Posted in Whathaveyou on October 14th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Desertfest London 2017 joins the Spring festival season fray with its first round of lineup announcements. Set for April 28-30 in its traditional home of Camden Town in London, the sixth incarnation of one of the two founding Desertfests will include a headlining set from Turbonegro, as well as appearances from Samsara Blues Experiment, who seem to be set on making a return to activity as we head into the New Year that I’ll be very interested in seeing how it plays out, plus blues-cycle duo The Picturebooks, Virginia’s Satan’s Satyrs, tribalists Vodun, Yuri Gargarin, Mammoth Storm, and London’s own Elephant Tree, whose 2016 self-titled debut (review here) stands among the year’s best in heavy rock. Bit of a no-brainer there, so I guess you might as well get the announcement out of the way early.
Not really looking forward to six months of cartoon-titty posters, but so it goes. Here’s word from the fest:
DESERTFEST LONDON: first bands announced; Turbonegro to headline the 2017 edition!
After a momentous fifth year anniversary, DESERTFEST LONDON proudly returns in 2017. As the festival grows from strength to strength, each year offers up a new challenge to bring a truly unique and amplified weekend to Camden Town. Desertfest aims to not only expand in all areas, but also to exceed expectations, and this year’s lineup is set to do just that.
The first headliner for 2017 is one of the most ludicrously high voltage, straight-up party bands in the history of rock’n’roll: Norway’s very own TURBONEGRO will be bringing their blend of high octane deathpunk to Desertfest 2017, for their first performance ever at the festival!
Joining them on the bill are one of the most requested Desertfest acts, German psych stalwarts SAMSARA BLUES EXPERIMENT, whose expert blend of stoner rock, psychedelic blues and Indian raga will bring some mind-bending goodness to the weekend’s trip.
THE PICTUREBOOKS will also be eagerly offering up their diverse alt-rock sound. The duo have pushed boundaries with their style – from drumming with mallets to building their own instruments, their live performances unquestionably follow suit and will not disappoint.
Virginia’s crème-de la-crème of thrash SATAN SATYR’S have effortlessly propelled themselves to cult status by paving the way for that true hard-attack heavy rock, making them stand out from a sea of peers who are just trying to hit half as hard.
VODUN are quickly gaining traction as one of those “must see” bands, and Desertfest is thrilled to show our loyal family as to why. An overwhelming talent of primal, genre-bending, heavy afro-soul rock – they’re not easy to describe, but being labelled one of the best new rock acts on the planet may help paint the picture. Swedish space rock cosmonauts YURI GAGARIN will also join the 2017 proceedings to launch revellers into a hypnotic otherworldly journey, alongside doom-drone power trio MAMMOTH STORM, who will be ready to batter out any cobwebs with a sonic tidal wave of riffs. Last but not least, is London’s very own ELEPHANT TREE with their melodic and weighty riffs that will rattle down on listeners like a stampede.
We are proud, and excited, for what next year has in store. But this is only the tip of the iceberg as there is much, much more to come. Stay tuned!
– DESERTFEST LONDON 2017 – 28th to 30th April in Camden, London Weekend passes are availableHERE
First bands announced: TURBONEGRO, SAMSARA BLUES EXPERIMENT, THE PICTUREBOOKS, SATAN’S SATYRS, VODUN, YURI GAGARIN, MAMMOTH STORM, ELEPHANT TREE
Posted in Reviews on October 3rd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
This is always a kind of nervewracking moment, sitting here in my chair as I do every couple months and introducing the next Quarterly Review. Between now and Friday, somehow, some way, I’ll post 50 reviews in batches of 10 per day. It will cover more ground than, frankly, I yet know, and by the time it’s done it’s going to feel (at least to me) like way more than a week has passed, but hell, at this point I’ve done this enough times to be reasonably confident I can get through it without suffering a major collapse either of heart or brain. I’ve taken steps beforehand to make it easier on myself and listened to a lot, a lot, a lot of music in preparation, so there’s nothing left to do but dive in and actually kick this this thing off. So let’s do that.
Quarterly Review #1-10:
Sumac, What One Becomes
With their second album, What One Becomes (on Thrill Jockey), post-metal trio Sumac move forward from what their 2015 debut, The Deal (review here), established as their crushing and atmospheric modus. Starting with a wash of blown-out noise in “Image of Control,” the collective of guitarist/vocalist Aaron Turner (ex-Isis), bassist Brian Cook (Russian Circles) and Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists) eventually settle into a barrage of chug and inhuman lumber over the course of the five-track/58-minute progression, testing tolerance on the 17-minute march “Blackout” and tapping into a satisfying moment of melody in centerpiece “Clutch of Oblivion” that, by the time it arrives, feels a bit like a life raft. There are stretches that come across as part collections, but the whole seems to be geared toward overwhelming, consuming and devastating, and ultimately What One Becomes accomplishes all of those things and more besides, finishing closer “Will to Reach” with the sense they could easily keep going. I believe it.
Prior to making their full-length debut, Dunsmuir issued a series of 7” singles, so if you picked up any of that, the straightforward pulse running through the 10-track self-titled will probably be familiar. Likewise if you’d previously caught wind of The Company Band, the supergroup in which vocalist Neil Fallon (also Clutch), guitarist Dave Bone and bassist Brad Davis (also Fu Manchu) previously joined forces. Here they’re joined by drummer Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath, etc.), and the material is suitably metallic in its aftertaste, but while Fallon’s presence is irrepressible and it’s the songwriting itself that shines through in cuts like “Our Only Master” and “…And Madness,” both barnburner riffs in classic metal fashion, where the later “Church of the Tooth” draws back the pace to add sway leading into the mid-paced closing duo “The Gate” and “Crawling Chaos.” Not many surprises, but with the ingredients given, knowing what you’re getting isn’t anything to complain about.
Across a span of 12 tracks and 72 minutes, Swiss heavy progressives Monkey3 unfurl the massive scope of Astra Symmetry, their fifth album and the follow-up to 2013’s The 5th Sun. It is an immediately immersive listening experience and does not become any less so as it plays out, the generally-instrumental four-piece frontloading early songs like “Abyss,” “Moon” and the nodding, synthed-out “The Water Bearer” with vocals and backing that with “Dead Planet’s Eyes” on the second LP for good measure. Delving into Eastern-style melodicism gives Astra Symmetry a contemplative air, but Monkey3’s heavy psychedelia has always provided a free-flowing vibe, and as “Astrea,” “Arch,” “The Guardian” and “Realms of Lights” roll through ambient drones toward the album’s smoothly delivered apex, that remains very much the case. Taken as a whole, Astra Symmetry is a significant journey, but satisfying in that traveling atmosphere and in the hypnosis it elicits along the way.
Big progressive step from London four-piece Oak on their second self-released EP, Oak II. They follow last year’s self-titled (review here) with four more tracks that build on the burl established last time out but immediately show more stylistic command, vocalist Andy “Valiant” Wisbey emerging as a significant frontman presence and the band behind him – guitarist/engineer Kevin Germain, bassist Scott Masson and drummer Clinton Ritchie – finding more breadth, be it in a nod to djent riffing in “Mirage” or more melodic post-Steak desert rock in “Against the Rain.” In addition, “A Bridge too Far” showcases a patience of approach that the first EP simply didn’t have, and that makes its build even more satisfying as it hits its peak and goes quiet into the stonerly swing of “Smoke,” which ends Oak II with due fuzz and some social commentary to go with. Sounds like more than a year’s growth at work, but I’ll take it.
One word for Swedish one-man outfit Lightsabres? How about “underrated?” Since the 2013 Demons EP (review here), it has been nearly impossible to keep a handle on where John Strömshed (also Tunga Moln) might go on any given song, and his latest offering, the full-length Hibernation (on HeviSike with a tape out on Medusa Crush) works much the same, rolling out a melodic mellowness on the opening title-track before topping off-time chug with garage vocals on the subsequent “Endless Summer.” Elsewhere, “Throw it all Away” marries swallow-you-in-tone riffing with a surprisingly emotionally resonant lead, and “Blood on the Snow” offers a downtrodden vision of grunge-blues like what might’ve happened if Danzig had never gone commercial. It’s all over the place, as was 2014’s Spitting Blood (review here) and 2015’s Beheaded, but tied together through a wintry theme, and anyway, variety is the norm for Lightsabres, whose reach seems only to grow broader with each passing year.
Knowing the context of Helen Money’s Become Zero having been written by cellist Alison Chesley following losing both her parents, and knowing that songs like the 10-minute “Radiate” and the effects-less “Blood and Bone” (which features pianist Rachel Grimes) deal directly with that loss, only makes it more powerful, but even without that information, the sense of melancholy and loneliness is right there to be heard. Chesley, who released the last Helen Money album, Arriving Angels (review here), in 2013, once again brings in drummer Jason Roeder (Sleep, Neurosis) to contribute, and his work on the title-track and the later churn of “Leviathan” make both standouts, but whether it’s the empty spaces of “Vanished Star” or the ambient wash of “Radiate” – I don’t even know how a cello makes that sound – the emotional force driving the music is ultimately what ties it together as a single work of poignant, deeply resonant beauty.
It has been nearly three years since desert-dwelling rockers Dali’s Llama celebrated their two-decade run with the Twenty Years Underground vinyl (review here) and almost four since their last proper full-length, Autumn Woods (review here), was issued. For them, that’s an exceedingly long time. One can’t help but wonder if the band – now a five-piece, led as ever by guitarist/vocalist Zach Huskey and recorded as ever by Scott Reeder – went through a period of introspection in that span. After some stylistic experimentation with darker and more doomed influences, the seven tracks of Dying in the Sun would seem to reaffirm who Dali’s Llama are as they approach the quarter-century mark, bringing some of the gloom of Autumn Woods to extended centerpiece “Samurai Eyes” as easily as “Bruja-ha” seems to play off the goth-punk whimsy of 2010’s Howl do You Do? (review here). The fact is Dali’s Llama are all these things, not just one or the other, and so in bringing that together, Dying in the Sun is perhaps the truest to themselves they’ve yet been on record.
Making their debut on Napalm Records, Berlin five-piece Suns of Thyme exhibit immediate sonic adventurousness on their second album, Cascades, melding krautrock and heavy psych keys and effects with a distinctly human presence in the rhythm section, engaging in songcraft in the new wave-ish “Intuition Unbound” while topping shoegaze wash with organ on “Aphelion.” It’s a vast reach, and with 14 tracks and a 55-minute runtime, Suns of Thyme have plenty of chance to get where they’re going, but the dynamic between the psych-folk of “Val Verde” and the drift of closing duo “Kirwani” and “Kirwani II” and the push of the earlier “Deep Purple Rain” impresses both in theory and practice alike. The task ahead of them would seem to be to meld these influences together further as they move forward, but there’s something satisfying about having no idea what’s coming next after the proggy sway of “Schweben,” and that’s worth appreciating as it is.
Two huge, side-consuming slabs of primordial improvised heavy psychedelia making up a 45-minute LP with a pun title and enough wash throughout that I don’t even feel dirty looking at it? Yeah, there really isn’t a time when I don’t feel ready to sign on for weirdo exploratory stuff like that which Seattle’s Fungal Abyss elicit on Karma Suture. Available as a 12” on Adansonia Records, the album brings together “Perfumed Garden” (22:12) and “Virile Member” (23:22), both sprawling, massive jams that launch almost immediately and are gone for the duration. Way gone. I won’t discount the consumption that takes place on side A, but I think my absolute favorite part of Karma Suture might be the guitar lead on “Virile Member,” which about eight minutes in starts to lose its way and you can actually hear the band come around and pick it back up to an exciting swing. It’s moments like that one that make a group like Fungal Abyss exciting. Not only are they able to right their direction when they need to, but they’re brave enough to put the whole thing on record: as raw and genuine as it gets.
It’s an encouraging and unpretentious start that Malaysian four-piece Wicked Gypsy make on their self-titled, self-released three-song EP. In the 22-minute span of “Wicked Gypsy,” “Heavy Eyes” and “Gypsy Woman,” the band – vocalist/guitarist Mahmood Ahmad, bassist Mohd Azam, keyboardist Azyan Idayu and drummer Ahmad Afiq – bring together influences from modern doom and classic heavy rock, Idayu’s keys providing a distinct ‘70s flair to the opener while Azam’s wah bass and of course a liberal dose of rifffing from Ahmad lead a proto-metallic charge in “Heavy Eyes,” topped with gritty vocals reciting lyrics about smoking weed, black magic, the devil, etc. What one really hears in these tracks is Wicked Gypsy’s initial exploration of dark-themed doom rock, and while the going is rough in its sound, that adds to the appeal, and the drum solo/progressive flourish worked into “Gypsy Woman” speaks well of where they’re headed as they walk the Sabbathian path.
They didn’t, by the way, split. At least not immediately. Having formed in the early ’60s and cut their teeth as the UK backing band for none other than John Lee Hooker himself — because if you’re going to learn how to do boogie blues right, you go to the source — The Groundhogs went on to construct a history as varied, complicated and hyper-populated as the best heavy rock acts of their generation. Their fourth album, 1971’s Split, was released on Liberty Records and is probably their most known work. Put together by the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Tony McPhee, bassist Peter Cruickshank and drummer Ken Pustelnik during a pivotal run as a power trio between 1969 and 1972, it’s marked out by its four-part opening title-track, a rare chronicle of mental illness that neither romanticizes nor stigmatizes, but represents in a series of ups and downs and a move into and through chaotic noise the tumult that people still consider taboo to discuss openly some 45 years later. It’s not necessarily doing this in a showy way — primarily, “Split” and the album that bears its name are geared toward the simple mission of rocking out — but it’s doing it all the same, and coming from a more sincere place than many at the time building off the idea that “crazy” was something cool to be.
And while the titular cut consumed all of side A, it was by no means all Split had to offer. “Cherry Red” began a thrust of four more straightforward tracks, giving a raucous, falsetto-topped start to that progression in which one can hear the roots of any number of ’70s-inspired acts from Graveyard to The Golden Grass, McPhee‘s dream-toned lead work a highlight backed by Pustelnik‘s manic snare and Cruickshank‘s warm runs on bass. For aficionados of the era, there’s a lot about this period of The Groundhogs that will ring familiar, but no question they were hitting harder than most at this point, and in the time when rock first really began to get heavy, Split makes a convincing argument for inclusion among the most vibrant outings of the period. They may not have amassed the same kind of influence as Jethro Tull on prog, or Black Sabbath on metal, or Hawkwind on space rock, but the languid roll of “A Year in the Life,” the scorch of “Junkman”‘s noisy and experimental second half, and the unabashed Hooker-ism of “Groundhog” — a take on the man’s own “Ground Hog Blues” — define something that draws on all of those elements without aping any of them. Those years were infinitely crowded, and one could make a life’s work of exploring all the rock and roll that surfaced between 1968 and 1974, but The Groundhogs are a standout all the way through. Front to back. The way it should be.
As one might expect, different lineups and different offshoots of the band have surfaced over the decades. The Groundhogs‘ last two studio albums were cover records of Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters that surfaced in 1998 and 1999, respectively, but they’ve continued to play shows with McPhee, who also suffered a stroke in 2009, as the remaining original member, and their legacy is obviously one already cast in stone.
Hope you enjoy.
This week, more than most, finds the actual output on the site not at all commensurate to the amount of work done on my part in the back end. What does that mean? Well, it means that hopefully by the time this post goes live the images, links, players, etc. for the Quarterly Review will be completely laid out (as I write this I still need to put together next Friday’s metadata) and ready to roll for this weekend, and I’ll also have at least started to put together an additional full-album stream and review for the new Fatso Jetson record, which since I suck at timing and planning alike also needs to be up on Monday.
My plan is to wake up early tomorrow and Sunday — two more 5AM days, to go with the 5AM days all this week, last week, and so on — and just start banging through as many reviews as I can get done. They’re shorter, obviously, but it’s never not been a challenge anyway, both conceptually and in the sheer amount of work there is, hours in the day and that sort of thing. It’ll get done though. I haven’t flubbed a Quarterly Review yet and don’t intend to start now.
Also next week, look out for the announcement of the next The Obelisk Presents show — it’s a good one; they all are — and an announcement for a new album that Magnetic Eye Records will have out that’s pretty awesome. I don’t have days slated yet, but Mammoth Mammoth and Devil to Pay video premieres are in the works, and there’s a new Narcosatanicos, new La Chinga video and so much more besides that I’m already stressed out just thinking about it, but it’s okay, because apparently this is how I enjoy myself these days. Adulthood is strange. And bald. Bald and strange. Why am I cold all the time?
Complete side note, but I’m also thinking of shaving my beard. All the way down. Starting over. If you have any thoughts in this regard, I’m all ears. Yes, I know it’s the wrong decision. The Patient Mrs. told me that as well. She’s right, too. I feel like it might be the right time for the wrong decision.
Okay, I have work that needs to get done — including for that, you know, job I have and whatnot — so I’m going to sign off on that non-sequitur. I hope you have a great and safe weekend and I hope you check out the forum and the radio stream, which I know you do anyway, because you’re awesome. All the best.
[Click play above to stream Yeti on Horseback’s The Great Dying in full. Album is out Sept. 30 on Medusa Crush Recordings.]
If you were thinking of, say, tuning high and playing fast, Canadian four-piece Yeti on Horseback strongly advise against it. The Ontario atmosludgers make their debut via Medusa Crush Recordings with The Great Dying, a title that seems to nod — emphasis on “nod” throughout — in the direction of YOB‘s expanses, though Yeti on Horseback are altogether darker and more unipolar in their vocal extremity, despite some variety between screams and growls.
An initials-only lineup of RP (guitar/vocals), MS (guitar), NS (bass) and SR (drums) execute six tracks, only one of them under nine minutes long — the interlude “Lynch (A Prelude)” (2:43) that precedes “Elephant Man” (12:43) — and from the second that opener “Tree of Death” (9:23) kicks in its chug from the quiet intro, they plummet downward into a cavernous sonic punishment. So grueling is the course of The Great Dying‘s 63 minutes that one might get lost along the way in Yeti on Horseback‘s morass of screams, rolling semi-cosmic doom groove and unremitting bleakness of mood. It’s a lot to take in, in other words.
They do change things up somewhat, in the aforementioned interlude (or prelude) and in the song that follows, adding cleaner guest vocals, but there’s a root in RP‘s vocals that’s metal and somebody in this band listened to or continues to listen to Devin Townsend — I promise I’m not just saying that because they’re Canadian — so there’s a bit more going on either way than just a doom band making doom that sounds like other doom.
For example, there’s sludge. Lots of it. It would be unfair to compare Yeti on Horseback directly to Eyehategod, as it’s about the laziest line one can draw for anything low-toned and screaming, but to go with their metallic side, they have a raw sensibility that seems to come from a mindset of the subgenre. As “Tree of Death” rolls through one part and another en route to the lumbering 14-minute longest cut “Viking Mushroom Tea,” the plod that emerges becomes a defining aspect of what the band does, along with the disaffection their output feels intended to convey.
Guitars offer some lead/chug interplay early behind the layered screams in the early march of “Viking Mushroom Tea,” but the chug remains primary until the guitars drop out to whispers over the drums, the band gradually making their way back to fully-weighted fare in the middle third of the track, getting there with surprisingly little ceremony.
A dirge is at the core of “Viking Mushroom Tea” — appropriate enough to the title’s reference — and held even in the quiet stretch by the drums, and though the immediate guitar line in the subsequent “Fables and Lies” (11:03) is faster and riffed in Mike Scheidt-style, the bell sounds that complement it build on that theme. A highlight for its cyclical drum performance, the near-centerpiece proves patient despite its more uptempo beginning, breaking after three minutes to a moment of quiet before smashing in effectively to its verse, which holds sway firmly.
They shift again into faster riffing and finish with another smooth transition to that verse progression, ending, naturally, with a return of the bells, but the journey along the path they’ve set remains engaging in that meant-to-be-a-slow-and-a-challenge kind of way. If it was pleasing to the ear all the time, it wouldn’t be sludge. They’d be doing it wrong. They’re not.
All the same, there’s a palpable sense of catching breath as “Lynch (A Prelude)” takes hold with its samples from director David Lynch‘s 1980 masterpiece, The Elephant Man, leading into the famous lines, “I am not an elephant! I am not an animal! I am a human being!” at the start of “Elephant Man” itself that underscore the feelings of otherness conveyed throughout The Great Dying.
That summation, and the grand intro of “Elephant Man” itself would seem to be fitting for a closer, but Yeti on Horseback clearly didn’t come this far to half-ass it at the finish, so while “Elephant Man” features the album’s best lead work and arguably its largest and most effective chugging, in addition to the aforementioned guest vocals, and pushes a sense of arrangement about as far as the band goes here, it works in concert with actual-closer “Dragged down to Hell” (13:24), which was previously released as a digital single.
Granted, it feels somewhat tacked on, but it’s hard to hold that against Yeti on Horseback, who’ve made no attempt to hide their will toward working in longer forms and use the last track to strip everything back down to its basic components and draw the record to a rumbling, churning, crashing finish, the last minute-plus given to a stretch of low-end noise.
Given that The Great Dying is their debut, Yeti on Horseback have put together an impressively cohesive collection culled no doubt from their four years’ experience discovering their aesthetic breadth as a unit. They have room to grow, but have set themselves up well for that in any number of directions — tuning low and playing slow isn’t a bad place to start — and if this is the kind of crushing they’re going to do at the outset, then it’s only going to be worthwhile to pay attention to what comes next.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 28th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
I bought Horse‘s Horse years ago — I know it was a long time because it was before I was able to look up what it was on my phone and I had to pick it up on spec based on the cover and year of release — but it seems like that 1970 self-titled debut/swansong from the London outfit is only part of what makes up For Twisted Minds Only, which Rise Above Relics is issuing/reissuing on Oct. 14. As to the title, I have to wonder if that’s the original name of the album restored or a new one for the collection as a whole, but in any case, for you classic heavy rock heads, if this is one you don’t know, it’s well worth checking out.
From the PR wire:
Rise Above Relics to Release HORSE’s For Twisted Minds Only October 14th
Formed in South London during the late sixties, HORSE were a band creating occult influenced progressive hard rock, ahead of its time. Guitarist Rod Roach had briefly played in an incarnation of British psych-rock legends Andromeda before forming Horse with other key member, vocalist Adrian Hawkins. Alongside bassist Colin Standring, the band also featured legendary drummer Ric Parnell, later of Atomic Rooster (amongst many others) and future star of This is Spinal Tap (aka Mick Shrimpton)!
A favorite amongst collectors for many years (with original mint copies today trading in excess of £400), Horse is an album long overdue an official reissue. Recorded in 1969, originally released in 1970 and bootlegged countless times from scratchy vinyl transfers, Rise Above Relics can finally present you with this detailed release mastered and cut directly from the original master tapes. Featuring a treasure trove of previously unheard/unreleased material, For Twisted Minds Only is certain to have connoisseurs and collectors of the period literally frothing at the bit.
The album is available for pre-order on Amazon in CD and Vinyl formats.
This first ever official reissue includes a detailed booklet of the bands history, as well as a tasty selection of previously unheard tracks! Comes housed in previously unseen original artwork by Roger Wootton of Comus.
1. The Sacrifice 2. See The People Creeping Round 3. And I Have Loved You 4. Freedom Rider 5. Lost Control 6. To Greet The Sun 7. The Journey 8. Heat Of The Summer 9. Gypsy Queen 10. Step Out Of Line 11. Autumn (previously unreleased) 12. Winchester Town/Dreams Turn to Ashes (previously unreleased) 13. Born to be Wild (previously unreleased) 14. Picture of Innocence (previously unreleased) 15. She Brings Peace (previously unreleased) 16. Anthems to the Sea (previously unreleased)
Posted in Features on July 18th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
One could wax philosophical all day about the combination of weighted groove, lush melody, songcraft and tonal depth playing out across Elephant Tree‘s self-titled Magnetic Eye Records debut LP (review here), but as far as doing it justice, it seems like a futile enterprise. The album’s richness, the ease of its execution — nothing sounds labored, nothing feels overwrought — and its consistent sense of movement make it easily one of 2016’s best debut records, and one of the best records of the year overall. It’s the kind of thing that makes you want to tell a friend they need to hear it, because invariably they do.
How’d they get there? The London-based four-piece of guitarist/vocalist Jack Townley, bassist/vocalist Peter Holland (also Trippy Wicked), drummer Sam Hart and sitarist/vocalist/engineer Riley MacIntyre offered up their debut EP, Theia (review here), in 2014 (also through Magnetic Eye), and showed immediately a penchant for laid back heavy roll and psychedelic flourish, but a few key changes took place in the short time between Theia and Elephant Tree, among them a shift in focus away from incorporating screaming vocals — I’ll say that the advent of a genuinely psychedelic sludge is an intriguing prospect, and they made it work well — and MacIntyre‘s sitar alongside Townley‘s guitar and Holland‘s bass.
Townley is quick to point out there are still screams on the record, they’re just buried for atmospheric effect, but even that is a change from two years ago. Part of the driving force behind that would seem to be MacIntyre‘s work as producer, steering the sonic concepts with which the band would work as well as contributing to the music itself. Indeed, Elephant Tree sounds like an album thought out beforehand and during the process, and while recording the basic tracks in the room together gives it a natural underlying character, the blues and greens of its tones and the harmonies in the vocals over them are emblematic of the willful progression the band has undertaken.
And perhaps most encouraging of all, that progression would seem to just be at its outset. It’s important to keep in mind as the melancholy piano notes close out “Surma” that Elephant Tree is still just Elephant Tree‘s first full-length. In speaking to Townley, I tried to get an idea both of how this record came together and how the next one might move forward from here. The interview took place admittedly a while ago, just before Elephant Tree teamed up with Bordeaux, France-based heavy psych forerunners Mars Red Sky for a run of shows in the UK — they’ve also done stints with Bright Curse and they’ll play Cardiff’s Red Sun festival on July 29 with Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters, Grifter, Desert Storm, Old Man Lizard and many others — and so there was much to discuss.
Please find the complete Q&A after the jump, and enjoy. Thank you for reading.
Posted in Whathaveyou on June 29th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
London heavy rockers Oak have issued Oak II, their aptly-titled follow-up to their self-titled debut EP (review here), which came out late last year. Like that release, the new four-tracker is available now as a name-your-price download via the band’s Bandcamp page. I haven’t seen anything about a physical release for either EP, or both together for that matter, or anything else, but Oak seem to be making their way toward these things one step at a time, and I look forward to digging into these new tracks to hear what they’ve been up to for the last seven months.
Art and release info follow, courtesy of the PR wire, Bandcamp, and the social medias:
We’re proud to announce that we’ve just released another batch of 4 tunes for you to enjoy. Several sets of strings, a few drumsticks and a studio loudspeaker have given their lives during the making process of this EP. So we’re hoping you’ll have as much of a blast listening to it, as us making it.
Recorded over a weekend in London’s Kore Studios back in May, Oak II sees the band take on a heavier, more focused sound with the new addition of Clinton Richie on drums.
Formed in the summer of 2015, London stoner rockers Oak have just released Oak II, the follow up to November 2015’s debut EP Oak.
The band combine desert rock grooves with fuzzed out 70s inspired hard rock and have spent 2016 gigging – sharing the stage with bands such as Elephant Tree, Welsh uber-dudes Sigiriya and Black Lung from the USA.
Oak II tracklisting: 1. Mirage 05:36 2. Against The Rain 05:41 3. A Bridge Too Far 06:30 4. Smoke 05:48
Andy Valiant: Lead Vocals Kevin Germain: Guitars, Backing Vocals (tr. 1 & 2), Talk Box Voice Scott Masson: Bass, Backing Vocals (tr.3), Talk Box Guitar Clinton Ritchie: Drums
All songs by Oak Engineered, mixed and mastered by Kevin Germain Artwork by Unexpected Specter
Posted in Reviews on June 24th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
This one’s for all the marbles. Or at very least tiddlywinks. The last day of The Obelisk’s Summer 2016 Quarterly Review begins. I’ll admit that when I was planning this out — started soon after the last Quarterly Review was finished in early April; that one ran late, this one has run early — I decided to take it easy on myself the last day. Still 10 reviews, so not that easy, but in terms of what’s included today, a lot of is stuff I feel pretty comfortable talking about, whether it’s bands I’ve covered before (which a lot of it is, now that I look at the list) or whatever. If you’ve been keeping up this week, thanks. I hope you found some cool music.
Quarterly Review #41-50:
From the Finnish hotbed of Tampere, Atomikylä made a striking impression with their 2014 Svart Records debut, Erkale (review here), giving a take on psychedelic black metal that was immediately and truly their own in its balance of elements. The band, featuring members of Dark Buddha Rising and Oranssi Pazuzu, return with doom-jazz fervor on sophomore full-length, Keräily, with three songs covering yet-unnamed stylistic reaches and offering a get-to-the-studio-and-see-what-happens experimentalism to go with their plotted course on 18-minute opener and longest track (bonus points) “Katkos,” which is followed by the building horn freakout “Risteily” (9:15), from which a space rock push takes hold on drums, resulting in maddening guitar swirl – because of course – and closer “Pakoputki” (6:55), which consumes with a darker thrust and more up-front blackened vibe that still holds onto some of the psychedelia in its layers of guitar. Keräily progresses effectively from Atomikylä’s debut and highlights just how individualized they are as a group. They continue to have the potential to do really special work, and the argument is easy to make they’re already doing it.
As opener and longest track (bonus points) “Beasts of Prey” careens toward its apex finish near the 12-minute mark and the title-track begins is crashing, harmonized intro before moving into an Alice in Chains-via-stoner verse, the distance Poland’s Sunnata cover on their second full-length, Zorya, begins to really unveil itself. There doesn’t seem to be a genre within the heavy sphere that’s off limits. They never get into death metal, but heavy rock, doom, psychedelia, prog, sludge – it’s all in play at one point or another in Zorya’s five-track/50-minute run. The reason the album works and isn’t just a haphazard mash of styles is because Sunnata, who’ve been active in Warsaw since the last decade, make each one their own and thus bend genre to suit their purposes and not the other way around. They continue to impress through the rush of “Long Gone,” the airy expanse of “New Horizon” and the more brooding closer “Again and Against,” conjuring effective flow from what in less capable hands would be disparate components.
I have kind of a hard time with White Dynomite. Not musically – the Boston five-piece’s new EP, Action O’Clock (on Ripple) typifies their accessible punk rock; a reminder of a time when the style used guitars – but conceptually. Their lineup features bassist Tim Catz and vocalist Craig Riggs (on drums) of Roadsaw, as well as guitarist Pete Knipfing (also Hey Zeus, Lamont), vocalist Dave Unger and guitarist John Darga, and while I can’t argue with the charm of a track like “Werewolf Underwear” or “Evil Ballerina” — the lyric “Tutu woman, too too much for me” alone makes Action O’Clock worth the price of admission, let alone “I got fangs in my pants” from “Werewolf Underwear” – but I haven’t yet been able to listen to the band in the context of it having been six years since the last time Roadsaw released an album, and thinking about years passing, priorities and whatnot. They sound they’re having a blast all the way through, and I won’t begrudge them exploring other influences, I guess I just miss that band.
Pittsburgh newcomers Horehound formed just last year, so one might go into their self-titled debut full-length thinking it’s an early arrival, but in an unpretentious seven-track/33-minute collection of straightforward but engaging doom rockers, the five-piece demonstrate a clear idea of what they want to do sonically. While it may not represent where they’ll ultimately end up as a band, its songs sound fleshed out in terms of direction and the resultant feel on the release is much more album than demo. So be it. A particular highlight is “The Waters of Lethe,” on which a sweeter melody emerges in the guitar and vocals, but neither will I discount the low-end crunch and vocal call-and-response in closer “Waking Time” or the more uptempo thrust of second cut “Sangreal.” Not that Horehound don’t have room to grow, but their initial offering preaches well to the converted and should give them a solid foundation to work from in that process.
Beyond the Hollow Mountain is the first full-length from Portuguese mostly-instrumentalists Sulfur Giant, who bring together influences from classic progressive rock, psychedelia and heavy rock so that when they dip into Iommic riffing on “Vertigo,” it’s no stranger than the peaceful jamming of “Whisper at Dawn,” which follows. Friendly if not exactly innovative, Sulfur Giant’s debut makes its chief impression with the four-piece’s instrumental chemistry, which brings about an easy flow within and between the eight tracks, which having already been issued digitally will see vinyl release later this year on Pink Tank Records. It’s hard to ignore what organ adds to “Evermore,” but “Sea of Stone” sneaks in some vocals amid its thicker-riffing and Sungrazer-style exploration, and “Magnolia” and the galloping “Unleash Fears” follow suit, so Sulfur Giant have a few tricks up their collective sleeve they hold back from the initial roll and gallop of the opening title-track. All the better.
New Planet Trampoline, Dark Rides and Grim Visions
Never say never in rock and roll. From Cleveland, Ohio, the psych-rocking four-piece New Planet Trampoline called it quits in 2008, leaving behind an unfinished album. After coming back together for 2014’s The Wisconsin Witch House EP, the ‘60s-stylized outfit set themselves to the task of finishing what became Dark Rides and Grim Visions, basking in the glow of early Floyd, Beatles and others of the ilk while keeping a harder edge to songs like “Grim Visions” and a healthy cynicism to “We’ll Get What We Deserve” and the tongue-in-cheek keyboard-laced closer “Haunted as Fuck.” Of the several more extended tracks, the nine-minute “Acts of Mania” is the longest, and provides suitable patience and atmospherics to stand up to its scope. All told, Dark Rides and Grim Visions is a formidable journey at 13 songs/68 minutes, but after more than half a decade away, it’s hard to hold New Planet Trampoline having their say against them, particularly when that say is as lush and dreamy as “This is the Morning.”
With their second LP, Cold Winds (on Crusher Records), Gothenburg’s Hypnos seem to be betting that the next step in the retro game is NWOBHM. They make a convincing argument; it’s kind of how it went the first time around, and their songwriting offers a top-notch look at the moment where Thin Lizzy bounce became Iron Maiden gallop, as on second cut “I’m on the Run,” just minutes after opener “Start the Hunt” featured a flute solo. Broken into two sides, each one works its way toward a longer finale – “Det Kommer en Dag” (7:23) on side A and “1800” (8:32) on side B – but sonic diversity and changes in song structure throughout do much to keep Cold Winds from feeling overly plotted, and like their countrymen in Horisont, Hypnos offer a seamless melding of classic heavy rock and metal, soaring and scorching on “Descending Sun (Unrootables White)” and swinging and swaggering immediately thereafter on “Cold September,” both accomplished with unwavering command.
Texas boogie rockers Honky were last heard from with 2012’s 421 – which I’ll assume is the “going to 11” equivalent for getting high – and their eighth outing, Corduroy, finds bassist JD Pinkus (Butthole Surfers, Melvins) and guitarist Bobby Ed Landgraf (Down) hooked up with drummer Trinidad Leal of Dixie Witch and Housecore Records for the release. To call is business as usual for the underrated outfit in the classic swing and grit they hone would only be a compliment, songs like “Baby Don’t Slow Down,” “Bad Stones” and the harmonized “Double Fine” offering soul as much as push, ‘70s influences given a modern kick in the ass throughout as a swath of guests, including Melvins drummer Dale Crover, come and go, perhaps none making their presence felt as much as Rae Comeau, whose work on “Bad Stones” makes that song a highlight – not to take away from the a capella cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick,” here retitled as “Mopey Dick,” that closes. Chicanery ensues, booze flows, good times are had for those who’ll have them.
Distinguished as on centerpiece “The Rambler” by their use of organ amid a semi-retro heavy boogie style, French five-piece Cheap Wine recorded Sad Queen – as the cover art says – live for Celebration Days Records. It’s somewhere between an EP and album, and strips away some of the individual track length of their 2013 debut, Mystic Crow, in favor of maximizing the energy put into each piece, the subdued “Intro” and “Opening” that start sides A and B, respectively, aside, though as “Opening” feeds cleanly into the quiet, airy and soulful beginning of the title-track, even that seems to have a tension that builds toward its eventual release, different from the shuffling raucousness of the post-“Intro” opener “Cyclothymic” maybe, but palpable nonetheless. They close somewhat melancholy on “Yesterday’s Dream,” but the complementary guitar of Valentin Constestin and keys of Ahn Tuan aren’t to be missed, nor how well work in concert with vocalist Mathieu Devillers, bassist Valentin Lallart and drummer Louis Morati.
Gurt & Trippy Wicked and teh Cosmic Children of the Knight, Guppy
The UK heavy scene excels at not taking itself too seriously. To wit, Gurt and Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight get together for a split (on When Planets Collide for CD and HeviSike cassette) and, they call it Guppy and the first two songs are “Owlmegeddon” and “Super Fun Happy Slide.” It kind of goes from there. Recorded together, sharing a drummer and collaborating on the centerpiece, “Revolting Child,” it’s basically two outfits who are close friends coming together to have a good time, but that doesn’t take away from Gurt’s sludgy intensity on “I Regret Nothing” or the nodding heavy rock Trippy Wicked hold forth on closer “Reign.” Taking its title from the two band names put together, one can only wonder if this will be the last conjoined offering Gurt and Trippy Wicked will make, or if there might be a whole school of guppies in the future. Frankly, this sounds like too good a party to only throw it once.