The Obelisk Questionnaire: Scott Hamilton of Small Stone Records

Posted in Questionnaire on March 25th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

This coming weekend, Detroit’s Small Stone Records hosts two label showcases on the East Coast. The first takes place Friday night at the Middle East in Boston and the second is Saturday at Brooklyn’s St. Vitus bar (info on both here). With Gozu and Freedom Hawk and Wo Fat headed overseas and new releases to come in 2014 from Dwellers, Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus, Greenleaf, Wo Fat and Lo-Pan, it’s arguable that Small Stone has never had as much of an impact as it’s having now. A foray into the vinyl market seems to have paid off, and with acquisitions from across the pond like France’s The Socks, Italy’s Isaak and Portugal’s Miss Lava, the imprint’s reach only seems to be growing.

In 2015, Small Stone marks 20 years since its inception. It has succeeded against odds, trends and, frankly, logic, thanks to the vigilance and keen ear of its founder and owner, Scott Hamilton, who also plays guitar in the prog/psych rock outfit Luder. As a curator, Hamilton‘s ear is second to none, and his passion for searching out the underground’s best has led to landmark heavy rock from the likes of Dixie Witch, Sasquatch, Dozer, Los Natas, Halfway to Gone, Roadsaw, Acid King and many more. I sometimes feel like a nerd for covering as much Small Stone stuff as I do, but it’s inevitable. There’s no getting around the quality of the work being fostered by Hamilton‘s steady hand.

So I’ll probably keep going with it.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Scott Hamilton

How did you come to do what you do?

I have been obsessed with music for my entire life (both as a fan and as musician), so I am pretty sure that obsession led me into what I do now. I knew in my high school and college years that I wanted to do music in some form for a career (plus you had the added bonus of not needing cut your hair or work in a stuffy office environment), but I had no clue or connections to point myself in the proper direction to make it a reality. After many an odd job in the early ’90s at various music related gigs (playing in bands and working at record stores, radio stations, major record labels, etc.), I discovered that I both wanted and needed to start a record label. Small Stone was born out of this.

Describe your first musical memory.

This is easy…  It was my Dad blasting Jimi Hendrix, The Stones, James Brown and Santana in the house on his very vintage hi-fi system. I think by the time I was three, I was actually spinning the records from his collection myself, and mostly likely ruining a few of them in the process… Shortly thereafter, discovering bands like KISS and Aerosmith also have had a very lasting effect on me too.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

There are too many… so I will list my top five:

1. Seeing The Cult in 1985 on the Love Tour when I was a Junior in High School. To this day, one of the best concerts I have ever been too.

2. Playing in my first band in high school was awesome, even if it was the ’80s. It was great discovering that thing my bandmates and I used to call “the buzz.” The buzz is when you and your fellow musicians all lock in, everything clicks, and you go on this crazy spiritual high where the hair on the back of your neck stands up. It is was  and is the ultimate feeling that every musician and music fan is always looking for. I sometimes get it with my current band Luder when we are rehearsing and working on new material from time to time.

3. Purchasing my first KISS album… It was KISS Alive, by the way. My mother still says that KISS ruined my life.

4. About eight years ago when I had shitty day job for Live Nation, I got to stand behind Joe Perry’s rig for the majority of the concert, and that was a big deal for me… It also helped that setlist was 95 percent pre-’80s Aerosmith, and for as lame as the band is now, they were fantastic on that evening.

5. Jane’s Addiction… I must have seen them 10 times between 1988 and 1991, and that band had the magic, and also gave that “buzz” I was talking about.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

I think that this happens on a monthly basis. It is just part of living, growing, and moving forward. It is usually not a fun experience, either…

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

I think it leads to greatness down the line for any individual that is creating something, be it music, art, whatever. A creative person will always feel the need to keep exploring and learning new things to better sharpen their skill sets. If I had more time, I would spend it writing riffs and melodies, and improve on any and all basic skills when it comes to a guitar, but I have limited time to do that since I have a family and a business that must come first. With that said, I am always humming something in my head, and I will sneak off to the basement for about 30 minutes per day when I can to make some music.

How do you define success?

To me, success means that I get to do what I want for a vocation versus wearing a suit at some soul-sucking corporate job. In that sense, I have great success. But on the other hand it would be nice to break a band on the roster and help get them to a level of a band like Clutch. But that has not happened as of yet, so I just keep on keeping on until I obtain that level of success in the future.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

In 1989 I was driving on the freeway about 20 miles west of Hartford, CT (on my way back to MSU from a Summer working on Nantucket). This convertible Corvette cam flying past me, and seconds later it somehow rear-ended the pickup truck in front of me. The Vette flew up in the air, flipped over the pickup and landed on on the freeway with his roof facing down — but the convertible top was down. The Vette driver was killed, blood, brains, and flesh all over the freeway. That vision has stuck with me ever since.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

I would love to be involved in creating a timeless album — a classic if you will. Something that has the staying power of Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Led Zep IV, etc., and more realistically, I would love to create a very large swimming pool in my backyard.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

70 degree days.

Small Stone Records on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records website

Luder, Adelphophagia (2013)

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Monday Full-Length: The Stooges, Fun House

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 17th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

The Stooges, Fun House (1970)

There are few enough unfuckwithable albums in all of creation and The Stooges put out at least two of them. The Ann Arbor four-piece would come over the years to help define the grit and anti-refinement arrogance at the core of punk and American rock in general, but their early works are psychedelic masterpieces as well. In light of the March 15 passing of founding drummer Scott Asheton, it seemed only fair to kick this week off with a prime bit of Rock Action. Hence Fun House.

It’s the second of the three ultra-necessary Stooges original-run albums, preceded by their 1969 self-titled debut and followed in 1973 by Raw Power. Asheton along with his brother Ron, who died in 2009, reunited with legendary frontman Iggy Pop in 2003 for shows and in 2007, The Stooges released The Weirdness to mixed but ultimately favorable reception. Scott Asheton suffered a stroke in 2011 and final work with the band that defined a good portion of his public life was 2013′s Ready to Die, though it will always be the first three records that serve as the band’s legacy.

I can’t claim to be any kind of expert on The Stooges or anything else, but Scott Asheton was someone whose creativity fostered and mentored that of many in his wake, and the most fitting tribute to one who kicked so much ass seemed to be kicking more ass, and if Fun House is guaranteed to do anything, it’s that. Hope you enjoy.

The reason this didn’t go up Friday was because I didn’t get home until 3:30 in the morning. I’d gone to see Ogre‘s CD release show with Eldemur Krimm in Portland, Maine, and well, that’s a solid two-hour drive. Lesson learned? Nah, probably not. Was a very cool time, and I’ll have a review up today just as soon as I get enough caffeine in my system so that my eyes are all the way open instead of all squinty like they are now. 3PM or so, let’s say. Maybe 4.

That live review aside, I’ve decided sort of unofficially — though how I’d make something like this official, I don’t even know; is there paperwork I should fill out? — that this week is Vinyl Week. I’ve got enough of a backlog of records waiting to be reviewed that I can do one each day and that way I get caught up and everybody likes vinyl. I might try to sneak a tape review in there as well — the Young Hunter/Ohioan split did me right for the late night drive back from Portland the other night — but no CDs this week, regular reviews are on hold for the time being, and I’m making vinyl the priority. Sounds crazy? Well it just might work.

So look out for writeups on Eidetic Seeing, White Dynomite, Bushfire and hopefully one or two others. It’ll be fun. Even more if my turntable holds up.

Tomorrow I’ve also got a From Beyond track premiere set to launch. You might remember their 2012 single, “The Dead Still Ride” (streamed here) was good times.

Hope this is the start of a tremendous week. I know I usually say it for the weekend, but please check out the forum and the radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Against the Grain Announce Winter Tour Dates and Motor City Speed Rock 10″ Vinyl

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 Snakes last 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 Rock release.

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 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.

Stream Surrounded By Snakes and Motor City Speed Rock in its entirety below, available for a week upload.

Tour Dates:
2/21 Berlin Music Pub (Fort Wayne, IN)
2/22 The Melody Inn (Indianapolis, IN)
2/23 The Earl (Atlanta, GA) w/ Lord Dying & Lazer/Wulf, Order of the Owl
2/24 The Nick (Birmingham, GA)
2/25 TBA (Tallahassee, FL)
2/26 TBA (TBA, FL)
2/27 Kreepy Tiki Lounge (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)
2/28 The Mill (Charleston, SC)
3/1 The Jinx (Savanna, GA)
3/2 New Brookland Tavern (Columbia, SC)
3/3 The Maywood (Raleigh, NC) w/ Revolving Beast (members of Valient Thorr)
3/4 TBA (Washington D.C.)
3/5 The Sidebar (Baltimore, MD)
3/6 Mill Hill Basement (Trenton, NJ)
3/7 Tabb’s House (Richmond, VA)
3/8 VFW hall (Lansdale, PA)
3/9 Grand Victory (Brooklyn, NY)
3/10 Bogies (Albany, NY)
3/11 Dusk (Providence, RI)
3/12 O’Brien’s (Boston, MA)
3/14 31st St. Pub (Pittsburgh, PA)
3/15 Corktown Tavern (Detroit, MI) – Vinyl release show

Against the Grain, Motor City Speed Rock (2014 Reissue)

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Temple of Void, Demo MMXIII: Living in the Gateway

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 MMXIII in 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 MMXIII has 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 MMXIII as death-sludge, but its foundations are unquestionably metal and the result is brutal and poised in like measure.

Read more »

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Saw Her Ghost Records Updates on Beast in the Field Vinyl and More

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.

Beast in the Field, “Wakan Tanka” official video

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Duuude, Tapes! The Swill, Thirst for Misery Demo

Posted in Duuude, Tapes! on December 17th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

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 Misery on 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.

The Swill, Thirst for Misery (2013)

The Swill on Thee Facebooks

The Swill on Bandcamp

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Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor, Beast in the Field and More to Play Echo Fest 4 in Detroit

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:


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 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

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

ECHO Fest Pre-Party Lineup:
Spindrift (Los Angeles)
PALACES (Detroit)
Electric Lion Sound Wave Experiment (Detroit)

Watch the ECHO Fest Facebook page or follow ECHO Fest on Twitter for details on special offers and other information.

Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor, Spectra Spirit (2011)

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Luder, Adelphophagia: Sustenance to the Dominant

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 Adelphophagia and Sonoluminescence lies 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 — Adelphophagia hits 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 Adelphophagia is 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.

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The Obelisk Radio Add of the Week: Blue Snaggletooth, Dimension Thule

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:

Blue Snaggletooth, Dimension Thule (2011)

Blue Snaggletooth on Thee Facebooks

Blue Snaggletooth on Bandcamp

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Beast in the Field Post New Video for “Wakan Tanka”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 1st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

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 Below is 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.


Beast in the Field, “Wakan Tanka” official video

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Small Stone Records Announce Date for Fall Detroit Showcase

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

Small Stone Records

Small Stone on Thee Facebooks

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The Obelisk Radio Add of the Week: Against the Grain, Surrounded by Snakes

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 Snakes than 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 Snakes available to stream via Bandcamp, and that player is below. Enjoy:

Against the Grain, Surrounded by Snakes (2013) Sampler

Against the Grain on Thee Facebooks

Self Destructo Records

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Buried Treasure: The Midwestern Haul 2013

Posted in Buried Treasure on July 5th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

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 AnciientsHeart of Oak, which I meant to review so hard but was never able to make it happen, I picked up both of the Spitting Fire live 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 — Circle by 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 & 85 from Celtic Frost, which I’m pretty sure is just a crappy rip of Morbid Tales with 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 Tyrant came 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 Enforcer by 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 Complications EP by Queens of the Stone Age and Also Rising by 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 Fire by 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 Roots by 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 Candy by 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.

Thanks for reading and indulging the indulgence.

Ramalama Records

Flat, Black and Circular

Green Light Music & Video

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BerT Post New Video for “Trample the Dead”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 5th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

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.


BerT, “Trample the Dead” official video

BerT on Thee Facebooks

Madlantis Records

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audiObelisk: Stream Beast in the Field’s The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below in its Entirety

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 Below in 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 Below is 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.

Beast in the Field on Thee Facebooks

Saw Her Ghost Records

Emetic Records

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