A couple weeks ago, when The Patient Mrs. was in Athens, Greece, on one of her I’m-brilliant-so-I-get-to-do-awesome-things field trips, she mentioned over Skype that she has passed by a record store. If there’s one thing I like, it’s record shopping on foreign soil, even vicariously, so I got the name from her — Sound Effect Records – and proceeded to look them up. The second I saw that owner Yiannis Andriopoulos had the nickname “Kaleidosmoker” I knew she had stumbled onto the right place.
Turns out Andriopoulos was a former ‘zine head with a long history in Greece’s heavy rock scene. Sound Effect also runs a label out of the store and has distributed cool stuff from Montibus Communitas and others, so I immersed myself in the thousands of selections on the Discogs page and started putting together a wishlist. I kept it to CDs — traveling with vinyl yourself is bad enough, let alone asking your wife to do it — and passed it on to her, with links, and told her when she went to the shop to ask for Yiannis, figuring that he’d be able to help her out with the stuff if she couldn’t find it.
Had to get a few Greek acts in there, and Planet of Zeus were on my mind for having recently checked out their Vigilantealbum (review here), so their first album, 2008’s Eleven the Hard Way, made the cut, as did Brotherhood of Sleep‘s 2009 self-titled debut. Both bands are native to Athens, and since I already had a copy of the new 1000mods, I was glad to dip back to some older, less available releases. There was also a ready stock of Nasoni Records stuff — not the first Weltramstaunen, unfortunately — but I asked her to grab Baby Woodrose‘s Dropout!collection of covers and a reissue of The Rising Sun‘s 1969 LP, Born to be Wild, as well as the 2CD Entering into the Space Country/Phaze Your Fearscollection from Øresund Space Collective.
When she got home this weekend, she surprised me by bringing not only those, but the 2LP version of Los Natas‘ El Universo Perdido de Los Natas, filling both the Nasoni and the vinyl quotas in one fell I’m-the-luckiest-dude-ever swoop. I have the corresponding CD version that Oui Oui/MeteorCity released in 2007, but both the thought and the gatefold were beautiful, and if it’s another excuse to spend some time listening to Los Natas, I’m not going to lose. Apparently at some point in her trip to Sound Effect, The Patient Mrs. also let it slip that she was buying for her husband, explained who I was, and Andriopoulos gave her a copy of one of Sound Effect Records‘ releases, a joint issue with Nowhere Street Music from the band Drug Free Youth called A Message fromNow.
And I’m glad he did, because apart from the Los Natas vinyl, the Drug Free Youth CD might be the find of the trip. A modded-out late-’60s-style psych rocker, it’s got plenty of garage organ and guitar jangle. It’s actually a message from eight years ago, having been released in 2006, but the sound and production date back way further than that. It’s got 15 tracks in about 45 minutes, and they keep things pretty simple structurally, otherwise, but the 7:47 closer “Visions of a Gypsy Queen” — Eastern European influence in the organ and all — the buzzsaw leads in “Time is Iced in an Instant,” and the steady wash of effects and echo overall provide plenty of nuance for those who’d dig below the raw retro veneer. It’s a cool vibe and I’m glad I got to hear it.
I probably won’t get to Athens anytime soon, but I hugely appreciated The Patient Mrs. keeping an eye out for some records on my behalf, and thanks to Yiannis from Sound Effect for steering her in the right direction on the stuff I’d checked out on his Discogs. There’s a ton of vinyl as well, and between that and the store’s website itself, plenty of fodder for perusal. Obviously no complaints from my end.
Drug Free Youth, Selections from A Message from Now (2006)
I know there are those who swing other ways when it comes to Natas, the formative Argentinian desert rockers who’d later add a Los to the front of their name, but to my ears, their debut Delmar is one of the most gorgeous albums I’ve ever heard. Seriously. I have affection for that record over most. If you’re more into the second one, Ciudad de Brahman, or maybe Corsario Negro or something they did thereafter, that’s awesome too. I’m certainly on board for the whole discography — my most recent welcome addition was the Rutation collection of previously unreleased material — but tonight, with how sweltering hot it’s been all day, it had to be Delmar to close out the week. It’s like I can hear the heat bearing down on me. Or maybe that’s sunstroke.
My alarm was set for 5 this morning, but I woke up at 4:57AM and agonized for two minutes before preempting it at 4:59. I wanted to get to work early in no small part to post the Carpet review and that interview with Steve Janiak from Devil to Pay. No regrets, but holy fucking shit I’m tired. At noon, The Patient Mrs. — who was coming up to Boston anyway to attend a wedding tonight — met me at my office and we split out to try to beat traffic northbound. Six-plus hours of traffic and intermittently cutting out A/C later, the little dog and I checked into the hotel where we’re staying after dropping The Patient Mrs. off at the aforementioned nuptials. I was tired then. Then I went and saw Hey Zeus, The Scimitar and The Brought Low at Radio. I’m even more tired now as we push toward 1:30AM. Go figure.
Next week though, a review of that show — spoiler alert: it was killer — and writeups on the new Trouble, The Flying Eyes and Black Willows records, one way or another. Also want to get something up on the Black Mare tape which is a solo-project from Sera Timms of Black Math Horseman and Ides of Gemini that’s ambientastic. Also a Lo-Pan check-in with drummer Jesse Bartz (always good to talk to him) ahead of next weekend’s The Eye of the Stoned Goat 3 in Brooklyn and I’m gonna put this one all in bold because I want it to stand out so someone might actually read it:
There’s a big surprise coming on Tuesday. I can’t say what it is yet but I think and hope you’ll dig it. Nothing’s ever 100 percent and things fall through, but I’m way stoked.
Speaking of things falling through, my housing plans. While we’re in Boston anyway, since we’re moving to Massachusetts in, oh, a week and a half, maybe it’s high time The Patient Mrs. and I found a place to live. After that house we were going to buy shit the proverbial bed — or at least poisoned it with carcinogenic gasoline additives — we now need to find a rental, and quick. Tomorrow’s the day. The truck and the movers are booked for next weekend. It’s tomorrow or it’s… well, Sunday, I guess. But definitely tomorrow’s preferable. The sooner the better.
So while we’re doing that, I hope like crazy you have a safe, terrific weekend. I’ll be back on Monday with more typo-laden riff worship.
So here’s an awkward moment for you: I was standing in back of The Purple Turtle at last year’s Desertfest in London, chatting with a couple of the rather sizable film and promotional crew that Cultura Tres brought with them from their native Venezuela (actually they were in Banda de la Muerte, from Argentina, and touring with the band, but I’m creating a narrative, so bear with me here) for the gig and their subsequent touring. Also there was their manager, Vania, in town from Bulgaria. Quite an international assemblage we made. One of the dudes along with Cultura Tres starts taking CDs out of a bag. Thinking he’s setting up a distro with a pile of CDs on the merch table, I’m immediately stoked out of my brains to see the cover above for what has turned out to be Los Natas‘ swan song release, 2011’s Rutation — an album that wasn’t released outside Argentina and one that at that point I’d already been trying for the better part of a year to get my grubby mitts upon.
“Holy shit!” I said with my usual amount of play-it-cool subtlety, “I’ll take that one.” Dude gave me the “uh…” look and some pitying soulexplained to me they weren’t selling those, they’d just brought them from South America for Vania. Feeling as much the fool as ever, I explained the trouble I’d had trying to sort out an encounter between myself and Rutation, which Los Natas released through their own South American Sludge imprint and eventually skulked away to down my weirdness in oversized Newcastles and take pictures of Cultura Tres, who were shooting footage for what would later become their “El Sur de la Fe” video. One of those times where I just have to hang my head and go, “Boy, is my face dumb.”
Actually seeing the disc had the effect of supercharging my search, but to no avail. I tried Oui Oui Records in Argentina, which has distributed Los Natas‘ stuff in their home country since 2003’s Bee Jesusbox set a decade ago, as well as a bevvy of worldwide distros North American, South American and European, eBay, Amazon sites from around the globe, etc. At this point, not to toot my own horn, but if I want to find a CD chances are I know where to look. Rutationdid not want to be found.
I wouldn’t say I gave up on it, because I have many late-night eBay searches that would indicate otherwise, but it became apparent to me that Rutationwas just one of those records I’d have to wait until it found me, rather than the other way around. Sorry, but if I can get a copy of Colour Haze‘s Chopping Machine (and I did), nothing’s totally unattainable, it just needs time. I waited for my time, and lo, right around the Xmas holiday a note comes in on Thee Facebooks from none other than Vania that she’s got a copy of the album for me.
Bless my miserable soul. I felt like I was waiting to adopt a puppy while I stood in line at the post office to pick up the package, sent from Bulgaria (for some reason Eastern European packages always require a signature). My stomach was tight with apprehension, but when I finally got the envelope and opened it, there was the disc. I swear to Robot Jesus there was a glow around it, and maybe it was leftover Xmas music, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t hear a choir singing. It went in the CD player before I even turned the car on, like it would play anyway before I turned the key. Some things just become an immediate priority.
In my reading about the album beforehand, I knew the recordings themselves were old. Rutationwas put to tape on a mobile unit in Buenos Aires in 1997, so it would’ve been after Delmarwas recorded but before Ciudad de Brahman — well into the time when they were still Natas, before the Los was added — the very heart of their most desert rocking period. Some of these tracks showed up on 1999’s Unreleased Dopes, and according to some sales I’ve seen on eBay, the band had cassettes of Rutationwith them when they toured the States in 2000, but the 2011 issue is the first official CD release that I know of, and I couldn’t have been more stoked to finally get to hear it.
Most of the tracks can be traced in different incarnations to Delmaror Ciudad de Brahman. Cuts like “Carl Sagan” and “Meteoro 2028,” arranged here as a desert-delic closing duo, and “Alohawaii” were excellent on the latter record and prove so again here, but the highlight of Rutation somewhat surprisingly is “Adolescentes,” a track I’d never really given much of a second glance on Ciudad, but which shines surrounded by “Siluette” (which I’ve yet to trace to another Natas release) and “Brisa del Desierto,” leading to the aforementioned closers. When they want to, Natas lock into fuzz riffing unrivaled in my experience, and you can hear that in “Polvareda,” but the airier parts of “Paradise” show that even at their rawest, there was room in the band’s approach for more than just riff-led Kyuss-isms.
All told, Rutationis just over 31 minutes long, but it still shows the character of what was then a young trio, and for the kindness of the gesture on Vania‘s part that got the disc from South America to Eastern Europe to New Jersey, I just had to write on it. It’s a gift I know I’ll appreciate for years to come, and if Los Natas really are done, then I consider myself all the more fortunate to have been able to get a copy of their last statement as a band.
Thought we’d do something a little different to close out this week. For my money, Natas‘ Delmar is probably the best album Man’s Ruin Records ever put out, and not to take away from what Kyuss accomplished — you could easily argue records like this wouldn’t exist without them and I don’t think you’d be wrong — but there have been many times where it’s one or the other and I wind up pulling Natas off the shelf instead. A full 16 years after its release, it remains gorgeous and has lost none of its potency.
The Patient Mrs. and I are in Boston for the weekend, which seems even farther away from the desert as I look out the hotel window and see it’s snowing, but I brought Delmar along for the ride and so it’s on my mind. No big change there, since it’s on the shortlist of my favorite albums ever, but with a couple listens through yesterday in the car, I figured another wouldn’t hurt. Still burns me that I haven’t been able to get ahold of the last Los Natas full-length, Rutation, that they released last year. With the band broken up though, what seems like distro only in their native Argentina and guitarist/vocalist Sergio Chotsourian moved on to the heavier but continually righteous Ararat — their second album, II (review here), has endured as one of this year’s finest — it doesn’t seem likely to happen anytime soon. Hopefully I’ll bump into it somewhere along the way.
A bit about being in Boston: I’m moving here. Well, not here exactly, but about 45 minutes south to or near a town called Bridgewater. My brilliant wife — whose smokin’ hotness is matched only by her devastating intellectual prowess — got a professor’s gig at a college down that way that starts next fall, and as this weekend was likely to be my last opportunity to see the place before the holidays hit and the usual chaos erupted, here we are. We’ll drive down there in a bit and the basic idea is to check out the scene ahead of making the move sometime next summer, though apparently there’s a house on the market with an outdoor bar, which is about as close as I’ve ever heard to paradise.
That’s the reason for the delay on the review of the High on Fire/Goatwhore/Primate/Lo-Pan show, which otherwise would’ve gone up yesterday. I also saw Six Organs of Admittance last night up here, figuring they rule and if I’m gonna be here I’d better start getting out to stuff. Both of those reviews will go up early next week, and as I’ve lagged on album writeups lately, I might see if I can do two one day or something like that. I also still need to get that Bell Witch interview up, which I said I’d do this week and then never did. A bit of upheaval over here, and more time than I thought got taken up by adding to The Obelisk Radio. If you click that link and notice albums haven’t been added for two days, it’s only because — whoops — I filled the hard drive. My intent is to pick up a couple terabytes this weekend and get back to it as this week starts up, Monday or Tuesday.
Speaking of Monday, it’s December now, which means time to start the readers poll to find out everyone’s picks for the best albums of the year. Last year’s poll was good times and I’ve been looking forward to seeing what records stood out to everybody. My own list I’ll probably put up somewhere in the middle of the month — just when everyone’s really sick to death of self-important critics’ top 10s and 20s — and I know there are some tough choices in terms of deciding what’s to be included and in what order. It’s been a pretty wild year.
And as it starts to wind down, I hope as always that you enjoy what I’m doing with this site, that you dig the Natas, that you check in on the forum, take a listen to the Obelisk Radio stream and check back here for that High on Fire review, readers poll launch and much more. The one thing that never seems to be lacking is adventure. I’ll take that.
Founded in 1995 by Scott Hamilton, Detroit imprint Small Stone Records is the single most influential American heavy rock label of the post-Man’s Ruin era. What started as Hamilton releasing local Detroit acts of varied genres like Morsel, 36D and Perplexa soon took on a dedication to the heavy aesthetic that remains unmatched in both its scope and its reach of influence. Looking back, Five Horse Johnson‘s 1997 Double Down debut, seems to have been the beginning of Small Stone‘s turn down the fuzzly path. It’s like Hamilton followed the riff right down the rabbit hole and never looked back.
Now, 17 years on, Small Stone has a reach that goes beyond even the distribution of the albums it puts out. Thanks to the diligent work of Hamilton and oft-encountered names like Mad Oak Studios engineer/mixer Benny Grotto, mastering engineer Chris Gooseman, graphic artist Alexander von Wieding, among others, the label has earned a reputation for quality output that new releases are constantly reaffirming. Over the years, Man’s Ruin refugees like Sons of Otis, (The Men Of) Porn, Acid King and VALIS have come into the fold, but the crux of Small Stone‘s catalog is made up of acts like Roadsaw, Dixie Witch, Halfway to Gone, Throttlerod, Puny Human and Novadriver, who no matter what else they put out or who they put it out with, will always be considered “Small Stone bands.”
That designation and those groups specifically have helped establish a core American-style heavy rocking sound that the label seems to delight in toying with even as it continues to promulgate. Next generation bands like Gozu, Lo-Pan, Freedom Hawk, Backwoods Payback and even newer newcomers Wo Fat, Supermachine, Lord Fowl and Mellow Bravo — who don’t yet have albums out on the label — are expanding its breadth, and recent international signees Asteroid, Abrahma, Mangoo, Nightstalker and Mother of God should help ensure that Small Stone keeps pushing both itself and genre boundaries well into the next several years.
One of the hazards, however, of an ever-growing catalog, is that it can be hard to figure out where to start taking it on, and to that end, I’m happy to provide you with 10 essential Small Stone picks. Note I didn’t say “the 10 essential Small Stone picks,” because the reality of the situation is this is just the tip of the fuzzberg. If it’s any indication, I started out with five and couldn’t leave the rest out.
Here they are, ordered by the date of release:
1. Novadriver, Void (ss-022/2001)
Still an album that’s more or less impossible to pin to just one genre, the stoner/space/weirdo jams of Novadriver‘s 2001 outing, Void, reside somewhere between Monster Magnet‘s early Hawkwind worship and the unbridled intensity of groove that came out of Detroit’s early- and mid-’70s heavy rock and proto-metal. The fact that Novadriver also came from the Motor City speaks to the label’s local roots, but if Void was coming out even today, it’d be coming out on Small Stone.
2. Los Natas, Corsario Negro (ss-028/2002)
Personally, I think 2005’s El Hombre Montaña is a better album and 2009’s Nuevo Orden de la Libertad is an even better album than that, but Corsario Negro earns the edge as a starting point because it was the beginning of the Argentinian rockers’ relationship with Small Stone (they too were left without a home in the wake of Man’s Ruin folding). Plus, if you haven’t heard them before and you get this, you can still marvel at the subsequent offerings. Either way, totally necessary.
3. Various Artists, Sucking the ’70s (ss-032/2002)
In a lot of ways, this is what it’s all about. Badass bands playing badass songs. By this point, The Glasspack, Los Natas, Fireball Ministry, Halfway to Gone and Five Horse Johnson (who lead off the first disc) had already put out at least one album through Small Stone, but Sucking the ’70s made the most of the label’s burgeoning reputation, bringing in Clutch, Alabama Thunderpussy and Lowrider, along with bands who’d later add records to the catalog like Roadsaw, Suplecs and Lord Sterling, all covering hits and obscurities from the heavy ’70s. A gorgeous collection that would get a sequel in 2006. Still waiting on part three.
4. Dixie Witch, One Bird, Two Stones (ss-037/2003)
The Austin, Texas, trio would go on to become one of the most pivotal acts on the Small Stone roster, and they’d do so on the strength of their Southern riffs and the soul in their songwriting. Led by drummer/vocalist Trinidad Leal, Dixie Witch hooked up with Small Stone on the heels of their 2001 debut, Into the Sun, which was released by Brainticket, and quickly gained a reputation for some of the finest classic road songs that Grand Funk never wrote (see “The Wheel”). Their 2011 offering, Let it Roll, affirmed their statesmen status among their labelmates.
5. Sasquatch, Sasquatch (ss-044/2004)
I was pretty well convinced that when the L.A.-based Sasquatch released their self-titled debut in 2004, rock and roll was saved. Whoever it needed saving from, whatever needed to take place to make that happen, this record did it. Truth is, rock and roll didn’t really need to be saved — it needed a stiff drink, as we all do from time to time — but Sasquatch would’ve been right there even if it had. They’re a Small Stone original with all three of their records to date out through the label, and still one of the strongest acts in the American rock underground, even though they’d never be quite this fuzzy again.
6. Dozer, Through the Eyes of Heathens (ss-061/2005)
Even now, seven years later, I can’t look at this album cover without hearing the chorus to “The Roof, the River, the Revolver.” Between that and songs like “Man of Fire,” “Born a Legend” and “From Fire Fell,” Swedish rockers Dozer made their definitive statement in their label debut (fourth album overall). Another former Man’s Ruin band, they’d already begun to grow past their desert rock roots by the time they hooked up with Hamilton, and Through the Eyes of Heathens played out like what heavy metal should’ve turned into after the commercial atrocities of the late-’90s. A gorgeous record and still a joy to hear.
7. Greenleaf, Agents of Ahriman (ss-074/2007)
It’s like they built nearly every song on here out of undeniable choruses. Even the verses are catchy. I’ve championed Agents of Ahriman since before I started this site, and I feel no less vehement in doing so now than I did then. A side-project of Dozer guitarist Tommi Holappa that on this, their third album, included and featured members of Truckfighters, Lowrider, The Awesome Machine and others, Greenleaf became a distillation of many of the elements that make Swedish heavy rock unique in the world. It wasn’t aping classic rock, it was giving it a rebirth, and every Hammond note was an absolute triumph.
8. Iota, Tales (ss-084/2008)
Once, I had a t-shirt with the cover of Iota‘s Tales on the front. I wore it until it got holes, and then I bought another. That’s the kind of album Tales was. A trio crawled from out of Utah’s Great Salt Lake, Iota took Kyuss, launched them into space, and jammed out for five, 10 or 20 minutes to celebrate the success of the mission. Recently, guitarist/vocalist Joey Toscano has resurfaced in the bluesier, more earthbound Dwellers, which teams him with the rhythm section of SubRosa. Their debut, Good Morning Harakiri, was a highlight of early 2012, building on what Iota was able to accomplish here while pushing in a different direction.
9. Solace, A.D. (ss-093/2010)
It took the better part of a decade for the Jersey-bred metallers to finish what became their Small Stone debut after two full-lengths for MeteorCity, but when it finally dropped, there was no denying A.D.‘s power. My album of the year in 2010, the band delivered front to back on seven years’ worth of promise, and though it was recorded in more studios than I can count over a longer stretch than I think even Solace knows, it became a cohesive, challenging album, giving listeners a kick in the ass even as it handed them their next beer. I still get chills every time I put on “From Below,” and I put it on with near-embarrassing regularity.
10. Lo-Pan, Salvador (ss-116/2011)
If you know this site, this one’s probably a no-brainer pick, but the Columbus, Ohio-based riff merchants took on unabashed stoner rock fuzz for their Small Stone debut (third album overall) and made some of 2011’s most memorable songs in the process. Subversively varied in mood and heavy as hell no matter what they were doing, every part of Lo-Pan‘s Salvador worked. There was no lag. Small Stone also reissued the band’s 2009 outing, Sasquanaut, in 2011, but Salvador surpassed it entirely, bringing the band to new heights of professionalism they’d confirm by touring, well, perpetually. They’re still touring for it. You should go see them and behold the future of fuzz.
That’s the list as much as I could limit it. If you want to immediately add five more, throw in Roadsaw‘s self-titled (they’re writing the best songs of their career right now, I don’t care how attached to the early records you are), Puny Human‘s Universal Freak Out, Halfway to Gone‘s High Five, Milligram‘s This is Class War and Five Horse Johnson‘s Fat Black Pussycat. If you want to semi-immediately add five more than that, get the reissue of Acid King‘s Busse Woods, Mos Generator‘sSongs for Future Gods, The Brought Low‘s Third Record, Tummler‘s Early Man and Erik Larson‘s The Resounding. There. We just doubled the length of the list.
And the real trouble? I could go on. We didn’t even touch on curios like Axehandle, Lord Sterling and Brain Police, or The Might Could‘s Southern aggression, Hackman‘s instrumentalism or the druggy post-grunge of VALIS. Suffice it to say that Small Stone is one of very few labels out there from whom any output will at least be worth a cursory investigation. As the label continues to grow and develop in 2012 and beyond with new bands and new releases from its staple acts, taking on new avenues of commerce — like releasing vinyl for the first time, which it did in 2011 — whatever changes might crop up, Small Stone seems ready to meet the future, distortion pedal first. Can’t ask more of rock than that.
I’ve said a couple times now that I only like comps after the fact. When they’re first released and they need to be reviewed, they’re a pain in my ass, and they sit and sit and nag on me until I finally write them up. It’s not until a few years later, when the material is rare as hell and a few of the bands have collapsed, that I’m even remotely interested. You say Welcome to MeteorCity has a different version of a song from Lowrider? Sign me up.
For a while now I’ve been trying to chase down a copy of Bastards Will Pay: A Tribute to Trouble to absolutely no avail. Amazon, eBay, Gemm, physical stores, stoner and doom distros — nobody’s got this friggin’ thing. And yeah, I know I can just type it into Google and download it. I don’t wanna do that. I want to own it. I like my little plastic discs, thanks. You keep the cloud.
To quell my tributary jones and in the meantime hear a couple badass bands, I recently placed an order on the cheap for a copy of Blue Explosion: A Tribute to Blue Cheer on Black Widow Records out of Italy. Released in 1999 and featuring the likes of Drag Pack and Norrsken, among others who don’t exist anymore, it fits my law of comp appreciation perfectly. I don’t even know Garybaldi, but their version of “Fresh Fruit and Iceburgs” is killer and doomed and gives me something to look up tonight while I’m sitting on my ass, so that’s an immediate plus.
Perhaps best of all, though, is that Blue Explosion is bookended by Pentagram. And not just any Pentagram — it’s Joe Hasselvander on all the instruments and Bobby Liebling on vocals, and that’s it. They were working with Black Widow at that point (released Review Your Choices in ’99 and Sub-Basement in 2001 with the duo lineup), and so the disc opens with a nine-minute version of “Doctor Please” on which Hasselvander pretty much just jams with himself. It’s amazing, and his tones are unbelievably heavy. Internal Void follows with “Parchment Farm” and it’s like a one-two punch out of the Doom Capitol.
And Norrsken (the Swedish band from which both Witchcraft and Graveyard were born) are indeed a highlight — they present “Pilot” with expectedly killer vintage sounds — but Natas doing “Ride with Me” and Rise and Shine‘s take on “Sun Cycle” are also standouts, and “Peace of Mind” might be the most purely psychedelic I’ve ever heard Ufomammut sound. Whether it’s the boozy Euro-rock of Space Probe Taurus or the loose organ jamming of Standarte, I’m into it, and the fact that it’s all Blue Cheer material makes it even better.
So yeah, if it was coming across my desk for review now, I’d probably be all huffy-puffy about it and bitch about how compilation reviews are basically just plugs for the bands involved and there’s never any flow or basis for any overall analysis of the release, but in buying something like Blue Explosion: A Tribute to Blue Cheer, I don’t give a shit. It rocks and the rest is secondary to that. For something that was a consolation prize, I definitely feel like I won out.
I thought we’d end this week with a clip from Los Natas, because over the course of the last week, the mainstay Argentinian heavy rockers have re-uploaded a boat-load of their videos to the Tubes of You. Check out their channel here, if you’re so inclined. The video above is for the song “Patas de Elefante,” which comes from the ridiculously underrated Corsario Negro from 2002.
It’s not what I most often reach for when I’m grabbing Los Natas off the shelf — that’s probably Delmar, the debut — but I look at Corsario Negro in the context of what the band’s done since as a great transitional record. It’s like Dozer‘s Call it Conspiracy (coincidentally released the same year) in that it showed the band as having mastered the form of their earliest work even as they began to progress beyond it. Anyway, I’m a dork for Los Natas, so I hope you enjoy the video.
Tonight I went and saw Judas Priest on their “Epitaph” farewell tour at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. It was the biggest concert I’d seen (in terms of crowd-size) in I don’t even know how long. I may write it up Monday or I may just post some pics I took — I scammed my way into a photo pass — and leave it at that. Either way, the show was killer and I’ll have something on it come Monday.
Also next week, stay tuned for a by-request stream of some of Electric Moon‘s heady psych jamming, and before the Thanksgiving holiday, I’ll also have some audio from the HeavyPink 7″, as I’ve heard from a couple people at this point saying they’d like to hear how the tunes came out before investing $11 to buy a copy. Seems perfectly reasonable to me, so sometime shortly I’ll have some sounds from that up.
I didn’t get to post my Elder interview this week, which was disappointing, so I’ll try to have that as soon as I can, and Wiht sent back their Six Dumb Questions Q&A, so I should be able to get that up as well. It is Thanksgiving though, and I’ll be in Connecticut to celebrate with my wife’s family, so I’m thinking about swinging down to Redscroll Records for their Black Friday earlybird sale. I think it’s at 6AM or something like that. Could be fun, but a lot depends on where the evening and the wine take me.
Beyond that, stick around for reviews of VRSA and Cathedral and as many more as I can fit. As always, I hope you have a great and safe weekend. I’ll be spending mine doing homework, so you can pretty much expect I’ll spend significant amounts of time dicking around on the forum. Hope to see you there and back here Monday for more adventure.
I’m not really sure what my delay on this one was, but I found out a few months ago about the 2010 split between Argentinian mega-trio Los Natas and more metallic side-project Solodolor. It’s the second one the two bands have done — small wonder since they share guitarist Sergio Chotsourian in common — and with Solodolor vocalist El Topo Armetta (also Dragonauta and Eight Hands for Kali) singing on three of Los Natas‘ total seven tracks, the effect the split has is more like a family/semi-collaboration than the usual one band on this side, one on the other. Because Los Natas‘ music is so fluid tonally anyway, it works.
Solodolor get the last three tracks. The lineup of Chotsourian, El Topo, drummer Gustavo Rowek and bassist Billy Anderson (yes, thatBilly Anderson) showed the same three songs on the last, vinyl-only split, so it’s basically a chance for anyone who didn’t hear them then to do so now. They’re heavier than Los Natas in the traditional metal crash and bash sort of way, more High on Fire than desert rock, but even the unhinged feel of “The Battle of Mocha Poo” meshes well with the surrounding material.
Five of the seven Los Natas songs are covers, and the hardest part about them is choosing a highlight. For original material, they do new versions of their own “Soma” from the first album and “Rutation” from the second, but with “Thumb” and “Green Machine” by Kyuss, T.S.O.L.‘s “No Time,” Danzig‘s “I Don’t Mind the Pain,” and a Spanish-language take on the all-time classic of classics, “Ace of Spades” by Motörhead — redubbed “El Ass de Espadas” — it’s the covers that win the day. And that new “Soma” rules, don’t get me wrong, but come on, Los Natas playing the opening riff of “Thumb?” Life doesn’t get much better than that.
The only drawback to the covers is that it isn’t Chotsourian singing. He still plays guitar, and he, bassist Gonzalo Villagra and drummer Walter Broide are as tight as ever instrumentally, but a host of vocalists are brought in to cover duty. El Topo was already mentioned, and he does well on the Kyuss songs and “I Don’t Mind the Pain” — which might be my pick of the bunch, depending on my mood — while Argentinian singer Boom Boom Kid makes the T.S.O.L. song work surprisingly well and Ricardo Iorio (V8) manhandles “El Ass de Espadas.” It’s pretty clear Los Natas chose friends and people they wanted to work with, and it’s hard to fault them that.
I’ll stop short here without going into full review-mode and just say that if like me you’ve waited to check out the Los Natas/Solodolor split, consider that time wasted for not having a voice in stuck your head constantly yelling “El ass de espadas! El ass de espadas!” Awesome.
Posted in Features on September 22nd, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
As 2010 makes ready to jump into the double-digit months, it occurred to me the other day to go back and take a look at my Top 10 of 2009. I remembered a few of the albums that rated off the top of my head, if not the order they were put in, but I thought it might be fun to look through the list and see where I stand on the albums 10 months later. Let’s check it out:
1. YOB, The Great Cessation (Profound Lore)
Yup, this is still the best album that came out last year. Check.
2. Los Natas, Nuevo Orden de la Libertad (Small Stone)
Also still rules. Like YOB, I keep this one on me almost all the time.
3. Masters of Reality, Pine/Cross Dover (Brownhouse)
I think I was just really happy Chris Goss put a new album out, although I’ve started to listen to it again now that it’s getting a domestic US release and there are a couple really quality tracks.
4. Truckfighters, Mania (Fuzzorama)
Every time I listen to this album, I’m reminded of how much I dig it. It’s in the same CD wallet as YOB and Los Natas, but I don’t reach for it as much.
5. Shrinebuilder, Shrinebuilder (Neurot)
I hardly ever listen to this anymore, but killer album, killer performances, killer personnel. Can’t wait to get swept up in the hype for the next one, then do the same thing.
6. Crippled Black Phoenix, The Resurrectionists/Night Raider (Invada)
I like the art so much for this album, I don’t even touch it because I’m afraid of screwing it up or leaving fingerprints. It’s gathering dust on my shelf. Pretty dust though, so that’s alright.
7. Wino, Punctuated Equilibrium (Southern Lord)
Am I the only one who thinks maybe Wino meant “punctured” instead of “punctuated?” I just happen to be wearing my t-shirt of the album cover today, so I guess it still curries favor. “Smiling Road” rules.
8. Yawning Sons, Ceremony to the Sunset (Lexicon Devil)
This one still gets listened to regularly, is in that CD wallet. If I was making this list today, it might be number three.
9. Om, God is Good (Drag City)
Cool album, but I never put it on anymore. Maybe I will now.
10. Them Crooked Vultures, Them Crooked Vultures (Interscope) Josh Homme could take a dump on my brand new cupcake and I’d still have a man-crush on him, so this one was bound to show up. Needless to say, I went back to the first couple Queens of the Stone Age albums shortly thereafter.
If I had the list to do over, I’d put Blood by Snail on it, and maybe Church of Misery‘s Houses of the Unholy, which has kept its appeal pretty well. Other than that, I stand by most of the picks above. Let me know if there’s something I missed out on or anything you can think of that you never returned to once January hit.
It’s 10PM and I’m due awake in six hours to begin a drive to Michigan. In case you didn’t know I sing in a band (I usually make a point not to talk about it, but we’re called Maegashira, and we fucking rule) and in addition to playing two shows while we’re out there — one in Lansing, one in Detroit — we’re hopefully going to be recording a new album (our second) completely live. We’ll see how it goes. In the meantime, I’m about to pick discs off the shelf to bring along on the road trip, so enjoy the above Los Natas video while I figure that out.
Sorry about the site downtime today. I don’t really know what happened, but I’m glad I was able to bring it back without really losing anything and I’m glad the internet didn’t totally succeed in its seemingly ongoing mission to eat The Obelisk. We live yet another day, my friends. Let’s be thankful while we can.
Next week we’ll close out April and I’ll give the numbers and post an interview with Primordial‘s Alan Averill, as well as the usual bunch of reviews and so forth. T-shirt news is coming soon, I promise, and Roareth are hitting the studio this weekend as well, so we should have more on that forthcoming as well. I say this all the time, but it remains true nonetheless: good things ahead, so stay tuned.
Posted in Features on December 28th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster
This and the number one still to come feel pretty obvious to me, but I guess it’s a lot easier to say that from this side of the keyboard. Los Natas‘ Nuevo Orden de la Libertad on Small Stone was my number one of the first half of the year, and my appreciation for it hasn’t diminished at all with the additional time. If anything, the Argentinian freedom rockers’ fifth album (not counting numerous other collections, the Toba Trance series, etc.) has gained esteem over the course of the last few months. In the context of the year’s releases, this, the number one and the number three are pretty much interchangeable in my mind, but when you way in all the factors, Nuevo Orden de la Libertad was the penultimate combination of quality, listenability and pure rock enjoyment.
I did a search on this site for Los Natas, and came up with more hits than I care to count, most of which can be boiled down to the simple phrase, “Los Natas kick ass.” From the review, to the interview with guitarist/vocalist Sergio Chotsourian and the sundry other nerd-outs, that’s what it all comes down to. As someone who spent the better part of 2008 popping on the band’s first album, 1999’s Delmar (Man’s Ruin), each morning on his way to work, I found Nuevo Orden de la Libertad to be more streamlined than its predecessor, 2006’s El Hombre de Montaña (also Small Stone), but still carrying the banner of creative jamming freedom for which the band’s work throughout releases like München Sessions has made them known.
They’ve transcended any simple genre tag, moved well beyond the Kyuss influence that typified their earliest work, and become a powerful and influential force all their own. Nuevo Orden de la Libertad was more than just a combination of killer songs; the cohesion and drive behind it became evident in every playback, and with each listen, the deceptive complexity of tracks like “Ganar Perder” and “Noviembre” showed themselves to excellently balance rich fullness of sound and raw intensity. More than some of the albums on this list, I know that Nuevo Orden de la Libertad is a record to which I’ll be returning over the years to come, and that’s exactly why it is where it is on the top 10 of 2009. Now if only we could get them to tour the US…
Posted in Features on September 22nd, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster
Stepping outside his identity as one third of Argentine free riffers Los Natas, guitarist/vocalist Sergio Chotsourian formed the solo outing Ararat as a means for expressing experimental tendencies that did not otherwise fit into his main outfit. Ararat‘s debut, Musica de la Resistencia, crosses cultures and sonic norms en route to bleeding ambience and sometimes dark psychedelia. Based as much around acoustic guitar as noisescaping, the outing defies expectation in almost every way and produces an unsettling, challenging atmosphere.
Chotsourian, joined in his endeavor by his brother Santiago, El Topo (Dragonauta) and others, has shown there’s more to his musical personality than riffs, solos and singing about revolution. With Musica de la Resistencia, a new sonic direction is established and the boundaries seem limitless for what Ararat can accomplish. Sergio was kind enough to once again answer some email questions, and the resulting interview is after the jump. Enjoy.
Posted in Reviews on August 20th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster
Even looking at the two titles with which he?s chosen to represent his first solo outing apart from Los Natas, it?s plain to see Sergio Chotsourian is working to reconcile two sides of himself. For a band moniker, he?s chosen Ararat, the highest mountain in and national symbol of his ancestral Armenia (actually it?s located in Turkey now, but everyone pretty much considers it Armenian anyway), and for an album title, Musica de la Resistencia, which is inextricably linked to the Latin American revolutionary ideal. The Argentine guitarist/vocalist lets loose this cross-cultural interplay across seven mostly experimental tracks on Ararat?s MeteorCity debut, making a marked sonic departure from his main outfit — at least mostly.
There are two extended tracks on the mostly instrumental Musica de la Resistencia, and the first of them is opener ?Gitanoss,? named for the Romani peoples of Spain. The song begins with an echoey sample and high desert tones with drums underneath before devolving into more ambient territory. Chotsourian wastes no time establishing the fact that Ararat is not going to be a band with one particular approach and a darker track such as the organ-infused ?Gitanoss? is only one face he might choose to show at any given time. Surprisingly, he follows it with an exact port of ?Dos Horses? from Los Natas? latest album, Nuevo Orden de la Libertad(Small Stone). The tones that began and ended that record appear here almost as a flotation device to keep listeners from drowning in the dreariness of the 14 minutes prior, although one wonders if Chotsourian was looking to connect Musica de la Resistencia with Nuevo Orden de la Libertad, he couldn?t have taken the central musical theme of ?Dos Horses? and put it into a new context. The piece has already shown itself malleable enough to be used for multiple purposes, but this is a small gripe.
Yeah, this was fairly obvious after the interview with Sergio Chotsourian went up last Thursday night, but I’m pretty sure nobody’s paying attention anyway and even if they are, it bears repeating that Los Natas‘ Nuevo Orden de la Libertad (Small Stone) is the finest album to come out so far this year. Number one on the Top Five of the First Half of 2009. The multi-directional Argentinian rockers have stripped down their sound to its barest essentials and rawest form yet, lending the music an intensity never before attained in the band’s storied 16-year tenure.
The songs are approached with a revolutionary fervor and a feel of overdriven underground punk that complements the Los Natas sound perfectly. There’s a dirty sophistication to the heavy parts, and the several acoustic and Western or South American-inspired interludes show that although Nuevo Orden de la Libertad is clearly a record with something to say, time and thought have been given to aesthetics as well. As I mentioned previously, it wasn’t an easy call between this and Wino‘s Punctuated Equilibrium, but in the end, it was the immediacy of these tracks that put them over the top.
By way of sampling the album at its finest, here is the video for the title track of Nuevo Orden de la Libertad. Whatever else you do today, make sure you listen to it and please, please, don’t miss out on this record.
Posted in Features on June 18th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster
From posting the mp3 of the title track to my review of Los Natas‘ new album, Nuevo Orden de la Libertad (Small Stone), I’ve made it abundantly clear that the more aggressive approach the band takes with songs like “Las Campanadas” and “David y Goliath” is a-okay in my book. The music is vital, immediate and soulful. It may not have the spontaneity of their improv/jamming work on records like Toba Trance, but the sweet plucking of nylon acoustic strings on “Bienvenidos” and the raw driven punk of “10,000” are an easy trade.
The Argentina trio — Sergio Chotsourian,the main songwriter, vocalist and guitarist is joined by bassist Gonzalo Villagra and drummer Walter Broide — have been together since 1993 and have proven to be in possession of an ongoing willingness to push their sound. Nuevo Orden de la Libertad is a powerful example of what happens when a band grows in tandem with its members.
Enough of my prattling and gushing. Sergio was kind enough to take part in the email interview after the jump and discuss the band’s past in the stoner rock genre, creative future, and why Nuevo Orden de la Libertad sounds so darn solid as an album. Enjoy.