Posted in Whathaveyou on January 7th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
As if you needed an excuse to with you could be in Europe this spring, Saint Vitus are headed over for a three-week round of dates with Mos Generator. The connections between the two bands are manifold, with Mos Generator leader Tony Reed having produced Vitus‘ 2012 full-length, Lillie: F-65 (review here), and worked with drummer Henry Vasquez in his other band, Blood of the Sun on their own 2012 outing, Burning on the Wings of Desire (review here), so if nothing else, you can bet the vibes will be cordial.
All the better for Mos, whoseNomads(review here) is still fresh on the consciousness. Hard to imagine even the doomiest of Vitus devotee couldn’t be won over by their ultra-catchy heavy rocking. Here’s the poster for the Vitus tour, followed by a couple other dates Mos Generator will be playing between now and then. Dig it:
UPCOMING SHOWS MOS SHOWS 2013
1/12 coo coos nest – port angeles 1/18 rendezvous – port orchard 1/19 ash st. – portland 1/ 25 filling station – kingston 1/26 acme – tacoma 2/1 flights pub – everett 2/9 the breakroom – bremerton 2/23 club 21 – portland 3/1 chop suey – seattle
March 2013 – SAINT VITUS & MOS GENERATOR 5th Cologne, Germany @ Underground 6th Berlin, Germany @ C-club 7th Dresden, Germany @ Beatpol 8th Arnhem, Holland @ Willemeen 9th Paris, France @ La Maroquinerie 10th Vosselaar, Belgium @ Biebob 11th Brighton, England @ The Haunt 12th Southampton, England @ The Cellar 13th Birmingham, England @ O2 Academy 2 14th Glasgow, Scotland @ The Cathouse 15th Newcastle, England @ Northumbria Uni 16th Pwhelli, Wales @ Hammerfest 17th London, England @ The Garage 18th Rouen, France @ Le 106 19th Esch-sur-alzette, Luxembourg @ Kulturfabrik 20th Lyon, France @ Le Ninkasi Kao 21st Winterthur, Switzerland @ Salzhaus 22nd Vienna, Austria @ Szene 23rd Bologna, Italy @ Zr 24th Milano, Italy @ The Tunnel 25th Nürnberg, Germany @ Rockfabrik 26th Aschaffenburg, Germany @ Colos-sal 27th Hamburg, Germany @ Logo
Posted in Features on December 20th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Please note: This list is my personal picks, not the Readers Poll, which is ongoing — if you haven’t added your list yet, please do.
As ever, I’ve kept a Post-It note on my wall all year long, and as the weeks and months have ticked away, I’ve added names of bands to it in preparation for putting together my Top 20 of 2012. There was a glut of excellent material this year, and I know for a fact I didn’t hear everything, but from bold forays into new sonic territory to triumphant returns to startling debuts, 2012 simply astounded. Even as I type this, I’m getting emails about new, exciting releases. It’s enough to make you lose your breath.
Before we get down to it and start in with the numbers, the hyperbole, etc., I want to underscore the point that this list is mine. I made it. It’s not the Readers Poll results, which will be out early in January. It’s based on how I hear things, how much I listened to each of these records, the impressions they left on me — critical opinion enters into it, because whether or not I want to I can’t help but consider things on that level when I listen to a new album these days — but it’s just as much about what I put on when I wanted to hear a band kick ass as it is about which records carried the most critical significance or import within their respective genres.
Over the last couple years, I’ve come to think of the #20 spot as where I put my sentimental favorite. That was the case with Suplecs last year, and in 2012, the return of Mos Generator earns the spot. The band being led by guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed, Nomadsmarked a rehifting of Reed‘s priorities from Stone Axe, with whom he’d proffered ’70s worship for several years prior, and wound up as a collection of some of my favorite heavy rock songs of 2012 — tracks like “Cosmic Ark,” “Torches” and “Lonely One Kenobi” were as strong in their hooks as they were thorough in their lack of pretense. But the bottom line is I’m a nerd for Reed‘s songwriting, playing and production (more on that to come), and at this point it’s not really something I can even pretend to judge impartially. Still, the record’s friggin’ awesome and you should hear it as soon as you can.
Seems like it would make sense to say Golden Void would be higher on the list if I’d spent more time with it — written up just a month ago, it’s the most recent review here — but the fact is I’ve sat with Golden Void‘s self-titled debut a lot over the course of the last month-plus, and I’ve been digging the hell out of it. Really, the only reason it’s not further up is because I don’t feel like I have distance enough from it to judge how it holds up over a longer haul, but either way, the Isiah Mitchell-led outfit’s blend of heavy psych, driving classic rock and retro style gave some hope for beefing up the US’ take on ’70s swagger — usually left to indie bands who, well, suck at it — and also showed Mitchell as a more than capable vocalist where those who knew him from his work in Earthless may only have experienced his instrumental side. A stellar debut, a wonderful surprise, and a band I can’t wait to hear more from in the years to come.
This was basically the soundtrack to my summer. From the catch-you-off-guard aggression in opener “I Spit on Your Grave” to the extended stoneralia of “Master of Nuggets” and the jammy “Southern Comfort and Northern Lights,” the follow-up to Wight‘s self-produced debut Wight Weedy Wight(review here) showed an astonishing amount of growth, and though it had the laid back, loose feel that distinguishes the best of current European heavy psych, Through the Woods into Deep Waterwas also coherent, cohesive and impeccably structured. I thought it was one of the year’s strongest albums when it was released, and its appeal has only endured — as much as I listened to it when it was warm over the summer, now in December I put it on wishing the temperature would change to match. The songs showed remarkable potential from the German three-piece and cast them in an entirely different light than did their first out. Really looking forward to where they might go from here, but in the meantime, I’m nowhere near done with Through the Woods into Deep Wateryet.
“Oh, Moon Queen! Flyin’ down the world on a moonbeam!” Somehow the first lines of the opening title-track to Lord Fowl‘s Moon Queen always seem to wind up stuck in my head. The Connecticut foursome made their debut on Small Stone with the loosely thematic full-length, and touched on a sense of unabashedly grandiose ’70s heavy rock in the process. That said, Moon Queenwasn’t shooting for retro in the slightest — rather, guitarist/vocalists Vechel Jaynes and Mike Pellegrino fronted the band’s classic sensibilities with a wholly modern edge, like something out of an alternate dimension where rock never started to suck. The classic metal guitar in “Streets of Evermore” and the swaying groove from bassist Jon Conine and drummer Don Freeman under the wandering leads of “Hollow Horn” made Moon Queenmore stylistically diverse than it might otherwise have been, but at its core, it was a collection of stellar heavy rock songs, unashamed of its hooks and unafraid to put its passions front and center. They packed a lot into a 47-minute runtime, but I’ve yet to dig into Moon Queen and regret having pressed play. Another band to watch out for.
It was impossible not to be swept up in the hype surrounding Pallbearer‘s Profound Lore debut, but one listen to Sorrow and Extinctionand it was clear that its resounding praise was well earned. By blending thickened psychedelic tonality and emotionally resonant melodies, the Little Rock, Arkansas, four-piece concocted the single most important American doom release of the year. Their efforts did not go unnoticed, and as they supported the album on tour, the swell of the crowds spoke to the right-idea-right-time moment they were able to capture in songs like the stunning “An Offering of Grief” and “The Legend.” There’s room for growth — I wouldn’t be surprised to find guitarist Brett Campbell‘s vocal range greatly developed next time out — but Pallbearer have already left a mark on doom, and if they can keep the momentum going into wherever they go from here, it won’t be long before they’re being cited as having a significant impact on the genre and influencing others in their wake.
I already singled out Kadavar‘s Kadavaras the 2012 Debut of the Year, so if you need any sense of the reverence I think the German trio earned, take whatever you will from that. There really isn’t much to add — though I could nerd out about Kadavar‘s ultra-effective retroisms all day if you’re up for it — but something I haven’t really touched on yet about the record: When I was out in Philly last weekend, the DJ cleverly mixed Kadavar into a set of early ’70s jams, and it was all but indistinguishable in sound from the actual classics. That in itself is an achievement, but Kadavar‘s level of craft also stands them out among their modern peers, and it was drummer Tiger‘s snare sound that I first recognized in “All Our Thoughts,” so right down to the most intricate details, Kadavar‘s Kadavarwas a gripping and enticing affair that proved there’s still ground to cover in proto-heavy worship.
The fuzz was great — don’t get me wrong, I loved the fuzz — but with Stubb‘s Stubb, it was even more about the songs themselves. Whether it was the interplay between guitarist Jack Dickinson and bassist Peter Holland (also of Trippy Wicked) on vocals for the chorus of “Scale the Mountain” or the thickened shuffle in “Soul Mover” punctuated by drummer Chris West‘s (also Trippy Wicked and Groan) ever-ready fills, there wasn’t a clunker in the bunch, and though it’s an album I’ve basically been hearing since the beginning of the year, its appeal has endured throughout and I still find myself going back to it where many others have already been forgotten. With the acoustic “Crosses You Bear” and more laid-bare emotionality of “Crying River,” Stubb showed there was more them than excellence of tone and with the seven-minute finale “Galloping Horses,” they showed they were ready to jam with the best. Truly memorable songs — and also one of the live highlights of my year.
Orange Goblin‘s purpose seemed reborn on their seventh album and Candlelight Records debut, A Eulogy for the Damned. Culling the best elements from their last couple albums, 2007′s Healing Through Fire and 2004′s Thieving from the House of God, the long-running London troublemakers upped the production value and seemed bent from the start on taking hold of the day’s sympathy toward their brand of heavy. With tales of alcoholic regret, classic horrors and a bit of cosmic exploration for good measure, they marked their ascent to the top of the British scene and took well to the role of statesmen, headlining Desertfest and proceeding to smash audiences to pieces around the continent at fests and on tours. Look for them to do the same when they bring the show Stateside in 2013 with Clutch. Their plunder is well earned, and I still rarely go 48 hours without hearing the bridge of “The Fog” in my head. Can’t wait to see them again.
While I still miss Los Natas, my grief for their passing has been much eased over the last two years by frontman Sergio Chotsourian‘s doomier explorations in Ararat. The first album, 2009′sMusica de la Resistencia(review here), ran concurrent to Los Natas‘ swansong, Nuevo Orden de la Libertad, but with II, the new three-piece came into their own, setting space rock synth against low-end sprawl, thick drumming and Chotsourian‘s penchant for experimenting with structure. Extended tracks “Caballos” and “La Ira del Dragon (Uno)” were positively encompassing, and showed Ararat not only as a distinct entity from Los Natas, but a turn stylistically for Chotsourian into elephantine plod, wide-open atmospherics and a likewise expansive creative sensibility. The acoustic “El Inmigrante” and piano-led “Atenas” offered sonic diversity while enriching the mood, and closer “Tres de Mayo” hinted at some of the melding of the various sides that might be in store in Ararat‘s future. If the jump from the first record to the second is any indicator, expect something expansive and huge to come.
Italian cosmic doom meganauts Ufomammut outdid themselves yet again with Oro, breaking up a single full-length into two separate releases, Oro: Opus Primum and Oro: Opus Alter. But the album — which I’ve decided to list as the single entity Oro rather than its two component parts basically to save myself some brain space — was more than just big in terms of its runtime. More importantly, Ufomammut were able to hold firm to their commitment to stylistic growth, drawing on their greatest triumph yet, 2010′s Eve (review here), the trio pushed themselves even further on their Neurot Recordings debut, resulting in an album worthy of the legacy of those releasing it. I don’t know if Oro will come to define Ufomammut as Eve already seems to have — dividing it as they did may have made it harder for listeners to grasp it as a single piece — but it shows that there’s simply no scaring the band out of themselves. Brilliantly tied together around a central progression that showed up in “Empireum” from Opus Primumand “Sublime” on Opus Alter, I have the feeling Ufomammut will probably have another album out before Oro‘s breadth has fully set in.
Behold the standard bearers of heavy. It wasn’t long after hearing UK trio Conan for the first time that I began using them as a touchstone to see how other bands stacked up, and to be honest, almost no one has. Led by the inimitable lumber provided by the tone of guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis (interview here), Conan stripped down their approach for Monnos, returning to Foel Studio in Wales to work with producer Chris Fielding — who’d also helmed their 2010 Horseback Battle HammerEP — and the resulting effort was both trim and humongous. Early tracks like “Hawk as Weapon,” “Battle in the Swamp” (an old demo given new life) and “Grim Tormentor” actually managed to be catchy as well as sonically looming, and the more extended closing duo of “Headless Hunter” and “Invincible Throne” showed that Conan could both use their tone to build forward momentum and plod their way into ultra-slow, ultra-grim despairing nothingness. Monnos affirmed Conan as one of the most pivotal acts in doom, and with new material and a home studio reportedly in the works, as well as further European touring on the docket for early 2013, their onslaught shows no signs of letting up. Right fucking on.
In some ways, it seems like the easiest thing in the world, but with My Sleeping Karma‘s fourth full-length, Soma, it really was just a question of a band taking their sound to a completely new level. The German heavy psych instrumentalists brought forth the sweetness of tone their guitars have harnessed over the course of their three prior offerings, but the progressive keyboard flourishes, the warmth in the bass, the tight pop of the drums — it all clicked on Somain a way that the other records hinted was possible and made the album the payoff to the four-piece’s long-established potential. Wrapped around the titular theme of a drink of the gods and with its tracks spaced out by varying ambient interludes, no moment on the album felt like it wasn’t serving the greater purpose of the whole, and the whole proved to be a worthy purpose indeed. Hands down my favorite instrumental release of the year and an effort that pushed My Sleeping Karma to the front of the pack in the crowded European heavy psych scene.
The damnedest thing happens every time I turn on Graveyard‘s third album, Lights Out, in that before I’m halfway through opener “An Industry of Murder,” I have to turn it up. The reigning kings of Swedish retro heavy wasted no time following up 2011′s stunning sophomore outing, Hisingen Blues(review here), and with the four-year gap between their self-titled debut and the second record, it was a surprise from the moment it was announced, but more than that, Lights Outshowed remarkable development in Graveyard‘s sound, offering elements of classic soul on songs like “Slow Motion Coundown” and “Hard Times Lovin’” to stand alongside the brash rock and roll of “Seven Seven” or the irresistible hook provided by “The Suits, the Law and the Uniforms” or the single “Goliath.” A landmark vocal performance from guitarist Joakim Nilsson and newly surfaced political bent to the lyrics hinted that Graveyard were nowhere near done growing, but seriously, if they put out four or five more records in the vein of Lights Out, I doubt there’d be too many complaints. Already one can hear the influence they’ve had on European heavy rock, and Lights Outisn’t likely to slow that process in the slightest.
Three drum hits and then the lurching “Let Them Fall” — the leadoff track on the first Saint Vitus studio album since 1995 — is underway, and it’s exactly that lack of pomp, that lack of pretense, that makes Lillie: F-65so righteous. Admittedly, it’s a reunion album. They toured for a couple years playing old material, then finally decided to settle in and let guitarist Dave Chandler (interview here) start coming up with a batch of songs, but you can’t argue with the results. They nailed it. With Tony Reed‘s perfect production (discussed here), Vitus captured the classic tonality in Chandler‘s guitar and Mark Adams‘ bass and kept to their sans-bullshit ethic: A short, 33-minute album that leaves their audience wondering where the hell that assault of noise just came from. Scott “Wino” Weinrich‘s presence up front was unmistakable with Chandler‘s punkish, no-frills lyrics (as well as his own on “Blessed Night,” the first song they wrote for the album), and drummer Henry Vasquez not only filled the shoes of the late Armando Acosta but established his own persona behind the kit. I hope it’s not their last record, but if it is, Saint Vitus came into and left Lillie: F-65as doom legends, and their work remains timeless.
Talk about a band who shirked expectation. Guitarist/vocalist Justin Maranga and I discussed that aspect of Ancestors a bit in an interview over the summer, but it’s worth underscoring. There was next to nothing in either of Ancestors‘ first two albums to hint at where they’d go with the third. Both Neptune with Fire and Of Sound Mind(review here) were rousing, riff-led efforts that headed toward a particular heavy sensibility, but it was with last year’s Invisible WhiteEP (review here) that the L.A. outfit began to show the progressive direction they were heading. And In Dreams and Timeis even a departure from that! It’s kind of a departure from reality as well, with the Moog/organ/synth mesh from Matt Barks and Jason Watkins (also vocals), dreamy basslines from Nick Long and hold-it-all-together drumming of Jamie Miller — since out of the band. Closer “First Light” was my pick for song of the year, and had the album been comprised of that track along, it’d probably still be on this list somewhere, but with the complement given to it by the piano sprawl of “On the Wind” and driving riffs and vocal interplay of “Correyvreckan” (if you haven’t heard Long‘s bass on the latter as well, you should), there was little left to question that this was the strongest Ancestors release of their career to date and hopefully the beginning of a new era in their sound. They’ve never been what people wanted them to be, but I for one like not knowing what to expect before it shows up, at least where these guys are concerned.
After what I saw as a lackluster production for 2010′s Snakes for the Divine, Oakland, CA, trio High on Fire aligned themselves with producer Kurt Ballou (Converge) for De Vermis Mysteriis and completely renewed the vitality in their attack. Built on the insistence of “Bloody Knuckles,” furious fuckall of “Fertile Green,” unmitigated piracy of “Serums of Laio” and eerie crawl in “King of Days,” De Vermis Mysteriis was both aggressive in High on Fire‘s raid-your-brain-for-THC tradition and extreme in ways they’ve never been before. Groovers like the instrumental “Samsara” and earlier “Madness of an Architect” offered bombast where the thrash may have relented, while “Spiritual Rites” proved that guitarist/vocalist Matt Pike (also Sleep; interview here), bassist Jeff Matz and drummer Des Kensell had arrived at a new threshold of speed and intensity. Whatever personal issues may have been in play at the time, High on Fire delivered a blistering full-length that stands up to and in many ways surpasses any prior viciousness in their catalog, and their level of performance on their current tour makes it plain to see that the band is ready for ascendency to the heights of metal. They are conquerors to the last, and if De Vermis Mysteriisis what I get for wavering, then I’ll consider my lesson hammered home in every second of feedback, tom thud and grueling second of distortion topped with Pike‘s signature growl.
When I interviewed interviewed Steve Von Till about Honor Found in Decay, the Neurosis guitarist/vocalist called the band “a chaos process” in reference to their songwriting. I have no trouble believing that, because while Neurosis stand among the most influential heavy metal bands of their generation — having had as much of an effect on what’s come after them as, say, Meshuggah or Sleep, while also having little sonically in common with either of them — it’s also nearly impossible to pinpoint one aspect of their sound that defines them. The churning rhythms in the riffing of Von Till and his fellow frontman, guitarist/vocalist Scott Kelly (interview here), Dave Edwardson‘s intensity on bass and periodic vocal, the assured percussive creativity of Jason Roeder and theexperimental edge brought to bear in Noah Landis‘ synth and sampling all prove to be essential elements of the whole. On Honor Found in Decay — and this isn’t to take away anything from any other particular member’s songwriting contributions — it would be Landis standing out with his greatest contributions yet, becoming as much a defining element in songs like “At the Well,” “Bleeding the Pigs” and “Casting of the Ages” as either Kelly or Von Till‘s guitars. Had I never seen the band before, I’d have a hard time believing Honor Found in Decay could possibly be representative of their live sound, but they are every bit as crushing, as oppressive and as emotionally visceral on stage — if not more so — as they are on the album, and while their legacy has long since been set among the most important heavy acts ever, period, as they climb closer to the 30-year mark (they’ll get there in 2015), Neurosis continue to refuse to bow to what’s expected of them or write material that doesn’t further their decades-long progression. They are worthy of every homage paid them, and more.
It’s hard for me to properly convey just how happy listening to Greenleaf‘s Nest of Vipersmakes me, and I’ve got several false starts already deleted to prove it. The Swedish supergroup of vocalist Oskar Cedermalm (Truckfighters), guitarists Tommi Holappa and Johan Rockner (both Dozer), bassist Bengt Bäcke (engineer for Dozer, Demon Cleaner, etc.) and drummer Olle Mårthans (Dozer) last released an album in 2007. That was Agents of Ahriman, which was one of my favorite albums of the last decade. No shit. Not year, decade. With a slightly revamped lineup and Dozer‘s maybe-final album, 2008′s Beyond Colossal, and the never-got-off-the-ground side-project Dahli between, Nest of Viperslanded this past winter and with the shared membership, Karl Daniel Lidén production and consistency of songwriting from Holappa (interview here), I immediately saw it as a sequel to the last Dozer, but really it goes well beyond that. Tracks like “Dreamcatcher,” “Case of Fidelity,” “The Timeline’s History” and soaring opener “Jack Staff” show that although they’d never really toured to that point and been through various lineups over the years, Greenleaf was nonetheless an entity unto its own. Cedermalm‘s vocals were a triumph, Mårthans‘ drumming unhinged and yet grounded, and guest appearances from organist Per Wiberg and vocalists Peder Bergstrand (Lowrider/I are Droid) and Fredrik Nordin (Dozer) only enriched the album for repeat listens, which I’m thrilled to say it gets to this very day. If I called it a worthy successor both to Dozer and to Agents of Ahriman, those words alone would probably fall short of conveying quite how much that means on a personal level, so let its placement stand as testimony instead. This is one I’ll be enjoying for years to come, and when I’m done writing this feature, this is the one I’m gonna put back on to listen through again. It has been, and no doubt will continue to be, a constant.
Go figure that the Om record two albums after the one called Pilgrimagewould feel so much like a journey. Further including multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Robert A. A. Lowe (also of experimental one-man outfit Lichens) alongside the established core duo of drummer Emil Amos (also of Grails) and bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros (also of Sleep), as well as incorporating a range of guest appearances from the likes of Grayceon‘s Jackie Perez Gratz on cello and Worm Ouroboros‘ Lorraine Rath (who appeared on 2010′s God is Goodas well) on flute, Om fleshed out what was once a signature minimalism to the point of being a lush, constantly moving and markedly fluid entity. Cisneros, as the remaining founder and lead vocalist, served as a unifying presence in the material — his bass still was still very much as the center of “Gethsemane” or the more straightforward and distorted “State of Non-Return” — but those songs and “Addis,” “Sinai” and gloriously melodic closer “Haqq al-Yaqin” amounted to more than any single performance, and where prior Om outings had dug themselves deep into a kind of solitary contemplation, Advaitic Songslooked outward with a palpable sense of musical joy and a richness of experience that could only be called spiritual, however physically or emotionally arresting it might also prove. I’ve found it works best in the morning, as a way to transition from that state of early half-there into the waking world — which no doubt has more harshness in mind than the sweet acoustics and tabla at the end of “Haqq al-Yaqin” — so that some of that sweetness can remain and help me face whatever might come throughout the day. A morning ceremony and a bit of meditation to reorder the consciousness.
Didn’t it have to be Colour Haze? Didn’t it? Two discs of the finest heavy psychedelic rock the world has to offer — yes I mean that — plus all they went through to get it out, the drama of building and rebuilding a studio, recording and re-recording, pressing and repressing, what else could it have been but She Said? After two-plus years of waiting, I was just so glad when it actually existed. Late in 2008, the Munich trio released All, and that was my album of the year that year as well (kudos to anyone who has that issue of Metal Maniacs), but I feel like even if you strip all that away and take away all the drama and the band’s influence, their standing in the European scene, guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek (interview here) fostering next-gen talent on Elektrohasch and whatever else you want or need to remove, She Said still holds up. Just the songs themselves. The extra percussion layered in with Manfred Merwald‘s drums on “She Said,” the horns and Duna Jam-ambience on “Transformation,” the unpretentious boogie of “This” on disc one, or the rush of “Slowdown” on disc two and the culmination the whole album gets when the strings kick in on “Grace.” Those strings. God damn. Suddenly a 2CD release makes sense, when each is given its own progression, its own destination at which to arrive, and tired as I am I still tear up like clockwork when I put on “Grace” just to hear it while I type about it. Beautifully arranged, wonderfully executed, She Saidcouldn’t be anywhere but at the top spot on this list. The warmth in Koglek‘s guitar and Philipp Rasthofer‘s bass on “Breath” and the way their jams always seem to have someplace to go, I feel like I’m listening to a moment exquisitely captured. There isn’t a doubt in my mind Colour Haze are the most potent heavy rock power trio in the world, and that their chemistry has already and will continue to inspire others around them, but most importantly, She Saidmet the true album-of-the-year criteria in not seeming at all limited to the confines of 2012 — as though it had some kind of expiration date. Not so. Even though I’ve already been through them more times than I know or would care to share had I counted, I look forward to getting to know the songs on She Saidover the years to come, and as I have with Colour Haze‘s works in the past, seeing their appeal change over time the way the best of friends do. It couldn’t have been anything but Colour Haze. Whatever hype other albums or bands have, for me, it’s this, and that’s it.
If this list went to 25, the next five would be:
21. Snail, Terminus
22. Revelation, Inner Harbor
23. Wo Fat, The Black Code
24. Groan, The Divine Right of Kings
25. Caltrop, Ten Million Years and Eight Minutes
Honorable mention goes to: Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight (another one about whom I have a hard time being impartial), Mighty High, At Devil Dirt, Bell Witch, Samothrace, Enslaved, Viaje a 800, and Larman Clamor.
Also worth noting some conspicuous absences: Witchcraft, Swans, Baroness, Royal Thunder, The Sword, Torche. These albums garnered a strong response and have done well in the Readers Poll looking at the results so far, but please keep in mind, this is my list, I took a night to sleep on it, I stand by it and I’ve got my reasons for selecting what I did. You’ll find about 5,000 words of them above.
Thank you as always for reading. If you disagree with any picks, want to add your own take on any of the above, or anything else — really, whatever’s cool — please leave a comment below.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 19th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
…And they don’t mean, “Help me get that tree out of my yard” Sandy relief either. They mean like for people who don’t have a house anymore. Good for Ripple Music who continue to couple their love of all things classic, heavy and rockin’ with a desire to do some good in the world. Rare test pressings of Mos Generator and Stone Axe LPs will be going out this week on their eBay store, so make sure you follow the link to check it out. Yes, I’ve already added it to my “Watch List.”
Charity Auction for Superstorm Sandy Relief, Package Deal for Both STONE AXE and MOS GENERATOR LP Test Pressings
Continuing with the company tradition of giving back to the community, Ripple Music will auction a pair of extremely Rare Original Test Pressings in one package. Stone Axe: Captured Live! and Mos Generator Nomads vinyl are being made available with proceeds going to Superstorm Sandy Relief.
Only 5 copies of each test pressings exist, and these are the only one’s being made available to the public! You can jump into the auction, win a cool heavy rock collectible and benefit the agencies that commit money and manpower to lend a helping hand. To do so, just visit us at theRipple Music Ebay Store! The auction will start on Monday, November 19th and end on Monday, November 26th.
The Stone Axe and Mos Generator test press auction is the latest in a growing line of charity auctions that Ripple Music has created. Previously, rare JPT Scare Band, Mos Generator, Stone Axe, and the Heavy Ripples test pressings were auctioned with proceeds going to Gulf Disaster, The Wounded Warrior Fund, Japan Tsunami and the Joplin Tornado disaster relief agencies. With the sacrifices made by the men and women to assist their fellow Americans in need, Ripple founders John Rancik and Todd Severin thought the time was right to release another rare test pressing from their vault and raise money for a worthwhile effort.
This poster was sent my way and it was too badass not to post. Not to mention the show is awesome. If you’re in Seattle, I don’t know what else might be going on Saturday, Nov. 24, but I do know that if anything’s going to knock you out of post-Thanksgiving MSG blues, it’s a gig with Mos Generator, VALIS and Seattle’s own Ancient Warlocks. Start making the excuses to your family now.
It’s the release show for VALIS‘ new album, Minds through Space and Time, and Mos Generator will have their new one, Nomads, on hand as well. Ancient Warlocks play third and so appear at the top of this killer poster, put together by Adam Burke of the band Fellwoods:
Posted in Reviews on September 7th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s as pure an example of heavy rock as I’ve heard in 2012. Washington trio Mos Generator, having been revitalized by guitarist/vocalist/friend of the site Tony Reed after a few years’ successful run in classic rockers Stone Axe, mark their return with Nomads, a collection of varied but straightforward songs that hearken to classic influences, but ultimately emerge as modern, full and engaging. Tonally weighted in Reed’s guitar and Scooter Haslip’s bass but never veering into stonerly fuzz, the nine songs of Nomads are pointed in their lack of pretense, unabashed in their hooks and balanced in both composition and production. The album, also produced by Reed, sees release via ongoing partnership with Ripple Music, which also deluxe-reissued Mos Generator’s self-titled debut earlier this year (review here) and has reissued Stone Axe material as well, and though Reed is a talented vocalist and guitarist and a skilled engineer – anyone who heard his production on, say, Saint Vitus’ Lillie: F-65 can immediately recognize his sound as comes through on Shawn Johnson’s drums – what’s most at the fore in listening to Nomads is the songwriting. Structurally traditional, cuts like “Can’t Get Where I Belong,” “Lonely One Kenobi” and even the more expansive closer “This is the Gift of Nature” wrap themselves around landmark choruses, classic rock hooks given vital presentation. Contrary to the reds and blacks of the cover art and its memento mori crow, the mood of most of the album is relatively light, and it opens upbeat with a strong trio of infectious cuts in “Cosmic Ark,” “Lonely One Kenobi” and “Torches,” keeping a crisp and clean sound throughout that results in an overarching accessibility for everything that follows, including the penultimate title-track, an acoustic interlude that sets up “This is the Gift of Nature” to round out the proceedings. A vinyl structure is evident with a split between the moodier fourth track “Step Up” and the ‘80s street metal riffing of “Solar Angels,” but the latter works as well as the centerpiece of the Nomads CD, a focal point and standout both in style and substance on Mos Generator’s fifth album (that’s counting 2006’s The Vault Sessions) and their first outing since 2008’s Destroy! The Mos Generator compilation.
As the singer, guitarist, producer and main songwriter, Reed is obviously a focal point on Nomads, and his approach to the revived Mos Generator is no different than it ever has been going back to the self-titled. He writes quality heavy rock songs with pop structures, shifts mood effectively and sets up an overall flow despite each track having a distinct personality of its own. “Cosmic Ark,” however, gets underway with an immediate bounce, and it’s Johnson’s drums and Haslip’s bass carrying across the potent groove as Reed relates lyrics about weedian travel through space and time that actually wind up being the most stoner rock facet of the song, and indeed, the album. It’s kind of a curious track in relation to what’s around it, but as the opener it works both because it’s fun and because of the quality of the hook, which gives way to a short bluesy lead and a subdued section of oohs and aahs that set up some of the variety to come later. At 3:31, it’s a classic radio number, and though “Lonely One Kenobi” was selected as the first single from Nomads (video premiere here) – one expects the referential title had something to do with that – “Cosmic Ark” could easily follow as the next. In the meantime, perhaps “Lonely One Kenobi” is a better representation of the album overall, more grounded lyrically and no less catchy than the opener. Reed seems to be referencing Dio-era Sabbath in the verse, bringing his voice up in the third line in a fashion similar to “Wishing Well” from the Heaven and Hell album, and that’s not the last ‘80s metal nod to come, but the song is undeniably Mos Generator’s own. One of the longer tracks at just over five minutes, its pulse is quick, Johnson working some swing into the drums and playing off the start-stop riff smoothly as Haslip deftly changes with the guitar between the verse groove and the chorus’ more forward-driving chorus, a path through it marked by Johnson’s snare and Reed’s “wan”-esque pronunciation of “one,” showing the basis for the name of the track. Reed takes a solo after the first chorus, and the verse reemerges to set up a second chorus, more hurriedly cadenced in the vocals, and another lead that serves as the outro, and when it’s over, I’m left wondering where that five minutes went because it happened so damned fast.
Contrary to what you might presume from the photo above, Port Orchard, Washington, heavy rockers Mos Generator have seen the light. They decided to make a video about it.
The first thing you’ll probably notice in listening to “Lonely One Kenobi” from Mos Generator‘s new album, Nomads(review coming soon), is that it is crazily, unabashedly, apologetically catchy. The power trio of guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed, bassist Scooter Haslip and drummer Shawn Johnson have outdone themselves with the album, which is due out Oct. 23 on Ripple Music, and I can only assume that the yellow light in which the video finds them bathing as they perform the track is powered by the chorus.
Speaking of the chorus, the title of the song is also going to make a lot more sense once you hear it.
Please enjoy “Lonely One Kenobi” from Nomads, followed by some PR wire-type info from Ripple:
MOS GENERATOR Premiere “Lonely One Kenobi” Video
MOS GENERATOR and The Obelisk have once again teamed up on an exclusive premiere, this time for the first video from the Nomads album, “Lonely One Kenobi”. Going for the throat on the lead single from Nomads, “Lonely One Kenobi” is a classic MOS GENERATOR tune that thunders with heavy aggression and then soothes the soul with heart melting melodies. Shrouded in smokey mystery, this performance video was shot on a shoe-string budget with one camera and a few lights, showing that simplicity is usually the best method for getting the message across.
“Lonely One was the first song we wrote in the batch of new songs we recorded for Nomads. From the first time we played it live I could tell it was a strong number,” said Tony Reed when asked about the choice of lead singles, “And as for the video, yeah, I’m happy with the way Lonely One came out with what we had to work with. We’ve had a very positive response from people who have already seen the video.”
Nomads will be available world-wide on October 23rd, 2012 through Ripple Music. The nine track album features the heaviness and elegant melody that have become the trademark sounds of the band, but this time lyrically exploring the more introspective paths of soul salvation. The Port Orchard, Washington rock n’ roll nomads spent almost a year tracking, recording, and mixing the new album until they were happy with the end result, constantly holding the material to the light, never wanting to release anything less than stellar.
Nomads will be available through Nail/Allegro Distribution in the U.S., Code 7 in the UK, and Clearspot International through continental Europe. Look for MOS GENERATOR on the road throughout the Pacific Northwest starting in September with possible more road work in 2013.
Track List: 1. Cosmic Ark 2. Lonely One Kenobi 3. Torches 4. Step Up 5. Solar Angels 6. For Your Blood 7. Can’t Get Where I Belong 8. Nomads/This Is The Gift Of Nature
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 16th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
As the kids would say, I am “all jazzed up” (the kids say that, right?) at the prospect of a new Mos Generator album. Nomadsis due out Oct. 23 on Ripple Music, and the first batch out tour dates to support the record have been announced. Sure, they’re all on the other side of the country, but it’s still pretty cool.
Click the poster to enlarge and revel in the informative nature of what follows:
MOS GENERATOR Announce Live Dates in Support of Nomads, Support Slot with Saint Vitus
Hitting the road for select dates throughout the Pacific Northwest, MOS GENERATOR are proud to announce upcoming live dates starting this September, cuminating with an opening slot for St. Vitus as the legendary Doom merchants ply their trade across the U.S. For the Port Orchard trio, getting back on the live circuit to support their latest Ripple Music release, Nomads, is where they feel the music will take on a life of it’s own.
“Mos Generator has always embraced the live setting and where we feel our chemistry really comes together,” states guitarist/singer Tony Reed , “The songs take on a different form from night to night, one of us will throw out a new twist and the other two will pick up on it and take it where it feels best to go. It’s also very organic and a great outlet for us to fulfill musical needs we don’t get from the recording process.”
It’s been five years since the world has heard new material from MOS GENERATOR, and fortunately, that streak is about to end! Nomads will be available world-wide on October 23rd, 2012 through Ripple Music. The nine track album features the heaviness and elegant melody that have become the trademark sounds of the band, but this time lyrically exploring the more introspective paths of soul salvation. The Port Orchard, Washington rock n’ roll nomads spent almost a year tracking, recording, and mixing the new album until they were happy with the end result, constantly holding the material to the light, never wanting to release anything less than stellar.
Nomads will be available through Nail/Allegro Distribution in the U.S., Code 7 in the UK, and Clearspot International through continental Europe. Look for MOS GENERATOR on the road throughout the Pacific Northwest starting in September with possible more road work in 2013.
Track List: 1. Cosmic Ark 2. Lonely One Kenobi 3. Torches 4. Step Up 5. Solar Angels 6. For Your Blood 7. Can’t Get Where I Belong 8. Nomads/This Is The Gift Of Nature
Join theMOS GENERATORmailing list for special fan club opportunities in the near future!
We’re more than halfway through 2012, and we’ve already seen great releases from the likes of Orange Goblin, Pallbearer, Conan, C.O.C., Saint Vitus and many others, but there’s still a long way to go. The forecast for the next five months? Busy.
In my eternal and inevitably doomed quest to keep up, I’ve compiled a list of 13 still-to-come releases not to miss before the year ends. Some of this information is confirmed — as confirmed as these things ever are, anyway — either by label or band announcements, and some of it is a little bit vaguer in terms of the actual dates, but all this stuff is slated to be out before 2013 hits. That was basically my only criteria for inclusion.
And of course before I start the list, you should know two things: The ordering is dubious, since it’s not like I can judge the quality of an album before I’ve heard it, just my anticipation, and that this is barely the beginning of everything that will be released before the end of 2012. The tip of the fastly-melting iceberg, as it were. If past is prologue, there’s a ton of shit I don’t even know about that (hopefully) you’ll clue me into in the comments.
Nonetheless, let’s have some fun:
1. Colour Haze, She Said(Sept./Oct.)
I know, I know, this one’s been a really, really long time coming. Like two years. Like so long that Colour Haze had to go back and remake the album because of some terrible technical thing that I don’t even know what happened but it doesn’t matter anymore. Notice came down yesterday from guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek that the recording is done and the long-awaited She Saidis on the way to be pressed on vinyl and CD. Got my fingers crossed for no more snags.
2. Enslaved, RIITIIR (Sept. 28)
The progressive Norwegian black metallers have put out 10 albums before it, and would you believe RIITIIRis the first Enslaved album that’s a palindrome? Kind of cheating to include it on this list, because I’ve heard it, but I’ve been through the record 10-plus times and I still feel like I just barely have a grasp on where they’re headed with it, so I think it’ll be really interesting to see what kind of response it gets upon release. Herbrand Larsen kills it all over these songs though, I will say that.
3. Mos Generator, Nomads(Oct. 23)
Hard for me not to be stoked on the prospect of the first new Mos Generator album since 2007, especially looking at that cover, which RippleMusic unveiled on Tuesday when it announced the Oct. 23 release date. It’s pretty grim looking, and even though Mos once put out a record called The Late Great Planet Earth, I’ve never thought of them as being particularly dark or doomed. I look forward to hearing what Tony Reed (Stone Axe, HeavyPink) has up his sleeve for this collection, and if he’s looking to slow down and doom out a bit here, that’s cool too. I’ll take it either way.
4. Ufomammut, Oro – Opus Alter(Sept.)
No, that’s not the cover of Oro – Opus Alter, the second half of Italian space doom grand masters Ufomammut‘s Oro collection — the first being Opus Primum (review here), which served as their Neurot Recordings debut earlier this year. That cover hasn’t been released yet, so I grabbed a promo pic to stand in. I’m really looking forward to this album, though I hope they don’t go the Earth, Angels of Darkness Demons of Lightroute and wind up with two records that, while really good, essentially serve the same purpose. I’ve got my hopes high they can outdo themselves once again.
5. Witchcraft, Legend(Sept. 21)
I guess after their success with Graveyard, Nuclear Blast decided to binge a bit on ’70s loyalist doom, signing Witchcraft and even more recently, Orchid. Can’t fault them that. It’s been half a decade since Witchcraft released The Alchemist and in their absence, doom has caught on in a big way to their methods. With a new lineup around him, will Magnus Pelander continue his divergence into classic progressive rock, or return to the Pentagram-style roots of Witchcraft‘s earliest work? Should be exciting to find out.
6. Wo Fat, The Black Code(Nov.)
After having the chance to hear some rough mixes of Texas fuzzers Wo Fat‘s Small Stone debut, The Black Code, I’m all the more stoked to encounter the finished product, and glad to see the band join the ranks of Lo-Pan, Freedom Hawk and Gozu in heralding the next wave of American fuzz. Wo Fat‘s 2011 third outing, Noche del Chupacabra (review here), greatly expanded the jammed feel in their approach, and I get the sense they’re just beginning to find where they want to end up within that balance.
7. Blood of the Sun, Burning on the Wings of Desire(Late 2012)
As if the glittering logo and booby-lady cover art weren’t enough to grab attention, Blood of the Sun‘s first album for Listenable Records (fourth overall) is sure to garner some extra notice because the band is led by drummer/vocalist Henry Vasquez, better known over the past couple years as the basher for Saint Vitus. Whatever pedigree the band has assumed through that, though, their modern take on classic ’70s heavy has a charm all its own and I can’t wait to hear how Burning on the Wings of Desire pushes that forward. Or backward. Whatever. Rock and roll.
8. Swans, The Seer(Aug. 28)
This one came in the mail last week and I’ve had the chance to make my way through it only once. It’s two discs — and not by a little — and as was the case with Swans‘ 2010 comebacker, My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky(review here), the far less cumbersomely titled The Seeris loaded with guest contributions. Even Jarboe shows up this time around, doing that breathy panting thing she does. Unnerving and challenging as ever, Swans continue to be a litmus for how far experimentalism can go. 3o years on, that’s pretty impressive in itself.
9. Swallow the Sun, Emerald Forest and the Blackbird(Sept. 4)
Apparently the Finnish melo-doom collective’s fifth album, Emerald Forest and the Blackbird, came out earlier this year in Europe, but it’s finally getting an American release in September, and as I’ve always dug the band’s blend of death metal and mournful melodicism, I thought I’d include it here. Like Swans, I’ve heard the Swallow the Sun once through, and it seems to play up more of the quiet, weepy side of their sound, but I look forward to getting to know it better over the coming months.
10. My Sleeping Karma, Soma (Oct. 9)
Just signed to Napalm Records and tapped to open for labelmates Monster Magnet as they tour Europe performing Spine of Godin its entirety this fall, the German four-piece are set to follow-up 2010′s Tri(review here) with Soma. Details were sketchy, of course, until about five minutes after this post initially went up, then the worldwide release dates, cover art and tracklist were revealed, so I updated. Find all that info on the forum.
11.Eagle Twin, The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale(Aug. 28)
Way back in 2009 when I interviewed Eagle Twin guitarist/vocalist Gentry Densley about the band’s Southern Lord debut, he said the band’s next outing would relate to snakes, and if the cover is anything to go by, that seems to have come to fruition on The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale, which is set to release at the end of next month. As the first album was kind of a mash of influences turned into cohesive and contemplative heavy drone, I can’t help but wonder what’s in store this time around.
12. Hooded Menace, Effigies of Evil(Sept. 11)
You know how sometimes you listen to a band and that band turns you on in their liner notes to a ton of other cool bands? I had that experience with Finnish extreme doomers Hooded Menace‘s 2010 second album, Never Cross the Dead (review here), except instead of bands it was hotties of ’70s horror cinema. Needless to say, I anxiously await the arrival of their third record and Relapse debut, Effigies of Evil. Someone needs to start a label and call it Hammer Productions just to sign this band.
13. Yawning Man, New Album (Soon)
Make no mistake. The prospect of a new Yawning Man album would arrive much higher on this list if I was more convinced it was going to come together in time for a 2012 release. As it is, Scrit on the forum has had a steady stream of updates since May about the record — the latest news being that it’s going to be a double album — and Scrit‘s in the know, so I’ll take his word. One thing we do know for sure is that the band in the picture above is not the current Yawning Man lineup. Alfredo Hernandez and Mario Lalli out, Greg Saenz and Billy Cordell in. Bummer about the tumult, but as long as it’s Gary Arce‘s ethereal guitar noodling, I’m hooked one way or another.
Since we closed with rampant speculation, let me not forget that somewhere out there is the looming specter of a new Neurosis album, which the sooner it gets here, the better. Perhaps also a new Clutch full-length, though I doubt that’ll materialize before 2013. And that’s a different list entirely.
Thanks for reading. Anything I forgot or anything you’d like to add to the list, leave a comment.
Posted in audiObelisk on July 17th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
When guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed (middle above) emailed me last week to ask me if I’d be interested in streaming and hosting a free download of Mos Generator covering the Nirvana rarity “I Hate Myself and I Want to Die,” it was with his usual bullshit-free manner. To paraphrase, “You wanna do this thing?” And yes, yes I did. The recently-reviewed reissue of the first Mos record still gets plenty of spins out by me, and with the band fresh on the brain as much as anything ever is, I thought it was a great idea. And here we are.
This fall, as you can read below in the PR wire info, Mos Generator will release their first album of new studio material since 2007, and if five years doesn’t seem like a long time — there are bands who take that long just on a whim — put it to the scale of Reed‘s prolific output with StoneAxe and the picture of Mos Generator‘s inactivity becomes much clearer. Together with bassist Scooter Haslip and drummer Shawn Johnson, Reed returns Mos Generator to its priority position in 2012 amid exciting prospects and refreshed creativity.
Originally recorded for a tribute album that was never released, “I Hate Myself and I Want to Die” can be streamed on the player below and downloaded by clicking the link that follows. Please enjoy:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
Thanks as always to Reed for letting me host the stream and download, and to Ripple Music, who will release the new Mos Generator album in the fall and who sent over the following notice:
For five years, fans of Mos Generator have been waiting for an album of new material, and in Fall of 2012, the wait will finally be over! TonyReed has been meticulously turning knobs and fine-tuning the audio aspects of the latest, to-be-named MosGenerator record, making everything sound just right.
But five years has been a long time to wait, and three more months almost feels like a lifetime, so the benevolent souls of MosGenerator are offering up a free download of song that has never been made available before!
“I Hate Myself And I Want To Die” is a Nirvana song that was originally released in 1993 on the Beavis and Butt-Head Experience compilation and the B-side of the “Pennyroyal Tea” single, and it gets the ultimate Mos Generator treatment! This Mos version was originally recorded in 2008 for a Nirvana tribute album that never came out, so now — download, enjoy, and stay tuned for upcoming information on the new Mos Generator album!
Posted in Reviews on June 1st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Like seemingly everything else in which he involves himself, my friendship with Tony Reed has been remarkably straightforward. The guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, recording engineer and driving force behind Mos Generator, Stone Axe and HeavyPink (whose 7” is still available on The Maple Forum, hint hint) got an email from me when Stone Axe was putting out their second album requesting a copy for review, he said sure, and I reviewed it. Then we did an interview, I wound up writing the bios for the Ripple Music reissues of the first two Stone Axe records, then HeavyPink came along and I wound up helping to put that out, and there have been live reviews along the way and more posts than I can even think of at this point. In my head, I always go back to Reed calling me at one in the morning to talk about how excited he was to have just recorded Saint Vitus’ first album in 17 years, Lillie: F-65. The dude bleeds passion for rock and roll. It’s pretty much his thing, and in all my many dealings with him, he’s never been anything but upfront, honest and as bullshit-free as his music. Aside from his astounding level of output – two of the four albums reviewed this week – three if you count this deluxe remix of Mos Generator’s self-titled that I promise I’m going to start talking about sooner than later – involved his production (those being Mighty High and Trippy Wicked) – he’s got an incredible knowledge of rock and roll and has turned me on to a few killer bands and records. To put it mildly, he’s someone whose work I respect deeply, and someone I’m very, very glad to have emailed — and not just because a few weeks ago a full glorious 12” vinyl package showed up of Mos Generator’s Mos Generator 2002 debut full-length, given the complete “deluxe edition” treatment by Ripple Music, with whom Reed has cooperated closely over the last couple years, both on his own projects and the label’s.
To say they give the record its due is probably to understate it. That’s not to disrespect the album – it’s a more than solid enough collection, and the last Mos to be issued on vinyl – so it’s well worthy, it’s just the sheer volume of this release is breathtaking. With the Ripple LP, you get the original album, Mos Generator, on vinyl and CD. That’s standard. The CD comes as part of the package. Also included on the CD is the previously unreleased track “Hearts and Hands” and a live show recorded at the Manette Saloon in Bremerton, Washington, on Aug. 24, 2002, which is enough in itself to push the 75-minute mark. That’s probably more than a lot of deluxe reissues would give you, but the vinyl package also comes with a download card – it works, I’ve tested it – that includes an entire collection’s worth of songs. It’s got everything from the vinyl and the CD, plus another complete 2002 live show, this one taped at The Hole in Reed’s native Port Orchard, WA, earlier in the year, as well as four demo tracks, and to cap off, a massive 29-minute freeform rehearsal jam from the original Mos lineup of Reed, bassist Scooter Haslip and drummer Shawn Johnson that, among other things, includes a stopover from the riff to Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick” toward the end. All told, it’s nearly two and a half hours of Mos Generator material covering the self-titled era, and a package that fans of the band, of Reed’s work in his other projects, or of heavy rock who might have missed them the first time around will revel in. Mos Generator released their last album – to date; they’re apparently working on a new one – in 2008, and if this reissue is to mark a resurgence, they’re certainly getting off on the right foot. I mean, seriously. The full download has 29 tracks. For some bands, that’s a discography.
The star of the show, though, is the album itself. According to the liner notes penned by Reed, the band was borrowing ideas from their Washington compatriots in Golden Pig Electric Blues Band (whose second album Reed recorded) for some of these songs, but if the seven cuts that make up the record-proper show anything, it’s that the strong sense of structure pervasive in Reed’s work now is nothing new. Immediately with “Lumbo Rock” as the opener, Mos Generator offers rock traditionalism based around memorable choruses that don’t hook for the sake of hooking, but still maintain a firm sense of presence. The band is loose on purpose, but the sound of the reissue is crisp, highlighting the warmth of Haslip’s bass and pop and sway in Johnson’s drumming along with Reed’s swaggering vocal and upbeat riffs. With a tale of moonshining and handclap-worthy snare hits for breaks between its verse lines, “Stone County Line” proves an early highlight, and “Acapulco Gold” aligns Mos Generator to stoner rock with blatant herbal homage not often paid a decade later. Reed croons over a softer guitar line, “Acapulco gold, you’re the only thing I wanna do/You take my soul and I don’t stand a chance of quitting you,” and it’s hard to imagine he didn’t have Sabbath’s “Sweet Leaf” in mind as a blueprint of the song’s red-eyed ethic. The song barely reaches three minutes, but in that time has enough character in its build to leave an impression by the end and make way for the even shorter and still strikingly efficient “F-1,” the newly-done mix of which highlights Haslip’s wah bass as its core and rounds out side A with a crisp execution that continues as the second half of the album takes hold in the form of “Sleeping You Way to the Middle.”
Founded in 1995 by Scott Hamilton, Detroit imprint Small Stone Records is the single most influential American heavy rock label of the post-Man’s Ruin era. What started as Hamilton releasing local Detroit acts of varied genres like Morsel, 36D and Perplexa soon took on a dedication to the heavy aesthetic that remains unmatched in both its scope and its reach of influence. Looking back, Five Horse Johnson‘s 1997 Double Down debut, seems to have been the beginning of Small Stone‘s turn down the fuzzly path. It’s like Hamilton followed the riff right down the rabbit hole and never looked back.
Now, 17 years on, Small Stone has a reach that goes beyond even the distribution of the albums it puts out. Thanks to the diligent work of Hamilton and oft-encountered names like Mad Oak Studios engineer/mixer Benny Grotto, mastering engineer Chris Gooseman, graphic artist Alexander von Wieding, among others, the label has earned a reputation for quality output that new releases are constantly reaffirming. Over the years, Man’s Ruin refugees like Sons of Otis, (The Men Of) Porn, Acid King and VALIS have come into the fold, but the crux of Small Stone‘s catalog is made up of acts like Roadsaw, Dixie Witch, Halfway to Gone, Throttlerod, Puny Human and Novadriver, who no matter what else they put out or who they put it out with, will always be considered “Small Stone bands.”
That designation and those groups specifically have helped establish a core American-style heavy rocking sound that the label seems to delight in toying with even as it continues to promulgate. Next generation bands like Gozu, Lo-Pan, Freedom Hawk, Backwoods Payback and even newer newcomers Wo Fat, Supermachine, Lord Fowl and Mellow Bravo — who don’t yet have albums out on the label — are expanding its breadth, and recent international signees Asteroid, Abrahma, Mangoo, Nightstalker and Mother of God should help ensure that Small Stone keeps pushing both itself and genre boundaries well into the next several years.
One of the hazards, however, of an ever-growing catalog, is that it can be hard to figure out where to start taking it on, and to that end, I’m happy to provide you with 10 essential Small Stone picks. Note I didn’t say “the 10 essential Small Stone picks,” because the reality of the situation is this is just the tip of the fuzzberg. If it’s any indication, I started out with five and couldn’t leave the rest out.
Here they are, ordered by the date of release:
1. Novadriver, Void (ss-022/2001)
Still an album that’s more or less impossible to pin to just one genre, the stoner/space/weirdo jams of Novadriver‘s 2001 outing, Void, reside somewhere between Monster Magnet‘s early Hawkwind worship and the unbridled intensity of groove that came out of Detroit’s early- and mid-’70s heavy rock and proto-metal. The fact that Novadriver also came from the Motor City speaks to the label’s local roots, but if Void was coming out even today, it’d be coming out on Small Stone.
2. Los Natas, Corsario Negro (ss-028/2002)
Personally, I think 2005′s El Hombre Montaña is a better album and 2009′s Nuevo Orden de la Libertad is an even better album than that, but Corsario Negro earns the edge as a starting point because it was the beginning of the Argentinian rockers’ relationship with Small Stone (they too were left without a home in the wake of Man’s Ruin folding). Plus, if you haven’t heard them before and you get this, you can still marvel at the subsequent offerings. Either way, totally necessary.
3. Various Artists, Sucking the ’70s (ss-032/2002)
In a lot of ways, this is what it’s all about. Badass bands playing badass songs. By this point, The Glasspack, Los Natas, Fireball Ministry, Halfway to Gone and Five Horse Johnson (who lead off the first disc) had already put out at least one album through Small Stone, but Sucking the ’70s made the most of the label’s burgeoning reputation, bringing in Clutch, Alabama Thunderpussy and Lowrider, along with bands who’d later add records to the catalog like Roadsaw, Suplecs and Lord Sterling, all covering hits and obscurities from the heavy ’70s. A gorgeous collection that would get a sequel in 2006. Still waiting on part three.
4. Dixie Witch, One Bird, Two Stones (ss-037/2003)
The Austin, Texas, trio would go on to become one of the most pivotal acts on the Small Stone roster, and they’d do so on the strength of their Southern riffs and the soul in their songwriting. Led by drummer/vocalist Trinidad Leal, Dixie Witch hooked up with Small Stone on the heels of their 2001 debut, Into the Sun, which was released by Brainticket, and quickly gained a reputation for some of the finest classic road songs that Grand Funk never wrote (see “The Wheel”). Their 2011 offering, Let it Roll, affirmed their statesmen status among their labelmates.
5. Sasquatch, Sasquatch (ss-044/2004)
I was pretty well convinced that when the L.A.-based Sasquatch released their self-titled debut in 2004, rock and roll was saved. Whoever it needed saving from, whatever needed to take place to make that happen, this record did it. Truth is, rock and roll didn’t really need to be saved — it needed a stiff drink, as we all do from time to time — but Sasquatch would’ve been right there even if it had. They’re a Small Stone original with all three of their records to date out through the label, and still one of the strongest acts in the American rock underground, even though they’d never be quite this fuzzy again.
6. Dozer, Through the Eyes of Heathens (ss-061/2005)
Even now, seven years later, I can’t look at this album cover without hearing the chorus to “The Roof, the River, the Revolver.” Between that and songs like “Man of Fire,” “Born a Legend” and “From Fire Fell,” Swedish rockers Dozer made their definitive statement in their label debut (fourth album overall). Another former Man’s Ruin band, they’d already begun to grow past their desert rock roots by the time they hooked up with Hamilton, and Through the Eyes of Heathens played out like what heavy metal should’ve turned into after the commercial atrocities of the late-’90s. A gorgeous record and still a joy to hear.
7. Greenleaf, Agents of Ahriman (ss-074/2007)
It’s like they built nearly every song on here out of undeniable choruses. Even the verses are catchy. I’ve championed Agents of Ahriman since before I started this site, and I feel no less vehement in doing so now than I did then. A side-project of Dozer guitarist Tommi Holappa that on this, their third album, included and featured members of Truckfighters, Lowrider, The Awesome Machine and others, Greenleaf became a distillation of many of the elements that make Swedish heavy rock unique in the world. It wasn’t aping classic rock, it was giving it a rebirth, and every Hammond note was an absolute triumph.
8. Iota, Tales (ss-084/2008)
Once, I had a t-shirt with the cover of Iota‘s Tales on the front. I wore it until it got holes, and then I bought another. That’s the kind of album Tales was. A trio crawled from out of Utah’s Great Salt Lake, Iota took Kyuss, launched them into space, and jammed out for five, 10 or 20 minutes to celebrate the success of the mission. Recently, guitarist/vocalist Joey Toscano has resurfaced in the bluesier, more earthbound Dwellers, which teams him with the rhythm section of SubRosa. Their debut, Good Morning Harakiri, was a highlight of early 2012, building on what Iota was able to accomplish here while pushing in a different direction.
9. Solace, A.D. (ss-093/2010)
It took the better part of a decade for the Jersey-bred metallers to finish what became their Small Stone debut after two full-lengths for MeteorCity, but when it finally dropped, there was no denying A.D.‘s power. My album of the year in 2010, the band delivered front to back on seven years’ worth of promise, and though it was recorded in more studios than I can count over a longer stretch than I think even Solace knows, it became a cohesive, challenging album, giving listeners a kick in the ass even as it handed them their next beer. I still get chills every time I put on “From Below,” and I put it on with near-embarrassing regularity.
10. Lo-Pan, Salvador (ss-116/2011)
If you know this site, this one’s probably a no-brainer pick, but the Columbus, Ohio-based riff merchants took on unabashed stoner rock fuzz for their Small Stone debut (third album overall) and made some of 2011′s most memorable songs in the process. Subversively varied in mood and heavy as hell no matter what they were doing, every part of Lo-Pan‘s Salvador worked. There was no lag. Small Stone also reissued the band’s 2009 outing, Sasquanaut, in 2011, but Salvador surpassed it entirely, bringing the band to new heights of professionalism they’d confirm by touring, well, perpetually. They’re still touring for it. You should go see them and behold the future of fuzz.
That’s the list as much as I could limit it. If you want to immediately add five more, throw in Roadsaw‘s self-titled (they’re writing the best songs of their career right now, I don’t care how attached to the early records you are), Puny Human‘s Universal Freak Out, Halfway to Gone‘s High Five, Milligram‘s This is Class War and Five Horse Johnson‘s Fat Black Pussycat. If you want to semi-immediately add five more than that, get the reissue of Acid King‘s Busse Woods, Mos Generator‘sSongs for Future Gods, The Brought Low‘s Third Record, Tummler‘s Early Man and Erik Larson‘s The Resounding. There. We just doubled the length of the list.
And the real trouble? I could go on. We didn’t even touch on curios like Axehandle, Lord Sterling and Brain Police, or The Might Could‘s Southern aggression, Hackman‘s instrumentalism or the druggy post-grunge of VALIS. Suffice it to say that Small Stone is one of very few labels out there from whom any output will at least be worth a cursory investigation. As the label continues to grow and develop in 2012 and beyond with new bands and new releases from its staple acts, taking on new avenues of commerce — like releasing vinyl for the first time, which it did in 2011 — whatever changes might crop up, Small Stone seems ready to meet the future, distortion pedal first. Can’t ask more of rock than that.
There’s always something special about a basement record store, so I was only too glad to descend the flight of stairs leading to Boston’s Armageddon Shop during my recent trip there to see Black Pyramid, Gozu and Infernal Overdrive at Radio in Somerville. I’d been to the Providence location before, and found it much to my liking, so the Boston one seemed an obvious choice to pass some time before the show.
From what I understand, it’s relatively new, and it looks it. The walls, but for a large cork bulletin board overflowing with flyers, were painted bright white — very neo-black metal — and the floor was clean and unscuffed, kind of emphasizing a minimalist look. It wasn’t cramped, as a lot of record stores are, and the entire right side of the store and most of the left as well was devoted to well-spaced bins of vinyl. A shelf directly across from the entrance had some tapes on it, so I went there first.
It doesn’t appear in the picture above, but that’s only because I’ve been so unwilling to remove it from my car since I made the purchase. For $3.99, I got a cassette of C.O.C.‘s Wiseblood, and of all the money I spent that night, that was hands-down some of the best. CDs took up a whole section of the back wall (there were some dollar boxes as well that I glanced through) with the discs positioned sideways so you had to crane your head even as you bent down to look at the bottom rows.
Turned out to be worth the effort. I bought The Body‘s Anthology, because hey, it’s New England, and Paracletus, by Deathspell Omega, because I figured I’d want it eventually and I might as well spend the money there rather than give it to Amazon or whoever. There was a cheapy copy of last year’s Aphotic by Novembers Doom, and I’ll probably never listen to it, but I got that anyway, just to have it, and a used version of The Late Great Planet Earth by Mos Generator that I figured (rightly) would do my rockin’ soul some good.
The finds of the trip, though, were an original CD issue of Parliament‘s Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo Syndrome — which fucking rules — and the first Witch Mountain record, Come the Mountain. I’m sure I could find all kinds of reissues of Funkentelechy if I wanted to, but it was cool to hear a first-run pressing (cooler still because it too was $3.99) and Cordell Mosson‘s bass and Bernie Worrell‘s keys make the whole thing. And the Witch Mountain I just figured I’d missed the boat on and would never find, what with it being released over a decade ago, the label Rage of Achilles being defunct and the band being on the other side of the country.
I guess you never know what you’ll find, which is probably the reason I keep going to these places even as they seemingly all start to phase out CDs in favor of vinyl. General compulsion you could consider as a secondary factor, but either way, I was glad I had the chance to hit up this Armageddon Shop, because like the other one in Providence, it was a cause definitely worth supporting. Check out their website here.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 14th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Good stuff here. In the true spirit of Tony Reed, he’s got at least three releases in the works at once, and while I still have to get preorder info up for the debut 7″ from HeavyPink that The Maple Forum will be releasing in October (more on that here), the excellent dudes at Ripple Music unveiled plans yesterday to reissue the first album from Mos Generator, Reed‘s band prior to Stone Axe — who also have a split with German outfit Wight coming out.
Whatever incarnation you find him in, be it HeavyPink, Stone Axe or Mos Generator, let there be no doubt Tony Reed is one of the heavy’s most passionate (and prolific) purveyors. Here’s the news from Ripple via the PR wire:
In 2002, PortOrchard, Washington-based Mos Generator sent the stoner/retro rock community on its collective ass with the release of the self-titled debut album, setting in motion the framework for the band’s creative output for the next half decade. Now, in the waning months of 2011, guitarist/vocalist TonyReed, in conjunction with Ripple Music, is compiling an anniversary set that will be sure to appeal to the masses of diehard fans, as well as the throngs of newfound ears.
Mos Generator – 10th Anniversary Edition, scheduled for release on Nov. 21, 2011, will include, for the first time ever, a 12” LP in a gatefold jacket, which will also house a CD with the complete remixed and remastered version of the album, as well as a previously unreleased track from the original recording sessions and the full Live at the Manette recordings that were previously self-released in limited numbers. As if that wasn’t enough bang for the buck, the LP will also feature a download card with all of the previously mentioned material along with demo tracks, additional live recordings, and a near half-hour rehearsal jam!
“We wanted to create a product that captured the history of the band; the nuances of the performances, the creative energies of where we were at as musicians at that particular time in our lives,” states TonyReed as we found him in the midst of rummaging through files of recordings from that era of Mos Generator. “And, along with providing a unique and killer package, we all wanted to keep the price reasonable for the fans.”
In line with the reissue of their first album, Mos Generator are stringing together several dates to play the album in its entirety, as well as to premiere some brand new material that will be included on the band’s first studio album since 2007’s Songs From Future Gods. The new album is currently untitled, but all of the songs are in pre-production with the album tentatively scheduled for an early summer of 2012 release.
Posted in Reviews on June 24th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster
Here I’ve been kicking myself for days trying to come up with some kind of vaguely apt descriptor for what’s going on with Small Stone‘s new Northwest Mind Meld release, and it’s right there in the title the whole time. Is it a compilation? Is it a six-way split? Nope, it’s a melding of the minds; a coming together of various acts and outfits linked in one way or another — if nothing else by geography — for a singular rocking purpose. A putting together of the heads, so to speak.
Gathered by none other than VALIS guitarist/vocalist Van Conner, Northwest Mind Meld features not only his band, but other Washington luminaries Mos Generator and Golden Pig Electric Blues Band alongside newcomers like Skullbot, The Valley (a name I can appreciate) and All Time High. Each band gets two tracks divided up over the course of the CD in a mixed order, like a compilation where half the bands didn’t show up and the rest just filled in the time.
One has to wonder about that. For a region so fertile when it comes to creative music — stoner or otherwise — it seems a little strange to only have a half-dozen bands melding their minds. Was this all Conner could find, or was it just a matter of who he thought fit with what the others were doing? In any case, the six present and accounted for each give solid showings, the two VALIS and Mos Generator cuts being particular highlights, as well as Golden Pig Electric Blues Band‘s “Pentagram” living up to its name.