The Top 10 of the First Half of 2013

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.

Here we go:

10. Endless Boogie, Long Island


Released by No Quarter Records. Reviewed Feb. 19.

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.

9. Magic Circle, Magic Circle

Released by Armageddon Shop. Reviewed Feb. 18.

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.

8. Kadavar, Abra Kadavar

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed April 9.

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.

7. Devil to Pay, Fate is Your Muse

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed March 19.

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


Released by Saw Her Ghost Records. Streamed in full June 5.

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.

5. Black Pyramid, Adversarial

Released by Hydro-Phonic Records. Reviewed April 12.

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.

4. Gozu, The Fury of a Patient Man


Released by Small Stone. Reviewed Jan. 24.

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.

3. Queens of the Stone Age, …Like Clockwork


Released by Matador Records. Reviewed June 4.

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.

2. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Mind Control

Released by Rise Above/Metal Blade. Reviewed April 8.

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.

1. Clutch, Earth Rocker

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Feb. 28.

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!

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Endless Boogie Interview with Paul Major: The Unconscious Road to Authenticity

Posted in Features on March 8th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

There was only one real hiccup in my recent conversation with Endless Boogie guitarist/vocalist Paul “Top Dollar” Major, and it came when I asked him about whether he was able to draw on his extensive knowledge of classic psychedelic rock — Major is a noted record dealer and collector in NYC, where the band is also based — as fuel for the group’s extended, mostly-improvised jams. Chalk it up to the limits of human interpersonal communication — more particularly those that involve me stammering on a phone — but where what I meant to do was introduce a discussion of influences and use that to segue into a chat about artists in and around New York he considered to be carrying that torch now, he seemed to think I was asking if he ever just ripped off obscure psych records for guitar parts. Not at all my intent, and frankly, if I thought that had been the case, I wouldn’t have wanted to interview Major to start with, and their latest album, Long Island, probably would’ve sat in the pile instead of receiving the lengthy, laudatory review it did.

Even so, it led Major to a fascinating point about the idea of authenticity and some of his feelings and preconceptions of how an artist might best attain it or at very least drive most toward his or her own idea of it. As he succinctly puts it, one can push toward this notion of creative authenticity simply if you, “don’t think about it.” It’s a kind of anti-academic mentality that’s about as New York as pre-froyo Bleecker, born of post-Warhol neo-beat and an automatic shield against one — a critic, let’s say — who might call art a movement. I don’t know that I’d agree consciousness automatically saps art of its ability to capture an idea or make a statement, but he’s certainly got a point in being wary of overthinking one’s given approach, especially in the case of an outfit like Endless Boogie, whose improv jamming seems to arise out of a sort of trance-state and become a song like the moody and subdued “The Artemus Ward” or 13-minute Long Island opener “The Savagist” through after-the-fact editing — a very conscious process, but separate still from the actual creation.

As someone whose creative project (i.e. this site) directly involves a conscious critique of media, and as someone not at all immune to occasional bouts of overthought, I was intensely fascinated to hear Major discuss that balance. Coming as that turn did after talking about some of Endless Boogie‘s processes and how a record like Long Island comes together in terms of being recorded live, vocals recorded later, sometimes parts cut out from longer jams to hone in on a specific idea or feel, it was a different level of insight into what makes Endless Boogie so much of their place – Long Island‘s second cut, “Taking out the Trash,” is somehow even more urbane in its classic ballsy groove than “The Artemus Ward,” which shouts out 14th St. — and yet so distinct within those surroundings, their jamming ethic more common among European acts like Germany’s Electric Moon, with whom Endless Boogie will share the stage at this year’s Roadburn festival next month in the Netherlands.

Two more things about talking to Major, should you ever have the chance to do so. First, his laugh is infectious and it draws you in, makes you want to laugh with him (I was cracking up while he was talking about Phil Spector‘s hair), and he laughs a lot. Second, he jams. You can hear (and hopefully read) in the cadence of his words and the way he moves from one idea to the next that he’s someone used to improvising and thinking on his feet, so that he seems to be half a step ahead in his thoughts from what his mouth is saying, subtly getting ready for his next move even while his mouth is still grooving on whatever it is he’s currently talking about. There were a couple places where he got deep into that jam, but much like Long Island itself, in conversation, Major never failed to emerge with a cohesive idea.

In Endless Boogie, whose origin point seems to hover on average somewhere around the late ’90s or early ’00s, Major is joined by guitarist Jesper “The Governor” Eklow, bassist Mark “Memories from Reno” Ohe and drummer Harry Druzd. Long Island is available now as the band’s third release on No Quarter Records.

Please find the complete, 3,700-word Q&A with Paul Major after the jump, and enjoy:

Read more »

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Endless Boogie, Long Island: Farther than the End

Posted in Reviews on February 19th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Pushing the very limits of the CD format, NYC-based four-piece Endless Boogie jam out hyperbole-ready classic heavy psych that’s as hypnotic as it is ranging. Songs are songs on their third album for No Quarter Records, dubbed Long Island – depending on whom you ask, it’s their third or fifth or seventh overall; I like to imagine a string of prime numbers, something like, “Legends say Endless Boogie have 53 albums and if you weren’t cool enough to get them at the time, they’re gone forever” – but songs are also showcases for jams, which are formidable in length and potency. This ethic plays out across the eight tracks of Long Island, wandering past 79 minutes with largely improvisational compositions turned into songs after the fact. Or, you know, not. It’s the kind of heavy-edged musing one expects more out of Europe these days, in acts like Insider or Electric Moon, but Endless Boogie seem to owe musical allegiance not so much to a modern scene foreign or domestic, but instead to the psychedelic meanderings of ‘70s yore. Really, it’s the context of their being from New York that makes this a novelty at all (there seems to be a lot of attention paid to the band members’ ages as well, but frankly I don’t give a shit how old they are), since in a city with over eight million people there are maybe 13 who’d be interested enough in music like this to participate in making it, maybe six of whom who could actually play. But guitarists Jesper “The Governor” Eklow and Paul “Top Dollar” Major (the latter also vocals), bassist Marc Razo and drummer Harry Druzd have aligned like so many celestial bodies and following behind 2008’s Focus Level and 2010’s Full House Head, Long Island strikes a tone of individuality right from the beginning strains of the 13:32 opener “The Savagist,” and contrary to my usual position on the matter, I find I’m only more engrossed in listening to Long Island for its maximalist runtime. Such is the strength of Endless Boogie’s jams – solid enough in their purpose to live up to the band’s moniker, though who knows which came first – which seem to defy their own hypnotic aspect and remain memorable if not entirely, then at very least in parts, the mellow-you-the-fuck-out grooves not at all running contradictory to the brash heavy riffing of “Taking out the Trash,” a song about, what else?, drinking after you should’ve stopped drinking.

A big part of what allows Endless Boogie to strike that balance between sonic nonchalance and heaviness is the production of Long Island, itself an anomaly for sounding vintage without sounding retro. The album was put to tape at Dunham Studios by Wayne Gordon with further recording handled by Chris Ribando and Davey Kewell, and Eklow and Matt Sweeney are also credited with producing, but even with so many hands in the pot at one point or another – Chris Ribando also mixed – Long Island not only sounds cohesive, but almost entirely unpostured. Whether it’s Major’s throaty lines on “The Savagist” or more traditional motoring riff-work on “Taking out the Trash,” or any of the mostly-instrumental explorations that follow across “The Artemus Ward,” “Imprecations” and “Occult Banker” (all three tracks clocking in at 9:18), Endless Boogie are neither too classic nor too modern, too loud or soft, too solidified or overly fluid. By the time they’re at the softer, low-end raininess of “The Artemus Ward” – presumably side B of the first record in the 2LP – the vibe is cool enough to warrant whatever gritty cityscape narrative you could want to put to Major’s echoing spoken delivery. Whatever blues they’re referencing, they’re at home in it, and though I’m reminded of some of Brant Bjork’s farthest-out jams, Endless Boogie are never of anywhere musically that isn’t their place. That seems to be enough. It’s easy to imagine Major coming back later to add his lines over the bed of the instrumental jam, and if they were working with traditional structures, it might not work, but by the time “The Artemus Ward” gets around to wrapping up/coming apart, the expectation is way off from pop songwriting. It doesn’t matter. Give me more of that jam. “Imprecations” starts immediately more active with some slight twang in the interplay of Eklow and Major, but it’s Razo and Druzd in the rhythm section who ultimately hold the piece together. There are words for a while, far back behind a wah rhythm line and lead noodling, though the consistent element is more the warm bass than the trippy guitars, which, to their credit, seem to appreciate the opportunity to branch out as they will in preparation for dropping the pretense even further with the instrumental “Occult Banker,” rife with buzzsaw leads and some of Long Island’s most lysergic grooves.

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Endless Boogie Stream “Taking out the Trash” from Long Island

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on January 12th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

New York might have all the bands and all the shows, but there’s one thing Jersey will forever (hopefully) be able to hold over its head: WFMU. The long-running freeform station is so iconic they should put it on the welcome sign when you cross the border: “Welcome to NJ. We’ve got good pasta and WFMU.” So far, no one at the governor’s office has answered my emails on that one.

NYC-based rockers Endless Boogie will release their new album, Long Island, through No Quarter Records on Feb. 19, and to celebrate, they’re taking to the airwaves on Brian Turner‘s show on FMU and doing a solid three hours, which is pretty friggin’ excellent. That’ll be on this week, and you can find the details below.

In addition to that, the four-piece will play Roadburn in Tilburg, the Netherlands, on April 20 and have made the new song “Taking out the Trash” available for public-type hearing via the No Quarter Soundcloud page, so go ahead and dig into this while you get informed:

ENDLESS BOOGIE announce “LONG ISLAND”

also, a 3 hour session on WFMU !!

CD/2xLP OUT FEBRUARY 19th
WFMU session: January 15th, 36pm
(east coast time)
Record Release show 2/15 @ Cameo Gallery
Brooklyn, NY w/ Arbouretum & Hans Chew

New York’s Endless Boogie are pleased to announce that their third studio album Long Island will be in stores February 19th. The foursome – comprised of Paul “Top Dollar” Major, Jesper Eklow, Harry Druzd and Marc Razo – have made a monstrous, epic of an LP spanning 8 tracks and running 79 minutes and 48 seconds. More often than not, Matt Sweeney joins them on these songs, a recent staple of the live band (at least at New York–area shows) and an able partner for Major to work off. Sweeney and Eklow are credited with producing.

Paul Major says of Long Island: “There’s a lotta strange characters on this album, I don’t know who most of them are. They span time. They seem to know me. They insist there are no messages in the music beyond blasting off and staying there… We brought the beast back alive this time, be careful when you tear off the shrink wrap… “

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One Afternoon out on Long Island

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 21st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

There is a sticker on my desk that reads as follows:

“F the Booth” is a simple enough slogan to remember, though I’ve yet to hear anything from Long Island noise rockers John Wilkes Booth (other than their name) that would actually inspire me to say it. The four-piece are reportedly at work on their next album after delays for things like hurricanes, jobs, playing SHoD, etc., and ever ones for an afternoon’s distraction, they’ve booked a Sunday matinee for Dec. 2 with a pretty right on lineup of bands.

The show will take place at Mr. Beery’s in Bethpage, and anytime Lord Fowl and Lo-Pan show up in the same place, you can be pretty well assured it’s a good time. All exclamations and times that follow were hijacked from the Thee Facebooks event page:

Afternoon Rock Show to end all Rock Shows!!!!!!!

Join us for 6 killer bands including Small Stone Artist Lord Fowl & Lo-Pan!!!!!!  This is a one off for Lo-Pan from their tour with High On Fire & Goatwhore!!

If you miss this it is pretty obvious that you are an idiot.

3 Jones Crusher
4 Warsaw Sage (Cliff & Andy from Wormsmeat)
5 Lord Fowl {Conneticut} (Small Stone Recs.)
6 John Wilkes Booth
7 Lo-Pan {OHIO} (Small Stone Recs.)
8 Half Ton Session

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John Wilkes Booth Join Lineup for Stoner Hands of Doom XII

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 22nd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Underrated Long Island dirt rockers John Wilkes Booth are the latest addition to this year’s Stoner Hands of Doom fest, set to take place next Thursday-Sunday at the El ‘n’ Gee in New London, CT. It’s been a while since the last time I saw the Booth boys, and apparently they’ve been working on a new EP, as this busy marker board clearly demonstrates. Inside word has it that the release will have seven songs — JWB have always been quick and to the point — and be called Useless Lucy. Right on.

And all the better to catch the band playing new material. SHoD XII advance tickets are still on sale, though that’s ending as of Friday. If you want to get in on it, go here: http://www.cherylsweb.com/shod/tickets.html

John Wilkes Booth will be playing Friday night with the likes of Lord Fowl, Earthride, When the Deadbolt Breaks and Pilgrim. It’s gonna be good times.

Check out the SHoD lineup on the poster below and the video flyer under that. For still more details and the complete day-by-day breakdown of the bands, hit up the Stoner Hands of Doom website.

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Album of the Summer of the Week: Cactus, Cactus

Posted in Features on July 9th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

The 1970 self-titled debut from Long Island power-foursome Cactus has moments that are so hot it actually sounds like Jim McCarty‘s fingers are on fire while he’s playing. All the more fitting, then, that the unparalleled blues rocking LP should be the Album of the Summer of the Week. As if the album cover — more than a little suggestive — wasn’t scorching enough, listening to Carmine Appice rip into the fills on “Parchman Farm” or the band ease their way into the twanging grooves on “Bro. Bill?” Let’s face it, you could fry an egg on CactusCactus and it would be the most delicious egg you’ve ever tasted.

“Let Me Swim” does Zeppelin better than Zeppelin, vocalist Rusty Day turning each verse into a chorus of its own, and the cool slowdown bassline from Tim Bogert makes “No Need to Worry” like a splash of cold water on the face before “Oleo” and “Feel So Good” bring the record to its good-time jamming finish. The atmosphere is sunny, natural and warm. Even the oft-coopted Willie Dixon cover, “You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover” (wasn’t that in car commercials or something?), sounds fresh every time I hear the album, and for its utter out-of-placeness, “My Lady From South of Detroit” is a great turn from “Parchman Farm” at the beginning of the album. Sorry, but there’s just nowhere to go wrong on this one.

Admittedly, this is something of a personal pick for me as well, as Cactus was one of the records in which I most immersed myself over the course of July 2010 when The Patient Mrs. and I stayed in Vermont for the month. As those were some of the best times I’ve ever had, it’s probably as good an association as I can have with for record, but even if you haven’t made your memories with it yet, these songs are bound to make an impression. Cactus put out two more albums with the Day/McCarty/Bogert/Appice lineup — 1971′s One Way… Or Another and 1972′s Restrictions — before the inevitable dissolution of the band as it was, but Cactus has a kind of magic to it that even they wouldn’t capture again, let alone anyone else stepping up to do so.

And in the summer, you just can’t beat it. In case you don’t have your original Atco vinyl handy, here’s “Let Me Swim” to cool the core:

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Spine of Overkill, by Chris “Woody High” MacDermott

Posted in Spine of Overkill on May 9th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

In his third “Spine of Overkill” column, Chris MacDermott of Mighty High recalls forgotten Long Island metallers Frigid Bich and nights spent throwing garbage on rich people’s lawns. What could go better with classic metal than that?

If you haven’t heard it yet, Mighty High‘s new album, Legalize Tre Bags is available now on Ripple Music. More info at the band’s Thee Facebooks page.

Please enjoy:

Much respect.

Long Island had some really obscure bands with offensive names back in the 1980s. There was Mangled Clit, who at one time included superstar drummer Mike Portnoy, or the legendary Satan’s Penis, an early death metal band that went undocumented. But my favorite of all remains Frigid Bich. I have no idea why they spelled it “bich” and not “bitch,” but in most of the photos that remain of their reign, at least one band member is playing a BC Rich guitar. Or maybe they thought they’d have problems getting their records stocked in chain stores. Who knows? This is a band that I’ve been really into ever since hearing their incredible song “We Rule the Night” on the NY Metal ‘84 compilation, but have always had trouble finding out more about them.

Not much has changed since then. There’s very little info on Frigid Bich on the internet right now, but the equally obscure label Stormbringer Records released a compilation, Tyrants of a Generation, in Zeptember 2011 that I have not been able to find anywhere. Formed in 1980, Frigid Bich were intent on playing fast, loud and being as obnoxious as possible. Early song titles “Savage Lust,” “Reign of Steel” and “Teenage Rebels” need no explanation. By 1984, the lineup had changed and the band became even more over the top. “We Rule the Night” was by far the crudest sounding song on NY Metal ‘84 and I was hooked. What’s not to like about a song that rips off the intro to Metallica‘s “Hit the Lights” before blasting into a rewrite of Venom‘s “Raise the Dead?”

My favorite fanzine, KICK*ASS, was a big supporter of Frigid Bich, and just about anything they liked, I wound up liking, too. At some point I got a dub of a dub of a demo recorded in 1984 that included “We Rule the Night” and four other killer songs. That tape is long gone, but it looks like all of it is on side one of Tyrants of a Generation, plus a song called “Louder than Loud” I’d never heard before. Thankfully someone has posted most of these songs to YouTube and it’s great to be reacquainted with the incredible “Metal on Denim on Leather.” Taking Saxon‘s “Denim and Leather” to the extreme, this song borrows heavily from Metallica‘s “Metal Militia.” Their No Life til Leather demo was pretty crude but Frigid‘s tape makes it sound like it was produced by Bob Ezrin. I have fuzzy memories of blasting “Metal on Denim on Leather” and “We Rule the Night” in a friend’s car at the end of the night. We’d save up our empty Bud tall cans and McDonald’s wrappers to throw on rich people’s lawns in Pelham, NY. Always a good idea. “The Kids are Gonna Fight” and “Tyrants of s Generation” are basically about terrorizing old people that try to get in the way of rampaging metal youth. Never a good idea.

Side two of this album looks incredible, with live covers of Motörhead’s “Overkill” and “The Hammer,” Anvil‘s “Metal on Metal,” “Crank it Up” by The Rods and “Wild in the Streets” by Circle Jerks (yes, I know Garland Jeffreys wrote it, but I doubt Frigid Bich did at the time). It must have been inspiring to have seen these guys in action blasting out these jams at some Long Island dump. I imagine about 30 demented youths banging their heads frantically while the onlookers gasp in dismay. In 1984, the really heavy shit was just starting to catch on and it was important to show the new people how it’s done.

Hopefully I’ll be able to track down a copy of this album. It comes with a 20-page booklet with killer photos and a full band history. I had completely forgotten that Frigid vocalist Joe Leonard went on to be a bigwig at Combat Records. Too bad Combat never released an album from them, it would be considered a thrash classic now. There’s a new tribute page on Facebook and a fanzine called Chips & Beer has done an interview with Joe that will be coming out next month. Maybe the time is right for a Frigid Bich to rule the night again.


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Negative Reaction Interview with Ken-E Bones: Frequencies From Among the Trobbits

Posted in Features on December 8th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

Down in the valley where I live, we have a saying. Okay, it’s only me that has the saying, but still. It goes like this: “You’ve got seven billion people in this world, but there’s only one Ken-E Bones.” And it’s true. More than almost anyone I’ve ever met, the man is unique unto himself. His persona, his unremitting will and his oddball sense of humor are neither for this world nor of it — and as a friend and someone who (at least I think) has some grip on what he thinks of “this world,” I mean that in the best way possible.

He’ll argue the point (and he does in the interview that follows), but Bones is Negative Reaction. You simply can’t have one without the other. The guitarist/vocalist founded the band at the tender age of 18, and more than 20 years later, he’s a legend of East Coast sludge. As much as names like Grief and Buzzov*en have become synonymous with the growth of the genre, so too has Negative Reaction been pivotal in its spread, and unlike those and many others, they’ve never seen a lick of cred for it either.

Negative Reaction‘s latest full-length is Frequencies From Montauk, and the album does a lot of work in bringing Bones‘ personality to the recordings. Most notable to anyone familiar perhaps with their 1996 Endofyourerror debut or 2003′s Everything You Need for Galactic Battle Adventures, the new record plays up the more stoner rock side of Bones‘ influence. He sings clean for the most part, and the focus on the riff is plain to hear in “Angels and Demons” and “Shattered Reflection.”

That shift in approach isn’t entirely unexpected. Over the band’s last two outings, Under the Ancient Penalty (2006) and Tales From the Insomniac (2008), a tide of less screaming has slowly crept into the vocal methodology, and though Bones is quick to make it known that nothing is scripted as regards Negative Reaction compositions, a clear, natural progression is evident amidst the base of New York hardcore that shows up in the centerpiece “Thicker than Blood.”

Taken in combination with the reintroduction of sci-fi and particularly Star Wars-based elements in the lyrics, that was more than enough for me to want to ring up Bones for a phoner. In the interview below, he talks about the changes the band has undergone in the last few years, both stylistically and in terms of personnel — longtime drummer John “Ol’ Mac” MacDonald left, only to be replaced by Joe Wood of Long Island mainstays Borgo Pass and Bones‘ own Mynok side-project, and former bassist Damon Limpy returned to the fold for  Frequencies From Montauk — the development of the band as a whole, his variety of influence, and much more.

Among the many things Bones is — and like all of us, he is many things — he is uncompromisingly honest, and I hope that comes through more than anything else in the Q&A, which you’ll find after the jump below. Please enjoy.

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Negative Reaction, Frequencies From Montauk: Time and Space Bend on Long Island

Posted in Reviews on November 9th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

There is a physical difference that coincides with the sonic one between singing and screaming. They come from different places in the throat and the diaphragm, use different muscles, hurt differently, and when a vocalist switches from one technique to the other, no matter how natural it sounds, there’s a conscious decision (or at least a physical act, the way moving your left arm is still a conscious decision without the thought being put into it, “Move left arm now”) being undertaken. I bring it up because although the last couple Negative Reaction records – 2006’s Under the Ancient Penalty and 2008’s Tales From the Insomniac – have seen guitarist/vocalist Ken-E Bones experiment increasingly with cleaner singing, there nonetheless must have been a point at which he made the choice to make the technique the crux of what’s used on their latest PsycheDOOMelic outing, Frequencies From Montauk. Bones’ vocals have always been a distinguishing – and often divisive – factor in Negative Reaction’s music. The only remaining founding member of the band, the Long Island, New York, native is joined on Frequencies From Montauk by longtime drummer John “Old” MacDonald and former/once-again bassist Damon Limpy, and though both players in the rhythm section make their presences felt, Negative Reaction is Ken-E Bones’ show and the material follows his direction.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve known Bones personally and have considered him a friend for a decade at this point, if not longer. We have a formative collaboration together and speak regularly about a range of topics both personal and/or related to music. Before I knew him as closely as I now do, however, I was a fan of the band, so when it comes to reviewing, I feel comfortable being honest in my appraisal of Negative Reaction’s work, and if at the end of writing this review I’m not ready to stand behind it as having the appropriate critical distance, I won’t post it. Simple as that.

That said, anyone who hasn’t kept up with Negative Reaction in their post-Game Two Records era (2003 and on) will be immediately surprised by the tone of Frequencies From Montauk, which is more heavy riff rock than based on the abrasive sludge of their past. Bones’ guitar comes through with Orange-hued distortion, and Limpy’s bass, while clean toned and not as prevalent as it might otherwise be in the mix, is a major signifier nonetheless that although they’ve maintained some of their New York hardcore edge, they’re simply a different band than that which put out the debut endofyourerror in 1996. The shift in sound on these 11 tracks (plus a bonus) isn’t outlandish as compares especially to Tales From the Insomniac, but the difference is that record felt transitional and Frequencies From Montauk comes off more assured of its place. Cuts like opener “Day After Yesterday,” the upbeat “Shattered Reflection” and the penultimate “Angels & Demons” are more straightforward stoner rock than either sludge or doom, Bones’ riffing prevalent and the songs less musically depressive than some of the other material in the band’s recent history. A start-stop toward the end of “Shattered Reflection” (an album highlight) in which each player sounds off on his instrument, is downright playful.

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Giveaway: Congratulations to the Winners of the Moth Eater/Black Thai Split 10″

Posted in Features on October 25th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

Entries were closed as of Friday, and just a few minutes ago, I printed up the names and addresses, cut them out individually, crumpled them up and stuck them in the plastic cup as you can see above. Then I went around my office and had five winners chosen by my coworkers. Thanks again to everyone who entered (50 people on the dot), and congrats to the following:

Luca in Italy
Dan in California
Mikko in Finland
Erik in Colorado
Eric in Michigan

There you have it. I need to pick up some bigger envelopes and do it up with bubble-wrap and whatnot (can’t take any chances with vinyl, quality pressing though it is), and I should be able to get these out in the next day or two, so if you see your name above — there were a couple Californian Dans, but I don’t want to give out anyone’s last name, so I’ll drop an email — keep an eye out. They should be there shortly.

Thanks again to Play the Assassin Records (Facebook here, Bandcamp here) for donating the picture discs to the cause, and to Moth Eater and Black Thai for putting together a killer split. Congratulations again to the winners and hopefully we’ll be able to do more of this kind of thing in the future, so stay tuned.

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Giveaway: Win a Copy of the Moth Eater/Black Thai Split Picture Disc Vinyl!

Posted in Features on October 18th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

Play the Assassin Records was kind enough a while back to give me five copies of the Lowering the Doom split between Long Island metallers Moth Eater and Boston‘s Black Thai. All you have to do to win one is enter with your name, email and address below. That’s it. You send that over, I email to let you know you’ve won and send you a killer, free, limited edition 10″ vinyl with demo tracks from two awesome bands, and everyone goes home happy. Pretty simple stuff. Enter here:

[NOTE: This contest is now closed. Thanks to all who entered.]

Contest runs until the end of this week. All are welcome to enter. Please note that I have neither interest in sharing your personal information with anyone, nor anyone to share it with if I did, nor the know-how to go about actually doing so. If you trust in nothing else, trust in my utter incompetence and suckdom-at-life. Either way, your privacy is your privacy. Special thanks to Play the Assassin (‘Like’ them on Thee Facebooks here) for the support. The original release info goes a little like this:

Finally, Boston and New York can agree on something.

Black Thai, from Massachusetts, released a split with New York’s doomly rockers Moth Eater on April 26, 2011, via Play the Assassin Records. Moth Eater, which features members of Dirty Rig (Escapi Music) and Scar Culture (Century Media), included two tracks from their devastatingly heavy Thunder God of Monster Island EP, and Black Thai, whose lineup boasts members of Roadsaw, Cortez and We’re all Gonna Die, answered back with two cuts from their Blood From on High EP, released late last year.

The split is limited to 250 copies and pressed onto a 10” picture disc vinyl with a free download card included. Six additional bonus tracks not on the record will appear in the download. Full songs are available for streaming and download now at playtheassassin.bandcamp.com. The vinyl can be ordered at playtheassassin.com.

Lowering the Doom vinyl track list:
1. Moth Eater, “Aftermath”
2. Moth Eater, “Our Time”
3. Black Thai, “Blood Dust”
4. Black Thai, “Satan’s Toolshed”
(digital only bonus tracks 5-10)
5. Moth Eater, “When Bruises Leave Scars”
6. Moth Eater, “Rocking is my Business”
7. Moth Eater, “Smashing Saturns”
8. Moth Eater, “Moths @ the Round Table”
9. Black Thai, “The Ladder”
10. Black Thai, “333”

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audiObelisk: New John Wilkes Booth Available for Streaming

Posted in audiObelisk on August 11th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

Some bands you just dig, and I dig the hell out of Long Island dirt rockers John Wilkes Booth. The Lincoln-obsessives’ last full-length, Sic Semper Tyrannis, came out early in 2009 and was among the first reviews I did for this site. It had been a while since I heard from them, but it seems they’ve been plenty busy writing and recording, as the three new tracks below will demonstrate.

The first, “Hold Still it Said,” is an original, but the other two are both covers. They do “Green Machine,” by Kyuss and — just in case you thought they were about to take themselves seriously — “I Can Feel Your Heartbeat” by The Partridge Family. I didn’t remember the latter song by title from my youth of Nick at Nite viewership, but once they got to the chorus it came back soon enough. Kudos to The Booth, as they’re affectionately known, for throwing in something unexpected.

Here are the three tracks, hopefully with news on a new release to come:

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

You can check out John Wilkes Booth‘s website here. They’re also on Thee Facebooks, if that’s more your thing. The track “Hold Still it Said” comes from the 118 Miles compilation of Long Island bands put out by 118 Media, who encourages free downloads thusly.

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Borgo Pass, Deadwater: Sharks off Long Island

Posted in Reviews on July 12th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

Has it really been six years since Borgo Pass released their last album? Nervosa, which came out in 2005, saw the band refine the harder Southern take of the 2002 Slightly Damaged EP, itself the follow-up to 1999’s excellent Powered by Sludge, and now in kind, the long-running Long Island outfit issue their next installment in the 50-minute Deadwater. Like all their albums, it’s self-released, and though the band claims to be “looking for a label home” on their sundry web-presences, I can’t imagine how they wouldn’t have been picked up by now had they really wanted to. They’ve never been a touring act to the best of my recollection, but to think of the slew of East Coast hard rock and metal acts who managed to find labels, it’s hard to believe they didn’t have offers at some point in the last 15-plus years. Shit, if E-Town Concrete can sign to Razor & Tie, surely Borgo Pass could’ve been picked up by someone.

That’s not a sonic comparison, by the way, just thinking of another act of formidable presence in its own region not really known outside of it. And at this point, Borgo Pass are the kings of Long Island. They can always be relied upon to draw a crowd – an eager crowd at that – and they never fail to proffer solid, melodically-aware, guitar-led metal that’s accessible and catchy well beyond the point of commercial viability, but that nonetheless retains some edge of underground-mindedness. On Deadwater, their radio-friendly heaviness comes to full boar. Vocalist James Tamarazzo never screams outright, but clearly puts his whole stomach into his approach nonetheless, and dual guitarists Tom Crane and Paul Rosado lead the rhythm section of bassist Thomas J. Karcher and drummer Joe Wood through 10 tracks (and a bonus Black Sabbath cover, “Tomorrow’s Dream”) of straightforward American metal structures. There are some ears for which Deadwater is going to simply sound too commercial – including, at points, my own – but there’s little on the album to argue against Borgo Pass having long since mastered their craft.

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An Honest Look at Dogs of Karma’s All Grassed Over

Posted in Reviews on November 18th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster

There are several disparate elements working together in surprising unison for Long Island outfit, Dogs of Karma. The Patchogue four-piece fuse punk, hardcore, metal and stoner/Southern influences on their All Grassed Over (Last Resort Entertainment) debut full-length, and though it works as an overall aesthetic – that is, nothing clashes so much as to sound outlandish or ridiculous in a way unintended by the band – there are moments of incongruity brought out by All Grassed Over’s production that are inevitably going to hold some listeners back from being able to fully appreciate it.

Chief among the issues with All Grassed Over is that it is a staggering 77 minutes long. In listening, I basically approached the single-CD release as two albums on one disc, with tracks one through eight comprising one 32-minute record and nine through 16 (!) a second, 44-minute full-length. The split there seems natural owing to the placement of the “Doobinterlude”-esque “Johnny Mushroom,” which provides an instrumental break from the stoner punk-metal before. That’s not the only aspect of All Grassed Over that Dogs of Karma harness from a Down influence. Some of guitarist Chris Norris’ riffs bounce like a sped-up Pepper Keenan’s, and vocalist Dave Bonessi’s yowl isn’t as blatantly derivative, but his scream on a track like “Choke the Truth” or the more purely metallic “The Phantom Being” comes from a similar place in the stomach as Phil Anselmo’s did in his Pantera days. That Dogs of Karma couple this aggressive side of their sound with some blues and (again) punk influence – I’ll be damned if drummer John Papayani doesn’t sound like he was in a Long Island hardcore band at some point in his life – offsets the Down-er aspects, but it’s there for anyone with an ear to hear it nonetheless.

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