Posted in Reviews on January 29th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s been two years since Stockholm heavyweights New Keepers of the Water Towers released their sophomore full-length, The Calydonian Hunt, through MeteorCity, and that span of time has found them making a jump in more than just their label. Issued via Listenable Records, their third album, The Cosmic Child, finds New Keepers of the Water Towers a much more mature, more patient band, embarking on progressive psychedelic sprawl and incorporating acoustics alongside periods of the more expected weighted distortion. Tracks are by and large longer than either the second album (review here) or their Chronicles debut (review here), which compiled two self-released EPs into a 60-minute long-player rife with formative Mastodonic crush, and the three-turned-four-piece don’t shy away from including atmospheric interludes both within the songs and in the form of the closing title-track. All told, The Cosmic Child runs through six tracks in just under 47 minutes, and while there are times where it seems like New Keepers of the Water Towers have wandered beyond their capacity to restore structured order, there’s never actually a moment throughout where the songs get away from them, and the record winds up being as much of a success as it is a surprise, though those diametrically opposed to progressive indulgences will want to stay wary, as The Cosmic Child is full of them right from the beginning of opener “The Great Leveller,” which swirls to a march led by drummer Tor Sjödén and complemented by the guitars of Rasmus Booberg and Victor Berg (Björn Andersson has since joined on bass, but in this liner-noteless digital age, there’s no word on whether or not he’s actually playing on the album). “The Great Leveller” swells to a slow verse plod topped with melodic vocals and open, big-sounding guitar, gradually giving way to the chorus and a chugging rhythm playing out under a grandiose echoing, winding solo. The Mastodon feel isn’t completely gone from New Keepers’ sound – let’s not forget that they too “went prog” – but The Cosmic Child feels less outwardly concerned with showy technicality than it does with mood and atmosphere, “Visions of Death” setting a side-to-side sway in its guitar line that rests on a strong rhythmic foundation between the bassline and the drums.
There’s a current of excellent guitar leads throughout The Cosmic Child, and “Visions of Death” certainly has one in its midsection, but even these are never so over-the-top as to distract from the overall balance of the material, which rests between modern prog metal and heavy psychedelia. At nearly nine and a half minutes, “Visions of Death” presages much of what’s to come thematically from 12-plus-minute cuts like “Pyre for the Red Sage” (12:05) and “Lapse” (12:32), but each piece of the album has an identity of its own that simultaneously works to the benefit of the whole work. This is the best case scenario for a thematic, semi-narrative album, which The Cosmic Child purports to be (no lyric sheet with that download). Piano drives a transition between “Visions of Death” and the subsequent “Pyre for the Red Sage,” which opens with the same line and adds acoustic guitar for its introductory base. By the end of the first full minute, the song has unfolded its grandeur, but as big as it gets – it gets plenty big – there remains a grounding element in a catchy chorus and driving kick bass. Booberg, Berg and Sjödén all handle vocals reportedly, and on “Pyre for the Red Sage,” layers assure that as much largesse is carried across musically, it’s duly met with the singing. Before its halfway point, the track breaks to synth ambience and moves gradually, patiently, over its next couple minutes to post-Floydian prog metal, a thrashy riff running rhythm for a semi-shred solo that works because of the time spent getting to it. The guitar line that follows is one of the more memorable aspects of the song and indeed the album, and it’s met by far-off echoing vocals before a slowdown introduces the acoustics that will carry into “Cosmosis,” typified by a sweet vocal melody and rounding out with a darker electric guitar line that serves as a foreshadow to “Lapse,” the culmination of The Cosmic Child and New Keepers’ most ambitious single work to date.
Posted in audiObelisk on November 5th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
The movement in Blood of the Sun‘s “Burning on the Wings of Desire” is immediate. It’s the title-track of the fourth album by the Texas ’70s worshipers, and the band, led by drummer Henry Vasquez (also of Saint Vitus) and organist/keyboardist Dave Gryder, have tapped the vein of a boogie rarely captured so well. They shift from shuffle to adrenaline-quickened builds, from organ melodies to the swaggering vocals of John O’Daniel and killer leads of guitarist Rusty Burns, both of Southern rockers Point Blank, come aboard for this, Blood of the Sun‘s first release on Listenable Records.
Burning on the Wings of Desirewill be issued on Nov. 27, and to herald its arrival, I’ve been granted permission to host the title cut for streaming. The album (full review here) is quick to build classic rock momentum, and does well to hold it for the duration. Its title-track is well chosen, as it more or less embodies the ethic of the whole, with a strong hook, unpretentious style and unabashed love for the glory days of guitar-led heavy rock. But in the grand tradition — and Blood of the Sun reside in several grand traditions — of eponymous songs, it’s worthy of being the one by which the album is defined.
You may also recognize some elements in the songwriting or production as reminiscent of Stone Axe/Mos Generator‘s Tony Reed. Reed, who also recorded Saint Vitus‘ Lillie: F-65, played bass and some guitar on the album, also overseeing the process of putting it to tape. So if Blood of the Sun wasn’t already familiar enough, that’s one more element working in favor of their accessibility.
Please find “Burning on the Wings of Desire” on the player below, and please enjoy.
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
Posted in Reviews on October 23rd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
The only thing that’s ever been guaranteed when it comes to Texas-based classic heavy rockers Blood of the Sun is quality. Granted, if you have to make a guarantee, that’s a good place to start, but throughout the band’s decade-long tenure, they’ve been through lineup changes enough for three bands, the only constants being the obvious love of ‘70s heavy that bleeds through the work of founders Henry Vasquez (drums) and Dave Gryder (keys). Some will no doubt recognize Vasquez from his role as drummer for the ongoing Saint Vitus revival, but Blood of the Sun is his band, and Gryder’s as well. The two have previously joined forces with a number of players – including Derek St. Holmes from Ted Nugent’s band – and on their first album in four years, Burning on the Wings of Desire (also their Listenable Records debut), it’s vocalist John O’Daniel and guitarist Rusty Burns of ‘70s Southern rockers Point Blank who’ve come aboard, as well as Mos Generator/Stone Axe/HeavyPink (ahem) guitarist, vocalist and producer Tony Reed, who contributed to the songwriting here, played guitar and bass, and recorded. Reed’s stamp on songs like “Rock Your Station” and “Can’t Stop My Heart” makes Burning on the Wings of Desire something of an upbeat companion to Mos Generator’s recently-released Nomads, also their first studio outing after a number of years spent focusing on other projects. With the added profile of Vasquez’s time in Vitus – Scott “Wino” Weinrich also makes a guest appearance here on vocals and guitar for closer “Good and Evil” – as well as their having signed to Listenable, no doubt Burning on the Wings of Desire will be the most resoundingly received Blood of the Sun yet, but in truth, it’s just the latest in a string of underrated albums, be it 2008’s Death Ride, the previous year’s In Blood We Rock or 2004’s self-titled debut, all of which saw their initial release through Brainticket Records, the imprint helmed by John Perez of Solitude Aeturnus. Whether all of this is enough for their boogie to get the recognition it has long deserved remains to be seen. More importantly from a listening standpoint, Burning on the Wings of Desire is a collection of top notch American-style classic heavy rock that modernizes its influences rather than trying to duplicate their production and never sacrifices its good-time feel for pretense.
As one might expect, the list of influences reads like thumbing through a collection of kickass vinyl: Humble Pie, ZZ Top, Nugent, Cactus, Mountain, probably 30 or 35 others. Prominent as it is, Gryder’s organ work invariably leads to Deep Purple comparisons, but Blood of the Sun’s riffs are bluesier in their construction than the bulk of Richie Blackmore’s, and follow the shuffle of “Good and Evil” and the earlier title-track with a fluid, natural feel. But for the closer, all of Burning on the Wings of Desire’s tracks fall into the 4:00 to 4:30 range, chorus-based and ready for a radio scene that’s no longer ready for them. It’s a work of genre in the sense that there are musical references and methods at play that heavy rockers will pick up on and others simply won’t, but taken at their own level, the tracks make for accessible listening, rife with friendly motion and enough of an edge and variety of mood to keep monotony at bay. Curiously, they don’t seem to be purposefully locked into a vinyl structure. Even at the album’s midway point, as the slower “Brings Me Down” leads into the burst of energy that arrives with “Rock Your Station,” one could see a break there to switch LP sides, but the contrast between the two works better in a linear – i.e. CD or digital – medium, so that there’s no interruption to the overall flow. It’s splitting hairs after a point, because a catchy song is a catchy song, and Blood of the Sun are full of them. Nonetheless, aesthetically, the band are entirely geared toward that era, and the performances on the album are strong, from O’Daniel’s verses over shuffle of opener “Let it Roll” to the building tension in “The Snitch,” in which Vasquez’s double-kick provides another surprisingly modern element. “Burning on the Wings of Desire” boasts some of the album’s best guitar work from Burns, and some of Burns’ best interplay with Gryder, but really, these guys know who they are musically, know what their mission is and know what the band is all about, and the results aren’t so much old man rock as what old man rock is trying to be when its energy level so often falls too short. After a riotous beginning with “Let it Roll” and the title-track, “Can’t Stop My Heart” keeps the momentum forward and forceful with some head-down chugging in its second half, and if the brash grooving and memorable choruses have you hooked, there’s little in the remainder of the album to be called a let up.
We’re more than halfway through 2012, and we’ve already seen great releases from the likes of Orange Goblin, Pallbearer, Conan, C.O.C., Saint Vitus and many others, but there’s still a long way to go. The forecast for the next five months? Busy.
In my eternal and inevitably doomed quest to keep up, I’ve compiled a list of 13 still-to-come releases not to miss before the year ends. Some of this information is confirmed — as confirmed as these things ever are, anyway — either by label or band announcements, and some of it is a little bit vaguer in terms of the actual dates, but all this stuff is slated to be out before 2013 hits. That was basically my only criteria for inclusion.
And of course before I start the list, you should know two things: The ordering is dubious, since it’s not like I can judge the quality of an album before I’ve heard it, just my anticipation, and that this is barely the beginning of everything that will be released before the end of 2012. The tip of the fastly-melting iceberg, as it were. If past is prologue, there’s a ton of shit I don’t even know about that (hopefully) you’ll clue me into in the comments.
Nonetheless, let’s have some fun:
1. Colour Haze, She Said(Sept./Oct.)
I know, I know, this one’s been a really, really long time coming. Like two years. Like so long that Colour Haze had to go back and remake the album because of some terrible technical thing that I don’t even know what happened but it doesn’t matter anymore. Notice came down yesterday from guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek that the recording is done and the long-awaited She Saidis on the way to be pressed on vinyl and CD. Got my fingers crossed for no more snags.
2. Enslaved, RIITIIR (Sept. 28)
The progressive Norwegian black metallers have put out 10 albums before it, and would you believe RIITIIRis the first Enslaved album that’s a palindrome? Kind of cheating to include it on this list, because I’ve heard it, but I’ve been through the record 10-plus times and I still feel like I just barely have a grasp on where they’re headed with it, so I think it’ll be really interesting to see what kind of response it gets upon release. Herbrand Larsen kills it all over these songs though, I will say that.
3. Mos Generator, Nomads(Oct. 23)
Hard for me not to be stoked on the prospect of the first new Mos Generator album since 2007, especially looking at that cover, which RippleMusic unveiled on Tuesday when it announced the Oct. 23 release date. It’s pretty grim looking, and even though Mos once put out a record called The Late Great Planet Earth, I’ve never thought of them as being particularly dark or doomed. I look forward to hearing what Tony Reed (Stone Axe, HeavyPink) has up his sleeve for this collection, and if he’s looking to slow down and doom out a bit here, that’s cool too. I’ll take it either way.
4. Ufomammut, Oro – Opus Alter(Sept.)
No, that’s not the cover of Oro – Opus Alter, the second half of Italian space doom grand masters Ufomammut‘s Oro collection — the first being Opus Primum (review here), which served as their Neurot Recordings debut earlier this year. That cover hasn’t been released yet, so I grabbed a promo pic to stand in. I’m really looking forward to this album, though I hope they don’t go the Earth, Angels of Darkness Demons of Lightroute and wind up with two records that, while really good, essentially serve the same purpose. I’ve got my hopes high they can outdo themselves once again.
5. Witchcraft, Legend(Sept. 21)
I guess after their success with Graveyard, Nuclear Blast decided to binge a bit on ’70s loyalist doom, signing Witchcraft and even more recently, Orchid. Can’t fault them that. It’s been half a decade since Witchcraft released The Alchemist and in their absence, doom has caught on in a big way to their methods. With a new lineup around him, will Magnus Pelander continue his divergence into classic progressive rock, or return to the Pentagram-style roots of Witchcraft‘s earliest work? Should be exciting to find out.
6. Wo Fat, The Black Code(Nov.)
After having the chance to hear some rough mixes of Texas fuzzers Wo Fat‘s Small Stone debut, The Black Code, I’m all the more stoked to encounter the finished product, and glad to see the band join the ranks of Lo-Pan, Freedom Hawk and Gozu in heralding the next wave of American fuzz. Wo Fat‘s 2011 third outing, Noche del Chupacabra (review here), greatly expanded the jammed feel in their approach, and I get the sense they’re just beginning to find where they want to end up within that balance.
7. Blood of the Sun, Burning on the Wings of Desire(Late 2012)
As if the glittering logo and booby-lady cover art weren’t enough to grab attention, Blood of the Sun‘s first album for Listenable Records (fourth overall) is sure to garner some extra notice because the band is led by drummer/vocalist Henry Vasquez, better known over the past couple years as the basher for Saint Vitus. Whatever pedigree the band has assumed through that, though, their modern take on classic ’70s heavy has a charm all its own and I can’t wait to hear how Burning on the Wings of Desire pushes that forward. Or backward. Whatever. Rock and roll.
8. Swans, The Seer(Aug. 28)
This one came in the mail last week and I’ve had the chance to make my way through it only once. It’s two discs — and not by a little — and as was the case with Swans‘ 2010 comebacker, My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky(review here), the far less cumbersomely titled The Seeris loaded with guest contributions. Even Jarboe shows up this time around, doing that breathy panting thing she does. Unnerving and challenging as ever, Swans continue to be a litmus for how far experimentalism can go. 3o years on, that’s pretty impressive in itself.
9. Swallow the Sun, Emerald Forest and the Blackbird(Sept. 4)
Apparently the Finnish melo-doom collective’s fifth album, Emerald Forest and the Blackbird, came out earlier this year in Europe, but it’s finally getting an American release in September, and as I’ve always dug the band’s blend of death metal and mournful melodicism, I thought I’d include it here. Like Swans, I’ve heard the Swallow the Sun once through, and it seems to play up more of the quiet, weepy side of their sound, but I look forward to getting to know it better over the coming months.
10. My Sleeping Karma, Soma (Oct. 9)
Just signed to Napalm Records and tapped to open for labelmates Monster Magnet as they tour Europe performing Spine of Godin its entirety this fall, the German four-piece are set to follow-up 2010′s Tri(review here) with Soma. Details were sketchy, of course, until about five minutes after this post initially went up, then the worldwide release dates, cover art and tracklist were revealed, so I updated. Find all that info on the forum.
11.Eagle Twin, The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale(Aug. 28)
Way back in 2009 when I interviewed Eagle Twin guitarist/vocalist Gentry Densley about the band’s Southern Lord debut, he said the band’s next outing would relate to snakes, and if the cover is anything to go by, that seems to have come to fruition on The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale, which is set to release at the end of next month. As the first album was kind of a mash of influences turned into cohesive and contemplative heavy drone, I can’t help but wonder what’s in store this time around.
12. Hooded Menace, Effigies of Evil(Sept. 11)
You know how sometimes you listen to a band and that band turns you on in their liner notes to a ton of other cool bands? I had that experience with Finnish extreme doomers Hooded Menace‘s 2010 second album, Never Cross the Dead (review here), except instead of bands it was hotties of ’70s horror cinema. Needless to say, I anxiously await the arrival of their third record and Relapse debut, Effigies of Evil. Someone needs to start a label and call it Hammer Productions just to sign this band.
13. Yawning Man, New Album (Soon)
Make no mistake. The prospect of a new Yawning Man album would arrive much higher on this list if I was more convinced it was going to come together in time for a 2012 release. As it is, Scrit on the forum has had a steady stream of updates since May about the record — the latest news being that it’s going to be a double album — and Scrit‘s in the know, so I’ll take his word. One thing we do know for sure is that the band in the picture above is not the current Yawning Man lineup. Alfredo Hernandez and Mario Lalli out, Greg Saenz and Billy Cordell in. Bummer about the tumult, but as long as it’s Gary Arce‘s ethereal guitar noodling, I’m hooked one way or another.
Since we closed with rampant speculation, let me not forget that somewhere out there is the looming specter of a new Neurosis album, which the sooner it gets here, the better. Perhaps also a new Clutch full-length, though I doubt that’ll materialize before 2013. And that’s a different list entirely.
Thanks for reading. Anything I forgot or anything you’d like to add to the list, leave a comment.
Posted in audiObelisk on October 20th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Hard-luck Belgian trio SerpentCult got together in 2006, following the unsightly demise of Thee Plague of Gentlemen, who weren’t bad except for the fact that it turned out their lead singer was a pedophile. Reasonably wanting to distance themselves from that, guitarist Frederic Caure, bassist Steven Van Cauwenbergh and drummer Frederik “Cozy” Cosemans stuck it out as SerpentCult and successfully released Weight of Light through Rise Above in 2008.
That record was fronted by Michelle Nocon, who also now is out of the band. So, on their new album, Raised by Wolves, SerpentCult have basically reinvented themselves — again — as a mostly-instrumental three-piece of sprawling and atmospheric doom. Raised by Wolves is SerpentCult‘s most honest and accomplished album yet, and it’s a testament to how strong the connection is between Caure, Van Cauwenbergh and Cosemans that they’d persist after losing two vocalists.
Raised by Wolves is out now on Listenable Records, who were kind enough to let me stream the all-instrumental and longest track from the album, “Longing for Hyperborea.” The song skillfully shifts through varied movements, but remains consistently morose throughout. It’s the sound of the defeat to which the band simply refuses to succumb. Hope you enjoy:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!