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 Vitus‘ DaveChandler, 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
Reissued in 2006 on CD through MeteorCity and vinyl through 20 Buck Spin, the 1991 Lunar Wombsophomore 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 Wombas 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 Wombin its entirety. Enjoy and have a great Wino Wednesday:
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.
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/Release10″, 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.
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 Glacierand 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 aMaple 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 inis 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.
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.
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 2012specifically 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 2012when 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.
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/ HollowLeg, ShroudEater, Remains, Porter
06/24 Orlando, FL PeacockRoom w/ Hollow Leg, Fire in the Cave, Demons
06/25 Gainesville, FL 1982 w/ HollowLeg, HotGraves, Gaul
06/26 Atlanta, GA 529 w/ HollowLeg, 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/ MoonCurse, Ahab’s Ghost
07/01 Chicago, IL The Burlington w/ Ahab’s Ghost, Witchbanger, Zaius
07/03 Cleveland, OH Now That’s Class w/ VenominJames, Electric Lucifer
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 Stormbringer Aphelion Issus The Worm Ouroboros Swing the Scimitar Bleed Out No Life King Visions of Gehenna
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:
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”:
Posted in Features on January 23rd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
It felt so fucking good to watch Black Pyramid play last year’s Roadburn festival. Standing there in the mid-size Green Room of the 013 Popcentrum in Tilburg, it was like seeing an ambassador of the future of American doom on display for the European audience for the first time. Like I was at a World’s Fair or something. I’m not a person who often gives in to patriotism, but I was happy my countrymen were able to give such an excellent showing of themselves to a crowd that had never seen them before.
Flash forward a couple months later and guitarist Andy “Dinger” Beresky announces on the forum that he’s quitting the band and proceeds to go on a months-long bridge-burning expedition, trolling his own threads with pseudo-mysticism and purposeful confusion, sending misleading emails to Black Pyramid industry contacts, behaving in a manner so paranoid and disruptive it results in being the first-ever ban on the board. As great as it felt to see the trio at Roadburn, the unraveling that ensued following their return from a European run alongside Blood Farmers was equal parts painful and sad, on both a personal and critical level.
For all intents and purposes, the band was done. And yet, they stood on the eve of the release of their second full-length, II, through MeteorCity. Bassist Gein and drummer Clay Neely were left in the awkward position of having to decide whether to press on and and try to replace Beresky or cut the band’s life short just as it seemed to be hitting its stride creatively. In the end, Neely and Gein opted to continue Black Pyramid, bringing in respected Massachusetts guitarist Darryl Shepard (Milligram, Hackman, Blackwolfgoat) to fill the vacant slot, and pressing forward almost immediately with writing new material, which will see release this year as part of a split.
And as the summation of what the original incarnation of the band was able to accomplish, II is an utter triumph. Produced by Neely himself and mixed by the band in conjunction with Justin Pizzoferrato, it revels in the glory of battle as did the preceding 2009 self-titled, but adds melodic depth and a range of composition less limited by the confines of genre or expectation. With II (review here), Black Pyramid were becoming their own band. Now moving past it, they have to become a new one. And quick. The announcement that the band would continue came packaged with word of an impending performance at this year’s London Desertfest at the start of April.
In what I later found out was his first phoner interview, Neely discussed these issues of Black Pyramid‘s demise and rebirth, as well as the processes of writing and recording II and bringing Shepard in to be a part of the Mk. II lineup. There was some more said off the record about Beresky leaving, but for the purposes here, I wanted to keep the focus on the fact that Black Pyramid, true to the warrior nature fused into their lyrics, are fighting their way forward despite what others might have expected to hold them back. I hope that comes though.
Complete Q&A with Clay Neely is after the jump. Please enjoy.
Posted in Reviews on January 12th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
After releasing their self-titled MeteorCity debut in 2009 to a more than warm reception from the heavy underground (review here), Northampton, Massachusetts, battle doomers Black Pyramid proceeded to hit the road on several tours and unleashed a tide of singles and splits. 2010 saw a split with Old One issued (review here), and 2011 followed with a slew of vinyl: the Mercy’s Bane single, the Stormbringer single – a CD compilation of wax-only material would soon follow on Hydro-Phonic under the same name – and a split with Tenspeed Warlock. The three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Andy Beresky, bassist Gein and drummer Clay Neely headed out on a European tour for the first time alongside reborn East Coast doom magnates Blood Farmers, and including a stop at last year’s Roadburn, seemed to be on the verge of their greatest triumph yet with the MeteorCity release of their second album, II. Long story short, the band imploded. Beresky split, and after some soul-searching, Neely and Gein decided to continue Black Pyramid, bringing on board guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard (Hackman, Blackwolfgoat, Milligram) late in 2011 and setting almost immediately about writing new material. This puts II in something of an awkward position, release-wise. The album is at once obsolete already and the creative high point of the band to date. Its nine component tracks explode with confrontational energy, and it seems Black Pyramid were really just coming into their own as they made what would be their final statement in this incarnation.
That’s especially true of Beresky, whose performance throughout II is easily the best of his career either in this band or in his prior outfit, Palace in Thunderland. Whether it’s the more scripted-sounding leads of “Dreams of the Dead” or the layered acoustic work of the interlude “Tanelorn,” or the High on Fire-esque bombast of the later movements in “Sons of Chaos,” he handles it all deftly and with poise, and his vocals – a subject of some debate among followers of the band – show development both melodically and in terms of the confidence in delivery. His descending semi-melodicism in opener “Endless Agony” begins to display itself as a genuine style by the end of II, and similar to the way Slough Feg incorporates progressions out of Celtic folk, Beresky brings a drinking-song cadence to his lines that only enhances the battle-minded lyrics. Neely, who also engineered II, has him layer the guitar effectively, so that leads are backed by rhythm tracks in addition to the bass and drums, and the resulting sound is full and engaging – “Mercy’s Bane” beginning with Neely’s own thundering toms and moving quickly to stand itself out as a highlight of the album following the immersive and catchy “Endless Agony,” a well-placed opener for its memorable lyric and musical hook. “Mercy’s Bane” is longer by more than two full minutes, but expands on the ideas in the album’s beginning without losing sight of the structure that makes it so effective. Black Pyramid are heavy – certainly tonally and thematically weighted – but still unflinchingly accessible, and they remain so even in the varying moments of indulgence that the hour-long II presents.
A slowdown caps “Mercy’s Bane” and acts as lead-in for the chugging “Night Queen,” which rounds out a strong opening trio of memorable choruses and riffs. Gein’s bass follows Beresky’s guitar for the most part, handling the winding transitions between cycles in “Night Queen” well while the vocals come on in effective near-gang-chant layers. A longer instrumental break starts quiet and finds Neely rolling on his snare while Beresky tops with a relatively-restrained wah solo, one of II’s bluesiest and best. At 6:48, “Night Queen” is the longest of the record’s “regular” tracks – and by that I mean the ones under 10 minutes and that feel purposefully extended – of which there are two. The first is “Dreams of the Dead,” which follows “Night Queen,” effectively rounding out the first half of II (though “Tanelorn” could just as easily be an outro to the first half as an intro to the second on the CD; the time divide is actually more even that way) and making for one of the album’s most accomplished moments melodically. It seems to be Black Pyramid stepping out of their doom-stomping comfort zone, though that element is still there, and it’s worth noting that after the second chorus ends at about three minutes in, the remainder of “Dreams of the Dead”’s 12:12 runtime is devoted to expansive instrumental parts, breaking following a driving riff and solo at almost precisely five minutes to effect a grandiose build from the ground up. It’s effective, and the part works, but can also feel a little tacked on when looked at from the structural perspective. I’m not sure the longer part wouldn’t also have worked following “Mercy’s Bane” or “Night Queen,” in other words, and why, despite its increased melodic focus, it needed to be “Dreams of the Dead” given the ultra-epic treatment on an album full of epics.
Posted in audiObelisk on January 3rd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
One might look at II, the appropriately-named second MeteorCity full-length from Black Pyramid, as the closing of a chapter. The Northampton, Massachusetts, doom rock trio, who’d released a handful of singles and splits since their 2009 debut, parted ways in an undeniably ugly split with guitarist/vocalist Andy Beresky, in between recording and the release, which left both the album and the future of the band uncertain. For a minute there, Black Pyramid was done.
Drummer Clay Neely and bassist Gein have since regrouped under the Black Pyramid moniker and found venerable riffer Darryl Shepard (he of Milligram, Hackman and Blackwolfgoat, among others) to fill the vacated guitarist/vocalist role, and already they’ve begun to demo and record new material — it helps in that regard that Neely is also an engineer. But the songs on II still show the promise and the progress of the original trio, whose sound had become more melodically aware and sonically expansive. Their epic battle metal aesthetic will be familiar to anyone who heard the first album, but when they made II, Black Pyramid had grown within it and through it into something even more formidable than they were when they started out.
It’s exciting to wonder what the new trio might come up with — and knowing how prolific the band has been in the past, it probably won’t be long until we find out — but in the meantime, II documents a lineup hitting what might have been their peak, and whatever may have happened to bring about an end to this era of the band, it’s great to know a new one has begun. Today I’m fortunate enough to be able to stream the track “Night Queen,” which I think sums up both the maturity and the heaviness of Beresky-fronted Black Pyramid.
You’ll find it on the player below, followed immediately by some PR wire details about the album’s release. Please enjoy:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
New England doom rock trio Black Pyramid will release its long awaited sophomore album Black Pyramid II on January 31, 2012 via MeteorCity. Recorded “in the foothills of the Berkshires” at BlackCoffeeSound (Elks, Elder) and mixed by JustinPizzoferrato (SonicYouth, Witch, Dinosaur Jr.), the record features nine tracks of the band’s self-titled “galloping war metal.” Black Pyramid II was mastered by MattWashburn (Mastodon) and is “at times a bit more death metal and black metal influenced” than the band’s previous material.
“We’re incredibly proud of the sonic landscapes we were able to achieve with the new album,” said Black Pyramid drummer Clay Neely. ”It’s a clear successor to the debut album and we allowed ourselves to further expand into some uncharted territories. The recording of the record was an incredibly rewarding experience and we can’t wait to bring the show back on the road.”
Black Pyramid will also be playing the London Desertfest in April 2012. For more info on that, click here.
Posted in Features on December 4th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Awash in solos and complex lead riffs, Dead Roots Stirring — the second full-length from Massachusetts trio Elder — marks an unexpected shift in approach from the heavy rocking three-piece. Where their 2008 self-titled debut, which, like the new album, was released by MeteorCity, found them following in the plodding footsteps of Sleep‘s grooving chug, their sophomore outing is richer, more intricate, and surprisingly tinged with psychedelia.
The guitar of Nick DiSalvo (also vocals) is still very much at the fore, but the methodology is different. Songs like “Gemini” and the stunning, 11-plus-minute title-track range farther than one might have expected Elder to go after the first record. Groove remains formidably present, but Elder have begun to show their personality musically through these songs, and with elements and influences from the current European heavy psych scene, they’re honing in on an increasingly individual take. It’s not really a shock that Dead Roots Stirring, which was engineered by Black Pyramid‘s Clay Neely, would wind up as one of the year’s highlight records, but the avenue it took to get there is another story altogether.
Elder is DiSalvo alongside bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto, and Dead Roots Stirring has been a long time coming. As early as last year, I recall hearing Massachusetts locals bragging on having heard the album and touting its change in direction. The band shopped the record around, but eventually wound up sticking with MeteorCity for the release, which was further delayed in the mixing and by DiSalvo‘s studies abroad. When it came out in October, topped with gorgeously painted Adrian Dexter artwork, I imagine there was some sense of relief in the band that it had finally materialized. I know there certainly was on my end, hearing it.
The interview that follows was conducted a few days before the release, and in our conversation, DiSalvo talked about the research that led him to Germany and away from the band, the recording process for Dead Roots Stirring, what was behind some of the stylistic growth shown on the album, and much more. I know it’s been a couple weeks that I’ve been trying to get this posted, and I thank you for your patience in waiting.