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.
Over the last two years or so, Melbourne, Australia duo Hotel Wrecking City Traders have immersed themselves in a Californian desert influence. In 2012, they contributed to a split with the Yawning Man/Fatso Jetson-affiliated outfit WaterWays and Sons of Alpha Centauri (review here), and prior to that, they issued a collaboration with Yawning Man guitarist Gary Arce (review here) that found guitarist Toby Matthews and drummer Ben Matthews moving past some of the noise rock elements that typified their earlier work (it doesn’t fit as neatly into my constructed narrative, but they also released a split with Melbourne’s Spider Goat Canyon last year). Listening to the brothers’ 46-minute improv jam “Ode to Chunn,” it’s abundantly clear this basking in heavy psychedelia has had a profound impact on Hotel Wrecking City Traders.
It’s worth noting for an American audience that the PBS in question here is not the Public Broadcasting System, but instead PBS 106.7FM, a Melbourne-based radio station which filmed Hotel Wrecking City Traders playing “Ode to Chunn” live and got a pro-quality sound to match the high definition video. The band had uploaded “Ode to Chunn” in four parts, but I was dying to hear the complete piece, front to back, so I waited until they strung it all together. I had been kicking myself in the ass for not posting it earlier in its components until I finally caught the finished product. Not anymore. This thing is fantastic. A huge demonstration of how far Hotel Wrecking City Traders have come stylistically and an unmistakable glimpse at the musical chemistry the brothers share between them.
Maybe you won’t put it on and watch it front to back, staring at your screen the whole time, but even if you play the audio and check back in periodically over the course of the piece, you’ll no doubt find yourself amply consumed by the flow of the track. My only hope now is that “Ode to Chunn” makes its way to some kind of physical release, whether it’s a 12″ split into two sides or a tape or CD with it contained in its linear entirety. I’d argue in favor of the CD or an extended tape, if only so that the builds and rushes that Toby and Ben enact over the course of the song don’t find their momentum interrupted and that anyone listening isn’t pulled out of the trance for any reason whatsoever. Whatever they do with it, hopefully it’s something. In the meantime, note Toby‘s Mother Teacher Destroyershirt and enjoy the crap out of “Ode to Chunn” below:
Hotel Wrecking City Traders, “Ode to Chunn” Live at PBS 106.7FM
Posted in Radio on July 31st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
From where I sit, stoner rock charm is a very peculiar and particular kind of charm, and Riff Fist have all the earmarks. A trio of lugs from Down Under, they’re armed with inside jokes, guitar-bass-drums and steady Fu Manchu, Clutch and Kyuss influences, a cartoon Clint Eastwood on their cover (by Brian Koshak) and a four-track debut EP of riff-led shenanigans that they’ve decided to call — just in case you didn’t get the point from the fact that they’re called Riff Fist — Fistful of Riffs. Ambitious it is not.
But really, if have any experience listening to stoner rock whatsoever and you go into listening to a band called Riff Fist who have a release called Fistful of Riffsthinking you’re going to wind up with innovation, it’s your own fault. That’s not what Riff Fist are about. They’re about riffs, booze, and — again, the way I see it — charm. I don’t listen to “Spud King” with any kind of expectation for something landmark that will change my life forever. I listen hoping I’m going to hear a dude singing about being king of the potatoes, and thankfully, that’s just what I get from Riff Fist, and if that’s not enough to let you know how seriously Cozza, Grondo and Casey don’t take themselves, between calling out Fu Manchu in third track “Riff Stew” and the picture of one of the band members on a riding a pony under the CD tray in the digipak with the caption “It’s a Satanic Pony Thing… You Wouldn’t Understand” should fill in any blanks that might be left. Accordingly, they close out the EP with the eight-minute jam “Ride the Pony.”
Given all that and the fact that though it’s pretty raw vocally, the Melbourne three-piece’s first outing nonetheless comes with clean tones and some decent-sounding low end punch, I’m more than happy to get down with the silliness on offer. “Spud King” has some blues in its leads and “Fingerless Ben” is memorable for its strangeness as much as its chorus, but at least if Riff Fist are having a good time, they’re inviting you to have one too. I don’t know if the formative methods they’re showing here would pay off for them over the course of a full-length without something to sonically change it up — “Ride the Pony” branches out instrumentally some as it plays out, but is still very stoner rock and righteously, unashamedly so in this context — but as it is, what seems like the cream of their initial batch of songs since forming in 2011 appeals to the goofball in me. Wherever they go from here, it’s still fun.
And figuring it might be good times every now and again to have “Spud King” or “Ride the Pony” pop up in the playlist, I added Riff Fist‘s Fistful of Riffsto The Obelisk Radio. As standard practice seems to go for self-releasing bands, they’ve got the EP available on their Bandcamp too for CD and/or digital purchase, so here’s the stream of that as well if you’d like an immediate sampling:
Posted in Reviews on February 26th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
The self-titled debut EP from Melbourne, Australia’s Motherslug arrives in a CD jewel case with green artwork on the front and a fuzzy black and white band pic on back, over which the four component songs — “Symptoms,” “Rollin’,” “Devils Rise” and “Space Man” — are listed in the Scorpions logo font. Some records just bleed stoner rock, and Motherslug‘s first outing is most assuredly that, moving from an initial Sleep reference at the very start of “Symptoms” — think the beginning of “Dragonaut” — all the way to a bigtime ride-this-riff slowdown at the end of the eight-and-a-half-minute closer. If nothing else becomes clear at the end of the EP’s 26 minutes, you can at least say Motherslug know what they like.
But in fact, a lot becomes clear by the EP’s end, and it’s not so much about seeking out hidden breadth — though to that end, I’d note the psychedelic break in “Rollin’,” which thankfully was not a Limp Bizkit cover — as it is about approaching Motherslug on the level of their intent. Having been a band for just over a year now, not even a year when they put these cuts to tape, there’s a lot about Motherslugthat sounds exploratory, feeling out different ideas to see what works in their songwriting, but Cam (vocals), Fergus and Matt (both guitar), Cyn (bass) and Nick (drums) come out of the gate with a solid presentation of their genre and a clear idea, basking in the glow of Sabbath‘s “Hole in the Sky” in the early verses of “Rollin'” even as they push their thickened riffs into churning crash later in the track before putting the second half of the riffy bookend in place. Cam‘s singing reminds mostly of middle-era Alabama Thunderpussy or any number of other stoner singers, but he shows some drive toward fleshing out his approach as well on “Devils Rise” with a Cathedral-style cadence, and though high in the mix, his vocals don’t grate like so many heavy rock singers’ do.
And Motherslug are hardly the first nascent heavy rock unit to put their frontman out front, but with a song like “Devils Rise” — a little slower, a little more on the doom end of stoner doom — one really does want that sense of being swallowed whole by the riffs, and burying the vocals under the guitars and bass is how that happens. Again though, I’m not about to hold that against a self-releasing band on their first EP. By and large, the sound on Motherslug‘s Motherslugis crisp and professional — not too clean, but clean enough to display some will toward accessibility on their part. The closer, longer by two full minutes than anything else on the EP, keeps to a middle pace between the more shuffling “Rollin'” and “Devils Rise,” beginning with winding guitar and quickly locking in its central groove. Cyn provides the bridge between the opening run and the aforementioned final slowdown of the track with viscous, satisfying low end that pushes air en route to the rest of the band joining back in just past the five-minute mark.
That slowdown lasts for about the last three and a half minutes of the song, and though Motherslug have left themselves some room to grow, they’ve also made their intentions thunderously apparent. For listeners long inducted into the realm of stone, the tracks on the Motherslug EP should more or less feel like coming home, and though the band live quite literally on the other side of the planet, I can still just imagine the pint glasses raised in their honor in some darkened venue. Not revolutionary, not aiming for revolutionary, but a thoroughly enjoyable listen for the converted and something to build from should Motherslug seek further development.
Posted in On the Radar on January 14th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Caking a ’90s alternative influence in fuzz, heavy riffs and a gnarly feedback bent, Aussie heavy rockers Drifter unveil their gritty debut EP, Head, with few frills and a pervasive garage-type rawness. The five-song release is over in 13 minutes, so you know the Melbourne-area trio aren’t wasting much time getting down to business, and sure enough they don’t. Cuts like “I’ve Been Bad” and the punkier “Priest” run from point A to B, and even the crunchier, grunge-derived “Halo” keeps to a more or less basic structure and lack of pretense, leading into closer “So Long,” which reminds of something Nick Oliveri might have brought to the table in Queens of the Stone Age, filling out sound-wise in the chorus behind the half-screamed vocals of guitarist Dan King, bassist Scott Fraser and drummer Dave Payne.
Each of the five tracks ends in feedback, and it’s King‘s guitar leading the way for almost the entirety of the proceedings, but Drifter do find room to work some complexity into their approach and their style. It’s a jump in aesthetic from “Halo” to “Priest” that’s striking even with “All Over Town” between them, the latter working off an almost pop-punk progression to showcase its “take that, maturity”-type chorus while the former churns and builds a considerable tension in just a three-minute span while also proffering one of those in-spite-of-itself hooks that made grunge so powerful a pop force in the first place. In terms of the sheer fuzz, “All Over Town” might be my favorite track. King‘s riff is simple and the vocal cadence touches on Fu Manchu without ever going overboard. Like the EP as a whole, it’s also over before you know it.
That works though, since if Drifter started spacing out it would take away from the immediacy of their hooks and the punkish base they show on Head. The CD arrived in a creatively-folded sleeve with the recording info, tracklisting and a cartoon cover of caveman beardos in shorty-shorts, so it’s good to know that whatever else Drifter have going on, they’ve got a good sense of weirdness to match. Can only help them going forward, and in the meantime, they work a bit of that into the music as well. You can hear the tracks on Headby hitting up the Drifter Bandcamp or looking them up on Thee Facebooks. Here’s the EP in its entirety for your perusal:
Posted in On the Radar on December 10th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
From the gong and the very first guitar jangles and cymbal washes of “Fists of Stone,” the opening cut on Fortress of Narzod‘s debut EP, Power in the Hands of Fools (on Chief Designer Records), I thought for sure the three-track release was going to be a wash of Hawkwind space rock as filtered through Monster Magnet‘s ’90s-style swagger. Turns out the Aussie trio had other plans in mind, as “Fists of Stone” quickly thickens up its riffing as guitarist Andrew Pickering kicks into a more distorted tone and both bassist Jim Lewis (also vocals) and drummer Scott Pridham are keen to match pace.
Heavy psych vibes persist, though, and the crux of Power in the Hands of Foolsseems to stem from playing one side off the other. “Fists of Stone,” “(Now) There’s No Way Out” and the longer closer “Mighty Isis” offer solid riff-led groove, but there’s an impulse at work here too that comes from jamming, and particularly in Lewis‘ tone, one gets a sense that Fortress of Narzod could ride out a part for a solid eight to 10 minutes if they felt like it. They don’t come close, even on “Mighty Isis,” which tops seven, but flourishes like video game-style “space organ” and a mid-’60s psych guitar line to the centerpiece “(Now) There’s No Way Out” speak to ideas beyond those of simplistic stonerisms. Lewis‘ vocals come in more blown out but still well balanced in the mix in classic punk fashion, and when he delivers the titular line as the chorus, the effect isn’t catchy — that is, it’s not an over-the-top hook — so much as memorable.
“(Now) There’s No Way Out” also “gets heavy” in the sense of stomping into thicker fuzz in its second half, but even then, Lewis keeps his vocals consistent despite the louder guitars and drums from Pickering and Pridham and the effect is almost like the song is swallowing its own chorus. Pickering layers in a plotted but effective solo and Pridham punctuates Lewis‘ runs with snare pop and straightforward cymbal work that nonetheless does much to fill the sound before the bluesy solo is cut short and Lewis opens “Mighty Isis” with a bassline immediately grooving over cascading feedback and soon alternating lumber and grungy verse progressions.
The extra runtime between “Mighty Isis” and “Fists of Stone” or “(Now) There’s No Way Out” — which run 4:13 and 4:33, respectively — can be attributed to jamming out in the middle and at the end of the song. Pickering snakes through another impressive solo at the halfway point that leads back to the verse and soon enough, Fortress of Narzod are making good on that whole “ride a part out for a long time” thing, Lewis’ bassline being the force tying the pieces together while Pridham gives it another go on the gong before hitting into a fill that relaunches the riff and leads the way out of the song and the EP as a whole, the guitars offering last-minute slow wah swirl and crunchy fuzz in kind as the progression fades perhaps just a little too quickly.
My longstanding affection for Aussie heavy taken into account, Fortress of Narzod‘s debut probably doesn’t offer much that will honestly catch experienced listeners off guard, but Lewis, Pridham and Pickering give a solid showing of genre on Power in the Hands of Fools and enough of an indication of their style to make me curious to see where their blend of stoner and psych might lead and if they continue to expand on the nascent affinity for extra touches like the gong, the organ, 12-string acoustic, etc. Here’s a video for “(Now) There’s No Way Out” to see if you don’t agree:
Posted in Reviews on September 27th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Noise-infected Aussie five-piece Whitehorse specialize in the kind of death/doom that’s so lurching and massive in its brown metal tonality that it sounds slow even on the few occasions the band decides to speed things up. The Melbourne, Victoria, group have released enough live albums and EPs since 2005 to be called prolific, but the sludge-grooving Progression (Sweat Lung Records) is only their second full-length in that time, following a 2007 self-titled released by 20 Buck Spin. At a vinyl-ready 38 minutes, Progression is preceded in 2011 by the Document: 250407 EP, and a split with Rhode Island avant doomers The Body has already followed, but the album was clearly made to stand on its own, and it does, inflicting its dreary, darkened atmospherics well beyond the point of oppression. Whitehorse – guitarist Adrian Naudi (ex-The Berzerker), bassist Pete McLean, drummer Dan McKay, noise-maker David Coen and vocalist Peter Hyde – delve into the depths of viciousness, the ultra-slow riffing providing some groove that, again, is more prominent in the faster stretches, but still holds firm to some doom-based ideals and sets a firm ground for Hyde to launch his all-out brutal vocal assault in the forms of death growls and blackened metal screams that play well off each other on songs like the later “Time Worm Regression.”
Nothing polarizes quite like harsh vocals. Some people just can’t take it. I’m not one of them. If you can scream or growl effectively, fit with the rhythm and the atmosphere set by the music, then I’m all for it, and as far as that goes, Hyde has a handle on both technique and presentation. His growls echo over McKay’s crashes and the thudding riffs of Naudi and McLean, sounding disenfranchised and inhuman at the same time. Given Australia’s history of death/doom (dISEMBOWELMENT walks by and waves), Whitehorse aren’t exactly innovative, but they do what they do well, and Coen’s added noises and electronics do much to distinguish the band from others of their ilk. At their heart, they are unrelentingly heavy, and as the five tracks of Progression – “Mechanical Disintegration,” “Progression,” “Control, Annihilate,” “Time Worn Regression” and “Remains Unknown” – play out, Whitehorse’s blend of sludge and death/doom becomes even more effective, until finally the same plodding drums that introduced “Mechanical Disintegration” lead the way out of the 10:45 “Remains Unknown.” Hyde is a big part of that heaviness, since he never wavers in the filthiness of his approach, but each member of the band plays a part, including Coen, whose presence is immediately felt on the opener, playing off McKay’s drums with echoing rhythmically-timed noises of his own. There is a sense of foreboding about the opening of Progression, and Coen is a big factor in it.
Posted in On the Radar on September 1st, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
A death/doom outfit in the gloomy and mournful tradition, Subterranean Disposition (website here) is comprised of one man: Terry Vainoras. The Melbourne, Australia, native has played in acts like Insomnius Dei and The Eternal, and with Subterranean Disposition (one can only assume someone out there calls the band SubDis, whether it’s Terry himself or not), he explores the sorrowful aspects of European-style metallic melodrama.
Very European-style, actually. The song Vainoras has uploaded to Subterranean Disposition’s SoundCloud page shows a heavy My Dying Bride influence, particularly in the vocals, which in their spoken parts are more acted out than sung. Ranging musically from heavy thuds and expressions of an Iliad of woes to the open space that sampled ocean waves provide, the song “The Most Subtle of Storms” moves deftly between its parts and offers a considerable taste of what Vainoras has to offer.
Helping the song in that respect is that it’s almost 15 minutes long. Taken from Subterranean Disposition’s upcoming self-titled full-length, it’s rougher production-wise than most Eurodoom these days (one generally thinks of something lush and elaborate, and Vainoras isn’t there yet), which gives it a feel tossing back to the ’90s earlier days of the genre sound-wise with the complexity of the modern style. There are some kinks yet to be worked out in terms of the mix (at least until the saxophone kicks in; it’s smooth sailing from there), but here’s “The Most Subtle of Storms” from Subterranean Disposition’s Subterranean Disposition:
Posted in Reviews on March 21st, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
When done right, stoner/doom riffage and brutal vocals can be a lethal combination. Melbourne plodders Clagg go out on a limb to prove the idea again on their third full-length, Lord of the Deep. The album, which was originally released as five-tracks in 2009 and issued again in 2011 with closing Iron Monkey cover “Big Loader” added on Obsidian Records, is an unrepentantly filthy monster of huge sonic proportions. If nothing else, it proves the double-guitar Aussie five-piece know what they’re talking about. The band, which formed in 2002, chose the album’s name, imagery and thematics well. They’re not the first to marry gargantuan tones with oceanic imagery, but damn if they don’t do it well.
That’s pretty much the story with the whole album, as it happens. Lord of the Deep runs the better part of 66 minutes, spread across the already-noted six tracks, and I’ll say flat-out that there’s nothing revolutionary happening here. I’ll add to that, however, that I don’t think there should be. The dark, dense and pummeling atmosphere Clagg is able to affect through their songs is potent enough that it puts you in a headspace where you care less about what’s being broken down and remade than you do about where your next beer is coming from and how hard you can actually thrust it in the air before spilling any. The first three songs of Lord of the Deep – “Carrion,” “Lord of the Deep” (which has two parts subtitled “They Dream Fire” and “At the Rising of the Storm”) and “Buried” comprise over 40 minutes’ worth of material alone, and though there are a few breaks in the action here and there, moments to catch your breath before the next wave hits, etc., Clagg never stray too far from the brutality. Even as fourth cut “The Harvest” works some clean singing from Scotty (it’s a first-name-only deal across the board), the music is dementedly heavy behind, and the sense is that the throat-searing isn’t over. And indeed it isn’t. In its back half, “The Harvest” (a mere seven minutes long, as opposed to the first three tracks, which are all over 11 minutes, or the first two, over 15) has some of Lord of the Deep’s most brutal growling. We’re talking Cephalic Carnage-style. Real deal.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 7th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Australian noisemaking duo destructo Hotel Wrecking City Traders have put up a page at IndieGoGo.com (not an amateur stripping site, as it turns out) asking for donations to help them record their next full-length album. Now, the thing here is that in donating, you’re basically buying a copy of the album, because I don’t think Hotel Wrecking City Traders have a release out yet — they put out their own material through drummer Ben Wrecker‘s Bro Fidelity imprint — that they haven’t given away for free, either via their Bandcamp site or some other distribution channel.
So if you’re hesitant to donate, don’t think of it necessarily as giving away money so a band can hit the studio, just think of it as preordering a copy of the record before it’s put out on the 12″ vinyl. If past is any kind of prologue, Hotel Wrecking City Traders material is worth the investment, and you get the smug satisfaction of knowing you helped independent artists. That alone is easily worth the 10 bucks or however much you want to give either via Paypal or credit card.
Posted in Reviews on July 2nd, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
The cumbersomely-named Australian instrumental duo Hotel Wrecking City Traders have been in the business of noisemaking since 2007, releasing an EP and their Black Yolk full-length through drummer Ben Matthews’ own imprint, Bro Fidelity. They’re shortly to issue a collaboration with Gary Arce of desert rock legends Yawning Man, but in the meantime have issued the Somer/Wantok 7” single on their own, which finds the production somewhat stripped down from Black Yolk, but the songs comparatively tighter as well.
Matthews’ snare pops quickly on “Somer,” and the somewhat groovier “Wantok,” and the guitar of his brother, TobyMatthews, is appropriately tight and feels much more condensed sound-wise than it did on Black Yolk, keeping the band’s “one guitar/one drumkit” thoroughly in mind. As the cover suggests listening to “Wantok” first, I took that approach and found myself quickly lost in Toby’s riffs, which come through with a tone not dissimilar from but hardly imitating early Pelican. There is an isolated feel in the music, but more on “Wantok” than “Somer,” there are sweet melodies to offset that loneliness. And for what it’s worth, neither track is long enough for you, listening to it, to miss vocals.