Posted in Whathaveyou on March 22nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Before they head overseas to play both Desertfests and the Barrosela Metalfest in Portugal, US doom legends Pentagram will make a stop at Brooklyn’s St. Vitus bar, as the latest in an increasingly long line of impressive gets for the venue that’s also included such landmark acts as Eyehategod, Floor (who’ll be there next Friday) and Saint Vitus themselves. Pretty fucking astounding, if you ask me. I’ll be on a plane while the show is happening, but this one’s bound to be a good time for anyone who can make it out and/or won’t be able to see the band at this year’s Maryland Deathfest.
Heavy metal legends, PENTAGRAM, will be returning to the road in 2013 in Europe, as well as North America, for select shows and festivals. The band will once again perform at Maryland Death Fest as well as Farmageddon Records Music Festival, Metaldays (Slovakia), Barroselas Metalfest XVI (Portugal), and more. PENTAGRAM’s list of confirmed performances can be found below.
PENTAGRAM will have new merchandise designs available exclusively at these shows. Also, the band has listened to their fans and will be performing some classics and fan favorites that have never before been performed live! Be forewarned, everything’s turning to night!
PENTAGRAM 04/16 Brooklyn, NY Saint Vitus Bar 04/25 Berlin, DE Astra *Desertfest 2013* 04/26 Barroselas, PT Barrosela Metalfest XVI 04/28 London, UK Electric Ballroom *Desertfest 2013* 05/26 Baltimore, MD Forme Sonar Compound *Maryland Deathfest 2013* 07/20 Warsaw, PL Days of Ceremony 2013 07/22 Tolmin, SI Metaldays 2013 07/25-07/28 TBA, Montana Farmageddon Records Music Festival
If you’ve never seen it, Iron Man‘s merch stand makes a hell of an impression. A case that opens to several panels, the shirts, CDs and LPs that the Maryland doom stalwarts have on offer rest securely behind a transparent sheet of plastic, almost like a museum display. I’d happened into this wonder of hands-on marketing on I don’t even know how many occasions prior, but last month at Eye of the Stoned Goat 2 in Delaware (review here), it was the Iron Man Shall Rise demo that caught my eye among all the other fodder for window-shopping.
They probably didn’t think much of it at the time, but the Iron Man Shall Rise demo turned into more of a landmark than Iron Man could or really should have imagined at the time. Its three tracks — “Jumping in Head First,” “Time is the Enemy” and Juggernaut Too (Perpetual Force)” — represent the final appearance of vocalist Joe Donnelly in the band. For that alone, Iron Man Shall Rise should be a noteworthy release, but the tracks were recorded in 2010 by John Brenner of Revelation/Against Nature and released on his Bland Hand Records imprint, made especially for an appearance at that year’s Doom Shall Rise festival in Germany.
That appearance didn’t happen, and by the time Iron Man put out the DominanceEP a year later, it was current frontman Dee Calhoun on the mic, having been announced as the band’s new singer in January 2012 following the band’s appearance in October 2011 at Hammer of Doom, also a German fest. But even as Donnelly‘s swansong, Iron Man Shall Riseis hardly centered around his performance. Rather, of all the Iron Man discs I’ve heard, this one is the most about guitarist “Iron” Al Morris III, and particularly the rich blanket of fuzz he weaves with his classically doomed tone. Along with bassist Louis Strachan, Morris‘ all-too-underappreciated sound is at the fore on the shuffling “Jumping in Head First,” as Donnelly and then-drummer Dex Dexter are somewhat buried behind, and when the six-stringer kicks in with a lead, even Strachan takes a backseat. As does the rest of the planet.
It’s not necessarily a surprise that Brenner, himself a veteran of the Maryland/D.C. doom scene, would want to highlight Morris‘ work on this demo recording, but in light even of Iron Man‘s EPs over the last couple years — the aforementioned Dominance (review here) and Att hålla dig över, which followed in 2012 — Iron Man Shall Rise has a different sound than anything the band has done, the layers of riffs and backing leads in “Time is the Enemy” giving way to the consuming fuzz of “Juggernaut Too (Perpetual Force),” presumably a sequel to the track “Juggernaut” from 1999′s Generation Void. Here again, Morris‘ guitar work is consuming, an initial lead making way for the verse before Donnelly‘s half-snarled chorus.
Save for a few fills, Dexter‘s drums are more or less inaudible behind the guitar and bass, and that Morris lead returns to its prominent position at the end of the track, which is more or less just a stop. It’s a curious kind of release — very much a demo — and if you think you’ve heard every side of their sound that Iron Man have to offer and you haven’t heard these tracks, then you’re mistaken. In another dimension, Iron Man Shall Rise came out with “kvlt” marketing and got the band hipster cred. Seriously. It happened.
It’s been a minute since the last time The Hidden Hand was featured for Wino Wednesday, and for my money, 2004′s Mother Teacher Destroyerwas the best thing the band put out in their unfortunately short run. While the prior year’s Divine Propagandadebut had a raw sense of punkish purpose and the follow-up swansong LP, 2007′s The Resurrection of Whiskey Foote, was more complex both thematically and musically, Mother Teacher Destroyerstruck and excellent balance of both sides of the band’s personality, propelled by driving fuzz and the dual vocals of Wino and bassist Bruce Falkinburg.
Ultimately, it would be the clash of those two personalities that undid the band, but on Mother Teacher Destroyer, the two figures worked brilliantly off each other, trading off in the lead spot while drummer Dave Hennessy (Evan Tanner joined the band for their third album, but also left soon after) solidified the tracks behind. Whether it was Falkinburg‘s dire proclamations on opener “The Crossing” — the start of that song and the album as immediate as immediate gets — the “we will overcome” call and response of “Half Mast” or the later disillusionment Wino loosed upon “Travesty as Usual,” the album was both viciously of its moment politically and honing in on epic themes. To wit, a track like “Sons of Kings” — my personal favorite and a one that’s been a Wino Wednesday pick before — is as much a fantasy narrative as it is a metaphor for the Iraq War, already endless in its beginning stages in 2004.
This is the 75th week of Wino Wednesday, and as such, I’m stoked to be able to feature an album that I still consider underrated in the man’s discography. You’ll find Mother Teacher Destroyerin full and in HD on the YouTube player below. As always, please enjoy and have a happy Wino Wednesday:
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 18th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Looks like Pittsburgh imprint Shadow Kingdom Records and underappreciated Maryland doom stalwarts Revelation will be continuing their alliance with a release of the latter’s newest album, Inner Harbor (review here), in April. As they usually do, Revelation self-released the album digitally last year and highlighted a more progressive sound, still melancholic, but steeped in a kind of resigned mellowness of spirit as well. If you didn’t hear it then, it’s worth hearing now.
The members of Revelation‘s other outfit Against Nature (same dudes, different band) will be playing a show in Philadelphia earlier in April as well that a trailer has just been released to help promote. Find that after the PR wire info about the Inner Harborrelease:
Shadow Kingdom Records To Release REVELATION’s “Inner Harbor” In April
April 30th, 2013 will see the release of Inner Harbor, the newest album from long-running prog rock/doom outfit REVELATION.
In existence since the mid-80′s REVELATION has earned the respect of many bands and fans from all around the world and are often credited with creating the Progressive Doom Metal genre. They’ve taken the very best sounds of Rush, Black Sabbath, and early Heavy Metal to create yet another masterpiece amongst a catalog of many with Inner Harbor. This is quite possibly the band’s most fluid and laid-back release to date. While the sound is difficult to pinpoint, one can hear classic REVELATION mixed in with a dash of 70′s Italian Progressive Rock. The music flows through you so smoothly and freely, that you’re going to feel like you’re in a state of deep relaxed meditation.
The combined creative forces of drummer Steve Branagan, guitarist/vocalist John Brenner and bassist Bert Hall Jr. are responsible for over twenty full-length releases – split between REVELATION and their eclectic alter-ego AGAINST NATURE – and countless demos and EPs. Inner Harbor was made available as a digital release last year by the band’s own Bland Hand Records (www.againstnature.us/BH/) and will see worldwide distribution on CD format by Shadow Kingdom Records in April. Pre-orders are being taken at the newly revamped Shadow Kingdom Records Webstore atwww.shadowkingdomrecords.com.
In other news, Revelation‘s alter ego Against Nature will be playing a rare gig in Philly on April 6 with Beelzefuzz, Wizard Eye and Lucertola at The M Room. A video promo for the show has been put together by Lucertola‘s Tad Leger (also Blood Farmers) and you can find it below:
I don’t know exactly when this show was recorded, but judging from Wino‘s hair and the fact that they open with “Freedom,” I’d put it around 1990. “Self-titled era” is what I decided to go with — maybe a little earlier, maybe a little later, but somewhere in there — and I hope if I’m wrong or someone has a more specific date to put to it, they’ll please correct my ignorant ass. Either way, it’s a mostly full set, 28 minutes, of VHS-ready bootleg The Obsessed, and that’s awesome enough to justify it as a Wino Wednesday pick, details or no details.
The Obsessed‘s self-titled was re-released on CD in 2000 by Tolotta after its original 1990 issue through Hellhound, but it seems to be it’s overdue for one of those 180 gram-type LP deals, and with a sound so classic, perfect for one at that. Hell, at least put the CD out again, maybe Southern Lord could step up and handle it, or Roadburn, who put out the Live Music Hall Koln vinyl last year. Just appears to me to be an album worth another round of appreciation. This live clip, of its day in terms of grainy picture and compressed sound, nonetheless proves that. If it’s a museum piece, that’s a pretty heavy museum.
It’s been over 70 weeks that I’ve been doing Wino Wednesdays, and there have been a few times in that span (some laughably early) that I’ve thought to myself that I’m running out of things to post or that it’s getting boring. Then I stumble on something like this and it’s just a reminder of how much treasure there really is out there and just how impossible it is to even begin to get a handle on Wino‘s long and storied career. Someone should write a book about it. Him maybe. Or, you know, me. Ha. While I wait for that call to come in, here’s this.
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 4th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Venerable and perpetually underrated Maryland doom stalwarts Iron Man have reportedly set to the process of putting their next full-length to tape. In the time since 2009′s I Have Returned (review here), the four-piece led by guitarist “Iron” Al Morris III have seen a handful of drummers come and go, replaced their singer, reissued their first album (review here), and dropped two EPs, late 2011′s Dominance (review here) and 2012′s Att Hålla Dig Över — in addition to playing gigs — so they’ve hardly been idle.
Still, given the lineup shifts, it should be interesting to hear how they do on a full-length with vocalist Dee Calhoun, who’s brought new character and metallic fortitude to their live show.
Behold the announcement and anticipate the doom:
Maryland doom legends Iron Man are set to begin production on their fifth full-length album. The as-yet-untitled album is scheduled for a spring 2013 release.
For this release, the band will again team up with engineer Frank Marchand, who was at the controls for Iron Man’s last full-length effort, 2009’s “I Have Returned.”
This will be the first full-length Iron Man release to feature vocalist “Screaming Mad” Dee Calhoun and drummer Mot Waldmann, who each appeared on the band’s “att hålla dig over” EP in 2012. Calhoun debuted with Iron Man in 2011 on the band’s “Dominance” EP.
“When I was brought in just over two years ago, I made it my mission for this band deliver the heaviest, hardest-hitting record of Iron Man’s long career,” Calhoun said. “Based upon this material, I think we’re about to succeed.” Iron Man main man, guitarist Alfred Morris III, added “this album will be a crushingly heavy collection of melodic percussion. Iron Man is given another chance to touch the world!”
Iron Man: Alfred Morris III – guitar Screaming Mad Dee – voice Louis Strachan – bass Mot Waldmann – drums
When it comes to Maryland doom, there are few who can claim a higher place than Earthride. Since beginning as a side-project from Spirit Caravan bassist Dave Sherman to explore more of a frontman role, they’ve become one of the most pivotal acts in one of America’s most pivotal underground scenes. The rolling megafuzz of guitarist Kyle Van Steinburg, faithful plod of drummer Eric Little and molasses thick low end from Rob Hampshire (since replaced by Josh Hart) made Earthride‘s 2010 outing, Something Wicked (review here), a potent cauldron of doom waiting to be stirred by anyone who’d dare to take it on.
Among the highlights of the album — the band’s third behind 2005′s Vampire Circus, 2002′s Taming of the Demonsand their initial 2000 self-titled EP — was final track “Supernatural Illusion,” on which Sherman was joined vocally and Van Steinburg joined on guitar by none other than Sherman’s former Spirit Caravan bandmate, Scott “Wino”Weinrich. After a full-length jaunt of massive groovers like the opening title-track and the Southern metal vibes of “Watch the Children Play,” Wino’s guest spot was the icing on an already well baked cake, and to hear him alongside Sherman as well in the chorus made it all the richer.
This is another one of those tracks that I can’t believe hasn’t already been a Wino Wednesday pick yet, but here we are. Better late than never, since “Supernatural Illusion” is bound to get stuck in your head whether you’ve heard it before or not, and like they do as only they can, Earthride deliver a solid punch to the face of classic stoner doom. Enjoy and have a happy Wino Wednesday:
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 19th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
If you haven’t yet, head over to Doommantia and donate some cash to help Ed Barnard, the owner of that site, get back on his feet. Anyone who’s ever spoken to him, myself included, will tell you Ed‘s a great dude, and a huge supporter of this weird underground community, and it’s times like this that the community needs to come together for one of its own.
Back at the end of July, Ed suffered a heart attack and as a result of not being able to pay the ensuing nightmarish medical bills, is homeless and living in a tent. It’s pretty bleak times, and as an admirer of Ed‘s work and his dedication, I encourage you to please, please take a couple seconds and throw a couple bucks his way. I didn’t realize it at the time, but he’s apparently also giving away Wizardrone CDs to anyone who donates $20 or more.
But seriously, don’t do it for the free CD. Do it because this is a small community as compared to the outside world, and if we don’t take care of each other when we need to, we suck just as much as everyone else.
On Oct. 13, at Lallo’s in Knoxville, Maryland, they’ll be throwing a Doommantia Bash to help out Ed‘s cause. Bands are still being confirmed, but so far on the bill are War Injun, Against Nature, When the Deadbolt Breaks, Fire Faithful, Foghound, Ghutt, Akris, and Balam, with more to come.
I guess the title says it all — at least most of it — but the fact is that it’s been two weeks since Stoner Hands of Doom XII got underway at the El ‘n’ Gee in New London, Connecticut, and I can’t get over how killer Iron Man was closing out the fest on Sunday night. Not only were they awesome, because a lot of bands were awesome over the course of the weekend (trust me, I saw them all), but they were statesmen about it.
They asked nothing more than the attention of the crowd as they doomed out, and in return, they delivered a righteous set of classic, under-appreciated underground metal. They’ll probably never get their due, but dammit, they destroyed at that show, and did it as humbly as you might pump a tank of gas.
Just because I was reliving the moment, here are four shots of guitarist “Iron” Alfred Morris III kicking ass and taking names.
For me, it’s all about that last one. That’s what doom looks like. Here’s a guy who’s been in this band for nearly 25 years, and what’s he doing? He’s got his head down and he’s plowing into a riff. He’s doing it because he loves it, and it doesn’t matter what the trend is or who’s there to see him. He’d be doing the same anyway. Zero bullshit.
Posted in audiObelisk on August 27th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Anytime you can see Maryland doom stalwarts Revelation, consider doing so highly recommended. First off, they don’t play live that often, and second, the trio of guitarist/vocalist John Brenner, bassist Bert Hall, Jr. and drummer Steve Branagan are a direct line to the defeat at the heart of classic doom. The band’s earliest material stems back to the beginnings of the ’90s, but even more than 20 years later, the emotional atmosphere they capture isn’t quite like anything else.
Revelation will be playing this Friday, Aug. 31, at Stoner Hands of Doom XII in New London, Connecticut, sharing the stage that night with Earthride, Pilgrim, Lord Fowl and others. To honor that event, and to spread word of their ongoing productivity, the band sent over the new song “Terribilita.”
The track comes from Revelation‘s upcoming full-length, Inner Harbor — one assumes named just as much for the hurts that stay with us as for the inner harbor of Baltimore — which will see release in the coming months. Shadow Kingdom will have a CD out, and Inner Harborwill be out on vinyl through Ireland’s Pariah Child Records. As with all Revelation releases and everything the band does with their alter-ego Against Nature incarnation as well, the album will also be available for free download from Brenner‘s own Bland Hand Records.
Before we get there, though, “Terribilita” brings forth Revelation‘s oft-understated vibing with previously unheard clarity in the recording. Brenner‘s guitar sounds fuller and more vibrant than ever, and even Branagan‘s drums come through more clearly even than on 2009′s For the Sake of No One, nestling into tight rhythms alongside Hall‘s always classy, always grooving bass. Decades later, Revelation remain an underground treasure.
Please enjoy “Terribilita” on the player below:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
All of Revelation and Against Nature‘s impossibly huge and ongoing discographies — including rare live recordings — can be downloaded for free over at Bland Hand‘s website, as well as releases from Iron Man, Beelzefuzz, Pale Divine and many others. Keep an eye on Shadow Kingdom‘s page too for news on the physical pressing.
Maryland trio Chowder are one band whose pedigree and lineage give you absolutely no context for what they sound like. Some bands, you know what you’re getting just by who they hang out with, but when you consider that guitarist Josh Hart cut his teeth playing in early incarnations of Revelation and Unorthodox — both names of formidable contribution to Maryland’s doom scene — and that he’s currently a member of Earthride, well, that kind of sets you up to think doom, or at very least some derivation thereof. On their long-in-arriving debut full-length, Passion Rift, Chowder defy almost every expectation you could put on them while still also using guitars.
The album, released by I, Voidhanger Records, is entirely instrumental and blindingly varied musically, bouncing hardcore rhythms off wild off-time changes and the kind of progressive technicalities that only true fans of Rush seem to be able to make gospel. There are elements of heavy riffing to be found here and there, but not enough to really ally the band to one genre or another. They never rest that long, and even ambient pieces like “Mazuku” or the opening “Mysterioid” have more to them than they might at first seem to, with Hart adding layers of synth, mellotron and even theremin to the mix of effects and drones.
Comprised of Hart alongside bassist Doug Williams (also cello) and drummer Chad Rush, Chowder began in 1992. It wasn’t until 2006 that the band released a demo through Revelation guitarist/vocalist John Brenner‘s Bland Hand Records, and Passion Rift has been another six years coming beyond that, so when it came time for listening to the album (streaming a couple tracks here), I had plenty of questions about how it was made, when and what were the band’s motivations.
As you can see in the following Six Dumb Questions, Hart had plenty of answers. Please enjoy:
1. Take me through the history of the band. It seems like Chowder was always in the background while other projects were the main focus. How has working with Chad changed over the years? Did you always know you wanted to keep the band instrumental?
Chad and I started writing music together while I was still in Revelation, back in 1992 I guess. A mutual friend thought we might be on the same page and it clicked pretty early. We wrote a few songs around that time but just sort of always considered it a sort of side-project as I was busy playing bass with Revelation and then Unorthodox soon after. In 1994 we managed to get into a studio and record four of the tunes we’d been screwing around with over those couple of years under the name Spectre that I clipped from my favorite Revelation song. Our friend Rich Newberger sang on three of those songs and his brother Steve played bass. It was pretty exciting to hear that stuff recorded because it was so weird for the time period. I don’t think many people we played it for really knew what to make of it then. That lineup kind of fizzled out and Chad and I continued to write a ton of music after I split with Unorthodox. It was one of those periods when you’re just spilling over with ideas, like every time I picked up my guitar I was writing a keeper riff or something. Sadly, we could never flesh out a lineup to play live and just kind of floundered over the years.
Back then I thought we wanted a singer as well and that was really tough because I was super-picky and there weren’t many people around that really fit what I expected. So we just hammered away as a three piece, Chad, myself and Joe Ruthvin on bass who left to form Earthride with [Dave] Sherman and EricLittle. It was always easy to write with Chad though, we both had a somewhat eclectic tastes so nothing was ever really a contention idea-wise. I’d bring something to the table and we’d both get really excited about it and try out best to form it into something unique. I remember laughing our asses off at some weird riff that just seemed so ridiculous but by the time we’d evolved it into a song it felt really, really cool and fresh. That was even before we started to implement synths and other post-rock effects. Chad‘s talent for irrational timing was really exceptional and allowed me to just go with whatever crazy thing came up. As far as being instrumental goes, like I said that wasn’t the plan but I was always into that kind of thing from the early math rock bands like Buzzard and King Sour to the obvious Rush and ‘70s prog tracks where the bands just busted loose for a song or two.
I think the thing that made me say, “Screw it, we don’t even need a singer,” was this Asylum tape I used to just play constantly that was a whole 45-minute side of songs without vocals. That was my favorite thing out of all the Maryland “doom” bands and it was funny because when I started playing with Unorthodox, Dale [Flood] and I used to joke about him not singing anymore and just going that route. By 2006, when John Brenner and I were booking the Doom or be Doomed fest in Baltimore and the idea of Chowder playing was on the table, I was comfortable with the idea of just playing the music and started to write with more self-indulgence and less conventional structure. I felt the addition of all the synths and mellotrons could keep things interesting enough that some kind of vocal wouldn’t be missed. Ultimately, I really don’t have anything to say to these people listening that they haven’t heard 1,000 times before anyway. I know as I get older I get kind of burned out on hearing the screaming guy wailing at me about his inner tumoils and emotions or whatever book he/she just read.
2. When was the material on Passion Rift written? What’s the writing process like?
The album is all over the place. “Mazuku,” “Salt Creep,” “The Innsmouth Look” and “Head Full of Rats” all go back to the ‘90s. The rest of it was written for the album between 2007-2008. I think it’s a good mix and some of our best material. I purposely kept it off the 2007 EP we did with Bland Hand Records to save for a full-length if it ever happened. I’ll usually bring riffs or whole songs to the other guys and we build on it from there. Sometimes I’ll have specific ideas about what the drums or bass do, but mostly it’s very loose and we just sort of design the song together based on a rough outline I’ve come up with. Playing with guys who really know their chops is a huge comfort when coming up with ideas. We developed a kind of language over time to communicate ideas back and forth. Like, “Try one of those sizzle drop, slap runs” and Doug would know what I was referring to. Most of the descriptions aren’t really words though and are just sounds. DUN DUN DUN dee doo DUN dddeeeeiin!!
3. One thing the album seems to do is balance different styles. The songs have a lot from prog, more than a bit of hardcore and some doom in them. When you started putting together the demo in 2006, how clear of an idea did you have of what you wanted to do stylistically? When you’re writing when does something start to take shape as a Chowder song?
I know that no matter what I write that these guys can play it and they’re up for trying it out which is the beauty of this band in my eyes. There’s never been a conversation about what we should sound like or, “is this new song really us?” I know we’re not breaking any new ground here but the idea has always been to just write what sounds good, what feels right. The demo was actually recorded in 1997. John Brenner released it for download on his BlandHandRecords label around 2006. No, it’s never been clear. I’m so heavily influenced and have been by so many different kinds of music and bands that it’s nearly impossible to write within a style on purpose, if that makes any sense. Like if you were to tell me to write a straight doom metal song, I would have trouble. Same goes for anything else, punk, hardcore, rock. Everything seems to channel through some screwy filter and come out all twisted up. If I’m writing, it’s a Chowder song. If I start playing something on the guitar and it sounds like it could be a potential Earthride riff, for example, I usually have to change some element about it to make it fit. Music loses its power when it tries too hard to capture a certain vibe or sound. If you can easily stuff my band into a genre then I’m probably not living up to my full potential as a musician.
4. When in the recording process for PassionRift were the samples, keyboards, mellotrons, theremin added? How much of that stuff comes from experimenting in the studio and how much is thought out beforehand?
Most of those things were recorded after the basic guitar, bass and drum tracks. There are a few parts in the there that were recorded with me on synth with the bass and drums at the same time though. Any part like that was written and rehearsed long before we booked recording time. The track “Mysterioid” was written almost entirely in studio with only the main synth notes worked out before. It and “Mazuku” were both intended to be production pieces only so we had some room to mess around with them in there. Adding a bunch of different things, getting out of hand with it. Everything else is written. Anything you hear in the other songs was worked out ahead of time at home and at rehearsal. We were very lucky to meet Jim Rezek through our engineer MikePotter. Jim has the nicest vintage synthesizer and keyboard collection I’ve ever seen and was entirely open to the idea of us coming to his house and recording some tracks on his equipment.
5. What are some of the differences for you between playing guitar in Chowder and playing bass in Earthride? Are there things the two bands have in common, or is it a totally different experience?
Laziness. In Earthride, I’m able to lay back a good bit and stay in the pocket with Eric, which was something I missed while playing all this wacko, technical music for so long. I can just live out my Geezer Butler fantasy while relaxing up there and groove to the massive heaviness. With Chowder something is coming down the pipe at all times. A chord or key change, a solo, something to trigger on the pedals. It requires a shitload of concentration and I’m going to go so far as to say it isn’t much fun. When we’re playing that material live and we nail it, it’s very rewarding but I’m not so sure it’s worth the panic attack I’m about to have about every 30 seconds attempting it. I totally get why bands like Rush and Genesis simmered down on that shit over the years. It wasn’t just for the sake of selling records! And those guys are WAY better at that stuff than we’ll ever be. I gained a hell of a lot more respect for what bands like that accomplish in a live setting trying to be fancy like them. Ultimately, it’s two different experiences, both rewarding though. I have loved playing other people’s music because each one taught me something new that I’ve taken with me and implemented in writing my own songs or how to behave (or not). Joining Earthride was almost a no brainer anyway because I went to high school with those guys. We’ve been friends a long, long time. Hell, Eric and I were in our first band together with Kelly Carmichael from InternalVoid back in 1985. So it feels like home. Chowder feels like a draconian P.O.W. camp in Siberia…only less smiling.
6. What’s next for Chowder? Will you guys do shows, and would you be able to recreate all those layers of keys and effects in a live setting?
Well, things are a little weird these days for us. Chad moved to the West Coast a couple years ago and seems to be happy doing what he’s doing out there. I have however started rehearsing and writing some material with RonnieKalimon from Asylum/Unorthodox/InternalVoid and things are going nicely. Doug has expressed interest so I’m hoping he’ll be available to join us soon and we can start moving forward. I’m not sure what will actually come out of it. My desire would be to play some shows, maybe a fest or two and most importantly record something new. I’d pretty much given up on anything happening at all as it was a true struggle to get this record onto a label and released and then with Chad moving it was looking pretty grim. Anything at all is a bonus. Everything we’ve recorded is done so in a way that it can be reproduced live aside from the obvious production tracks. There are parts on “Passion Rift” and “Custody” where the guitar drops out and I take over on the keyboards which we were also doing live. Anything that plays concurrent with the guitar is done by Doug on the Taurus pedals or triggered by me on Roland PK-5 midi pedals from an E-MU Vintage Keys synth. It’s a nightmare, let me tell you. I look like a fat, dancing idiot up there trying to nail all that stuff at the right times. During our last few shows I would be thinking, “Never again, never again,” but somehow we always ended up there doing it again. Must be the loads of girls that come out to see us.
This has made the rounds online for a while now, but I thought that in light of how documentary-minded it’s getting around here lately (see here and here and here), I figured no time like the present to highlight the 1994 VHS documentary that Columbia Records put together ahead of their release of The Obsessed‘s The Church Within, which gave the record some context thanks to interview with the likes of Joe Lalli (Fugazi) and Lee Dorrian (Cathedral), among many others.
It’s something that you see all the time nowadays, from actual feature-length, professionally-done films to your basic camcorder webisodes taken in the studio and used by the label as promotional devices, but in 1994, The Obsessed Documentary ran 27 minutes and did much more than just hock the album. Rather, in that time, the already-cemented legacy of the band is explored and live and rehearsal footage is included as a bonus for fans.
Because it was uploaded to the YouTubes prior to that site’s lifting the band on clips over 10 minutes, it’s broken into three parts, all of which are included here, because, well, fuck it. If you’re gonna do something, do it right.
[UPDATE 03/22/12: Someone uploaded the whole thing in one stream, and in HD, so I went ahead and replaced the three players with this one.]
Posted in Reviews on February 25th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
*ALERT: There be spoilers ahead.*
I’d read the email wrong. Perhaps it was my subconscious knowing how little I want to be in Midtown Manhattan, ever, but the address where the press screening of the long-awaited Bobby Liebling documentary, Last Days Here, was taking place was 1619 Broadway, and not 1616, as I swore up and down to The Patient Mrs. We still made it on time, and when I walked off the elevator on the fifth floor of the building — which, while we’re relating things to movies, I’ll say looked like something out of The Hudsucker Proxy — I awkwardly stumbled through identifying myself to the guy with the clipboard and the press list on it and we soon made our way inside, to the front row, and waited for the film to start.
Filmmakers Damien Fenton and Don Argott of 9.14 Productions — who between them directed, edited, produced and operated the cameras — also serve as the guitar duo for Philadelphia instrumentalists Serpent Throne, who released their third album, White Summer/Black Winter (review here), in 2011. Between this and the recent screening of the Southern metal doc Slow Southern Steel helmed by CT of Rwake (covered here), I’ve had occasion recently to think a lot about the nature of self-examination as regards heavy and underground metal and rock. Last Days Here was made my professionals, absolutely — Fenton and Argott crafted the documentary Rock School in 2005, prior to taking on this project — but professionals well inside the culture they’re documenting.
On an anthropological level, that’s bad science. Ideally, you would want someone outside of the subculture analyzing and reporting on its characteristics. One does not expect in watching one of his nature specials that David Attenborough should be a penguin, so why is it that no one but headbangers can be trusted to convey the ideals of the heavy metal lifestyle?
The simple answer — and what I’ve come to reconcile myself to in watching these movies — is they’d fuck it up. You couldn’t have Last Days Here filmed by a group of people without a direct appreciation for Liebling‘s contributions to heavy metal and more specifically to doom. It would either fall flat, ring hollow, or collapse on its own insincerity. It takes someone who knows not only what that appreciation feels like, but how much of your life it can consume and how much of your worldview it can shape. I don’t think heavy metal is alone in this regard, but had Last Days Here been produced by “outsiders,” it would have been condescending and cynical, and since the emotional investment is part of what typifies the culture, it has to be present on the most basic creative level for a film like this to work.
There are arguments to be made on either side of that, I suppose, but the notion of the “true” and underground heavy’s seemingly endless search for authenticity is an essential piece of understanding that Last Days Here takes as a given. It’s part of what revived Pentagram in the first place for the latest run that winds up as the triumph with which Fenton and Argott cap their film — well, that and the birth of Liebling‘s son in 2010 — and it’s what serves as the driving motivation that leads Philadelphia native and former Relapse Records employee Sean “Pellet” Pelletier to spearhead that revival.
We open on a toothless Liebling living in his parents’ sub-basement, smoking crack and promising not to die before the film is completed. Going into it knowing that Pentagram successfully completed tours of the US and Europe since this time, that Liebling was able to stay clean long enough to oversee the recording and release of the first album in a three-record deal for Metal Blade — 2011′s Last Rites (review here) — it’s obvious he keeps that promise, but if I wasn’t familiar with the band, it would be easy to see that as a foreshadow of his death to come. He looks neither long for the world nor particularly thrilled at having to spend another day in it. His arms are bandaged from what’s soon to be revealed as perpetual scratching and picking off his own skin as a result of crack-induced paranoia. He is a mess of injection scars and infection.
Last Days Here is ultimately sympathetic to Liebling, but at times brutally honest. We meet Bobby‘s parents, Diane and Joe Liebling, who’ve had to come to terms with their son’s failure at life and love him anyway. Their role as enablers of his lifestyle, such as it is, is touched on but never explored, and for a moment, it’s a bit like an episode of the tv show Intervention gone wrong. Before long, Pelletier (who is not to be confused with fellow Philly resident Chris Pelletier, the US label manager for Season of Mist; that’s a mistake I’ve regretted making a few times) is introduced as the second of the movie’s major focal points (that’s not to use the word “characters” to refer to people who actually exist), and he tells his story of discovering Pentagram‘s music at a record show with his then-girlfriend and having it change his life to the point of putting together the compilation of unreleased ’70s-era material, First Daze Here (The Vintage Collection), which was put out on Relapse in 2002 and instrumental in raising the profile of the band’s influence on doom, as well as somewhat ironically becoming one of their most influential releases in and of itself. All of a sudden, Witchcraft made a lot of sense.
A full history of Pentagram, its members, its legacy and its breadth of impact on the Maryland/D.C. doom style and underground and commercial metal is a project that the format of a feature-length documentary simply cannot cover, and Fenton and Argott must have either learned that early on or realized it going into the filming. Instead, Last Days Here crafts a narrative after giving a basic background from interviews with the likes of original drummer Geof O’Keefe, Joe Hasselvander, Victor Griffin, soundbyte-worthy journalist Ian Christie, Pelletier and others as well as telling the stories behind the band’s several failures — the audition for Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley they flopped, the lambasting Liebling gave Blue Öyster Cult engineer Murray Krugman (who appears to discuss the incident and the fame the band could’ve had in one of Last Days Here‘s several cringe-worthy segments) that unraveled their chance for a major-label contract — and laying much of the blame where it seems to belong: on the troubled singer writhing on his couch and rambling about parasites he needs to get out from under his skin, going to the hospital, signing a contract to turn over his record collection to Pelletier, Argott and Fenton if he ever smokes crack again.
He does, and so far as I know, keeps his records, and that’s one of the moments where the line between the filmmakers and the subject are the most blurred, but it’s also one of the most honest scenes in the movie, which one imagines is why it made the final cut and what must have been hundreds of hours of footage was cut. As regards the narrative that emerges in Last Days Here, it’s the story of Pelletier and Liebling — their troubled friendship (one gets the impression, particularly in hearing from O’Keefe, Hasselvander and Griffin, that Liebling knows no other kind) and Pelletier‘s attempts to get Bobby clean and put together a new Pentagram album with the original lineup. O’Keefe squashes those hopes after an entertaining trip down memory lane of some of Pentagram‘s negative reviews from their early days, but what shines through without any real outward mention is Pelletier‘s passion for the idea and for the band. As charismatic as Liebling is on camera — and even at his most addled, he is that; I had my own experience with it interviewing him early in 2010 — it’s Pelletier‘s belief in Liebling that drives the movie and serves as its emotional crux.
Liebling meets and falls for Hallie, a woman literally half his age (he’s 52, she’s 26), but though she eventually becomes his wife and the mother of their child, their own tumultuous relationship is seen more as an extension of Liebling‘s many addictions than the shot at redemption it ultimately wound up being. As Liebling moves to Philadelphia from the sub-basement to be near Hallie, it soon turns sinister (you can hear the musical shift in the Stars of the Lid drones that serve as a soundtrack when Pentagram‘s own music doesn’t) because of his drug use and Hallie dumps him, breaking his heart. We see Liebling as devastated, but it’s not heartbreak as much as it’s an addict needing a fix and she’s the fix. He pines, he moans, he gets tossed in jail for violating a restraining order she’s had put on him, and it’s Pelletier who puts his arm around Liebling and says how glad he is to see him after he bails him out. This is one of the most subtle and pivotal scenes of Last Days Here, because while Pelletier says this, he also adds that at least while Liebling was in prison, he knew where he was, reminding of an earlier confession that while Bobby was in jail, at least he could get some other work done.
Still heartbroken, Liebling returns to live with his parents and puts together a new Pentagram around the lineup of drummer Gary Isom, guitarist Russ Strahan and bassist Mark Ammen (all of whom would be gone by the time Last Rites came out). Its formation is somewhat nebulous, but Pelletier is nonetheless thrilled when he finally hears about it, only to be disappointed as Liebling continues using and mourning his loss of Hallie. Going to jail had cost Pentagram a deal with Phil Anselmo‘s Housecore Records — Anselmo shows up and appears as little more than a cartoon caricature of himself during his time on screen; I wanted to imagine the cameras shutting off and him asking in a perfectly clear and semi-British accent, “Shall we do another take, then?” — but Pentagram is moving forward anyway, mostly, from Liebling‘s perspective, as a means for him to prove to Hallie that he can not make it as a person more than a human being.
A sentimental pang went off in me when I saw the Metal Maniacs logo on the poster for Pentagram‘s 2009 comeback gig at Webster Hall. I didn’t go to that show (because that’s how much I hated working in New York), but seeing Liebling prevail on stage is Argott and Fenton‘s climax of Last Days Here. Off to the side of the stage is Pelletier, crying happy tears for Liebling‘s being able to pull it off this time as opposed to the several other flubbed comebacks mentioned as part of the buildup to the show, and in an interview shortly after their set, he says it was the best night of his life. His belief in Liebling, which doubtless came at the advice of those around him in his private life and, at times, himself, is validated, and the film fades to black after Bobby in repose and drunk on joy, quotes Forrest Gump in saying “life is like a box of chocolates.” As much as it kind of shot that moment in the foot to see it reduced to commodified film dialogue — the stuff of pop culture cliché — one almost has to applaud Argott and Fenton for leaving that in, unmanipulated. Muting him after the sentence before, which was poignant enough, and keeping him on screen in slow motion during the fade might have also worked, but it’s not really worth speculating.
Since it was finished before the album was released, Last Rites and Victor Griffin‘s return to Pentagram are never mentioned. Instead, an epilogue comes in seeing Liebling cooking breakfast and calling Hallie into the room. The two have gotten married, Liebling is living clean, and there’s a baby boy on the way. “There’s gonna be another me!” Liebling hams for the camera, while Hallie averts her eyes, clearly showing a preference for the man off-screen than the one on it. Nonetheless, this is grown up Bobby Liebling we’re being shown. Maybe 25 years too late, but grown up all the same. He has a bank account, he accompanies Hallie to the doctor to hear their son’s heartbeat for the first time, and in the very last shot of the movie, in a still photo, he and Hallie stand with their child, Robert Joseph Liebling, born in August 2010. He’s still posing for the camera, and there’s no guarantee that life is going to keep its serenity going forward — Argott and Fenton were wise not to make any such ridiculous promises — but you get what you get, and it’s certainly a happier ending than the opening promised.
After the credits rolled through, The Patient Mrs. and I joined the group of writerly-types in the hallway to head back downstairs and out. In the elevator, in a discussion between two critics in which I took part, one man told enough, half-laughing, that Last Days Here was well made, but that he had a hard time sympathizing with a pedophile — referring to the age difference between Bobby and Hallie Liebling — and I was astonished at how someone could so easily miss the point of the movie. Last Days Here isn’t the story of a musician who chases down a young girl and tricks her into bearing his seed, it’s the story of addiction, and each of Liebling‘s behaviors prior to getting clean as relates to Hallie can — and I’d gladly argue, should — be seen in that blue light more than any other.
The fact that at 26, Hallie – however sweet-faced or youthful she might appear next to her husband’s grizzled visage — was eight years beyond legal adulthood at the time of filming and at least deserves the respect of being allowed to make her own decisions on how and with whom to spend her days no matter how counter those decisions might run to one’s own perception of social norms and mores, is another issue altogether, but most importantly as regards Last Days Here, if Liebling proved able to correct his addictive behavior on all levels, including Hallie, and a healthy relationship was able to emerge from that, well, that’s more than a lot of people get. Hallie herself acknowledges the age difference and realizes that some people might think it’s weird. “If they think I’m only with him for his money, he doesn’t have any,” she says. And she’s right. If there wasn’t a strong emotional attachment there, why bother putting up with an addict whose track record of failures spans decades?
Hearing that, more than anything else, cemented for me the assertion above that you have to be within a subculture to fully understand it and that without the foundational appreciation for Liebling‘s creative work, no accurate portrayal of who he is and what he’s done as a person and as the leader of Pentagram, for better or worse, could be enacted. Last Days Here is that, and it’s a skillfully crafted, expertly edited narrative of friendship, love, failure and redemption in doom. I don’t know what the film’s appeal to those outside the sphere of the music will be, and I don’t have to care. If Pentagram have ever been anything, it’s been understood and embraced by a select group of people on whose lives they’ve made a serious impact. If that turns out to be the case with Last Days Here as well, the film can only be called more accurate for it. Doom on.
Posted in Reviews on January 6th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Perhaps more than any other Maryland doom band before or since, Iron Man are born of pure Sabbath worship. Guitarist and founder “Iron” Al Morris III is a pivotal figure in American traditional doom maybe not so much for the direct influence he’s had on other players – though certainly that’s a factor as well – but in terms of the loyalist ethic with which he approaches his craft. He’s seen lineup changes enough for three bands, but no matter who he’s playing with for any given release, the core Sabbathian plod remains intact, and that’s true on the newly self-released Dominance EP as well. Dominance, which follows 2009’s righteous I Have Returned LP, is a more rudimentary outing; a true EP in the sense of giving a sampling of what a band is about more than expressing a complete idea musically as a full-length album might. And if Morris feels he needs to get a grasp on the band’s sound again and work it out through these songs, he’s got good reason. Vocalist Joe Donnelly split with the band in 2010 and has since been replaced by “Screaming” Dee Calhoun (who also fronted Land of Doom, from whence guitarist Russ Strahan was plucked to join Pentagram), and Dex Dexter also either left or was fired and Mike Rix brought in to fill the void on drums for this release. Rix, in turn, is already gone, leaving Morris, Calhoun and bassist Louis Strachan without a drummer as of this writing. Having been through at least six throughout the band’s existence, something tells me they’ll survive.
The biggest change, though, is Calhoun, whose approach varies from the unabashed Ozzy-isms of Donnelly and draws more from Judas Priest-type patterns and Rob Halford’s signature and classically metal vibrato. On Dominance, the three songs that comprise most of the EP’s 16-minute runtime – there’s a Morris solo interlude as well – are relatively uptempo, and so Calhoun is more than suited to handle the riffs being thrown his way. It’s a rough production, but clear enough to give some idea of what the band wanted, which I think actually is what the band wanted. Throughout “Ruler of Ruin,” “The Final Straw” and “Grown,” the idea seems to be more about Iron Man (read: Morris) getting their footing as a new lineup on a recording and making that public than trying to expand on their creative formula. The minute-plus interlude “Eternal Sleep” is pleasant as a change of pace between “The Final Straw” and “Grown,” working in the tradition of Tony Iommi’s “A Bit of Finger” to provide listeners a moment’s respite. “Eternal Sleep” also works as a fitting complement to the heavy, straightforward metal of “Ruler of Ruin,” which launches Dominance in fashion well-suited to the EP’s title and offers no letup in its just under five minutes. Calhoun proves a powerful presence alongside Morris’ lead work, and Strachan’s bass comes through the mix in fills between the lines of the verse along with Rix, with whom he makes a noteworthy contribution in the rhythm section, but he did that with Dexter as well, so although Rix’s performance here is capable and enjoyable, Strachan has already shown he’s adaptable to working with different drummers and still enriching the sound of the band. Probably fortunate, given how they come and go.
They’re among the original harbingers of Maryland doom, and Baltimorian four-piece Iron Man have seen ‘em come, and seen ‘em go. The band’s last full-length, I Have Returned, came out in 2009 (review here), and in the time since then, they’ve been through I don’t even know how many drummers — at least two — and frontman Joe Donnelly has also departed, leaving “Iron” Al Morris III on guitar alongside bassist Louis Strachan, drummer Mike Rix (since out of the band), and newfound singer Dee Calhoun for the new Dominance EP. If we were doing SAT analogies, I might say that Calhoun : Rob Halford as Donnelly : Ozzy Osbourne, minus the physical mimicry of onstage persona. His voice fits well over the four tracks of Dominance, of which I’ll have a review in the next week or two.
In case you missed it, Iron Man aren’t the only ones who premiered a new video today. Pagan Altar, who already had a new track up this week, posted a brand new video from their forthcoming album, Never Quite Dead, for the song “Dance of the Vampires.” That video is on the forum here, and I’d recommend it if you’d like to get your doom fix a little bit more when you’re done with “Ruler of Ruin” above. Right on.
Tomorrow night I’ll be in Philly to check out Earthride, C.O.C. and Clutch at the Trocadero, which I’m confident is going to be a complete blast. While I’m posting links to new videos on the forum, Mike H. shot a yet-unreleased Clutch song Wednesday night in Maine, and embedded it here. Thanks as always to him for his diligence. Anyway, if you’re gonna be at the show tomorrow, I’m the fat guy with the long hair, beard and the brown messenger-type camera bag, singing along to the chorus, “The party’s over/You all got to go/The wolfman is coming out.” I imagine it’ll be the bag that most distinguishes me.
This week, aside from that probable Iron Man review, I’ll have a writeup on tomorrow’s show, as well as the new Cherry Choke album, and — if it kills me — I will get Skype to record on my laptop and hook up that Grifter interview. I’ll also have the December numbers (I have no idea how they are), and since it’ll be 2012, at some point in the week I’ll do a preview of the year to come, most likely in the spirit of last year’s two-parter of records I’ve heard and ones I haven’t yet.
And as we learned today, there will be some albums I won’t hear at all, and for that, I apologize profusely.
I wish you a safe, insanely happy and healthy New Year, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. I hope your 2012 is overflowing with joy and personal fulfillment, large cash settlements and whatever else it is that will make you glad to be on this planet. Raise a toast to the killer records to come and we’ll see you back here Monday for more adventures in adjectival phrasing.