I wasn’t sure about these two clips above. Earlier this week, I saw the first one embedded somewhere and it being listed as new Neurosis I just thought seemed a little too vague to be true. No song title, no release date announced, nothing really to solidify it. Today a second clip came out, and as the YouTube user putting it up is NeurotRecordings, I guess I thought it was interesting enough either way. Seems a long way to go for a hoax, and in any case, the guitar in the second clip sounds pretty badass.
Before I say anything else, this:
There will be a new podcast this weekend.
It’s been a while, I know. With all the track/album streams I’ve been doing, and the playlist that Jon Davis from Conan curated, I guess I didn’t want to take away from that — also having no time was probably part of it — but things have settled down a little bit, and while I don’t know about next weekend, at least this one I’ll have time to put something together. Should be pretty good.
Tomorrow I’m also going to look at a small house to rent. Unlike the last one I don’t think this one’s in a flood zone, but you never quite know until you get there and you see the cheaply redone kitchen and the freshly painted walls. Also the river’s usually a solid tell, but sometimes it’s just water out of nowhere. Like it falls from the sky or something.
We’ll see how that goes, and I’ll get that podcast brewing, so I guess I’m not really signing off for the weekend, but just letting you know what was up. This week I had two five-post days, and that’s the first time I can remember that happening in a while. There wasn’t an interview posted, but I’ve been working news back onto the blog side as well as keeping it still on the forum, and I like that. The secret is I’m being less anal about things like formatting tour dates and bolding album titles and stuff like that. You’d be amazed how much time it can take to take band names out of all-caps and change the days to some arbitrary format I decided on the second week after I put the site up that nobody but me cares about. Sometimes it takes me a while to figure these things out. Three and a half years is a while.
Next week, aside from the aforementioned podcast, I’ll have reviews of Telestrion, Corsair and Om. I was thinking maybe I’d do another reviewsplosion, but we’ll see if I have time. Tuesday I’m slated to interview Scott Kelly and I hope before the week is out to get on the horn with Samothrace as well. Monday, with the acknowledgement that the album’s been out in Europe forever already, I’ll be hosting a stream of the opening track from the new Swallow the Sun album, just to feature it, and there may be a few more surprises to come. Should be good times.
As always, I hope you have a great and safe weekend. I’ll be checking back in probably Sunday with that podcast post, and I’ll be on spambot patrol on the forum as well. Hope to see you there and back here shortly.
Posted in Reviews on July 26th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
The idea of putting The Forgiven Ghost in Me, the new mostly-solo outing from Scott Kelly, in any kind of proper context is ludicrous. It’s like trying to cover a mountain with a tarp. For the better part of 30 years, Kelly has stood alongside fellow guitarist/vocalist Steve Von Till at the fore of Neurosis’ explorations and so has become one of the most influential figures of his generation in underground heavy. In 2001, Kelly released his first solo album, Spirit Bound Flesh, on which he began to incorporate the elements of country and dark Americana and also to refine his gravely, exhausted vocal approach that, while still closely related to his contributions to Neurosis, was on songs like “The Passage” more melodic and given an entirely new perspective. Joining forces with Neurosis keyboardist Noah Landis and others in Blood and Time, Kelly helmed the songwriting for 2004’s At the Foot of the Garden (Blood and Time would also release a Latitudes session in 2007 with a lineup that included Kelly, Landis and A Storm of Light’s Josh Graham and Vinnie Signorelli), and the track “Remember Me” from that album also showed up on his next solo outing, 2008’s The Wake. In the time since Spirit Bound Flesh, in addition to the Blood and Time outings, Kelly had released four albums with Neurosis – 2001’s A Sun that Never Sets arrived almost concurrently, 2003’s collaboration with Jarboe, 2004’s The Eye of Every Storm and 2007’s Given to the Rising – as well as begun the preliminaries for what would result in the 2009 self-titled debut from the supergroup Shrinebuilder, in which Kelly is joined by luminaries Al Cisneros (Sleep), Scott “Wino” Weinrich (Saint Vitus, The Obsessed, etc.), and Dale Crover (the Melvins). It wasn’t necessarily much of a surprise that The Wake found Kelly more developed and clearer-headed about what he wanted his solo aesthetic to be – he’d certainly had time to think about it doing everything else.
But still, The Wake was surprisingly cohesive. One can get a sense of where Kelly was headed with it listening in hindsight to Blood and Time’s Latitudes session, on which both Townes van Zandt and Roky Erickson were covered, but still, for many, it was blindsiding, and in no small part I mark it as a beginning touchstone of a new wave of “acoustic heavy” that in the last several months alone has found the likes of Mike Scheidt of YOB and Nate Hall of U.S. Christmas releasing similarly-minded solo outings, a clear thread between them being an influence from Kelly’s work on The Wake. In 2011, Kelly toured with Wino (then supporting his acoustic solo debut) and released a split single and earlier 2012 brought the Songs of Townes van Zandt three-way tribute between Kelly, Wino and Von Till, so as The Forgiven Ghost in Me arrives via Neurot with Kelly performing once again alongside Neurosis’ Landis, as well as Greg Dale under the moniker Scott Kelly and the Road Home, the album has no small task ahead of it in drawing together the Americana and drearily ambient styles in Kelly’s past work. This is unquestionably the album’s greatest success, and that the eight songs/41 minutes are executed with no sacrifice of emotional pull or songwriting acumen only makes the record more impressive. As in Blood and Time, Kelly has once again a fitting partner in Landis (who also recorded The Forgiven Ghost in Me) and throughout these songs, Scott Kelly and the Road Home manage to vary atmospherics while never losing a cohesive mood. The vocals play a large role in establishing the overall scope (Josh Graham does a guest spot late into the record on “The Field that Surrounds Me,” as does Neurosis/Sleep drummer Jason Roeder), but if the opening duo of “A Spirit Redeemed to the Sun” and “The Forgiven Ghost in Me” – the construction of their titles being not the only similarity between them – establish anything, it’s that it’s the songs themselves that are the focus of the album, and nothing else.
Even before it kicks in, one can already hear the organ behind Kelly’s guitar on the open-your-hymnal-and-turn-to-page-three opener “A Spirit Redeemed to the Sun,” on which lyrics like, “I’ve washed the blood from my hands/I’ve forgiven myself in my soul/And I stand before you as nothing and no one/But my hands draw the moths to the flame,” are delivered not with hopped up religious zealotry, but subdued resignation – a sort of restless peace. It’s a folk hymn in the end, with another layer of guitar added, but still a relatively sparse arrangement in terms of what’s actually included – organ, guitar, voice – for how full it sounds. That efficiency is at play across the bulk of The Forgiven Ghost in Me, and when it’s veered from, as on the necessarily busier “The Field that Surrounds Me,” it’s clearly done so on purpose. Most of the songs, though, feature some accompaniment for Kelly at least later in the track, as with the added guitar on “A Spirit Redeemed to the Sun,” and presumably those are the contributions of Dale, though I don’t know that to say for sure. In that regard, however, the title cut, which begins humbly with an intake of breath, joins “The Field that Surrounds Me” as one of the busier inclusions, with early-arriving electric guitar behind the central acoustic figure and – preceded by audible creaks of a chair – a multi-vocal chorus underscored by organ. But for the drums to come later, it’s about as “lively” as The Forgiven Ghost in Me gets, and listening to the rhythm of the acoustic line after that chorus, it’s almost “Stones From the Sky” repurposed. Excellently repurposed, at that, and if Kelly had that in mind when he wrote “The Forgiven Ghost in Me,” he certainly wouldn’t be the first to borrow from that pivotal Neurosis moment. Insistent as that musical hook is by its very nature, here it is patient and in service to a far less bombastic atmosphere – the chorus is more the highlight. “In the Waking Hours” begins with louder guitars and what sounds like tape hum in the background, playing up the organic atmospherics before the electrics come in once again, farther back and played with a slide. The progression isn’t a build, as such, but a definite apex comes later into its 4:28, the last minute or so devoted to a memorable guitar strum.
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 Features on January 6th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
As every new year starts, there’s always a glut of rumors that kick around. So-and-so is going to have a new record, this or that band is going to reunite, someone just got signed, etc. However, when I look to my left at the post-it note on my wall of threatened 2012 releases, the prospect is actually daunting. Could we as a species actually live to see a year that boasts releases from Clutch, Kyuss, Neurosis and Saint Vitus?
It’s the kind of thing that, centuries from now, some puffy-haired weirdo (not the good kind) will get on tv and say must have been the work of ancient aliens. These things have a habit of not working out as planned, but even the thought is staggering.
These releases have all been announced one way or another, so like I said last year, I’m not breaking any news, and unlike yesterday, I haven’t actually heard any of them yet. Basically I just wanted to nerd out for a bit on cool stuff that’s supposed to be coming out in 2012.
So here goes:
Ufomammut, Oro: Their 2010 effort, Eve, was a defining moment, both for them as a trio and pivotal act within their genre, and for the genre itself. With Eve (review here), Italian three-piece Ufomammut took cosmic doom to new reaches of psychedelic complexity, and though I know I’ve said it a few times, it’s worth repeating that it was a true work of mastery. It’s only grown richer with time, and Ufomammut‘s two-part follow-up, Oro — which will be divided into Opus Primum and Opus Alter, both of which are set for issue on Neurot in 2012 — is set to expand on the form, if such a thing is possible. We’ll find out.
Saint Vitus, Lillie: F-65: I wouldn’t be surprised if it showed up under a different name, and likewise if it didn’t show up in time for its currently-slated March 27 Season of Mist issue, but whenever and however it arrives, the first Saint Vitus album since 1995 and the first with Scott “Wino” Weinrich on vocals since 1990 is easily the most anticipated doom release of the year. Put to tape by Tony Reed — with whom I was fortunate enough to recently speak about making the album — most of the record was recorded live, and since that’s where Vitus has shined since coming back in 2009, I’m definitely looking forward to hearing how they translate their momentum into a new studio outing.
Colour Haze, She Said: I can’t imagine how frustrated the German heavy psych progenitors must be by now. Seriously — She Said was on my list last year. The trio, led by guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, who also helms the Elektrohasch label, spent all of 2011 hindered by technical problems, and though we did a track premiere back in October for the song “Transformation,” the album has yet to materialize around it. It’s a heartbreaker every time Koglek sends an update, and we can only hope at this point that they continue to stick with it, because if there’s ever been a worthy cause, it’s a new Colour Haze record.
Greenleaf: According to reports, the Swedish trad-rock supergroup with members of Dozer, Truckfighters and Demon Cleaner started recording the follow-up to 2007′s fucking incredible Agents of Ahriman in November, and the latest is that Oskar Cedarmalm was set to start vocals on Dec. 26. I’ll tell you flat out that when this record arrives, I’m gonna be such a dork for it that you’re going to be tired of hearing about it. You’re going to load up this page and be like, “Ah Jeebus, not another post about how much ass Greenleaf kicks.” They’re the reason I’m going to London Desertfest in April and the prospect of a new album kept me from jumping in front of a train on several occasions throughout the recent holiday season. No shit.
High on Fire: The prospect of a new High on Fire album in 2012, on the other hand, wasn’t all that exciting to me initially, but when it was announced that Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou was manning the production at his GodCity studio, that was more than enough to change my mind. My whole complaint with High on Fire‘s last album, 2010′s Snakes for the Divine, was that it sounded too watered-down and there wasn’t enough grit in the production. If anyone’s going to fix that, it could be Ballou, who recently brought Black Cobra‘s massive thrash intensity to bear on the excellent Invernal. Either way, will be interesting.
Neurosis: I don’t even remember where I saw it at this point, whether it was Thee Facebooks or the forum or what, but the news that Neurosis had started preliminary recordings with Steve Albini for their next album filled me with enough dorkish glee that I chose to include them as the sixth in a five-band feature, despite having zero confirmation either that such has actually happened or that the album will be out by the close of this year. And really, it doesn’t matter. If Neurosis are possibly making a new record, then I’m definitely looking forward to it, and that’s just the way the universe works. Hard to believe it will have been half a decade since Given to the Rising was released, since I feel like I still haven’t digested that record, but if it takes the rest of my life to catch up (and it probably will), then I know my time won’t have been misspent.
Ditto the Pt. 1 post: there’s more. Full-lengths to (possibly) come from Kyuss, Ancestors, Conan, Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Night, Samothrace, Crippled Black Phoenix, Earth, Wight, Curse the Son, Cathedral, Wino/Conny Ochs, Shrinebuilder, Om and I don’t even know how many others set up 2012 as an incredible year yet to unfold, and tired as I am even just thinking about all the adjectival phrases it’s going to take me to get through it, I can’t fucking wait.
Because, really, it’s the music. If we don’t have anything else, we’ve got that, and it’s comforting to know that on the hardest days this year will bring — and I don’t doubt that for many of us it will bring no shortage of hard days — we’ll still have music. I look forward more than I can say to hearing these creative works, and hopefully sharing them with you as much as this weird internet portal makes me able to do so.
If I’ve missed anything, I hope you’ll leave a comment to remind. The only thing better than a bunch of records to look forward to is even more records to look forward to, so have at it.
When I worked at KB Toys store #1051 in Morris Plains, New Jersey, they used to call it “Green Friday,” and as I started there when I was just turned 16, that was how I came to know Black Friday, which is what most people in the US call the day after Thanksgiving — the busiest shopping day of the year and the “official” kickoff of the holiday retail season.
Black Friday takes its name not from the shadow that consumerism at large casts on American culture, but from the simple fact that it’s the day that moves most stores from the red into the black for the year. It’s when they start turning a profit. Seeing an opportunity to continue their mission of promoting independent music culture, the fine folks behind Record Store Day got involved this year, bolstering the event with special releases and other initiatives. I’d expect more of that kind of thing next year.
Late last month, when I was at Redscroll Records in Wallingford, Connecticut, on my apparently annual autumn pilgrimage, I was given a flyer for their Black Friday specials, and knowing that I was going to be in the state for the Thanksgiving holiday, kindly suggested to The Patient Mrs. that I might like to wake up early and hit up the sale, which was 25 percent off everything in stock except for turntables.
So it was. My alarm went off yesterday at 5:35AM, and when I walked into Redscroll at 6:02 or thereabouts, the place was already full. Outside, the sun was just starting to think about rising. As I suspected I might, I had the CD racks mostly to myself (at least as compares to vinyl — LPs are by far the priority for the shop), but it was easily the most crowded I’d ever seen it. People were friendly, though, making way for each other and handing off releases to other potential buyers. I used the 25 percent discount as an excuse to pick up a few odds and ends, most of which I’d already heard, but hadn’t gotten full copies of, and other discs I’d wanted to grab this year that I hadn’t gotten the chance.
For example, I long since own Sovereign by Neurosis, but a quarter off the price was enough for me to grab the 2011 reissue, and stuff like Candlemass‘ Ashes to Ashes live record and Place of Skulls‘ As a Dog Returns had just kind of slipped through the cracks in terms of getting a physical copy. I bought The Body & Braveyoung‘s Nothing Passes to include in the next podcast (no big surprise: it sounds totally fucked), and was hoping to nab The Atlas Moth‘s An Ache for the End for the same reason, but they were out of it, and I drowned my sorrows in some cheap George Carlin, Goblin and Free instead.
Now that I’ve heard the low-end centric mega-grooves of Saturnalia Temple‘s Aion of Drakon, I’m officially stoked to check them out at Roadburn next year. And because I haven’t been able to leave there without doing so the last couple times I’ve been, I picked up a Cable CD, this time the 2008 reissue of their first album, Variable Speed Drive, the original version of which I’ve been hunting on eBay for a bit with no real success.
It was just over $100 for 10 discs, which wasn’t bad and was enough to earn me a free Redscroll t-shirt that I’ll wear proudly. I went back to the motel and crashed out for a couple more hours before getting up and heading south back to Jersey to go to work, and after that, on the way further south to Maryland, I requested yet another stop from The Patient Mrs., this one to Vintage Vinyl, to pick up that Atlas Moth record and settle the matter once and for all. I also got a full copy of Invisible White by Ancestors. Both at full price, and neither with any regret.
Vintage Vinyl in the evening was empty compared to Redscroll in the morning, which was troubling, since that’s pretty much the only shop in New Jersey where I can do something like stop in and pick up an Atlas Moth or an Ancestors CD and be confident that they’ll actually have such a thing. I know they had stocked some of the Record Store Day Black Friday special releases, but hopefully they come around to the sale stuff too, because god damn, I’d hate to lose that place as a resource.
In the meantime, a package showed up in the mail yesterday from All That is Heavy with a copy of Master Sleeps by Hills, which is jammier than I thought it would be, and the Rise Above reissue of Necromandus‘ Orexis of Death, which Tony “I Have Excellent Fucking Taste and Stone Axe is My Band to Prove It” Reed recommended a while back I make mine. Altogether, this probably represents the bulk of the music I’ll buy through the end of 2011, so it was good to send the year out with a bang. I should have plenty to keep me busy until January comes.
Posted in Reviews on February 14th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
If it wasn’t enough that it was The Patient Mrs.‘ birthday and I still got to go to the show, I knew walking into The Mercury Lounge that it was going to be a good night because the dude at the door said, “Hey man, I dig your beard.” Had it been anyone else playing that night, I might have just cut my losses and gone home right then, opened up my diary (or WordPress) and written, “Today was a good day.” Instead I celebrated with an $8 Sierra Nevada.
I figured out the last time I was at the Mercury Lounge was a couple years back to see Dax Riggs, and though I expected my skin to be burned off in hipster hell, it wasn’t actually that bad. Well, maybe it was, but the last acoustic show I went to was Six Organs of Admittance, and the volume of that crowd was so loud it was offensive, and that definitely wasn’t the case here. I don’t care how ironic your flannel is so long as you’re there for the music and you’re not a dick about it.
Opening the show was Hunter Hunt-Hendrix of black metallers Liturgy doing a solo performance that turned out to be him, a looper, some vocal effects, and nothing else. His voice mimicked strings and he set up elaborate choruses of himself over the course of a couple separate pieces. It was brave, but probably not something that should be done for more than 10 minutes at a stretch, as after that the “What the hell am I doing here?” impulse kicked in and I went to the bar out front for another drink and to wait for Man’s Gin. People were in and out from the back room and I could hear just fine in case he, you know, took out a guitar or something. Nope. Semi-melodic moaning all the way.
The plan for the night was Man’s Gin, then Wino, then Scott Kelly, then Wino and Scott Kelly together, and it was a good plan by me. I dug Man’s Gin‘s Smiling Dogs record and was psyched to see the Erik Wunder-fronted outfit in their full-band incarnation after when I last caught them at Lit Lounge and it was just Wunder and standup-bassist Josh Lozano with percussion behind. Fade Kainer (Inswarm, Batillus) handled drums and Scott Edward guitar, and they were loose, but sounded good all the same.
They got a mixed reaction from the crowd, but it seemed more positive than ambivalent, which translates to triumph in Manhattan. Everyone in attendance who was conscious of their surroundings during the grunge era probably had a better idea of what they were going for than those who weren’t, whatever that says. Highlight of the set was the Neurosis-style drum jam at the end and “Doggamn.” Still waiting for them to do “The Ballad of Jimmy Sturgis” live.
It was a party when Wino took the stage, and that spirit continued through his set, numerous whoops and hollers coming from the crowd. Wino, up there by himself with just an acoustic guitar, couldn’t help but rip into a fuzzed-out solo about halfway in, but aside from playing them a bit faster (as he acknowledged he had a tendency to do in our interview), he was loyal to the versions of the songs that appear on his Adrift album. The split 7″ single he shares with Scott Kelly was mentioned as being for sale for just $5 — end of tour blowout price — and it seemed only proper to pick one up.
He covered Townes Van Zandt, as would Kelly when he took the stage later, but the highlight of Wino‘s set was probably “I Don’t Care,” which he prefaced with a story about being 15 and getting locked up in a Maryland juvenile detention center and writing the song then. It was one of my least favorite tracks on Adrift, but the performance live and the context made it a high point of the evening. I actually saw people dance. It happened.
The thing about Wino is that, even if he’s doing something else (i.e. playing acoustic), he’s a classic rock songwriter, and he can’t help but rock out. He brought the crowd along with him for the trip, and when Scott Kelly took the stage later, it was clear that, despite their apparent friendship and cohabitation in the supergroup Shrinebuilder, they’re two very different performers.
Scott Kelly plays s-l-o-w. He’s really, really good at it. The room — apart from one dude who decided it would be a good idea to accompany Kelly‘s guitar by banging on a cinderblock and eventually brought the show to a screeching halt — was dead quiet. So much so that Kelly remarked approvingly on it more than once (we did good!) as he went through his set of morose, low-key but still highly emotive songs. He covered his half of the split with Wino, taking three tries to get through the song because of the aforementioned cinderblock jackass, and by the time his version of “Tecumseh Valley” was done, my arrived-at conclusion of the evening became, “Well, I guess it’s time to buy a Townes Van Zandt record.” He made a pretty convincing argument.
I had been hoping for “Remember Me,” which originally appeared on Blood and Time‘s At the Foot of the Garden before Kelly re-recorded it for his last solo album, the brilliant The Wake. That was a no dice, but the new Shrinebuilder song Kelly brought Wino on stage to play, and the jam that ensued from there, was more than enough to make up for anything lacking. The crowd had thinned some by the time they were done, but not much, and those who were there were entranced by what they were watching. Wino took leads (higher in the mix, or maybe it was where I was standing) while Kelly played rhythms, and each guitarist seemed to enjoy most of all the chance to be on stage with the other. It was something I was glad to have witnessed when it was over.
Something I was less glad about was having lost the ticket from coatcheck. Whoops. It really is a wonder I’m not divorced by now. The Patient Mrs. and I stood, describing the contents of her coat pockets to the heavy-sighs of the girl at the rack, and eventually, we got her jacket and left. I don’t know if it was her best birthday ever, and I don’t know if it’s the only time I’m ever going to get to see Wino and Scott Kelly perform together in this fashion (they looked to be having a good enough time that I wouldn’t be surprised if they did it again at some point), but man, if ever there was a time I was happy to be in New York on a Saturday night, this was it.
Posted in Reviews on January 19th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Originally released by Alternative Tentacles in 1992 and subsequently reissued in 1999 at the launch of the band’s Neurot Recordings label, Neurosis’ third album, Souls at Zero, is an essential document in an essential catalog. The post-hardcore (though not by the modern genre definition) approach of their first two albums, 1988’s Pain of Mind and 1991’s The Word as Law, led the seminal Oakland, California, outfit to new ground of sonic experimentation, and Souls at Zero is the first instance of that experimentation made flesh. Not even as assured as they’d be a year later on Enemy of the Sun, these songs capture a critical moment in the transition of the band. The raw immediacy of their earliest work is still there – you can almost feel the panic coming through the speakers nearly 20 years later on opener “To Crawl Under One’s Skin” – and they leaned heavily on their much-noted Swans influence, but the process of refinement that would result in Neurosis’ later career triumphs was definitely under way.
Like the 2010 Neurot Recordings reissue of Enemy of the Sun, this new Souls at Zero has been given a visual reinterpretation by Neurosis artist-in-residence Josh Graham. Sound-wise, the disc overall sounds louder and clearer, but that could just as easily be me reading into it as any change mastering/pressing technology improvements have brought about. The guitars of Scott Kelly and Steve Von Till are still distinct, and more present here than in the original is Dave Edwardson’s bass, which does much to thicken out the songs and make moments like the apex of “Sterile Vision” hit with more impact. The balance between the keyboards (then provided by Simon McIlroy, who was replaced by Noah Landis in 1995) and guitars/bass is given careful treatment on that track as well, and on “Stripped” and the chaotic “The Web,” where an underlying layer of noise seems to come through in a way it never did on previous versions of the record. Those who’ve spent significant time with Souls at Zero over the years either since its original release or previous reissue will no doubt hear things differently as well. Even if it’s the same album, it’s a new experience of it.
At this point, the subgenre’s trend level has crested and most of what the specific style of music has to offer has likely been explored, but although it gets the ol’ eye-roll “not this again” treatment these days, it’s worth remembering that post-metal has produced some great, landmark albums, and that the bands who came after had solid reasoning behind being influenced as they were.
Blending post-rock elements with heavier, often crushing guitar work, the classification post-metal is as amorphous as any genre term. I’ve heard everyone from High on Fire to Ulver referred to under its umbrella, but I want to be clear that when I talk about post-metal, I’m thinking of what’s also commonly called “metalgaze,” the specific branch of metal heavily inspired by the bands below.
I wanted to do this Where to Start post not just for those looking to expose themselves to the genre, but also in case anyone who maybe is tired of hearing bands that sound like this has forgotten how killer these records were. Here’s my starting five essential post-metal albums, ordered by year of release:
1. Godflesh, Godflesh (1988): I saw the album art on hoodies for years before I knew what it was. 1989′s Streetcleaner was better received critically at the time for its industrial leanings, but Justin Broadrick‘s first outing after leaving Napalm Death has grown over time to be the more influential album. At just 30 minutes long in its original form (subsequent reissues would add bonus material), it’s a pivotal moment in understanding modern post-metal that predates most of the genre’s major contributions by over a decade.
2. Neurosis, A Sun That Never Sets (2001): Take a listen to A Sun That Never Sets closer “Stones from the Sky,” then go put on just about any post-metal record, and you’ll see many of them trying to capture the same feel and progression — if not just blatantly transposing that riff onto their own material. Say what you want about Neurosis‘ earlier material, I think if everyone was honest about it, it would be A Sun That Never Sets mentioned even more. An awful lot of the modern wave of post-metal bands formed in 2001 and 2002, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
[NOTE: I wanted to give Neurosis' Live at Roadburn 2007 some attention because, well, it's Neurosis and that's what I do, but I was conflicted because I wrote the promotional bio for the album, got paid for it and can't even attempt to feign impartiality as I usually do. My solution is to print the bio itself; it's a review of sorts anyhow. Hope you dig it. Live at Roadburn 2007 is available now through NeurotRecordings.]
Neurosis – Live at Roadburn 2007
This will be my last letter. I’m tired of trying to make you understand. Hell, I’m tired of trying to understand. After this, you won’t be hearing from me again. I’m not coming back.
You know where everyone still has it wrong about Neurosis? The mind. Look at the legion of imitators and you’ll see they’re like children trying to build a treehouse without instructions. There are mathematical equations being done, but they’re the wrong ones. Emotion plus volume. The cerebellum gets all the credit, but this music comes from the stomach. Listen to the washes at the back of “Water is Not Enough.” Listen to the grimacing cries of “At the End of the Road,” the mortal desolation of “A Season in the Sky.” You’ll hear it or you’re a fool.
Not that it’s perfect. That isn’t the idea. It’s the humanity you’re getting here. The raw stuff of human performance. The need to transmit from one to another an idea, shape, sound. It is as close to authenticity as we come.
What do you think they called a square the first time saw it drawn in the dirt? It was a thing without a name. It was a creation inextricably tied to the one who crafted it. It was art. That’s what this is, delivered at painful volume to ears that, if they could, would scream back as if to say, “I’m here too, I can see it now. It is even on all sides.”
Imagine what it must have been like to have Neurosis step out on that stage. The 013 Popcentrum, Tilburg. Roadburn. An event unlike anything else the world over, and Neurosis with a legacy of carved granite. It must have been like rivers joining, flowing in the same direction. Forces of nature.
There are nine tracks on this release. As you listen, set aside expectation. Put away your thoughts about what you think the work should or does sound like. It is not about the definitive. It is the execution. The temporal and the fleeting. You need to understand: This is the moment, captured. Emotion plus volume. They’ve been doing it one way or another since Reagan.
If you’re still reading this, you know the deal. That year they released Given to the Rising, which was the black to The Eye of Every Storm’s grey, and to the red of A Sun that Never Sets, and the hard lines of Times of Grace,and so on. The material is fresh, vibrant and unrelenting. Even when it breathes, you don’t. Two years later they’d be asked to curate their Beyond the Pale Festival under the Roadburn banner, hand-picking the artists with whom they would share the stage for their return performance. This is the genesis of that.
Like they say: “Sun-whitened bones in a landscape of hounds.” We’re those hounds, you and I. All we can do is feast, chew endlessly and hope to get a bit of marrow. Break our teeth on it. And maybe understand. I’m tired of trying to make you understand. So tired.
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 26th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
Right at the end of August, when the whole world feels like that episode of The Twilight Zone where the earth is moving closer to the sun, when the haze of humidity covers the eastern half of the US like a blanket from Hell — is there any better time to reissue one of the most intense albums of all time? Neurosis‘ 1993 full-length, Enemy of the Sun — originally released on Alternative Tentacles, then reissued in 1999 on Neurot Recordings – will once again see new life through Neurot on August 30.
The tracklisting is the same as the 1999 reissue, but the album will feature newly-interpreted artwork from Neurosis‘ resident visual artist, Josh Graham. As per the PR wire:
Neurot Recordings is proud to announce the reissue of one of the most groundbreaking releases in the ever-expanding lineage of icons Neurosis, Enemy of the Sun.
With Neurosis’ earlier releases — 1987’s Pain of Mind, and even 1990’s The Word as Law — the band’s jagged and eerie blend of metallic, hypnotic, post-gutter punk was instantly recognized as wholly unique, yet it took multiple releases for the then Bay Area unit to infinitely define their sound, forcing the world to listen, then run for cover. Their 1992 full-length Souls at Zero showcased the band branching off into much more expanded songwriting, giving birth to much longer hymns, infusing them with tribal rhythms and slow-building post-doom bastardization, then breaking massive new ground for the metal world.
But it was their follow-up in 1993, the crushingEnemy of the Sun LP, that would be the album to take the pulsing, hypnotizing monoliths Neurosis was crafting down to much darker, and much, much heavier territory for the rest of the band’s still-growing roster of masterpieces. Still to this day, critics and fans of heavy and experimental metal hold this release to be one of the harshest, spine-chilling, mind-warping releases in history, and countless acts have cited Enemy of the Sun as “the one that changed everything” for them.
The eight tracks on the release was one of the most massively cavernous, crushing records the world had experienced. A mesmerizing, pressurizing, dirge-driven display of brutal riffing, thick with haunting samples, layered, anguished vocal tracks, raging multiple-member percussion contributions, and some of the most mammoth buildups ever, Enemy of the Sun was an album that left a sense of anguish in your soul long after the record was over.
Neurot Recordings are exceptionally proud to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Neurosis, and once again issue this classic album to the masses. 2010’s reissue of Enemy of the Sun bears a fully redesigned package by visionary artist, Neurosis live visual master Josh Graham, and will be released worldwide on August 30th, 2010.
Posted in Features on September 1st, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster
To call Steve Von Till or any of the other human components making up Neurosis a genius at this point is moot. Monday comes after Sunday and these dudes are brilliant; that’s just the way it goes. Nonetheless, among the myriad solo projects, contributions and bands the members are involved with, Von Till‘s experimental Harvestman output stands alone in its blend of complex textures and willful bucking of structure. 2005′s Lashing the Rye established the project as an outlet free from creative boundaries, and 2009′s In a Dark Tongue (both on Neurot) thwarts expectation by including psychedelic jamming amidst the rich, droning tones.
He was in the car when I called him over the weekend and warned that he might have to interrupt the interview at any moment on account of, as he put it, “Kids and dogs,” but we nonetheless forged ahead and I was given the chance to pick his brain as regards his processes, techniques, how his home studio affects composition and — solely because I couldn’t resist asking — what it was like for Neurosis to play with Heaven and Hell in Seattle. As ever, the guitarist/vocalist was cordial and accommodating, and the resulting Q&A is available for reading after the jump. Please enjoy.
Posted in Reviews on July 17th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster
If the creative purpose behind Neurosis is a distillation and that of the solo material guitarist/vocalist Steve Von Till releases under his own name is a reverential composition, then the noise-laden drone and effects of Harvestman can really only be a deconstruction. Though the songs on the second Harvestman outing, In a Dark Tongue, aren’t completely obliterated — elemental, often simple melodies remain in many of the tracks, delivered via acoustic or electric guitar — the rye is well lashed and it is plain to see the experimental vision is the driving force of the project. Armed with a home studio, The Crow’s Nest, Von Till is free to fill out these songs with multiple layers and sounds, balancing the creation and destruction against each other.
Don’t be mistaken, this isn’t outwardly violent music. The closest Harvestman comes to straightforward songwriting is probably the 13-minute “By Wind and Sun,” and though Von Till is joined by what’s essentially a full band behind him, the brand of “heaviness” the song presents is more like a Tee Pee Records-style psychedelic drone jam than anything as crushing as Neurosis. Not a complaint. Of the many experiments on In a Dark Tongue, most seem to be setting instrumentation and loops and modulations and manipulations in opposing positions, and with the hypnotic repetition of “By Wind and Sun,” everything becomes intertwined. At the same time, the contrast in “Karlsteine” between the Appalachian dulcimer and the noises and guitar wails that eventually eat it alive is a big part of what makes the song such an interesting listen.