Posted in Whathaveyou on March 7th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Gozu have a busy spring planned, between the Small Stone showcases later this month in Boston and Brooklyn and their inaugural European tour, which includes slots at Roadburn and Desertfest in Berlin. Couple that with a vinyl release for 2013′s stellar The Fury of a Patient Man(review here) which includes no fewer than three bonus tracks, and it’s a hell of a lot for the Boston four-piece to take on. To help with expenses, they’ve started an Indiegogo campaign to allow supporters to, well, support them as they make their way across the capital-C continent. There are a smattering of cool rewards as well, up to and including spending time in the studio as they record their next album (sounds good to me), signed vinyl, a guitar lesson from Doug Sherman and more.
Guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney smooth-talks his way into hearts and wallets alike in the video below, and if the style of the following PR wire info on the tour looks familiar, it’s because I wrote it.
Have at you:
GOZU Announce European Touring; Confirmed for Roadburn & Desertfest Berlin
The Fury of a Patient Man Vinyl Release Coming
Boston’s GOZU will be making their first trip to Europe this Spring, supporting their 2013 Small Stone release, The Fury of a Patient Man. The four-piece, who recently added drummer Mike Hubbard (ex-Warhorse) to their lineup, are slated to appear at April 12 at Roadburn 2014 in Tilburg, the Netherlands, and at Desertfest Berlin on April 15.
To mark the occasion(s), the band will release a limited 2LP edition of The Fury of a Patient Man through Small Stone and Germany’s Cargo Records, with 500 copies pressed and vinyl-exclusive tracks, including covers of Simple Red and D’Angelo. The LPs will be 180g vinyl and should be out in March.
Before they head overseas, GOZU will play two Small Stone showcases in Cambridge and Brooklyn, joining labelmates Roadsaw, Lo-Pan, Wo Fat, Neon Warship and others at The Middle East and the Saint Vitus Bar on March 28 and 29, respectively. All confirmed dates follow:
GOZU Tour Dates: 03/28 Cambridge, MA, The Middle East w/ Mellow Bravo, Wo Fat, Lo-Pan, Roadsaw, Neon Warship 03/29 Brooklyn, NY, Saint Vitus Bar w/ Wo Fat, Lo-Pan, Roadsaw, Neon Warship, Geezer 04/12 Tilburg, Netherlands, 013, Roadburn Festival 04/13 Hamburg, Germany, Hafenklang 04/14 Germany, TBA 04/15 Munich, Germany, Feierwerk 04/16 Ljubiljana, Slovenia, Channel Zero 04/17 Milano, Italy, TBA 04/18 Montecchio, Italy, E20 Underground 04/19 Italy, TBA 04/20 CH, TBA 04/22 Frankfurt, Germany, Das Bett 04/23 Germany, TBA 04/24 Cologne, Germany, Underground 04/25 Berlin, Germany, Astra Kulturhaus, Desertfest 2014
GOZU lineup: Marc Gaffney: vocals/guitar Joe Grotto: bass Mike Hubbard: drums Doug Sherman: guitar
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 3rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Here comes shenanigans. Boston heavy punkers White Dynomite released their self-titled rager last year and have signed a deal to have Ripple Music deliver a vinyl version late this Spring. It’s the kind of record you listen to and have a hangover afterwards, as White Dynomite dress to kill and live up to the wardrobe. Squares be damned, the outfit — which already included Tim Catz and Craig Riggs of Roadsaw in addition to vocalist Dave Unger (Antler) and guitarist John Darga (Wrecking Crew) — have added former Scissorfight and current Supermachine six-stringer Jay Fortin on second guitar. His hollow-body gold-trim Gretsch is going to go really well with that suit.
I’m a little behind on the news, which came out last week while I was gone, but here’s word off the PR wire about the vinyl and the band’s video for the song “White Dynomite,” which is about as exemplary an intro as you can get. Dig it:
WHITE DYNOMITE sign with RIPPLE MUSIC!
Boston’s “punk soul explosion” WHITE DYNOMITE have announced their signing with California-based label Ripple Music and the addition of a second guitarist.
Hard rock label Ripple Music, known for their excellent taste and quality of heavy rock music, have signed the super group and will re-release White Dynomite’s debut album in late spring of 2014. Pressed on white vinyl and including extra tracks, this dose of motor-punk soul will be an instant must-have for music fans who like it hard, fast-n-loud. White Dynomite have also officially announced the addition of Jay Fortin to the band. The ex-Scissorfight guitarist joins an already-heavy, veteran line up that includes former members of Roadsaw, Wrecking Crew and Fast Acting Fuses. With this twin-guitar front line in place, the group promises to pack more action than previously thought possible.
More details on the upcoming debut by White Dynomite to come this spring!
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 12th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Obviously the gag here is “no foolin’,” right? Well there it is. On April 1, Cortez and Borracho are set to pull a fast one on the universe. The Boston and D.C. natives have teamed up for a new split single on AM Records. For Cortez, this will be the first new material to come from the band since the 2012 release of their self-titled debut full-length (review here) and their first outing to feature their current five-piece lineup, whereas the riff-riding trio Borracho seem to be wasting no time in continuing the momentum of 2013′s sophomore outing, Oculus (review here), which was one of last year’s best records. Both bands contribute one song — Cortez has “Vanishing Point” while Borracho offers “Know My Name” — and the vinyl will be pressed in an edition of 500 in black as well as translucent purple or green.
“Vanishing Point” brings a different balance for Cortez‘s sound. Adding another player will do that, I suppose, but even more than just having Alasdair Swan‘s guitar to give Scott O’Dowd room to stretch out lead-wise — note that bassist Jay Furlo matches him note for note in the pre-solo lead section — the two seem to trade off before coming together for some quick harmonies before getting back to the motor-push of the verse, punctuated by Jeremy “How’s Your Elbow?” Hemond‘s snare and given an apex in large part thanks to his fills. The shift in overall feel can be heard too in Matt Harrington‘s vocals, which come through deeper in the mix than on the self-titled, given a sense of space through present-but-not-overdone reverb.
As Borracho continue to establish themselves as a trio, they seem to be doing so at the expense of no fullness of sound. Their “Know My Name” is just about a full minute longer than Cortez‘s track at 4:40, but that’s still pretty short for the three-piece overall. Either way, the time is well spent. Over an oozingly thick, rolling groove in Tim Martin‘s bass and Mario Trubiano‘s drums — not to mention his own guitar — vocalist Steve Fisher seems to be more confident in his approach, switching from cleaner verses to a throatier, gruff take for the chorus. A descending transition is put to good use, and as ever, Borracho sound right at home dug into a steady middle pace that shows off the meat of their tones. They make a good match for the speedier work of Cortez.
Both bands have a slew of notable appearances coming up. Cortez will play the lead-in spot for the Sixty Watt Shaman reunion at The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 (info here) this May, whereas Borracho head to Desertfest London in late April (info here). The split will be out by then, but it’s available now too to preorder through Cortez‘s Bandcamp and Borracho‘s Bandcamp both, as well as AM Records‘ Bandcamp. A little friendly competition never hurt. It’s also streaming at either page and on the player below. Enjoy:
Cortez & Borracho, Vanishing Point/Know My Name Split 7″
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 3rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Though one hesitates to ever use the word “final” when it comes to a festival lineup, particularly when we’re still a few months out from the event taking place, The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 looks pretty damn complete. Some recent upheaval in the lineup has brought in Lord Fowl as a replacement for Phantom Glue and Kings Destroy for Kingsnake, but things seem solid and ready to proceed otherwise. Should be a packed weekend May 3 and 4 at Ralph’s Rock Diner in Worcester, Mass., and it’s definitely one I’m looking forward to with a killer blend of bands local to New England and not.
Complete lineup as it stands today follows, along with the runtimes for each set. Feel free to dive in:
Snake Charmer Booking proudly presents: THE EYE OF THE STONED GOAT 4 Festival
Saturday, May 3rd – Sunday May 4th 2014
2 Days! 20 Bands! 20 Bucks!
Ralphs Rock Diner 148 Grove St. Worcester, MA 01605
Saturday, May 3rd 2014
Admission: $20 (ALL WEEKEND)
Line-Up and Set Times:
SIXTY WATT SHAMAN (The Reunion!!!) 12:20am-1:15am
CORTEZ (Boston, MA) 11:20pm-12:00am
KINGS DESTROY 10:25pm-11:05pm
SUMMONER (Boston, MA) 9:30pm-10:10pm
LORD FOWL (New Haven, CT) 8:45pm-9:15pm
BEELZEFUZZ (Church Within Records – Maryland) 8:00pm-8:30pm
SECOND GRAVE (Massachusetts) 7:15pm-7:45pm
JOHN WILKES BOOTH (Long Island, NY) 6:30pm-7:00pm
SET (Worcester, MA) 5:45pm-6:15pm
BIRCH HILL DAM (Fitchsburg, MA) 5:00pm-5:30pm
Sunday, May 4th 2014
Admission: $20 (ALL WEEKEND)
Line-Up and Set Times:
ORDER OF THE OWL (Atlanta, GA) 11:20pm-12:00am
THE SCIMITAR (Boston, MA) 10:20pm-11:00pm
CURSE THE SON (Connecticut) 9:25pm-10:05pm
VOLUME IV (Ripple Music – Atlanta, GA) 8:30pm-9:10pm
ICHABOD (Boston, MA) 7:45pm-8:15pm
ROZAMOV (Boston, MA) 7:00pm-7:30pm
NEON WARSHIP (Small Stone Records- Ohio) 6:15pm-6:45pm
Exploratory heavy rockers Space Mushroom Fuzz may have decided to call their second tape boxed set Back from the Past, but it’s actually comprised of some of their most recent material. The prolific Boston space/jam/heavy rockers led by Adam Abrams (also Blue Aside) self-released four full-lengths last year between April and December, and all four — Man in the Shadow (April), A Possible Paradox (August), Stealing Some Time (November) and Burning the Almanac (December) — are gathered here, pressed DIY in an edition of only 20 copies (I got number 4, as I hope everyone does who winds up with one) and sold on the cheap for $8 through Space Mushroom Fuzz‘s Bandcamp. At two bucks an album, it seems fair to call Back from the Pasta bargain even before one actually cracks it open and listens to the music, which upon play shows development over the course of the year and the band from the jammy sensibilities of their older material to a kind of garage space rock, Abrams a steady presence on guitar and vocals, as well as periodically working on drums and bass despite being joined in those roles by Clay Neely (Black Pyramid) and John Belcastro on drums, Scott Levine on bass for Burning the Almanac, and for a couple songs, Steve Melanson on saxophone.
More than anything, the mission of Space Mushroom Fuzz seems to be to weird out and have a good time. I can dig that. A studio project, that they’d have a slew of releases isn’t necessarily much of a surprise, and that there’s a glut of material doesn’t seem to take away from any kind of completeness in the songs — that is, sometimes when I band is geared toward putting out a lot of stuff, things can get rushed so they can move onto the next project. Abrams as the driving force of Space Mushroom Fuzz allows songs to develop to a natural point across these four albums, so that the layers of effects in “Gallopie” and “Wreckage” from Stealing Some Timeare as much a part of the atmosphere as the root riffs and verses (at least verses in the case of the latter, since “Gallopie” is instrumental). In addition, I don’t know if it’s just because there’s so much of it all right next to each other, but it’s easy enough to read a sonic clarity coming into focus from one side of the tape to the next. The albums are positioned such that side one of tape one is the oldest album, Man in the Shadow — still less than a year old — and it runs through so that side two of tape two is the newest, Burning the Almanac. Finding a narrative arc there isn’t hard, and by the time Burning the Almanac comes around andLevine has joined his bass with Abrams‘ guitar and Belcastro‘s drums, Space Mushroom Fuzz sound that much more like the full band they’ve become.
That seems to be something the band acknowledge themselves on Burning the Almanacopener “The Cosmic Evolution,” though if I’m to be completely honest, I’ll say it’s an evaluation I made after hearing the digital version of that record, because when I flipped the tape over to listen to side two for the first time, my player promptly made a feast of it. Technical difficulties on my part notwithstanding, Space Mushroom Fuzz continue to be somewhat elusive as an act, working around a center of space rock that’s off-center and feeling its way through an ongoing progression even as it results in more and more recorded output, but in cases like Back from the Past, it’s interesting to have them step aside from time to time and take a look at what they’ve done. Their prior tape set, Seeing Double (review here), worked similarly if not as expansively, and the compilation format suits the project. As a lead player and the figure devising these songs and directing their progression, Abrams presents a gleefully strange take on psychedelia, weaving into and through convention en route to something decidedly and purposefully different. One might expect Space Mushroom Fuzz to lead with their newest work and move backwards from there, but listening to it front-to-back, their being counterintuitive seems to be part of the fun.
Space Mushroom Fuzz, Back from the Past (Dec. 2013)
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 28th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Recently pared down from a four-piece to a trio following the departure guitarist/vocalist Liz Walshak, Boston heavy thrashers Rozamov will set out on an East Coast tour next month, beginning with a show Feb. 15 at Brooklyn’s The Acheron, where they’ll match wits with the mammoth plod of Eggnogg in what I can only imagine is a show that will test the structural integrity not only of that building, but of the sundry warehouse spaces sharing the block with it. Good bill, in other words.
Speaking of, Rozamov will be back up in MA and closer to home in May for Eye of the Stoned Goat 4. Details on that and more follow below, delivered with care down the PR wire:
Rozamov Announces February East Coast Tour Dates, Playing New Material
One of Boston’s most crushing doom exports, Rozamov have announced a run of East Coast tour dates beginning February 15th at The Acheron in Brooklyn, NY. Recently reborn as a more aggressive and pummeling three piece, the band has been hard at work on their most genre-pushing and crushing music yet and will unveil some of the fruits of their labor on this run.
In addition, Rozamov is offering their most recent EP Of Gods and Flesh for free download for a limited time on Bandcamp. Of Gods and Flesh was recorded at Q Division studios in Somerville, MA by AJ Peters (Summoner, Batillus) and self-released this past summer.
FEBRUARY EAST COAST TOUR 2/15- Brooklyn, NY @ The Acheron w/ Godmaker, Eggnog, Crushed 2/16- Washington, DC @ Velvet Lounge w/ The Osedax, Gholas 2/18- Columbia, SC @ Foxfield Bar w/ Darkentries & TBA 2/19- Atlanta, GA @ The Drunken Unicorn w/ Wolves and Jackals, Crawl 2/20- Savannah, GA @ Graveface Records 2/21- Raleigh, NC @ The Maywood w/ Corpse Mountain, Heron, Dreaded 2/22- Richmond, VA @ Strange Matter w/ The Osedax, Thrones of Deceit, Vorator 2/27 – Manchester, NH @ The Shaskeen w/ Vaporizer
5/3-5/4/14- Worcester, MA @ Ralph’s – Eye of The Stoned Goat w/ Order of The Owl, Sixty Watt Shaman, Summoner, Cortez, Phantom Glue + others
Massachusetts trio Elder made their debut in a split with Queen Elephantine in 2006 and have since gone on to establish one of the more forceful approaches in the next generation of American heavy rock, melding heavy psychedelic influences amid deeply weighted cycles of riffing. Comprised of the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto, Elder‘s debut, a 2008 self-titled, found them embarking on a creative discovery of their sound, already plenty engaging with a strong nod to the stonerisms of Sleep, but it was with 2011′s Dead Roots Stirring (review here) that the three-piece made good on the potential they showed their first time out. Both albums were released through MeteorCity, and in 2012, a two-song EP followed via Armageddon Shop called Spires Burn/Release (streamed here) that pushed their sonic individualism even further and resulted in their most distinguished songwriting yet.
Touring in the Eastern and Midwestern US followed in 2012, and in 2013, Elder joined forces with Pet the Preacher for a run of European dates that included the Roadburn festival — the LP version of their set is due soon, but it’s available now to download. After spending much of the summer continuing to write their third album and playing local shows, the band went on hiatus in August so that DiSalvo would be able to spend an academic year abroad, teaching English in Essen, Germany, from where Elder will pick up in April to join the lineups for Desertfest in Berlin and in London.
The Obelisk Questionnaire: Nick DiSalvo
How did you come to do what you do?
I discovered punk rock and started developing my own taste in music when I was about 11 or 12. My brother can take most of the credit for that. I was electrified by the music, the energy, I think it resonated with me in my own youthful exuberance. Of course I wanted to emulate my new idols as every child does, so I got a drum set and a guitar as soon as I had the money and started learning to play. I think there’s not a huge gap between any of the offshoots from rock n’ roll and it was a matter of time before I was introduced to doom and stoner rock. The rest is history.
Describe your first musical memory.
I only have a collective memory of my first musical experiences, the chronology is rather foggy… My childhood best friend and I used to hang out all of the time and write short songs and record them on a four-track recorder I got for Christmas one year. Our “band” probably recorded at least 150 songs, sadly only a few dozen ever made it to the cassette-dubber. Perhaps that sort of “quantity-over-quality” mentality played a role in me adapting quite the opposite attitude nowadays, attempting to compose long, epic songs.
Describe your best musical memory to date.
This is a real toss-up. The first thing that comes to mind is Elder’s Roadburn appearance last April during our first European tour. I had visited Roadburn twice in the past and always viewed the festival as a landmark event (Emissions from the Monolith was, alas, before my time) for the scene, so being able to play was a real honor. The room was packed to the walls and brimming with energy; that was my only gig thus far which really seemed to be as long as the blink of an eye, that’s how adrenaline-filled it was for me.
When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?
Ambivalence has been a major theme of my life ever since I’ve been old enough to think for myself. I can’t think of any firmly held beliefs which aren’t subject to constant criticism and consideration within my own mind.
Where do you feel artistic progression leads?
In my ideal world, progression leads to the full realization of the artist’s potential, the discovery of the “true” artistic self. What that means in less pretentious (musical) terms is finding “one’s own sound.” I guess for me, progression means both artistic development and a honing of one’s craft to best express ideas.
How do you define success?
I suppose success is the feeling of having accomplished your goals, and so that really depends on the goals you’ve set for yourself. I think that the perception of success gets twisted over time, however. The goals I set for myself musically years ago have all long since been met; I used to daydream about having my own record, and then I could die happy! Now with every step forward there’s something new to daydream about. I guess that’s one of those American values that have, for better or for worse, been instilled in me, always try to keep moving forward, climbing the ladder, etc. Success should be when you’ve reached happiness.
What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?
Does it sound too clichéd to say that every experience is an enrichment of the character in some way? No, in all seriousness, I think I’ve been fortunate in life and haven’t witnessed anything I would wish to un-see, except for a few unsavory internet videos.
Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.
I can’t wait to get into the studio and start recording the next Elder album. It’s still being written but is inching ever closer to completion. For me, this band, which started off as a free-time project between friends, has really become my baby and the outlet for all of my own creative expression. We’ve been working on the full-length successor to Dead Roots Stirring for many years now and bringing it into physical existence will be an enormous weight off of all of our shoulders.
Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?
I’m living abroad at the moment and am very much looking forward to returning to my friends and loved ones. Other than that, most of the joy in my life is derived from playing and enjoying music, so I can’t comment further!
Posted in Reviews on January 17th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
I had driven back from New Jersey during the day — most of it, anyway — with the knowledge that I wanted to see Queen Elephantine at O’Brien’s last night. I knew I’d be tired as crap, but figured it’d be worth it because somehow it had gotten to be like half a decade since I last saw the band, in Maryland at the first benefit for Evil Fanny. Hard to believe so much time had passed. Particularly in light of having missed their Boston show last fall with It’s Not Night: It’s Space, Olde Growth and Keefshovel and having very much dug 2013′s Scarab full-length (review here), it was long overdue.
Boston acts Glacier and Slow Mover opened the show. I didn’t get there in time to see Glacier, but Somerville’s Slow Mover were just about to get started when I walked in and established a pretty wide stylistic breadth once they got going, the dual-vocal/guitar four-piece (plus snare strobe!) culling elements from noise rock, post-hardcore and post-metal, stoner rock and even a bit of black metal and making it sound raw and cohesive without being overly thought out. They had their self-titled on vinyl at the merch table, but I was light on funds. Still, cool stuff, sounded like it was working on a multi-tier solidification process. Easy to hear where they could turn into something devastatingly heavy, though as a moniker, Slow Mover does little to describe the actual ethic of their playing, which was more varied in pace than they’d apparently have one believe.
Last year when Insect Ark, aka Dana Schecter of Bee and Flower, released the Long ArmsEP, I kind of dabbled in checking it out, but I was looking forward to seeing how her noisy experimentalism translated live. First of all I’ll say that any heavy band in Brooklyn would be lucky to have her as their bassist, but that was really just part of what she brought to the table — quite literally two tables, set up on the stage — at O’Brien’s. With a pedal steel in front of her, bass strapped on, a sampler, other noisemakers and mixing board on the side, a laptop further over and amps behind, Insect Ark was both stylistically complex and viscerally loud. For each piece she set an initial bed of noise, hit a programmed beat on the laptop and then added pedal steel and bass as dictated by the song, winding up with a heavy wash that only got more and more furious as the set went on, whether she was walking into the crowd with her bass or assaulting the strings of the pedal steel with a slide on the other end to get the most noise for each strum.
I won’t lie, I was dragging ass by then. It was a long day on I-95 and I was at the show by myself, but it had been the chance to see Queen Elephantine that had pulled me off the couch and away from the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in the first place, so I wasn’t going to let it go. I took a minute, went outside, called The Patient Mrs. and got my head together to see the Providence, Rhode Island, experimental doom outfit, led by guitarist Indrayudh “Indy” Shome and featuring drummer Matt Couto of Elder and the aforementioned Keefshovel for the night alongside bassist Mat Becker, who shared a mic with Shome for the chanting vocals of the two extended pieces they played.
That’s right, two songs. When you’re Queen Elephantine and your songs run upwards of 20 minutes at a clip, you can do that kind of thing if you so choose, and I guess on a night where they stripped so far down from their usual current incarnation — I’ve seen recent pictures of a five-piece lineup and I don’t think there’s really a limit when people start showing up — you can do a set of two songs and have it work. Call it playing to their minimal side if you want, either way, Queen Elephantine wanted nothing for sonic presence or fullness save where they wanted to want for it, and were able to conjure vivid atmospherics even with the reduced personnel. Becker took a spoken word part in the middle of the first song — “The Search for the Deathless State” from 2008′s Kailash — and they settled into a fervent build across both that and “Chariot in Solemn Procession,” the latter taken from 2008′s YatraEP and rounding out with an undulating groove made all the more insistent through Couto‘s drumming.
You could see when he clicked with Becker and Shome in the pacing. Initially he seemed to be pulling fast, but they smoothed out over the course of their time and ultimately, whether it was droned to oblivion or crushingly doomed, Queen Elephantine satisfied vigorously. I thought it was cool as hell, and similar to hearing Scaraband thinking the band was coming into a sound of their own after years of directional experimentation, I got the same impression in their confidence on stage. A loop of tanpura drone behind further filled out the sound behind them, only to be swallowed up by louder parts and reemerge here and there, staying on for a while after they brought their last song to its crashing conclusion.
Thursday night in Allston seemed like a fun time for hip cats, but I’m never been fun or hip, so I darted surreptitiously back to my car and headed back to my little slice of the Commonwealth. Beat as I was, I was glad to have shown upand I resolved more or less immediately not to let it go so long until next time.
Posted in Reviews on January 13th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Fun fact: I saw Gozu in Allston just about a year ago, down the street from Great Scott at O’Brien’s (review here). Oh, what a difference a year can make. For me, now I live here. For them, after the early 2013 release of The Fury of a Patient Man (review here), they spent much of the ensuing 12 months playing out in various Eastern Seaboard haunts while reaping international praise for their second Small Stone outing the likes of which landed them a slot at the impending Roadburn 2014 and Berlin Desertfest in April, between which they’ll presumably tour (unless they’re going for frequent flier miles, which is possible) their inaugural European run. Late last year, they also swapped out drummer Barry Spillberg (ex-Wargasm) for former Warhorse basher Mike Hubbard and added Jeff Fultz on third guitar alongside Marc Gaffney and Doug Sherman. I guess their year was somewhat busier than mine. Fair enough.
That last move in particular I found puzzling. Fultz is an experienced, classy player — one might recall his tenure in Seemless last decade, and he currently holds a spot in Mellow Bravo in addition to having joined Gozu — but I wasn’t sure what a five-piece incarnation might add to Gozu‘s dynamic that wasn’t already there in the four-piece. And so curiosity was part of what got me out of the house; the other part was cabin fever. I’d been treating home more or less like a cocoon for the whole week while riding out what the Weather Channel’s website couldn’t seem to stop calling the “Polar Vortex” (which sounds like a stoner rock song if it isn’t one yet). A break in the blistering cold, though it was raining, didn’t hurt either. Seems the mettle of my Mid-Atlantic sensibilities is being tested by my first winter in New England. If I forfeit can it be May?
The night was a five-band bill with Gozu, Never Got Caught, Township, Await Rescue and Thunderbloods, and I won’t pretend to have seen the whole show. I understand that’s how it goes here and bills are stacked regularly and shows are dirt cheap (two bucks per band on this occasion), but with respect for the fertile creative ground that is the Boston scene, I had work still to do. Never Got Caught were on stage when I walked into the Great Scott – a room I dig a lot despite their apparent stance against lighting acts while they play — and though it was catching Gozu that got me out the door like the misshapen pupa I am, I was glad to run into the native four-piece, whose guitarist/vocalist Bryan “Uzi” Hinkley and his brother, drummer Bill Hinkley, trace their pedigree back to ’90s hardcore/heavy rockers Tree.
A double-guitar outfit with Bryan on lead vocals backed by fellow guitarist Dave Ward and bassist Jesse Sherman, they were somewhat moodier live than I recalled from their 2009 Creepshowfull-length, but still rich in tone with the guitars tapping at times into Wino-style fuzz without ever relinquishing their own identity to do so. Their songs were catchy and had character, but weren’t overly poppy, and when Bryan and Sherman and Ward all got on mic at the same time, the vocal interplay was clear, professional and made the songs all the more engaging. I’d never seen Never Got Caught before, but it’ll be worth keeping an eye out for a chance to do so again. They’ve reportedly got a new album in the works to release in Spring on Mad Oak Records.
Gozu followed immediately and played a set of eight songs evenly split between their two Small Stone records, 2010′s Locust Season(review here) and the aforementioned The Fury of a Patient Man, looking somewhat crowded on the Great Scott stage, but sounding tight although they’re clearly still smoothing out the presentation of the new lineup. Fultz seemed to have stage left to himself at first, while Gaffney was in the center, leaving bassist Joe Grotto and Sherman (Doug, as opposed to Jesse from Never Got Caught) packed on the right — neither of them has ever been wont to stand still while playing in my experience, but there were no collisions that I saw — and Hubbard behind. By the time they finished, they were more comfortable than they had been when they started. Fultz‘s amiable confidence meshed well with the rest of the band, Hubbard hit hard and slaughtered his way through the changes in “Signed, Epstein’s Mom” and “Ghost Wipe.” If nothing else, it was probably the loudest set I’ve seen from Gozu, and at this point I’ve seen a few.
And as they relaxed, sort of letting the songs do their work, the potential for Gozu as a five-piece really began to sink in. I had a forehead-slap moment of “holy shit, duh,” when Sherman and Fultz kicked into dueling solos for Locust Season highlight “Regal Beagle.” Gaffney held down the melody smoothly on vocals, and when the chorus was done and it was time for the guitars to take the lead, all of a sudden it was Gozu doing Thin Lizzy harmonies, adding a completely new twist on a familiar song, and whatever mental block I had to understanding why the band might want to add a third six-stringer evaporated. While Gaffney‘s a more than capable rhythm guitarist, before, it was clearly Sherman‘s role to handle the vast majority of the soling. With Fultz, not only is there a dynamic between lead and rhythm guitar, but between the lead guitars themselves as well. I don’t know why I didn’t get that before I actually stood there to see it — actually yes I do, it’s because I don’t play guitar — but being there made all the difference.
I was suddenly very glad to have left the house, and I felt like I also could relax from that point on in Gozu‘s set, which, as it stormed through “Meth Cowboy” and “Ghost Wipe” en route to closing out with “Mr. Riddle” only gained momentum. If it hadn’t been one before — and I think it had been — it was a party when Gozu were finished, but I beat a quick retreat like the misfit ogre I am and headed out into the moist but above-freezing air to slip on melting ice on the way back to my car. Served me right for not staying for the whole show.
Some more pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 9th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Boston trio The Proselyte have been looking for a home for their Our Vessel’s in NeedEP for a hot minute or two — there was word of it last April — but the good news is they’ve landed on Chicago-based Gypsyblood Records, the imprint helmed by Stavros Giannopoulos of The Atlas Moth. Not sure on the exact release date, but The Proselyte‘s 2011 outing, Sunshine(discussed here) was a good time, so it’ll be one to keep an eye on.
The three-piece are also braving the cold in order to spread the aforementioned good news. They’ll be hitting the road starting tonight in Allston and heading south and west into the very heart this “polar vortex” I keep hearing so much about but know nothing of because I never leave the house.
Wisdom off the PR wire:
THE PROSELYTE Align With Gypsyblood Records, Announce Winter Tour
The noisy, sludgy, genre-baiting miscreants behind Boston, Massachusetts’ The Proselyte have returned with their most cohesive and menacing effort yet. Ungodly screams and melodic harmonies square off as The Proselyte weave a web anger and beauty inspired in part by the sonic dichotomies of The Melvins and Torche, concocting a heady rush of stoner doom, Seattle grunge, and canny melodicism.
Now a trio, this Boston band have toured the states numerous times and are gearing up for a busy 2014 with a new EP entitled Our Vessel’s In Need. They are pleased to announce that upstart Chicago label Gypsyblood Records will handle the limited vinyl pressing & digital version while artwork will come from Billy Crisafi. The record was engineered by their own Alec Rodriguez at New Alliance Audio and mastered by Nick Zampiello and Rob Gonnella at New Alliance East.
The EP was recorded during the February 2013 blizzard that pummeled the northeast, leaving them and a team of videographers literally trapped inside New Alliance Audio. The result is a balance of solidarity and frightful cabin fever. Now, as the United States grapples with yet another wintery hellscape, The Proselyte rides again.
The band will embark on a short Northeastern run in advance of their Gypsyblood debut, beginning at O’Brien’s Pub on January 9th (dates below!).
THE PROSELYTE JANUARY TOUR 2014 January 9th Boston MA @ O’Brien’s Pub* January 10th Long Branch NJ @ The Brighton Bar* January 11th Pittsburgh PA @ Howler’s* January 12th Columbus OH @ Carabar* January 13th Chicago IL @ The Empty Bottle* January 14th Lexington KY @ Al’s Sidecar January 15th – Cincinnati OH @ The Rakes End January 16th Philadelphia PA @ Johnny Brenda’s January 17th Brooklyn NY @ Acheron January 18th New London CT @ The Orphanage# *with Jar’d Loose # with Sea of Bones
THE PROSELYTE is: Nicholas Wolf-vocals, guitar Alec Rodriguez-vocals, drums Brad Macomber-bass
Not to be confused with British pop-hardcore act We are the Ocean, the Massachusetts-based instrumental four-piece We are Oceans make their debut with the lush post-rock of their self-titled cassette. Released by Staring at the Ceiling and comprised of two tracks on each side — “Roots Grow Down” and “Step” on side one, “Mmmyellow” and “Leaves Like Stained Glass” on side two — the tape more or less represents the beginnings of the band. A demo, in other words, but a well-put-together one, if that. The recording is natural and exploratory feeling, particularly on some of the quicker, jazzier stretches of “Step,” and the presentation of the artwork on the j-card, the tape itself and the extra artwork card included — a contrasting color scheme, the back reads, “Breath Like Woodsmoke” — and for a first studio adventure from a younger group, the material sounds well balanced, immersive front to back and rife with movement throughout.
We are Oceans – the foursome of guitarists Justin Richner and Derek Gilbert, bassist Nick Pagan and drummer Bryan Counter — had released We are Oceanswithin a week of putting it to tape at The Piano Mill with Jared Mann over the course of July 18 and 19, 2012, and some of the parts that come together to make up the four extended cuts show similar anxiousness. “Roots Grow Down” might be their most psychedelic and patient soundscape here, and though “Mmmyellow” is clearly going for a different vibe and particularly in Pagan‘s tone provides a listen no less satisfying, the feeling persists that as they continue to grow as a band, what sounds jagged now in the side two opener will smooth out. That’s not to say quiet down. With a 10-minute sprawl and break to silence halfway through to start the build from scratch, We are Oceans would have plenty of time for raucousness either way. The impression that “Mmmyellow” leaves is that over time, how they get from point A to point B sonically may well become more fluid.
That feeling stays consistent in “Leaves Like Stained Glass,” which hypnotizes on a steady melodic flow initially only to jump back and forth between louder and quieter parts over its 12 minutes. The closer bodes exceptionally well for future growth for its use of repetition and if We are Oceans‘ strength is to be in longer-form songwriting, then so be it. Ebbs and flows satisfy as the song marches its way toward its and the tape’s end, and they cap with slow-fading feedback that recalls some of the dreamy lushness of “Roots Grow Down,” giving a bit of symmetry before the flip back to side one. However they might evolve in terms of their creative processes, We are Oceanshas enough substance as it is to evoke a range of moods, and as their first outing, establishes a worthy pursuit.
Posted in Questionnaire on December 17th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s a long list of bands that have played host at one point or another to guitarist Darryl Shepard. Having cut his teeth in outfits like Slaughter Shack and Slapshot, Shepard served as guitarist in Milligram and Roadsaw in the late ’90s and early ’00s, eventually emerging with his own (mostly) instrumental outfit, Hackman, releasing two albums on Small Stone. Already working in his own drone project, Blackwolfgoat – the second Blackwolfgoat album, Dronolith, was released on CD through The Maple Forum – he joined Black Pyramid on vocals and guitar after their second album and 2013′s Adversarial(review here) resulted on Hydro-Phonic, a record that took Black Pyramid on a tour of Europe that included a stop at Hellfest in France, where the above photo was taken by Nicolas Dessables. When further lineup issues cropped up with Black Pyramid drummer Clay Neely relocating, Shepard and bassist Dave Gein formed TheScimitar, whose debut LP is due in 2014.
A third Blackwolfgoat is also set for release next year (in-studio here), and The Scimitar are scheduled to play The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 in May and will reportedly have other sporadic shows supporting the album.
The Obelisk Questionnaire: Darryl Shepard
How did you come to do what you do?
I started playing music at a young age. In fourth grade I joined the school band, just as something to do. I originally wanted to play the saxophone, mainly because it looked cool, but they ran out of those so I picked the trumpet instead. Before that, we used to play the recorder in music class in school, and I always liked music class, so I guess that’s really why I joined the school band. I stayed with it right up until I graduated high school. When I was 14 or 15 I decided I wanted to play drums, but I didn’t have anywhere to put a drumset, so again I went with my second choice, the guitar. I just was drawn to music at an early age. Even though my parents weren’t musical my Dad was always playing music around the house, stuff like Earth, Wind and Fire, and he used to watch the TV show Soul Train all the time, and I loved that. And the Monkees, I watched that show religiously as a little kid. Once I graduated high school I put the trumpet down and focused only on the guitar, for the sole reason that I thought girls liked guitar players more than trumpet players. Not even kidding at all. I don’t think I knew who Chet Baker was at that point. So yeah, it’s all because of the Monkees and Earth, Wind and Fire, I guess.
Describe your first musical memory.
I think the very first musical memory I have involves the Monkees. I remember there was a birthday party at our house for me when I was probably five or six, and I distinctly remember dancing around and singing along to “No Time” by the Monkees off of Headquarters. I loved that song. And I remember all the other kids clapping and yelling when I finished my little act. That’s probably the first time that I did any type of “performing” in public, that I can remember. I couldn’t play an instrument at that point but I gave it my all. I was definitely hooked at that point.
Describe your best musical memory to date.
It would have to be playing with Black Pyramid at Hellfest in 2013. There have been other great shows, Milligram opening for Kyuss Lives! is one, but playing Hellfest was just a great time. We had an amazing slot and a long set, and the crowd was really into it. Soundchecking while Sleep were hanging out and talking to those guys and just feeling like we were part of this really awesome thing was a great feeling. There was a show earlier on that tour where it just sounded like complete crap onstage and I wasn’t happy at all about it, but all I had to do was think about playing Hellfest a couple of days later and it got me through that show. It just felt really good to feel like what we were doing was being appreciated by people who were fans of the music and who really cared about it. For me, it really does make a huge difference to have people enjoy what you’re creating, to GET IT, and Hellfest was a perfect example of that on a large scale.
When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?
I would say just recently, my belief in myself and that I would play music no matter what, that’s been tested. I’ve always believed that no matter my station in life or no matter what my circumstances were, I would always, without a doubt, play music. And recently that’s been tested, because I’m older now, and I have health issues to stay on top of, and I can’t go sinking money into musical endeavors with no financial payback like I used to be able to. I just can’t. I need a steady job, mainly for the health insurance. I can’t survive without insurance, due to my heart problems. I’ll always need to go back to the hospital and have procedures done and have the battery in my defibrillator changed for the rest of my life, things like that. That all costs a lot of money, and I wouldn’t be able to afford any of that without the insurance I get through my job. So I’ve really questioned if I can go on playing music in bands and how much longer this can continue without interfering with my “normal” life outside of music. It’s not even that I don’t want to play music anymore, it’s that I have a regular life and a way of living that I need to maintain, and I cannot have music interfere with that. I used to be very idealistic about that, thinking that music would always be the thing that I would do no matter what, but lately I’ve been questioning that a lot and trying to figure out how to make it all work.
Where do you feel artistic progression leads?
I feel that it leads to places that you’ve wanted to go to but haven’t yet arrived at. When I graduated high school I was thinking about going to Berklee School of Music. I had to go in for an interview, and the person I had to see asked me what I wanted from my guitar playing. I told him I wanted to be able to play whatever I thought of playing right as I was thinking it, that it would just be automatic. I’m not talking about notes per se, but whole ideas, I wanted to think of something musically and then just be able to execute it. He didn’t seem too impressed by that, by the way. And I didn’t go to Berklee, mainly because they wanted me to go as a trumpet major and I only cared about guitar at that point, and there are a 10 million guitar players at Berklee but only a handful of trumpet players, at least back then that’s how it was. All shredders. But I feel that after all these years of playing, after all the experiences I’ve had, I basically do that now in Blackwolfgoat. It’s all been a progression from the time I learned to play the main riff of “Smoke on the Water” on one string to now. I’ve played in hardcore bands, metal bands, total free-form improv noise bands, solo acoustic shows, cover bands, all of this stuff, and picked up something at every stop along the way, and it’s all in there now. And it’s been a progression, for sure. There’s still stuff I want to play that I haven’t quite gotten the hold of yet, but I’m looking forward to getting there.
How do you define success?
Man, that is a question with a lot of answers. For me, success is a few things. Sitting on my couch and coming up with a really cool riff that I dig is total success. There’s actually a feeling I get when I come up with something I really dig where I don’t even care if anyone else hears it, I’m not even thinking about that. I’m just completely into the moment and the sound of it RIGHT THEN, and if I get off on that then it’s a success. Self-satisfaction is the greatest success of all. Of course, getting music out there for people to hear and accomplishing that the way you want in and of itself is success. I’ve had recording sessions where something sounded so fucking awesome or so cool that again, it didn’t even matter if anyone outside the studio heard it, I was hearing it right there and then, and I get that same feeling of self-satisfaction. I’d call that success.
What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?
Probably the attacks on 9/11 in New York. I was in New York then and it was just a horrifying and shocking thing. The main thing I wish I had never seen was all the people going back to work just days after the attacks, and they were going to work in clouds of soot and smoke, and people were wearing masks to cover their mouths and just trudging back to work in all this destruction. It was a heavy thing to see. People just going about their lives and trying to work to make a living, make their rent, being attacked and then going back to work while the dust was still in the air. No rest at all, just back to the grind.
Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.
As far as something musical? I’m still trying to record that perfect album that’s eight songs in 40 minutes. And every song is cool and the whole thing is solid and stands as a whole and also as as individual pieces. A classic album in the sense of what bands used to do in the ’70. I don’t care about a 30-song album in 20 minutes, or a two-song, hour-long album. I really want to create my own version of a classic rock album that fits into traditional musical values, things like 40-minute albums. That, to me, is musical perfection. Again, that’s something that I’m working towards, making progress. Very few bands write classic albums like I’ve described. It can be done, some bands have done it, but yeah, I just want to create a perfect heavy rock album at some point. My own version of Zeppelin IV or Master of Reality.
Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?
At some point I’m going to publish my book, Black Thanksgiving, and I’m really looking forward to that. Even if it’s self-published or if someone else helps publish it, it’s gonna come out at some point. And I’m looking forward to having some time, some free time away from music and everything that entails, all the things that go into being in a band, having that time to really organize and get the stories together in a coherent manner that flows and putting it altogether officially. These stories have nothing to do with music directly or playing in a band, they’re not “band on tour” stories or like a musical diary or whatever, they’re stand alone stories that have nothing to do with music, which is what I set out to do. Believe it or not, there is life outside of music. I have an entirely different life outside of the band and outside the realm of music. And I dig that, a lot.
Posted in Reviews on December 16th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’d never seen Queens of the Stone Age before. Had plenty of chances to, for sure, but I was always worried that going to a show would make me like the band less. It wasn’t until earlier this year when I sat, transfixed, and watched the online broadcast of the band playing the entirety of 2013′s …Like Clockwork (review here) as well as other selections from their catalog that I finally said to myself, “Well maybe now’s the time.” The band around guitarist/vocalist Josh Homme – guitarist/backing vocalist Troy Van Leeuwen (who seems to set a standard of wardrobe for the others to match), guitarist/keyboardist Dean Fertita, bassist Michael Shuman and drummer Jon Theodore — sounded so tight and the …Like Clockwork material was so dead-on to how it came across on the album, I decided that at the risk of coming out of it less of a fan of the band than I went in and generally not liking arena shows either as a concept or reality, it was worth showing up.
That was back in May. This past cold Friday night at Boston University’s Agganis Arena found Queens of the Stone Age no less righteous in their execution, most especially of the newer songs, but also in general. They put on a crisp, professional-grade show. Opening act The Kills were chic enough that I felt like a hick looking at a magazine ad for a product I couldn’t afford and that almost certainly wouldn’t fit anyway, but another example of the malleable nature of a Stooges influence if nothing else, though vocalist Alison Mosshart‘s strut was pure Jagger more than Iggy Pop, so take that for what it’s worth in my assessment of influence. There were four percussionists behind them — so far away on a big arena stage — but a drum machine going as well, which I didn’t understand, but whatever. I’m not sure they were doing anything rhythmically that a single drummer or two wouldn’t have been able to handle, but the contrast of spectacle with minimalism seemed to be part of the fun. Fair enough.
Not my thing as much as I have one, but neither am I inclined to call a dogwhistle broken just because I can’t hear it. To The Kills‘ credit, they managed to bring an intimate vibe — albeit one highly stylized — to a venue that boasts of holding 7,200 people. In that sense, they served well to warm up the crowd for Queens of the Stone Age, who arrived on stage following a 60-second countdown and launched their set with a firm one-two-three punch in “You Think I ain’t Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire” and “No One Knows” from 2002′s Songs for the Deafand plunging into the upbeat first single from …Like Clockwork, “My God is the Sun,” arguably the most “desert rock” moment on the latest album and a decent fit alongside the older material for its forward rush and sand-dune thematic. Not surprisingly, “No One Knows,” which was arguably the mega-single that broke the band commercially, garnered a huge response.
As one would have to expect with its relevance and commercial success, …Like Clockworkfeatured heavily in the set, with eight of the total 10 tracks being aired — only “I Appear Missing” and opener “Keep Your Eyes Peeled” were shelved, much to my dismay in the case of the former — and as it would have to, that came at the expense of other songs. Can’t do “Mexicola” if you’re doing “If I Had a Tail.” No room for “The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret” if you want to push “Smooth Sailing.” Fine. As huge as the record was, I couldn’t really begrudge the Elvis-wiggling Homme and the rest of the band wanting to play new songs. If I wanted to see “Mexicola,” maybe I should’ve showed up a decade ago when I was hemming and hawing about it — or, you know, two years ago when they toured playing that whole album in honor of the reissue. And both “Monsters in the Parasol” and “Better Living through Chemistry” from 2000′s sophomore outing, RatedR,were included, so there was a nod to the beginnings of the band there.
“Better Living through Chemistry” was especially potent in its druggy and meandering way, snapped back to reality at the end as an early example of the scope of Homme‘s songwriting. At the show, it followed after “Fairweather Friends,” a highlight cut from …Like Clockwork‘s B-side not the least because of Sir Elton John‘s guest appearance, which in turn was positioned after “Make it wit Chu” and “Sick, Sick, Sick” from 2007′s Era Vulgaris. Kind of a strange sequence there, but I wouldn’t argue if you told me that was the whole point. Though it was more subdued, the progression of “…Like Clockwork” into Lullabies to Paralyze(2005) brooder “I Never Came” made sense as it started to pick up into “If I Had a Tail,” but “Kalopsia” might’ve been the high point of the whole night. The band more or less sounds like it was constructed in order to be able to pull off that track. I know that’s not the case — Van Leeuwen and Shuman have been on board for years, even if Fertita and Theodore are relatively new — but that’s how it sounded. And of course they nailed it, even down to the dreamy midsection peppered with lighthearted delivery of the song’s title. All systems functional.
When they kicked into “Go with the Flow” to put the cap on the pre-encore portion of the set, the charge was so fast that I didn’t even recognize it at the first line. That could’ve been an effect of where I was sitting, but I managed to catch up before the verse kicked in. That would wind up being the final highlight, as the encore of “The Vampyre of Time and Memory,” an extended “Feel Good Hit of the Summer” and “A Song for the Dead” seemed uneven. Maybe it was the immediate jump from Homme sitting at a piano asking, “Does anyone ever get this right?” to namedropping drugs that didn’t quite work, but Queens of the Stone Age seemed to be working off two different impulses — one a mature arena rock professional delivery, cold if ably done — and the other a more chaotic and dangerous entity, stumbling around stage and assaulting with feedback, drawling out a chorus of “Nicotine, valium, vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol.” I felt like I was at Sesame Street trying to puzzle through “one of these is not like the other.”
Of course, when “A Song for the Dead” kicked in, it didn’t matter. Standing on top a short stack of amplifiers, Homme was every bit stewing in the wash of noise the band created, and the rush was irresistible; despite the size of the room, the space on the stage, the “no bags” rule at the Agganis Arena and anything else, there was an element of danger that had reared its head a couple times throughout. Then the show was over and it was time to go sit in the underground parking lot for half an hour waiting to make my way back to Comm Ave. I was still home before midnight, and no less a fan of the band than when I’d left.
I’m not going to lie. Shortly after receiving Qosmic Qey‘s Doorwaytape, I set about trying to synch up its two-song (one per side), hour-long drone sprawl with various episodes of Carl Sagan‘s Cosmos. It didn’t really work, but was kind of a fun endeavor all the same, and that I’d even try should probably give you some idea of where the one-man project from Ice Dragon vocalist Ron Rochondo fits sonically. There are a couple samples — I think more in “Part II” than “Part I,” both songs clocking in at precisely 31:31 — but the crux is synth experimentation, textures and drones weaving in and out of prominence, some pleasant, some abrasive, all expansive in one way or another. I know the noise scene — that’s actual noise, not noise rock — has been into tapes for some time even before the current and alleged revival of the medium — but that’s not really what Qosmic Qey sounds like. The two pieces are more like isolated tracks off a space rock record, and when they pierce, they do so in the context of other parts that are soothing and hypnotic.
The tape itself is purple, the inset is a hand-painted watercolor, the case is neon yellow, and the audio is no less colorful. Things get particularly calm a little before halfway through “Part I,” but a headphone listen reveals patterns shifting and sounds jumping from one channel to the other, notes arriving in a deceptively fast swirl and moving fluidly around and through each other. When it comes to drones and long-form ambience, something I always enjoy is the impression that every wave of sound is audible, that you can actually hear those waves. Rationally, it seems more likely that’s imagination, but with the twists in the audio that arise as “Part I” makes its way from layered drones into a hiss-heavy minimalist key line and, eventually, to a programmed beat that’s gone almost as soon as it appears — could this be walking through different doors and finding what’s there? — the feeling of undulating sound remains. “Part II” carries the theme of opening with a space-themed sample and moving into drones, but as soon as it kicks in is darker-toned and more foreboding.
Since side one and side two are both over half an hour long, chances are that if you’re listening to Doorway, you’re going to get lost in it at some point. “Part II” doesn’t have that same kind of snap-you-back-to-reality to it that the aforementioned beat offered in “Part I,” but distinguishes itself with more of a sense of build, going from low hum to abrasive, distorted noise over the course of 20 minutes and keeping some of the cave echo that will be familiar to those who’ve been aware of Rochondo‘s work in Ice Dragon. If it’s space, “Part II” is deeper, darker space than “Part I,” and by about 22 minutes in, it’s arrived at someplace threatening. It’s more of a surprise, then, that around 23 minutes in, “Part II” comes to a complete, dead stop and begins all over with a quiet, almost mumbling, sample explaining planetary rotation topping wind-style analog synth. There are effects low in the mix on the sample, giving a suitable otherworldly feel (another benefit of headphones), and another stop afterwards marks a break into ringing electronic tones that build, resonate, distort and finally, echo away over the last several minutes, the last minute rising from silence to a machine hum that in turn fades out.
Probably goes without saying that Qosmic Qey isn’t going to be for everyone, but I’ll say it anyway. It’s either going to be a zone-out or a conscious challenge, but either way, Doorway provokes a response, and particularly with such an experimental feel, that’s something of an accomplishment. I can think of way worse ways to lose your head. If you’re an Ice Dragon fan looking for a curio or a drone-head seeking a fix, you don’t really lose out.
Posted in Reviews on December 5th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Three years on from their debut EP, Blood from on High (review here), Boston-based four-piece Black Thai return with Seasons of Might, which ups their presentation on every level. A 45rpm multicolor 12″ vinyl platter with four songs — “Blood Dust,” “Start a War,” “Doors to Nowhere” and “Reasons to Burn” — it still check in as a 22-minute EP, but the growth in the songwriting is responds in kind to the seasonal-representation in the Alexander von Wieding artwork, which of course depicts the four seasons played out in alternately gorgeous and cruel fashion across a single face, from the birth of life in spring to the decay of autumn. Whether or not Seasons of Mightitself, which was recorded by Joe Saliba and mixed by Benny Grotto at Mad Oak Studios, was intended to mirror these ideas musically, I don’t know, but it’s easy enough to read a different personality into each track and I’d suspect it’s from there that the title derives. Be it the rolling riff-heavy groove of “Blood Dust” or the heads-down intensity of “Doors to Nowhere” — introduced with a frantic fill by drummer and recently-converted stair safety expert Jeremy Hemond — Black Thai are able to elicit a varied personality through consistent songwriting quality and weighted production and the result is a brief collection that more than ably serves notice that, yes, they’re still at work and that Blood from on High, which came across as a somewhat surprisingly metallic turn after their initial two-song demo (review here) showcased an initial base of stoner doom push, was more of a beginning point for a developing aesthetic than a be-all-end-all of the band’s scope. Black Thai are tighter on Seasons of Mightas one might expect with three more years of shows under their collective belt with the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Jim Healey (ex-We’re all Gonna Die), guitarist Scott O’Dowd (also Cortez), bassist Cory Cocomazzi and Hemond (also Cortez and Roadsaw) — these are experienced players who know what their project is — but even taking that into account, the EP manages to land a striking blow with each of its components, whatever its thematic may or may not be.
It doesn’t seem unfair to say Seasons of Mightshould probably be a full-length album, three years on from their first outing, but if there would’ve been a sacrifice in quality to add even another 10 or 15 minutes to the release, then Black Thai made the wiser choice to keep it brief. With Healey‘s soulful vocals at the fore along with O’Dowd‘s tear-right-in lead work and the groove and stomp that Cocomazzi and Hemond seem to wield at will, all four members are working together within the songs to maximize the impact of each both emotionally and tonally, and with a professional production behind them — which they also had their last time out — they at times carefully and at times bombastically leave a footprint on the borderline where heavy rock meets heavy metal. To wit, the call and response chorus of “Start a War,” which follows the opener, finds Healey with a throaty delivery that still holds its melody but carries plenty of aggression as well. This is a far cry from the more patient, atmospheric approach on the eight-minute “Reasons to Burn,” which doesn’t even begin its first verse until after two minutes in and follows the riff in doomier fashion as the title-line of the EP is delivered in the chorus in a more solitary, straightforward fashion. All four of the songs hold plenty of weight in their tones — they’re all heavy, in other words — it’s just a question of how Black Thai choose to tip the balance of their influences. That it’s a choice they’re making at all speaks to where they are in their craft, and actually says a lot about it. This is a band in control of what they do, who is aware of what they’re accomplishing in this material, which itself is refined despite what particularly on “Doors to Nowhere” is a fresh and switched on feel, not lifeless or sterile. It is professional, but not standoffish or disengaged.