Patient Mrs. and the little dog Dio, but this has been a good time and something of a personal landmark, so you’ll have to please forgive the moment of sentiment. I’m sure there’s more to come.
There was a guy outside the venue (who may or may not have been former MTV VJ Jesse Camp) taking pictures on his smartphone for what he in his I’m-very-clearly-on-bad-drugs kind of way explained as a sort of art project. I had him send me one he took of me. I’ve never been especially photogenic (or charming, or intelligent, or socially capable, or competent; the fucking list just keeps going). This is the first picture of myself I’ve ever posted on this site and in most cases I’ll go out of my way to not get my picture taken, but it was just random enough. Carl damn near ran him over with one of the cabinets during loadout. “How’s that for a cool pic?” asked C-Wolf.
What that guy was doing with a smartphone or where that picture is actually headed, I have no idea. Maybe he makes fake IDs or some shit. Whatever. Hope they’re kinder to my likeness than I’ve been. Drink up, children. Your parents have been lying to you: Alcohol is delicious and it makes you a more interesting person.
Plan is to cover some ground of the 500-miles-plus trip to Salt Lake City tonight. Jim Pitts is at the wheel, though we’ve stopped to get a scraper now because there’s an ice storm and it’s building up on the windshield. We’ll go for hopefully a couple of hours if it’s not too bad and then crash out until — wait for it — 10AM. The idea seems so luxurious after the last three days that I fear writing in case I might jinx it.
“We’re gonna do another new one, while we’re here…” — Parker Griggs
Sister Bar in Albuquerque. Cool spot in that neo-metal/hesher kind of way. Bare brick walls would almost have to be original, hardwood floor not yet destroyed through years of abuse. Huge, sprawling bar, tall ceiling, good sound, seats for those in back who might want them, and a garage bay on the street side that provides an indoor/outdoor space. Art both all over the place and still in progress throughout the building. Reportedly there’s a bar upstairs too owned by the same people, but I didn’t get up there to see it. Still, what I saw, I dug.
The tour is well dug in at this point. All three of the road acts are on fire and though perhaps the windows of the Kings Destroy van would need fixing, the level of performance is such that it could just keep going. It won’t, of course. There are two shows left and then a flight back to New York — followed, in my case, by a drive home to Massachusetts — but that’s how it feels. I’ve seen bands many time deliver these kinds of performances mid-tour. That’s not really new for me. What is new is being able to see the narrative of a tour tightening up play out in real time. I’d hate to use the word “automatic” and have it come across that anyone in Pentagram, Kings Destroy or Radio Moscow is phoning it in, because that’s not the case. More like flicking a switch and coming to life, maybe.
Leeches of Lore opened tonight and they were a band I was very, very stoked to see. Here’s how the show ran:
Leeches of Lore
I’ve dug these Albuquerque-native weirdo heavy spazz rockers for a while and seeing them live was like watching peak-era Ween on a psych-thrash freakout. Fucking cool band, and not only did Leeches of Lore live up to the go-anywhere-anytime feel of their recordings, they surpassed it in presence and in the power of their delivery. Guitarist/vocalist Steve Hammond was given to screams in addition to pushing his voice into throaty falsetto shouts, and with two drummers, keys, and two added horns for set-finale “La Follia di Spazio,” Leeches of Lore even had Bobby Liebling of Pentagram out from backstage and fervently approving of their methods — the first time I’ve seen that happen all tour. There’s something so satisfying about seeing a band you’ve been into and having it live up to your hopes. Leeches of Lore surpassed mine, and drew a huge crowd of local supporters as well.
The key difference between last night in Vegas and tonight was when the band clicked. Cheyenne Saloon was the best Kings Destroy played yet, and it had left me wondering how they might top it, but what happened tonight was that there was no warming up necessary. They got on stage, plugged in, and hit it. Doubly impressive since it was “Embers,” the new song, in the opening spot with a relatively subdued feel compared to a more full-on track like “Casse-Tete” or “Blood of Recompense.” I noted that “Old Yeller” was faster tonight than last night in its intro, but still had all its heft intact. And as immediate as the band was, the response followed suit, with the assembled denim ‘n’ leather set making their way quickly over from the bar to partake. I heard no complaints as “The Toe” gave way to “Blood of Recompense,” the lead guitar line of which might as well be tattooed on my frontal cortex for all the likelihood of it ever giving up its position there.
Presumably if this tour was three weeks or a month long or something like that, at some point I’d run out of ways to nerd on Radio Moscow, but that’s not a concern as it is. The we-have-a-sixth-gear-and-it’s-called-awesome power trio changed things up a little tonight. No drum solo, though Paul Marrone put on a clinic in swing — no, not the HBO kind — all the same, and the set had a third new song to go with “Death of a Queen” and the boogie-heavy “Before it Burns.” It sounded, to be frank, like Radio Moscow, and by that I mean was peppered with wah-drenched lead guitar, deep, resonant low end to match, and the kind of blinding rhythmic turns that make you think the band is about to fall off the side of a cliff but of course they never actually do. As much as I’ve gotten to know their set these last few days, I’ve been glad to see them continue to deliver something different at each show. Their reputation for volatility is known far and wide, lineup changes, etc., and maybe that’s the cost of their kind of energy. All I know is they’ve been a consistently exciting band to watch and tonight was no exception.
A fight broke out pretty early into Pentagram‘s set up toward the front. A guy was drunk and hit a girl or something, there was yelling, something about bitch this, bitch that, and then half the place was on the dude and pounding hard. Like the left side of the room decided all at once to kick his ass. Generally that kind of unanimity doesn’t happen without some root cause, but when he finally got dragged out of there via chokehold, it seemed in his best interests. Meanwhile, Pentagram. They were a while in taking the stage, but incredibly well received as they have been for these shows upon their arrival. Victor Griffin and Greg Turley had their tones dialed in, drummer Sean Saley nailed his fills, and Bobby Liebling – despite what seemed to be a sore throat — delivered the gig that the crowd (minus one) had been expecting. They’ve done the same set each night, so no surprises necessarily, but I’ve very much enjoyed watching each city lose its mind when “Forever My Queen” starts. I’m pretty sure the shops on Central Ave. were being looted at the time, and for being a weeknight, the crowd were ready to throw down for Pentagram. A good cause if there ever was one.
Loadout happened as efficiently as one could ask considering we were basically doing so in the dark. We piled in the van and hightailed it down the street to the EconoLodge and the plan is to get back on the road by 8AM. It was about three when we got here, so I’m not sure how feasible that is, but five hours of sleep would be more than I had last night. Unfortunately, since I want to shower — and I do — I’ve already missed that mark and am currently counting down to a measly four, which is about what I’ve had for each of the last two evenings. That’ll show me for something or other.
Albuquerque seemed like a cool town. I would’ve liked to have time to explore more of it, but something tells me this won’t be my last visit to the American desert.
Posted in Features on February 27th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
02.27.14 — 3:40PM Pacific — Thursday — Somewhere in Arizona
“Elevation 7,735″ — Sign on highway
Some wacky changes in the landscape on this ride, going from Nevada into Arizona. Coming out of Las Vegas was desert, then we got into snow-capped mountains, into some high-altitude forest, then back down into desert, both peopled and empty, and now just coming into these giant red rocks coming near the New Mexico border that look like eroded pyramids, these monolithic things that come up out of nowhere. You can see the layers. Millions of years.
The wind we’ve hit and been hit by has also been utter madness, delivering a beating to the makeshift windows. We’ve come through a couple sandstorms, and it’s been a slalom down the road, tossed from one side to another. There are other cars out here, trucks in the left lane moving slow. Last estimate I heard had us getting to Albuquerque by 6:30PM. I seem to recall that was the estimate last night and we were close enough to it. Just a matter of putting in the time to get there, covering the ground.
And it’s significant ground to cover. I barely knew the routing when I was getting on the plane to Seattle, but to think of how far this trip has gone already, it’s wild. The equivalent of Boston to Georgia, probably, if not more than that. Most of it in the last two days, owing to the drive from Portland to San Francisco being split over two days. So it goes. Not much time for hanging out either in the cities or out in the middle of nowhere, but still cool to see all this stuff not from an airplane flying over, to be affected by the stretch of it. I don’t care how much paved road runs through it, the land is humbling.
New Mexico is a little more populated, at least the stretch we just came through, but we’re still neck deep in desert. Completely bizarre to think that tomorrow at this time, we’ll be headed back north to Denver for the second-to-last night of their tour. Rocky hillside dark with cloud cover. Debris on the road. It all looks very permanent. How on earth can you “just be passing through” a sandstorm? A torrential downpour of dirt? We stopped a bit ago and the wind blew the sunglasses out of my hand and halfway across the parking lot of the rest stop, which sold a bunch of Navajo Indian knick-knacks. There’s Navajo casinos out here too. Because that’s over, right? Sure thing.
Leeches of Lore are playing the show tonight. Four bands: Leeches of Lore, Kings Destroy, Radio Moscow, Pentagram. That’s a solid fucking show. I looked in my luggage this morning and saw I only had two clean t-shirts left after the one I’m wearing today, and for a second I was kicking myself because I thought I miscounted in packing to come out. Nope. A week of shows is just more than half over.
02.27.14 — 9:30AM Pacific — Thurs. morning — The desert outside of Las Vegas, NV
“Don’t put that in the writeup…” — Chris “C-Wolf” Skowronski
The city itself interests me far less, but I was intrigued to see the Cheyenne Saloon in Las Vegas because it’s where the annual Doom in June fest is held. It was a full day’s driving to get here, through suburbs and valley giving way to low and high and low desert, the final descent into Nevada and then Vegas itself seeming endless in the doing. Wasn’t a bad ride, all told. I took many pictures of the desert, which lived up to my expectation, and saw windmills and mountains that seemed to come out of nowhere and go back just as quickly, and Joshua trees, and empty space and bugs on the windshield and hillsides and the sun and whatever else.
It was dark by the time we hit Vegas, so of course the lights were going and all that. I’ve been to Las Vegas once before and did not much care for it. I think in order to have any kind of enjoyable experience in this town you probably need to be rich enough that money is no object, win or lose. That’s not my case, needless to say. Cheyenne Saloon itself is after the main strip, tucked away in the corner of a shopping plaza. Plenty of parking at least. I didn’t think much of the look of the room when we got there, but the sound was phenomenal and the show wound up with a cool intimate vibe, being the smallest spot on the tour so far.
Local openers Spiritual Shepherd were already set up on stage when we got there, though they’d break down again when Pentagram arrived, allowing the headliners the chance to soundcheck, but load-in was quick enough and before too long, Spiritual Shepherd got the five-band bill going:
Young, and solid, but still clearly getting their feet wet. An instrumental three-piece who seemed to have the most fun on stage when engaging in elephantine plod, Spiritual Shepherd were distinguished in no small part by their drummer, Ian Henneforth, who was quick to show off his chops and technical prowess amid the band’s stonerly riffs. They jammed out one song — most of their titles came from the stoner rock playbook; atomic-this and space-that; hard to keep track sometimes — that had a psychedelic edge and then went full-heft into a crusher, so there’s some level of diversity in what they were doing, they were just new to it. They’ll keep working and be fine. Hell, they already get to say they opened for Pentagram, so kudos.
It seemed a little unfair that Demon Lung vocalist Shanda was wearing an elaborate dress and the three dudes surrounding were in t-shirts and jeans. Shanda apologized for Demon Lung‘s missing guitarist, who apparently recently broke his collarbone and couldn’t make the show as a result and for herself too, citing caring for a sick puppy at home as having kept her up the last several nights. I thought she and the band both sounded pretty right on. Some of the material came across samey in the presentation,b but it’s doom. That’s what happens. It didn’t seem like a performance that needed an excuse or an explanation, in other words, but then, it was my first time seeing them. Maybe they absolutely destroy every other time they play, but they didn’t do so badly at Cheyenne Saloon.
Best show of the tour so far. No question. Kings Destroy seem to be approached with some measure of caution by these audiences, but as with each the other nights on this run, they did indeed win those people over. “I like a quiet room,” said vocalist Steve Murphy between songs. He must have been let down at the end when people were shouting their approval, then. Sorry dude. “The Whittler” was moved to open the set, “Embers” pushed up to second, where it worked well and sounded tight, and they closed out with an especially slow-seeming take on “Old Yeller,” with a grueling early going giving way to a raucous finale. Elsewhere, “The Toe” and “The Mountie” arrived as welcome standards in an assured, aggressive and viciously heavy half-hour-plus. San Francisco was cool, but a different vibe, very high stage. Though they were coming off of being robbed last night and still plenty aggro, the band somehow radiated a comfort level from the stage that seemed to be relatively at peace. Somehow.
Can’t help but notice that I’ve come out of each of these shows with a different favorite from Radio Moscow. Tonight it was “Mistreating Queen,” though the new ones, “Death of a Queen” (wonder if there’s any relation there) and “Before it Burns,” were expertly handled as well. A contingent of kids showed up for Radio Moscow who were way into it and seemed to have pregamed the show. Fair enough. Their rowdiness seemed to up the general energy level in the room, though the band weren’t having any trouble with that anyway. Drummer Paul Marrone took a solo with some contribution from bassist Anthony Meier that was a treat to watch and it seemed like every time Parker Griggs stomped on his wah, the room went apeshit. Hard not to see why.
This was the smallest night of the tour in room and attendance. Pentagram killed it through three sold-out gigs, but I wondered how their vibe might change at a gig like this one. They did well with it. Bobby Liebling said he was feeling under the weather, but with the crash and thud of drummer Sean Saley and the gigantic air-push from Victor Griffin and bassist Greg Turley behind him, the was plenty of space in the room mix for him to hang back. He drank tea on stage from a large cup that wound up in the back of Kings Destroy‘s van. I might try to take it home if I can fit it in my bag. No “20 Buck Spin,” but the set was tight in spite of whatever ailments might’ve been a factor, “All Your Sins” sticking in my head, though “Be Forewarned” once again was the high point. Someone needs to build a monument to that song.
Got out of the show around 2AM and found a casino/hotel offering $25 rooms. They were decent — I guess the place was just trying to get you in there to gamble. You even had to walk through the poorly-lit den of human misery to get to the hotel rooms, but somehow I magically resisted the temptation to sit down at the slots and blow my last $20 on nothing. I went up to the room and started to write but was falling asleep hard by 3AM and decided around four o’clock that I wasn’t doing myself any favors being awake with an 8AM start to come.
Crashed hard and woke up at 20-minute intervals thinking about the review half-written, so not sure how many favors I was doing myself anyway, but whatever. The current plan is to fix the window in Denver, so the 500 miles to Albuquerque will come with periodic bouts of fixing up the back one, with which the wind on the highway — and there is a bit of it — seems to have a time. It’s not really a consideration at this point except when it needs to be. The adjustment has been made, I guess. Seems like the band blew off some steam at the show and that kind of evened everybody out. Funny how that works.
Trip is 500 miles to Albuquerque or somewhere thereabouts. Can feel the wind shoving the van around its lane. Landscape is mountains baked in sun. Dry, gorgeous desert. I regret nothing.
02.26.14 – 2:46AM Pacific – Wed. morning – En route from SF
“You can never win…” – Bobby Liebling
Not sure what to say about tonight, really, but we’re on the move out of San Francisco and it’s getting late. The show was fantastic. Another sellout crowd, a killer venue, great sound, cool mood, everybody’s locked in and coming across excellent. I moved around a bit more rather than just sit tight up front, so got a couple different views and even snapped some shots from the side of the stage. We were rolling. Things were rolling along. When Pentagram were finished, I came out to the van to at least get the night’s photos onto my laptop and ready to post and found two of the passenger-side windows, the two in back, had been blown out.
At first it didn’t look like anything was gone, but of course stuff was. Some wasn’t touched, but iPads, Steve’s clothes, etc., got swiped, and Radio Moscow got hit as well, including for laptops and photo equipment. Shitter way to end what would’ve otherwise been an excellent night, though I say “end” and since we’re still driving and in need of a 24-hour glass repair person to fix the two windows which now have gaffer’s tape and poster board where the window used to be, the night’s not actually over yet. All the same, here’s the deal:
Somewhere between thrash and doom and more extreme metal, Oakland’s own Bedrücken are there, probably getting drunk. A double-guitar five-piece with a standalone vocalist, they were easily the most extreme band of the night, kind of a standout in that regard, but seemed to know the room and the people, who were starting to trickle in as the show got underway. West Coast sludge has a long history of sounding as thoroughly fucked as possible, and Bedrücken seemed well aware of the legacy they were upholding, but were well distinguished by vocalist Ami Lawless’ vicious rasp and periodic deviations into broodingly intense clean parts. The crusty contingent in the crowd – and there was one — ate it up.
“The Whittler,” from the first album, replaced the new song “Embers.” I was digging the way that one was coming along, but it had been a while since I heard the older cut, so no complaints. Things had clicked well in Portland and there was no step back in SF despite a hiccup in closer “Blood of Recompense.” For the most part in this band, these guys have all known each other for so long that their dynamic is well set, and I guess seeing it three shows in a row like this, that’s the primary standout impression, how natural they are on stage with each other. And Aaron Bumpus, who’s not just younger but also rooted differently in terms of his influences, fits well in sound and presence. I’ve been trying to think of what separates Kings Destroy from most doom — much as they’re a doom band at all — in how they handle the stage, and really it seems to be a question of attitude. Bedrücken were plenty angry, but Kings Destroy were confrontational, and that’s a big difference. They had started before I even realized it, and their set went quickly.
I’m not sure how one might mosh to Radio Moscow, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t see it happen tonight. Unless 21 got way younger looking when I wasn’t paying attention — possible — this was another all-ages show, and the younger contingent especially was all about Radio Moscow‘s psych-blues mastery. It’s a crazy lineup, the three touring acts, but I think no matter who was on the bill, Radio Moscow would likely distinguish themselves. Guitarist/vocalist Parker Griggs, bassist Anthony Meier and drummer Paul Marrone were so snapped-in it was like you pressed play and then there they were, but they still have personality on stage as well. It’s not like they come across as going through the motions of their material. It’s been incredible to watch. Still dug “Death of a Queen” a lot, “Frustrating Sound” made a return, and while it was on their setlist for both prior shows, I’m fairly certain tonight was the first time they actually broke out “No Time” for a jammy runthrough, which had the kid in the flipped-up-brim D.R.I. hat out of his mind.
The song “8” left an impression on 2011’s Last Rites (review here) as well, but live it seems to be all the more of a showcase for the richness in Victor Griffin‘s guitar tone. Pentagram, three shows into the tour, are killing it. Each night is better than the last. Bassist Greg Turley and drummer Sean Saley are fluid and energetic players, and of course with Griffin there as the instrumental anchor, Bobby Liebling is that much freer to gyrate his hips, make obscene hand gestures at the crowd, whatever it might be on any given night. That’s all well and good, but Liebling‘s vocals tonight on “Be Forewarned” might also have been the best I’ve ever heard him sound live, so there’s something to be said for settling into the tour. Of course, “Forever My Queen” was again a highlight, among “Sign of the Wolf (Pentagram),” “When the Screams Come,” “Relentless” and closer “20 Buck Spin,” which I stuck around tonight to see. No regrets of course, unless that was when the van window got smashed, in which case, yeah, I probably should have split a little early. Not that I knew that at the time. Finding a little enclave in the back with a solid 18″ of personal space on as many sides as I wanted, I could’ve stayed there until 2AM and been fine. Didn’t come to that, however.
Even though I stayed to the very end of Pentagram‘s encore, I was still the first one back to the van. Two smashed windows, glass on the ground. Some stuff in the back looked untouched, so I thought maybe it was just vandalism, but no, when the Kings Destroy guys came out of the venue and down the block, they confirmed they had stuff missing. Glass was everywhere in the van, but we swept it, loaded out the gear, taped up the windows and hit the road. Not much choice in the matter. It’s 10 hours to Vegas. Gotta go. The staff at the DNA were cool and stuck around to help load-out.
Stopped for the night maybe 90 minutes outside of San Francisco, everyone bummed out, especially those who lost their stuff. The whole block had been hit, and apparently around the corner where Radio Moscow were stationed. A couple of kids I spoke to while I was waiting for the band to come out from the venue said they had camera equipment stolen, and so did Radio Moscow, and electronics stuff as well. Probably just people looking to make a buck, but still shitty for all involved. I’m telling you, if you’re going to steal, steal from corporations. No one even bothered to call the cops because they would’ve done nothing and nothing was insured. Police cars drove by on patrol the whole time I was outside — it was a while — and said and did nothing. Bigger fish to fry, I guess.
Tomorrow is Vegas. It’s after 4:30 in the morning and we need to be out of here at 9AM, so my watch is set for 8:01. If I’m ever going to sleep in the van, tomorrow seems like it might be the day. We’ll see how it works out.