Tickets go on sale March 6 for Eye of the Stoned Goat 5, set to take place June 12-13 at Amityville Music Hall, on Long Island. The Golden Grass and Mos Generator will headline, and the lineup has been finalized to include acts from the East Coast, the West Coast and in between — Lord Fowl, Wounded Giant and Brimstone Coven, if you need an example of each — in what’s without a doubt the most expansive Stoned Goat festival yet.
The poster for this year’s Stoned Goat is by Joe Mruk, and you can see the final version below (click to make it even larger) followed by the official lineup announcement from the fest:
‘Eye of the Stoned Goat 5’ announces official lineup for summer festival!
Snake Charmer Booking is pleased to announce the final artist lineup for the annual celebration of stoner-psychedelic rock and doom-heavy metal known as The Eye of the Stoned Goat Festival—now in its 5th year. The two-day fest, featuring some of the most exciting talent of the Mid-Atlantic, East and West Coast, will take place June 12th and 13th 2015 at the Amityville Music Hall in Long Island, New York.
Headlining the Friday night opener on June 12th are Brooklyn, New York trio The Golden Grass (Svart Records), whose catchy progressive psychedelic self-titled debut received numerous accolades as the “Best of 2014.” Another band that has received copious amounts of praise from rock blogs and music rags alike are none other than Long Island’s long-running rock outfit John Wilkes Booth, whose album ‘Useless Lucy’ was mentioned in many journalists “Best of 2014” lists. Also joining the bill from Long Island territory, those wildly eclectic heavy rockers Moon Tooth, who Metal Injection recently named one of “10 Awesome Underground Bands You Need in Your Life!”
Naturally, it wouldn’t be a ‘Stoned Goat’ show without giving attendees a healthy dose of band from the excellent Small Stone Records label. This year’s elite selection includes three bands that are simply a treat to bring to the stage: Boston’s master craftsmen and 2014 Desertfest alums, Gozu; local New York natives It’s Not Night: It’s Space; and returning ‘Stoned Goat’ retro rockers Lord Fowl, currently working on the follow-up to their 2012 riff encyclopedia, Moon Queen.
More contenders for total rock domination include Ripple Music stalwarts White Dynomite, composed of former members of such fine acts as Roadsaw, Lamont, and Wrecking Crew, to name a few. Also on the Ripple Music roster, from Frederick, Maryland: Weed is Weed, featuring Dave Sherman and Gary Isom of Pentagram, Earthride and Spirit Caravan fame. Additionally, hailing from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, fans will experience the infectious “sludge n’ space rock” vibe of Supervoid, who will be heading into the studio in February to record their follow-up to 2013’s Filaments.
For the first time, Seattle Washington’s own rising stars Wounded Giant will be bringing their blistering, monstrous, signature sound to this year’s festival. Also spearheading the volume-dealing campaign from STB Records is Connecticut’s Curse The Son, who’s latest offering Psychache (2014) was widely heralded as “the best of its kind in 2014” by The Sludgelord and other critics. Another band traveling a good distance to bring their doomy, occult craft to the east coast is Metal Blade Records’ newest acquisition, Brimstone Coven, who are currently working on their much anticipated next album for the label. Speaking of travelling a long distances, the festival will witness the U.S. debut of Toronto, Canada’s demonic stoner-blues rockers Ol’ Time Moonshine. Alongside this already hefty bill, ESG5 has decided to treat festival goers to the atmospheric retro-doom stylings of Totem Cat Records’ own Doctor Smoke.
One band that has been tenaciously trekking through the rock scene for over a decade now is Philadelphia’s working class groove dealers, Kingsnake. The four boys of Kingsnake have had the honor of performing alongside such acts as Clutch, The Sword, Scorpion Child, The Skull, and Vista Chino, to name a few. Also on board for the 5th installment of the festival, Long Island locals Borgo Pass—a popular act that has developed quite an impressive loyal following.
Last, but not least, officially closing out this year’s Eye of the Stoned Goat festival is none other than Port Orchard, Washington’s stoner rock torch-bearer’s Mos Generator. This marks the band’s first ever performance in New York. Mos Generator have released 5 studio albums, a retrospective album, numerous splits, and a live album, attracting such labels as Roadburn, Small Stone, Ripple, Nasoni, and Lay Bare. For charismatic singer/guitarist Tony Reed and crew, touring has been just as important to the profile of the band as making records. Over the years, Mos Generator has shared the stage with many great heavy rock bands, and in March of 2013 joined a 26-date European tour with Saint Vitus, earning a whole new fan base to their fuzzy, energetic sound. On stage, Mos Generator embodies the word “chemistry,” revolving their sound around swagger and groove, while improvising just enough to keep the songs feeling fresh from night to night—often with delightful results.
Tickets for ‘Eye of the Stoned Goat 5’ will officially go on sale on March 6th 2015. The Event will be 21+ with I.D. Tickets will be $15 per night, or $25 for a weekend pass. For more information on the Eye of the Stoned Goat festival, visitwww.TheEyeoftheStonedGoat.com
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 4th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Two more bands added to the Eye of the Stoned Goat 5 this afternoon, and it’s Ohio/Pennsylvania four-piece Doctor Smoke and Pittsburgh’s Supervoid, both of whom add to the festival’s already considerable tally of sonic heft. As it turns out, the lineup is nearly complete — just one more band to be announced, reportedly — and here’s the full roster of acts slated to appear thus far:
Weed is Weed
The Golden Grass
Curse the Son
John Wilkes Booth
Ol’ Time Moonshine
It’s Not Night: It’s Space
Don’t think I left anyone out there. Either way, that’s plenty for two days, and with one still to come, Amityville, Long Island, should definitely have its fill of heavy. Doctor Smoke‘s trip to New York will be their second of the year by the time we get to June, as they’ll team up with Wasted Theory for a weekender at the end of March in support of last year’s The Witching Hour full-length on Totem Cat Records.
Newly signed to Ripple Music, Supervoid join the Eye of the Stoned Goat 5 lineup with late-2013’s Filaments full-length (review here) and 2014’s The Other Side single (streamed here) as their latest releases, and their melodic and metallic approach to heavy rock is sure to stand out from the crowd, but they’re no less hopped up on riffs than anyone, and no doubt they’ll find welcome when they hit Amityville. I’ll be particularly interested to see if they get paired off with Moon Tooth, whose sound also has a bit of bite to it, or if they’re split up over the two days.
Presumably we’ll find out sometime after the last band is announced, when the schedule comes out. Here’s the announcement from the fest for these two:
ESG5 is proud to announce, from Totem Cat Records, Ohio’s newest doom masters Doctor Smoke!!!
Also making their ESG5 debut in Long Island NY is Pittsburgh’s space-sludge warriors Supervoid!!!
Only 1 more artist to announce.. stay tuned kids, It’s gonna be a monster!
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Lineup additions continue to trickle out in pairs from this year’s Eye of the Stoned Goat fest, to be held June 12 and 13 in Amityville, Long Island. Last we heard, the fest reached across the nation to pluck Wounded Giant out from their Seattle base of operations and have them join with Connecticut’s Curse the Son, and today it’s feelgood Brooklynite trio The Golden Grass and LI’s own Borgo Pass who’ve hopped on board.
To be honest, it would be more of a surprise if Borgo Passdidn’t play Eye of the Stoned Goat 5. The long-running bruise rockers are an institution out on Long Island, gigging regularly and consistently throughout the region for nearly 20 years while staying true to their roots in classic heavy metal, loosely Southern-styled sludge rock and burly groove. Releases have proved infrequent — their latest full-length, Deadwater (review here), came out in 2011, six years after the prior Nervosa — but Borgo Pass have never shied away from a Long Island stage, and to have both them and John Wilkes Booth on the bill, no one could accuse Eye of the Stoned Goat 5 of showing up to Long Island without giving native acts their due.
As regards Brooklyn’s The Golden Grass, their appearance at Eye of the Stoned Goat 5 will follow a trip to Europe for a stop at this year’s Roadburn festival to follow-up on their across-the-pond live debut last fall, with which their latest 7″, A Curious Case/The Pilgrim, was issued to coincide. Their 2014 self-titled full-length (review here) was released by Svart and served as one of last year’s finest first-albums, and they’ll have along with them their new bassist Morgan McDaniel, who joined either at the start of the year or late in 2014 to replace Joe Noval in the trio lineup with guitarist/vocalist Michael Rafalowich and drummer/vocalist Adam Kriney, whose prior outfit, the psych-freakout-prone La Otracina, also seem to be rearing their head once more.
The Eye of the Stoned Goat 5 announced their additions as follows:
Alright Long Island, you wanted them.. You got ‘em!
Announcing that appearing on the ESG5 stage this year is none other than New York’s sonic bulldozers… BORGO PASS!!! Additionally, we are absolutely thrilled to announce for the first time on the ‘Eye of the Stoned Goat’ is Brooklyn’s psych-rockers The Golden Grass!!!
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 26th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Lineup announcements have started coming through for the previously revealed The Eye of the Stoned Goat 5festival, which will take place June 12 and 13 in Amityville, NY. It’s looking like a pretty tight assemblage of bands hitting Long Island for the fest, with Lord Fowl and John Wilkes Booth leading the charge as the first two announcements a couple weeks ago and Weed is Weed and White Dynomite just added last night to a bill that already also includes Kingsnake, Gozu, It’s Not Night: It’s Space, Brimstone Coven and Ol’ Time Moonshine.
If you’ll indulge me, I’ll get caught up on the announcements, including those for Weed is Weed and White Dynomite, just so we’re all on the same page going forward.
Here they are going all the way back:
Alright folks, it’s time to drop a couple heavy hitters on ya!
We are extremely proud to announce, appearing at this year’s festival is Massachusetts Rock n’ Roll time bomb White Dynomite!
Also, a band that truly needs no introduction, with former members of Pentagram, Spirit Caravan and Earthride… the almighty Weed is Weed!!!
We’ve been trying to get these guys on the ‘Stoned Goat for years, this year the planets all aligned in our favor.. Bringing their tough-as-nails, working class grooves to Long Island this year is none other than Philadelphia’s own Kingsnake!!!
Announcing the next two artists joining the Amityville Music Hall stage at ESG5 this June…. Small Stone Records and local New York Psych-Rock trio It’s Not Night: It’s Space!!!
Also, hailing from the depths of Toronto Canada, the demon-rock peddlers Ol’ Time Moonshine!!!
Alright folks, it’s time to kick things up a notch! Joining us on this year’s ESG5 installment is none other than Small Stone Records and Desertfest 2014 alums GOZU!!!
Next up…. We are thrilled to announce that appearing at ‘Eye of the Stoned Goat 5″ on June 12-13th is Long Island’s very own Moon Tooth and Metal Blade Records Occult Rock Dealers Brimstone Coven!!!
Eye of the Stoned Goat is proud to announce the first two bands appearing at ESG5 in Long Island, NY June 12-13th are none other than former ESG alums- LORD FOWL and John Wilkes Booth!
“I know some of you people like to dance And I know some of you people just like to roll and rock And roll and rock So come on honey, it’s alright We’ll do whatever YOU feel like…”
— Cactus, “Whatever You Feel Like”
The exact recording dates, I’m not sure, but Cactus‘ second album, 1971’s One Way… or Another, was put to tape at Electric Lady Studios in Manhattan sometime after the release of their 1970 debut, and listening to Tim Bogert swagger out the second “roll and rock” in “Whatever You Feel Like,” no question Jimi Hendrix was a presence in mind at the time. All that’s missing is a little “uh huh” after “rock.” Considering the studio opened in Aug. 1970 and Hendrix was dead less than a month later, it seems only fair to think Cactus would’ve been working with some of his influence in following up their first record, their fluid tempo shifts on “Rock and Roll Children” and the wah/acoustic layering on “Song for Aries” are easy enough to see in that light as well, though of course Cactus were foremost indebted to blues rock, and there’s plenty of that to be had on One Way… or Another as well.
Immediately, as it happens. One Way… or Another opens with the Little Richard cover “Long Tall Sally,” also done by Elvis and The Beatles and many, many others. But Cactus take the original and slow it down to a vicious, sleazy groove, guitarist Jim McCarty basically giving bassist Tim Bogert — who usually handled backup vocals to Rusty Day‘s leads, but took the fore on “Whatever You Feel Like” (Day got his moment in a harmonica solo) — and drummer Carmine Appice all the room they could ever ask for to swing through and then some. Cactus‘ Cactus was a little more unhinged, a little more dangerous overall, but the fullness of sound and tonal satisfaction that One Way… or Another provides isn’t to be understated. That’s not to say “Big Bad Mother Boogie” doesn’t have its edge, just that if you listen back to their take on “Parchman Farm” from the first record it sounds like the song is about to fly out from under them.
Their take on Chuck Willis‘ “Feel so Bad” gives a bluesy start to a side B that branches out soon with “Song for Aries” and hits possibly its most righteous note in “Hometown Bust,” a heavy return that’s as huge as anything that might’ve been called metal at a later point in the decade, McCarty wailing out a lead that, yeah, there’s Hendrix again, and killing it in the process while Day throws in some chops on harmonica. The closing title-track rests on an up-down nod of a riff not frantic but still maddening in its turns, Bogert and McCarty playing off each other brilliantly before the last chorus return, Day‘s vocals doubled for maximum effect en route to the last, all-too-quick fade.
Cactus had one more album, 1971’s Restrictions, with the same lineup, though the changes that would result in lineup shifts for 1972’s ‘Ot ‘n’ Sweaty – bringing in Leaf Hound‘s Peter French to replace Rusty Day — were already taking root. I’m not sure which I’d pick over the other, Cactus or One Way… or Another, but both are heavy rock classics and definitely the sophomore record makes some compelling arguments in its case, the upped Hendrixery among them.
Hope you enjoy.
In case you’re also wondering, no, I have no idea where November went. Next week is Thanksgiving, which is another one of those US holidays celebrating a fiction — this one about peace between European colonists and the native people being colonized — like Xmas or Columbus Day or Labor Day, and so on and so on, but screw it, a day off is hard to argue with. The Patient Mrs. and I are heading south for the occasion — I know you’re shocked — to New Jersey. I expect family time will consume the bulk of the week, but I’ll have some posts along the way where and when I am able as well, including a new podcast on Wednesday, so if you’re traveling for the holiday, or just sitting on your ass (it works either way), you might want to grab that when it’s up. I’m gonna shoot for Wednesday morning, but we’ll see how it goes.
Also look out for a Murcielago review hopefully on Monday and something or other on Tuesday to fill time while I pack to head to Jersey on Tuesday night. I’m looking forward to seeing family and friends and, if I’m honest, to not being in the house for a while but also knowing where I’m going, ever. After a year of where-the-hell-am-I-what’s-the-fastest-way-to-the-highway-and-which-highway-do-I-want-anyway, it’s starting to wear a little thin. Novelty fades. Inconvenience is forever.
I hope you have a great and safe weekend. I’ll be mentally preparing myself for the onslaught of the holidays by sitting as quietly and as still as possible. It’s like meditation except it involves watching hours of Star Trek episodes at a time.
Be well, and please check out the forum and radio stream.
Posted in Reviews on October 21st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Long Island heavy rockers John Wilkes Booth will mark their first decade together next year. 10 years. The band — who, if you’re wondering, took on what I think even they’d tell you (perhaps while smirking) is a lousy name in order to capture something universally hated — made their full-length debut in 2008 with Sic Semper Tyrannis (review here) following a split with 12 Eyes and my former band, Maegashira, and a 2006 self-titled EP, and five years later, they answer their long-player with the eight-track/34-minute sophomore outing, Useless Lucy, which both beefs up the production overall and delves into darker noise rock terrain on cuts like “From the North” and “Masturbation Song” while tapping various veins of ’90s alt rock in “Six One” and the later “Ladder and Vacuum,” at least before the latter switches to its crunching hook, Tool-style bleaker prog riffing from guitarist Jason Beickert winding out a resonant chorus that consumes much of the three-minute song’s second half, vocalist Kerry Merkle recounting an everyman tale of woe overtop, somewhat ironically (and again, perhaps smirkingly) following the parental love-letter “Soaking the Perimeter.” The Booth have always had something of a progressive drive, musically and vocally, and Merkle does well in changing his approach here from gutting out the start-stop chorus in “Masturbation Song” and the verses in “13 Years” to more cleanly riding the funk-rock push of “Ladder and Vacuum,” bassist Harry Vrooman and drummer Christian Horstmann stepping up the bounce there where in the midsection of closer “Family Crest” they smoothly hold together a post-bridge jam as Beickert embellishes an exploratory-sounding lead.
To make a prior allusion explicit, I’ve known the John Wilkes Booth guys for years, played shows with them, collaborated on releases, and so on, so I’m not about to claim a measure of impartiality when it comes to appreciating what they do. They are one of those bands. Nestled into their geography out on Long Island, separate from the entirety of the country with the morass of New York traffic between, they rarely get out, have never toured for any length of time, but have continued to hone their craft at familiar local spots, have kept a consistent lineup because they must genuinely enjoy each other’s company, and have put together a solid album of new material written not with the rush of an impending touring cycle, but with time taken to fully embrace the process of hammering out parts and making the songs sound the way they want them too. Would they be a bigger, more solidified unit if they’d hit the road six years ago and never looked back? Probably. Or they might’ve broken up. Who the hell knows? The point is that when it comes to Useless Lucy and the Booth in general, what you see is what you get. They might cop an experimental vibe here and there — with its slower progression and foreboding vibe, opener “From the North” is probably the farthest they veer from their more straightforward norm — but by and large they traffic in unpretentious heavy rock and roll, vibed out with various echoes in the guitar and vocals and made stronger by the chemistry of the rhythm section. They’re not looking to be a huge band or to “get a buzz going” in any other than the beery sense of the phrase. As I’ve always seen them, their motives are pure. They create because they feel joy in the expression. That’s kept them going for a decade so far.
And somewhat more astoundingly, they do so without really ever pushing into self-indulgence. Even the penultimate “Intro 2 (Lick My Spacesuit),” which is essentially 90 seconds of an effects buildup leading the way into “Family Crest,” serves a purpose in adding to the atmosphere of the album overall and giving the listener a breather after “Ladder and Vacuum” and before the finale. Earlier, “Six One” showcases an airier sensibility than either of the opening duo in front of it, but neither that nor the rolling fuzz of “13 Years” which follows, fail to convey a well-developed songwriting process, and everywhere John Wilkes Booth go on Useless Lucy, that’s what remains most consistent. They’ll never be a big band — even the phrase “I like John Wilkes Booth” pushes the boundaries of taste; they prefer “F the Booth” as a slogan — and they’ll probably never quit their jobs and go on perma-tour, get big press and whatever else, but frankly, the fact that they’re going to do what they do regardless makes them all the more admirable in my eyes. There’s nothing insincere about Useless Lucy, or that feels cynical or like it’s just there because it’s what’s popular. It’s not what’s popular. If it was they’d sound like Graveyard or Uncle Acid. Instead, they sound like the Booth. It won’t turn heads, and the album’s not perfect by any stretch — Merkle‘s voice comes across high in the mix in places, and the recording is clean more à la modern rock than heavy rock — but it’s honest, and going into a band’s new record with the expectation of honesty is a rare and not-to-be-understated delight.
Posted in Radio on April 30th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
If you like your sludge with more than a touch of the inhumane, Long Island resident Vincent Napolitano has got six songs and a name-your-price download with your name on them. Napolitano is the sole member of and driving force behind Neptune’s Inferno, whose debut long-player, Abyss, is out now through Death Valley Records. The album is a collection of thick, bludgeoning, misanthropic riffs, played slow and set to thunderous-sounding drum programming as a bed for Napolitano‘s layers of throat-ripping growls and screams. If nothing else, the 43-minute outing has the right title, since by the time the ultra-lumbering “Chiropteris” storms into its second half, you long since feel like you’ve been pulled down a well.
The largesse of sound is a big part of the album’s success. With a recording produced by Bleach Eater guitarist/vocalist Don Millard and engineered by Joe Cincotta at Full Force Studio, Napolitano pushes beyond one-man-project resonance and well into a full-band appeal. There are moments where the cymbal sounds are clearly programmed — the “hi-hat” in “Night Fever” and the “ride” in “Sonic Invasion” come to mind — but it’s not like Abyss is otherwise going for such a natural, accessible feel. Extremity is the purpose, and if there are flourishes of industrial at work in some of the material, that doesn’t necessarily detract from the album’s overall affect. “Vision Spell” sets a steady march and offers few frills around its riffing, screaming, lumbering approach, but the song’s victory is in the lack of restraint in its vomitous crawl. One does not get hit in the head with hammer and marvel at the nuance.
An 11:38 capstone arrives in “Frost Trails under the Blackened Sun,” feeding back into one last gleefully-repugnant plod. It finishes with the onset of gritty machine-noise drone, but it’s the march that makes the song a standout more than anything, a break around six and a half minutes in bridging the gap basically between the two songs it otherwise might’ve been. Whether it’s bands like Grime, or Wizard’s Beard or Morbid Wizard, Fistula or any of their depraved ilk, the world is not short on extreme sludge, and Napolitano has his work cut out for him in finding a niche for the massive tones he emits on Abyss, but especially for a first album, the clarity of intent served up here feels like forewarning of cruelties yet to come.
Posted in Features on June 18th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
This is always fun, and because the year’s only (just about) half over, you always know there’s more to come. The last six months have brought a host of really stellar releases, and the whole time, it’s felt like just when you’ve dug your heels into something and really feel content to rest with it for a while, there’s something else to grab your ears. So it’s been for the last six months, bouncing from one record to the next.
Even now, I’ve got a list of albums, singles, EPs, tapes, demos, whatever, waiting for attention — some of which I’m viciously behind on — but it’s time to stop and take a look back at some of what the best of the first half of 2013 has been. Please note, I’m only counting full-lengths here. While I’ve heard a few killer EPs this year — looking at you, Mars Red Sky — it doesn’t seem fair to rate everything all together like that. Maybe a separate list.
If you’ve got a list of your own or some quibbling on the numbers, please leave a comment and be heard. From where I sit, that’s always the best part of this kind of thing.
The third Endless Boogie album on No Quarter was basically the soundtrack to the end of my winter, with smooth grooving cuts like “The Artemus Ward” and the classic rock shake of “On Cryology” providing a soundtrack as cool as the air in my lungs. It was my first experience with the longform-jamming improv-heavy foursome, and a CD I’m still stoked to put on and get lost in, having found that it works just as well in summer’s humidity as winter’s freeze, the off-the-cuff narrations of Paul Major (interview here) carrying a vibe unmistakably belonging to the rock history of the band’s native New York City. Was a sleeper, but not one to miss for its organic and exploratory feel.
Proffering righteous traditional doom and misery-drenched atmospherics, the debut full-length from Massachusetts-based Magic Circle hit hard and showed there’s life yet to the old ways. It never quite veered into the cultish posturing that comprises so much of the trad doom aesthetic these days, and from the grandiose riffing of guitarists Dan Ducas and Chris Corry and the blown-out vocals of frontman Brendan Radigan, it found the band carving a memorable identity for themselves with clear sonic ideas of what they wanted to accomplish. Out of all the bands on this list, I’m most interested to hear what Magic Circle do next to build on their debut.
Berlin trio Kadavar had a tough task ahead of them in releasing a sophomore answer to their self-titled, which I thought was the best first album of 2012, but when Abra Kadavar surfaced as their debut on Nuclear Blast, it was quickly apparent that the retro heavy rockers had put together a worthy follow-up. Cuts like “Come Back Life” and “Doomsday Machine” underscored the straightforward triumphs of the prior outing, while late-album arrivals “Liquid Dream,” “Rhythm for Endless Minds” and “Abra Kadabra” gave a sense that Kadavar were beginning a journey into psychedelia the results of which could be just as rewarding as even the most potent of their choruses. Their potential remains one of their biggest appeals.
It wasn’t without its rough edges, but at the core of Indianapolis heavy rockers Devil to Pay‘s fourth record was an unflinching songwriting quality that quickly established it among my go-to regulars, whether it was the quirky doom hook of “Ten Lizardmen and One Pocketknife,” the darkly progressive riffing of “Black Black Heart” or the suitably propulsive rush of “This Train Won’t Stop.” The double-guitar four-piece didn’t have much time for frills in terms of arrangement or structure, but by building on the developments over the course of their three prior releases, Devil to Pay delivered a slab of deceptively intricate standouts that made hard turns sound easy and demanded the attention it deserved.
6. Beast in the Field, The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below
Unfuckwithable tone set to destructive purpose. Immediately upon hearing the unsung Michigan drum/guitar duo’s fourth album, the impact of The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below — overwhelming though it is at times throughout the album; hello, “Oncoming Avalanche” — refused to be denied. Beast in the Field haven’t gotten anything remotely close to the attention they should for this devastating collection, but it’s one I absolutely can’t put down, cohesive in theme and full of skull-caving riffs as dynamic as they are brutally delivered by the instrumental twosome. If it’s one you missed on CD when Saw Her Ghost put it out in March (as I did), keep your eyes open for a vinyl release coming on Emetic in the next couple months. Really. Do it.
Massachusetts trio Black Pyramid quickly dispatched any doubts of their ability to continue on after the departure of their previous guitarist/vocalist, bassist Dave Gein and drummer Clay Neely joined forces with Darryl Shepard (Hackman, Blackwolfgoat, Roadsaw, etc.) to reinvigorate their battle-ready doom, and whether it was the extended jamming on “Swing the Scimitar” or the surprisingly smooth riffing on “Aphelion,” the results did not disappoint. Regardless of personnel, I’ve yet to hear a Black Pyramid album I didn’t want to hear again, and though I’ll freely admit they’re a sentimental favorite for me at this point, Adversarial is a suitable dawn for their next era. Long may they reign.
True, I will argue tooth and nail that Boston four-piece Gozu should get rid of their goofball, sitcom-referential song titles, but that’s only because I believe the band’s lack of pretense speaks for itself through the music and their tracks are too good to give listeners a chance not to take them seriously. When it comes to The Fury of a Patient Man — their second full-length behind the impressive 2010 debut, Locust Season (review here) — I knew the first time I heard it toward the end of last year that it was going to be one of 2013’s best, and while I’ve heard quibbles in favor of the debut, nothing has dissuaded me from thinking the sophomore installment outclasses it on almost every level. Expect a return appearance when the year-end list hits in December.
There’s a big part of me that feels like a sucker for digging …Like Clockwork, the first Queens of the Stone Age full-length since 2007’s relatively lackluster Era Vulgaris, but when it comes right down to it, I hit the point in listening to the album that I came around to its sheen, its up-and-down moodiness and its unabashed self-importance. I hit the point where I was able to separate …Like Clockwork from its “viral marketing” and just enjoy Josh Homme‘s all-growed-up songwriting for what it is. Would I have loved a second self-titled album? Probably, but it wasn’t realistic to think that’s what …Like Clockwork would be, and as much as I’ve tried out other spots for it, I’d be lying if I put this record anywhere else on this list but here. So there you go. I understand the arguments against it, but reason doesn’t always apply when it comes to what gets repeat spins.
I was late to the party on the second Uncle Acid offering, 2011’s Blood Lust, as I often am on records where the hype gets to din levels, but by the time the subsequent Mind Control was announced, I knew it was going to be one to watch out for. Aligned to Rise Above/Metal Blade, the UK outfit began to unravel till-then mystery of itself, playing live and developing the brazen psychedelic pop influences hinted at in the horrors of Blood Lust so that the swing of “Mt. Abraxas” and the acid-coated psych of “Valley of the Dolls” could exist within the same cohesive sphere. Between the death-boogie of “Mind Crawler” and mid-period Beatlesian exploration of “Follow the Leader,” Mind Control continues to be an album I hear as much on the mental jukebox rotation as one I actually put on to listen to again. Either way, there’s no getting away from it — the eerie melodies of guitarist/vocalists Kevin “Uncle Acid” Starrs and Yotam Rubinger are hauntingly ever-present.
Obvious? Probably, but that doesn’t make it any less genuine. To set the scene, here’s me on the Masspike a couple weeks ago in the Volvo of Doom™ with the little dog Dio, 90 miles an hour shouting along to “Crucial Velocity” at the top of my never-on-key lungs. I couldn’t and wouldn’t endeavor to tell you how many times I’ve listened to Earth Rocker since I first got a taste, but from the title-track on through the surging groove at the end of “The Wolfman Kindly Requests…,” front to back, the 10th Clutch album still does not fail to roil the blood with not a dud in the bunch. The Maryland road dogs of course shine best on a stage, and Earth Rocker‘s polished, layered production is a studio affair in the truest sense, but all that does is make me hopeful they’ll complement it with a live record soon. Clutch could easily have phoned in a follow-up to 2009’s Strange Cousins from the West and their fanbase probably would’ve still salivated over it, myself included, but by boldly pushing themselves to write faster, more concise material, they’ve reenergized one of heavy rock’s best sounds. Whether you’re a longtime fan or a brand new listener, Earth Rocker is utterly essential.
Two more records I have to mention: Kings Destroy‘s A Time of Hunting and Clamfight‘s I vs. the Glacier. I wasn’t involved in releasing the Kings Destroy, but felt close to it nonetheless, and since the Clamfight came out on The Maple Forum, it wouldn’t be appropriate to include it in the list proper, but hands down, these are my two favorite records of the year so far and made by some of the best people I’ve had the pleasure to know over the course of my years nerding out to heavy music.
Some other honorable mentions go to Toner Low, Cathedral, Church of Misery, Serpent Throne, Naam, The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic and All Them Witches. Like I said, it’s been a hell of a year so far.
You may note some glaring absences in the list above — Black Sabbath, ASG, Orchid, Ghost, Kvelertak and Voivod come to mind immediately. Some of that is a result of my disdain for digital promos, and some of that is just a matter of what I listened to most. Please understand that although release profile is not something discounted, at the heart of what’s included here is one individual’s personal preferences and listening habits.
Thanks for reading. Here’s to your own lists and to the next six months to come!