Filmmaker Penelope Spheeris‘ 1988 documentary, The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, was among the first genuine cinematic looks at heavy metal subculture that carried little-to-no element of condescension. While the 1986 short Heavy Metal Parking Lot was all spectacle and gags, mocking a group of people by letting them hang themselves with the noose of their own words, Spheeris‘ work chronicling ’80s metal and particularly the Sunset Strip was less judgmental, and for anyone who’s seen it — if you haven’t, consider it recommended viewing — one of its most memorable scenes involved then-WASP guitarist Chris Holmes, who, flanked by his mother and sitting fully clothed on a floating recliner in a backyard pool while downing a bottle of vodka, showcased the loneliness underlying the ultra-masculine braggadocio of metal at that time in slurred, miserable poetry.
For a movie centering around “glam,” it was a particularly human moment once you looked past the surface, and Melbourne four-piece Mammoth Mammoth recreate that scene and parody the excess of the day in their new clip for “Lookin’ Down the Barrel,” complete with back yard pool, floating bottles and mom in a lawnchair beside. It’s tongue-in-cheek, to be sure, and the band — whose new album, Volume IV: Hammered Again, is due out in April on Napalm Records – are no strangers to a boozy reputation themselves. They made their Napalm debut in late 2012 with Volume III: Hell’s Likely, and as “Lookin’ Down the Barrel” proves, the sound of vocalist Mikey Tucker, guitarist Ben Couzens, bassist Pete Bell and drummer Frank Trobbiani has only gotten more raucous. They not only recreate the pool scene from The Decline of Western Civilization Part II, quoting Holmes at the beginning of the clip as Couzens wears a WASP t-shirt just to drive the point home, but right down to the jiggling dancers, they tap into the recklessness that fueled that age and that still holds an appeal some 30 years later.
Of course, the difference is those bouncing ladies end up inflating water-wings for the band, maybe to remind us of the childishness of that kind of fantasy/objectification, but the song’s a hook-laden, heavy-riffed party one way or another, and far be it from me to stand in the way of such a thing. Volume IV: Hammered Again arrives April 7 in North America, and you can find other release dates and the preorder link following the video itself below.
Mammoth Mammoth, “Lookin’ Down the Barrel” official video
A naked, pot-smoking beauty on the cover and song titles like ‘Hammered again’ or ‘High as a kite’ – Mammoth Mammoth definitely won`t turn a good party down! The scruffy Australians deliver the soundtrack mixing dirty hard rock with a healthy dose of stoner: Volume IV – Hammered Again comes roaring down the highway with lotsa fuzz, a raw production and pure force! That`s why this fourpiece is called Mammoth Mammoth – one mammoth ain`t enough for this massive orgy…
Street Date: G/A/S/Europe/AUS 27.03.2015 UK/NO/FR/DK/IT 30.03.2015 SE/ESP 01.04.2015 USA/CAN 07.04.2015
Posted in Radio on February 16th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
I know it’s not the usual custom to do Radio adds on Mondays, but what the hell, it’s not exactly like there are rules one way or another, and my desktop has hit eight rows deep of folders with albums in them, so whatever day it might be, it’s time to clear out as much of it as possible. A full 22 records join The Obelisk Radio playlist today. Some of it is very strange, some of it pretty straightforward, but one way or another, I think it all makes the stream better and more diverse, and that’s what it’s all about. For the full list of everything added, check out the Playlist and Updates page.
The Obelisk Radio adds for Feb. 16, 2015:
Primitive Man, Home is Where the Hatred Is
After their destructive 2013 Relapse Records debut, Scorn (review here), Primitive Man‘s reputation for brutality precedes them. The Denver trio’s new EP, Home is Where the Hatred Is, is only likely to further that reputation, its four tracks alternating between grueling, unrepentantly slow-lumbering, ungodly-toned extremity and fits of grinding megaviolence. The release is arranged longest to shortest so that opener “Loathe” (11:03) is sure to weed out the weaker constitutions en route to the ensuing crushers “Downfall” (8:43) and “Bag Man” (7:09). The closer, “A Marriage with Nothingness” (4:17) is a collage of noise and fedback threat topped with a sample of a woman either in ecstasy or agony — in context it’s kind of hard to tell — but the message is plain either way. One might think of that cut as an answer to Primitive Man‘s 2013 P//M Noise Tape, which also explored droning forms between covers of Portishead, Black Sabbath and Crowbar. Perhaps most foreboding of all is how smoothly Primitive Man shift between the facets of their increasingly diverse sound, since it speaks to a progression in progress in terms of bringing the various elements together. A beast is one thing, but a thinking beast seems all the more ominous. They may be in the process of outgrowing their name, but a savage force remains at the heart of their bludgeoning. Primitive Man on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
Sandrider and Kinski, Sandrider + Kinski Split
With geography in common in their Seattle base of operation, Sandrider and Kinski present their Sandrider + Kinski split on Good to Die Records with three new songs from the former, including a cover of Jane’s Addiction‘s “Mountain Song,” and two from the latter, working in instrumental, textured heavy psychedelic forms that complement Sandrider‘s bombastic approach as heard on their two full-lengths to date, 2013’s Godhead (review here) and 2011’s self-titled debut (review here). Both “Beyond in Touch with My Feminine Side” (8:42) and “The Narcotic Comforts of the Status Quo” (5:17) flesh out open spaces, rich in tone and flowing movement, with the closer more of a riffy, space-rock feel while “Beyond in Touch with My Feminine Side” is more exploratory, fading out at its end is the jam sort of deconstructs below lead guitar. As for Sandrider‘s “Rain” (4:47) and “Glaive” (4:40), for anyone who’s heard the rolling punk heaviness of their albums, it should be enough to say they sound like Sandrider – upbeat and catchy and furious and kinetic — and while I’m not sure anyone ever needed to hear a Jane’s Addiction song ever again (ever.), they take what was probably the band’s best riff and re-suit it to their own purposes, which if you’re going to do it at least is the right way to go about it. Sandrider on Thee Facebooks, Kinski on Thee Facebooks, Good to Die Records.
Ultimately, Hiram-Maxim‘s self-titled Aqualamb debut reads more like an experiment in the deconstruction of sound than an album in the traditional sense, and perhaps I use the word “reads” because it’s a book. As has become Aqualamb‘s modus, the four-track release comes as a 100-page artbook and a download that contains its nonetheless-vinyl-ready darkened forms, whether it’s the brooding “One” (11:47) with backing drones and open guitars or the preceding “Can’t Stop” (11:55) with its rising current of abrasive, almost grating noise that gradually consumes whatever song was there to start with. It is a dark atmosphere, and the opener, “Visceral” (7:14), is well titled, but the pervading vibe is more exploratory than theatrical; like the listener, the Cleveland four-piece are feeling their way through these deep reaches, and when they come around to the apex of closer “Worship” (6:25), the resolution they seem to find is frantic and desolate in turn. In another universe, one might call it punk rock. Here, it is gleefully and thoroughly fucked. Hiram-Maxim on Thee Facebooks, Aqualamb.
Obrero, The Infinite Corridors of Time
The Infinite Corridors of Time, the second long-player from Stockholm old-schoolers Obrero should — contrary to their logo — appeal to fans of Hour of 13 and Argus and others who’ve made preservation of classic metal their mission, skirting the fine line between doomly Sabbath worship and proto-NWOBHM stylized forwardness of purpose. The double-guitar five-piece show some penchant for ’70s heavy rock on cuts like “Oneironaut” (6:20) and “The Axial Age” (5:40) but by and large their purposes are more metallic, meshing AC/DC and Judas Priest impulses into the keyboard-laden “Manchester Morgue” (5:01) or “Phobos and Deimos” (5:42), which stands out for its hook and successful blend alike. At eight tracks/52 minutes, The Infinite Corridors of Time is no minor undertaking — there is no song under five minutes long — but their use of keys allows Obrero to work in various moods, and for those seeking purity in their metal, the Swedish outfit offer glimpses without being wholly derivative of what’s come before. Obrero on Thee Facebooks, To the Death Records.
Elbrus, Far Away and into Space Pt. 2
If you feel like you missed out on Far Away and into Space Pt. 1, don’t worry about it. Melbourne, Australia, four-piece Elbrus are actually starting out with Pt. 2, and it’s their debut single, an 11-minute psychedelic push of heavy blues rock, stoner rollout and organ-blessed jamming. I’m not sure it’s safe yet to call what’s happening in Melbourne right now a “heavy blues revival” as acts like Elbrus and Child delve into such sonic territory — if only because with bands like Horsehunter and Hotel Wrecking City Traders out there, the city’s take on heavy isn’t so easily categorized — but one rarely recognizes such things until beaten over the head by them. Either way, “Far Away and into Space Pt. 2″ gracefully looses a molten flow over its 11:06 stretch, vocalist/organist Ollie Bradley-Smith unafraid to cut through the natural-sounding, weighted tones of guitarist Ringo Camilleri and bassist Mafi Watson while Tom Todorovic‘s drums smooth the way between volume and tempo changes and add cymbal-crash swing to both. It’s a smooth-grooved nod, and aside from making me curious to hear the first installment of “Far Away and into Space,” it makes me wonder what Elbrus might next encounter as that journey unfolds. Elbrus on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
One more time, this is not even a quarter of what’s been added today. There’s also stuff from Black Rainbows, Felipe Arcazas, Headless Kross, Warhorse, Twingiant and others, so please make sure you hit up the Obelisk Radio Playlist and Updates page to see the full list.
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 10th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Melbourne trio Child released their self-titled debut last year to wide swaths of acclaim for its heavy blues rollout, and after an initial announcement back in Sept. of Bilocation Records‘ having picked it up, presales have been opened ahead of a Feb. 20 CD and LP release. Lest life be too fair, the 111 white/orange copies have already sold — not too shabby since as I understand it preorders have been going on for less than 24 hours — but there are still red and black versions to be had, at least for the time being.
On a related note, Child will take part May 10 in Cherry Rock 015 in their hometown alongside Red Fang, New Zealand’s Beastwars, Horsehunter and others. It looks like quite a way to spend a Sunday night, should you happen to be in town.
This from the PR wire:
CHILD debut album released on 180g vinyl & CD – available on pre-sale now.
Formed in the rock n roll underground of Melbourne, Australia in 2012, Child have captured the attention of blues-heavy rock enthusiast’s from all corners of the globe.
Their self titled debut release is a look through the pinhole at a bands honest and unhindered purge of expression. Drawing influence from an ever growing, ever evolving sonic palette; You will find Child’s roots tightly entwined in and around the Blues whilst taking a heavier and more visceral approach. The group take pride in upholding the strong tradition of Australian rock that preceded them which gave birth to likes of AC/DC, The Easybeats, Rose Tattoo, Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs and Masters Apprentices to name a few.
Child are honoured to fly the flag and will leave no crack unfilled as they spread their brand of heavy psych blues across the earth. All that can be said is great things are on the horizon for this trio.
Organ on “All Dried Up” by Neil Wilkinson Recorded & Mixed By Paul Maybury at A Secret Location Studios. Mastered by Dav Byrne at Iridium Audio. Oil Painting by Nick Keller, Photo by Gil at Superteam Studios
VINYL FACTZ – 111x white hazed orange (EXCLUSIVE MAILORDER version) – 200x solid red – 200x black – Plated & pressed on high performance vinyl in Germany – Matt laquered 300gsm gatefold cover – Handnumbered – Mastered for vinyl
TRACKS 1. Trees 8:13 2. Stone by Stone 6:15 3. All Dried Up 5:13 4. Mean Square 8:06 5. Blue Overtone Storm/Yellow Planetary Sun 10:03
Posted in Reviews on December 29th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
This is it. New Year’s is this week and by Friday we’ll be into 2015. A new year always brings new hopes, concerns, records and so on, but to be completely honest, I’m just not quite done with 2014 yet. So here we are. I’ve had stacks of CDs on my desk and folders on my computer from the last couple months of stuff I have been trying to fit in, and it doesn’t seem right to me to let the year go without cramming in as much music as I possibly can.
Gotta call it something, so I went with “Last Licks,” since that’s basically what it will be. The plan is that between today and Friday, each day I’ll have another batch of 10 reviews. I’m not going to promise they’ll be the most comprehensive ever, but the idea is to do as much as I can and this seems to me the best way to turn my brains into goo. When that ball drops in Times Square, there’s a good chance I’ll be typing.
No sense in delaying. You get the idea, so let’s jump in:
Sigiriya, Darkness Died Today
Recorded live as their debut on Candlelight Records and the follow-up to 2011’s debut, Return to Earth (review here), the sophomore outing from Welsh heavy rockers Sigiriya, Darkness Died Today, is distinguished by a vocalist swap bringing in Matt Williams of Suns of Thunder. Williams has a tough job in replacing Dorian Walters, who like guitarist Stuart O’Hara, bassist Paul Bidmead and drummer Darren Ivey, is a former member of Acrimony. There are times when it works and times when it doesn’t. Along with a more barebones tonality in the guitar than appeared on the debut, Williams brings a more straightforward style in his voice, and it changes the personality of the band on songs like “Freedom Engines” and the first-album-title-track “Return to Earth.” “Tribe of the Old Oak” is a catchy highlight and I’ll almost never argue with a song called “Obelisk,” but it seems like they’re still searching for the footing here that seemed so firmly planted their last time out.
Upstate New York blues rockers Handsome Jack waste little time living up to the title Do What Comes Naturally. The name of their third album, released by Alive Naturalsound, is both mission-statement aand suggestion, and on songs like the soul-inflected “Creepin’” and the rolling “You and Me,” they make it sound like a good idea. Blues and classic soul meet garage rock across cuts like the relatively brief “Leave it all Behind,” but the tones are warm throughout the record, and guest spots on harmonica and Hammond help keep a sense of variety in the material, well-constructed but still loose in its vibe. The twang might recall The Brought Low for heavy rock heads, but one doubts Handsome Jack groove on much that came out after Psychedelic Mud. Even the CD splits into sides, and as easy as it would be for something like this to sound like a put-on, Handsome Jack prevail with closer “Wasted Time” in making an outing that’s anything but.
London doomers Serpent Venom sound like experts in the form on Of Things Seen and Unseen, their second album for The Church Within following 2011’s Carnal Altar and their initial 2010 demo (review here), a righteous 48-minute lumbering slab of heavy riffs, downerism and nod. It’s not every band who could put “Death Throes at Dawn” and “Lord of Life” next to each other, but the four-piece of vocalist Garry Ricketts, guitarist Roland Scriver, bassist Nick Davies and drummer Paul Sutherland keep their focus so utterly doomed that even the quiet, minimalist acoustic interlude “I Awake” – ostensibly a breather — comes across as trodden as the earlier “Sorrow’s Bastard,” or the Reverend Bizarre-worthy “Let Them Starve,” which follows. For those who long for trad doom that has an identity outside its Vitus and Sabbath influences, Serpent Venom prove more than ready to enter that conversation on the wah-soaked soloing in the second half of “Pilgrims of the Sun.” Right fucking on.
The artwork tells the story. Owl Glitters’ Alchemical Tones (on Heart and Crossbone Records) is a wash of color. Taking tribal rhythms and repetitions and pairing them with organic low-end, chanted vocals and periodic excursions of psych rock guitar, Arkia Jahani (who seems to be the lone creative force behind the project, though Mell Dettmer mastered) brings a ritualistic sensibility to the eight included pieces, and the flow is molten from the start of “Dervishes.” Less purposefully weird than Master Musicians of Bukkake, but farther into the cosmos than Om, there’s a folkish identity at the heart of Alchemical Tones that keeps the proceedings human even on the near-throat-singing of “Hakim Sanai” or “Poets of Shiras” and “Khalifa’s Visions” an immersive pair preceding the droning closer “By the Candlelight Our Eyes Welcome Glimmers of Eternity.” Beautifully experimental – and in the case of “Mindful of Gems,” fuzzed to the gills – Owl Glitters’ second outing engages sonic spiritualism with dogmatic command and stares back at you from the space within yourself.
Sandveiss released Scream Queen, their first full-length, late in 2013, reveling in a modern sound crisply produced and more than ably executed to feature the vocals of guitarist Luc Bourgeois, who provides frontman presence even on disc alongside guitarist Shawn Rice, bassist Daniel Girard and drummer Dzemal Trtak. Cohesiveness isn’t in question as opener and longest cut (immediate points) “Blindsided” rounds out its 6:26, leading the way into “Do You Really Know” and setting the tone for big-riffed Euro-style heavy from the Quebecois foursome, who slow down on “Bottomless Lies,” on which Trtak backs Bourgeois in you-guys-should-do-this-more fashion, and ultimately hold firm to the focus on songwriting that establishes itself early. They fuzz out on closer “Green or Gold,” but by then it’s another element of variety among the organ, guest vocals on “Scar” and tempo shifts on Sandveiss’ ambitious debut, distinguished even unto the six-panel gatefold digi-sleeve in which it arrives, the art and design by Alexandre Goulet one more standout factor on an album demanding attention.
Probably the most clearly Beatlesian moment on Octopus Syng’s Reverberating Garden Number 7 is a slight “Hey Bulldog”-style cadence on side A’s “Very Strange Trip,” and that in itself is an accomplishment (one I’m apparently not the first to observe). The Helsinki four-piece in their 15th year are led by guitarist/vocalist Jaire Pätäri and emit an oozing, serene psychedelia, peaceful and lysergic in late ‘60s exploratory fashion. Reverberating Garden Number 7 (on Mega Dodo Records) echoes out vibe to spare and is deceptively lush while keeping a humble vibe thanks in no small part to Pätäri’s restrained vocal approach and curios like “Cuckoo Clock Mystery,” which boasts an actual cuckoo clock to add bounce to its arrangement. Nine-minute closer “Listen to the Moths” is the single biggest surprise, and an album unto itself, but its unfolding is only the capstone on a collection of psychedelic wonder sincere in its stylistic intent and execution. It fills the ears like warm air in the lungs.
Destructive Australian trio Sun Shepherd put the bulk of Procession of Trampling Hoof to tape in 2011. Closing bonus track “Exploding Sun” is a demo from 2006, but it fits with their extended tracks and big riffs piled onto each other in densely-weighted fashion, if rougher in presentation. More Ramesses than High on Fire, who prove otherwise to be a key influence tonally for guitarist/vocalist Anson Antriasian, must-hear bassist Leigh Fischer and drummer Michael Barson, though their approach is decidedly less thrash-based. The first five of the six songs find Sun Shepherd’s first full-length a pummel-minded blend of sludge and doom. Antriasian’s vocals are semi-spoken, but fitting theatrically on “Goat-Head Awakening” with the grueling riff-led nod, the tension released as they pass the halfway point of the 10-minute run, a raw atmosphere bolstering the chaos of their slower-motion marauding. With the welcome flourish of stonerly soloing on “Engulfed by Ocean of Time,” one can’t help but wonder what the Melbourne natives are up to three years later.
Fuzz-toned elements of Sleep and Sabbath pervade the stoner-doomy self-titled The Church Within debut from Oslo three-piece Purple Hill Witch, who carry the bounce well in immediately familiar riffs and groove. Swinging drums from Øyvind and the inventive basslines of Andreas underscore Kristian’s purely Iommic riffage and blown-out vocals, somewhere between Witchcraft’s earliest going and Witch’s self-titled. If that gives Purple Hill Witch an even witchier feel, “Final Procession” sounds just fine with that, as do shorter tracks like the later “Aldebaranian Voyage (Into the Sun)” and centerpiece “Karmanjaka” on which the stoner side comes out in force. They finish by using all 11 minutes of the eponymous “Purple Hill Witch”’s runtime, breaking in the midsection for a murky exploration that’s creepily atmospheric without veering into cult rock cliché. They bounce resumes and slows to a crawl to close out, but the jam serves Purple Hill Witch well in expanding the band’s sonic reach and the album’s weedian sensibility. Not that they were keeping it a secret.
A burly dual-guitar five-piece with roots in Germany and Switzerland, Giant Sleep start out their self-titled, self-released first LP with a brief intro titled “Argos” before getting to the question, “Why am I angry all the time?” as the central, recurring line of “Angry Man.” That song, like “Henu” and “Reproduce,” gets its point across quick in heavy rock fashion and develops its argument from there, a progressive metal vibe pervading especially the latter, which is penultimate in the 10-song/52-minute effort, and underscores the high-grade craftsmanship accomplished throughout. “Dreamless Sleep” is probably my pick of the bunch for its airier tone and resonant minor-key hook in the guitars of Markus Ruf and Patrick Hagmann, vocalist Thomas Rosenmerkel belting out the chorus before making way for plotted solos atop Radek Stecki’s bass and Manuel Spänhauer’s drums, but it’s not so far removed from its surroundings. As a whole, the album could be more efficient, but it wants nothing for songwriting, and especially as a debut, Giant Sleep hits its marks readily.
Opener “Las Noches del Desierto” is the only one of Star Collider’s five tracks under 10 minutes. Flux seems to be the norm for Finnish post-stoners Acid Elephant, who recently brought in vocalist Martin Ahlö but here revolve around the core of bassist/guitarist/vocalist Miksa Väliverho, guitarist/vocalist Ilpo Kauppinen and drummer Roope Vähä-Aho, employing a host of others on obscure vocals, percussion and djembe throughout the 64-minute sophomore outing, recorded in 2012 and released late in 2013. Whoever they are now, Acid Elephant on Star Collider call out heavy psych, drone/jam and riff-based impulses in their extended cuts, gradually getting longer from “Red Carpet Lane” (10:46) until closer “Bog” hits 18:29. To their credit, their songs leave impressions to match their length, and even as it’s finishing its instrumental run, “Godmason” (15:58) is highlighting its resonant central riff, having emerged from a wash of feedback and amp noise at its beginning, preceded by the droning centerpiece “7th Stone.” Satisfying and unpredictable, Star Collider balances experimentation and engagement smoothly without losing its focus on individualism.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Nearly two weeks after opening for Sleep in their native Melbourne, doomly four-piece Horsehunter have inked a deal to release their four-track debut full-length, Caged in Flesh, on Magnetic Eye Records. The Aussie band self-released the album at the end of September and have been garnering acclaim for it since, as they’ll no doubt continue to do in 2015 owing to the massive tones, throaty shouts and lumbering vibe of songs like “Stoned to Death,” which you can hear and download below following a premiere from Decibel. Its 16-minute course is no small undertaking, but they pay it off with hypnotic, bleak psychedelia that only makes the underlying rumble seem like more of a threat.
More to come, I’m sure. In the meantime, the PR wire has this:
MAGNETIC EYE RECORDS Announce Signing of Doom Quartet HORSEHUNTER | New Album out March 2015
Magnetic Eye Records is thrilled to announce the signing of Horsehunter; one of the Southern Hemisphere’s heaviest and most eagerly anticipated doom exports of 2015.
The news crowns a remarkable year for the band and one that has seen them share stages with the likes of High On Fire, Conan and Windhand, and harvest fans from all four corners of the globe through a growing, almost cult-like stir of online worship. In fact news of their signing might come as little revelation to those already baptised and burnt by the fire of Caged In Flesh, the Australian quartet’s impressive self-released debut album.
“After one listen we recognized it for what it is. It’s a masterpiece,” explains MER owner Mike Vitali. “Hands down it’s one of the most exciting albums of 2015 and we’re looking forward to making sure the double gatefold vinyl is above and beyond visually stunning.”
Canned, scrapped, rewritten and rerecorded numerous times by the band over an obsessive two-year period, the darkly lyrical and brutally heavy compositions of Caged In Flesh embody Horsehunter’s perverse and maniacal precision as a band. A testament in four parts to the psychedelic power and glory of Shrinebuilder, Neurosis and Sleep, the latter of whom join Horsehunter this month as part of a sold-out show at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne, Australia.
To celebrate the official worldwide release of Caged In Flesh on 10th March 2015, Magnetic Eye Records and Horsehunter are honoured to bring you the sixteen-minute opus ‘Stoned To Death’, available asa free download.
Posted in audiObelisk on April 2nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’ve made attempts in the past to describe the scope that Melbourne, Australia, instrumental duo Hotel Wrecking City Traders cover, but to be perfectly honest with you, I think I’ve fallen a little flat in doing so to date. When I first got a copy of their 2008 Black Yolk full-length debut, it seemed to me that the brotherly two-piece of guitarist Toby Matthews and drummer Ben Matthews were embroiled in a kind of post-punker noise rock. Their edges were sharp, the material angular, almost mathy. The subsequent 2010 Somer/Wantok 7″ single (review here) preceded a 2011 collaborative 12″ with Gary Arce of Yawning Man (review here), and both the pairing itself and the output showed shifting influences, the Wreckers taking on a more progressive, groove-based mindset, smoothing out. In 2012, they again partnered with Arce, this time taking part in a three-way split between his WaterWays project and UK instrumental proggers Sons of Alpha Centauri (review here) that once again expanded the Hotel Wrecking City Traders palette. Now, more than half a decade since their last long-player, the Matthewses return with Ikiryoon their own Bro Fidelity Records and seek to confound those who’d try to simplify their approach by sticking it in one category or another.
Ben and Toby — who also issued the solo album Sounds of Jurain 2013 under the moniker Toby Wrecker — offered a look at some of their present breadth late in 2013 with the one-song, largely-improvised 46-minute live video “Ode to Chunn” (discussed here). It was probably the best extended-form single of last year that never actually got a release, and Ikiryocontinues to trace the development of Hotel Wrecking City Traders as a unit of multiple sonic affiliations. Over its vinyl-ready five-track, 36-minute sprawl, Ikiryo touches onPelican pastoralia (see “Riley”), doomly minimalism (the midsection of opener “Breath”), post-desert joybringing (“Dance the Hempen Jig”), extended builds (the closing title-track), and on “Tetryl,” they seem to fuse the patient atmospherics of who they are now with the crunching riffs they offered in their beginnings while also experimenting either with vocals or something that sounds enough like them to serve that purpose. Likewise, there also seems to be some conversation happening way, way down in the mix of “Breath,” unless that’s just my brain receiving alien transmissions again. It’s vague. Could go either way. The point is, Hotel Wrecking City Traders are pushing themselves, experimenting, refusing to settle into any comfort zone, and for arriving six years after their first album, Ikiryoshows they haven’t wasted their time.
There’s at least six years’ worth of growth evident between the initial rush of “Breath” and the moodier, contemplative launch of “Ikiryo” — though the title cut rounds out with a viciously heavy payoff of its own — and along the way, they hit numerous peaks and valleys, striding out in the centerpiece “Dance the Hempen Jig” for a fuzz highlight memorable enough to be an anchor for anyone who finds themselves rudderless in stretches of linearity without traditional verses or choruses to ground them, Toby‘s guitar metering out airy lead lines over Ben‘s smoothed-out drum pattern. Even here they’re not without purpose or dynamic, and as much as they come to rest in a given part anywhere on Ikiryo, their use of repetition never goes from hypnotic to redundant.
Even now I find that none of this is really doing justice to Hotel Wrecking City Traders‘ heavy and increasingly expansive take. Fortunately, the duo have granted me permission to host a full stream of the album, so that instead of spinning my adjectival wheels to look for alternate uses of “deeply creative,” I can simply direct your attention to the player below and you can hear it for yourself. Score one for the nifty future in which we reside.
Ikiryo is out on CD April 16 as Hotel Wrecking City Traders begin a European tour (info an dates below). Enjoy:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
Hotel Wrecking City Traders’ (HWCT) first full length LP since 2008’s ‘Black Yolk’. After a series of successful collaborations & splits with Desert Rock forefathers Gary Arce, Mario Lalli (Yawning Man/Fatso Jetson) and a steady bout of touring Australia and Japan, the urge to record as a duo again was something that was important. So was emphasizing the song and the melody and crafting the riff. ‘Ikiryo’ is a more harnessed beast and comprises 5 songs that were written over the course of a 3 month period at the end of 2013. They were recorded in a mere 2 days, in January, 2014. This time working with engineer Jason Fuller at his Goatsound Studios in Melbourne. Jason’s background is well known as being in the heavier more metal realm (Brutal Truth, Blood Duster). The band were sought out by Jason and invited to record, ironically entering the studio with some of the most melodic and concise songs of their existence. The result is a vivid sonic journey over the course of 40 minutes that sees HWCT’s new approach spread across 5 measured sonic explorations. Improvisational aspects are still present but so is a confident and measured velocity. This is evident in the album’s title, suggesting a spirit leaving the body and moving around freely. The album is heavy, mind altering and noisy and still undeniably HWCT.
Ikiryo European Tour April/May 2014 Fri April 18th The Anvil, Bournemouth Sat April 19th The Hole in the Wall, Colchester Thu April 24th Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff Fri April 25th Church of St Thomas the Martyr, Bristol w/The Body, Arabrot, Hey Colossus Sat April 26th The Desertfest, London Tue 29th April RockSound, Barcelona Wed 30th April IncivicZone, Sant Feliu de Codines Thu 1st May Lion Cafe, Benicarlo Fri 2nd May La Residencia, Valencia Sat 3rd May Métrica, Málaga Sun 4th May Mondongo Bar, Puerto Santa María — Cádiz Mon 5th May Cruce de Caminos, La Zubia — Granada Tue 6th May Wurlitzer Ballroom, Madrid Wed 7th May El Reino, Cabezón de La Sal Thu 8th May Sentinel Rock Club, Erandio + MEIDO Fri 9th May Mogambo, Donostia + ERROMA + MEIDO Sat 10th May AVV Arrebato, Zaragoza
Posted in Reviews on March 6th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s a big world and there’s a lot to review in it, so I won’t do much to delay. This time around covers both coasts of the US as well as Europe and even Australia, proving once again that heavy knows no borders and seems to be at home wherever it goes. It’s a pretty varied batch this time as well, but should provide some fun along the way.
Billing themselves as “Seattle’s only rock duo” — which is charming if unlikely — guitarist/vocalist Ben Harwood and drummer Jeff Silva self-release their second album as Hobosexual (I see what you did there…) in the aptly-titled 12-tracker, II. It’s a record that brims with attitude from the chugging, semi-Melvinsian opening of “Switchblade Suburbia,” but there’s a depth of tone and swagger to back up the smacktalk in their songwriting. The 38-second “Ghettoblaster” is Hendrix-style feedback and soloing, playing directly into “Hostile Denim”‘s lead-obsessed Rolling Stones hook ‘n’ push. Topped off with striking artwork from Adam Burke of Fellwoods, IIproves very much of its Pacific Northwest origins — a magical land where everybody has a beard and they all listen to stoner rock — and while the tongue-in-cheek snark of “Sex Destroyer” might be over-the-top to some, Hobosexual avoid the minimalist aesthetic some duos use as a crutch for lazy songwriting, make old riffs new again and showcase some melodic depth in Harwood‘s vocal layering, positioning songs like “The Black Camaro Death” and the penultimate “BMX” highlights arguing against style over substance amid party-ready riffing and don’t-have-a-fuck-to-give panache. Their 2010 self-titled debut worked in similar stylistic parameters, but IIstrikes as more confident overall, and it’s a record that you’re either going to fall prey to its sleaze or shoot down early and go about your night. If the album’s a party, I feel at times like my invite must have gotten lost in the mail, but Hobosexual provide a decent reminder nonetheless that there are those capable of turning heavy rock into a good time and put it on the listener to ask why they should take it so seriously in the first place. FOAD: Fuck off and dance.
Strange things are afoot throughout Italian four-piece Midryasi‘s third album, Black, Blue and Violet. The multifaceted heavy outfit run a gamut from Pentagram-esque riff doom to Pink Floyd-infused progressive texturing, all the while keeping a clarity of sound that can likely be traced to the metallic roots of bassist/vocalist Convulsion, who aside from having played in DoomSword can be traced to a number of more extreme outfits. His brother, DoomSword vocalist Deathmaster, shows up on opener “The Counterflow,” but Black, Blue and Violet never goes quite so far into one subgenre or another, the keyboard work of Umberto Desanti always adding an edge of prog to whatever else might be happening, whether it’s the otherwise doomed “Diagonal” or the dramatic verses of the title-track. Released through My Graveyard Productions, Midryasi‘s third ultimately finds its atmospheric crux in an intelligent construction, but perhaps feels somewhat distant in its performance, coldly executed. That’s an inherent tradeoff for the complexity of its arrangements, maybe, and there’s something to be said in argument for the skillful calculation at work across these seven tracks that run smoothly with the underlying drum work of Sappah and fluid guitars of Paolo Paganhate and hit their high-point with the rumbling “The Nuclear Dog,” which provides the most memorable hook of the long-player and seems to revel most in the psychedelic and progressive weirdness that the whole album moves within. The six-and-a-half-minute “Hole of the Saturday Night” closes out with a heavy rock riff and vocal delivery from Convulsion that moves in some of the same (stone) circles as Venomous Maximus, though that’s likely a coincidence of common influence between the two, and with a smooth, consistent production, Midryasi wind up sounding most of all like a band working on its own level. And successfully.
Raucous Berlin six-piece Operators made an impression in 2012 with the unabashed new school stoner rock of their self-titled debut (review here) now a little older, a little wiser, a little more drunk, the band returns with Contact High, a record that wears its influences on its sleeve in much the same manner as the Satellite Beaver, Neume and Stonehenge patches grace the varsity jacket of the figure on the album’s cover. “Kiss of De Ath” resides at the end of side A of the eight-track/39-minute offering and offers some of Operators‘ most satisfying boogie as Konni‘s organ and the guitars of Jacky and Dirk align for an intricate but still-rolling groove of a midsection build while Stonehenge‘s Enni steps in as a guest singer, but it’s vocalist Eggat who makes the first impression on opener “Terra Ohm,” setting up a strong hook for the rest of Contact High to live up to. The album plays out unpretentious and riotous in kind, and while they haven’t necessarily settled down since their first outing, it’s easy enough to hear Operators as having solidified their approach somewhat. Konni‘s keys work just as well alongside the rhythm section of bassist Dän and drummer Säsh as with the guitars, and Eggat proves a formidable enough presence on cuts like “If I Burn,” “Bring on the Spice” (I don’t know whose guitar solo that is, but kudos) and the driving “Contact High” to reign the rest into cohesion. The six-and-a-half-minute “Arrows” shows a more subdued side that, somewhat surprisingly, never quite explodes into the noisy chicanery found elsewhere. Could it be that Operators are growing up right before our ears? I don’t know, but the results are fascinating and display more even potential from these Desertfest veterans.
Grand soundscaping, an underlying sense of ritual, and a pervasive experimental bent — it shouldn’t really be a surprise that Spain’s Pylar boasts some manner of allegiance to forward or at least side-to-side thinking doomers Orthodox and the avant extremists Blooming Látigo, but the unit’s Knockturne Records debut, Poderoso Se Alza en My, strikes as a decidedly more conceptual work, with one song spilling into the next, religious themes crossing through minimalist atmospheres and a periodic lurch emerging that’s as much a trip aurally as mentally. Two longer cuts, “El Pylar Se Ha Alzado” (13:49) and “Al Fin Te Contemplo Entre las Ruinas del Tiempo (Pentagrammaton)” (12:11) sandwich five not-quite-as-extended segments as the opener (the longest on the record; immediate points) and closer of the 68-minute behemoth, which one would be thoroughly mistaken to dub a “compact” disc. It is, instead, expansive and challenging, rife with droning tension, vague shouts in Spanish seeming to describe some torment either physical or spiritual amid art-jazz percussion in another dimension’s time signatures. Will not, will not, will not be for everyone, but Pylar‘s first is a fascinating and dense work that one could easily spend any number of months dissecting, only to still come up with an incomplete picture of its scope, and for those with a high tolerance for the experimental and indulgences of noise, the intense swell of “La Gran Luminaria” could easily prove essential as the culmination point for what seems to be an album-long drive toward enlightenment and the sundry terrors it might carry with it. If you think you’re bored of the mundane, Poderoso Se Alza en Myis ready to pull back the veil and toy for a while with what you used to think of as “your” consciousness.
I remain a sucker for Aussie heavy. System of Venus guitarist/vocalist/graphic designer Fatima Baši? gets into a doomly melodic range that reminds at times — as on “Dancing in Hell’s Garden” — of Alunah‘s Soph Day, but the rough edges in her guitar and Amanda‘s bass add a more distinct ’90s feel to the seven-track/36-minute proceedings on their full-length debut and first release, as the crunch in “Monster Ego” will further attest. Drummer Matt Lieber shows himself comfortable with the quick tempo changes in that song and elsewhere on the self-titled, self-released offering, and though the centerpiece “Dr. Dumb” works quickly to earn its position in the CD’s tracklist, ultimately the opener “Blackrock” and the closing duo of “Nothing” and “Beast” are the strongest statements the album has to make in showcasing the diversity nascent in System of Venus‘ approach, “Beast” rising to an apex that though satisfying feels somewhat shortlived in providing the payoff for the record as whole while “Nothing” holds to a quieter, brooding sentiment that plays off the foundational bassline of “Gannets Drive,” giving what might’ve otherwise easily turned out to be a demo an LP’s overarching flow and speaking to an early awareness of quality construction from the Melbourne trio, though “Gannets Drive” seems to cut out early, building to a hit that’s snapped mid-crash, so perhaps there remain some kinks to work out one way or another. All the same, taken as a whole, System of Venus‘ System of Venussatisfies as the debut of a band feeling out where they want to be sonically, and bodes well for where they might grow their sound somewhere between grunge, doom and heavy rock.
Posted in Reviews on December 23rd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s with a dark, brooding and at times extreme take on (e)visceral sludge that Australian five-piece Clagg return on their fourth full-length, Gather Your Beasts. The two-guitar/standalone-vocal outfit were last heard from with 2009’s Lord of the Deep (review here), which saw reissue in 2011 on Obsidian Records. Gather Your Beasts is self-released, but that’s not to say a similar fate doesn’t await it, because if anything, it’s Clagg‘s most realized outing yet, casting off some (not all) of the heavy rock sway in their riffs in favor of focusing on bleaker and tighter-feeling material. Guitarists Anthony Viccars and Dav Byrne lead the charge, with bassist Dase Beard and drummer Tim Byrne marking the progress of their lurching plod with some sizable footprints. Dase and Dav are new as of this collection, but if there’s an even bigger difference to be heard between Gather Your Beasts and Clagg‘s prior output, it’s in Scott Williams‘ vocals.
Tonally, the five mostly-extended tracks of Gather Your Beasts– the longest is opener “Five Curses” (immediate points) at 11:22 and the shortest is closer “Pathways to Oblivion” at 6:30 — are rife with cavernous echo, and where the last time out, Williams was charged with cutting through and dominating the rumble, right from the start of “Five Curses” he comes on buried, overwhelmed by the tidal riffs, carried out with them on undulating groove. The effect is to give the impression of even greater tonal largesse, and it works well, somewhere along the lines of an unritualistic Ramesses, less candlelit-ceremony and more burn-the-fucking-house-down. Neither feedback nor eardrums are spared throughout, “Five Curses” (the title maybe a reference to the five band members or to the album’s five tracks or both) unfolding to a rolling riff not without a sense of bounce punctuated by Tim‘s snare, as Williams unfurls tradeoffs of lower growling and high-pitched screams. Over the course of the title-track and “The Great Mortality,” they vary the level of extremity somewhat, even getting into a stoner shuffle for a stretch in the latter and giving Williams space for spoken word over ambient guitar in the former, but the brutality is never far off and always seems to make a return at just the right time.
That is to say, the crux and the resounding impression of the album is its heft and that already-noted brutality. Clagg use it well. As a centerpiece to the CD/digital version of Gather Your Beasts — which nonetheless is a vinyl-ready 44 minutes long — “The Great Mortality” takes the buried-vocals and crushing riffs and speeds them up for at least half of the song’s 7:51, starting out with a tense build on drums and guitar before the full rush is let loose. And when it slows down, it’s no less massive than anything else here, though the vocals are more forward than in some places preceding a mournful dirge of a solo that gradually rises from the agonized progression that marches into a fade, leaving the bass as a transition into the more definitively Sleep-via-Weedeater-style boogie that begins “The Dream is Dead.” If Clagg are stoner rock anywhere on the album, it’s here, but the classic heavy swagger is shortlived here as well — maybe that’s the dream dying — and in any case the vocals give it an entirely sludgier edge. So where does it hit the wall? Just about at the four-minute mark it seems like Clagg might be full-on ready to roll, and that’s when “The Dream is Dead” slams headfirst into feedback and excruciating tempo shift. Like someone hit the vibe in the face with a shovel.
Obviously that’s what Clagg are shooting for, so I wouldn’t call “The Dream is Dead” anything other than a success. It might be even more of one than “The Great Mortality,” which is similar in both title and construction, since there’s a more projected sense of build in the later, penultimate track. Eventually, though, the 10-minute “The Dream is Dead” stomps to a noisy, feedback-drenched finish and bleeds directly into “Pathways to Oblivion” as the final cut on Gather Your Beasts, which given the melee surrounding and the sprawl of “The Dream is Dead” seems short at 6:30 but winds up as more than an afterthought, keeping consistently to a pace that finds the middle ground between the duality in “The Great Mortality” and “The Dream is Dead” and rides it to a raucous, solo-topped finish before descending into a minute-plus of effects noise to close out. Clagg remain somewhat undervalued coming into Gather Your Beasts, and while one is hesitant to make “they’re gonna be huge” predictions because frankly that kind of thing depends on more than just the quality of a release and to say otherwise is needless hyperbole, their fourth album is at least worthy of the attention it seems to be demanding, and with the depth of its production, stylistic cohesion and the effort of presentation, Clagg‘s latest lurks like devastation waiting to be found.