Posted in Reviews on June 30th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
On no level is Sins of the Elders a minor undertaking. The debut full-length from Conclave arrives via PATAC Records and Lost Apparitions Records as a 63-minute-long slab of doomed punishment, telling much of the story of its sound with its cover: harsh, draconian, violent. Stoned to death. And so they are. Marked out by their lineup featuring members of unsung heroes Warhorse in bassist/vocalist Jerry Orne and Noreaster sludge bastards Grief in guitarist Terry Savastano, along with guitarist Jeremy Kibort and drummer Dan Blomquist, Conclave bring a pedigree of extremity into their debut that builds on the downward vibes of their 2014 debut EP, Breaking Ground (review here), while seeming to build an impenetrable wall with its heft of both tone and atmosphere. Easy listening it is not.
Recorded by Eric Braunschweiger at Raven’s Head Studio in MA, the majority of the nine tracks on Sins of the Elders — which I actually suspect is something of a gag title; the band being the elders, the songs being the sins — rests comfortably in the eight-to-nine-minute range, with the exception of the intro “Descend,” the quiet outro “Kaltas” and the more raging “Cold Comfort,” positioned before the pre-outro title-track, and its feel becomes as much about the entire forward slog than any individual piece’s bludgeonry. Standout moments like the second half of centerpiece “Mammut,” with its German samples and war sounds and landmark riff, and the chorus of “Cut it Off” prior, do much to anchor the proceedings, but taken as a whole, the cruel design of Sins of the Elders is encompassing in its darkness and unremittingly extreme.
That’s not to say it doesn’t groove, because it absolutely does, just that it has the absolute potential to overwhelm some listeners and that’s according to what sounds like the band’s obvious intent. Those averse to growling vocals will bristle at Orne‘s gruff, sometimes grunted, delivery, timed rhythmically to the riffs and almost universally miserable-sounding, but it’s an essential component in the atmosphere Conclave conjure. Credit to Blomquist for making a track like “Funeral Fyre” — which follows the quiet, spacious, raining, spoken-word-over-guitar intro “Descend” — have such a sense of march. While Kibort, Savastano and Orne are chugging away at the second verse, the drummer is subtly injecting a bit of swing and getting away with it admirably, double-kicking through a quick standout lead section and a late chorus before crashes complement the rumbling and sparse, mournful guitar ending, which leads right into “Black Lines.”
Slower at its start, “Black Lines” is among the album’s most aggressive cuts by the time it gets to the midpoint, and damn near uptempo in its last minute-plus, picking up a faster riff and riding it toward the eight-minute finish line. The aforementioned “Cut it Off” follows, finding some balance in terms of pacing but letting go of none of the severity for its relatively straightforward verse/chorus structure, breaking in the second half after its first guitar solo to bridge to a second, longer one before another faster ending takes complete hold, almost blindsiding the listener even though they did basically the same thing one song before. Easier to pull that kind of thing off when you have a varied songwriting process, it would seem.
Air raid sirens blare at the start of “Mammut” and the intro riff to the song itself serves as the bomb being dropped. Fair enough. Apart from the already-noted samples, “Mammut” is the only instrumental on Sins of the Elders apart from the opener and closer, and all the more interesting that they should make it the centerpiece, but it leads into the grueling and massive “Aethereum,” which echoes out its central guitar figure over a rolling beat that somewhat revives the march of “Funeral Fyre” but turns toward a guitar solo in its midsection and then back for another round through the verse and chorus before its fade. One might expect “Cold Comfort” as the only non-segue track under seven minutes long to be faster or more geared toward the death metal side of Conclave‘s sound, but it isn’t, really.
Like its surroundings, it lacks nothing for force, but doesn’t seem to be willfully readjusting the scales when it comes to one aspect of their personality over the other as it makes its way toward the title-track, which is the longest cut on Sins of the Elders at 9:31 and from which no light seems to escape. Between Orne‘s shouts and the push of guitars, bass and drums accompanying, its second half particularly is like a revelry of the damned, moving toward and through a chorus and solo that serve as the album’s apex before finishing noisy and turning over to the quiet guitar, bass and cymbal wash of “Kaltas” that bring the madness to an end. That Conclave would have an idea of what they wanted to accomplish going into their first full-length isn’t really a surprise given their experience and what they were able to bring to the prior EP, but Sins of the Elders excels in its pummel and its blend of heavy riffing and harder sentiments. It is brutal in concept and execution.
Posted in Reviews on June 24th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
This one’s for all the marbles. Or at very least tiddlywinks. The last day of The Obelisk’s Summer 2016 Quarterly Review begins. I’ll admit that when I was planning this out — started soon after the last Quarterly Review was finished in early April; that one ran late, this one has run early — I decided to take it easy on myself the last day. Still 10 reviews, so not that easy, but in terms of what’s included today, a lot of is stuff I feel pretty comfortable talking about, whether it’s bands I’ve covered before (which a lot of it is, now that I look at the list) or whatever. If you’ve been keeping up this week, thanks. I hope you found some cool music.
Quarterly Review #41-50:
From the Finnish hotbed of Tampere, Atomikylä made a striking impression with their 2014 Svart Records debut, Erkale (review here), giving a take on psychedelic black metal that was immediately and truly their own in its balance of elements. The band, featuring members of Dark Buddha Rising and Oranssi Pazuzu, return with doom-jazz fervor on sophomore full-length, Keräily, with three songs covering yet-unnamed stylistic reaches and offering a get-to-the-studio-and-see-what-happens experimentalism to go with their plotted course on 18-minute opener and longest track (bonus points) “Katkos,” which is followed by the building horn freakout “Risteily” (9:15), from which a space rock push takes hold on drums, resulting in maddening guitar swirl – because of course – and closer “Pakoputki” (6:55), which consumes with a darker thrust and more up-front blackened vibe that still holds onto some of the psychedelia in its layers of guitar. Keräily progresses effectively from Atomikylä’s debut and highlights just how individualized they are as a group. They continue to have the potential to do really special work, and the argument is easy to make they’re already doing it.
As opener and longest track (bonus points) “Beasts of Prey” careens toward its apex finish near the 12-minute mark and the title-track begins is crashing, harmonized intro before moving into an Alice in Chains-via-stoner verse, the distance Poland’s Sunnata cover on their second full-length, Zorya, begins to really unveil itself. There doesn’t seem to be a genre within the heavy sphere that’s off limits. They never get into death metal, but heavy rock, doom, psychedelia, prog, sludge – it’s all in play at one point or another in Zorya’s five-track/50-minute run. The reason the album works and isn’t just a haphazard mash of styles is because Sunnata, who’ve been active in Warsaw since the last decade, make each one their own and thus bend genre to suit their purposes and not the other way around. They continue to impress through the rush of “Long Gone,” the airy expanse of “New Horizon” and the more brooding closer “Again and Against,” conjuring effective flow from what in less capable hands would be disparate components.
I have kind of a hard time with White Dynomite. Not musically – the Boston five-piece’s new EP, Action O’Clock (on Ripple) typifies their accessible punk rock; a reminder of a time when the style used guitars – but conceptually. Their lineup features bassist Tim Catz and vocalist Craig Riggs (on drums) of Roadsaw, as well as guitarist Pete Knipfing (also Hey Zeus, Lamont), vocalist Dave Unger and guitarist John Darga, and while I can’t argue with the charm of a track like “Werewolf Underwear” or “Evil Ballerina” — the lyric “Tutu woman, too too much for me” alone makes Action O’Clock worth the price of admission, let alone “I got fangs in my pants” from “Werewolf Underwear” – but I haven’t yet been able to listen to the band in the context of it having been six years since the last time Roadsaw released an album, and thinking about years passing, priorities and whatnot. They sound they’re having a blast all the way through, and I won’t begrudge them exploring other influences, I guess I just miss that band.
Pittsburgh newcomers Horehound formed just last year, so one might go into their self-titled debut full-length thinking it’s an early arrival, but in an unpretentious seven-track/33-minute collection of straightforward but engaging doom rockers, the five-piece demonstrate a clear idea of what they want to do sonically. While it may not represent where they’ll ultimately end up as a band, its songs sound fleshed out in terms of direction and the resultant feel on the release is much more album than demo. So be it. A particular highlight is “The Waters of Lethe,” on which a sweeter melody emerges in the guitar and vocals, but neither will I discount the low-end crunch and vocal call-and-response in closer “Waking Time” or the more uptempo thrust of second cut “Sangreal.” Not that Horehound don’t have room to grow, but their initial offering preaches well to the converted and should give them a solid foundation to work from in that process.
Beyond the Hollow Mountain is the first full-length from Portuguese mostly-instrumentalists Sulfur Giant, who bring together influences from classic progressive rock, psychedelia and heavy rock so that when they dip into Iommic riffing on “Vertigo,” it’s no stranger than the peaceful jamming of “Whisper at Dawn,” which follows. Friendly if not exactly innovative, Sulfur Giant’s debut makes its chief impression with the four-piece’s instrumental chemistry, which brings about an easy flow within and between the eight tracks, which having already been issued digitally will see vinyl release later this year on Pink Tank Records. It’s hard to ignore what organ adds to “Evermore,” but “Sea of Stone” sneaks in some vocals amid its thicker-riffing and Sungrazer-style exploration, and “Magnolia” and the galloping “Unleash Fears” follow suit, so Sulfur Giant have a few tricks up their collective sleeve they hold back from the initial roll and gallop of the opening title-track. All the better.
New Planet Trampoline, Dark Rides and Grim Visions
Never say never in rock and roll. From Cleveland, Ohio, the psych-rocking four-piece New Planet Trampoline called it quits in 2008, leaving behind an unfinished album. After coming back together for 2014’s The Wisconsin Witch House EP, the ‘60s-stylized outfit set themselves to the task of finishing what became Dark Rides and Grim Visions, basking in the glow of early Floyd, Beatles and others of the ilk while keeping a harder edge to songs like “Grim Visions” and a healthy cynicism to “We’ll Get What We Deserve” and the tongue-in-cheek keyboard-laced closer “Haunted as Fuck.” Of the several more extended tracks, the nine-minute “Acts of Mania” is the longest, and provides suitable patience and atmospherics to stand up to its scope. All told, Dark Rides and Grim Visions is a formidable journey at 13 songs/68 minutes, but after more than half a decade away, it’s hard to hold New Planet Trampoline having their say against them, particularly when that say is as lush and dreamy as “This is the Morning.”
With their second LP, Cold Winds (on Crusher Records), Gothenburg’s Hypnos seem to be betting that the next step in the retro game is NWOBHM. They make a convincing argument; it’s kind of how it went the first time around, and their songwriting offers a top-notch look at the moment where Thin Lizzy bounce became Iron Maiden gallop, as on second cut “I’m on the Run,” just minutes after opener “Start the Hunt” featured a flute solo. Broken into two sides, each one works its way toward a longer finale – “Det Kommer en Dag” (7:23) on side A and “1800” (8:32) on side B – but sonic diversity and changes in song structure throughout do much to keep Cold Winds from feeling overly plotted, and like their countrymen in Horisont, Hypnos offer a seamless melding of classic heavy rock and metal, soaring and scorching on “Descending Sun (Unrootables White)” and swinging and swaggering immediately thereafter on “Cold September,” both accomplished with unwavering command.
Texas boogie rockers Honky were last heard from with 2012’s 421 – which I’ll assume is the “going to 11” equivalent for getting high – and their eighth outing, Corduroy, finds bassist JD Pinkus (Butthole Surfers, Melvins) and guitarist Bobby Ed Landgraf (Down) hooked up with drummer Trinidad Leal of Dixie Witch and Housecore Records for the release. To call is business as usual for the underrated outfit in the classic swing and grit they hone would only be a compliment, songs like “Baby Don’t Slow Down,” “Bad Stones” and the harmonized “Double Fine” offering soul as much as push, ‘70s influences given a modern kick in the ass throughout as a swath of guests, including Melvins drummer Dale Crover, come and go, perhaps none making their presence felt as much as Rae Comeau, whose work on “Bad Stones” makes that song a highlight – not to take away from the a capella cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick,” here retitled as “Mopey Dick,” that closes. Chicanery ensues, booze flows, good times are had for those who’ll have them.
Distinguished as on centerpiece “The Rambler” by their use of organ amid a semi-retro heavy boogie style, French five-piece Cheap Wine recorded Sad Queen – as the cover art says – live for Celebration Days Records. It’s somewhere between an EP and album, and strips away some of the individual track length of their 2013 debut, Mystic Crow, in favor of maximizing the energy put into each piece, the subdued “Intro” and “Opening” that start sides A and B, respectively, aside, though as “Opening” feeds cleanly into the quiet, airy and soulful beginning of the title-track, even that seems to have a tension that builds toward its eventual release, different from the shuffling raucousness of the post-“Intro” opener “Cyclothymic” maybe, but palpable nonetheless. They close somewhat melancholy on “Yesterday’s Dream,” but the complementary guitar of Valentin Constestin and keys of Ahn Tuan aren’t to be missed, nor how well work in concert with vocalist Mathieu Devillers, bassist Valentin Lallart and drummer Louis Morati.
Gurt & Trippy Wicked and teh Cosmic Children of the Knight, Guppy
The UK heavy scene excels at not taking itself too seriously. To wit, Gurt and Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight get together for a split (on When Planets Collide for CD and HeviSike cassette) and, they call it Guppy and the first two songs are “Owlmegeddon” and “Super Fun Happy Slide.” It kind of goes from there. Recorded together, sharing a drummer and collaborating on the centerpiece, “Revolting Child,” it’s basically two outfits who are close friends coming together to have a good time, but that doesn’t take away from Gurt’s sludgy intensity on “I Regret Nothing” or the nodding heavy rock Trippy Wicked hold forth on closer “Reign.” Taking its title from the two band names put together, one can only wonder if this will be the last conjoined offering Gurt and Trippy Wicked will make, or if there might be a whole school of guppies in the future. Frankly, this sounds like too good a party to only throw it once.
Posted in Reviews on June 22nd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Who’s ready for another round of 10 reviews in The Obelisk’s Quarterly Review? I know I am. We gotta hit 50 by Friday, and there’s still a lot — a lot — of ground to cover. Yesterday was all over the place style-wise and today has some of that going as well, but there’s a lot of quality in both, so hopefully you get to check some of it out. Today is the all important QR Hump Day, wherein we pass the halfway mark on our way to the total 50 reviews. If you’re wondering, it’s Lord Vicar who do the honors this time around at #25. Just kind of worked out that way, but I’ll take it. Down to business.
Quarterly Review #21-30:
Mirrors for Psychic Warfare, Mirrors for Psychic Warfare
Probably fair to call Mirrors for Psychic Warfare an offshoot of Corrections House, since its two members – Scott Kelly (also Neurosis) and Sanford Parker (producer extraordinaire/also Buried at Sea) – are also in that group, but the feel of their Neurot Recordings self-titled debut is substantially different, rawer and at times harsher. Parker handles beats and electronics, creating at times a wash of abrasive noise as in the culmination of “CNN WTZ,” the centerpiece of the five tracks, and elsewhere providing an industrial backdrop for Kelly’s voice for a gothic feel, as on “A Thorn to See.” Unsurprisingly, nothing about Mirrors for Psychic Warfare makes for particularly easy listening – though opener “Oracles Hex” has some commonality with Kelly’s solo work and his voice is resonant as ever – but as they round out the album with “43,” the keys, synth and guitar find some common ground, which leaves distorted shouts from Kelly to do the work of taking listeners to task. We already knew these two worked well together, and the partnership once again bears fruit here.
The four-song Death Thy Lover EP (on Napalm) is the first new studio offering of original material from Swedish doom legends Candlemass since their 2012 album, Psalms for the Dead (review here), marked the end of the tenure of vocalist Robert Lowe, also of Solitude Aeturnus. His replacement is the person who nearly had the job in the first place, Mats Levén (formerly Therion), who has a kind of stateliness to his presence in opener “Death Thy Lover” but suits the plod of “Sleeping Giant” well. Of course, at the center of the band is bassist/songwriter Leif Edling, whose style is unmistakable in these tracks, whether it’s the late-Iommi-style riffing of “Sinister ‘n’ Sweet” or “Death Thy Lover”’s chugging its way toward the hook. Candlemass save the most grueling for last with “The Goose,” as guitarists Mats “Mappe” Björkman and Lars “Lasse” Johansson intertwine a chugging rhythm and extended soloing over dirge-march drums from Jan Lindh to give the short release a darkened instrumental finale.
Talk about scope. Oh, only a country’s entire cultural history is fair game for Skuggsjá, the brainchild of Norwegian artists Ivar Bjørnson (also Enslaved) and Einar Selvik (also Wardruna) that crosses the line between black metal and Norse traditionalism probably better than anyone has ever done it before. A Piece for Mind and Mirror is the studio incarnation of the work the two composers and a host of others did as commissioned for the 200th anniversary of the Norwegian constitution, and though it’s broken into 10 movements for the album, it flows together as one orchestral entirety, the gurgle of Grutle Kjellson (Enslaved) recognizable in the eponymous track amid choral backing and a richly textured blend of traditional folk instruments and metallic thrust. The lyrics are Norwegian, but whether it’s the blowing horn of “Makta Og Vanæra (I All Tid)” or the lush melodies in the march of “Bøn Om Ending – Bøn Om Byrjing,” the sense of pride and the creative accomplishment of A Piece for Mind and Mirror ring through loud and clear.
Two years after making their self-titled debut, Baltimore heavy bluesfuzz trio Black Lung come swaggering back with the spacious vibes of See the Enemy (on Noisolution), which takes the establishing steps the first album laid out and builds on them fluidly and with a clear direction in mind. At eight tracks/45 minutes produced by J. Robbins, the album was clearly structured for vinyl, each half ending with a longer cut, the psych-jamming “Nerve” on side A, which resounds in an ending of scorching guitar from Adam Bufano atop the drums of Elias Schutzman (both of The Flying Eyes), and the closer “8MM,” on which Bufano, Schutzman, guitarist/vocalist Dave Cavalier and Robbins (who also contributes bass) roll out the record’s most massive groove and cap it with an impenetrable wall of noise. While the songs are striking in their cohesion and poise, there are moments where one wants Black Lung to really let loose, as after Trevor Shipley’s keyboard stretch in “Priestess,” but they have other ideas, feeding the title-track directly into “8MM” with no less a firm sense of control than shown earlier. All told, an excellent follow-up that deserves broader consideration among 2016’s finer offerings.
Offered through The Church Within Records as a paean to classic doom, Lord Vicar’s third LP, Gates of Flesh, nonetheless almost can’t help but put its own mark on the style. The Turku, Finland, outfit’s first album in five years, it finds guitarist Kimi Kärki (ex-Reverend Bizarre, Orne, E-Musikgruppe Lux Ohr, etc.), vocalist Chritus (also Goatess, ex-Saint Vitus, Count Raven, etc.), and drummer Gareth Millsted (ex-Centurions Ghost) — who, along with Kärki, also contributed bass after the band parted ways with Jussi Myllykoski and prior to adding Sami Hynninen as a temporary replacement — bold enough to shift into minimalist spaciousness on “A Shadow of Myself,” and really, they’re not through opener “Birth of Wine” before Kärki executes a gorgeous dual-layered solo. Trace those roots back to Trouble if you must, but there’s no question to whom the lurch of centerpiece “Breaking the Circle” or the sorrowful 10-minute closer “Leper, Leper” belongs, and the same holds true for everything that follows, be it the quiet start of “A Woman out of Snow” or the swinging second half of “Accidents.” Lord Vicar enact the doom of ages and take complete ownership of the sound, thus only adding to the canon as they go.
Like the stench of rotting, Dakessian’s The Poisoned Chalice provokes a visceral and physical response. The long-in-the-making debut release from the Portland-based duo of vocalist Kenny Snarzyk (also Fister) and multi-instrumentalist Aaron D.C. Edge (Lumbar, Roareth, so many others) had its music recorded back in 2013, and the vocals were added earlier this year, throat-searing screams and growls that top the noisy, claustrophobically weighted tones from Edge’s guitar. The onslaught is unrelenting, both longer songs like “Demons” and “Ten Double Zero” and shorter cuts “Nothing Forever” and the sample-laced opener “Choose Hate” brim with aggressive misanthropy, the will against. Even the penultimate “Baerial,” which offers a glimmer of melody, continues to crush, and starting with a slow drum progression, closer “Cosmic Dissolution” barely tops two and a half minutes, but it brings thorough reassurance of the project’s destructive force before its final drone rounds out. One never knows with Edge if a given band will ever have a follow-up, but as ever, the quality is consistent. In this case, brutally so.
Actually, if you want to get technical about it, Gypsy Chief Goliath are citizens of Ontario, but you’d never know it from listening to their third album, Citizens of Nowhere, which if you had to pin a geographic locale on it might be more of a fit for New Orleans than Canada. The Pitch Black Records release sees the triple-guitar-plus-harmonica six-piece outfit dug deep in Southern metal grooves, marked out by the burl-bringing vocals of frontman/guitarist Al “The Yeti” Bones, formerly of Mister Bones, Serpents of Secrecy and The Mighty Nimbus and the chug-and-churn of cuts like “Black Samurai” and the shuffle of “We Died for This.” The title-track winds its central riff with thickened-up ‘70s boogie, while “Elephant in the Room” and “The Return” space out a bit more, and the closing Black Sabbath cover “Killing Yourself to Live” (a CD bonus track) plays it loyal structurally while dude’ing up the original like it was on hormone therapy.
Hard-touring Richmond genre-benders Inter Arma are due for a landmark release. Their 2014 single-song EP, The Cavern, was wildly well received and earned every bit of praise it got. Their follow-up to that is Paradise Gallows, their third album and second for Relapse behind 2013’s Sky Burial (track stream here). Is Paradise Gallows that landmark? Hell if I know. Recorded, mixed and mastered by Mikey Allred, who also guests on trombone, bass violin, organ and noise, Inter Arma’s third brings an expansive 70 minutes of bleak progressivism, conceptually and sonically broad enough to be considered brilliant and still weighted enough that the prevailing vibe is extremity in their blend of sludge, doom, black metal, post-metal, atmospherics, and a moody acoustic closer. The only real danger is that it might take listeners time to digest – because it’s a lot to take in, all those twists and turns in “Violent Constellations,” particularly after the plod of the title-track – but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to find Inter Arma inhabiting any number of year-end lists for 2016. Once again, they earn it.
Virginian bruisers Helgamite manage to cover a deceptive amount of sonic ground on their second LP, Hypnagogia (on CD through Lost Apparitions with vinyl soon on Flesh Vessel), spending plenty of time in dense-toned sludge metal but using that as a foundation for a wider range of explorations, winding up in blastbeats by the time 13-minute side B finale “The Secret” comes around, but by then having torn through the aggro-thrash of “Origins,” lumbered through the mosher “Æstrosion” and topped off “Shaman’s Veil” with math-metal guitar fits melded to a saxophone arrangement. Growls from vocalist William Breeden and Jonah Butler’s drums tie it all together as guitarist Casey Firkin (also sax) and bassist Matthew Beahm pull off intermittently jazzy runs, but impressively, Helgamite never sound in danger of losing sight of the songs they’re serving, and Hypnogogia is stronger for its unwillingness to waste a second of its runtime, even in the aforementioned “The Secret” or its 10-minute side A counterpart, “Snowdrifter.”
Get it? Children of the Chron? I’ll admit it took me a second. While I was thinking about it, Allston, Massachusetts, duo Mollusk doled out sludge-punk-metal beatings via raw tones and shouts and a general sense of checked-out attitude, “Glacier” reminding of earliest, least-poppy Floor, but cuts like “Demon Queen” and “When You’re Gone” finding guitarist Hank Rose using a purposefully monotone vocal approach that works well over slower parts. Rose is joined in Mollusk by drummer Adam O’Day, and though I’ve already noted that the 11-track album is raw, their sound wants nothing for impact in the low end or any other end for that matter. Rather, the harsher aspects become part of the aesthetic throughout Children of the Chron and the band successfully navigates its own mire without getting lost in either its own “Torture Chamber” or “Zombie Apocalypse,” which like opener “Ride the #9,” is almost certainly a song about life in the Boston area.
Posted in Reviews on June 6th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
It was a celebration. The first in a short series of release shows for Gozu‘s new album, Revival (review here), and for me, a fitting occasion to mark the last day of work at a job that, while providing a much-needed paycheck, for the last year put an unfortunate distance between myself and rock and roll. If I was looking to make up for lost time, a five-band lineup — more festival than show, even with a 9PM start — would probably be a decent way to make that happen, but while the bill was certainly packed, there was no one on it who felt like filler.
Rather, from starting off with Portland, Maine’s (the other Portland) Sylvia and continuing through Massachusetts-based Wormwood, Magic Circle, Worshipper and of course Gozu headlining, there was a flow to the night that took it from grinding sludge to soulful heavy rock in well-staged transitions, covering a swath of heft from front to back. Worth mentioning the show was presented by The Obelisk, but I had no hand in picking bands — that presumably was Gozu in conjunction with Grayskull Booking, who continues to do good work in Cambridge and Somerville, on the outskirts of Boston proper, which I think has banned music for its impediment to the developing of further luxury condos.
Here’s how it went down:
My first exposure to the dual-guitar Portland four-piece was their 2013 self-titled debut full-length (review here), produced by Steve Austin of Today is the Day, and so I knew somewhat to expect as they took the stage, though they still managed to work in a few surprises in their riff-led blend of thrash, grind, periodic heavy breakdowns and headfirst dives into crunch that brought to mind earliest, heaviest Mastodon without actually losing itself in pseudo-progressive winding. They owed as much to Napalm Death as to any kind of sludge, but seemed to play out that grinding influence on a bed of thickened, sometimes-lurching tonality that made their material as much about groove as about speed. I’d forgotten their connection through guitarist/vocalist Candy and bassist Reuben Little to defunct slow-crawling doomers Ocean, but afterwards that context continued to make sense in line with what guitarist Sean Libby and drummer Michael brought to the proceedings. After one of their songs, someone in the crowd shouted, “Play that riff again!” which was an impulse I could understand. They didn’t, but the next riff turned out to be killer as well, so it all worked out.
Based in Boston, Wormwood have a series of singles out and had merch on the table, but this was my first time catching them live. They’re something of a supergroup — though they might prefer “band with dudes who are in other bands too” — with guitarist/vocalist Chris Pupecki also playing in Doomriders, drummer Chris Bevilacqua a former member of that same outfit, guitarist Mike Gowell shared with Phantom Glue — who have a new record out — and bassist Greg Weeks hailing from metalcore pioneers The Red Chord, and their stage presentation offered due variety from that, with Gowell off to the side, casually shredding out lead after lead while Weeks thrashed out Pupecki unleashed a torrent of noise and Bevilacqua held it all together from behind. Following up on Sylvia, they had a definite core of extremity in their approach, but leaned more toward doom than grind, which set the progression of the evening in motion and provided nod-worthy stomp and consuming atmospherics that made me feel like I’d missed something by not checking them out earlier. A curious blend of elements warranting further investigation.
Two albums in, it’s pretty clear that Magic Circle have earned a reputation. Their second LP, Journey Blind (review here), came out late last year through 20 Buck Spin, and as the follow-up to their 2013 self-titled debut (review here), it played down the doomed riffing of the first outing in favor of a more decisively classic metal approach. While they played what frontman Brendan Radigan laughingly called a “classic” from 2011 in “Scream Evil,” their first single, the vibe of the newer material held sway, driven by the NWOBHM gallop in the guitars of Chris Corry — whose “NCC-1701-D” and “make it so” amp decorations were appreciated — and Dan Ducas. As ever for their kind of metal, however, the rhythm section is what makes such shredding possible, and I’ve rarely seen a drummer who looks like he’s enjoying playing as much as Q (also of Doomriders). His presence adds levity — to compare, bassist Justin DeTore is more subdued and assured with the confidence that he’s the center around which this chaos is swirling; and he is — and allows the rest of the band to be who they are in a way that another drummer might not, but it’s the entire group making an impact from the stage, and as they ran through “The Damned Man” and closed with “Journey Blind” itself, their command of their sound was complete. I wouldn’t be surprised if they continued down a more metallic path going forward, and it suits them.
Played like a band on top of the world, which seemed reasonable. As announced here, Worshipper recently signed to Tee Pee Records for the release of their debut LP, Shadow Hymns, this August, and they’ve also reaped a Boston Music Award and the title at the annual Rock and Roll Rumble local competition, so if they’re feeling good about what they’re doing, the response they’ve gotten to their work thus far offers little counterargument. Neither could or would I, for that matter. Comprised of guitarist/vocalist John Brookhouse, guitarist Alejandro Necochea — who also filled in with Carousel on their last Euro run this Spring — bassist Bob Maloney and drummer Dave Jarvis, they offered noteworthy presence from the stage, playing in lighting that changed from the Middle East‘s bête noire red to near-total darkness save for some projections and reminding fervently of the chief appeal of what they do; the clear core of songwriting. Along with a grooved out cover of Pink Floyd‘s “Julia,” yet-to-be-released cuts listed as “Wolf” and “Arise” provided immediate impressions in their clarity of purpose, and if they weren’t professional-sounding enough, Brookhouse busted a string early in the set, calmly put his guitar down, walked off stage, came back with a flying V, plugged in, tuned and was ready to go in time for his next solo. They’re early into what one hopes will be a fruitful tenure, but they’re locked in already. Hope they tour.
As stacked as the bill was, one could hardly accuse the headliners of taking it easy on themselves for their sold-out release show, but Gozu hit stage a little after midnight and made it abundantly clear to whom the evening belonged. Their set capped the evening’s progression from vicious grind to post-sludge to classic metal to classic heavy rock to heavy rock and while they didn’t play Revival — officially out June 10 on Ripple Music, but available on CD at the show — in its entirety, they did do every track but the spacier closer “Tin Chicken,” so it was well represented either way alongside “Ghost Wipe” and “Bald Bull” from 2013’s The Fury of a Patient Man (review here) and “Mr. Riddle” from 2010’s Locust Season (review here). They opened with the rampaging album launch, “Nature Boy,” which in just over three minutes’ time basked in both its own intensity and the maddening soul of its hook, guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney in top form joined here and there by guitarist Doug Sherman while bassist Joe Grotto and drummer Mike Hubbard nailed the grooves of “Big Casino,” which followed, only upping the party vibe. After “Ghost Wipe,” “Bubble Time” slowed the proceedings somewhat, but by then momentum was well on Gozu‘s side and it would not relent for the duration. Highlight of the set? Well, as they were playing it, I thought “D.D. McCall” into “Lorenzo Mama” — both from the new record — was as good as it was going to get, but they finished with “By Mennen,” which had Gaffney belting out the final lines of the set without instrumental backing, and it worked better than I might’ve hoped or expected, particularly with the older “Mr. Riddle” and “Bald Bull” as setup. There isn’t a band based in this region that I’ve seen more than I’ve seen Gozu since I moved to Massachusetts nearly three years ago now, and I’ve never seen them that they didn’t deliver. They owned the Middle East easily, out-rocked me by a mile at least — I hit a wall pretty hard from standing up front all night and had to move back or pass out — and gave Revival its due, which as that’s one of the best albums of this year, is saying something.
That having-hit-a-wall would define the rest of my night. Waiting outside the venue to meet up with The Patient Mrs., who’d been at another occasion in town, I could barely stand up. I was hydrated, hadn’t eaten much, and with the final work day I guess my body hit its limit. I had to stop and sit for a few minutes on a bench walking the several blocks back to where I’d parked, but the weather was gorgeous and my wife is gorgeous so I’d hardly call it unpleasant. The night on a whole had been a massive win, and I expect it will remain one of personal significance for some time to come, for multiple reasons.
Posted in Whathaveyou on June 2nd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Located on opposite coasts, both Boston’s Kind and Los Angeles’ Salem’s Bend made their full-length debuts late in 2015. Salem’s Bend‘s was a self-release that led to their being picked up by Ripple Music, while Kind‘s Rocket Science (review here) was put out on CD by the same label with vinyl that followed this Spring. Next week, Kind will head out West to join their labelmates for a run of shows supporting their respective outings, which is no minor feat in Kind‘s case considering the band shares its members with Elder, White Dynamite (also on Ripple, with a new EP out), Rozamov and the plethora of guitarist Darryl Shepard‘s bands. There are more all the time. Dude is the Mayor of Boston’s Rock Underground.
The info for the tour is below. Grayskull Booking put the shows together and they’ve got a goodly portion of the West Coast covered, as you can see:
KIND announce West Coast dates with Salem’s Bend
Boston riff dealers KIND and Los Angeles rock merchants Salem’s Bend, both on Ripple Music, are hitting the road together for a weeklong tour of the west coast, starting in Seattle on June 9 and working their way down to San Diego on June 15.
KIND, featuring members of Elder, Roadsaw, The Scimitar and Rozamov, is touring in support of their debut full length “Rocket Science”, which has been garnering critical praise far and wide for its combination of doom, psychedelic and straight-up heavy rock. Salem’s Bend has a cassette out on Burt Records but they have since been picked up by Ripple Music, who will be releasing the tape on vinyl and compact disc in the coming months.
Expect lots of high volume riffing and memorable songs from these two bands as they travel down the west coast delivering the goods. Tour booking was handled by Grayskull Booking out of Boston.
Dates are as follows: June 7 – tba, Turlock, CA (Salem’s Bend only) June 9 – The Funhouse, Seattle, WA June 10 – High Water Mark, Portland, OR June 12 – The Golden Bull, Oakland, CA June 13 – Doll Hut, Anaheim, CA June 14 – Complex, Los Angeles/Glendale, CA June 15 – Brick By Brick, San Diego, CA
Posted in audiObelisk on May 20th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Boston heavy rockers Hey Zeus will reportedly feature the track “Caveman” on an upcoming UnderdogmaRecords split seven-incher with The Humanoids sometime this summer. The four-piece of vocalist Bice Nathan, guitarist Pete Knipfing (ex-Lamont), bassist Ken Cmar (head of Wonderdrug Records) and drummer Todd Bowman (ex-Lamont) have trickled out digital singles over the last couple years, as well as a split 7″ with fellow Beantowners White Dynomite (review here), and it would seem the intent is to keep momentum going and build up a catalog of material en route to the eventual debut album. No word on the timing for that, but that’s he impression I get, anyway.
Their style is rife with the straightforward, classic delivery and harder edge that has been brought to fruition in Boston acts like Roadsaw and Cortez, but a quick listen to “Caveman” — and “Caveman” is a quick listen — and it’s readily apparent they have their own personality as well, defined through a blend of swaggering rhythms, party-ready vibe and an underlying punkishness in Nathan‘s vocals during its verses. The hook is essential and delivered with purpose, and though “Caveman” is done in under four minutes, it’s the kind of soon you loop back to the start and give another runthrough to better digest, only to find the chorus ringing in your head later, along with subtle flourishes like the layering in Knipfing‘s short solo or the double-kick and cowbell that Bowman works into the second half.
Admittedly, it’s been a while since I last caught them live, but their vibe at the time was much the same — ready to knock back a few beers and raise some hell but with more than chops enough underlying to give their delivery some force. They have a couple shows booked for this summer, presumably the single will show up at some point during the warm months as well, and more to come in terms of singles and a video to follow, so keep an eye out. In the meantime, you can find the stream of “Caveman” below.
Hey Zeus live: 07.15 Hey Zeus w/ Black Helicopter & Wolfsmyth @ Obrien’s, Allston 07.22 Hey Zeus w/ Scissorfight, Murcielago and The Road Trash Band @ Higher Ground, Burlington, VT
Posted in Reviews on May 19th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
In some ways, Gozu‘s Revival is defined by its barnburners. There are a few of them, and the impression they create across the Boston four-piece’s third album — first for Ripple Music — is one of a more intense approach overall than was showed either on 2013’s The Fury of a Patient Man (review here) or 2010’s Locust Season (review here). Those records, both released by Small Stone, had their driving moments, but to listen to “Nature Boy,” “Oldie” or the penultimate “DD McCall” from Revival is to realize how much harder Gozu are pushing themselves across the album as a whole.
The production of Dean Baltulonis at The Wild Arctic and Benny Grotto at Mad Oak brings that out even in a swinging track like “Big Casino” or the soul-fueled “By Mennen.” It’s not necessarily about tonal thickness — that’s not what they’re going for — so much as what kind of impact each instrument can have. Add to this the fact that for the first time on record, Gozu have a cohesive lineup in guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney, guitarist Doug Sherman, bassist Joe Grotto (brother to the aforementioned Benny) and drummer Mike Hubbard, and it becomes less of a wonder that these eight songs/41 minutes are the strongest the band has yet presented in their tenure. As Gozu enter relative maturity as a group — three LPs deep — they show clear growth in performance, craft and chemistry, while keeping many of elements of the prior work intact that helped push them to the fore of their home region’s crowded heavy rock sphere. To rephrase: They kick ass early and often.
I’ll note at this point that I’m hardly an impartial observer, having been a fan since Locust Season and grown to think of them as friends, but feel no compunction in offering critique, whether it’s of Gaffney‘s vocals dominating the mix in the crashing apex of “By Mennen” (as opposed to the end of it, where the vocals stand alone and would inherently dominate the mix, being the only thing in it), or of the continued use of gag/reference song titles. “Lorenzo Llamas” is clever, but hardly does justice to the spaciousness of the side A closer itself or the manner in which it complements and sets up “Tin Chicken” as the album’s finale. In any case, if you want to take my continued respect for Gozu‘s work with a grain of salt, feel free, but Revival also stands legitimately on its own as their finest hour to date. Whether it’s the blistering, immediate zero-to-100 that “Nature Boy” brings to lead off or the sleeker groove of “Bubble Time” that follows, there isn’t a level on which Gozu aren’t moving beyond what they’ve done before.
Grotto, who played on part of The Fury of a Patient Man, and Hubbard, formerly of Warhorse, make for a rhythm section formidable enough to stand up to the melodies and layering in Gaffney‘s vocals and the crunch in his and Sherman‘s guitars alike, and though the attack here is more pointed than it has been in the past, that suits Gozu remarkably well as they lend each song a personality of its own while uniting the work as a whole through hooks, harmonies and a sense of abandon like that shown in the layered soloing that pushes “Bubble Time” over the top at the end. That song and “Nature Boy” before it build momentum into the more shuffling “Big Casino,” which rides a hypnotic chugging riff — something of a miniaturization of “The Ceaseless Thunder of Surf” from the last outing — in its middle and after one more chorus trips out a bit with far-back falsetto from Gaffney and consistent punctuation from Hubbard as it fades into the crashes that begin “Lorenzo Llamas,” which builds across its seven-minute span with semi-psychedelic patience as a vocal highlight, subtly insistent riff and fluid groove add to the otherworldly feel the ending of “Big Casino” put forth. Through soloing from Sherman, interplay of the two guitars, and more forceful delivery from Gaffney, “Lorenzo Llamas” gives a fitting cap to Revival‘s first half and sets up the continued expansion of reach that follows in the second.
That expansion comes in hand with a feeling that each of side B’s tracks is in conversation with a counterpart on side A, reversing the first three songs and aligning for the longer fourth so that “Oldie” opens with a chug and hook that could be playing off the sway of “Big Casino,” “By Mennen” answers the soul of “Bubble Time” with swaggering, heavy funk — the early bassline is a highlight — and “DD McCall” follows up on the all-out thrash style with which “Nature Boy” lead off, leaving “Tin Chicken” to build on what “Lorenzo Llamas” accomplished. One doubts that kind of symmetry was something that came to mind for Gozu as they were writing — it’s not like they’re making a concept record — but it does give Revival‘s presentation another level of cohesiveness, and whether it’s the fading-out guitar harmonies of “Oldie” or Gaffney pushing his voice to its limits in that standalone part at the end of “By Mennen,” Gozu manage to add to what they did earlier without sonic redundancy.
This is true in the heads-down thrust of “DD McCall” as well as the immediate contrast that “Tin Chicken” brings with its quiet, fluid guitars, subdued drums and soft vocals. The closer pushes through a louder part and quiets again momentarily before launching into the atmospheric payoff that “Lorenzo Llamas” teased, still heavy but swirling as well before cutting back to fade out after a few quiet lines bringing it back to the intro; the song seems to kind of wander off, but it works with the trance-inducing effects display preceding. And as it goes back to its start in a different way, “Tin Chicken” also summarizes some of what works best about Revival, which is the sense of how purposefully built the album is. While the performances are crisp, the natural chemistry Gozu have harnessed onstage remains intact, and the intensity with which they bring it to bear feels like something the band has been waiting for the opportunity to do. They make the most of that opportunity, and what results is some of the best American heavy rock you’re likely to hear in 2016 in composition and execution.
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 18th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Boston-area duo Mollusk have announced a July release for their second album, Children of the Chron. The record finds the two-piece of guitarist/vocalist Hank Rose and drummer Adam O’Day following up their 2014 debut, Gutter with another set of terrifying scenarios, alternately born of real life — “Ride the #9,” about the horrors of public transportation — and imagined — “Zombie Apocalypse,” which might as well be about the same thing — set to noise rock that’s raw and aggressive without losing sight of its purpose or taking itself too seriously, as the shift between tribal drums and grunge downerisms on “Blaze Cave” and “Lesbian Resume” makes plain enough to hear.
Perhaps as a means to clear their collective consciousness of the filth that was and make room for the filth that is, Mollusk have made Gutter available as a free download via a Dropbox link as a precursor to Children of the Chron coming out. That’s right. You don’t even need a download code, or to name your price as zero dollars. They’re just letting you take it. Nothing to lose but a minimum of hard drive space.
They’ve also begun to unveil songs from Children of the Chron at this point as well. “Ride the #9” and the newly-unveiled “When You’re Gone” can be heard on their Reverbnation page, if you can put up with the interface of that site, and they have a new video for “Glacier” that you can see below.
They’re a band of few words, but the info follows:
It’s Mollusk’s 2nd full length album. COTC is slower, sludgier and stonier. We are the Children Of The Chron.
Mollusk – Children Of The Chron Tracklisting: 1. Ride the #9 2. Demon Queen 3. The Children of the Chron 4. Glacier 5. Human Tidalwave 6. Blaze Cave 7. Lesbian Resume 8. Torture Chamber 9. When You’re Gone 10 Zombie Apocalypse 11. Mental Hospital
Record to be released in July 2016.Recorded by Sid Lees at HERD Studio in Roxbury MA. 1st Track and video – Glacier.