Posted in Whathaveyou on January 21st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Limited to 2,000 copies, The Pretty Things‘ new box set, is nothing if not encompassing. With 13 CDs, 2 DVDs, a 10″ vinyl, hardcover book, collection of legal documents and more, it has just about the entire life’s work of the UK band, who released their first album, The Pretty Things, in 1965, plus rare demos and outtakes and live stuff and much more. Not sure if there’s anything from their alter-ego, Electric Banana, but if you’re a Pretty Things fan, there should still be plenty to keep you busy.
The PR wire sends details and the overwhelming tracklisting. Bouquets from a Cloudy Sky is out Feb. 23 on Madfish Records and is available to preorder now:
Bouquets From A Cloudy Sky: The Complete Pretty Things Collection
Release Date: February 23rd 2015
For over fifty years, The Pretty Things have proudly, unapologetically and righteously scorched their own, unique trail through contemporary music. A half-century (plus) of the raunchiest white-boy rhythm and blues, of punch-ups, dazzling highs and epic struggles, of innovation and exultation, lauded by their peers, vilified by authority, a crucial influence on successive generations of acts, The Pretty Things make it to the mid twenty teens with mojo intact and edge unblunted.
It is with great pleasure that the career of this epochal British rock ’n’ roll band is justly celebrated by way of Bouquets From A Cloudy Sky, a lavish multi-media Box Set that contains the following:
ELEVEN STUDIO ALBUMS ON CD – housed in gatefold digi-sleeves, including FORTY-TWO bonus tracks
TWO BONUS CDs with FORTY-FIVE previously unreleased demos, alternate versions, live recordings and outtakes
TWO DVDs with new documentary Midnight to Six 1965-1970, by acclaimed producers REELIN’ IN THE YEARS, plus SF Sorrow Live At Abbey Road, The Pretty Things On Film, plus promo videos and interviews
10-INCH VINYL REPLICA ‘ACETATE’, featuring Defecting Grey full length demo and Turn My Head (studio version), plus 2 previously unreleased tracks
LAVISHLY ILLUSTRATED 100-PAGE HARDBACK BOOK, featuring a comprehensive band history penned by Mike Stax (editor of Ugly Things magazine), with rare photos and memorabilia
FAMILY TREE & TESTIMONIAL POSTERS – tracing the band from Little Boy Blue & The Blue Boys and The Rolling Stones to the present day, and featuring hand-written messages from Pretty Things past and present
COURT CASE HISTORY – excerpts from confidential legal files from the band’s ground-breaking battles to retrieve their rights and songs
BRAND NEW ART PRINT BY PHIL MAY – the original of which will be randomly placed in one lucky set!
BOUQUETS FROM A CLOUDY SKY will be released on Monday, February 23rd 2015 on the Madfish label (www.madfishmusic.com).
The Pretty Things have clocked up many notable ‘firsts’ in the glorious half-century, including The first Brit rock ‘n’ roll drug bust The first banned single (Don’t Bring Me Down, 1964) The first rock ‘n’ roll prosecution of a loaded firearm The first band to record a five-minute single (Defecting Grey) The first band to record a Rock Opera (‘SF Sorrow’, 1968) The first UK band to win a Rolling Stone ‘Record of the Year’ (‘Parachute’, 1970) First band to be signed to the Swansong label (Led Zeppelin’s imprint) First band to win the Mojo Hero Award!
THE GREATEST ROCK ‘N’ ROLL BAND YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF!
Box Set Full Tracklist
Rarities CD 1: 1 Don’t Bring Me Down (Live On The Beat Room 1964) [2:16] 2 Mama Keep Your Big Mouth Shut (Live On The Beat Room 1964) [3:26] 3 Johnny B. Goode (Live On The Beat Room 1964) [1:42] 4 Cry To Me (Alternate Version) [2:44] 5 Photographer (Rough Mix From Acetate) [2:12] 6 Bright Lights Of The City (Demo) [3:00] 7 Out In The Night (Demo) [2:39] 8 One Long Glance (Demo) [2:55] 9 Children (Alternate Version) [3:02] 10 Defecting Grey (Alternate Mix) [3:12] 11 Why (Live In Hyde Park) [6:16] 12 She Says Good Morning (Live At The Paradiso, Amsterdam) [3:41] 13 Alexander (Live At The Paradiso, Amsterdam) [3:29] 14 Renaissance Fair (Live At The Paradiso, Amsterdam) [2:13] 15 S.F. Sorrow Is Born (Live At The Paradiso, Amsterdam) [3:34] 16 You Might Even Say (Philippe Debarge Sessions) [4:01] 17 Eagle’s Son (Philippe Debarge Sessions) [3:00] 18 Graves Of Grey (Philippe Debarge Sessions) [0:50] 19 It`ll Never Be (Philippe Debarge Sessions) [04:33] 20 Scene One (Westbourne Terrace Demo) [01:15] 21 The Good Mr. Square (Westbourne Terrace Demo) [04:33] 22 She Was Tall, She Was High (Westbourne Terrace Demo) [00:56] 23 In The Square/The Letter (Westbourne Terrace Demo) [03:41] 24 Rain (Westbourbe Terrace Demo) [03:20] 25 Cries From The Midnight Circus (Westbourne Terrace Demo) [03:53]
Rarities CD 2: 1 I’d Love Her If I Knew What To Do (Version 1 – Westbourne Terrace Demo) [2:16] 2 Seen Her Face Before (Westbourne Terrace Demo) [1:24] 3 Everything You Do Is Fine (Westbourne Terrace Demo) [4:07] 4 Cold Stone (Westbourne Terrace Demo) [3:28] 5 You Never Told Me Lies (Westbourne Terrace Demo) [2:04] 6 Take A Look At Me (Westbourne Terrace Demo) [4:12] 7 Wild And Free (Demo) [3:42] 8 I’d Love Her If I Knew What To Do (Version 2 – Demo) [1:39] 9 Spider Woman (BBC Radio Session) [4:32] 10 Route 66 (Live At The Hippodrome) [2:52] 11 Joey (Mono US Single Mix) [3:02] 12 Monster Club [3:51] 13 Cause And Effect [3:09] 14 Holding Onto Love (Outtake) [6:07] 15 You Can`t Judge A Book [3:01] 16 Chain Of Fools [4:53] 17 No Questions [4:20] 18 It’s All Over Now Baby Blue (Outtake) [4:04] 19 Hoochie Coochie Man (Outtake) [5:44] 20 Look Away Now (Outtake) [5:15] 21 Helter Skelter [4:54]
DVD 1: Midnight To Six, The Pretty Things 1965-70, produced by Reelin’ in the Years [2 hours duration] Bonus Material: The Pretty Things. On Film [13:00] Rosalyn (Promo Video) [2:20] Eve Of Destruction (Promo Video) [3:03]
DVD 2: S.F. Sorrow – Live At Abbey Road [1 hour]
10? Replica ‘Acetate’: Side 1: 1 Defecting Grey (Full Length Demo from acetate) (5:10) 2 Turn My Head (Demo) (2:34) Side 2: 1 Don’t Bring Me Down (Previously Unreleased Version) (1:40) 2 I Can Never Say (1:58)
Studio Album Tracklist The Pretty Things (1965): 1 Roadrunner [3:12] 2 Judgement Day [2:46] 3 13 Chester Street [2:22] 4 Big City [2:01] 5 Unknown Blues [3:48] 6 Mama, Keep Your Big Mouth Shut [3:23] 7 Honey, I Need [1:59] 8 Oh Baby Doll [3:01] 9 She`s Fine She’s Mine [4:24] 10 Don’t Lie To Me [3:53] 11 The Moon Is Rising [2:33] 12 Pretty Thing [1:38] Bonus Tracks: 13 Rosalyn [2:18] 14 Big Boss Man [2:36 ] 15 Don’t Bring Me Down [02:08 ] 16 We’ll Be Together [2:08 ] 17 I Can Never Say [3:36 ] 18 Get Yourself Home [2:18 ]
Get The Picture? (1965): 1 You Don’t Believe Me [2:22] 2 Buzz The Jerk [1:54] 3 Get The Picture? [1:55] 4 Can’t Stand The Pain [2:41] 5 Rainin’ In My Heart [2:30] 6 We’ll Play House [2:33] 7 You`ll Never Do It Baby [2:26] 8 I Had A Dream [2:58] 9 I Want Your Love [2:16] 10 London Town [2:26] 11 Cry To Me [2:51] 12 Gonna Find Me A Substitute [2:57] Bonus Tracks: 13 Get A Buzz [4:01] 14 Sittin’ All Alone [2:47] 15 Midnight To Six Man [2:19] 16 Me Needing You [1:58] 17 Come See Me [2:39] 18 L. S. D. [02:24]
Emotions (1967): 1 Death Of A Socialite [2:41] 2 Children [3:01] 3 The Sun [3:04] 4 There Will Never Be Another Day [2:19] 5 House Of Ten [2:49] 6 Out In The Night [2:40] 7 One Long Glance [2:52] 8 Growing In My Mind [2:19] 9 Photographer [02:07] 10 Bright Lights Of The City [3:02] 11 Tripping [3:22] 12 My Time [3:05] Bonus Tracks: 13 A House In The Country [3:01] 14 Progress [2:58] 15 Photographer [2:15] 16 There Will Never Be Another Day [2:26] 17 My Time [3:11] 18 The Sun [3:04] 19 Progress [2:42]
S.F.Sorrow (1968): 1 S.F. Sorrow Is Born [3:15] 2 Bracelets Of Fingers [3:38] 3 She Says Good Morning [3:30] 4 Private Sorrow [3:50] 5 Balloon Burning [3:49] 6 Death [3:11] 7 Baron Saturday [4:02] 8 The Journey [2:42] 9 I See You [3:53] 10 Well Of Destiny [1:46] 11 Trust [2:47] 12 Old Man Going [3:07] 13 Loneliest Person [1:27] Bonus Tracks: 14 Defecting Grey [4:33] 15 Mr. Evasion [3:30] 16 Talkin’ About The Good Times [3:46] 17 Walking Through My Dreams [3:37]
Parachute (1970): 1 Scene One [1:51] 2 The Good Mr. Square [1:27] 3 She Was Tall, She Was High [1:36] 4 In The Square [1:55] 5 The Letter [1:39] 6 Rain [2:29] 7 Miss Fay Regrets [3:28] 8 Cries From The Midnight Circus [6:28] 9 Grass [4:20] 10 Sickle Clowns [6:36] 11 She`s A Lover [3:32] 12 What`s The Use [1:45] 13 Parachute [3:52] Bonus Tracks: 14 Blue Serge Blues [3:58] 15 October 26 [5:00] 16 Cold Stone [3:15] 17 Stone-Hearted Mama [3:52] 18 Summer Time [4:32] 19 Circus Mind [2:03]
Freeway Madness (1970): 1 Love Is Good [6:53] 2 Havana Bound [3:57] 3 Peter [1:27] 4 Rip Off Train [3:18] 5 Over The Moon [4:31] 6 Religion’s Dead [4:14] 7 Country Road [4:48] 8 Allnight Sailor [1:57] 9 Onion Soup [3:49] 10 Another Bowl? [2:54] Bonus Tracks: 11 Religion’s Dead (Live Lyceum 1973) [4:48] 12 Havana Bound (Live Lyceum 1973) [4:20] 13 Love Is Good (Live Lyceum 1973) [6:43] 14 Onion Soup (Live Lyceum 1973) [8:28]
Silk Torpedo (1974): 1 Dream / Joey [6:46] 2 Maybe You Tried [4:20] 3 Atlanta [2:41] 4 L. A. N. T. A. [2:24] 5 Is It Only Love [5:05] 6 Come Home Momma [3:41] 7 Bridge Of God [4:57] 8 Singapore Silk Torpedo [5:12] 9 Belfast Cowboys [6:55] Bonus Tracks: 10 Singapore Silk Torpedo (Live Santa Monica 1974) [7:06] 11 Dream / Joey (Live Santa Monica 1974) [7:21]
Savage Eye (1976): 1 Under The Volcano [6:02] 2 My Song [5:09] 3 Sad Eye [4:29] 4 Remember That Boy [5:02] 5 It Isn’t Rock ‘n’ Roll [3:58] 6 I’m Keeping [3:58] 7 It’s Been So Long [5:04] 8 Drowned Man [4:23] 9 Theme For Michelle [1:46] Bonus Tracks: 10 Tonight [3:06] 11 Love Me A Little [3:11] 12 Dance All Night [2:54]
Cross Talk (1980): 1 I’m Calling [4:07] 2 Edge Of The Night [3:20] 3 Sea Of Blue [3:14] 4 Lost That Girl [2:50] 5 Bitter End [3:17] 6 Office Love [4:12] 7 Falling Again [0:20] 8 It’s So Hard [3:15] 9 She Don’t [4:08] 10 No Future [4:29] 11 Wish Fulfillment [3:06] 12 Sea About Me [3:23] 13 The Young Pretenders [4:06]
Rage Before Beauty (1999): 1 Passion Of Love [3:22] 2 Vivian Prince [5:15] 3 Everlasting Flame [3:46] 4 Love Keeps Hanging On [8:55] 5 Eve Of Destruction [3:03] 6 Not Givin’ In [4:02] 7 Pure Cold Stone [5:47] 8 Blue Turns To Red [4:01] 9 Goodbye, Goodbye [2:45] 10 Goin’ Downhill [4:12] 11 Play With Fire [4:07] 12 Fly Away [4:31] 13 Mony Mony [4:45] 14 God Give Me The Strength (To Carry On) [6:03]
Balboa Island (2007): 1 The Beat Goes On [4:10] 2 Buried Alive [3:35] 3 Livin’ In My Skin [3:59] 4 (Blues For) Robert Johnson [8:01] 5 Pretty Beat [2:52] 6 In The Beginning [4:42] 7 Mimi [2:34] 8 Feel Like Goin’ Home [2:43] 9 The Ballad Of Hollis Brown [6:28] 10 Freedom Song [4:46] 11 Dearly Beloved [4:59] 12 All Light Up [4:30] 13 Balboa Island [4:42]
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 7th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Put into position headlining Saturday night April 25 along with Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, New Orleans sludge progenitors Eyehategod continue to reap acclaim — and, presumably, souls — from their long-awaited 2014 self-titled studio return. They’ll be in good company at Desertfest in London, along with Orange Goblin, the aforementioned Bjork, Sleep and Red Fang, all of whom prove worthy headliners for a fest of increasing diversity and prestige.
The announcement came through on GMT with verbiage by Tom Geddes:
EYEHATEGOD TO CO-HEADLINE SATURDAY NIGHT AT DESERTFEST 2015!!
ARE SLEEP NOT ENOUGH DOOMY SLUDGE FOR YOUR SET OF 2015 HEADLINERS? DIDN’T THINK SO.
That’s why DesertFest are ecstatic to announce that Eyehategod will be co-headlining the Saturday of this year’s festival, alongside Brant Bjork & The Low Desert Punk Band!
One of the cornerstones of the sludge scene since their formation in 1988, EHG have been front and centre ever since. Announcing their presence to the world with 1992?s ‘In the Name of Suffering’ and following sharply in the next year with the blistering ‘Take as Needed for Pain’, the riffs and groove of Sabbath were there, but with a colossal punch and a weight that were simply beyond heavy. Add into the mix Mike Williams’ signature snarls and EHG were always onto something special. ‘Dopesick’ and ‘Confederacy of Ruined Lives’ followed in 1996 and 2000 respectively and only added to the legendary catalogue of Eyehategod.
After a studio album drought of 14 years, last year saw the self-titled release of ‘Eyehategod’, which wasn’t so much a return to form as it was a raising of the bar. Full of power and forays into hardcore throughout without losing much of the slow, dirty sludge riffing; we may have had to wait, but this was anything but a Chinese Democracy-style disappointment.
A rare live treat over the last decade, with touring being sparse, Eyehategod are must see at DesertFest 2015. Miss this chance and you may be kicking yourself for a long, long time to come. Kind Words: Tom Geddes
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 31st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s just 54 seconds, so by no means does the snippet unveiled today of UK space metallers Enos‘ “Son of a Gun” offer a definitive glimpse at the track, which features a second drummer and guest vocals alongside the four-piece and will serve as their portion of a split 7″ with Mangoo due early in 2015 on H42 Records, but it’s a suitable teaser anyway since it makes me want to hear the rest of the song. Enos are also working on their third album and the follow-up to 2012’s All too Human, which hopefully will be out by the end of the New Year as well, lest my timing prove wrong for including it in my anticipated-albums notes. That list will be out in a week or two. Enos will be on it.
Until then, the news:
New year, new release, more gigs!
So, it’s been quite a while since we’ve posted here but fear not, we’ve been keeping ourselves busy. A few of you may have noticed that we’ve been a bit quiet on the gig front recently, there’s a reason for that! Work on our third record is coming along very well. We’ve been writing and demoing tracks over the past couple of months (any of you who came to one of our shows in 2014 will have heard one or two of them. We started airing a couple on tour with Abrahma and Mother Corona back in March). We’re quickly closing in on the point where we will be ready to commit them to tape, we’ll keep you posted!
If you simply can’t wait then we have something to keep you going! Over the summer we spent a bit of time in the studio recording a track for a split 7? with Mangoo. Due out in the spring this release will be out as a limited edition via H42 Records and features exclusive artwork by the talented Alex Von Wieding on both sides (Alex is responsible for the artwork on All Too Human). As this is a special release we decided to push the boat out with this track. Son Of A Gun features Sam Dorrell of Left Arm Pregnant (who also stepped in for Sparky on our European tour with Mangoo and Rescue Rangers in 2013) joining Sparky for some double drum kit action. We also recruited Sigrid Jakobson (whose vocals appear on Collisions and Obscured on All Too Human) for some backing vocals. Son Of A Gun was recorded at Empora Studios and produced by Mark Roberts. Here’s a snippet….
And now for some gigs….
We’re very happy to say that we’ll be starting 2015 with a couple of shows (where you will no doubt be hearing some of our new material). First off we’ll be taking to the stage at The Macbeth in Hoxton on the 20th January alongside Slabdragger, Trippy Wicked and The Cosmic Children of The Knight and Jack and The Bearded Fisherman. This is a Nightshift Promotions show in association with Rock-A-Rolla magazine. Keep an eye on their Facebook event for more details.
We are also very happy to announce our return to Paris on February 26th 2015. We’ll be playing at Glazart alongside Monolord and Salem’s Pot. This show is for Stoned Gatherings and Dead Pig Entertainment. We are very happy to be returning to Paris once more and we’re looking forward to seeing you there! Keep an eye on the Facebook event for more details.
Posted in Reviews on December 29th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
This is it. New Year’s is this week and by Friday we’ll be into 2015. A new year always brings new hopes, concerns, records and so on, but to be completely honest, I’m just not quite done with 2014 yet. So here we are. I’ve had stacks of CDs on my desk and folders on my computer from the last couple months of stuff I have been trying to fit in, and it doesn’t seem right to me to let the year go without cramming in as much music as I possibly can.
Gotta call it something, so I went with “Last Licks,” since that’s basically what it will be. The plan is that between today and Friday, each day I’ll have another batch of 10 reviews. I’m not going to promise they’ll be the most comprehensive ever, but the idea is to do as much as I can and this seems to me the best way to turn my brains into goo. When that ball drops in Times Square, there’s a good chance I’ll be typing.
No sense in delaying. You get the idea, so let’s jump in:
Sigiriya, Darkness Died Today
Recorded live as their debut on Candlelight Records and the follow-up to 2011’s debut, Return to Earth (review here), the sophomore outing from Welsh heavy rockers Sigiriya, Darkness Died Today, is distinguished by a vocalist swap bringing in Matt Williams of Suns of Thunder. Williams has a tough job in replacing Dorian Walters, who like guitarist Stuart O’Hara, bassist Paul Bidmead and drummer Darren Ivey, is a former member of Acrimony. There are times when it works and times when it doesn’t. Along with a more barebones tonality in the guitar than appeared on the debut, Williams brings a more straightforward style in his voice, and it changes the personality of the band on songs like “Freedom Engines” and the first-album-title-track “Return to Earth.” “Tribe of the Old Oak” is a catchy highlight and I’ll almost never argue with a song called “Obelisk,” but it seems like they’re still searching for the footing here that seemed so firmly planted their last time out.
Upstate New York blues rockers Handsome Jack waste little time living up to the title Do What Comes Naturally. The name of their third album, released by Alive Naturalsound, is both mission-statement aand suggestion, and on songs like the soul-inflected “Creepin’” and the rolling “You and Me,” they make it sound like a good idea. Blues and classic soul meet garage rock across cuts like the relatively brief “Leave it all Behind,” but the tones are warm throughout the record, and guest spots on harmonica and Hammond help keep a sense of variety in the material, well-constructed but still loose in its vibe. The twang might recall The Brought Low for heavy rock heads, but one doubts Handsome Jack groove on much that came out after Psychedelic Mud. Even the CD splits into sides, and as easy as it would be for something like this to sound like a put-on, Handsome Jack prevail with closer “Wasted Time” in making an outing that’s anything but.
London doomers Serpent Venom sound like experts in the form on Of Things Seen and Unseen, their second album for The Church Within following 2011’s Carnal Altar and their initial 2010 demo (review here), a righteous 48-minute lumbering slab of heavy riffs, downerism and nod. It’s not every band who could put “Death Throes at Dawn” and “Lord of Life” next to each other, but the four-piece of vocalist Garry Ricketts, guitarist Roland Scriver, bassist Nick Davies and drummer Paul Sutherland keep their focus so utterly doomed that even the quiet, minimalist acoustic interlude “I Awake” – ostensibly a breather — comes across as trodden as the earlier “Sorrow’s Bastard,” or the Reverend Bizarre-worthy “Let Them Starve,” which follows. For those who long for trad doom that has an identity outside its Vitus and Sabbath influences, Serpent Venom prove more than ready to enter that conversation on the wah-soaked soloing in the second half of “Pilgrims of the Sun.” Right fucking on.
The artwork tells the story. Owl Glitters’ Alchemical Tones (on Heart and Crossbone Records) is a wash of color. Taking tribal rhythms and repetitions and pairing them with organic low-end, chanted vocals and periodic excursions of psych rock guitar, Arkia Jahani (who seems to be the lone creative force behind the project, though Mell Dettmer mastered) brings a ritualistic sensibility to the eight included pieces, and the flow is molten from the start of “Dervishes.” Less purposefully weird than Master Musicians of Bukkake, but farther into the cosmos than Om, there’s a folkish identity at the heart of Alchemical Tones that keeps the proceedings human even on the near-throat-singing of “Hakim Sanai” or “Poets of Shiras” and “Khalifa’s Visions” an immersive pair preceding the droning closer “By the Candlelight Our Eyes Welcome Glimmers of Eternity.” Beautifully experimental – and in the case of “Mindful of Gems,” fuzzed to the gills – Owl Glitters’ second outing engages sonic spiritualism with dogmatic command and stares back at you from the space within yourself.
Sandveiss released Scream Queen, their first full-length, late in 2013, reveling in a modern sound crisply produced and more than ably executed to feature the vocals of guitarist Luc Bourgeois, who provides frontman presence even on disc alongside guitarist Shawn Rice, bassist Daniel Girard and drummer Dzemal Trtak. Cohesiveness isn’t in question as opener and longest cut (immediate points) “Blindsided” rounds out its 6:26, leading the way into “Do You Really Know” and setting the tone for big-riffed Euro-style heavy from the Quebecois foursome, who slow down on “Bottomless Lies,” on which Trtak backs Bourgeois in you-guys-should-do-this-more fashion, and ultimately hold firm to the focus on songwriting that establishes itself early. They fuzz out on closer “Green or Gold,” but by then it’s another element of variety among the organ, guest vocals on “Scar” and tempo shifts on Sandveiss’ ambitious debut, distinguished even unto the six-panel gatefold digi-sleeve in which it arrives, the art and design by Alexandre Goulet one more standout factor on an album demanding attention.
Probably the most clearly Beatlesian moment on Octopus Syng’s Reverberating Garden Number 7 is a slight “Hey Bulldog”-style cadence on side A’s “Very Strange Trip,” and that in itself is an accomplishment (one I’m apparently not the first to observe). The Helsinki four-piece in their 15th year are led by guitarist/vocalist Jaire Pätäri and emit an oozing, serene psychedelia, peaceful and lysergic in late ‘60s exploratory fashion. Reverberating Garden Number 7 (on Mega Dodo Records) echoes out vibe to spare and is deceptively lush while keeping a humble vibe thanks in no small part to Pätäri’s restrained vocal approach and curios like “Cuckoo Clock Mystery,” which boasts an actual cuckoo clock to add bounce to its arrangement. Nine-minute closer “Listen to the Moths” is the single biggest surprise, and an album unto itself, but its unfolding is only the capstone on a collection of psychedelic wonder sincere in its stylistic intent and execution. It fills the ears like warm air in the lungs.
Destructive Australian trio Sun Shepherd put the bulk of Procession of Trampling Hoof to tape in 2011. Closing bonus track “Exploding Sun” is a demo from 2006, but it fits with their extended tracks and big riffs piled onto each other in densely-weighted fashion, if rougher in presentation. More Ramesses than High on Fire, who prove otherwise to be a key influence tonally for guitarist/vocalist Anson Antriasian, must-hear bassist Leigh Fischer and drummer Michael Barson, though their approach is decidedly less thrash-based. The first five of the six songs find Sun Shepherd’s first full-length a pummel-minded blend of sludge and doom. Antriasian’s vocals are semi-spoken, but fitting theatrically on “Goat-Head Awakening” with the grueling riff-led nod, the tension released as they pass the halfway point of the 10-minute run, a raw atmosphere bolstering the chaos of their slower-motion marauding. With the welcome flourish of stonerly soloing on “Engulfed by Ocean of Time,” one can’t help but wonder what the Melbourne natives are up to three years later.
Fuzz-toned elements of Sleep and Sabbath pervade the stoner-doomy self-titled The Church Within debut from Oslo three-piece Purple Hill Witch, who carry the bounce well in immediately familiar riffs and groove. Swinging drums from Øyvind and the inventive basslines of Andreas underscore Kristian’s purely Iommic riffage and blown-out vocals, somewhere between Witchcraft’s earliest going and Witch’s self-titled. If that gives Purple Hill Witch an even witchier feel, “Final Procession” sounds just fine with that, as do shorter tracks like the later “Aldebaranian Voyage (Into the Sun)” and centerpiece “Karmanjaka” on which the stoner side comes out in force. They finish by using all 11 minutes of the eponymous “Purple Hill Witch”’s runtime, breaking in the midsection for a murky exploration that’s creepily atmospheric without veering into cult rock cliché. They bounce resumes and slows to a crawl to close out, but the jam serves Purple Hill Witch well in expanding the band’s sonic reach and the album’s weedian sensibility. Not that they were keeping it a secret.
A burly dual-guitar five-piece with roots in Germany and Switzerland, Giant Sleep start out their self-titled, self-released first LP with a brief intro titled “Argos” before getting to the question, “Why am I angry all the time?” as the central, recurring line of “Angry Man.” That song, like “Henu” and “Reproduce,” gets its point across quick in heavy rock fashion and develops its argument from there, a progressive metal vibe pervading especially the latter, which is penultimate in the 10-song/52-minute effort, and underscores the high-grade craftsmanship accomplished throughout. “Dreamless Sleep” is probably my pick of the bunch for its airier tone and resonant minor-key hook in the guitars of Markus Ruf and Patrick Hagmann, vocalist Thomas Rosenmerkel belting out the chorus before making way for plotted solos atop Radek Stecki’s bass and Manuel Spänhauer’s drums, but it’s not so far removed from its surroundings. As a whole, the album could be more efficient, but it wants nothing for songwriting, and especially as a debut, Giant Sleep hits its marks readily.
Opener “Las Noches del Desierto” is the only one of Star Collider’s five tracks under 10 minutes. Flux seems to be the norm for Finnish post-stoners Acid Elephant, who recently brought in vocalist Martin Ahlö but here revolve around the core of bassist/guitarist/vocalist Miksa Väliverho, guitarist/vocalist Ilpo Kauppinen and drummer Roope Vähä-Aho, employing a host of others on obscure vocals, percussion and djembe throughout the 64-minute sophomore outing, recorded in 2012 and released late in 2013. Whoever they are now, Acid Elephant on Star Collider call out heavy psych, drone/jam and riff-based impulses in their extended cuts, gradually getting longer from “Red Carpet Lane” (10:46) until closer “Bog” hits 18:29. To their credit, their songs leave impressions to match their length, and even as it’s finishing its instrumental run, “Godmason” (15:58) is highlighting its resonant central riff, having emerged from a wash of feedback and amp noise at its beginning, preceded by the droning centerpiece “7th Stone.” Satisfying and unpredictable, Star Collider balances experimentation and engagement smoothly without losing its focus on individualism.
Posted in Features on December 26th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Please note: These are not the results of the Readers Poll. That’s still going on. Please feel free to submit your list.
Making and releasing a first full-length album is a special moment in the life of any band, and that’s why I wanted to single out some of the best debuts of the year. I’ve never done this before, and so maybe with a top 10 I’m testing the waters a bit, but it seemed a worthwhile project anyway. It was a long (inner) debate about whether or not to include EPs and singles here too, but in the end, it just seemed to work better with albums.
Not to take anything away from shorter releases, but putting out a debut EP is much different than a debut LP. First of all, a debut LP can come after several EPs or singles or demos or whatever and still be considered first. What a first album says to the listener is, “Okay, we’ve come this far and we’re ready to take this step.” Some bands, once they start putting out albums, never go back to EPs. Others who’ve been around for 30 years still release demos every now and then, but even so, a group only ever gets one crack at their first album, and it can be one of the most important things we ever do.
Compared to how many come out any given month, year, century, etc., very few debut long-players ever wind up being classics, and who knows what the future might hold for any of these acts on this list, but that not knowing and that excitement are part of the fun.
Let’s get to it:
The Top 10 Debut Albums of 2014
1. The Well, Samsara
2. The Golden Grass, The Golden Grass
3. Spidergawd, Spidergawd
4. Atavismo, Desintegración
5. Blues Pills, Blues Pills
6. Steak, Slab City
7. Comet Control, Comet Control
8. Elephant Tree, Theia
9. Black Moon Circle, Black Moon Circle
10. Temple of Void, Of Terror and the Supernatural
A couple honorable mentions. First to Valley of the Sun‘s Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk, which I still didn’t know what to do with the release date for. Officially 2014, but kinda released in 2013 too. I was back and forth on it. Also Wasted Theory‘s burly debut, Monolord‘s Empress Rising, Child‘s Child, the Silent Chamber, Noisy Heart sprawling one-song LP from Sylvaine.
Some notes: Actual time spent listening played a big role in the structuring of this list. More so than the Top 30 of 2014, I would say. The Well‘s Samsara and the self-titled debut from The Golden Grass featured pretty high on that list as well, and that’s because both of them were records that I continually went back to and found satisfying after they came out. In both bands I think there’s significant stylistic potential, but more importantly, they both came out of the gate with their mission solidified and ready to roll.
With Spidergawd‘s Spidergawd, the progressive take on classic heavy rock boogie was blinding, but righteous. Their second album is due early next year on Stickman and I’ll have more on it to come in the weeks ahead. Atavismo‘s Desintegraciónhit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. Just four songs, but the atmosphere was gorgeous enough that after listening I went back and asked the band if I could host a stream in hopes that more people would hear it. Fortunately for anyone who listened, they were kind enough to comply.
On sheer impact alone, I think Blues Pills‘ Blues Pills warrants inclusion on this list, but in my own listening, I put on the top four so much more often that I couldn’t really justify placing it any higher. But in terms of a first album coming out and really propelling a band to the next level, I think for a lot of people it’s probably the debut of the year. Fair enough. Steak‘s Slab City found the London four-piece physically and stylistically right in the heart of the California desert and their passion for that place and its sound came across heartfelt on the recording, which only heightened the appeal.
And while I’m still sorry to see Quest for Fire go, the debut from offshoot Comet Control helped ease that sorrow neatly with a blend of driving heavier space rock and psychedelic vibing. Cool album, bodes well. You could say the same for Elephant Tree‘s Theia, I suppose. Their take on psychedelia melded with screamy sludge successfully where I think a lot of bands would’ve fallen flat trying the same thing, and that’s definitely something noteworthy in an initial offering, particularly one not preceded by an EP or other kind of release.
To round things out, two very different records. Black Moon Circle‘s self-titled took a popular stylistic course — melding heavy rock and psychedelic jamming — and showed the trio beginning to make it their own. That’s something I hope will continue on their second outing, which, like that of Spidergawd, is coming on quick early in 2015. And finally, Temple of Void‘s extreme, deathly take on doom courted genres smoothly and delivered its punishment with efficiency while holding together a coherent atmosphere of darkness and aggression. It was a sadistic joy to behold.
If you missed it, there were a couple debuts included on the Top 20 Short Releases of 2014 list as well — Gold & Silver, Wren, Death Alley, and so on — so if you’re looking for more of that kind of thing, you don’t have to look too far. I hope if there was a debut album this year that particularly caught your attention, you’ll let me know in the comments.
Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Please note: These are not the results of the Readers Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t added your list yet, please do.
This was a hard list to put together. The top three have been set in my mind for probably the last month, but trying to work my way backwards from there was a real challenge — what’s a top 10 record, a top 20 record, a top 30, honorable mentions and all the rest. I’ve never done a full top 30 before, always 20, but the truth is there was just too much this year to not expand.
I’m still juggling numbers even as I put together this post, and I’m sure that by the time I’m done several records will have switched places. That’s always how it seems to go. What I’m confident that I have is a list accurately representing critique and my own habits, both what I gravitated toward in listening throughout the year and what I feel is noteworthy on a critical level. This site has always been a blend of those two impulses. It’s only fair this list should be as well.
Before we dig in, you should note this is full-length albums only. I’ll have a list of short releases (EPs, singles, demos) to come, as well as a special list of debut releases, since it seemed to be a particularly good year for them. And since I’m only one person, I couldn’t hear everything, much as I tried.
The kings of London’s heavy scene offered more powerhouse heavy rock with their eighth album and second for Candlelight, and their rabid and ever-growing fanbase ate it up. Back from the Abyss proved yet again that few can attain the kind of vicious force that seems to come so natural to Orange Goblin, and made it clear their domination shows no signs of losing momentum.
A darker affair from Port Orchard, Washington’s Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty still found its core in the songwriting led by guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed. They’re a band with some changes on the horizon, and I’ll be interested to hear what hindsight does to these songs. As it was, the hooks and downer vibes may have been in conceptual conflict, but the execution was inarguable.
Richer in the listening than 2012’s Misery Wizard debut, Pilgrim‘s II: Void Worship nonetheless held firm to the doomly spirit that’s made the Rhode Island outfit such a sensation these last couple years. Its longer songs, “Master’s Chamber,” “Void Worship” and the emotionally weighted “Away from Here,” were particularly immersive, and they remain a bright spot in doom’s future.
His long-awaited solo debut, John Garcia‘s John Garcia offered memorable tracks culled from years of songwriting from the former Kyuss, Slo Burn, Unida and Hermano frontman, performed in the classic desert rock style he helped define. I’m not sure it was worth trading a second Vista Chino record for, but it was hard to argue with “The Blvd” and “All These Walls.”
An overwhelming two-disc barrage from a relentless creativity that, more than 30 years on from its first public incarnation, is still to be considered avant garde. I’m not sure planet earth realizes how lucky it is to have Swans running around unleashing all this chaos, but I hope they don’t stop anytime soon. To be Kind was brutal and beautiful in like measure.
Icelandic four-piece Sólstafir hit on a rarely attained balance of gorgeousness and melancholy, and while Ótta is expansive, it’s also gripping front to back and is the best execution of its style I’ve heard since Anathema‘s Alternative 4, which is not a comparison I make lightly. A challenging record, but satisfying in kind and universal in its expressiveness.
The follow-up to Greenleaf‘s stellar 2012 outing Nest of Vipers (review here) brought lineup changes and stripped away many of the textural elements of the band’s sound — guest appearances, arrangement flourishes — in order to get back to a classic heavy rock sound and translate better to the stage. With guitarist Tommi Holappa‘s songwriting ever at the core, it would be unfair to call the process anything but a success.
Most of the headlines went to the fact that Primitive and Deadly had vocals, where the generally-instrumental Earth had avoided singers for 18 years prior, but even putting aside Mark Lanegan and Rabi Shabeen Qazi, whose performance on “From the Zodiacal Light” was the high point of the record, presented Earth‘s always progressive tensions in a rawer, heavier production, and was a joy for longtime fans.
Six years and one breakup later, Portland, Maine, doom trio Ogre returned with The Last Neanderthal, neither afraid to revel in Sabbathian traditionalism or rock out a more upbeat cut like opener “Nine Princes in Amber.” For bassist/vocalist Ed Cunningham, guitarist Ross Markonish and drummer Will Broadbent, it was a welcome resurgence of pretense-free heavy riffs and grooves.
Of course, at the time we didn’t know it would be the final outing from this lineup of UK doomers The Wounded Kings, whose guitarist/founder Steve Mills has now reunited with original vocalist George Birch, but Consolamentum was a hell of a closing statement anyway for this era of the band, showcasing their murky, increasingly progressive style still waiting for wider appreciation.
Wasn’t sure where to put Floor‘s reunion offering, Oblation, on this list at first, since I kind of fell off listening to it as the year went on, but I’ve gone back to it over the last couple weeks and it has held up to the revisit, whether it’s songs like the extended “Sign of Aeth” or shorter, catchy pummelers like “Rocinante” or “War Party.” Floor‘s 2002 self-titled holds an untouchable legacy in heavy rock, but I think the years will prove Oblation a worthy successor. Nobody knew what they had with Floor at the time either.
Little on 2011’s Motherfucker Rising (review here) or their 2010 demo (review here) prepared for the kind of assault that Druglord‘s Enter Venus brought to bear. Four stomp-laden slabs of tectonic crash and distortion, vocals buried under and calling up from the amp-bred fog. The Virginian trio were in and out on the 27-minute 12″ release, but had enough heavy for a record twice as long, and the tinges of darkened psychedelia made their songs like a lurking presence just on the edge of consciousness, a threat waiting to be unleashed.
For the sheer variety of Ararat‘s third album in rockers like “Nicotina y Destrucción,” “El Hijo de Ignacio,” the experimentalism of “El Arca” and the piano-driven “Los Viajes” and the acoustic closer “Atalayah,” and the assured, flowing manner in which the Argentina trio pulled it all off, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz should be higher on this list than it is. Part of that might be my frustration at my apparent inability to buy a copy, but don’t let that take away from the quality of the material here, which is wonderfully chaotic, memorable and engaging, rushing in some places and stopping to weep in others.
You won’t hear me deny that Radio Moscow‘s primary impact is as a live band, but their fifth album, Magical Dirt, managed to bring forth much of their psychedelic blues presence in “Death of a Queen,” “Before it Burns” and “Gypsy Fast Woman,” the blinding rhythmic turns and wah-soaked guitar supremacy of Parker Griggs front and center throughout. Together with bassist Anthony Meier (also Sacri Monti) and drummer Paul Marrone (also Astra and Psicomagia), Radio Moscow are hitting their stride as one of heavy rock’s most powerful power trios. One never knows what to expect, but hopefully they keep going the way they are.
Four years isn’t the longest time I’ve ever waited for a record to come out, but in the case of Indianapolis’ Apostle of Solitude, it felt like an especially long stretch. Their third full-length and first for Cruz del Sur, Of Woe and Wounds followed the anticipation-building Demo 2012 (review here) and a couple splits and brought aboard bassist Dan Dividson and guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak (also Devil to Pay), who fit well with drummer Corey Webb and guitarist/vocalist Chuck Brown to result in a payoff worthy and indicative of the time that went into its making. Hands down one of the finest acts in American doom.
Stubb‘s second long-player, also their debut on Ripple, gets a nod for the sense of progression it brought in answering the potential of the trio’s 2012 self-titled debut (review here), guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson, bassist Peter Holland and new drummer Tom Fyfe expanding the scope to include more heavy psych influence and soul along with the fuzz riffs and steady rolling while giving no ground in terms of the level of craft at work. Cry of the Ocean has become one of those albums where all I have to do is look at a title, be it “Cry of the Ocean Pt. I” or “Sail Forever” or “Heartbreaker,” and the song is immediately stuck in my head. With these tracks, that’s not at all a complaint.
14. Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, Black Power Flower
Brant Bjork has worn many hats, literal and figurative, over the years, whether it’s drummer in Kyuss or Fu Manchu, producer, solo artist or bandleader. With Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, he steps once again into the latter role, and with guitarist Bubba DuPree, bassist Dave Dinsmore and drummer Tony Tornay, presents not only on his heaviest record to date, but what could easily begin a sustainable full-band progression that can go just about anywhere his songwriting wants to take it. “Stokely up Now,” “That’s a Fact Jack,” “Controllers Denied” and “Boogie Woogie on Your Brain” made for some of 2014’s best in desert rock, and Black Power Flower was an stellar return for Bjork to his “solo” work.
An earlier version of this list had Pagan Fruit at a lower number, but I couldn’t live with it not being closer to the top 10. Salt Lake City’s Dwellers pushed deeper into laid back psych and blues on their second album, and in doing so, crafted an atmosphere entirely their own. From “Creature Comfort” down to “Call of the Hollowed Horn,” with triumphs along the way like “Rare Eagle,” “Totem Crawler” (“Ohh, my queen… To whom, I crawl…) and “Son of Raven,” Pagan Fruit became a staple of my 2014, building off their 2012 debut, Good Morning Harakiri (review here), but presenting their stylistic growth with a confidence and poise that can only come from a band who’ve figured out what they want to be doing and how they want to do it. Front to back, Pagan Fruit sounds like an arrival.
What made Brooklyn trio The Golden Grass‘ self-titled debut such a special released wasn’t just that it was heavy, or that the tracks were catchy, or that guitarist Michael Rafalowich and drummer Adam Kriney could harmonize over Joe Noval‘s warm-toned basslines. That was all great, don’t get me wrong, but what really stood out about The Golden Grass was its irony-free positivity, the way it was able to capture an upbeat, sunshiny feel without having to smirk about it on the other side of its mouth. It was self-aware, to be sure — knew what it was doing — but the way I see it, consciousness only makes the stylistic choices more impressive. Add to that the nuance they brought to ’70s revivalism, and all that stuff about catchiness and the harmonies, and there just wasn’t a level on which the album didn’t work.
My appreciation continues to grow for The Well‘s Samsara, which successfully pulled together influences from garage doom and heavy psychedelia while crafting an identity for the Austin, Texas, three-piece at once raw and melodically accomplished, guitarist Ian Graham and bassist Lisa Alley sharing vocals to classic effect on “Refuge” while otherwise trading off lead position to bolster variety in the material. The high point might’ve been the eight-minute “Eternal Well,” on which Graham, Alley and drummer Jason Sullivvan conjured some of their grooviest demons, but the hooks of “Mortal Bones,” “Trespass” and the attitude-laced “Dragon Snort” were no less engaging. One of many strong releases from their label this year — Slow Season, The Picturebooks, etc. — they seemed to come ready to serve notice of a stylistic movement underway.
10. Montibus Communitas, The Pilgrim to the Absolute
Peruvian psych adventurers Montibus Communitas more or less blew my mind when I heard their late-2013 offering, Harvest Times earlier this year, and the narrative, conceptual 2014 release, The Pilgrim to the Absolute, is even more of an achievement in its portrayal of improvised exploration, sonic ritualism and open creativity. The weaving of longer pieces against shorter ones with the various steps along the path as presented in the titles, some journeying, some arriving, some descriptive, almost all accompanied by nature in one form or another, gives The Pilgrim to the Absolute an almost impressionistic quality, so that even as you listen to it, you engage it as much as it carries you along its vibrant, breathtaking progression en route to the closing title-track, which is a destination every bit worthy of the journey. This is the most recently reviewed inclusion on this list, but Montibus Communitas‘ latest readily earns its place in the top 10. It is unique in its surroundings.
Looking back at the last two Fu Manchu records, 2007’s We Must Obey and 2009’s Signs of Infinite Power, it seemed reasonable to expect the groundbreaking SoCal fuzz foursome to put out another collection of big-sounding riffs in a big-sounding production. Nothing to complain about, but probably not a landmark. By going the other way completely — stripping their buzzed-out riffing down to its punkish core thanks in no small part to recording with Moab‘s Andrew Giacumakis — Fu Manchu served up a raw reminder both of where they came from and how top notch their songwriting remains. Reissuing their earliest work and being on their own label might’ve had something to do with it, but whatever it was, the 35 minutes of Gigantoid was as efficient a heavy rock outing as one could hope from an already legendary band, whether it was the hook-prone opening salvo of “Dimension Shifter,” “Invaders on My Back,” “Anxiety Reducer” and “Radio Source Sagittarius” or the righteous ending jam “The Last Question.”
Given the origins of The Skull — ex-Trouble members Eric Wagner, Jeff “Oly” Olson and Ron Holzner joining with Lothar Keller and a series of other guitarists, finally Matt Goldsborough, working essentially as a tribute band to their former outfit — I think not only did the quality of the material and performance on For Those Which are Asleep surprise, as well as the classically doomed feel that resonates throughout the album, but the sheer heartfelt nature of songs like “Sick of it All,” “Send Judas Down” and the title-track itself. This wasn’t a cynical attempt to make a go of an already set legacy. It was an expression of appreciation both for what they accomplished as Trouble and a desire to continue that work. The Skull‘s whole thing has been that they’re “more Trouble than Trouble,” and in their lineup that’s been true since they brought Olson on board. For Those Which are Asleep demonstrated that the classic spirit of that band is alive and well, its address has just changed. Moreover, it’s the beginning of a new progression for that spirit, and I hope it continues.
Nineteen years after releasing their self-titled debut, New York’s Blood Farmers contended for 2014’s comeback of the year with their sophomore outing, Headless Eyes — a morose, horror-obsessed six-track collection that on “Night of the Sorcerers” owed as much to Goblin as to Sabbath. The closing cover of David Hess‘ theme from The Last House on the Left, “The Road Leads to Nowhere,” was a late bit of melodic flourish to add depth, but how could the highlight be anything other than the 10-minute title-track itself, with its samples from the 1971 horror flick The Headless Eyes, bassist Eli Brown in a call and response with lyrics comprised of lines directly taken from the movie? That after playing shows the last several years, Blood Farmers managed to get a record out was impressive enough. That Headless Eyes turned out to be the year’s best traditional doom release was an entirely different level of surprise. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for their third, but Brown, guitarist David Szulkin and drummer Tad Leger gave plenty to chew on with Blood Farmers‘ second. It was better than would’ve been fair to expect.
A lot of what you need to know about Lo-Pan‘s fourth album you learn in the first five seconds of opener “Regulus.” There’s no fancy intro, no time wasted, nothing to take away from the directness of the song itself. Tones are crisp — the verse is already underway — and guitar, bass and drums are laser-focused in their forward movement. Even when vocalist Jeff Martin enters the song, roughly six seconds later, his arrival comes with no indulgence, no pomp. Colossus is easily Lo-Pan‘s most immediate work to date, and throughout, Martin, guitarist Brian Fristoe (since replaced by Adrian Zambrano), bassist Scott Thompson and drummer Jesse Bartz retain that focus no matter where the material takes them, delivering a clinic in how to kick as much ass as possible at any given moment on cuts like “Marathon Man” and “Eastern Seas,” or even bringing in guest vocalist Jason Alexander Byers, who also designed the album cover, for a spot on “Vox.” They had a hard task in following up 2011’s Salvador (review here), but the Columbus, Ohio, unit stood up to the challenge and met it and everyone else head-on.
What to do with All Them Witches‘ Lightning at the Door? The Nashville four-piece released the album last fall digitally, but it wasn’t until this September that it saw a physical manifestation. In fact, if you go back, it was included on the Top 20 of 2013 as well. Which is the release date? I don’t know. What I know is that in terms of the sheer amount of time spent listening, I put on Lightning at the Door more than any other record this year. From where I sit, that alone gets it a place in the top five. Yeah, it might be a cop-out to do a “5a,” but sometimes exceptions have to be made, and All Them Witches have proved to be nothing if not exceptional in their still relatively brief, jam-laden history, the psych-blues dynamic between bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, Fender Rhodes specialist Allan van Cleave and drummer Robby Staebler pushing them quickly to the fore of American heavy rock’s innovators, their natural, improv-sounding material feeling brazen and exploratory while reshaping the elements of genre to suit their needs. One can only see this dynamic developing further as they continue to grow as a live band, so Lightning at the Door may just be the start, and that’s perhaps most exciting of all.
A beautiful, stunning work made even more powerful by the honesty driving it. Portland, Oregon’s Witch Mountain completed a trilogy with the Billy Anderson-produced Mobile of Angelsthat brought about some of the best doom of this young decade, their 2011 return from a years-long hiatus, South of Salem (review here) serving as the foundation for a stylistic progression that continued on the following year’s Cauldron of the Wild (review here) and onto Mobile of Angels itself as the four-piece’s most accomplished album to date. The reason it feels like such a concluding chapter is because of the departure of vocalist Uta Plotkin, whose voice helped establish Witch Mountain both on stage and in the studio, leaving founders Rob Wrong (guitar) and Nathan Carson (drums) with the sizable task of finding a replacement. That situation will be what it will be, but Mobile of Angels remains a gorgeous, lonely testament. Plotkin gives a landmark performance on “Can’t Settle” and “The Shape Truth Takes,” which in the context of what was happening in Witch Mountain at the time ring with a truth that’s rare in or out of doom, and she seems to have left the band just as they were hitting their finest hour. So it goes.
In all of heavy, there is no assault so severe as Conan‘s. With their second full-length and debut on Napalm Records, the UK trio solidified the two sides of the preceding 2012 outing, Monnos (review here), in constructing material that, fast or slow, short or long, retained an epic feel melded with their ungodly tonality and memorable songwriting. Their first recording at guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis‘ Skyhammer Studio, it affirmed Conan‘s will to conquer in its two massive bookends, “Crown of Talons” and “Altar of Grief,” and in the High on Fire-worthy gallop of “Foehammer” — a bludgeon commandingly wielded by Davis, bassist/vocalist Phil Coumbe and drummer Paul O’Neil, the latter to of whom have since left the band to be replaced by longtime-producer Chris Fielding and Rich Lewis, respectively. What effect the changes might have on the band — except apparently more touring, which isn’t a bad thing — have yet to be seen, but Conan are already in the process of writing a follow-up to Blood Eagle, so it doesn’t seem like it’ll be all that long until we find out. With Davis still steering the band in songwriting and overall direction, one severely doubts they’ll be fixing what obviously isn’t broken anytime soon. None heavier.
Dallas riff-rockers Wo Fat have grown steadily over the course of their five albums, from the nascent heavy roll of 2006’s The Gathering Dark, to the hooks of 2008’s Psychedelonaut (review here), the jamming that started to surface on 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra (review here) and was pushed further on 2012’s The Black Code (review here). And their approach has been as steady as the frequency of their releases. In making The Conjuring, the three-piece were simply engaging the next step in their progression, but the material on the five-track/48-minute outing goes further than just that. Putting aside (momentarily) the 17-minute closer “Dreamwalker,” the other cuts, “The Conjuring,” “Read the Omens,” “Pale Rider from the Ice” and “Beggar’s Bargain” each found a place for themselves in pulling together jammed-sounding elements with a memorable construction, and when guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer Michael Walter did kick into “Dreamwalker,” they hit on not only their longest piece yet, but their most accomplished showcase of the chemistry that has developed between them. That song is a beast unto itself, but as has been the case with Wo Fat each time out so far in their career, there’s nothing on The Conjuring to give the impression the band can’t or won’t continue to keep going on the path that’s worked so well for them on this point. They’ve spent the last eight years on the right track and have yet to waiver. The Conjuring should be played at top volume for anyone who contends there’s no life left in heavy rock and roll.
Mars Red Sky‘s second LP and first for Listenable, Stranded in Arcadia was originally supposed to be recorded in the California desert, but visa problems kept the French trio of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matgaz in Brazil, where they’d previously been touring. Thus, “stranded in Arcadia,” which is basically another way of saying “lost in paradise.” Can’t say the Bordeaux three-piece didn’t make the most of it, though. Songs like “The Light Beyond” and “Hovering Satellites” — not to mention the utter melodic bliss of “Join the Race” — took cues from their 2011 self-titled debut (review here) in terms of memorable songwriting and melodic craft, but added to that heft and tonal richness more of a psychedelic vibe, so that not only was there fuzz and wah, but a spacious world in which the songs took place. With Kinast on lead vocals, the sneaky boogie of “Holy Mondays” became a highlight, and the one-two swing ‘n’ stomp of “Circles” and “Seen a Ghost” were a perfect demonstration by the band of the various sides of their sound, particularly following after the dreamy instrumental “Arcadia,” an echoing jam distinguished by Pras‘ wistful guitar lead and coming before the closing “Beyond the Light,” which reprises the opener’s resonant unfolding. It probably wasn’t the record they intended to make, but Stranded in Arcadia became one of my go-to albums for 2014, and like the best of any given year’s output, I’ve no doubt it will transcend the passage of time and continue to deliver for years to come. Hell, I was barely done with the debut when this one came out.
Can’t imagine this is any great surprise. Not only did Clearing the Path to Ascend – YOB‘s seventh album and first for Neurot — produce my pick for song of the year in its sprawling, emotionally weighted 18-minute closer, “Marrow,” but in the three full-lengths the Eugene, Oregon, trio of drummer Travis Foster, bassist Aaron Rieseberg and guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt have released since the latter reformed the band after breaking it up following 2005’s The Unreal Never Lived, all three have been my album of the year. The Great Cessation was in 2009, and Atma was in 2011. Consistency aside, I’ll point out specifically that each of the same three records has earned that position, perhaps Clearing the Path to Ascend most of all for its progressive feel, moving past genre even at its most raging moment, second cut “Nothing to Win,” the chorus of which proved that among everything else YOB could be, they could be anthemic. The cosmic, spiritual questing that has always been present in their songs, that feeling of searching, showed up in opener “In Our Blood,” but even there, it was evident YOB were pushing themselves beyond what they’ve done before, rewriting their own formulas incorporating lessons from their past in among their other points of inspiration. “Unmask the Spectre” could have easily been an album closer itself, with its patient exploration and feverishly intense payoff, but with the melodic progressivism of “Marrow” and the soul poured into every second of that track, every verse and chorus, solo and build — including the Hammond added to the last of them by producer Billy Barnett — YOB created a landmark both for themselves and the increasing many working under their influence. I’ve said on several occasions (bordering on “many” at this point) that YOB are a once-in-a-generation band, and it feels truer in thinking of Clearing the Path to Ascend than it ever has. Without a doubt, album of the year and then some.
First, special note to Colour Haze‘s To the Highest Gods We Know. I’ve decided to count it as a 2015 release since the vinyl will be out in Spring, but otherwise surely it would earn a place on this list. Blackwolfgoat‘s Drone Maintenance also deserves note.
A few other honorable mentions:
Mothership, Mothership II — It’s hard to argue with a classic heavy rock power trio kicking ass. I won’t try.
Alunah, Awakening the Forest — Every time I make a list, no matter what kind of list it is, there’s a band I wind up kicking myself for forgetting about at the time. This is the case 100 percent with why Alunah aren’t in the Top 30. In fact, I might go in and swap them out with somebody.
Ice Dragon, Seeds from a Dying Garden — Boston experimental psych/garage doomers continue to defy expectation. May their weirdness last forever and continue to produce material so satisfying.
Truckfighters, Universe – I thought at some point I’d go back to Universe again, but never really did. A problem with me more than the album.
Steak, Slab City — An impressive debut following two strong EPs.
Godflesh, A World Lit Only by Fire — I never got a review copy, so I never reviewed it. Its name is here because I’m a fan of the band and glad they’re back.
Thou, Heathen — Just recently purchased this and am only getting to know it, but a ridiculously strong album.
Corrosion of Conformity, IX — Everybody who gets a boner whenever Pepper Keenan is mentioned in connection with this band has missed out. This record and the self-titled kick ass.
Spidergawd, Spidergawd — Holy shit they’re over here! No they’re over there! No wait over here again! Oh my god I’ve just gone blind!
Monster Magnet, Milking the Stars — I wasn’t sure what to do with this since technically it’s not a new album, mostly reworked songs from the last one. I still listened to it a ton though, whatever it is.
Slomatics, Estron — Another one I’m just getting to know, but am very much digging.
Electric Wizard, Time to Die — People seem to do this thing where Electric Wizard puts out a record, everyone slathers over it for a few months and then spends the next two years talking about how it sucked. I guess I’ll be on the ground floor with not having been that into Time to Die.
Pallbearer, Foundations of Burden — Had to put their name somewhere on this list or someone would burn my house down. Album of the year for many.
The list goes on: Monolord, Comet Control, Mammatus, Triptykon, Eyehategod, Fever Dog, Moab, Karma to Burn, Atavismo, Grifter, 1000mods, Megaton Leviathan, Wovenhand, Mr. Peter Hayden, Primordial, and many more.
Before I check out and go sit in a corner somewhere to try and rebuild brain power after this massive dump of a purge, I want to sincerely thank you for reading. If you check in regularly, or if you’ve never been to the site before, if you don’t give a crap about lists or if you’re gonna go listen to even one band on here, it’s fantastic to me. Thank you so much for all the support this site receives, for your comments, for sharing links, retweeting, whatever it is. I am a real person — I’m sitting on my couch at this very moment — and being able to do this and have people see it and be a part of it with me is unbelievable. I realize how fortunate I am. So thank you. Thank you.
More to come as we close out 2014. I’ll have a list of short/split/demo releases, a year-end podcast, a list of the best debuts, a round up of the best live shows I saw, as much more as time allows. Please stay tuned.
And again, thank you. If I left anyone off the list, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments and contribute your own top albums, however many there are, to the Readers Poll.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 16th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Prior to checking out for the holidays, Desertfest London 2015 has decided to give its public something to chew on over the next couple weeks. Six bands have joined the lineup for the UK festival. American acts Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band and Acid King, Italy’s Ufomammut, Iceland’s The Vintage Caravan, Sweden’s Galvano and Australia’s Don Fernando broaden an already international assemblage to be headlined by Sleep and Red Fang, and featuring Floor, My SleepingKarma, Black Pyramid, Lo-Panand an impressive host of others listed below.
A lot of festival news around here lately, I know — and more still to come. It’s the season for it. As we move into the New Year and these lineups start to really solidify, it seems like the culture for heavy rock fests just keeps growing. Certainly it’s Desertfest‘s biggest year yet.
Here’s their latest announcement:
Brant Bjork, Ufomammut, Acid King, The Vintage Caravan, Galvano and Don Fernando to play DESERTFEST LONDON in 2015
On the eve of Christmas holidays, the DESERTFEST LONDON promoters wanted to leave you with a sweet stoner rock taste, by adding a new batch of high-end outfits to the 2015 edition of the festival. Desert rock standard-bearer BRANT BJORK will take the stage this April along with Italy’s heaviest trio UFOMAMMUT, the legendary ACID KING, Iceland’s cosmos travellers THE VINTAGE CARAVAN, Swedish sludge mongers GALVANO and Australia’s DON FERNANDO.
Bands already confirmed are:
SLEEP RED FANG BRANT BJORK’S LOW DESERT PUNK ORANGE GOBLIN FLOOR MINSK UFOMAMMUT ACID KING KARMA TO BURN THE VINTAGE CARAVAN MY SLEEPING KARMA BLACK PYRAMID NOOTHGRUSH LO-PAN THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX BLACK COBRA DOPETHRONE DESERT STORM THE WOUNDED KINGS DON FERNANDO GALVANO AGRIMONIA AMULET WALK THROUGH FIRE
DESERTFEST LONDON 24-26th April 2015 in Camden Town Koko Electric Ballroom The Underworld The Black Heart
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 8th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Well, last we heard from Londoner trio Bright Curse, they had a new bass player and plans to record. It would seem not much has changed — unless you count the bass players. The three-piece has again enlisted a new party to helm the low end, bringing in Sweden’s Max Ternebring in what they hope will be a permanent replacement. They’re also getting ready to record a new EP to follow-up their 2013 self-titled (review here), and are planning on more studio and road time after that.
The PR wire brings details, for which we are grateful:
BRIGHT CURSE to record new 12″ EP in January; bassist Max Ternebring joins the band.
Following a slight lineup reshuffle, London heavy psych rockers BRIGHT CURSE are back in the saddle for good. The trio just unveiled the identity of their new bass player, as well as the release of a new 12″ EP, due out in early 2015.
After the re-edition of their highly praised debut “Bright Curse” in 2013 via Bilocation Records, UK based doomsters BRIGHT CURSE are set to release new material, to cope with the wait that has ensued from two consecutive changes of bass player this year. The band finally found a definitive groove monger in the person of Max Ternebring. Drummer Zacharie Mizzi comments: “As promised, we present you the new, handsome, completing member of our line-up: Maximilian from the blessed land of Sverige (read Sweden if you’re not from the blessed land…). New riffs are already flowing, and we will record songs for a 12″ vinyl exclusive release very soon. Brace yourselves, more news regarding a tour are coming next.”
BRIGHT CURSE will head back to the studio later in 2015 to record their second album to date. The booking of a full European tour is also in the pipeline.
BRIGHT CURSE rose in May 2012 in London from the ashes of French psychedelic band Soul Manifest (Night Tripper Records). A few months later, the psych doom trio brought to life their first self-titled debut “Bright Curse” to life, which was recorded by J.B Pilon in London and mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege in Portland. It didn’t take long until the band gained international recognition thanks to their unique sound imprint, and inked a deal with German label Bilocation Records, who released a limited vinyl edition of the band’s debut album in 2013.
These last two years has seen the band going uphill, for BRIGHT CURSE went on a full UK tour with Trippy Wicked and Wight, and were invited to play significant heavy music events in Europe (Desertfest London, Up In Smoke Fest, Glad Stone Fest), sharing the stage with the likes of Earthless, Colour Haze, Truckfighters, Pentagram, Naam or Mars Red Sky. Enjoying their current momentum, BRIGHT CURSE are now established with their new bassmeister hailing from Sweden, Max Ternebring, and are ready to release their new record some time in 2015.
BRIGHT CURSE IS: Romain Daut – guitar & vocals Zacharie Mizzi – drums Max Ternebring – bass
Posted in Reviews on November 24th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
If you heard Stubb‘s 2012 self-titled Superhot Records debut (review here), then there are two things to know about the newly-released Ripple Music follow-up Cry of the Ocean: It’s more complex in style and emotion, and it has more of a full-album feel. I will not take anything away from the first Stubb record. Songs like “Scale the Mountain” and “Road” and “Soul Mover” and so on continue to resonate, as does the subsequent 7″ single, Under a Spell (review here), it’s just that guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson, bassist/backing vocalist Peter Holland (also Trippy Wicked and Elephant Tree) and new drummer Tom Fyfe have branched out stylistically from where they started. This is a positive for the band since progress hasn’t come at the expense of songwriting. At just under 39 minutes, the Skyhammer Studios-recorded Cry of the Ocean is a little longer than its predecessor, but none of that time feels wasted, whether it’s the late guitar-led jams in the closing duo of “Snake Eyes” and “You’ll Never Know,” or the Colour Haze-esque interplay of waves and standalone guitar that begin the two-part opening title-track. Rather, while Stubb have clearly become a more patient act — a credit to the time they’ve spent on stage the last couple years — their sound has only gotten richer for it. Dickinson‘s guitar tone, which is as much a draw to Cry of the Ocean as its entrancing shoreline cover art, drives this fluidity across the eight included tracks, and a flow pervades throughout the album’s two halves that stands as further evidence of their growth. The self-titled did a lot of work in establishing Stubb as a band to be taken seriously, and Cry of the Ocean succeeds in building off of those accomplishments as its sets out in its own direction.
Stubb are indebted to classic heavy rock without being retro and they nod at heavy psych on Cry of the Ocean without wading too deep in those waters. Rather than seeming noncommittal, though, the effect is that Stubb retain the penchant for hooks that made their first outing such a joy. “Cry of the Ocean Pt. 1″ makes waves of its verses — “And in my mind I break loose/And in my mind I break free…” — and opens to one of the record’s first standout choruses with the lines, “Hear the cry of the ocean, baby/As washes over me.” It is a more brooding sentiment than one might’ve expected, but Dickinson sells the emotion confidently and Stubb prove early they’re more than able to pull off the turn, “Cry of the Ocean Pt. 1″ giving way to “Cry of the Ocean Pt. 2,” a two-minute soulful, handclap-laden singalong that asks, “Are you free? Are you free to believe?/Free to be who you wanted to be?” The transition between the two parts is seamless, and the songs remain individually distinct, it sets up the across-album flow that will continue for most of Cry of the Ocean, with Holland and Fyfe setting up a swinging groove behind a guitar solo that adds distinction to what’s intended as a one-riff progression. “Heavy Blue Sky,” which follows, is likewise open-toned and likewise moody, but Dickinson brings lead-work forward early and with a confident, well-balanced vocal, carries the song, less based around its hook than the title cut but still memorable both for its riff and languid, swaying groove, which is held onto for the duration in a way that demonstrates the band’s patience and serves the album for the better. There’s plenty of time to blow doors off with the more fuzzed “Sail Forever,” the nod of which is immediate and which works its way smoothly toward one of Cry of the Ocean‘s best choruses, raw and classically-styled, but heavy and efficient as well, Fyfe‘s snare cutting through Dickinson‘s solo near the halfway mark.
I’m not sure where the side A/B change is. Track-wise, it’s possible to be even on both sides, but in terms of time, one’s bound to be longer than the other. For what it’s worth, the acoustic “Heartbreaker” fits well coming out of “Sail Forever,” giving Cry of the Ocean its most contemplative moment and fitting with the bluesy interpersonal thematic at play in several of the songs. A sweet, folkish guitar line at the center furthers the overarching complexity, minimal-but-still-there drums retaining movement and adding class as Dickinson and Holland come together effectively on vocals in the chorus. Some harder snare hits in the second half tell of the pickup to come, but like “Heavy Blue Sky” never lost sight of its intent, “Heartbreaker” retains its acoustic basis even in its payoff, which is more satisfying considering how easy it would’ve been for the band to layer in a wall of fuzz. That also leaves “Devil’s Brew” tasked as the wake-up call, to which its unabashed catchiness is well suited, vocals following the winding bounce of the riff in “woo-oooh” fashion and a faster, more insistent rhythm emerging. It’s quick hook, but perfectly placed on the record between the acoustic “Heartbreaker” and subsequent “Snake Eyes,” a return to a simpler heavy rock feel between excursions elsewhere and a landmark for Cry of the Ocean‘s second half. Both “Snake Eyes” (7:01) and “You’ll Never Know” (the longest track at 7:14) are more complex, but still fit with the proceedings. Holland comes to the fore vocally in the chorus of “Snake Eyes” and there’s a Hammond organ guest spot from Mos Generator‘s Tony Reed, who also mixed and mastered the album, and Dickinson saves his most impressive soloing for the closer, but the two essentially work from the same structure, moving from early verse/chorus tradeoffs into consuming power trio jams.
It’s a fitting way to end Cry of the Ocean, the layers of high-end interweaving on “You’ll Never Know” with a considerable foundation in Fyfe‘s drums and Holland‘s bass, a final effects swirl underscoring the point of how far Stubb have come in just two years’ time. Clearly they’re a unit with a firm sense of what works for them, and the boldness with which they expand those parameters on Cry of the Ocean only makes it easier to be a fan. If you heard the first record, the progress here will impress. But even if Cry of the Ocean is your first exposure to Stubb, their level of songwriting, natural tones and heavy roll seem ready to find favor at a moment’s notice.
Posted in Reviews on November 17th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Twenty years and eight albums on from their beginning as Our Haunted Kingdom, the hills would seem to be few and far between for Orange Goblin, but they keep climbing. The reigning kings of London’s populous heavy rock scene and in many aspects its progenitors, the four-piece seemed to enter a new phase in their career with 2012’s A Eulogy for the Damned (review here), also their Candlelight Records debut. After several years languished following release trouble for 2007’s stellar Healing through Fire, light touring and no output, it was as likely as not they were done. In the years since, they’ve become one of heavy rock’s most eminent stage acts — the 2013 stopgap live album, A Eulogy for the Fans (review here) documented this thoroughly — and their influence continues to resonate well outside of their UK homebase. Back from the Abyss, their latest studio outing, arrives with 12 tracks and 57 minutes of new music and finds guitarist Joe Hoare, bassist Martyn Millard, drummer Chris Turner and frontman extraordinaire Ben Ward pummeling along similar lines as its predecessor. Also released by Candlelight, it boasts a similarly clean production style, and with AC/DC and Motörhead as their primary models, Orange Goblin seem across its span to be shifting into a comfort zone of brash turns, snarled vocals, heavy riffs and catchy songwriting. Stylistically and thematically, songs like “Mythical Knives,” “Übermensch,” “Heavy Lies the Crown” and “The Abyss” aren’t so far from what Orange Goblin have done since 2004’s Thieving from the House of God – they’ve long since been in command of their sound — but the vibe is steadier, more self-aware. They’ve established their formula, and like AC/DC, like Motörhead, like Slayer, the project now isn’t so much searching for what they want the sound to be as working to refine it as they move forward.
Like its predecessor, Back from the Abyss was recorded by Jamie Dodd at The Animal Farm in London, and if the band wanted to capture a similar feel, it’s understandable given the welcome reception and success of A Eulogy for the Damned. That’s not to say Back from the Abyss doesn’t have a personality of its own. One can hear it in the tightness of the crisp, thrashing “The Devil’s Whip” and its second-half companion “Bloodzilla,” or in how clearly Orange Goblin are writing for their audience. Ward is not through opener “Sabbath Hex” before he’s interacting with an imaginary crowd: “If you understand, raise your right hand/Repeat after me, we are stone free.” Perhaps that’s direct acknowledgement of how much of a professional live band Orange Goblin have become, and no doubt when that cut is aired live it receives or will receive the desired effect, but if Orange Goblin are writing songs for the stage, they run into the trouble of not needing 12 of them for a new release, and that becomes a conundrum for Back from the Abyss as it plays out. The semi-title-track “The Abyss” is well constructed but doesn’t accomplish much that “Übermensch” didn’t already nail, and while the penultimate “Blood of Them” is a blend of hook and horror-inspired atmosphere worthy of “The Fog” from the last record, “Into the Arms of Morpheus,” which ends the first half of the album (presumably, the first of two LPs encompassed), is a better longer-form progression, sounds more inspired and is closer to the front for a reason. The three-minute instrumental closer, “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” has a lumbering doom sensibility and deftly layered-in solo lines from Hoare, but where it seems to be waiting for its kickoff-riff the way “Mythical Knives” moves from a progressive-sounding opening into bruiser riff and the band’s particular burl, the last track just fades out, ending an offering so obviously keyed for adrenaline on a downer note. Maybe that’s the trip back from the abyss? I don’t really know.
For longer-term fans, the meat of Back from the Abysscomes toward the end of its first half. “Sabbath Hex” is a vibrant opener, “Übermensch” is a formidable showing of a songwriting formula at work, and “The Devil’s Whip” proves that Orange Goblin can tear it up full-speed with no questions asked, but it’s “Demon Blues,” “Heavy Lies the Crown” and “Into the Arms of Morpheus” that really convey a sense of the band’s maturity, their position among the world’s foremost heavy rock acts, and an album-style flow. Millard and Turner setting the foundation, Hoare drives the riff of “Demon Blues” and Ward masterfully rides that groove, leading to the bluesy intro of “Heavy Lies the Crown,” vocals following the guitar for the album’s catchiest chorus: “Who am I to, to make the rules, to break the rules and slay the fools/How am I, to be the man, who rules the land, with sword in hand/Fire roars, upon the shores that carry heroes off to wars/Heavy lies the crown I wear, but I did swear this weight to bear.” A somewhat inflated view of the band’s status, but a hell of a hook. At 7:27, “Into the Arms of Morpheus” is Back from the Abyss‘ longest track, Millard handling the opening with a choice bassline soon built upon by Hoare and Turner, the song taking a stoner rocker’s time to fully unfold. It works in three movements — the opening jam, the verse/chorus trade, and the closing jam — but it’s structurally and in sheer listenability the most human portion of the album, and they still get their sing-along in there too. The subsequent “Mythical Knives” is a solid opener for the second LP of a kin with “Sabbath Hex” or “Übermensch,” but “Bloodzilla” and “The Abyss” don’t have the same urgency behind them, and “Titan,” the instrumental preceding “Blood of Them,” features a welcome guitar hook, but neither pulls the listener back in nor leads directly into “Blood of Them,” which opens with fading-in bass over spooky-style ambience and shifts into a vehement closer (even though it’s the second to last track, it’s obviously the final push), with Ward‘s growl echoing out one last monstrous chorus.
Even the transition between “Blood of Them” and “The Shadow over Innsmouth” seems choppy. They could’ve easily put some more spooky rumbling after “Blood of Them” cut out to smooth the way into the finale, but it’s cold one into the next, and in truth, much of the album is that way as well apart from the first-half section already noted. As a fan of the band, I won’t discount Orange Goblin‘s songwriting ability, and in presence and performance, Back from the Abyss lacks nothing. For how tight they sound, however, the presentation should match, particularly as it’s the longest record they’ve ever done (1998’s Time Travelling Blues and 2002’s Coup de Grace were close). Still, their momentum will continue to carry them forward, and there’s more than enough material here to fit well in the setlist alongside “Red Tide Rising” from the last record and the host of classics from their storied career — “Quincy the Pigboy,” “Scorpionica,” “Blue Snow” (if you’re lucky), “They Come Back,” “Some You Win, Some You Lose,” and so on — and that’s pretty clearly the point. Back from the Abyss isn’t a perfect album, but for a lot of what they do and however many hills they may yet climb, Orange Goblin are largely undeniable. They remain undeniable.
Posted in Reviews on November 13th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
The first time through, it is jarring when the screams come. Elephant Tree‘s Magnetic Eye Records debut, Theia, plays the setup perfectly. The newcomer London four-piece open with an 18-second sitar intro “The Call” — they later answer it with the 42-second “The Response,” totaling one minute — and shift seamlessly into the drum-led intro of the eight-minute, languid-rolling, heavily riffed “Attack of the Altaica,” with its open, multi-vocal verses, catchy but not overdone hook, resonant backing sitar drone and sparse guitar, and second half dedicated mostly to an instrumental jam. There’s one scream as they make that transition, buried in the mix at around 4:40, but there’s an effect on it, and the following jam is so immersive with its light guitar swirls, sitar noodling, and steady percussive base, that even after the fuzz guitar kicks back in to give the song its heavy end, “In Suffering” is still a surprise. Theia, which takes its name from the ancient planetoid that smashed into earth creating the moon, is the first outing from guitarist/vocalist Jack Townley, bassist/vocalist Peter Holland (also of Stubb and Trippy Wicked), sitarist/vocalist Riley MacIntyre and drummer Sam Hart, and with the liquefied heavy psychedelia they otherwise elicit, one might be tempted to call the screams a misstep on “In Suffering,” but I disagree. They change the whole context of the release. One rarely finds sitar and screams in the same place, and that seems exactly to be the point. After “In Suffering,” you don’t know what else any of Theia‘s seven tracks might bring, if they’ll sludge out again or dive further into the jammy psych bliss of the extended semi-opener. It turns out a little bit of both, and more too.
Elephant Tree call Theia an EP, but I read it as more of a full-length. It has a two-sided flow, even on CD — though the CD has 10 minutes of silence at the end of closer “The Sead” and rounds out with a two-minute riff reprise — and the songs play well one into the next with added ease from each side’s intro, “The Call” and “The Answer,” and the smoothness of the transitions overall, whether it’s “Attack of the Altaica” into “In Suffering,” or “Vlaakith” into “Lament” into “The Sead,” the release continuing to expand its breadth the whole time in the way new bands often are more open about trying different things as they begin to establish songwriting patterns. The variety in the music speaks for itself. Even “In Suffering,” which is as harsh as Elephant Tree get, breaks down in its midsection for a swing-drum heavy psych jam, and gradually builds first to a clean-sung verse and then near the end to resurgent throatripping, somewhere in style between sludge and black metal, but effectively used. On the four-panel digipak version of Theia, “In Suffering” finishes heavy and nodding and gives way to MacIntyre‘s sitar on “The Answer,” which provides a brief but welcome respite and smooths the way into “Vlaakith,” a steady roll of subdued verse and weightier hook no less in conversation with “Attack of the Altaica” than “The Answer” is with “The Call.” Again we see that however far out Elephant Tree go in their jamming, they manage to pull back to some payoff to the structure of the song itself. This does them well across Theia as a whole and particularly with “Vlaakith,” on which Townley seems to touch on lead guitar ideas but ultimately backs off an actual solo to let the multi-source vocals drive the track’s apex and conclusion.
At just over two minutes, “Lament” is more than another interlude mostly because of the vocals, Holland‘s voice recognizable and bluesy over a subtly building stoner riff that continues to make its way northward for the (relatively short) duration. Like “In Suffering,” it’s something else to change the context of the material around it, and shows that Elephant Tree aren’t necessarily bound by one songwriting modus or another. That they pull it off is all the more impressive considering Theia is a first release, and “The Sead” finishes out with an interplay of atmospheric screams and clean singing over a steady riff. The sitar seems to take a back seat to fuzzed out guitars and warm-toned bass, but the band are obviously able to play it either way. A last hook is peppered with emerging lead guitar — I wouldn’t be surprised to find Townley bolder in this regard on future outings — and a quick scream marks the launch into the faster-riffed ending that, particularly with 10 silent minutes behind it, feels quick and cold in comparison to “Attack of the Altaica” or “Vlaakith.” The reprise arrives long enough later to be truly buried, but fades in as it builds for one final swell of volume to close out Theia in showcase of some but not all of the pieces working in Elephant Tree‘s favor, namely the easy, classic-styled-but-modern-sounding grooves, natural tones, fluid approach. Couple them with the potential they establish in the sitar, the use of multiple singers (and multiple singing styles), the diversity in songwriting and the will to craft an overarching flow, and Theia makes for a particularly strong, forward-thinking and nuanced debut. It might be surprising at first, but as it unfolds, Elephant Tree prove expansive enough readily handle such stylistic range.
Posted in audiObelisk on October 23rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
London heavy rockers Stubb will release their second album, Cry of the Ocean, on Nov. 14. Their first for Ripple Music, it was recorded in Skyhammer Studios, mastered by Tony Reed, and pushes further into the classic-rock-inspired vibes of their 2012 self-titled debut (review here), which came across as a fuzzer’s delight with the memorable songwriting of guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson at the fore. Dickinson, who’s joined once again by bassist/backing vocalist Peter Holland (Trippy Wicked, Elephant Tree) and new drummer Tom Fyfe, continues to refine his approach on the new album, branching ambitiously into bolder elements of soul and heavy psychedelia.
Cry of the Ocean is a more complex offering, as the sweet acoustics of “Heartbreaker” and the handclap-inclusive apex of the two-part opening title-track demonstrate, but ultimately no less satisfying. Dickinson, Holland and Fyfe have been able to expand the palette of the first record while still maintaining the basic focus on craftsmanship that made so many of that outing’s cuts resonate. So “Heavy Blue Sky” might unfurl with a more melancholy roll, and “Devil’s Brew” might get down to boogie business in quick fashion ahead of the organ-ified “Snake Eyes,” but what ties the material together is the quality of its execution, and in branching out, Stubb seem to in no way have bit off more than they can chew. “Snake Eyes” and the subsequent “You’ll Never Know,” at seven minutes each, make up a substantial closing duo that brings out some of Cry of the Ocean‘s best moments. And in case you’re worried, there’s no shortage of fuzz either.
As proof, today I have the pleasure of hosting “Sail Forever” for streaming. In it, one can get a sense of the wider emotional net that Cry of the Ocean casts and the warm tones that have remained very much an essential part of their approach. Stubb push the balance to one side or the other several times over the course of the eight tracks, but “Sail Forever” makes an excellent summary, pulling its vibe from elements on all sides and putting it to use with one of the LP’s strongest hooks.
Hope you dig it:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
Stubb‘s Cry of the Ocean is due Nov. 14 in North America, Nov. 17 in Europe. More info at the links below.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 17th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Desertfest teased this announcement yesterday, and since Human Disease Promo/When Planets Collide have put together a stage at each of the past fests, that they’d do so again at Desertfest London 2015 isn’t a huge surprise, but still, they’ve acquired some killer acts to fill it out. The reactivated Minsk will apparently make a trip overseas next April, and Black Cobra will return to Desertfest after playing at the Underworld last year. Add Noothgrush on top as headliners and Dopethrone, Agrimonia and Walk through Fire to round it out and it’s safe to say Desertfest London won’t be lacking for sludge next year.
The PR wire put it like this:
NOOTHGRUSH, MINSK, BLACK COBRA, DOPETHRONE, AGRIMONIA and WALK THOUGH FIRE confirmed for DESERTFEST LONDON 2015
Like every year, London promoters When Planet Collides and Human Disease Promo will be curating a stage at The Underworld, hosting some of the most crushing and bleak riffage on the whole festival. Let’s all welcome the mighty NOOTHGRUSH, MINSK, BLACK COBRA, DOPETHRONE, AGRIMONIA and WALK THROUGH FIRE at DESERTFEST LONDON 2015, taking place on April 24-26th in Camden.
Already confirmed: SLEEP RED FANG ORANGE GOBLIN MY SLEEPING KARMA
Human Disease Promo / When Planets Collide Stage NOOTHGRUSH MINSK BLACK COBRA DOPETHRONE AGRIMONIA WALK THROUGH FIRE
For the fourth year running, Camden will be hosting one of the most exciting stoner/doom/sludge/psyche gatherings in Europe, for a full weekend of fuzzed-out tunes, psychedelia and partying. As the first headliner of this 2015 edition, American stoner rock pioneers SLEEP will be treating the Desertfest crowd to the finest smoked-out odysseys, with an exclusive headlining set at London’s famous venue Koko. Also headlining, Portland’s heavy rock’n’rollers RED FANG are set to turn this fourth edition into a massive metal celebration. The ground is set to tremble once again this year, with UK metal heavyweights ORANGE GOBLIN delivering their fiery metal anthems for a one-off 20th anniversary performance. It’s very rightfully than German psych foursome MY SLEEPING KARMA will be perfectly embodying the cosmic side of the lineup.
This new announcement with cult North-American outfits NOOTHGRUSH, MINSK, BLACK COBRA and DOPETHRONE, as well as Sweden based AGRIMONIA and WALK THROUGH FIRE is giving our 2015 lineup the blackened twist that is expected by all sludge and doom worshippers each year. Impending earthquake in Camden…
Posted in audiObelisk on October 13th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
After releasing their debut EP, Eat up the Sun, last year on Superhot Records, London trio Vodun – also seen as Vôdûn — issue their new single “Loa’s Kingdom” today as a free download in order to provide advance warning of their first full-length, which is due out next year. The three-piece take their cues from psychedelic rock, churning metallic tones and Afrobeat rhythmic complexity, and donning costumes and makeup for their stage show, they give a visual impression of a rawer form of Goat. The two acts actually share very little in common sonically, so don’t be fooled going into “Loa’s Kingdom,” which seems to subliminally implant its hook as it rushes past for a quick, under-three-minute listen.
Aside from the aesthetic vigilance, it’s that ability to blend memorable songcraft and a feeling of chaos that impresses most about Vodun, who never lose control of the material even when it seems most like it’s about to fly off the rails. Beginning with heavy rocks starts and stops and a forward percussive presence, “Loa’s Kingdom” unfolds with preaching vocals and a manic build of tension that lets loose in its chorus, the bass-less trio of singer Chantal Brown, drummer Zel Kaute (also of Groan) and guitarist Oliver Martinez enacting dizzying turns before a steady nod emerges. It’s a ferocious rush, and if it takes you two or three times through before you get your head around the song, my hope is you’ll consider it worth the effort.
Vodun head out on a round of UK dates Oct. 24. Find that list and some more info on “Loa’s Kingdom” under the player below, and enjoy:
Loa’s Kingdom is about the desire to transcend into the realm of the Gods – your highest self. A kingdom only fit for supreme beings, who must first pay penance to Papa Legba, as all the spirits do. He is the first and last, the beginning and end. He is the one who will let you into their world, and the one to let you out, so be generous with your offerings…
Rising from the ashes of London’s female-fronted metal band Invasion, VODUN blends a unique concoction of heavy metal and psychedelism, while embracing the African/Caribbean culture in the fullest possible way ever. Successfully reborn as voodoo Loa spirits Oya, Ogoun and Ghede, VODUN unleashed their first EP « Eat Up The Sun » in 2013, a perfect introduction to the trio’s singular and thrilling blend of shredding guitars, blazing rhythms and soulful vocals. After completing a short UK tour, the band revealed a vibrant new single entitled “Possession” (released in 2014 via the “New Heavy Sounds Vol. 3″ compilation), thus paving the way for their debut full-length, due out later in 2015. Second excerpt off VODUN’s forthcoming record, « Loa’s Kingdom » is a highly energetic ode to spiritual elevation marked by pounding riffage and incredibly catchy hooks. Get ready to unleash your inner Loa…
TOUR DATES 24.10 CAMBRIDGE – Portland Arms 25.10 COLCHESTER – The Old Bus Station 26.10 NOTTINGHAM – Stuck On A Name 27.10 WAKEFIELD – The Unity 28.10 MANCHESTER – Kraak Gallery 29.10 LIVERPOOL – Maguires Pizza Bar 30.10 BRISTOL – Mothers Ruin 01.11 LONDON – The Victoria
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 13th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Currently banging out a quick round of dates in Canada and a couple US shows surrounding ahead of hitting the road with Opeth and In Flames in December, raucous Portland heavy rock forerunners Red Fang have been announced as headliners for the London and Berlin 2015 editions of Desertfest. Both fests will take place at the end of next April. They join Sleep as one of the headliners for London and Orange Goblin‘s 20th anniversary special for Berlin, of course among many others and more to come.
Announcements from both Desertfests follow, yoinked from the PR wire:
RED FANG confirmed for Desertfest London 2015!
They need no introduction, each one of their gigs turns into the best metal party you’ll ever have: ladies and gents, we have the immense pleasure to confirm RED FANG as second headliner of DESERTFEST LONDON 2015, which will take place on April 24-26th in Camden.
For the fourth year running, Camden will be hosting one of the most exciting stoner/doom/sludge/psyche gatherings in Europe, for a full weekend of fuzzed-out tunes, psychedelia and partying. As the first headliner of this 2015 edition, American stoner rock pioneers SLEEP will be treating the Desertfest crowd to the finest smoked-out odysseys, with an exclusive headlining set at London’s famous venue Koko. Also headlining, Portland’s heavy rock’n’rollers RED FANG are set to turn this fourth edition into a massive metal celebration. The ground is set to tremble once again this year, with UK metal heavyweights ORANGE GOBLIN delivering their fiery metal anthems for a one-off 20th anniversary performance. It’s very rightfully than German psych foursome MY SLEEPING KARMA will be perfectly embodying the cosmic side of this first announcement.
Desertfest Berlin – April 23th, 24th & 25th 2015 – Red Fang added to the Line-up!
The fourth edition of our festival will take place once again in the famous ASTRA KulturHaus, in the beating cultural heart of BERLIN (F-Hain/X-Berg), from APRIL 23TH to 25TH 2015! We already look forward to welcome you again : 196 days left to wait :)
On the programme: 2 stages, around 25 bands playing across the 3 days, a beergarden, a hippie corner market and art exhibits… you know the formula… but also a bunch of new suprises that you will discover soon enough!
We started in September to unveil the first bands of a line-up that will totally blow you away, with a lot of exclusive/special shows: ORANGE GOBLIN “20 Year Anniversary Special Show”, MY SLEEPING KARMA “Album Release Party”… And we are proud to announce today that Portland’s Hard Rock Heroes RED FANG will headline one of the 3 nights!!
EARLY BIRDS TICKETS can already be purchased for 75€ via the link you will find a the end of this release!