Torche, Restarter: Calling Minions

Posted in Reviews on January 29th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

torche-restarter

While the title immediately evokes connotations for the band itself, the fact remains that Torche‘s Restarter could just as easily refer to an interpersonal relationship or someone who decides to go back and beat Super Mario 3 again. The lyrics for the song itself, which closes out Torche‘s 10-track/39-minute Relapse Records debut, are minimal and vague, just a couple lines amid nine minutes of steady riffing that carry the record to its finish. Like most of everything, it’s more likely not relegated to a single idea, but if the title provokes intrigue, so too does the album itself. Torche‘s fourth overall, Restarter follows 2012’s Harmonicraft (review here), which, while engaging as ever in Torche‘s blend of heavy tonality and melodic or harmonized vocals and irresistible hooks, was shortly and perhaps too easily upstaged by the subsequent single, Harmonslaught, which promised heavier things to come. It’s only been three years since Harmonicraft, but it feels like a long three years, with guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks having released the Oblation full-length (review here) in 2014 with the reactivated trio Floor and toured to support it and Torche guitarist/vocalist Andrew Elstner, bassist Jonathan Nuñez and drummer Rick Smith having also pursued other projects in the interim (ShitstormTilts). I wouldn’t say Torche were ever really inactive or too far from public consciousness, but between the members coming back together to make this record and the signing to Relapse – a fitting home for a group so respected and prone to extended touring — it’s an easy enough argument to make that they’re trying to make a fresh start.

If that’s the case, they’re in a tough position. Like many acts with such a distinctly individual, almost singular style — think SlayerNapalm DeathSunnO))), or even to a certain extend Torche‘s recent tourmates, Clutch – Torche can’t veer too far from their signature blend of pop and heft without coming across as a completely different band. Restarter has a few bolder steps in songs like the slower groove of the ultra-catchy call to arms “Minions” and the near-brooding “No Servants,” Smith using half-time drums to make the material sound even more spacious than the tones he’s punctuating, but the sound is still unmistakable for anyone who’s heard Torche since 2008’s Meanderthal sophomore outing, their process having been refined and tightened after a transitional (in bridging Brooks from Floor to Torche) but clarion 2005 self-titled debut, and while opener “Annihilation Affair” absolutely crushes and caps with about a minute and a half of vicious feedback and noise backed by plodding toms, once “Bishop in Arms” kicks in with Brooks and Elstner in harmony, Torche are very much Torche. Nonetheless, the variety and energy they bring to the progression here gives Restarter a particularly mature feel while still remembering to have a good time in the post-“Minions” midsection trio of “Loose Men,” “Undone” and “Blasted.” Three shorter tracks — Torche are no strangers to songs under three minutes — they’re a familiar but welcome rush of hooks, melody and dense riffing, “Loose Men” a hook-fueled blast, “Undone” a tonal push that presages “Barrier Hammer” still to come and “Blasted” a righteous showing of form that ends the side A on a high note both in mood and tempo.

torche

Side B is a different animal altogether. Where four out of the six tracks on Restarter‘s first half are under three minutes long, the second half breathes a little more, with “No Servants,” “Believe It” and the aforementioned “Barrier Hammer” hovering around four minutes each before the nine-minute closing title cut. A feedback-laden start brings about a grandiose stomp for “No Servants” that feels somewhat in conversation with “Minions” in its riff, but gives way to the even-bigger-sounding “Believe It,” which meshes understated vocals with one of the album’s more furious instrumental progressions, the contrast effective in conveying both a sonic and emotional lumbering, lead guitar getting the last word in a long-ish fadeout perhaps meant to lull the listener away from consciousness so that “Barrier Hammer” can thunder in with that much more impact. Frankly, it doesn’t hurt, but the song doesn’t need the help. In addition to being the best use of Brooks‘ bomb-tone guitar since “Tarpit Carnivore” from the 2007 In Return EP, the track brims with purpose and stews in its righteousness. Two verses, a quick, gruff recitation of the title line and they get out of the way and let the riff have its space. One imagines it would be a beast coming through a P.A. of decent size, but on Restarter, it also serves to pick up from “Believe It” and transition into the vitality uptick of “Restarter” itself, which is comprised only of one or two riffs and the already-noted minimal lyrics, but proves hypnotic in its extended repetitions and smoothly river-currents the record to its end without losing focus on the way to its own deconstruction, the last minute-plus given to feedback, sustained guitar echo and swirl.

It’s a gorgeous and somewhat surprising finish. Torche have had extended closers since Meanderthal, but again, there’s an edge to “Restarter” and its method that underscores the band’s success in giving fresh edge to their established modus. I don’t know if Restarter is meant in reference to the band starting over or not, but they’ve made a record that, if that were the case, would make for a solid (new) beginning. This year marks a decade since their first album was released, and they’ve accomplished no small amount in that time, but if Restarter signifies anything at all, it’s that Torche‘s creative progression is ongoing and that while there are elements that will always reoccur, we haven’t yet encountered the full dynamic breadth of what they have to offer.

Torche, Restarter (2015)

Torche on Thee Facebooks

Restarter at Relapse Records

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Torche Announce Headlining Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 14th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

torche

If Torche are hitting “restart” as the title of their impending fourth album and Relapse label debut suggests, they’re hitting it pretty hard. The four-piece will be on tour for what seems like a warm-up run with Municipal Waste for a few dates starting this weekend, and then in March, they pick up for headlining dates in the Midwest and on the East Coast with Nothing and Wrong, and then in May, it’s a full month in Europe including stops at the Asymmetry and Temples festivals. Meanwhile, the record’s out in Feb. and guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks is Euro-touring with Floor in April, so yeah, it’s a busy time. One can only assume they’ve got more to come as well.

For now, this looks like plenty:

torche march tour

TORCHE PLOT NORTH AMERICAN HEADLINING TOUR

RESTARTER OUT FEB. 24; PRE-ORDERS AVAILABLE NOW

Torche have announced a headlining tour in support of their forthcoming album, Restarter (Feb. 24, Relapse), which brings label mates Nothing out as support and kicks off on March 6 at The Masquerade in Atlanta.

Tour dates are:

March 6 Atlanta, GA The Masquerade
March 7 Birmingham, AL The Bottletree
March 8 Baton Rouge, LA Spanish Moon
March 9 Houston, TX Fitzgerald’s Downstairs
March 10 Austin, TX Red 7
March 11 Dallas, TX Club Dada #
March 12 Memphis, TN The Hi-Tone
March 13 St. Louis, MO The Firebird
March 14 Chicago, IL Empty Bottle
March 15 Milwaukee, WI The Cactus Club
March 17 Cleveland, OH The Grog Shop
March 18 Grand Rapids, MI The Pyramid Scheme
March 20 Detroit, MI The Pike Room
March 21 Toronto, ON Lee’s Palace
March 22 Montreal, QC Bar Le Ritz
March 23 Buffalo, NY Mohawk Place
March 25 Boston, MA Great Scott
March 26 Brooklyn, NY St. Vitus
March 27 Philadelphia, PA Underground Arts
March 28 Richmond, VA Strange Matters #
March 29 Washington, DC DC 9#

Nothing opens except where noted by a #

Previously announced shows:

Dates from Jan. 16 to 21 with Municipal Waste

January 16 Winston-Salem, NC Ziggy’s
January 17 Wilmington, NC Ziggy’s by the Sea
January 18 Tallahassee, FL Pug’s Live
January 19 Gainesville, FL The Atlantic
January 20 Ybor City, FL Crowbar
January 21 Miami, FL Grand Central

May 2 Leipzig, DE Taubchental
May 3 Wroclaw, PL Asymmetry Festival
May 4 Prague, CZ 007
May 5 Munich, DE Ampere
May 6 Milan, IT Lo Fi Club
May 8 Barcelona, SP Rocksound
May 9 Madrid, SP Boute Live!
May 10 Lisbon, PT Musicbox
May 11 Bilbao, SP Kafe Antzokia
May 13 Zurich, SZ Dynamo
May 14 Wiesbaden, DE Schlachthoff
May 15 Cologne, DE Underground
May 16 Berlin, DE Hafenklang
May 18 Nijmegen, NL Merelyn
May 19 Haarlem, NL Patronaat
May 20 Paris, FR Glazart
May 21 Antwerp, BE Kavka
May 22 London, UK Underworld *
May 23 Leeds, UK Belgrave Social Club *
May 24 Galway, IR Roisin Dubh
May 25 Cork, IR Craine Lane
May 26 Dublin, IR Grand Social
May 27 Belfast, IR The Limelight
May 28 Glasgow, UK CCA **
May 29 Manchester, UK Sound Control **
May 30 Bristol, UK Temples Festival
May 31 Nimes, FR This is Not a Love Song
June 1 Nantes, FR Le Ferrailleur

* – w/Part Chimp and Henry Blacker
** – w/Kings and Henry Blacker

Restarter will be released on CD/LP/Deluxe 2xLP/Cassette/Digital, with pre-orders available now with songs “Harmonslaught” and “Rock ‘N’ Roll Mantasy,” will be included on deluxe editions. Digital pre-orders offer an instant download of “Annihilation Affair” and “Minions” (http://geni.us/RestarterDLX), Bandcamp (www.torche.bandcamp.com) and physically via Relapse (http://www.relapse.com/torche-restarter).

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 30 of 2014

Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

the-obelisk-top-30-of-2014

Please note: These are not the results of the Readers Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t added your list yet, please do.

This was a hard list to put together. The top three have been set in my mind for probably the last month, but trying to work my way backwards from there was a real challenge — what’s a top 10 record, a top 20 record, a top 30, honorable mentions and all the rest. I’ve never done a full top 30 before, always 20, but the truth is there was just too much this year to not expand.

I’m still juggling numbers even as I put together this post, and I’m sure that by the time I’m done several records will have switched places. That’s always how it seems to go. What I’m confident that I have is a list accurately representing critique and my own habits, both what I gravitated toward in listening throughout the year and what I feel is noteworthy on a critical level. This site has always been a blend of those two impulses. It’s only fair this list should be as well.

Before we dig in, you should note this is full-length albums only. I’ll have a list of short releases (EPs, singles, demos) to come, as well as a special list of debut releases, since it seemed to be a particularly good year for them. And since I’m only one person, I couldn’t hear everything, much as I tried.

Okay. Here we go:

30. Orange Goblin, Back from the Abyss

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Released by Candlelight Records. Reviewed on Nov. 17.

The kings of London’s heavy scene offered more powerhouse heavy rock with their eighth album and second for Candlelight, and their rabid and ever-growing fanbase ate it up. Back from the Abyss proved yet again that few can attain the kind of vicious force that seems to come so natural to Orange Goblin, and made it clear their domination shows no signs of losing momentum.

 

29. Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty

mos-generator-electric-mountain-majesty

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed on March 14.

A darker affair from Port Orchard, Washington’s Mos GeneratorElectric Mountain Majesty still found its core in the songwriting led by guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed. They’re a band with some changes on the horizon, and I’ll be interested to hear what hindsight does to these songs. As it was, the hooks and downer vibes may have been in conceptual conflict, but the execution was inarguable.

 

28. Pilgrim, II: Void Worship

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Released by Metal Blade Records. Reviewed on April 15.

Richer in the listening than 2012’s Misery Wizard debut, Pilgrim‘s II: Void Worship nonetheless held firm to the doomly spirit that’s made the Rhode Island outfit such a sensation these last couple years. Its longer songs, “Master’s Chamber,” “Void Worship” and the emotionally weighted “Away from Here,” were particularly immersive, and they remain a bright spot in doom’s future.

 

27. John Garcia, John Garcia

john-garcia-john-garcia

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed on July 7.

His long-awaited solo debut, John Garcia‘s John Garcia offered memorable tracks culled from years of songwriting from the former Kyuss, Slo Burn, Unida and Hermano frontman, performed in the classic desert rock style he helped define. I’m not sure it was worth trading a second Vista Chino record for, but it was hard to argue with “The Blvd” and “All These Walls.”

 

26. Swans, To be Kind

swans-to-be-kind

Released by Mute/Young God Records. Reviewed on May 9.

An overwhelming two-disc barrage from a relentless creativity that, more than 30 years on from its first public incarnation, is still to be considered avant garde. I’m not sure planet earth realizes how lucky it is to have Swans running around unleashing all this chaos, but I hope they don’t stop anytime soon. To be Kind was brutal and beautiful in like measure.

 

25. Sólstafir, Ótta

solstafir-otta

Released by Season of Mist. Discussed Oct. 11.

Icelandic four-piece Sólstafir hit on a rarely attained balance of gorgeousness and melancholy, and while Ótta is expansive, it’s also gripping front to back and is the best execution of its style I’ve heard since Anathema‘s Alternative 4, which is not a comparison I make lightly. A challenging record, but satisfying in kind and universal in its expressiveness.

 

24. Greenleaf, Trails and Passes

greenleaf-trails-and-passes

Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed on April 25.

The follow-up to Greenleaf‘s stellar 2012 outing Nest of Vipers (review here) brought lineup changes and stripped away many of the textural elements of the band’s sound — guest appearances, arrangement flourishes — in order to get back to a classic heavy rock sound and translate better to the stage. With guitarist Tommi Holappa‘s songwriting ever at the core, it would be unfair to call the process anything but a success.

 

23. Earth, Primitive and Deadly

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Released by Southern Lord Recordings. Reviewed on Sept. 9.

Most of the headlines went to the fact that Primitive and Deadly had vocals, where the generally-instrumental Earth had avoided singers for 18 years prior, but even putting aside Mark Lanegan and Rabi Shabeen Qazi, whose performance on “From the Zodiacal Light” was the high point of the record, presented Earth‘s always progressive tensions in a rawer, heavier production, and was a joy for longtime fans.

 

22. Ogre, The Last Neanderthal

ogre-the-last-neanderthal

Released by Minotauro Records. Reviewed on March 10.

Six years and one breakup later, Portland, Maine, doom trio Ogre returned with The Last Neanderthal, neither afraid to revel in Sabbathian traditionalism or rock out a more upbeat cut like opener “Nine Princes in Amber.” For bassist/vocalist Ed Cunningham, guitarist Ross Markonish and drummer Will Broadbent, it was a welcome resurgence of pretense-free heavy riffs and grooves.

 

21. The Wounded Kings, Consolamentum

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Released by Candlelight Records. Reviewed on Jan. 30.

Of course, at the time we didn’t know it would be the final outing from this lineup of UK doomers The Wounded Kings, whose guitarist/founder Steve Mills has now reunited with original vocalist George Birch, but Consolamentum was a hell of a closing statement anyway for this era of the band, showcasing their murky, increasingly progressive style still waiting for wider appreciation.

 

20. Floor, Oblation

floor-oblation

Released by Season of Mist. Reviewed on April 22.

Wasn’t sure where to put Floor‘s reunion offering, Oblation, on this list at first, since I kind of fell off listening to it as the year went on, but I’ve gone back to it over the last couple weeks and it has held up to the revisit, whether it’s songs like the extended “Sign of Aeth” or shorter, catchy pummelers like “Rocinante” or “War Party.” Floor‘s 2002 self-titled holds an untouchable legacy in heavy rock, but I think the years will prove Oblation a worthy successor. Nobody knew what they had with Floor at the time either.

 

19. Druglord, Enter Venus

druglord-enter-venus

Released by STB Records. Reviewed on Feb. 14.

Little on 2011’s Motherfucker Rising (review here) or their 2010 demo (review here) prepared for the kind of assault that Druglord‘s Enter Venus brought to bear. Four stomp-laden slabs of tectonic crash and distortion, vocals buried under and calling up from the amp-bred fog. The Virginian trio were in and out on the 27-minute 12″ release, but had enough heavy for a record twice as long, and the tinges of darkened psychedelia made their songs like a lurking presence just on the edge of consciousness, a threat waiting to be unleashed.

 

18. Ararat, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz

ararat-cabalgata-hacia-la-luz

Released by Oui Oui Records. Reviewed on April 4.

For the sheer variety of Ararat‘s third album in rockers like “Nicotina y Destrucción,” “El Hijo de Ignacio,” the experimentalism of “El Arca” and the piano-driven “Los Viajes” and the acoustic closer “Atalayah,” and the assured, flowing manner in which the Argentina trio pulled it all off, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz should be higher on this list than it is. Part of that might be my frustration at my apparent inability to buy a copy, but don’t let that take away from the quality of the material here, which is wonderfully chaotic, memorable and engaging, rushing in some places and stopping to weep in others.

 

17. Radio Moscow, Magical Dirt

radio-moscow-magical-dirt

Released by Alive Naturalsound. Reviewed on May 29.

You won’t hear me deny that Radio Moscow‘s primary impact is as a live band, but their fifth album, Magical Dirt, managed to bring forth much of their psychedelic blues presence in “Death of a Queen,” “Before it Burns” and “Gypsy Fast Woman,” the blinding rhythmic turns and wah-soaked guitar supremacy of Parker Griggs front and center throughout. Together with bassist Anthony Meier (also Sacri Monti) and drummer Paul Marrone (also Astra and Psicomagia), Radio Moscow are hitting their stride as one of heavy rock’s most powerful power trios. One never knows what to expect, but hopefully they keep going the way they are.

 

16. Apostle of Solitude, Of Woe and Wounds

apostle-of-solitude-of-woe-and-wounds

Released by Cruz del Sur. Reviewed on Nov. 6.

Four years isn’t the longest time I’ve ever waited for a record to come out, but in the case of Indianapolis’ Apostle of Solitude, it felt like an especially long stretch. Their third full-length and first for Cruz del Sur, Of Woe and Wounds followed the anticipation-building Demo 2012 (review here) and a couple splits and brought aboard bassist Dan Dividson and guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak (also Devil to Pay), who fit well with drummer Corey Webb and guitarist/vocalist Chuck Brown to result in a payoff worthy and indicative of the time that went into its making. Hands down one of the finest acts in American doom.

 

15. Stubb, Cry of the Ocean

stubb-cry-of-the-ocean

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed on Nov. 24.

Stubb‘s second long-player, also their debut on Ripple, gets a nod for the sense of progression it brought in answering the potential of the trio’s 2012 self-titled debut (review here), guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson, bassist Peter Holland and new drummer Tom Fyfe expanding the scope to include more heavy psych influence and soul along with the fuzz riffs and steady rolling while giving no ground in terms of the level of craft at work. Cry of the Ocean has become one of those albums where all I have to do is look at a title, be it “Cry of the Ocean Pt. I” or “Sail Forever” or “Heartbreaker,” and the song is immediately stuck in my head. With these tracks, that’s not at all a complaint.

 

14. Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, Black Power Flower

brant-bjork-and-the-low-desert-punk-band-black-power-flower

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed on Nov. 10.

Brant Bjork has worn many hats, literal and figurative, over the years, whether it’s drummer in Kyuss or Fu Manchu, producer, solo artist or bandleader. With Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, he steps once again into the latter role, and with guitarist Bubba DuPree, bassist Dave Dinsmore and drummer Tony Tornay, presents not only on his heaviest record to date, but what could easily begin a sustainable full-band progression that can go just about anywhere his songwriting wants to take it. “Stokely up Now,” “That’s a Fact Jack,” “Controllers Denied” and “Boogie Woogie on Your Brain” made for some of 2014’s best in desert rock, and Black Power Flower was an stellar return for Bjork to his “solo” work.

 

13. Dwellers, Pagan Fruit

dwellers-pagan-fruit

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed on May 22.

An earlier version of this list had Pagan Fruit at a lower number, but I couldn’t live with it not being closer to the top 10. Salt Lake City’s Dwellers pushed deeper into laid back psych and blues on their second album, and in doing so, crafted an atmosphere entirely their own. From “Creature Comfort” down to “Call of the Hollowed Horn,” with triumphs along the way like “Rare Eagle,” “Totem Crawler” (“Ohh, my queen… To whom, I crawl…) and “Son of Raven,” Pagan Fruit became a staple of my 2014, building off their 2012 debut, Good Morning Harakiri (review here), but presenting their stylistic growth with a confidence and poise that can only come from a band who’ve figured out what they want to be doing and how they want to do it. Front to back, Pagan Fruit sounds like an arrival.

 

12. The Golden Grass, The Golden Grass

the-golden-grass-the-golden-grass

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed on March 25.

What made Brooklyn trio The Golden Grass‘ self-titled debut such a special released wasn’t just that it was heavy, or that the tracks were catchy, or that guitarist Michael Rafalowich and drummer Adam Kriney could harmonize over Joe Noval‘s warm-toned basslines. That was all great, don’t get me wrong, but what really stood out about The Golden Grass was its irony-free positivity, the way it was able to capture an upbeat, sunshiny feel without having to smirk about it on the other side of its mouth. It was self-aware, to be sure — knew what it was doing — but the way I see it, consciousness only makes the stylistic choices more impressive. Add to that the nuance they brought to ’70s revivalism, and all that stuff about catchiness and the harmonies, and there just wasn’t a level on which the album didn’t work.

 

11. The Well, Samsara

the-well-samsara

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed on Sept. 22.

My appreciation continues to grow for The Well‘s Samsara, which successfully pulled together influences from garage doom and heavy psychedelia while crafting an identity for the Austin, Texas, three-piece at once raw and melodically accomplished, guitarist Ian Graham and bassist Lisa Alley sharing vocals to classic effect on “Refuge” while otherwise trading off lead position to bolster variety in the material. The high point might’ve been the eight-minute “Eternal Well,” on which GrahamAlley and drummer Jason Sullivvan conjured some of their grooviest demons, but the hooks of “Mortal Bones,” “Trespass” and the attitude-laced “Dragon Snort” were no less engaging. One of many strong releases from their label this year — Slow SeasonThe Picturebooks, etc. — they seemed to come ready to serve notice of a stylistic movement underway.

 

10. Montibus Communitas, The Pilgrim to the Absolute

montibus-communitas-the-pilgrim-to-the-absolute

Released by Beyond Beyond is Beyond. Reviewed on Dec. 4.

Peruvian psych adventurers Montibus Communitas more or less blew my mind when I heard their late-2013 offering, Harvest Times earlier this year, and the narrative, conceptual 2014 release, The Pilgrim to the Absolute, is even more of an achievement in its portrayal of improvised exploration, sonic ritualism and open creativity. The weaving of longer pieces against shorter ones with the various steps along the path as presented in the titles, some journeying, some arriving, some descriptive, almost all accompanied by nature in one form or another, gives The Pilgrim to the Absolute an almost impressionistic quality, so that even as you listen to it, you engage it as much as it carries you along its vibrant, breathtaking progression en route to the closing title-track, which is a destination every bit worthy of the journey. This is the most recently reviewed inclusion on this list, but Montibus Communitas‘ latest readily earns its place in the top 10. It is unique in its surroundings.

 

9. Fu Manchu, Gigantoid

fu-manchu-gigantoid

Released by At the Dojo Records. Reviewed on May 14.

Looking back at the last two Fu Manchu records, 2007’s We Must Obey and 2009’s Signs of Infinite Power, it seemed reasonable to expect the groundbreaking SoCal fuzz foursome to put out another collection of big-sounding riffs in a big-sounding production. Nothing to complain about, but probably not a landmark. By going the other way completely — stripping their buzzed-out riffing down to its punkish core thanks in no small part to recording with Moab‘s Andrew GiacumakisFu Manchu served up a raw reminder both of where they came from and how top notch their songwriting remains. Reissuing their earliest work and being on their own label might’ve had something to do with it, but whatever it was, the 35 minutes of Gigantoid was as efficient a heavy rock outing as one could hope from an already legendary band, whether it was the hook-prone opening salvo of “Dimension Shifter,” “Invaders on My Back,” “Anxiety Reducer” and “Radio Source Sagittarius” or the righteous ending jam “The Last Question.”

 

8. The Skull, For Those Which are Asleep

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Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed on Nov. 5.

Given the origins of The Skull — ex-Trouble members Eric Wagner, Jeff “Oly” Olson and Ron Holzner joining with Lothar Keller and a series of other guitarists, finally Matt Goldsborough, working essentially as a tribute band to their former outfit — I think not only did the quality of the material and performance on For Those Which are Asleep surprise, as well as the classically doomed feel that resonates throughout the album, but the sheer heartfelt nature of songs like “Sick of it All,” “Send Judas Down” and the title-track itself. This wasn’t a cynical attempt to make a go of an already set legacy. It was an expression of appreciation both for what they accomplished as Trouble and a desire to continue that work. The Skull‘s whole thing has been that they’re “more Trouble than Trouble,” and in their lineup that’s been true since they brought Olson on board. For Those Which are Asleep demonstrated that the classic spirit of that band is alive and well, its address has just changed. Moreover, it’s the beginning of a new progression for that spirit, and I hope it continues.

 

7. Blood Farmers, Headless Eyes

blood-farmers-headless-eyes

Self-released on CD, LP on PATAC Records. Reviewed on March 24.

Nineteen years after releasing their self-titled debut, New York’s Blood Farmers contended for 2014’s comeback of the year with their sophomore outing, Headless Eyes — a morose, horror-obsessed six-track collection that on “Night of the Sorcerers” owed as much to Goblin as to Sabbath. The closing cover of David Hess‘ theme from The Last House on the Left, “The Road Leads to Nowhere,” was a late bit of melodic flourish to add depth, but how could the highlight be anything other than the 10-minute title-track itself, with its samples from the 1971 horror flick The Headless Eyes, bassist Eli Brown in a call and response with lyrics comprised of lines directly taken from the movie? That after playing shows the last several years, Blood Farmers managed to get a record out was impressive enough. That Headless Eyes turned out to be the year’s best traditional doom release was an entirely different level of surprise. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for their third, but Brown, guitarist David Szulkin and drummer Tad Leger gave plenty to chew on with Blood Farmers‘ second. It was better than would’ve been fair to expect.

 

6. Lo-Pan, Colossus

lo-pan-colossus

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed on Oct. 7.

A lot of what you need to know about Lo-Pan‘s fourth album you learn in the first five seconds of opener “Regulus.” There’s no fancy intro, no time wasted, nothing to take away from the directness of the song itself. Tones are crisp — the verse is already underway — and guitar, bass and drums are laser-focused in their forward movement. Even when vocalist Jeff Martin enters the song, roughly six seconds later, his arrival comes with no indulgence, no pomp. Colossus is easily Lo-Pan‘s most immediate work to date, and throughout, Martin, guitarist Brian Fristoe (since replaced by Adrian Zambrano), bassist Scott Thompson and drummer Jesse Bartz retain that focus no matter where the material takes them, delivering a clinic in how to kick as much ass as possible at any given moment on cuts like “Marathon Man” and “Eastern Seas,” or even bringing in guest vocalist Jason Alexander Byers, who also designed the album cover, for a spot on “Vox.” They had a hard task in following up 2011’s Salvador (review here), but the Columbus, Ohio, unit stood up to the challenge and met it and everyone else head-on.

 

5a. All Them Witches, Lightning at the Door

all-them-witches-lightning-at-the-door

Self-released. Reviewed on Sept. 25.

What to do with All Them Witches‘ Lightning at the Door? The Nashville four-piece released the album last fall digitally, but it wasn’t until this September that it saw a physical manifestation. In fact, if you go back, it was included on the Top 20 of 2013 as well. Which is the release date? I don’t know. What I know is that in terms of the sheer amount of time spent listening, I put on Lightning at the Door more than any other record this year. From where I sit, that alone gets it a place in the top five. Yeah, it might be a cop-out to do a “5a,” but sometimes exceptions have to be made, and All Them Witches have proved to be nothing if not exceptional in their still relatively brief, jam-laden history, the psych-blues dynamic between bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, Fender Rhodes specialist Allan van Cleave and drummer Robby Staebler pushing them quickly to the fore of American heavy rock’s innovators, their natural, improv-sounding material feeling brazen and exploratory while reshaping the elements of genre to suit their needs. One can only see this dynamic developing further as they continue to grow as a live band, so Lightning at the Door may just be the start, and that’s perhaps most exciting of all.

 

5. Witch Mountain, Mobile of Angels

witch-mountain-mobile-of-angels

Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed on Aug. 20.

A beautiful, stunning work made even more powerful by the honesty driving it. Portland, Oregon’s Witch Mountain completed a trilogy with the Billy Anderson-produced Mobile of Angels that brought about some of the best doom of this young decade, their 2011 return from a years-long hiatus, South of Salem (review here) serving as the foundation for a stylistic progression that continued on the following year’s Cauldron of the Wild (review here) and onto Mobile of Angels itself as the four-piece’s most accomplished album to date. The reason it feels like such a concluding chapter is because of the departure of vocalist Uta Plotkin, whose voice helped establish Witch Mountain both on stage and in the studio, leaving founders Rob Wrong (guitar) and Nathan Carson (drums) with the sizable task of finding a replacement. That situation will be what it will be, but Mobile of Angels remains a gorgeous, lonely testament. Plotkin gives a landmark performance on “Can’t Settle” and “The Shape Truth Takes,” which in the context of what was happening in Witch Mountain at the time ring with a truth that’s rare in or out of doom, and she seems to have left the band just as they were hitting their finest hour. So it goes.

 

4. Conan, Blood Eagle

conan-blood-eagle

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed on Jan. 22.

In all of heavy, there is no assault so severe as Conan‘s. With their second full-length and debut on Napalm Records, the UK trio solidified the two sides of the preceding 2012 outing, Monnos (review here), in constructing material that, fast or slow, short or long, retained an epic feel melded with their ungodly tonality and memorable songwriting. Their first recording at guitarist/vocalist Jon DavisSkyhammer Studio, it affirmed Conan‘s will to conquer in its two massive bookends, “Crown of Talons” and “Altar of Grief,” and in the High on Fire-worthy gallop of “Foehammer” — a bludgeon commandingly wielded by Davis, bassist/vocalist Phil Coumbe and drummer Paul O’Neil, the latter to of whom have since left the band to be replaced by longtime-producer Chris Fielding and Rich Lewis, respectively. What effect the changes might have on the band — except apparently more touring, which isn’t a bad thing — have yet to be seen, but Conan are already in the process of writing a follow-up to Blood Eagle, so it doesn’t seem like it’ll be all that long until we find out. With Davis still steering the band in songwriting and overall direction, one severely doubts they’ll be fixing what obviously isn’t broken anytime soon. None heavier.

 

3. Wo Fat, The Conjuring

wo-fat-the-conjuring

Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed on June 18.

Dallas riff-rockers Wo Fat have grown steadily over the course of their five albums, from the nascent heavy roll of 2006’s The Gathering Dark, to the hooks of 2008’s Psychedelonaut (review here), the jamming that started to surface on 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra (review here) and was pushed further on 2012’s The Black Code (review here). And their approach has been as steady as the frequency of their releases. In making The Conjuring, the three-piece were simply engaging the next step in their progression, but the material on the five-track/48-minute outing goes further than just that. Putting aside (momentarily) the 17-minute closer “Dreamwalker,” the other cuts, “The Conjuring,” “Read the Omens,” “Pale Rider from the Ice” and “Beggar’s Bargain” each found a place for themselves in pulling together jammed-sounding elements with a memorable construction, and when guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer Michael Walter did kick into “Dreamwalker,” they hit on not only their longest piece yet, but their most accomplished showcase of the chemistry that has developed between them. That song is a beast unto itself, but as has been the case with Wo Fat each time out so far in their career, there’s nothing on The Conjuring to give the impression the band can’t or won’t continue to keep going on the path that’s worked so well for them on this point. They’ve spent the last eight years on the right track and have yet to waiver. The Conjuring should be played at top volume for anyone who contends there’s no life left in heavy rock and roll.

 

2. Mars Red Sky, Stranded in Arcadia

mars-red-sky-stranded-in-arcadia

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed on March 11.

Mars Red Sky‘s second LP and first for Listenable, Stranded in Arcadia was originally supposed to be recorded in the California desert, but visa problems kept the French trio of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matgaz in Brazil, where they’d previously been touring. Thus, “stranded in Arcadia,” which is basically another way of saying “lost in paradise.” Can’t say the Bordeaux three-piece didn’t make the most of it, though. Songs like “The Light Beyond” and “Hovering Satellites” — not to mention the utter melodic bliss of “Join the Race” — took cues from their 2011 self-titled debut (review here) in terms of memorable songwriting and melodic craft, but added to that heft and tonal richness more of a psychedelic vibe, so that not only was there fuzz and wah, but a spacious world in which the songs took place. With Kinast on lead vocals, the sneaky boogie of “Holy Mondays” became a highlight, and the one-two swing ‘n’ stomp of “Circles” and “Seen a Ghost” were a perfect demonstration by the band of the various sides of their sound, particularly following after the dreamy instrumental “Arcadia,” an echoing jam distinguished by Pras‘ wistful guitar lead and coming before the closing “Beyond the Light,” which reprises the opener’s resonant unfolding. It probably wasn’t the record they intended to make, but Stranded in Arcadia became one of my go-to albums for 2014, and like the best of any given year’s output, I’ve no doubt it will transcend the passage of time and continue to deliver for years to come. Hell, I was barely done with the debut when this one came out.

 

1. YOB, Clearing the Path to Ascend

yob-clearing-the-path-to-ascend

Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed on Sept. 3.

“It’s time to wake up.”

Can’t imagine this is any great surprise. Not only did Clearing the Path to Ascend – YOB‘s seventh album and first for Neurot — produce my pick for song of the year in its sprawling, emotionally weighted 18-minute closer, “Marrow,” but in the three full-lengths the Eugene, Oregon, trio of drummer Travis Foster, bassist Aaron Rieseberg and guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt have released since the latter reformed the band after breaking it up following 2005’s The Unreal Never Lived, all three have been my album of the year. The Great Cessation was in 2009, and Atma was in 2011. Consistency aside, I’ll point out specifically that each of the same three records has earned that position, perhaps Clearing the Path to Ascend most of all for its progressive feel, moving past genre even at its most raging moment, second cut “Nothing to Win,” the chorus of which proved that among everything else YOB could be, they could be anthemic. The cosmic, spiritual questing that has always been present in their songs, that feeling of searching, showed up in opener “In Our Blood,” but even there, it was evident YOB were pushing themselves beyond what they’ve done before, rewriting their own formulas incorporating lessons from their past in among their other points of inspiration. “Unmask the Spectre” could have easily been an album closer itself, with its patient exploration and feverishly intense payoff, but with the melodic progressivism of “Marrow” and the soul poured into every second of that track, every verse and chorus, solo and build — including the Hammond added to the last of them by producer Billy Barnett — YOB created a landmark both for themselves and the increasing many working under their influence. I’ve said on several occasions (bordering on “many” at this point) that YOB are a once-in-a-generation band, and it feels truer in thinking of Clearing the Path to Ascend than it ever has. Without a doubt, album of the year and then some.

 

 

Honorable Mention

First, special note to Colour Haze‘s To the Highest Gods We Know. I’ve decided to count it as a 2015 release since the vinyl will be out in Spring, but otherwise surely it would earn a place on this list. Blackwolfgoat‘s Drone Maintenance also deserves note.

A few other honorable mentions:

MothershipMothership II — It’s hard to argue with a classic heavy rock power trio kicking ass. I won’t try.

AlunahAwakening the Forest — Every time I make a list, no matter what kind of list it is, there’s a band I wind up kicking myself for forgetting about at the time. This is the case 100 percent with why Alunah aren’t in the Top 30. In fact, I might go in and swap them out with somebody.

Ice DragonSeeds from a Dying Garden — Boston experimental psych/garage doomers continue to defy expectation. May their weirdness last forever and continue to produce material so satisfying.

TruckfightersUniverse – I thought at some point I’d go back to Universe again, but never really did. A problem with me more than the album.

SteakSlab City — An impressive debut following two strong EPs.

GodfleshA World Lit Only by Fire — I never got a review copy, so I never reviewed it. Its name is here because I’m a fan of the band and glad they’re back.

ThouHeathen — Just recently purchased this and am only getting to know it, but a ridiculously strong album.

Corrosion of ConformityIX — Everybody who gets a boner whenever Pepper Keenan is mentioned in connection with this band has missed out. This record and the self-titled kick ass.

SpidergawdSpidergawd — Holy shit they’re over here! No they’re over there! No wait over here again! Oh my god I’ve just gone blind!

Monster MagnetMilking the Stars — I wasn’t sure what to do with this since technically it’s not a new album, mostly reworked songs from the last one. I still listened to it a ton though, whatever it is.

SlomaticsEstron — Another one I’m just getting to know, but am very much digging.

Electric WizardTime to Die — People seem to do this thing where Electric Wizard puts out a record, everyone slathers over it for a few months and then spends the next two years talking about how it sucked. I guess I’ll be on the ground floor with not having been that into Time to Die.

PallbearerFoundations of Burden — Had to put their name somewhere on this list or someone would burn my house down. Album of the year for many.

The list goes on: Monolord, Comet Control, Mammatus, Triptykon, Eyehategod, Fever Dog, Moab, Karma to Burn, Atavismo, Grifter, 1000mods, Megaton Leviathan, Wovenhand, Mr. Peter Hayden, Primordial, and many more.

Before I check out and go sit in a corner somewhere to try and rebuild brain power after this massive dump of a purge, I want to sincerely thank you for reading. If you check in regularly, or if you’ve never been to the site before, if you don’t give a crap about lists or if you’re gonna go listen to even one band on here, it’s fantastic to me. Thank you so much for all the support this site receives, for your comments, for sharing links, retweeting, whatever it is. I am a real person — I’m sitting on my couch at this very moment — and being able to do this and have people see it and be a part of it with me is unbelievable. I realize how fortunate I am. So thank you. Thank you.

Thank you.

More to come as we close out 2014. I’ll have a list of short/split/demo releases, a year-end podcast, a list of the best debuts, a round up of the best live shows I saw, as much more as time allows. Please stay tuned.

And again, thank you. If I left anyone off the list, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments and contribute your own top albums, however many there are, to the Readers Poll.

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Floor Announce Spring 2015 European Tour with Minsk

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

floor

After delivering 2014 an elephantine boot to the ass with their much-anticipated reunion full-length, Oblation (review here), Floor are set to continue their run in 2015. The Miami trio will launch a European tour at Roadburn on April 9 and be joined by Minsk for shows in Germany, the Czech Republic, France, Austria, Belgium, Italy and a stop in London for Desertfest. It’s a stint that ends on April 25, which is just enough time to give guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks a breather before Torche‘s own recently-announced European tour kicks off on May 2 in Leipzig, where Floor will have been less than a month earlier for the Doom over Leipzig festival.

A cruel schedule for Brooks, perhaps, but sure to be time well spent in Floor alongside guitarist Anthony Vialon and drummer Henry Wilson meeting the riffy demands of a hungry public. If you need a refresher, Oblation can be heard in full under the PR wire news below:

floorminsktouradmatfinal

FLOOR announce European tour

Cult underground rock outfit FLOOR (Steve Brooks (also of TORCHE)- Guitar, Vocals, Anthony Vialon – Guitar, Henry Wilson – drums) have announced a European tour. The European tour, their first, sees them travel throughout a half dozen countries and play several European festivals, including Roadburn, Desert Fest London, Doom over Leipzig, and Solomacello Fest. Support on this tour comes from MINSK, and a full list of confirmed tour dates can be found below.

FLOOR are touring in support of ‘Oblation’, their first new album in over ten years. ‘Oblation’, which is available for purchase here, and for digital download here.

FLOOR Tour Dates:
(All dates with MINSK)
4/9 Tilburg, Holland @ Roadburn (FLOOR ONLY)
4/10 Leipzig, Germany @ Doom Over Leipzig
4/11 Hamburg, Germany @ Hafenklang
4/12 Berlin, Germany @ Cassiopeia
4/13 Warsaw, Poland @ Hydrozagadka
4/14 Prague, Czech Rep @ 007
4/15 Innsbruck, Austria @ p.m.k.
4/16 München, Germany @ Feierwerk
4/17 Bologna, Italy @ Freakout
4/18 Milano, Italy @ Lo Fi Club, Solomacello Fest
4/20 Paris, France @ Espace B
4/21 Nantes, France @ La Scene Michelet
4/22 Lille, France @ La Peniche
4/23 Dortmund, Germany @ FZW
4/24 London, UK @ Desertfest
4/25 Antwerp, Belgium @ Kavka

http://officialfloor.bandcamp.com/album/oblation
https://www.facebook.com/floorofficial
http://season-of-mist.com/

Floor, Oblation (2014)

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Torche Reveal Restarter Art, Info and Teaser

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 3rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

torche

A Torche album is always easy to get excited about, but you’ll pardon me if I’m particularly stoked to hear what their impending full-length, Restarter, has to offer. Not only is it their debut release for Relapse Records, which seems like a label home they could settle into for a while, but it’s also their first outing since guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks‘ reunion stint with Floor, and since word has been kicked around of it being Torche‘s heaviest work yet since I think probably before it was even done being written, I’m eager to hear how the vibe plays out. Their third album, 2012’s Harmonicraft (review here), was a solid showing, but I think particularly with the title they’ve given it, Restarter could be shooting for a fresher approach. We’ll know when we get there, I guess.

The PR wire has details and tour dates:

torche restarter

TORCHE REVEAL RESTARTER DETAILS; UNVEIL TEASER TRAILER WITH NEW MUSIC

ADD ADDITIONAL TOUR DATES IN EUROPE AND UNITED STATES

Torche, whose eagerly awaited Relapse Records’ debut, Restarter, is slated for a Feb. 24 release, have shared more details about the 10-track album including full track list and information on various editions.

The Florida/Georgia based quartet are also giving fans the first taste of music from the highly-anticipated album with a thirty-second teaser trailer featuring a portion of album opener “Annihilation Affair,” which is available now.

Restarter will be released on CD/LP/Deluxe 2xLP/Cassette/Digital, with pre-orders beginning Dec. 8. Two bonus tracks, “Harmonslaught” and “Rock ‘N’ Roll Mantasy,” are included on deluxe editions.

Restarter track list:

Annihilation Affair
Bishop in Arms
Minions
Loose Men
Undone
Blasted
No Servants
Believe It
Barrier Hammer
Restarter

The album was recorded at the band’s Miami studio, Pinecrust, with bass player Jonathan Nuñez overseeing production and Converge’s Kurt Ballou once again returning to handle mixing. Speaking with Loudwire, Nuñez discussed the band’s approach to writing and recording Restarter: “I feel that with time you kind of expand and hopefully progress. Hopefully this record is a good reflection of that. I feel it’s strong sonically and harder hitting than the previous record [Harmonicraft]. I’m happy with the last record, but I feel on this record, it’s just more solid song to song. You’ve got to move forward. You can’t release the same record over and over.”

Torche launch a round of U.S. dates later this month as they join Clutch and Lionize for a brief outing; a week of dates with Municipal Waste come mid-January. The band has also added three weeks to their previously announced European and UK dates:

December 27 Cincinnati, OH Bogart’s
December 28 Cleveland, OH House of Blues
December 29 Sayreville, NJ Starland Ballroom
December 30 Philadelphia, PA Electric Factory
December 31 Washington, DC 9:30 Club
January 3 Atlanta, GA Center Stage
January 4 Lake Buena Vista, FL House of Blues
January 6 New Orleans, LA House of Blues
January 7 Houston, TX House of Blues
January 8 Dallas, TX House of Blues
January 9 Tulsa, OK Cain’s Ballroom
January 10 Austin, TX Emo’s
January 16 Winston-Salem, NC Ziggy’s
January 17 Wilmington, NC Ziggy’s by the Sea
January 18 Tallahassee, FL Pug’s Live
January 19 Gainesville, FL The Atlantic
January 20 Ybor City, FL Crowbar
January 21 Miami, FL Grand Central

May 2 Leipzig, DE Taubchental
May 3 Wroclaw, PL Asymmetry Festival
May 4 Prague, CZ 007
May 5 Munich, DE Ampere
May 6 Milan, IT Lo Fi Club
May 8 Barcelona, SP Rocksound
May 9 Madrid, SP Boute Live!
May 10 Lisbon, PT Musicbox
May 11 Bilbao, SP Kafe Antzokia
May 13 Zurich, SZ Dynamo
May 14 Wiesbaden, DE Schlachthoff
May 15 Cologne, DE Underground
May 16 Berlin, DE Hafenklang
May 18 Nijmegen, NL Merelyn
May 19 Haarlem, NL Patronaat
May 20 Paris, FR Glazart
May 21 Antwerp, BE Kavka
May 22 London, UK Underworld
May 23 Leeds, UK Belgrave Social Club
May 24 Galway, IR Roisin Dubh
May 25 Cork, IR Craine Lane
May 26 Dublin, IR Grand Social
May 27 Belfast, IR The Limelight
May 28 Glasgow, UK CCA
May 29 Manchester, UK Sound Control
May 30 Bristol, UK Temples Festival
May 31 Nimes, FR This is Not a Love Song
June 1 Nantes, FR Le Ferrailleur

Part Chimp, Kings and Henry Blacker open on all headlining European dates.

www.facebook.com/torcheofficial
www.torchemusic.com

Torche, Restarter teaser

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Friday Full-Length: Floor, Floor

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 14th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Floor, Floor (2002)

The self-titled debut full-length from Floor is a monument to the gloriousness of weighted tonality. For me, particularly over the last couple years, it’s an album I’ve come to associate with motion, with going places. Reason being is that it was on an iPod I’d initially bought for The Patient Mrs. years back but wound up sort of appropriating after she more or less discarded it (this same iPod was also recently stolen out of my car by some jerk who remains at large), and with the relatively limited selection there as compared to my CD rack, I’d find it in the playlist usually while sitting in an airport and be all excited, pretty much each time out. So walking on airplanes, walking off airplanes, getting from here to somewhere else, Floor‘s Floor is the record for me by which that happens. It’s been my soundtrack for at least the last four trips to Roadburn.

It also seems fitting that it should be a travel album because the music itself is so compelling. Whether it’s “Scimitar,” or “Downed Star” or the one-two-three quick punch of “Twink,” “Sheech” and “Assassin,” which I still feel like I’m trying to catch up to, the album itself moves. The Miami trio of guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks – who’d go on to found Torche following Floor‘s dissolution — guitarist Anthony Vialon and drummer Henry Wilson propelled themselves from one song to the next, sometimes in attention-deficit-disorder leaps that seemed to leave ideas incomplete in a punkish sort of tradition and sometimes just at the right time, but never with a moment wasted. To date, it remains one of heavy rock’s best examples of a lean record that still sounds mammoth and pummeling — that’s not to mention the upbeat tempos or pop influence — and its thrust and brash feel has had a considerable influence since the time of its release on No Idea Records in 2002. Probably too early to call it a classic just 12 years after the fact, but there’s nothing that seems like it’ll stop it from getting there as the years continue to progress.

All the more so because of Floor‘s reactivated status, and with this lineup. Earlier 2014’s Oblation (review here) was a worthy successor to Floor‘s original run, which came to an end with 2004’s sophomore outing, Dove. By then the lineup had changed and it was clear the dynamic in the band was shifted, but from the time Floor got back together following the welcome reception of their 10LP Below and Beyond box set through Robotic Empire (who also have a reissue of the self-titled for sale on their Bandcamp with outtakes), the question of a new album was always there, and they answered that question loudly and in progressive, still immensely heavy form. Brooks seems primed for a shift back to Torche in 2015 for their Relapse label debut, but Floor continue to play shows in support of Oblation as well, shifting from a “reunion” band to a working one. They’ll play Roadburn and Desertfest in 2015 and probably much more around Europe between. As a fan of the band, I hope they continue on and put out a follow-up fourth long-player, but the self-titled continues to hold a special place in my heart, even if that place seems to constantly be in motion.

Hope you enjoy.

Will keep it quick this time. Stay tuned next week. Hopefully I’ll have a review of the new Murcielago record, plus the Orange Goblin which I’m sure you’ve already heard, plus an interview one way or another, be it the Lowrider Q&A or one with Soph from Alunah. I’ve also got a track premiere and quickie Q&A with It’s Casual slated for Wednesday and maybe one or two audio-type tricks up my sleeve for the rest of the week as well. We’ll see how it shapes up.

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

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Torche Announce Sept. Tour; New Album Due Early 2015

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 21st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Neato news that Torche are touring a bit in the US before heading out for their previously announced first run in Australia, but this is also the first concrete word I’ve seen updating on the release for the Miami outfit’s next album, the follow-up to their 2012 outing, Harmonicraft, and their debut on Relapse Records. The label isn’t giving out a specific Tuesday or anything at this point, but at least with “early 2015,” we know not to expect it before the end of the year.

As I understand it, the album’s been in the can for a while, but sometimes the timing has to be just right, and as this is a big release for both band and imprint, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to get all the ducks in a row before actually issuing the thing.

The PR wire does it like this:

TORCHE Announce US Tour Dates

Band to Tour US September 20 through October 1st

TORCHE, the Florida-meets-Georgia heavy rock quartet have announced a short run of US headlining dates this September / October. The dates kick off September 18th in Miami, FL and run through October 1st in Orlando, FL. The band has also recently announced a headlining Australian tour in October. A complete listing of dates is available below.

The band, who recently signed to Relapse Records, completed recording their newest full-length earlier this year at Pinecrust Studio in Miami, with bassist Jonathan Nunez behind the boards. The album was then mixed by Converge’s Kurt Ballou and will see a release in early 2015 via Relapse.

The band’s most recent material can be found at torche.bandcamp.com.

Sep 18 Miami, FL Churchill’s Pub
Sep 19 Jacksonville, FL Burro Bar
Sep 20 Gainesville, FL The Atlantic
Sep 21 Atlanta, GA 97 Estoria
Sep 22 Nashville, TN The End
Sep 23 Columbus, OH Ace of Cups
Sep 24 Akron, OH Musica
Sep 25 Chicago, IL The Promontory
Sep 26 Pittsburgh, PA The Smiling Moose
Sep 27 Brooklyn, NY St. Vitus
Sep 29 Chapel Hill, NC Cat’s Cradle Back Room
Sep 30 Tampa, FL The Orpheum
Oct 01 Orlando, FL Backbooth

http://torche.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/torcheofficial
http://www.relapse.com/label/

Torche, “Harmonslaught” Live at 285 Kent, Brooklyn

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Friday Full-Length: Torche, Torche

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 1st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Torche, Torche (2005)

I remember when I got this album when it came out in 2005 — nine years ago now. It was the “former members of Floor” that caught my eye when Robotic Empire was getting ready to release it, but it was as soon as the hook of “Mentor” came on, I had my “holy shit” moment with Torche‘s Torche, and I guess a lot of other people did as well. Listening back to the album now, there’s so much more to it than that — the weird experimentalism of “Fuck Addict,” or the feedback-drenched “The Last Word” — things that Torche moved past on subsequent releases in their drive toward a cleaner, more daringly poppy sound, but that make this album’s threat seem all the more glaring. There was nothing like them when they started. This record could be so sweet sounding and still push past the limits of accessibility.

Of course, the context is different, hearing it now. Nearly a decade’s worth of hindsight, several follow-up LPs and a Floor reunion later, Torche‘s self-titled debut still comes across as brazen, but now it sounds more like a beginning point than the bold declaration it was. I haven’t heard much about Torche‘s impending full-length from Relapse, maybe you have the inside track, but something steered me toward this album today, and it wasn’t an impulse I was about to deny. Maybe Torche are a little too fresh, too recent in the consciousness, to start talking about classics, but in another nine or 10 years, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we come to see their debut in that light. My thinking was that maybe you hadn’t heard it in a while, and maybe you’d be as glad to revisit as I was.

Point being, I hope you enjoy.

Quick week, but aren’t they all. Nice to get three bigger reviews done this week and to take a little time and note how grateful I was to The Patient Mrs. for doing a bit of shopping on my behalf while in Greece. I also took some time to make a list of the shows I want to see this and next month and into October. There are five in August starting on the ninth in Portland, Maine, with We’re all Gonna DieBlackwolfgoat and Murcielago, and going on from there. Five this month, six next. I don’t know if I’ll actually make it to all of them, but it’ll be good to end this summer’s shut-in lifestyle as we move into fall, however much I end up getting out.

Tonight? Chinese delivery and looking to spend a cloudy evening watching baseball. Not much for Friday night excitement, but I kind of felt like I never woke up today — was up in the middle of the night for an hour-plus — and yeah, been in a haze ever since. I guess some thrills came in the form of my dinner, which arrived, cost me upwards of $40 with the delivery tip factored in, and was uncooked. I’ve lived in this area a year now and have yet to find a place that’s got anything more than barely acceptable takeout. Granted I don’t get it every week or anything, but I’m up to five or six different spots now and only one was worth going back to. Yelp is no assistance whatsofuckingever. All anyone ever talks about is the fucking “crab rangoons.” It’s god damn deep fried crab meat and cream cheese! Of course it’s fucking delicious! The highlight of the meal was when the dog sat and stayed at the door while I futzed with my cash to give the delivery guy. It was all downhill from there.

Next week, look out for streams from Joy and Blackwitch Pudding, reviews of Heavy Temple and Witch Mountain and hopefully I’ll get the John Garcia interview posted, which I actually filed away thinking it already went up when clearly it did not. Whoops. Little late on that one, but so it goes.

Alright, onward to my evening of awful raw meat greasy-flavor aftertaste and watching the off-brand peckerwood Yankees lose to the Red Sox. I hope you have an excellent and injury-free weekend.

Please check out the forum and the radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Torche Announce Australian Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 4th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Presumably by the time Torche get on the plane to Australia in October, their new album and debut on Relapse Records will be out. Guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks has been working with the reunited Floor for much of the year so far, while drummer Rick Smith and bassist Jonathan Nuñez have recorded with their other band Shitstorm and guitarist/vocalist Andrew Elstner has an LP coming out with his other band, Tilts, so everybody’s been busy, but I guess the new Torche LP is going to squeeze in there somewhere before they go to Oz. Or not. I’m sure people would still show up for Torche‘s first Aussie tour if they don’t have a record out that week.

Life is Noise, which is presenting the run, sent the following particulars down the PR wire:

life is noise presents for the first time in our fair land: TORCHE (USA)

Australian Tour October 2014

From their blistering melodies to their bulldozer guitar riffs, the Miami four-piece are one of the most innovative bands in metal today, eschewing the genres’s clichés and standards for an entrancing mix of melody, sludge and jubilant doom…

No one else sounds quite like Torche.

Formed after the demise of stoner metal band Floor, Torche’s influences come from far and wide. The usual suspects are there – Melvins, Helmet, Sabbath – but the subtleties of their sound come from all over the canon: Guided by Voices, Jawbox, Superchunk and even Cheap Trick, all of it punctuated by Steve Brooks’ bellowing roar. The result is a dense and distinct wall of noise, one that’s as heavy as it is irresistibly catchy. How many other bands can you say that about?

Torche deal in anthems: every song brims with contagious hooks, rabid riffs and thunderous major-key progressions. Maybe that’s owing to the aesthetic of their beachside hometown – album number three, 2012’s Harmonicraft, was labelled “summer record of the year” by just about everyone who talked about it. But the quartet have no interest in wallowing. Every second of every song is an opportunity for high octane, unapologetic rocking-the-fuck-out.

Better yet, Torche promise their fourth album – slated for later this year on their new label Relapse Records – is heavier than ever.

We can’t wait.

Catch Torche on the following dates:

Thursday October 16 – Crowbar, Brisbane – tickets from lifeisnoise.com, oztix and the venue
Friday October 17 – Rosemount Hotel, Perth – tickets from lifeisnoise.com, oztix and the venue
Saturday October 18 – Corner Hotel, Melbourne – tickets from lifeisnoise.com, oztix and the venue
Sunday October 19 – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney – tickets from lifeisnoise.com, moshtix, oztix and the venue

https://www.facebook.com/events/882736731742037/
http://www.relapse.com/label/artist/torche.html
http://tickets.lifeisnoise.com/

Torche, “Harmonslaught”

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Cave of Swimmers Announce East Coast Tour and Debut EP

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Miami-by-way-of-Venezuela duo Cave of Swimmers have announced an East Coast tour for this July in support of their self-titled EP’s re-release through Illinois imprint The Path Less Traveled Records. The guitar/drum two-piece operate across a pretty broad stylistic spectrum, from the upbeat Red Fang-style hooks of “Hangman” to to the weirdo shuffle that takes hold in “Catch” backed by swells of synth and the resonant pop of snare drum. They bill themselves as progressive and I’m not inclined to argue, except to point out that the stoicism that a “prog” designation sometimes indicates doesn’t seem to apply here.

The EP is available now and the tour starts June 27. Behold the teachings of the PR wire:

Cave of Swimmers announce summer tour & EP release through The Path Less Traveled Records

Cave of Swimmers, a prog-rock duo from Miami, have just announced a US summer tour in support of their recently released self-titled EP on The Path Less Traveled Records.

Originally issued as a limited cassette by the band under their original moniker, ‘The Tunnel’, Cave of Swimmers now have a much deserved wider release on CD. July 2014 will see them storm through the Eastern states to promote their 4 track effort.

Described as a ‘truly progressive’ outfit by Destructive Music, COS have made quite a name for themselves in their home region, known for their blend of progressive rock, latin fusion, and even some operatic flair thrown in for good measure.

Tour dates:
June 27 Fubar – St. Pete, FL
June 30 Eisenhouser – Murfreesboro, TN
July 1 The Grotto – Boone, NC
July 2 Nice Price Books – Raleigh, NC
July 3 Club K, Baltimore, MD
July 4 Bloody Pit of Horror House – Philadelphia, PA
July 5 Sammy’s Patio – Boston, MA
July 6 Lit Lounge – New York, NY
July 7 Gallery 5 – Richmond, VA
July 9 Hippo Records – Greensboro, NC
July 10 Foxfield Bar & Grill – Columbia, SC
July 11 Rain Dogs – Jacksonville, FL
July 12 Cabana Inn – Sarasota, FL

www.caveofswimmers.com
https://www.facebook.com/caveofswimmers/
www.thepathlesstraveledrecords.com

Cave of Swimmers, Cave of Swimmers EP (2014)

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House of Lightning’s Lightworker Now Available on LP/CS

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 28th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Also releasing a new album with Floor this week and hitting the road in support of it, Henry Wilson steps to the front on guitar and vocals with House of Lightning‘s Lightworker album, continuing some of the same ideas Wilson brought to the table with his post-Floor project, Dove. As the PR wire informs below, Dove‘s no longer with us (their 2004 self-titled remains a piece of buried treasure from among the Floor-related milieu), but House of Lightning‘s Lightworker came out on Easter via Fair Warning Records and is a solid burner. If you missed it, Floor‘s Anthony Vialon spoke highly if it in his interview last week as well.

Details and music follow, the PR wire vigilant as always:

HOUSE OF LIGHTNING is coming—look busy. Proudly hailing from Winter Haven Florida, they feature current and former band members of FLOOR, DOVE, and CAVITY. The death of DOVE finally gives rebirth to HOUSE OF LIGHTNING…Rising from the ashes like a mighty phoenix. The resurrection occurs on Easter Sunday 4/20 in the form of a 10-song, 40-minute riff-rollercoaster, “Lightworker.”

House Of Lightning’s long-awaited debut album does more than just pick up where DOVE left off five years ago; they blast off out of the known universe and into a completely new and unknown dimension. From the mad-genius mind of HENRY WILSON, comes an almost uncategorizable yet positively spiritual incorporation of Heavy Metal, Thrash, bits of Math, a sprinkle of Prog, a pinch of 1984, and a dash of 5150. Sounds wild, you say? That’s because IT IS. Lightworker is difficult to simply just pin a label onto; you are better off hearing this one for yourself. All aboard the rocketship!

“April is a busy month for our brother HENRY WILSON. Not only does this cat have a new FLOOR album dropping, but his long-awaited much-belabored HOUSE OF LIGHTNING record finally gets unleashed, taking what he started with DOVE, upping the riff-tornado and generally fucking with your dome. Nothing else sounds like this and it comes out 4/20 via brethren Fair Warning Records.”—Andy Low, Robotic Empire

Henry Wilson – Guitar, Vocals, Synth
John Ostberg – drums

Recorded by Mark Nikolich at Atomic Audio
Sleeve Art by Francesco LoCastro (of Floor ‘Oblation’ fame)

https://www.facebook.com/pages/House-of-Lightning/196769132312
http://fairwarningrecords.bandcamp.com/
http://fairwarning.storenvy.com/

House of Lightning, “More Lights More Trails” from Lightworker (2014)

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Floor Interview with Anthony Vialon: Gathered in the Glare

Posted in Features on April 24th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

A little over four years ago, when Miami’s Floor reunited for a couple shows to coincide with the release of the 8CD box set, Below and Beyond, on Robotic Empire, I was fortunate enough to interview guitarist Anthony Vialon about the band’s getting back together for what seemed then to be a very limited run. Now, as they prepare to release their new album, Oblation (review here), next week on Season of Mist and embark a day later on a cross-country tour that will place them squarely on the other side of the line between a “reunion band” and a working one, it seemed only fitting to follow-up with Vialon about Floor‘s progress these last several years and how they got to where they are.

Because when they first booked three gigs back in 2010 in Florida and Georgia, the going impression — I think on the part of the band as much as fans — was that was it. Then the response they got was huge enough that it turned into a few more shows, and a tour, and then some more shows, and it kept rolling on until next thing you knew, they had been picked up by Season of Mist and streaming new material. It’s been a few years getting to this point, but for Floor – the trio of Vialon, guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks (also of Torche) and drummer Henry Wilson (also of House of Lightning) — the progression seems to have been natural, one step taken at a time, building momentum as they might otherwise with a series of crushing bomb-string riffs.

Certainly that seems to be the method on Oblation. Set in the shadow of Floor‘s by-now-legend 2002 self-titled, what could’ve easily been a project doomed from the start — and not in the good way — has turned out to mark not only a successful return on the part of the band, but a creative evolution that gives a sense of where they left off and where they are now. Songs penned and constructed by Vialon, Wilson and Brooks like “Rocinante” and “War Party” call to mind the unabashed pop hooks of Floor‘s first run, while the eight-minute “Sign of Aeth” takes these elements to places they haven’t yet gone, so that Oblation isn’t nostalgic, but looking forward.

Doubtless a good part of Floor‘s legacy will remain linked to the self-titled, but in talking to Vialon yesterday, that only seemed like something for the trio to be proud of. Oblation releases in the EU and elsewhere tomorrow, April 25, and is out in North America next Tuesday, April 29. Floor begin their tour April 30 in Miami and will finish in Atlanta on June 1 (dates here). In the interview, Vialon discusses writing for the band again, the response the reunion has gotten these last few years, his affinity for Rush, and much more.

Enjoy the Q&A after the jump, and thanks for reading.

Read more »

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Floor, Oblation: Offerings and Homegoings

Posted in Reviews on April 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

It’s been just over four years since Miami trio Floor played a one-off reunion show that warned, “One show. One chance. Don’t blow it,” and it’s been a decade since the band’s sophomore outing, Dove, was released in 2004. Since that time, the band has spawned a family tree rivaled by few, members of the lineup throughout their 12-year initial run going on to play in acts like Torche, Dove, House of Lightning, MonstrO, Holly Hunt and Cavity (the latter of whom ran concurrent to Floor and who seem like fodder for a reunion of their own), among others. The biggest impact in terms of audience has unquestionably been by Torche, who, led by guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks, inherited much of their pop-meets-bomb-drop-sludge-riffing ethic directly from Brooks‘ work in Floor, continuing to refine those methods and ultimately creating something new from them. Both bands now active, Floor release their first album since Dove and first new material since their reunion — 2009’s 8CD discography box set Below and Beyond notwithstanding — in the form of Oblation on Season of Mist. Its title refers to “an offering,” and that may well be what Floor have in mind, but while the core focus on tone and pop melody remains intact, there have been some very distinct changes in the approach of Floor – the trio of Steve Brooks, guitarist Anthony Vialon (2010 interview here) and drummer Henry Wilson — since they issued their landmark 2002 self-titled debut and they show up audibly in the listening experience of Oblation.

That’s to be expected, right? It has been a decade. To expect Floor to get back together and release Floor Pt. 2 seems unreasonable and unfair. As righteous as that album is, for Brooks, Vialon and Wilson to have come in with the intent of recapturing that magic — and it is the self-titled lineup that’s reunited — would be shooting themselves in the foot before they started. No. Oblation is a collection of songs poised not to surrogate the hooks of old, but to serve as a beginning for this new stage of the band. In short, Floor have grown up. Oblation is not the work of a three-piece experimenting with their sound and happening into brilliance. There is poise, confidence, and awareness at its root, and whether it’s the ultra-thick underlying chugging of the spacious opening title-track or the ensuing upbeat rush of “Rocinante” — one of Floor‘s sonic gifts was to not only have tones so thick, but to make them move, and that remains the case here — or the standalone megastomp of “Love Comes Crushing,” the band offer crisp, assured songcraft and a defining clarity of intent. While the songs remain exciting well beyond the simple novelty of their existence, a new Floor album seeming like an impossibility for years, that clarity necessarily comes in trade for the spontaneous sensibility of their earlier work. That’s the nature of creative progression — once you know what you’re doing, your approach to it changes. The middle section of Oblation that runs from “New Man,” through “Sister Sophia,” “The Quill” and the aforementioned “Love Comes Crushing” before getting to the catchy “War Party” still works as a fitting summary for Floor‘s aesthetic — thick, at times lush, alternately crawling, running, but always moving, etc. — but it does so more in triumph at its level of execution than in raw punkish urgency.

Read more »

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Holly Hunt’s Prometheus EP Out April 29

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 15th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Having recently had the pleasure of seeing Florida’s Holly Hunt live, their upcoming EP, Prometheus, will arrive all the more anticipated. The Miami-based duo of guitarist Gavin Perry and drummer Beatriz Monteavaro made their intent clear on their Year One debut, embroiled in a sonic demolition of big riffs and big stomp that hopefully continues its tide of destruction on the new release. I’m looking forward to checking it out.

Time and the PR wire shall tell:

Holly Hunt – Prometheus (Other Electricities/Sonic TITAN) Out April 29, 2014

Following their highly lauded full-length album Year One, Holly Hunt returns with a 3-song, 12’’ EP, Prometheus. Recorded by Jonathan Nuñez of Torche and mastered by New Alliance East, the record builds on the two-piece’s reputation for metal that’s crafted with the heaviest alloys, and a most magisterial patterning – the type that drones vehemently and drowns in the blues.

Drummer Beatriz Monteavaro (Floor, Cavity) and guitarist Gavin Perry have demonstrated themselves as a loud and lumbering giant of the Miami music scene. The visceral impact of sound – the raising heart rate, neck chills, the warmth spreading throughout your torso – this is Holly Hunt’s raison d’être. Prometheus manages to transmit an almost perfect rendering, delivering listeners to a heightened physical (and mental and spiritual) state. The record conjures the image of an approaching behemoth, striking paranoia and fear until the final, exhilarating sweep of humanity’s total destruction.

Where Year One established the bedrock of Holly Hunt’s punishing sound, Prometheus thunders with the clarity of a crack of lighting. It establishes a supremely balanced, critical distance between amp worship and riff devotion, rising and falling with ecstatic highs and sublime lows. And while Year One represented the genesis of the band’s existence; Prometheus stands as a churning, threatening hint of things to come.

https://www.facebook.com/HOLLYHUNT.LTD
https://www.facebook.com/SonicTITAN.ltd
http://other-electricities.com/

Holly Hunt, “Meano” from Prometheus (2013)

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Floor Announce Tour Dates; New Album Oblation Due April 29

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 19th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Time does strange things. It’s 2014. Floor, Sleep, Spirit Caravan and most of Kyuss are back together. Black Sabbath won a Grammy. The whole fucking world is upside down, the underground is over(ground), and all these things that seemed impossible to see are right in front of us. And yet we still use the combustion engine. Go figure.

I got sidetracked. Floor. The point is Floor are touring again, and the key difference is they’ll have a new album out — Oblation, which will be their first in a decade. Season of Mist will have the collection in the public’s greedy mitts come April 29, and wouldn’t you know the tour starts the day after? One would almost swear these things were coordinated ahead of time.

So says the PR wire:

FLOOR announce North American tour

Cult underground rock outfit FLOOR (Steve Brooks (also of TORCHE)- Guitar, Vocals, Anthony Vialon – Guitar, Henry Wilson – drums) have announced a North American tour this spring. The Noisey/Vice sponsored tour starts on April 30th in Miami, FL, and will see FLOOR travel throughout the month of April, before ending on May 1 in Atlanta, GA. A full list of confirmed tour dates can be found below.

FLOOR will be touring in support of their forthcoming album, ‘Oblation’. ‘Oblation’ will be released via Season of Mist on April 29 in North America (April 25 worldwide). ‘Oblation’ can be pre-ordered in various formats here.

‘Oblation’ track list:
1. Oblation
2. Rocinante
3. Trick Scene
4. Find Away
5. The Key
6. New Man
7. Sister Sophia
8. The Quill
9. Love Comes Crushing
10. War Party
11. Homegoings and Transitions
12. Sign of Aeth
13. Raised to a Star
14. Forever Still

The Florida-based trio was originally formed by Brooks and Vialon in 1992, and issued singles on respected underground labels like No Idea, Bovine, Rhetoric and more. The band’s wildly influential self-titled album was recently inducted into the Decibel Magazine Hall of Fame.

FLOOR Tour Dates
4/30 Miami, FL @ Churchills
5/2 Gainesville, FL @ The Wooley
5/3 Charlotte, NC @ The Casbah @ Tremont Music Hall
5/4 Washington, DC @ Rock & Roll Hotel
5/5 Brooklyn @ Saint Vitus
5/6 Philadelphia, PA @ The Barbary
5/7 Boston, MA @ Great Scott
5/8 Buffalo, NY @ The Tralf
5/9 Pittsburgh, PA @ Smiling Moose
5/10 Grand Rapids, MI @ Pyramid Scheme
5/11 Chicago, IL @ Double Door
5/13 Denver, CO @ Moon Room
5/14 Salt Lake City, UT @ Bar Deluxe
5/16 Portland, OR @ Branx
5/17 Seattle, WA @ Chop Suey
5/19 San Franciso, CA @ Elbo Room
5/24 Los Angeles, CA @ The Satellite
5/25 Fullerton, OC @ SlideBar
5/26 Phoenix, AZ @ Yucca Tap Room
5/27 Albuquerque, NM @ Launchpad
5/29 Austin, TX @ Red 7
5/30 Dallas, TX @ Club Dada
5/31 Birmingham, AL @ Bottletree
6/1 Atlanta, GA @ The Earl

https://www.facebook.com/floorofficial
http://e-shop.season-of-mist.com/en/predefined-search/46421

Floor, “War Party” from Oblation (2014)

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