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.
Posted in Reviews on March 29th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
I was madly jealous of my beloved wife not only for being able to travel to Portland for her work where mine keeps me mired in Jersey’s swamps by its very nature, but also because she’d be there the same weekend that French heavy riffers Mars Red Sky were wrapping their post-SXSW tour of the West Coast. In no uncertain terms, I made clear my recommendation that she allow me to live vicariously through her by going to the show — which was with Argonaut, White Orange, Ancient Warlocks and probably others — and she took the advice to heart.
Not only that, but as if to reinforce why she’s the love of my life and why I’m the lucky she even talks to me let alone is legally obligated to give a crap whether I live or die, she turned in a review of the show for me to post here. And though her cell-phone pics aren’t the kind I was begging for all weekend, I’m appreciative of the fact that she included them, as I have here, to go with her words. While I delight in the coincidental abbreviation of Mars Red Sky as MRS, please enjoy the following:
Unable to join me as I set off for a Portland, Oregon, work trip, our dear blogmaster and my dear husband sent me off last weekend with the urgent advice that I go see MarsRedSky at the AshSt.Saloon — after all, they won’t be playing the East Coast, and since I won’t be going to Roadburn, it might be my only chance this year. So on Saturday night, finished with all my work obligations for the day, I set off on a solo adventure to see the doomy side of Portland.
Still too early to head over to the venue, I began the evening at the LuckyLabradorBrewpub in southeast Portland, an unpretentious local public house with a full — if hop-heavy — slate of house brews. It was a great place for a few beers, a sandwich, and some reading before moving back across the Willamette River (rhymes with “dammit”) for the show. I was particularly pleased to sample their cask-conditioned doppelbock, which was a nice balance of strong and sweet and the perfect amount of warm and flat. The last several times I’ve been somewhere with a cask tap, it’s been out of commission, and well, I really like warm, flat ale. But onto the show.
Taking advantage of Portland’s near-European quality public transportation system, I hopped a bus back westward to the AshSt.Saloon, just a block off of Burnside, the city’s main artery. There was a line of food trucks across the street, and a random group of bagpipers standing on the opposite corner (at 10PM), so I felt like I was really getting a quality taste of the reputed “Portland experience.”
Boasting a five dollar cover and a crowd that was utterly familiar, the Ash St. Saloon was welcoming. They had a nice selection of beers on taps, quickly responsive bartenders, and again, a pleasantly unpretentious vibe that is a welcome change from most doomy shows I’ve been to lately (I’m looking at you, W-burg).
Now, before getting to the actual music: I have seen more doom and stoner rock shows than most dedicated fans, and I genuinely like the music, but it’s not really my thing. Frankly, I think when you’re married to someone who has a real passion, it’s better to not have the exact same passion. You’d get in each other’s way too much — maybe that’s just me; I’m a pretty competitive person — but while I know and can discuss dominant genealogies of doom, can talk effectively about what I like and don’t like, and can generally identify whether something is hackneyed or mind-blowing, what I can’t do is remember the names of songs, or talk about nuances in playing, or even tell you how many songs a band played. Take my thoughts for what they are.
When I arrived, Argonaut was at the front end of their set. The Tacoma-based band played good, solid rock and roll, with some decently developed and interesting riffs. The drums were bizarrely loud in the mix, making it a little hard to focus on the guitar lines and really drowning out the bass, but they were clearly having a good time. Their ReverbNation page says they have punk roots, but I didn’t really note that in listening to them. It was perhaps most evident in the guitarist’s visual presentation — he looked like a grown-up hardcore kid — which leads me to my strongest impression from their whole set: these guys are adults who are doing something they both enjoy and know how to do. Power to them for getting out there and doing their thing.
Mars Red Sky was up next, though I was pretty confused for a few minutes because they were listed as going on before Argonaut, but when they started to set up, I was pretty sure they were speaking French, so I figured I was okay. Their first song confirmed they were indeed Mars Red Sky because I knew that I knew it. We have listened to that CD in the car a lot, so it was all very familiar. My great critical reflection on this first number is that it was very pretty and much more contemplative than the straight-up rock of the previous band. The trio is very well balanced and on stage, the richness of the bass stands out a bit more than on the album.
The next song they played was the one I know best. While I don’t know the actual words, the melody was familiar. Again, there was a richness and a grittiness in the live performance that stands out against the recorded version. For example, the vocals are multi-tracked on the album, but even with whatever effects, they stood out as more emotionally driven live. The album is polished. The virtue of the live set was it showed a less mediated iteration – live, the song seemed to suggest a great deal more vulnerability than comes across on the album. Having looked it up, it turns out this was “Strong Reflection.”
Next they played a new song, the title of which I did not catch. A bit more up-tempo and guitar focused, it relied on more traditionally stoner-ish riffs, sitting in some abrasive grooves, while not losing the thoughtfulness that characterized the songwriting on their first album. Either on this song or on the next, the bassist took up the vocals. The bassist’s, Jimmy Kinast’s, vocals are less distinctive than the guitarist’s, but cohered well with the overall aesthetic. Ultimately, the rest of the set moved in a heavier direction, turning up the doominess a few notches across the board.
A relatively short set, they finished up, loaded out, and set up shop at the merch table. I had already snagged a White Orange CD for JJ, and while I had been planning to say hi to Jimmy as JJ had let him know that I would be there, he was occupied selling and signing, so I nodded to the merch girl/someone’s girlfriend and wandered off.
I could definitely spend more time in Portland.
Unbelievable amounts of love and appreciation to The Patient Mrs. for filing this report (really, I’m tearing up as I type this). Here’s a MRS video from SXSW that gives me something — as if I needed more fodder — to look forward to a couple weeks from now at Roadburn.
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 24th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
I heard about this the other day, but apparently now there’s a poster to prove it: Mars Red Sky will be embarking on a mini-tour of the West Coast to complement a slew of shows they’re doing at this year’s SXSW in Austin, Texas. Click to enlarge:
The thing about it is The Patient Mrs. is going to be in Portland, Oregon, the same weekend as the band.
Now, Mars Red Sky are playing Roadburn and I’ve been very much looking forward to seeing them there. I’ve no doubt they’ll kill and be one of the highlights of the fest for me. I’m as excited to see them this year as I was to see Sungrazer in 2011. Plus, since it’s March 24, that’s precisely the week I should be getting things ready at work for my absence for the aforementioned Roadburn and the London Desertfest. I’m already taking 12 days off in April.
Not to mention, between going to Massachusetts next weekend to see Black Pyramid, Gozu and Infernal Overdrive, and shows from Truckfighters and Alcest, that would mean four out of the five weekends in March I’d be at shows. There’s some weeknight gigs in there too, with Clamfight and Kings Destroy on the 14th or Windhand on the 1st. Scott Kelly is coming around too. Top that off with a $400 flight (at least) to Portland, the lost time at work from flying out Thursday and back on Sunday or Monday, and it starts to look significantly less feasible.
On the other hand, though — Mars Red Sky. In Portland. A band I’ve never seen in a place I’ve never been and a show I’ll probably remember as long as I have a memory to remember it with, and probably the chance to do some excellent record shopping and have something cool to write about. I could literally see Truckfighters one weekend and Mars Red Sky the next.
I’m open to any advice on this one. While we all mull it over, here’s a clip of Mars Red Sky playing in Kiev:
Posted in Features on December 9th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Please note: This list is made up of my personal picks, not the results of the Readers Poll, which is ongoing — if you haven’t added your top 11 to that yet, please do.
It was an impossible task to keep up with everything that came out this year. I’ll say flat out that I didn’t. There are records that I just didn’t get to hear, and I should note at the outset that this list is mine. It’s based on my personal opinions, what I listened to the most this year and what I think 2011′s most crucial releases have been.
I’ve spent the better part of this week (and last, if brain-time counts) constructing this list, and I finally got it to a point where I feel comfortable sharing. Since last December, I’ve kept a Post-It of names, and all year, I’ve logged bands I’d want to consider for the final top 20. In the end, there were 78 bands and more that I didn’t get to write down for whatever reason. 2011 was nothing if it wasn’t overwhelming.
But here we are, anyway, and it’s done. Let’s get to it:
This is nothing if not a sentimental pick. Last year, I put Electric Wizard in the #20 spot because the record wasn’t out yet, and this year, I’m putting Suplecs (interview with bassist Danny Nick here) in just because I couldn’t imagine this list without them. Until literally a few minutes before I clicked “Publish” on this post, there was someone else in this spot, but ultimately, it had to be them. The New Orleans trio’s first record in half a decade wasn’t what I listened to most in 2011, it wasn’t the best album, or the most important, or career-defining, but when it came right down to it, god damn, I was just happy to have Suplecs back. It had been too long.
After a while, I was kind of shocked to find myself continuing to listen to Favourite State of Mind, the second album by Polish rockers Elvis Deluxe. The record’s dynamics didn’t immediately open up to me, but once I dug into the songs, I was wowed by their balance of catchy hooks and substantial-sounding riffs. The album was genre-relevant without being genre-minded, with vocal changes, organ, atmospheric shifts and a whole host of moods and turns. After hearing their 2007 debut, Lazy, I wasn’t expecting much out of the norm from Favourite State of Mind, and I’m still thrilled by just how wrong I was, and “Take it Slow” is among my favorite single songs of the year.
The gloomy opening statement from former Warning guitarist/vocalist Patrick Walker turned heads around the world with its unabashed emotional conviction, which was so much the central focus of the record as to be made a novelty by those who don’t usually consider doom an emotionally relevant genre (the widespread arguments against that notion I’ll leave for another time). What most stood out to me about The Inside Room was how the sentimentality translated into a gorgeous melodic sensibility and resulted in a lonely mood that was engrossing. On that level, it was easily among 2011′s most effective releases. It made you feel what it seemed to be feeling.
It was an album that lived up to its name. Return to Earth marked the remaking of one of heavy rocks most stoned outfits: Acrimony. But, as Sigiriya (interview with drummer Darren Ivey here), the four-piece (down from five) would show that the years since the demise of their former band had found them progressing as musicians, resulting in a sound less directly stoner, more modern, more earthy. The songs, however, were what made it. It’s still a rare day that goes by that I don’t hum at least part of the chorus of “Mountain Goat” to myself, and if Return to Earth was a new beginning for these players, I can’t wait to see where they go next.
In addition to being Totimoshi‘s first album for At a Loss following the end of their deal with Volcom, Avenger was the first Totimoshi record since 2003′s ¿Mysterioso? not to be produced by Page Hamilton, and where 2006′s Ladrón and 2008′s Milagrosa moved away from some of the noisy crunch in the guitar of Tony Aguilar (interview here), Avenger managed to be both a return to form and a progression of the band’s melodicism. It seems, as ever, to have flown under most radars, but Totimoshi continue to refine their songwriting and have become one of the heavy underground’s most formidable and least classifiable bands.
With their 2010 EP release, upstart British trio Grifter informed us that The Simplicity of the Riff is Key, and on their self-titled Ripple Music debut, they put that ethic to excellent use, resulting in straightforward, catchy songs that were as high-octane as they were low-bullshit. The ultra-catchy “Good Day for Bad News” showed Grifter at the top of their form, and with a dose of humor thrown in, Grifter was the drunken stoner rock party you always wanted to be invited to and, of course, finally were. Now if only I could get Skype to work and get that interview with Ollie Stygall moving, I’d be happy to tell him personally he put out one of 2011′s most kickass rock records.
I don’t know what’s most impressive about The Book of Knots‘ Garden of Fainting Stars — the songs themselves or that they were able to make any songs at all. With upwards of 20 guest spots around the core four-piece, the third in a purported trilogy of records from the avant rock originalists was an epic in every listen. Songs like “Microgravity” and the Mike Watt spoken word “Yeager’s Approach” pushed the limits of both genre and expectation, and miraculously, Garden of Fainting Stars was cohesive and enthralling in its narrative aspect. If it really was their last album, it was triumphant in a manner befitting its expanding-universe thematics.
Had it been a full-length, Invisible White would be higher on this list. Many out there who were enamored of Ancestors‘ 2008 Neptune with Fire debut have gone on to bemoan the Californian collective’s shift away from extended sections of heavy riffing and tales of sea monsters and other things that go “doom” in the night. I’m not one of them. The Invisible White EP was a brave step along a fascinating progression, and as Crippled Black Phoenix didn’t release a new album in 2011, I was glad to have Ancestors there to fill that morose, contemplative void, and I look forward to seeing how they expand on the ideas presented on Invisible White (if they decide to stick to this direction) for their next full-length.
Speaking of shifting approaches, still-young Massachusetts trio Elder also moved away from the Sleep-centric methods of their 2008 self-titled debut on the follow-up, Dead Roots Stirring. Still based very much around the guitar work of Nick DiSalvo (interview here), Elder songs like “Gemini” and the über-soloed “The End” pushed an influence of European heavy psych into the band’s aesthetic, and the result was both grippingly heavy and blown of mind. As an album long delayed by mixing and business concerns, when Dead Roots Stirring finally arrived, it was a relief to hear that Elder, though they’d varied the path, were still headed in the right direction.
Hands down the year’s best traditional doom release. The Wretch so gleefully and so earnestly employed the conventions of ’80s-style doom — most especially those of Saint Vitus and Trouble — that even though the lyrical and musical content was miserable, I couldn’t help but smile as I listened. Songs like “Bastards Born” and “The Scovrge ov Drvnkenness” pushed The Gates of Slumber away from the barbarism the Indianapolis outfit had been touting on their last couple albums, including 2008′s Conqueror breakthrough, in favor of a more purely Chandlerian plod. “To the Rack with Them” remains a standout favorite and a line often referenced in my workplace dealings.
I don’t know what you say to someone at this point who doesn’t like Weedeater. It just seems like a terrible way to go through life, without the madman ranting of “Dixie” Dave Collins (interview here) echoing perpetually in your ears, or never having witnessed their ultra-viscous fuzz in person. Jason… the Dragon was one of the earliest landmark releases of 2011, and practically the whole year later, it retains its hold, whether it’s the stomping fury of “Mancoon,” the lumbering groove of “Long Gone” or the surprisingly melodic “Homecoming.” The hard-touring, hard-hitting band did right in recording with Steve Albini to capture their live sound, and Jason… the Dragon was their strongest outing yet in terms of both songwriting and that unmistakable quality that makes Weedeater records Weedeater records.
I was surprised to see Rwake crack the top 10. Not because their first album in four years, the Sanford Parker-produced Rest, wasn’t superb, but because of how much the songs on the album stayed with me after listening. The Arkansas band’s last outing, Voices of Omens, was heavy and dark and had a lot going for it, but Rest upped the songwriting on every level and together with frontman CT (interview here) adopting a more decipherable shout over most of the record’s four main extended tracks, Rwake felt like a band reborn, and theirs was a highlight among several 2011 albums that showed there’s still room for individual growth and stylistic nuance within the sphere of post-metal.
It was back and forth, nine and eight, between Rwake and Hull for a while, but when all was said and done, the fantastic scope of Beyond the Lightless Sky gave the Brooklyn triple-guitar masters the edge. With a narrative structure behind it and a breadth of ambience and crushing, post-doomly riffing, Beyond the Lightless Sky was the defining moment that those who’ve followed Hull since their Viking Funeral demo have been waiting for. In concept, in performance, in sound and structure and heft, it absolutely floored me, and of all the heavy records I’ve heard with the tag applied to them in 2011, Hull‘s second full-length seems most to earn the tag “progressive.” A stunning and groundbreaking achievement.
One of 2011′s most fascinating developments has been the boom in European heavy psychedelia, and the self-titled debut from French band Mars Red Sky was among the best releases to blend a jam-based sensibility with thick, warm fuzz and memorable riffs. Together with the sweet-hued vocals of Julien Pras (interview here), those riffs made for some of the most infectious hooks I heard all year on songs like “Strong Reflection” and “Way to Rome,” and where other bands jammed their way into psychedelic oblivion, Mars Red Sky were able to balance their focus on crafting quality songs, so that although they sounded spontaneous, the material was never self-indulgent or lacking accessibility. One just hopes they don’t lose sight of that musical humility their next time out.
There was a point earlier this year at which I had forgotten about All We Destroy. After reviewing it in March, I simply moved on to the next thing on my list, and the thing after, and the thing after. But before I knew it, in my head was the voice of Jackie Perez Gratz, singing the line “As I live and breathe” over her own cello, the guitar of Max Doyle and Max Doyle‘s drums. It got so persistent that, eventually, I went out and bought the record, because the mp3s I’d been given to review simply weren’t enough. That was probably July, and I don’t think I’ve gone a week since without listening to Grayceon. So although I classify it in the same league as Rwake and Hull in terms of what it accomplishes in and for its genre, All We Destroy gets the extra nod for the fact that I simply haven’t been able to let it go. And though I’ve come to further appreciate “Shellmounds,” “Once a Shadow” and “A Road Less Traveled,” the 17-minute “We Can” — from which the above-noted lyric is taken — remains the best single song I heard in 2011.
On paper, this one should’ve flopped: Band with minor buzz and a cool video hooks up with indie rock dude to record an album of dopey riffs and beardo bombast. Instead, Red Fang‘s second album and Relapse debut became the 2011 vanguard release for the Portland heavy underground, which is arguably the most fertile scene in the US right now. They toured the record widely, and made another killer video for the mega-single “Wires,” but the reason Murder the Mountains is top five material is because it’s lasted. It was February that I reviewed this record, and March that I interviewed guitarist/vocalist Bryan Giles, and I still can’t get “Into the Eye” and “Hank is Dead” and “Number Thirteen” (especially the latter) out of my head. When it came down to it, the songs on Murder the Mountains lived up to any hype the album received, and I’m a sucker for quality songwriting. I mean, seriously. That key change late into “Number Thirteen?” It’s the stuff of the gods.
I wasn’t particularly a fan of Swedish rockers Graveyard‘s 2008 self-titled debut. Even watching them at Roadburn in 2010, I was underwhelmed. But when I heard Hisingen Blues and was able to get a feel for what the retro-minded foursome were getting at stylistically — and most of all, that they were acknowledging that they were doing it without being glib or ironic about it — I found the material irresistible. We’re getting into seriously indispensable records now; ones that I’ve been unwilling to leave home without since they came, in, and Graveyard‘s Hisingen Blues has been a constant feature in heavy rotation. Everything from the devilish testimony of the title-track to the wiry guitars of the chorus to “Ungrateful are the Dead,” to the Skynyrd-ified solo capping “Uncomfortably Numb”: It’s been a year of revelry in all of it, and since they overcame my prejudice to impress on such a level, Graveyard (interview with drummer Axel Sjöberg here) are all the more deserving of their spot on this list.
What I hear in the second album from Dutch trio Sungrazer is the heralding of a new generation of fuzz rock. Taking influence from their forebears in Colour Haze and Kyuss, the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Rutger Smeets (interview here), bassist/vocalist Sander Haagmans and drummer Hans Mulders followed and surpassed their stellar 2010 debut on every level, playing heavy riffs on expansive psychedelic jams and still finding room for some of 2011′s most memorable choruses in songs like “Sea” and “Goldstrike.” In so doing, Sungrazer affirmed the character of next-gen European fuzz and placed themselves at the fore of their scene, with touring and festival appearances to support. For their warmth of tone and for the fact that I spent the better part of the summer streaming the record through the Dutch website 3voor12, there was no way they were going to be left out of the top 20. It wasn’t until I sat down and actually put the numbers together, though, that I realized how vital Mirador actually was.
I was lucky enough to be sent some rough listening mixes of Ohio outfit Lo-Pan‘s Small Stone Records debut (following a reworked reissue of their Sasquanaut sophomore full-length), and in my email back to label head Scott Hamilton, I told him I thought he had a genuine classic on his hands. A year, I don’t even know how many Lo-Pan gigs and listens through Salvador later, I still feel that way 100 percent. If you were from another planet, and we got to talking at a bar, and you asked me what rock and roll should sound like in the place where I’m from, I’d hand you Salvador. I still think they should’ve started the album with “Generations,” but if that’s my biggest gripe, they’re clearly doing alright. “Bird of Prey” was the best live song I saw all year, and I saw it plenty, and cuts like “Bleeding Out” and “Struck Match” set the standard by which I’ll judge American heavy rock for a long time to come. Like the best of any class, Salvador is bigger than just the year in which it was released, and at this point, I don’t know what else to say about it.
This is as good as it gets, and by “it,” I mean life. YOB‘s last album, 2009′s The Great Cessation, was my album of the year that year as well, and I knew from the second I heard the self-produced Atma that nothing to come this year would top it. Like Ufomammut‘s Eve in 2010, Atma brings the entire genre of doom along with it on the new ground it breaks, refining what’s fast becoming YOB‘s signature approach even as it pushes ever forward. I still have to stop whatever I’m doing (not exactly good for productivity) whenever “Prepare the Ground” comes on, and songs like “Adrift in the Ocean” and “Before We Dreamed of Two” were humbling. Seriously. Humbling. Listening to them was like looking at those photographs from the Hubble that cover trillions of miles that we’ll never know and reveal gorgeous colors where our naked eyes only see black. If that sounds hyperbolic, thanks for getting it. YOB guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt (interview here) is, almost in spite of himself, one of American doom’s most crucial contributors, and with Atma, he and the rhythm section of bassist Aaron Reiseberg and drummer Travis Foster released what is without a doubt the best album of 2011.
A few quick housekeeping items and we’ll call it quits. First, honorable mentions. If this list went to 25, also included would be The Wounded Kings, Earth, Larman Clamor, Olde Growth and The Atlas Moth. Roadsaw were also in heavy consideration, so they’re worth noting, as are many others.
Obviously, I couldn’t include them, but two of my favorite releases in 2011 also came from Blackwolfgoat and HeavyPink, and I’m thrilled and honored to have helped put them out in the small way I did.
And as I said above, there are records I didn’t hear. I haven’t heard the new Black Pyramid yet. Or Orchid. Or a bunch more that I could go on listing. I’m only one man and this is only my list, for better or worse. Again, I really do hope you’ll contribute yours to the group poll, the results of which will be out Jan. 1.
I’ll probably have some more to wrap up 2011 as the month winds down, but until then, thank you so much for reading this and the rest of the wordy nonsense I’ve put up the whole year long. Your support and encouragement means more than I’m able to tell. Here’s to 2012 to come.