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.
Posted in Features on February 25th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
02.24.14 — 10:28PM Pacific — Monday night — Quality Inn, Arcata, CA
“Fuckin’ giant octopus…” – Aaron Bumpus
Today I saw the sun for the first time in what seemed like at least four months, and I’m not sure I can properly explain how good it felt. Not just the last two days of rain in the Pacific Northwest, but just the whole winter back home has been so soul-retchingly grim. It’s February and I stood outside today without a hoodie on. Whatever else happened, the day was going to be a win from the word go. The tour had an off-date, but with last night having been Portland and tomorrow being San Francisco, it was travel the whole day. That’s not the last time that’s going to happen on this run.
Wasn’t terrible, in any case. Most of the drive I spent nerding out on the landscape, which was deeply, richly beautiful, with tree-lined mountains, properties cut into the forest in straight lines like a border about to be eaten by a wave. So fucking cool. Mountains all over the place, people nowhere. Wonderful, gorgeous land. One hardly thinks of loading into a sprinter van with six other dudes as a way to feel refreshed, but that’s where I was at this afternoon as we made our way south through Oregon. Here we are, rolled into a truck stop in the middle of nowhere. There’s the Subway, there’s the Pilot, there’s the porn shack, there’s Kings Destroy picking up a sixer for the road, and here’s me taking pictures in the parking lot like it’s National Geographic. Still, the sky and the mountains had me well enamored.
Jim Pitts had his work cut out for him on the drive, though Steve took over for a while as well after signing a form, taking a picture of it on his phone and sending it to who knows where. We came south down the 205 out of Portland, romantic visions of the Hawthorne Theatre and surrounding area still lingering in my head to go with my ringing ears, then picked up 99 to 199 in Grant’s Pass, which looked like a cool little town. Sort of these hippie enclaves along the way, people for whom getting away from other people was clearly a priority. Very secluded, some small shops outside of town. One place that made custom treehouses that were particularly righteous. I’m not sure that I’d be able to give up my kneejerk New Jersey prick bred-in anger and restlessness long enough to live that way for any real stretch of time, but it’s a lifestyle I envy.
Late afternoon/early evening found the van on winding roads in the hills, headed toward the coast. The kinds of turns you either take slow or slam into the side of a mountain. By the time we got into California and picked up the 101 at around exit 800, about five hours after starting out, I was starting to drag a bit, but a quick pit stop after coming through some crazy mountain tunnel provided respite. I think everyone got increasingly worn down from there by the drive, but best to keep going. Saw some redwood trunks in the forest, but it was dark by then, so not much more, and nothing really of the water except the blackness where it would’ve been by day and stars overhead. We got to this motel in Arcata, CA, a little bit before 8:30PM, checked in, ate at the Mexican place next door — which officially closed at nine, but were very accommodating all the same — for food and drink. Flautas and iced tea. West Coast Mexican food demolishes the vast majority of what’s available back home, though obviously there are exceptions on both sides. As a general rule though, the standard is higher. The East Coast has pizza though, which isn’t nothing. Talk was of hardcore days gone by, bands, shows, people, scenes, etc. I know next to nothing about any of it, but it’s interesting.
Steve had said something about hitting a beach early in the morning and I think C-Wolf and Jim Pitts were going to go as well, but I’m more inclined to crash out for as long as possible. I got to sleep after four last night and the fire alarm at the motel in Portland went off a little after seven because some doofus left his waffle in the iron too long. Sleep in the van is just about out of the question so far, though I was dozing by the time we pulled into Arcata, so I’ll take what I can get however I can get it. Tomorrow night is DNA Lounge in San Fran, and then on to Albuquerque. I’m looking forward to seeing the Pacific coast again during the day and to the show as well. It’s not an insubstantial trip, but it’s going fast. Tomorrow is Tuesday already and we leave on Saturday. Between, more mountains, forest, desert, rock and roll. I feel lucky to be here, immensely thankful to have been invited.
02.24.14 — 12:07AM Pacific — Sun. night / Mon. morning — Hawthorne Theater, Portland, OR
“Everybody gets a trophy at the Hawthorne Theatre…” – JJ Koczan
Oh, Portland. Portland, baby. 15’s my limit on schnitzengruben. You are making a German spectacle of yourself. It would be real easy to get spoiled living in this town. Quite a night. Quite a show. Pentagram had an amp blow out or something and the crowd was still going nuts. Pressed up against a metal railing at the front of the stage, I was reminded of younger days, a straight-line bruise along the bottom of the rib cage from being up front at silly shows. This was a young audience. They were into it. You kids and your doom.
Everything was a little more dead on tonight, as expected. Getting past the first show seems to have allowed for a certain amount of tension to abate. The three touring bands were tighter — no small feat after last night — and the local openers, Mothers Whiskey and Sons of Huns, both drew and performed well. Sold out show. Again, one could get spoiled.
I’ll try and make it quick again since it’s midnight and I’ve got actual job work to do:
Was talking with Mothers Whiskey guitarist/vocalist Greg Powers before the show and he mentioned he’s an East Coast guy, from Maryland. I don’t know that I would necessarily have picked it out in his approach had he not said it, but he had some of that post-Sixty Watt Shaman burl, though tempered obviously by the pervasive mellow of his current surroundings. Thus, Mothers Whiskey were a solid bicoastal blend, unpretentious and laid back, but still with an insistent undertone. Pretty clear they’re figuring out their sound, but their dynamic was solid, particularly on closer “Scorpion Moon Burn,” which carried that Southern heavy influence across smoothly.
Sons of Huns
The first band I’ve seen on this tour in which no single member had a full beard. Nonetheless, a local trio who’ve made a splash with their recent Banishment Ritualrelease, Sons of Huns were clearly known to the crowd. It was an all-ages show, and they skewed young, which never hurts, but they made their chops plain enough to see, guitarist Pete Hughes busting out solos that I read as an opening volley soon enough to be returned by Radio Moscow while sharing vocal duties with bassist Shoki Tanabe, who switched to a fretless about halfway through the set. Drummer Ryan Northrop was the anchor, but nothing was really holding Sons of Huns back as they gave the yet-unnamed post-Millennial generation a reason to relish Kyuss-style riffing.
Since I was in the van this afternoon with them, I know the literal miles Kings Destroy came for this show, but they do little justice to how many miles more comfortable they seemed on stage. Guitarists Chris Skowronski and Carl Porcaro were shoving and kicking, almost daring each other to fuck up, while bassist Aaron Bumpus and drummer Rob Sefcik provided the foundation for their shenanigans and Steve Murphy turned his mic stand at one point into a harpoon and thrust it in the general direction of the crowd. They started a little early, so squeezed “Dusty Mummy” into a riff-heavy set that worked well after Sons of Huns, setting up a rock/doom back and forth that would continue into Radio Moscow and Pentagram. The vocals didn’t come across as clearly, but the new song, “Embers,” was tighter tonight as well.
Doesn’t matter how many nights this tour goes, I don’t imagine I’m going to get tired of watching Radio Moscow make killing it look so easy. Two new songs in the set tonight, “Death of a Queen” and another one, plus “Rancho Tehama Airport,” which is also pretty recent, and where last night dipped back to the self-titled for “Frustrating Sound,” and that was certainly welcome as far as I’m concerned, I am not in the slightest about to complain about getting to know a couple new cuts ahead of the arrival of their new album, Magical Dirt, which seems to be slated for a spring release. Whenever it comes, the twists and turns in “Death of a Queen” are sure to be a highlight, as they were both in Seattle and at the Hawthorne, where they were met with due appreciation and then some by the all-ages set, who had youthful vigor on their side, and the 21-and-overs, who were sloshed. Suddenly the show felt very sold out, very packed in. No arguments though.
Yeah, and then Pentagram went on. Even before they took the stage, the push of people toward the front was fairly ridiculous. Bobby Liebling got cheers even as he walked out from the green room on the side of the stage, standing on a balcony and pointing at the crowd, obviously thrilled to see him. The place went off. Set was the same as last night — my only complaint with it is no “Walk in Blue Light,” but you can’t have everything — opening with “Nightmare Gown” from Be Forewarned and going into “Review Your Choices” before letting loose with “Forever My Queen” after what seemed to be some technical difficulty and on from there. It was during the latter (they were inadvertently switched at El Corazon, come to think of it), that being up front became an untenable situation and I did what any self-respecting adult would do and fell backwards into the press to make my way through. At one point the strap of my bookbag with my laptop in it was hooked around some plastered girl’s arm who refused to give it up, but I was ready to pull her outside with me if necessary. Finally I shouted something about it actually being my bag and a light went on in her head and she let go. I was pretty well frazzled, but made my way to the back to watch more. True, it was the same deal as Seattle, but screw it. Every time you get to see Pentagram — with Victor Griffin on guitar especially — it’s the right way to go, though I’ll admit that when they got down to the encore of “Be Forewarned” into “Wartime,” I was listening from outside.
Loadout, well, didn’t go quite as smoothly as last night. There was a bit of waiting and when all the stuff was in the sprinter, it was established that we’d be hitting a bar called Chopsticks at the suggestion of some locals who were headed that way. Tomorrow is an off-day for the tour. Turns out the place was a Chinese restaurant in addition to a bar — they called it fast food but they were the best dumplings I’ve had since I moved out of New Jersey — and that the karaoke was going in full force. Chopsticks wasn’t as packed as the show, but it had a crowd, and they felt like dancing. It was 1:30AM by the time we got there and about 2:30AM by the time we left, and in between is a blur of irony-overload ’80s hits sung by an assortment pulled from the almost-entirely-white assemblage. One guy did “Aqualung,” and nailed it, but the rest was Tears for Fears, Michael Jackson and the like.
Many laughs, many drinks, some dim sum, and no one was quite as sloppy as they semi-apologized for being. I think on some level it’s weird for these dudes that I’m here and that I’m writing as I’m here, like an embed. I know they’ve seen some of what’s been posted, and it’s not that they’re being guarded — at one point tonight I rechristened the band “Kings Destroyed,” so if there were guards, they went on break and didn’t come back — but my concern is not harshing anyone’s good time by making them feel like they’re being watched.
Anyway. There was talk of a James Brown hot tub party when we got back to the motel by the airport where we’re staying, but it was to bed almost immediately. Steve gets his own room, Carl and I share (even at his worst so far, which might be right now, he’s nowhere near the worst snorer with whom I’ve shared a hotel room), Rob and Aaron, and C-Wolf and Jim Pitts. We’re all in a row on the 200 level of the Clarion with a noon checkout tomorrow and a drive to San Francisco to follow. It’s now four in the morning. Something tells me we won’t be getting an early start.
02.23.14 — 12:47AM Pacific — Sat. Night — El Corazon, Seattle, WA
“High drama…” — Steve Murphy
I’m going to try to make this quick, because my laptop clock says 3:47AM and I can’t help but feel like that’s accurate. Tonight at El Corazon in Seattle. First night of the tour. Weather as advertised. Volume as advertised. Doom of many shapes. Place filled up as the night went on. A special cheers to the giant who decided it was fun to dig in elbows up front during Pentagram.
Tonight was a five-band bill. One of several that I know of on this run. Front to back and jetlagged, it was a hell of a way to start the tour. Good crowd though, unless you count the aforementioned giant. Which I do. In bruises.
Here’s how it went down:
I know the deal is the tour and the touring bands, and I’m way down with that or I wouldn’t be here in the first place, but I was really glad I got to see Ancient Warlocks play. I also got to meet guitarist/vocalist Aaron Krause and guitarist Darren Chase and it was good for the soul. Their easy-rolling fuzz and trad-stoner grooving must have been a good match tonally for Mars Red Sky a few years back when they teamed up, but they were locked in and not at all out of place on the stage. When I asked Chase if they had any copies of their album to buy, he said they were sold out. It was easy to see why when they played.
They were a late add to the lineup, but a welcome one. Lesbian crossed genre lines fluidly and touched on black metal, doom and even some thrash with natural ease. They’re the kind of band that, if I lived in this town, I’d probably go see a lot, but as it is, this was the first time. Even after Ancient Warlocks loaded their gear off the stage, there was a considerable wall of amps, and I think an entire layer in that wall belonged to Lesbian. Hard to argue with the density of sound they were able to elicit from them, two guitars and bass running in gleeful aural excess. Bassist/vocalist Dorando Hodous said their last song — unless I’m mistaken about this — was about a “really horny dinosaur.” I didn’t catch the title, but it fucking ruled.
At this point, I feel comfortable saying I’ve seen Kings Destroy more than any band in the last three years. If that’s not true — and it is, by a mile — then it certainly will be by the end of this trip. Tonight was the first night of the tour, and it took them a song or two to click, but somewhere right around a new song called “Embers” that has, among other things, the most complex vocal melody I’ve heard from the band, they locked it in and were full-throttle the rest of the five-song set. “The Mountie” into “Casse-Tete” worked well to open, but once they slammed into “The Toe,” I think they made a lot of new friends. Leaving the rest of the band on stage, vocalist Steve Murphy hopped down into the crowd for closer “Blood of Recompense,” walking away when the song was over and handing the mic to a random guy in the crowd who, as he told his friends after putting it back on the stage, was tempted to make a dick joke, but decided against it.
Radio Moscow had the leg up. On the universe, it seemed, but at least on the other two touring acts, since they’d already had a couple gigs under their belt over the last few nights. It’s a crazy change in vibe to have the San Diego-based trio playing between Kings Destroy and Pentagram, but they hit into “I Just Don’t Know” from 2011’s Brain Cycles and the room, which by then was packed out, was theirs. They also brought the Mad Alchemy light show with them, though the oils were going for all the bands and I guess will be for the duration of the tour. Not going to complain, and it works especially well for Radio Moscow, who tossed in a new song full of intricate starts and stops that served as a reminder of how ridiculously tight the band’s rhythm section, bassist Anthony Meier and drummer Paul Marrone are, though it’s guitarist/vocalist Parker Griggs who takes the bulk of the solos, each one earned and soaked in wah.
I don’t care who you are or what you’ve seen, watching Pentagram play “Forever My Queen” is one of the great joys of doom. When I came back from dinner before the show started, I got to watch some of their soundcheck, so I knew “Be Forewarned” was coming — you might say I was forewarned — but “8” from Last Rites and “Dying World” from the self-titled were cool to hear alongside staples like “Sign of the Wolf (Pentagram),” “All Your Sins” and “When the Screams Come.” While they were setting up their gear, someone in the crowd looked up and said, “Holy shit, it’s Victor Griffin!” and that about sums it up. His tone and Bobby Liebling‘s frontman presence are a rightfully legendary combo, and even though it was the first night of their tour as well, they sent the Seattle crowd into the evening well aware of who and what they had just seen. The current Pentagram lineup, with Griffin, Liebling, bassist Greg Turley and drummer Sean Saley already sounded like pros, but I’ll be really interested to see where they’re at by the time we roll into San Francisco.
We loaded out the gear from El Corazon about as fast as we could and on the way back out to the Red Roof Inn, I asked Jim Pitts to stop the van so I could jump out and take a picture of the Space Needle. No regrets. Tomorrow morning, 11AM, we head to Portland. It’s after 3:30AM now. I think everyone was a little more relaxed with the first show down. Myself included.
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 3rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Though one hesitates to ever use the word “final” when it comes to a festival lineup, particularly when we’re still a few months out from the event taking place, The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 looks pretty damn complete. Some recent upheaval in the lineup has brought in Lord Fowl as a replacement for Phantom Glue and Kings Destroy for Kingsnake, but things seem solid and ready to proceed otherwise. Should be a packed weekend May 3 and 4 at Ralph’s Rock Diner in Worcester, Mass., and it’s definitely one I’m looking forward to with a killer blend of bands local to New England and not.
Complete lineup as it stands today follows, along with the runtimes for each set. Feel free to dive in:
Snake Charmer Booking proudly presents: THE EYE OF THE STONED GOAT 4 Festival
Saturday, May 3rd – Sunday May 4th 2014
2 Days! 20 Bands! 20 Bucks!
Ralphs Rock Diner 148 Grove St. Worcester, MA 01605
Saturday, May 3rd 2014
Admission: $20 (ALL WEEKEND)
Line-Up and Set Times:
SIXTY WATT SHAMAN (The Reunion!!!) 12:20am-1:15am
CORTEZ (Boston, MA) 11:20pm-12:00am
KINGS DESTROY 10:25pm-11:05pm
SUMMONER (Boston, MA) 9:30pm-10:10pm
LORD FOWL (New Haven, CT) 8:45pm-9:15pm
BEELZEFUZZ (Church Within Records – Maryland) 8:00pm-8:30pm
SECOND GRAVE (Massachusetts) 7:15pm-7:45pm
JOHN WILKES BOOTH (Long Island, NY) 6:30pm-7:00pm
SET (Worcester, MA) 5:45pm-6:15pm
BIRCH HILL DAM (Fitchsburg, MA) 5:00pm-5:30pm
Sunday, May 4th 2014
Admission: $20 (ALL WEEKEND)
Line-Up and Set Times:
ORDER OF THE OWL (Atlanta, GA) 11:20pm-12:00am
THE SCIMITAR (Boston, MA) 10:20pm-11:00pm
CURSE THE SON (Connecticut) 9:25pm-10:05pm
VOLUME IV (Ripple Music – Atlanta, GA) 8:30pm-9:10pm
ICHABOD (Boston, MA) 7:45pm-8:15pm
ROZAMOV (Boston, MA) 7:00pm-7:30pm
NEON WARSHIP (Small Stone Records- Ohio) 6:15pm-6:45pm
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 13th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
So, a while back I got word of a Kings Destroy West Coast tour in the works with Pentagram. This was awesome news in itself, but then I got asked if I might want to tag along for the shows, fly out west, go places I’ve never gone, see things I’ve never seen, and spend a week-plus on the road with doom royalty — which, no matter who’s in the lineup at any given moment, Pentagram can still claim to be.
Obviously the answer to this question was a resounding yes.
Then Radio Moscow got added to the middle support slot and it was even more of a resounding yes. As such, and unless between now and then a piano falls on my head or I lose yet another job, I will be hitting the road with Kings Destroy while they tour alongside Radio Moscow and Pentagram. Aside from the bands — I wish I had made the post now to refer back to it but Kings Destroy were my favorite live act last year and I still revel in how outclassed I was by their A Time of Hunting sophomore outing — this will be my first time in the Pacific Northwest, as well as my first time on the ground in the American desert, and passing through San Francisco, I figure I’ve got at least a 25 percent chance of getting to stop at Amoeba Records, and you know damn well I’m all about that.
Here are the dates:
Pentagram, Radio Moscow, and Kings Destroy western USA tour in Feb/March. We are honored to be announcing these dates! See you on the road.
Pentagram with Radio Moscow & Kings Destroy
Feb. 22 El Corazon, Seattle, WA Feb. 23 Hawthorne Theater, Portland, OR Feb. 25 DNA Lounge, San Francisco, CA Feb. 27 Sister Bar, Albuquerque, NM Feb. 28 Summit Music Hall, Denver, CO March 1 In the Venue, Salt Lake City, UT
First thing, let me give the immediate and familiar disclaimer: This isn’t everything. If I wanted to call this list “The ONLY 10 Album Covers that Kicked Ass in 2013,” I would. I didn’t do that, because there were way more than 10 covers that resonated when I saw them this year. The idea here is just to check out a few artists’ work that really stuck out as memorable throughout the year and really fit with the music it was complementing and representing.
As always, you can click the images below to enlarge them for a more detailed look.
The list runs alphabetically by band. Thanks in advance for reading:
Like Nick Keller‘s cover for New Zealand heavy plunderers Beastwars‘ 2011 self-titled debut (review here), the darker, moodier oil and canvas piece that became the front of Blood Becomes Fire(review here) created a sense of something truly massive and otherworldly. A huge skull with sci-fi themes and barren landscape brought to it foreboding memento mori that seemed to suggest even land can die. It was an excellent match for the brooding tension in the album itself.
The level of detail in Arrache-toi un oeil‘s cover for Blaak Heat Shujaa‘s full-length Tee Pee Records debut, The Edge of an Era(review here), would probably be enough for it to make this list anyway, but the Belgium-based art duo seemed thematically to bring out the swirl, chaos and underlying order within the Los Angeles trio’s desert psychedelia. Blue was for the vinyl edition, brown for the CD digipak (both were revealed here), but in either format it was a reminder of how much visual art can add to a musical medium.
Black Pyramid, Adversarial
Cover by Eli Wood.
I look at the Eli Wood cover for Black Pyramid‘s Adversarial(review here) as representing the task before the band in putting out their third LP. Released by Hydro-Phonic, the album found Black Pyramid coming head to head with both their audience’s expectations of what they were in their original lineup and their own will to move past that and become something else. If there was a second panel to the cover, it would show the arrow-shot warrior standing next to the severed head of the demon he slayed. Easily one of my favorite covers of the year. The scale of it begged for a larger format even than vinyl could provide.
It was such a weird record, with the interludes and the bizarre twists, that Samantha Allen‘s cover piece for Ice Dragon‘s Born a Heavy Morning (review here) almost couldn’t help but encompass it. The direct, but slightly off-center stare of the owl immediately catches the eye, but we see the titular morning sunshine as well, the human hand with distinct palm lines, illuminati eye and other symbols — are the planets? Bubbles? I don’t know, but since Born a Heavy Morningwas such an engrossing listening experience, to have the visual side follow suit made it all the richer.
Kings Destroy, A Time of Hunting
Cover by Aidrian O’Connor.
In Magyar mythology, the bird-god Turul is perched atop the tree of life and is a symbol of power. With its theme in geometry, Aidrian O’Connor‘s cover piece for Kings Destroy‘s ATime of Hunting — which was originally titled Turul– gave a glimpse at some of that strength, positioning the viewer as prey below a creature and sky that seem almost impossible to parse. I felt the same way the first time I put on the finished version of the Brooklyn outfit’s second offering, unspeakably complex and brazenly genre-defiant as it was.
Alexander von Wieding deserves multiple mentions for his 2013 covers for Black Thai and Small Stone labelmates Supermachine, but he always seems to save the best for his own project, Larman Clamor. The one-man-band’s third LP, Alligator Heart(review here), was a stomper for sure, but in his visual art for it, von Wieding brilliantly encapsulated the terrestrial elements (the human and reptile) as well as the unknowable spheres (rippling water, sun-baked sky) that the songs portrayed in their swampadelic blues fashion. It was one to stare at.
Similar I guess to the Beastwars cover in its looming feel and to the Black Pyramid for its scale, John Sumrow‘s art for Monster Magnet‘s Last Patrol(review here) mirrored the space-rocking stylistic turn the legendary New Jersey band made in their sound, taking their iconic Bullgod mascot and giving it a cosmic presence, put to scale with the rocketship on the right side. It stares out mean from the swirl and regards the ship with no less a watchful eye than Dave Wyndorf‘s lyrics seem to have on society as a whole.
There’s a mania to Orion Landau’s cover for Red Fang‘s third album, Whales and Leeches, and while the songs that comprise the record are more clearly structured, the collage itself, the face it makes when viewed from a distance, and the (from what I’m told is brilliant) cut-out work in the physical pressing of the album, all conspired to make one of 2013’s most striking visuals. As the in-house artist for Relapse, Landau is no stranger to landmark pieces, but this was a different level of accomplishment entirely.
Fuck. Look at this fucking thing! Galaxy spiral, vagina-dentata, creepy multi-pupil eyes and a background that seems to push the eye to the middle with no hope of escape even as blues and oranges collide. Wow. Sandrider bassist JesseRoberts‘(see also The Ruby Doe) artwork for Godhead (review here) is the only cover on this list done by a member of the band in question, and though I’m sure there are many awesome examples out there, I don’t know if any can top this kind of nightmarishness. Unreal. The sheer imagination of it.
When I put together a similar list last year, it had Summoner‘s first album under the moniker, Phoenix, on it, and with their second, they went more melodic, more progressive, and showed that heaviness was about atmosphere as much as tone, and that it was a thing to be moved around rather than leaned on. The Alyssa Maucere art, dark but deceptively colorful, rested comfortably alongside the songs, with a deeply personal feel and unflinchingly forward gaze, somewhat understated on the black background, but justifying the portrayal of depth.
As I said above, there’s a lot of stuff I could’ve easily included on this list, from The Flying Eyes to Sasquatch to Black Thai to Lumbar, Samsara Blues Experiment, Goatess, At Devil Dirt and others. Hopefully though, this gives a sampling of some people who are doing cool work in an under-represented aspect of underground creativity.
If I left anything out or there was a cover that really stuck with you that I didn’t mention, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.