Elder, Lore: At Perihelion

Posted in Reviews on February 19th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

elder lore

There are really two approaches one might take in considering Lore, the third full-length from Massachusetts trio Elder, released in the US by Armageddon Shop and in Europe on Stickman Records. The short way is to say they’ve turned from the deep-toned heavy psych style of their 2011 sophomore outing, Dead Roots Stirring (review here), and used that as a basis for a more clear-headed, progressive approach to riffing. The long way is to sit and map out every turn Lore‘s five included tracks make over the course of their combined 59 minutes, every change, every moment where sprawl meets crunch, every soundscape, melodic impression, rhythmic pivot, etc. Frankly, neither approach does the album justice. The former cheats the songs — “Compendium” (10:39), “Legend” (12:31), “Lore” (15:57), “Deadweight” (9:27) and “Spirit at Aphelion” (10:32) — of their due consideration on an individual level, and the latter wrongly discounts the impression of Lore as a whole, which is how, despite its 2LP length, it is best experienced. One hopes, then, to find some middle ground, as the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo (also keys), bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto have done on the Justin Pizzoferrato-produced outing, which follows 2012’s two-song Spires Burn/Release EP (review here) and seems to be pushing further along those stylistic lines. That’s no surprise. Each Elder release has built on the last — Dead Roots Stirring was a leap from the band’s stoner-riffed 2008 self-titled debut (interview here), released on MeteorCity, and Lore is likewise a leap from that second album — and it seems that if they don’t have something to say, Elder aren’t interested in putting out a record every year just for the sake of doing so. Their musical progression is that much easier to trace for the stretches between outings, and Lore, as was Spires Burn/Release, as was Dead Roots Stirring, as was Elder, is their defining work to date. A landmark.

Those who worshiped at the altar of Dead Roots Stirring might be surprised on first listen at just how clean Lore sounds, the beginning guitar taps of “Compendium” a clarion both of the proggier feel that pervades and of the clarity of the production that follows suit. It’s not, however, as simple as the band jumping ship from one style to another — much of DiSalvo‘s style of riffing remains the same, and Donovan‘s basslines still circle around the guitar only to land back at the root just at the right moment, and Couto‘s swing and crash is as prevalent as ever — it’s just what they do with these signature elements that results in the impression of growth. In “Compendium”‘s airy midsection, in the snare work under the guitar solo in the second half of “Legend,” in “Lore”‘s post-break Mellotron-inclusive triumphant swell of crash cymbal, guitar and bass, and in the energetic, circular riffing to which it leads, in “Deadweight”‘s atmospheric opening and more straightforward, linear framework, and in the running acoustic lines that begin “Spirit at Aphelion,” one finds some standout factor or moment in each of Lore‘s individual pieces, but the evolution of the band is as evident in how well songs feed into each other as it is in the songs themselves. On a linear format (CD, digital), Lore is an encompassing front-to-back listen, and while the side-flips of a 2LP allow for more focus on each track — not to mention a fuller, frame-worthy view of Adrian Dexter‘s stunning artwork — being carried along the record’s sundry builds and cascades uninterrupted is a markedly satisfying way to experience it. The ground they cover across “Compendium,” the shiver-down-the-spine launch and turns of “Legend” and “Lore” — each longer than the last until the 16-minute title-track takes hold as the centerpiece and most expansive inclusion — would be enough for most full-lengths on its own, let alone the building riffs of “Deadweight” and some of the leftover Colour Haze influence they show in that track, or the stomping pre-fadeout finale “Spirit at Aphelion” provides, its deep-mixed keyboard line (that might be plucked guitar) the theme holding it all together.

elder (Photo by Harry Gould Harvey)

Still, in taking Lore as a whole, it’s hard to discount the singular achievement of the title-track and the textures DiSalvoDonovan and Couto craft across its span, from its immediately heavy opening, melodic verses, through the guitar-guided ambient break in the middle and the heights to which they build from the ground up in the second half, the song pulsing back to life at about 10 minutes in with a wash of mellotron, crash and guitar, before heading off at a full-run an on instrumental psych-prog exploration, topped here by a solo, shifting there into single hits before unfurling the massive-sounding, insistent riff that provides the apex before acoustic and electric guitar intertwine over the fadeout. Its transitions alone make for a remarkable accomplishment, but how well the song flows between its parts easily stands in for how well Lore, the album, shifts between its movements, “Deadweight” picking up from that fadeout quietly at first to hypnotize for two minutes before kicking into the lead-topped introduction of its meaty verse riff. After “Compendium,” “Legend” and “Lore,” it would be easy to think of “Deadweight” as a stylistic pullback before “Spirit at Aphelion”‘s early psych-folkish resonance — an impulse that one hopes Elder will continue to build on — and later adrenaline surge of a finish, but it’s not. It’s really just a kind of introductory track those who’ve made their way past “Lore” and onto side D know that Elder‘s story isn’t as simple as a phrase like “gone prog” could encapsulate. Their argument for a slot at Duna Jam? Maybe. If so, it’s a solid case. Either way, Lore brings new context to Elder within heavy rock, as they emerge not so much as a band taking influence from others, but one whose shifts, flow and songwriting are all the more dizzying for the sense of control behind them. Anyone still longing for a short version might take comfort in “Elder have matured,” but the truth of Lore is more than that, and the album distinguishes the trio from just about everybody in American heavy one might otherwise consider their peers, standing as their most individualized statement to date and one that seems poised to have a lasting influence of its own in years to come. For now, I’ve no doubt it will be counted among 2015’s best albums. Recommended.

Elder, “Compendium”

Elder on Thee Facebooks

Elder on Bandcamp

Armageddon Shop

Stickman Records

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Live Review: All Them Witches, The Well and These Wild Plains in Cambridge, MA, 02.06.15

Posted in Reviews on February 9th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

all them witches 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I won’t lie and say it was easy to get off my couch Friday night and head into snowy-sidewalked Cambridge, but it was worth it. The city was running thick with unfreezable undergraduate blood and upstairs at the Middle East, All Them Witches were headlining a merciful three-band bill with The Well and These Wild Plains for support. It was the second time the Nashville four-piece made a stop at the venue, having come through last fall on tour with Windhand and sold the place out. Not to be understated is their months-only jump to the top of the bill, and not to be ignored were their compatriots in The Well, the Austin-based trio whose RidingEasy Records full-length, Samsara (review here), was my pick for the best debut of 2014. The three-piece’s sometimes-garage-rock-sometimes-tonal-overload made a suitable companion for the open spaces All Them Witches‘ neo-Southern jam-ready heavy rock, which met with fervent approval over the course of about an hour-long set.

All Them Witches. (Photo by JJ Koczan)The show was 18+, and kids came out on solid force, standing among older rockers. From what I saw, nobody looked like they were there by accident, and when All Them Witches‘ set started, the four players sort of lurching to life with a quick, noodling jam led by guitarist Ben McLeod that shifted smoothly into “Funeral for a Great Drunken Bird” from 2013/2014’s self-released sophomore long-player, Lightning at the Door (review here), drummer Robby Staebler, bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr. and Fender Rhodes wizard Allan Van Cleave soon joining in, easing their way and the crowd’s way into a wash of immersive tones that only ran deeper from there, the raucous “When God Comes Back” and that album’s closer, “Mountain” following. Truth be told, momentum and the room were on their side before they started playing, but even if All Them Witches had had to win the Middle East over, they’d have done so quickly.

All Them Witches arrived in Massachusetts fresh from a seclusion that resulted in the recording of their yet-untitled third album, set to release later this year. Presumably this tour with The Well was a way of shaking off the dust in anticipation of more road time to come. Accordingly, I thought there might be a chance of getting to hear some new material done live, which even if it might not represent the entirety of their next offering would at least give a glimpse at some of the scope and direction of the thing. No such luck. What their plan is for the release — all them witches 3 (Photo by JJ Koczan)i.e., if they’ve signed with a label and if so, which one — I don’t know, but they kept the setlist primarily to Lightning at the Door material, the satisfying deep-toned chug of “Swallowed by the Sea” a little lighter on its feet as it was when I saw them in Pennsylvania last fall and “The Death of Coyote Woman” hypnotic in its repeated vocal lines from Parks and bluesy guitar, McLeod not at all shy with the slide when called upon to break it out.

No setlist written down, songs were called out on the fly. They dipped back once to their debut, 2012’s Our Mother Electricity (review here), for a rendering of “Elk.Blood.Heart” that elicited an off-mic “You gotta be kidding me” from Parks when it started, but wound up as a singularly powerful moment in the set. It was pretty clear that material wasn’t as familiar to the crowd as the stuff from Lightning at the Door, but at least those standing near me showed no signs of trouble getting on board. They closed out with “Charles William,” which is as close to a single as they’ve come, its blend of bounce, tonal richness, Van Cleave‘s Rhodes — an element not to be understated in any appreciation the well 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)of what they do — and Staebler‘s hard-hitting swing in the finishing lines necessitating no further statement from the band. All were sent into the cold night having received due communion.

They were reason enough to show up — All Them Witches are a special group of players and watching them solidify on stage even as their sound becomes more fluid offers a rare breed of satisfaction — but I was anxious to see The Well before them. The trio of guitarist/vocalist Ian Graham, bassist/vocalist Lisa Alley and drummer Jason Sullivan were robbed on their last tour, which was also their first, so warranted immediate respect for getting back out, all the more so filling in for original supporting act Mount Carmel at (or close to) the last minute. My big question was whether or not The Well would be able to conjure the same kind of garage-doom atmosphere and air-push live that they do on record. As the feedback hum of Graham‘s guitar grew in volume until it felt like my head was surrounded by it on all sides, my curiosity had its answer. The thrust punctuated by Sullivan‘s kick in songs like “Trespass” and “Mortal Bones” from Samsara every bit delivered what one might’ve hoped from hearing their studio work and then some, the rawness of the stage giving Graham more of a showcase for soloing.

It the well 2 (Photo by JJ Koczan)was an opportunity he seemed to relish. The memorable psych-spooky “Refuge” made its primary impression in its early bounce, but the languid wah in the song’s second half pushed it to highlight territory, and likewise the midsection jam of the extended set-closer “Eternal Well.” Alley and Sullivan both had their share of fills and no question make for a dynamic rhythm section, but I hadn’t fully realized how much Graham‘s guitar brings to the band on a level deeper than “hey bro, cool riffs.” Tonally and in their presentation, they represented high grade stoner-heavy modernity, and as much as one could hear shades of Sleep and Sabbath in their sound, touches here and there of Uncle Acid and so on, the most exciting thing about The Well was how much they seemed to be moving forward from that starting point. I hope they keep touring and keep growing.

If their heaviness was the aspect they shared with All Them Witches, then for the pedal-steel-infused openers, These Wild Plains, it was no doubt the rural sprawl. The local five-piece — whose debut album is due out Feb. 27 — had been crowded on the stage, but their blend of countrified twang and atmospheric post-rock fit the room, and there were plenty who showed up early to see them. these wild plains 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)Acoustic, lap steel and electric guitar, the latter reminding me distinctly at times of Yawning Man‘s airy tone, and multiple vocalists drove home the Americana vibe, and for a group of Northern boys taking on a distinctly Southern sound, they acquitted themselves well. People were still coming in as they got going, but by the time they finished, there was little doubt the evening had begun.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Video Premiere: Elder, Live in Cambridge, MA 10.16.14

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 5th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

elder live at tt the bear's place

Who’s gonna argue with some live Elder? Not me. The first time I saw the Massachusetts trio on stage was a revelation, and as we stand on the cusp of the Feb. 28 release of their third album, Lore, through Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records, the band are also staring down the barrel of their most comprehensive tour itinerary to date, beginning March 6 in Providence, Rhode Island, alongside Mos Generator, taking them to and through SXSW and back northeast to end on their home turf at T.T. the Bear’s Place in Cambridge, MA. From what I hear, they head to Europe shortly thereafter, then are back in the States to head west for the Psycho California festival, where they’ll join Boston cohorts Rozamov and a ton of others. From there, who knows.

Ending the SXSW run at T.T. the Bear’s seems especially poignant, since the three-piece — guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan, drummer Matt Couto – will more or less bookend the tour with hometown shows. After the band’s return from a few month’s hold last September, they played a handful of regional shows as they prepared to hit the studio and record Lore with Justin Pizzoferatto as the follow-up to 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here) and the Spires Burn/Release EP (review here) that followed in 2012, and one of those shows happened to be this past October at T.T.’s. The full set was taped by Stephen LoVerme of Treebeard Media (also of Olde GrowthSea and Leafcutter), and today I’m fortunate enough to be able to host the premiere of the show in its entirety. The setlist was as follows:

Gemini
Dead Roots Stirring (individual clip here)
Spires Burn (individual clip here)
Compendium
Release

Five songs that, put together, made for an hour of time on stage. You’ll note “Compendium” (also streamed here) makes an appearance ahead of its arrival on Lore, and the opening duo from Dead Roots Stirring appear in order at the start of the set. Round it out with “Spires Burn” as a centerpiece and “Release” as a closer — covering the two songs on that 2012 EP, and it’s a killer show from Elder the video for which showcases not only their psychedelic side, but the chemistry they’ve established on stage, and their emerging progressive tendencies that one can hear on the new album. Thanks to Elder and LoVerme for letting me host the clip. Please find the show in its entirety on the player below, followed by Elder‘s tour dates.

Enjoy:

Elder, Live at T.T. the Bear’s Place, Oct. 16, 2014

elder tour banner

Elder on Tour

03/06-14 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

Elder on Thee Facebooks

Treebeard Media

Armageddon Shop

Stickman Records

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Warhorse: As Heaven Turns to Ash LP and I am Dying 7″ to be Reissued

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 as heaven turns to ash

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

I Am Dying EP:
1. I Am Dying
2. Horizons Burn Red

http://www.southernlord.com
http://www.southernlord.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/SLadmin
http://www.twitter.com/twatterlord

Warhorse, As Heaven Turns to Ash (2001)

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Elder Premiere “Compendium” from New Album Lore; March Tour Dates Announced

Posted in audiObelisk on January 16th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

elder (Photo by Ryan Boyd)

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 SleepPentagramOmEarth 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” iselder lore 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:

elder-mos-generator-tour03/06 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

Elder on Thee Facebooks

Elder on Bandcamp

Armageddon Shop

Stickman Records

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On the Radar: Conclave, Breaking Ground

Posted in On the Radar on January 8th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

conclave

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 conclave breaking grounda 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.

Conclave, Breaking Ground (2014)

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Conclave on Bandcamp

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Wrapping up 2014: The Year in Darryl Shepard

Posted in Features on December 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

darryl shepard

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 MilligramRoadsaw, 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

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

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 ShepardGein 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.

Kind

kind (Photo by Doug Sherman)

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 — ElderRoadsawRozamov 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.

Solid-Color Demos

roadsaw 98 demos

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.

Looking Ahead

darryl shepard by alexander von wieding

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.

Keep up at the following:

Darryl Shepard on Thee Facebooks

Darryl Shepard on Soundcloud

Darryl Shepard on Bandcamp

Black Pyramid on Thee Facebooks

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Gold & Silver, Azurite and Malachite: Elemental

Posted in Reviews on December 17th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

gold and silver azurite and malachite

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.

gold and silver azurite and malachite record

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.

Gold & Silver, Azurite and Malachite (2014)

Gold & Silver on Thee Facebooks

Gold & Silver on Bandcamp

Azurite and Malachite at Totem Cat Records

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