Posted in audiObelisk on April 24th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Among the highlights of 2014 so far, Mars Red Sky‘s Stranded in Arcadia(review here) is out next week in Europe on Listenable Records (June 10 in North America). The album is the second from the Bordeaux trio of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matgaz (his first), and it was put to tape in Brazil late last year after plans to tour the West Coast of the US and record in the California desert were undone by American visa troubles. Presumably the TSA saw Kinast‘s beard and assumed he was a terrorist, but I don’t know that for sure.
Either way, listening to Stranded in Arcadia– as I can’t seem to stop doing — the three-piece leaves little doubt that they made the most of their situation. Like their 2011 self-titled debut (review here) and subsequent 2013 EP, Be My Guide(review here), there’s a humility in the sweet melodies that complement the huge fuzz riffs of songs like “Hovering Satellites” and “Seen a Ghost,” but as opener and longest cut at just over eight minutes “The Light Beyond” shows, Mars Red Sky have greatly expanded their sound to include more psychedelic atmospheres. Production-wise, Stranded in Arcadiaunfolds gracefully into a sprawl the largesse of which not only serves to make the tones come across thick and/or echoing, but also to provide the landscape in which the next stage of the band’s songwriting can develop, coming into focus like an old Polaroid photo as “The Light Beyond” bursts to wah-soaked life from its soft, ambient intro.
Like “Join the Race,” “Seen a Ghost,” and the more swaggering “Circles,” “The Light Beyond” is a highlight of Stranded in Arcadia, but for anyone who heard the first record or its follow-up EP, the song also offers firm evidence of how Mars Red Sky have grown in the last couple years. More than that, it’s the kind of track that feels like it’s swallowing you whole as it eases between its verses and jammed-out vibing. Taking both into consideration, there was no way I wasn’t going to stream it when the opportunity arose.
Find and enjoy “The Light Beyond” on the player below, followed by info about Mars Red Sky‘s special May 15 release show in Bordeaux and other tour dates:
Into The Mars Red Sound » may 15th in Bordeaux!
On the occasion of the release of their new album ”Stranded In Arcadia” in Europe on April 28th, MARS RED SKY announced a release party in their hometown Bordeaux on May 15th. The band will perform a classic live set alongside Russian rockers The Grand Astoria, as well as an experimental video and sound creation featuring Julia Al Abed.
Mars Red Sky on tour:
04.26.14 – SAINTES (Fr) Coconut Party 05.06.14 – ESCH SUR ALZETTE (Lux) Rockhal *** 05.07.14 – LAUSANNE (Swz) Les Docks *** w/ Detroit 05.08.14 – AMIENS (Fr) Le Cirque Jules Verne *** 05.15.14 – BORDEAUX (Fr) Barbey, Release Party “Into The Mars Red Sound” 05.17.14 – ANGOULÊME (Fr) La Nef 06.01.14 – PARIS (Fr) La Cigale *** 06.20.14 – CLISSON (Fr) HELLFEST OPEN AIR 06.26.14 – SALLES-ABRUISSANNAS (Fr) Willstock Festival 06.27.14 – VIC LE COMTE (Fr) Festival Alambic 06.28.14 – ÉVREUX (Fr) Le Rock Dans Tous Ses États Festival 07.11.14 – ERFURT (Ger) STONED FROM THE UNDERGROUND FESTIVAL 10.02.14 – PARIS (Fr) La Maroquinerie
Posted in Whathaveyou on April 7th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
The North American release date for Mars Red Sky‘s stellar sophomore full-length, Stranded in Arcadia (review here), is June 10. In Europe, it’s out April 28. I guess in setting up their release show, the French fuzz trio decided to split the difference. On May 15, they’ll play their native Bordeaux on a bill that includes Russian progressive heavy rockers The Grand Astoria as openers and a live video/audio collaboration with Julia Al Abed. It’s an evening they’ve billed as “Into the Mars Red Sound.”
As one would have to imagine, there’s a video teaser that gives a closer look at the event, and you can find that below, included for the double reason that it also provides an audio sample of opener “The Light Beyond” from Stranded in Arcadia, which is easily among the best albums I’ve heard thus far into 2014, with a sound that builds on the rolling fuzz of Mars Red Sky‘s first album and furthers a lush heavy psychedelia without sacrificing the humanity at the core of their approach. No easy feat — they just make it sound that way.
Into The Mars Red Sound » may 15th in Bordeaux!
New Album : April 28th for Europe & June 10th for North America.
On the occasion of the release of their new album ”Stranded In Arcadia” in Europe on April 28th, MARS RED SKY announced a release party in their hometown Bordeaux on May 15th. The band will perform a classic live set alongside Russian rockers The Grand Astoria, as well as an experimental video and sound creation featuring Julia Al Abed.
You’d probably need a week to sit down and list all the bands and projects to which Tony Dallas Reed has contributed in one form or another over the better part of the last two decades. From playing drums in death metallers Woodrot to self-recording all-instrument Pentagram covers in his “spare time,” Reed‘s substantial body of work is the result of a genuinely restless creative spirit. Over the course of the last 10 years, he’s bounced between the heavy rocking Mos Generator and more specifically ’70s-minded Stone Axe while also embarking on the side-project HeavyPink and building his own HeavyHead Studio, where he’s done not only his own recording, but tracked Saint Vitus‘ comeback album, Lillie: F-65, among others, as well as mixed and mastered outings from Wight, Trippy Wicked, Alunah and many more from the US and Europe, often between or while on tours.
Reactivated following a run focused on Stone Axe, Mos Generator released the full-length Nomads(review here) on Ripple Music in 2012, two live albums in 2013, and will shortly issue a follow-up, Electric Mountain Majesty(review here), as their first outing on Listenable Records. Reed is also recently returned to his Port Orchard, Washington, home after a trip to Australia to record Seedy Jeezus and remixed/remastered Mos Generator‘s 2007 Songs for Future Gods album for reissue through Ripple, available now. Mos Generator also has splits with Copenhagen’s Doublestone and Washington’s Teepee Creeper coming soon.
The Obelisk Questionnaire: Tony Reed
How did you come to do what you do?
As a musician I started when I was 12. After years of mimicking KISS and Rush in my bedroom I figured that I should actually learn how to play. I borrowed a guitar from a guy up the street and the first song I learned was “Iron Man.” I started playing drums around the same time. I just wanted to take it all in.
As a recording engineer I guess you could say it was around the same time. I started recording everything with a boom box from the get-go. I have a recording of the first time I played drums. Over time I collected a few mics and got a three-channel Radio Shack mixer and two cassette decks and I was into overdubbing. When I was 20 I got my hands on a four-track and the rest is history.
Describe your first musical memory.
I actually think it is “Papa was a Rollin’ Stone” by The Temptations. I used to love that song. I also have recollections of the album cover for “Paranoid” being around the house and when I got that album in sixth grade I somehow already knew the songs on it, so I am assuming it was played frequently when I was a child. My mom also has a funny story of me stealing a “Nights in White Satin” 45 from K-Mart when I was two years old. She let me keep it.
Describe your best musical memory to date.
I would say that it would be 26-date Saint Vitus/Mos Generator European tour in 2013. It was a lot of hard work but we got to play for some rabid audiences and travel in style. Being on the road is all about making memories and of course later down the line you only remember the good bits.
When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?
Where do you feel artistic progression leads?
I believe that there is really no ending point to a musician who is driven and passionate. Growth is constant and sometimes moves faster than other times. Sometimes it would appear to move backwards and hopefully something can be learned from that too.
How do you define success?
I define success by respect. Someday I would like to be well respect as a musician and songwriter and recognized for the passion and dedication that I put into the music I make.
What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?
My grandmother’s eyes the day before she died. I think she had moved on already because I didn’t see her in there anymore.
Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.
I would like to create and album or song that moves people the way that certain songs move me. Sometimes I am so humbled by the songs I love that it makes me want to stop writing music because I believe I may never achieve these emotions in what I write. I also look at it as a goal and a challenge.
Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?
Even though this is musical in its subject, it doesn’t directly affect me musically. I am looking forward to watching the musical journey my son is going on. He has the passion in his blood and it’s great to see him doing things to make music his life.
Mos Generator, “Breaker” from Electric Mountain Majesty (2014)
Posted in Reviews on March 14th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
To look at the grim cover art for the two full-lengths Mos Generator have released since guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed got back together with bassist Scooter Haslip and drummer Shawn Johnson, one might expect rambling, depressive miseries. Their 2012 return, Nomads (review here), on Ripple Music, boasted a cawing black crow on a gravestone silhouetted against a red sky, and though its tones are brighter in beiges and yellows, the trio’s follow-up, Electric Mountain Majesty — which also serves as their Listenable Records debut — features an Adam Burke painting that’s striking and ultimately no less mournful, cavernous skull eyes staring directly at the viewer while a totem eagle drawn on hints at some lost sense of ritual. If that’s the titular majesty that waits on top of the Electric Mountain, we’re boned, however, within the 10 tracks of the album itself one finds a much different picture being crafted by the Port Orchard, Washington, heavy rock specialists, though Electric Mountain Majesty is a bleaker album thematically and in its execution than was Nomads. Well comfortable in his role as auteur, Reed once again engineered, mixed and mastered the album himself, but in so doing seems to have pushed the sense of physical space in the recording much further than the last time out, giving tracks like the bass-heavy “Enter the Fire,” richly grooved “Neon Nightmare” and even the speedier title-track an open-air feel. It’s a bigger sound, but it suits the songs well, and as ever for Mos Generator, it’s the songs themselves that come across as the primary concern.
Whether in Mos Generator, Stone Axe, HeavyPink or any number of the other bands and projects he’s had along the way, Reed‘s genius has always rested in the crafting of memorable, structured songs, and no, I don’t think “genius” is too strong a word. He’s a natural and practiced songwriter, and over Electric Mountain Majesty‘s press-it-to-vinyl 43 minutes, there resound in songs like “Black Magic Mirror,” “Nothing Left but Night” and opener “Beyond the Whip” the kinds of choruses one anticipates from an artist of such accomplishment. The chief distinction is in the character of these songs. In “Nothing Left but Night,” which is the second cut behind “Beyond the Whip,” Reed intones, “You may find me on the edge of the light/But deep inside me there’s nothing left but darkest night.” This after one of the album’s several already-impressive solo sections. It’s a long way from Nomads‘ “I’m a traveler in a cosmic ark,” and more along the lines of some of the sorrowful lyrical ground Stone Axe covered in its heavy ’70s style, leaving an underlying moodier side to what still remain upbeat heavy rock numbers. Maybe Electric Mountain Majestywas to be Mos Generator‘s doom album, and if so, fair enough in their pushing stylistic bounds, but musically, “Beyond the Whip” still shuffles, and “Breaker” and “Electric Mountain Majesty” have a motoring rush, all the more so the latter, that works in contrast to lines like, “You can believe what you want to believe/But we all die in the end/Don’t waste your time trying to save my life/I’m dying now the way I want to,” from “Breaker.” Taken as a whole, it’s hard to decide where the real heaviness on Electric Mountain Majesty lies, in the music or the lyrics.
Posted in Reviews on March 11th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
There can be little question that Stranded in Arcadiais not the album that Mars Red Sky set out to make, or at very least that it wasn’t made under the intended conditions. The best laid plan of the forerunning French heavy psych rockers was to do a week of shows in South America before heading north to the California desert to track their second full-length and Listenable Records debut, but the usual visa issues (what my country has against importing quality guitar tone, I’ll never know) kept them in Rio de Janeiro for that week instead, and rather than go home without a record done, they hit Estúdio Superfuzz to put to tape with Gabriel Zander what eventually became the eight-song/45-minute long-player that takes its title from the circumstances of its creation. Stranded in Arcadiasounds better in any case than “stuck in Rio” would have, and speaking as someone who’s become a fan of the band since the 2011 release of their self-titled debut (review here), it’s hard to argue with the results in the finished product. Even from last year’s Be My GuideEP (review here), Stranded in Arcadiamarks audible progress in the psychedelic, airy feel from guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matgaz, who makes his proper debut here after first appearing on part of the shorter 2013 release.
What has made Mars Red Sky such an utter joy on the ears to this point has been the smoothness with which they tie that heavy psychedelia to both a melodic sweetness and a huge-tone desert rock groove. Listening to Stranded in Arcadia tracks like “Hovering Satellites” the later “Seen a Ghost” and the ultra-swinging “Holy Mondays,” on which Kinast joins Pras for vocals in the verse only to take the lead for the chorus — something also done on the self-titled’s “Marble Sky,” but achieved more confidently here — I’m glad to find these elements are enhanced if anything, and that while there’s more impact to the tones and the notes seem to land with more of a thud than the prior LP or EP, that comes at no sacrifice of melody. Indeed, on “Join the Race,” Mars Red Sky are their most unabashedly blissful yet, tapping a psych-era Beatles influence for one of Stranded in Arcadia‘s most effective hooks. Those are not in short supply, incidentally. Where the self-titled nestled into the rolling grooves of “Way to Rome,” “Strong Reflection” and the extra dreamy “Up the Stairs,” the second outing seems to build on these accomplishments with the expansive but efficient craft of “Circles,” “Join the Race” and opener and longest track at 8:04 (immediate points) “The Light Beyond,” which explodes from an initial far-off guitar line into otherworldly vocals and elephantine plod, only then to unfold the first of Stranded in Arcadia‘s highlight choruses in tones more weighted but no less patient than one could hope given the band’s work up to this point.
If I seem locked into comparing Stranded in Arcadiawith its predecessor releases from Mars Red Sky, perhaps that’s because there’s so little else one might relate in terms of the band’s methods. Mars Red Sky have very quickly, very masterfully become a singular act within heavy psych, and quite frankly there’s nobody else so able to maintain their balance of lush melody, tonal heft, jammy sensibility, memorable songwriting and unmistakable groove. That Stranded in Arcadiaheld firm to these is triumph enough, but to hear “Hovering Satellites” kick in with Matgaz‘s double-bass drumming and send its quicker roll headfirst into the wide-open chorus easily positions the album among the most satisfying I’ve heard thus far into 2014. An already fervent appreciation deepens as “Hovering Satellites” moves into a wah-soaked guitar-led jam, only to have the instruments drop out as Pras begins a return to the chorus with just his echoing vocals, setting up a build that will play out over the remaining 90-plus seconds. “Holy Mondays” is the shortest of the actual songs here — closer “Beyond the Light” is a two-and-a-half-minute reprieve of “The Light Beyond” — but solidifies around the dually-delivered singing of Kinast and Pras to set in stone a specific point of progression on the part of the band and one I hope they continue to develop going forward, Kinast‘s lower register approach meshing well with Pras‘ higher range, which gets further showcase on the aforementioned chorus of “Join the Race,” which follows.
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 24th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
An update off the PR wire today brings a solidified April 15 release date for Electric Mountain Majesty, the new album from Port Orchard, Washington, heavy rockers Mos Generator. With preorders available through Listenable Records, the reinvigorated trio also have a video planned for the title-track to the follow-up of 2012′s Nomads (review here), and while I’m looking forward to that and to the album as a whole, past experience tells me that when Mos Generator decide to cap an album with a song called “Heavy Ritual,” it’s going to be one worth hearing. You might recall “This is the Gift of Nature” from Nomadswas one of that record’s many high points.
One or two songs have started to leak out from the record, and you’ll find “Enter the Fire” under the news below. Cheers:
MOS GENERATOR to Release New Album “Electric Mountain Majesty” April 15
Highly Respected Power Trio Returns at the Very Top of Its Game with Fuzzbombing New LP
Washington state hard rock heroes MOS GENERATOR will release their new LP Electric Mountain Majesty on April 15 via Listenable Records. Recorded at HeavyHead Recording Company by guitarist / vocalist and renowned engineer Tony Reed (who co-produced SAINT VITUS’ return album Lillie: F-65), Electric Mountain Majesty is the follow-up to MOS GENERATOR’s 2012 release Nomads. Electric Mountain Majesty is available to pre-order now atthis location.
A sprawling celebration of heavy amplification, fretboard psychotropics and kick ass heavy rock, Electric Mountain Majesty is unquestionably MOS GENERATOR’s finest hour of its decade-plus existence. From chest-beating metal salvos like the massively loud “Nothing Left But Night” and “Black Magic Mirror” to more nuanced, slow-burning fare like the spellbinding “Enter the Fire” through to colossal closer “Heavy Ritual”, the album is an amalgam of nasty and effervescent, alternating between ugly doom tones and lofty emotiveness, resulting in an epic, colorful listen brimming with richly-nuanced, timeless music that drips with melody, muscle and cool.
“Electric Mountain Majesty’ is an attempt to fuse our live energy and our usual controlled studio sound into something that I think is a nice forward step in the Mos Generator sound,” says Reed. “We didn’t over think the writing and recording process and we let more of our unconventional influences creep into the songwriting. In both composition and recording technique, this is the most diverse Mos Generator album to date.”
Track listing: 1.) Beyond the Whip 2.) Nothing Left but Night 3.) Enter the Fire 4.) Spectres 5.) Neon Nightmare 6.) Breaker 7.) Early Mourning 8.) Electric Mountain Majesty 9.) Black Magic Mirror 10.) Heavy Ritual
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 28th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
There wasn’t really any doubt that Mars Red Sky, who toured the world more or less as an independent band, were going to end up on some label, just a question of which and when. Those questions have been answered by the announcement this morning that the Bordeaux trio have inked a deal with Listenable Records in time to have their second full-length out in April, preceded by a limited 7″ with exclusive material. Good news all around, and most importantly, it gets the album here sooner than later. Should make for a good spring soundtrack.
O! PR wire! Sing unto me of fuzz and laid back groovy rock and roll!
MARS RED SKY sign to Listenable Records; new album released this Spring.
France’s stoner rock emblematic trio MARS RED SKY just inked a deal with European record label Listenable Records, on which the band will release its brand new full-length as well as a 7’’ EP, both set for release this spring.
Considered as one of the greats of the European stoner rock scene, France based MARS RED SKY have gained international recognition thanks to a unique sound imprint based on thick infectious grooves and melodic aerial guitar riffs. This is truly a one of a kind experience, wrapped up by Julien Pras’ ethereal vocals, Matgaz’ powerful rhythms and Jimmy Kinast’s pachydermic bass lines. Somewhere between doom metal and 70’s psyche pop, the Mars Red Sound intrigues to begin with, after which it irremediably attracts the masses to celebrate this cosmic ritual of solar burning fuzz and reverberated atmospheres.
Driven by the huge success of their eponymous debut record, which was recorded in Spain’s mystic Bardenas desert and released in 2011, the Bordelais were quickly invited to play on the largest European stages with Kyuss Lives!, Dinosaur Jr, Sleep, and popular festivals such as Eurockéennes de Belfort (Fr), Roadburn (NL), London and Berlin Desertfest, Sziget Festival (Hun), SXSW (USA), leading them to play in more than 20 countries.
With their incredibly heavy and hypnotic performances, MARS RED SKY have been considered as one of the most thrilling live acts among the international stoner rock scene. In 2012, they paired up with French doom metal monsters Year Of No Light to release a 3-track split record, which sold out in a blink of an eye.
The release of their EP “Be My Guide” in the spring of 2013 prophetically opened the path for an extensive tour across Europe, then across the Atlantic Ocean for a few exciting gigs in Latin America, where they recorded their new album, due out in April 2014 on LISTENABLE RECORDS (Ghost, Gojira, Behemoth…).
A limited edition 7” EP containing exclusive material will be released in March, more details coming shortly.
MARS RED SKY upcoming tour dates:
Feb. 05 – La Roche Sur Yon, Le Fuzz Yon (Fr) Feb. 27 – Larissa, Stage Club (Greece) Feb. 28 – Thessaloniki, Eightball Club (Greece) Mar. 01 – Athens, Six D.O.G.S (Greece) Mar. 21 – La Teste de Buch, Le Zik Zak (Fr) Jun. 20 – Clisson, Hellfest Open Air (Fr)
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 7th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Who’s gonna argue with some Mos Generator album news? Not me. And maybe a new track to boot? Yeah, I won’t fight that one either. My list of 2014 gotta-haves is getting longer every day, and Mos Generator are definitely on it. Their 2012 return outing, Nomads (review here), was a joy to behold, and if the boogie of the curiously-unembeddable title-track is anything to go by, Electric Mountain Majesty– also the Washington-based trio’s Listenable Records debut — seems to just be waiting to follow suit.
The PR wire takes it from here:
MOS GENERATOR Release New Song; Reveal New Album Details
Northwestern U.S. stoner rock gurus MOS GENERATOR, who recently inked a deal with Listenable Records, has announced that their forthcoming album will be entitled Electric Mountain Majesty. The band’s first release since joining the Listenable Records roster, Electric Mountain Majesty is scheduled for a Spring 2014 release. Plans are currently being laid for a European tour in May.
To give fans a taste of what Electric Mountain Majesty has to offer, MOS GENERATOR and Listenable Records are now streaming the album’s title track. Listen atthis location.
MOS GENERATOR guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed comments on the new song,Tony Reeds comments the track :”ELECTRIC MOUNTAIN MAJESTY was riffed out and recorded in about 15 minutes. Shawn and I did a demo of it and when i sat down and started to work on it the next day i realized that the drum track on this demo was killer! It had all of the fire and expression that Shawn would have live. I tracked the guitars and performed the vocals over the course of the next day and here it is. Our love for heavy rock, metal, and melody all come together in this tune.”
Track listing for Electric Mountain Majesty is as follows: Beyond the Whip Nothing Left but Night Enter the Fire Spectres Neon Nightmare Breaker Early Mourning Electric Mountain Majesty Black Magic Mirror (Interloping: Heavy Ritual) Heavy Ritual
Electric Mountain Majesty was recorded at HeavyHead Recording Co. in Port Orchard, Wash. and was produced, mixed and mastered by T. Dallas Reed.
MOS GENERATOR music and merchandise, along with materials from other Tony Reed-related acts can be found in Reed’s own HeavyHeadSuperStore. Check out the great selection of t-shirts, CDs, rare & limited-edition vinyl and more athttp://heavyheadsuperstore.storenvy.com.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 8th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Rarely at rest, Washington-based heavy rock trio Mos Generator announce today that they’ve signed to Listenable Records for the release of their next album. The reinvigorated three-piece toured Europe earlier this year alongside Saint Vitus, and the run resulted in two live offerings — the vinyl In Concert (review coming this week) and the cassette Live in Europe 2013 (review coming next week) — both arriving in the wake of the welcome reception of their return full-length, 2012′s Nomads (review here), issued through Ripple Music. It looks as though plans are already in the works for a return trip in 2014 in support of the next Mos record.
Kudos to the band and the label. Whatever results in more Mos Generator is good news as far as I’m concerned. This came down the PR wire:
MOS GENERATOR Signs With Listenable Records
Listenable Records has inked a deal with Northwest U.S. stoner rock gurus MOS GENERATOR. The band is currently working on a new record, which is scheduled for a spring 2014 release on Listenable Records. MOS GENERATOR will tour Europe in support of the album in May.
The new material is said to be stretching the core sound of the band into some new and interesting directions. Guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed comments, “We always try and push the heavy rock sound into other areas. Sometimes it’s forced and sometimes we are letting natural and honest influences enter the equation. On the new material we are letting ourselves be open to whatever comes along.”
MOS GENERATOR formed during the winter of 2000 in Port Orchard, Washington from the ashes of a ten year off & on collaboration between it’s three members, all of which are long time veterans of road & studio. The need to strip down to the basics of hard rock was apparent from the start and continues to be the foundation for all the bands recent material. MOS GENERATOR have released 5 studio albums, a retrospective album, and a live album on such labels as Roadburn, Small Stone, Ripple, Nasoni, and Lay Bare. Touring has been just as important to the profile of the band as making records has. Over the years MOS GENERATOR has shared the stage with many great heavy rock bands and in March of 2013 they did a 26-date European tour with Saint Vitus, opening up a whole new fan base to the MOS GENERATOR sound. On stage the band defines the word “chemistry”. Revolving their sound around swagger and groove while improvising just enough to keep the songs feeling fresh from night to night…sometimes with interesting results.
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.
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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:
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