Saturday Full-Length: Sasquatch, II

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 13th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Sasquatch, II (2006)

At the time, I was still so hung up on Los Angeles trio Sasquatch‘s 2004 self-titled debut that I don’t think I properly appreciated the classic-rock-is-ours-now feel and heaviness of “Let it In,” “The Judge,” the vinyl-style symmetry of “Nikki” and “Catalina” and the rawness of character on display. Where the first album is kind of an outlier now in terms of sound for them, made formative by hindsight where at the time it seemed nothing if not accomplished — their songwriting was always top notch — II became more of the model with which they’d work, their ’70s-meets-’90s vibe running a riffy current through the tracks. Both 2010’s III (review here) and 2013’s IV (review here) built off what they did here, and their craft has never wavered.

They played one of Small Stone‘s by-then-legendary SXSW showcases as well during this era, and it was the first time I got to see the band, which only solidified my fandom. They haven’t been out east much — though they hit the Uninvited festival this year in Brooklyn; from what I hear it was a “Pleasure to Burn” — but I’ve been fortunate enough to see them once or twice more over the years and they’ve always delivered. II is a work of straightforward, perpetually-underrated heavy rock, and it’s easy to look at a band like Sasquatch and think about “oh, if X and Y and Z, these guys would be huge,” and I wouldn’t begrudge them making a ton of money or anything, but these guys make for an excellent underground secret too, like a litmus for those who know.

Small Stone put this one out on vinyl not too long ago, but I’m pretty sure they’re gone by now. Not bad for a record eight years later to continue to inspire such devotion, and I’ve no doubt that II will continue to do so no matter how high Sasquatch‘s numbers end up going. Please enjoy.

So, why a day late? I left home yesterday at 12:30PM to go to Brooklyn and see the first of YOB‘s two nights at the St. Vitus bar. I got to the venue around 6PM. That’s usually a four-hour trip. I was utterly fried after the show — turns out that not eating or drinking anything all day was the wrong choice; I was dizzy and nauseous in the packed room and stayed up front through “Marrow” but had to move back after that and get some water — and then afterwards, there was a solid hour of traffic getting to the Lincoln Tunnel. Got in to Jersey at about two in the morning. It was far less thrilling than the show itself, which was fantastic. I’ll be going back for round two tonight.

More year-end stuff next week. Look out for a list of the year’s best debuts at some point, and maybe one of the best live gigs and some other stuff. I’ll also be reviewing these two nights at the Vitus bar, and anything else I might have time for. I feel like I say this all the time, but if you’re waiting on a review of something, I’m sorry. I’m one person. Most other sites have a staff of writers working on stuff, or at least a few people. I have me. If something takes me longer, or if I don’t get to it, I wholeheartedly and sincerely apologize. I’m doing the best I can to do as much as I can. If I had eight of me, it would be easier. As it is, I can barely answer email.

But anyway, I hope you dig the Sasquatch and I hope you have a great and safe weekend, wherever you’re at. Thanks for checking in, and please don’t forget to hit up the forum and radio stream.

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It’s Casual Premiere “Their Own Cash” from The New Los Angeles II

Posted in audiObelisk on November 19th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

it's casual

If you’ve got just a minute of your time to give, It’s Casual would like to punch you in the face. The L.A.-based one-man outfit helmed by vocalist/guitarist/bassist/drummer Eddie Solis will release their new album, The New Los Angeles II, on Dec. 16 through Stoked Records. As the title hints, it’s a sequel to 2007’s The New Los Angeles, and even opens with a couple seconds fading out the drum progression of that record’s closer, “EZ Pass.” From there, however, The New Los Angeles II is a different beast, likewise pointed in its social commentary — Solis is vehement in his support for public transit — but turning his attention on real budget issues in Los Angeles. He’s the kind of guy who will run for mayor one day who will make more sense than everyone else and get the least airtime.

To wit, songs like “Less Violence, More Violins,” “Keep the Children Occupied,” “Sharing is Not Caring” and “Their Own Cash” point out the madness of not funding public education — the latter’s only lyrics, “Teachers use it's casual the new los angeles iitheir own cash to buy stuff for their class,” are repeated in the Black Flag tradition of emphasizing absurdity through insistence — where “TAP Card,” “WIC” and “California is Not an ATM Machine” take on economic issues via real-world concerns, all the while pummeling a blend of heavy punk and thrash, Solis‘ growl pushing out minimalist lines that leave a maximum impression. The album as a whole is 27 minutes long, and about nine of those are devoted to the instrumental noise rocker “The Gap is Widening,” which leads the way into closer “Kids Having Kids,” so It’s Casual never take too long in making a point, every other track (including the closer, though that also makes room for a hidden bonus cut) under two minutes. The word of the day is “immediacy,” and It’s Casual are well familiar with it.

The New Los Angeles II is It’s Casual‘s fourth full-length, behind a 2009 split 7″ with Bullet Treatment, the first installment, 2004’s Stop Listening to Bad Music and 2002’s Buicregl, and it finds Solis — who also hosts the Los Angeles Nista talk show on AM radio — in his element musically and in terms of the commentary at hand. “Their Own Cash,” likewise true and infuriating, serves as a prime example of the record’s attitude and call to arms, and I’m happy to be able to host the streaming premiere today of it, as well as the Q&A with Solis that follows the player below.

Please enjoy:

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

eddie solis

Q&A with Eddie Solis of It’s Casual

On “Their Own Cash”:

It’s really a POSITIVE track. I am trying to bring to light that the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and other school districts are suffering from lack of resources. And that causes a trickle-down effect, for instance the music and art programs are cut and that leads to a challenge to keep the kids occupied. However what about the teachers’ perspective? What about their challenges? I have lots of friends and family that are teachers. They are already challenged with a modest salary but what about the ones that use “THEIR OWN CASH” for supplies? The song is a cry for help. It’s a testimony to the teachers who care and it’s also a cry for help. A topic that should be brought to light and should also be targeted and remedied. The lyrics: “Teachers use their own cash, to buy stuff for their class.”

Why The New Los Angeles II seven years after the original?

Seven years later because our album cycle didn’t really start till 2012. The record wasn’t properly distributed worldwide, toured and written about in the press till 2012.

Is the album a statement on sequel culture?

Yes, it is a statement on sequel culture. The New Los Angeles I was about being car-free, and celebrating the rich Los Angeles history through the eyes of a bus rider. However, The New Los Angeles II goes deeper. The New Los Angeles I was about history, culture, geography. Also a car-free lifestyle in a car culture. This The New Los Angeles II is about reporting on what I’m seeing on the buses and subway system. The people that are sitting right next to me. I’m talking about challenges people are facing. The positivity and the negativity, the yin and yang.

Any chance we could get a prequel at some point, something like The Old Los Angeles?

Yes, very possible. It’s realistic because there is a type of person that has been spawned from Los Angeles that is destructive and stunted and I want shed light on the sociology aspect of where this all comes from. Pre-MTA public transportation, L.A. life.

At what point did you know it would be The New Los Angeles II instead of some other title?

I was conscious. The New Los Angeles I inspired me. It was due to the fact that I was so inspired by all the press, shows and the music video that Rick Kosick of Jackass did for “The Redline.” It spawned my radio show Los Angeles Nista which started on internet-only but is now on AM talk radio as well in three major markets: Orange County (1510AM), Inland Empire (1510AM) and San Diego (1450AM). So when I wrote part two, it was about the same thread of commonality but going deeper into the neighborhoods and connecting with people.

Why the long break between albums?

The album cycle to the previous record started in 2012 so it was necessary.

When did the songs start to come together?

June 2012 was the pre-production date. And we tracked mixed and mastered in Aug. 2012, but the tracks started coming together during early 2012. The inspiration and juice came from The New Los Angeles I album cycle in 2012.

What was the recording like in comparison to the original The New Los Angeles?

Very similar. In fact the beginning of The New Los Angeles II starts out the way part one ends. The comparison and common thread is that it is completely is all about Los Angeles and is inspired by being car-free and green.

It’s Casual on Thee Facebooks

It’s Casual’s website

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Friday Full-Length: Captain Beyond, Captain Beyond

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 3rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Captain Beyond, Captain Beyond (1972)

Sometimes in listening to Captain Beyond‘s classic 1972 self-titled debut, it’s easy to forget that there were just four members in the band. At times they’re almost orchestral, layers of guitar and vocals making their way in and around winding, still-heavy riffs and grooves. The lineup was considerable even then — vocalist Rod Evans (ex-Deep Purple), guitarist Larry “Rhino” Reinhardt (ex-Iron Butterfly), bassist Lee Dorman (ex-Iron Butterfly) and drummer Bobby Caldwell (who played with Johnny Winter and would go on to form Armageddon) — but no question that Captain Beyond‘s Captain Beyond was more than the sum of its parts. Few records of the era so successfully bridged the then-widening gap between heavy rock and prog, and frankly few have come along since that could excite fans of both. Its bizarre structure, with each side almost a record unto itself with its own themes and progression, makes it all the more complex, but it’s also a remarkably smooth listen, with cuts like “Mesmerization Eclipse,” “Dancing Madly Backwards (On a Sea of Air),” “Raging River of Fear” and “As the Moon Speaks (To the Waves of the Sea)” creating memorable, lasting impressions.

Lasting enough that Captain Beyond has had four decades of cult influence. After hearing Evans sing “Frozen Over,” I don’t think one can put on early Pentagram without hearing a similarity in Bobby Liebling‘s approach — Pentagram also had the lead track on Record Heaven‘s Thousand Days of Yesterdays tribute — and from The Atomic Bitchwax to Mastodon, scores of bands have taken lessons from Reinhardt‘s style of riffing and spaced-out leads, his layering acoustic and electric rhythms and the jazzy punch of the movement in this Caldwell‘s compositions. And Captain Beyond‘s Captain Beyond was truly a moment that wouldn’t come again. By the time a year has passed, Caldwell was out of the band, and replaced on 1973’s Sufficiently Breathless by Marty Rodriguez, with Dorman at the fore as principal songwriter. Sufficiently Breathless was a more than solid follow-up to Captain Beyond, but the group’s legacy continues to be based largely on their accomplishments here and the rare character and breadth that this album brought to bear. It is rightly considered among the most pivotal works of early heavy rock.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

So. Last Saturday, my mother-in-law’s old, sick pekingese got dropped off so The Patient Mrs. and I could take care of it while her mom was on vacation. You can see where this is going. The week started off — first thing Monday morning — with The Patient Mrs. asking me to get up and confirm her suspicion that the dog had died. Sure enough. I checked for a pulse, as if such a thing were possible on so fluffernutter a dog as a pekingese, and declared her suspicion correct. Added surreality came when a structural engineer and a lawyer showed up to look at something with the house (long, irrelevant story) and I had to hurry to pick up the dog and clean up the various leaked-out fluids so they could enter without having to step over the body. I had not yet brushed my teeth.

The Patient Mrs. found a local kennel that also doubled as a crematorium — take a second and let that sink in — so what else to do? I put the dog in a box and we drove over, about 15 minutes in the car. Our own dog, the little dog Dio, we left home to deal with her confusion. There was a form The Patient Mrs. filled out and then the lady behind the counter at the crematorium was like, “Okay, come on,” and directed us to follow her to the furnace, telling us along the way about the state contracts they have with the Mystic Aquarium, the roadkill, etc. All the while we’re on this piece of property back in the woods, walking past the pet cemetery, canopy of trees overhead with grey skies. I was fairly certain that The Patient Mrs. and I were both going to be killed and shoved in the furnace with only the texts I’d sent my family about the ordeal left for detectives to trace the whereabouts of our murderers.

We weren’t, thankfully. We got into an open barn with what was quite clearly the furnace in the middle of the room, ashes and metal trays on the floor, the vague smell of burning in the air, and I began to wonder if it was a do-it-yourself kind of deal. This worry also proved unfounded. The woman directed me to put the box down on a table nearby and we left, chatting pleasantly and awkwardly as we traipsed through the woods back to my car. I knew this dog well, and there wasn’t really much to say anyhow, so that was it. And everything was fine until I started to have these thoughts that what if I was wrong? What if the dog wasn’t really dead, if it had just peed itself and been asleep and breathing too shallow for me to tell? Of course it was dead — the body was limp when I picked it up — but still, I couldn’t shake the image of the dog waking up in that cardboard box on that table, and it stayed with me the last five days. Even now, and we’ve already gotten the call to go pick up the cremains.

That was how the week started. It’ll end in a little while when I head out to see Kind and The Golden Grass in New Bedford at a taco joint. So yeah, a little strange.

Next week, stick around for a review of that show, plus on Monday a stream of the new split between Krautzone and Lamp of the Universe, an Apostle of Solitude giveaway, review of the new Lo-Pan and Electric Wizard and as many other records as I can manage to fit. If you didn’t notice, I tried to cut back on the word counts for reviews because they were getting out of hand again. We’ll see how long it lasts, but at least I’m trying to keep it under control. Sometimes the sentences just keep going.

Go Giants for Acid King, go Orioles for all of Maryland doom. Hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and radio stream.

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: Bong, Space Mushroom Fuzz, Desert Lord, Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, and Plunger

Posted in Radio on September 12th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk radio

It’s been a couple weeks since the last time I was able to get together a proper round of adds to The Obelisk Radio, and the list as a result is accordingly huge. I’d have to go back and compare the last 18-plus months to be sure, but I think 40 albums is up there with what I might have uploaded during the initial buildup of the playlist, just basically getting everything I could think of and a bunch of stuff I couldn’t to expand on what was on the hard drive when I got it. We’ll be at two years since the Radio stream went live before I know it. Time goes quick, and seems to all the more when each post has a timestamp.

I say this every time, but there’s a lot of killer stuff included this week, so I hope you find something you enjoy.

The Obelisk Radio Adds for Sept. 13, 2014:

Bong, Bong Presents Haikai No Ku Ultra High Dimensionality LP

bong haikai no ku

I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to try to ascertain what plane of being Bong are residing on these days, but suffice it to say, they’ve evolved beyond corporeal form and merged with the all-consuming distortion of the universe. At least that’s how it sounds. The maddeningly prolific UK drone-doomers present this release but aren’t actually on it, save for guitarist Mike Vest, who leads the side-project Haikai No Ku through five tracks of blissful psychout on Ultra High Dimensionality. If you’re looking for differences between the two outfits, Haikai No Ku lean less toward grim droning than Bong, and songs like “Dead in the Temple” and “Blue at Noon” roll out huge psychedelic grooves — the band is completed by bassist Jerome Smith and drummer Sam Booth – but there’s consistency to be found in the wash of noise and the complete hypnosis of their repetitions anyway, and as high as the dimensionality might be, the volume should be higher. One to get lost in for sure, and there’s enough space for everyone. Bong on Twitter, on Bandcamp.

Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, The Shining One

lucifer in the sky with diamonds the shining one

The pun in the moniker of Moscow double-guitar four-piece Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds probably doesn’t need to be pointed out. Featuring The Grand Astoria collaborator Igor SuvorovLucifer in the Sky with Diamonds pull together touches of psychedelic impulsiveness and classic heavy rock structures with the production clarity and catchy songwriting of mid-era Queens of the Stone Age. There’s a danger underscoring the boogie of “How to Fix Things” from the band’s self-released debut LP, The Shining One, that seems to find payoff later in the big-groove hook of “Highlow World,” which provides one of the album’s most satisfying listens before shifting into an airier dreamspace and fading into the noisier “Lords of the Damned,” reviving the largesse of riff prior to the closing title-track. An intriguing debut for an outfit loaded with potential, the fullness of their sound boding particularly well for their confidence in their sound and the precision of their execution. One not to be missed. Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Desert Lord, To the Unknown

desert lord to the unknown

Finnish stoner-doom foursome Desert Lord get into some Sabbath-worship on their debut long-player, To the Unknown, but manage to avoid both the trap of retro ’70s-ism that has much of Europe so firmly in its grasp and the trap of sounding like Reverend Bizarre, whose legacy in their native land isn’t to be understated. Of particular note is that Desert Lord cite The Cult as an influence. One can hear shades of that in the guitars on opener “Forlorn Caravan,” but Desert Lord quickly move into doomier fare on the subsequent nine-minute “Wonderland,” which distinguished by weeded-out wah on Roni‘s bass. Middle-ground is sought and found on “New Dimensions,” with vocalist Sampo Riihimäki reminding of Earthride‘s Dave Sherman in his movement between rougher delivery, spoken word, and accentuated screaming, also hinting at roots in more traditional metal, though “Manic Survivor’s Song” gives way to more stoner territory in the guitar, reminding of some of Eggnogg‘s stylistic turns, though with less of a mind toward tonal thickness. They’re still figuring out where they want to be, but Desert Lord‘s To the Unknown has more than a few moments worth the effort of a listen. Desert Lord on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Space Mushroom Fuzz, Onward, to the Future

space mushroom fuzz onward to the future

Perpetually progressive and perpetually prolific bizarro psych rockers Space Mushroom Fuzz return with another new release, dubbed Onward, to the Future. The Boston outfit, led by Adam Abrams of Blue Aside, include two tracks this time out, “Onward, to the Future,” a laid back space rocker made strange in its midsection with some theremin-style keys, and the waltzing “Half the Way Down,” which shows off some classical guitar work over a subtly oompah backing rhythm with soft, brooding vocals. Is it possible to have a shoegazing waltz? Space Mushroom Fuzz never lack character in they do, Abrams periodically leading the way through jams that could and sometimes do run into indulgent (if satisfying) noodlefests, but particularly with “Half the Way Down,” there’s something more grounded and sadder at the root. “Onward, to the Future” tells a tale of alien invasion — short version: they win — and showcases the band’s exploratory side, but even that ends contemplative and relatively minimal, sort of dropping instruments one at a time by its finish on a long fade. A lesson in taming expectation, perhaps, and a fascinating, quick journey from this inventive outfit. Space Mushroom Fuzz on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Plunger, Space Plumber

plunger space plumber

All seems to be on a course for weirdo noise punk as Los Angeles bass/drum duo Plunger get underway on their debut Space Plumber EP, some Melvins influence making itself felt on “Toxic Wrap,” and then they rumble and thump their way into the eight-minute centerpiece title-track, and it becomes apparent that there’s much more going on with twin brothers Mark (bass/vocals) and Kris Calabio (drums/vocals, also of Old Man Wizard) than it might at first seem. They quickly put their own minimalism to work for them on the faster opener “Blerg Rush,” but “Space Plumber” moves far off into sparseness, the drums barely there when they are and then gone ahead of the transition into “Sleep,” on which both Mark and Kris contribute vocals over a fuller rumble and steady roll, clearly enjoying the contrast. “Plunger” rounds out the release with a fuller take on some of the faster movement of the opener, starts and stops in the unpretentious 1;53 finale. One gets the feeling the (Super) Calabio Bros. are only going to get stranger from here, and that suits them well. Plunger on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Once again, these are five cool releases, but there were 35 other records that join the playlist today, including full-lengths from Orange Goblin, Electric Wizard, Apostle of Solitude and on and on. A couple of these will be on the year-end list, so if you get the chance to check out The Obelisk Radio playlist and updates page, I think it’s worth a look.

Thank you for reading and listening.

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Old Testament Premiere “Summer Grass” from Self-Titled Debut LP

Posted in audiObelisk on September 8th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

old testament

Tomorrow, Sept. 9, marks the release date of Old Testament‘s self-titled debut on Xemu Records. The (relatively) new project is spearheaded by Jason Simon of Dead Meadow and retains a bit of his signature shoegazing psychedelic meander, but meets that swath of influence head on with touches of classic blues, languid Americana rollout and organ-laced ’60s psych. Songs are lush sonically but humble in their intent, and Simon‘s drawl works well as an alternate-reality Hank Williams on the rambling “Movin’ On,” as well as on the Earth-gone-fuzz drone rock of “Trip Light.”

Instrumentation and atmosphere vary widely throughout Old Testament‘s Old Testament, as Simon and his band — which here includes Nate Ryan, formerly of The Black Angels, as well as Oak Munson, Jessica Senteno, Ryan Rapsys, toy with countryold testament cover twang on “Dallas” and raga explorations on the penultimate “Now as in Ancient Times,” but in addition to Simon‘s voice tying the material together, there’s a unifying thread of joy deep within the slow-moving material, and while the songs aren’t always happy or boisterous, the album maintains a signature American optimism that carries through even in the train-ride blues of “Josephine” or the blown-out gospel folk of closer “Time to Rest.”

“Summer Grass,” which I have the pleasure of premiering today, pulls some of the diverse vibes of the album together nicely into a cohesive, twanging but still psychedelic fluidity. The interplay of organ, guitar and what sounds an awful lot like accordion gives a melodic foundation moved forward by drums and spacious enough for the vocals to breathe out engaging and unpretentious verses. It doesn’t sum up everything Old Testament has to offer, but it’s a good place to start.

Please enjoy. PR wire info follows the player below:

OLD TESTAMENT (FEATURING JASON SIMON OF DEAD MEADOW) TO RELEASE SELF-TITLED DEBUT SEPTEMBER 9th VIA XEMU RECORDS

Xemu Records has announced a September 9th release for the self-titled debut album from Old Testament (cover artwork appears above). The Los Angeles based outfit is helmed by Jason Simon (guitarist/vocalist/songwriter for Dead Meadow) and is intended to be an on-going project to add to his work with Dead Meadow.

On the group’s debut album, Old Testament have tapped into a strain of psychedelic imbued Americana. Droning backwoods ballads and haunting blues are possessed of warbling guitars, harmonium, singing drums, blown out harmonica, and Simon’s distinctive vocal styling. It’s a musical stretch of dusty highway that resides somewhere between Fred Neil’s Raga inspired improvisations and Robert Johnson’s haunted Mississippi Delta.

Simon says “I originally started working on these songs as solo material a few years back. I was inspired by the loose and weird quality of Dylan and The Band’s Basement Tapes. I gathered some friends together in my house and we tried to capture the vibe of traditional American songs… a lot of these traditional songs remind me of the strange stories found in The Old Testament. Stories of the bizarre and fantastical, dealing with love, murder and divine vengeance.” Over Time the material tapped into something else as Simon relates: “The songs took their own course as more droning, psychedelic and even eastern elements began to filter their way through.”

The members that appear on this album include Oak Munson, Jessica Senteno, Ryan Rapsys, and Nate Ryan (ex.The Black Angels). Old Testament has been active as a live band over the past year playing throughout California with only a self-released 7” available at shows. Following the release of the full-length on September 9th, the group intends to announce new shows.

Old Testament on Thee Facebooks

Old Testament on Bandcamp

Xemu Records

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Moab Release Scion A/V Presents Billow as Free Download

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 17th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

To the best of my knowledge, Moab‘s sophomore outing, Billow, marks the first time that Scion A/V has sponsored a full-length album. They’ve done plenty of singles and shorter releases — EPs and splits, etc. — over the last couple years, and of course tours and the Scion Rock Fest, which Moab also played this year, but I’m pretty sure Billow is the first long-player to bear their logo. The album has been made available as of today as a free download.

It’s a ripper, with the melodic and pummeling “I Concede,” the Dozer-style airiness in “Burn Maria” and oddball progressive build of closer “The Softest Bait.” As with their 2011 debut, Ab Ovo, the L.A.-based three-piece self-recorded, with guitarist/vocalist Andrew Giacumakis (interview here) — who also helmed the new Fu Manchu; the two bands also formerly partnered on a Scion-sponsored split single — handling the production, and the sound is accordingly huge, a natural feel no less maintained in wide-open drums and spacious guitars anchored by dense low end.

The link to get your download comes courtesy of the PR wire:

MOAB’S SOPHOMORE ALBUM, SCION AV PRESENTS BILLOW, AVAILABLE TODAY FOR FREE DOWNLOAD VIA SOUNDCLOUD

Scion Audio Visual are pleased to offer a free download of Moab’s sophomore release, Scion AV Presents Billow, via the label’s Soundcloud page (https://soundcloud.com/scionav/sets/moab-billow-scion-av).

Scion AV Presents Billow track listing
1. Said It Would
2. I Concede
3. Whittled Away
4. No Soul
5. Burn Maria
6. Nothing Escapes
7. Made To Wait
8. Under All
9. The Softest Bait

Moab recently played Scion Audio Visual’s Rock Fest. In an interview with the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Giacumakis discussed the band’s relationship with Scion AV: “I think they’re ultra important to metal in this community. Scion is keeping the faith for sure by promoting these bands that mainstream media won’t pay attention to.”

https://soundcloud.com/scionav/sets/moab-billow-scion-av
https://www.facebook.com/moabband
http://scionav.com

Moab, Scion A/V Presents Billow (2014)

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Duuude, Tapes! The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic, Through the Dark Matter

Posted in Duuude, Tapes! on June 9th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Some combinations in life, you just can’t go wrong. Ed Mundell and a wah pedal, for example. This proved to be the case last year when Mundell‘s jammy trio with bassist Collyn McCoy (Trash Titan) and Rick Ferrante (Sasquatch), the cumbersomely-named The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic, made their self-titled debut (review here), as it proved to be the case so many times over the guitarist’s years holding down leads in Monster Magnet and The Atomic Bitchwax. Well, further affirmation is welcome by me, and Mundell, McCoy and Ferrante seem only too pleased to provide it on the new tape EP, Through the Dark Matter.

A front-and-back j-card with blacklight-sensitive art from Brad Moore meant to invoke Miles Davis is included with the bright-orange cassette, which is pressed through Orbit Unlimited Records in a numbered (the numbers are also blacklight sensitive) edition of 200 copies. CDs were made available for the power trio’s recent European tour alongside Sasquatch, but 500 of those were made, so the tapes are somewhat harder to come by. Understandably, since the recording job by Snail‘s Matt Lynch at Mysterious Mammal Studios does so well in capturing the live dynamic between The UEMG‘s members, whether it’s Ferrante and McCoy stomping out on side 2’s “Day of the Comet” or Mundell setting an initial mood with minimal effects ambience on the introductory “Small Magellanic Cloud.”

Like the self-titled, Through the Dark Matter is clearly instrumental in its focus, but The UEMG do introduce some vocals for the first time to their studio work, McCoy stepping in for a suitably bluesy delivery on the Willie Dixon cover “Spoonful,” which is the centerpiece of the CD/digital version but closes side 1 of the tape following the intro and the jammed-out title-track. The effect its placement has is to ground the tape somewhat — these cats can jam, and when they do, they go pretty far out — a hook and start-stop funk-wah lead line reminding me no less of Clutch now than when I first streamed “Spoonful” and “Through the Dark Matter” here in April, and the relatively straightforward, traditional structure sits well between “Through the Dark Matter”‘s cosmic pulsations, the bass-heavy push of “Day of the Comet” and the space-jazz blissout of “Large Magellanic Cloud,” which closes out side 2, guitars, bass and drums all seeming to intertwine even as they stretch out in their own directions.

While it’s a relatively short 26 minutes — you wouldn’t call Through the Dark Matter a full-length, though it flows well — The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic‘s EP is all the more worth digging into for how natural it sounds coming from the band. Lynch is an experienced engineer and gets a clear, professional sound here that plays well with the Rhodes McCoy adds or the layers in Mundell‘s guitar, but the overall vibe is that The UEMG could more or less show up somewhere, plug in and make this happen. Maybe that’s a testament to the experience of the players involved or the several years they’ve already been jamming together, but whatever it is, a short release that plays out with such substance is an accomplishment that makes Through the Dark Matter a worthy follow-up to the debut. Wherever their voyage next takes them, I doubt it’s going to be much of a challenge to follow.

The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic, Through the Dark Matter EP (2014)

The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic on Thee Facebooks

The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic on Bandcamp

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In the Round: Reviews of Buddha Sentenza, Chrome, Hercyn, The Warlocks and The White Kites

Posted in Reviews on February 4th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Second week in a row I’m trying this, since the universe didn’t seem to collapse on itself after the first one — unless you count how bad I fucked up lineups; they’re fixed now. Once again we cover some pretty wide ground geographically and stylistically (also alphabetically!), so let’s get to it:

Buddha Sentenza, South Western Lower Valley Rock

Released last year as their debut on World in Sound Records, the 14-track full-length South Western Lower Valley Rock is Buddha Sentenza‘s follow-up to 2009’s exploratory Mode 0909 (review here). The 46-minute outing from the German instrumental fivesome pairs longer pieces like the classic rocking “Arrested Development” (5:04) and prog-jamming “The Monkey Stealing the Peaches” (2:49) off of brief transitional interludes taking their name from letters in the Greek alphabet. I’m not sure what “A-B-G-D-E-Z-I” is meant to indicate — the tracks being “Alpha,” “Beta,” “Gamma” and so on — but they pair remarkably well with the other pieces, and the emergent feel is not unlike that of My Sleeping Karma‘s 2012 outing, Soma, methodologically as well as aesthetically. Perhaps the highlight of South Western Lower Valley Rock is its longest component, “Debris Moon,” which in just under nine minutes weaves nighttime atmospherics and heavy psych ambience into what’s still a subdued track, never quite paying off the tension it creates until the subsequent “Epsilon” shifts into the aforementioned “The Monkey Stealing the Peaches,” giving even more of a clue that Buddha Sentenza are working in a whole-album mindset, rather than thinking of South Western Lower Valley Rock in terms of its individual tracks. The album makes sense on this level, and on CD presents an immersive, linear listening experience that casts a deceptively wide stylistic berth between keyboard-infused krautrock worship, heavy rock and psychedelia, offering fluid motion from in less skilled hands could easily come across as disjointed elements. They make that My Sleeping Karma comparison almost too easy, but the interludes are ultimately essential in creating the flow, as the ease of movement between the desert crunch of “Tzameti,” “Eta” and Eastern-vibing closer “Psychonaut” underscores. Some of Buddha Sentenza‘s best moments are in playing styles off each other.

Buddha Sentenza on Thee Facebooks

World in Sound Records

Chrome, Half Machine from the Sun: The Lost Tracks from ’79-’80

While the liner notes tell of their having been designated “too accessible” at the time, the 18 songs on Chrome‘s Half Machine from the Sun are still plenty weird. As the title indicates, the release is a compilation of yet-unissued cuts from 1979-1980, the era of Half Machine Lip Moves and Red Exposure for Chrome‘s key collaboration between guitarist/vocalist Helios Creed and drummer/vocalist Damon Edge and arguably the point at which that incarnation of the band’s far-out blend of proto-punk, New Wave, psychedelic rock and experimental pop was at its most potent. Sure enough, Half Machine from the Sun crisscrosses genres on an almost per-track basis, be it the weirdo electro stomp of “Looking for Your Door,” the space rock noise wash of “Morrison” or “Sub Machine,” which turns an almost manic drum beat into the foundation of an otherworldly guitar and vocal exploration. They can and will go anywhere, as “Charlie’s Little Problem” and the creeper keyboards of “Ghost” showcase, but if there’s anything tying Half Machine from the Sun (which is out through King of Spades Records following a successful crowdfunding campaign to have it pressed to CD) together, it’s the fact that nothing is tying it together. Tape loops, analog synth, bizarre vocals, structure out the window — and yes, this is still the “accessible” side of Chrome — these songs nonetheless leave any number of memorable impressions, even if that impression winds up in an overarching sense of “God damn this band was weird.” Gloriously so. Chrome, under the direction of Helios Creed, have reportedly been at work on new material, so maybe all the better to give fans advance notice via this collection, which provides 73 minutes of alternate universe brainfodder to sate the curious and the passionate alike. A fan piece, but a welcome one.

Chrome on Thee Facebooks

Helios Creed on Thee Facebooks

Hercyn, Magda

The self-released debut EP from New Jersey-based progressive black metallers Hercyn, Magda, arrives in a full jewel case — the pressing is limited to 100 copies — wrapped in twine. I guess that’s meant to take the place of shrinkwrap, and in that, it’s certainly a more natural-feeling option. Magda‘s namesake track is a 24-minute blend of Euro-doom melancholy, blackened gurgles, grand riffing and ambient weight from the Jersey City trio of guitarist Michael DiCiania, guitarist/vocalist Ernest Wawiorko and bassist Tony Stanziano. About the only thing holding back the EP’s organic vibe is the fact that the drums are programmed, which gives the complex, ambitious “Magda” a mechanical base for what’s otherwise a relatively human sound; the guitars are buzzsaw sharp, but not necessarily without tonal warmth, and particularly in blastbeaten stretches, one almost wants something less precise to go along with the rawness in those guitars, as well as in the bass and Wawiorko‘s vocals. Nonetheless, as lead and rhythm layers intertwine past “Magda”‘s midpoint, there’s beauty in the dismal and a sense of the potential in Hercyn to fluidly cross genre boundaries even more than they already are. That lead is well plotted and sustained, and tempo and chug vary as the song reaches and moves beyond its apex in the second half, with the band offering a bit of Enslaved and Woods of Ypres influence in the interplay of keys and strings. I don’t know if they’ll try to find an actual drummer — for a first release, Magda hardly seems half-assed in its presentation, so maybe this is it; I hear industrial is on its way back — but Hercyn have started with a work of striking intricacy, and prove wholly comfortable in the longer form. An impressive and hopefully portentous debut.

Hercyn on Thee Facebooks

Hercyn on Bandcamp

The Warlocks, Skull Worship

Acid fuzz like a field you could lay down and lose an afternoon in is the contraband trafficked by L.A. freakouts The Warlocks, whose amorphous sonic ooze is every bit in mirror to their lineup, which has seen no fewer than 20 cats come and go and stick around over the course of the last decade and a half. With guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist/bassist Bobby Hecksher as the core around which the eight tracks of the 40-minute Skull Worship swirl, the oft-shoegazing psychedelia isn’t given to complete chaos, but man, The Warlocks go way, way out and don’t seem overly concerned with how they’re getting back. Joining Hecksher for the adventure are guitarist JC Rees, guitarist Earl V. Miller, bassist Chris DiPino and drummer George Serrano, as well as Tanya Hayden, who stops by to add some cello to “Silver and Plastic,” which sounds like what I always secretly hoped Radiohead would deliver instead of the pretentious mopey schlock they put out until they decided they were too smart for albums or whatever. The Warlocks, who had a couple records out on Tee Pee before jumping to Zap Banana/Cargo Records for Skull Worship, at times call to mind the very, very British moments of Crippled Black Phoenix, but then the psychedelic wash of “Chameleon” or “It’s a Hard Fall” takes hold and the whole vibe is groovier, thicker, more multi-colored molasses, whatever other attitude it might convey. The album hits its stride just when you think it might start to drag, and the closing “Eyes Jam” sounds like its backwards cymbals, feedback and drones could just go on into perpetuity, like if the record never returned and the loop kept repeating. Some heady moments, but should be right on the level for those properly tuned in.

The Warlocks on Thee Facebooks

Zap Banana Records

The White Kites, Missing

Immediately and throughout much of the duration of Polish psychedelic pop rockers The White Kites‘ debut LP, Missing (out on Deep Field Records), the vibe is Beatles. Lots and lots of Beatles, from the Sgt. Pepper-style organ circus swirl of opener “Arrival” on through the McCartney piano bounce of the penultimate “The Missing.” It is a 50-minute album, and much of the lighthearted atmosphere it creates stems from its modern interpretation of the legendary Liverpudlians in their psych era. Hard to rag on a band for digging The Beatles — it’s like yelling at a fish for breathing underwater. And as a seven-piece that includes flute, recorders, keyboards, citole, a variety of percussion, clarinet, ukulele and so on, The White Kites aren’t lacking for sonic diversity — vocalist Sean Palmer has quite a task in tying the album together — but as intricate and progressive as Missing gets, it’s still taking the Lennon/McCartney byway to get there. The corresponding songwriting team for The White Kites seems to be Palmer and bassist/keyboardist Jakub Lenarczyk (presented as Lenarczyk/Palmer), and they’re more than capable in their charge, but hints of early Pink Floyd and King Crimson seem to be waiting to emerge from “Turtle’s Back” and “Beyond the Furthest Star,” like they’re trying to get out and be more prominent in the band’s sound but are overpowered by the traceable poppiness. That doesn’t stop Missing from being enjoyable — unless you’ve never liked The Beatles, maybe — or “Beyond the Furthest Star” from being the highlight, it just means that The White Kites have room to shift the sonic balance should they choose to do so their next time around. Until then, impeccable production and imaginative arrangements throughout give an impression of a band just beginning their discovery.

The White Kites on Thee Facebooks

The White Kits on Bandcamp

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Bigelf to Release Into the Maelstrom on March 4

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 20th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

While I’m not sure I’d position Los Angeles-based rockers Bigelf as progressive — at least in the modern rock sense — I’m not sure I can come up with anywhere they’d fit better, and certainly having former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy in the lineup isn’t about to hurt their cred in that regard. Founded by oft-chapeaued frontman Damon Fox a long, long time ago, Bigelf‘s last album was 2008’s Cheat the Gallows, and to herald the March 4 arrival of Into the Maelstrom as their first LP in half a decade, they’ll be taking part in the Progressive Nation at Sea cruise/fest in February, which will see them perform alongside the likes of Devin Townsend and Adrian Belew. So, you know, very proggy there as well.

Interested to hear how all this proggy-prog-prog manifests on Into the Maelstrom and if Bigelf keep some of the classic psychedelia of their past efforts intact, but I guess we’ll have to wait until the New Year.

Till then, the PR wire has this:

Bigelf announce release of new studio album ‘Into The Maelstrom’ for March 2014

It’s been a long time coming, but Bigelf are at long last pleased to announce that they will release their brand new fourth studio album entitled ‘Into The Maelstrom’ on the 4th of March 2014 throughout North America. Frontman and mastermind Damon Fox had this to say:
“I think ITM is the best Bigelf record yet and I believe it is a real game changer for the band. It’s gonna put us over the top! Psychedelic cinematic landscapes and melodic prog-doom set the stage for the new album, I cannot wait for fans (old and new) to experience all of its apocalyptic color.”

‘Into The Maelstrom’ marks the recording debut of Mike Portnoy (Transatlantic, The Winery Dogs) with Bigelf, whose Progressive Nation At Sea Cruise the band will perform on from the 18th – 22nd February 2014, playing alongside bands such as Transatlantic, Devin Townsend Project, Riverside & Adrian Belew Power Trio. Tickets are available now from www.progressivenationatsea.com

Look out for more information in the coming weeks!

BIGELF online:
http://www.bigelf.com
http://www.facebook.com/bigelfmusic
http://www.twitter.com/bigelf

Bigelf, “Superstar” official video

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Old Man Wizard, Unfavorable: A Soul for Sins

Posted in Reviews on November 12th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

It’s telling that the lyrics to two of the seven tracks on Old Man Wizard‘s Unfavorable debut LP talk about telling stories. In both “If Only” and “The Bearded Fool,” there’s a drive toward narrative, and as the majority of the songs included on the California progressive trio’s self-released first outing are ultimately character studies — from “Highwayman,” to “Nightmare Rider,” “The Bearded Fool” and “Traveller’s Lament” — with guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Francis Charles Roberts assuming the various characters in first-person (“Nightmare Rider” is in third), Old Man Wizard seem like a band destined to write at some point in their tenure a full story arc concept album. They haven’t done that with Unfavorable, but they’re not far off, and Roberts, who doubles as Ruba Jouba in pirate metal outfit The Dread Crew of Oddwood, comes by his theatricality honestly. Fortunately for anyone who’d taken on listening to Unfavorable — and this isn’t always the case – Old Man Wizard have the accomplished songwriting and progressive theory behind what they’re doing to back up that theatrical sensibility. Both bassist Andre Beller and drummer Kris Calabio contribute vocals alongside Roberts, and Minni Jo Mazzola, who also adds flute to “Traveller’s Lament,” makes periodic singing appearances, so it is a vocal-heavy album, but it’s with the distinctive harmonies and creative arrangements that Unfavorable sets its mood and forms its cohesive layers of aesthetic. Front to back, the album winds up gorgeous, accomplished, varied and well beyond the common expectation of a fumbling debut from a band feeling their way into a songwriting methodology. Old Man Wizard — and Roberts as the principle architect of their output on this LP — seem to have a firm grasp on what they want the band to be and how they want to realize that vision. Drawing influences from traditional and progressive metal — clean vocal Opeth are a big influence in both the vocal style and overarching melancholy of a song like “If Only” — and playfully marrying them with garage and other heavy rocks, Old Man Wizard showcase marked potential and stylistic nuance that seems beyond their still-nascent tenure, having only come together in 2012.

Both the music and lyrics of “Highwayman” feed into a sense of motion, and Roberts immediately assumes charge of the album as its narrator. It’s an initial rush, a quick gallop to get lost in that finds a mirror later with the push of side B’s bass-heavy opener, “The Bearded Fool.” Also working in “Highwayman”‘s favor, however, is its hook, which comes paired with jumpy transitions and a smooth running verse, the backing vocals in the chorus foreshadowing a nod to Ennio Morricone that comes to the fore with cello from Beller and harmonica from Roberts at the culmination. Already, Old Man Wizard have proven their ability to cull cohesive results from unlikely combinations of influence, and Unfavorable only gets more complex as the acoustic folk of “If Only” pulls off an easy sway and more Opethian harmonies. Electric guitar is gradually layered into the background, giving a sense of build to the song, but the peaceful, wistful air is maintained throughout, even as “If Only” comes as close to threatening as it gets with a volume swell at the 4:30 mark. Rather than take off into a heavier thrust, Old Man Wizard serve the song better by staying patient, knowing that everything has a place in the course of the album, and drop back to the sweet vocal melody and psychedelic folk acoustic guitar. If there’s a single arrangement on Unfavorable that demonstrates the band’s prog mindset, it might be this one, but “If Only” still works best in the context of the release overall, leading into the shortest track, “Nightmare Rider” (3:23), on which lyrics arrive in jabs and the guitars and bass go headfirst into a grungier riffing that’s hammered out somewhat by the production but still the dirtiest-sounding thing they’ve played yet on the record. Of course, the atmosphere is maintained, and one gets a Danny Elfman-esque vibe filtered through proto-metallic crunch and classic thrash as the shouts at the start of each verse line calling to mind Metallica‘s “The Four Horsemen,” seemingly with intent.

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Blaak Heat Shujaa Get a Text from the Beast in Video for “The Obscurantist Fiend”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 16th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

You’ll probably find your own favorite moment in Blaak Heat Shujaa‘s new video for the 11-minute “The Obscurantist Fiend (The Beast Pt. I).” Maybe it’s when the band put on creepy animal masks and stalk through the woods. Or maybe it’s seeing them talking on office phones in the cosmic shame of a corporate-dayjob. All valid choices, but for me, it’s gotta be the point where, about halfway through, our be-suited protagonist calls 9-1-1 and gets a text back from “The Beast” and all it says is “You Are Fucked.” Brilliant. It’s the best use of a cellphone in a video since Infernal Overdrive‘s “Duel,” which was a while ago at this point.

“The Obscurantist Fiend (The Beast Pt. I)” comes from Blaak Heat Shujaa‘s sophomore outing and full-length Tee Pee Records debut, The Edge of an Era (review here), and the new video was directed by Andrew Baxter and Cole Jenkins, who previously helmed the documentary web-series aired here about the recording of the album with Scott Reeder, as well as the clip for “The Revenge of the Feathered Pheasant” from the preceding The Storm Generation EP (review here). Boasting a couple different locales — first they’re in the desert, then they’re in the woods, then they’re in front of the Los Angeles skyline — and some choice free-your-mind desert rock preaching, the clip is a winner all around.

Blaak Heat Shujaa are coming east for a run of dates in support of The Edge of an Era, and you can find them swiped from the prior announcement under the video below. Enjoy:

Blaak Heat Shujaa, “The Obscurantist Fiend (The Beast Pt. I)” official video

Blaak Heat Shujaa Northeast Tour:
11/08 Glasslands, Brooklyn NY
11/09 Kung Fu Necktie, Philadelphia PA
11/10 The Pinch, Washington DC
11/11 Mojo Main, Newark DE
11/12 Brillobox, Pittsburgh PA
11/13 CFC, Montréal QC, Canada
11/14 JJ’s Tavern, Florence MA
11/15 AS220, Providence RI
11/16 Cake Shop, New York NY

www.blaakheatshujaa.com
www.facebook.com/blakheatshujaa
www.teepeerecords.com

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Blaak Heat Shujaa Announce East Coast Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 3rd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

I’m stoked I’ll get to see Blaak Heat Shujaa. I guess that’s what it really comes down to as regards the announcement below that the L.A.-based desert rock trio are hitting the East Coast for the first time. Yeah, it’s cool that they’re continuing to support The Edge of an Era (review here), their 2013 full-length debut on Tee Pee Records, and even cooler that they’re doing it in front of new audiences, but basically, they’re a band I’ve dug for a while now and I’m glad I’ll have the chance to watch them playing their songs live. I get jaded pretty easily, so it’s nice to just be stoked for a show every now and again.

I know some of these gigs are with Mirror Queen and that Queen Elephantine are playing the Rhode Island show, so if you in any of the areas where the tour is rolling through, make sure you check out who else is on the bill. The band sent the info for the tour down the PR wire, and I decided to toss in “Pelham Blue” from The Edge of an Era, just thankful to have an excuse to revisit Mario Lalli‘s guest spot.

Here goes:

We are happy to announce that heavy psychedelic trio Blaak Heat Shujaa (Los Angeles, CA) will play nine US East Coast shows this November.

After their triumphant return from a month long European tour that saw the band perform in 14 different countries alongside label-mates Spindrift, Blaak Heat Shujaa will set on their first US East Coast tour to further support their sophomore release, The Edge Of An Era (out on Tee Pee Records).

11/08 Glasslands, Brooklyn NY
11/09 Kung Fu Necktie, Philadelphia PA
11/10 The Pinch, Washington DC
11/11 Mojo Main, Newark DE
11/12 Brillobox, Pittsburgh PA
11/13 CFC, Montréal QC, Canada
11/14 JJ’s Tavern, Florence MA
11/15 AS220, Providence RI
11/16 Cake Shop, New York NY

www.blaakheatshujaa.com
www.facebook.com/blakheatshujaa
www.teepeerecords.com

Blaak Heat Shujaa, “Pelham Blue” (feat. Mario Lalli) from The Edge of an Era (2013)

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Sasquatch, IV: Wolves in the Storm’s Eye

Posted in Reviews on September 16th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

As bluesy, soulful and classically rocking as ever, Sasquatch return with their aptly-titled fourth album, IV, on Small Stone. Three years doesn’t seem like an especially long time for a band to take between outings — it’s roughly consistent for the Los Angeles trio with their 2004 self-titled debut, 2006’s II and 2010’s III (review here) — but still, IV feels like it’s been a while in arriving. Recorded earlier this year at Mad Oak (guitar and vocals) in Boston and Rustbelt in Detroit (drums and bass), one might expect the three-piece to sound fractured or cobbled together somehow, but though the nine-tracks of IV are professionally crisp, there’s nothing lacking in natural feel throughout, and Sasquatch‘s latest finds itself basking in the fullest fuzz since the first record. Taking the larger production sensibility that showed up their last time out after II‘s more stripped-down classic power trio feel and meshing it with gorgeous tonality from guitarist/vocalist Keith Gibbs, IV calls to mind some of the best aspects of heavy rock — timelessness achieved by means of modernizing classic methods and structures, and updating heavy swing and swagger to sound not like a put-on, but like the inheritor of an expressive mode that’s dug underground to hide like mammals while the dinosaurs get taken out by an asteroid of bullshit — and proves over its vinyl-ready 43-plus minutes that Sasquatch deserve mention among the foremost of modern American practitioners of the form. Whether it’s the ultra-catchy opener “The Message” or more sonically spacious “Smoke Signal” or closer “Drawing Flies,” Gibbs, bassist Jason Casanova and drummer Rick Ferrante proffer exceptional songwriting, hitting all the marks along the way for gotta-groove fuzz rock supremacy while maintaining a stamp and personality of their own, characterized by Gibbs‘s belt-it-out vocals on “Sweet Lady” or the bevvy of solos he seems to just exude as Casanova and Ferrante maintain progressions behind, keeping the songs tight, purposeful and never overly indulgent. It’s beering music that makes little effort toward class but winds up there anyway, and while III offered a host of memorable cuts, each piece on IV both provides a standout and feeds into the larger, overarching flow.

There are moments particularly on side B where IV borders on too perfect — thinking of songs like “Wolves at My Door” and the shorter “Corner” — but, 12 minutes shorter than its predecessor, there’s no filler on Sasquatch‘s fourth, and even where their songwriting modus is most laid bare with a, “Let’s make this into a verse and chorus,” mentality, the quality of the material stands up to the familiarity of the intent. In addition, Gibbs has dialed back some of the Chris Cornell-style vocals that came out on III cuts like “Pull Me Under,” so that even in slower, more-open tempo stretches like that early into “Smoke Signal,” he sounds more like his own singer, giving IV all the more a sense of accomplishment. That song, “Smoke Signal,” is one of two included that top seven minutes long — the other is “Drawing Flies” — and both are used to close out their respective sides, underlining the classic album structure of IV overall as a collection of high-quality individual pieces set to the best working order to bring out a dynamic feeling of movement between them. The earlier “Eye of the Storm” (5:12) reaches for some of the same ground, but ultimately finds itself distinguished more for the strength of its hook in following ultra-catchy opener “The Message” — simply one of the finest choruses the band has ever written — despite also slowing the tempo from that track. Built around motor riffing and straight-ahead uptempo groove, “The Message” arrives at its chorus to find Gibbs‘ double-tracked and singalong-ready with a cadence and lyrics that are simple enough to leave an immediate first impression that lasts through the rest of the album and of course the first of many stellar solos layered in atop rhythm tracks in a way that’s professional but not overdone, a long feedback outro adding to the edge en route to the guitar opening of “Eye of the Storm,” which has a more melodic riff and makes itself felt with a wash of crash from Ferrante and glorious bed of low end from Casanova. Vocal harmonies distinguish the chorus further, leading to second-half stomp that recalls some of the last album’s more weighted stretches, an Ozzy reference tossed in (“…the white horse it’s symbolic of course”) tossed in for good measure in a deceptively intense ending. Seems surprising they don’t go back to the original chorus at the end, but that’s likely the point.

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Friday Full-Length: Sasquatch, IV

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 6th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Sasquatch, IV (2013)

Either next week — or more likely the week after, with the pace I’m working at these days — I’m going to do a full review of IV, the voluminous and aptly-titled fourth album from L.A. power trio Sasquatch, so I guess I’ll save whatever deep analysis I might make about it for that, but suffice it to say that if you were looking forward to this one, you were right. It’s the songs. Sasquatch toss of rock classics like they were empty bottles — downed another one, on to the next — and IV is silly with them, and also pushes the duly heralded outfit into new sonic territory with the psychedelic sprawl of “Smoke Signal” (more a suggestion to begin than a linguistic communication; though maybe it winds up the same), which features a guest appearance by Marc Gaffney of cross-country labelmates Gozu.

So not only is it Sasquatch doing what they do best, but also taking steps forward with their sound. I’ve been through it a couple times, but I’m looking forward to getting to know it better for a review. Not sure when the CD is due, but a stream/download in the meantime isn’t exactly a hardship, my general disdain for non-physical media notwithstanding. And by that I mean I can’t stand it.

There were two or three other posts I wanted to get up today, but I just ran out of day to do it. I ran into town (which, yes, is what I now call driving to Boston; it’s friggin’ awesome to not have to take 70 minutes to get to an urban center) in the afternoon and then had to play catchup with work for what’s now my only job. Yup, got completely shitcanned from the other job at NECA this week; won’t even be getting the it-was-a-quarter-of-my-former-salary freelance rate. One email and poof. I worked there longer than both my supervisors. Put together. It doesn’t matter.

I’m here with The Patient Mrs. and the little dog Dio, we had a good dinner, watched the ball game, had a good night. All told, the week ended on an up. Job shit, work drama. I don’t want any part of it. I’ve got only the vaguest of prospects and everyone I’ve hit up for potential writing work has blown me off. The other day I was looking up $10 an hour night security work for the fucking Pinkertons — hey, it’s a job — but it doesn’t matter. That will all get sorted. I’m going to keep plugging away, keep doing my best, try to laugh, remember to smile.

I didn’t get out this week to that Nightstick show — to either of them — and that was a bummer. Sunday though I’m going to do an in-studio with Darryl Shepard as he records the new Blackwolfgoat, so expect pics and a writeup on that on Monday, and next week I’ll also have reviews of Windhand and maybe the new Monster Magnet. I’ve got an interview with Red Fang in the can that I’d like to get posted as well, but maybe closer to the album release. Depends on time, basically.

Until then, I’m looking forward to the weekend, to a bit of running around tomorrow morning and chores followed by a quiet evening. Saturday stuff. Maybe I’ll take a nap.

Whatever you’ve got going, I hope you have a great and safe couple days. I might post some stuff tomorrow, but if I do or don’t I’ll see you back here Monday either way as well. All the best from me and mine to you and yours.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Witches of God, The Blood of Others: The Devils

Posted in Reviews on September 6th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Two factors work in the immediate favor of The Blood of Others, the self-released debut full-length from Los Angeles doom rockers Witches of God: Craft and performance. Technically speaking, there really isn’t much more you need once you’ve got knowing what you want to do and doing it. Witches of God come into the eight-track, analog-recorded, 45-minute vinyl outing with a firm grasp on aesthetic, a collection of songs that work in a variety of moods and an underlying structure of tracks that maximizes the overall flow between them. Even before you press play or lower the arm on your turntable, The Blood of Others showcases its accomplishment by beginning with “Devils II” and “Devils III” while saving “Devils” itself for side B, as the opening duo make for catchier, stronger material and it’s glaringly obvious that Witches of God knew that and had the presence of mind and editorial sensibility to separate a trio of cuts that on countless other records probably would’ve been stuck all together at the end. That’s craft. The actual songwriting, which makes “Devils II” and cuts like “The Blood of Others,” “Higher than the Heavens” — which is a tribute to Denis “Piggy” D’Amour of Voivod featuring It’s Casual‘s Eddie Solis on vocals — so memorable, is only bolstered by the performance of the band throughout, which ties into a vaguely cultish aesthetic somewhat similar in its energy and vibe (if not actual sonics) to Venomous Maximus out of Texas and demonstrates a range of moods ably, running from the attitude drenched Motörheadery of “First Love” and ’80s metal swagger of “Devils” itself to the subdued closing comedown of “Chasing Coffins,” also featuring Solis on vocals.

Solis and fellow guest Scott “Wino” Weinrich – who donates vocals to the penultimate “The Horror” — are the only two names given by the group apart from co-producer Samur Khouja and Tom Neely, who handled the artwork for the gatefold LP. The actual players are anonymous for the time being, with the songwriting credited to the band as a whole with Weinrich given cowritten-by status on the track on which he appears. Given the commitment made to such a stylized presentation, I get why the band would want to remain anonymous, but with the drama especially vocally that comes through as the songs play out, I’m not sure they’d lose anything by taking credit for work well done. Still, no names. Witches of God, the singular entity, stand as responsible for one count of viciously hookish songwriting, and while I don’t think they actual go out and drink people’s blood at night (nor does the vast majority of people who sing about it) or whathaveyou, they sure sound like they’re having a good time playing songs about it. And if some of the thematics throughout will ring familiar — witches, blood, the devil, horror, and so on — it’s a boon to Witches of God‘s approach that they come out on the other end of “Chasing Coffins” sounding more more redundant than intended. In the case of “Higher than the Heavens,” for example, that’s basically the idea — it’s a complete sonic tribute to Voivod and works in the progressive elements so often imitated from that band, including (and this I’d argue is the most skillful turn) that particular just-past-the-beat timing that has you immersed in the chorus before you even recognize the change. That song, the album’s shortest at 3:51, is a far cry stylistically from the ultra-catchy scum riffing of opener “Devils II.” There, Witches of God show they are pretty clearly aware of the malevolent shuffle Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats incorporated into “I’ll Cut You Down” at the start of their 2011 outing, Blood Lust, but they pair the darkened boogie and cowbell righteousness with a Cathedral-style sense of playing the host, an open arm leading the way for the listener directly to an unmistakable and well-telegraphed chorus.

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