Posted in Reviews on October 27th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s not often that a band issues their most forward-thinking and backward-looking releases back-to-back, let alone within a month of each other, but for Port Orchard, Washington, three-piece, there’s very little that’s out of their reach at this point. Lest we forget, the outfit led by its perpetually restless founder, guitarist/vocalist/engineer Tony Reed, already also issued a new studio full-length, Abyssinia (review here), earlier this year on Listenable Records.
Working with the same rhythm section of bassist Sean Booth and drummer Jono Garrett, the two new EPs, The Firmament (vinyl on Stickman Records) and Lies of Liberty ’87 (as yet a digital-only self-release) show opposite-ends-of-the-spectrum mentalities and foster two very, very different sounds while still retaining character as Mos Generator. In a manner bold and frank, they push the boundaries of what that character means, and respectively give fans an at-least-partial look at where Mos Generator came from and where they might be going.
The timing couldn’t be more convenient for both to arrive, especially after Abyssinia found Reed and company delving into more progressive fare on its B-side, and thereby moving forcefully beyond the kind of heavy rock proffered on their last two full-lengths, 2014’s moodier Electric Mountain Majesty (review here) and their 2012 return album, Nomads (review here), that woke them from several years of hiatus — but to have Mos Generator dive headfirst into live-recorded hardcore songs from 30 years ago at basically the same time they bring in two guest members to play second guitar and Rhodes on a Joy Division cover and reworked original material, also tracked live?
I don’t know if Reed had a master plan or if it’s just serendipity, but it would be harder to conceive of a clearer demonstration that, now well past the 15-year mark and having emerged since 2014 as a significant touring presence, Mos Generator feel free to do just exactly whatever the hell they want. All the better.
The Firmament was released earlier (Sept. as opposed to Oct.), but since the material on Lies of Liberty ’87 dates back further, it seems fair to tackle that first. Taking its name from Reed‘s early hardcore band, Lies of Liberty, and culling songs from a period between 1986-’87, the 17:47 blaster comprises 11 songs that brim with the adolescent fervor that no doubt drove their creation at the time and in so doing make for the rawest material Mos Generator have ever released.
Maybe that’s not a fair comparison, since it’s not like they’ve ever taken on hardcore punk so directly before, but minute-long shots like “The Smell of Death,” “Social Termination” (actually the shortest track at 44 seconds long), “A Pig’s Job is Never Done,” “Gore Reality” and so on plow by, one after the other, as they no doubt did three decades ago in some local VFW hall, Reed and his Lies of Liberty bandmates giving their friends a valid excuse to lose their minds and worry their parents. As they’re recorded now, those cuts and longer pieces like “Bring it Forward” (1:42), “Push Comes to Shove” (2:42) and the slower closer “Holocaust America” (a sprawling 3:36) benefit greatly from having been tracked live.
Can’t help but wonder how much Reed rehearsed the songs with Booth and Garrett before rolling tape, since the performances are tight, but for the kind of aesthetic with which they’re working, they could easily run the risk of becoming too much so at the sacrifice to the intensity with which they were written. That is, one wouldn’t want them to sound too adult. Mos Generator strike a fitting balance in giving their audience a feel for where “World of Hate” or “Negative Change” come from without necessarily cleaning them up so that they lose their edge. It’s a quick shot, but one imagines Lies of Liberty ’87 surprising a lot of listeners who happen upon it without the context of knowing the origin of the tracks included. Likely that’s part of the fun for the band.
As you’ve probably already gathered, The Firmament is an altogether different beast. Recorded as the audio portion of a live video called Songs for the Firmament taped by Chris Mathews (now also of Ancient Warlocks) of Joonior Studios, the five-song outing spans a decade of Mos Generator‘s catalog (and beyond) but ultimately boasts a quieter, more melancholy feel.
Reed, Booth and Garrett are joined by second guitarist Bo McConaghie and Rhodes pianist Andy Sorter to make what I’m reasonably certain is the first five-piece incarnation in the band’s history, and the songs they run through — “Fall of Megiddo” and “Zero to Infinity” from 2006’s The Late Great Planet Earth, “Wicked Willow” from Abyssinia, the Joy Division cover “Dead Souls,” and “Outlander,” also from Abyssinia — set an atmosphere that is as righteous in its patience as Lies of Liberty ’87 was in its furies.
In fact, it’s not until “Wicked Willow,” here presented with acoustic and electric guitar side by side, that Reed even steps forward with vocals, and by then the first 10 of The Firmament‘s 26 minutes have passed. The roll from the album version is recognizable, but the veneer has changed, and so too the context in which “Wicked Willow” is framed, so that even when the chorus kicks in it seems to be a gentler more wistful delivery, marked out by Booth‘s runs on bass, a final wash of crash, and a round of applause from those lucky enough to be at the recording.
“Dead Souls,” which children of the ’90s will recall Nine Inch Nails taking on for the soundtrack to The Crow, turns out to be the most active track of the bunch, pushed forward by Garrett‘s toms and the cyclical riffing that going along with them. Mos Generator‘s version might be a little faster than the original, but they settle into it fluidly, and the final comedown, followed by more applause, makes an easy transition into the Mellotron and Rhodes combo that begins “Outlander,” those and the harmonized vocals that accompany ensuring the finale is the highlight of the short set.
There’s room in the six minutes for a build into a fervent guitar solo to answer the Rhodes, and the last chorus’ gradual ending only seems to underscore the entire spectrum of stylistic development in Reed‘s songwriting over the last 30 years. That’s really what it’s all about. One release purposefully regressing, another brazenly embarking on new territory. Again, I doubt it was a conscious decision on Mos Generator‘s part to put Lies of Liberty ’87 and The Firmament out in such proximity to each other, but in so doing, they’ve not only given further evidence of the apparently ceaseless productivity that has become a defining aspect of their approach over the last half-decade or so, but shown creative range to match.
One usually feels pretty comfortable in one’s expectations when it comes to a Mos Generator release — they regularly deliver high-quality songcraft and crisp performances of traditionally-styled heavy rock — but after these two, I’m not sure I’d even dare to predict where they might go next. Reed played drums at one point in death metallers Woodrot, so who knows? Their future’s more open than it’s ever been.
Mos Generator, Lies of Liberty ’87 (2016)
Mos Generator, “Outlander” from Songs for the Firmament
I’ve never used Prisma, but putting together 5,800 of any kind of image to make an animated video out of it that then has to synch up with an actual song being played sounds like a ridiculously complicated editing job. Again, I’ve never done it. Maybe there’s some fabulous modern technology that makes that not at all a pain in the ass, but however they got there, Mos Generator‘s new video for “Catspaw” from their 2016 Listenable Records album, Abyssinia (review here), looks pretty sweet.
The Port Orchard, Washington, trio led by founding guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed continue their multi-pronged, multi-tiered attack on heavy rock consciousness as we move into the waning months of 2016. In addition to Abyssinia, they’ve also just put out The Firmament via Stickman Records, which captures a live performance with an expanded lineup recorded by Chris Joonior — who as fate would have it also helmed the “Catspaw” clip and who also now handles guitar/vocals in Ancient Warlocks — and they’ve got another batch of recordings in the can at Reed‘s HeavyHead studio that dip back to a collection of old hardcore tunes from the late ’80s. Two are streaming on Soundcloud (linked below).
Not sure if they’ll actually see release, but it wouldn’t at all surprise me if Reed pressed them up himself in some limited numbers, so keep an eye out. Mos Generator — Reed, bassist Sean Booth and drummer Jono Garrett — have also toured the country coast to coast to support the new album, including a recent stop in Alaska. If you ever wanted a yardstick by which to measure a band’s touring habit, consider “driving to Alaska for a show” a pretty good one to use. They also play Erosion Fest in Missoula, Montana, on Oct. 15.
Bottom line? Mos Generator are out there breaking their collective ass to bring as much rock and roll as possible to as many people as possible. Expect the pace to continue, and enjoy the “Catspaw” clip below followed by some PR wire info and comment from Reed on their latest doings:
‘Catspaw’ is from Mos Generator’s new full length album “Abyssinia” available via Listenable Records.
Created using Prisma, neural network artificial intelligence, and lots of other pieces of software. Special thanks to Brian Mathews for hours of moral and technical support.
We would like to extend a massive thank you to Chris and Brian Mathews for using extra terrestrial intelligence to figure out how to make a video from 5800 Prisma images. We know it took a lot of time and effort. We truly appreciate it.
Out on Stickman Records (Motorpsycho, Elder, Spidergawd). THE FIRMAMENT. The soundtrack LP of our performance in the concert film “Songs for the Firmament”. We brought in some extra players for this and got quite Psych with it. Shows yet another side of our catalog. Check it out!!!
On august 1st we recorded 12 songs in 4 hours. All of them were hardcore songs I wrote circa ’86/’87 with my hardcore band “Lies of Liberty”. Here is a double shot of 2 of the tunes we have been throwing into the live set here and there. All of the songs will all be released on vinyl as soon as the tracks have a final mix and we find a label to put it out. This has been a super fun project, it’s great to hear these tunes properly recorded after 30 years.
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 24th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
By the time they get over there, the bulk of the jam-packed European fall festival season will be over, and I can’t help but think that works to Mos Generator‘s advantage. True, they’ll play at Heavy Psych Sounds Fest 3 with a considerable lineup that also includes Fatso Jetson and others, but I’d imagine rockers in a lot of the cities listed below will be hurting for a band they haven’t already just seen three times in the span of weeks, and so Mos Generator seem poised to make a standout impression.
They go supporting their upcoming EP, The Firmament, on Stickman Records and their new album, Abyssinia (review here), on Listenable Records, on which the songs benefit from the overall energy that the band has been able to harness from emerging over the last couple years as such a hard-touring act. Part of that was guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed rebuilding the trio from the ground up, but that too was a measure of sheer drive on his part that has ultimately worked to spread their classic-style boogie and groove, as their delivery of same is nigh on irresistible for anyone who’s ever dug into some riffs.
Heavy Psych Sounds, which is presenting the tour, had previously announced the run, but posted the dates accordingly with a few still TBA:
This will be insane !!
HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS Records&Booking is proud to announce the European dates for ***Mos Generator*** tour
This will be supported by Black Bone from Netherland
New album Abyssinia is just been released on Listenable records
here the dates: 20.10.2016 IT Ravenna-Bronson* 21.10.2016 IT Torino-Blah Blah* 22.10.2016 IT Milano-Cox 18* 23.10.2016 IT Mantova-Hostaria* 24.10.2016 IT Bologna-Freak Out* 25.10.2016 IT Zerobranco-Altroquando* 26.10.2016 AT Salzburg-Rockhouse* 27.10.2016 IT Trieste tba* 28.10.2016 IT Parma-Mu/Hps fest Vol 3* 29.10.2016 DE Berlin-Cassiopeia* 30.10.2016 DE Radebeul-Barnyard Club* 31.10.2016 DE Hamburg tba* 01.11.2016 DE Munster-Rare Guitar Shop* 02.11.2016 DE Koln-Sonic Ballroom* 03.11.2016 DE Stuttgart-Keller Klub* 04.11.2016 CH Luzern-Bruch Bros* 05.11.2016 CH Winterthur-Gaswerk* 06.11.2016 DE Wiesbaden-Schlachthof* 07.11.2016 DE Mannheim-Tba* 08.11.2016 BE Bruxelles-Magasin 4* 09.11.2016 FR Nantes-La Scene Michelet 10.11.2016 FR Paris-Dr Feelgood Les Halles 11.11.2016 FR Lorient-Le Galion 12.11.2016 SP San Sebastian-Tba 13.11.2016 SP Zaragoza-Tba 14.11.2016 SP Gijon-Casino Acapulco 15.11.2016 PT Lisbon-Sabotage 16.11.2016 PT Porto-Cave 45 17.11.2016 SP Vigo-La Iguana Club 18.11.2016 SP Madrid-Tba 19.11.2016 SP Barcellona-Boveda *date with Black Bone
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 21st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Based for the first time in Parma, Italy — the two prior editions had been held in Rome — Heavy Psych Sounds Fest Vol. III has announced a massive round of bands newly joined the proceedings, set for Oct. 28 and 29. The names have trickled out over the last couple weeks, but it seems a roundup is in order, considerable as the names are. In addition to The Atomic Bitchwax, who’ll be on the road with Pentagram at the time, and Fatso Jetson, whose slot was previously announced as part of their Heavy Psych Sounds-sponsored Italian tour, the likes of Mos Generator, Glowsun, Isaak, Komatsu, Void of Sleep and Black Bone have joined on.
I’d expect that means Mos Generator are about to announce a European tour, but I don’t think they’ve done so yet. They’ll head abroad supporting their new album, the excellent Abyssinia (review here), while hopefully Fatso Jetson‘s upcoming LP will be out by then as well. More on that if/when I hear it.
I’ve noted more than a handful of times how crowded the European festival circuit is for this fall, but Heavy Psych Sounds continues to put Italy on the map for heavy rock, its reach extended both domestically and internationally more than ever before, as you can see:
HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS FEST VOL 3 with Atomic Bitchwax, Fatso Jetson, Mos Generator, Giobia, Glowsun, Isaak….
Here to announce the HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS FEST VOL 3.
The Festival will take place in Parma, Italy at Mu Club, 90 minutes down Milan or 45 minutes up Bologna, both are the good spot to arrive with airplane. The shows will be divided between 2 stages.
***Friday 28 October ticket 15 euro **Saturday 29 October ticket 15 euro
[Stream ‘Catspaw’ from Mos Generator’s Abyssinia by clicking play above. Album is out July 15 in Europe and Aug. 5 in North America on Listenable Records.]
Nothing is 100 percent certain in life, but it’s a far safer bet that, when dealing with Mos Generator, you’re going to get straightforward, immaculately written heavy rock and roll, and that’s just what the Port Orchard, Washington, trio deliver on their third full-length since their 2012 resurgence (sixth overall, second for Listenable Records), Abyssinia. Now a seasoned road act after spending years functioning part-time, the band follows-up 2014’s Electric Mountain Majesty with 10 songs that sound as assured in their execution as in their construction, bringing stage-hewn chemistry between guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist/engineer/auteur Tony Reed, bassist Sean Booth and drummer Jon Garrett to a studio setting in a fashion that, as ever, is driven by a clarity of sound and purpose but maintains a heavy, classic presence beneath.
Duality is nothing new for Mos Generator — of whom I’ll say both that I’m a fan and that I consider Reed a friend — as Electric Mountain Majesty showed in its moments of underlying depressiveness and dissatisfaction. Abyssinia, with a title that’s reportedly playing off the Washington-state accent’s version of “I’ll be seein’ ya” but nonetheless uses the word “abyss” to make that play, has its moments of melancholy as well, whether it’s the slower roll of “As Above so Below,” “Wicked Willow” before it or the closing duo of “Time and Other Thieves” and “Outlander,” but that brooding is offset by a thrust greater even than the band showed on 2012’s Nomads (review here), songs like “Catspaw” and its side B counterpart “Red Canyons” pushing into what would be manic territory were Reed and company still not able to keep such a handle on the material.
Add to that last grouping the blown-out “There’s No Return from Nowhere” and the Captain Beyond-style shuffle over which “Time and Other Thieves” contemplates mortality and the double-edge of Mos Generator becomes even more apparent. In that, it’s a fitting answer to Electric Mountain Majesty, but the tracks as individual pieces are stronger, and it’s almost too easy to attribute that to the fact that the band has spent the better part of the last two years on tour — but they have — and so are able to deliver a song like “Easy Evil” with a defined purpose and an energy that rings true throughout the record, starting with opener “Strangest Times,” which launches immediately — no time for intros — into its first verse and seems to be the road song that Reed has been dying to write all these years, the line, “I’m just a slave to the strangest times that I’ve ever known,” belted out before each of the two solos.
Garrett starts “You’ve Got a Right,” which is a roller with a multi-layered vocal hook that presages some of the harmonies to come later on and flows easily into the tempo kick of “Catspaw.” Some classic metal riffing in the verse is offset by melodic flourish in the guitar — one of Mos Generator‘s greatest strengths has become attention to detail — and a slowdown release in the chorus, but the prevailing impression left behind is still the gallop, which makes it that much more of a jump when the relative lumber of “Easy Evil” begins, its nod maintained for the duration of its five-minute run, an airy break, solo and hard-funk fuzz highlight riffing leading the way out with an irresistible groove only to have “Wicked Willow” pick up with a more mid-paced feel that showcases the range in Reed‘s vocals as he follows the guitar line on one last unpretentious bounce to close out the first half of the tracklisting.
I’m not sure if that’s where the vinyl split is or not, but either way, “As Above so Below” works quickly in its first couple minutes to set a different, more progressive vibe, and much of what follows builds on that. Yes, it still rocks — Reed tears into a solo and soulful chorus as Garrett and Booth lock in another righteous nod — but a quiet break in the first half establishes a tone that Abyssinia takes as a central element in its back half. Of course, Mos Generator need to get through “Red Canyons” first. The most vigilant push on the record is well placed to continue the momentum from earlier into the final three tracks, which are richer in their arrangements and of course more patient — catchy “Red Canyons” is, patience it has little time for — but less about physical motion. A simple verse/chorus interchange becomes one of Abyssinia‘s standout hooks, and the effect is clear going into “There’s No Return from Nowhere,” which is the most weighted-feeling of the cuts here, though it introduces its central riff acoustically before its full stomp kicks in.
Crashing and shouting and a wash of noise cut out suddenly to harmonies and softly-strummed guitar, keys and classically progressive boogie — a return of the acoustic alongside the synth — arriving as a surprise but somehow still working. The heavier riffs continue to lurk, however, and they do come back to finish out as Reed delivers the title line, ending cold so that “Time and Other Thieves” can start its already-noted shuffle, its movement marked by double-time hi-hat, frenetic choppy guitars and Booth‘s bass holding it all together in classic power trio form. A turn begins with the subtle arrival of organ at the halfway point, but Reed takes a guitar solo before they shift back into the main riff and then on to a closing section of key-led space-prog, Garrett holding onto some of the track’s initial energy but clearly heading someplace else with it.
That’s a sudden change, even with the keys having appeared earlier on the album, but in addition to being somewhat satisfying to hear Mos Generator bust through the confines of even their own songwriting rules, it makes sense in light of the six-minute closer and longest track “Outlander,” which boasts Mellotron layers and a subdued groove initially before Reed begins his gloriously harmonized and intricately arranged vocals. Before they even get to the chorus, “Outlander” is sure enough foreign in its sound from everything else on Abyssinia — one might liken its intent more toward Reed‘s shortlived HeavyPink project — but its progression serves as the payoff for the album as a whole, moving in the chorus to a transfigured “I Want You/She’s so Heavy”-style riff that seems to answer everything the three-piece have done up to that point, be it heavy, melancholic or progressive.
They ride that to the song’s end, and rightly so, and cap Abyssinia on a striking and adventurous note, showing that while Reed has helmed the band for more than 15 years, there’s still growth underway in its scope and stylistic breadth. Mos Generator, as an outlet for his restless, relentless creative spirit, have never sounded more in command of their approach than they do on Abyssinia, and as they’ve embarked on a tour-as-much-as-possible ethic, that seems only to have brought more life into their already accomplished craft. Abyssinia stands among 2016’s finest heavy rock albums, easily.
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 11th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Port Orchard heavy rock specialists Mos Generator have not yet released their new full-length, Abyssinia (review tomorrow), but as ever, the Tony Reed-led outfit are looking forward already, this time toward a new EP release through Stickman Records called The Firmament. Set to be issued as a complement to a live video recorded earlier this year by Chris Mathews (now also of Ancient Warlocks) in an airplane hangar, it features tracks from the new album and others, a Joy Division cover and guest collaborators, giving it a really distinct feel among Mos Generator‘s output. That level of output has only grown more fervent over the last couple years as Reed has revamped the lineup, bringing in bassist Sean Booth and drummer Jono Garrett, and hit the road with the same intensity that for a long time was reserved just for studio work.
Still plenty of that happening as well though, but The Firmament shows just how spot on Mos Generator are as a live band. Release announcement and video for “Outlander” follow here, courtesy of Stickman via the PR wire:
Mos Generator The Firmament
Psychobabble 085 / LP (cd inluded)
Release date: September 9, 2016 VINYL + CD
Spring 2016, the northwestern coast of the United States. Strange alien lights are sighted amongst a number of uncanny solar phenomena. In response, the Joonior Space Administration develops a plan to make contact with the outsiders. And somewhere amid this interstellar singularity, a heavy rock band is blowing the roof off an airplane hanger in eastern Washington State. Welcome to The Firmament, the new album and film soundtrack by Port Orchard’s Mos Generator.
For those initiated in the world of modern heavy rock, Tony Reed and Mos Generator are most likely household names. Between writing and performing some of the most earnest rock n’ roll this side of the 1970’s and recording and producing dozens of albums, the man still finds the time to pick up unique projects that showcase the band’s diversity and creativity. So when filmmaker Chris Matthews approached Mos Generator to be part of an abstract live concert film titled “Songs for the Firmament”, it didn’t take long to realize this was the opportunity for something special.
Choosing an airplane hangar as their shooting and recording location, Reed and co. assembled a soundtrack fit for the movie’s interstellar affairs. What emerged was a collection of both new and old material (as well as a stellar Joy Divison cover), rewritten specially for the project. In the name of exploration of sound and space, guest musicians Bo Mcconaghie and Andy Sorter were recruited to pick up second guitar and Rhodes piano duties, adding another layer of lushness and complexity unique to the Mos Generator catalogue.
The Firmament is a milestone in Mos Generator’s history not only as their first film appearance or as a celebration of over 15 years of perseverance, but also as a presentation of the band’s first new recording lineup since 2000. Sean Booth (bass) and Jono Garrett (drums) are dynamic and powerful players that fit Reed’s soulful playing like a glove. In five songs, the album glides seamlessly though hard rock and progressive territory with genuine soul, both classic and eerily spacy at the same time. Stickman Records is proud to present this slab of cosmic dust on 18ogr vinyl with CD included for your listening pleasure.
Tracklisting: 1. Fall of Megiddo 2. Zero to Infinity 3. Wicked Willow 4. Dead Souls 5. Outlander
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 1st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
With the addition of a second batch of four acts to follow-up the first announcement a couple weeks ago, Heavy Psych Sounds Fest Vol. III brings its total bill to eight bands over the course of two nights, Oct. 28 and 29, in Parma, Italy. The festival is of course put together by Heavy Psych Sounds, the Rome-based record label owned by Gabriele Fiori, also guitarist/vocalist for Black Rainbows and Killer Boogie, either of which would make an excellent candidate for a slot as well.
As well as the label, Heavy Psych Sounds‘ tour-booking wing (in accord with Sound of Liberation) is responsible for bringing Fatso Jetson to Europe this fall on an Italian run set to begin Oct. 23. The fest will be near the end of the tour (I’ll post the dates asap) and is one of a series of events taking place over consecutive weekends throughout Europe between September and October, a list that includes Up in Smoke, Desertfest Athens, Desertfest Belgium, and keep it Keep it Low, the latter of which happens just the weekend before, in Switzerland.
Of course, Heavy Psych Sounds Fest Vol. III, like the imprint/booking company from whence it takes its name, has a regional focus as well. While two of the new acts joining on are American and another is French, Isaak are Italian natives, and they join countrymen in the previously announced Giobia and Fuzz Orchestra. That ain’t everybody by any means, but three out of eight (so far) can only be said to be giving the native scene its due.
Here’s the announcement:
Heavy Psych Sounds Records & Booking is proud to announce the:
HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS FEST VOL. III October 28 & 29 Italy, Parma, Circolo Arci MU
Posted in Reviews on June 27th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
The car died as I pulled it into the spot outside Cafe 611, and it was abundantly clear it would not start again sans professional assistance. Oh, and it’s The Patient Mrs.‘ car. So there’s that.
That puts the tally of busted shit at: my feet (I’ve been wearing a supportive boot cast all weekend, not sure if I’ve mentioned that yet), my camera, and my wife’s car. Maryland Doom Fest 2016, you have thoroughly kicked my ass.
None of that is the fest’s fault, of course. After an awesome two and a half weeks, I was due a couple hits, and if anything, yesterday, the third and final day of the festival with another 11 bands on the bill starting at 3PM, it was the music that kept my head up while I was flipping out about things like waiting for tow trucks, The Patient Mrs. never picking up her phone, how the fuck I’m going to get back to Massachusetts with a dead car so I can start my new job on Tuesday, and so on. I’m thankful for that. Not sure I’d have made it through the afternoon otherwise without spontaneously combusting.
Time to wrap this thing up. If you’ve checked out the reviews of night one or night two, thanks, and thanks for reading this one too.
One more time, hello Frederick:
I’ll admit it was somewhat strange to watch Bert Hall on stage holding a guitar. The longtime Maryland doomer has played bass through the years in Revelation and Against Nature and now is also handling thick strings and fuzzy-hat for Beelzefuzz, but in Mangog it’s guitar and backing vocals to complement those of Myke Wells. Completed by drummer Mike Rix (ex-Iron Man) and bassist Darby Cox, the four-piece announced this week that they’d signed to Argonauta Records for the early 2017 release of their debut album. Presumably most of what they played, whether it was “God” or “Into Infamy” or “Meld,” comes from that record, but they also played two of the three cuts — “Ab Intra” and the title-track — from their 2015 debut EP, Daydreams Within Nightmares. The band played their first show at Maryland Doom Fest last year, and are still finding themselves as a unit, but seemed to be on the right track with their aggressive blend of doom and metal. Wells was also the first frontman to stand on the P.A. speakers in front of the stage, so points there as well.
The first, but not the last. Bassist/vocalist Blake Dellinger of Flummox, in checked leotard regalia and with one eye blacked out, also got on that speaker, in addition to thrashing around just about everywhere else on the Cafe 611 stage as he, guitarist Drew Jones, and drummer/vocalist Jody Lester tore into their raucous stoner thrash, which it’s easy to imagine has been a highlight of the last couple years at house shows in their native Murfreesboro, Tennessee, as well as other haunts around the South lucky enough to book the band. Youth was on their side, sure, but they still delivered one of the weekend’s most energetic sets, and had the chemistry between them to stand up to the force of their delivery. They’re also reportedly responsible for the Tennessean Sludge Fest, which this August features Place of Skulls, Doomstress, Shroud Eater and Order of the Owl, among many others, so clearly doing good work on multiple levels.
Hailing from my beloved Garden State, sludge torquemongers DopeRider proffered massive tones offset by a couple stretches of ambience, putting them in league with the likes of Connecticut’s Sea of Bones or any number of crushers in the post-YOB sphere, and that is a compliment as far as I’m concerned. Their slow-churning, growling, thudding lumber wasn’t the first bout of extremity the weekend had seen — one still recalls Philly’s Black Urn starting off Friday — but it did speak to the expanding definition of what Maryland Doom Fest might continue to encompass. Uniformly brutal in their approach, DopeRider — who released a debut demo last year with the tracks “Drugged up Demonoid” (15:09) and “Fractal Resin” (6:07) — were thankful to the crowd, guitarist/vocalist MP saying that there wasn’t much like this in Jersey. I know from personal experience that’s 100 percent true, but little doubt DopeRider would’ve stood out on the bill whatever the context. Will keep an eye out for what they do next.
I’ll admit that for a decent portion of D.C. residents Seasick Gladiator‘s set, I was outside dealing with the tow truck driver from AAA. Actually he was the second, past the one who tried to jump the car to no avail, so yeah, it took a minute. What I saw of the instrumental outfit offered metallic doom marked out through the use of violin, adding a sense of drama to the material as strings invariably will. They had some progressive edge that didn’t necessarily feel showy or overly self-righteous, and from what I heard sounded pretty fluid. Meanwhile, outside, the car still refused to start — battery? alternator? — and had to be dragged onto the back of the flatbed and hauled off to some local garage. A genuine what the fuck moment, but like I said, the music kept me going. Somehow I doubt it will be the last opportunity to catch Seasick Gladiator, and from the glimpses I got and from watching the end of their set after the truck drove away, their appeal came through even despite distraction.
I’ll never pretend to even feign impartiality about any band Joe Wood is playing in. Aside from being a former bandmate, the Borgo Pass and Eternal Black drummer is among the nicest, most sincere individuals I’ve ever met — King of the Dudes — and whether he’s behind the kit or in the crowd, any day I get to see Joe is a good day, including this one. He is not, however, all that Eternal Black have working in their favor. Atop rolling The Obsessed-style riffs, the NY three-piece with Wood, guitarist/vocalist Ken Wohlrob and bassist Hal Miller, fit right in with the sphere of Maryland doom but had more than a touch of Northeastern intensity to their approach as well, particularly from Wohlrob‘s vocals. The same was true of their first demo (review here), which was released last year, but they had a host of new songs in the set — “Snake Oil and Coffin Nails” was a highlight, along with “Sea of Graves” — and announced plans to record this summer/fall for a debut full-length, which will be one to anticipate. Granted NYC is four to five hours from where I live depending on traffic, but I still felt I probably should’ve seen Eternal Black by now. Glad I got to in such a setting.
North Carolina’s Toke were the only band of the weekend to bring their own lights, and their focus on presentation likewise extended to how they carried themselves on stage, each of the three members putting his full body into the groove of their hard-hit, swinging riffs, seeming way more influenced by Sleep live than on their 2014 demo, High Friends in Low Places (review here), but still marked out on the harsher end of sludge by the vocals, which were on the more searing end of screams. Comprised of Tim, Bronco and Jeremy, they reminded some of Elder‘s Matt Couto in the drumming style, but were on an entirely different trip sonically, and for a band who doesn’t yet have an album out, they had steady command over the stage, the room, and their consuming tonal largesse. Very obviously a band who’s done some road time — they played Denver Electric Funeral Fest earlier this month — and one who’ve dug in hard to their practice space. They were high among the most pleasant surprises at Maryland Doom Fest 2016, all three days.
Foghound were not a surprise, true, but they were a joy to watch all the same. The Baltimore heavy rock kingpins are on the cusp of releasing their second album, The World Unseen (review forthcoming), on Ripple Music, and they absolutely blew me away last fall at Vultures of Volume II (review here), also in Maryland, but to hear those songs now and know them better, whether it’s the ultra-catchy “Rockin’ and Rollin'” or “Message in the Sky,” “Never Return,” “Above the Wake,” “Serpentine,” etc., was an entirely different experience, drummer Chuck Dukehart III and guitarists Bob Sipes and Dee Settar sharing vocal duties while bassist Jim Forrester held down the low end. Playing a set entirely comprised of new material only emphasized how far beyond 2013’s Quick, Dirty and High (review here) they’re ready to be, and like last time I was fortunate enough to catch them, they were air-tight musically, varied in the vocal arrangements and executed their set on a foundation of strong, waiting to be noticed songwriting. I know it kicks ass, but I’m eager to find out how The World Unseen catches on with listeners once it’s out, as I’m sure the band is as well.
Like Foghound before them (and several others), Delaware’s Wasted Theory brought a sampling of their next outing, which is set to be recorded this fall, reportedly, for a 2017 release. I was talking the other night to guitarist/vocalist Larry Jackson, Jr., about the next Wasted Theory and he asked what I’d want to hear on it. Basically what I’d be looking for is a step forward from 2014’s Death and Taxes (review here). I’d want to hear that the band — Jackson, guitarist Dave McMahon, bassist Rob Michael and drummer Brendan Burns — was pushing itself in terms of melody and songcraft. Hard to judge from one live airing, but they seemed to be headed in that direction, bringing a more aggressive edge to some of the Southern groove that on the last album was such a huge part of their take. They still had a definite update-the-’70s classic heavy rock vibe, and Jackson‘s gravely vocals added burl as ever, but that progression that one might hope to hear in their sound came through at Cafe 611. They still have to record the next LP, but hopefully it follows suit when it arrives.
I’ve seen dark Virginian rockers King Giant a handful of times now — three or four, maybe, most recently at the aforementioned Vultures of Volume II (review here) — and their sheer have-their-shit-together factor remains hugely impressive. Dudes know exactly what they want their songs to do, where they want to put that Todd Ingram solo, what the verse is moving toward, etc. Vocalist Dave Hammerly had two mics setup with various kinds of compression, and the double-guitar five-piece proceeded to do their thing, which is to offer up grooving slabs of moody Southern heavy, bordering on metal in their attitude but really more about atmosphere than aggression, or at least about toying with that balance. “Requiem for a Drunkard” from 2015’s Black Ocean Waves (review here) was a high point sonically if a particularly downer vibe, but really, King Giant are in league with the safer bets you might make when it comes to quality of craft and performance in their style. It’s not always what I’m looking for stylistically, but for as much as King Giant put into their band, it’s impossible not to respect them.
Karma to Burn
Kind of hard to believe it’s been nearly five years since the last time I saw Karma to Burn. Night and day. With the lineup of founding guitarist Will Mecum, bassist Eric Clutter and drummer Evan Devine the West Virginian instrumental powerhouse were in nothing but top form for their set. One might expect them to be on after having just done a month on the road with The Obsessed across the US, but propelled by Devine‘s crash, they rode Mecum‘s riffing with an energy I’ve never seen from them. The most recent cut they played was “57” from 2014’s Arch Stanton (review here) — though I thought I heard part of “62” as well — and of course their signature piece, “20” from 1999’s Wild Wonderful Purgatory was aired to a particularly fervent response. They were the only band of the weekend so far as I saw who elicited anything close to moshing, and it was well-earned. Just a killer show, front to back, and while I know Karma to Burn has a history of burning through rhythm sections, what Clutter and Devine bring to the band alongside Mecum isn’t to be understated. True power trio form, continually without compromise or bullshit.
“We’ve been here since eight o’clock,” said Mos Generator frontman Tony Reed, “and I’m drunk.” To be fair, it was long past eight by the time the Port Orchard, Washington, heavy rockers took the stage for their headlining/fest-closing set. My fingers were crossed they’d have copies of their new album, Abyssinia (review forthcoming), but no dice. Bought a shirt instead. Their set launched at a furious clip and did not relent, drummer Jon Garrett stepping up to righteously follow what Evan Devine brought to Karma to Burn as bassist Sean Booth served to anchor the material and bolster the impact of Reed‘s guitar. “Lonely One Kenobi” was an early highlight, followed by “There’s No Return from Nowhere” from the new record and “Breaker” and the title-track from 2014’s Electric Mountain Majesty (review here), Reed, of whom I’ll make no bones about being a fan, letting his vocals soar for the latter while completely owning the stage and bringing the room along with him. Hard not to smile watching him on stage — someone so obviously born to do what he’s doing who then set about working really, really hard at it for decades — and he kept the intensity of performance going until the house lights came up as they played “This is the Gift of Nature.” The room had thinned out somewhat by then, as it will, but after a full hour of go-go-go, there was zero slowdown whatsoever. Some bands just want to rock and roll, and Mos Generator do so with a pure reverence for the form that few would dare attempt to match. They were absolutely on fire.
As I write this, I’m on the road in a rental car, headed back north. I start my new job tomorrow. The Patient Mrs., who was visiting family elsewhere in the state, came and picked me up in a rental car and is currently driving me and Postman Dan, who came along for the trip, north. As there’s been no word from the mechanic that the car got towed to, I’ll have to drive back to Frederick on Friday to pick it up. Serves me right for something, I’m sure. Unanswered emails, perhaps.
Before I cut out, I want to thank JB Matson and Mark Cruikshank for having me on board as a sponsor and for having me down to cover Maryland Doom Fest 2016. I know these reviews have been somewhat fraught in their context, but Matson and Cruikshank put on a hell of a show over these three days, and should be commended both for the efforts and the results yielded. I can only hope they keep it going and hope they’ll have me involved again next year.
If they do, I think next time I might just fly in. But I always say that.