Posted in Whathaveyou on January 16th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
The legacy of Warhorse runs pretty strong throughout Massachusetts’ underground, with members currently taking part in bands like Gozu, Second Grave, Conclave and Faces of Bayon, but the oh-so-ripe-for-a-reunion stoner doomers are still relatively underappreciated outside their regional sphere. Southern Lord, who first issued their As Heaven Turns to Ash LP in 2001 (discussed here), will repress the album next month, coupled with the subsequent 2002 7″, I am Dying. While that may or may not be enough to get some lineup or other back together to play shows and/or write a follow-up, it’s not nothing, and the more people who hear their stuff, the more likely that is to happen down the road. So I’ll take it.
Word from the PR wire:
WARHORSE: Massachusetts Doom Legends To Reissue Debut LP And Final EP Via Southern Lord
In a time where doom is flourishing in all directions and manners, Southern Lord is exhuming the sole full-length from Massachusetts’ WARHORSE. Long out of print, rabidly sought after, and unconditionally vital in foreshadowing the plethora of current acts who partake in longform, recklessly downtuned sound voyages, 2001’s As Heaven Turns To Ash will be reissued on double LP and digital formats on February 24th, 2015 combined with their final 7″ EP, I Am Dying.
Formed in 1996 and lasting the best part of a decade, WARHORSE wallow deep down, grooving at the kind of frequency usually associated with imminent natural disaster. But in addition to their intricate delivery, WARHORSE possesses an experimental, verging on psychedelic streak which gave rise to gritty and memorable riffs, and saw them sharing stages with the iconic likes of Electic Wizard, Khanate, Acid King, High On Fire and Unearthy Trance.
As Heaven Turns To Ash and I Am Dying are sinister demonstrations of ultra-heavy riffs as a weapon, and with Southern Lord gearing up for their rerelease, doom fans worldwide will need to start saving pennies for the subwoofer damage they are sure to inflict.
As Heaven Turns To Ash Track Listing: 1. Dusk 2. Doom’s Bride 3. Black Acid Prophecy 4. Amber Vial 5. Every Flower Dies No Matter The Thorns (Whither) 6. Lysergic Communion 7. Dawn 8. Scrape 9. And The Angels Begin To Weep
Posted in audiObelisk on January 16th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Massachusetts trio Elder will release their third album, Lore, on Feb. 28. A week after the record comes out via Stickman Records in Europe and Armageddon Shop in the US, the three-piece will embark on a three-week tour with first-leg support from Washington’s Mos Generator that will take them through most of March along the Eastern Seaboard. If I had to guess, they’ll be on the West Coast somewhere around their appearance at this year’s Psycho California fest in May with Sleep, Pentagram, Om, Earth and many, many others, but more dates are still to be announced. Every band hits a point where they have to decide if they’re going to really make a go for it or not. Elder, it would seem, are going for it.
All the better for planet earth in general. Anyone who heard 2012’s Spires Burn/Release 10″ (streamed here) could tell you they were on the cusp of something really special. Their 2008 self-titled and 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here) both showcased a marked potential in what was then a young band — the second outing was a leap from the first — but with Lore, they push their sound deeper into a tonally rich progressive heavy rock, rife with intricate rhythmic turns, runs of bass and guitar, exploratory sensibility, swing and presence. A five-track full-length that only once dips below the 10-minute mark (“Deadweight” is 9:28), Lore feels grand, clean in its production and clear in its intent to redefine the band’s sound even as they thrust into by-now familiar crescendos and sweeping passages.
I’ve said on multiple occasions that I think Elder are among the finest US heavy psych has to offer, and that remains true, but guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo (also Gold and Silver), bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto (also Kind) have branched beyond those confines, and one of Lore‘s greatest strengths proves to be its crispness. As tight as they’ve been all along, a song like opener “Compendium” snaps the listener into the album, a brief alarm clock of a guitar noodle giving way to the full thrust right when it seems most dizzying. The track keeps “dizzying” as a central theme, Elder building parts on top of each other as they motor through verses and a chorus en route to an extended instrumental section that comprises much of the 10-minute piece’s second half in an adrenaline surge of lead guitar, crashing drums and dense bass working together with unbridled, mature chemistry. Elder have had a few triumphs over the last seven years since their first record, but as the chorus returns in the last minute of “Compendium,” it’s awfully hard not to feel like we’re witnessing their finest moment yet.
The album branches out from there, and with a month still to go to the release, I won’t spoil the joys of the 15-minute title-track, or of “Legend” or “Spirit at Aphelion,” but you can find “Compendium” on the Soundcloud player below, followed by the current tour dates (they also play Hull‘s last show on Feb. 21 in Brooklyn; more here), and I wholeheartedly recommend you take a listen.
More to come:
Elder tour dates with Mos Generator:
03/06 Providence RI AS220 03/07 Peterborough NH Wreck Room 03/08 Rochester NY Bug Jar 03/09 Pittsburgh PA Gooski’s 03/10 Columbus OH Ace of Cups 03/11 Indianapolis IN 5th Quarter 03/12 Chicago IL Reggie’s 03/13 Texarkana TX Silver Dollar 03/14 Dallas TX Double Wide 03/16 Austin TX Beerland* 03/20 Austin TX The North Door* 03/21 Austin TX The Lost Well* 03/23 Houston TX Mango’s* 03/24 New Orleans LA Siberia* 03/25 Atlanta GA 529* 03/26 Charlotte NC Tremont Music Hall* 03/27 Richmond VA Strange Matter* 03/28 Baltimore MD Metro Gallery* 03/29 Philadelphia PA Kung Fu Necktie* 03/30 Boston MA TT the Bear’s Place* * no Mos Generator
Posted in On the Radar on January 8th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Somewhere between doom and death rock, Massachusetts trio Conclave dig into low tones and downer vibes on their self-released debut demo/EP, Breaking Ground. The late-2014 three-song offering tops out at 21 minutes, so it’s enough to basically get introduced to the three-piece’s approach, which seems to be the whole idea in the first place since whatever else Conclave do, they don’t exactly mess around when it comes to getting to the point. Riffs lead the way through “Footprints in Blood,” “Lifetime” and “Walk the Earth (No Longer)” on the sleeve CD recorded to analog 8-track, punctuated by the sans-effects shouts of bassist/vocalist Jerry Orne — a former member of underappreciated and due-for-a-reunion brutal groovers Warhorse who also plays with Conclave guitarist Jeremy Kibort in reactivated death metallers Desolate — and the nod-ready double-kick of drummer Dan Blomquist, whose metallic style fits well with the progressions on these three introductory cuts. They are raw, it’s worth noting, and having been fortunate enough to see the band live ahead of hearing the demo, I can confirm that their deathly presentation is no fluke on “Footprints in Blood,” the rush of which starts out as a faded-in feedback and quickly gets underway with an almost punkish abandon.
Structures on the three songs are for the most part straightforward, and I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point Conclave picked up another guitarist to complement Kibort, since former Grief/Warhorse six-stringer Terry Savastano and his Martyrvore bandmate Matt Gemini both guest with solos alongside Kibort‘s own leads, but as a marker of the band’s arrival, Breaking Ground doesn’t stick around long enough to get tiresome. It is a first step, but that step is forward and starts momentum headed in that direction, Orne‘s semi-growl following the riff of “Footprints in Blood” until the closing shouts and soloing dissolve into a soon-to-fade wash of noise. I almost wish they’d let it go longer, to offset some of the precision death-metal execution of the song itself and add an element of sludge chaos to the proceedings. “Lifetime” picks up almost immediately with a slower turn and standout performance from Blomquist, who proves able to swing when called for, as in the middle lead section of the song, and match his step to a winding, fret-jumping riff from Kibort while still holding a sense of groove. Nine-minute closer “Walk the Earth (No Longer)” brings both the death and doom sides together strongly and gives a momentary breather in its intro before an ever-heavier push hits a thrashy mark in its second third and shifts into a lumbering second half that comfortably and rightly rides its groove into oblivion, shifting some in pace but thoroughly dooming out along the way.
Brutal heavy rock? Possibly. Death sludge rock? Somewhere in there. Breaking Ground isn’t death-doom the way one generally thinks of that blend as balancing, but no question their metallic impulses play a huge role across these three tracks, as do their guest lead guitarists. The fact that Breaking Ground seems so straightforward on the surface and still manages to defy easy classification can only serve Conclave well here and going forward, and as their first release, I wouldn’t ask anything more of it than to pique interest, which it does without self-indulgence or playing redundantly to genre.
Posted in Features on December 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
I knew already when I moved to the Boston area that Darryl Shepard was an exceedingly good guy. We’d been in touch for years at that point and I’d helped press up the CD run of Blackwolfgoat‘s second album, Dronolith, plus been a fan of his work in that one-man outfit as well as past bands like Milligram, Roadsaw, and so on. What I didn’t know was how universally respected he is. It’s not a celebrity thing, and part of that I’ll attribute to his own down-to-earth sensibility, but whether it’s people showing up to watch him play, peers in other bands, musicians he plays with or just people he knows from having been around the city’s rock underground for as long as he has, there’s a deep-running appreciation for who he is and what he does. The only person I’ve ever heard talk shit about Darryl, is Darryl, and even he’s doing it for laughs.
He’s had a busy 2014, between releasing albums with The Scimitar and Blackwolfgoat, recording Kind‘s first demo, playing shows and so on, and it seems only fitting to wrap up “The Year in Darryl” (not literally in him, in a Martin Short/Inner Space kind of way, but at very least in his work) by giving a rundown of the things he’s done over the last 12 months. Here goes:
Blackwolfgoat, Drone Maintenance
After Dronolith, I knew I probably wouldn’t get to review Drone Maintenance, Shepard‘s third outing under the Blackwolfgoat moniker (released by Small Stone) since I was still pretty close to it, only one record removed from direct-ish involvement in its making, but don’t think for one second that’s a statement about the quality of Drone Maintenance itself. To be honest, the third record blows the second one out of the water. In cuts like “Sunfall,” “White Hole” and the relatively brief “Night Heat,” his tendency toward songwriting comes out, and structures begin to show themselves amid tracks that are varied in mood and feel while still largely instrumental — he vocalizes bleak, feedback-laden closer “Cyclopean Utopia” in a vaguely black metal kind of way — and tied together by three spoken interludes that foster Drone Maintenance‘s underlying concept: The drone is broken, and Shepard is the repair man sent to fix it, as portrayed in Alexander von Wieding‘s cover art. Though the plotline works out otherwise, Shepard fixes the drone in wonderfully progressive fashion, an experimental feel pervading the material that — miraculously, given the context — avoid pretense even at its most ambient moments. I was lucky to be invited to the studio while it was being recorded, and could tell then that Darryl had something special on his hands and that the first two Blackwolfgoat releases were just scratching the surface of what he was looking to accomplish with the project. To hear the finished product after the release party at O’Brien’s in Allston was to see that realization affirmed. Blackwolfgoat on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
The Scimitar, Doomsayer
Though it was released on gorgeous clear/bone vinyl by Hydro-Phonic Records (also digipak CDR and a name-your-price download from the band’s Bandcamp), it seemed for a minute there that The Scimitar was over before Doomsayer could get started, having been effectively derailed when bassist Dave Gein moved to the West Coast, his last show with the band coming at The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 (review here) in early May. This supposition was, in a word, mistaken. True to their slaughterhouse doom sound, the trio of Shepard, Gein and drummer Brian Banfield wouldn’t be so easily ended. Doomsayer‘s seven tracks earned their centerpiece Motörhead cover, both continuing the warrior mentality Shepard fostered when he stepped into the guitarist/vocalist role alongside Gein in Black Pyramid for 2013’s Adversarial (review here) and branching out to distinct triumphs on songs like “Void Traveler” and “World Unreal,” finding a balance between the catchy and the brutal that, even on their first outing, The Scimitar made their own. Gein being on the opposite side of the country may have made weekly practice unlikely, but The Scimitar played both Northeastern shows to support the release with a stand-in bassist and, earlier this month, traveled out west for a weekender in California with the album’s lineup. It would seem they’re hardly done, and all the better for the chance to get more of both the raw explosiveness of “Babylon” and the exploratory heavy of Doomsayer instrumental closer “Crucifer” as The Scimitar continues to come into their sound. The Scimitar on Thee Facebooks, Hydro-Phonic Records.
I’ve been fortunate this year to see Kind play twice (reviews here and here), and both times have been markedly different. The roots of the project go back (I’m pretty sure) to late last year, when Shepard and Elder drummer Matt Couto began to jam with an intent toward not much more than that. Bassist Tom Corino of Rozamov was brought in to handle low end and vocalist Craig Riggs of Roadsaw rounded out the four-piece, whose style still finds its basis in those wide-spaced jams. They’ve recorded a demo, with Benny Grotto at Mad Oak, from which the 10-minute “Hordeolum” has surfaced, showcasing both their heavy psych and more forward-driving tendencies, the balance they find and seem to gleefully upset between the two. I hear a full-length is in the works for a summer release via a respected American outlet who, since it hasn’t been announced yet, shall remain nameless, but until that happens, Kind will continue to hone their live sound regionally, opening for Karma to Burn next month at Geno’s in Portland, Maine. Not sure if it will ever be anyone’s main project — Elder, Roadsaw, Rozamov and Shepard‘s bevvy of other bands make for some significant commitments — but Kind have quickly found a stylistic niche for themselves and I’m interested to find out what they do with it on their debut. Kind on Thee Facebooks.
There are many for whom three active bands would be enough projects, but in the middle part of 2014, Darryl also found time to release a slew of accumulated recordings from over the years, all as name-your-price downloads via Bandcamp. Each recording — most were demos, but a Milligram radio appearance (review here) was also included — was given a different solid color as a cover, and a total of six have made their way out to date, including a completely solo acoustic album (with vocals) recorded by Andrew Schneider in 1998, the aforementioned Milligram performance, some Roadsaw demos also from ’98 (first streamed here), the final three songs tracked by instrumental outfit Hackman, early ’90s demos from Deslok and various collected four-track demo/experiments from the early ’00s on which some of the roots of Blackwolfgoat can be heard. These weren’t put out for any kind of profile, just made available for anyone who might want to explore them, but in both the stylistic variety and the performance value Shepard brings to each project, there’s much to dig into. Perhaps most impressive of all is that, though they cover a considerable swath of ground, they’re still just a fraction of Shepard‘s total output. Hopefully he has more tapes/hard drives in a closet somewhere and the series can continue, or maybe even get added to with newer material over time. Just a thought. Darryl Shepard on Bandcamp.
Well, despite Gein living in California and drummer Clay Neely living in Georgia while Shepard continues to reside in Massachusetts, Black Pyramid will once again spring to life in 2015. They’re already confirmed for Desertfest in London and Berlin alongside Lo-Pan, and from what I hear, they’ll have a new 7″ on Hydro-Phonic to mark the occasion. There’s a mysterious Soundcloud demo called “Donor Kebab” by an outfit named Iron Malden, and who knows what that portends. As noted, Kind will also continue to play shows ahead of their full-length debut release, tentatively set for the summer, and one imagines Darryl will continue to keep busy otherwise gigging and recording as he always seems to do, his work ethic as admirable as the results it produces.
Posted in Reviews on December 17th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
The copper minerals from which Gold & Silver‘s two-song debut EP takes its name, Azurite and Malachite, are blue and green, respectively. But for the shimmering tones present on the tracks themselves, I’d almost be tempted to say it’s a long way around to expressing the ideas of color while avoiding the Baroness trap of actually naming records after colors, but both “Azurite” and “Malachite” seem to take a feel as crystalline in their structure as the Andrea Santos cover hints toward, fleshing out progressively over two extended runtimes and creating a sometimes heavy but almost universally spacious and apparently more concerned with that feel that persists for the 26-minute duration. Even the name of the project, Gold & Silver, relates both to colors and to minerals. The Boston duo of guitarist/drummer/keyboardist Nick DiSalvo, also of Elder, and guitarist Mike Risberg have released Azurite and Malachite on limited vinyl (250 copies, tri-color platter, etc.) through Totem Cat Records, and apart from a prior rehearsal demo, it’s the first output from the band, and the feel throughout is suitably exploratory. But that’s the point. Gold & Silver began as Risberg and DiSalvo writing for acoustic guitar, and if “Azurite” (15:42) and “Malachite” (10:08) were constructed the same way, then they maintain that jam-based sensibility, despite being at least directionally plotted and recorded in layers (unless DiSalvo has concocted a way to play guitar and a full drum kit at the same time; live, Gold & Silver brings in Elder‘s Jack Donovan on bass and John DiSalvo on drums), while fostering clean tonality and a linear feel. They are two distinct pieces, each with its own movements, but consistent in mood and atmosphere and entirely instrumental, the breathy guitar notes and at-the-ready leads saying whatever it is that might ultimately need to be said.
Elder comparisons are inevitable — particularly so for Gold & Silver being DiSalvo‘s first public step outside that band since they got going — so I’ll resign myself to them. Around halfway though “Azurite,” there’s a stop, quick turn, and launch into a heavier push, and in the structure of that, Azurite and Malachite has some commonality with DiSalvo‘s main outfit. As heavy psych influences and some more weighted tones show up later into “Azurite” and “Malachite” gets started on a quieter feel before building into a memorable triumph of a movement, there’s some of that spirit as well, but Gold & Silver retain a personality of their own because of the contributions of Risberg‘s guitar — there’s bass as well, though I’m not sure which of them actually plays it — as well as the overarching progressive vibe throughout. “Azurite” mounts a tense second half on quick-turning rhythms, made jazzy by an overarching lead and some feedback cascading over, and even when it opens up, it does so to a jabbing kind of payoff, guitar and bass bouncing off the sides of the wall of whatever corridor the drums are leading them down toward their crashing finish. It’s not barraging one part after another in the vein of soulless modern prog technicality, but neither is “Azurite” — nor “Malachite,” for that matter — entirely a heavy psychedelic jam. Gold & Silver find a resonant space somewhere between the two sides, and while one gets the sense that should the project continue to move forward Azurite and Malachite could seem formative in comparison to subsequent outings, there’s also clearly a consciousness at work behind both the construction of the material and the style in which it’s presented. As a preliminary exploration, the EP satisfies, and for those familiar with what’s become a signature rhythmic patterning for DiSalvo‘s playing through Elder, it provides a different context in which to experience that as he continues to branch out and progress in his writing.
But there’s also a burgeoning individuality at work within Gold & Silver. The contemplative opening of “Malachite” demonstrates it well, with the wistful lead lines that emerge over an already intricate intro, playing into the subtle build already underway in the guitar, bass and drums. About three minutes in, the drums shift and the central guitar figure arrives that will mark out the song from its predecessor, a sweet sort of noodling that furthers Azurite and Malachite‘s bridge between psych and prog. They build around this riff until shortly before eight minutes in, when the track starts to blow out — think the ending of Neurosis‘ “Stones from the Sky” — and cuts to silence, a drone gradually fading in and swelling to audibility just before wisping out to end the release. That final section, in the two minutes between where the distorted apex of “Malachite” checks out and where the drone takes hold, belongs entirely to Gold & Silver, and if it’s a last minute show of experimentalism on the part of the duo, it’s one that bodes well for their growth as a band. While Azurite and Malachite represents just a first stage in that process, it also makes for an engaging listen both in its concept and execution, and winds up a heartening debut that speaks — without any words, mind you — of good things to come. And while much of DiSalvo‘s 2015 seems set to be consumed by the impending release of his main outfit’s third album and their ascending profile, the word he does here with Risberg isn’t to be ignored.
Posted in On Wax on December 3rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Massachusetts-based metallers SET reside somewhere between the seemingly disparate sides vibes of thrash, stoner and doom, but from the bombastic groove of opener “Dicing with Death,” which launches their Valley of the Stone 2013 debut LP, self-released digitally and on vinyl, they’re immediately difficult to place in one or the other. Granted, the Worcester four-piece can’t play in two speeds at the same time, so it winds up being tradeoffs between fast and slow, extreme and nodding, but still, what’s most successful about the two-sided eight-track release is how much it seems to pull its elements together as a cohesive whole, cuts like the aforementioned “Dicing with Death,” or side A’s closer “The Eagle” pushing forward with breakneck weight and speed while “Magnum Opus” plods a smokier course and “Wolves behind the Sheep” works to bring the various sides to bear in one of Valley of the Stone‘s most engrossing rolls.
As a standout with a particularly killer hook, “Wolves behind the Sheep” serves to represent the stylistic breadth of the band well, blasting one second and swinging hard the next. I’ve had the advantage at this point of seeing SET play live three times now (reviews here, here and here), and seeing the fluidity drummer Tim brings to his tempo changes on stage only affirms what comes across on Valley of the Stone in that he does well in holding these songs together. That’s true throughout the album, as bassist/vocalist Andy, guitarist/backing vocalist Jeff and guitarist/vocalist Dan run off in one direction or another, telling stories of souls lost and various horrors inflicted on the unsuspecting, as much Slayer and S.O.D. as Sleep and Trouble. Their identity as they present it here is what gets carved out of the influences, something as threatening atmospherically as it is outwardly aggressive, “The Eagle” rounding out side A with its brashest vibe yet, dense low end underscoring a barrage of riffs and crash that drives through a metallic apex and into a finale of dizzying turns.
It’s fucking heavy, and I don’t think SET would have it any other way. The plot thickens on side B, though, with the creepy lead guitar on the title-track giving way to a full-on grindout followed by noise rock rumble-and-shout, the band’s command unwavering as they nod at Crowbar‘ssludge en route to the next round of swinging pummel and the Dopefight-style stoner punk of “Apophis,” catchy but less nuanced than “Valley of the Stone” or “Children of the Doomed,” which serves as the apex of the album, Jeff and Dan coming together to add a rush of lead lines to the hook. Since, like “Wolves behind the Sheep,” it’s the penultimate cut on its side, there’s an element of symmetry at work in Valley of the Stone‘s structure as well, but the more satisfying thing is the actual song, which hits the blend of extremity and groove just right and shows what SET are able to do at their best. The closer, “Sacred Moon Cult” is rightly saved for last and is probably the only track that wouldn’t be a comedown after “Children of the Doomed,” but its chorus feels like it’s taking a shortcut to righteousness, as opposed to the frenetic rawness of “Children of the Doomed,” which punches through a wall rather than going around it.
Maybe at that point it’s splitting hairs, but either way, by then SET have shown their ability to cull something individual out of familiar elements, and there’s nothing more one could reasonably ask of their debut than that, though in that regard it’s worth pointing out that the vinyl version of Valley of the Stone, with its two-sided liner and dead-on black-and-white artwork makes for no less accomplishment of presentation. Some bands figure it out late, some bands figure it out early. SET would seem to be in the latter category if the debut is anything to go by, and with a sound so varied, they still have plenty to work from in terms of creative progress without much fear of stagnating anytime soon.
Posted in Features on October 21st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
10.21.14 — 3:21PM — Tuesday afternoon — East Bridgewater, MA
“Guess you ain’t driving!!!!” — Steve Murphy
Pesto dribbled down my beard from the hot soppressata, salami and fresh mozz sandwich I made myself for lunch. I drank today-fresh homemade iced tea out of the fridge and had pistachio-laden unsalted mixed nuts on the side while listening to the new Stubb album for the first time. The little dog Dio curled up on the doormat in a rare spot of New England autumn sunshine. I don’t think of the next two weeks as a hardship, but if you’re about to leave the place you live for any stretch of time, you might as well enjoy yourself before you go.
The tour starts on Thursday in Chicago. For the most part, it’s the same lineup as this past Spring — I’ll be traveling with Kings Destroy while they tour with Pentagram and Radio Moscow — only this time it’s reunited proto-metallers Bang as well. Blood Ceremony will play the Halloween show in Burlington and the NYC show on Nov. 1, and there’s an off-day on Sunday for which KD has a gig booked in Lansing, Michigan, with Beast in the Field and Hordes and Cruthu. It will be a good time and still a doable drive to Cleveland the next day. There’s a lot I’m looking forward to seeing, never having been to Chicago or Minneapolis, Grand Rapids or Pittsburgh, and a lot of familiar terrain for me as well. That will be a big change from earlier this year, and I’ve spent some time the last few days wondering if the rounded tops of the Appalachians will hold the same visual appeal as the pointed Rockies did in February, considering I grew up between them.
I’ll find out and let you know when I know. I leave here in three hours or so to head to New York. I’ll be crashing with KD vocalist Steve Murphy tonight, then tomorrow we pick up Jim Pitts, who’s driving once again — it was thought I’d do some road-time as well and may yet, but there’s something stupid with the rental company and my insurance that needs ironing out because they want to charge extra or some shit; I fucking hate paperwork — and the rest of the band and start the drive west. I expect a lot of Route 80 in the next 36 hours, but consider myself fortunate to have been asked along again by the band and am looking forward to watching them play each night on this run.
No, I haven’t packed yet. I haven’t even showered yet, if you want to know the truth, and I still need to charge the camera battery so I have it ready to go, but what the hell. If it happened on time, it wouldn’t be rock and roll.
Here is the full routing for the tour. If you’re planning to hit one of these shows, please say hi. I’ll hope to see you out there.
10/23 Chicago, Il Reggies*
10/24 Minneapolis, MN Mill City Nights*
10/25 Grand Rapids, MI Pyramid Scheme*
10/26 Lansing, MI, Ave Cafe^
10/27 Cleveland, OH , House of Blues*
10/28 Pittsburgh, PA, Mr Smalls*
10/29 Baltimore, MD, Soundstage Baltimore*
10/30 Phildelphia, PA, Johnnie Brendas*
10/31 Burlington, VT, Arts Riot#
11/1 NYC, Gramercy Theater#
11/2 Providence, RI, The Met*
* w Pentagram, Radio Moscow, Bang
^ w Beast in the Field, Cruthu, Hordes
# w Pentagram, Blood Ceremony, Bang
Posted in Reviews on October 20th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
It was madness, I tell you. Utter madness. Madness from which there was no escape, unless you went outside, which if you were me you didn’t want to do. A five-band Saturday night bill at Ralph’s Rock Diner in Worcester with Faces of Bayon — who as I understand it don’t literally run the place, but show up there often enough that one might get that impression — Clamfight and Wizard Eye up from Philly and Conclave, who as they put it were a “new band with the same old guys” opening, it was an evening to settle in and just let the steamroller run you down because, quite frankly, it was going to whether you wanted or not. Gwar, Life of Agony and a bunch of other bands were playing at The Palladium down the way, and that probably had some impact on the overall draw, but people came upstairs and milled about the venue throughout the night, a birthday party downstairs and balloons with “Over The Hill” on them getting a chuckle out of me on my way by.
Ralph’s at this point I consider to be a pretty well kept secret. I’ve yet to see a band there and not have the sound hold up. The room is open, the ceiling high enough to let amps breathe, the stage is the right height for it. There are stools at the bar if you want to take a load off for a minute, and the lighting — though it can change from band to band — is better than every room I’ve been to in Boston save perhaps for the Middle East Downstairs, which is also a venue that holds at least three times as many people. Were Worcester a more major urban center, Ralph’s is probably the kind of place people from elsewhere would’ve heard of, a spot that could be in league with Brooklyn’s The Acheron if not the Vitus bar, or someplace like Johnny Brenda‘s in Philly, minus the balcony. I dig it, in other words, and enjoy seeing bands there. For being maybe 75 minutes from me where Boston is about an hour and Providence about 45 minutes, I’ve so far found it’s worth the trip.
The flyer said five bucks for five bands. I paid seven as the door and it should’ve cost more than twice that. Here’s how this one went down:
As I understand it, it was Conclave‘s second show, but true to their “same old guys” declaration, the members of the band have been around. Bassist/vocalist Jerry Orne counts the due-for-a-reunion Warhorse in his pedigree, and guitarist Jeremy Kibort is his bandmate in once-and-again death metallers Desolate. Completed by drummer Dan Blomquist, Conclave played doom like death metallers often do. Even before you get to harsh vocals or anything like that, you can hear it in the precision of the changes, in some of the angularity of their approach. Blomquist‘s kit and Kibort‘s guitar were a dead giveaway, but for being a new band, they clearly knew their way around a doom riff, and it was easy to get a sense of the balance of harshness and groove they were shooting for, the lack of pretense at the heart of their presentation, and their penchant for periodically working in faster tempo shifts, as on “Walk the Earth (No Longer)” or the set closer “Black Lines,” which seems likely to also feature on their forthcoming debut EP, Breaking Ground. And so they were.
Bedroom Rehab Corporation
I wondered if it had been a month since the last time I saw Connecticut’s Bedroom Rehab Corporation while bassist/vocalist Adam Wujtewicz and drummer Meghan Killimade set up their gear. Yes, it had — just over a month, in fact. Still close enough that they were fresh on the brain, though. Their set had a couple new songs to go with “Basilosaurus” from their Red over Red debut long-player (review here). They’ll record in January, and I’ll look forward to what comes out of that for 2015, but the primary impression in watching them at Ralph’s, which is also where I first saw them over the summer, was much the same, in how completely their live show outclasses their studio material. They’ve got their work cut out for them in translating the energy they bring to the stage — the consuming, noisy sensibility in both of their approaches, the variety of tone and gruff vocals of Wujtewicz — but Justin Pizzoferrato, who also helmed the debut, should be able to capture it with the right balance of rawness and clarity. At Ralph’s, they were playing the second night of an NY/MA weekender with Clamfight and Wizard Eye, and it was clear the company they were keeping was pushing them to give it their all on stage.
Sometimes there’s a band — and I’m talking about Wizard Eye here — and they’re the right band for their time and place. They fit right in there. That was Wizard Eye as the centerpiece act in the lineup of five in Worcester. Their grooves smoother than Bedroom Rehab Corporation, more stoned out than even the newer Clamfight material — give me a minute, I’ll get there — the Philly trio rolled out fuzz and heavy with the assured vibe of seasoned veterans. They’re not a new band, formed in 2007, but with one record out it would be easy to walk into a Wizard Eye set and be surprised at how much they have their shit together on stage. I knew what was coming, but new songs “Flying/Falling,” “Phase Return” and “Drowning Day” set in well with the promise of a follow-up to 2010’s Orbital Rites, from which “C.O.C.,” “Psychonaut” and “Gravebreath” were aired, guitarist/vocalist Erik Caplan trading out guitar solos for theremin, which added noisy edge to the Iommic groove and stoner-because-stoner vibe the three-piece got across. That second album may yet be a little ways off, but from what I’ve heard it’ll be worth the wait.
There are few things I’ll argue with less than watching Clamfight play. Up from Philly and sharing what I’m sure was a mightily dudely van with the Wizard Eye cats, Clamfight were primed to destroy as always, but opening and closing with new songs, they pulled away from the riffy thrash with which I tend to associate them, driving toward a more classic-rocking — and, pivotally, more dynamic — take. I knew they were growing, but they brought into relief just how far their progression was pushing them, or vice versa, and as satisfying as it was to see them tear into the title-track from their second record, I vs. the Glacier, with drummer Andy Martin roaring while lead guitarist Sean McKee tried to shake his cranium loose by headbanging it off while alternately facing and not facing the crowd, guitarist Joel Harris locked into a swaggering kind of waltz and bassist Louis Koble nestled into foundational grooves behind, it was even better to watch them come out from behind all that assault and volume and still have both the performance and songwriting hold up as they branched out. I anxiously await the chance to hear their new stuff properly recorded.
Faces of Bayon
It did not seem to me that Faces of Bayon had a particularly easy task in following Clamfight, but ultimately the Fitchburg trio were on such a different wavelength that by the time they were about 30 seconds into their set, it was apples and oranges. It’s been over two years since the last (and first) time I saw guitarist/vocalist Matt Smith, bassist Ron Miles and drummer Mike Lenihan. Smith threatened a second album that night to follow-up 2011’s debut, Heart of the Fire (review here), but one has yet to surface. It wasn’t mentioned at Ralph’s that I heard, but Faces of Bayon‘s blend of stoner and death-doom impulses was a stirring reminder of why I’d been looking forward to such a thing. Riffs came slow and patient, Miles subdued on the right side of the stage while Lenihan throttled his skull-covered drums and Smith – also a former member of Warhorse – gurgled out tales of woe. Some clean singing added Euro-style drama to the proceedings, and they finished with a deathly cover of Pentagram‘s “All Your Sins,” which was shouted out to photographer Hillarie Jason, who had rolled in presumably after the Gwar show ended. By then, it was well past 1AM, but some riffs get better the later they come.
The highways were basically clear on the way home, a couple cops pulling over a couple out-of-state-plate types as I streamed past with “Oh yeah I’ve been there” empathy. Got in a little before 3AM and called it a night on the quick, once again reveling in how overjustified the trip had been.
Posted in Reviews on October 15th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Especially listening to them one into the next, it’s hard not to try to string a narrative between Ice Dragon‘s albums The Burl, the Earth, the Aether (2010), The Sorrowful Sun (2011) and Tome of the Future Ancients (2012). All three — plus side-project Tentacle‘s 2013 sophomore offering, Ingot Eye– have been given a sturdy jewel case CD treatment from Canada’s PRC Music, each with a four-panel liner with the original covers plus lyrics, recording info and/or other art, and right away the intent feels archival, the label having stepped in to release these albums to give them some form outside the crowded nebula of their digital incarnations. To my knowledge, the only one of these three Ice Dragon records to have been pressed at all was The Sorrowful Sun, which Acid Punx released on tape alongside the Boston band’s 2007 self-titled debut (review here), but either way, these feel official and the ability to hold them and explore their art and liner notes gives each one that much more of its own personality. Ice Dragon have taken to putting out new music at such a prolific rate, sometimes it can be hard to keep up.
All the more reason to explore the releases individually, then, since they each have something different to offer, as has proven a big part of the appeal of Ice Dragon‘s work these last few years. We’ll start at, or at least near, the beginning:
The Burl, the Earth, the Aether (2010)
Their second. Working as the trio of bassist Joe, guitarist Carter and drummer/vocalist Ron, Ice Dragon began a run with The Burl, the Earth, the Aether that’s still going on. To date, they’ve released nine albums in the four years since, not to mention singles and splits and side-projects, but more than just the quantity of their output, the standout is the quality of it, and The Burl, the Earth, the Aether stands as a beginning point there as well. Comprised of eight tracks totaling in a 53-minute runtime, the album boasts the classic doom of “Squares inside Squares” and “The Watcher,” recorded with the raw and blown-out sensibilities of US black metal, but still riff-led in a stonerly tradition, and while Ron gets into some rougher shouts on “The Watcher” and “Alucard” — the Castlevania reference there fits with the record’s dark intent — far more prevalent are the echoing howls that resonate from the album’s overarching murk. In “Spellpouch,” “Meddoe” and “Winged Prophet,” Ice Dragon show their propensity for working with acoustics, and in the context of what they’ve done since, moving into psychedelic, psych-pop and folk influences, the ultra-quiet finish of “Winged Prophet” seems like a forebear of future adventurousness, while the ultra-distorted grandiosity of 11-minute closer “Aquageddon” and its blend of malevolent swirl and lumbering riffage with a slow descent into abrasive noise come across like a direct line to what Tome of the Future Ancients would have in store two years later.
The Sorrowful Sun (2011)
Both The Sorrowful Sun itself, which divides its concise 38 minutes into two roughly equal halves, and its Adam Burke artwork seem to be begging for a vinyl release, but no less on CD, what Ice Dragon achieves on their third album is a standout in their catalog. Aesthetically, there’s a cohesion and a confidence in the presentation of what just a year prior seemed to be experimentation, the swing of songs like “Interspecies Communication” and “Flowers” having solidified into the beer-soaked garage doom on which much of their current take remains based. Likewise, they begin to explore folkish material on “Light Years” — underscored by some righteous bass fuzz — and add several interludes in “Dusk,” and the intro “Sunrise” to give a more complete album-concept feel. The obscure psychedelia of “Poseidon’s Grasp,” with its mix-consuming leads, the drearier churn of “White Tusks” and the subdued exploration of “Near Sun, on Earth” make for as satisfying a three-track run as any Ice Dragon have yet conjured as they round out The Sorrowful Sun, the three-piece not only engaging a multitude of styles but successfully commanding all of them so that the songs flow well one into the next even as the sprawl grows wider. Particularly with a few years of hindsight, one can hear a lot being figured out on The Sorrowful Sun that seems like a foundation for where Ice Dragon would go creatively, but like its predecessor and even more than its predecessor, it stands on its own accomplishments as well and continues to resonate even three years later. If you needed a starting point for the band, The Sorrowful Sun might be it.
Tome of the Future Ancients (2012)
Including Tome of the Future Ancients, Ice Dragon released four full-length albums in 2012, and to date it was their most productive year, also resulting in Dream Dragon (tape review here), greyblackfalconhawk (discussed here) and the moody Dead Friends and Angry Lovers, initially released as a side-project called Slow Heart but later brought into the Ice Dragon fold. Of the bunch, Tome of the Future Ancients is by far the most expansive, and the intent of the 12-track/75-minute offering feels clearly bent toward the overwhelming. On CD, it is a beast. Half the songs top seven minutes, and whether it’s “The Black Book of Hours” or the opening “Manuscript 408,” Ice Dragon seem to be taking the drone lessons of Earth and applying them to their own brand of doom, thudding and struggling with various impulses along the way, be it the where-did-this-come-from boogie-to-noise onslaught of “Illuminations Foretold” or the excruciating plod of “Night” or the sitar-laced 10-minute blowout of “The Bearded Mage.” What unites the material is the fact that it’s all over the place, but “tome” is right as Ice Dragon prove that fuckall still rules the day on their fourth album. Relatively peaceful psychedelics on “Adoration of Ra” and non-abrasive experimental guitar sweetness on “Infinite Requiem” round out, but the campaign to get there is wearying, the trio merciless in crafting a path that seems to cut further and further into a clouded abyss of distortion and foreboding, where even the drone-noise of “Astronomical Union” pushes downward into a pervasive void of silence. It is lung-filling doom.
Tentacle, Ingot Eye (2013)
Like the manifestation of all of Ice Dragon‘s darkest tendencies, Tentacle ooze forth four tracks of abrasive, cavernous regression on their second outing, Ingot Eye. Originally released early in 2013, it’s another two-sider folded into a linear mass on the PRC CD — the back cover divides the songs, each “side” starting with a 10-plus-minute monster — and what it shares in common with Ice Dragon aside from the lineup and raw vibe is its immersiveness. As much as Ice Dragon push and pull in various directions, Tentacle swallows you whole, and Ingot Eye‘s four pieces — “The Blackness of My Soul will be so Great as to Make the Night Weep” (11:26), “Dull Ache (I Hate Myself Today)” (4:59), “(Revenge) Dust for Blood” (12:46) and “Our Serpent Mother’s Kiss” (9:53) — comprise a lumbering mass. The second cut, “Dull Ache (I Hate Myself Today),” is the only real point of letup, taking on a more shuffling groove and cleaner vocal, but “Our Serpent Mother’s Kiss” arrives at a downer moment of accessibility as well, the its vocals buried deep in gleefully farty low-end and preceded by devolved noise that’s emblematic of how unfriendly these guys can get when they feel like it. What distinguishes Ingot Eye most from Ice Dragon‘s output is how much Tentacle turns the band’s ambitions on their head. And then stomps that head into a muddy goo from which no light can escape.
Ice Dragon continue a multifaceted progression. This year, in addition to a split with Space Mushroom Fuzz (info here) and other singles, they’ve issued two full-lengths, Seeds from a Dying Garden (review here) and Loaf of Head (review here). PRC has a preorder available for a CD edition of Dream Dragon, so it seems safe to say that if the label and the band wish to continue their affiliation, there will be fodder for releases for years to come.
Posted in Reviews on October 6th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Last time I was in New Bedford — also, incidentally, the first time I was there — was to see William Shatner‘s one-man show over the winter. This would be a different trip. No Problemo is a bar/taqueria that puts on two-band gigs on the regular. They clear out tables on the restaurant side and bands set up in the corner in dim restaurant light, playing through a P.A. set up for the occasion that at least on this night was mostly loud enough to match wits with the bands’ amps. Elder has played there a handful of times as I understand it, and on a chilly, autumnal Friday night, it was Boston’s Kind and Brooklyn’s The Golden Grass kicking off a two-show weekender that would continue/conclude the next night at Brooklyn’s The Acheron. A late start for a cool bill, but good times all around as I think both bands surprised the assembled crowd.
Down the block, this or that pub punched out digital wub-wub as Kind loaded in gear to set up and get the show started. Notable immediately for the pedigree of their lineup — vocalist Craig Riggs of Roadsaw, the ubiquitous Darryl Shepard of The Scimitar, Blackwolfgoat, Milligram, etc., etc. on guitar, bassist Tom Corino of Rozamov and drummer Matt Couto of Elder – Kind as their own entity were somewhat different than when I last encountered them at Ralph’s in Worcester (review here). Part of that, no doubt, is owed to the difference of the two rooms themselves, but even from one show to the next, it was easy enough to hear their material solidifying, song processes emerging. They’re still just getting going, but Corino and Couto locked in dense grooves as Shepard, looping his riffs in a sort of bridge between Blackwolfgoat‘s experimental prog/drone and more straightforward songcraft, signaled changes in their weighted jams.
I was reminded of the Kyuss flavor I’d gotten from them last time, though what came across more was the chemistry taking shape among the four players. Riggs and Shepard have been playing in bands a lot longer than Corino and Couto, were bandmates during Roadsaw‘s original run in the ’90s, so to find them working well together is no great surprise, but like any group who decides they’re going to make music together, there’s a certain amount of getting to know each other creatively and on stage that has to happen before they can really be cohesive, and Kind are making their way smoothly through that process. A skull-consuming wash of effects and floor-rumbling low-end doesn’t seem to hurt their cause, or didn’t at No Problemo, anyway. There were times where Riggs‘ voice seemed swallowed up by the distortion around it — echoing reverb laced in only added to that feel — but that only added to the atmosphere of the set overall.
Once they started playing after a quick sound-check, it didn’t take long for The Golden Grass to reinforce why their self-titled debut (review here) had been the soundtrack to my summer. Outside, New England brimmed with cold it-rained-all-day wind and the looming threat of winter’s lockdown ahead, but with smiles on their faces as they ran through “Please Man” and “Stuck on a Mountain” from the album, it was like May all over again. I hadn’t seen the good-time-boogie bringers since before the record came out, and it was cold and rainy then too, but the months since only seemed to bring them tighter together. The material from the record — the two aforementioned, plus “One More Time,” the jammy “Wheels” and “Tornado” from their initial 7″ — they had down pat, guitarist Michael Rafalowich and drummer Adam Kriney splitting vocal duties and making difficult harmonies sound easy, laughing at their own shuffle while bassist Joe Noval, who won the “shirt of the night” prize uncontested, seemed to pepper in extra fills that built even on what appeared on the album. Accessible to the point of friendliness, they clearly worked hard to project the positive mood in their stage presence as much as in the songs themselves.
Two new cuts were aired, first “The Pilgrim” and then “A Curious Case,” which closed the set. Both are taken from a new 7″ to be released by Svart to coincide with their first European tour next month. “The Pilgrim” started out with a drum jam for which both Rafalowich and Noval took up tambourines and started off slower only to pick up for a motor-groove solo section that went well coming out of and going back into the hook, and I’d be surprised if “A Curious Case” didn’t wind up on their second album, with its sunshiny ’70s rock vibe and steady mid-paced roll. I’m interested to hear if they mess around with tempo a little more in their next batch of songs, if they can add some speed to that boogie and still keep it smiling, but both “A Curious Case” and “The Pilgrim” augured well for where The Golden Grass might be headed. Having never heard either song before, I left the show with the former stuck in my head, which is never a bad sign.
I know they played with Ancient Sky in Brooklyn, but even just with the two bands, I was glad I showed up for this one. Not much light for extra photos, there are a couple of The Golden Grass after the jump. Thanks for reading.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 2nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Twelve days might not be much advance notice for the locking up the good china, but it’s what we’ve got to work with ahead of Ripple Music reissuing the 2012 self-titled debut from Boston heavy punkers White Dynomite. The fivesome — high in the running for “Dudes Who Took ‘Sharp Dressed Man’ Most Literally” — are reportedly putting together new material for a sophomore outing to come in 2015, unless I’m crazy and didn’t actually see that somewhere, probably Thee Facebooks. Anyway, a lot of what you need to know is right there on the cover, so I won’t delay the news with a lot of whathaveyou.
Goes like this:
WHITE DYNOMITE to reissue self-titled debut via Ripple Music
Ripple Music is proud to announce that Boston’s riff-heavy rockers WHITE DYNOMITE are set to release the vinyl re-issue of their 2012 self-titled album in October. The reissue will be released on limited edition black and colored vinyl as well as digitally via bandcamp.
Release Dates: North America: Oct 14, 2014 Europe/UK: Oct 13, 2014
Born of boredom and bourbon, WHITE DYNOMITE are considered gentlemen of experience and true Rock City pedigree. Featuring ex-members of ROADSAW, LAMONT and WRECKING CREW, this five man band has a shared love for all things loud, fast and loose. There’s more to their story than just the suits.
WHITE DYNOMITE call Boston home but their brand of action requires a map. Jump into their jalopy for a trip thru the streets of NYC with The Ramones and The Dictators blaring thru the deck. Then shoot across the pond to London for a holiday party with Slade and T.Rex. Get back behind the wheel and swerve left into Sweden thru Hellacopters and Turbonegro country. Make a quick stop in AC/DC’s Aussie garage before bouncing down Detroit’s back alleys with The Stooges and MC5 riding shotgun. WHITE DYNOMITE do it all in one night.
Say what you will about the white polyester suits. Throw away the cheap shades. You can even make them bathe and shave. It won’t matter. WHITE DYNOMITE have enough punk muscle and rock ‘n’ roll heart to deliver the dangerous goods loaded, rolling and exploding in a cloud of smoke.
Posted in audiObelisk on September 25th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
If you didn’t know, this Saturday, Sept. 27, is Cassette Store Day, a tape-minded answer to the hugely successful Record Store Day initiative supporting independent music retailers. I’m sure you did know, because you’re on top of it like that, but more to the point, Allston’s Phantom Glue have a special release coming out to mark the occasion. Working with Negative Fun Records, they’ll release Angels of Meth, a four-track demo collection taken from their early going when they worked under that moniker.
A lot of what works today about Phantom Glue was present in their sound back then — their blend of raw punk, sludge and metal — but of course the demo material is less solidified than the band would become by the time they got around to releasing their 2009 self-titled debut (review here) or A War of Light Cones (review here) last year. Their aesthetic was plenty assured by the first album and refined as much as something so bruising can be called refined on the second. The Angels of Meth demo has the elements there, but it’s a nastier churn and a dirtier distortion lurching out of their amps. Of course, this has an appeal entirely of its own on a song like “Tazed,” which I’m happy to have the chance to host for streaming ahead of the demo’s release.
The track hasn’t been completely unavailable or anything. If you’re willing to dig through the morass that MySpace has become, you can find it hidden somewhere in Phantom Glue‘s profile. This, however, is much easier (and higher quality), so I’ll go ahead and encourage you to just press play below instead. Angels of Meth will be the first time this material has been physically pressed as well.
Track and release info follow, courtesy of Negative Fun. Enjoy:
For all intents and purposes, Phantom Glue is Angels of Meth. The band was birthed by Matt Oates and has existed in various states since the mid-2000s.
The band was known as Angels of Meth up through the recording of the Phantom Glue S/T’d record. It wasn’t until after the recording process was completed for the Phantom Glue’s s/t record that the band decided to change the name.
This is the 1st recorded output from the band, which has never existed in a physical format until now, and further illustrates the dramatic development and shift in sound from release to release.
Posted in Reviews on September 24th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
There was one ticket left when I arrived at the Great Scott in Allston to see Earth on tour supporting their new album, Primitive and Deadly. Much to the venue’s credit, the show was sold out but not oversold, Plenty warm up front, but in back by the end of the night one could claim some semblance of personal space if desired and still see Seattle’s droniest on stage. Doors were at nine with just two bands on the bill — Earth and fellow Seattleites King Dude opening — and it would be over an hour before anyone went on. So, if you were looking to drink or, say, stare at inane bullshit on your phone, there was plenty of time to do it.
In the studio, King Dude is a solo-project of Book of Black Earth guitarist/vocalist TJ Cowgill, but live he led a trio dressed in a look that might appear in a catalog as “Heartland Gestapo,” matching black button-downs with collar pins, black pants, short hair calling to mind Baptist righteousness and fascist regimentation as was likely the intent as they played in front of a backdrop of a painted-black and tattered American flag. The songs were Americana-derived neofolk, tales of fire and brimstone and drinking out of some alternate universe USA, guitar, keys, cello, drums. I’m not sure where Cowgillgot his Southern accent, but he was enough of a charmer on stage to get two whiskys, one bought from the bar and a mini someone else had apparently snuck in. Well enough earned.
If you’ll permit me a minute to wax critical, one of the most respectable aspects of Earth‘s long tenure — their first demo surfaced in 1990 and but for a stretch between 1997-2003, they’ve been going since — is the relentlessness of their pursuit. Go see Earth for one album and then another and you’ll get two different shows. Guitarist Dylan Carlson, as the founder and driving force, has in the last decade built and continued to refine a legacy that seems no more solidified now than it was nine years ago when they released their landmark comeback full-length, Hex; Or Printing in the Infernal Method. It is a constant work in progress, shifting and remaking itself each time out. And perhaps because their music can be so raw — the repetition of riff cycles, steady drum plod of Adrienne Davies and the steadiness of their instrumental flow — that progression is all the more evocative and encompassing.
As they took the stage at the Great Scott, Carlson provided the news that Primitive and Deadly (review here), which came out Sept. 1 on Southern Lord, took only a week to become their highest-selling release to date. He thanked the crowd and then began the set with “Badger’s Bane” and “Even Hell has its Heroes” from that record, the album’s weightier production translating excellently live through Carlson‘s tone, Davies‘ swinging-arm march and the fills of bassist Don McGreevy, also of Master Musicians of Bukkake, who doesn’t play on the new full-length but took part in 2008’s The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull (discussed here) and had no trouble making the parts his own or fitting in alongside Davies as the rhythmic complement to Carlson‘s swaying guitar work.
Of course, a major distinguishing factor of Primitive and Deadly is the inclusion of vocals — Mark Lanegan and Rabi Shabeen Qazi (Rose Windows) guest — and while he had a mic on stage for thanking the crowd, they kept “There is a Serpent Coming” instrumental, that song coming out of “Old Black” from 2011’s Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I (review here) and moving into “The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull,” which Carlson noted was their prior highest-seller and especially popular with female fans. I wondered how or why that might be the case as Carlson, Davies and McGreevy continued their droneout, the groove of the older material hitting not quite as heavy as that of the newer, reminding that whatever weight might reside in their tones or evocations, Earth is still far from being a “metal” band.
The new album’s opener, “Torn by the Fox of the Crescent Moon” served as the first installment of a closing duo with “Ouroboros is Broken” as the finisher, Carlson noting that they were the band’s newest and oldest songs, respectively. They paired together well, with the latter being somewhere between the reinvented textures of its appearance on 2007’s Hibernaculum EP and the original from 1991’s Extra-Capsular Extraction. Whatever version it was, it made a rolling cap on a set that didn’t so much celebrate the entire scope of Earth‘s career — at some point, particularly as they’re hinging on their 25th year, one imagines a retrospective live set of one form or another will happen — but emphasized the vitality of the work they’re doing now, their continued relevance and expanding influence. Given the expanse of time they’ve covered and the years and decades their growth has encompassed, it’s even easier to appreciate the restlessness underlying their evolution and the irony that so much of their reputation is for the stillness in their material. Still maybe, but never stagnant.
I had no line of sight to Davies, but there are a couple more pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.
Posted in Reviews on September 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Of the more-than-several local shows I’ve been to since moving to New England now more than a year ago, this one had probably the strongest front-to-back bill. It was Elder‘s return gig to US soil. They and Rozamov and Summoner would head south the next day to appear Brooklyn’s Uninvited festival, and partnered with Worcester four-piece SET, it was night at the Middle East‘s upstairs room that highlighted some of the best Boston’s next-gen has to offer. Phrases like “all killer, no filler” were invented for evenings such as these.
To put a personal spin on it, I’ll say as well that it was a cap for me for my first year of living here. 13 months ago, I attended Elder‘s farewell at the Great Scott prior to their going on hiatus (Rozamov played that as well). I had lived in the area for barely two weeks, it was my first show in town as a resident. I was confused and uncomfortable in more than just that I’m-out-of-the-house kind of way. I’m not sure I’d have found the Middle East without the Maps on my phone, but at least when I got to Cambridge, I knew what to expect and where I might find parking. A work in progress, yes, but little things make a difference.
SET opened, and went on a couple minutes after 8:30, kicking off in raucous form. I wasn’t the only one who knew to show up early — upstairs at the Middle East isn’t a huge room, but it’s big enough that if you weren’t going to draw, it would look empty — and SET pulled a decent crowd. It was my third time seeing them behind shows at the Dragon’s Den (review here) and the Stoned Goat fest in Worcester (review here) and I was pleased to be more familiar with songs like “Valley of the Stone” and “Wolves behind the Sheep,” the balance of thrash and heavy rock within which threw down a heavy gauntlet for the other three bands to pick up. If they played it, I didn’t catch “Sacred Moon Cult,” the closer from their spring 2013 Valley of the Stone outing, but seeming to decide to do so off the cuff, they finished out with a convincing take on Pentagram‘s classic “Forever My Queen,” giving double-guitar thrust to the rawness of the original’s riffing.
In addition to being a strong bill, it was also fairly diverse within a heavy scope. That became apparent as Summoner, who played next, made ready to take the stage with both a sound and a character far disparate from that of SET, trading out that’s band’s harsher edge and grittier presence for smoother, more progressive heaviness. What the two bands had in common was a clear thread of tonal heft — Rozamov and Elder followed suit in that regard as well — but Summoner‘s influences, more in the Mastodon/Baroness vein, were spaced out wide enough from the preceding act that they were immediately distinguished. This was also the first I’d seen them since the release of their second album, 2013’s Atlantian, on Magnetic Eye Records, and while I knew from prior experience they delivered live, it was interesting to see them do so as a more mature, established outfit than they were late in 2012 when I caught them in New York.
They pummeled and stomped and dug themselves into their material neatly, clearly enjoying the process as well, guitarists AJ Peters and Joe Richner tilting their heads back across various leads and riffs while vocalist/bassist Chris Johnson kept a consistent, sincere smile across his face no matter how hard he also happened to be slamming the song at the time, and behind, drummer Scott Smith propelled their neo-metallic stomp. Much of what they played came from their 2012 debut, Phoenix, but “Horns of War” represented Atlantian well and “The Interloper” and “Winged Hessians” seemed to rouse no complaints from the increasingly full room there to watch them. When Rozamov went on, the trio would be a turn back toward darker, rawer vibes, but a propensity for big tones remained firm. I stood in front of bassist Tom Corino and could just about have swam through the density oozing out of the speaker cabinet.
It was a bit much, apparently, since part-way through the Rozamov set the bass cut out, leaving drummer Will Hendrix and guitarist/vocalist Matt Iacovelli to fill the time while the problem was discovered, analyzed and ultimately remedied. Blown tube. It didn’t take long, but Rozamov‘s dark, thickened-thrash had built a good head of steam by then and they essentially had to put their momentum back together from scratch. To their credit, they did. By the end of their set, which was a little longer than SET or Summoner‘s had been, it was easy to forget there had been an interruption at all. Much of their material seemed newer than 2013’s Of Gods and Flesh EP, and I’m not sure what they might have in the works, but I think the only Boston band I’ve seen more in the last year is Gozu, and I’ve yet to emerge from a Rozamov set less than impressed.
And Elder. Well, Elder are world-class at this point. They hadn’t played in the States since that farewell show last August, but they did a run of European gigs and their third album is reportedly in the can headed for a 2015 release. One might expect a band in their circumstance to be a little rusty — guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto all live in different states as well — but there wasn’t anything I could’ve asked from Elder‘s set it didn’t deliver, including a glimpse at their new stuff. The song “Compendium” from the new record was the only new one aired, the rest of what they played drawn from 2012’s stellar Spires Burn/Release EP (review here) and 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here), but it offered a sense of progression nonetheless, a forward motion in its central riff acting as a kind of launch point from which the trio boomeranged, pushing as far as they could before snapping back to the initial movement in the manner that has become as much a part of their style as Donovan‘s head-spinning bass fills or Couto‘s unmitigated swing.
To that, I’ll just note that, including this show, I’ve seen Couto play drums in three different bands/iterations in the last month — with Kindin Worcester, with Darryl Shepard‘s Blackwolfgoatin Allston, and here — and while those were a formative act and a sit-in jam, I think it’s still worth pointing out that with Elder, it was a different level of performance entirely. Locked in with Donovan and DiSalvo, he seemed decidedly in his element, and that goes for the other two members of Elder as well, the three of them air-tight on the expansive “Release” and Dead Roots Stirring‘s “Knot,” which rounded out the album and this set alike. It seemed we might get an encore, but I think venue curfew was a factor — it was getting on midnight, and it’s not like it was a Tuesday or anything — and the house lights came up in the universal sign of get-the-hell-out. I’d wanted to pick up a copy of Elder‘s Live at Roadburn, since I hear one or two of my photos is included, but it was packed over there and I had writing to do, so I split into the fall air to start the not-inconsiderable hike back to my car and home.
Posted in Reviews on September 17th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
There was a point during Black Cobra‘s set last night at T.T. the Bear’s Place in Cambridge at which I felt like my head had been swallowed by some gargantuan octogod out of a Lovecraft horror. Five bands deep into a five-band Tuesday, it was hard to stand up let alone make any attempt to keep up with Black Cobra‘s intensity, which has been outdoing rockers far more riotous than I for over a decade. They were headlining, playing last, of course, a show that might as well have been billed as a festival, with their tourmates Lo-Pan and local support from Lunglust, Hepatagua and Connecticut’s Sea of Bones. My first time at T.T. the Bear’s was going to give me plenty of opportunity to get to know it.
If you’re looking for it, it’s quite literally next to the Middle East, which I don’t suppose will be much help when they turn that whole complex into condos as they’re allegedly going to do sooner or later, likely working at Boston’s usual we’ll-get-there-in-200-years pace in a continued effort to destroy any sense of culture not directly related either to the higher education of its imported money-spending rich kids or the steadfast working class scoffery of its actual citizens. A whole town dedicated to telling itself to fuck off. It’s a good place to like sports, not a good place to try and open a bar. So it goes.
Despite a few circles around the block for parking, I was early. Sea of Bones were opening, so we’ll start there:
Sea of Bones
I was surprised Sea of Bones would start the show. Not because they’re a huge commercial band or anything, but because the Connecticut-based three-piece are so loud, I know that if I was another opening act on the bill, I wouldn’t want to follow them. Their brutal post-doom emanated from a formidable wall of cabinets as Mammoth in sound as in their brand, the company founded by Sea of Bones guitarist Tom Mucherino given a weighty endorsement by the band’s own tectonic force. The tension in their quiet stretches isn’t to be understated, but when Mucherino, bassist Gary Amedy and drummer Kevin Wigginton all crash in on the material from their 2013 two-disc sophomore outing, The Earth Wants us Dead (review here), all three adding their vocals to the assault, they’re quite frankly one of the heaviest acts I’ve ever seen. I spent the last $10 to my miserable name on the CD of The Earth Wants us Dead, and no regrets. An early laugh for the night was when, after two or three songs, they were informed they had five minutes left and ended the set because none of their material is that short. Right fucking on.
It was Hepatagua guitarist/vocalist Aaron Gray who reportedly brought the Black Cobra and Lo-Pan tour to town in the first place, and after seeing his duo’s former moniker, Automatic Death Pill, on shows more or less since I moved here, I was glad to finally get to see them play. The band is Gray and drummer Nate Linehan (ex-Anal Cunt, Fistula, Finisher, etc.), and they tapped into various heavy impulses, indulging a thrashy impulse here or there but mostly sticking to a steady groove. Gray‘s vocals leaned aggressive but weren’t necessarily a given as growls, and the chemistry between the two was clear on stage, Automatic Death Pill having gotten their start in 2010, and they seemed most at home in raw sludge. They don’t have anything recorded as yet — rumor is they’ll address that this winter — but it’ll be interesting to find out how or if their material solidifies in the studio or keeps the edge with which they presented it at T.T. the Bear’s. Either way, I sincerely doubt this will be the last time I run into them, and they gave me something to look forward to for the next one.
A five-piece with Nicholas Wolf and Brad Macomber of The Proselyte (also Phantom Glue in the case of the former) on guitar and bass, respectively, Lunglust played that kind of dark hardcore that’s doom in its tone and metal in its fervor but still ready to toss in a breakdown every now and again. Drummer Reid Calkin had “You’re Shitty” emblazoned on the front of his kick, which didn’t seem very nice, but they were as tight as the style would require and five dudes’ worth of loud, guitarist Eric Lee in the dark on the far right of the stage and vocalist Jeff Sykes periodically stepping out onto the speakers in front of the stage to get further get his point across. No worries there. His t-shirt was the second logo sighting of the night for His Hero is Gone (Sea of Bones‘ Mucherino had a patch), and his disaffection bled into each cupped-mic growl. In terms of their basic sound, they weren’t really my thing, but they quickly showed why they were where they were on the bill and pummeled with speed, efficiency and viciousness, seeming to enjoy the violence every step of the way. I was glad no one in the crowd started throwing punches.
Going to see Lo-Pan is a no-brainer. Oh, Lo-Pan‘s coming through town? Do you have feet? Well, you better use those feet to march your ass over to wherever they’re gonna be and enjoy. With the release of Colossus, the hard-touring Columbus, Ohio, unit’s fourth album, impending, it seemed all the more reason to be there. “Regulus” from that album was aired, as well as the expansive “Eastern Seas” and “Vox” (track premiere here), and “Marathon Man” was the highlight of my night. They dipped back to 2011’s Salvador (review here) only once, for “Chichen Itza,” and otherwise the whole set was new material. That was the case for the most part as well when they played the Small Stone showcase next door at the Middle East, but I was glad to be more familiar with the songs this time around. On stage, they were much as ever — ridiculously tight and locked in, guitarist Brian Fristoein a universe comprised of his own sleek grooves while on the opposite side of the stage bassist Scott Thompson bangs his head like he’s trying to shake it off, up front, drummer Jesse Bartz slams his cymbals so hard they bite through your earplugs and in back, vocalist Jeff Martin offers soul-stirring command. I thought he was going to blow out the P.A. during “Vox,” but no equipment was damaged. Still, it was easy to tell how deep into this tour Lo-Pan were. Not quite halfway through the run with Black Cobra, they had their inside jokes going (Martin shouted the whole set out to Guy Fieri, the crowd “didn’t need to know why”) and road eyes on, barely seeing the place, focused and intent on the work they were doing in it, looking right past, all straightforward drive and momentum build.
That made them an excellent lead-in for Black Cobra. I had wondered how it might be going from Lo-Pan‘s more heavy rocking style to Black Cobra‘s unadulterated thrash bludgeonry, but what the two bands have in common is they’re both killer live acts. In the case of Black Cobra, they’re now a decade removed from the release of their first EP, and the duo of Jason Landrian (guitar/vocals) and Rafa Martinez (drums) have dedicated most of that time to perfecting their craft on the road. The short version is they sound like it. I’ve already told you I was beat to hell by the time they went on. Black Cobra, on the other hand, were a torrent of adrenaline, Martinez and Landrian pounding out selections from their catalog starting with “One Nine” from 2006’s debut full-length, Bestial, and including highlights from their most recent outing, 2011’s Invernal (review here), like “Avalanche,” the righteously chugging “Corrosion Fields” and overwhelmingly extreme “Obliteration.” Like Lo-Pan before them, they sounded like a band who’s been on tour for about two weeks, dead set on what they want to do and how they want to do it. They’re about due for a new record as well, and I was hoping for some new material, but most of what they played came from Invernal, though they included the title-track from 2009’s Chronomega and closed out with “Five Daggers” from 2007’s Feather and Stone, Landrian seeming to take an opportunity between each cut to roar out a primal dominance and encourage the audience to join him in it. They did. No encore at the end, but nothing left to say. The house lights came on quick and those of us still in the room collected our well-demolished consciousnesses and shuffled out. For what it’s worth, Black Cobra looked like they could’ve kept playing with no problem.
I got pulled over on my way home, received a $55 ticket on a back road for my car not being inspected. My car has over 205,000 miles on it. The cop was visibly disappointed I wasn’t drunk, and I was visibly disappointed he existed. Another police vehicle pulled around and sat in a nearby parking lot and I thought about asking Officer McDickhead if he needed backup to tell me my license plate light was out, if maybe he didn’t want to break out the military surplus assault vehicles, but didn’t. He told me have a good night and I grunted at him and rolled up my window. Fucker. Worst part about it is cops are younger than me at this point. Got in somewhere around 2AM.