Posted in Features on January 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
It was close for a long time, but in the last week or so, one record pulled ahead to stake a definitive claim on the top spot. Even so, more than the 2013 poll, this was a fun one to watch, three albums duking it out, trading back and forth in the raw votes depending on who happened to submit a list at any given time. In the end, 355 people participated in this year’s poll, which is an average of over 11 per day — there was a significant push at the end — and up from 2013, which now that it’s 2015 will no doubt soon feel like ancient history.
To that end, Happy New Year and huge, huge thanks to everyone who took the time to contribute a list to the poll. Even if it was one or two records, the simple fact that you felt it was worth your time to type out the names of bands and albums and take part in this thing is unbelievably gratifying to me. I do a lot of the talking around here, apart from comments and the forum, so to have your participation in this really means a lot to me. It’s nice knowing you give enough of a crap to take part.
You’ll find two lists below. The first, measured in points, is the weighted tally. A 1-4 ranking is worth five points, 5-8 worth four, 9-12 worth three, 13-16 worth two and 17-20 worth one. After that comes the raw votes, a measure of what caught the most attention along the way.
After the jump, you’ll also find all the lists contributed to the poll — including my own, which seemed fair since I do a lot of reading on this site, mostly to experience shame at the typos and correct them hoping no one else noticed — presented in the order in which they were received. Thank you all again.
Top 20 of 2014 — Weighted Results
1. YOB, Clearing the Path to Ascend (560 points)
2. Wo Fat, The Conjuring (404)
3. Electric Wizard, Time to Die (367)
4. Pallbearer, Foundations of Burden (334)
5. Conan, Blood Eagle (275)
6. Orange Goblin, Back from the Abyss (254)
7. Greenleaf, Trails and Passes (240)
8. Truckfighters, Universe (237)
9. Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, Black Power Flower (235)
10. Earth, Primitive and Deadly (230)
11. Fu Manchu, Gigantoid (225)
12. Blues Pills, Blues Pills (211)
13. Lo-Pan, Colossus (202)
14. Eyehategod, Eyehategod (198)
15. Monolord, Empress Rising (190)
16. Mastodon, Once More ‘Round the Sun (188)
17. Mars Red Sky, Stranded in Arcadia (161)
18. John Garcia, John Garcia (156)
19. Bongripper, Miserable (141)
20. Radio Moscow, Magical Dirt (127)
Honorable mention to:
Goat, Commune (126)
Swans, To be Kind (117)
Monster Magnet, Milking the Stars (116)
Blood Farmers, Headless Eyes (105)
Floor, Oblation (104)
Mothership, II (104)
Stubb, Elephant Tree, Thou and plenty of others also did very well in the voting, but everything else I could find was less than 100 points. Again, it was close for a while between Wo Fat, Electric Wizard and YOB — and Pallbearer wasn’t so far behind them, either — but YOB pulled it out in the end and jumped way in front of everyone else. A lot of number-one votes for Clearing the Path to Ascend, which I can understand completely, since I happened to agree with the position.
On to the raw votes:
Top 20 of 2014 — Raw Votes
1. YOB, Clearing the Path to Ascend (138 votes)
2. Wo Fat, The Conjuring (111)
3. Electric Wizard, Time to Die (104)
4. Pallbearer, Foundations of Burden (89)
5. Orange Goblin, Back from the Abyss (78)
6. Conan, Blood Eagle (72)
7. Fu Manchu, Gigantoid (71)
8. Truckfighters, Universe (66)
9. Earth, Primitive and Deadly (65)
10. Greenleaf, Trails and Passes (64)
11. Blues Pills, Blues Pills (63)
12. Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, Black Power Flower (60)
13. Lo-Pan, Colossus (58)
14. Eyehategod, Eyehategod (55)
15. Monolord, Empress Rising (52)
16. Mars Red Sky, Stranded in Arcadia (48)
16. Mastodon, Once More ‘Round the Sun (48)
17. John Garcia, John Garcia (47)
18. Bongripper, Miserable (41)
18. Radio Moscow, Magical Dirt (41)
19. Goat, Commune (37)
19. Mothership, II (37)
20. Swans, To be Kind (32)
And some honorable mentions:
Dwellers, Pagan Fruit (31)
Floor, Oblation (31)
Monster Magnet, Milking the Stars (31)
Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty (30)
Thou, Heathen (30)
The Well, Samsara (30)
A couple ties here make the raw votes list a little more inclusive, and since it’s not like we’re giving out olympic medals, it didn’t seem fair to count out ties and sacrifice other numbers. The top 20 has 23 entries? Yeah, sounds about right. Again, not much mystery ultimately to who came out on top, but it was a more thrilling race than the final numbers might suggest. Cool to see some differences in placement emerge between the two lists as well, Greenleaf and Brant Bjork doing really well in the weighted results since they obviously inspire some strong support, and a couple of others working their way into the raw votes top 20. I’m not really a numbers guy, but it’s been cool putting this together.
About not being a numbers guy: All the lists that came in appear after the jump below. If you find some glaring error in my math, or something seems like it really got enough votes to be included in one or the other, it’s possible I just missed it. I hope you’ll point it out in the comments so that if there is a mistake, I can get on correcting it as soon as possible. Your vigilance is sincerely appreciated.
And thank you again so much for being a part of this readers poll. It’s been a really great experience and I look forward to doing it again come Dec. 2015.
Please find everybody’s list after the jump, and have fun browsing:
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Since I don’t do theme podcasts or anything, the thoroughly unofficial subtitle of this latest one is “SOME of the Best of 2014.” Truth be told, it’s four hours long and I feel like I barely scratched the surface, so definitely the emphasis should be on “some.” By no means is it meant to be comprehensive, or am I claiming that it’s all the best and the rest sucked or anything like that. But some of the best stuff is here, so, you know, I hope you enjoy.
My intent was to make it three hours long, and then I got there and it just didn’t feel done without another hour’s worth of extended psych jams. That’s an odd habit to have. Could be worse. For what it’s worth, I was thinking of this as a companion for some of the year-end coverage that’s already been posted and is still to come. Some of this was inspired by picks from the Readers Poll, the submissions for which are still open. If you haven’t added your list yet, I’d greatly appreciate it.
And once again, hope you dig it:
YOB, “Nothing to Win” from Clearing the Path to Ascend
Fu Manchu, “Radio Source Sagittarius” from Gigantoid
Radio Moscow, “Death of a Queen” from Magical Dirt
The Golden Grass, “Stuck on a Mountain” from The Golden Grass
Monster Magnet, “No Paradise for Me” from Milking the Stars: A Reimagining of Last Patrol
Pallbearer, “The Ghost I Used to Be” from Foundations of Burden
The Skull, “Sick of it All” from For Those Which are Asleep
Electric Wizard, “Time to Die” from Time to Die
Orange Goblin, “The Devil’s Whip” from Back from the Abyss
Moab, “No Soul” from Billow
Sleep, “The Clarity” from The Clarity 12”
Mars Red Sky, “Hovering Satellites” from Stranded in Arcadia
Floor, “Rocinante” from Oblation
Slomatics, “And Yet it Moves” from Estron
Conan, “Foehammer” from Blood Eagle
Druglord, “Feast on the Eye” from Enter Venus
Apostle of Solitude, “Die Vicar Die” from Of Woe and Wounds
Pilgrim, “Away from Here” from II: Void Worship
Blood Farmers, “The Road Leads to Nowhere” from Headless Eyes
Lo-Pan, “Regulus” from Colossus
Elephant Tree, “Vlaakith” from Theia
The Well, “Mortal Bones” from Samsara
Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, “Counting Time” from The Shining One
Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, “Stokely up Now” from Black Power Flower
Joy, “Driving Me Insane” from Under the Spell of Joy
Greenleaf, “Depth of the Sun” from Trails and Passes
Mothership, “Priestess of the Moon” from Mothership II
Truckfighters, “Get Lifted” from Universe
Mos Generator, “Enter the Fire” from Electric Mountain Majesty
Mammatus, “Brain Drain” from Heady Mental
Øresund Space Collective, “Beardlandia” from Music for Pogonologists
My Brother the Wind, “Garden of Delights” from Once There was a Time When Time and Space were One
The Cosmic Dead, “Fukahyoocastulah” from Split with Mugstar
Montibus Communitas, “The Pilgrim to the Absolute” from The Pilgrim to the Absolute
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Tomorrow here in the US it is Thanksgiving, which has some questionable origins but in practice is actually one of our less-abominable holidays, with a focus on togetherness, good food, and enjoying the company of loved ones. Today, the day before, is traditionally the busiest travel day of the year while people get to wherever they’re going. Even if you don’t manage to find it until after the holiday is over, it seemed only fitting to make a new podcast so that anyone who might want to take it along for the ride would be able to do so.
My head has started to get into year-end wrap-up mode, so don’t be surprised if one or two or three of these bands show up in subsequent “Best Of” coverage. Maybe even four, looking at the list. It’s been a crazy good year, and as it starts to wind its way down and we make our way into the next one, I hope you’ve enjoyed listening to these podcasts and hopefully discovered something you wouldn’t have heard otherwise. That’s really the whole idea.
If you’re traveling by road, rail, or air, I wish you a pleasant journey, and even if you’re staying put, the same applies.
Stubb, “Heavy Blue Sky” from Cry of the Ocean
Murcielago, “Way too Far” from Murcielago
Dune, “Of Blade and Carapace” from Aurora Majesty
The Skull, “Send Judas Down” from For Those Which are Asleep
Elephant Tree, “Attack of the Altaica” from Theia
Renate/Cordate, “Laudanum” from Growth
Mothership, “Serpents Throne” from Mothership II
Space Guerrilla, “Event Horizon” from Boundless
Monster Magnet, “End of Time (B-3)” from Milking the Stars
Memnon Sa, “Megalith” from Citadel
Soldat Hans, “Meine Liebste; Sie Zerbricht Sich” from Dress Rehearsal
Atavismo, “Meeh” from Desintegración
Øresund Space Collective, “Remnants of the Barbonaeum” from Music for Pogonologists
Posted in Reviews on November 4th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
For Monster Magnet fans, there are two things to like about Milking the Stars: The concept and the execution. The long-running New Jersey outfit seemed to be making a turn to come full-circle on 2013’s Last Patrol (review here), bringing in a more psychedelic feel for the first time in over a decade, not quite trying to recapture their brilliance in early albums like 1991’s Spine of God, 1993’s Superjudge and 1995’s Dopes to Infinity, but definitely making a departure from the hard rock sound they’d developed since then on 1998’s landmark Powertrip, 2001’s God Says No, , 2004’s Monolithic Baby!, 2007’s 4-Way Diablo, and 2010’s Mastermind (review here), their sound becoming more straightforward and — though the 2010 outing was probably the “biggest” they’ve ever come across on tape — increasingly formulaic. Last Patrol boldly turned that progression on its head, daring to brood on songs like “Paradise” and “I Live behind the Clouds” and jamming out righteous wah-soaked space rock on “Last Patrol” and the driving “End of Time.” Particularly for those who’d been longing for such a step from the band, it was the best Monster Magnet outing in 15 years’ time and one of the highlight releases of 2013. With Milking the Stars (out on Napalm Records), the full title of which is Milking the Stars: A Reimagining of Last Patrol, frontman, founder and principal songwriter Dave Wyndorf pushes himself further into satisfying a weirdo trippy impulse, reworking cuts and including material not included on the original Last Patrol to get something new from them and create a record that, even if you didn’t hear the first one, stands on its own, its John Sumrow cover art dogwhistling its companion status to the album before it.
The reason I say the concept should be pleasing to Monster Magnet fans is because what it shows is that Wyndorf – joined at this point in Monster Magnet by guitarists Phil Caivano and Garrett Sweeney, bassist Chris Kosnik (who makes his recorded debut with the band on a couple live bonus tracks), and drummer Bob Pantella – is not only in a place feeling creative enough to take on the material of Last Patrol and give it a thorough screwing with, which is something that’s never been done before in Monster Magnet‘s 25-year history, but also that he’s making it weirder. Some of Milking the Stars‘ cuts, like “End of Time (B-3)” and “I Live behind the Clouds (Roughed up and Slightly Spaced)” don’t depart as much from their original incarnations — though neither will I downplay how much of a game-changer that Hammond is on “End of Time” — but in “No Paradise for Me” Wyndorf takes the moody original to a more open-sounding place and changes the lyrics to more directly address his disappointment with pop modernity: “I guess I’ll have to make up what I want to see.” And so he does. That’s basically what this album is, but that only makes it a more honest work. Opener “Let the Circus Burn” (also the longest cut at 7:26; immediate points) tweaks, slows down and spaces out the original “Last Patrol,” and “Mindless Ones ’68” pulls back on the heavy rocking original for a more garage-rock interpretation, bright lead guitar forward in the mix, tambourine and organ taking the place of snare stomp and a wailing solo. The title-track, “Milking the Stars” was left off Last Patrol and it’s easy enough to speculate why. At 7:26, it would’ve pushed that album to nearly an hour long, and while it has an effective linear build and might’ve bridged a gap between “End of Time” and “Last Patrol” and some of that record’s shorter, more verse/chorus-minded cuts, it makes a better focus cut than secondary player, even if its title can give the idea that the band are simply “milking” their last album for more material — a notion that no doubt occurred to them in picking the title and was taken on with tongue in cheek.
And as for the execution, while I’m not prepared to say Milking the Stars is a better or worse album than Last Patrol– the two are best considered in league with each other — several of the songs are markedly improved here from their originals. “Hallelujah (Fuzz and Swamp)” even more calls Larman Clamor to mind in its blown-out revivalism, “Stay Tuned (Even Sadder)” lives righteously up to its parenthetical, and the drum track and extra guitar that appear in closer “The Duke (Full on Drums ‘n’ Wah)” give that song a personality beyond what one could’ve expected from the first incarnation. Not only are these particular cuts well conceived, but the reality of the listen proves just as satisfying as the idea, and Milking the Stars works as a whole front-to-back listen, rather than a collection of one-off reinterpretations, like a remix record or something. It’s not that. “Reimagining” sounds ambitious, but it’s as close to the fact of what’s taking place here as anything I can come up with, and works all the better perhaps in conveying the adventurous spirit behind the motivation in making the album in the first place. Last Patrol was a brazen step, but Milking the Stars makes it seem like just the beginning of a new phase in Monster Magnet‘s ongoing evolution. As someone who’s a fan of the band, and a fan of Last Patrol, it’s all the more exciting to think that Wyndorf and company might approach songwriting with such an anything-can-happen creative sensibility a quarter-century on from the group’s start. It makes the prospects for where they might go next all the more vast, considering if they can take on Last Patrol and remold it into Milking the Stars, there’s really no telling where they might go from here. All the better. What seemed like it might’ve been Monster Magnet‘s final round looks instead to have become the catalyst for a new phase in their career, and my only hope is they keep getting weirder from here on out.
Nothing against SPV Records — their reissue of Spine of God and other earlier Monster Magnet albums was fair game as they were out of print and unavailable to a bunch of fans who came aboard during the band’s more commercial hard rock era — but if you want to listen to Spine of God, you really need to go for the original. Caroline Records, in a jewel case, some of the finest heavy psych rock ever crafted. Still ahead of its time. We’re still playing catchup to where Spine of God is at. We’ll get there one of these days, then we’ll all crack our skulls doing airplanes and get our heads just right and so on. Cover me with skin and hair. Fucking a.
Spine of God is more than a great Monster Magnet record — they’ve got a few by now — but an absolute landmark. In New Jersey, the state in which I was born and raised, an entire generation of bands came up in the wake of Monster Magnet‘s branching out, and that scene is still going, moving forward. So are Monster Magnet, albeit with a much different lineup than they had 23 years ago, but to go back and look at the development of Red Bank, NJ, as a center in which heavy rock flourished on the East Coast in bands like Godspeed, Core, The Atomic Bitchwax, Solarized, later Halfway to Gone, Solace, The Ribeye Bros., and on and on, Monster Magnet are a big branch on that bizarre family tree, and Spine of God, which was their debut — to mix metaphors — was the root for a lot of what came after. Add to all that it’s an absolute masterpiece, and yeah, I’m gonna close out the week with it.
I’ll further admit that while it was ultimately the classicitude of Spine of God which made me break it out on this late night/early morning, a close second in motivation was the band’s upcoming Milking the Stars, the November release of which was announced earlier this month. I’ve been spending a lot of time with that record, which is comprised of reworked tracks from Monster Magnet‘s 2013 opus, Last Patrol (review here), as well as the previously unreleased title-cut and some other odds and ends, and almost as much as I dig what frontman/songwriter/founder Dave Wyndorf did in remaking the songs, I think the adventurous spirit of the album and the willingness to screw with work that by most definitions would be “finished” already emphasizes a lot of what’s made Monster Magnet so great all these years, and bodes ridiculously well for their proper follow-up to Last Patrol, since basically they can go anywhere at this point. I’ll have a review up of Milking the Stars sometime in the next month or so, but it’s on my mind already.
Enjoy Spine of God. It’s one of my favorite records.
Is is really three in the morning? Ah jeez. I rolled in not at all long ago from seeing Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats and Danava in New York. Quite a night. I was going to go to Boston last night, but as I mentioned on Thee Facebooks, it was my 10th wedding anniversary — the only holiday about which I give even the remotest of fucks — and, well, 10 years isn’t nothing. Kind of a big deal. If it was seven years, or some other in-between number, I might be able to get away with that. But 10? Nah. As of Sunday, The Patient Mrs. and I will have been together for a total of 17 years, which is more than half of both of our lives. Wild to think about. How stupid lucky I am.
Next week though I’ll review the Uncle Acid gig, and I’ve also got a new track from Eternal Tapestry going up on Monday. If I’m up to it Sunday, I might put up the first recorded demo from Righteous Bloom, which is the new spinoff band from Beelzefuzz. And of course there’s the podcast. Thanks if you got to check that out. Apparently I’m up to 40 of them. Got a thing for round numbers lately, I suppose.
Obviously there’s a lot more than that to come, but I have no idea what it might be. The Patient Mrs. and I are in Connecticut for the weekend, celebrando, so at least I didn’t have to go all the way back to Massachusetts tonight. Felt good to be back in New York. Even Manhattan on a Friday night, which is nightmare of inflated ego, inflated bank accounts and terrifying hawtness. Good to go a show there, I guess. City still smells like pee. I had some point about being in Connecticut. It’s long gone. God damn this Monster Magnet record is awesome.
Have a great and safe weekend. PLEASE check out the forum and radio stream.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 10th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
There really isn’t a word for what Milking the Starsis in relation to Last Patrol. “Reimagining,” which is what they went with in the title, comes about as close as anything I can think of, but really what Monster Magnet are doing here goes beyond simple reinterpretation. It’s not like they’re just playing fast songs slow or heavy songs acoustic or vice versa, they’re tripping way the fuck out and giving a glimpse at just how liberated these cats are after making their “return” to heavy psychedelia. So the version of “The Duke (of Supernature)” on Last Patrol(review here) was kind of sweet and subdued? Well here’s Bob Pantella‘s snare drum to punch you in the face. “Mindless Ones” was a hard rock rager? Well here it is as echoed-out psych pop. Oh, let’s absolutely drench “End of Time” in Hammond! It’s like listening to Dave Wyndorf‘s studio impulsiveness come to life.
The pivotal New Jersey five-piece will release Milking the Stars: A Reimagining of Last Patrolon Nov. 18 through Napalm Records, complete with a new cover (you’ll notice the cosmic Bullgod is facing the opposite direction as on Last Patrolas he destroys whichever planet that was, probably ours) by John Sumrow. The title-track is also brand new, put to tape during the Last Patrol sessions, and other parts have been re-recorded as needed. Also worth noting that the two live bonus tracks are the recorded debut of bassist Chris Kosnik (The Atomic Bitchwax) in the band.
PR wire facts, comment from Wyndorf and audio of “No Paradise for Me” — a reworking of Last Patrol‘s “Paradise” — follow:
MONSTER MAGNET to Release Milking the Stars: A Reimagining of Last Patrol – Artwork, Track Listing and First Song Revealed
Available November 18th on Napalm Records
2013 saw the release of MONSTER MAGNET’s latest album Last Patrol. Now comes Milking the Stars a reimagining of Last Patrol. Met with critical acclaim and supported by a world tour, Last Patrol has become a staple in the MONSTER MAGNET discography.
Today the artwork, track listing and first song from Milking the Stars have been released. Wyndorf’s pick for the first song he wanted fans to be exposed to is “No Paradise For Me”. The song according to Wyndorf is ‘interesting, fucked up and old school sounding’. Listen to “No Paradise For Me”HERE.
Wyndorf on Milking the Stars:
“Milking the Stars is a “re-imagined” version of Last Patrol featuring four new songs and live tracks.
“This was a happy experiment for me. It’s not a re-mix record by the current definition. It’s more like Last Patrol in a “what if?” style alternate reality.
“What if these songs were recorded in 1968?” “What would happen if I turned a pretty song into an angry one?” How would adding creepy organs and Mellotrons affect the emotional vibe of a song?” These are just a few of the questions that roll around in my head when I write and record any album but this time I decided to actually answer them with fully fleshed out, recorded and mixed examples.
“The process actually created new songs. That’s the icing on the cake for me. New sounds, new vocals, different instruments and arrangements make for a weird 1960’s vibe totally apart from Last Patrol which was fun for Phil, Bob, Garrett, mixer Joe Barresi and myself to explore.
“Finally there’s expanded versions of the songs “Last Patrol” and “Three Kingfishers” as recorded live at the AB club in Belgium, 2014. Both those songs were re-arranged for “maximum rock and psych” before we hit the road last year and feature the debut performance of new MAGNET bassist, Chris Kosnik. Personally, I think they beat the original versions.
Milking the Stars Track Listing: 1. Let the Circus Burn 2. Mindless Ones ‘68 3. No Paradise For Me 4. End of Time (B-3) 5. Milking the Stars 6. Hellelujah (Fuzz And Swamp) 7. I Live Behind The Clouds (Roughed Up And Slightly Spaced) 8. Goliath Returns 9. Stay Tuned (Even Sadder) 10. The Duke (Full On Drums ‘N Wah) 11. Last Patrol (Live) 12. Three Kingfishers (Live)
I only purchased two CDs at this year’s Roadburn festival. One was Rotor‘s 2, which I was far less than thrilled to discover later that I already owned (it was their first one I wanted), and the other was Love Monster, a 2001 compilation of Dave Wyndorf‘s pre-Monster Magnet demos, recorded in 1988. This one, which I didn’t already own, has been on my radar for a while, and though I was royally, epically broke at the fest, I used some of the Euros left in my wallet from 2013 to pay for the disc, which came out on Wrong Way Records basically as a fan-piece for Monster Magnet heads who maybe by then were missing the band’s more psychedelic side.
Remember, this was 2001, the same year Monster Magnet put out God Says No, right around the height of their commerciality, so in a way a release like this was bound to happen. 3,000 copies were made, and indeed, the seven tracks do capture some of the space-rocking spirit of Monster Magnet‘s earliest work — their landmark debut, Spine of God, would see US release in 1992, following a self-titled EP in 1990 — but there’s more to it than that. The material was recorded on a 4-track by Wyndorf himself, so it’s pretty blown out and raw, but there are shades of pre-industrial new wave on “Atom Age Vampire” and Wyndorf adjusts his attitude-drenched vocals accordingly, and “Brighter than the Sun” coats classic garage riffing in echo like the prototype for a psychedelic punk movement that never really existed. Rawness notwithstanding, a lot of what would prove so pivotal to Monster Magnet‘s sound is there on Love Monster, which if nothing else underscores the clarity of vision at work in the band from its launch.
There are seven tracks on the CD, with the penultimate “Five Years Ahead” a cover of obscure New York psych rockers The Third Bardo‘s 1967 single, and the closer “Snoopy” a 10-minute effects-laden noise-buzz freakout, but really, the appeal of Love Monsterwhen it was new would’ve been the chance to hear where Monster Magnet came from some 13 years earlier. Now, another 13 years after that, the EP still has that appeal, however rough it might sound, and in the clever lyrics of “Poster” and the bright-toned bliss of “War Hippie” one can hear one of psych rock’s most accomplished songwriting processes beginning to take shape. What Monster Magnet would go on to accomplish and the influence they’d wind up having didn’t come solely from the songs on Love Monster, but they were a step on the way to getting there, and for that, I was more than happy to shell out a couple of my remaining Euros for the disc.
First thing, let me give the immediate and familiar disclaimer: This isn’t everything. If I wanted to call this list “The ONLY 10 Album Covers that Kicked Ass in 2013,” I would. I didn’t do that, because there were way more than 10 covers that resonated when I saw them this year. The idea here is just to check out a few artists’ work that really stuck out as memorable throughout the year and really fit with the music it was complementing and representing.
As always, you can click the images below to enlarge them for a more detailed look.
The list runs alphabetically by band. Thanks in advance for reading:
Like Nick Keller‘s cover for New Zealand heavy plunderers Beastwars‘ 2011 self-titled debut (review here), the darker, moodier oil and canvas piece that became the front of Blood Becomes Fire(review here) created a sense of something truly massive and otherworldly. A huge skull with sci-fi themes and barren landscape brought to it foreboding memento mori that seemed to suggest even land can die. It was an excellent match for the brooding tension in the album itself.
The level of detail in Arrache-toi un oeil‘s cover for Blaak Heat Shujaa‘s full-length Tee Pee Records debut, The Edge of an Era(review here), would probably be enough for it to make this list anyway, but the Belgium-based art duo seemed thematically to bring out the swirl, chaos and underlying order within the Los Angeles trio’s desert psychedelia. Blue was for the vinyl edition, brown for the CD digipak (both were revealed here), but in either format it was a reminder of how much visual art can add to a musical medium.
Black Pyramid, Adversarial
Cover by Eli Wood.
I look at the Eli Wood cover for Black Pyramid‘s Adversarial(review here) as representing the task before the band in putting out their third LP. Released by Hydro-Phonic, the album found Black Pyramid coming head to head with both their audience’s expectations of what they were in their original lineup and their own will to move past that and become something else. If there was a second panel to the cover, it would show the arrow-shot warrior standing next to the severed head of the demon he slayed. Easily one of my favorite covers of the year. The scale of it begged for a larger format even than vinyl could provide.
It was such a weird record, with the interludes and the bizarre twists, that Samantha Allen‘s cover piece for Ice Dragon‘s Born a Heavy Morning (review here) almost couldn’t help but encompass it. The direct, but slightly off-center stare of the owl immediately catches the eye, but we see the titular morning sunshine as well, the human hand with distinct palm lines, illuminati eye and other symbols — are the planets? Bubbles? I don’t know, but since Born a Heavy Morningwas such an engrossing listening experience, to have the visual side follow suit made it all the richer.
Kings Destroy, A Time of Hunting
Cover by Aidrian O’Connor.
In Magyar mythology, the bird-god Turul is perched atop the tree of life and is a symbol of power. With its theme in geometry, Aidrian O’Connor‘s cover piece for Kings Destroy‘s ATime of Hunting — which was originally titled Turul– gave a glimpse at some of that strength, positioning the viewer as prey below a creature and sky that seem almost impossible to parse. I felt the same way the first time I put on the finished version of the Brooklyn outfit’s second offering, unspeakably complex and brazenly genre-defiant as it was.
Alexander von Wieding deserves multiple mentions for his 2013 covers for Black Thai and Small Stone labelmates Supermachine, but he always seems to save the best for his own project, Larman Clamor. The one-man-band’s third LP, Alligator Heart(review here), was a stomper for sure, but in his visual art for it, von Wieding brilliantly encapsulated the terrestrial elements (the human and reptile) as well as the unknowable spheres (rippling water, sun-baked sky) that the songs portrayed in their swampadelic blues fashion. It was one to stare at.
Similar I guess to the Beastwars cover in its looming feel and to the Black Pyramid for its scale, John Sumrow‘s art for Monster Magnet‘s Last Patrol(review here) mirrored the space-rocking stylistic turn the legendary New Jersey band made in their sound, taking their iconic Bullgod mascot and giving it a cosmic presence, put to scale with the rocketship on the right side. It stares out mean from the swirl and regards the ship with no less a watchful eye than Dave Wyndorf‘s lyrics seem to have on society as a whole.
There’s a mania to Orion Landau’s cover for Red Fang‘s third album, Whales and Leeches, and while the songs that comprise the record are more clearly structured, the collage itself, the face it makes when viewed from a distance, and the (from what I’m told is brilliant) cut-out work in the physical pressing of the album, all conspired to make one of 2013’s most striking visuals. As the in-house artist for Relapse, Landau is no stranger to landmark pieces, but this was a different level of accomplishment entirely.
Fuck. Look at this fucking thing! Galaxy spiral, vagina-dentata, creepy multi-pupil eyes and a background that seems to push the eye to the middle with no hope of escape even as blues and oranges collide. Wow. Sandrider bassist JesseRoberts‘(see also The Ruby Doe) artwork for Godhead (review here) is the only cover on this list done by a member of the band in question, and though I’m sure there are many awesome examples out there, I don’t know if any can top this kind of nightmarishness. Unreal. The sheer imagination of it.
When I put together a similar list last year, it had Summoner‘s first album under the moniker, Phoenix, on it, and with their second, they went more melodic, more progressive, and showed that heaviness was about atmosphere as much as tone, and that it was a thing to be moved around rather than leaned on. The Alyssa Maucere art, dark but deceptively colorful, rested comfortably alongside the songs, with a deeply personal feel and unflinchingly forward gaze, somewhat understated on the black background, but justifying the portrayal of depth.
As I said above, there’s a lot of stuff I could’ve easily included on this list, from The Flying Eyes to Sasquatch to Black Thai to Lumbar, Samsara Blues Experiment, Goatess, At Devil Dirt and others. Hopefully though, this gives a sampling of some people who are doing cool work in an under-represented aspect of underground creativity.
If I left anything out or there was a cover that really stuck with you that I didn’t mention, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
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The end of any year always brings a barrage of best-ofs. Lists, radio shows, award ceremonies, and even podcasts. What no one tells you about any of them is there’s no fucking way they can ever be comprehensive. My Top 20 list? It was damn good and I worked really hard putting it together, but was I toiling under the delusion that it was going to be an accurate and complete representation of everything 2013 had on offer? Hell no. That’s why we have the Readers Poll, the Albums Unheard list (still to come) and all the rest of the wrap-up stuff.
So as you check out this happens-to-be-the-last-of-2013 podcast, please keep in mind that though it does feature a sampling of some of 2013’s most killer songs from some of its most killer albums, it’s not at all intended to be a total roundup of this year. It’s a part of it, and I’m cool with that if you are.
It’s Xmas Eve as I put this together, and it’s looking like this’ll be my only post for today, so I’ll take another opportunity to wish you a happy holiday if you’re celebrating. Please be safe and enjoy time with family, gift-giving, and of course, good music. I don’t know if grandma would really get down to some Phantom Glue, but seems like it’s worth a shot.
Clutch, “D.C. Sound Attack” from Earth Rocker (2013)
Monster Magnet, “Last Patrol,” from Last Patrol (2013)
Church of Misery, “Cranley Gardens (Dennis Andrew Nilsen)” from Thy Kingdom Scum (2013)
Phantom Glue, “Bow in the Dust” from A War of Light Cones (2013)
Pelican, “The Tundra” from Forever Becoming (2013)
Young Hunter, “Trail of Tears” from Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain (2013)
All Them Witches, “The Death of Coyote Woman” from Lightning at Your Door (2013)
Black Thai, “Doors to Nowhere” from Season of Might (2013)
Gozu, “Charles Bronson Pinchot” from The Fury of a Patient Man (2013)
Geezer, “Ancient Song” from Gage EP (2013)
T.G. Olson, “Unsung Everyone” from Hell’s Half Acre (2013)
Fuzz, “One” from Fuzz (2013)
Wooden Shjips, “Servants” from Back to Land (2013)
Fever Dog, “Lady Snowblood/Child of the Netherworlds,” from Lady Snowblood (2013)
Samsara Blues Experiment, “Brahmin’s Lament” from Waiting for the Flood (2013)
Vista Chino, “Planets 1 & 2” from Peace (2013)
Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, “Valley of the Dolls” from Mind Control (2013)
The Golden Grass, “One More Time” from One More Time b/w Tornado (2013)
Beelzefuzz, “Lonely Creatures” from Beelzefuzz (2013)
Posted in Features on December 16th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Please note: These are my picks, not the results of the Readers Poll, which is still going on. If you haven’t added your list yet, please do.
It’s always strange to think of something so utterly arbitrary as also being really, really difficult, but I think 2013 posed the biggest challenge yet in terms of getting together a final list of my favorite records. As ever, I had a post-it note on my office wall (when I moved, it moved with me) and I did my best to keep track of everything that resonated throughout the year. I wound up with over 40 picks and had to start putting them in order to whittle the list down.
I wound up with a top 20 that, even though it feels somewhat incomplete, I’ve found that I can at very least live with. That’s what I’ve done for the last week: Just lived with it. Even up to this morning, I was making changes, but in general, I think this gives some scope about what hit me hard in 2013. Of course, these are just my picks, and while things like my own critical appreciation factor in because that affects how I ultimately listen to a record, sometimes it just comes down to what was stuck in my head most often or what I kept putting on over and over.
That’s a simple formula to apply, but still, 2013 didn’t make it easy. Please note as you go through that there are some real gems in the honorable mentions. I thought about expanding the list to 30 this year, but the thought made my skull start to cave in, so I reconsidered.
Anyway, it only comes around once a year, so let’s do this thing. Thanks in advance for reading:
20. All Them Witches, Lightning at the Door
Traditionally, I’ve reserved #20 for a sentimental pick. An album that’s hard to place numerically because of some personal or emotional connection. This year wasn’t short on those, but when it came to it, I knew I couldn’t make this list without Lightning at the Door included, and since it was released just last month as the follow-up to the earlier-2013 Elektrohasch reissue of the Nashville, Tennessee, outfit’s 2012 debut, Our Mother Electricity (review here), I didn’t feel like I’ve had enough time with it to really put it anywhere else. It needed to be here, and so it is, and though I’ve listened to it plenty in the month since its release, I still feel like I’m getting to know Lightning at the Door, and exploring its open-spaced blues rocking grooves. All Them Witches are hands down one of the best bands I heard for the first time this year, and I’m looking forward to following their work as they continue to progress.
For a while after I first heard …Like Clockwork and around the time I reviewed it, I sweated it pretty hard. By mid-June, I had it as one of the year’s best without a doubt in my mind. Then I put it away. I don’t know if I burnt myself out on it or what, but I still haven’t really gone back to it, and while the brilliance of cuts like “Kalopsia” and “Fairweather Friends” and “I Appear Missing” still stands out and puts Josh Homme‘s songwriting as some of the most accomplished I encountered in 2013, that hasn’t been enough to make me take it off the shelf. I doubt Queens of the Stone Age will cry about it as they tour arenas and get nominated for Grammy awards, but there it is. I wouldn’t have expected …Like Clockworkto be so low on the list, certainly not when I was listening to “My God is the Sun” six times in a row just to try and get my head around the chorus.
Gorgeously produced and impeccably textured, The Winter Ward by Stockholm-based I are Droid aren’t generally the kind of thing I’d reach for, but the quality of the craft in songs like “Constrict Contract” and “Feathers and Dust” made it essential. Bits and pieces within harkened back to frontman Peder Bergstrand‘s tenure in Lowrider, but ultimately The Winter Wardemerged with a varied and rich personality all its own, and that became the basis for the appeal. As the weather has gotten colder and it’s gotten dark earlier, I’ve returned to The Winter Wardfor repeat visits, and as much as I’ve got my fingers crossed for another Lowrider album in 2014, I hope I are Droid continue to run parallel, since the progressive take on alternative influences they managed to concoct was carried across with proportionate accessibility. It was as audience friendly and satisfying a listen as it was complex and ripe for active engagement.
There was just nothing to argue about when it came to the self-titled debut from Massachusetts-based doomers Magic Circle, but what worked best about the album was that although the songs were strong on their own and seemed to have lurching hooks to spare, everything throughout fed into an overarching atmosphere that was denser than the straightforwardness of the structures might lead the listener to initially believe. It was a record worth going back to, worth getting lost in the nod of, and as the members are experienced players in a variety of New England acts from The Rival Mob to Doomriders, it should be interesting to find out what demons they may conjure in following-up Magic Circle, if they’ll continue down the path of deceptively subversive “traditionalism” or expand their sound into more progressive reaches. Either way they may choose, the material on their first outing showed an ability to craft an enigmatic, individualized sonic persona that never veered into cultish caricature.
If you’re into doom and you have a soul, I don’t know how you could not be rooting for Iron Man in 2013. Produced by Frank Marchand and the first full-length from the long-running Maryland doomers to feature vocalist Dee Calhoun and drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann alongside guitarist/founder “Iron” Al Morris III (interview here) and longtime bassist Louis Strachan. The difference in South of the Earthwas palpable even in comparison to 2009’s I Have Returned(review here). With more professional production, excellent performances all around in the lineup, memorable songs like “Hail to the Haze” and “The Worst and Longest Day,” and the considerable endorsement of a release through Rise Above/Metal Blade behind them, the four-piece sounded like the statesmen they are in the Maryland scene and showed themselves every bit worthy of inclusion in the discussion of America’s finest in traditional, Sabbathian doom. May they continue to get their due.
Whether it was what the lyrics were talking about or not, the message of “The Message” was clear: Never count out a catchy chorus. Now in operation for a decade, Sasquatch practice an arcane artistry with their songwriting. Void of pretense, heavy on boogie, they are as genuine a modern extension of classic heavy rock as you’re likely to find. The Los Angeles power trio outdid themselves with IV, veering boldly into psychedelia on “Smoke Signal” and honing their craft over various moods and themes on “Sweet Lady,” “Me and You” and “Eye of the Storm.” They remain one of American heavy rock’s key and consistently underestimated components, and the three years since the release of their third album, III(review here), seemed like an eternity once the quality grooves of “Money” and “Drawing Flies” got moving, the former an insistent rush and the latter open, dreamy and atmospheric, but both executed with precision and confidence born of Sasquatch‘s familiarity with the methods and means of kicking ass.
It was hard to know what to expect from Black Pyramid‘s Adversarial, their first release with guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard at the fore with bassist Dave Gein and drummer/engineer Clay Neely, but the Massachusetts outfit flourished on tracks like “Swing the Scimitar,” incorporating a heavy jamming sensibility with marauding riffs and grooves carried over from the style of their first two albums. Adversarial took the band to Hellfest in France this past summer, where they shared a stage with Neurosis and Sleep, and whether it was the raging chorus of “Bleed Out” or the clarion guitar line of “Aphelion,” the band showed their war ensemble could not be stopped. Their future is uncertain with Neely having relocated and Gein having an impending move of his own, but if Adversarialis to stand as the final Black Pyramid outing, they will at very least have claimed enough heads in their time to line fence-posts for miles. Still, hopefully they can find some way to continue to make it work.
Even the interlude “Seasick Serenade,” just over a minute and a half long, was haunting. Electric Relicsmarked the first full-length from Nashville’s Across Tundras to be released on their own label and the first since they issued Sage through Neurot in 2011 (review here), and as rolling and exploratory as its vibe was, songs like “Solar Ark,” “Pining for the Gravel Roads” and “Den of Poison Snakes” also represented a solidification of Across Tundras‘ sound, another step in their development that refined their blend of rural landscapes and heavy tones. Issued in April, it’s been an album that throughout the course of the year I’ve returned to time and again, and the more I’ve sat with it and the more comfortable it’s become, the more its songs have come to feel like home, which it’s easy to read as being their intent all along. Guitarist/vocalist Tanner Olson (read his questionnaire answers here), bassist/vocalist Mikey Allred and drummer Casey Perry hit on something special in these tracks, and one gets the sense their influence is just beginning to be felt.
Initially a digital self-release by the Washington, D.C. riff purveyors, Oculus just this month got a tri-color, tri-label and tri-continental vinyl issue, and the fanfare with which it arrived was well earned by the five songs contained on the two sides. Borracho‘s second album behind 2011’s Splitting Sky(review here) also marked a lineup shift in the band that saw them go from a four-piece to a trio, with guitarist Steve Fisher (interview here) stepping to the fore as vocalist in the new incarnation with Tim Martin on bass and Mario Trubiano on drums. The results in songs like “Know the Score” and closer “I’ve Come for it All” were in line stylistically with the straightforward approach they showed on their first offering, but tighter overall in their presentation, and Fisher‘s voice was a natural fit with the band’s stated ethic of “repetitive heavy grooves” — a neat summary, if perhaps underselling their appeal somewhat. Oculusshowed both that the appeal of Splitting Skywas no fluke and that Borracho with four members or three was not a band to be taken lightly.
Like the bulk of Ice Dragon‘s work to date, Born a Heavy Morning was put out first digitally, for free or pay-what-you-want download. A CD version would follow soon enough on Navalorama, with intricate packaging to match the album’s understated achievements, taking the Boston genre-crossers into and through heavy psychedelic atmospheres added to and played off in longer pieces like “The Past Plus the Future is Present” and the gorgeously ethereal “Square Triangle” by thematic slice-of-life set-pieces like “In Which a Man Daydreams about a Girl from His Youth” and “In Which a Man Ends His Workweek with a Great Carouse” that only enriched the listening experience and furthered Ice Dragon‘s experimental appeal. Ever-prolific, Born a Heavy Morningwasn’t the only Ice Dragon outing this year, physical or digital, but it stood in a place of its own within their constantly-expanding catalog and showcased a stylistic fearlessness that can only be an asset in their favor as they continue to chase down whatever the hell it is they’re after in their songs and make genuine originality sound so natural.
It seemed like no matter where I turned in 2013, Devil to Pay‘s Fate is Your Musewas there. Not that it was the highest-profile release of the year or bolstered by some consciousness-invading viral campaign or anything, just that once the songs locked into my head, there was no removing them, and whether it was straightforward rockers like “This Train Won’t Stop,” “Savonarola” and “Tie One On,” the moodier “Black Black Heart” or the charm-soaked “Ten Lizardmen and One Pocketknife” — which might also be the best song title I came across this year — it was a pretty safe bet that something from the Indianapolis four-piece was going to make a showing on the mental jukebox if not in the actual player (it showed up plenty there as well). Devil to Pay‘s first album since 2009, first for Ripple and fourth overall, Fate is Your Musewas a grower listen whose appeal only deepened over the months after its release, the layered vocals of guitarist Steve Janiak (interview here) adaptable to the varying vibes of “Wearin’ You Down” and “Already Dead” and soulful in classic fashion. They’ve been underrated as a live act for some time, and Fate is Your Musetranslated well their light-on-frills, heavy-on-riffs appeal to a studio setting.
9. Beast in the Field, The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below
Such devastation. Even now, every time I put on Beast in the Field‘s The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below, it makes me want to hang my head and wonder at the horror of it all like Marlon Brando hiding out in a cave. If anything at all, there wasn’t much I heard in 2013 that hit harder than the Michigan duo’s fifth long-player, released on CD in March through Saw Her Ghost with vinyl reportedly on the way now. Toward the middle of the year, it got to the point where I wanted to go door to door and say to people, “Uh excuse me, but this is absurdly heavy and you should check it out.” I settled for streaming the album in full and it still feels like a compromise. I tried to interview the band, to no avail — sometimes instrumental acts just don’t want to talk about it — but what guitarist Jordan Pries and drummer Jamie Jahr were able to accomplish tonally, atmospherically and bombastically in expansive and overwhelmingly heavy cuts like the 22-minute “Oncoming Avalanche” or the noise-soaked riffing of “Hollow Horn” put The Sacred Above, the Sacred Belowinto a weight class that it had pretty much to itself this year. It’s a good thing they had no trouble filling that space. I still feel like I haven’t recommended the album enough and that more people need to be made aware of its existence.
When I finally listened to Beelzefuzz‘s self-titled debut, I was really, really glad I had seen the three-piece — its members based in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania — play some of the material live. I don’t know if otherwise I’d have been able to distinguish between the progress elements of effects and looping and the live creation of layers and organ sounds through the guitar of Dana Ortt (interview here) and the simple humdrum of studio layering one finds all the time. I almost think for their next record they should track it live, just the three of them, and heavily advertise that fact to help get the point across that it’s actually just three players — Ortt, bassist Pug Kirby and drummer Darin McCloskey (also of PaleDivine) — creating the richness of sound on “All the Feeling Returns” and the eerie, gleefully weird progressive stomp on “Lonely Creatures.” The album became a morning go-to for me, and I don’t know how many times I’ve been through it at this point, but “Reborn” and “Hypnotize” and “Lotus Jam” continue to echo in my head even when it’s been a few days. That said, it’s rarely been a few days, because while I appreciate what the trio accomplish on their first record on an analytical level, the reason it is where it is on this list is because I can’t stop listening to the damn thing. Another one that more people should hear than have heard.
7. Samsara Blues Experiment, Waiting for the Flood
One of the aspects of Samsara Blues Experiment‘s third offering that I most enjoyed was that it wasn’t the album I expected German four-piece to make. After their 2011 sophomore album, Revelation and Mystery (review here), shifted its focus away from the jam-minded heavy psychedelia of their 2009 debut, Long Distance Trip (review here), my thinking was that they would continue down that path and coalesce into a more straightforward brand of heavy rock. Instead, when the four extended tracks of Waiting for the Floodshowed up with no shortage of swirl or sitar or open-ended expansion in their midst, it was a legitimate surprise. Repeat visits to “Shringara” and “Don’t Belong” show that actually it’s not so much that Samsara Blues Experiment turned around and were hell-bent on jamming out all the time, but that rather for their third, they took elements of what worked on their first two LPs and built lush movements on top of those ideas. As a happy bonus, this having grown more and more into their sound has helped push the band — guitarist/vocalist Christian Peters, guitarist Hans Eiselt, bassist Richard Behrens and drummer Thomas Vedder — into their own niche within the wider European heavy psych scene, and they’ve begun to emerge as one of its most enjoyable and consistent acts.
Kind of inevitable that there would be a lot of comparisons made between Mind Controland the preceding Uncle Acid album, Blood Lust. Certainly the newer outing — their third and first for Rise Above/Metal Blade – is more psychedelic, more tripped out and less obscure feeling than its predecessor. It didn’t have the same kind of crunch to the guitar tone, or the same kind of horror-film atmosphere or psychosexual foreboding, but the thing was, it wasn’t supposed to. The UK outfit continue to prod cult mentality even as their own cult grows, and as I see it, Mind Control made a lot of sense coming off Blood Lustin terms of the band not wanting to repeat the same ideas over again, but grow from them and expand their sound. Of course, with the strut at the end of opener “Mt. Abraxas,” they’ve set a high standard on their albums for leadoff tracks, but where Mind Controlreally made its impression was in the hypnosis of cuts like the Beatlesian “Follow the Leader,” the lysergic “Valley of the Dolls” or the maddening “Devil’s Work.” The deeper you went into side B, the more the band had you in their grasp. It was a different kind of accomplishment than the preceding effort — though “Mind Crawler” kept a lot of that vibe alive — and it showed Uncle Acid had more in their arsenal than VHS ambience and garage doom malevolence while keeping the infectiousness that helped Blood Lustmake such an impression.
Of the ones reviewed, Lumbar‘s The First and Last Days of Unwelcomewas the most recent inclusion on this list. Having worked with Lumbar multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Aaron Edge (interview here) in the past with his band Roareth releasing what would be their only album on The Maple Forum, this was a project to which I felt an immediate connection given the circumstances of its creation: Being written almost in its entirety and recorded in everything but vocals during a bedridden period following Edge‘s diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. The contributions of YOB/Vhöl frontman Mike Scheidt and Tad Doyle of TAD and Brothers of the Sonic Cloth were what got a lot of people’s attention for Lumbar‘s The First and Last Days of Unwelcome, but with the situation are the core of the seven tracks named “Day One” through “Day Seven,” what stood out to me even more than those performances was the utter lack of distance and the level of rawness in the album’s presentation. It puts you there. What you get with Lumbar is the direct translation of a range of emotions from hopeful to hopeless, angry, sad, beaten down and wanting answers, wanting more. There’s no shield from it, and as much in concept as in its execution, there’s no other word for it than “heavy.” The intensity Edge packed into just 24 minutes — and not all of it loud or over the top doomed or anything more than atmospherics — was unmatched by anything else I heard this year.
From just about any angle you want to view it, the situation that turned Kyuss Lives! into Vista Chino was unfortunate. However — and I know I’ve said this before — I really do believe that becoming Vista Chino, that furthering the distance from the Kyuss moniker, brand, legacy, and so on, was for the better of the band creatively. And not because the songs don’t stand up. I doubt it helped their draw much, but for vocalist John Garcia and drummer Brant Bjork (interview here), working as Vista Chino for the creation of Peace, and especially or Bjork working with guitarist Bruno Fevery for the first time in the writing process, it allowed them to step outside of what would’ve been insurmountable expectations for a “fifth Kyuss album” and create something honest, new, and ultimately, more true to the spirit of that now-legendary band. Let’s face it, you hear John Garcia, Brant Bjork and Nick Oliveri are working on a project together, you’re immediately comparing it to Kyuss anyway. At least with Vista Chino, they’ve given themselves the potential for growth beyond a preconceived idea of what Kyuss should sound like. Well what does Vista Chino sound like? It sounds like whatever the hell they want. On Peace, though many of the lyrics dealt with their legal battles over the Kyuss name, the vibe stayed true to a desert rock ethic of laid back heavy, and the round-out jam in “Acidize/The Gambling Moose” left Peacewith the feeling that maybe that’s where they’ve ended up after all. Fingers crossed Mike Dean (of C.O.C. and the latest live incarnation of Vista Chino) winds up playing bass on the record, but other than that, wherever they want to go with it, as a fan, I’m happy to follow along.
The second outing from Gozu on Small Stone, The Fury of a Patient Man tapped into so much of what made the Boston band’s 2010 Locust Season label debut (review here) work so right on and just did it better. Don’t get me wrong, I still dig on “Meat Charger,” but with tracks like “Snake Plissken,” “Bald Bull,” “Signed, Epstein’s Mom” (note: it was “signed, Epstein’s mother” on Welcome Back Kotter) and the thrashing “Charles Bronson Pinchot,” Gozu put forth a collection of some of 2013’s finest heavy rock and did so with not only their own soulful spin on the tropes of the genre, but a mature and varied approach that was no less comfortable giving High on Fire a run for their money than reveling in the grandiose chorus of “Ghost Wipe,” which was also one of the best hooks of the year, guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney (interview here) delivering lines in crisp, confident layers, perfectly mixed by Benny Grotto at Mad Oak Studios and cutting through the fray of his own and Doug Sherman‘s guitars, the bass of Paul Dallaire (who split duties with J. Canava; Joe Grotto has since taken over the position) and Barry Spillberg‘s drumming. What the future might hold for Gozu with the recent shift in lineup that replaced Spillberg with drummer Mike Hubbard (ex-Warhorse) and added third guitarist Jeff Fultz (Mellow Bravo) remains to be seen, but with European touring on the horizon for 2014 and appearances slated for Roadburn and Desertfest, the band seem to be looking only to expand their reach, and with the material from The Fury of a Patient Man as a foundation, they’ve got some major considerations acting in their favor. Another album from which I simply could not escape this year, and from which I didn’t want to.
Billed largely and at least in-part accurately as a return to the group’s psychedelic roots, Last Patrol was Monster Magnet‘s ninth full-length, their first in three years and their second for Napalm. The New Jersey outfit led by guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, founder and, in this case, co-producer Dave Wyndorf (interview here) did indeed delve into the space rock side of their sound more than they have in over a decade, and the effect that doing so had was like a great shaking-off of dust, as though the Bullgod in the John Sumrow cover art just woke up after a long slumber. Perhaps even more than tripping on the Donovan cover “Three Kingfishers” or on the more extended freakouts “Last Patrol” and “End of Time,” what really made Last Patrolsuch a complete experience was the depth of emotion. Wyndorf wasn’t just standing above an overproduced wall of distortion talking about how he’s the best lay in the galaxy or whatever — fun though that kind of stuff is and has been in the past — but songs like “I Live behind the Clouds,” “The Duke (of Supernature),” “Paradise” and “Stay Tuned” offered a humbler take, a spirit of melancholy that rested well alongside the unmitigated stomp of “Hallelujah” or the driving heavy rock of “Mindless Ones.” Even in its most riotous stretches, Last Patrolwas a humbler affair, with a more honest vibe than their last four, maybe five albums. A Monster Magnet release would’ve been noteworthy no matter what it actually sounded like, because that’s the level of impact they’ve had on heavy psych and underground rock over the last two decades-plus. The difference with Last Patrolwas that it was a refreshing change from what had started to sound like a formula going stale, and it was just so damn good to have them be weird again.
Finally, an album that asked the question, “What it was I’m going to do I haven’t done?” I knew at the year’s halfway point that Clutch‘s Earth Rockerwas going to be the one to beat, and that it wasn’t going to be easy for anyone else to top the Maryland kings of groove, who sounded so reinvigorated on songs like “Crucial Velocity,” “Book, Saddle and Go,” “Unto the Breach,” and “Cyborg Bette,” and on funkfied pushers like “D.C. Sound Attack!,” “The Wolfman Kindly Requests…” and “The Face.” They’d hardly been in hibernation since 2009’s Strange Cousins from the West, but four years was the longest they’d ever gone between albums, and it was past time for a new one. To have it arrive as such a boot to the ass just made it that much better, the band shifting away from some of the blues/jam influences that emerged over the course of 2005’s Robot Hive/Exodusand 2007’s From Beale Street to Oblivion — though those certainly showed up as well in the subdued “Gone Cold” and elsewhere — but thanks in no small part to the production of Machine, with whom the band last worked for 2004’s Blast Tyrant, Earth Rockerwas huge where it wanted to be and that gave Clutch‘s faster, more active material all the more urgency, where although the songwriting was quality as always, Strange Cousins from the West languished a bit at a more relaxed pace. The difference made all the difference. Whether it was the hellhounds on your trail (what a pity!) in “D.C. Sound Attack!” or the Jazzmasters erupting from the bottom of the sea to take flight, Clutch‘s 10th album was brimming with live, vibrant, heavy on action and heavy on groove, and on a sheer song-by-song level, a classic in the making from a band who’ve already had a few. At very least, it’s a landmark in their discography, and though vocalist Neil Fallon (interview here), guitarist Tim Sult, bassist Dan Maines and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster always change from record, but it’s the unmistakable stamp they put on all their outings that have earned them such a loyal following, and that stamp is all over Earth Rocker. Front to back, it is a pure Clutch record, and while I’ll happily acknowledge that it’s an obvious pick for album of the year, I don’t see how I possibly could’ve chosen anything else. Like the best of the best, Earth Rockerwill deliver for years to come.
The Next 10 and Honorable Mentions
I said at the outset I had 40 picks. The reality was more than that, but here’s the next 10 anyway:
21. Blaak Heat Shujaa, The Edge of an Era
22. The Freeks, Full On
23. Luder, Adelphophagia
24. The Flying Eyes, Lowlands
25. Black Skies, Circadian Meditations
26. At Devil Dirt, Plan B: Sin Revolucion No Hay Evolucion
27. Kadavar, Abra Kadavar
28. Naam, Vow
29. Mühr, Messiah
30. Uzala, Tales of Blood and Fire
Further honorable mention has to go to Pelican, Endless Boogie, Earthless, Phantom Glue, Goatess, Windhand, Gonga, TonerLow, Jesuand Sandrider.
Two More Special Records
I’d be unforgivably remiss if I didn’t note the release in 2013 of two albums that wound up being incredibly special to me personally: I vs. the Glacierby Clamfight and A Time of Hunting by Kings Destroy. Since it came out on this site’s in-house label, I didn’t consider the Clamfight eligible for list consideration and while I didn’t help put it out, the Kings Destroy I also felt very, very close to — probably as close as I’ve felt to a record I didn’t actually perform on — so it didn’t seem fair on a critical level, but I consider both of these to be records that in a large part helped define my year, as well as being exceptional in and of themselves, and they needed very much to be singled out as such. These are people whom I feel whatever-the-godless-heathen-equivalent-of-blessed-is to know.
Before I end this post, I want to say thank you for reading, this, anything else you may have caught this year, whatever it might be. To say it means a lot to me personally is understating it, but it’s true all the same. I’m not quite done wrapping up the year — I’ll have a list of the best album covers, another for EPs and singles and demos, and of course the albums I didn’t hear — so please stay tuned over the next couple weeks, but it seemed only fair to show my appreciation now as well. Thank you.
Posted in On Wax on November 14th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Maybe it’s not the deepest critique I’ve ever made, but what’s not to like here? Monster Magnet‘s Last Patrol(review here) is one of 2013’s best albums, so to have it arrive in a limited 2LP package geared specifically toward collectors and the types of fans who’d chase down such an artifact is all the better. Pressed by Napalm Records in what the back of the gatefold refers to in all-caps as “Strictly Limited Edition,” Last Patrolcomprises two subtle magenta swirl platters and on vinyl feels even more like the sonic event it is in the band’s catalog.
Prior to its release, Last Patrolwas billed as a psychedelic return to form, and in a couple of the extended jammers — the title-track and “End of Time” — it certainly taps into some of the long-running New Jersey stoner innovators’ early Hawkwind fetishizing, but the prevailing sensibility is more brooding, and there are moments where that psych tendency crashes hard into a heavy reality, whether that arrives in the sarcasm rooted in the lyrics of “Paradise” or the underlying scathe of “Mindless Ones,” which in itself has some measure of swirl but still drives like heavy rocking Monster Magnet at their most unbridled.
The limited version of Last Patrolmaintains the atmosphere overall, but the listening experience is far different. Spreading the nine tracks of the album proper and the two bonus cuts, “Strobe Light Beatdown” and “One Dead Moon” over the course of two LPs means that each of the four sides save for side A only has three songs on it. By the time opener “I Live behind the Clouds” and the following “Last Patrol” are done, it’s time to get up and flip the record, and where in a more linear mode of listening, one might just get carried off by the flow of one song into the next, here the process is more interactive. “Three Kingfishers” into “Paradise” into “Hallelujah” is a quick listen.
If there’s a downside, it’s that the changing of LPs takes away from the smoothness of some of the song-to-song transitions, like “Hallelujah” into “Mindless Ones” and “End of Time” into “Stay Tuned,” but the tradeoff is you’re a more conscious audience. Last Patrolin this form doesn’t let you get so swept away by psychedelic hypnosis that you miss a minute of it, and ultimately this serves the tracks in a different way than either the CD, digital (or presumably) the single LP versions possibly could. The inclusion of bonus material, whether it’s the more upbeat “Strobe Light Beatdown” or the building “One Dead Moon” further distinguishes this version, and for fans who’d take on a package like this one, these are songs well worth hearing.
Casual Monster Magnet fans probably won’t feel the need to dig in on this level, but this doesn’t seem to be geared toward that audience anyway. It’s for the Monster Magnet fan who’s waited a long time for the band to put out something like Last Patrol — more complex in its personality than anything they’ve done in the last decade — and as I count myself among that number, I’m happy to be able to dig into a package that’s a gorgeous and honest as the album itself. To see the John Sumrow art alone in this iteration, I’d feel compelled to frame it if I didn’t want to keep listening so much.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 17th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
There’s a fascinating bit of scene-symmetry here. The Atomic Bitchwax, when they formed in the late ’90s out of the dismantling of bassist Chris Kosnik‘s prior outfit, Godspeed, featured then-Monster Magnet guitarist Ed Mundell, and were widely regarded in their beginnings as a Monster Magnet side-project. Now, with Mundell long out of the Bitchwax and more recently (three years as opposed to seven or eight) out of Magnet, along comes the announcement that Chris Kosnik, the last remaining founding member of The Atomic Bitchwax, is to serve as the new bassist for Monster Magnet, replacing Jim Baglino, who left earlier this year. Got all that?
I’m not sure where this leaves The Atomic Bitchwax, who’ve continued to play shows — they ruled on the Rocks off Concert Cruise around Manhattan in June — since the release in 2011 of The Local Fuzz(review here), but since Bitchwax drummer Bob Pantella was going to be busy playing in Monster Magnet anyway, it makes a weird kind of sense to have Kosnik join him there in the rhythm section. Hey man, Red Bank isn’t exactly a huge town.
Kudos and best of luck to Kosnik. Here’s the announcement from Monster Magnet frontman Dave Wyndorf from the band’s forum, followed by their upcoming North American tour dates:
Monster Magnet welcomes new bass player Chris Kosnik
We’d like to welcome bassist Chris Kosnik into the Magnet family of undying reverberation.
Chris is a fantastic player as many might already know.
He’s a founding and current member of Atomic Bitchwax and has chopped wood with Godspeed and Black Nasa.
What else can we say? The guy rocks.
MONSTER MAGNET North American Tour: 11/14: Grand Rapids, MI @ Intersection 11/15: Detroit, MI @ St. Andrews 11/16: Chicago, IL @ Bottom Lounge 11/17: Minneapolis, MN @ Mill City Nights 11/19: Denver, CO @ Marquis Theater 11/20: Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge 11/22: Seattle, WA @ Neumos 11/23: Vancouver, BC @ Rickshaw Theater 11/24: Portland, OR @ Hawthorne Theater 11/26: San Francisco, CA @ The Independent 11/27: Los Angeles, CA @ House of Blues 11/29: Tempe, AZ @ Club Red 11/30: Albuquerque, NM @ Launch Pad 12/2: Austin, TX @ Red 7 12/3: Houston, TX @ Fitzgeralds 12/4: Dallas, TX @ Trees 12/6: Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade 12/7: Charlotte, NC @ Amos Southend 12/8: Baltimore, MD @ Baltimore Sound Stage 12/10: Toronto, ON @ Lee’s Palace 12/12: Boston, MA @ Sinclair 12/13: West Chester, PA @ The Note 12/14: New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
Posted in Features on October 11th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Any way you want to look at it, Last Patrol is a landmark in the Monster Magnet catalog. Before you even get to the music and whether or not the band accomplished the goals of their ninth album overall and second for Napalm Records — incidentally, I’ll gladly argue they did with anyone who might be interested in picking up the other side — the sheer fact of their shift from the straightforward hard rock sound of their string of albums from 2001’s God Says Noto 2010’s Mastermind(review here) to a moodier, more psychedelic feel derived from earlier works like 1991’s genre-defining Spine of Goddebut and subsequent psych-rockers Superjudge(1993) and Dopes to Infinity(1995), makes Last Patrola defining moment. I’m hesitant to call it a turning point, as it would be foolish to speculate on what whims might catch hold for guitarist, songwriter, vocalist and founder Dave Wyndorf between now and when he next puts together a full-length for the band, but it’s unquestionably the biggest stylistic turn they’ve made in the 15 years since their 1998 blend of classic attitude and driving hard rock, Powertrip, propelled them to international acclaim and genuine rock stardom.
So before you even press play, or maybe about 15 seconds after, as opener “I Live behind the Clouds” starts to unfold with its catch-you-off-guard brooding sensibility — all on purpose, all for effect — Last Patrol(review here) stands out from a decade-plus of Monster Magnet‘s output and signals, if nothing else, a reshuffling of sonic priorities. It also helps that it’s hands down one of the best records to come out in 2013. As seen in the gorgeous John Sumrow artwork, the Bullgod (Magnet‘s mascot since their first album) has gone galaxial, and extended pieces like the title-track and “End of Time” thrive on the apparent danger that at any moment they could fly completely off the rails, while stompers like “Hallelujah” and “Mindless Ones” find Wyndorf, bassist/guitarist Phil Caivano, guitarist Garrett Sweeny and drummer Bob Pantella locked into an irresistible push that seems all the more vibrant playing off quieter stretches in “Paradise,” the Donovan cover “Three Kingfishers, “The Duke (of Supernature)” (streamed here) and ultra-ambiguous closer “Stay Tuned.”
Between the name of the album, the palpable full-circle sonic impression it leaves and that song, I immediately speculated in hearing it that it might be the final offering from Monster Magnet, that perhaps it was a way for Wyndorf to tie loose ends stylistically and placate a section of his fanbase by “getting weird again,” which was something he also discussed three years ago in an interview for Mastermind. But no. It’s not. Wyndorf is quick to delight in the ambiguity of the title and the album’s message and musical journey, having both reconciled himself to a “no one’s gonna get it” mentality and pushed to simply enjoy the process of creating Monster Magnet songs. There can’t really be any doubt he’s working from a master plan — that is, the shift in approach with this batch of material didn’t just happen. That’s not how Monster Magnet works and even Wyndorf refers to himself in a kind of directorial role, saying he wanted to do this even as Mastermind was still coming together. But that’s not to say either that he, Caivano and the rest of the band aren’t having a good time, or that they don’t sound like it in the final outcome of these songs. Quite the opposite.
Not surprisingly, there was a lot to talk about. Monster Magnet will embark starting Nov. 14 on their first coast-to-coast US run in a decade, taking the temperature of the touring climate here after years of focusing on Europe, and extra intrigue is added with the departure of bassist Jim Baglino, who didn’t play on the album but has been a figure in Monster Magnet live shows since the turn of the century, this being their first outing since 1992 without guitarist Ed Mundell, and more. For what it’s worth, Wyndorf seemed to take a special kind of pleasure in discussing the process of recording Last Patrolwith Caivano, thriving in what he describes as a chaotic writing and tracking process in taking these songs from the bare demos he created for them to their realized, complete versions, and so I wanted to focus on that. The word “fun” was used 25 times, if that tells you anything. Wyndorf‘s passion for this process came through in his voice, his quick back-and-forths with himself, and it’s my sincere hope that it comes across in this interview as well.
After the jump, please find the complete 7,400-word Q&A of my interview with Dave Wyndorf, and please enjoy.
Posted in Reviews on September 12th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
There’s is a thread of self-awareness running through Last Patrol, which is Monster Magnet‘s ninth full-length overall and second for Napalm Records behind 2010’s Mastermind (review here), an overarching consciousness that bleeds into the material and manifests itself in the lyrics of songs like “Mindless Ones,” “Last Patrol,” “Paradise, “End of Time” and “Stay Tuned.” Even the John Sumrow artwork could be argued as having a play in the purposeful exposition of concept — very much what we get on the album is the Bullgod gone cosmic. Last Patrolmarks not necessarily a return to the drugged-out psychedelia of albums like 1993’s Superjudgeor 1991’s ultra-landmark debut Spine of God, but easily the most swirling release the long-running and massively influential New Jersey outfit have had since 1995’s Dopes to Infinity. Vocalist, guitarist, songwriter and figurehead Dave Wyndorf – who also recorded Last Patrol with rhythm guitarist Phil Caivano in an attempt to capture a DIY spirit — has clearly made a conscious decision to harken back to Monster Magnet‘s earliest days. He’s taking a risk by doing so. A big one. Since 1998’s Powertrip, the band has been geared around a straightforward hard rock sound, always definitely their own, but increasingly straightforward. Following the commercial breakthrough of 1998’s Powertrip– do I even need to mention the “Space Lord” single? — and across 2001’s God Says No, 2004’s Monolithic Baby!and 2007’s 4-Way Diablo, Wyndorf refined this approach, writing skillfully crafted but increasingly staid hard rockers with faint traces of the personality that flourished in his earlier works. Mastermind satisfied tonally but essentially stuck to the same songwriting modus, and while there was always a sense of development there and Wyndorf‘s careful hand has never relinquished control over the band or its sense of mastery, it was clear Monster Magnet had long since conquered the form. Time for a change. But it’s a risk because the band Wyndorf has built around him — Caivano, lead guitarist Garrett Sweeny, bassist Jim Baglino and drummer Bob Pantella – has been geared the whole time toward playing the more straightforward style.
Baglino and Pantella are the longest-running members of the band at this point — apart from Wyndorf, obviously, who founded the band in 1989 with John McBain and Tim Cronin – but even they came aboard in 1999, after Powertripwas released. Certainly they’re adaptable players, as shown in Baglino‘s past participation in Lord Sterling and Pantella‘s in The Atomic Bitchwax, but the critical question when it comes to the shift in sound on Last Patrol is whether or not Monster Magnet could “go psychedelic” without lead guitarist Ed Mundell. Mundell left the band late in 2010, following the release of Mastermind, but had been a part of Monster Magnet since 1992 and was widely regarded as a crucial element to the band’s sound. So not only has Dave Wyndorf stepped into unknown territory with this latest record without knowing how the majority of his audience will react, but he’s done so without the guitarist whose blazing leads were such an essential part of what drew a line from the band’s classic psychedelic material to where they went up to 2010. In many ways, Mundell, who has since embarked on an interstellar journey of his own with the instrumental jam trio The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic — their self-titled debut was released earlier in 2013 (review here) — would likely be more at home on Last Patrol than on anyMonster Magnet outing since Dopes to Infinity, but Sweeny and Caivano perform more than ably here, tearing into some deft Hendrixisms as the penultimate “End of Time” brings Last Patrolto its apex and helping propel the space-rocking pulse of “Last Patrol” while adding to the bluesy quirk of centerpiece “Hallelujah.” The rhythm section, which also includes Caivano, who reportedly also recorded the bass parts, prove likewise amenable to the change, and ultimately, Wyndorf‘s personality shines through all the more for it. Even in studio recordings, his charisma has always been a big part of Monster Magnet‘s draw, never a technical singer — though he does will with a cover of Donovan‘s “Three Kingfishers” as the third track — but a consummate frontman and brilliant lyricist, and on Last Patrol, the latter particularly comes to the fore right from the start of opener “I Live behind the Clouds,” which with the 9:24 title cut following forms a bookend that finds its mirror in the closing duo of “End of Time” (7:45) and “Stay Tuned,” starting subdued then rocking out, where with the final two, it’s the other way around, rocking out and then finishing subdued.
Much of Last Patroland indeed many of its highlight moments are in moodier pieces like “I Live behind the Clouds,” “Three Kingfishers,” “Paradise” “The Duke (of Supernature)” and “Stay Tuned” — more than half of the nine-track/51-minute outing — and as much as Wyndorf‘s inescapable penchant for crafting memorable hooks comes through in the more driving reaches of “Mindless Ones” and the revival stomp of “Hallelujah,” it’s the dynamic throughout the work as a whole that makes Last Patrolsuch a success. Where Mastermindseemed largely monochromatic stylistically, leading with its strongest material in songs like “Hallucination Bomb,” “Gods and Punks” and “Dig that Hole” — the latter of which, admittedly, could be seen as a precursor to “Hallelujah”‘s gospel snakehandling — sticking closely to an approach that was if nothing else the most tonally weighted of the band’s career, Last Patrolplays out in a manner that’s freer and as engaging in overall flow as it is on a track-by-track basis. Still, Wyndorf – and you’ll have to forgive the presumption that where there’s a decision being made about Monster Magnet, he’s the one making it — does right to start the album with “I Live behind the Clouds.” Open-feeling with a gust of wind behind it, it nonetheless holds a tension in its steady guitar line that finds its release in the bounce and groove of “Last Patrol” and sets up the other quieter pieces noted above. The album’s first vocals are barely above a whisper, and for a man who once triumphantly proclaimed “I’m never gonna work another day in my life,” the line “I stay behind the clouds” comes on like a humble declaration, less that he’s a god than he’s hiding someplace no one will look. Drums come in after two of the opener’s four minutes and the song takes off, but it’s a fitting summation of Last Patrol‘s dynamic and holds to its mood even as Sweeny launches the first of many soaring solos. Bringing it back down for a quiet final verse and chorus, “Last Patrol” is set up with satisfying turns punctuated by Pantella‘s crash and given warmth by Caivano‘s prominent bass as Wyndorf teases with lines about cashing out and going to meet up with his 10-foot blonde. In movements, “Last Patrol” shifts from effective space rock turns with no shortage of backing swirl to a solo and then on to a quiet break as the echoes fade. Synth and effects back cymbal flourish and the rhythm guitar line as “Last Patrol” reemerges, gradually making its way back up from the ether with a new progression, no less insistent, but thick tonally, layers of wails and churns brought to a satisfying build as a victorious riff takes hold.
It’s the longest single piece on Last Patrol and it earns the honor of having the album named for it. Extra percussion is layered into the second half as a solo once again takes hold and Monster Magnet ride the groove while Wyndorf tosses in vague incantations in the lower regions of the mix. Even the jam is dynamic, and it’s some of Sweeny‘s best lead work, cutting suddenly to let the effects loops that have underscored carry the song to its finish. One could argue that “Three Kingfishers,” “Paradise,” “Hallelujah,” “Mindless Ones” and “The Duke (of Supernature)” represent the “meat” of Last Patrolbetween the front and back bookend pieces, but I wouldn’t intend that in the sense of taking away from the substance of the opening or closing pairs. Still, it’s with the Donovan cover, “Three Kingfishers” that the album begins to move past the initial shock of its opening and hit its stride. “Three Kingfishers,” particularly early on, is fairly loyal to the original, which appeared on the Scottish singer-songwriter’s classic 1966 formative masterpiece of psych-folk pop, Sunshine Superman, though where Donovan‘s version takes off with strings and sitar following its first two verses, Monster Magnet substitutes big riffs and guitar leads after the first, finding a middle ground between the heavier side of Last Patroland the quieter that seems to delight in playing one directly off the other, the lead guitar once again distinguishing itself with classic and classy fretwork. At first, “Paradise” seems to echo the tense strum of “I Live behind the Clouds,” but it stays quieter for the duration, giving the title a sarcastic edge as the acoustic rhythm couples with intermittent kick-drum thud and electrified, fuzzy leads. Echoes and effects lend depth to the arrangement, but even at its most active, “Paradise,” despite a relatively quick tempo, keeps its groove away from the kind of raucousness that showed up on “Last Patrol” or even “Three Kingfishers,” opting instead for a brooding groove that finds satisfying resolution in the clap-your-hands-and-stomp-your-feet push of “Hallelujah” — a wake-up call if ever there was one. Wyndorf answers his own sung lines with megaphone-spoken wit, and the titular chorus brings an array of layers and attitude. The verses are propelled by the preaching in the vocals (hard for a heavy rocker not to think of Clutch here, but Wyndorf‘s influences are rarely so easy to pin down, except perhaps when he’s working under his own influence), but as the band locks into that “hallelujah!” exclamation, it’s funky enough to make me want to throw my hands up and testify.
Posted in Features on August 7th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
If you’re anything like me — and let’s just hope for your sake you’re not — then you’re sitting in front of your laptop staring at a calendar telling you it’s August wondering what the hell happened to June and July. Last time I turned around, it was barely summer, and now it’s starting to get cold at night.
We’re well past the halfway mark on 2013, and I know for some the year’s best picks are already set in mind, but there’s a ton of cool releases still to come before 2014 hits, and I figured now’s as good a time as any for a rundown of a few picks that seem to be sure to arrive prior to December 31. As much as anything’s ever “sure,” anyway. Subject to change, and all that.
With the gracious suggestions/assistance of those checking in on the forum (see that thread for many more picks) taken into consideration, here are 15 suggestions to be on a lookout for starting in September. Some of these I’ve heard, some I haven’t, but take it as a sampling of what I’m looking forward to, if nothing else.
And because I know nothing says “I know how to have a good time” like a list in order of release date, here goes nothing:
Vista Chino, Peace (Sept. 3)
It took me a couple listens to come around to Vista Chino‘s Peace (review here), but once I got to that point, there was no turning back. The much-anticipated Napalm Records debut from the four-piece birthed out of Kyuss Lives!, Peace ultimately moves forward as much as it looks back, and though much of the lyrics center around the lawsuit that forced Kyuss Lives! to change their name, the songs themselves do arrive at a certain place of acceptance by the end of the record, so that in the end it lives up to its title. Some won’t be able to make the leap over their expectations for what an album with Brant Bjork, John Garcia and Nick Oliveri on it should sound like, but most importantly, Vista Chino are pressing on and I hope this isn’t the last record they make together, even if Oliveri is already out of the band’s touring lineup.
Larman Clamor, Alligator Heart (Sept. 10)
The solo-outfit of graphic artist Alexander von Wieding, Larman Clamor has been pumping out quality swamp boogie for the last two years at a more than prolific clip. Last year, von Wieding made his debut on Small Stone with Frogs (review here), and while the forthcoming Alligator Heart (out through the same label) strips the approach down somewhat — as you can hear on the single “Banshee w’Me” — the murkedelic blues spirit remains supreme at the center of the project’s approach. Larman Clamor has flown relatively under the radar so far into its run, but showing a little bit of a poppier side on Alligator Heart‘s tracks might gain it some more attention. Von Wieding‘s songwriting continues to be worth the price of admission to the bizarre carnival he creates.
Windhand, Soma (Sept. 17)
Richmond-based cult sludgers Windhand made their debut on Relapse earlier this year on a split release with Cough — with whom they share a bassist and a hometown — and will follow that next month with Soma, their second LP behind their 2012 self-titled debut full-length. The band have only gotten darker and meaner since adding Cough‘s Parker Chandler on bass, and with that split heralding its coming, Somashould arrive with a fittingly devastating impact. Windhand have also put in no shortage of time on the road, and even as the new one comes out, they’ll be embroiled in a coast-to-coast US tour, so keep an eye out — and that goes for Europe too. I wouldn’t be surprised if a full tour with Inter Arma got announced around their joint Roadburn appearances next spring.
Sasquatch, IV (Sept. 24)
Sasquatch bloody Sasquatch. If you’ve got a face, these dudes’ll rock it right off. With IV(Small Stone) their first full-length since 2010’s III(review here), L.A. trio Sasquatch very casually offer a reminder that those who talk about how rock and roll needs to be “saved” don’t have a clue what’s really up, that rock and roll never went anywhere and that its awesomeness continues unabated. Need testimony? Check out the track stream for “The Message.” Classic grooves, class-y showoff solos, catchy tunes and later in the album even a foray into psychedelic jamming — let there be no doubt that Sasquatch have nailed down right where they want to be sound-wise and are ready to make the most of the good times they’re rolling out as they continue to lay their own railroad, grand and funky as it is. Soundgarden wishes they had this kind of edge.
Iron Man, South of the Earth (Sept. 30)
You’d pretty much have to be a jerk not to feel good about the fact that long-running, long-underappreciated Maryland doom stalwarts Iron Man are getting their due in the form of a Rise Above Records release for their new album, South of the Earth. I know that’s not the most impartial statement in the world, but seriously, who deserves Lee Dorrian-endorsed doom cred more than Iron Man? The names are few and far between. South of the Earthalready had me on the hook for being their first full-length with frontman Dee Calhoun on board alongside guitarist “Iron” Al Morris III, bassist Louis Strachan and drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann, but with the hopefully increased profile of issue on Rise Above, who knows what could be in store for them once it’s out?
Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight, Underground EP (Sept.)
Trippy Wicked caught me off guard last year with the heavier and more metal side that showed up on their Going Home long-player (review here), but this time I’m ready. I’ve readjusted my expectations for what the UK trio might unleash on the new Underground EP — set phasers to who-the-hell-knows — and after the quick mastery of the metallurgical arts they showed the last time out, I’m happy to follow wherever their creative whims might take them. I know this is a list of albums and technically an EP isn’t a full album, but screw it, I dig these guys and am fascinated enough by their progression that it’s worth including even the smaller release here. If the art for Underground(due out through Superhot Records) is anything to go by — and I don’t yet know that it is — we could be in for a pretty wild ride.
Earthless, From the Ages (Oct. 8)
San Diego instrumentalists Earthless are looking to make an epic return on From the Ages (Tee Pee Records), which is their first studio full-length in six years. Though they’ve had a steady stream of live releases, limited splits and the like, and guitarist Isaiah Mitchell released a debut album with the heavy psych outfit Golden Void last year, nothing’s quite the same as Earthless‘ righteous jams and extended progressions. Look out for the 31-minute title-track (one of four on the album; more info here) as Earthless step into the limelight and reap the momentum they’ve built through steady years of touring and critical acclaim. From the Agesmight just prove one for the ages.
Monster Magnet, Last Patrol (Oct. 15)
My only question when it comes to Monster Magnet‘s second album for Napalm Records — touted by frontman Dave Wyndorf as a return to their psychedelic beginnings — is how literally we’re supposed to take the title Last Patroland if indeed this is going to be the final go for the long-running and hugely influential New Jersey outfit. If so, they draw their circle as complete as they possibly could, and whether it’s “The Duke (of Supernature),” which has received nearly 23,000 plays since being premiered here on July 23, or the driving churn of “End of Time,” Monster Magnet tap into the spirit that propelled 1995’s Dopes to Infinity and readjust the balance of their influence in a way fans have been clamoring for for years now. The more I hear it, the more I need to hear it.
Pelican, Forever Becoming (Oct. 15)
A new Pelican album is an interesting enough proposition at this point — it’s been four years since the Chicago instrumental outfit released What We all Come to Need (review here) — but Forever Becoming (Southern Lord) has an added level of intrigue for being Pelican‘s first album without guitarist Laurent Schroeder-Lebec. Stepping in to fill the second guitar spot is Dallas Thomas of The Swan King, and it should be interesting to hear how the band’s approach has shifted after almost half a decade and what Thomas brings to the well-established chemistry between bassist Bryan Herweg, drummer Larry Herweg and guitarist Trevor de Brauw. If the first track is anything to go by, Pelican still sounds like Pelican, and I’m not going to complain about that.
Corrections House, Last City Zero (Oct. 29)
Probably the bigger surprise would’ve been if the super-type group Corrections House didn’t make their full-length debut on Neurot, but still, word was welcome when it came down a couple weeks back that the conjoined efforts of Scott Kelly (Neurosis), Mike IX Williams (EyeHateGod), Bruce Lamont (Yakuza) and Sanford Parker (Buried at Sea, Minsk and the guy you want to record your album) were resulting in an actual album to follow up on their initial single and tour earlier this year. Whether the entirety of the record works in the kind of industrial, post-Godflesh noise crunch they brought to the stage on that tour (review here), we’ll just have to wait and see. But I’m damn interested to find out.
Red Fang, Whales and Leeches (Oct.)
Those who heard Red Fang‘s 2011 boot-to-the-ass second album, Murder the Mountains (review here), will probably find Whales and Leeches (named for a track off their 2008 self-titled debut) a reasonable follow-up. The Portland forerunners’ second offering through Relapse finds bassist/vocalist Aaron Beam even more front and center with clean vocals, and ultra-catchy songs like “Blood Like Cream” and “No Hope” seem to pick up right where Red Fang left off last time, offsetting Beam‘s poppier style with guitarist/vocalist Bryan Giles‘ throaty grit . Watch out for much more to come on this one. Between the record itself and their formidable road ethic, you’re probably going to be hearing a lot about it.
The Melvins, Tres Cabrones (Nov. 5)
If you were to ask me how many records the Melvins have out in 2013, I’d go, “Uh… I dunno… six?” and the mere fact that that doesn’t seem like a ridiculous answer should be indicative of the frankly absurd pace at which the long-enduring Washington outfit add to their already insurmountable catalog. What makes Tres Cabrones (Ipecac) different? Reportedly, it’s a semi-reunion of the band’s 1983 lineup — as close as they were willing to get, was how Buzz Osbourne put it in the press release — that finds Dale Crover playing bass to make room for drummer Mike Dillard. The Melvins released the collection Mangled Demos from 1983 in 2005, but Tres Cabroneswill be entirely new material. You never know quite where the Melvins are headed next, and if anyone could find a way to go forward even as they go backward, it’d be them.
Sandrider, Godhead (Date TBA)
So in case you couldn’t tell by the “TBA” above, this one’s a bit of wishful thinking on my part. I don’t actually know that Sandrider (members of Akimbo and The Ruby Doe) will issue a follow-up to their 2011 self-titled Good to Die Records debut (review here) before the end of 2013, but golly, I hope they do. The band said on July 11 via their Thee Facebooks that they’d finished mastering the album, titled Godhead, for a Fall release, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see once it’s pressed and ready to go. The sooner the better, since that first record was a smoker and nothing says “autumn” like some noise crunch bombast. At least that’s what I have embroidered on my doilies…
Snail, Feral (TBA)
Not sure on the release date for West Coast riffers Snail‘s fourth album and third since reactivating in 2009 with Blood, but the recording’s reportedly done, so hopefully it’s not too long before they get it out. The band recently announced the departure of guitarist Eric Clausen, so they’re down to the original trio of guitarist/vocalist Mark Johnson, bassist Matt Lynch and drummer Marty Dodson, and how that will affect their sound on the follow-up to last year’s metallized self-release, Terminus (review here), remains to be seen, but if there’s any chance Snail might be able to get more road time in support of Feral, whenever it arrives, than no doubt it will have been worth the tumult in the meantime.And even if not, the album’s still one to watch for.
The Wounded Kings, Consolamentum (TBA)
Another one with no exact date, but according to producer Chris Fielding, it’ll be out before 2013’s over. Either way, when it lands, Consolamentum will serve as the Candlelight Records debut. It’s their fourth outing overall, and the second to be produced by Fielding and to feature frontwoman Sharie Neyland, whose work on 2011’s In the Chapel ofthe Black Hand (review here) made that album one of the year’s most satisfyingly bizarre and dreary doom offerings. Along with founding guitarist Steve Mills, Neyland returns for Consolamentum and whether it hits in 2013 or 2014, look for the band to progress from the last time out. Mills (interview here) is a relentlessly forward-thinking songwriter and his penchant for creating atmospheric and crushingly dark sonic spaces is not to be underestimated.
Whew. These things always take so much longer than I think they’re going to when I start writing names on Post-It notes.
Of course, this is just a sampling of what’s to come over the next few months. Borracho‘s new one is supposed to get a vinyl release, and A Storm of Light have a new record, plus I heard rumors of new Slough Feg (they have a new single that would seem to back that up) and a much-awaited Brothers of the Sonic Cloth full-length coming before the end of the year — I also, right now, quite literally this second, just got news of a new Diesto on Eolian Empire — so please don’t assume that if it’s not here it’s never coming or whatever. There’s so much out there, I always feel like I’m leaving out something big and/or awesome.