Posted in Whathaveyou on December 3rd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
The actual announcement is pretty short, but the implications are fascinating. Today, Boston heavy rockers Gozu announced not only that they’ve added a third guitarist in the form of Jeff Fultz, but also that drummer Barry Spillberg is out of the band and replaced by Mike Hubbard, formerly of Warhorse and currently in Cheap Leather. Anyone who’s seen Fultz rock it with Mellow Bravo or who recalls his work in Seemless after their first album can attest that he’s a killer lead guitarist, and he should be a good match for Gozu‘s Doug Sherman, whose own shred is not to be understated. Adding a third guitar alongside Sherman and guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney is going to have an immediate effect on the songs, new material and old, but I’m even more curious to hear how Gozu sounds with someone other than Spillberg drumming.
With songs like “Charles Bronson Pinchot” and “Ghost Wipe” from this year’s The Fury of a Patient Man(review here) in mind, it’ll be interesting to find out how Hubbard takes on the underlying metal influence in those parts, if he adopts them more or less as Spillberg played them, or if he brings his own edge to the tracks as well, either changing or rewriting stretches of the drum parts for a live setting. An even bigger tell is when Gozu get around to writing a follow-up to The Fury of a Patient Man, but by all accounts it seems like that’s a while off, with European touring and appearances at Desertfest and Roadburn on the horizon and a few East Coast shows before that happens.
Gozu‘s first gig with the semi-new lineup is at Great Scott on Jan. 10 with Never Got Caught, Thunderbloods, Township and Await Rescue. Info follows, culled from Thee Facebooks:
It’s been a real crazy month on our end and just wanted to welcome some new cats into the fold!! We are super super excited to have Drummer Mike Hubbard (Warhorse, Cheap Leather) and Guitarist Jeff Fultz (Seemless, Mellow Bravo) on board.
Jan 10th. Great Scott. See you there.
“It’s a new dawn. It’s a new day. It’s a new life.” – Nina Simone.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 24th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
You’ll probably note that as Ice Dragon announce “Steel Veins, take two” at the start of the track, there’s the sound of a can opening. A burp follows shortly thereafter, and soon, the garage-doom riffage is underway. The prolific Boston four-piece announced their new single, Steel Veins b/w Queen of the Black Harvest, as being older school, and the leadoff track bears that out, though inevitably some of the psych rock vibing of their last album, Born a Heavy Morning(review here), has bled in as well. Still, the harsher vocals in the call and response chorus and the plodding feel of the riff should sit well with anyone who’s been checking out 2012′s Tome of the Future Ancientslately.
The second and longer track, “Queen of the Black Harvest” keeps the live-in-studio vibe going (belch included), but satisfies a classic Pentagram vibe more than the A-side of the digital only release, and where “Steel Veins” borders on screams, “Queen of the Black Harvest” borders on harmonies. For what it’s worth, one is no less fluid than the other, and whichever feel Ice Dragon are working with, they’re able to make it their own, as the creepy slowdown and resumption of the instantly-familiar verse riff will attest. Ditto that for the backwards cymbals and spooky ambient vocals later into the cut, which lead to what if I’m not mistaken is a (sampled?) gong backing that central riff. Even when they’re going “traditional,” Ice Dragon can’t seem to keep from getting weird.
All the better. No word on if Steel Veins b/w Queen of the Black Harvestwill get a physical release, but here’s what they had to say about the single on Thee Facebooks, followed of course by the thing itself, which is up for pay-what-you-will download on their Bandcamp:
New release from Ice Dragon
Almost finished with a new “single”. 2 tracks, b/w and all that shit. I hope you guys appreciate all the fucking cables we have to put up with around here. hahaha. Kinda classic “Ice Dragon” sound on these jams, no funny business. Well… maybe a little.
Here’s a trick. Solo a vocal, guitar, bass, whatever. Then send that into the mixer, use the insert as a direct out into another channel, then hook a pedal up on the aux send/return. Then you can eq them differently, adjust the send levels, add another insert, etc. etc. It’s essentially like duplicating a track in the ‘puter, but doesn’t sound like sterile beige ass and gives you more options.
Posted in Reviews on November 20th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Allston was busy on Friday night as one would imagine it being. I think one of the bars down the way from O’Brien’s was doing a fantasy sports draft or something — walking down the block, I passed two dudes muttering about someone in a tweed jacket cheating, or catching them cheating, whatever it was — but either way, the street was packed out. Still managed to find parking and get into the venue in time to catch most of Mollusk‘s set in support of Indianapolis’ Devil to Pay, who had swung north on the East Coast following an appearance at Stoner Hands of Doom XIII the weekend before. Having missed them there much to my dismay, catching the Boston stop was essential.
I’ve been to O’Brien’s a couple times at this point and I like the room. It’s small, sans bullshit, dive-ish but not like it’s trying to be a dive because that’s hip these days. A comfortable space, and one that was pretty packed with volume when Mollusk were on stage. In a fun bit of mistaken identity, I had thought the Mollusk in question was the duo from Ohio, whose 2013 album, Colony of Machines, is patiently awaiting review. I was excited to see them live, but the Mollusk playing O’Brien’s was in fact a different two-piece working under the moniker, this one local to Allston. Really, I should’ve been tipped off when drummer/backing vocalist Adam O’Day (also an accomplished painter) was wearing a Bruins jersey, but I thought maybe they were playing to the crowd. Steve Janiak of Devil to Pay would later take the stage in a Faces of Bayon (they’re based in MA) t-shirt, so it didn’t seem that strange in context. That Mollusk, which is O’Day and guitarist/vocalist Hank Rose, would actually be from the area makes much more sense.
Blind Tigers had opened and Gut would close, so with Mollusk as the second of four and Devil to Pay in the prime slot, it was a full bill. As I said, I didn’t catch all of Mollusk‘s set, but they were plenty heavy, if somewhat less post-sludge inspired than their Ohio counterparts, reminding of some of Napalm Death‘s brooding moments of groove in between all the brutality. They weren’t what I was expecting — I was quite literally expecting a different band — but for both the coincidence and their sonic assault, it was enjoyable. Devil to Pay, who work much more in a straightforward heavy rock context, had a hard act to follow, but having been on the road for a few nights already were as tight as one could ask. This show was the second to last on their tour, which had started Nov. 1 in Muncie, Indiana, and the band’s 2013 outing, Fate is Your Muse(review here) hasn’t been too far from my consciousness since its release, in part because of their excellent videos.
The four-piece were recording the O’Brien’s set as well, which began with the The Atomic Bitchwax-esque winding riffs of “Savonarola” from Fate is Your Muse. About half of what they played was from that album. Catchy cuts “Prepare to Die,” “This Train Won’t Stop” and “Ten Lizardmen and One Pocketknife” were welcome, and the rest was a mix from their other three records, with “Distemper” and “When all is Said and Done” providing the same one-two live as on 2009′s Heavily Ever Afterand the band dipping back to 2006′s Cash is Kingfor “Niflheim” and even further to their 2004 debut full-length, Thirty Pieces of Silverfor “Valley of the Dogs.” This made for a decent mix of new and old, some of their earlier C.O.C. influence providing a mix among the more recent and individualized material, their standouts well chosen even if I’d been hoping for “Tie One On” from the CD version of Fate is Your Museas well. Can’t have everything, I guess.
What struck me most in watching Devil to Pay this time around — I hadn’t had occasion to see them since last year’s SHoD in Connecticut, which was before the newest record was released — was how much like a metal band they seemed. With Janiak and Rob Hough on guitars, Matt Stokes on bass and Chad Profigle on drums, they were long-haired, black t-shirted, bearded nearly in uniform. Janiak spent most of the set singing with his hair in front of his face and between their headbanging, their relatively clean tonality and the one-the-road tightness of their set, they played heavy rock like metal dudes. That’s not something I’m about to hold against them, but one got much more of a sense of it live than on the album. They weren’t showy, though, which was all the more a fit with the songs, and if it was a different-seeming route they took to being an unpretentious good time, the destination was reached with no less efficiency than one would expect from their recorded output.
Local dirt-thrashers Gut finished out the night, with vocalist Brian pacing back and forth in front of the stage and drummer Scott Healey (brother of Black Thai‘s Jim Healey and a former bandmate in We’re all Gonna Die) so buried in the back behind the two guitars and bass as to be largely invisible from in front of the stage. Their sound was heavy, aggressive and drunk, which earned much hooting from the gathered masses left at the end of the show. I picked up the Ten Lizardmen and One Pocketknife(they’d played the B-side “Black Fog” as well) and This Train Won’t Stop 7″ singles from Devil to Pay‘s merch table and shot the shit for a while before heading out. Van trouble would keep them from making their final tour stop in Long Island, but between the O’Brien’s gig and their show the night before at Geno’s in Portland, Maine, with the hopefully-permanently-reactivated Eldemur Krimm — not to mention SHoD in Virginia and the other dates on the tour — they seemed to have made the most of their time anyhow.
Some more pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.
Boston-based bashers Summoner release their second album, Atlantian, today on Magnetic Eye Records. The full-length follows their 2011 debut, Phoenix, which arrived after the band switched names from Riff Cannon and took on a more progressive aesthetic. Atlantiancontinues to work in that vein, but is also more melodically confident and given to fits of head-down driving. It’s clear in its production and intent, as you can hear in the full Bandcamp stream courtesy of the label right here:
Summoner, Atlantian (2013)
Atlantian was recorded by Summoner vocalist/bassist Chris Johnson and guitarist AJ Peters — Joe Richner also plays guitar and Scott Smith drums — and in celebration of the release, in addition to the album itself, the band has also made available the second in a series of behind-the-scenes clips about the recording process. Last time around, they were just getting to the studio and getting started. Now the foursome are wading deeper into the making of the record, and it’s possible to get more of a feel of how they work together toward the goals they’d previously laid out.
They go pretty in-depth over the course of the eight-minute video, and where a lot of this kind of behind-the-scenes footage will kind of give you one sample riff and then two minutes of dudes fucking around before the “NEW ALBUM COMING SOON” sign flashes and it’s over, Summoner really seem to be more interested in conveying how Atlantianwas constructed and how it was particularly for Johnson and Peters to work as both engineers and players. Smith undersells his role in saying “I’m just the drummer,” but it comes clear over the course just how much each member of the band makes up the whole of the finished product.
Reportedly they’ll have vinyl ready for Nov. 30 (they play the Middle East that night), but you can download Atlantiannow and check out the clip below for a glimpse at how it all came together:
Posted in Reviews on November 19th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Since the time change, it’s been getting dark at around 5PM, which means that as I made my way out west on the Masspike to Florence to see Blaak Heat Shujaa and Mirror Queen at the pleasantly-named JJ’s Tavern, it was too dark to enjoy the late-fall scenery. Too bad, as that’s some good forest. Anyone interested in demographic study might do well to take a look at how hardcore did so well up here in the ’90s instead of black metal. I’d suspect it has to do with socioeconomic factors — a hardcore 7″ is cheap and Norwegian LPs would’ve meant paying import prices; with its roots in zealotry, Massachusetts maintains a healthy love of its working class foundations — but from the bare branches to the legacy of witch burnings, it seems like someone would’ve put some corpsepaint on by now and given the misty Pacific Northwest a run for its money. So it goes.
I had time to consider these things on the drive to Florence (my grandmother’s name) and JJ’s Tavern (my name), which was a solid two hours. Both bands would be in Providence, Rhode Island, the next night, which is only half as far away, but I had other obligations and didn’t want to miss Blaak Heat Shujaa, who were making an overdue first appearance on the Eastern Seaboard in support of their sophomore full-length and Tee Pee long-play debut, The Edge of an Era(review here). The young desert rock trio from Los Angeles via Paris were partnered up for the excursion with NYC labelmates Mirror Queen, whose own style of grooving has become familiar at shows this year with The Atomic Bitchwax and Truckfighters (see here and here). There were four bands on the bill, but by the time I arrived at JJ’s, local radio rockers Odds of Eden were on as the second of four, which meant that Mirror Queen weren’t far behind.
Drummer Jeremy O’Brien was local to the area, so there was a familial contingent present in the short-ceilinged upstairs space — almost a loft, with a bar in another little room to the side and pool tables in back — as Mirror Queen got going. Lead guitarist Phi Moon and bassist James Corallo had played Brooklyn two weekends prior as members of Polygamyst, who opened for Orange Goblin at the St. Vitus bar (review here), and it hadn’t been that long anyway since I last caught Mirror Queen, so although I felt like I knew what I was getting, that didn’t make their set any less enjoyable, whether it was the Cream-y riffing of “Scaffold of the Skies” or the catchy and insistent chorus of “Vagabondage.” Guitarist/vocalistKenny Sehgal set up to the far right-side of the stage, and Moon and Corallo had plenty of room to rock out their parts in classic fashion.
And there was a twist! I’d anticipated they’d close with the Captain Beyond cover “Mesmerization Eclipse,” as they have the last couple times I’ve seen them, but no dice. Instead, they gave a take on Iron Maiden‘s “Phantom of the Opera” for their finishing move, and it only emphasized for me how tight their jams are at this point. Sehgal and O’Brien have been playing together going back to their days as Aytobach Kreisor, whose self-titled debut was issued on Rubric Records in 2002, but with Moon‘s swaggering solos and the sheer enjoyment for playing that Corallo brings to his work on bass, Mirror Queen seem all the more solid at the base of their sonic fluidity. I’ve yet to catch a set and be bummed out, and though I’d been looking forward to a little Captain Beyond, the Maiden worked just fine in its place.
Between reviews, video premieres, track premieres, interviews, news posts and whatever else I can’t think of at the moment (it’s all here), I’ve said an awful lot about Blaak Heat Shujaa the last couple years, and I was greatly anticipating seeing them play live. The three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Thomas Bellier, bassist Antoine Morel-Vulliez and drummer Mike Amster were surprisingly loud once they got going. Considerable volume. The effect was to make their sound even fuller than on the record, and give Bellier a task in letting his effects-laden vocals cut through the tones surrounding. Those tones, it’s worth emphasizing, were gorgeous. As much of a role as Morel-Vulliez‘s bass plays in setting the mood on The Edge of an Era, live it is all the more a foundational element, and Amster‘s drumming has a vitality behind it that a studio album would be hard-pressed to convey. Everything I’ve enjoyed about the band since I caught wind of their 2010 self-titled debut (review here) was only more prevalent in their stage presentation.
That’s especially true of some of their more subdued stretches. With Amster keeping a steady intensity to his tom runs even as Morel-Vulliez and Bellier set about the purposefully meandering jams of the “The Beast” two-parter which Bellier announced as “the first side of our new record,” smirking in full awareness of just how awesome that sounds to say, there was a sense of build that came across as hypnotic in its repetitions and still consciously focused on movement forward. This made the payoff in that progression all the more of one. It was gratifying to see, not just because I enjoyed the album, but because what the album seemed to be hinting that the band could do was right there on stage at full blast. Their jamming was jazz-tight and the surf rock in Bellier‘s guitar acknowledged the roots of the desert that Blaak Heat Shujaa has adopted as their home. Whether it was “Society of Barricades” or the closing sprawl of “Land of the Freaks, Home of the Brave,” I was really, really glad to have made the trip to see them play.
My new appreciation for their songs in tow, I split out of JJ’s Tavern when Blaak Heat Shujaa were done and made my way back east along the same route I’d taken west to get there. At around 1:40AM, still an hour out, I got pulled over doing 81 in a 65 and got a ticket. 16 miles over the limit at $10 a mile had me cursing the rest of the way, but traffic violations come and go, and nights like this one leave longer impressions than dents in a checking account.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 15th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Some right-on-yes-please news today out of the Burning World/Roadburn Records camp in that Boston trio Elder will be releasing their 2013 Roadburn performance under the suitable title of Live at Roadburn 2013on CD and vinyl. By way of a confession, I sort of knew this one was coming since the band was kind enough to ask for some photos from the set — which took place at the converted church Het Patronaat – to be included in the package, but it rules to see it announced and what’s best of all is that Live at Roadburn 2013is available now for a pay-what-you-will download through the Burning World Records Bandcamp page.
Check out the righteous Adrian Dexter artwork, the announcement, and of course, the stream below, and rejoice. They were a highlight of that whole weekend, and some of the best memories I took away from Roadburn 2013 were of watching them so thoroughly kill it. Here’s the news, complete with a section of my review from that day:
ELDER to release Live At Roadburn 2013, download now on Bandcamp
‘What a fucking blast. Seriously. That’s what it says in my notes: “What a fucking blast.” It’s a direct quote. Probably the best thing I can compare it to is when Black Pyramid played the Afterburner in 2011 and were given such a warm reception, but this was bigger, both in room size and in that reception itself. People were lined up out the door and down the alley to see Elder‘s Roadburn debut, and the crowd was cheering before they even started the first song. They waved and people cheered. It was a lot of fun to see, and as it was the 10th show on their 15-date European run with Pet the Preacher, they also handed the place its collective ass. Both cuts from the Spires Burn/Release EP were included, as well as “Dead Roots Stirring” and a host of others, and for the umpteenth time in the last couple days, I felt lucky to be there. I know for a lot of people, this was the first time they’re getting to see them live, but even for the several times I have, this one was something special.’
Live At Roadburn 2013 captures the set in all its glory. Listen to it on below onBandcampand if you like download it, it’s “Pay what you want” so even free!
If you need the set on cd or vinyl please goherebut beware we will not be able to send out the vinyl or cd before Feb. 1st 2014.
Posted in Reviews on November 7th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
According to the Google, that arbiter of all things directional, it’s about 26 hours by car from Lawton, Oklahoma, to Boston, Massachusetts. Twenty-seven if you take I-81. OK residents Grel and Oberon had been touring their way to the East Coast, playing in Lawton, in Kansas City, Chicago, Columbus and even another show in Western MA, and their run — dubbed the “Star Stuff” tour — would continue to Philadelphia and on to Richmond, Virginia where both play Stoner Hands of Doom XIII, their slots on that fest being the impetus behind the string of shows in the first place. Since I wasn’t going to be able to see them in Richmond, and since I dug Grel‘s 2012 EP, The Red Sun God(review here), what with their having come all that way, it seemed the least I could do to show up. So I did.
Local support at Midway Cafe in Jamaica Plain — cool room, decently lit when they had the lights on, divided, bar in the middle, decent beer selection and a pug that showed up halfway through and was awesome to see until someone served it a Guinness; sorry, that shit’s not funny — came from Bion and Titanis, who opened and closed the gig respectively. It was a night of young acts. Not a full stack to be found. For a while there, I was the oldest person in the room not working at the bar, which is always a dubious distinction, and while each band showed they had growth in progress and still to undertake, it also wound up being a varied and enjoyable bill. Four single-word monikered bands with vastly different influences, starting with Bion.
It was easy enough to hear prog and extreme metal influences in Bion‘s set, guitarist/vocalist Charlie occasionally locked into a section of blackened squibblies en route to his next impressive solo. Both he and bassist Phil handled vocal duties, while drummer Jesse busted out shots of double-kick that served to presage some of what Oberon would shortly have on offer. Their lone EP to date, Hive Mind, is somewhat similarly minded in its will toward progressive heaviness, and I take it as an encouraging sign that the vocals sounded better live than they do on the studio recording. Bodes well for ambition to coincide with their stylistic intricacy. At one point, Phil said they only played one of the songs “for exercise.” They hardly seemed to break a sweat.
With the keyboard of vocalist Seth prominently displayed front and center on the stage, the five-piece Grel made an immediately different impression. A double-guitar outfit, they nonetheless rested heavily on the swing of their rhythm section, bassist Brandon and drummer Dustin, to convey the weight of their material, while six-stringers Ryan and Bentley seemed to come most to the fore with the Red Fang cover, “Prehistoric Dog.” Not unexpectedly. Elsewhere in their set, the Southern rocking EP opener, “Lady,” an engaging 12-bar blues that let Seth show off some surprising Midwestern classic rocker soul and “Astro Cannibalism” showcased a band who even as I was watching them were refining their approach. I’ve yet to tire of watching young bands do this, particularly those with enough belief in what they do to take it on the road. Grel were refreshing both in the reality of what they were playing and in the whole concept behind it. They’ll come off this tour a better band they they went on it, and I imagine they’ll be a riot by the time they hit Virginia on Saturday.
One might say the same for Oberon, but the application is somewhat different. Focused more on the instrumental side of their sound, with the catchiest song being “Phobos” from their thematically constructed Through Space We RideEP, Oberon came across as more technical and progressive, and more metal in their influences certainly than Grel, but still far less tonally metallic than they presented on those recorded tracks. I got shades of Pelican in the early going, and though guitarist/vocalist DJ Bryant — joined in the band by guitarist Jeremy Wingard, bassist Adam Smith (not to be confused with the Adam Smith who plays in Ohio space rockers EYE) and drummer Logan Wood – had some technical trouble with his guitar and that derailed a bit of their momentum, they still found room to push through a reworking of Survivor‘s “Eye of the Tiger” that proved effective and managed to skirt the irony one might expect to encounter with such fare. A post-rock verse in the theme from Rocky III? Some Wednesday nights take you to unexpected places.
Oberon recovered from their technical troubles to finish strong, but unfortunately, Titanis wouldn’t be so lucky. The four-piece had made a mid-week weekender of playing in Northampton with Grel and Oberon the night before, but when guitarist Niko Galanis broke not one, but two strings within the first two songs and the band tried to keep moving with a Melvins cover with Galanis just on vocals alongside guitarist Brett Miller, bassist David Willoughby and drummer Pat O’Neill. That was going well enough until as he ran off stage to get a replacement guitar, Galanis caught on Willoughby‘s bass cable and tore it right out, breaking it off. Show over.
It was plenty late by then, after one in the morning. The word in my head for the circumstance of the night’s ending was “unceremonious,” but “unfortunate” works just as well. Titanis barely got to leave an impression. Like Oberon, they played mostly in the dark — for some reason, the first two bands had lights on and the last two didn’t — and before they could really get any momentum going, it was over. Maybe next time. My understanding was that the night before in Northampton had also been rough going. Hopefully not enough so to discourage Titanis from what seem to otherwise be worthy pursuits in their craft.
I ducked out on the quick. If you’d have told me that it would be 50 degrees at night in November in Boston, I probably would’ve told you to fuck off or at very least made some obnoxious Game of Thrones reference about southerners and how “winter is coming,” but the walk down the block to my car was barely brisk. I got in at about quarter to two and did my best to crash out right away, only to fail spectacularly. So it goes. A drag-ass Thursday well earned.
I’ve had my eye out for footage from the latest Saint Vitus East Coast tour more or less since it started, and some has started to surface. The tour ran for three weeks, 21 days exactly, from Oct. 4 to Oct. 25, and along with support from Pallbearer and The Hookers and Gozu, Vitus hit the Middle East in Cambridge on Oct. 15. It was an early show, and a fantastic show (review here), and I felt fortunate to see all the bands, but especially Saint Vitus again, since they’re a group who just a few years ago I never imagined I would hear play live. And with as tight as vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich, guitarist Dave Chandler, bassist Mark Adams and drummer Henry Vasquez have gotten over the last couple years and as smoothly as the newer songs from 2012′s Lillie: F-65(review here) have been integrated with the many classics from the Vitus catalog, it was all the more a pleasure to witness.
Among the cuts that most easily meshed with Vitus‘ legacy material was the single “Let Them Fall.” Shorter than some of the others on Lillie: F-65and stripped down to its bare structural essentials in the tradition of “Born too Late” or “I Bleed Black,” it made for a perfect single to the album, which came across likewise as a continuation of the spirit of Saint Vitus at their Wino-fronted grittiest. A strong hook, a harsh lyrical righteousness, a slow plod and that tonal “voom” that nobody since Chandler has been able to make come from an amplifier in quite the same way — “Let Them Fall” had everything most essential about 21st century Saint Vitus. It was also the band’s first-ever video, which Chandler mentioned on stage at the Middle East, giving a special fuck-off to the “internet critics” who didn’t get the message of the clip in the process. Hardly a group of people who need to be taken down a peg, but fair enough.
The back of my silly big head is front and center for that rant and the rest of the video below, but other than that, it makes a great addition to Wino Wednesday and I hope that more from this tour begins to show up. Until then, enjoy:
Saint Vitus, “Let Them Fall” Live at the Middle East, Cambridge, MA, Oct. 15, 2013
Posted in Reviews on October 25th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
It was my first time seeing a show downstairs at Radio in Somerville, though if one has been to the place at all, chances are the small basement stage has at least been walked past en route to the bathrooms, which are also down there. Decor is some string lights, a New England Patriots throw rug and a Futurama poster on the wall, a small P.A., a table and a couple chairs, and the vibe is low-key, perfect for a mostly-acoustic night like this one, though Nature Films, who were about to get started when I arrived, were plugged in. An indie trio from Upstate New York, they were joined in the evening’s lineup by Tastefulnudes, which is Keith Pierce and Jess Collins of Mellow Bravo, Mike Cummings of Backwoods Payback on his first solo tour, and Black Thai frontman Jim Healey performing his own solo material with Joe McMahon on bass, who has worked with Healey for his studio output as well as played with his own jazz trio and numerous others.
Still, a mostly subdued night, and plugged though Nature Films were, earplugs were not required to get a sampling of their semi-jangly and unpretentious tongue-in-cheekery. They probably could’ve easily fallen into hip pretense, but nothing’s going to help steer clear of that trap quite like a song about getting a bad blowjob. Pierce, whose own very-much-on-display sense of humor worked in a similar vein, would make for a fitting follow-up as Tastefulnudes (also written stylized in all caps, as if to underscore their intent to grab attention) found him and Collins teamed with Dana Fisher as a guitar/vocals, piano/vocals and cello three-piece. For his part, the charismatic Mellow Bravo frontman could hardly wait for the set to start, and he strapped on his acoustic guitar and walked around the room more or less singing what he saw before actually plugging into the P.A. and belting out somewhat less riotous takes on Mellow Bravo tunes like “Just Like Water Would” and “Prairie Dog,” starting off with the especially memorable “Señorita” from Mellow Bravo‘s self-titled debut (review here), the melody of which proved all the more resonant with the sparser arrangement.
And maybe that was part of it, but throughout the Tastefulnudes, Mike Cummings and Jim Healey sets, there were a couple times where I had to kind of pull back and say, “Holy shit these people are talented.” Watching Pierce hold an acoustic guitar and burp into the mic, it was hard not to think of Jack Black‘s glory days in Tenacious D, but let that also stand for his vocal range. He and Collins make an exceptional pairing vocally, her piano adding depth all the while and her stage presence an anchor all the more alongside his with just Fisher‘s cello filling out the sound as opposed to the two guitars, bass and drums of Mellow Bravo. It was a loose kind of night, mostly laughs among the friends in the crowd, but on a sheer performance level, they not only showed the chemistry at the root of their louder outfit, but explored a range that a full band simply couldn’t while keeping to an intimate feel suited to the course of the evening. They made it easy to get on board, burps and all.
With few amps and no drums to move once Nature Films had finished, the show moved pretty quickly along. Once Cummings was plugged into the P.A. and had a chair on stage, he was more or less ready to go. People were chatting in the back, and others coming and going, and where Tastefulnudes were quieter than Mellow Bravo, they were still fairly raucous in comparison to Cummings, who was up there alone with his guitar, minimal in his arrangements and playing more generally subdued songs. No cover, to think of it another way, and though he’s new to the style of performing and he said as much from the stage — somewhat strange to think of him as being “sheepish” after seeing Backwoods Payback the several times I have, but he was closer to it than not, and I suppose Backwoods has a certain humility underlying the volume — he did well with the rawer context and made it plain to see that he’s genuine in wanting to try his hand as a troubadour. Hell, the fact that he’s touring by himself speaks volumes in that regard.
I’d checked out Healey‘s 2010 solo outing, Dreams ofOdessa,before and 2012′s Live at O’Brien’sPub, but neither really does justice to the richness of his voice live, though the quality of his songcraft shines through and songs like “Something from Nothing,” “The Sky is Falling” and “No Place to Be,” which closed here as it did at the recoded O’Brien’s gig were only bolstered by the complementary performance of McMahon, who was not only incredibly smooth on bass, adding a bit of funk to the more upbeat “The Sky is Falling,” but harmonized on vocals as well, making the gorgeous melody of “Some of Me” all the more potent. The recent “Tomorrow’s Gone” Healey noted was written in the wake of his father’s passing, and the freshness of the wound was clear in his playing the song, which preceded “Whole Lot of Nothing” and “World War Eight,” both of which shared a kind of reflective downerism, once again made all the more palpable through the chemistry between Healey and McMahon on stage.
Earlier I said that I hadn’t needed earplugs, and that’s true, but the only time I even considered I might was listening to Healey move air with his voice. It’s not that he was too loud through the speakers. I don’t think the situation would’ve been any different had the P.A. been shut off. The guy has lungs for weeks and the more I see him play, the more evident the depth of his talent becomes. There was still about half an hour of show time left when they were done, and though a 29-minute bass solo was teased — and with the tone McMahon was able to get out of his instrument, I probably wouldn’t have complained in sitting through it — but instead the extra time was passed sitting around the table in the basement, shooting the shit on a range of subjects from George Clinton doing drugs on stage to dudes making a living on retainer for Miley Cyrus.
I guess music was the center of it, so fair enough, but it was a cool sit and laugh with Healey, McMahon, Cummings, Pierce, Collins, Black Thai guitarist Scott O’Dowd who’d come out for the show, Fisher and one or two others who checked in en route to or from the bar, and it made a fitting end to a mellow night, preceding a drive home in the increasingly chilly New England autumn air.
You’ll find a couple extra pics after the jump, and a video of Cummings doing “Maybe Time.” Thanks for reading.
We continue the “10 Days of Stoner Hands of Doom XIII” special with a brand new track from Boston four-piece Black Thai, who will release their brand new 12″ EP, Seasons of Might, on mystery-colored 45rpm vinyl in time to tour their way south to SHoD and then make a leisurely loop through the Midwest en route back north. The four-song, 22-minute collection arrives with golly-that’s-pretty artwork from Alexander von Wieding, and in a limited edition of 300 as the Black Thai’s first release since 2010′s Blood from on HighEP (review here) gave a more metallic edge to the heavy rock styling of their initial 2010 demo (review here), guitarist/vocalist Jim Healey bringing an aggressive but still accessible vibe to the tracks.
Seasons of Mightworks in a similar vein, but sets a more accomplished balance within each song itself. The band — Healey (formerly of We’re all Gonna Die), guitarist Scott O’Dowd (also Cortez), bassist Cory Cocomazzi and drummer Jeremy Hemond (also Cortez and Roadsaw) — make a decision to ignore that balance and go full-on metal with the near-blasting third track, “Doors to Nowhere,” but on opening duo “Blood Dust” and “Start a War” especially, they’ve found a sonic niche for themselves that isn’t quite as angry as modern metal but neither is it entirely indebted to doom or heavy rock. Most of all, it sounds like Black Thai, which after three years since their last EP is a welcome way for it to turn out.
They round out with the eight-minute “Reasons to Burn,” which tips more toward the doomed, albeit while holding firm to the melodic sensibility shown on the earlier cuts. Seasons of Mightwas recorded at Mad Oak with Joe Saliba and mixed by Benny Grotto, and the production is as crisp and professional as the songs are engaging, whether it’s O’Dowd tearing into a mournful lead late into “Reasons to Burn” or the full band locking into the thrust of the still-catchy “Start a War,” the burly call-and-response hook of which winds up being one of the highlight moments of the whole release as Healey‘s shouts echo amid the quick turns that almost dare you to keep up.
Black Thai play Stoner Hands of Doom on Sunday, Nov. 10, with Wizard Eye, Kin of Ettins, Lord and many more at Strange Matter in Richmond, Virginia. Their tour dates, a quote from the band about the EP, and links can be found under “Start a War” on the player below.
Black Thai, “Start a War” from Seasons of Might
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
Says Black Thai:
We recorded with Joe Saliba at Mad Oak Studios and he did an absolutely amazing job tracking. Benny Grotto mixed the session and it sounds absolutely pummeling. We couldn’t be happier with the results.
Black Thai on Tour: 11/6 Middle East Upstairs – Cambridge, MA with: Cocked N’ Loaded, Goddamn Draculas, Second Grave (Release show / tour kickoff) 11/7 St. Vitus Bar – Brooklyn, NY with: Gozu, Kings Destroy, Second Grave 11/8 JR’s Bar – South Philadelphia. PA with: Backwoods Payback, Hang-Up to Flat, Skeleton Hands 11/9 The Pinch – Washington DC with: Iron Man, Gozu, Freedom Hawk 11/10 Strange Matter – Richmond, VA Stoner Hands Of Doom 11/11 The Maywood – Raleigh, NC with: Bedowyn, Devil To Pay 11/12 The Masquerade – Atlanta, GA with: Volume IV 11/13 TN (TBA) 11/14 Cusumano’s Pizza – St. Louis, MO with: Rowsdower, Heavy Horse, White Fire 11/15 The Melody Inn – Indianapolis, IN with: So Sayeth, Devils Of Belgrade 11/16 The Tree Bar – Columbus, OH with Old City, +2 TBA 11/17 Duke’s Bohemian Grove Bar – Buffalo, NY with: Second Trip 11/18 Nectar’s – Burlington, VT (Metal Monday) with: Toxic Holocaust, Ramming Speed, In Defence
Admittedly, there’s a decent chance I’d have endeavored to pick up the Dream Dragon tape from Boston psych doomers Ice Dragon anyway, but it was the layout of the cover that made it so imperative. You can see the font they used in the picture above, and the black-bar along the bottom. This was something that was done with albums back when tapes were a companion format with vinyl so that cover art wouldn’t have to be warped to fit the longer tape case, and even down to the type-setting and the relative size of the band name and album title, Ice Dragon nailed it. Same goes for the spine of the tape itself and the tracklisting, right down to “side one” and “side two” and the fake barcode. They couldn’t have done a better job with it if it had been white with red letters.
The blue tape itself is somewhat less playing to tradition, but as did their 2007 self-titled and 2011′s The Sorrowful Sun(both discussed here), Dream Dragonmakes an excellent cassette, the band’s self-recorded, lo-fi aesthetic coming through extra gnarly when intended, as on the ballsy “Maximum Trip” and still offering depth enough of mix to make it seem that the “Planet Caravan”-style synth trails of the nonetheless-rumbling “Dream Dragon” have space to move around. It’s also too long for a single vinyl at 55 minutes, but breaking it up into sides one and two here — the first ending with “A Dragon’s Dream, Pt. I” and the second with closer “A Dragon’s Dream, Pt. II” — makes Dream Dragonmore accessible without taking away from the hypnosis of it, especially on side two, when the relationship-gone-good and relationship-gone-bad “For Once in My Life” and “More than I Can Say for You” give way to the engaging psychedelia that closes out the last several cuts, the brash half-speed garage of “Beard of Thieves” seeming a much greater distance away than the start of the second half of the album.
And throughout, whether it’s the mellotron of opener “Dreamliner” or the bass-heavy “Stumble onto Magic,” which sounds like it was recorded off a tv performance in 1967, or the patiently unfurling “Me and My Lady (My Lady and Me),” Dream Dragonlives up to its name and its easily-deciphered bent toward the ethereal. Moments of threat loom in the drones of “I Know You’re Here” and the later instrumental “Unter der Gnomen” — and certainly Ice Dragon have made good on those threats elsewhere in their rapidly expanding discography — but the prevailing mood here is peaceful, otherworldly, and the flow the band create never gets shaken enough to really be interrupted. Until of course you wake up. Both parts of “A Dragon’s Dream” have a dirge march to them with far-off drums crashing and intertwining layers of guitar, and the second one seems to come apart at the end, leaving just a final trace of scratchy analog synth.
Ever-prolific, IceDragon — then the trio of drummer/vocalist Ron Rochondo, guitarist Carter and bassist Joe (all of whom handle a variety of instruments here as well as backing vocals for the latter two) — have released an EP and two full-lengths since, but I think it’s audible even on the latest, Born a Heavy Morning(review here), that they were developing some similar atmospheres to what they’d done on Dream Dragon, so I’m glad they went back and gave this one a physical issue. I’m not about to complain about their standing free-Bandcamp-downloads-for-all, but particularly with an album of this kind of breadth, it deserves some presence in the terrestrial realm as well, tenuous as its connection to it sonically may or may not be.
Posted in Reviews on October 21st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
On the televisions in the back of the Great Scott, the Boston Red Sox were working their way into the World Series, so the air was tense at first and jovial later on as Pelican came north from two Brooklyn CMJ shows for a sold-out gig with Kings Destroy and Boston’s own Phantom Glue: A bill of three bands I’d very much been looking forward to seeing. Pelican‘s Forever Becomingwas still fresh in my head from reviewing it last week, so I was excited to see some of those songs live, and with memories of the mastery they displayed last year at Roadburn, it was all the better to catch them in a smaller space. Kings Destroy had an added element of intrigue for me, catching them out of their native NYC habitat, and since Phantom Glue were pretty high on my Boston-bands-I-gotta-see list (which, frankly, I can’t believe I haven’t made a post of yet), there was no way to lose. It had been a great day and it would be a great night.
As I’d learned the last time I was at the venue, it was dark. That seems to be how it goes. O’Brien’s, P.A.’s Lounge, Radio, Great Scott. All very cool places with no lights on. Fair enough, I guess. Nobody’s putting on shows for the people who show up with cameras, so there you go. Hardly impeded my enjoyment of Phantom Glue, who, again, I’d been anticipating a live encounter with more or less since I moved. Their vinyl-only summer ’13 outing, A War of Light Cones(review here), was a beast, and live, songs like “Perils” and “Biocult” only came across as meaner and rawer, the dueling barks of guitarist Matt Oates and bassist Nick Wolf tempering noise rock cruelties with modern metal sense of growl. It quickly became apparent that I was right to have high expectations for their set.
In a way, their t-shirts said it all. Wolf had Disfear, Oates had Karp, guitarist Mike Gowell had Harvey Milk and in back, drummer Kyle Rasmussen bore the logo of a demolition derby. So between them all, you had d-beat hardcore punk metal mixed with West Coast noise, unhinged creative doom and sheer destructive mechanical force for its own sake. I highly doubt the four guys in the band got together and were like, “Okay, tonight we’re going to go with the band-summation wardrobe,” but I’ll be damned if it didn’t work out that way anyhow, and for what it’s worth, their identity seemed to have been long since carved from these elements. They were comfortable on stage, delivered a powerful (and loud) set, and they’re a local act I’m very much looking forward to getting to know better. For even just a first time seeing them, though, they impressed.
And to have them go on right before Kings Destroy as well emphasized a clear difference in my mind — namely that between aggression and confrontation. Phantom Glue were aggressive; a heavy, move-the-air kind of band that lacked nothing in presence. Kings Destroy, their New York hardcore pedigree seeping through in a way that you’d say was in spite of them if they didn’t seem to enjoy it so much, are confrontational, directly challenging their audience. In Brooklyn, which is by far where I’ve seen them most, one almost takes this as a given. In Boston, when vocalist Steve Murphy jumped off the stage and went into the crowd at the end of “Blood of Recompense” from this year’s A Time of Hunting, it was more of a surprise. That’s not to say New England doesn’t have its own hardcore lineage — you can’t walk through Harvard Square without being spin-kicked at least twice — just that the approach is different.
Kings Destroy loved it, and speaking of kicks, guitarist Carl Porcaro got one from fellow six-stringer Chris Skowronski to wake him up as the solo in “Medusa” went long. They were loose, having played with Pelican in New York the night before, but dead on all the same, bassist Aaron Bumpus playing through a Sunn head I’ve seen smoke rise from the back of before with a tone that only made the already-full room more temperate. As ever, I fucking loved “The Toe,” which I’d argue is the transitional moment between the more straightforward riffery of the Maple Forum alums’ first album and the gleeful weirdness of cuts like “Shattered Pattern” and “Turul” from the second, taking cues from multiple impulses and setting them to drummer Rob Sefcik‘s steady groove. “Turul” wasn’t aired at Great Scott, but “Shattered Pattern” followed “Old Yeller” as the second song they played, which seemed bold for how quiet parts of it are, but “The Toe,” “Casse-Tête” and “The Mountie” set a steady roll that continued from there on out as they got more and more riotous toward their finish.
I’ve never regretted watching them play — their confrontationalism fascinates all the more outside New York; it’s fun to watch them catch people off guard – and by the time they were done, monitors had been toppled, P.A. speakers pushed, and Murphy had gone so far into the crowd that a path had to be cut for him to put the mic back on the stage. Not that Pelican needed it, being instrumental, but one doesn’t want to wander off with these things either. I don’t remember exactly when the grand slam put the Red Sox ahead of the Tigers, but I’m pretty sure it was between Kings Destroy and Pelican, and since that fits my narrative of the night better, I’m gonna go with it. Whenever it was, a cheer went up in the back of the venue and celebration — by that I mean more drinking — began. Despite a shared backline, Pelican took a while to get going. When they did, it seemed like the place was pretty well sauced. Not a complaint.
Also jammed. I old-man reminisced about seeing Pelican at the Knitting Factory in Manhattan nearly a decade ago (another dude up front said he’d been there as well, which was cool), but when I turned around, the room was heads the whole way back. Sure enough, a sold out show. The Chicago four-piece of guitarists Trevor de Brauw and Dallas Thomas, bassist Bryan Herweg and drummer Larry Herweg got underway with “The Creeper” from 2009′s What We all Come to Need (review here), but it was the one-two-three of “Deny the Absolute,” “The Tundra” and “Immutable Dusk” from Forever Becomingthat hooked the crowd, myself included, with a tonally rich and unrepentantly heavy thrust that seemed to revel in its own dynamic of chugging, locked-in nod and periods of pastoral ambience. Though it’s a “duh” kind of thing to say for a band who’s been around for roughly 13 years, they were noteworthy in how tight they were, and though de Brauw got on a mic a couple times to thank the crowd for coming out and near the near the end of the set said it meant a lot to the band to sell out the place after not coming to town for so long, most of their time on stage was an undulating sea of open-feeling grooves.
Whatever else you can say about Pelican, they’ve never stopped doing things on their own terms — remember that time they found a singer and became the biggest band in the world? Nope, you don’t — so the loyalty engendered in their listeners makes sense, and justify by continuing to develop their approach over the years. One can trace their sound through the bevvy of splits and EPs and use their five full-lengths to date as a landmark, but live, it becomes more about the experience of where they are than how they got there. They dipped back to 2007′s City of Echoesto close out with “Dead between the Walls,” but that was as far back as they went. Last year’s Ataraxia/TaraxisEP (review here) was represented with “Lathe Biosas” and “Parasite Colony,” which like the three from Forever Becoming, appeared in succession as though to demonstrate that the flow of Pelican records is intended to mirror that of the live show and vice versa, and returning to the new album, “The Cliff” rested comfortably on Bryan‘s bassline as the airier guitars moved easily into the emergent churn of “Strung up from the Sky.”
By then, if you weren’t lost in it, you probably had called it a night already. I watched the end of Pelican‘s set further back, on the edge of the crowd swell, and found it no less immersive than it had been in front of the stage. “Strung up from the Sky” gave way to the galloping “Dead between the Walls,” breaking to atmospherics before building to a satisfying final churn and crashing noisy into its final moments. There was a requisite snap back to reality after the amps got shut off, and I watched as the crowd streamed out of the Great Scott and into the vomit-strewn baseball-loving Saturday night Allston street that awaited, got on line to pick up a CD of Forever Becoming– also buying a double of 2009′s Ephemeral EP, the title-track of which they’d played — and then likewise headed out.
Extra thanks to The Patient Mrs., Jaime Traba, Steve Murphy, Trevor de Brauw, and you for reading. This one was a special kind of night. Like I said, it was dark, but there are a few more pics after the jump.
Weymouth, Massachusetts, is about two minutes down the road from me. I could go out to the road, hang a louie, and be there in three traffic lights. Most of the time, this is knowledge that doesn’t really have any bearing on my day one way or another, but when I put on Nightstick‘s unearthed 2012 album, Rock + Roll Weymouth, and it’s hard not to be taken aback by my proximity to such fucked-up sonics. The local trio — four-piece if you count Padoinka the Clown, credited with “improvisational movement, interpretive dance” — released three LPs on Relapse between 1997 and 1999 and then came back last year on At War with False Noise with the twisted reveries of this work, which may or may not have been recorded circa 2000, but was never released at the time. At the beginning of September, they did a run of shows with Fistula, and it had been my intent to catch them in Allston or Providence (which are further away, but still pretty nearby) on that tour. When that didn’t happen owing mostly to job loss on my part and I happened to be in Providence the next week at Armageddon Shop, it seemed like the least I could do to pick up Rock + Roll Weymouthand get to know the band better.
At 43 minutes that runs a gamut from sludge rock to sample-laden guitar wankery, acoustic sweetness to drones to piano-topped bizarro shenanigans and on to the sludge the Melvins might’ve made if they hadn’t been called geniuses for two and a half decades, Rock + Roll Weymouthmakes little attempt to tie together, instead, as the second song title urges, the album lets its “Freak Flag Fly.” Actually, the complete name of that song, which is the longest at a smidgen under 11 minutes, is “(Let Your) Freak Flag Fly (featuring Kenny’s Cancellation Message).” That’s right, a rare double-parenthetical in the title. One might expect all kinds of resounding progressive indulgence as a result, but Nightstick don’t seem to have time for it. “Kenny’s Cancellation Message,” which is legitimately hilarious, is a sample of someone in another band or maybe a promoter more or less kicking Nightstick off a bill because of the potential for violence to erupt at the show from Nightstick‘s crowd and the band being generally unhinged. Probably a fair concern, though neither the pretty acoustic “Lila Claire Blues” — written by guitarist Cotie Cowgill for his daughter — nor the band’s closing cover of “Also Sprach Zarathustra (Theme from 2001)” does much to justify it.
That duty is left up to cuts like the gleefully strange opener, “Nightstick a.) ‘Call Me… Nightstick!’ b.) Outtro c.) Requiem,” which takes lo-fi garage sludge rumble from bassist Alex Smith (also vocals), feedback from Cowgill and punkishly intense drumming from Robert R. Williams (also formerly of Siege) and devolves initial push first into solo-topped chaos, then sample-infused plod, Smith‘s bass coming even more to the front while periodic bursts of gunfire and sirens gradually take over. Together with the following “(Let Your) Freak Flag Fly (Featuring Kenny’s Cancellation Message),” the first two cuts of Rock + Roll Weymouthcomprise nearly half of the runtime, but if you’re looking to make sense of the proceedings in a traditional fashion, you’re doing it wrong. Weird out. In the context of Nightstick‘s three prior outings, the subtitled tracks, unexpected covers (in the past they’ve done Funkadelic and Discharge, both of whose influence is also audible on the 2012 album) and the Star Wars homage, “Ode to Lord Vader a.) ‘The Circle is Now Complete’ b.) ‘Now… I am the Master’” are about in line with where Nightstick left off on 1999′s Death to Music; operating on a plane all their own.
I was bummed out to miss those gigs when I had the chance to see them, and I’m bummed out more now that I’ve had some time to spend with Rock + Roll Weymouth, but hopefully my path and Nightstick‘s will cross at some point soon. Probably at the grocery store, they’re so damn close, but maybe at a show too. In the meantime, continuing to decipher the aural hieroglyphs of the record seems like a worthy pursuit.
Posted in Reviews on October 16th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I won’t lie: The fact that Saint Vitus were playing on a Tuesday night had added nerdy glee for me for Wino Wednesday prospects. I was going to the show one way or another, but the fact that I could do two years in a row of live reviews for Wino Wednesday was an extra appeal. Last September, they played Brooklyn on my wedding anniversary and it was one of the best shows I’d ever seen. Doesn’t feel like more than a year ago, but the numbers tell it. Been a hell of a year.
Including, apparently, for Saint Vitus, who rolled through the downstairs space at Boston’s famed Middle East – a name I’ve seen on lists of tour dates forever but hadn’t actually ever been to until this show; the fact that I’ve only lived here for two months might have something to do with it — with Pallbearer and The Hookers in tow. Now well past their “reunion band” novelty and into the sphere of working a tour cycle, Saint Vitus delivered probably the most professional set I’ve seen from them. Gozu had joined the bill as local support, so I made sure to arrive early at the Middle East, which was a fortunate decision for the traffic I sat in getting there, and catch the start of the show.
That itself was also early, with Gozu going on around 7:30 following 7PM doors. I parked a couple blocks away and hustled in my lurching way to get into the venue and to the front of the stage, and here’s how it went from there:
Stop me if you’ve heard me say this about Gozu before, but the Beantown natives have hit that echelon of performance where the only thing that can possibly bring them to another level is touring. A band gets to a point where they’re so tight, so crisp in their delivery and so cohesive as a unit that just doing a show, even a relatively big one, which this was — that Middle East stage is wide, and deep; you could put a couch up there and make it your living room — is only going to do so much for them. Two albums in, Gozu have hit that point, so with the prospect of European dates around their impending Roadburn performance in the Netherlands next spring, it was a joy to watch them take a victory stomp over the hometown crowd. I hadn’t heard “Jan-Michael Vincent” from Locust Season in a while, with its funky vocal riding atop a fervent heavy rock groove, and though I still think they could milk that chorus for another round or two, it fit in well accompanied by “Ghost Wipe” from this year’s The Fury of a Patient Man (review here), from which the majority of the set was derived, though both swaggering opener “Meat Charger” and closer “Mr. Riddle” came from the earlier record, the latter following a blistering run through “Charles Bronson Pinchot” from the 2013 album. That song is about as aggressive as Gozu – guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney, guitarist Doug Sherman, bassist Joe Grotto and drummer Barry Spillberg, who seems only more righteously destructive every time I watch him play — have gotten to date, but even “Bald Bull,” which was comparatively unobtrusive in its studio form, was brought to life with considerable movement of air. Ditto that for “Signed, Epstein’s Mom.” I know for a fact that I’ll catch them again before they hit the road in Europe, but I’ll really be interested to see what some solid touring brings to their approach. As it was, they were an early treat well worth the rush-hour traffic to catch.
Monks of the First Church of Lemmy, Scientist, the Kentucky-based metalopunks The Hookers were demented, loud, energetic, and fun. How they wound up on a touring bill with Pallbearer and Saint Vitus, I have no idea, but they were a good time all the same, and seemed to revel in their standout position, frontman Adam “Rock ‘n’ Roll Outlaw” Neal pumping his fist to the d-beat sprint in songs like “Rock ‘n’ Roll Motherfucker,” “Black Magic” and “Black Thunder.” Even their “slow” stuff was fast and they knew it, and I’m not sure if they’ve gotten a mixed response at other shows, but they seemed to think they’d be worse received than they were. Maybe that’s part of the show, positioning themselves as hated to play up the scumbag aspect, but it’s worth noting that toward the end of the set, when bassist/backing vocalist Juan Badmutha came down from the stage into the crowd, he was almost immediately invited to partake in somebody’s PBR, which that showgoer even carefully poured into his mouth so he didn’t have to stop playing. That’s courtesy. They were a long way away from being “my thing,” but they hit hard from the stage and made no effort to pretend they weren’t enjoying themselves or that it wasn’t fun to sing songs about horror movies and booze and whatever else, and I certainly respect the hell out of that. Even from Gozu, who can be plenty uptempo when they get to it, The Hookers were a swift change, covering themselves and their audience in whiskey-soaked grit metal, unabashed in a high-speed AC/DC kind of way with several shredding guitar solos tossed off with foot-on-the-monitor command.
Most of what Arkansas doomers Pallbearer played was new, as in, after the release of their 2012 full-length debut, Sorrow and Extinction(review here). Two of the songs — the set opener and another of the total three (I think) new ones — didn’t yet have vocals, but the double-guitar four-piece still used one of the instrumentals as the wrap of their set proper because, as guitarist/vocalist Brett Campbell put it, “It’s fun to play.” Campbell is emotive enough on stage to cover for lyrics most of the time anyway, and Pallbearer‘s leads, provided either by him or fellow guitarist Devin Holt, are so mournful that the feeling is conveyed one way or another as bassist Joseph D. Rowland and drummer Mark Lierly hold together the huge, spacious-sounding plod of the material, the former also putting on a headbanging clinic for anyone fortunate enough to be there to watch. Rowland had a whole side of the stage to himself, which was different from every other time I’ve seen Pallbearer – Campbell was front and center, splitting Rowland and Holt, where in the past he’s been to the left, with the bassist and guitarist in subsequent left-to-right line. The shift made Campbell come across all the more like a frontman, particularly for that portion of the set which had vocals, including the distinct “Devoid of Redemption” from Sorrow and Extinction, and a surprising but potent take on Black Sabbath‘s “Over and Over,” the closing track from Mob Rules, which was the finale/epilogue to their time. It’s always a bold choice to take on Dio material, whether it’s Sabbath or not, but to their credit, Pallbearer were wise not to try to capture the same kind of feel as the original version, instead slowing it down, thickening it out, and letting Campbell deliver the lyrics — which actually fit pretty well with Pallbearer‘s consistent downer thematics — in his own style. Not only was it the shortest song in their set, but it played to an influence I wouldn’t have expected on the part of the band. A young woman in the crowd shouted, “Put out another fucking album!” and that seemed to be the prevailing sentiment all around. Hopefully in 2014.
Right in the middle of their set, just before they launched into “Let Them Fall” from last year’s über-excellent return outing, Lillie: F-65(review here), Saint Vitus guitarist Dave Chandler got on his mic — which was there solely to address the crowd in such a manner — and say that the song was their first-ever music video and that it got panned by “internet critics,” so let the internet critics fall. That’s always a bummer. Nonetheless, Vitus absolutely destroyed. A Tuesday night, still the beginning the week, I don’t really know what I was expecting, but they came out to “Vertigo” from Lillie: F-65and with a one-two of “Blessed Night” and “Clear Windowpane,” ignited the crowd and proceeded from there to pummel with classic after classic from their catalog. They’ve toured with some consistency since the record came out, and among the encouraging signs I took from their set was that cuts like the aforementioned “Blessed Night” and “Let Them Fall,” as well as “The Bleeding Ground” and “The Waste of Time” fit exceedingly well with essential Vitus tracks like “Living Backwards,” the anthemic “I Bleed Black” and “War is Our Destiny.” Chandler, vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich, bassist Mark Adams and drummer Henry Vasquez looked like a band who’d been playing shows for the last 11 nights in a row — that is, set in their execution like the whole thing was muscle memory — and the crowd couldn’t have been more into it. Moshing broke out during “The Bleeding Ground,” as Chandler noted, and a couple of surprise inclusions later on like “Shooting Gallery” from 1988′s Mournful Criesand “White Stallions” from 1985′s Hallow’s Victim, which seemed to take the place of their eponymous song in closing out their regular set, made for welcome additions to “The Troll” and the other older material. Vasquez got on mic before the encore to talk up the crowd and introduce the band coming back out. Mark Adams was “Original Member Number 69″ and “the King of Beers” both, and Chandler was “Mr. Doom Himself” or something thereabouts, while Wino was the “Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla” (somebody was a wrestling fan). Each of the three came out on cue and Saint Vitus capped the night with “Dying Inside” and, of course, “Born too Late” – Wino and Chandler both hopping off stage and into the crowd during the course — which only underscored how on their game the band is some four years into what’s apparently (and thankfully) an ongoing reunion. I had some hopes in the back of my mind for a new song, as they put word out in July that Chandler has started writing for their next album, but no dice there. As dead on as they were, I could hardly call it a loss, though, especially with the comfort I get to have in saying “maybe next time” about a band who, a few short years ago, I was convinced I’d never get to see live. Fucking awesome.
As a side note to the review, I just want to say that I met John Perez from Solitude Aeturnus at the show. A personal landmark. There working for Vitus along with former The Gates of Slumber drummer J. Clyde Paradis –which if nothing else should be indicative of the respect doom has for its forebears — he’s someone I’ve been in contact with periodically for the last decade or so who’s been perennially awesome to me, whether I’ve been covering his band or stuff on his Brainticket Records label, whatever it might be, or even just generally offering me advice and shooting the shit back and forth. An all-around great dude and a hand I was very glad to have an opportunity to shake after so long.
Posted in Reviews on October 7th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
The Patient Mrs. decided at the last minute to tag along to the Friday night show at Radio in Somerville. I knew she wouldn’t last too long, but frankly, it had been a long week and I wasn’t sure how long I’d last either. All I knew was it had been way too long since the last time I saw Cortez. They were playing second on a four-band bill with Brooklyn’s Pants Exploder opening, and Jack Burton vs. David Lo Pan and Automatic Death Pill third and fourth, respectively. I didn’t know too much about the latter, but had heard good thing about Jack Burton vs. David Lo Pan, so thought if I got to see even a little of their time, I could probably mark it a win. I didn’t, but I’ll mark it a win anyway, since it was a low-key, no-bullshit way to spend a couple hours and, really, there’s only so many evenings you can stay home and watchDonnie Yen movies on Netflix, no matter how furious his fists might be.
We rolled into Radio having found parking on the next block our second time around (not bad) and the show was a couple minutes from starting. It wasn’t crowded, but there were people there who weren’t in the bands, so I’ve definitely seen emptier. Radio‘s red lights and red walls, wood floor, small, low stage give an immediate sense of warmth. It’s out of the way enough to be off Somerville’s main drag, but still right in the thick of things. The more I go there, the more I like it. Pants Exploder went on with little ceremony and reminded right off what it is in their sound that earns them their name. I saw them almost a year ago at The Grand Victory in Brooklyn and they only sounded thicker this time around. A guitar, bass and drums trio, they didn’t need much space, but they worked quickly and efficiently to blast through ultra-heavy tones in the newer school vein — thinking post-Torche bomb-rumble, no less able to move when they want to do so — but with shouty vocals from guitarist Grady Walker that gave an almost post-metal feel. I asked later on if they had any CDs. Indeed, no dice. Maybe next year.
My green khakis remained as intact as they were when I got there, but Pants Exploder impressed all the same. I could tell there’d been some development in their sound over the last year, which is what you want for a new band, and they seemed to be coming into their own in a stage presence light on frills in a punkish kind of way but tight and engaged all the same. Bassist Jason LaFarge and drummer Robin Fowler looked content to be as locked in as they were, and while Walker was hardly fronting the trio in the sense of whooping up the crowd and showing off, I don’t think it would’ve worked with their sound if he had been. They may yet get to a level of heft that poses a threat to trousers — somehow I think that would require more amps — but they showed promise all the same and gave Cortez a plenty-high standard of volume to reach.
Cortez, however, are pros. Between sets, I ran out to the car, where The Patient Mrs. had resigned herself, and we took the little dog Dio — who also came along for the trip — for a walk up and down the block. When I got back in, Cortez were just about to kick off their set with “Johnny” from their 2012 self-titled (next time I see them I need to buy that CD; only reason I didn’t was I thought I already had it), which is up there among the catchiest heavy rock songs I’ve heard in the last five years. Just a perfect hook and every time I’ve been fortunate enough to see him do it, vocalist Matt Harrington absolutely nails it, this one included. A surprise that underscored how many moons had passed since last I caught Cortez came in the form of second guitaristAlasdair Swan. I knew Cortez was a five-piece in the long, long ago, but hadn’t realized they’d brought in someone else to play guitar alongside Scott O’Dowd, bassist Jay Furlo and drummer Jeremy Hemond. Like I say, it’d been too long.
So although they were coming from somewhere entirely more rocking than Pants Exploder, who probably belong to this or that expanded definition of stoner metal, Cortez had no trouble providing a voluminous onslaught of their own, and as they move past the songs on the self-titled, some of which were several years old when they were recorded, they’re only developing more of a sonic personality. Last time I saw O’Dowd play, it was with Black Thai, and it seems like as that band has gotten darker and heavier, Cortez have been freed up to boogie a little bit. New song “Vanishing Point” had more than a touch of classic rock shuffle and I was glad to hear that emerge in their sound among their many comfortable mid-paced grooves. Harrington said from the stage they were getting ready to record this week, and it turns out they’ll be at Mad Oak Studios with Benny Grotto, so I’ll look forward to what comes out of that
By the time they closed out with “Wormwood,” The Patient Mrs. had gone out again, and between that and the dog being in the car — you’re just going to have to trust me when I say the dog would rather be in the car than left at home, and being nighttime and October, I wasn’t at all concerned about sunshine or overheating — I knew my chances of seeing Jack Burton vs. David Lo Pan were just about nil. Needless to say, they join Planetoid, Cult45, Phantom Glue and The Proselyte on my gotta-see list. I imagine our paths will cross sooner or later, and in the meantime,The Patient Mrs.’ company on the ride back to the south shore was worth whatever the tradeoff was going to be.