Wino Wednesday: The Hidden Hand, “The Last Tree” from Divine Propaganda

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 26th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

The Hidden Hand happened at a pretty interesting juncture for American heavy, just when underground riff-worship was really starting to get a foothold in a wider public consciousness beyond what it had been in the days before the widespread instant-gratification of the internet became a way to access just about anyone’s music anytime. Their second album, the stellar Mother Teacher Destroyer, certainly got some attention when it was issued by Southern Lord in 2004 — helped perhaps by the publicity of Dave Grohl‘s Probot project, released that same year, and Wino‘s visible involvement in that on guitar and vocals — but the preceding full-length debut, 2003’s Divine Propaganda, had no such high-profile lead-in. Not to shoehorn it into too convenient a narrative, but it was simply Wino‘s new band after Spirit Caravan broke up.

Listening back now, over a decade later and in light of the two albums The Hidden Hand released after it, Divine Propaganda is a standout if somewhat uneven release. Issued by MeteorCity, it was the first studio output from Wino, bassist/vocalist Bruce Falkinburg and drummer Dave Hennessy, and it introduced a lot of the Illuminati/conspiracy/socio-political framework in which a good portion of the band’s lyrics would work for the duration of their tenure, but thanks in no small part to the Weinrich/Falkinburg collaboration in the songwriting, it also pushed into territory that was neither The Obsessed-style doom nor the freewheeling heavy rock of Spirit Caravan. There was something else going on, and that’s evident on Divine Propaganda, even if the trio were still figuring out what they wanted their sound to be and what shape that collaboration would take.

In all honesty, “The Last Tree” — track seven of the record’s total 10 — probably could’ve been a Spirit Caravan song with its rolling groove of a chorus riff, but as the verse shows, The Hidden Hand were already becoming something distinct, and the fuzz that Falkinburg puts on his bass in the track is not to be missed. It’s something of a forgotten gem from the largely underappreciated band, whose timing and whose songwriting continue to intrigue.

Happy Wino Wednesday:

The Hidden Hand, “The Last Tree” from Divine Propaganda (2003)

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Friday Full-Length: Lowrider, Ode to Io

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 8th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Lowrider, Ode to Io (2000)

MeteorCity released some fantastic stuff in their early going — records from Nebula, The Ribeye Bros., Spirit Caravan and Solace come to mind — but I don’t know if anything from that era matches up to Lowrider‘s 2000 full-length debut, Ode to Io. By any standard you might want to measure it, what remains Lowrider‘s only long-player to date is an absolute classic, and one that stands up with the best that fuzz and heavy rock have to offer, even 14 years later. Not only has it been wildly influential in Sweden’s fertile underground and beyond, but it still sounds fantastic. To put it on and hear that opening riff of “Caravan” remains an absolute pleasure, and Ode to Io is one of those records at this point that, if you and I are total strangers, one of us can say to the other, “Dude, Ode to Io?” and we’re immediately friends.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not 100 percent that I haven’t closed a week out with it before — in fact, I’m relatively sure I have at least with “Texas Pt. I & II,” but screw it. I’ve had Lowrider on the brain since they let the news out that they had a sophomore outing in the works, that they’re set to record this year for their first release since Ode to Io, and after seeing them at the 2013 Desertfest in London — something I never through I’d be able to say I’ve done — I couldn’t be more thrilled at the prospect. I’ve already encountered a few records over the last couple months that I know will be landmarks for the year, but even sight-unseen, a new Lowrider earns a place on that list. I wouldn’t go into it expecting a clone of Ode to Io, but I do believe the band still has plenty to offer, and I’m greatly looking forward to finding out what that might be.

And if it’s an excuse to break out Ode to Io again in the meantime, you definitely will not hear me complaining. As always, I hope you enjoy.

Quite a week. I feel like I never stopped from last week because, oh wait, I didn’t. I’ve heard stories for years about people coming home from a tour and having a rough go adjusting back to real life. Presumably it’s different when you’re playing a show, but making an adjustment back wasn’t so much my problem as being tired and braindead. I might’ve phoned it in for a while but I felt like I couldn’t even get a dial tone. Of course there was more I wanted to write about this week than I had time or energy to cover — that’s pretty much standard — but even trying to keep up with email was a challenge.

The weather in Massachusetts is supposed to be halfway decent tomorrow, and The Patient Mrs. and I have a good friend in from out of town, so I’m hoping the combination will prove restorative somewhat over the next couple days. Next week I’ll look to pick back up with reviews of Ogre and a batch of ’60s/’70s psych records from World in Sound. I’ve still got a Conan interview in the can that golly, I’d love to get posted, and a ton of other stuff as well. The Spirit Caravan reunion tour starts tonight, so hopefully by Wednesday there’ll be some video from one of the shows. Got my fingers crossed.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and the radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Wino Wednesday: Spirit Caravan, “Brainwashed”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 5th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

After checking out the track “The Last Embrace” from Spirit Caravan‘s 2003 swansong compilation of the same name last week — doing so in honor of the trio’s upcoming reunions at Desertfest London, at Desertfest Berlin and at Hellfest 2014 in France — it seemed to make sense to keep running with the theme. So after “The Last Embrace,” consider “Brainwashed” the second in a series we’ll wrap next Wednesday of the three songs from that MeteorCity release that pulled together much of Spirit Caravan‘s recorded output, save for the Dreamwheel EP, issued through the same label in 1999, prior to the arrival of the second full-length, Elusive Truth, on Joe Lally of Fugazi‘s Tolotta Records.

In both its instrumental arrangement and lyrical theme, “Brainwashed” is a much different track than “The Last Embrace,” which it follows immediately as the second song on the compilation. Centered around a nod-ready heavy stomp of a riff — the kind that bassist Dave Sherman and drummer Gary Isom handled so well throughout Spirit Caravan‘s tenure — it finds guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich diving headfirst into more grounded political themes than the epic framework of the prior cut. By 2003, Wino was no stranger to social commentary, having covered that ground in The Obsessed on songs like “To Protect and Serve” and “Streetside” from 1994’s The Church Within, but the lyrics of “Brainwashed” seem to engage directly with ideas of conspiracy, the Illuminati, surreptitious elements at work:

I’ll take your evil wind and give it right back to ya
Hungry buzzards are waiting on the grey fence of ignorance
It’s a classic case, they obfuscate, a brainwashed populace
Screaming crows and sirens, a normal world is crying
Bright bird of redemption, winged truth, with eyes of fire
One more fool, divide and rule, a brainwashed populace
You dance around the question, because the answers, you must hide
You crept into the dimension, now be lost through all time
It’s a classic case, they obfuscate, a brainwashed populace

There’s a better audio quality version of the track on YouTube paired with images from John Carpenter’s 1988 film, They Live, and that doesn’t feel like an inappropriate complement (I’d have used that one instead of this, but the clip gets into “9/11 was an inside job” stuff, and I wouldn’t want to come off as arguing one way or another), since lines like “One more fool, divide and rule, a brainwashed populace” cover similar ideology. Of course, in 2003, Wino would dive further into these themes with The Hidden Hand‘s debut, Divine Propaganda (also MeteorCity), so it’s interesting as well to think of “Brainwashed” as a precursor to that.

Enjoy and have an excellent Wino Wednesday:

Spirit Caravan, “Brainwashed”

Spirit Caravan on Thee Facebooks

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Wino Wednesday: Spirit Caravan, “The Last Embrace”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 29th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

With reunion slots booked at Desertfest in London and Berlin this April as well as Hellfest in France this June — nothing Stateside yet, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed — it seemed fitting to take a look at some of the very last Spirit Caravan recordings. The tracks “The Last Embrace” and “Brainwashed” were included as the first and second cuts on disc one and “Dove-Tongued Aggressor” track one of disc two of the 2003 MeteorCity compilation, The Last Embrace, which as the band’s to-date swansong culled to one place the bulk of their studio output. With material from everything the trio put out during what’s now become their initial run save for 1999’s Dreamwheel EP — their two full-lengths, 1999’s Jug Fulla Sun and 2001’s Elusive Truth, with some alternate versions, and songs from their early demos and split 7″ with Sixty Watt Shaman and the 2002 So Mortal Be single — it’s about as complete as one could ask of a 2CD release. As to why Dreamwheel was left out, I guess between runtime considerations and the fact that it was still in print on MeteorCity, they figured there was no need. Fair enough.

For the leadoff, “The Last Embrace” hardly hints at the tonal warmth and groovy vibes to come throughout. Spirit Caravan were always plenty heavy, but “The Last Embrace” centers more around an emotional resonance than a fuzzy one. Over acoustic guitar and a straightforward rhythm from bassist Dave Sherman and drummer Gary Isom, Wino delivers a subdued, melancholy vocal with image-based, almost impressionist lyrics contemplating time and mortality, maybe the end of the band. It’s a dark mood to start with, if a great song, but as Spirit Caravan were done by that time — Sherman had released Earthride‘s self-titled EP in 2000 and followed in 2002 with the Taming of the Demons full-length, and The Hidden Hand‘s Divine Propaganda surfaced the same year as The Last Embrace – there wasn’t going to be a more fitting title for their final release.

Whether or not The Last Embrace will remain that, I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Enjoy “The Last Embrace” and have a fantastic Wino Wednesday:

Spirit Caravan, “The Last Embrace”

Spirit Caravan on Thee Facebooks

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Wino Wednesday: The Hidden Hand, “Sunblood” Live in Germany, 2003

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 28th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

I know I’ve gone on about the persistent undervaluing of The Hidden Hand in Wino‘s catalog again and again. How they’re constantly overshadowed by Spirit Caravan, which came before, and subsequent acoustic work, the Wino trio, the Saint Vitus reunion, and so on. The fact remains that particularly with their last album, 2007’s The Resurrection of Whiskey Foote, the trio began to hit on a progressive, conceptual sound unlike anything else Wino played on, before or since. Obviously things weren’t good in the band at that point, or they’d probably have kept going, but considering that The Hidden Hand got three full-lengths out during their time, that puts them on numerical par with Wino‘s run with The Obsessed and it’s more than Spirit Caravan ever got out.

Although a reunion seems unlikely at best, the progression with The Hidden Hand is of special interest because the collaboration between Wino and bassist/vocalist/producer Bruce Falkinburg – however bitterly it may have ended; I’ve heard some stories — was among the most successful of Wino‘s career. The only other people he’s worked with consistently enough to get three records out are Saint VitusDave Chandler, Mark Adams and Armando Acosta (R.I.P.). With them, he produced three full-lengths between 1986-1990 (and other singles as well) and with the former two, reunited for last year’s Lillie: F-65, which if you saw the news last week, you know they’re continuing to support with touring.

So while the profile wasn’t quite the same as The Obsessed or Spirit Caravan or certainly Saint Vitus, The Hidden Hand remains a fascinating section within the Wino canon and the progressive spirit that emerges makes one wonder what might have been had some of the other bands, Spirit Caravan come to mind first, been able to keep going, or what a reformed act like The Obsessed might be able to do now on a studio album. We’ll see if they get there.

Until then, here’s The Hidden Hand early into their run, about a decade and a month ago, performing “Sunblood” from the first album, Divine Propaganda, on July 23, 2003, at Schwimmbad Musik Club, in Heidelberg, Germany, taped for Underground Live TV. Happy Wino Wednesday:

The Hidden Hand, “Sunblood” Live in Heidelberg, Germany, 07.23.03

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Wino Wednesday: The Obsessed, Lunar Womb in Full

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 12th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Reissued in 2006 on CD through MeteorCity and vinyl through 20 Buck Spin, the 1991 Lunar Womb sophomore outing by The Obsessed still seems underappreciated on repeat listens. It was the recorded debut of the lineup of drummer Greg Rogers, bassist Scott Reeder and guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich — then winding down his tenure with Saint Vitus following the release of V in 1990 — and indeed the only album this trio would put out. By the time The Obsessed got around to releasing the follow-up, 1994’s The Church Within, Reeder was long since departed to Kyuss and replaced by Guy Pinhas.

Reeder winds up a major contributor to Lunar Womb, whether it’s his bass coming to the fore on the later “No Mas” or his taking lead vocals on second track “Bardo” or side B’s “Back to Zero,” but the album is best taken as a whole and on that level, it’s easy to see how it became so central to the blueprint of modern traditional doom. From Wino‘s dreary riffing on the title-track to the faster rush of “Spew” and the ultra-primitive “No Blame” to the muffled heartbeat noises that cap closer “Embryo,” the completeness of Lunar Womb as both an overarching flow of songs and a collection of individual standouts isn’t to be overlooked.

It’s easy to argue the enduring appeal of Lunar Womb and its tracks is part of why The Obsessed have been able to reunite to such fanfare at fests like Roadburn and this year’s Maryland Deathfest (video posted here). With production from the band along with Mathias Schneeberger and the striking Saturn Devouring His Son (circa 1819) cover art by Spanish painter Francisco de Goya, the album taps into a timeless sphere of doom that’s perhaps even more resonant with 22 years of hindsight than it was at the time. After hosting the band’s 1990 self-titled debut a couple weeks back, it seems only fair to give some follow-up.

Here’s The Obsessed‘s Lunar Womb in its entirety. Enjoy and have a great Wino Wednesday:

The Obsessed, Lunar Womb (1991) in Full

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Frydee Elder (Live on Valley Homegrown, 2010)

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 22nd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Elder, classic cable-access style. Not sure what could be better than that. Rich from the respect-worthy The Day after the Sabbath blog sent over the above clip, which was taped in 2010. The band’s second album, Dead Roots Stirring, wasn’t out yet, but they still close out with “The End” and the title-track from the record, so that material is represented along with “Riddle of Steel Pt. 1,” “Hexe” and “White Walls” from their 2008 self-titled debut. It’s a badass video, a great way to end an amazing week, and Rich also sent over a link to download high-quality mp3s of the full performance, which I’m glad to say will be added to The Obelisk Radio over the weekend.

About this week: Wow. Thanks to everyone who’s taken the time to check out the stuff that went up over the last few days. Usually I think of December as being kind of a quiet month, but with more than 200 Thee Facebooks likes on the Top 20 of 2012 and the kind of response to today’s Devil to Pay video premiere that I’m relatively sure the internet types call “viral,” I couldn’t feel better about heading into the holidays next week. Thank you all for reading, commenting, liking, sharing, helping to spread the word that this site exists. Today felt really good.

Over the weekend, I’ll be adding more than 100 albums to The Obelisk Radio, including as I mentioned the Elder performance above, as well as some classic Trouble, Kylesa, Mastodon, and many others. There’s still a lot of updating to be done, but I’ve been enjoying the process, so I’ll keep plugging away and hopefully you get the chance to listen and enjoy some of the tunes. I was stoked this afternoon when “Big News I” came on, and then later I heard The Atomic Bitchwax covering Deep Purple’s “Maybe I’m a Leo.” It had been a while for that one, so that was cool as well. Lots of good stuff on the playlist at this point, and while we’re still working out some kinks on the back end and there are adjustments to be made, I hope you enjoy the work in progress.

I will be posting next week, so if you’re around I hope you’ll be able to check in. Monday is Xmas Eve and that brings familial obligations, and of course Tuesday is Xmas Proper, but I’m back in the office for at least part of the day Wednesday and if I can post prior to that, I will. I’ve got an awesome interview with Arthur Seay of Unida/House of Broken Promises that I’d like to post before 2013 hits, and a whole stack of CDs wanting reviews, so although I’ve pretty much put the year to bed (I was thinking I might do a separate list of the top 10 EPs and demos — might be a fun complement to the bigger top 20), there’s still a lot more to come as we head toward the New Year. As always, I hope you’ll stick around.

And as always, I hope you have a great and safe weekend. I’ve been hearing and reading about blizzards in the Midwest, so if you’re out that way, stay warm and stay safe. I’ll see you on the forum and back here next week for more good times.

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Elder Announce European Tour with Pet the Preacher

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 3rd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Dates are forthcoming, but Boston heavy psych forerunners Elder have announced they’ll be touring Europe around their previously announced Roadburn 2013 appearance with Danish trio Pet the Preacher. I’ve run the scenarios through my head a dozen times, and it all comes out to there’s no way this could possibly be a bad thing.

Elder continue to support their 2011 album, Dead Roots Stirring and this year’s limited Spires Burn/Release 10″, and I have a hard time imagining a better flag to fly upon their reaching European shores than those releases.

More to come, but here’s this in the meantime:

We are excited to officially announce that this spring US heavy psych rockers ELDER will join forces with their Scandinavian brothers PET THE PREACHER (DK) for a two-week tour across Europe.

ELDER have gained a steady following since their sophomore album Dead Roots Stirring (MeteorCity Records), which established them as one of the US’s most innovative stoner rock bands. They will be performing at the 13th annual Roadburn Festival in Tilburg, Holland, on April 20th.

Hailing from Denmark, PET THE PREACHER have been turning heads with their debut album The Banjo and in january 2013, Bilocation Records will release the follow-up double-EP Short Stories: Papa Zen & Meet The Creature. Crossing genres from stoner/blues to prog rock, the trio embodies the modern definition of spirited rock n’ roll.

Stay tuned for exact dates in the very near future.

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Live Review: Black Pyramid, Kings Destroy and Clamfight in Brooklyn, 11.09.12

Posted in Reviews on November 12th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

First thing’s first: As one of the two presenting parties for the show — the other being BrooklynVegan, whose promotional assistance was massively appreciated for this weekender tour — I probably shouldn’t even be reviewing it at all. On the other hand, however, Black Pyramid, Kings Destroy and Clamfight rule, and after plugging the living crap out of it beforehand (see here, here and here), it seems like I’d be leaving the story unfinished without some kind of wrap-up. I felt a little bit like I was going to my own birthday party.

It was the first night of a three-gig weekender, at Union Pool in Brooklyn. The other two shows, Saturday and Sunday, were in Rochester and Allston, Mass., but this one had the added bonus of being free, so all the better. Yeah, C.O.C. and Royal Thunder were playing down at the St. Vitus bar the same night, but though that provided a bit of pre-show anxiety, the crowd was by no means lacking for any of the bands. Even as Clamfight got going, the room had plenty of people in it, for which I was thankful.

I’d shown up to the venue early to deliver the NJ/Philly-based outfit their I vs. the Glacier CDs, due out for release on The Maple Forum on Jan 22. It wasn’t long before they were out on the merch table, so hopefully a few people got early copies, which is always awesome. They got going circa 9:30PM and delivered a set of their epic riffy thrash. Their set was almost entirely new songs — that would prove to be a theme throughout the night — with “The Eagle” as a highlight alongside the slower, more languid guitars of “River of Ice,” which guitarists Sean McKee and Joel Harris made all the groovier while drummer/vocalist Andy Martin slammed his drums so hard he collapsed his floor tom and broke every stick he brought with him for the three shows, leaving Louis Koble‘s steady bass to the task of holding the songs together.

Martin, who has been occasionally known to throw up the night’s alcohol on stage but was doubtless pacing himself for the weekend ahead on Friday, has emerged as a solid frontman presence in the band, despite being behind the drums. He plays with charisma and the shouts and screams he lets loose feel like cruelties directed at the microphone. The band would do well to push his kit more to the front of the stage — not necessarily with anyone behind, but playing more on a lateral, à la Weedeater — and give their set even more of an unhinged atmosphere. As it was, they more than gave a favorable impression to the crowd, and capped off with “Stealing the Ghost Horse,” which also closes I vs. the Glacier and is arguably the most expansive Clamfight song yet, with a sense of drama to offset some of the brashness found elsewhere and a one-man clean/harsh call and response from Martin that’s as memorable live as it is on the album.

This was the first time I’d seen them since being delivered the master for I vs. the Glacier and knowing the songs better just made their set more fun to watch. McKee is relatively understated on stage — well-headbanged hair often obscuring his face entirely — but standing alone to Martin‘s left, he tears into a slew of killer solos, while Harris and Koble keep the riffs flowing on the other wise. Their live dynamic is beginning to come into its own. There are kinks to be worked out — more shows will help — but the potential remains strong and they did right by their new songs, as did Brooklyn’s own Kings Destroy, who turned the lights low and played cuts off their new record, the title of which I’m pretty sure I’m not at liberty to reveal.

I’m not aware of any album title, nor would I be at liberty to disclose any such title were I aware of its existence. Turn your head and cough. Ha.

As if the lighting at Union Pool needed to be any more challenging to my novice-ass picture-taking, Kings Destroy basically played in the dark but for a projection of what looked like shards of light that cut through. Their new songs — the likes of “The Toe,” “Decrepit” the more upbeat “Casse-Tête” and “Storm Break” — are a distant cry from where their first album, And the Rest Will Surely Perish (also a Maple Forum release, fancy that), once came. Part of that has to be due to the departure of bassist Ed Bocchino as a songwriting factor, but if it’s guitarists Carl Porcaro and Chris Skowronski coming up with the guitar parts around which this current batch of material is based, the results are intricate, complex and more and more atmospheric. I’m not about to decry the first album — I wouldn’t if I could — they’ve just flipped the formula on its head and as a result are less tied to genre stylistically.

They’ve also become a force on stage. Union Pool isn’t a huge room, but neither is it small, and that’s how the five-piece made it look, bassist Aaron Bumpus, drummer Rob Sefcik and vocalist Steve Murphy delivering a pro-grade run through a well-constructed set of their latest, the chaos all the more palpable for the fact that it was basically happening in the dark. The band all around has grown from their time on stage in Europe and the US, Skowronski and Porcaro keeping individual identities in a wash of tone and feedback, Murphy cutting through the morass, Bumpus touching on creative fills that just hint at the mountain of talent on which he seems to stand, while Sefcik‘s propulsive thunder proved no less weighted fast or slow. Their new stuff runs a risk of throwing some people off who perhaps expect a direct port of the straightforward side of the debut, but they’re on the way to mastering their aesthetic, and the direction they’re headed in is rich and progressive in a way that they’ve barely hinted at being to this point.

So yeah, by the time they finished with the creepy awesomeness of “Turul,” the first two bands of the night had me in a full-on nerdout. I can admit it. I wasn’t exactly going for impartiality here to start with, just trying to let you know how it went down. And if I wasn’t a fan of the bands, I probably wouldn’t have signed on to release their stuff on The Maple Forum, so if you have to take the review with a grain of salt, well, fine.

A note about the hazards of no cover charge: As Kings Destroy were wrapping up, Guy Who Clearly Just Wandered In saw me standing by the side of the stage in front of Black Pyramid drummer Clay Neely‘s kit and asked if I was in a band. It’s not an unreasonable suspicion — black t-shirt, jeans, long hair, beard; I’ve got the uniform. Now, I don’t want to go around making unreasonable assumptions about the behavior of others, but with the stickers on his $500 leather jacket, the crazed look in his eyes, dual-blonde accompaniment and “I’m everybody’s best buddy and the life of the party” demeanor, I had no choice but to presume he was on cocaine.

This is not an unreasonable assumption to make about anyone on a Friday night in either the Manhattan or Brooklyn boroughs of New York City, but I think that given the evidence — circumstantial though it is — I wasn’t necessarily in the wrong for being on my toes. I told him that, no, I wasn’t in the band, and that Neely, standing next to me, was their drummer. Sweat running down from the well-tended crop of spiky hair on his head, he persisted, as though I was simply obscuring the fact that I was in a band, indeed the band that was playing next, and we were just involved in some kind of playful joshing. No sir, I insisted, I’m not in a band, not in that band. Finally, and in a sterner tone that was not quite a yell but nonetheless definitely the “daddy voice” I’ve put on while scolding my dog for chasing a squirrel toward the road, I told him, “Dude, I’m not in that band. I’m just weird looking. I promise you,” and walked away to watch the end of Kings Destroy‘s set. So to the hazards of no cover: You ne’er know who’s gonna walk in.

It turned out — much to his surprise — that I wasn’t in Black Pyramid. Neely, bassist Dave Gein and guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard (who killed it just six days prior performing as Blackwolfgoat at the Small Stone Boston showcase) were in Black Pyramid, and no sooner were they set up and ready to go than were they laying waste to everything in their path, including the room, which by this point was fairly well packed out. Up front were a few headbangers — a rarity for New York anything — and the band’s energy fed off their own as they led off with “Stormbringer” and then went into “Aphelion” from their 2012 split with Odyssey, the first studio cut with Shepard‘s vocals and guitar, its axe-wielding groove making it an immediate highlight.

There were a few new cuts in the set from Black Pyramid‘s next album, which was finished being recorded only hours before the band pulled up to play Day Four of this year’s SHoD, and it’s worth noting how much more at home Shepard seemed on the material he helped compose. He stepped into kind of an awkward situation when he joined the band late last year before the release of their second full-length, II, and though he’s done well to make the prior material his own — as “Stormbringer,” “Visions of Gehenna” and the finale “No Life King” showed — there’s a difference between his performance of the songs he adopted versus the songs he wrote. It’s not an easy thing to make someone else’s work yours — that’s why most covers suck — but what he brings to Black Pyramid is about 20 years of writing killer riffs, plus an ability to toss off embarrass-your-lead-guitarist solos like he was taking off a pair of shoes. He makes some of the older leads look easy to the point of silliness.

His vocals on both new material and old fit the songs excellently, though, and he, Gein and Neely were as tight as I’ve ever seen Black Pyramid, including at Roadburn 2011, which if it wasn’t their prior apex had to be close to it. I’m hardly objective in their case either, even if I haven’t released anything of theirs, but the crispness of their presentation made me look forward all the more to when I might get the chance to hear the studio versions of the new tracks and give them an overly-worded track-by-track review, which no doubt will also carry with it a disclaimer disavowing any and all critical credibility. But it’ll be fun, and that’s what matters.

Ditto that for this gig. It was a great time. All three of these bands are made up of killer dudes, and when I rolled out of Union Pool and headed back to Jersey, I was more than a little wistful at the thought of following the tour up north to Rochester, but it wasn’t to be. Instead, I rolled into my humble river valley at around 1:30AM, found that the internet had finally come back on after Hurricane Sandy, and spent the remainder of the evening — all 25 minutes of it — beginning to chip away at the weeks of neglected emails that I hadn’t had the chance to answer. Some you win, some you lose. I felt lucky to see these three acts on the night I did, and hopefully they get together and do it again.

More pics after the jump.

Read more »

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Visual Evidence: Black Pyramid, Kings Destroy & Clamfight “Annihilate All Weekend Long” Poster by Skillit

Posted in Visual Evidence on October 25th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Once again, I doff my hat to the work of Sean “Skillit” McEleny, who just sent over this poster for the Black Pyramid, Kings Destroy and Clamfight “Annihilate All Weekend Long” weekender tour next month. You may know Skillit‘s stuff from, uh, scroll up, he did the header for this site, as well as from kickass shows and artists too numerous to mention in a post that’s just supposed to be about artwork. His site is here.

I wanna be friends with it:


Friday, 11/9 – Union Pool, Brooklyn, NY **FREE SHOW**
Saturday, 11/10 – Monty’s Krown, Rochester, NY
Sunday, 11/11 – O’Brien’s Pub, Somerville, MA

By way of band updates:

Kings Destroy will also be playing Nov. 2 at the St. Vitus bar in Brooklyn with Witch Mountain. Their new album is being mastered next week by Joe Lambert in Brooklyn, and will be out early 2013.

Clamfight are in Delaware this weekend with Wizard Eye and others. The latest on their new album is here. I can’t fucking wait for it to be released.

Black Pyramid kick ass. That’s not really news, but it’s true all the same.

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Buried Treasure: Olde Growth’s Tour EP 2012 and the Imperial Impulse

Posted in Buried Treasure on August 27th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

I consider myself pretty progressive, politically speaking. As in all facets of my existence, I’m at very least an opinionated dick. But even though I’ll rant about wealth redistribution and the need for violent uprising among the American working and middle classes against the corporate fascists and right wing demagogues stealing their potential for social advancement and polluting their bodies and minds, there’s still a part of me that gets all imperialist when it comes to limited runs and “I have it and you don’t.”

That being the case, I was all the more stoked when Massachusetts stonerly doom stompers Olde Growth sent over a copy of their Tour EP 2012, a limited-to-50 tape release that they brought with them on their Spring 2012 tour. I almost got to see them on that string of shows (almost-review here), but even though I creeped myself out in the process, the band was kind enough to mail in the last remaining copy of the cassette, along with a CD version of earlier mixes of the tracks that apparently wasn’t ever for sale.

The tape, which is hand decorated as you can see above, is blown way the fuck out. Like, into the next room blown out. Like, went down the street to the deli blown out. I guess when bassist/vocalist Stephen LoVerme and drummer Ryan Berry had James Plotkin master the thing, they didn’t share the info that it was going to be a cassette. I like that about it, but the gnarl is strong in this one, running through each of the four tracks that, though Berry‘s snare is a little high and raw in the mix, sound much clearer on CD.

Apart from the whole appeal of having it, though, I wanted to post about Olde Growth‘s Tour EP 2012 specifically to note the quality of the songs themselves. There are four tracks on the tape — “Brother of the Moon,” “Warrior Child,” “Tears of Blood” and “Edge of the Sea” — and even in relation to their 2010 MeteorCity self-titled debut, growth is evident in their songwriting and overall approach. LoVerme‘s vocals are clearer, and cleaner, the melodies more prevalent, and though the songs are kind of barebones in terms of the recording itself, there’s a natural feel that sounds recorded live, and the songs are almost instantly familiar, the opener and closer being particularly memorable.

There’s noise to bridge the gaps between the cuts, and it you didn’t get the chance to get Tour EP 2012 when Olde Growth were on the road earlier this year, rest easy, as I hear there’s a vinyl release in the works for 2013. One imagines it’ll get a different name between now than then — any one of the four would do for a title-track, though “Brother of the Moon” has a special ring to it — but either way, the EP is a more than suitable follow-up to what was an impressive debut, and something to look out for when it comes to vinyl. In the meantime, I’m stoked to have my nerdly completist greed sated and glad I got to hear these songs.

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Elder Announce East Coast and Midwest Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 5th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

As guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo promised they would in an interview posted last December, Massachusetts heavy psych upstarts Elder are heading out on tour to support their second album for MeteorCity, Dead Roots Stirring. They’ll be doing a two-week-plus run down the East Coast and then hitting the Midwest for a couple shows and playing alongside some killer bands — see Windhand, When the Deadbolt Breaks, Hollow Leg, Alkahest, Earthride, Summoner (who were formerly known as Riff Cannon), etc. — so if you can get out for it, please consider this a recommendation to do so.

I missed them when last they came through New York, and it’s up in the air at this point as to whether or not I’ll get to The Acheron this time around (longer story than I care to tell, especially since it doesn’t yet have an ending). Hopefully you’re on more solid ground than I am calendar-wise for the next couple weeks and can make it out to one of the following:

06/16 Baltic, CT The Stone House w/ When the Deadbolt Breaks, Summoner, Rope
06/17 NYC The Acheron w/ Alkahest, When the Deadbolt Breaks
06/18 Wilmington, DE MoJo 13 w/ When the Deadbolt Breaks, Human Shield
06/19 Frederick, MD Cafe 611 w/ Earthride, Iron Man, Trifecta, When the Deadbolt Breaks
06/20 Richmond, VA Wonderland w/ Windhand
06/21 Chapel Hill, NC Chapel Hill Underground w/ Windhand, Church of Wolves
06/22 Charleston SC Oasis Bar and Grill w/ Windhand, Havoc Din
06/23 Jacksonville, FL The Burro Bar w/ Hollow Leg, Shroud Eater, Remains, Porter
06/24 Orlando, FL Peacock Room w/ Hollow Leg, Fire in the Cave, Demons
06/25 Gainesville, FL 1982 w/ Hollow Leg, Hot Graves, Gaul
06/26 Atlanta, GA 529 w/ Hollow Leg, Demonaut
06/27 Nashville, TN Springwater w/ Hollow Leg, Laser Flames on the Great Big News
06/28 Lexington, KY Al’s Bar w/ Stampede
06/29 Indianapolis, IN Vibes w/ Mouth of the Architect, Devils of Belgrade, Chinaski
06/30 Milwaukee, WI Cactus Club w/ Moon Curse, Ahab’s Ghost
07/01 Chicago, IL The Burlington w/ Ahab’s Ghost, Witchbanger, Zaius
07/03 Cleveland, OH Now That’s Class w/ Venomin James, Electric Lucifer

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A Well-Spent Hour with Black Pyramid

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 31st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Shot by Stephen LoVerme of the band Olde Growth and apparently the awesomely-named production company Treebeard Media, there arrives this full 59-minute set from fellow Massachusetts heavy-as-all-hell trio, Black Pyramid. I got to see the Darryl Shepard-fronted incarnation of Black Pyramid back in March at Radio in Boston, but if you haven’t checked them out yet, this is the perfect opportunity to do so in high definition. Hell, even if you put it on and pop in and out on the clip as you listen while doing whatever else you’re doing, you can’t really go wrong. LoVerme did a killer job capturing the video and the sound, and the result is an awesome document of Black Pyramid‘s new beginning.

Check it out:

Special thanks to Damocles74 for posting it on the forum as well. Here’s the full setlist from the YouTube page:
Mercy’s Bane
The Worm Ouroboros
Swing the Scimitar
Bleed Out
No Life King
Visions of Gehenna

And when you’re done, make sure you check out the half-hour set from Phantom Glue that was filmed in Cambridge earlier in May. Right on.

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Video Premiere: Olde Growth Unveil Clip for “Sequoia,” Announce Vinyl Release, New Tour Dates

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 13th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Normally I’d hold off posting these dates and this video until I’m back in the States next week, but by then, the tour will have already started, so here we are. Massachusetts thunderduo Olde Growth are hitting the road out through the Midwest and back up the East Coast starting on Sunday, April 15, to herald the forthcoming Hydro-Phonic Records vinyl issue of their 2010 self-titled (review here). The new pressing features a cover by John Trimmer, and the band will be bringing along a limited edition tape of new material on the road.

In addition, they’ve got a new video for the song “Sequoia” that they’ve given me permission to be the first to host. It reminds me of something you would’ve seen on Headbangers Ball at two in the morning in the early ’90s. Dig it:

And here are those shows. Updates will be posted on Olde Growth‘s Thee Facebooks page:

04/15 Wacky Kastle, Allston, MA (email for address with Set, Vaast
04/17 J Watt’s Barista House, Soctia, NY with Yoma
04/18 TBA (help needed) Buffalo/Rochester NY
04/19 The Sco (Oberlin College), Oberlin, OH with Blackout
04/20 Mulligans Pub, Grand Rapids, MI with Ozenza, BerT, Mass Murder Phenomena
04/21 TBA (help needed)
04/22 The Gourley Hole, 1003 W Gourley Pike, Bloomington, IN with Dolphin Mouth, LEGS
04/23 Carabar, Columbus, OH with Traitors Return to Earth, Drose
04/24 222 Sapling Way, Pittsburgh, PA with Low Man, Purge, Us, Erased
04/25 Alamo, New Brunswick, NJ (email for address) with Pharoah, Eternal Fuzz

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Running through the Forest and Tagging Trees with SardoniS

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 31st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Tree-tagging or other forest-based graffiti is a lost medium in these days of city-based arts. Fortunately, Belgian duo SardoniS are bringing back the bygone days of taking a permanent marker, jogging through the woods with a hood up and writing shit on fallen trees for hikers to see and probably be confused by later. Their video for the song “Entering the Woods,” from an upcoming album that may or may not share that title, keeps the band’s thrashy and aggressive edge while also being tonally pummeling.

SardoniS‘ prior offering and self-titled debut for MeteorCity, released in 2010 (review here), was a treat, and I look forward to hearing more of the follow-up, but for now, here’s “Entering the Woods”:

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