Sleep, Pentagram and Cult of Luna to Headline Psycho California 2015

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 15th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

True to their word, it’s Jan. 15 and Psycho California 2015 has announced the headliners for what looks like the best American festival lineup I’ve seen since the days of Emissions from the Monolith. That’s not to take away from the hard work anyone else is doing, but just look at the list of bands. It’s unreal. You’d want to be everywhere at the same time to see all of it. Absolutely wild.

Sleep and Pentagram were pretty clear choices to headline. Not only for being legends in the heavy underground, but for also being just about two of the only bands left. Sweden’s Cult of Luna were something of a surprise, but for a festival already showing a European reach in bringing aboard the likes of Samsara Blues Experiment and Stoned Jesus, they make sense. Hell of a bill. Kudos to anyone who actually gets to go to the thing.

Announcement follows, courtesy of the PR wire:





Psycho California, the west coast’s first annual metal festival and a must see for fans of doom, heavy psych and sludge, has announced the headliners for this year’s event: Cult of Luna (May 15), Sleep (May 16) and Pentagram, who will perform First Daze Here in its entirety (May 17).

“2015 is going to be a slow year for Cult of Luna. However as much as we are musicians we are also fans,” said Cult of Luna’s Johannes Persson. “Evaluating if the offer to play Psycho California was worth dusting off our instruments was not hard after looking on the line-up. Being on the same bill as Pentagram, Sleep and a festival packed with the best bands around is a privilege in itself and we’ll try to live up to that honor.”

The lineup for Psycho California is: Sleep, Pentagram, Cult of Luna, Kylesa, OM, Earth, Russian Circles, Bedemon, Conan, Wrench, Eyehategod, Indian, Earthless, Pallbearer, Stoned Jesus, Old Man Gloom, Cave In, Acid Witch, Truckfighters, Tombs, Bang, Electric Citizen, Coffinworm, SubRosa, Eagle Twin, Mammatus, True Widow, Anciients, Bellwitch, Dead Meadow, Lord Dying, Death By Stereo, Radio Moscow, Ancient Altar, Samsara Blues Experiment, Atriarch, Elder, Mothership, The Well, Deathkings, Wo Fat, Rozamov, Destroyer of Light, Highlands, Bloodmoon, Slow Season, Goatsnake, Crypt Trip, Wrench, Lords of Beacon House, Tumbleweed Dealer, Sinister Haze, Blackout, Red Wizard, Banquet and Loom.

Festival interludes will be provided by Housecore Records’ artist Author & Punisher and vinyl DJ set from Bob Lugowe (Relapse Records) and Sean Pellet (Last Daze Here).

Previously announced early bird tickets sold out immediately. Tickets for the festival are on-sale this morning with both a 3-day pass ($149.50) and a 3-day VIP pass available ($256.66)

VIP packages include a 3-day festival pass, a signed screen print concert poster by David D’Andrea, express entry via artist check-in booth, access to artist VIP lounge, a limited edition Thief X Obey festival tee, a Psycho record bag and patch as well as access to a complimentary craft tequila bar, premium microbrews and artisan snacks.

Sleep, “The Clarity/Dragonaut” Live in Chicago, Aug. 28, 2014

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Psycho California 2015 Announces Initial Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 15th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

The list of bands, quite frankly, is astonishing, but even more astonishing is the fact that  Thief Presents‘ Psycho California 2015 (formerly Psycho de Mayo) hasn’t announced its headliners yet, because these sure as shit look like headliners to me.

A three-day festival set to take place at The Observatory in Santa Ana, CA, Psycho California will feature the following acts:

psycho california

Here’s that list again: Kylesa, Om, Earth, Russian Circles, Orange Goblin, Bedemon, Conan, Indian, Pallbearer, Cave In, Old Man Gloom, Tombs, Earthless, Truckfighters, Bang, Eyehategod, Crowbar, SubRosa, Lord Dying, Acid Witch, Electric Citizen, Coffinworm, Eagle Twin, Stoned Jesus, Mammatus, True Widow, Bell Witch, Death by Stereo, Radio Moscow, Samsara Blues Experiment, Anciients, Elder, Mothership, Ancient Altar, The Well, Deathkings, Wo Fat, Rozamov, Destroyer of Light, Highlands, Bloodmoon, Slow Season, Crypt Trip, Lords of Beacon House, Tumbleweed Dealer, Sinister Haze, Blackout, Red Wizard, Banquet, Loom.

Plus interludes by Author and Punisher.

God damn.

Not only does it cover both coasts, huge bands, legends and up and comers, but the reach is international. Take special note of Conan, since their appearance means that Maryland Deathfest won’t be their only US date, and also Samsara Blues Experiment and Stoned Jesus – two killer European bands that you don’t even go after unless you know what the fuck you’re doing. That also hugely extends the possibilities for headlining acts. It’s an assemblage that’s beyond impressive, and if you haven’t already looked up flights to Southern California, I don’t know what to tell you. As I write this it’s after one in the morning on Sunday night, and you know I wouldn’t be doing that if my mind wasn’t leaking out of my ears at the thought of experiencing this thing.

Stay tuned for more to come, since as the poster says, headliners will be announced on Jan. 15. I’ll be looking forward to finding out who else is in store.

Psycho California on Thee Facebooks

Thief Presents on Twitter

Thief Presents on Thee Facebooks

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Southwest Terror Fest Starts Tonight

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 10th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

If you’re gonna book your flight to get to Tucson for the Southwest Terror Fest, you might want to get on it. There are only a few hours left till the four-dayer kicks off and time’s a wastin’! There’s a good chance this’ll be the only all-ages show some of these bands play this year,  so for the kids, all the better, but even for an aged cave ogre such as myself, an assemblage that culls toghether Kylesa, Ancestors (one day I will bring them East for a show and it will be glorious; mark my words), SubRosa and Red Fang is worthy of note. In just their second year out, the Southwest Terror Fest crew have not only outdone what they were able to make happen last year, but set the bar pretty high for 2014. Would be nice to make the trip to the desert one of these days…

Until then, I live vicariously through the PR wire:

SOUTHWEST TERROR FEST – Year Of The Snake; Four Days Of Mayhem Takes Over Tucson Tonight

SOUTHWEST TERROR FEST 2013: Year Of The Snake, the second annual installment of the Tucson-based extreme underground music gathering featuring over sixty bands in four days, begins tonight.

A fully DIY undertaking, envisioned and organized by Tucson-based sludgecore instigators GODHUNTER, the SOUTHWEST TERROR FEST is a low-cost event for all ages and brings a one-of-a-kind festival to the Southwestern sector of America. Following the dominant 2012 debut of SWTF, this year’s installment of the now annual outing has more than doubled in duration and has expanded to include a more sizable roster of national acts and dozens more crushing newcomers.

Beginning tonight, October 10th, and running through Sunday the 13th at The Rock, the SOUTHWEST TERROR FEST 2013: Year Of The Snake lineup features Sacred Reich Vehemence, Kylesa, Red Fang, Demon Lung, Ancestors, Subrosa, Landmine Marathon, Early Graves, Theories, Transient, Pinkish Black, Helms Alee, Dog Shredder, Children Of God, ACxDC and literally dozens of other acts hailing from across the vast extreme music subgenre spectrum.

SOUTHWEST TERROR FEST 2013: Year Of The Snakeis sponsored by Earsplit PR, Moon Smoke Shops, Lace Pickups, Cvlt Nation, Zombie Effects Lab, Ear/Splitters, Axe Of Contrition, Acid Reflux Records, Violent, Lindy’s on 4th, Black Rose Tattoo and Sticks N’ Strings Music Center

Any metalhead with an internet connection can stay current with the fest action via Cvlt Nation who will be running day-to-day coverage throughout the entire ordeal.

10/10-13/2013 The Rock – Tucson, AZ

Thursday, October 10th: Kylesa, Pinkish Black, Sierra, Ancestors, Demon Lung, Godhunter, Anakim, Vanish Twin, Goatroper

Friday, October 11th: Sacred Reich, Landmine Marathon, Vehemence, Transient, Magguts, Cave Dweller, Angelic To Ashes, Necrambulant, Sovereign, Our Daily Trespasses, Lethal Dosage, Casket Birth, Kvasura, Evasion, Eight Legged Horse, Napalm Strike

Saturday, October 12th: Red Fang, Helms Alee, Dog Shredder, Subrosa, Deathkings, Crankbait, Aseethe, Thorncaster, North, Sorxe, Goya, Ladybird, Oryx, Skulldron, Bhorelord, Acidalia, Funerary, Methra, Conqueror Worm, Destroy Her

Sunday, October 13th: Early Graves, Children Of God, Theories, ACxDC, Lost Lands, GAT ROT, Territory, Inoculara, Magnum Force, Sex Prisoner, Seas Will Rise, Sorrower, American Standards, Biocidio, Berith, Freedom Assault, Swamp Wolf, Wookiee Rage, Get A Grip, SLUG

Godhunter, Wolves (2011)

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Kylesa, Ultraviolet: Grounded in Drift

Posted in Reviews on May 21st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Almost nothing is certain, and when it comes to doubly-drummed Georgian progressive sludgers Kylesa, even less than that. Yet when it comes to approaching their sixth full-length and second for Season of Mist, the 11-track Ultraviolet — or really any new Kylesa album — the one thing the listener can be sure of going into it is that it will be a step beyond its predecessor. At this point, I don’t think the band would release a record that wasn’t. Ultraviolet‘s predecessor was 2010’s Spiral Shadow (review here), which changed their course from jagged, crunching sludge to a more smoothed out and progressive sound — a shift that they’d built toward on 2009’s Static Tensions (review here) in some ways but come nowhere near materializing as completely — and one that, as ever, divided their fanbase into those who could get on board and those who couldn’t. This seems to happen on a nearly per-album basis with the Savannah natives.

While we’re talking about expectation, I’d anticipate no less for Ultraviolet in the long run, but Kylesa have never had a problem picking up new fans along the way to fill the spots of those who couldn’t get past one period or another of their ongoing progression; they’ve maintained a reputation as a hard-touring band for years and rightly so. Rooted in the work of guitarists/vocalists Phillip Cope (also theremin and production) and Laura Pleasants, there are consistencies of sound to be heard between full-lengths, and sure enough between Spiral Shadow and Ultraviolet as well, but save for very few moments throughout the latest, the band would be all but unrecognizable to anyone who jumped from 2005’s To Walk a Middle Course or 2006’s Time Will Fuse its Worth right to it, and no doubt that’s the intent: Progress. Joined by drummers Carl McGinley and Eric Hernandez and bassist Chase Rudeseal (the latter of whom may or may not have actually played on the recording), Pleasants and Cope have never failed to draw a distinct line from one outing to the next, and though it’s an outgrowth of elements from Spiral Shadow like the pop hook of “Don’t Look Back” or the dreamy ambience underlying “To Forget,” that’s no less true of Ultraviolet than it has ever been.

Single-word titles on five of the 11 cuts on the 39-minute album — namely opening trio “Exhale,” “Unspoken,” “Grounded,” and closing duo “Quicksand” and “Drifting” — would seem to hint at some stripped-down sensibility or simplicity of approach, but the fact is Kylesa have never been so melodically switched on or engaged. Cope and Pleasants trade vocal parts immediately and effectively on the insistently-riffed “Exhale,” chugging distortion creating a jabbing tension topped by call and response shouts before a swirl takes hold that the drums(s) underscore with a thud less frantic than it has been in the past, but still indicative of two players at work. I suppose on a structural level, Ultraviolet‘s opening salvo is somewhat simplified, but the atmosphere becomes more complex as “Unspoken” opens with subdued guitar and a wash of effects, Cope coming in as the song kicks off with a semi-spoken line that Pleasants — whose ascent as a vocalist continues unabated — answers back with layered melodies. The most memorable stretches of Ultraviolet are still to come, but the momentum “Unspoken” helps create and its prog-toned guitar solo in the second half act as a precursor to some of the album’s most intriguing moments, giving way to the familiar winding structure of “Grounded”‘s central riff, readily accessible to anyone who’s followed the post-Mastodon course of Southern US heavy metal, Pleasants handling the verse and Cope taking what probably would be the ensuing chorus if it was ever repeated. Instead, they build on the instrumental for a bit and round out with layers of Pleasants‘ vocals, ending with just her voice to set up the shift to the more thickly toned and aggressive “We’re Taking This.”

Read more »

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Kylesa Announce First Tour in Support of Ultraviolet

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 28th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Bringing with them the diverse bill of mystic doomers Blood Ceremony, cult psych heroes White Hills, and Atlanta-based instrumental spazzoids Lazer/Wulf, Savannah, Georgia’s Kylesa are starting what will most likely be a lengthy tour cycle in support of their new album, Ultraviolet. Expected May 28 on Season of Mist, Ultraviolet is Kylesa‘s first record of new material since 2010’s Spiral Shadow, which saw them greatly expand their melodic reach and progressive sensibilities.

As much as I’ve been looking forward to hearing the LP, Kylesa have always been an excellent live act, so it’ll be great to catch the Ultraviolet songs in-person as well. The PR wire has info and the rather considerable list of dates:



Kylesa kick off their first North American tour in support of Ultraviolet (May 28, Season of Mist) on May 10 in Gainesville, Fla. at the High Dive.

“It’s been a while since we’ve done a headlining tour in the US or Canada,” explained singer/guitar player Laura Pleasants, referring to the near two-year gap since the Savannah band’s last run. “We are looking forward to doing a proper tour supporting Ultraviolet. It will be good to see friends and fans (old and new) and hit these once familiar landscapes again. “

Spin premiered “Quicksand,” a new song from the 11-track album, earlier this week ( describing the song “joins the melodies of ‘90s shoegaze with the churn of modern sludge.” Ultraviolet pre-orders are available now via Season of Mist’s e-shop (

Tour dates:
April 19 Savannah, GA The Dollhouse (Free show)
May 10 Gainesville, FL High Dive
May 11 Orlando, FL Backbooth
May 12 Miami, FL Churchhill’s
May 13 Tampa, FL The Orpheum
May 15 New Orleans, LA One Eyed Jack’s
May 16 Houston, TX Walters
May 17 Dallas, TX Trees
May 18 Austin, TX Mohawk
May 20 Albuquerque, NM Blackwater
May 21 Denver, CO Marquis Theater
May 22 Salt Lake City, UT Urban Lounge
May 24 Santa Cruz, CA Catalyst
May 25 San Francisco, CA Slim’s
May 27 Portland, OR Star Theater
May 28 Seattle, WA Chop Suey
May 29 Vancouver, BC Electric Owl
May 31 Calgary, AB Dickens
June 1 Regina, SK The Exchange
June 2 Winnipeg, MB The Pyramid
June 3 Minneapolis, MN Triple Rock Social Club
June 4 Iowa City, IA Gabe’s Oasis
June 5 Chicago, IL Bottom Lounge
June 6 Grand Rapids, MI Pyramid Scheme
June 7 St. Louis, MO The Firebird
June 8 Columbus, OH Ace of Cups
June 9 Lexington, KY Cosmic Charlies
June 11 Toronto, ON Lee’s Palace
June 12 Ottawa, ON Maverick’s
June 13 Montreal, QC Il Motore
June 14 Brooklyn NY Northside Fest (Music Hall of Williamsburg)
June 15 Albany, NY Bogie’s
June 16 Boston, MA Middle East Downstairs
June 18 Philadelphia, PA Underground Arts
June 19 Washington, DC Rock & Roll Hotel
June 20 Asheville, NC Asheville Music Hall
June 21 Atlanta, GA The Earl
June 22 Savannah, GA The Jinx

Opening for Kylesa will be Blood Ceremony, White Hills and Lazer/Wulf. “I think the package will deliver the goods as well; a little mix in the stew for everyone who digs our sound,” commented Pleasants. Tickets are available next week.

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New Kylesa Album Ultraviolet Due May 28

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 26th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

This one should be interesting. It’s been three years since Savannah, Georgia, metallers Kylesa released Spiral Shadow (review here), their first album for Season of Mist and easily their most progressive outing to date, pushing their intricate, dually-drummed arrangements further than ever while also showing periodic affinity for a strong pop chorus. What will Ultraviolet bring three years later? As I haven’t yet had a second to check out the new track “Unspoken” via the link below, I haven’t the foggiest, but with this as the first word that the album is coming May 28, I’m excited to find out.

One thing about Kylesa records though is that no two are ever the same. Not knowing what to expect only makes it more fun.

The PR wire takes it from here:

Kylesa is set to release Ultraviolet, one of the most anticipated hard rock releases of the year and the follow-up to their critically-acclaimed album Spiral Shadow, on May 28 via Season of Mist (May 24 in Europe).

“Whereas Spiral Shadow was a warm album suggesting concepts of hope, Ultraviolet is a bit colder and darker,” explains songwriter/guitar player Laura Pleasants. “All of our studio albums have their own unique identity and we’ve always been a band who strives for something different than what current fads suggest. With Ultraviolet, we took a step inward and wrote music that we felt we had to write; this album centers around the multiple themes of loss and you can feel it in the music. Everyone goes through it during their lifetime and this record reflects that experience.”

“Unspoken,” a new song from the eleven-track album is available now for Season of Mist newsletter subscribers (

The Savannah-based quintet recorded Ultraviolet at The Jam Room in Columbia, SC with the band’s guitar player/songwriter, and sought-after producer, Phillip Cope (Baroness, Black Tusk) once again overseeing production.

Kylesa released a rarities collection in November titled “From The Vaults, Vol. 1,” which featured unreleased, new and alternate versions of songs spanning the band’s catalogue as well as one new song titled “End Truth.” Cope and Pleasants spent over a year going through their archives preparing the release.

Kylesa will return to the road in May with more details forthcoming.

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Buried Treasure and the Walking Ghosts

Posted in Buried Treasure on February 7th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Time was limited. It was Monday morning and I was supposed to go to work after all, but as I was in New England anyway, a quick run to Armageddon Shop in Providence didn’t seem all that unreasonable. I’ve never come out of there feeling less than satisfied, and even back in December at the Boston store, I was able to pick up a few winners. Plus, Armageddon‘s been on my mind lately with their handling the repress of Elder‘s Spires Burn EP and the release of Magic Circle‘s self-titled, for which I have a review pending. All that, coupled with my general desire to crane my neck before a CD rack, made the stop a necessity. Turned out work was still there when I finally showed up anyway. Go figure.

On the wall of my office is a post-it with albums I’ve been meaning to pick up — mostly review stuff that labels won’t send out physical copies of anymore that I’ll grudgingly buy and devalue the effort I put into writing about them while also diminishing my appreciation for the record out of the pervasive annoyance. It’s a vicious cycle. Anyway, most of what’s on it I couldn’t remember, but it was fine. I managed to find enough and then some, as you can see in the stack above. The new Bedemon (track stream here) and Seremonia (track stream here) records were a must, and I hadn’t actually gotten a CD of the last Enslaved (review here), so I figured if I was going to give someone the cash for it, at least I could feel good about it going to Armageddon. The rest was gravy.

The first Hooded Menace full-length, Fulfill the Curse, Orodruin‘s Claw Tower and Other Tales of Terror and the repress of Life Beyond‘s Ancient Worlds were cool finds, but I was even more stoked on the 2003 Cream Abdul Babar/Kylesa split on At a Loss. I think they came by their progression honestly and I think Spiral Shadow (review here) bears that out, but it’s easy to forget how blisteringly heavy that band was at one point, all noise and fury and potential. With the unbridled weirdness of Cream Abdul Babar to complement, that split was a killer. The punkish War and Wine by the UK’s The Dukes of Nothing was something I had my eye on for a while, with Orange Goblin‘s Chris Turner on drums, bassist Doug Dalziel (ex-Iron Monkey) and Stuart O’Hara (ex-Acrimony, current Sigiriya) as one of two guitars, and more on the hardcore end, the self-titled collection from Hard to Swallow was a pleasant surprise, spanning the short tenure of the outfit that featured Jim Rushby (Iron Monkey) on guitar and Justin Greaves (Iron Monkey and even later of Crippled Black Phoenix) on drums and a host of others from that sphere ripping out primitive, violent bursts in rapid succession.

With 13 tracks in 27 minutes, there’s little room for screwing around, so Hard to Swallow get right to it, blending raw riffage with extreme punk fuckall. The compilation was released on Armageddon‘s own label, and though it’s more hardcore than what I’ll generally grab, it’s a solid, intense listen. A secret track incorporating Sabbath‘s “Under the Sun” into a grind medley made a decent, meaner answer to The Dukes of Nothing‘s album on Tortuga, and the metallic outing from Enslaved and Seremonia‘s distinctly Finnish weirdness. More local to home, I grabbed Halfway to Gone‘s split with Alabama Thunderpussy, which I already own but figured for six bucks I’d take a double, and the 1997 debut from underrated Jersey-based psychedelic rockers, Lord Sterling.

Your Ghost Will Walk was one of those albums I figured I’d probably never happen upon, perhaps even less so in Rhode Island. I haven’t been chasing it down for years and years or anything like that — a preliminary search can find copies out there — but neither was I going to pass up the chance to get a new one. The pressing is on Chainsaw Safety Records, may or may not be original, and for anyone who heard Lord Sterling‘s Weapon of Truth (2002, Rubric) or Today’s Song for Tomorrow (2004, Small Stone), the first one is a little more jagged, a little more post-hardcore, somewhat less psychedelic, though the ethereal garage via The Doors vibes of the later albums are definitely present in some nascent form. I always dug those guys, so it was cool to hear where they came from a little bit.

Because I can’t resist a CD on Man’s Ruin and because I’m forever a sucker for NYC noise, I impulse grabbed The Cuttroats 9‘s self-titled. The band had Chris Spencer and Dave Curran from Unsane in it, so I figured I couldn’t go wrong and I was right. It was a last-minute thing as I was looking through, but I’ve done way worse. All told, the haul was well-rounded and with a cup of coffee from the bakery down the street, I felt like the win was even more complete. About five hours later, I strolled into my office like I owned the place.

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Kylesa to Open the Vaults on Nov. 20

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 28th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

I don’t know about you, but for me, the news that Savannah, Georgia, progressive sludgers Kylesa will release a new collection called From the Vaults Vol. 1 begs more questions than it answers. I mean, I didn’t know Kylesa had vaults. How many vaults do they have? Are they man-sized like Dick Cheney‘s was? What do they keep in them? Are they room temperature or refrigerated?

While we wait for the answers to those questions and one or two others, here’s this from the PR wire:


Kylesa Rarities Collection, From The Vaults, Vol. 1, Set For Nov. 20 Release Via Season Of Mist

Twelve-Song Release Features One New Song, Previously Unreleased And Alternate Versions Of Songs From Band’s Catalogue

Kylesa is set to release From The Vaults, Vol. 1,  a twelve-song collection featuring unreleased, new and alternate versions of songs spanning their catalogue including one entirely new song (“End Truth“) as well as the band’s legendary cover of Pink Floyd’s “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” on Nov. 20 (Nov. 16 in Europe).

“This project has been a labor of love,” explained guitarist/singer/producer Phillip Cope. “We have spent over a year going through old songs, covers, etc. and collected those we felt went well together; remixing and finishing them up.  We didn’t want to release something just thrown together so we put a lot of thought and time into it.  I am really happy about how this came together.  I think it is a good representation of Kylesa’s different styles from early on to present day.”

The Savannah-based band recently wrapped up a European tour, which included stops at the Wacken Open Air and Area 4 Festivals,  and will enter the studio to begin work on a new album for 2013.  Kylesa’s most recent release, 2010’s Spiral Shadow, was revered by fans and critics alike as a “record that trashes everything you might expect from the genre” (Pitchfork) and  is “as sweaty as a south Georgia summer” (Spin).  Singer/guitarist Laura Pleasants was recently featured on the cover of Decibel Magazine‘s inaugural Women in Metal issue.

From The Vaults, Vol. 1 track listing:
1.  Intro  **
2.  Inverse  **
3.  111 Degree Heat Index ***
4.  Between Silence and Sound II ***
5.  Paranoid Tempo  **
6.  End Truth *
7.  Bottom Line II ***
8.  Wavering **
9.  Bass Salts **
10.  Drained **
11.  Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun **
12.  Drum Jam **

* New
** Previously unreleased/limited availability
*** Alternate Version

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Live Review: Metalliance Tour in NYC, 03.25.11 (Including Photos)

Posted in Reviews on March 28th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

I don’t remember the last time I looked forward to a tour the way I looked forward to the Irving Plaza, NYC, stop of Metalliance. Usually, I’ll get down with a couple bands on a bill, maybe even three or four on a great night, but this lineup was insane. Helmet playing Meantime, Crowbar, Saint Vitus, Kylesa, Red Fang, Howl and The Atlas Moth. Even the bands I was ambivalent about seeing I wanted to see. It’s been a while since that was the case for a single show.

The difference, I suppose, is that Metalliance is essentially a traveling festival. That means shorter sets — 20 minutes each for The Atlas Moth, Howl and Red Fang, then gradually more for Kylesa, Vitus, Crowbar and Helmet — but still, the thought of seeing this many bands on one bill made the show an absolute must. It’s been on my calendar for months. Whatever else happens, Metalliance.

There was a meet and greet before doors and I was invited for that, so I went and chatted awkwardly for a couple minutes with the bands, mostly the dudes in Red Fang about bassist/vocalist Bryan Giles‘ recent interview, but also got my picture taken with Wino, which was cool despite the lengths at which I’ll protest about hating that kind of thing (both having my picture taken and my picture taken with dudes in bands). The conversation steadily fizzled and everyone, myself included, went about their business. I grabbed the first of the evening’s several $8 Guinnesses, made my way upstairs to stake out a spot. It’s Irving Plaza instinct. I’ve seen more shows from that balcony than I can remember to count.

It was early, though. The Atlas Moth didn’t go on for maybe another 20 minutes, and the place was still basically empty, so the beer went fast. When they took the stage, I went downstairs to take the first of the evening’s many, many photos, and check out their set. I had been served a digital promo of their Candlelight Records debut, A Glorified Piece of Blue Sky, when it came out, but it must have slipped through the cracks. They were post-metal, and apparently down one of their three guitarists, but not terrible. They said from the stage that they’ll have a new album out in the fall. Maybe I won’t have my head up my ass about it this time. No promises, but it could happen.

If I’m not much familiar with The Atlas Moth, I’m a little more directly “take it or leave it” on Howl. The Rhode Islanders don’t really do it for me musically, but even they put on a good show, and I heard from several showgoers over the course of the night how much they enjoyed their set. They were heavier than I recalled them being, but just tipped to the far side of the doom/metal equation, and watching them made me feel old. Think I’d be used to that by now.

Part of my “meh” factor for Howl‘s set might also have stemmed from anticipation for Red Fang. Having never seen them before and so thoroughly dorked out over their forthcoming Murder the Mountains Relapse debut (second full-length overall), I was more or less dying to see their set. They opened with a couple tracks from their self-titled, and hit the new single “Wires” before closing with “Prehistoric Dog.” I felt justified in my excitement by their performance, as they more or less ripped through the material — not in the sense of rushing it — just making it all sound meatier and meaner. They were the first of the night’s several killer acts.

As I mentioned, with Kylesa, the set-times began to lengthen, but even a half-hour of stuff from them seemed short. Bathed half in darkness by the projected art of their Spiral Shadow album, the dually-drummed five-piece were also much heavier than the production on their record might lead you to believe. “Running Red,” from 2009’s Static Tensions, was a particularly welcome inclusion, and though the vocals were high in the mix, everything still came through well enough.

With the double-guitar/double-vocals of Laura Pleasants and Philip Cope, it’s probably really easy for some of Kylesa‘s complexity to become a wash in a live setting (I’ve seen them before but not yet on this touring cycle owing to January’s ridiculous snowfall) depending on who’s working the sound. I think they got a decent treatment at Irving Plaza and was glad to get the chance to have “Don’t Look Back” from Spiral Shadow injected straight into my head from the amps as opposed to the CD. I also got a new appreciation for bassist Corey Barhorst, who I think is a much bigger part of what makes Kylesa so damn heavy than anyone gives him credit for, myself included. I know they tour like bastards, but I was glad to see them this time around, especially after enjoying the album so much.

What can I possibly say about Saint Vitus? I felt like life was doing me a personal favor by their reuniting at Roadburn 2009, and I’ve seen them twice now since then, and I feel the same way. “Dying Inside,” “Born too Late,” “Clear Windowpane” — they were all fucking fantastic. The only challenge I had was trying to decide which I was most into (I finally settled on “Dying Inside”), but the whole set was earth-shakingly heavy. I don’t know how Crowbar felt about having to follow them, let alone Helmet, but I know I certainly wouldn’t want to. They also played the new song “Blessed Night” from the impending whatever-they’ll-put-out, and it was even better in-person than on the YouberTubes clips of it I’ve seen.

I’ve done plenty of worshiping at the altar of Saint Vitus before, but it’s worth noting that even just in terms of the chemistry between the members of the band, they’ve got it down. Even since I saw this lineup — Scott “Wino” Weinrich, vocals; Dave Chandler, guitar; Mark Adams, bass; Henry Vasquez, drums — in Brooklyn late in 2009, their time on the road has made them tighter as a group, and the songs sounded all the more killer for it. Vasquez, who came aboard as a replacement for founding drummer Armando Acosta owing to the latter’s failing health (Acosta died last Thanksgiving), does an excellent job driving the material, and watching Adams, Chandler and Weinrich on stage is like calculating a geometrical proof to discover why the word “legendary” so often appears directly before the band’s name.

If they’d been the only band of the night, I still would have made the trip into the city for the show, but to then have Crowbar follow them was when things really got surreal at Metalliance. It’s like one of those “But wait — there’s more!” infomercials, except that instead of useless, easily-broken shit you get high-grade metal. Crowbar were in sludgy fashion, and the guitar sound, which I bemoaned after their set at the Championship Bar and Grill in Trenton this past December, was much improved coming through the Irving Plaza P.A. They ran through a smattering of the highlight cuts from their career, offering a post-“Planets Collide” mini-encore in the form of latest single “The Cemetery Angels,” from their first album in six years, Sever the Wicked Hand.

It was interesting to compare the Saint Vitus and Crowbar sets in that the two long-running (admittedly Vitus longer running than Crowbar) acts have very different stage presences. Crowbar guitarist Kirk Windstein is clearly the star of the show. It’s his band all the way through, he’s the last of the founding members, the only songwriter and not to disparage the contributions of his band, because they sounded good, but you could probably have any number of musicians up there filling those roles. In terms of presence, Chandler is one of two very strong focal points in Saint Vitus, the other being Wino. Bassist Mark Adams, while a founding member of the band, is overshadowed personality-wise by the guitarist, and from the look of it this past Friday, that suits him just fine, but still, Saint Vitus — even apart from the aura their decades of influence carries with it — are more of a total band experience, where with Crowbar, it’s Windstein‘s gig and everyone knows it.

What that rounds out to, at least as regards Metalliance, is two unmistakable, diverging roads leading to a killer set. The place cleared out a lot after Crowbar with Helmet still to go, but those who stayed were ultimately rewarded for their effort. The truly unfortunate thing about Helmet is how their dissonance got bastardized in the later part of the ’90s by the nü-metal movement. That’s not to say their own burgeoning commerciality didn’t have a role to play, but the sound they became known for fostering wasn’t necessarily the way they actually played. As Meantime nears its 20th anniversary (originally released June 23, 1992) and Helmet has become a more melodically-centered band — the staccato riffing of guitarist/vocalist Page Hamilton taking a back seat — the songs themselves remains eerily relevant.

Hamilton is without a doubt the central figure, though, even more so than Windstein is to Crowbar. Though he’s had roughly the same band with him since 2006, Helmet is his band. All the same, their rendition of the Meantime album was welcomed by those who stuck around to see it, and an appropriate salvo to the evening’s unbelievable gait. When I left, it wasn’t yet 11PM, but I was already dead tired. Six hours of show will do that to you.

Feels redundant to even say it, but if Metalliance hasn’t hit where you are yet, you need to cancel whatever it is on your plate and go. As I noted previously, I took over 2,100 photos at the show, and most of them were crap. About 280 weren’t, and if you want a small sampling of that batch, click the “Read More” link below. Special thanks to Steve Seabury for making the night happen.

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Kylesa, Red Fang, Howl and The Atlas Moth Announced as Support for Metalliance Tour with Crowbar, Saint Vitus and Helmet

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 31st, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

And some support they provide. Kylesa, Red Fang, Howl and The Atlas Moth supporting Crowbar, Saint Vitus and Helmet playing Meantime. I guess the mystery’s solved on what the year’s best American tour is going to be.

Check out the latest from the PR wire and the badass tour poster from Brian Mercer:

The 2011 Metalliance Tour has just announced the complete lineup for their already impressive and highly anticipated tour. The run of dates are now complete and will be supported by metal heavyweights Kylesa, Red Fang, Howl and The Atlas Moth. The tour organizers had the honor of having Brian Mercer also provide all of the visuals and artwork for The Metalliance Tour. He is best known for creating artwork for such bands as Eyehategod, Zoroaster, Black Tusk, Lamb of God and countless others.

Dates have officially been announced:
03/17 Dallas, TX Southside Music Hall
03/18 Austin, TX Dirty Dog / SXSW
03/19 New Orleans, LA One Eyed Jacks
03/20 St. Petersburg, FL State Theater
03/21 Orlando, FL Firestone Live
03/22 Greensboro, NC Greene Street
03/23 Springfield, VA Jaxx
03/24 Worcester, MA Palladium
03/25 New York, NY Irving Plaza
03/26 Cleveland, OH Peabody’s
03/27 Joliet, IL Mojoe’s
03/29 Denver, CO The Summit
03/31 Portland, OR Roseland Theater
04/01 Seattle, WA El Corazon
04/03 San Francisco, CA Mezzanine
04/05 Hollywood, CA House Of Blues

$50 VIP tickets will be available courtesy of Artist Arena. This very special package will include:

- A General Admission Ticket
– Access to a Meet & Greet with Metalliance lineup
– A Metalliance hot sauce bottle
– A Commemorative VIP Show Laminate
– An Autographed poster
– 1 Issue of Revolver magazine

One grand prize winner will be randomly selected for a Dinner With The Bands, an autographed Mosh Potatoes cookbook and one t-shirt from each of the bands.

One second-place winner will randomly be selected for a one-on-one guitar lesson with Kirk Windstein from Crowbar and an autographed Mosh Potatoes cookbook.

VIP tickets are on sale now. Click here for more information on this once in a lifetime experience!

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Kylesa Interview with Laura Pleasants: Keep Moving, Don’t Look Back, Keep Moving, Don’t Look Back…

Posted in Features on January 20th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

It’s been almost two full years since I last interviewed guitarist/vocalist Laura Pleasants of Kylesa, and in that time the growth her band has undertaken is remarkable. Their latest album, Spiral Shadow (first for Season of Mist and fifth overall), is a progressive leap from anything the band has done before, Pleasants and fellow guitarist/vocalist Phillip Cope — who also produced — in particular focusing on writing memorable songs with an increased emphasis on melody.

The result of their efforts can be heard in tracks like “Tired Climb” or the unrepentantly hooky “Don’t Look Back,” which not only show a newfound maturity from Cope and Pleasants, but an increase in the chemistry between them as a team and the double-drum rhythm section of Carl McGinley, Tyler Newberry and bassist Corey Barhorst. Like its 2009 predecessor, Static Tensions, Spiral Shadow was a highlight of its release year. Hands down one of the least regrettable new-album purchases I made in 2010.

Whatever growth or breadth of influence they show, however, what remains consistent about Kylesa is a fierce will for exploration. They don’t follow the trend in modern metal, they help set it; their post-sludge breathing new life into a genre which often wills itself against sonic diversity. Coupled with the kind of songwriting prowess they show on “Spiral Shadow” and “Distance Closing In,” Spiral Shadow could easily be the marking point of a new stage in an already impressive career.

I’m getting ahead of myself. Just two days after the New Year, Pleasants checked in for a phoner to discuss the metamorphosis of Kylesa, the band’s recent tours with Clutch and Torche/High on Fire, and the working relationship of the band in the studio with Cope at the helm. Like last time, it was more of a conversation than a Q&A, but that’s nonetheless how it’s presented here.

Unabridged interview is after the jump. Please enjoy.

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Top 20 of 2010 #10: Kylesa, Spiral Shadow

Posted in Features on December 15th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster

Kylesa‘s first album for Season of Mist, Spiral Shadow became something of a lesson about life in the age of digital promos. In my review of the album, I raved about the genius of the 10-plus-minute title-track. Extensively. When I finally bought the record to include it in the Southcast, I found the title track to be half as long. I still don’t know what the story was, if they edited the song down, if there was some fluke in my mp3s or what. The songs on the physical product were also in a completely different order.

The result is I’m not sure which version of Spiral Shadow I like better, but suffice it to say both kick considerable ass. Hearing Kylesa embrace their inner prog was a high point of 2010 for sure, and between cuts like the aforementioned “Spiral Shadow” (still pretty good at 5:12), the stomping “Drop Out” and the viciously catchy “Don’t Look Back” — which is probably one of my favorite single songs of the year — there was just about no way Kylesa wasn’t going to make the top 10.

They’ve established a very solid chain of consistency between Spiral Shadow and last year’s Static Tensions, and with all the touring they’re doing (winter 2011 dates have been announced), they can only add to the momentum. Kylesa has never really had a steady lineup, but with the creative core of guitarist/vocalist/producer Phillip Cope, guitarist/vocalist Laura Pleasants and a duo of drummers, they nonetheless crafted one of 2010’s best albums in Spiral Shadow.

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Buried Treasure in a Spiral Shadow

Posted in Buried Treasure on November 1st, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster

It had been my intention to spend yesterday (Sunday) making the November podcast using the suggested Southern theme, but two things kept me from meeting that goal. First was homework, which can’t be helped. Second, and more pivotal, was the fact that I don’t yet own a physical copy of Spiral Shadow by Kylesa.

Fucking tragedy, right?

I tried to remedy this first at Sound Exchange in Wayne, my go-to shop for its proximity to my humble river valley and for the fact that if it’s between them and almost anyone else in the physical realm, I’d rather give them the money. They were a no dice. Thus began the agonizing, drawn-out process of not wanting to drive to Vintage Vinyl in Fords — an hour away on a good day — and knowing that I had zero chance of finding Spiral Shadow anywhere else near me.

My ride to Vintage Vinyl is agony, and not just because I have to spend the whole time anticipating what treasures I might find when I get there. It includes some of Northern New Jersey‘s most cripplingly boring roads, including Rt. 24, Rt. 78 and the ludicrously engineered Garden State Parkway. Nonetheless, at about four o’clock yesterday afternoon, after whining for nearly two hours about how much I didn’t want to make the trip — and no, it’s not lost on me that that’s long enough to make the trip twice over — off I went.

Should’ve called first. They didn’t have it. They’d only gotten a few copies and those were gone. Boy, did I feel stupid. Who does that? Who spends two hours in a car at the prospect of buying a CD without calling first to make sure the store has it?

I drowned my jackass sorrows in picking up The Elf Albums by Ronnie James Dio (and the rest of Elf, who aren’t cool enough to get mentioned on the cover), a used copy of Celestial Hi-Fi by Sheavy, who I never particularly enjoy hearing but keep buying the records of when I see them, Hippie Killer by Bongripper for $6.99, a used copy of the Boris and Ian Astbury collaboration, BXI, and, for $3.99, the version of Entombed‘s Wolverine Blues with the (apparently not) titular Marvel Comics character on the front.

The latter was obviously the find of the trip, but even that wasn’t enough to make me feel like any less of an idiot for spending that much of my day in blind pursuit of Spiral Shadow, which, it should be noted, I still haven’t gotten and is now holding up the November podcast. I don’t own Black Tusk either, but there are enough bands around who sound just like them that I can let that go. The Kylesa I pretty much need. The dude behind the counter said they’d be getting more this week, and I might try another run tomorrow, but needless to say, I’ll be calling first.

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Kylesa Do Right by Their Album, Premiere “Tired Climb” Video Somewhere Else

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 14th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster

It’s an odd thing that’s happened over the course of the last couple years with the surge of blogs replacing print publications, but you have people (myself included) lining up to be the first place listeners can go to hear/view/download whatever. It’s interesting, like the White House press corps being too afraid to criticize George W. Bush in his first term for fear of losing access. I don’t know if it helps establish a critical aesthetic for these websites, but I find it fascinating nonetheless.

There’s an odd egalitarianism too it as well, though, because while anyone can be “the first” to post something and it’s their name that goes out in the press release, five minutes later, everyone else has it. To wit, the following Kylesa video for the track “Tired Climb” from their Spiral Shadow album. Stereogum got the premiere, got their name out there, got the hits, and here we are, with it posted below. Strange days we live in, my friends. Strange indeed.

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Kylesa Walk Their Own Course on Spiral Shadow

Posted in Reviews on September 3rd, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster

Sometimes I think bands just use changing record labels as an excuse to screw with their own sound. Certainly Savannah, Georgia, sludge-bringers Kylesa have grown over the course of their four prior studio offerings, but with the latest, Spiral Shadow (their first for Season of Mist), they push their approach into new territory in terms of how it touches on both prog and pop, and come out sounding easily the tightest they ever have, but also the most melodically capable and farthest ranging.

It should say something that in a band with two drummers the guitars still dominate, but that’s the case with Spiral Shadow. By now it goes without saying that guitarist/vocalist Phillip Cope did an outstanding job with the production – his prowess in that area is well-documented and one can chart his growth as an engineer/producer over the course of Kylesa’s career – but on Spiral Shadow he seems to have smoothed out the band’s sound some. You can hear it in the tones of opener “Tired Climb,” or in the mixing of the ringing notes that mark the intro to second track, “Cheating Synergy.” Of course, the rhythm section of bassist Corey Barhorst and drummers Tyler Newberry and Carl McGinely is still essential to what Kylesa does, but Spiral Shadow’s focus seems just as much on bringing forward the five-piece’s instrumental and vocal melodicism as on pummeling with sludge or surprising with quick percussive turns.

Guitarist/vocalist Laura Pleasants made a breakthrough on Kylesa’s last album, 2009’s Static Tensions (their final album on Prosthetic Records), and here she refines and redefines her role in the band. Her interplay with Cope, as on “Drop Out” – which also features some of Spiral Shadow’s best performances from McGinely and Newberry – makes that track among the record’s strongest, but it’s on songs like the poppier “Don’t Look Back,” where Kylesa approaches Torche-like accessibility, and “To Forget” that she really demonstrates how much she’s come into her own in terms of clean singing. It’s strange to think of Kylesa as a band with a frontperson of any kind, since up to this point it’s always been about the group’s performance as a whole, but to call Pleasants’ work on Spiral Shadow anything less than standout is to undersell it.

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