Righteous Bloom Post First Demo “Of Sanctum and Solace”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 29th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

righteous bloom logo

It’s a quick two minutes and “Of Sanctum and Solace” is over. The song barely feels like it has a second verse (it does), but what it signals is the beginning for Righteous Bloom. The new band, announced earlier this month as a new vehicle for former Beelzefuzz members Dana Ortt (guitar/vocals), Greg Diener (lead guitar) and Darin McCloskey (drums), the latter two also of Pale Divine, are reportedly set to enter the studio to record a full-length debut for 2015. For “Of Sanctum and Solace,” that trio teamed up with Bert Hall of Revelation/Against Nature for the bassist role, and while there’s no word as to whether or not that partnership was a one-time thing or a permanent situation, it says a lot for what Beelzefuzz accomplished that Righteous Bloom would start out with the likes of Hall contributing, his own legacy in the sphere of Maryland doom not inconsiderable.

“Of Sanctum and Solace” also gives a taste — again, a brief one — of the interplay between Ortt and Diener‘s guitars. Those who caught Beelzefuzz at their final shows over the last two or three months probably had a leg-up in this regard, but Righteous Bloom will mark the first time they appear on a studio recording together, and while they’re distinct in tone — Ortt‘s guitar-as-organ experimentations having been so core to the approach of the prior outfit — you can also get a feel for how they complement each other now and might continue to do so moving forward. That’s more toward the end of the song, which seems to come to an early close in a way that makes me wonder if there isn’t more to come in a longer version of the track that will perhaps show up when Righteous Bloom‘s debut LP surfaces in the New Year via The Church Within Records.

We’ve got a while to go before we find out, I guess. Till then, here’s “Of Sanctum and Solace” for your enjoyment:

Righteous Bloom, “Of Sanctum and Solace”

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Saying Goodbye to Beelzefuzz

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 9th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

beelzefuzz

After five years and one full-length album, progressive doom outfit Beelzefuzz have officially called it a day. The announcement was made earlier via Thee Facebooks, in a post with no words and only their logo with “2009-2014″ across the bottom. At the time of this post, their reasons for disbanding aren’t known, nor is it known whether any explanation is forthcoming, but what really matters anyway is they’ve broken up, and that’s confirmed by the band itself.

Begun as a trio in 2009 with original drummer Rick Jenkins, with members Dana Ortt (vocals/guitar), Pug Kirby (bass) and Darin McCloskey (drums) — three players hailing from three different states: Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania — Beelzefuzz quickly became more than the sum of their parts. I was first tipped off to them by Sean McKee from Clamfight in 2011, but it would be a year after that when I first saw them, playing a set at Days of the Doomed II in 2012 abbreviated owing to car trouble. By the time they returned to the Wisconsin-based fest in 2013, they were conquering heroes, offering a take on doom that no one else in that very doomed lineup could bring to bear. They still had not yet released their debut album.

Beelzefuzz‘s Beelzefuzz (review here) arrived a few months later on The Church Within Records, a thick gatefold digipak, foldout poster lyric sheet and of course the songs themselves making it feel like the event it was. On that record, Ortt (interview here), Kirby and McCloskey conjured the most original stylization of Maryland doom I’ve heard beelzefuzzin at least the last five years, fleshing out the sound of their earlier demos with a sense of poise that undercut the fact that it was their debut at the same time it spoke volumes of the potential for what they might do in the future. With cuts like “Reborn,” “All the Feeling Returns” and “Lonely Creatures” — the bizzaro stomp of which still echoes in my head frequently — it was one of 2013’s best, and will remain a special document by a group whose tenure was too short.

In fall 2013, they journeyed to Germany for a special slot at Hammer of Doom 8 in Wurzberg, and back home, they played Stoner Hands of Doom XIII in Virginia and, in Spring 2014, The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 in Massachusetts. Shortly afterward, they added a second guitarist in Greg Diener, a longtime bandmate of McCloskey‘s in Pale Divine. Early last month, they were slated for a handful of dates alongside Kings Destroy and Eric Wagner‘s Blackfinger, but pulled out before the shows took place. Their final gig was Aug. 30 at the inaugural Vultures of Volume fest in New Castle, Delaware, alongside The SkullUnorthodoxPale Divine and many others.

Losing Beelzefuzz stings not just because they were a heavy band, or they wrote catchy songs, or had a fun stage presence — though all that was true — but because they had an immediately individual approach to their songwriting. Particularly in Ortt‘s tonal experimentation and the dynamic between the three players based around that, Beelzefuzz proved there was room for intricacy in doom’s well-trod paths, and though I’m glad I got to see them the several times I did, and I’m glad they got that record out, and glad there are videos and whatnot to enjoy, it’ll be some time before I manage to listen to Beelzefuzz again and not wonder what might have been.

Beelzefuzz, “All the Feeling Returns”

Beelzefuzz on Thee Facebooks

The Church Within Records

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Wino Wednesday: The Hidden Hand, “The Crossing” Live in 2004

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 27th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

According to the raw interwebular research I was able to put together — i.e., I Googled it — The Hidden Hand played the release show for their second album, Mother Teacher Destroyer, on Oct. 29, 2004, at the Black Cat in Washington, D.C. If I’m wrong about that, I hope you’ll at least give me credit for trying to track down when this clip of “The Crossing,” the opening track from that record, was played. Whenever it was, bassist Bruce Falkinburg absolutely nails the vocals, and even in the “uploaded five years ago” quality, the song sounds pretty righteous.

Their 2003 debut, Divine Propaganda, was rawer, and 2007’s swansong, The Resurrection of Whiskey Foote, more ambitious, but to me, Mother Teacher Destroyer was the quintessential outing from The Hidden Hand during their all-too-short run from 2003-2007. Not only did it have the rawness and progressive sensibilities in near-perfect balance, but the tracks themselves were so memorable, both individually and how they fed into each other, that the album remains high on my list of favorite Wino-related releases. I’ve featured the album before, so I won’t belabor the point, but it was the right offering at the right moment.

All the better, then, to get a glimpse of that moment nearly a decade later, by checking out this video of “The Crossing” from the release show. WinoFalkinburg and drummer Dave Hennessy are in top form — you can see them nail the tricky change shortly before the long guitar solo kicks in — and it seems fair to think this was if not as good as they got, then probably close to it. I still consider The Hidden Hand probably the least appreciated of the bands Wino has been in, the stalled-out and largely forgotten Premonition 13 notwithstanding, and something like this is a real treat at least for me, and I hope for you as well.

Please enjoy and have a great Wino Wednesday:

The Hidden Hand, “The Crossing” Live at the Mother Teacher Destroyer CD Release Show

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Wino Wednesday: The Hidden Hand, “The Hidden Hand (Theme)”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 2nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

I know I’ve gone on at length about the underrated nature of The Hidden Hand among the pantheon of so-called “Wino bands,” and it’s true, the project that I think introduced a lot of people to the style and frontmanship of Scott “Wino” Weinrich — their being active when Dave Grohl‘s Probot record was released likely had something to do with that — often gets downplayed. They weren’t as influential as The Obsessed or Spirit Caravan, and Saint Vitus is a different animal entirely. But The Hidden Hand was more than just some band Wino was in for a few years before getting back with Vitus. True, they had a half-decade run from about 2002 until 2007, but in that time they produced three vibrant, distinct albums that showed a commitment to stylistic progression and offered top notch riffing and a vocal collaboration between Wino and bassist Bruce Falkinburg that I think stands out as the best of Wino‘s career.

Maybe that’s not saying much since Wino hasn’t often shared vocal duties, but in my head, that only makes The Hidden Hand a more special band. Falkinburg, also a producer who’s worked with J. RobbinsWooly Mammoth and many others, brought something to The Hidden Hand completely distinct from any other group in which Wino had taken part up to that point. Their songwriting showcased a rich partnership beginning with the De-Sensitized 7″ and subsequent full-length debut, Divine Propaganda, released by MeteorCity in 2003. While my impression of that album has always been rooted in its rawness compared to its 2004 follow-up, Mother Teacher Destroyer, a revisit to the band’s eponymous song — or their theme, as the parenthetical has it — finds it a celebration of various elements. The heavy riffing and anti-authoritarian drive are both there that would become staples of The Hidden Hand‘s sound, the album’s title mirrored in the mysticism counteracted by worldly manipulations transforming into dogma amid the political turmoil of the early part of the last decade.

And with “The Hidden Hand (Theme),” it’s Falkinburg up front. Wino joins in on the chorus, but it’s worth noting that on the song The Hidden Hand chose to represent who they were and what they were about, it was the bassist in the frontman role.

Enjoy and have an excellent Wino Wednesday:

The Hidden Hand, “The Hidden Hand (Theme)”

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Wino Wednesday: Wino, Punctuated Equilibrium in Full

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 11th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

I understand why the Wino trio only lasted as long as it did, what with drummer Jean-Paul Gaster‘s neverending tour commitments with Clutch and the death of bassist Jon Blank after the three-piece’s return from their successful European run, and as much as the solo acoustic material Wino has released since working under his own moniker has been a fascinating progression to witness and has resulted in no shortage of brilliant songwriting and performances, I still really dig the hell out of Punctuated Equilibrium. It’s not an all-the-time album, but it’s definitely a fit for summer, and as it’s started to warm up here in the desolate north, I’m finding it worth yet another return listen, the catchy, sunshiny opening of “Release Me” telling of some of the good-time vibes to follow.

Punctuated Equilibrium came out early in 2009 on Southern Lord Recordings, and aside from uniting Scott “Wino” Weinrich and Gaster at the top of the bill, it also tied together a lot of Wino‘s songwriting as demonstrated throughout the years in his various bands. “Smilin’ Road” had some of the upbeat vibes of Spirit Caravan, while the following “Eyes of the Flesh” tapped into the classic doom of The Obsessed and both “Gods, Frauds, Neo-Cons and Demagogues” and “Secret Realm Devotion” touched on themes and a more mystical take on heavy rock evocative of The Hidden Hand. Of course, the constant running through all of those bands is Wino‘s songwriting itself, and front-to-back, Punctuated Equilibrium demonstrated plainly that whatever the context, Wino‘s guitar and vocals were among the most distinctive in heavy.

The shame of it is that as Wino moved on to solo work, his collaboration with Conny Ochs and reunions with Saint Vitus, The Obsessed and Spirit Caravan, these songs were left behind. Maybe one of these days they’ll get picked back up for an acoustic reinterpretation or something. Till then, have a great Wino Wednesday.

Wino, Punctuated Equilibrium (2009)

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Wino Wednesday: Spirit Caravan Live at Saint Vitus Bar, April 15, 2014

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 23rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

I wasn’t fortunate enough to catch Spirit Caravan‘s reunion tour. Missed the Providence show by a couple hours as I was coming back from Roadburn — not at all a hardship — and as such, I was hoping the venerable Frank Huang would be on hand in Brooklyn to film the closing night of the tour at the St. Vitus Bar. As it happens, he got the whole set in glorious high definition, and the band looks and sounds killer running through classic Spirit Caravan material on the final evening of a long slog alongside doomly up-‘n’comers Pilgrim.

The circa-35-date tour began in Maryland, fittingly enough for a band native and so pivotal to the underground there, but I can think of few places in the country as appropriate for it to wrap than at the Vitus Bar. As you can see in Huang‘s clip, the crowd is into it, the trio of Scott “Wino” Weinrich, bassist Dave Sherman (in an Earthride hat, killing it) and drummer Henry Vasquez sound as tight as one could ask for a band who’ve been on the road for more than a month across the country, and if ever there was a Wino Wednesday video to put on full-screen and groove to front to back, this one might be it.

Spirit Caravan are in Europe now getting ready to headline this weekend at Desertfest in Berlin and London. There are other shows booked throughout Europe for the summer and hopefully they do more in the US as well, if not 35 shows in a row. Though if they did, all the better to nail down the dynamic and the better chance of putting together a new studio album. Of course, I’d take a live record in the interim, but until that shows up, I’m even gladder to have footage like this of them at the top of their game on stage.

Enjoy and have a great Wino Wednesday:

Spirit Caravan, Live at St. Vitus Bar, April 15, 2014

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Iron Man Get Grainy in “South of the Earth” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 1st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Watching Iron Man‘s new video for the title-track to last year’s South of the Earth (review here), I can almost hear the nasally strain and SoCal-goofball chuckle of Ricky Rachtman introducing the clip on Headbanger’s Ball circa 1990. The Maryland doom four-piece are no strangers to a classic aesthetic, and the visuals of “South of the Earth” tap directly into one, whether it’s the slow-walking cemetery visitor shot in negative or the appearance and disappearance of the band’s members as the song plays out. In the case of frontman Dee Calhoun, who also directed, we get to see him multiple times over.

“South of the Earth” is pretty representative of what metal videos were in a time before cinematic budgeting or band-in-a-warehouse performance clips. You get a feel for what the song is about and the mood is certainly on display as Iron Man rocks through, guitarist Al Morris III locking his own grooving in with that of the camera ever so slightly while drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann copes with one cymbal that seems to be disappearing and bassist Louis Strachan, as ever, holds the whole thing together. For a record that was thoroughly metallized, the “South of the Earth” video most definitely follows suit.

And if you haven’t yet had the chance to savor Morris’ tone as captured by the skillful production of Frank Marchand or roll along with Strachan and Waldmann in the groove they harness, “South of the Earth” should make for a fittingly representative introduction. They named the record after it, if that tells you anything. South of the Earth is available now on Rise Above in Europe and Metal Blade in North America, and the video features camera work by Kelly Croston in addition to Strachan and Calhoun.

Enjoy:

Iron Man, “South of the Earth” official video

Iron Man on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records

Metal Blade Records

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Wino Wednesday: The Hidden Hand, “The Last Tree” from Divine Propaganda

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 26th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

The Hidden Hand happened at a pretty interesting juncture for American heavy, just when underground riff-worship was really starting to get a foothold in a wider public consciousness beyond what it had been in the days before the widespread instant-gratification of the internet became a way to access just about anyone’s music anytime. Their second album, the stellar Mother Teacher Destroyer, certainly got some attention when it was issued by Southern Lord in 2004 — helped perhaps by the publicity of Dave Grohl‘s Probot project, released that same year, and Wino‘s visible involvement in that on guitar and vocals — but the preceding full-length debut, 2003’s Divine Propaganda, had no such high-profile lead-in. Not to shoehorn it into too convenient a narrative, but it was simply Wino‘s new band after Spirit Caravan broke up.

Listening back now, over a decade later and in light of the two albums The Hidden Hand released after it, Divine Propaganda is a standout if somewhat uneven release. Issued by MeteorCity, it was the first studio output from Wino, bassist/vocalist Bruce Falkinburg and drummer Dave Hennessy, and it introduced a lot of the Illuminati/conspiracy/socio-political framework in which a good portion of the band’s lyrics would work for the duration of their tenure, but thanks in no small part to the Weinrich/Falkinburg collaboration in the songwriting, it also pushed into territory that was neither The Obsessed-style doom nor the freewheeling heavy rock of Spirit Caravan. There was something else going on, and that’s evident on Divine Propaganda, even if the trio were still figuring out what they wanted their sound to be and what shape that collaboration would take.

In all honesty, “The Last Tree” — track seven of the record’s total 10 — probably could’ve been a Spirit Caravan song with its rolling groove of a chorus riff, but as the verse shows, The Hidden Hand were already becoming something distinct, and the fuzz that Falkinburg puts on his bass in the track is not to be missed. It’s something of a forgotten gem from the largely underappreciated band, whose timing and whose songwriting continue to intrigue.

Happy Wino Wednesday:

The Hidden Hand, “The Last Tree” from Divine Propaganda (2003)

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Wino Wednesday: Spirit Caravan, “Dove-Tongued Aggressor”; North American Tour Dates Announced

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 12th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Call it serendipity that Spirit Caravan decided to announce what’s hopefully just their first round of US tour dates on a Wednesday morning, and here we are, wrapping up this three-week Wino Wednesday series celebrating their reunion with the three studio tracks they recorded for the 2003 MeteorCity compilation, The Last Embrace — essentially their final recorded tracks. The trio of Scott “Wino” Weinrich, Dave Sherman and Gary Isom will begin their tour in Baltimore on March 7 at the Metro Galley – in addition to tour-support from Pilgrim, my understanding is Iron Man and Foghound are also on that bill — and wrapping up at the St. Vitus bar in Brooklyn on April 15. Between, they’ll cover coast-to-coast territory, presumably leaving Boston and L.A. for next time, before flying out to play at Desertfest in Berlin and London. It’s a hell of a run. If they’re not reunited yet, they certainly will be by the time this tour is over.

Check the poster for the dates:

Now then, we wrap up what became a three-week Wino Wednesday special with “Dove-Tongued Aggressor,” the last of the three then-new cuts included on The Last Embrace. Like “Brainwashed,” which was featured last week, “Dove-Tongued Aggressor” pairs a social commentary with a stomping riff, but the song’s twists are different both lyrically and musically, moving into its bridge with quirky starts and stops before getting back to the chugging verse and more open-strummed chorus. Like “Brainwashed” and even the more subdued “The Last Embrace,” which was the leadoff on the comp, it’s unmistakably Spirit Caravan, and as we stand on the precipice of their reunion getting underway, perhaps most of all, “Dove-Tongued Aggressor” shows just how much the band still had to offer when they called it quits.

I’m awfully glad they decided to tour. More to come. Have a great Wino Wednesday.

Spirit Caravan, “Dove-Tongued Aggressor”

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Wino Wednesday: Spirit Caravan, “Brainwashed”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 5th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

After checking out the track “The Last Embrace” from Spirit Caravan‘s 2003 swansong compilation of the same name last week — doing so in honor of the trio’s upcoming reunions at Desertfest London, at Desertfest Berlin and at Hellfest 2014 in France — it seemed to make sense to keep running with the theme. So after “The Last Embrace,” consider “Brainwashed” the second in a series we’ll wrap next Wednesday of the three songs from that MeteorCity release that pulled together much of Spirit Caravan‘s recorded output, save for the Dreamwheel EP, issued through the same label in 1999, prior to the arrival of the second full-length, Elusive Truth, on Joe Lally of Fugazi‘s Tolotta Records.

In both its instrumental arrangement and lyrical theme, “Brainwashed” is a much different track than “The Last Embrace,” which it follows immediately as the second song on the compilation. Centered around a nod-ready heavy stomp of a riff — the kind that bassist Dave Sherman and drummer Gary Isom handled so well throughout Spirit Caravan‘s tenure — it finds guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich diving headfirst into more grounded political themes than the epic framework of the prior cut. By 2003, Wino was no stranger to social commentary, having covered that ground in The Obsessed on songs like “To Protect and Serve” and “Streetside” from 1994’s The Church Within, but the lyrics of “Brainwashed” seem to engage directly with ideas of conspiracy, the Illuminati, surreptitious elements at work:

I’ll take your evil wind and give it right back to ya
Hungry buzzards are waiting on the grey fence of ignorance
It’s a classic case, they obfuscate, a brainwashed populace
Screaming crows and sirens, a normal world is crying
Bright bird of redemption, winged truth, with eyes of fire
One more fool, divide and rule, a brainwashed populace
You dance around the question, because the answers, you must hide
You crept into the dimension, now be lost through all time
It’s a classic case, they obfuscate, a brainwashed populace

There’s a better audio quality version of the track on YouTube paired with images from John Carpenter’s 1988 film, They Live, and that doesn’t feel like an inappropriate complement (I’d have used that one instead of this, but the clip gets into “9/11 was an inside job” stuff, and I wouldn’t want to come off as arguing one way or another), since lines like “One more fool, divide and rule, a brainwashed populace” cover similar ideology. Of course, in 2003, Wino would dive further into these themes with The Hidden Hand‘s debut, Divine Propaganda (also MeteorCity), so it’s interesting as well to think of “Brainwashed” as a precursor to that.

Enjoy and have an excellent Wino Wednesday:

Spirit Caravan, “Brainwashed”

Spirit Caravan on Thee Facebooks

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Sixty Watt Shaman to Play London Desertfest 2014

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 13th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

News continues to surface about 2014’s Sixty Watt Shaman reunion, in that in addition to putting out new music and performing at The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 next May in Worcester, MA, the reinvigorated Maryland rockers will be joining Spirit Caravan in representing the Free State at Desertfest in London. There’s a fun bit of symmetry there, with both bands reuniting. They put out a split together in 1999, so here they are a decade and a half later. The more things change.

Riffs will be had! Find the announcement below, courtesy of the Desertfest website, with words by Rich from The Day After the Sabbath:

SIXTY WATT SHAMAN RECHARGED AND READY FOR DESERTFEST 2014

Sixty Watt Shaman are back! Back, that is, from an important time in stoner rock history when the southern rock infusions of bands like The Mighty Nimbus and Alabama Thunderpussy were ruling.

SWS started in 1996 in Maryland, quickly becoming an established name in underground rock but live have remained a growing concern since their third and final 2002 album with only very occasional live appearances.

The Shaman’s sound is characterised by soulful grooves, husky vocals and whiskey-drenched attitude, born from the collective experience of guys who know a thing or two about life and have put that wisdom into the form of swaggering riffs and swinging rhythm. Over the years they’ve toured the US with Nebula, Spirit Caravan, Black Label Society, Crowbar, Clutch, Corrosion Of Conformity, Alabama Thunderpussy and toured Europe with Karma To Burn.

Joining the original Sixty Watt Shaman line-up of vocalist/guitarist Dan Soren, bassist Rev Jim Forrester and drummer Chuck Dukehart III, Todd Ingram from King Giant is initiated into the gang as their new lead guitarist to help hone their sound to even higher levels and take them back into the studio. At DesertFest 2014 they will be delivering the goods with a set of well-proven classics, along with some new surprises to celebrate this seasoned outfit’s new burst of life.

http://www.thedesertfest.com/
https://www.facebook.com/SixtyWattShaman

Sixty Watt Shaman, “My Ruin” from Reason to Live (2002)

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Sixty Watt Shaman to Release New Material in 2014

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 22nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

You know who’s gonna argue with a Sixty Watt Shaman reunion? Frickin’ nobody, that’s who. Maybe suckers and squares, but suckers and squares can both get bent. That’s right — I said it.

Of course, we already knew that Sixty Watt Shaman have reunited for shows from the prior announcement of their appearance at The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 in Massachusetts next year — stoked, even though it seems to have moved since last I heard — but the good news torn fresh from the PR wire below is that in addition to gigging, the band will also be releasing new material. Now, it’s not specified whether it’s an EP or a new full-length, but confirmation of new material is more than I had 20 minutes ago, so you won’t hear me complain.

Here’s how it is:

 

SIXTY WATT SHAMAN: Maryland Riff Rock Heroes Reunite For 2014 Live Actions

Reissues And New Material Planned

Maryland’s SIXTY WATT SHAMAN rides again, as the act has risen from the ashes to make their return to the stage and studio in 2014.

The classic SIXTY WATT SHAMAN lineup of vocalist/guitarist Dan Soren, bassist Rev Jim Forrester and drummer Chuck Dukehart III — three quarters of the crew who brought the band’s Seed of Decades and Ultra Electric albums to fruition — will be delivering a set of time proven classics as well as some new surprises to celebrate the relaunch of this mighty outfit. Additionally, the band welcomes Todd (TI) Ingram from King Giant aboard as their new lead guitarist to help write the next chapter in their sonic legacy. TI is no stranger to the genre as his heavy riffs and blistering leads are a signature part of KG. On the new band activities, Chuck Dukehart III stated, “We are beyond ecstatic to be making music together again! SIXTY WATT SHAMAN is and always will be a brotherhood and we are bonded by blood. It’s always been ingrained in our bones. I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to writing this next chapter of the journey with my brothers in arms.”

For 2014, SIXTY WATT SHAMAN has confirmed their spot headlining the much revered The Eye of the Stoned Goat IV Fest in Worcester, Massachusetts on May 3rd. The two day fest is an intense gathering of bands from across the rock/doom/psych scene, this year set to include twenty acts including Curse The Son, Foghound, Kingsnake, Cortez, Volume IV, Beelzefuzz, Ichabod and more.

Besides additional live ventures coming together for the year, SIXTY WATT SHAMAN will also be reissuing select material from the band’s back catalog, and will also step back into the studio to bring a fresh batch of tunes to life.

A household name in the underground rock community, SIXTY WATT SHAMAN formed in Baltimore in the mid-1990s, and released three full-length albums between 1998 and 2002; their Ultra Electric debut on Game Two Records and the subsequent Seed of Decades and Reason To Live via Spitfire Records. Over the years they toured nationally with Nebula, Spirit Caravan, Black Label Society, Crowbar, Clutch, Corrosion Of Conformity, Alabama Thunderpussy and others, and trekked Europe alongside Karma To Burn.

Stay tuned for more Sixty Watt updates on SIXTY WATT SHAMAN in the coming months, including the launch of www.SixtyWattShaman.com.

https://www.facebook.com/SixtyWattShaman

Sixty Watt Shaman, “New Trip” from Seed of Decades (2000)

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10 Days of SHoD XIII, Pt. 10: Beelzefuzz Interview with Dana Ortt

Posted in Features on November 6th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

“…Between conviction and creation…”

Don’t be surprised when year-end-list time rolls around next month and Beelzefuzz‘s self-titled The Church Within Records debut is in my top 10. The eight-song collection has become a near constant in both my mental jukebox and actual listening rotation. Most mornings since the album’s August release, I’ve woken up with the chorus to “All the Feeling Returns” stuck in my head, and putting the track on only seems to exacerbate it. If the song wasn’t so good, I might seek some kind of professional help.

Beelzefuzz are a relatively recent advent. Their first demo began to circulate in 2011 and I was tipped off to check them out by Clamfight guitarist Sean McKee. Car troubles stunted a nonetheless engaging performance at Days of the Doomed II in Wisconsin last year, and after their sets at Stoner Hands of Doom XII a year ago in Connecticut, The Eye of the Stoned Goat 2 in Delaware earlier in 2013 and again in Wisconsin at Days of the Doomed III, it slowly (always slowly) started to dawn on me just how individualized their brand of progressive doom is. The trio of guitarist/vocalist Dana Ortt, bassist Pug Kirby and drummer Darin McCloskey (also of Pale Divine) recorded Beelzefuzz (review here) with the venerable Chris Kozlowski – noted for his work with Blue Cheer, Pentagram, and many, many others — and the result could easily prove over time to be a classic of Maryland-style doom.

That sounds like hyperbole, and of course what catches on that level depends on more than just the quality of the songs themselves, but that quality is there, and in a scene that prides itself on traditionalism, Beelzefuzz have been able to not only convey sonic loyalism, but to gracefully expand the breadth of the doom they’re creating, whether it’s the harmonies Ortt brings vocally to the space thematic of “Lunar Blanco,” the general smoothness of the production — it remains both deep and weighted tonally — or the flow honed over the course of the album’s 37 minutes, Beelzefuzz not only show potential for where future progression might lead them, but as songs like “Hypnotize,” the aforementioned “All the Feeling Returns,” “Reborn” and the stomping “Lonely Creatures” demonstrate, there’s already significant capacity for accomplishment in the band’s aesthetic and songwriting method. They are sonically adventurous — as the guitar-as-organ effects and live vocal multitracking will attest — patient when they need to be, and only in danger of getting stronger over time.

Keeping good company with Pale Divine, Admiral Browning, Backwoods Payback, Valkyrie, Wasted Theory and others, Beelzefuzz will play Stoner Hands of Doom XIII this coming Saturday, Nov. 9, at Strange Matter in Richmond, Virginia. Ortt took some time out to discuss this fest, the situation with Brendan Burns of The Eye of the Stoned Goat stepping in in place of promoters Rob and Cheryl Levey, as well as their pending appearance next week in Germany at the Hammer of Doom festival on Nov. 16, playing alongside While Heaven Wept, Orchid, Jex Thoth, and writing and recording the album itself.

The complete Q&A is after the jump. Please enjoy.

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Friday Full-Length: Pentagram, First Daze Here

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 1st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Pentagram, First Daze Here: The Vintage Collection (2002)

Sometimes if it’s been a while I forget if I’ve already posted a record. I did a quick search on the site for First Daze Here to see if I had posted the compilation of vintage early ’70s Pentagram tracks before, and no, I haven’t, but I found that on Oct. 30, 2009 — four years and two days ago — I closed out the week with “Lazylady” from the album. I was already pretty set on First Daze Here, but that just made it all the better for me. The more things change, right? Almost half a decade later, still wrapping up a long week with “Forever My Queen” and “When the Screams Come.” Go figure.

I was in college when Relapse issued this compilation in 2002, and I knew who Pentagram was at that point, but for sure First Daze Here gave me a whole new appreciation for the band, as I think it did for a lot of people. It’s great to have Bobby Liebling and company still rocking out, and I’ve yet to see him sing any of these songs and not enjoy myself, but this is just a special document of a special time, and thinking of all the great music and all the great doom I was discovering at that point, it’s wound up representing a special time for me as well. Maybe that’s not what they had in mind 30 years after the fact from the recording, but it worked out that way anyhow.

Before I wrap things up, I want to extend a special thanks to Todd Severin and John Rancik from The Ripple Effect. This week, they posted an interview with me about running this site and music in general and a lot of things, and it really meant a lot to me that they’d take the time or be interested enough to send over questions. I was pretty wordy in my answers, but I had been thinking a lot about what I’m doing with this project and why I do what I do here, and they gave me a real chance to explore some of those ideas in a way that was as much clearing it up for myself as for anyone else who might be interested. It was truly appreciated, and as someone who’s rarely on that end of an interview, I hope I did alright in laying out some of my perspective.

Appreciation also goes out to everyone on Thee Facebooks who shared the link or was kind enough to comment. I got some great support from people I genuinely respect, and frankly, that’s what keeps me going, so thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

And thank you.

I didn’t get as many album reviews in this week as I would’ve liked, but there was the SHoD coverage and starting the vinyl column and I was either going to do the Windhand interview today or review a record and I decided with their tour starting tonight, that was the way to go. Next week I’ll get to that Sandrider album. I’m also in Jersey for the next couple days and I’ll be going to see Orange Goblin tomorrow night at St. Vitus, so look for a review of that on Monday.

It kills me that I’m not going to get to SHoD next weekend. I had been planning on going for a long time, and there are a lot of bands I want to see, but it’s a money thing. Gas for a nine-hour drive, then a room, food, etc., never mind whatever I’d be spending on merch throughout the weekend. The Patient Mrs. was gracious about it. She was like, “You can go and we’ll charge it,” but it wouldn’t be fair for me to do that. I’ll look forward to the next The Eye of the Stoned Goat fest, which got its first announcement yesterday.

And there’s plenty to do in the meantime. In addition to the Sandrider and Orange Goblin reviews, I’ve got a full album stream set to go up on Monday from the German outfit Rising, whose last album was also streamed here. Nothing like symmetry. We’ll also continue the “10 Days of SHoD” coverage. I’m slated to jump on the phone with Dana Ortt from Beelzefuzz on Monday night, so maybe Tuesday or Wednesday I’ll get that posted. Looking forward to that.

As always, I hope you have a great and safe weekend. If you’re hitting up Orange Goblin in Brooklyn, I’ll see you there, and otherwise, back here Monday for more warm tones and rolling grooves. Please check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

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Iron Man, South of the Earth: Hail to the Changing Sky

Posted in Reviews on October 14th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

There are few who can claim the kind of commitment to doom that Iron Man guitarist “Iron” Al Morris III can claim. Largely ignored throughout their career, Morris has watched trends come and go, bands rise and fall, and has never wavered from his commitment to classic, riff-driven Sabbathian doom, tracing his roots all the way back to late ’70s rockers Force, out of whose demise Iron Man formed after an initial run as a Black Sabbath cover band. Iron Man proper made their debut with 1993’s Black Night on Hellhound (reissue review here), and 20 years later, they emerge with the new South of the Earth on Metal Blade and Rise Above Records, Morris having stuck it out as the founder and heart of the band for all this time with what to this point has been little reward. From 1999’s Generation Void to 2007’s Submission EP, Iron Man was on hold as a studio outfit, but since ’06, the band has been vigorous in remaking their name in the realms of doom, Morris‘ tone ever at the fore. South of the Earth follows their 2009 full-length, I Have Returned (review here), and a series of EPs including the John Brenner of Revelation-recorded Iron Man Shall Rise (discussed here) in 2010, 2011’s Dominance (review here), and last year’s Att hålla dig över, which was the first Iron Man outing to feature the complete lineup of Morris on guitar and Louis Strachan (who joined in 2006) on bass alongside vocalist “Screaming Mad” Dee Calhoun and drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann. Waldmann was the last to come aboard, and his presence obviously makes a clear difference in the results on South of the Earth‘s steady grooving 50 minutes, giving Morris the space to blast out bluesy improvised leads to comport with his long-underrated top notch riffing — see “IISOEO (The Day of the Beast)” — while Strachan punishes his frets on madman bass runs and Calhoun hosts the proceedings like a über-metal storytelling master of ceremonies.

Still, even with the change in drummer, or the change in vocalist for that matter — Calhoun having come in after Iron Man split with Joe Donnelly following I Have Returned – there are clear audio signals throughout South of the Earth that Iron Man are working at a different level than they ever have before. A lot of that has to do with producer Frank “The Punisher” Marchand, who also helmed the last album but on South of the Earth brings Iron Man‘s sound to new levels of professionalism and gives a stately feel even to the grit in Morris‘ tone, sacrificing none of the band’s heft or push, but bringing the songs to life in a manner clear, vibrant, and at times punishingly heavy. Essentially split into two halves surrounding the Iommi-esque interlude “Ariel Changed the Sky,” South of the Earth is not aiming to wow with its sonic diversity — it is a doom record by a doom band for doom heads, and if I can add to that: Doom, doom bloody doom — but moments of flourish occur periodically in songs like “A Whore in Confession” and “In the Velvet Darkness” enough to hold the listener’s attention while Iron Man ply their trade in grade A form, and they veer from the earlier, catchy songwriting modus in the second half to the more exploratory territory of “IISOEO (The Day of the Beast)” and the Lovecraftian “Half-Face/Thy Brother’s Keeper (Dunwich Pt. 2).” In direct comparison to I Have Returned, Calhoun‘s presence will likely be the standout marker of the new album. He earns his “Screaming Mad” early on with the opening title-track and subsequent single-worthy hook of “Hail to the Haze” — the analogy I’ve used since I first saw him with the band is he’s the Rob Halford to Joe Donnelly‘s Ozzy Osbourne — but in subdued, moodier parts like the opening verses of “The Worst and Longest Day,” he’s no less able to carry across deceptively complex melodies while sounding confident and assured both in his lyrics and delivery. As a frontman, his presence bleeds through even the recorded versions of the songs.

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