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 Morrone 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.
Posted in Reviews on October 21st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
On the televisions in the back of the Great Scott, the Boston Red Sox were working their way into the World Series, so the air was tense at first and jovial later on as Pelican came north from two Brooklyn CMJ shows for a sold-out gig with Kings Destroy and Boston’s own Phantom Glue: A bill of three bands I’d very much been looking forward to seeing. Pelican‘s Forever Becomingwas still fresh in my head from reviewing it last week, so I was excited to see some of those songs live, and with memories of the mastery they displayed last year at Roadburn, it was all the better to catch them in a smaller space. Kings Destroy had an added element of intrigue for me, catching them out of their native NYC habitat, and since Phantom Glue were pretty high on my Boston-bands-I-gotta-see list (which, frankly, I can’t believe I haven’t made a post of yet), there was no way to lose. It had been a great day and it would be a great night.
As I’d learned the last time I was at the venue, it was dark. That seems to be how it goes. O’Brien’s, P.A.’s Lounge, Radio, Great Scott. All very cool places with no lights on. Fair enough, I guess. Nobody’s putting on shows for the people who show up with cameras, so there you go. Hardly impeded my enjoyment of Phantom Glue, who, again, I’d been anticipating a live encounter with more or less since I moved. Their vinyl-only summer ’13 outing, A War of Light Cones(review here), was a beast, and live, songs like “Perils” and “Biocult” only came across as meaner and rawer, the dueling barks of guitarist Matt Oates and bassist Nick Wolf tempering noise rock cruelties with modern metal sense of growl. It quickly became apparent that I was right to have high expectations for their set.
In a way, their t-shirts said it all. Wolf had Disfear, Oates had Karp, guitarist Mike Gowell had Harvey Milk and in back, drummer Kyle Rasmussen bore the logo of a demolition derby. So between them all, you had d-beat hardcore punk metal mixed with West Coast noise, unhinged creative doom and sheer destructive mechanical force for its own sake. I highly doubt the four guys in the band got together and were like, “Okay, tonight we’re going to go with the band-summation wardrobe,” but I’ll be damned if it didn’t work out that way anyhow, and for what it’s worth, their identity seemed to have been long since carved from these elements. They were comfortable on stage, delivered a powerful (and loud) set, and they’re a local act I’m very much looking forward to getting to know better. For even just a first time seeing them, though, they impressed.
And to have them go on right before Kings Destroy as well emphasized a clear difference in my mind — namely that between aggression and confrontation. Phantom Glue were aggressive; a heavy, move-the-air kind of band that lacked nothing in presence. Kings Destroy, their New York hardcore pedigree seeping through in a way that you’d say was in spite of them if they didn’t seem to enjoy it so much, are confrontational, directly challenging their audience. In Brooklyn, which is by far where I’ve seen them most, one almost takes this as a given. In Boston, when vocalist Steve Murphy jumped off the stage and went into the crowd at the end of “Blood of Recompense” from this year’s A Time of Hunting, it was more of a surprise. That’s not to say New England doesn’t have its own hardcore lineage — you can’t walk through Harvard Square without being spin-kicked at least twice — just that the approach is different.
Kings Destroy loved it, and speaking of kicks, guitarist Carl Porcaro got one from fellow six-stringer Chris Skowronski to wake him up as the solo in “Medusa” went long. They were loose, having played with Pelican in New York the night before, but dead on all the same, bassist Aaron Bumpus playing through a Sunn head I’ve seen smoke rise from the back of before with a tone that only made the already-full room more temperate. As ever, I fucking loved “The Toe,” which I’d argue is the transitional moment between the more straightforward riffery of the Maple Forum alums’ first album and the gleeful weirdness of cuts like “Shattered Pattern” and “Turul” from the second, taking cues from multiple impulses and setting them to drummer Rob Sefcik‘s steady groove. “Turul” wasn’t aired at Great Scott, but “Shattered Pattern” followed “Old Yeller” as the second song they played, which seemed bold for how quiet parts of it are, but “The Toe,” “Casse-Tête” and “The Mountie” set a steady roll that continued from there on out as they got more and more riotous toward their finish.
I’ve never regretted watching them play — their confrontationalism fascinates all the more outside New York; it’s fun to watch them catch people off guard – and by the time they were done, monitors had been toppled, P.A. speakers pushed, and Murphy had gone so far into the crowd that a path had to be cut for him to put the mic back on the stage. Not that Pelican needed it, being instrumental, but one doesn’t want to wander off with these things either. I don’t remember exactly when the grand slam put the Red Sox ahead of the Tigers, but I’m pretty sure it was between Kings Destroy and Pelican, and since that fits my narrative of the night better, I’m gonna go with it. Whenever it was, a cheer went up in the back of the venue and celebration — by that I mean more drinking — began. Despite a shared backline, Pelican took a while to get going. When they did, it seemed like the place was pretty well sauced. Not a complaint.
Also jammed. I old-man reminisced about seeing Pelican at the Knitting Factory in Manhattan nearly a decade ago (another dude up front said he’d been there as well, which was cool), but when I turned around, the room was heads the whole way back. Sure enough, a sold out show. The Chicago four-piece of guitarists Trevor de Brauw and Dallas Thomas, bassist Bryan Herweg and drummer Larry Herweg got underway with “The Creeper” from 2009′s What We all Come to Need (review here), but it was the one-two-three of “Deny the Absolute,” “The Tundra” and “Immutable Dusk” from Forever Becomingthat hooked the crowd, myself included, with a tonally rich and unrepentantly heavy thrust that seemed to revel in its own dynamic of chugging, locked-in nod and periods of pastoral ambience. Though it’s a “duh” kind of thing to say for a band who’s been around for roughly 13 years, they were noteworthy in how tight they were, and though de Brauw got on a mic a couple times to thank the crowd for coming out and near the near the end of the set said it meant a lot to the band to sell out the place after not coming to town for so long, most of their time on stage was an undulating sea of open-feeling grooves.
Whatever else you can say about Pelican, they’ve never stopped doing things on their own terms — remember that time they found a singer and became the biggest band in the world? Nope, you don’t — so the loyalty engendered in their listeners makes sense, and justify by continuing to develop their approach over the years. One can trace their sound through the bevvy of splits and EPs and use their five full-lengths to date as a landmark, but live, it becomes more about the experience of where they are than how they got there. They dipped back to 2007′s City of Echoesto close out with “Dead between the Walls,” but that was as far back as they went. Last year’s Ataraxia/TaraxisEP (review here) was represented with “Lathe Biosas” and “Parasite Colony,” which like the three from Forever Becoming, appeared in succession as though to demonstrate that the flow of Pelican records is intended to mirror that of the live show and vice versa, and returning to the new album, “The Cliff” rested comfortably on Bryan‘s bassline as the airier guitars moved easily into the emergent churn of “Strung up from the Sky.”
By then, if you weren’t lost in it, you probably had called it a night already. I watched the end of Pelican‘s set further back, on the edge of the crowd swell, and found it no less immersive than it had been in front of the stage. “Strung up from the Sky” gave way to the galloping “Dead between the Walls,” breaking to atmospherics before building to a satisfying final churn and crashing noisy into its final moments. There was a requisite snap back to reality after the amps got shut off, and I watched as the crowd streamed out of the Great Scott and into the vomit-strewn baseball-loving Saturday night Allston street that awaited, got on line to pick up a CD of Forever Becoming– also buying a double of 2009′s Ephemeral EP, the title-track of which they’d played — and then likewise headed out.
Extra thanks to The Patient Mrs., Jaime Traba, Steve Murphy, Trevor de Brauw, and you for reading. This one was a special kind of night. Like I said, it was dark, but there are a few more pics after the jump.
Posted in Reviews on September 27th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I had a pretty set vision in my head of how the night was going to work. Having left Massachusetts the evening prior and spent the day at work like so, so many others, I left the office early to get into the city. Traffic was anticipated and delivered, but I still arrived at Bowery Ballroom in Manhattan well advance of doors opening for Vista Chino — the time limit on needing to put “formerly KyussLives!“after their name seems to be running its course now that they have an album, Peace (review here),out — Black Pussy and Kings Destroy. The plan was simple: Get up front and plant. Take pictures of the bands and then, a little while into Vista Chino‘s set, drop back, relax and enjoy the fuzz. I’m happy to report that more or less that’s exactly how it went.
No joke, it was Kings Destroy who sealed the deal on my hitting New York instead of Philadelphia to catch the tour. There was no Boston date, and if I’m already driving four hours south, what’s another two? But when Kings Destroy got added to the bill as openers, that made the decision much easier. I knew I’d manage to catch them somehow before they headed north next month, and I don’t regret doing so. Their set, as has been the case the last couple times I’ve seen them, emphasized just how far they’ve come in their sound, opening with “The Mountie” from the first album but nestling into its real groove with cuts like “The Toe,” “Blood of Recompense” — an early highlight of the show — and the always gleefully bizarre “Turul” from this year’s A Time of Hunting.
That’s nothing new. The change was the size of the stage they were playing on. Now, I know Kings Destroy has done runs through Europe, that they played the Getaway Rock festival in Sweden, that they’ve done Chaos in Tejas and others — not to mention the shows some of these guys have done in bands like Killing Time, etc. — I’m not shocked they can hold it down on a big stage. Hell, the stage at the St. Vitus bar is pretty sizable and they kill it there on a regular basis, but it was particularly awesome to watch Kings Destroy deliver a pro-grade and unbelievably heavy sampling of their material — Rob Sefcik‘s drums came across especially loud and were welcome, and I stood in front to the side of the stage by bassist Aaron Bumpus and guitarist Chris Skowronski with no regrets; Carl Porcaro‘s solos had no trouble cutting through – with vocalist Steve Murphy not making mention of the fact that he, Sefcik and Porcaro played with Kyuss at C.B.G.B. nearly two decades prior, working at the time under the banner of Mind’s Eye.
The changeover between Kings Destroy and Black Pussy was quick enough, though honestly it didn’t matter if the Portland, Oregon, five-piece took the stage and delivered the stoner rock equivalent of “Raining Blood,” there was no way their music was going to make a bigger impression than their name. I’m not sure how you get five guys to agree on calling a band something like Black Pussy, but okay. Never mind the fact that “pussy” is one of three words in the English language I wouldn’t say in front of my mother, the group says that they took “Black Pussy” from the working title of The Rolling Stones‘ “Brown Sugar,” and that they don’t condone any kind of racism or sexism or whatever else. All well and good dudes, but whether you condone it or not, you still called your band Black Pussy and here I am talking about it instead of your music, which was actually pretty cool in that ultra-groovy and relaxed heavy psych kind of way.
It wasn’t long before white dudes in the crowd were doing Dave-Chappelle-as-Rick-James voice saying the band’s name between songs, and the whole thing was both a bum-out and a distraction from their material, which again, was quality: Thick guitar and bass filled out with analog synth and Korg swirl, pusher-manned by classic rock attitude-soaked vocals and drums that were both theatrical and precise. As a privileged white guy whose only experience with cultural discrimination has been getting called fatass by, well, everyone ever, it was easy enough for me to look past the racial element and get lost in the dense fog of immersive nod, but the simple fact that it was there to be looked past seemed needless. I’m not going to pretend it’s cool just because they played well. Saying you’re not racist doesn’t undo racism, and if you need to go out on a limb and put it out there that, “we’re not racist,” maybe a harder look is needed at the reasoning pushing you to do that. If you want to say I don’t get it, fine. They were a better band than their shitbird moniker. I didn’t have cash on hand to buy a record, but I would have picked one up if I had.
Brant Bjork produced their forthcoming second album, Less Info More Mojo, so that they’d wind up on the road with Vista Chino made sense — certainly their first album, last year’s On Blonde, which was dedicated to Bjork, owed him a sonic debt as well — but the night belonged to the headliner. I saw Kyuss Lives! twice during their run with that name, in New Jersey and in Philadelphia, but with the new songs from Peace and Mike Dean of Corrosion of Conformity on bass in place of Nick Oliveri standing opposite on the stage from guitarist Bruno Fevery, the appeal of Vista Chino was fresh despite the added appeal of seeing the four-piece play Kyuss songs as well. I won’t discount the value of hearing John Garcia sing “Gardenia” and “Thumb” and “Freedom Run” live, especially as someone who never got to see Kyuss during their original run, but I was just as happy to hear him absolutely nail “Sweet Remain” from Peaceand make a home in the laid back groove of “Adara,” which opened their set leading into “One Inch Man” from Kyuss‘ 1995 swansong, …And the Circus Leaves Town.
Presumably, the hope is that as Vista Chino continues to develop as a new band apart from Kyuss and Kyuss Lives!, they’ll work more original material into shows. As of now, there’s only so much they have to put into a 90-minute set. The ratio was six Vista Chino to 10 Kyuss songs, but the division was equitable, bouncing back and forth initially only to deliver a one-two-three of classics to finish with “Thumb,” “Green Machine” and “Freedom Run” before coming back out for an encore that included the new song “Planets 1 & 2,” on which Bjork shared vocals with Garcia as he does on the album. Frankly, new or old, it all rocked. The frontman made one mention of the lawsuit from former bandmates Josh Homme and Scott Reeder that forced him and Bjork to give up the Kyuss name last year, working it into the lyrics of “Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop,” but other than that, it was encouraging to see Vista Chino pairing their own work with the Kyuss songs and having Mike Dean on bass takes them to a whole new level.
I won’t say anything against Scott Reeder or Nick Oliveri. Not a fucking chance. They are tremendous bassists and hugely influential songwriters. I know it’s easy and fun for fans to pick sides in that kind of thing, but that’s not what I’m about. I like music. So to watch Mike Dean live in those parts — not just play them like a recital, but to crawl inside the new and the old material and actually make it his own — was vividly exciting, and it made Vista Chino that much more of its own entity. He owned “Hurricane.” And he made the shuffle in “Dark and Lovely” positively irresistible, Garcia‘s voice cutting through front and center of the Bowery‘s P.A. while Fevery‘s guitar seemed to fluctuate in prominence but ultimately settled in nicely. Bjork, who said recently in an interview here that Dean was his favorite rock bassist, was clearly enjoying sharing the rhythm section with him, and the swing the two concocted felt righteous and invigorated. I shudder to think what those guys and Fevery would/will be able to come up with when it comes time to jam on new material for a follow-up to Peace.
“Planets 1 & 2″ fit well in the encore with a medley of “Whitewater” into “Odyssey” from Kyuss‘ genre-defining Welcome to Sky Valleyand at the end of the set, Garcia offered a heartfelt applause for the crowd who stayed till the end. It had dwindled some as they pushed past midnight — nothing like a late Thursday to turn Friday into an utter blur — but for me, however long and far they go and however many times I’m fortunate enough to see these guys play, I don’t want to miss any of it.
Posted in Reviews on August 20th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
A four-band bill at Brooklyn’s St. Vitus bar after a full workday with a drive to Massachusetts afterwards lurking on the horizon, moving ever closer to reality — I will say immediately that attending the opening night of Truckfighters‘ latest US tour was probably the least responsible decision I’ll make all week. Well, maybe not, but still: Resoundingly irresponsible. Part of doing it was proving to myself that I could, and sure enough, I came out of it on the other end alive, despite the best efforts of I-95′s endless stretch to claim my heavy eyelids as part of its likewise endless stream of trophies. Behold, the living dope.
But if you have to be an eternal sucker, at least an act like Truckfighters put on a show to make it worth your while. The Swedish trio of bassist/vocalist Oskar “Ozo” Cedermalm, guitarist Niklas “Dango” Källgren and drummer Andre “Poncho” Kvarnström were joined by NYC locals Kings Destroy, Iron Tides and Mirror Queen on a surprisingly diverse and at times surprisingly aggressive lineup at the Vitus, and the night proved quickly to have been worth the commute there and back again. Mirror Queen, who were fresh back from a European jaunt with Tee Pee labelmates Earthless and The Atomic Bitchwax that included a stop at Stoned from the Underground sounded crisp and tight, and since the last time I saw them was on the Rocks off Concert Cruise in June, part of the fun this time out was watching their set not get toppled by the choppy waters of the East River.
Not that that wasn’t its own kind of excitement, I’m just saying it’s a little easier to get a sense of the chemistry between lead guitarist Phi Moon and guitarist/vocalist Kenny Sehgal when they can stand up and play. That chemistry, as it happens, is formidable and was in top form at the Vitus bar, Moon tearing into technically and spiritually engaging press-me-to-8-track classic rock solos on the right side of the stage while Sehgal, bassist James Corallo and drummer Jeremy O’Brien jammed out on “Into the Nebula” from the band’s 2011 outing, From Earth Below. A contingent of (apparently Australian?) bros in the front of the stage wearing red Truckfighters tanktops quickly let it be known they were going to be the biggest douchebags in the room for the duration, and much sweaty man-on-man-but-supposedly-not-at-all-homoerotic moshing and grabassery did ensue.
That didn’t impede enjoyment of Mirror Queen, however, who round out as they did the last time I saw them with a jam on Captain Beyond‘s “Mesmerization Eclipse.” It’s a bouncing groove that’s always welcome in my cranium, but it did little in the end to foretell the aggression that would come with Brooklynites Iron Tides, who arrived with their own floodlites and an assortment of homemade-looking amps and cabinets — but for the Verellen heads behind bassist/vocalist Markus — to remind of the raw volume and power of earliest Zoroaster while keeping an underlying touch of New York noise in the jagged playing of guitarist Matt. They were loud, angry and, well, let’s go with “loud” again. Drummer Michele locked in impressive grooves throughout, and though Iron Tides had an EP for sale in the back (got it) that came out last year mixed and mastered by Hull drummer Jeff Stieber, most of what they played was reportedly new.
It was easy enough to guess that by Markus‘ remembering on stage who started what song, which gave their set a bit of humor and charm to go with its aggressive churning and tonal push. Their lights triggered by foot-switches, Iron Tides were nonetheless cohesive in their aesthetic and tight through the more angular aspects of their sound, which were complemented by stretches of ambience driven by Matt‘s guitar, sometimes seeming to nod at earlier Isis but never fully giving itself over to the heavy/atmospheric tradeoffs that have by now become post-metal cliche. Though their sound was obviously much different, I’d put Iron Tides in a similar category to Brooklyn heavy acts like Blackout and Polygamyst, who also take various familiar elements and seem to be making efforts to craft something of their own from them. Their effort in this regard and overall fervor were appreciated.
Kings Destroy hit probably the angriest set I’ve ever seen them play. Tossing in older cuts like “The Whittler” and “Dusty Mummy” alongside the newer “Blood of Recompense,” “The Toe” and “Turul” from this year’s A Time of Hunting(go buy it), they only seemed to get more pissed off after the aforementioned tanktop brigade — who, by the way, all matched — got into some hooliganry with vocalist Steve Murphy as he came down from the stage. I noted when one of them tried to pull him off again, the result was a fast as-he-was-jumping-to-the-floor kick square to the chest — no doubt a move leftover from Murphy‘s days in Uppercut. Laughed a bit at that.
Despite the shenanigans, Kings Destroy were tight and heavy as ever, made only more malevolent for the meanness that seemed to accompany their delivery. By the time they got around to “The Whittler,” it was like they were throwing the songs at you. They’re probably the single band I’ve seen most over the last two-plus years (live reviews here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here) and I already look forward to seeing them with Pelican in October if I don’t run into them between now and then — they’re playing Vitus again on Thursday with Caltrop, should you happen to be in town– so please take it as coming from the voice of experience (oh yeah, their first record also came out on The Maple Forum, so there’s that) when I say that it wasn’t a put-on, or “show-anger.” Whatever it was, they played like they were fucking pissed off and it came through in the songs. Even “Turul” at the end was nastier than I’ve ever heard it, and while it’s always had a certain undefinable sneer, with the quiet riffing from guitarists Carl Porcaro and Chris Skowronski and the everyone-together-now timed hits driven by bassist Aaron Bumpus and drummer Rob Sefcik there isn’t much room for all-out belligerence. They made room.
There seemed like a long break between Kings Destroy and Truckfighters, but once the latter got on stage, they were hard to miss. The crowd seemed to know the opening riff to “Desert Cruiser” was coming even before Källgren started playing it, and once Cedermalm and Kvarnström joined in, they locked in immediately from the start. I knew from seeing them at Desertfest in April that even with the new drummer addition they were as riotous as ever, and even though Kvarnström is a quieter presence behind the kit than was Oscar “Pezo” Johansson, now of Witchcraft, “Desert Cruiser” and longer jams like “Chameleon” from 2007′s Phiand “Last Curfew” from 2009′s Maniawere as unbelievably tight as one could ask, the band stomping a sneaker print in the line between technical precision and showmanship as few can. I think Källgren alone put more energy into his performance than 90 percent of the entire bands I’ve seen this year, not including his own of course, jumping up and down, running back and forth, headbanging and all the rest.
And that’s the thing about Truckfighters. Because if they were just a band who got crazy on stage, you’d go, “Well okay, that’s cool,” and move onto the next thing. But not only are they out of their collective mind when they play, but over the years they’ve become increasingly progressive songwriters, so that a riff as epically memorable as that opening and comprising much of “Desert Cruiser” can exist next to a cut like “Majestic” from Mania, the sprawl of which outlasts even its 13-minute runtime, and they don’t miss a beat going from one to the next. Cedermalm tipped the mic into the crowd for the opening track, at one point Källgren jumped off the stage and made his way through to the bar in back of the Vitus, playing the whole time — I think it was during the jam on “Monte Gargano,” but don’t quote me on that — and when the set was over, Cedermalm also got off stage to add to his already considerable bass cacophony by running his strings on the torso of some kid in a Big Lebowski t-shirt. They’re fun to watch, but if they didn’t have the songs to back them up — which I’m glad to argue they do — they wouldn’t get beyond the novelty factor.
In the end, they obviously did, and I think they wore out the crowd in the process. I had competing impulses of exhaustion and dehydration fighting it out, but though I knew it was the wrong choice on a practical level, I didn’t at all regret inconveniencing later-me to see the show. Catching Truckfighters again as they started this tour was obviously the onus for my being there, but front-to-back it was a killer show. I didn’t make it all the way back to Massachusetts, but stopped in New Haven, CT, to crash for a few hours before resuming the trip this morning. I’ve felt like I got my ass kicked all day, but this one was well worth a beating.