Posted in Whathaveyou on January 21st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
If I’ve learned one thing in this still-pretty-new New Year, it’s that there’s going to be a ton of shit going on all the time, and on that level, kudos to Detroit four-piece Against the Grain for putting their hats and beards in the ring. The dudely duders who released their third full-length Surrounded by Snakeslast year (review here) and subsequently hit the road alongside Church of Misery will once more take it to the people starting next month, hitting the Midwest and the East Coast before heading back for a hometown release show for the forthcoming Self-Destructo Records 10″ vinyl issue of their 2012 Motor City Speed Rockrelease.
That EP is available to preorder now, and the link for that and tour dates follow here, courtesy of the PR wire:
Against The Grain announce tour – Re-release of “Motor City Speed Rock” 10″
Against The Grain announce three week tour across Mid West/East Coast.
10” re-release of Motor City Speed Rock out this February via Self Destructo Records. Pre-order activated right now through the link below. Limited quantity of 500 pressed on both coke clear and black vinyl, each one hand numbered and hand stamped by Self Destructo Records.
Pre-order up and running right now, all are hand numbered and stamped. Comes in coke clear and regular black 10” and all pre-orders through www.shopturbojugend.com come with an exclusive patch designed for this release.
Detroit’s own Motor City Madmen – Against The Grain start off 2014 with a two month trek across Middle America and the Eastern Seaboard in support of their vinyl re-release of Motor City Speed Rock. Originally released in 2012, it was the album that laid the foundation for their presence in the heavy music community in their city of Detroit and neighboring states alike and opened doors for them to play alongside the likes of The Dwarves, Valient Thorr, Zeke, Holley 750, Riverboat Gamblers and The Meatmen.
Self Destructo Records released their third LP entitled “Surrounded By Snakes” in 2013, which catapulted the band full on into the world of stoner rock/doom. Following the release of Surrounded By Snakes, opening slots in Detroit for Saint Vitus, Orange Goblin and a tour with Japanese doom veterans Church of Misery ensued.
Posted in Reviews on January 10th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s a brief but intense catalog of miseries that Detroit double-guitar five-piece Temple of Void emit on their 2013 debut release, Demo MMXIII. It is a demo, obviously, and self-released in an initial CD pressing of 200 — reportedly there’s a repress in the works — and it comprises just three tracks that total 22:15 between them, with “Beyond the Ultimate” and “Exanimate Gaze” hovering around six minutes each while closer “Bargain in Death” extends the lurch to 10:36, rounding out with cyclical riffing that more or less could go as long as the band wanted it. Aggressive, tonally weighted and dark in its atmosphere, Demo MMXIII is on the sludgier end of doom, but follows a course derived in no small part from extreme metal — death metal, particularly — and vocalist Mike Erdody, also of the live incarnation of Acid Witch and formerly of Borrowed Time, is a big part of what situates them as such. His vocals aren’t unipolar in the sense of just being low-register growls, but there’s no clean singing to be found in any of the three tracks, so Temple of Void wind up with a newer-school feeling take on death-doom. The tones of guitarists Eric Blanchard and Alex Awn are oppressively heavy, but not overly concerned with adhering to a classic approach, and though “Exanimate Gaze” speeds up some toward its end, the demo by and large makes its sonic impression with a thunderous plod thickened and pushed forward by bassist Brent Satterly and drummer Jason Pearce, and presents its extremity in a manner both professional and vicious.
Production quality comes into play quickly with Demo MMXIIIin that it would be a much different release if recorded dirtier. I guess that’s universally true — if things were different, they would be different — but it comes into relief with Temple of Void in that where their moniker might lead a listener to expect cave echoes and direct-to-Maxell rehearsal-room quality in the recording, “Beyond the Ultimate” dispels that idea before even the first verse has begun. Erdody sets the tone with a welcoming growl over a nasty, hulking riff, and by the time they’re a minute deep, Demo MMXIIIhas established a course far from the dictates of doomly trend. That is to say, there’s nothing cultish in their temple. Sure, the lyrics of “Beyond the Ultimate,” which come included with the CD version but are also available online, talk of “Haunting, cryptic visions,” and sacrificial summonings, but the vibe is utterly terrestrial and rather than try to creep you out with its vibe, it takes the (admittedly, more efficient) route of bludgeoning you with a hammer. The actual words to the song are largely indecipherable through Erdody‘s growls — at least until you’re reading along — and the aggression in his style is the stuff more of modern deathcore than most of what one runs into even in death-doom, where playing ultra-low growls and clean vocals or spoken parts, Novembers Doom-style, is the expected norm. Both for that reason and the sheer fact that the band sound so pissed off, I’m more inclined to think of Demo MMXIIIas death-sludge, but its foundations are unquestionably metal and the result is brutal and poised in like measure.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 2nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Am I posting this update from Saw Her Ghost Records because if gives me an excuse to put up the video for Beast in the Field‘s “Wakan Tanka” again? Yes, absolutely. Is that my only motivation? Not really. While word of an impending vinyl release for 2013′s hyperbolically heavy The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below (review here) is certainly welcome and the more people who hear about it and hear that album the better off we as a civilization will be, the news of a Temple of Void LP forthcoming is definitely also welcome, as is the rest.
So dig it and dig in:
Beast In The Field COLOR VINYL
Regarding the 2xLP version of Beast In The Field ‘The Sacred Above The Sacred Below’: We encountered some legal issues with the original vinyl masters which are in contention in court. We decided that we’ve waited too long to get this sorted out, so we have gone ahead and had new masters cut. We should get the new tests in mid January and hopefully have the records done by the first week of February. We apologize for the massive delay, but it was honestly out of our hands. We appreciate your patience and guarantee that those who have preordered this will receive everything they’ve ordered plus some extras that we are drumming up right now. We will be doing at least 100 of the first pressing on color (most likely green). All of those who preordered and will preorder will get color if they want it. If for some reason you do want black, just say so in the instructions section of your PayPal thingy.
Konkeror ‘The Abysmal Horizons’ LP is available now for $15 ppd. The first pressing is on purple vinyl and comes with a digital download card. Touch Of North America’s untitled 7″ is available as well. Hand stamped labels, digital download card, and 4 rip roaring explosions.
The new year is shaping up nicely for Saw Her Ghost. We are releasing the posthumous swan song 7″ by ROUGH ROPE. The SUN MYTH ‘A.M. Sky’ CD/2xLP is ready to go to press. We’re preparing for the LP release of the mighty TEMPLE OF VOID. BEAST IN THE FIELD’s live CD/COMIC BOOK is still happening. There will also be a HELLMOUTH/BEAST IN THE FIELD split 7″. And our latest addition is a 7″ by Chicago’s THE FIREBIRD BAND, which features Chris Broach of Braid. Yeah, that’s right.
They’re a new band with some classic influences, and on their debut demo tape, Thirst for Misery, Lansing, Michigan, five-piece The Swill blend heavy ’70s rock, garage thrash and early metal into a stew that’s sonically their own and almost surprisingly vital. The five-songs on Thirst for Misery– a play on Black Flag/Saint Vitus‘ “Thirsty and Miserable” — were recorded and mixed by Kevin Kitchell and Matt Preston, and the band boasts within its ranks vocalist Matt “War” Watrous (Wastelander), bassist Rob Hultz (ex-Solace and currently in Trouble), guitarist “Postman Dan” McCormick (ex-The Fallopian Dudes and one of the best people you could ever hope to meet), Preston (Borrowed Time) also on guitar/keys, and drummer Rael Andrews (Bert). With everyone having been involved in an assortment of other bands over the years and being kind of a mash of different elements, The Swill is probably as self-effacing a moniker as one could ask.
Hultz is based in Chicago, so Derek Kasperlik (Mountain Goat) plays live. Thirst for Misery is pro-pressed and hand-numbered to 50 copies (I got number five) with a four-panel J-card and Brad Moore artwork. For their first release, The Swill probably could’ve just thrown together a dubbed demo in a line-drawn cover, but take it as a sign of the players’ experience they didn’t. Likewise, the songs themselves give off a similar mature feel. It’s a raw recording, but opener “You are Alone,” which shared side 1 with “Demons and Rust,” has a classic heavy rock stomp to its verse before taking off on a NWOBHM gallop in the second verse, Watrous‘ vocals at the fore until the guitars take hold for a quick, metallic solo. They nestle into a swaying groove with Preston adding some keys, though it could be Andrews as he’s credited with them as well, but they draw back to the central and more upbeat progression for a last run through the chorus before a sample from the 1982 documentary Another State of Mind.
Listening digitally, you know that’s at the end of “You are Alone” and not the beginning of “Demons and Rust,” but on the tape it’s harder to tell where one ends and the other begins. Once “Demons and Rust” gets going though, it’s slower, groovier, a fatter riff at its core with plenty of leads around it, almost a waltz if it isn’t one, and Watrous is more restrained vocally. The whole first part of the track is a build, and the second half pays it off, so side 1 gets a suitable finale, but when you turn the tape over, “Deeper Dungeons” is off in a rush of sleazy metal, a winding guitar line given further intensity by blastbeats and over-the-top metal vocalizing that rounds out with a fervent Tom G. Warrior grunt just before the guitar solo kicks in. “Deeper Dungeons” goes more or less apeshit and the delay-soaked interlude “Analysis Paralysis” offers a momentary breather before closer “The Void and the Vision” takes hold to finish out Thirst for Miseryon The Swill‘s most realized note yet. The band moves fluidly through tempo shifts and hit into the tape’s catchiest chorus, the winding lead guitar line being no less of a hook. They go big, get loud and end off in a suitable burst of energy, dropping to silence immediately after the last hit.
With that kind of precision and a more swaggering heavy rock influence working in tandem, I’ll be interested to hear how The Swill grow into their sound, but for now, the demo’s worth a listen either way and on tape, it sounds like something you’d be happy you traded for when it showed up in the mail. If pay-what-you-will downloads are more your thing, they’ve got that going too at their Bandcamp.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 21st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Even if you told me it was just Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor playing with Beast in the Field and Electric Citizen, I’d still call it a hell of a gig, but Echo Fest 4 pushes genre lines in melding swirling psych with blistering noise and a lot more. The show is set to take place Nov. 16 in Detroit — Spindrift plays the pre-party on the 12th — and aside from the fact that there’s a band playing called Oblisk, it seems to be a cool assemblage of creative Midwestern acts. Dig the PR wire info below:
DETROIT PSYCH-ROCK BAND SISTERS OF YOUR SUNSHINE VAPOR ANNOUNCE THE 4thANNUAL ECHO FEST AT THE LOVING TOUCH IN FERNDALE, MI ON SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 16TH, FEATURING 12 BANDS FROM DETROIT AND THE MIDWEST.
ECHO FEST IS AN 18-AND-UP SHOW FEATURING THE BEST OF THE MIDWEST’S PSYCHEDELIC SOUNDS September 26, 2013 — (Detroit, MI) — Detroit psych rock band Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor are very excited to announce their 4th annual ECHO Fest, to be held at The Loving Touch in Ferndale, MI on Saturday, November 16th at 6:00PM. Formed and curated by the band, ECHO Fest showcases Detroit’s and the Midwest’s burgeoning and varied psychedelic music scene, including psych rock, shoegaze, garage and more. Mixed with its trademark visuals and mood-filled lighting it has become an event that stands on its own. The night will be filled with swirling lights, fuzzed out guitars, and of course so much delay that time travel may become possible.
After three successful years at PJ’s Lager House in Detroit, ECHO Fest’s steadily growing popularity has required the organizers to move it to a more spacious venue. This has allowed us to not only include more bands but also to expand the overall vision. This year’s ECHO Fest will feature 12 bands on two stages from across the Midwest, half of which are from the Detroit area. Also, for the first time, ECHO Fest is an 18-and-over show. This year’s line-up includes ECHO Fest organizers Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor, Beast in the Field (Mt. Pleasant, MI), Electric Citizen (Cincinnati, OH), Heaven’s Gateway Drugs (Ft. Wayne, IN), Moss Folk (Milwaukee, WI), Oblisk (Detroit, MI),Haunted Leather (Grand Rapids, MI), and more.
ECHO Fest tickets are on-sale now for $8 through TicketWeb.com. Doors will open at 6PM and the first act will start at 7PM. To encourage folks to get there early, the first fifty audience members through the door will receive a screen printed ECHO Fest record bag full of swag from the bands and our sponsors, and The Loving Touch will be offering early drink specials.
ECHO Fest Pre-Party: Los Angeles spaghetti-western psych rock veterans Spindrift will be kicking off the festival with a pre-party at PJ’s Lager House in Detroit on Tuesday, November 12th at 9:00PM. They will be touring in support of their new album, Ghost of the West, available October 22nd on Tee Pee Records. They will be supported by local acts PALACES and Electric Lion Sound Wave Experiment. This show is 21+ and admission is $7.
Sponsors: We are currently still accepting sponsorships. If there are any local businesses or organizations who would like to have their name attached to this event please let us know and we can work out the details.
ECHO Fest 4 Where: The Loving Touch 22634 Woodward Ave Ferndale, MI 48220 When: Saturday, November 16th, 2013. Doors at 6:00PM, Music at 7:00PM How Much: $8 in advance, and at the door Event:https://www.facebook.com/events/567226530002906
ECHO Fest 4 Lineup: Beast in the Field (Mt. Pleasant) Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor (Detroit) Electric Citizen (Cincinnati, OH) Heaven’s Gateway Drugs (Ft. Wayne, IN) Moss Folk (Milwaukee, WI) Wasabi Dream (Detroit) Oblisk (Detroit) Haunted Leather (Grand Rapids) Brujas del Sol (Columbus, OH) 3FT (Detroit) The Philter (Detroit) VS TR S (ex FUR / Warhorses) (Detroit)
ECHO Fest Pre-Party Where: PJ’s Lager House 1254 Michigan Avenue Detroit, MI 48226 When: Tuesday, November 12th, 2013. Doors at 9:00PM, Music at 10:00PM How Much: $7 at the door
Posted in Reviews on October 3rd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Detroit four-piece Luder made their debut with 2009′s Sonoluminescence on Small Stone. A band born from tragedy in that it was the death of Slot guitarist Billy Rivkin that led that band’s bassist/vocalist Sue Lott and drummer Eddie Alterman — the latter replaced by Novadriver‘s Eric Miller before the first album was released — to enlist guitarists Phil Dürr (Big Chief) and Scott Hamilton in the renamed outfit, they nonetheless immediately set about exploring a vast sonic scope on Sonoluminescence(review here), and in a few key ways, the sophomore outing, Adelphophagia, follows suit. Aside from being likewise syllabically cumbersome, the second Luder album picks up in some respects where the debut left off, pushing forth stylistically open and progressive vibes tied together through brisk melodicism and Lott‘s varied singing. Songs on the nine-track/62-minute full-length are mostly extended, with opener “Never Liked You” being the only one to dip below the five-minute mark, and the chief difference between Adelphophagiaand Sonoluminescencelies not necessarily in a dramatic shift in approach — certainly there’s stylistic growth evident, but it doesn’t feel forced or the result of some master plan — but in the warmth of the tones and the foursome’s willingness to explore the textures they’ve created. Longer pieces like “One Eye” (7:33), “Heartfelt” (8:57), “Dirge” (9:48) and the closer “Remember What I Said” (9:19) make use of the room in their runtime to allow Hamilton and Dürr the space to enact a rich tonal wash, and with a kick drum less forward in the mix and excellent balance of Lott‘s voice in the mix — you can hear it particularly on “Remember What I Said,” but it’s true of the album as a whole as well — Adelphophagiahits a remarkable mixture of heavy psychedelia, progressive rock, and ’90s-style riffy crunch, coming across on the whole as less aggressive than its predecessor, but all the more aesthetically accomplished for that because of the sense of flow within and between the songs included.
Not to speak for anyone else, but I think there’s a certain reticence on the part of reviewers to gush when it comes to Luder because of Hamilton‘s involvement in the band in addition to his being the head of Small Stone Records. That’s fair enough. While Luder don’t sound like anything else on the Small Stone roster, between their Detroit roots and the underlying heavy rock sensibility – Lott‘s bass is thick the way you think of Michigan snowfall as a blanket — I can see that side of the argument. Nobody wants to appear as being in someone else’s pocket. Frankly, I don’t either, whether it’s Small Stone or anyone else. The validity of critique relies on the illusion of impartiality — and yes folks, it’s an illusion. At the same time, Adelphophagia‘s achievements stand worthy of praise regardless of who’s in the lineup, and in fact the effects Hamilton brings to the mix alongside Dürr‘s leads are a big part of what makes the record so immersive and easy to get lost within as “Never Liked You” — the lyrics of which cast an immediate indictment that stands in line as a follow-up to “Selfish and Dumb” from Sonoluminescence– transitions into the slowly churning groove of “Astrolabe,” an early one-two shot of progressive heft further distinguished by the underlying heft of Lott‘s bass and the smoothness which which their choruses are launched. A dreamy but solidified course for Adelphophagiais set, “Astrolabe” building instrumentally to a formidable crescendo before ringing out into the languid guitar intro of “One Eye,” which in like form sets about rising from the bed its made itself. There are verses and choruses, but the central riff is a hook unto itself, building tension but staying in control even as the second chorus gives way to the more raucous crashes that launch the instrumental build that brings “One Eye” to its greatest wash, guitars embroiled alternately in leads and sustained, hard strums echoing in a plod of their own while Miller‘s drum fills add a sense of chaos before the quieter ending cuts to the start of “Heartfelt,” similarly minded in its scope, but even airier and more fluid in its transitions.
Posted in Radio on August 7th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Somebody in Blue Snaggletooth collects Star Wars merchandise — or at very least has a firm appreciation for the absurd. The Ann Arbor, Michigan, four-piece take their name from a rare 1978 mailorder-only action figure, and between that, their touting themselves as “D&D rock” and songs like “Swords of Atlantis” (a Conan reference), “Sector 7″ (given its dreamy psychedelic sprawl, I’m more inclined to think it’s based on the Korean sci-fi flick rather than the Transformers comic book series), “Fireball Island” (anyone else remember that game?) and “Death of the Time Lords” (Doctor Who) if there’s geek cred left to be proven, I have no idea where.
And sure enough, the title of their 2011 debut, Dimension Thule, is a D&D reference — Thule is a Greater Deity whose symbol is a burning hammer made of ice — but even if you were to listen to Blue Snaggletooth without the internet’s (or your own) decades-spanning compendium of human nerdery at your disposal, Dimension Thule offers plenty to followers of the riff, whether it’s the brash classic metal that opens and closes with “Swords of Atlantis” and “Fireball Island,” respectively, the stoner rock garage fantasy storytelling of “Zweihänder” (a German two-hand sword), or the ’70s shuffle of “Star Flight,” on which guitarists Chris “Box” Taylor (also vocals) and Jess Willyard (also backing vocals) duke it out at a mid-paced boogie that steps away from some of the metallism of the other songs in favor of a more classic heavy. You don’t have to be a geek to groove, is what I’m saying.
What on the vinyl version of the album is side A steps down with each track until the twanging opening of “Insomnia” gives way to grander Southern ideas, but each song also seems to be coming from someplace else stylistically. Usually this leads me to think there are multiple songwriters in the band — and there may well be –but with Taylor, Willyard, bassist Ian Harris and drummer Ian Sugiersky, Blue Snaggletooth still only has four people, and I seriously doubt they hired out for someone to compose the stonerly “Death of the Time Lords” or “Recollection Blues,” which start out side B en route to the spacier instrumental “Sector 7″ and the raging drum-solo-and-AA-batteries-included “Fireball Island” finish. Those who know both bands might observe some similarities between Taylor‘s vocals and those of Groan‘s Andreas Mazzereth, but I’m inclined to think it’s coincidence, and in any case, Dimension Thule would’ve come before Groan really began to dip into classic metal on 2012′S The Divine Right of Kings.
Being two years old, it’s way too long since the release for me to give it a full review, but the album has something to offer a variety of listeners, so adding it to The Obelisk Radio was a no-brainer. They’ve reportedly sold out of the vinyl edition of Dimension Thule, but in addition to hearing it on the Radio playlist as of today, you can also check it out and download it through the Blue Snaggletooth Bandcamp, which is also where I grabbed this player:
If you had a lot of time, you could probably compile a list of all the things Michigan instrumental duo Beast in the Field are heavier than, but you’d be busy for a while. The two-piece released the hyperbole-exhaustingly heavy The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below(review here) in March on Saw Her Ghost Records. It’s been getting steady plays since I heard it was out and bought a copy, but I’m not even sure yet if I have my head around it. The sound guitarist Jordan Pries and drummer Jamie Jahr have honed over the course of their five albums is more their own than it might initially seem, and The Sacred Above, the Sacred Belowis one of those rare albums that actually captures a feeling like you’re standing in front of a wall of amplifiers.
Beast in the Field‘s new video for “Wakan Tanka” from the latest record blends performance footage with some kind of forest ritual. I’m not sure what’s going on there, but it starts out with a quote from Laguna Pueblo poet Leslie Marmon Silko and the in-the-woods portions seem to fit the ideas Silko‘s lines present, if in metaphor. I guess they’re open to interpretation, but that’s how I took it, anyway. The song is about six minutes long, so you’ve got time to make your mind up about it should you want to do so.
The clip was directed by William Saunders and if you haven’t yet had the chance to see/hear what Beast in the Field are all about, you owe it to yourself to take the bruises sure to come once the intro — taken from album opener “Great Watcher of the Sky” — gives way to the pummel of the song itself.
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 16th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
This is just the preliminary of the preliminary announcements, but a Small Stone label showcase is always a good time — seriously, I’m the most miserable bastard you could ever hope to (not) meet and I have a blast whenever I’m fortunate enough to attend one of the things — so I figured better to get the word out early so anyone interested in making the trip could mark the calendar now. The lineup for this year’s Detroit gig is still coming together, but already you’ve got Gozu, Lord Fowl, Lo-Pan and Luder on the bill, so for a whopping $10, it officially qualifies as what I believe the kids might call a “sick show.”
Oct. 12 is the date, The Magic Stick is the place. Here it is from the source:
Date: 10/12/2013 Venue: The Magic Stick Location: Detroit, MI Line Up: Gozu, Lord Fowl, Lo-Pan, Luder, TBA (most likely Freedom Hawk or Sasquatch). Doors: 7:30 – All Ages Price: $10.00
Posted in Radio on July 10th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Bouncing Motörhead via Zeke influence off thicker heavy rock tonality and periodic bouts of metallic shuffle, Against the Grain storm out of the proverbial gate with Surrounded by Snakes. The 12-track collection released via Self Destructo Records is the Detroit-area outfit’s second in as many years, coming hot on the heels of last year’s mission statement debut, Motor City Speed Rock, and front to back on its 31-minute crash-course, it’s a rager. Vocals switch up going from post-earliest Metallica thrash-style (see “Get Ready”) to a more punkish speed-delivery system (see “Outta Touch), but musically, but for the relatively extended later cut “Last Breath” — which reaches up to a sprawling four minutes! — Against the Grain keep their heads down and their motion forward, touching on the “Ace of Spades” riff no fewer than three times, on “Surrounded by Snakes,” “Comin’ Home” (also some Maiden in there), and “Padded Cell,” but nods to Slayer on “Livin’ a Lie” and the earlier Black Flag boogie of “Get in the Van” do much to expand the scope of the short, intense full-length.
“Under Attack” calls out “The Four Horseman” blatantly enough that it has to be on purpose, but comes across distorted enough to the band’s own nefarious ends that it remains consistent with the rest of Surrounded by Snakes, the opener of which, “Raise Your Glass,” sets an upbeat party vibe that Against the Grain seem only too glad to keep going, their punk not quite ready to grow up yet because it still seems to be having too much fun. Although it’s not always jibing with my particular tastes, I have a hard time holding Against the Grain‘s enjoyment of what they do against them, and as “Padded Cell” hints at grungier territory and the most striking impression of “Last Breath” is how I keep hearing Uncle Acid riffs in my head once it’s over (they’re still coming from someplace completely different vocally), I get the feeling the book isn’t yet closed on Against the Grain‘s growing their aesthetic. For what it’s worth, they seem no less capable enacting the dual-guitar leads that cap “Last Breath” than they are with the ultra-catchy, ultra-stripped down thrust of “Raise Your Glass,” and as “Extinction” ends off with a touch of organ after a post-halfway slowdown, there’s a lot more to Surrounded by Snakesthan shows itself at first.
But at 31 minutes, if you’re not careful, you’ll miss it. The idea behind adding them to The Obelisk Radio wasn’t so much to showcase the nascent stylistic diversity taking root in their sound as to give just a quick sampling to those who might happen on them in the stream and dig what they do while also providing counterpoint to some of the more plodding or morose fare surrounding. Against the Grain have also made a sampling of the songs from Surrounded by Snakesavailable to stream via Bandcamp, and that player is below. Enjoy:
Against the Grain, Surrounded by Snakes (2013) Sampler
By the time I was on Route 80 headed back east, I had assembled one of my finest record-shopping hauls to date. I said at the time it was no coincidence I was making a stopover in Toledo on my way out to Days of the Doomed III. Hitting Ramalama Records I regarded as an imperative. Flat, Black and Circular in Lansing, Michigan, was another, and adding Kalamazoo’s Green Light Records to the return voyage after the fest was like a bonus round of flipping through stacks that made the long ride to follow that much closer to tolerable.
All told, it was four separate hauls that made it back in the one full stack above. I haven’t had the chance yet to listen to everything — it last year’s acquisitions are anything to go by, it’s going to take a while — but I’ve had the full pile on my desk for the better part of two weeks now and it’s been a blast to make my way through, one album to the next to the next and so on.
Since I had so much fun buying this stuff, I thought I’d take an opportunity to nerd out and give a rundown of what I ended up with, where and how. Some of this has been reviewed, some not so much, but from Acid Witch to Whaler, it all seemed relevant one way or another. Screw it, I just like talking about buying albums.
As always, click any picture to enlarge. Let’s do this thing:
Ramalama Records — Toledo, OH
My basic plan for Ramalama was to pick up new albums and recent releases. More new stuff than used. Their used section is actually pretty good, for rock and metal both, but I had some CDs I wanted to buy of stuff that had been given to me digitally for review — have I mentioned yet today how much I think that’s horseshit? — and I knew doing it while supporting a place like Ramalama would take some of the sting out. Grabbing the Uncle Acid (review here) and Church of Misery (review here) was kind of a given, and along with the new Kylesa – I’ve been wanting to give a revisit since it was reviewed — and Anciients‘ Heart of Oak, which I meant to review so hard but was never able to make it happen, I picked up both of the Spitting Firelive albums by High on Fire — which could’ve been one CD so easily it’s almost funny and makes me wonder if there’s some contractual reasoning behind splitting them up — Circleby Amorphis (for whom I’m forever a nerd), and Voivod‘s Target Earth, which seems to be proving a point in how forward the guitars are though I’m not sure what that point might be. Out of the used section, I also managed to find two bootlegs: Demos 84 & 85from Celtic Frost, which I’m pretty sure is just a crappy rip of Morbid Taleswith some early live tracks added, and Clutch, Live 2002 Tour, which seemed like it was all one show until “A Shogun Named Marcus” came on, was twice as loud, and at least six years before 2002. Still cool to get live versions of “Cattle Car” and “Walpole Man” (here listed as “Warpole”), which were reworked into different songs by the time Blast Tyrantcame out, as well as a live version of the Jethro Tull cover “Cross Eyed Mary.” No complaints.
Flat, Black and Circular — Lansing, MI
The Heads’ 1995 debut, Relaxing With…might have been the find of the whole trip. It was released in a limited run 18 years ago (since reissued), but most importantly, the record itself fucking smokes. Killer heavy psych/space rock that even sounds ahead of its time for how it sounds dated. You can’t really see it in the pic above, but at the bottom of the mini-stack is a tin-box version of Dragging Down the Enforcerby Eyehategod offshoot Outlaw Order. I never bought it when it came out and figured if I was ever going to get a copy, this would be the one to get. The Stone Age ComplicationsEP by Queens of the Stone Age and Also Risingby SubArachnoid Space felt like good finds, and I grabbed another Amorphis just in case I wanted to listen on the way home, Iron Monkey and Slough Feg just because I didn’t have them yet and for a heavy ’70s fix, the self-titled Granicus and the second Warhorse album, Red Sea. Hoping for a funk fix, I snagged Fireby Ohio Players, and it’s decent but skirts a line with disco that takes away some of the weight in the rhythm section. Needless to say, I have a copy of Rootsby Curtis Mayfield currently on order and am anxiously attending its arrival. Flat, Black and Circular has yet to disappoint in the three or four times I’ve been fortunate enough to peruse its wares, and it was another one I was looking forward to hitting up. There’s always some treasure waiting.
Days of the Doomed III — Cudahy, WI
It might not look like so much, but the thing about it was that a lot of the bands playing the Days of the Doomed fest, I already had their stuff. I had hoped Beelzefuzz would have copies on hand of their forthcoming debut long-player, but no such luck. Still, I managed to do pretty well with what was available. Getting a copy of 2013′s Somnium Excessum directly from Dream Death was an experience that only underscored how lucky I felt to see the band live — they’d only had the vinyl at Roadburn when I asked bassist Rich Freund — and the reissue of The Gates of Slumber‘s 2004 debut, The Awakening, fell easily under the must-buy category. I also happened into a Thirst for Misery demo from Michigan classic metal/heavy rockers The Swill that stood out even before I put it on for its cover photo of a hoodie-wearing stormtrooper hoisting a can of PBR, and was glad to be given a copy of Sleestak‘s new Book of Hours EP, which I’ll be reviewing at some point in the coming weeks. Put those together with the gorgeous layout of Whaler‘s Deep Six and The Gates of Slumber‘s Scion-sponsored Stormcrow EP (which was free), and it was two days’ worth in quantity and quality. That Whaler record is a killer.
Green Light Music and Video — Kalamazoo, MI
The trip out of Wisconsin began sometime around 8:30AM. It was Sunday, and I had 700-plus miles to drive, but how many times a year do I get to pass through Kalamazoo? Right, once. So a stop seemed warranted, and when I walked into Green Light Music and Video and they were playing Queens of the Stone Age‘s Rated R, I knew I was in the right place. They had some choice vinyl and a few snazzy looking turntables, the kind of promo posters I didn’t know record labels still made, and a slew of old stickers — Roadsaw, Core, etc. — that let me know their affiliation to heavy rock was nothing new. An Acid Witch reissue, some Uriah Heep and Nick Cave were decent enough to happen upon — the Uriah Heep especially — and since it was on Man’s Ruin, I got Laced Candyby The Gaza Strippers, though it turned out to be a double. My favorite of the bunch, however, was Live at Colonia Dignidad by Finland’s Opium Warlords. I bought it because the description on the back cover promised a host of contradictions, including, “A celebration of psychosexual isolation” and “Quality time for a suicidal inner-space astrodoomonaut.” Turns out Opium Warlords is a solo-project for Sami “Albert Witchfinder” Hynninen (ex-Reverend Bizarre), and in what I can only assume is deliberate contrast to the whites and pinks of the album art, the music itself is experimental drone-doom, at times vicious and near-unlistenable, at other times minimal and atmospheric. It didn’t make for great driving music, but I dug it anyway, and Green Light made a fitting epilogue to a weekend of CD-buying excess I don’t anticipate being able to match for some time.
Ye olde Googlymaps lists the drive from Wisconsin to my humble river valley at a little over 15 hours with the stop-off in Michigan. I won’t say these records were much comfort to me when I lost over an hour sitting at a dead stop for bridge construction before getting 100 miles eastbound into Pennsylvania, but if anything was going to aid so helpless a situation, they probably would’ve done it.
My favorite thing about BerT (aka The Legend of BerT) continues to be that I have no idea what to expect from them. That and they’re super goddamn heavy. The year may be more than half over, but before the end of it, the Lansing, Michigan-based heavy rock quirk purveyors will reportedly have two records out, the first of which is dubbed Trample the Dead. The trio (interview here) aren’t strangers to self-releasing unique packages, but this time around, they’ve teamed with fellow Michigan outfit Hydro-Phonic Records to release the album on vinyl, while continuing to handle the CD and tape through their own Madlantis imprint.
Expect more on this one to come as we get closer to the release, which as I heard it is “soon,” but in the meantime, BerT give a solid teaser for Trample the Dead in the new video below for the title-track, exploring a meld of crushing, droning tonality and melodic shouting, hypnotic repetitions emerging to find satisfying payoff in their plodding course. I’d speculate as to whether or not it represents the rest of the album, but when it comes to these guys — Ryan Andrews (guitar/vocals), Phillip Clark (bass) and Rael Jordan (drums) — one has to immediately shelve one’s own assumptions.
Posted in audiObelisk on June 5th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Last week, I put up a rather lengthy post extolling the virtues of The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below, the recently-released fifth album by Michigan bludgeon-your-brains-in instrumental guitar/drum duo Beast in the Field. That semi-review was, in itself, drawn from another about buying one of the band’s earlier records, and the most immediate response I got to it was, “Where can I hear it?”
A totally valid question in this age of hear-now-buy-now digital media, and I didn’t have an answer for it. Beast in the Field put out The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below on CD through Saw Her Ghost Records in March, but as I hadn’t seen much of anything in terms of streams or YouTube clips to spread around, it seemed a solid course of action to step up and see if the label would be kind enough to let me host the record for me to check out.
I consider myself lucky they said yes, since although I do plenty of streams around here, there are far fewer instances in which I’m directly reaching out and asking to host something strictly because I believe it deserves to be heard by as many ears as possible. Of course, if I don’t think something is worth checking out, I won’t cover it at all, but in the case of Beast in the Field‘s The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below, it’s something I stand behind recommending and I hope you give it the opportunity to cleave your skull with its jet-landing tonality and tectonic crashes, because contrary to what you might think from that image, you’re gonna frickin’ love it.
Enjoy The Sacred Above, the Sacred Belowin its entirety:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
Special thanks to Saw Her Ghost Records for the permission to host the stream. The Sacred Above, the Sacred Belowis available now from them on CD, with a vinyl release coming soon via Emetic Records. Beast in the Field is Jordan Pries on guitar and Jamie Jahr on drums, and the album was recorded Oct. 19-20, 2012, produced by the band, Johnny Hiwatt and Tommy Schichtel with mixing by the latter two and engineering and tape operation by Schichtel.
So, funny story. Early last month, I picked up a copy of Michigan heavier-than-what-you-think-of-as-really-heavy duo Beast in the Field‘s second album, 2009′s Lechuguilla, with a few other assorted goodies, and as I’m wont to do, put up a post about it. In that post, I said I hoped it wouldn’t be too long before Beast in the Field had a follow-up out to their fourth album, 2011′s Lucifer, Bearer ofLight.
You can see where this is going. Turns out that just weeks before, Beast in the Field had released The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below on Saw Her Ghost Records. If I had taken two seconds and hit up the band’s Thee Facebooks page, I would’ve probably seen that the record was out and been able to include that information, but actually, I remember putting that first post together and barely being able to keep my eyes open, so yeah. Sometimes what seems like it would’ve been really easy in hindsight is super-fucking-difficult at the time.
Needless to say, an order was promptly placed for The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below– like, the same day — and I’ve been having my brains bashed in by its 71 minutes of tectonic crush ever since. Guitarist Jordan Pries and drummer Jamie Jahr seem to have transitioned out of the Satanic themes that drove their last outing into a more nature-minded sphere, though the music itself on the album’s nine tracks shows little of the Americana influence that one might expect as a result. No more than one could read into it before, anyway.
Rather, The Sacred Above, the Sacred Belowcontinues Beast in the Field‘s aural dominance in a manner so astoundingly fucking heavy that whatever ideas they want to put to it, I’m on board. Specifically this time, the artwork and song titles like, “Great Watcher of the Sky,” “Wakan Tanka” and “The Great Spirit of Light” abound with a Native American sensibility, as only the briefest moments of respite peak through the duo’s onslaught. Seriously, Jahr‘s snare drum is heavier sounding than most bands, and whether it’s on a shorter track like “Wakan Tanka” (5:24) or the propulsive subsequent basher “There Once Were Mountains of Ice,” Beast in the Field retain their brutal sensibility all the way to and through the 22:19 album apex of “Oncoming Avalanche.”
It’s nothing if not aptly named, enacting a massive build with hypnotic riff repetition and pounding kick drum at its center while Jahr and Pries march forward subtly toward a satisfyingly planetary crumbling. They could’ve put “Oncoming Avalanche” out as an EP easily, but here, it’s part of an overwhelming mash of riff punishment, seeing the chaos of the earlier “Hollow Horn” and the frenetic sway of “Altar Made of Red Earth” come to fruition across a vast plain of threatening chugging that gets torn apart to feedback as the guitars move out ahead of the drums backed by what sounds like and may or may not be a tower of amplifiers, pushing enough air out of the low end as they hit their noisy apex (after the slowdown; we’re talking 17-minutes in) to make the 12-minute title-track that follows seem like an afterthought.
Take that as an indication of the sort of largesse Beast in the Field are working with — that as “The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below” gets underway with Pries‘ guitar playing a riff that in most contexts would still bend knees the wrong way, the 11:15 that ensue, a bluesy lead fleshing out the midsection, feel like epilogue. If it seems like I’m overemphasizing how unbelievably fucking heavy The Sacred Above, the Sacred Belowis, it’s for the simple reason that I think more people should know who Beast in the Field are than currently do. No question the album is long at 71 minutes — the 9:14 “Covered by Clouds, Eaten by Snakes” follows the title cut — but it works in the band’s favor at least on the CD version to let the listener get lost in the pummel only to be jarred out of it here and there by what’s essentially more pummel from a different angle.
Complete with liner notes putting a narrative thread to the course of the tracks, The Sacred Above, the Sacred Belowis one of the most satisfying listens I’ve had this year, and I couldn’t have been gladder to have been alerted to its existence. I try to make outright recommendations sparingly, as little as possible, but with the Dead Man atmospherics of “Covered by Clouds Eaten by Snakes” and all the bludgeoning severity preceding, Beast in the Field more than earn it: Recommended.
Beast in the Field, “Hollow Horn,” “Altar Made of Red Earth” & “Wakan Tanka” Live, Sept. 30, 2012
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 28th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
A friendly reminder that this very Saturday is Small Stone‘s showcase at The Magic Stick in Detroit. Since the one in Boston earlier this month was such an unholy good time, I can only heartily recommend that the entire Midwest shows up and prepares itself for riffy communion. Even if The Obelisk wasn’t presenting it, it’d still be a kickass rock gig, and probably as far east as we’re going to get Sasquatch anytime soon.
Label honcho (and Luder guitarist, as it happens) Scott Hamilton was recently interviewed by Detroit’s Metro Times about how he manages to thrive where so many others have succumbed to the likes of internet piracy, generational disinterest in rock, and so on. Pretty fascinating read, but before you click over, make sure you’ve got the skinny on the gig Saturday, because you don’t want to miss it.
Since many folks have been asking us for a few years now, we have finally caved in… So here it is in all its glory, a full blown SSR Showcase in the state that we actually live in. We have put together a top notch line up which features the return of New Jersey’s Halfway To Gone for the first time since 2005! Come early, stay late… The Magic Stick is great venue, and the drinks will be flowing at reasonable prices too… It should be an epic evening of rawk… Hell, we might even have copies of the new album from Five Horse Johnson at the show too.
Halfway To Gone (Long Branch, NJ) Five Horse Johnson (Toledo, OH) Sasquatch (Los Angeles, CA) Freedom Hawk (Virginia Beach, VA) Luder (Ferndale, MI)
Doors: 7pm Tickets: $10.00
The Fine folks over at Tito’s Vodka are helping us and the Magic Stick will have Tito’s Drink Specials All Night!