Deathkings & Rozamov, Split: A Shared Tendency Toward the Extreme

Posted in Reviews on May 15th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

deathkings-rozamov-split

How exactly Deathkings and Rozamov might’ve gotten hooked up for a split release is something of a mystery. Geographically, it seems an unlikely pairing, with Deathkings based in Los Angeles and Rozamov in Boston, but I seem to recall the latter have been out west before, so they could have run into each other then. Or Midnite Collective, which is releasing the limited 7″ pressing of their combined effort could have been the catalyst just as easily. Both are on the lineup for Psycho California 2015, so that could have done it. Or one band could’ve heard the other on this new thing called the internet and sent a message over. The possibilities, roughly, are endless, but however it happened, they complement each other well. The 14-minute Deathkings and Rozamov split arrives in an edition of 150 black vinyl copies with one song from each outfit, both delighting in an extreme take on sludge and doom, but each group with a nuance of its own to offer something just slightly different from the other. They are a fitting combination, Deathkings offering the 7:54 “Solomon” to push the limits of how much a 7″ can hold and Rozamov answering back with the 6:44 “Ghost Divine,” pummel a uniting factor between the two as they offer up a slaying sampler of their wares to those on either coast who’ve already gotten or might get on board with their darkened visions.

For Deathkings, the split marks the four-piece’s first physically-pressed outing since their 2012 debut full-length, Destroyer, though they also had a single out at the end of 2014 digitally, and Midnite Collective reissued Destroyer on vinyl last year as well. They’re not strangers to extended forms, and use their space effectively, an undercurrent of post-metallic ambience and repurposed Neurosis influence in their vocal arrangements adding to the density of some of the open spaces of “Solomon,” which launches the 7″ at a tense but quiet rush, tom hits from drummer Sean Spindler setting the pace soon joined by gravely vocals before the full tonal breadth of guitarists Daryl Hernandez and Mark Lüntzel and bassist Nicolas Rocha kicks in. Interplay between them becomes prevalent in a quieter break after the halfway point, but before they get there, Deathkings course through a doom inflicted with some blackened elements and a linear structure pushing forward into weighted plod and seeming to relent only to give the vocals appropriate room to urge the listener to “die now” on top of some suitably ritualistic background chants. Resurgence hits after the 5:30 mark and drives through frenetic turns toward an overarching lurch of a groove, Spindler‘s snare cutting through the mix to punctuate all the while a stomp that Rozamov will soon enough echo in “Ghost Divine.” That stomp serves as Deathkings‘ apex, however, and “Solomon” caps with just a short rumble that fades out quickly no doubt for spatial consideration of the medium. They’ve had a lineup change since recording the LP, though I’m not sure that accounts for the three years between releases, but the stylistic breadth and ambition in their songwriting makes Deathkingssound like a band actively seeking an open creative form, and “Solomon” reaps the benefits of that search.

deathkings rozamov

While shorter, Rozamov‘s “Ghost Divine” is perhaps even more given to extremity. Like Deathkings, the Boston trio have undergone a lineup shift since their last recorded output, their 2013 Of Gods and Flesh EP having included guitarist Liz Walshak, who can currently be found in newcomers Sea. As the trio of guitarist/vocalist Matt Iocovelli, bassist/backing vocalist Tom Corino (also of Kind) and drummer Will Hendrix, Rozamov are rawer on “Ghost Divine” than they were on the EP, but that rawness feels intentional. A feedback swell fades in to an immmediate thrust of blastbeaten grinding and fast-paced sludge churn, their sound having long since grown out of most of its initial High on Fire influence but retained a penchant for thrash. Iacovelli and Corino answer each other vocally over the central riff with an affect more in line with a hardcore punk cover of Vital Remains than anything particularly doomed, but the ambience remains heavy all the same, and only adds weight as it slows into a solo section, fluidly pushing toward its halfway point with grand, echoing lead notes over slamming hits that seem (in context) in direct conversation with those Deathkings brought to bear, the vocals returning to command the tumult ably before dropping off to a quieter stretch of atmospheric noodling, layered-in piano from Iacovelli and persistent drumming to hold the tension. They build back up, and as one might hope, churn their way back to the rush that typified the first half of the track, ending strong with sustained, layered screams/growls and amplified crackle, the confidence with which they present “Ghost Divine” doing as much to convey the extremity as the actual riffs themselves. They sound like a band ready to put together their debut full-length, and so they are.

No doubt it will be too extreme in its base of influence for some, but Deathkings and Rozamov‘s split is nonetheless efficient in conveying where each band is at, and its curated feel in how well one contribution feeds into the next is not to go unnoticed. As far apart as they might be on a map, the two groups draw a quick line between them of shared viciousness, and revel in their variations on the theme.

Deathkings & Rozamov, Split (2015)

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Ichabod, Merrimack: A River and its People

Posted in Reviews on May 8th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

ichabod merrimack

The Merrimack River, in addition to connecting inland Northeast Massachusetts and New Hampshire with a direct line to the Atlantic Ocean — when there was a thing called “industry,” that was useful; in the before times, the long-long ago — has had homage paid to it in the past by figures as disparate as Henry David Thoreau and Mandy Moore, so rather than being first to tackle the subject, Lowell, MA, five-piece Ichabod are instead part of a longstanding regional tradition. That’s important to keep in mind when listening to Merrimack itself. Their sixth album is a take-it-as-a-whole eight-song/49-minute full-length with songs purposefully bleeding one into the next expansive in both its sonic breadth and emotional core, dedicated to the memory of the mothers of founding guitarist Dave Iverson and vocalist John Fadden, who made his debut with Ichabod on 2012’s Dreamscapes from Dead Space. That album was a beast of aggressive metal, heavy rock vibing and psychedelic density, but with the concept or at very least central thematic that Merrimack holds, and for the worn-on-sleeve personal attachment made so plain throughout the sixth outing’s span, it would be a mistake to call Merrimack anything other than Ichabod‘s finest and most complex work to date. Persistently underrated throughout their 15-plus years and across records like 2003’s Let the Bad Times Roll, 2005’s Reaching Empyrean and 2009’s 2012 (review here), they’ve always had the ability to bring a sense of mood to their output, but Merrimack brings this to a new level, and whether it’s the raging “Squall” on which one can almost hear intense rain pounding windows or the Blind Melon-style serenity found in the midsection guitar of the subsequent “Watershed,” the band — IversonFadden, bassist Greg Dellaria, guitarist Jason Adam and drummer Phil MacKay — prove utterly fearless throughout Merrimack‘s winding, flowing course.

Performances across the tracks bear that out, and Merrimack likewise benefits from the clarity of its production, helmed by Glenn Smith at Amps vs. Ohms in Cambridge, MA. The sound neither lacks punch nor is too muddled, which seems to bringing out the dynamics all the more of turns in songs like “Life at the Loom” and “The Ballad of Hannah Dustin,” whose kidnapping by Native Americans in the 1690s and her ensuing killing 10 of them with a hatchet became a rallying narrative more than a century later as destiny was manifest in settlement expansion and genocide — Thoreau also wrote about her. Ichabod open with more modern fare in “The Strong Place,” a 1:50 acoustic-led workingman’s folk shanty that boasts group backing vocals behind Fadden‘s northern twang, a stomp behind him in verses that opens with electric guitar in the chorus to give a somewhat auspicious, resoundingly dudely first impression, more outright fun than a lot of what follows on “Two Brothers Rock” and “Squall,” the former taking hold with a gradually unfolding post-grunge psychedelia, wah prevalent in Iverson‘s open-spaced progression. They’re building subtly throughout the first half of the track, and sure enough, “Two Brothers Rock” kicks into a heavier push shortly before the four-minute mark, Fadden switching to harsher shouts for the first of many such fluid transitions. His ability to match his approach to the instrumental turns behind him — he is a powerful singer, clean or otherwise — is key to Merrimack‘s ultimate success, and he carries the intensity of “Two Brothers Rock” into a noise-laden solo and building wash of noise, the track eventually brought down amid a chugging rumble that leads to “Squall,” both the longest and most accomplished cut on the album.

ichabod

More immediate in its impact than “Two Brothers Rock” — that’s not to insinuate that Ichabod should be doing the same thing all the time, just noting a difference in structure — “Squall” emerges from a seamless transition and casts a vision of metal that moves outside its own genre bounds. The push of its early going gives way to a psychedelic, gorgeously melodic, ebow-inclusive turn in the second half, Fadden again making the shift naturally, that itself is a build back toward the initial intensity of the chorus, which serves as a landmark for Merrimack as a whole, even as early into the record as it arrives. For an album the stated intent for which is a front-to-back listen to have such a defining moment in its third (really second) track is a risk of sequencing, but Ichabod work around it by continuing to expand the scope of the tracks, first with the aforementioned “Watershed” and its peaceful roll, which even when it gets heavier, retains its sun-drenched feel, memorable repeated lines “All I wanna do is just be a part of it” and “Saving all my sunshine” typifying the bright, hopeful mood that seems so far removed from the dense impact of “Squall” — a triumph though that was — and then with “Life at the Loom,” which follows a somewhat similar course in its atmosphere but is more upbeat and has an underlying tension that finds payoff in a more intense second half. To contrast, the repeated line there — another landmark hook — is “I wish I could sit around and talk about the weather forever,” and it’s screamed, the speaker in the lyrics seeming to be working at a textile factory, wondering earlier in the song what’s happening at home over more wistful ebow, a highlight bassline from Dellaria and MacKay‘s keep-it-moving drums. One might expect that kind of thrust to continue to bleed over into the next track, as Merrimack has managed to do up to this point, but “Life at the Loom” shifts in its last moments to something of a comedown, and the shorter “Child of the Bear” picks up from that with spacious guitar noodling immediately reminiscent of The Doors and, by then unsurprisingly, vocals and poetic lyrics to match, the river once again the central theme.

Put together, “Child of the Bear” and “The Ballad of Hannah Dustin,” which follows, are shorter than “Two Brothers Rock,” “Squall,” “Watershed” or “Life at the Loom,” but both make a considerable impact in mood, the former with its wandering sensibility and psychedelic brooding and the latter with a descent into screaming, chugging madness that serves to efficiently summarize just how quickly the band can shift between vibes. A dominant-culture folk hero as its focus, “The Ballad of Hannah Dustin” is the shortest track at 3:13, but it leaves a considerable impact nonetheless and leads the way into 6:32 closer “The Return,” which has the difficult task of somehow tying the album together. Spoken word and tense drumming move into burly echo-shouts, ambient screams, churning riffs and an atmospheric intensity to complement that of “Squall” without being directly linked to it. A descent into tearing-itself-apart noise and feedback plays out before a long fade carries Merrimack to its finish, Ichabod choosing to end on a note of marked foreboding. Taking into account some of the more easy-tempered stretches of “Watershed” and “Life at the Loom,” and the toss-a-few-back good times of “The Strong Place” — that title, of course, being a translation of the name Merrimack itself — it underscores the journey the band has crafted here, and perhaps that’s the point in the first place. Merrimack bleeds out its regionalist love with zero irony and unabashed affection for the places, the people and the history of New England, but I think even taken out of that context and for those who listen elsewhere, it’s an easy record to appreciate for simply giving tribute to the band’s home and for conveying the spirit that birthed it in the first place.

Ichabod, Merrimack (2014)

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Rozamov Opening for Slayer, Playing this Weekend in Brooklyn and Baltimore

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 20th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

rozamov

Boston trio Rozamov are keeping busy in a number of righteous ways as they make ready to release a new split 7″ with Deathkings on Midnite Collective. This weekend they’ll head south to Brooklyn and Baltimore to play alongside the noisy/sludgy likes of Godmaker and Wizard Eye, respectively, and next week, they open for Slayer and Doomriders, which isn’t a line that’s going to hurt their CV in the slightest, at a Converse Rubber Tracks show at The Sinclair in Cambridge, MA, that will no doubt vibrate the walls of Harvard dorms down the way. Oh yeah, and then next month they head west to go play Psycho California alongside Pentagram, Sleep and about a million others. Clearly not a bad month to be Rozamov.

The band sent a rundown of their killer doings via the PR wire, including a preorder link for that Deathkings split:

rozamov shows

Rozamov Playing Pre-Psycho Fest Shows Including Converse Rubber Tracks w/ Slayer

Rozamov will be performing select dates ahead of their performance at Psycho California, beginning this weekend in Brooklyn and Maryland. Included in this string of shows is an appearance at The Sinclair in Cambridge, MA for Converse Rubber Tracks Live with Slayer and Doomriders. Rubber Tracks Live is a free event but fans must enter to win tickets beginning this Monday, April 20th.

Rozamov recently announced plans to unleash a split 7-inch vinyl with Deathkings via Midnite Collective on May 12th. Rozamov’s track “Ghost Divine” will debut later this month, Deathking’s track “Solomon” is being streamed at CVLT-Nation now.

Rozamov Live Dates:

April 24 – Brooklyn, NY – The Acheron w/ Livver, Godmaker, Dead Empires
April 25 – Baltimore, MD – The Circuit w/ Fortress, Wizard Eye
April 29 – Cambridge, MA – The Sinclair – Converse Rubber Tracks Live w/ Slayer, Doomriders
May 8 – Northampton, MA – 13th Floor Music Lounge
May 16 – Santa Ana, CA – The Observatory – Psycho California

Rubber Tracks Live Ticket Link: http://www.converse-music.com/boston
Pre-Order Rozamov/Deathkings Split 7-inch Vinyl: http://midniteclv.storenvy.com/products/12489843-deathkings-rozamov-split-7

https://rozamov.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Rozamov
https://midniteclv.bandcamp.com/album/deathkings-rozamov-split

Rozamov, “Ghost Divine” teaser

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Live Review: Sun Voyager in Allston, MA, 04.18.15

Posted in Reviews on April 20th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Sun Voyager (Photo by JJ Koczan)

People who bitch about “kids these days” and the post-Millennials or whatever they’re called and their fast texting and no rock and roll obviously don’t go to house shows. Neither do I, if I can avoid, but the kids are killing it. I’ve gone on at some length before about my general discomfort at being the oldest dude in the room in a basement. Hard not to feel like an invader, like I’m somewhere I shouldn’t be, even though the kid at the door who took my $5 donation for the out-of-town acts was polite in that “I helped an old person today” kind of way. “First time here?” Yeah man, it is.

sun voyager 2 (Photo by JJ Koczan)The Womb — oddly well promoted for a secret location — has come up in Allston in part I suspect because of that neighborhood’s lacking club scene. With the extra gloss of cool added to a basement show, there’s really no need for undergrad-age rockers to even try to get into a bar, and I won’t bother to name names, but a few of the venues around aren’t offering a much better product than a basement to start with, so why the hell not? There were four bands on the bill — Creaturos, Midriffs, Black Beach and Sun Voyager — but I knew that if I was going to be stretching the limits of personal awkwardness to be there at all (something on me, not The Womb itself), I’d mostly want to catch who I was there to see and then skip out.

That was Sun Voyager, incidentally. The Orange County, New York, four-piece have been high on my gotta-see list for a while now, and since I missed them the last time they rolled through the area, it seemed like The Womb was the place to be. They’d played Brooklyn on Friday, in another basement, and were well at home in the packed-out downstairs of The Womb, the walls of the staircase lined with sundry objectificationsSun Voyager (Photo by JJ Koczan) sexual and material, men, women and products in various states of vintage undress, while the walls of the basement itself were painted with various designs. Speakers hung from the ceiling by the A/C duct, a PA was set up on either side of the corner where the bands played. Sun Voyager weren’t on when I got there, but it wasn’t too long before they set up and were ready to roll.

A double-guitar four-piece with Carlos Francisco on stage right, bassist Stefan Mersch in the middle with drummer Kyle Beach behind and chapeaued lead guitarist Steve Friedman on stage left, his slide at the ready, they mostly played material from two recent King Pizza Records tapes, a split with Greasy Hearts and their standalone EP, Lazy Daze (review here). I dug the hell out of the EP — bought the split off Mersch after their set was done — and the prior 2013 demo, Mecca (review here), and I was there in large part to hear how the material translated live. “God is Dead” and “Gypsy Hill” were immediately identifiable in the set, the former for its oft-repeated title-line hook and the latter for its slower, more pastoral rollout.

Something of a surprise in itself that “Gypsy Hill” would be such a standout, since the easier flow with which Sun Voyager play off their more forward garage rock motion of some of their other material is so much a part of what they do on their studio material, but it was nonetheless the set’s most fervent nod, children behind me jumping up and down in sub-mosh form. I laughed as this or that one bounced off or got in a good shoveSun Voyager (Photo by JJ Koczan) and proceeded to fall here and there into the others in The Womb, which started off and remained packed for the duration of my time there. Good clean fun, not so much violent intent as general excitement brought to physical swirl. Sun Voyager had a couple new songs in tow — didn’t catch titles if they were given — but that stuff too had a faster garage edge, giving me a new appreciation for the tension in Beach‘s snare work and Francisco‘s overlaying echoes, which were thankfully preserved even in the raw, basement mix.

More of a concern was how Mersch‘s bass tone would carry over, since it’s such a pivotal aspect of their recorded sound, but it came across well enough and loud, with Friedman‘s leads cutting through on the high end of the shuffling “Black Angel,” the overarching vibe post-grunge and like active shoegaze as if such a thing might exist, a brand of heavy psych waiting for some clever jerk to give it a name and thus define it. Whatever it was, the swirl was righteous regardless of the pace of its churn and Sun Voyager carried it well through the end of their set, which found them, like their studio work, moving away somewhat from the jammier reaches of their beginnings but still carrying that swing with them as they move forward. They’ll continue to grow — they’re fortunate to have a place lsun voyager posterike The Womb to do so — and refine their processes, but I’m glad I braved the weirdness of being the oldest dude in the room to see them now, since the molten, in-progress nature of their creativity made their set all the more exciting.

I hauled ass out of there pretty quick when they were done — again, nothing against The Womb, or Black Beach or Midriffs or Creaturos; it’s not you it’s me — and chuckled as I walked by a dance-club-cum-sports-bar (Hello, Boston) on Mass Ave. that seemed to be hosting a sing-along to ’90s boyband fare that those singing along to it were probably in grade school, if that, when it came out. The perfect target demo on the come-back-around. So odd, so drunk. And me, covered in kid sweat and volume, hobbling my ass back to the car with The Patient Mrs., whose coming along had made the entire thing possible to take, to drive back home with a new tape in my pocket. What year is it again? How do we mash time and place into one strange, market-value nostalgia even as we grope so readily for whatever the next thing might be? Which turn takes me to the highway? Right on.

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Roadburn 2015 Trip Pt. 1: Walkin’ on the Sidewalks

Posted in Features on April 7th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

at the gate

04.07.15 — 6:29PM Eastern — Tuesday evening — Logan Airport Terminal E, Boston

I have never enjoyed air travel. Nor, I think, would any sane person who gave even the remotest conscious thought to the processes involved. If ever you doubt the void that exists where a just and loving god should be, use a commercial airline. That said, both traffic en route to the airport and traffic within it were minimal given the rush hour. The Patient Mrs. dropped me off freshly returned from a day of work and she stopped short of saying “have fun with the weirdos and get your head on straight,” but the point lingered in the air anyway. She knows I need this more than I do. Poor thing has to live with me.

Terminal E is the ass-end of Boston Logan International Airport. The “International” part. Lufthansa, SwissAir, IcelandAir, Aer Lingus (which is the dirtiest sounding airline and also the one I happen to be on — flight 138 which I remembered because of the Misfits), and a handful of others operate out of here. A year ago I sat on the other side of this giant rectangle of a room and waited to board a flight. I was absurdly early then too. They tell you an hour and a half, two hours. I got here at six and my flight is at nine. I’d rather sit, listen to music, watch people going here and there, boarding silly out-of-date airplanes with fresh paintjobs and tighter seats. Imagine an industry where the central technology around which it’s based remains basically unchanged for the last half-century. What’s that you say? Auto, banking, oil, airlines? Amazing coincidence that these people make a ton of money and run our lives. There’s no need for conspiracy, the shit’s right out there in the open. flight screenThe chemtrails people are looking in the wrong direction. They should be throwing molotov cocktails for cross-ocean high-speed railways and MTA teleporter transit systems, or at very least more legroom.

At the airport, even the CNN is geared toward selling you shit. Not that it’s not anyway, but there’s something to be said for a level of subtlety. Here’s a Christiane Amanpour news story about the perfect app for traveling, and it’s on at the airport! That’s incredible. Keep it light. Nothing about bombs dropping, drones flying, fucking Rand Paul or anything else that might hint at imminent destruction. A helicopter plunks into the marshland outside, a fireball seen for miles. I’d rather look at duty-free candy or the self-help paperbacks at the Hudson News. Could use some of that shit anyway. A fire alarm was going off when I was walking up to get here. It’s stopped now.

I am about to embark on an adventure the familiarity of which only heightens my sense of awe at the thought. My seventh Roadburn. In a couple hours, I’ll get on that Aer Lingus flight and “scoot” over to Dublin, connect there and then on to Amsterdam, from which a car — all of this pre-arranged; I hear I may or may not be sharing transport with a couple of the dudes from Bongripper — will cart my no-doubt sleepless ass to Tilburg in time, one hopes, to crash for a few hours before the Hard Rock Hideout. That will be Wednesday night, a day from now, but somehow it will still bleed into today. I’m so fucking lucky. I’m so fucking lucky. To be here, to be going there. The next few days, priority will be given to updates from the Roadburn fest, reviews, photos and the like, and other whatnot that happens along the way. I may have some other updates, but this is time out of time for me, and I intend to make the most of it. Less sleep, more rock.

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Live Review: Electric Wizard and Satan’s Satyrs in Boston, 04.03.15

Posted in Reviews on April 7th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Electric Wizard (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Knowing that on a Friday night the Royale would have its dance club going by 10PM, I made sure I was at the venue early. Doors were slated for six for Electric Wizard and Satan’s Satyrs, and the venue would be cleared out before the dance party began. I neither begrudge Royale its double-booking — gotta make money, and the more the merrier as long as you can get away with it — nor mind an early night. While I’ve shown up late for shows in the past elsewhere and been pissed off missing this or that band, so long as the clientele are aware of the situation, an early end to the show isn’t necessarily a bad thing. One might go out to the bar with a group of friends and talk about how much the show kicked ass, feeling good and energetic after watching someone kill it. In my case, I went home and sat with the dog afterwards, but you know, you could go out and do something. If you’re in your 20s, maybe.

Satan's Satyrs (Photo by JJ Koczan)Two bands on the bill: Satan’s Satyrs and Electric Wizard. I was maybe fifth on line, which was enough to get me in and allow me to get a spot up front when the doors actually opened, closer to 6:30 than not. Satan’s Satyrs were slated to start at that point, but they didn’t actually go for another half an hour, the Virginia three-piece sharing bassist Clayton Burgess with the headliner. Satan’s Satyrs have been kicking around for the last six years, proffering ’70s boogie and doomly atmospherics — disciples conceptually, if not exactly sonically, of Electric Wizard — and they have two records out in 2012’s Wild Beyond Belief! and last year’s Die Screaming, as well as a handful of other EPs and live releases. Their third record is in the can, having been tracked in February, but the impression they give on stage, other than guitarist Jarrett Nettnin and drummer Stephen Fairfield winning any contest for big hair that might be going on, is of a young band.

The energy in their delivery, their presence on stage, the underlying vigor with which they present their material — it’s something they’ve managed to hold onto despite having a decent amount of experience under their collective belt at this point. They toured Europe last year, played Roadburn twice, and I don’t think that was their first time Satan's Satyrs (Photo by JJ Koczan)on the road. The kicker is that in addition to being young, they’re also ridiculously tight. So you’ve got Burgess spinning around on stage, Fairfield bounding around his teased-out coiffure, and Nettnin hitting Iommi poses for the leads, but they’re nailing it. All of it, really. Cuts like “Instruments of Hellfire” and “Lucifer Lives” from Die Screaming were boogie doom ragers, and they played a new song that, had it not been announced as such, it would’ve been easy to imagine they’d been kicking around for a couple years. It was my first time seeing them and they tore it up. Yeah, people were there to see Electric Wizard and it was Electric Wizard‘s show, but I didn’t hear one complaint while Satan’s Satyrs were on stage.

It felt like a long changeover, though I’ll allow that could’ve just been anticipation. I’ve seen Electric Wizard before, when guitarist/vocalist Jus Oborn curated a day at Roadburn 2013 (review here), but in the two years since, he and guitarist Liz Buckingham (ex-13, for New York types) Electric Wizard (Photo by JJ Koczan)have totally swapped out the rhythm section, bringing in Burgess on bass and drummer Simon Poole, and well, this was their first US tour since reactivating in 2007 — and several years before that — so it felt a bit like an event even before they took the stage. They did so preceded by burning enough incense to give me raised-Catholic flashbacks, which were perfect for Good Friday, and by bringing the lights all the way down for the intro “Crypt of Drugula.” A one-two punch of “Witchcult Today” from the 2007 landmark of the same name and “Black Mass” from 2010’s Black Masses (review here) followed and reaffirmed why we were all there: to worship. The riff, the nod, the horror. A crowd of scumbags and normal heads, hipsters, hippies and crust kids, headbangers and stoners, all of us drawn in by the eerie power and undeniable hooks of Electric Wizard, as beautiful as it is deranged. Altered movie clips playing behind them, the foursome wasted little time that could’ve otherwise been dedicated to Heavy, and they had plenty of that to go around.

Sound at the Royale can vary pretty widely depending on where you stand. It’s a club, remember. Electric Wizard (Photo by JJ Koczan)After “Satanic Rites of Drugula” came “Dopethrone” and I started make my way back from up front by the stage, found I could hear Oborn‘s vocals better and more of a balance between the guitars and bass. Earplugs pulled halfway out, the wash of noise was near-physical, a push that seemed to have presence. “Dopethrone,” taken from the 2000 album of the same name — 15 years later, its influence continues to spread — got a huge response, and while I’ll never understand people moshing to doom riffs, sometimes you just have to shrug your shoulders. Nothing to be done about it anyway. In back the audio was clear and I could see the screen behind them better, the cover of Dopethrone projected interlaced with ’60s/’70s horror boobage and other sundry whatnots, motorcycles and the like. Come My Fanatics (1997) opener “Return Trip” followed “Dopethrone” and only after that, more than halfway through the set, did they touch on the new album, 2014’s Time to Die (review here), with “Incense for the Damned” and “Time to Die” one into the next. Easy to get lost in that murk of riffage, but that’s the point. A quick second to catch breath later, and “The Chosen Few” from Witchcult Today once more had the room in a trance, the line “legalize drugs and murder” — also the name of an EP the band put out with a track on it based around the line copped from “The Chosen Few” — getting an extra-loud chant from the crowd.

Electric Wizard (Photo by JJ Koczan)That just left “Funeralopolis” to close out, and when the undulating Dopethrone track hit, there was little doubt that it was the culmination of Electric Wizard‘s set. The insistent riffs of the song’s early going were the night’s most engrossing nod, and the later tempo burst was met with a suitable audience response as it thrust forward into its own destruction into shouts, and noise, the whole set seeming to come off the rails with Oborn shouting out misanthropics as Buckingham and Burgess added to the mound of feedback and Poole attacked his drums to further the sense of chaos. One couldn’t ask a more fitting end to an Electric Wizard show than to have the whole thing dissolve right there on stage. No encore, nothing left to say, they took off. About a minute’s tease later, the lights came up and the early goers at the Royale shuffled their way downstairs and out of the building. I was home before 10:30.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Live Review: Second Grave, Lord Fowl, Wasted Theory and Birch Hill Dam in Worcester, MA, 04.02.15

Posted in Reviews on April 6th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

second grave 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Ralph’s Rock Diner had the lights on, which has been the case consistently enough to make it far and away my favorite room of its size in the state of Massachusetts. In all seriousness, the place is a godsend. Killer, huge, professionally-run sound that seems to adjust quickly to the strengths of the band playing, a good-size stage with enough room to backline as need be, space to stand, a long bar with seats if you want them, food and a whole other bar downstairs, and lighting enough so that if you want to take a picture of the band you come out with more than a red blur. If it was in Boston, it would embarrass the venues surrounding (likely it wouldn’t have nearly parking space either, but that’s a different story), but tucked away in post-industrial, heroin-plagued Worcester, it’s a secret kept mostly to locals and those passing through on self-booked tours. So it was with Delaware’s Wasted Theory, stopping in with MA natives Second Grave and Birch Hill Dam and bringing up Connecticut firebrands Lord Fowl for a front-to-back four-band bill of the kind that might incite someone like myself to drive the requisite 90 minutes to get there.

Right bands, right place, right time, it was all the makings of a solid night — kind of a mini-Stoned Goat fest, actually — and that’s pretty much how it worked out. Here’s the rundown:

Birch Hill Dam

Birch Hill Dam (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Though they hit with formidable thud either way, Birch Hill Dam are a bit warmer in tone live than on record, and that has proven to make a big difference in the couple of times I’ve caught them at shows. A double-guitar five-piece, they skirt the line between heavy rock and Southern metal, Down-style riffing delivered with Nor’easter aggression, vocalist Mike Nygard tossing in occasional screams to drive the point of a metallic underpinning home as guitarists Sam Barrett and Alex Sepe, bassist Pete Gelles and drummer Matt Neely nail down lockstep nodding grooves. “Defenders of the Cross” and “Balance” from their late-2014 outing, Reservoir, were hard-hitting highlights, but they dipped back to 2011’s Colossus for a run through the title-track and, with a little extra time on their hands, closed out their set with “Boozehound” from their 2009 self-titled debut, a chorus that has been a landmark for them over the years since meeting a culmination that, true to the sense of humor underlying a lot of what they do, ended with a growling “shave and a haircut — two bits.” Charm has, in my experience, always been one of Birch Hill Dam‘s assets, on the list with riffs, songwriting and intensity, and they did well to emphasize all of the above as they kicked off the show.

Wasted Theory

Wasted Theory (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I give credit to Wasted Theory on this one. After apparently sampling one of New England’s myriad existential delicacies — its traffic — the four-piece from Delaware showed up during Birch Hill Dam‘s set, and as they were playing second, had to roll their gear in, set up on the quick and basically go from zero to 100 with little-to-no mental preparation or squaring up. They seemed to catch their breath and hit their stride at once in the second or third song, which was to be expected, guitarists Dave McMahon and Larry Jackson (the latter also vocals), bassist Jonathan Charles and drummer Brendan Burns tapping into a style of heavy that coincided well with what Birch Hill Dam had offered up, cuts like “Hellfire Ritual” from last year’s Death and Taxes (review here) reminding of their blend of boogie and groove. Jackson introduced the band as being from “the Mason-Dixon,” which probably sounds more exciting than “Delaware” so long as you don’t think too hard about what that border actually did, and led the way into another solid hook on “Skeleton Crew,” a bonus track from a forthcoming vinyl release for Death and Taxes, due out May 10. Last I’d seen Wasted Theory was July 2013 in Brooklyn at The Eye of the Stoned Goat 3, organized by Burns, which meant this was the first I’d caught them with their current lineup, McMahon having stepped in on guitar in the interim. The sound at Ralph’s certainly didn’t hurt, but the band itself was fluid onstage even as they were getting their feet under them, and “Black Widow Liquor Run” made as suitable a closer for their set as it did for Death and Taxes. Hell of a way for them to start their three-night weekender with Birch Hill Dam and Lord Fowl, but they made the most of it in the end.

Lord Fowl

Lord Fowl (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Apparently at some point in the last couple years, at some show, Lord Fowl guitarist/vocalist Vechel Jaynes said something to me in passing about having a cold, it wound up in the subsequent review of that gig. Whoops. When he saw me Thursday, it was, “Oh no, I’m not even talking to you,” which is fair. Good to see him and the rest of Lord Fowl — guitarist/vocalist Mike Pellegrino, bassist John Conine and recently-added drummer Mike Petrucci, also of Curse the Son, King of Salem, and so on — anyhow, the band having also hit Ralph’s in May 2014 at day one of The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 (review here). They always deliver a tight, energetic set, so to have that be the case this time around wasn’t really a surprise, but it was welcome all the same. My understanding is they’re working on new material over the next couple months, piecing together and finalizing songs before they actually get down to recording a follow-up to their excellent 2012 sophomore LP and Small Stone debut, Moon Queen (review here), but in the meantime, they dipped back to throw in “Bird of Good Omen” and opener “Cheetah” from their 2008 debut, Endless Dynamite. Both were right on, again unsurprisingly, but the one-two finale punch of “Quicksand” and “Pluto” from the second album were hard to beat, though when one gets down to talking about a Lord Fowl set, picking highlights is kind of missing the point. The whole thing is the highlight. Sit back and enjoy it. Though they’re still pretty clearly working on tightening the dynamic with Petrucci on drums — they’ll get there and when they do, watch out — Lord Fowl delivered the kind of quality stomp and roll, the brazen hooks and the onstage vitality that has become their hallmark. Seems redundant to say I’m looking forward to their next record, but I am, anyway.

Second Grave

Second Grave (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Since moving to Massachusetts almost two years ago, I’ve managed to see Second Grave three times — this show, day one of last year’s Stoned Goat (review here) and with Elder in Allston (review here) — and this was easily the best of the bunch. Of the four songs they played — “17 Days,” “Death March,” “Bloodletting” and “Afraid of the Dark,” according to the setlist — none to my knowledge has yet appeared on an official release, neither 2012’s self-titled EP (review here) or its 2013 follow-up, Antithesis (review here), and while it was also my first show seeing them with bassist Maureen Murphy (ex-Dimentianon) in place of Dave Gein, the shift in their approach seems more than one member’s difference might cause. Their new material is a little bit faster, yes, but also more cohesive, more integrated in its influences, less morose and switching off between heavy parts and quiet parts and more about rolling, swinging, sludgy grooves. It suited them well and was the most fun I’ve seen guitarist/vocalist Krista Van Guider, guitarist Chris Drzal, and drummer Chuck Ferreira have onstage, and Murphy‘s inclusion into that dynamic was seamless. And they were still very, very heavy. “Death March” lived up to its name, though “Afraid of the Dark” had a march of its own, but built to a rocking groove emblematic of what seemed to be a stylistic shift in progress, Van Guilder continuing to work in a blend of screams and clean vocals with equal command. Their material remained dark, but was less theatrical about it, and as they seemed to be allowing themselves to have a good time, they did. Their four songs was a complete set, and the blend of chugging nod and viciousness seemed to find new life in the new songs. I don’t know what their recording plans might be, but I left Ralph’s newly resolved to keep an eye out for word of whatever they do next.

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Quarterly Review: Leather Nun America, Corsair, Sea, The Munsens, Gondola, Space Mushroom Fuzz, Deep Aeon, Teepee Creeper, Hellrad, Venus Sleeps

Posted in Reviews on April 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk quarterly review

Day four. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling it, but you know, that’s what caffeine is there for. If I push past the day’s quota of mental energy, fine. Hasn’t stopped me yet, and there are only 20 reviews of the total 50 left. Not quite the home stretch, but it’s up there on the horizon. Some cool stuff today, and that always helps as well.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Leather Nun America, Buddha Knievel

leather nun america buddha knievel

Though they’re mostly indebted to a Wino-style Maryland doom sound, San Diego three-piece Leather Nun America touch on more dramatic fare late into their fifth album, the awesomely-titled Buddha Knievel (on Nine Records). Pairing the acoustic-led instrumental “Gloom” and 7:51 “Winter Kill,” which swirls its way to an apex of lead guitar from John Sarnie with some subtle touches of extreme metal from drummer Sergio Carlos, they expand beyond a riff-and-groove ethic – though of course they do that well too. Sarnie and bassist Francis Charles Roberts (also of Old Man Wizard) offer familiar structures but satisfying tones, cuts like “Into Abyss” taking a darker turn on some of Spirit Caravan’s road-ready groove. An intro (“Prologue”) and subsequent interludes offer further depth, but the heart of “Burning Village” and Buddha Knievel as a whole is in the three-piece’s take on doom rock, and some of the record’s most satisfying moments come from precisely that, even unto the surprisingly boogieing closer “Irish Steel.”

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Nine Records on Bandcamp

Corsair, One Eyed Horse

corsair one eyed horse

Seems longer than three years since Virginia’s Corsair made their self-titled full-length debut (review here), but with the fervent support of Shadow Kingdom Records, they return with One Eyed Horse, an album much sweeter than its somewhat disturbing cover art might indicate, the four-piece of guitarist/vocalists Marie Landragin and Paul Sebring, bassist/vocalist Jordan Brunk and drummer Michael Taylor gracefully delving further into progressive heavy rock textures in cuts like “Shadows from Breath,” which though it winds up in blastbeats, never loses its sense of pose. That’s emblematic of the masterfully-handed twists and turns One Eyed Horse presents throughout its 45 minutes, highlights like “Sparrows Cragg” soaring and immersive while elsewhere “Brothers” reminds that sometimes it’s important to just get down to business and rock out. Corsair remain a well-kept secret, and one wonders while listening to the harmonies and post-rock bliss of “Royal Stride” just how long they can stay that way. Gorgeous, heavy and definitively their own, there’s nothing one could ask of One Eyed Horse that it doesn’t deliver. And yes, I mean that.

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Shadow Kingdom Records

Sea, Demo

sea demo

“Seer,” “Moros” and “Chronos” are the first three tracks to be released by Boston newcomer post-metallers Sea, but already their Demo showcases an impressive atmospheric breadth. Churning riffs from guitarists Liz Walshak (who also drew the cover; ex-Rozamov) and Mike Blasi (Rhino King) are given added depth from bassist/vocalist Stephen LoVerme (Olde Growth), and propelled ahead by drummer/engineer Andrew Muro, though there’s room left in each cut for ambience as well, “Seer” trading off, “Moros” beginning a linear build, and “Chronos” finding a middle-ground in switching between harsh and clean vocals before a slowdown brings about the chugging, memorable finale. Opening with its longest cut (immediate points), Demo proves an ambitious first release, but there’s nothing Sea set out to do on it that they don’t accomplish, and I take it as a particularly encouraging sign that in three cuts, there’s just about no structural repetition to be found. That bodes well in the classic demo sense, but more than what’s to come, these songs are already worth hearing.

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Sea on Bandcamp

The Munsens, Weight of Night

the munsens weight of night

Aggressive Sabbath-style doom with East Coast roots – The Munsens recorded at Moonlight Mile with Mike Moebius (Pilgrim, Kings Destroy) in NJ – Weight of Night finds the trio amidst the legal flora of Denver, Colorado, which is a fitting enough setting for the three riff-led cuts they offer on the tape. Of them, side one’s “Slave” is the most decidedly Iommic, a layered solo rounding out after “Under the Sun”-style descent — it also opens with a sample of Julie Newmar as the devil from The Twilight Zone — but both “Weight of Night” and side two’s 11-minute “The Hunt” boast the root influence as well, though the latter is invariably a standout for its crawling progression, almost Pallbearer-esque, that pushes up the tempo in its second half, arriving at a driving pace that’s even farther from where it started than the runtime would have you believe. The opening title-track works somewhat similarly, but ends with a piano interlude, and the shouting, metallic vocals hold back later on “The Hunt,” making its lumbering all the more hypnotic.

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The Munsens on Bandcamp

Gondola, Get Bent

gondola get bent

Philly trio Gondola waste just about no time showing off primo guitar antics on their Budro Records-released Get Bent LP, a penchant for jamming underscoring a lot of the wah-drenched movement on opener “Brain Ghost” and its side A compatriots “Psychic Knife,” “Poison Path” and “The Hornet.” There’s a decidedly stoner influence, vocals gaze-out Dead Meadow-style on “Psychic Knife,” but a Naam jam in “Brain Ghost” and the Fu Manchu drive of side B highlight “Electric Werewolf” offer plenty of variety within that sphere, guitarist/vocalist Rocky Rinaldi, bassist/vocalist Jordan Blumling and drummer Tim Plunkett finding space to make their own thanks in no small part to a palpable chemistry between them. Heavy rock and roll, and a damn good time, Get Bent comes across more as a suggestion than an imperative by the time the arm’s returned after “Life Cult” but either way, Gondola’s jam-laden push and brainmelter leads make this one a howler not to be missed, and just because it vibes hard doesn’t meant the songs don’t move.

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Gondola on Soundcloud

Space Mushroom Fuzz, Future Family

space mushroom fuzz future family

Consistently unpredictable and reliably prolific, Boston outfit Space Mushroom Fuzz – spearheaded by Adam Abrams of Blue Aside – isn’t through opener “Let’s Give Them Something to Hate About” before a sampled bong and sickly-sweet solo interwine with a progressive psychedelic jam. One never really knows what’s coming from Space Mushroom Fuzz, and on Future Family, it seems to be a blend of traditional songwriting with the project’s long-established weirdo sensibilities. “A Day in the Strife” is particularly Floydian, but even that has a structure, and “Saving all My Love for U2” has just about the heaviest, most straightforward push I’ve heard from Abrams in this context, even though there’s plenty of freakout to be had as well. What holds the release together is the persistent anything-goes vibe, which is maintained even unto the acoustic-led swirl of closer “L’Americana,” not quite fully departing an underlying cynicism, but escaping sonically the irony in some of the album’s titles in a manner that’s sincere whether or not it wants to be.

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Space Mushroom Fuzz on Bandcamp

Deep Aeon, Temple of Time

deep aeon temple of time

The key to Deep Aeon’s Temple of Time (released on H42 Records) is in the momentum the German four-piece commence to build on opener “Element 24” and how utterly unwilling they are to relinquish it at any point over the release’s 29-minute span. Even six-minute closer “River” has a shuffle – and handclaps. Vocalist Marcel Röche keeps a gruff edge to his voice throughout, but that could just as easily be from keeping up with guitarist Alexander Weber, bassist Axel Meyer and drummer Nikolaj Marfels. Songs like “Floating” and side-B launch “With that Priest on the Back Seat” offer straightforward fuzzy heavy rock, but rhythmically, Temple of Time swings and swings and swings and there’s just no getting away from it. If the record was 50 minutes long, I’m not sure it would be sustainable – someone’s bound to need to catch their breath, band or listener – but for being in and out in under half an hour, Deep Aeon make a clean, efficient run with little use for letup. Bonus points for the Alexander von Wieding artwork.

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H42 Records

Teepee Creeper, Ashes of the Northwest

teepee creeper ashes of the northwest

“Come with me, let’s go get high,” urges Teepee Creeper guitarist/vocalist Jon Unruh on “Rainbow Sex Glow” from his band’s seven-track/33-minute Ashes of the Northwest full-length, recorded by Mos Generator’s Tony Reed, who also drums and whose band released a split 7” with Teepee Creeper last year (review here). I won’t say “let’s go get high” sums it all up, but a lot of it. Riffs rule the day, and deservedly so, on tracks like “Far Far Away,” the live-tracked “Crushing the Gods of Men” and “The Raven’s Eye,” which caps with a particularly righteous roll. Rounded out by bassist Jeremy Deede – no slight presence in the mix – and now featuring drummer Ian Hall, Teepee Creeper seem to get better the higher the volume goes, the impressive and open-sounding tones surrounding the listener on the aforementioned “Rainbow Sex Glow” like a meaner version of Texas’ Wo Fat, and yes, that is a compliment. The album may or may not reduce their native region to ashes, but it’s bound to turn some heads in their direction.

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Teepee Creeper on Soundcloud

Hellräd, Things Never Change

hellrad things never change

How right the umlaut-happy Hellräd are when the Philly sludge slammers posit that Things Never Change. Their destructive, blown-out grime makes its nihilism plain in songs like “Homegrown Terrorist,” “My Jihad Against My Own Mind,” “Dopefiend Jesus,” and of course “Smoke More Crack,” weighted, lumbering grooves switching off at a clip with full-speed punker fuckall. Guitarist Mike Hook, noisemaker/vocalist Dirty Dave (not the same Dirty Dave from The Glasspack), bassist Herb Jowett and drummer Robert Lepor get down to all-out bludgeonry from the start of “Street Zombies,” the opener and longest track (immediate points) at 6:55, but there’s just something about the rolling groove of “Fuck Up (All I’ll Ever Be)” that hits home. Probably not as primal in its making as the energy with which it’s conveyed might lead one to believe, the ultra-nasty 38-minute debut full-length is nonetheless likely to leave a dent in your skull. Or have your skull leave a dent in something else. A wall, maybe. Or another skull.

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Hellrad on Bandcamp

Venus Sleeps, Dead Sun Worship

venus sleeps dead sun worship

Working in longer form on the four original tracks included on Dead Sun Worship, their full-length debut, Dublin four-piece Venus Sleeps make an atmospheric centerpiece out of the Syd Barrett cover “Golden Hair,” which in the context of what surrounds it is almost an interlude. Shades of Electric Wizard show themselves on the howling “I am the Night,” but the opening duo of “Ether Sleeper” and “Dawn of Nova” is more progressive, the guitarist/vocalist Sie Carroll, guitarist/backing vocalist Steven Anderson, bassist Seán O’Connor and drummer Fergal Malone exploring a psychedelic blend of doom and heavy rock riffing that comes to the fore again on 11-minute closer “Age of Nothing,” despite that song’s healthy dose of wah. The range they show in the original material seems only bolstered by the cover, and especially as their debut, the ambition and scope Venus Sleeps showcase is admirable. There are moments when the production seems to contract when a given part wants it to expand, to sound bigger, but Dead Sun Worship lacks nothing for clarity in purpose or execution.

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Venus Sleeps on Bandcamp

 

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