Posted in Whathaveyou on November 7th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Don’t get me wrong, it’s very cool that inner-peace-bringing French heavy psych rockers Mars Red Sky are heading out on another European tour starting this month and have already booked a slot at next year’s Hellfest. That’s awesome. I’m stoked that a lot of people will get to see them and I hope the shows are packed. What I’d really like to see, however, is an update about the recording of their second full-length album, which took place early in October at Thunder Underground in California, following a handful of shows in South America. How was the studio? Is it finished? How do the mixes sound? Is it mastered yet? Can I hear it? Can I hear it now? How about now?
The last three questions I consider the most pressing.
I guess it’s not mixed yet, so okay, it’s awesome that the trio are hitting the road again this winter and spending the cold months on tour. Here are the dates and the gorgeous Johan Jaccob tour poster, courtesy of the PR wire:
MARS RED SKY European winter tour to kick off on November 20th.
French stoner rock trio MARS RED SKY just announced the tour dates for their European winter tour across eleven countries.
On November 20th, fuzzed-out psychedelic Frenchies will embark on a two weeks tour across Northern Europe, after what they’ll soon hit the studios for the mixing of their new full-length record (recorded in Brasil earlier this year). Early 2014 will see the band head South for a few dates in Spain and Greece. More dates coming soon, stay tuned!
MARS RED SKY on tour 2013 11/20 LIEGE (B) La Zone 11/21 BRUSSEL (B) Salle Rogier + Naam 11/22 ERFURT (D) Stadtgarten + Monkey 3 11/23 BERLIN (D) White Trash + Monkey 3 11/24 WARSAW (Pl) Harenda Club 11/25 RIGA (LVA) Nabaklab 11/26 TALLIN (EST) Snakehouse 11/27 JYVÄSKYLÄ (Fin) Lutakko 11/28 HELSINKI (Fin) Bar Loose 11/29 TURKU (Fin) Klubi Ilta puoli 11/30 MARIEHAMN (Fin) Dino’s Bar 12/01 VÄXJO (SWE) Cafe Deluxe 12/02 KOPENHAGEN (Dk) Dødsmaskinen 12/03 BREMEN (D) Römer TBC 12/04 REIMS (Fr) L’Appart Café 12/05 BREST (Fr) La Carène
2014 01/23 DONOSTIA / SAN SEBASTIAN (Sp) Mogambo 01/24 BARCELONA (Sp) Rocksound 01/25 ZARAGOZA (Sp) Pub Eccos 01/26 MADRID (Sp) Wurlitzer Balroom 02/14 ATHENS (Gr) 02/15 LARISSA (Gr) 02/16 THESSALONIKI (Gr) 06/20 HELLFEST OPEN AIR (Fr)
Don’t get me wrong, I’d be pretty happy to see Mars Red Sky anywhere. London, Tilburg, maybe somewhere on their recently-announced West Coast stint following the recording of their second album in the Californian desert, or maybe in the back yard. I’m not picky. Wherever. But to see them in their native Bordeaux, with fellow French fuzz countrymen Glowsun sounds particularly awesome. The band in conjunction with a slew of others are presenting a series of shows over the next couple months called “Make it Sabbathy” — sound advice — and they’ve just revealed a trailer for the first installment, which indeed finds them paired with Glowsun – VvvV will also be on the bill — whose song “Dragon Witch” provides the score for the teaser below, which also features a dancing lady and the square carting her around. Certainly a more apt visual metaphor for stoner rock vs. society than I could ever put together. Good fun.
Also a good reminder to revisit that Glowsun album, which I didn’t give its due attention owing to that whole I-hate-digital-promos thing. They’re my square in the driver’s seat.
Here’s the trailer and show info, should you be lucky enough to be in Bordeaux anytime over the next few months:
Make it Sabbathy! #1 teaser
MRS Red Sound is proud to present the first monthly heavy and psychedelic shows in Bordeaux, France : MAKE IT SABBATHY ! On September 18th, French stoner references MARS RED SKY and GLOWSUN will be the first guests of this fuzzy rendez-vous, along with local progressive krautrock sensation VvvV.
We concocted some wild asphalt-burning teaser on this occasion, so it would be much appreciated if you could share this on your website ! For the love of heavy riffs and stoned atmospheres…
? MAKE IT SABBATHY shows ? September 18 – Mars Red Sky + Glowsun + VvvV October 8 – Dead Meadow + Black Jaguar’s Revenge November 18 – Samsara Blues Experiment + Dätcha Mandala
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 10th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Bordeaux fuzz rockers Mars Red Sky have a busy few months coming up. Next week, the trio will do a few shows in their native France, including sharing the stage in Paris with Dead Meadow, before flying to South America to play five shows in Argentina and Brazil. After that, Mars Red Sky will head north, to the Californian desert, where they’ll spend a week putting their second full-length to tape at Thunder Underground in Palm Springs — where the likes of Vista Chino, Brant Bjork, Nick Oliveri, Dwarves, Waxy and others have recorded — also playing a show at The Hood in Palm Desert in the meantime.
That would probably be enough for exhaustion, but while they’re on the West Coast anyway, Mars Red Sky will embark on their second tour of the region after playing SXSW in Austin, Texas, last year and doing a string of gigs afterwards (The Patient Mrs. saw them in Portland). They’ll be joined by Ancient Warlocks for those shows, which are dubbed the “For the Record” tour, and because hey, why not?, Mars Red Sky have also lined up some shows in Finland, Germany, Belgium and France for November and December. Like I say, a busy few months.
Makes sense that the three-piece would head to the desert to record, though. Their self-titled debut (review here), which was one of the best albums released that year, was put to tape in Spain in a similar landscape, and even their earlier-2013 Be My GuideEP (review here) honed in on similar atmospheres and laid back heaviness. Though I’d disappointed to have these guys in the country and not get to see them play (maybe a Boston show to break up the flight back to Europe?), I’ll look forward very much to hearing how the second album comes out when it’s finished.
Here are the tour dates:
Very happy to announce “FOR THE RECORD” Tour & Recording Project for the 2nd Album !
September : 09.18 BORDEAUX (F) “Make it Sabbathy #1!” 09.20 POITIERS (F) Le Plan B 09.21 ANGERS (F) Psych-Fest – Lévitation 09.22 PARIS (F) Le Point FMR with Dead Meadow 09.24 BUENOS AIRES (Ar) Uniclub 09.25 PORTO ALEGRE (Br) Black Bull Pub 09.27 SAO PAULO (Br) Club Inferno 09.28 RIO DE JANEIRO (Br) Mofo (Lapa) 09.29 BELO HORIZONTE (Br) Matriz
October : 10.01 to 10.08 Recording @ Thunder Underground Studio (Palm Spring, CA) 10.04 PALM DESERT, CA The Hood 10.09 SAN DIEGO, CA The Saloon in Encinitas*** 10.10 LOS ANGELES, CA 5 Star Club*** 10.11 SAN FRANCISCO, CA TBA*** 10.12 PORTLAND, OR Ash St.*** 10.13 SEATTLE, WA Shop Suey***
November : 11.20 LIEGE (B) La Zone 11.21 BRUSSEL (B) with Naam 11.23 BERLIN (D) White Trash with Monkey Three 11.27 JYVÄSKYLÄ (Fin) – Lutakko 11.28 HELSINKI (Fin) Bar Loose 11.29 TURKU (Fin) Klubi – Ilta puoli
December: 12.05 BREST (F) La Carène
*** = shows with Ancient Warlocks from Seattle. More shows to be announced soon….
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 22nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
French fuzz rockers Mars Red Sky will start a five-day run of gigs tonight in Dijon with White Fence before meeting up with Glowsun for a couple nights and playing on the 30th with Dinosaur Jr., which sounds like a cool way to spend an evening in Bordeaux should you happen to be out that way. This run kicks off the trio’s summer of shows in support of the new Be My GuideEP (review here), the rest of the dates for which you can find below, joined by the excellent news that Mars Red Sky will be recording a new full-length in the coming months and that they’re hoping to return to the US for a few West Coast dates later this fall, as well as hit South America for the first time.
As I don’t live in any of those places (perhaps most regrettably Bordeaux), the new record is what has my interest piqued, but take a look at the update the band sent down the PR wire and see where you’re at:
MARS RED SKY – News
Please find some infos about MRS !
- Next Shows : 05.22 DIJON (21) Le Deep Inside with White Fence 05.23 STUTTGART (D) Keller Club with Glowsun 05.24 ST GALLEN (CH) Rümpelturm with Glowsun 05.25 GRIES AM BRENNER (A) Floiten Jam with Glowsun 05.26 GRENOBLE (38) Drak-Art 05.30 BORDEAUX (33) Le Krakatoa with Dinosaur Jr 07.07 AUBANGE (Bel) Festival Wave 07.18 LILLE (59) La Péniche 07.20 WARSAW (PL) Day of Ceremony Festival 08.02 OR 03 STAMSRIED (D) Void Fest 08.10 GEEL (Bel) Yellowstock Festival 08.23 SANTA MARIA DEL PARAMO (SP) Taberna Belfast 08.24 MOLEDO (Pt) Sonic Blast
Posted in Reviews on May 10th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I don’t know how many times I’ve said so – probably at least once for each time I’ve actually brought myself to do it – but I hate reviewing compilations. For most of them, there’s no flow between the tracks, being that it’s different artists, different recordings and sometimes different genres, and even when you get a gem, a non-album track or something like that, there’s no real context for being able to enjoy it, because once it’s over, you’re swept abruptly off to the next thing. Most of the enjoyment I get out of them is in hindsight, years later, when that non-album track is legitimately rare and hard to track down, or the alternate version has never appeared anywhere, or when the comp itself has built up some mystique as a landmark moment – those are even fewer and farther between, but it happens sometimes – either for an artist or the genre. Even if they’re alright to listen to, reviewing them is terrible. You’re either promoting the release outright – “hey, these people are doing good work and you should spend your money on it” – or doing little more than listing the bands involved – “this comp is cool because it has so-and-so involved and they do this song, whereas this band does another song,” and so on. I’ve never been able to find a middle ground in comp reviews and while I do genuinely think there are people out there putting in significant effort to promote artists they believe in, the pain in my ass that reviewing a compilation becomes is enough that I generally try to avoid it as much as possible.
So this is the part where, post-disclaimer, I tell you the case is wholly different with Kept in a Cave, Vol. 1, the 13-track mining operation of Europe’s heavy underground undertaken by Stonerrock.eu, right? Sort of. Kept in a Cave certainly gets a flow going, thanks in part to the similarities in fuzz and jam-minded process of the bands that make up its midsection – Sungrazer into The:Egocentrics into Been Obscene into Electric Moon works rather well and with a healthy dose of Elektrohasch and Elektrohasch-style heavy, there’s not much room for stuff to be out of place – but I still find myself in the position of wanting either to run through the tracklist or just promote it because I respect the effort on their behalf in making the release and its four-panel digipak with giant-mantis artwork happen. To counteract the first, here’s the rundown of artists and songs in its entirety, taken directly off the back of the package:
1. Grandloom, “Larry Fairy” (7:07)
2. Under Brooklyn Palms, “Restlessness” (6:20)
3. Mars Red Sky, “Sadaba” (5:07)
4. Kosmic Elephant, “Bloot Pilot” (6:38)
5. Sungrazer, “Wild Goose” (5:19)
6. The:Egocentrics, “Lost and Found” (4:54)
7. Been Obscene, “Endless Scheme” (6:55)
8. Electric Moon, “Triptriptrip” (8:45)
9. Samsara Blues Experiment, “Hangin’ on the Wire” (5:30)
10. Stonehenge, “Concrete Krieger” (7:36)
11. The Machine, “5 & 4” (6:14)
12. DxBxSx, “Problemkind” (2:16)
13. Sahara Surfers, “Gas” (6:00)
All this adds up to a 79-minute front-to-back listen, about as much as a single-CD will hold. Of the included artists, Sungrazer, Been Obscene, The Machine and DxBxSx are signed to Elektrohasch, and certainly familiar acts like Mars Red Sky, Samsara Blues Experiment and Electric Moon fit aesthetically with that fuzzy, jammy sound as well, so though it’s long, Kept in a Cave makes for a decent listen if you’re going to take it on as a whole, put it on for a party – I’m told music at parties is something human beings do – or whathaveyou, and even the likes of Grandloom, Under Brooklyn Palms (who, yes, are German), Kosmic Elephant, Stonehenge and Sahara Surfers fit on a sonic level. Nothing here is really out of place and obvious consideration has been given to how one song is met by the next – for emphasis, I’ll cite putting the punkier DxBxSx as the second-to-last cut, giving a short burst of energy after the fuzzfests preceding – so the project becomes even more admirable.
Housekeeping kicked me out of my hotel room. While I’m staying somewhere, I usually don’t like to have people come through and clean — I’m not making that much of a mess, and what mess I make, I can clean up myself — but sometimes it just has to be done. So they gave me the boot, but I was still early to head down for the official start of London Desertfest 2013. Or late, depending on how you want to look at it. I’ll explain as we go along, though before we get down to it and the rest of my night gets its course, let me just say that some of what I saw today is the kind of stuff that I’ve no doubt will stay with me for as long as I have the capacity to remember it. Really. It was like that. From watching friends kick ass to seeing bands I never thought I’d be lucky enough to see, it was the perfect start to a landmark weekend.
In the spirit of doom, let’s do a slow count-in: 1… 2… 3… 4…
Native British trio Crystal Head were my favorite find of last year’s Desertfest — a band about whom I really knew nothing who just blew me away on stage. Obviously the surprise factor wasn’t there this go around, but the Londoners were perhaps even more satisfying to watch in 2013 since I knew most of the songs, which came from their 2011 self-titled debut (review here). As such, they made a great launch point for day one of this year’s Desertfest and though the setting was different at the Jazz Cafe, guitarist/vocalist Tom Cameron, bassist/backing vocalist Jon Deal and drummer Dean Deal nonetheless made short work of the room. Self-titled opener “Perfect Weirdo,” was a highlight, and Cameron‘s hollow-body Gretsch was as righteous as I remembered. Curiously, since I thought it was a shoo-in, they didn’t play “True to Say,” but I guess the DJ beforehand had gotten wind of the fact that they weren’t going to, and it was aired over the P.A. nonetheless before they took the stage. I had thought that was weird. Along with “Wouldn’t You Know” — which I might very well have stuck in my head for the rest of this weekend — they kicked into a new song called “Bellicose” that was introduced as being, “about how nice the world is.” So be it. Moody as they get, and they get plenty, Crystal Head never stray too far from the next hook, and even “Bellicose” had a solid crash groove from Dean that slammed into half-speed at just the right moment. When they closed with “Truth Hurts,” I wanted to hear a new record as badly as I wanted to hear the self-titled after they finished at The Underworld in 2012.
I went back and looked, and I haven’t called a band a hoot yet on this trip. Well, that’s what Groan were. They were a hoot. Just lots and lots and lots of fun. Fun to watch, fun to hear, fun from the moment of their ultra-pretentious classical intro to every over-the-top grandiose song of their set. I dug the hell of it. Not like I’d seen them before, but the now-fivesome have been through some lineup changes since they released The Divine Right of Kings (review here) in the latter half of 2012, shifting drummer Christopher West (also of Trippy Wicked) over to guitar while bringing on new drummer Zel Kaute and new guitarist Mike Pilat to join forces with bassist Leigh Jones and frontman extraordinaire Andreas “Mazzereth” Maslen. They brought the house down early with their unabashed heavy metal shuffle, dipping into their split with Vinum Sabbatum (review here) for “Cosmic Boogie” before “Magic Man” showed off some of the more metallic riotousness that showed up on the last album. They were a top-notch stage act, Mazz playing host to a chaotic carnival while Jones followed suit and the three relative newcomers kept the material in check while adding to the energy. Pilat contributed some vocals along with Jones in a few choruses, and it was cool to hear older songs from 2010′s The Sleeping Wizard(review here) like “Witchy Woman” and their finale, “Sleeping Wizard,” get treated to the band’s newer tones. Foremost, though, Groan were a really good time as they rushed through their set, and Mazz got in the last word of wisdom before they walked off stage: “Let’s have a party!” It seemed like we just had.
Mars Red Sky
The warmth. I guess in the intervening year since I saw them at Roadburn, I’d somehow tricked my brain into thinking there was no way France’s foremost ministers of fuzz Mars Red Sky could actually sound that thick and still be so languid, dreamy, psychedelic on stage. But no, they were. At The Underworld, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast (left above), vocalist/guitarist Julien Pras (middle above) and drummer Matgaz (right above) had the perfect balance of tonal weight and melodic sweetness, and of all the fuzz I’m bound to hear in the next few days, I’ve no doubt that at the end, theirs will have been some of the most satisfying. Most of the new Be My Guide EP (review here) was played, including “Clean White Hands” and the title-track before the trio moved on to “Curse” and “Marble Sky” from their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), Kinast coming to the fore vocally for the latter. “Strong Reflection” from the full-length was even slower coming from the stage, which I didn’t expect, but that only made the rolling, nod-inducer of a riff even richer, Pras‘ vocals echoing but still conveying a single-layer’s fragility that doubling inherently removes from the studio versions of the material, giving what’s already ultra-natural-sounding a rawer vibe. The EP is still new, but the album cuts got a great response, and as Mars Red Sky capped with “Way to Rome,” I felt like I was being issued a reminder that summer is on the way and will be here before I know it. All the better for having Mars Red Sky‘s temperate fuzz to bake in solar scorch. They also let me take their picture outside the venue later. Right on.
Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight
My original intention had been to watch cumbersomely-named appreciated amigos Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight (oft just Trippy Wicked) start the day with an acoustic set at the Vans store in Camden. The downside to this plan? I had no idea where said retail outlet was. This was a two-fold downer: First, because I like Trippy Wicked‘s acoustic stuff a lot — they break out a ukulele and really make it interesting and moody and varied — and Second, because the friggin’ Vans store in Camden was right in front of my god damn face the whole time. I walked past it on my way to Jazz Cafe for the start of Crystal Head and actually did a facepalm. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone back and forth in front of it since getting into town, but it’s several. Fortunately, my feeling like a jackass (familiar as it is) was tempered by knowing that Trippy Wicked were also booked for a full-on slot at The Black Heart, which is where I caught the St Albans trio, whose drummer Chris West and guitarist/vocalist Peter Holland had been kind enough to host me earlier this week. Time was a factor, but I did get to see them play a new song, and that was awesome, and I got to see them fill up The Black Heart such that people were queued (yeah, I’m in the UK) through the door and into the hallway to get in. Not really surprising, since last year they played The Purple Turtle (not a part of Desertfest 2013, which has already saved a few long walks, I’m sure) and garnered much the same reaction, and if not for the power of their oh-so-heavy rock and roll, certainly the fancy shirts of Holland and bassist Dicky King would’ve packed the house. I don’t know if anything will ever beat seeing them in Eindhoven last year, but whenever I get to watch them play I’m glad to be there. My only regret of the day was I didn’t get my dose of “Hillbilly Moonshine.”
What could’ve possibly drawn me away from such rock-your-socksery? The thing is, to say I have an enduring affection for the Sons of Alpha Centauri/Gary Arce collaboration — he being the “Yawning,” as in his main outfit, Yawning Man, and they being the “Sons” as in the first word of the name of their band — and their 2009 debut album, Ceremony to the Sunset (review here), is to grossly understate the situation. Theirs was the first in a trio of desert-based sets (Sons of Alpha Centauri are from the UK, but Arce counts in atmosphere as well as geography, so we’ll give them credit at least this time), that went from Yawning Sons to Yawning Man to Fatso Jetson as the closers for The Underworld. Frankly, it wasn’t the kind of thing I was going to be able to live with myself if I missed, and it seemed I was lucky when I got there and Yawning Sons hadn’t started yet. Unfortunately, in a couple short seconds within beginning to play, Arce‘s guitar cut out. Gone. The Sons portion of the lineup — guitarist Marlon King, bassist Nick Hannon, soundscaper Andrew Blake and the drummer who held together much of the jams that would ensue — locked in the gorgeousness of “Tomahawk Watercress” on their own while Arce figured out his situation, and just when it seemed to be up and running, off his guitar went again. It went on like that for a while, and was a genuine, visible bummer that cut into their set time. King and company were pros all the way, and the tech crew for Desertfest and even Arce‘s Yawning Man bandmate, Mario Lalli (also of Fatso Jetson), came out to help. Finally they got the guitar working and were able to build a bit of momentum over the remainder of their set. Lalli returned to guest on vocals for “Meadows” from the album, and that helped, and they ended with just King and Arce playing off each other on guitar, which was a cool moment to see, though I don’t think the set turned out the way anyone had anticipated or hoped. Still, I can’t call it a disappointment from where I stood. Getting to see Yawning Sons play any of their material at all was an automatic win.
I don’t know if it gets more of-the-desert than the Yawning Man lineup of Gary Arce, Mario Lalli and drummer Alfredo Hernandez. There’s plenty of acts and artists who’ve emerged from that vast, beautiful wasteland expanse, but aside from being pivotal to the creation of desert rock — period — is there anyone who so singularly embodies the heavy sound associated with that region? Maybe having Yawning Man play Desertfest 2013 was a way to find out, and if so, I’ll take it. I know they’re American and I’m American, but America’s a big country, and I honestly didn’t ever think I’d get to watching Yawning Man live, so this was something really special for me to witness — these three players jamming out still-unheralded classics for an audience that, if they went through and hand-picked a crowd, they couldn’t have found one more appreciative of what they do and what they’ve done for heavy rock and heavy psychedelia as a whole. And their albums, 2005′s Rock Formationsand 2010′s Nomadic Pursuits(review here) — even the latter, for which I still carry a nerd’s torch, don’t do them justice live. The songs are heavier, yeah, but also just plain deeper tonally, Arce‘s guitar expanding to full echo breadth as he signaled changes to Lalli and Hernandez for when to move to the next part. I know Yawning Man have had some lineup shuffles in their time and even recently, but to have these guys come out and start running through “Sand Whip” and “Perpetual Oyster” and get a real flow going from one jam into the next, the massive influence they’ve had on the probably thousands of bands who’ve taken bits and pieces of their sound over the course of a generation — some without even knowing they did it — made a lot of sense. By way of new material, they played “Dark Meet” from their split 12″ with Fatso Jetson, which is only the second piece of vinyl I’ve bought since I left home, and before they started, I got to hold Gary Arce‘s guitar for him while he went and grabbed a replacement part, and I felt honored just for standing where I was even more than I had already.
Boomer’s Blues! Boomer’s Boogie! Moving to guitar and getting a microphone for vocals, Mario Lalli commenced Fatso Jetson‘s set by asking the existential question, “What is desert rock, anyway?” I was going to yell out, “rebranded post-punk!” but thought better of it. In any case, Lalli isn’t quite post his punk. Joined in this iteration of his seminal outfit by drummer Tony Tornay, bassist/cousin LarryLalli, both mainstays,and his son, guitarist/backing vocalist Dino von Lalli — who may or may not be 16 now; Mario said something on stage about pulling him out of high school to do this show — Lalli and the band answered his question to whatever degree Yawning Man could possibly have left it unanswered. They ran through a fortified, boogie-fied groover set that touched on Fatso Jetson albums like Cruel and Delicious (2002), Toasted(2001), Flames for All(1999) and Power of Three(1997), but conspicuously absent was anything from 2010′s Archaic Volumes(review here). I don’t know if maybe the band decided to leave that material be on account of not having Vince Meghrouni on-hand to contribute sax and vocals as he did on the record, “New Age Android,” “I’ve Got the Shame” and “Tutta Dorma” go a long way. There wasn’t any new material to be had, but having seen them at Roadburn in 2010, I knew Fatso Jetson delivered live, and they did precisely that. To my misfortune, I was standing up front next to The Most Fucked Up Couple In London™ (my only challenge was deciding which between the two was, in local parlance, the bigger cunt) and promptly had beer spilled all down my back, so I wasn’t long for being there, and once wrenched off the floor level of The Underworld, soon decided to pick up that Yawning Man/Fatso Jetson split and head back to The Black Heart to close out the night in local style.
It was a little like walking into Mos Eisley with the lights off, going back to The Black Heart. All around me, drunken murmurs and shouts in a variety of mumbled languages couldn’t be placed to their source, and even as I turned the corner to go down the alleyway to get to the bar, I knew I was in for it. I’d already been doused — I mean, covered — in beer, so whatever was coming, I felt like I was ready. I saw Steak here last year and dug them, and dug as well their sci-fi/comic thematic Disastronaught EP (review here), and with a new one coming called Corned Beef Colossus, figured this would be a chance both to get in some last-minute fuzz for the day and sample their latest material. The band features guitarist Reece Tee, who also organized Desertfest (not totally on his own, as no great feat is accomplished single-handedly, but still), vocalist Kippa, who set up his mic on the monitor box at the front of the stage, bassist Cam and new drummer Sammy, replacing Dan Kinsey, now of Wizard Fight, and Sammy would soon make the presence of his doubly-floor-tommed kit felt in more than just a busted hammer on a kick pedal as the London four-piece unrolled tones and grooves sliced even thicker than I remembered. Kippa, not content to be on the box, climbed onto the monitor itself to get to the ceiling, and the assembled masses seemed to treat it more as a start to the inevitable after party than the final set of the night. No doubt that was exactly the intent. This is their scene, their friends, their party, and the moment was well earned, both on Tee‘s part and the band’s.
It’s nearly four in the morning as I type this and I still have pictures to sort. Tomorrow is fewer bands, more full sets, and I’m looking forward to that for sure, but today was fantastic front to back, so I’m not about to complain. You can really get a sense being here of the spirit of appreciation with which this fest is executed, and I hope that comes across both in this and in the posts to come tomorrow night and Sunday. Thanks as always for reading.
Posted in Reviews on March 14th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Mars Red Sky showed with last year’s split/collaboration EP with French countrymen Year of No Light that although their prior self-titled debut was typified by sweet melodies, memorable progressions, and a dense low end presented with a warm, laid back feel, that was by no means the extent of the trio’s breadth. That album (review here) was among 2011’s most pleasant surprises, and even though the aforementioned Green Rune White Totem split (more on it here) inevitably expanded the band’s reach, that expansion never seemed to come at the sacrifice of the elements that gave the full-length its lasting appeal. Admittedly, it’s a record I still put on, so when it comes to Mars Red Sky’s proper follow-up, the new Be My Guide EP, I’m glad to find the case is much the same as with the split – there’s growth evident, but neither have they abandoned what worked so well about their first outing. The EP, released vinyl-only as the first catalog number for the band’s own Mars Red Sound imprint, is four tracks of gorgeous, fuzzed-out heavy psychedelia that clock in just under 27 minutes.
The LP is presented with due symmetry, each of the two sides featuring two tracks, the first a new cut with the lineup of Julien Pras (guitar/vocals), Jimmy Kinast (bass) and Matgaz (drums) and the second a departure from the form and process. On side A, that comes in the shape of the seven-minute “Seen a Ghost,” which was recorded with previous drummer Benoît Busser in a separate session from the other three cuts on Be My Guide, and closing out side B, it’s “Stranger” a cover of 17 Hippies‘ “Ton Étrangère” with lyrics translated into English. Both “Seen a Ghost” — which it doesn’t seem unreasonable to assume was put to tape earlier than the other three, since it was obviously done before Busser was no longer in the band — and “Stranger” mark a musical shift, not so much away from the bliss-through-simplicity fuzzy bounce of “Be My Guide” or the wah swirl that takes hold in side B opener “Clean White Hands,” but definitely moving with those pieces to someplace they haven’t gone before.
That’s not to say “Be My Guide” and “Clean White Hands” don’t also show growth in Mars Red Sky‘s songwriting methods or the general atmosphere those methods create. Far from it. In “Be My Guide,” a quick drum fill opens to immediate mid-paced fuzz engagement, thickening and moving smoothly into a verse the cadence of which proves no less a hook than the fluid chorus. Thick, wah’ed out and topped by Pras‘ ambience-ready vocals, the simple lines, “Amber, anger, be my guide,” leave a lasting impression even as the tone behind them comes forward thicker and slower leading to a resuming of pace in an instrumental break with a wah solo from Pras backed by the rolling groove fostered by Kinast and Matgaz. The latter, as the newest member of the band, seems to have had no trouble fitting in, if “Be My Guide” is anything to judge by, and similar to their carry-you-with-it flow between “Strong Reflection” and “Curse” leading off the self-titled, the opening title-track of Be My Guidemakes an inviting impression that’s hard to ignore and all but impossible to refuse.
It’s worth noting though that Be My Guideisn’t a full-length, despite its everybody-come-along tendencies, and that the goals it’s working toward are different. You could probably listen to “Be My Guide,” the song, right into “Seen a Ghost” without thinking twice about it, but once the full stomp of the second track takes hold after the circular groove of the introduction, it’s apparent that the band aren’t just nestling themselves into a formula. Pras echoes deep in the mix behind his guitar and Kinast‘s bass, but after about a minute and a half, they jump into a sudden start-stop cadence that meets with overlaying psychedelic layers of vocals, the stark rhythmic chug of the verse standing in striking contrast to the fullness of “Be My Guide” before it and “Clean White Hands” to follow on the EP’s second side. What the songs have in common — and why it still works — is tone and groove, so that when “Seen a Ghost” moves into its dreamy midsection, although more than just the drummer has changed, the track never stops making sense.
Once again the verse picks up, and Mars Red Sky seem to enjoy toying with the stomp and meeting that with a likewise shift in lyrical approach, filling the space that the music occupies elsewhere with words. Where a verse to the opener looked like “See her/In a field of plaster/Early morning ride,” in “Seen a Ghost,” one hears, “Attack my brain, release my mind/Enhance the screaming of bleeding heart/For everyone to hear wherever they are.” Longer and more compact lines, still sweetly-delivered, mean more prominent vocals. The instruments still find room to breathe, however, in the post-verse break. With no chorus to speak of — those starts and stops are plenty catchy — it’s that instrumental psych part offering the answer back to the rhythmic march, and it’s longer the second time around, leading to a final reprise of the verse in the last minute that satisfies all the more for how Kinast reintroduces the progression and Pras’ layered singing.
Starting side B, “Clean White Hands” comes on with a bluesier riff and more open progression in its riff, backing off some of the insistence of “Seen a Ghost” and building a wash of gorgeous lead guitar tone over an initial bassline not wholly dissimilar from “Way to Rome” from the self-titled. Not arguing with it. Matgaz meets the languid groove head on, and punctuates a quieter verse with hard-hit snare while Pras‘ vocals echo behind, keeping a consistent beat as Pras and Kinast click on a fuller sound for the chorus. Here, Mars Red Sky seem wholly in their element, and “Clean White Hands,” which is longer than “Be My Guide” by nearly two full minutes, has room for jammier instrumental exploration that the trio puts to good use, Pras‘ guitar ringing out ethereal lines as Kinast and Matgaz hold down the beat before quieting even further for return to the verse in the second half that makes the chorus seem all the louder by comparison. Its appeal isn’t as immediate as “Be My Guide,” but “Clean White Hands” proves to be no dip in quality and it’s a prime example of the band developing their songwriting style for its balance of familiar structures and weighted grooves with a feeling of purposeful meandering.
“Ton Étrangère” opened the Berlin collective 17 Hippies‘ 2011 album, Phantom Songs, though with considerably fewer hippies on board, Mars Red Sky give it a considerable rearrangement. Not only more viscous, thicker and slower, than the original, “Stranger” as it appears on Be My Guidealso translates the lyrics to English from French and takes the prior folkish sensibilities, banjo, zither, etc., to someplace far more vague. The rumble below Pras‘ vocals and the lullaby guitar line that marks the verse’s sway are darker in their mood and the chorus “Let me be your stranger/From the heart to the page” has a kind of unsettling feel at the ultra-sleepy pace. A wah solo leads to a quieter verse with less low end similar to post-break “Clean White Hands,” but the context is different, even if the methods are similar. They end big, but still solemn — a wash of wah metered out with bass and drum culmination — Kinast keeping the line consistent while Matgaz signals the final movement and Pras seems to bask in the glow his guitar has created.
If “Seen a Ghost” and “Stranger” are testing the waters for an expansion of Mars Red Sky‘s sound, then I’d call them successful, each for its own reasons. Where “Be My Guide” and “Clean White Hands” affirm the modus the trio established on their debut and assure that a creative evolution of that is underway as well, “Seen a Ghost” and “Stranger” speak to a bolder will on the part of the band to foray to unknown grounds. Even if “Seen a Ghost” is older, it’s where and how the track is presented that allows it to demonstrate these properties, and with “Stranger,” Mars Red Sky show that on an atmospheric level they’re not limited to open desert vibing. Because they manage to strike this balance in under half an hour and because they maintain the sun-baked warmth of tone, Be My Guideis a fitting response to the establishing facets of Mars Red Sky‘s previous full-length (have I mentioned it yet?) and I find after repeat listening that I’m all the more hopeful for how these experiments and developments might play out over the course of their next LP.
Posted in Features on March 12th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
…Yeah, I know, 24 is a buttload of records to buy in the span of about a month and a half. To do the division, it would mean buying a new album every 2.04 days. Probably not feasible in terms of time, let alone budget, but hell, it’s a nice thought and seeing the onslaught of new stuff coming between now and the end of April, I thought maybe a list would help keep it all straight. Even if I’m only helping myself, I could probably spend my time in worse ways.
Worth noting that even with 24 albums, presented below in order of release, I feel like there’s stuff I’m forgetting. Frankly, it’s an overwhelming amount of material, so if I’ve missed something or there’s something you’d like to see added to the list, as always, that’s why there’s a comments feature.
Okay. These are numbered just for fun, but listed by date:
1. Orange Goblin, A Eulogy for the Fans (March 12)
My understanding is that London’s foremost doom scoundrels, none other than Orange Goblin, have been selling copies of A Eulogy for the Fans since starting their US tour with Clutch on March 8 in Cincinnati, Ohio, but today is the official release date, and I can think of no better place to start than with the four-piece’s ferocious performance at the 2012 Bloodstock festival, captured audio and video in all its bloodsoaked glory. Not to be missed or taken lightly because it’s a live record. Album review here.
2. Borracho, Mob Gathering 7″ (March 13)
Even though it’s comprised of older tracks, the new Mob Gathering 7″ from Borracho is welcome by me for two reasons: I’ve never heard the songs before and Borracho rocks. The Washington D.C.-based riffers recorded “Mob Gathering” and “Short Ride (When it’s Over)” in 2009 and are set to release the cuts on a limited platter in black and orange swirl through Spain’s Ghost Highway Recordings and Germany’s No Balls Records. They’ve been playing live as a mostly-instrumental outfit while guitarist/vocalist Noah is out of the country on what I can only assume is an awesome spy mission, so if you need a Borracho fix — and it’s obvious from the way your hands are shaking that you do — this might be the way to go. More info here.
3. Inter Arma, Sky Burial (March 15)
Like Windhand below, Inter Arma are recent Relapse Records signees from Richmond, Virginia, and Sky Burial will serve as their first release for the label. Literally and figuratively, the album is expansive, topping 69 minutes and pummeling the whole way through with a genre-transcending concoction of bleakness that’s not so much aligned to any particular heavy aesthetic so much as it is set to its own atmospheric purposes. Through this, Inter Arma emerge terrifyingly cohesive where many others would falter, and their second LP behind 2010′s Sundown (review here) leaves a progressive impression despite an almost complete lack of sonic pretense. Mostly, it’s fucking heavy. Track stream and info here.
4. Clutch, Earth Rocker (March 19)
If 2013 ended tomorrow, Clutch‘s Earth Rocker would be my album of the year. That’s not saying the situation will be the same nine months from now when I actually start putting that list together (already dreading it), but as of March 12, it’s the cat’s pajamas and no foolin’. The long-running Marylanders outdid themselves and put together a surprisingly fast, energetic collection of songs that don’t forsake the bluesy tendencies of their last album, 2009′s Strange Cousins from the West, so much as they put some of the jamming on lockdown in favor of all-out pro-grade heavy rock and roll. The velocity is crucial and the wolfman is out, but it feels like the party’s just starting. Look for them on tour sometime between now and forever. Album review here.
5. Black Mare, Field of the Host (March 20)
Black Math Horseman and Ides of Gemini frontwoman Sera Timms (who’s also recently collaborated with Yawning Man‘s Gary Arce in the new outfit Zun) steps further out on her own with the solo-project Black Mare, from whom Field of the Host is the first album. Due March 20 on LP through The Crossing and on cassette through Breathe Plastic, limited in both cases and sure to be gone shortly after release if they’re not already taken through pre-orders. Fans of Timms‘ past works will be glad to hear the misty wash of melody and dreamy, somehow sad, languid roll of “Blind One,” for starters. Audio and info on the forum.
6. Kvelertak, Meir (March 26)
Short of setting themselves on fire, Norwegian triple-guitar six-piece Kvelertak did just about everything they could to get noticed in support of their 2010 self-titled debut LP (review here), and sure enough, their work paid off in getting signed to Roadrunner Records for all territories outside their native Scandinavia (where Indie Recordings holds sway) and trumpeting up a wave of anticipation for their second full-length, Meir. Their energetic, genre-crossing approach might not be for everybody, but the band have turned a lot of heads and I wouldn’t at all be surprised to find them on bigger tours this year with Roadrunner behind them. More info on the forum.
7. Black Pyramid, Adversarial (April 2)
This is actually the first time the Eli Wood cover art for Black Pyramid‘s Adversarial has been seen in full, so you know. The Hydro-Phonic Records release of the third Black Pyramid album and first to be fronted by guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard along with bassist David Gein and drummer Clay Neely punctuates the beginning of a new era for the Massachusetts trio. If the advance listen to closing track “Onyx and Obsidian” is anything to go by, they could very well be at their most potent yet, and though I’d hardly consider myself an impartial observer, as a fan of the band, this is one I’ve been looking forward to for a while now. More to come. Track stream here.
8. Moss, Horrible Night (April 2)
I’ve yet to hear the complete album, but UK trio Moss seem poised to surprise with a cleaner vocal approach on Horrible Night, their first offering since 2008′s impressive Sub Templum LP and two EPs in 2009, so in addition to wondering how they’ll pull it off, the level of the shift remains to be seen. That is, how big a deal is it? Should I call my mom? Is this something grandma needs to know about? Time will tell, but for it having been five years since the last time a Moss record reared its doomly head, it seems only fair to give the band a little breathing room on their evolution. More info and video here.
9. Mars Red Sky, Be My Guide EP (April 8)
How glad am I that French fuzz rockers Mars Red Sky have a new EP coming? Well, I’m not as happy that it’s coming as I am that it’s frickin’ awesome. The trio keep the weighted bass tones that gave so much depth to their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), but they’ve also clearly set to work expanding the formula as well, adding stomp to second track “Seen a Ghost” and an eerie repetitive sense to side B closer “Stranger,” while also broadening their melodic reach and taking claim of whichever side of the line they want between fuzz rock and heavy psychedelia while remaining so much more to the ears than either genre descriptor can offer to the eyes. At half an hour, my only complaint with it is it’s not a full-length album. Video trailer and info here.
10. Blaak Heat Shujaa, The Edge of an Era (April 9)
A sample of the poet Ron Whitehead — who also featured on Blaak Heat Shujaa‘s late-2012 debut EP for Tee Pee Records, The Storm Generation (review here) — comes to clarity just in time for the gonzo Boomer poet to let us all know that, “America is an illusion” (that may be, but it’s an illusion with an army of flying killer robots), and from there, the youngin’ desert transplants embark on a low-end-heavy freakout topped with sweet surf rock guitars and set to use in intricate, sometimes surprisingly jagged, rhythmic dances. Mario Lalli of Fatso Jetson guests, Scott Reeder produced. Review is forthcoming, but till then, there’s more info here.
11. Devil to Pay, Fate is Your Muse (April 9)
Fate is Your Muse serves not only as Indianapolis rockers Devil to Pay‘s Ripple Music debut, but also as the double-guitar foursome’s first outing since 2009′s Heavily Ever After. With tales of lizardmen attacks and the alleged end of the world, it’s got its fair share of personality, and set to the chugging riffs, melodic vocals and straightforward heavy grooves, that personality still goes a long way. I’ll have a review up before this week is out (I hope), but still, I wanted to make sure to include Devil to Pay here too, since their songs command both attention and respect. To wit, I just can’t seem to get “This Train Won’t Stop” out of my head. Video and info here.
12. Cough & Windhand, Reflection of the Negative Split (April 15)
Virginian doomers Cough and Windhand share a hometown in Richmond, a love of volume, a bassist in Parker Chandler and now a label in Relapse Records, so yeah, a split makes sense. Reflection of the Negative will be Windhand‘s first release through Relapse ahead of their sophomore full-length, scheduled for later this year (info here). For Cough, this split marks their first outing since 2010′s An Introduction to the Black Arts split with UK masters The Wounded Kings (review here), and they’ll present the 18-minute “Athame,” while Windhand bring forth “Amaranth” and “Shepherd’s Crook.” More info here.
13. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Mind Control (April 15)
What the last Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats album, 2011′s Blood Lust (semi-review here), did so well was capture the atmosphere and the grainy imagery of late ’60s/early ’70s psychedelic horror and put it into audio form. For that, Blood Lust earned massive praise, but I still think that without the central core of songwriting underneath the genre trappings, it would’ve fallen flat. When it comes to Mind Control, the question waiting to be answered is if the band wants to stick to the blueprint they’ve established or go brazenly into uncharted weirdness. I’m not really sure they can lose, either way. Info and music here.
14. Kadavar, Abra Kadavar (April 16)
Their debut on new label Nuclear Blast and the quick-arriving answer to my pick for 2012 debut of the year, Abra Kadavar arrives with plenty of anticipation leading the way. The retro-rocking German trio have their work cut out for them in following that self-titled, but however it turns out in the comparison, it will be fascinating to learn how Kadavar develops the band’s sound and whether or not they prove able to push the boundaries of their aesthetic while simultaneously setting a new standard for promo photos. New video here.
15. Spiritual Beggars, Earth Blues (April 16)
I guess when it comes to these long-running Swedes, everybody’s got their favorite lineup, their favorite tunes, etc., but for me, I’m just impressed that Michael Amott — now more than 20 years on from starting Spiritual Beggars as a side-project while still in grindcore pioneers Carcass — still has any interest in keeping the classic rock Hammond-loving outfit grooving. Their last outing, 2010′s Return to Zero (review here), was the first to feature vocalist Apollo Papathanasio, formerly of Firewind, and though those songs were solid, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re more settled in on Earth Blues when it drops via InsideOut Music on April 16. More info on the forum.
16. Beastwars, Blood Becomes Fire (April 19)
Alternating between periods of brooding intensity and all-out crushing heaviness, the second full-length from New Zealand’s Beastwars, Blood Becomes Fire, is nasty, nasty, nasty. It’s nasty when it’s quiet and it’s nasty when it’s loud. It’s the kind of record you put on and you’re like, “Damn that’s nasty.” And you’re not wrong. The four-piece — touring shortly with Unida — upped their game even from 2011′s self-titled debut (review here), and for anyone who heard that record, you know that’s saying something. I’m still in the “getting to know it” phase, but so far all that nasty feels pretty right on. More info here.
17. Ghost, Infestissumam (April 19)
Man, this one just kind of happened, huh? I suck — and I mean S-U-C-K suck — at keeping up with band hype. I’m the dude who hears the record three months later and goes, “Yeah, I guess that’s cool,” as countless reviews here can attest, including the one for Ghost‘s 2010 debut, Opus Eponymous, but with the Swedish cult heavyweights, all of a sudden I turned around and blamo, major label deal, semi-name change to Ghost B.C., and enough slathering over the impending Infestissumam to make the first album seem like less than the hyperbole it was treated to initially. Funny how that happens. Out in April? I’m sure I’ll review in June and go, “Yeah, I guess that’s cool.” More info on the forum.
18. One Inch Giant, The Great White Beyond (April 19)
Now signed to Soulseller Records, Swedish heavy rockers One Inch Giant will unveil their debut full-length on April 19 and as three of my favorite words in the English language are “Swedish heavy rockers,” I’m excited to find out how this Gothenburg four-piece follow-up their Malva EP, and if they can capture some of the extreme dynamic they brought to their live show when they toured the US last summer — a run of shows that included a stop at SHoD. Hard not to pull for a band after they come over to play club dates. More info and music here.
19. The Heavy Co., Midwest Electric (April 20)
It was actually the other day writing about The Heavy Co.‘s Midwest Electric that I had the idea for this feature, so however high the profile might be for some of these albums — Ghost walks by on their way to cash a check — it was these unpretentious Hoosier rockers and their new outing, Midwest Electric, that started me off. From what I’ve heard so far, the new collection sounds a little more confident in exploring psychedelia than did the trio’s 2011 debut EP, The Heavy (Please Tune In…) (review here), so I’m looking forward to hearing if and how that plays out over the course of the whole thing. Video trailer here.
20. Gozu, The Fury of a Patient Man (April 23)
I have an interview slated for later this week with Gozu guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney, and I’m even more excited for this time than I was when we last spoke, around their 2009 Small Stone debut, Locust Season (review here), since in everything but its goofball song titles, the sophomore outing marks a huge developmental step in the band’s melodic reach and songwriting chemistry. Stay tuned for that interview and check out the Bandcamp stream included with the album review here.
21. Yawning Man & Fatso Jetson, European Tour Split 7″ (April 26)
Note: I don’t actually know that April 26 is the day that what’s sure to be 2013′s most desert-rocking split is due to arrive, I just know that it’s Fatso Jetson and Yawning Man‘s European tour split, and that’s the day the Euro dates start — with performances at Desertfests London and Berlin, to be more specific. Given both the greatness of Fatso Jetson‘s last record, 2010′s Archaic Volumes (review here), and of Yawning Man‘s own 2010 outing, Nomadic Pursuits (review here), the bands’ shared lineage and the relative infrequency of their touring, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to hope that, even for a single, they pull out all the stops. And starts. And riffs. More info on the forum.
22. Serpent Throne, Brother Lucifer (April 29)
Philly-based instrumental heavy rockers Serpent Throne will follow-up 2010′s White Summer/Black Winter (review here) with Brother Lucifer, and while no one can ever really know what to expect, it’s a safe bet that the dual-guitar outfit will have the solos front and center once again. Having seen them do a couple new songs back in December, I can’t blame them in the slightest. Looking forward to letting these songs sink in for a while and having those solos stuck in my head. Track stream here.
23. Melvins, Everybody Loves Sausages (April 30)
Hey wow, a Melvins covers album. Finally, an opportunity for the band to let their hair down and go wild a bit, right? I mean, at long last, they can really feel free to indulge a little and explore their musical roots in a free and creative way. Okay, you get the point. In all seriousness, it’s a pretty cool idea and anything that teams the Melvins with Scott Kelly to do a Venom song is probably going to be a worthy cause. The most amazing part of it is they haven’t already done a version of “Black Betty.” More info on the forum.
24. Revelation, Inner Harbor (April 30)
Their most progressive outing yet and their first album since 2009, Revelation‘s Inner Harbor (review here) is bound to surprise some who thought they knew what to expect from the Maryland doom stalwarts who double as the classically rocking Against Nature. Good thing Inner Harbor had a digital release last year through the band’s Bland Hand Records to act as a precursor to this Shadow Kingdom CD issue. Rumor has it vinyl’s on the way as well, so keep an eye out, since John Brenner‘s guitar tone should be heard on as natural-sounding an apparatus as possible. More info here.
Okay, so you’re saying to yourself, “Golly, that’s a lot of stuff.” You’re absolutely right. But even as I was typing up this feature, I got word of a new Queen Elephantine full-length coming in April, so even as much as this is, it’s not everything. And that’s not even to mention May, which will bring a new Shroud Eater EP, a new Kylesa record and a new Mark Lanegan collaboration, among however much else. Tons of stuff to keep your ears out for, and like I said way back at the top of this thing, if you have something to add, a comment’s always appreciated.
It’s been a while since I’ve had a fully functional turntable, and by that I mean one that worked at all. Platters have been coming in for review for The Obelisk and I’ve managed to figure something out, either listening somewhere other than my office or whathaveyou, but really, it’s something that I’ve been missing up to this point. I tried several times to acquire a working one to no avail, until just this past week, Slevin rolled through with one he wasn’t using and set it up. Toss in a new cartridge, dust it off, and as you can see above, whamo, a working player of vinyl records.
Nifty, right? I traded him the busted Technics that formerly resided at the top of my office shelf system and he gave me this working Optimus, and since I don’t know the difference, I’m just happy to have one that actually can play an albums. I’ve had a pile of stuff here waiting to be written up or even just listened to, so at the end of last week, there was a bit of a binge in vinyl listening, one after another after another and so on. Can’t help it. Sometimes I get excited.
In the spirit of sharing, I thought I’d post the first five records I put on once I had the ability to do so. Needless to say, there have been several more since:
1. YOB, Demo
I haven’t asked to confirm, but I think this was actually the one that got Slevin on board for giving my pathetic ass in the first place. A couple weeks ago, I put up a rant, basically pissing and moaning at having bought myself the 2009 vinyl reissue of YOB‘s demo despite not being able to hear it, so when I finally could, it was the first thing I grabbed. Sure enough, the four tracks on the release — the three of the initial 2000 demo and one live track to close out side B recorded in 2005 — were as primitive as one would have to expect, way more Sleep-derived even than YOB‘s first full-length, but still a joy to hear after so long. Even as a curio, this one was worth the wait and since I’m planning on having this turntable for a while, I was glad I got to play this one first.
2. Asteroid, Move a Mountain 7″
Maybe this one was kind of obvious, since a review went up the other day, but wow, I was looking forward to hearing the latest from Asteroid. Aside from thinking they’re one of the best Swedish heavy rock acts going these days — balancing heavy psych jams with memorable songwriting and sounding so incredibly natural doing it as they do — I wanted to hear how they were developing with their new drummer and was glad to find that even on such a short, two-song release, they hadn’t lost that combination of structure and laid back exploration that has made both of their albums to date so much fun, indeed pushing it further on the B-side, “One Foot in the Grave,” which was some of their fastest material yet. I was already looking forward to their third full-length. Now even more so.
3. Mars Red Sky/Year of No Light, Green Rune White Totem
Mars Red Sky — whose new EP, Be My Guide, is due in April, in case you missed the news that just went up — were kind enough to send me a vinyl copy of their Green Rune White Totem collaboration with their countrymen black metal experimentalists Year of No Light, and I think it must have gotten lost in the shuffle around the time the hurricane hit, and then when I finally would’ve had the chance to hear it, there wasn’t a working record player to make it happen. I was bummed out, because although Green Run White Totem is up on the YuberToubes, I was dying to hear the real thing. The textures that Year of No Light bring to Mars Red Sky‘s rich, deep tonality make the 12-minute collaborative piece all the more fascinating, and the black and red vinyl give it a truly special feel. It’s one I’ll be returning to for sure, especially as Mars Red Sky get set for Desertfest next month and that aforementioned EP release.
4. Clutch, Strange Cousins from the West
The heartbreak of slightly ripping the sleeve when taking out the second of the two LPs in the special edition of Clutch‘s 2009 outing aide, Strange Cousins from the West was a listen a long time in the making. The packaging on the Weathermaker vinyl is astounding (and now ripped, god damn it) with foil and a six-panel gatefold, and when the first side of the first LP started, I swore up and down it was the wrong platter because it was “Freakonomics” instead of “Motherless Child.” Nope, just a different tracklisting than the CD. Given that this is an album with which I’ve spent significant time over the four years since its original release, it was probably the first one on this list that I could really get a sense for the difference the vinyl makes, the compression in the cymbals and warm pops, etc. Particularly in light of their new one (review here), it was cool to revisit Strange Cousins and hear the older material in a new light.
5. Black Sabbath, Dehumanizer
If I’m honest, I don’t even really know where this vinyl copy of Dehumanizer came from. Must have been a reissue that came through at some point, but it’s been in my office for a while now and so it was something of a matter of principle that it should get a play on initial run with the new turntable. The 1992 reunion album between Black Sabbath and vocalist Ronnie James Dio isn’t the best work of either party — and wow, that really came out on side B; I can’t even remember the last time I purposefully listened to “Too Late” or “Buried Alive,” and I named my dog after Dio — but for cuts like “I,” “Master of Insanity,” “Computer God” and “Sins of the Father,” Dehumanizer was well worth another visit. Now I just need to get a copy on tape and I’m all set.
Even though I have a working turntable in my possession, I don’t see myself going overboard as a vinyl collector or anything like that, but if someone’s got a 7″ for sale at a show or something is vinyl-only, at least I know I’ll be able to give it some due time without using someone else’s player or scrambling for a download. But mostly it’s just a review thing for stuff that comes in on LP. It’s not like I’m looking to start a vinyl library. Not like I’m already eying up Hypnos 69 splits on eBay or anything. Me? No way. Ha.
I was just about to put up a post (partially) concerning France’s foremost fuzzers Mars Red Sky, when lo, the trio unveiled a new video trailer for their forthcoming Be My GuideEP. Timing is everything. The three-piece will issueBe My Guide on April 8, 2013, through their own Mars Red Sounds imprint in a vinyl edition of 100 numbered and signed colored vinyls, and the release will feature four tracks, as listed below:
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 1st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
It hasn’t been easy keeping up with the Desertfest updates, as both the London and Berlin fests seem to be adding new bands every day — Truckfighters and Colour Haze joining the London lineup was a bit of a “holy shit” moment for me — and sure enough, the last couple days have been no different, with French bands Glowsun and Mars Red Sky added to London and Blues Pills and Orchid signing on for Berlin. Lineups for both are getting pretty packed.
I’ve had several of those “holy shit” moments, including one listening to Dozer last weekend when I realized I’m actually going to get to see that band play, so although I may have some trouble keeping up, I’m unbelievably psyched to catch Desertfest this year.
Here’s the latest:
After crashing the Berlin leg of Desertfest last year, French ‘psychédélique’ trio Glowsun are heading to Camden and completing the double. Already strong contender for any best French band of all time awards, Glowsun are masters of mixing powerful, ambient psychedelia with raw, crushing groove.
Debut full length, The Sundering, put Glowsun on the stoner map in 2008 thanks to its expertly crafted, hooky jams. Last year’s follow up, Eternal Season, shoved drone more to the centre of the sound as well as pushing through heavier, crunchier guitars. The result was an equally atmospheric, but much darker album with more strut and swagger.
Sitting halfway between Sleep and Sungrazer, Glowsun’s appearance at the Camden leg this year is bound to be a thunderous, apocalyptic journey into a psychedelic waste ground.
words courtesy of Tom Geddes
Mars Red Sky
Mentioning the very concept of Mars Red Sky in the UK brings to mind the bizarre combination of tasty chocolate, caramel and nougat with a high quality brand of potato crisps. En France however we’re talking only about the psyche-tripping, outer galaxy meanderings of Bordeaux’s finest retro rockers, known to their fans as MRS.
Taking in influences as broad as Hendrix, Kyuss, Cream, Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, these meteor-bothering cosmonauts create a thick, fuzzy, yet delicate sound, memorably topped off by frontman Julien Pras’ startlingly soulful bluesy rasps behind the mic. With just a singular, though poignant, self-titled debut record and a split with Year of No Light out to date, MRS have quickly built an impressive résumé which includes guest spots at Roadburn, Les Eurockennes and Incubate festivals as well as opening slots with the likes of Sleepy Sun and Killing Joke. A groovy, acid-frying three piece rounded out by Jimmy Kinast on bass and Benoit Busser behind the kit, MRS bring brooding basslines, triumphant drumbeats and a megaton of big-muffled guitar riffs together with a dark and haunting sense of melody, seldom heard in the cactus fields of classic stoner rock.
If you dig the likes of Colour Haze, Tweak Bird, Witchcraft and Earthless then get your shovel back out and prepare to get crater-making with yet another astounding addition to our line-up here at DesertFest 2013.
As many of you expected, ORCHID is now confirmed for the DESERTFEST BERLIN ! :)
ORCHID is an American Doom Metal band based in San Francisco, California, founded in 2007, and one of the greatest new acts of its kind. Rocking hard with their dark, psych-sonic blues assault, the band, around the charismatic lead singer Theo Mindell and his fascinating psychedelic vocals, are the new darlings of the retro heavy rock scene.
ORCHID established their reputation early with the 2009 release of their first EP “Through The Devil’s Doorway” on the small indie label The Church Within. The EP quickly received first-rate reviews around the world naming it an ingenious debut for a band with an auspicious future. Shortly after this release, ORCHID unleashed their first full length album “Capricorn”, released in 2011 by the same label. The record immediately gained the band a huge following in Europe. In September 2012, Nuclear Blast released “Heretic”, their last EP to date … but not for long, as they already prepare a new one, “Wizard of War” ! Stay tuned…
As they live for writing, recording, and playing live, they tour in Europe every year, participating in many of great festivals, such as Hammer of Doom Festival in October 2011, and DesertFest London last April.
Now it’s Berlin turn !!
It’s time for us to bring a little bit of blues to the DesertFest. We are glad to welcome the Swedish-American-French hybrid BLUES PILLS !!
After their departure from Radio Moscow in September 2011, drummer Cory Berry and bass player Zack Anderson, joined up with Swedish lead singer Elin Larsson and French guitar player Dorian Sorriaux to form BLUES PILLS, a compound of heavy, driving bass lines, colossal drums and ferocious, riff based, soul-penetrating guitar work tied together by an incredible soulful voice.
Their 4-track debut EP, “Bliss”, released in May 2012 on Crusher Records, propelled them at the forefront of the on-going 1970?s blues rock retrospective. They toured last summer in Spain and Portugal, and this year, they will play at Roadburn Festival and DesertFest !!
So come to Berlin and take your dose of this blues medicine !!
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 22nd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
French trio Mars Red Sky will begin their next round of tour dates tonight. The band did a few shows in September, mostly in France, but as of tonight, they’ll be hooking up with the likes of Samsara Blues Experiment and Kadavar and playing gigs in advance of their next recording, about which they’ve let slip some more info. The plan seems to be to lay down some songs in November for an EP that’ll come to light early next year. Something to look forward to for sure.
Hopefully I’ll have more on that when the time comes. Until then, the band sent the following news down the PR wire:
We’ll be in studio in november to record a couple of new song for a new EP early 2013 !!!
We just received our 3rd vinyl album pressing (500 each) and we got some new tote bags and T Shirts with “the bird” on it available on our shop online :http://marsredsky.bigcartel.com
MARS RED SKY – Fall 2012 (booked with SOL)
10.22. (D) MUNICH Felerwerk + Samsara Blues Experiment 10.23. (CH) PRATTELN Galery + Samsara Blues Experiment
10.24. (CH) MARTIGNY Les Caves du Manoir + The Black Willows 10.25. (A) LINZ (A) Kapu + Kadavar 10.26. (SI) MURSKA SOBOTA Mikk + Y [:why] 10.27. (A) VIENNA Arena + Samsara Blues Experiment 10.28. (A) SALZBURG Urban Keller + Go Bananas 10.29. (F) METZ La Chaouée + guest 10.30. (F) TROYES Festival Off Off Off 10.31. (F) STRASBOURG Hall des chars + LDDSM
december 11.01. (F) LYON Kraspek Myzik + The Black Willows 11.02. (CH) LAUSANNE Le Bleu Lézard + The Black Willows 11.21. (F) PARIS La Mécanique Ondulatoire + Towers 11.22. (B) BRUXELLES Madame Moustache 11.23. (F) VILLENEUVE D’ASQ Festival Tour de chauffe + Die! Die! Die! 11.30. (F) BIARRITZ L’Atabal
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 23rd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Going by the info below, one can surmise that it’ll be December before French fuzz mavens Mars Red Sky begin recording the follow-up to their excellent 2011 self-titled debut full-length (review here). In the meantime, the trio released a split/collaboration with countrymen post-black metallers Year of No Light this July that’s available through Headspin Records in a limited vinyl run, and if you live in Europe, you can catch them at any of the dates below, including at shows with Samsara Blues Experiment and Kadavar.
Consider yourselves lucky. The Patient Mrs. saw them back in March and was much impressed. Rightly so.
Here’s the latest, courtesy of the band:
Before recording of their new album, Mars Red Sky is going to do another tour in Europe this fall:
September 09.01. (SP) LEON Territorio Lunar Festival 09.07. (F) NANTES (44) Le Stakhanov 09.08. (F) CROZON (29) Ty Skol 09.14. (NL) TILBURG Incubate Festival 09.15. (F) ORLEANS (45) Infrared + Tang
October 10.21 TO 31 (Booking in progress) 10.22. (D) MUNICH Felerwerk + Samsara Blues Experiment 10.23. (CH) PRATTELN Galery + Samsara Blues Experiment 10.25. (A) LINZ (A) Kapu + Kadavar 10.26. (SI) MURSKA SOBOTA Mikk 10.27. (A) VIENNA Arena + Samsara blues Experiment 10.30. (F) TROYES (10) Festival Off Off Off
November 11.01. (F) LYON (69) Kraspek Myzik 11.22. (B) BRUXELLES TBC 11.23. (F) LILLE (59) Festival Tour de chauffe 11.30. (F) BIARRITZ (64) L’Atabal
Posted in audiObelisk on August 3rd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
There’s a few in this latest batch of Roadburn 2012 audio streams that I’ve really been looking forward to hearing. I stood and watched their whole set, but Mars Red Sky played a new song at the festival and I’d like to get another glimpse of what might be in store on their next album, and acts I didn’t get to see like Sir Admiral Cloudesley Shovell and Black Tusk should be fun to check out. Thanks as always to Walter, Jurgen, Marcel van de Vondervoort and the entire Roadburn crew. Hope you have as much fun as I do with these:
Posted in Features on April 14th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
04/15/12 — 00.04 — Saturday Night — Hotel Mercure
When my alarm went off this afternoon, it was with both excitement and a touch of apprehension that I considered the prospect of what today would bring Roadburn 2012, Day Three. Saturday, April 14. I looked at my pocket schedule — no fancy printouts or cellphone PDFs for me — and took a deep breath, steeling myself against the truly monolithic.
I’m sure the stories differ almost on a per-attendee basis, but my version of the final day of Roadburn proper went like this: Mike Scheidt, 40 Watt Sun, Dark Buddha Rising, Church of Misery, Pelican, The Wounded Kings, The Obsessed, Mars Red Sky, Sleep. If I was still standing, I wouldn’t know how.
The noon alarm gave me a little more time to get my head around what I was going to see, whereas the last two days it’s been up and go. Time well spent, since I was about to embark on the busiest day of this entire trip, a wave-crest culmination of everything that the last week-plus has been building toward. Fitting it should end with Sleep, since without them I and most of these bands probably wouldn’t be here. What now feels like aeons before the gods ascended their Olympus, however, Saturday afternoon began at 15.00 with Mike Scheidt in the Stage01 room.
Not 24 hours after YOB laid waste to the entire city of Tilburg performing all of The Unreal Never Lived, Scheidt, the guitarist, vocalist and driving force behind that band, emerged on 013‘s smallest stage to play acoustic songs from his upcoming Thrill Jockey solo release, Stay Awake — words which are also tattooed across his two hands, facing up for him to read. He got on stage talking about how excellent Doom had been the night prior and was soon in the thick of a spoken intro to a song called “Until the End of Everything.” I’ve heard the album a few times in preparation for a review, and it takes some of YOB‘s sonic mysticism into account on “Until the End of Everything” and a few other tracks, but Scheidt was careful as well to acknowledge singer-songwriter roots, alternating between finger-picking strings and a rhythmic strum that was familiar to many in the room in its construction.
He’s still clearly working out the approach he wants to take to the form, and said on stage as well that performing acoustic was a recent advent for him and that he was very much enjoying it, but as he dug into the throatier vocals on the closing title-track to Stay Awake, there was little to no perceptible temerity or lack of confidence in what he was doing. The songs sounded better live than they do on the record, but most importantly, there’s room for Scheidt to grow and explore new ideas outside the context of YOB, which at this point have established at least in part the palette from which they continue to refine their sound. That is, they have a “sound” they continue to refine, whereas Scheidt is still finding out what he wants to be as a solo artist, and seeing that unfold on stage was engaging.
Main room openers 40 Watt Sun had been on my list to see since I missed them when they came through New York last year, so when Scheidt was finished, I took the not-at-all-a-secret passageway from Stage01 and prepared myself to get sad. That’s what 40 Watt Sun do. Their doom is as much contingent on emotional weight — if not more — than tonal, and that could be heard as well on last year’s The Inside Room (review here). That puts them in a tight spot in terms of a stage show, however, since they’re basically limited then to how much they can really get into a show experience before undercutting the pervasive emotionality of the music. To work at all, they almost have to be boring to watch on stage. You can’t have some dude doing jumping jacks and playing a song like “Carry Me Home.”
Well, you could, but you’d probably get laughed at. 40 Watt Sun relied on the music to carry their ideas across on stage, and the songs had enough presence to make up for any fireworks that may have been absent otherwise. Vocalist/guitarist Patrick Walker (ex-Warning) was visceral in his presentation of the material, or perhaps “wrenching” would be a better word. In any case, they managed to make an entire concert hall of burly beardos miss their wives and girlfriends at the same time. Maybe that’s just me projecting. Fair enough. Before they were done, and before I actually allowed myself to feel something (yuck), I made my way into the Green Room to catch the start of Finnish blackened doomers Dark Buddha Rising, whose theatrics were of a much different and more, uh, theatrical variety.
Until they came out on stage and I recognized faces, I didn’t know this, but Dark Buddha Rising shares at least two of its members with Hexvessel, who played yesterday. While that adds a level of intrigue into the initial discovery of who they are, it says nothing about how much the two acts have in common, which in turn is just about nothing. Dark Buddha Rising take the ritual Hexvessel preach and bring it to corpsepainted life, their frontman/noise-manipulator doused himself in “blood” from a chalice as he screamed and worked a wah pedal with his hand to add to the rumbling ferocity of noise from the guitar, bass and drums. I could take or leave that side of it — the stage show — but they had the doom to back it up. Lumbering, lurching, crawling malevolence came out to turn the Green Room black, and the music was more powerful than any chalice could contain. Vinyl-only to an apparent point of religiosity, it made me sad to not immediately go buy everything they had on their table in the merch area. Fortunately, I had Church of Misery to help drown my sorrows.
Drown them they did. Or maybe they smothered them. Or stabbed them. Or blasted them with a sawed-off shotgun. Whatever it was, Church of Misery‘s murderous grooves “took care of” any and all residual woes and rolled them up in a rug, never to be seen again. Unfortunately, there were a few technical difficulties for bassist Tatsu Mikami. Fortunately, they happened right during the jam part of “El Padrino,” so guitarist Tom Sutton got to just play out the “na na na” riff for about four extra minutes while the stage crew brought out a new bass head. That wasn’t the last of Mikami‘s troubles, but those things are unavoidable sometimes, and it’s not like Church of Misery have never played Roadburn and probably won’t again next year. If you’ve got to have a house band, you could do a hell of a lot worse.
Once they were up and running again, Church of Misery had the main stage crowd already well on their (meat)hook. The new vocalist, whose name I still don’t know, made an excellent master of ceremonies, and though I left for a bit in the middle to get a quick bite, I was back in time to see them finish out in riotous form, making way for Chicagoan instrumentalists Pelican, whose new EP, Ataraxia/Taraxis, is the first release from the band since 2009′s What We all Come to Need (review here) brought back around some of the escapist atmospherics that peppered their earliest works while also remaining consistently and consciously heavy. I remember seeing them on the “Champions of Sound” tour with Scissorfight at the old Knitting Factory in New York, and though I know I’ve encountered them between then and now, that will always be my frame of reference. At some point, then, Pelican grew up.
As they played, I turned my head to look at the crowd behind me, and all there was was a sea of nodding heads. They still had plenty of energy on stage, but at the same time, Pelican was a fully mature band, who’ve earned their spot between Church of Misery and The Obsessed. The main room was jammed with people, and Pelicanhanded each one a bleeding eardrum. Their grooves were huge, the sound was reverberating off the walls in a massive hum, and they didn’t let up. It wasn’t just impressive. It was landmark, and it renewed my appreciation for what they do. I wasn’t even that excited to see them, thinking there was no way they’d be able to replace that Knitting Factory show in my mind, but they absolutely did. It’s like they realized they didn’t need to choose between being heavy and being ambient or melodic. They crushed, and in a way that I didn’t think they were capable of or interested in crushing. That was the most surprising part of all.
On my list of “must” bands, The Wounded Kings ranked pretty high. I’d missed them last time they were here, and what with their having a totally different lineup now, showing up at the Green Room seemed more than prudent. Guitarist Steve Mills, who is the only founding member of the band, led The Wounded Kings through a round of songs from 2011′s In the Chapel of the Black Hand, which is appropriate since that’s the only record that four of the five in the lineup played on. Vocalist Sharie Neyland had a bit of vibrato to her voice that was well matched by the rumble of Jim Willumsen‘s bass, and Mills — who’s been through his share of trials in getting the band to this point — seemed thoroughly satisfied with the fruits of his labor. They were an interesting comparison point to Dark Buddha Rising, since both bands could probably be classified as occult doom, but each has a drastically different take than the other on what that designation might mean.
As a singer, Neyland puts The Wounded Kings on a new level entirely, and I feel now having seen them live as I felt when I reviewed the record, which is I hope the lineup stays consistent. Drummer Mike Heath and guitarist Alex Kearney only added to the potency of the other players, and it seemed the atmosphere was set from the outset and maintained the whole way through. The Green Room was full too, and then some, and considering Pelican was still going in the main stage and Leaf Hound was at Het Patronaat, it’s safe to say The Wounded Kings have made some real fans along the way on their bumpy road to this point. Mills works quick — for instance, this lineup of the band was put together and an album was released in a year’s time — so hopefully it’s not too long before we get another glimpse inside their house of horrors.
By this time in the day, my back and forth was in full swing. I’d gone from Stage01 to the main room, to the Green Room, to the main room, to dinner, back to the main room, to the Green Room, and now was headed back to the main room again for The Obsessed‘s reunion set. It takes a toll, both physically and in terms of what you see, but the tradeoff is you see more bands. Whereas yesterday I got to get more of a feel forwhat everyone was doing — I saw full sets from Wino & Conny Ochs, Conan and YOB — today and Day One were a different kind of experience. Obviously one still full of enjoyment and thrills, they just come in more rapid-fire procession. I’ll admit too that although I did a lot of running around today — I mean a lot — the weekend was beginning even early this afternoon to extract its toll on my energy level.
I’m not bitching. I hope you won’t take that to mean it that way, but I think fatigue, being worn out, is part of the festival experience and worth talking about. I wouldn’t have chosen to be anywhere else for the duration of today — or this weekend as a whole, for that matter — but that doesn’t mean I didn’t make two trips to the espresso machine in the merch area this afternoon to gear up for the evening’s lineup. The second time, I put in two 50 Euro cents and got a double. It had to be done, because the fact of the matter is it’s not every day that The Obsessed get on stage and do a show. Roadburn seemed to know it, too, since when I came back into the main room for the set, the curtain was drawn.
This led me to wonder what they could possibly be hiding. The lineup, if I’m not mistaken, was announced beforehand as being drummer Greg Rogers and bassist Guy Pinhas alongside vocalist/guitarist Scott “Wino” Weinrich, so I’m not sure what was to be gained by drawing the giant curtain as the gear was loaded in and line checked. I didn’t expect much of a stage show, no explosions or dancing elephants, when The Obsessed got started, and sure enough, it was just the three of them rocking out those old songs. Once they actually began playing, though, I changed my mind about the curtain. It was awesome, and the reunion was special enough to warrant it. Once they hit into “Streetside,” I thought I tore my groove muscle — not to be confused with my “love muscle,” which is pretty much my forearm (heyo!).
Pinhas thanked the audience profusely and sounded utterly sincere, and he and Rogers nailed the material. It’s been since 1995 that The Obsessed played a set, though Weinrich worked Obsessed songs into his Wino trio performances, but if reunions from the likes of Saint Vitus and Sleep have shown anything, it’s that doom ages well. Getting to see The Obsessed play was one more really special occurrences that I’ve gotten to take part in on this trip, and I followed it up immediately by watching Mars Red Sky in the Green Room. It cost me part of The Obsessed‘s set, but after being so jealous of The Patient Mrs.‘ having seen them in Portland, Oregon, I had to follow up by seeing them for myself. The three-piece was positively humble and unassuming as they came out and started off their set with “Falls” from last year’s self-titled debut.
Guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras and bassist Jimmy Kinast have a new drummer in the lineup, as of reportedly two weeks ago, but the songs were smooth as they ran through them — “Strong Reflection,” the Kinast-vocal “Marble Sky,” “Curse” and a new song they didn’t give a title for but that seemed to show them heading further in the direction of balancing weighted tones with laid back grooves. You won’t hear me complain. It was one time this weekend where I can truly say that no one in the room was there by accident. Right across the hallway, you had The Obsessed rocking out songs that are legendary in doom, and yet the Green Room was full of heads come to worship at the warm fuzz coming from Pras‘ amp. For me, I’ll liken it to seeing Sungrazer at Roadburn last year, both in terms of the warmth of distortion and the equally rich satisfaction I got from doing so. They weren’t the highest profile act of the evening by any stretch, but Mars Red Sky were a highlight of my weekend (and with a weekend of highlights, that’s saying something), and I knew going into it that they would be.
Nonetheless, they were not the cap on the night. A mammoth, feedback-drenched, earth-rattling set from Sleep would follow back once more in the main room. Matt Pike, Al Cisneros and Jason Roeder. I’m honestly not sure if anything else needs to be said than that. Yeah, they’re not the full original trio of the band (though I’ve never heard anyone who’s actually seenRoederdrum on these songs complain; some conceptual kvetching), and yeah, nobody’s as young as they used to be, myself included, but goddamn, you put these guys on a stage and you better be sure your walls are reinforced. Doing one of their several extended sections of nothing but feedback and vibrating washes of noise, I found myself looking up at the 013 ceiling to see if anything was going to shake loose and fall on the crowd. I’m not kidding. I had my escape route all planned out — onto the stage, through the side door, out the loading dock. Off to safety I go.
It didn’t come to that, thankfully, but Sleep were at a pretty high threat level. High enough so that my earplugs did me no good whatsoever and my ears are ringing now. Before they even started — before his amps were even turned on — Pike came out and just started playing to the crowd. There was no sound, and he looked a little smashed, but even on mute, he earned vehement cheers. Before long, that solo turned into a mash of noise that, in turn, turned into the start of “Dopesmoker.” “Drop out of life with bong in hand/Follow the smoke toward the riff filled land” — words that have become the granite into which Sleep‘s legacy is carved, and I don’t mind saying I got chills up my spine as Al Cisneros delivered the lines. He did smoke a joint on stage, oh yes, and got a laugh by saying, “This intermission is brought to you by The Grass Company,” which is just down the street from 013 here in Tilburg. I don’t smoke, but I did suddenly want to order five shots and down them all; the music begging its adherents to be fucked up one way or another, I suppose.
Pike teased the opening riff of “Dragonaut” and a shockwave of electricity went through the crowd, and when they actually did it, it was glorious. Likewise “Holy Mountain” and “From Beyond,” both of which were just a huge, wondrous mess of abrasive noise and painful volume. The vocals weren’t the kind of shouts one hears when listening to Sleep’s Holy Mountain, or even Dopesmoker, but Cisneros was loyal to the songs all the same, vocally and musically, playing way up high on the neck of his five-string Rickenbacker, and where after seeing them in Brooklyn in 2010, I was unsure as to how the conflicting stage presences of Pike (a drunken madman) and Cisneros (a weedian guru) might play out correspondingly in their personal relationship, tonight they seemed absolutely on the same page with each other and with Roeder as the essential third of the band. One shudders at the possibility of a new album.
They went long, as I guess one will do when one is Sleep, and I had a laugh when they finished and the 1972 Charles Bronson movie The Mechanic came on the huge screen that was behind the band. Years ago, I interviewed Matt Pike for one of High on Fire‘s records — I think it was Blessed Black Wings — in person in Philadelphia, and afterwards at a bar, he told a story of being sat down as a child, I believe by his father, and being made to watch that very film since it was, “Everything you need to know about being a man.” Of course as soon as I could I got the DVD and watched it. It’s the story of two hitmen, a mentor and his protegé, and rife with betrayal, murder and a bizarre — and indeed, inherently masculine — code of honor that bonds its protagonists. Jan-Michael Vincent was the younger hitman. Anyway, the nod to The Mechanic gave me a chuckle as I worked my way through the beaten throng of Roadburners and out of the main room.
A Heavy Jam session with members of Witch and Earthless loomed ahead, but not for me. For me, it was back to the hotel to put the cap on this three-day exercise in riff worship. I’m not finished yet. Tomorrow is the Afterburner, and that’s got Electric Orange, Internal Void, and YOB doing all of Catharsis, among others, so I’m not yet in full-on reflection mode (not to mention it’s three in the damn morning), but suffice it to say for the time being that there’s a reason people come from around the world to play and attend this festival, and it’s because there’s only one Roadburn. It’s been exhausting, but it’s been a thrill too, and I’m looking forward to wrapping things up tomorrow with one more round of getting my ass handed to me at the Afterburner. Here’s to it.