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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Yidhra to Release Hexed on Sept. 13

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 30th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Following up on their 2009 self-titled debut EP, Los Angeles doomers Yidhra (also stylized YIDHRa) will issue their first full-length, Hexed, on Sept. 13. The band takes its name from a shapeshifting Lovecraftian goddess, and if you missed their EP, all four of its tracks have also made their way to the long-player, which was produced by Bill Metoyer and makes an immediately burly impression with the eight-minute “Witch Queen,” which is about as close as Yidhra come to an eponymous song. There’s a considerable undercurrent of extreme metal to a lot of what Yidhra does on the album — like at any moment the tension they build might explode into death growls and blastbeats — but their interests seem to rest in weighted grooves and chugging riffs, resulting in a potent brew that at times gives an impression of what Orange Goblin might sound like at three-quarter speed.

The entirety of Hexed has been made available via Yidhra‘s Bandcamp, and you’ll find it on the player beneath the album info below:

“Hexed”, the first full length studio album from Los Angeles’ doom-metal wizards YIDHRA, is set to be released through all major digital outlets on Friday the 13th of September 2013. A vinyl release is slated for winter 2013. “Hexed” is the long awaited 9-song follow-up to 2009′s critically acclaimed self-titled EP and was recorded at Skull Seven Studios in North Hollywood, CA by legendary producer Bill Metoyer (SLAYER, CORROSION OF CONFORMITY, TROUBLE, ARMORED SAINT, DARK ANGEL, SACRED REICH, CRYPTIC SLAUGHTER, D.R.I.) Metoyer had this to say about working with YIDHRA, “Not since TROUBLE have I worked with a band in this genre so talented. YIDHRA! I have no clue what the name means, but to me it means DOOM!”

“Hexed” track listing:

01. Witch Queen
02. Oath Breaker
03. Blood is the Harvest
04. Raven’s Flight
05. Ancient Ones
06. Conquest for Nova
07. Mai-cob
08. The Lament of Longinus
09. Dagon

YIDHRA are streaming the entire “Hexed” album on their bandcamp page. Check them out using the link below.

Says YIDHRA founder and guitarist Dave Krocker: “Working with Bill was awesome. Just the thought of his history, and reading his name on all those influential records, it was kind of crazy. He knows his stuff and he’s super easy going. It was great!”

Comments vocalist Ted Venemann: “We went in the studio with a plan to make a record that ebbed and flowed. One that would organically segue, like our live shows, from one powerful emotion to the next and Bill helped us capture all of that intensity and more. “Hexed” is a super heavy and grooving album and we are really proud of what Bill and us accomplished.”

Bassist Thomas Harris says: “We’ve developed a far more solid musical bond as a band since the EP. Honing and refining our sound and having a master of the craft such as Bill capture it is fantastic!”

Drummer Chris Hannan adds: “Bill, is an absolute pro. He has the gift of understanding your band’s sound & purpose. He’s extremely patient, and really knows how to capture the feel of each song.”

http://yidhra.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/YidhraWitchQueen

Yidhra, Hexed (2013)

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Caveman Voicebox Get Moving in New Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 26th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

With no shortage of riffy burl and good humor at their disposal, L.A.-based heavy rockers Caveman Voicebox recently digitally released their second EP, Facial Hair and Harmonies. The follow-up to the foursome’s late-2011 debut, Stippers, Mullets and Beer (review here), it keeps to more or less a similar approach of straightforward riff-led traditionalist heavy grooves, and that suits the band pretty well. Once more driven by bassist/vocalist Graham Wilson, they cut their teeth on memorable, sans-frills hooks and thickened shuffling riffery, knocking every now and then into dual-guitar harmonies that lead the way strongly into some call-and-response vocal interplay in the chorus.

The clip itself is likemindedly straightforward. Wilson shows up and finds the rest of the band — guitarists Karl Caleb and Mike McKnight and drummer Matt Merrow — in a practice space or studio room, and they proceed to rock it out. Behind the scenes footage, presumably from the recording of the EP, is spliced in for flavor, but really, it’s the song itself that’s the draw as it nestles into an entirely unpretentious, welcoming vibe. To put it in what have unfortunately become political terms, they’re a band you could want to have a beer with.

Enjoy:

Caveman Voicebox, “Move it Up” official video

Caveman Voicebox on Thee Facebooks

Caveman Voicebox on CDBaby

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Blaak Heat Shujaa Interview with Thomas Bellier: At the Edge of the Storm

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

Begun in Paris, moved first to New York and then to Los Angeles and signed to Tee Pee Records for the release of their second album, which wound up becoming an album and an EP, the story of Blaak Heat Shujaa thus far is not wanting for twists and turns. In 2010, though they were then based in France,  the trio traveled to CA to record their self-titled debut (review here) with Scott Reeder (yes, that Scott Reeder). By the time they returned to Reeder‘s The Sanctuary studio to put to tape what would become their late-2012 EP, The Storm Generation (review here) and their first full-length for Tee Pee, 2013′s The Edge of An Era (review here), the band would be residents, touring their now-native West Coast alongside the likes of Yawning Man and Fatso Jetson, and working live and in the studio with gonzo poet Ron Whitehead on material greatly expanded in scope and sound from that which had come before.

The creative leaps the young band have made over the last couple years are no less dramatic than the geographical changes that brought them to L.A. With a sound set to melding desert rock and European heavy psych influences captured live in its crucial moment by Reeder, Blaak Heat Shujaa show with The Edge of an Era that they not only understand what they want to be as a band, but that they are in full command of actually becoming that thing. The trio of guitarist/vocalist Thomas Bellier, bassist Antoine Morel-Vulliez and drummer Mike Amster are able to create a swirling hook or a memorable jam seemingly at their whim, and as a result, songs like “Shadows (The Beast Pt. II)” and “Society of Barricades” leave a lasting impression with their chaos and with the open-spaced desert ambience the band brings to them. They are strikingly patient, and even in breaking up the sessions into two releases, they show a maturity of approach that many who’ve been around much longer simply don’t have.

When I spoke to Bellier, he and the band were fresh off a long European tour alongside Morricone-style rockers Spindrift, and he was in France staying with family, waiting to hitch a ride with his former bandmates in Mirror Queen as they toured with The Atomic Bitchwax and Earthless last month. In the interview that follows, he discusses how that tour went, actually playing with Spindrift, making The Edge of an Era and The Storm Generation with Reeder and bringing in Fatso Jetson‘s Mario Lalli for the standout track “Pelham Blue,” the possibility of US touring with Blaak Heat Shujaa, side-projects and much more.

You’ll find the complete Q&A after the jump. Please enjoy.

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audiObelisk: Sasquatch Premiere “The Message” from New Album IV

Posted in audiObelisk on August 2nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Los Angeles trio Sasquatch have been proffering high-grade fuzz boogie for over a decade now. Having made their recorded debut in 2004 with the immediately-to-be-reckoned-with riffery of Sasquatch, the trio went on to refine a more classic heavy rock approach over the course of their subsequent two outings, 2006′s II and 2010′s III (review here), finding a niche for themselves somewhere between the present and the past while at the same time continuing to distinguish themselves from their peers and furthering the chemistry between founders Keith Gibbs (guitar/vocals) and Rick Ferrante (drums) and bassist Jason Casanova, who joined in 2007 following the departure of Clayton Charles.

On Sept. 24, Sasquatch will issue IV through Small Stone as the latest step in these ongoing processes. What’s remained consistent throughout Sasquatch‘s work since the start is the band’s unhindered ability to craft a chorus that’s crisp, anthemic and forward-thinking all at once, and in that regard, IV is no different. Progress is evident in the band’s maturity of approach and the clarity with which they present their ideas — they know what they’re doing in other words — but even as they seem to have their sound nailed down, splitting the recording between Detroit and Massachusetts (both very far away from Los Angeles) and bringing in guest work from Gozu‘s Marc Gaffney and Small Stone honcho Scott Hamilton on vocals and guitar, respectively, Sasquatch are clearly making some effort to branch out beyond the reaches of their comfort zone.

Even the striking and futuristic cover artwork, courtesy of Casanova, speaks to the band looking forward more than ever before. Nonetheless, whether it’s the psychedelic explorations of “Smoke Signal,” on which Gaffney and Hamilton appear, the fervent Soundgarden-style stomp of “Sweet Lady,” the check-out-what-I-can-make-this-do lead work on “Me and You” or the rush of opener “The Message” that’s bound to carry you along with it, you’d be hard pressed to say Sasquatch aren’t in full command.

Today I have the extreme pleasure of premiering “The Message” from IV as a precursor to the album’s release next month. Please find it on the player below and enjoy:

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

Sasquatch‘s IV is due out Sept. 24, 2013 on Small Stone Records. More to come.

Sasquatch on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records

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Heavy Glow Tour Starts July 31 in San Francisco

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 30th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Los Angeles-based rockers Heavy Glow are set to begin an admirable stretch of touring tomorrow that will take them all along the West Coast and into the Midwest in support of a limited reissue of their 2011 outing Midnight Moan and their new Mine all Mine/Headhunter 7″. The vinyl — which if I’m not mistaken also features art from Mad Alchemy, who will join the band for live psychedelic visuals at the Chicago show on Aug. 21 as the poster below indicates — is limited to 300 copies, and it seems like a safe bet that by the time Heavy Glow are off the road this time out, they’ll be gone.

Here’s the latest off the PR wire:

psyche-soaked proto-metal, gutbucket garage rock Heavy Glow on tour, 7-inch vinyl release

HEAVY GLOW TOUR KICKS OFF IN SAN FRANCISCO JULY 31
CLOSES WITH HOMETOWN SHOW IN CLEVELAND AUGUST 24TH

Produced by Michael Patterson (Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Beck, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club) the two tracks on the Heavy Glow vinyl 7″ have an immense and compelling sound. Stephen King’s series, Under The Dome, on CBS television used the track, “Headhunter,” in the second episode to gripping effect. Stevie Salas (Mick Jagger, Steve Vai, Rod Stewart, Justin Timberlake) christened the band during their recording session with him. Press have sung the band’s praises and now audiences get the chance to see the band live on tour.

Heavy Glow Tour Itinerary (subject to change):
Sunday, July 31st at Neck of the Woods in San Francisco, CA
Friday, August 2nd at Kenton Club in Portland, OR
Saturday, August 3rd at The Comet Tavern in Seattle, WA
Sunday, August 4th at Silver Moon in Bend, OR
Tuesday, August 6th at New Frontier Club in Meridian, ID
Wednesday, August 7th at Red Room in Boise, ID
Thursday, August 8th at Burt’s Tiki Lounge in Salt Lake City, UT
Friday, August 9th at TBA in Denver, CO
Saturday, August 10th at Triple Nickel in Colorado Springs, CO
Sunday, August11th at Left Woods in Amarillo, TX
Monday, August 12th at The Conservatory in Oklahoma City, OK
Tuesday, August 13th at Lola’s Saloon in Ft. Worth, TX
Wednesday, August 14th at Stickyz Rock n Roll Chicken Shack in Little Rock, AR
Thursday, August 15th at TBA in Memphis, TN
Friday, August 16th at Smithe’s Old Bar in Atlanta, GA
Saturday, August 17th at 5 Spot in Nashville, TN
Monday, August 19th at MOTR Pub in Cincinnati, OH
Tuesday, August 20th at Foam in St. Louis, MO
Wednesday, August 21st at Cobra Lounge in Chicago, IL
Friday, August 23rd at Knickerbocker Saloon in Lafayette, IN
Saturday, August 24th at Happy Dog in Cleveland, OH

Visit the band online at heavyglowmusic.com, on Facebook.com/heavyglowband or on Twitter at heavyglowmusic.

Heavy Glow, Midnight Moan (2011)

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Blaak Heat Shujaa, The Edge of an Era: Don’t Forget to Breathe

Posted in Reviews on April 5th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Since the release of their 2010 self-titled debut, Blaak Heat Shujaa have moved from Paris to Los Angeles — with a stop in New York City as well for a time — have honed their desert rocking chops on tours with Fatso Jetson and Yawning Man, have signed with Tee Pee Records, completed a documentary series about their recording sessions with the venerable Scott Reeder and have taken those sessions and split them into two releases: the late-2012 The Storm Generation EP and their sophomore full-length, The Edge of an Era — shooting videos and playing gigs all the while as well. With that much going on, it’s not much of a surprise that The Edge of an Era is a different beast than was the self-titled, but what is striking about the album is how cohesive it is. On first listen, it makes sense as to why the trio — guitarist/vocalist Thomas Bellier, bassist Antoine Morel-Vulliez and drummer Mike Amster – divided the output from the Reeder sessions. The Edge of an Era focuses is on a singular atmosphere that’s served well by its six component tracks; the material on The Storm Generation (review here) wasn’t lacking for quality, it just didn’t fit. And where the band probably could’ve forced the issue and included most of those songs here — a move that might’ve put the album’s runtime more in line with the 63-minute self-titled (review here) instead of the vinyl-friendly 41:27 the finished product clocks — The Edge of an Era is unquestionably a stronger whole for the structure of its parts, running social/political lyrical themes through organic tones with a marked flow from piece to piece that nonetheless shows development in the experimental side that showed itself on the prior outing. Fatso Jetson‘s Mario Lalli donates vocals and lyrics to the penultimate “Pelham Blue,” making that track an automatic standout and highlighting just how much influence Blaak Heat Shujaa has culled from the desert in which it now rests its collective head, and poet/tourmate Ron Whitehead, who contributed to The Storm Generation as well, launches the album with “Closing Time, Last Exit,” a rising-toward-clarity free-association spoken word in which gonzo, Jesus, Buddha, Hunter S. Thompson and other mythological figureheads are namechecked before we arrive at the starting point just under a minute later: “America is an illusion.”

A fun bit of knowledge to drop, rife with Baby Boomer shock value and wake-you-up-to-challenge-what-exactly exclamation (it seems a fruitless endeavor to rag on the gonzo types; that cat’s been out of the bag since well before I came along to call it self-indulgent), but more importantly, it sets up a good amount of the perspective from which The Edge of an Era is executed. The point of view, like the band, is young, but coherent, and met with fuzz not driven so much by a heavy psych wash of effects in Bellier‘s guitar, but by a dry-sand clarity that finds root in Morel-Vulliez‘s basslines while Amster‘s drumming holds the songs together allowing the other two players to wander over the course of longer jams like that emerging from “The Obscurantist Fiend (The Beast Pt. I),” the initial rush of which takes hold immediately following Whitehead‘s last pronouncement. Time and again throughout the record, Blaak Heat Shujaa prove adept at balancing stillness with movement instrumentally — Bellier‘s post-Cisneros vocal approach is suited to either, frankly, though in the faster parts he seems more inclined to let the guitar do the talking — and that begins with “The Obscurantist Fiend (The Beast Pt. I)” as a slowdown brings hypnotic repeating of a start-stop progression soon to serve as the foundation not just for Bellier’s verse, but the long instrumental stretch that follows. Amster and Morel-Vulliez make it work, the former with a kind of descending progression that winds up on the crash with each cycle as the latter works to gradually expand the base from which the guitars take flight. It is one of the record’s most melodically satisfying instrumental stretches that ensues, rising and cascading in tempo with a solo taking hold before arriving at starts and stops almost frenetic in their tension thanks to Amster‘s fills, double-kick and so on. At seven minutes, they launch into the next stage, bringing the groove to a head as Bellier and Morel-Vulliez align to ignite the melodic apex before sleepily jamming the way out of the song and directly into “Shadows (The Beast Pt. II)” via a sweet bassline worthy of the quieter moments of any Brant Bjork record you might want to name, the actual progression keeping the same starts and stops from the prior cut, but changing the context to something altogether more comforting.

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Bigelf Resurface with Mike Portnoy on Drums; Sign to InsideOut Music

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

Not heard from since the 2009 re-release of 2008′s Cheat the Gallows, L.A.-based heavy prog weirdos Bigelf have come back to earth. Bechapeaued frontman Damon Fox has announced that he has joined forces with none other than former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy in a new lineup of the band and that they’ve signed to Century Media‘s prog-minded subsidiary, InsideOut Music.

If that seems like pretty wild news, kind of an unexpected pairing and it leaves you not quite knowing what to think about it, that’s precisely the arena in which Bigelf have always preferred to operate. Look for more on the album to come, but meanwhile, here are the details of the signing and a bit of a catch-’em-up from Damon Fox about this new era of the band:

BIGELF returns and signs new deal with InsideOut Music; Mike Portnoy to play drums on forthcoming new album

InsideOut Music is immensely pleased to announce the signing of progressive-rock powerhouse BIGELF for the release of their forthcoming new album later this year. Label-head Thomas Waber says about the signing: “We have been talking to BIGELF for quite some time now and I am really pleased that we finally managed to make this happen! BIGELF are an excellent addition to the InsideOut Music roster!”

It’s been a few years since we’ve heard any activity from the BIGELF camp, so who better to explain to us what’s been going on than the band’s mastermind Damon Fox himself:

“Finally! BIGELF lands on a planet whose atmosphere is synonymous with progressive rock and heavy metal. One of my all-time favourite quotes is, ‘Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid…’

I’m ecstatic that InsideOut/Century Media and Mike Portnoy have joined ‘forces’ with BIGELF.

First, I want to elaborate on what has been happening ‘inside’ the band since 2010, there have been numerous rumours on the internet that I fired everyone in BIGELF, this is completely untrue.

After the juggernaut of ‘Cheat The Gallows’ came to a halt, the business and personal infrastructure of BIGELF imploded and an unexpected hiatus occurred leaving the band in complete disarray. A myriad of personal, financial and domestic matters had enveloped myself as well as certain members of the group. There also comes a time when deep down inside it just doesn’t feel right anymore, and one has to face the music that the end is near. Transparency no longer exists and with that, clarity and perspective are lost. I’m speaking for myself now but clearly this was a mutual feeling and I believe it was obvious amongst the band. Subsequently, Ace Mark decided to move on and left BIGELF in the summer of 2011, and a request by the remaining members for a dissolution of business followed. To put it simply, we went our separate ways without malice.

I had been keeping in close touch with Mike Portnoy after his very public and difficult departure from DREAM THEATER. At this time, my musical future seemed quite bleak and I was very vocal to Mike about not being able to sustain the band any longer on my own. He implored me to carry on and to not let BIGELF slip away, his encouragement and enthusiasm meant the world to me. Recognizing that I needed some new allies, I asked him if he would help fight the good fight and lend his extraordinary drum majesty to the new BIGELF record and he readily agreed. Also…sharing a passion for all things rock & roll, my good friend Duffy Snowhill climbed aboard the Viking ship for another round of thundering bass guitar and for that too I am grateful.

I also want to acknowledge our amazing and dedicated fans that send emails all the time saying how they feel about BIGELF. These emails inspire me greatly and they’re the reason that I continue to play this kind of music, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I can’t wait for everyone to hear the new wondrous landscapes we’ve been sculpting, there are lots of surprises around the corner, stay tuned.”

–Damon Fox

Bigelf, “The Evils of Rock and Roll”

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