The Obelisk Radio Adds: All Them Witches, Rainbows are Free, Idre, Nyarlathotep, Panopticon

Posted in Radio on July 11th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Alright listen.

Click here to listen.

There doesn’t seem to ever be a break with this stuff. 16 records joined The Obelisk Radio playlist today, and that’s still got me behind on checking out more to add. I don’t know what the state of that hard drive is, but I might not be far off from needing to add a second one. It’s become an archive for me.

Diligent and admirable bastard that he is, Slevin is working on an automatically refreshing script that will allow listeners to see what was played over the last 24 hours, which will be a big help if a file is missing its ID3 tags — that being how the player identifies the songs — as I know things sometimes are. I get asked regularly what was played at a specific time, so hopefully this will be able to answer that question.

So things are in the works, but of course there’s a ton of music to talk about in the meantime, and that’s the fun part anyway.

The Obelisk Radio Adds for July 11, 2014:

All Them Witches, Effervescent EP

It's art!

There are at least two distinct jams at work in the 25-minute single track that makes up Effervescent, the 2014 EP from Nashville psych-blues rockers All Them Witches. The Fender Rhodes of Allan Van Cleave and airy guitar of Ben McLeod feature heavily in both, as bassist Michael Parks, Jr., and drummer Robby Staebler (interview here) provide a foundation on which to space out, and the two pieces find a bridge in hypnotic, psychedelic stretching and backwards noise beginning at around 13 minutes in before building back up. All throughout, the vibe is central, there is movement, and the four-piece demonstrate that the chemistry they showed burgeoning on last year’s brilliant Lightning at the Door (discussed here) was no fluke, but the beginning of a grand and creative exploration that finds its next installment here. It may be a stopgap — formerly their primary means of release, they’ve recently pulled their full-lengths down from Bandcamp; one expects big, got-signed-type news from them at any moment — but Effervescent is fluid and rich, and as deep as you want to go in listening to it, it’s willing to take you there and further. All Them Witches on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Nyarlathotep, The Shadow over Innsmouth

Black. Metal.

Some six years after releasing their initial The End is Always Near demo, New Jersey black metal outfit (whom, in the interest of full disclosure, I know personally) Nyarlathotep follow-up with the Lovecraftian full-length, The Shadow over Innsmouth. Based around the  short story of the same name, the album breaks down into five extended tracks plus an intro of rage-fueled atmospherics. Using programmed drums to their advantage on “Old Zadok Allen” — the only proper song here under 10 minutes — they add an industrial feel with a keyboard-led midsection backed by vague, ambient screams. The density in the material is striking, but even at their most unbridled — as on the blasting, solo-topped early moments in the title-track – Nyarlathotep hold their commitment to setting a mood firm, and the blown-out, distorted soundscape they create across the release is grim and otherworldly enough to be worthy of its subject matter. It is a complex, biting execution that won’t be for everyone, but that seethes in its quiet parts and gnashes its pointed teeth with monstrous force. Nyarlathotep on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Idre, Idre

Ye olde poste-metalle.
Oklahoma City trio Idre specialize in ambient fluidity and deeply-weighted tonal crush. Their self-released, self-titled debut long-player is comprised of two extended cuts — “Factorie” (26:41) and “Witch Trial” (13:17) — that each impress with their patience, their impact and their ability to contrast the generally claustrophobic feel of post-metal with an open-spaced, salt-of-the-earth pulse. Within its first 10 minutes, “Factorie” has moved from undulating waves of riffing to vast, strumming, Across Tundras-esque roll, and never does it seem to be meandering without purpose in the noisy stages to come. It builds and collapses, and when they seem the most gone, the clean, twanging vocals return to finish out, leading to the parabolically constructed “Witch Trial,” which marries Earth-style drone and galloping drums effectively to create a decidedly Western feel while still building toward, and eventually moving through a sonically pummeling apex. Once again, vocals are sparse, but perfectly placed almost as if to remind the listener of how small a human being can be in so wide a space as the Midwest. Like that landlocked region, Idre‘s Idre is expansive and lets you see for miles. Idre on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Rainbows are Free, Waves ahead of the Ocean

This one's good and has been on my review stack for a while.

Led by the substantial pipes of vocalist B. Fain Kistler, Norman, Oklahoma, four-piece Rainbows are Free seem keen on finding the place where classic doom and heavy rock meet, and on their second full-length, Waves ahead of the Ocean (released by Guestroom Records), they just about get there. Kistler is a singer worthy of comparison to Grand MagusJB Christoffersson, but Rainbows are Free are less grandiose overall, early songs like “The Botanist,” the title-track and the cumbersomely-titled opener “Speed God and the Rise of the Motherfuckers from a Place beyond Hell” nestling into heavy, engaging grooves marked out by the choice riffing of Richie Tarver, the bass work of Chad Hogue and drums of Bobby Onspaugh. Unpretentious and professional in their presentation, they doom up an otherwise Clutch-style boogie in “Cadillac” before going full-on trad metal in “Snake Bitten by Love,” and ably making their way through a Dio Sabbath push on “Burn and Die,” which works well despite feeling a long way from the upbeat rockin’ of earlier highlight “Sonic Demon” and leads smoothly into closer “Comet,” the six-and-a-half-minute spacier thrust of which seems to be seems to be where Rainbows are Free most choose to harken to the psychedelia one might expect from their moniker. They most drive toward the epic in their finale, and the payoff there is churning and insistent in a way that more than justifies the song’s position on the 37-minute record, but even then have a keen eye for structure and holding the attention of their audience. An impeccably put together album from a band more than ready to turn heads. Rainbows are Free on Thee Facebooks, Guestroom Records on Bandcamp.

Panopticon, Roads to the North

No media.
Despite the bluegrass influence and liberal inclusion of banjo amidst its blackened onslaught, Panopticon‘s Roads to the North (released on Bindrune) is perhaps most American of all for its pulling together seemingly disparate elements in defiance of European traditionalism. Billed as and creating the standard for American folk metal, it nonetheless is in conversation with European black metal — a conversation that in my head looks something like it’s being chased à la Benny Hill for its heresies — while purposefully working against its tenets. Roads to the North is the fifth full-length from the one-man project of Kentucky’s Austin Lunn, and made in collaboration with Krallice‘s Colin Marston (among others), it elicits a sprawl through both its metallic extremity and its devotion to the aesthetic it pioneers. It makes for a heady 74-minute listen, but Panopticon are cohesive throughout — five records deep, they should be — and one doesn’t embark on an album like Roads to the North lightly or without wanting full immersion into an evocative and blistering landscape. That’s just what you get. Panopticon on Thee Facebooks, Bindrune Recordings.

For the full list of albums added to The Obelisk Radio this week and to see the latest updates, click here.

Thanks for reading and listening.

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I’m Guesting WFMU Today — Please Listen!

Posted in Features on June 5th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

From 1PM-3PM today, I’ll be a guest on Diane’s Kamikaze Fun Machine on New Jersey’s venerable institution of the weird, 91.1 WFMU. If you’re in the area, you can tune in directly, but you can listen from anywhere in the world at

I am thrilled beyond belief and very, very excited to do this. I don’t get invited to take part in things like this very often, and I’ve picked some killer tracks — a lot of new stuff, and almost all within the last few years — to mark the occasion. If you haven’t heard any of the new Godflesh yet, I’m bringing that along, and a lot of fuzz and heavy psych stuff too. Lots of heavy psych, actually. I kind of went on a tear selecting tracks.

But there’s some brutality too. I’m carting along two full CD’s worth, which is more than we’ll be able to fit for a two-hour show probably by double, but I thought it would be good to have stuff to choose from. I’m crazy stoked, honored to have been asked to go there at all and I really, really hope you’ll be able to check it out.

Again, WFMU streams live online at, and all of Diane‘s playlists are available on her show’s page, which I would highly encourage you check out and basically use as a blueprint for stuff you should dig on. FMU has been doing support-worthy freeform radio since long before I knew what absurdity was, so if you’re someplace in the world where you can’t listen via radio, it’s definitely worth your time to listen, whether you do so when I’m on or not.

There’s a running comments page with the live-updated playlist (also a pronunciation guide for my last name in case you’ve ever wondered), so if you get the chance, please say hi. I can’t wait to get on the air!

Listen online at

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Duuude, Tapes! Clamfight, Thank You Delaware

Posted in Duuude, Tapes! on May 23rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

I haven’t walked away from seeing Clamfight play in the last four years without thinking to myself how devastating a live act they’ve become, so their new live tape, Thank You Delaware, is a welcome arrival as documentation of that phenomenon. Released by Contaminated Tones Productions with the first 20 copies in a limited blue liner, the six-song set seems to have been recorded late in 2013 in a North Jersey club called Dingbatz. At very least, that’s where the pics in the j-card insert come from, and at the start of side two — actually the sides are divided into “Side Clam” and “Side Strips” — drummer/vocalist Andy Martin makes some mention of being in Jersey playing with Tarpit Boogie, so it seems like a safe assumption. The title is a gag as it winds up, since at the end of the set, Martin says, “It’s been real, Delaware,” when they’re most definitely in NJ. They can thank whatever state they want, I’m still going to be on board.

That bias level for the Maple Forum alums and my personal affection for these dudes – Martin, lead guitarist Sean McKee, guitarist Joel Harris, bassist Louis Koble – no doubt colors my opinion of Thank You Delaware, but I’ve found since the “tape revival” began that some of the stuff I enjoy most of all are releases just like this one; live, raw recordings that you can’t get anywhere else. It’s not a bootleg, because it’s on a legit label — Contaminated Tones specialize in varying forms of extremity — and endorsed by the band, but it’s of that ilk. The label on the tape is pasted on, there aren’t a lot of them around, and while it’s not a DAT-in-the-pocket audience recording from 1974, neither is it overly clean in such a way as to detract from the impact of the live feel. A solid balance, in other words. You get the brutality from “The Eagle” and you get a taste of McKee‘s soaring lead work in the jam around the title-track from 2013′s sophomore full-length, I vs. the Glacier, from which the bulk of the material on the tape comes.

“The Eagle” and “Sand Riders” as a one-two are more or less staples of Clamfight gigs, and they sit well together in that role. I’m glad to have a live recording of “Block Ship,” and “Ghosts I Have Known” was a favorite from their 2010 debut, Vol. 1, that doesn’t always get played, so cool to hear that put to tape as well. If you’ve ever gone to see a band and then heard one of their live albums, you know that sometimes they can come off completely different recorded. Vocals are off, there’s too much separation. You lose the feeling of watching them. With Thank You Delaware, the four-piece’s wall of noise and vicious stage domination is preserved. It’s a big, heavy-slamming sound, and it rounds out at its most raucous with “Stealing the Ghost Horse,” though the intro jam has since developed even further than how it sounds here to boast some of McKee‘s best lead work. The tape finishes with excerpts from an interview conducted by Contaminated Tones in 2010 that recounts, among other things, some vomit-related band shenanigans. Very Clamfight, to say the least.

If you’re not into tapes, fair enough. I’m not likely to change your mind about that. For those not immediately biased along format lines, Thank You Delaware successfully captures the thrashing heft that Clamfight bring to their live performance. Maybe it’s a fan-piece and I’m a fanboy, but that’s not about to diminish my enjoyment at all, and if you’ve dug into I vs. the Glacier, this makes a more than satisfying companion.

Clamfight, “Ghosts I Have Known” from Thank You Delaware (2014)

Clamfight on Thee Facebooks

Contaminated Tones Productions

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Buried Treasure: Monster Magnet, Love Monster

Posted in Buried Treasure on May 20th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

I only purchased two CDs at this year’s Roadburn festival. One was Rotor‘s 2, which I was far less than thrilled to discover later that I already owned (it was their first one I wanted), and the other was Love Monster, a 2001 compilation of Dave Wyndorf‘s pre-Monster Magnet demos, recorded in 1988. This one, which I didn’t already own, has been on my radar for a while, and though I was royally, epically broke at the fest, I used some of the Euros left in my wallet from 2013 to pay for the disc, which came out on Wrong Way Records basically as a fan-piece for Monster Magnet heads who maybe by then were missing the band’s more psychedelic side.

Remember, this was 2001, the same year Monster Magnet put out God Says No, right around the height of their commerciality, so in a way a release like this was bound to happen. 3,000 copies were made, and indeed, the seven tracks do capture some of the space-rocking spirit of Monster Magnet‘s earliest work — their landmark debut, Spine of God, would see US release in 1992, following a self-titled EP in 1990 — but there’s more to it than that. The material was recorded on a 4-track by Wyndorf himself, so it’s pretty blown out and raw, but there are shades of pre-industrial new wave on “Atom Age Vampire” and Wyndorf adjusts his attitude-drenched vocals accordingly, and “Brighter than the Sun” coats classic garage riffing in echo like the prototype for a psychedelic punk movement that never really existed. Rawness notwithstanding, a lot of what would prove so pivotal to Monster Magnet‘s sound is there on Love Monster, which if nothing else underscores the clarity of vision at work in the band from its launch.

There are seven tracks on the CD, with the penultimate “Five Years Ahead” a cover of obscure New York psych rockers The Third Bardo‘s 1967 single, and the closer “Snoopy” a 10-minute effects-laden noise-buzz freakout, but really, the appeal of Love Monster when it was new would’ve been the chance to hear where Monster Magnet came from some 13 years earlier. Now, another 13 years after that, the EP still has that appeal, however rough it might sound, and in the clever lyrics of “Poster” and the bright-toned bliss of “War Hippie” one can hear one of psych rock’s most accomplished songwriting processes beginning to take shape. What Monster Magnet would go on to accomplish and the influence they’d wind up having didn’t come solely from the songs on Love Monster, but they were a step on the way to getting there, and for that, I was more than happy to shell out a couple of my remaining Euros for the disc.

Monster Magnet, “Poster”

Monster Magnet on Thee Facebooks

Monster Magnet’s website

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Pharaoh Finish Recording Debut Album Negative Everything

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 19th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

New Jersey natives Pharaoh will round out a Philly-Baltimore-D.C. weekender tonight with a set in Montclair, in my beloved Garden State, alongside the formidable likes of Dutchguts, Ilsa and Seven Sisters of Sleep. I’m late in posting the news below about their forthcoming full-length debut, Negative Everything, but I figured better that than never. It’s been five years almost to the day since I reviewed the trio’s The Demonstration 2009 demo, and though they’ve had a couple singles out since then, I’m looking forward to finding out where the last half-decade has taken their sound. Time flies. Also birds.

A389 will have Negative Everything out in the coming months, as the PR wire informs:

PHARAOH: New Jersey Trio Completes Tracking Of New LP For A389

Following two 7″ releases released through A389, Somerville, New Jersey-based trio, PHARAOH, has completed the tracking on their debut LP for the label.

PHARAOH’s hardcore-influenced sludge reverberation can be traced to legendary acts like Bloodlet, Neurosis, Grief and Starkweather, the band demonstrating their craft through a bruising, slow-motion dirge of through monolithic amplification. Through regional touring and multiple recordings, including their 2010-released I Murderer 7″ and 2012-released This House Is Doomed 7″, the past few years have earned the band a respectable cult status in line with the likes of A389 labelmates Ilsa and Seven Sisters Of Sleep.

Now for 2014, PHARAOH’s debut LP, Negative Everything, is being finalized for release. With nearly fifty minutes of new material, Negative Everything takes the band’s intoxicating low-end tunes to new levels of musicianship with more swirling lead guitar mayhem and thunderous rhythms. The album was tracked and produced by the band and mastered by Will Putney at Machine Shop. Upon receiving the final masters, A389 will confirm a late Summer release date for the LP.

Negative Everything Track Listing:
1. Recease
2. The Slasher
3. Degenerator
4. Spared
5. Dusted
6. Bartholomew
7. Crying Mother
8. Drag

PHARAOH will raid Philly for a show tonight, Friday, May 16th, followed by shows in Baltimore and Washington DC the next two nights before joining Seven Sisters Of Sleep, Ilsa and others in Montclair, New Jersey this Monday, May 19th. Additional tour actions will be scheduled as the release of Negative Everything closes in.

5/19/2014 The Batcave – Montclair, NJ w/ Seven Sisters Of Sleep, Ilsa, Dutchguts, Thera Roya

Pharaoh, Live at A389 10th Anniversary, Jan. 16, 2014

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audiObelisk: Gholas Stream Litanies in Full; CD out Today on Dullest Records

Posted in audiObelisk on February 11th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

In a couple days, Philly-adjacent four-piece Gholas will head out on a weekender that will take them from Columbus, Ohio, through Chicago and Pittsburgh, finally looping south to Washington D.C. before heading back up I-95 to their home in New Jersey (a record release show at Kung Fu Necktie is set for later this month with Sadgiqacea and Lord Dying). The occasion for the roadtrip is the release of their second album, Litanies, which is out today on Dullest Records as the follow-up to 2010′s Zagadka and a prior EP, 2008′s Here I am, Here is Infinity, and which offers just under 40-minutes of vicious and unadulterated pummel.

Their roots are in hardcore. One can hear it easily enough in the vocals of baritone guitarists Bob and Chris (also in the fact that the band is first-names-only), their guttural shouts coming across gruff and raw-throated over the alternately crushing and pummeling tracks on Litanies. The two baritone guitars don’t hurt Gholas‘ overarching tonal thickness, either. Along with Joe‘s bass, they’re able to make a turn like that of the gruelingly slow end of “The Sleeper” into the faster rush of closer “The Fighters” all the more weighted, while drummer Dave handles that and all shifts of pace within the songs with suitable fluidity. While the closing duo both range over nine-minutes, Gholas are never far from a sense of immediacy, the initial thrust and multi-channel vocal tradeoffs of opener “…And the Lives Come Flooding” setting the table for a varied and sometimes disorienting album to come, with shades of Swans-via-Neurosis showing themselves in the guitars and the sense of fluidity that allows the band to transcend aesthetics for an approach less adherent to genre than working in defiance of it.

That’s not to say one can’t hear shades of sludge in the lurching riff of “The Worm,” Converge-style post-hardcore in “With Terrible Purpose” or ambient doom in the surprisingly brief “Call out to the Supplicants,” just that when taken as a whole, Litanies ultimately shows little interest in staying put in one realm or the other stylistically. It works to Gholas‘ advantage over the course of the album, which as a result is best approached front-to-back, rather than one song at a time or in vinyl-style sides. It’s a linear flow, a broader-than-it-at-first-seems range and 39 minutes of multifaceted bludgeoning. You will not hear me complain.

Some of Litanies‘ most atmospherically dense and complex stretches come about in “The Sleeper” and “The Fighters,” but even earlier than that, Gholas establish a brutal course that proves well worth following to its conclusion.

Player, release info and tour dates follow:

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

Philadelphia doomhaulers GHOLAS lurk the murky depths of noise, down tuned guitars, no wave, not quite metal and a tad space gazing as only four unfortunate miscreants that spent their formative years in the festering wasteland that is New Jersey could. Their songs are harsh down tuned blasts of sound that scratch the surface of an unhealthy obsession with the writings of Frank Herbert, Philip K Dick and Arthur C. Clarke, among others.

Their latest LP, entitled Litanies, finds the band trimming down their attack while still incorporating the grating noise and ambience of their previous outings into a more concise and, at times, direct aural assault on people’s ears. Litanies was recorded in the winter of 2012/2013 at Red Planet and engineered and mixed by Joe Smiley, with masterful mastering courtesy of James Plotkin.

2.13 Columbus OH @ Cafe Bourbon St, The Summit w/ Earthburner
2.14 Chicago IL @ The Burlington
2.15 Pittsburgh PA @ The Rock Room w/ Dendritic Arbor
2.16 Washington DC @ Velvet Lounge
2.26 Philadephia PA @ Kungfu Necktie Record Release Show w/ Lord Dying, Sadgiqacea

Gholas on Thee Facebooks

Gholas on Bandcamp

Dullest Records

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Duuude, Tapes! Green Dragon, Demo

Posted in Duuude, Tapes! on February 7th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Technically speaking, the limited-to-50-tapes Demo isn’t Green Dragon‘s first outing, though it is the North Jersey trio’s first on their own, their debut having been on a 2013 split tape with Purple Knights (review here). The three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Zack Kurland, bassist Jennifer Klein and drummer Nathan Wilson released a video for an earlier recording of “Downflame,” which opens this cassette, late in 2012, but in the time since, they seem to have dropped the “The” from the front of their name and come further into their sound. Demo is exactly that: a rudimentary showing of what Green Dragon have to offer sonically, and its four songs — the aforementioned “Downflame,” as well as “Psychonaut,” “Earth Children” and “Book of Shadows” — strike with the urgency and exploratory feel of a band’s earliest going. So if it isn’t precisely their first release, it’s not far off.

Kurland, who was also in Purple Knights and Sweet Diesel , leads the trio’s charge in gritty riffs and blown out vocals. The tape repeats all four tracks on both sides, and altogether each side is just over 14 minutes long, so any way you go, it’s a quick look at Green Dragon‘s approach, which nestles itself somewhere between garage shuffle and doomly grooving. Klein and Wilson add a fervent swing to “Psychonaut,” pushing the song’s Motörhead-style riff into more swaggering territory as Kurland drawls out intonations that would be nearly indecipherable were it not for the included lyric sheets in both the cassette and CD versions of the release. They never get into the same kind of malevolent psycho-delic melodicism as Uncle Acid, but some of the sway in “Earth Children” and the guitar in “Book of Shadows” hint in that direction if presenting a ’90s alt-rock crunch, while “Downflame” shows more of a classic metal root, hitting its stride in Iron Maiden-style hits and gallop in its second half.

A steady underpinning of Sabbath influence serves as a uniting factor and whole the key is remembering that it’s a demo release, Green Dragon show off some sonic fluidity between the tracks as the feedback that ends “Psychonaut” fades out an into that which starts the rolling bass groove of “Earth Children.” It might be me reading into it, but the second two cuts feel more complex than “Downflame” and “Psychonaut,” with “Earth Children” pushing more into psych ground and hitting a fuller stride in the bridge after its second chorus, leading to Kurland ‘s repeating the line, “Earth children are free,” and “Book of Shadows” sounding altogether more patient and assured in its pacing. If those are earlier or later in terms of the songwriting, I don’t know, but listening to the demo front to back — and then flipping over to side two and doing so again — it’s easy to read a narrative of progression into the material. At that point, whether or not it’s there is a secondary consideration (though still relevant of course). You can hear it.

What that might mean for Green Dragon‘s progression remains to be seen, but the balance of elements they devise on Demo intrigues as a solid demo should, and the gnarl in Kurland‘s guitar and Klein ‘s bass feels particularly suited to the compression of a tape, though I’ll say as well that both the CD and digital versions work with a little more frequency room to space out. Think of it as a choose-your-own-adventure release. “You’ve just encountered a Green Dragon…”

Green Dragon, Demo (2014)

Green Dragon on Bandcamp

Green Dragon’s website

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In the Round: Reviews of Buddha Sentenza, Chrome, Hercyn, The Warlocks and The White Kites

Posted in Reviews on February 4th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Second week in a row I’m trying this, since the universe didn’t seem to collapse on itself after the first one — unless you count how bad I fucked up lineups; they’re fixed now. Once again we cover some pretty wide ground geographically and stylistically (also alphabetically!), so let’s get to it:

Buddha Sentenza, South Western Lower Valley Rock

Released last year as their debut on World in Sound Records, the 14-track full-length South Western Lower Valley Rock is Buddha Sentenza‘s follow-up to 2009′s exploratory Mode 0909 (review here). The 46-minute outing from the German instrumental fivesome pairs longer pieces like the classic rocking “Arrested Development” (5:04) and prog-jamming “The Monkey Stealing the Peaches” (2:49) off of brief transitional interludes taking their name from letters in the Greek alphabet. I’m not sure what “A-B-G-D-E-Z-I” is meant to indicate — the tracks being “Alpha,” “Beta,” “Gamma” and so on — but they pair remarkably well with the other pieces, and the emergent feel is not unlike that of My Sleeping Karma‘s 2012 outing, Soma, methodologically as well as aesthetically. Perhaps the highlight of South Western Lower Valley Rock is its longest component, “Debris Moon,” which in just under nine minutes weaves nighttime atmospherics and heavy psych ambience into what’s still a subdued track, never quite paying off the tension it creates until the subsequent “Epsilon” shifts into the aforementioned “The Monkey Stealing the Peaches,” giving even more of a clue that Buddha Sentenza are working in a whole-album mindset, rather than thinking of South Western Lower Valley Rock in terms of its individual tracks. The album makes sense on this level, and on CD presents an immersive, linear listening experience that casts a deceptively wide stylistic berth between keyboard-infused krautrock worship, heavy rock and psychedelia, offering fluid motion from in less skilled hands could easily come across as disjointed elements. They make that My Sleeping Karma comparison almost too easy, but the interludes are ultimately essential in creating the flow, as the ease of movement between the desert crunch of “Tzameti,” “Eta” and Eastern-vibing closer “Psychonaut” underscores. Some of Buddha Sentenza‘s best moments are in playing styles off each other.

Buddha Sentenza on Thee Facebooks

World in Sound Records

Chrome, Half Machine from the Sun: The Lost Tracks from ’79-’80

While the liner notes tell of their having been designated “too accessible” at the time, the 18 songs on Chrome‘s Half Machine from the Sun are still plenty weird. As the title indicates, the release is a compilation of yet-unissued cuts from 1979-1980, the era of Half Machine Lip Moves and Red Exposure for Chrome‘s key collaboration between guitarist/vocalist Helios Creed and drummer/vocalist Damon Edge and arguably the point at which that incarnation of the band’s far-out blend of proto-punk, New Wave, psychedelic rock and experimental pop was at its most potent. Sure enough, Half Machine from the Sun crisscrosses genres on an almost per-track basis, be it the weirdo electro stomp of “Looking for Your Door,” the space rock noise wash of “Morrison” or “Sub Machine,” which turns an almost manic drum beat into the foundation of an otherworldly guitar and vocal exploration. They can and will go anywhere, as “Charlie’s Little Problem” and the creeper keyboards of “Ghost” showcase, but if there’s anything tying Half Machine from the Sun (which is out through King of Spades Records following a successful crowdfunding campaign to have it pressed to CD) together, it’s the fact that nothing is tying it together. Tape loops, analog synth, bizarre vocals, structure out the window — and yes, this is still the “accessible” side of Chrome — these songs nonetheless leave any number of memorable impressions, even if that impression winds up in an overarching sense of “God damn this band was weird.” Gloriously so. Chrome, under the direction of Helios Creed, have reportedly been at work on new material, so maybe all the better to give fans advance notice via this collection, which provides 73 minutes of alternate universe brainfodder to sate the curious and the passionate alike. A fan piece, but a welcome one.

Chrome on Thee Facebooks

Helios Creed on Thee Facebooks

Hercyn, Magda

The self-released debut EP from New Jersey-based progressive black metallers Hercyn, Magda, arrives in a full jewel case — the pressing is limited to 100 copies — wrapped in twine. I guess that’s meant to take the place of shrinkwrap, and in that, it’s certainly a more natural-feeling option. Magda‘s namesake track is a 24-minute blend of Euro-doom melancholy, blackened gurgles, grand riffing and ambient weight from the Jersey City trio of guitarist Michael DiCiania, guitarist/vocalist Ernest Wawiorko and bassist Tony Stanziano. About the only thing holding back the EP’s organic vibe is the fact that the drums are programmed, which gives the complex, ambitious “Magda” a mechanical base for what’s otherwise a relatively human sound; the guitars are buzzsaw sharp, but not necessarily without tonal warmth, and particularly in blastbeaten stretches, one almost wants something less precise to go along with the rawness in those guitars, as well as in the bass and Wawiorko‘s vocals. Nonetheless, as lead and rhythm layers intertwine past “Magda”‘s midpoint, there’s beauty in the dismal and a sense of the potential in Hercyn to fluidly cross genre boundaries even more than they already are. That lead is well plotted and sustained, and tempo and chug vary as the song reaches and moves beyond its apex in the second half, with the band offering a bit of Enslaved and Woods of Ypres influence in the interplay of keys and strings. I don’t know if they’ll try to find an actual drummer — for a first release, Magda hardly seems half-assed in its presentation, so maybe this is it; I hear industrial is on its way back — but Hercyn have started with a work of striking intricacy, and prove wholly comfortable in the longer form. An impressive and hopefully portentous debut.

Hercyn on Thee Facebooks

Hercyn on Bandcamp

The Warlocks, Skull Worship

Acid fuzz like a field you could lay down and lose an afternoon in is the contraband trafficked by L.A. freakouts The Warlocks, whose amorphous sonic ooze is every bit in mirror to their lineup, which has seen no fewer than 20 cats come and go and stick around over the course of the last decade and a half. With guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist/bassist Bobby Hecksher as the core around which the eight tracks of the 40-minute Skull Worship swirl, the oft-shoegazing psychedelia isn’t given to complete chaos, but man, The Warlocks go way, way out and don’t seem overly concerned with how they’re getting back. Joining Hecksher for the adventure are guitarist JC Rees, guitarist Earl V. Miller, bassist Chris DiPino and drummer George Serrano, as well as Tanya Hayden, who stops by to add some cello to “Silver and Plastic,” which sounds like what I always secretly hoped Radiohead would deliver instead of the pretentious mopey schlock they put out until they decided they were too smart for albums or whatever. The Warlocks, who had a couple records out on Tee Pee before jumping to Zap Banana/Cargo Records for Skull Worship, at times call to mind the very, very British moments of Crippled Black Phoenix, but then the psychedelic wash of “Chameleon” or “It’s a Hard Fall” takes hold and the whole vibe is groovier, thicker, more multi-colored molasses, whatever other attitude it might convey. The album hits its stride just when you think it might start to drag, and the closing “Eyes Jam” sounds like its backwards cymbals, feedback and drones could just go on into perpetuity, like if the record never returned and the loop kept repeating. Some heady moments, but should be right on the level for those properly tuned in.

The Warlocks on Thee Facebooks

Zap Banana Records

The White Kites, Missing

Immediately and throughout much of the duration of Polish psychedelic pop rockers The White Kites‘ debut LP, Missing (out on Deep Field Records), the vibe is Beatles. Lots and lots of Beatles, from the Sgt. Pepper-style organ circus swirl of opener “Arrival” on through the McCartney piano bounce of the penultimate “The Missing.” It is a 50-minute album, and much of the lighthearted atmosphere it creates stems from its modern interpretation of the legendary Liverpudlians in their psych era. Hard to rag on a band for digging The Beatles — it’s like yelling at a fish for breathing underwater. And as a seven-piece that includes flute, recorders, keyboards, citole, a variety of percussion, clarinet, ukulele and so on, The White Kites aren’t lacking for sonic diversity — vocalist Sean Palmer has quite a task in tying the album together — but as intricate and progressive as Missing gets, it’s still taking the Lennon/McCartney byway to get there. The corresponding songwriting team for The White Kites seems to be Palmer and bassist/keyboardist Jakub Lenarczyk (presented as Lenarczyk/Palmer), and they’re more than capable in their charge, but hints of early Pink Floyd and King Crimson seem to be waiting to emerge from “Turtle’s Back” and “Beyond the Furthest Star,” like they’re trying to get out and be more prominent in the band’s sound but are overpowered by the traceable poppiness. That doesn’t stop Missing from being enjoyable — unless you’ve never liked The Beatles, maybe — or “Beyond the Furthest Star” from being the highlight, it just means that The White Kites have room to shift the sonic balance should they choose to do so their next time around. Until then, impeccable production and imaginative arrangements throughout give an impression of a band just beginning their discovery.

The White Kites on Thee Facebooks

The White Kits on Bandcamp

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Riotgod’s Driven Rise Due March 18

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 27th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

With drummer Bob Pantella and guitarist Garrett Sweeny having spent much of last year working in Monster Magnet on the album Last Patrol (review here) and subsequent touring, there hasn’t been much word of late out of the Riotgod (or, alternately, RiotGod) camp since the release of their sophomore album, Invisible Empire (review here), in 2012. They did tour in support of that record that year, even going so far as to play the legendary Wacken Open Air festival, but 2013 was comparatively inactive, with their only show being a Halloween appearance at The Stone Pony in their native New Jersey. Things look to be picking up in 2014 for the four-piece, however, as they’re set to issue their third long-player through Metalville Records.

Dubbed Driven Rise (or, alternately, Driven•Rise), the album is set to release on March 18 and will mark the band’s first studio outing without bassist Jim Baglino, who also parted ways with Monster Magnet last year, replacing him with Erik Boe, who came aboard in time for the band’s winter 2012 tour. The foursome’s classic heavy rocking approach is rounded out by the considerable pipes of vocalist Mark Sunshine, and if cuts like “Davos” and “Melisandre” are anything to go by, somebody in the band has been watching Game of Thrones.

The PR wire takes it from here with album art and track details:

RIOTGOD to Release Driven Rise March 18th on Metalville Records

Red Bank, New Jersey’s RIOTGOD (featuring Monster Magnet drummer Bob Pantella) are set to release their third album Driven Rise on March 18th in North America via Metalville Records. Today the artwork and track listing have been revealed.

Driven Rise Track Listing:
1. Driven Rise
2. They Don’t Know
3. Grenade and Pin
4. Sidewinder
5. Prime Moment
6. Positronic
7. Davos
8. Melisandre
9. You’re My Waste of Time
10. Beg For Power

Bob Pantella – Drums
Garrett Sweeny – Guitar
Erik Boe – Bass
Sunshine – Vocals

For More Info Visit:

Riotgod, Live at Wacken 2012

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On Wax: Monster Magnet, Last Patrol

Posted in On Wax on November 14th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Maybe it’s not the deepest critique I’ve ever made, but what’s not to like here? Monster Magnet‘s Last Patrol (review here) is one of 2013′s best albums, so to have it arrive in a limited 2LP package geared specifically toward collectors and the types of fans who’d chase down such an artifact is all the better. Pressed by Napalm Records in what the back of the gatefold refers to in all-caps as “Strictly Limited Edition,” Last Patrol comprises two subtle magenta swirl platters and on vinyl feels even more like the sonic event it is in the band’s catalog.

Prior to its release, Last Patrolwas billed as a psychedelic return to form, and in a couple of the extended jammers — the title-track and “End of Time” — it certainly taps into some of the long-running New Jersey stoner innovators’ early Hawkwind fetishizing, but the prevailing sensibility is more brooding, and there are moments where that psych tendency crashes hard into a heavy reality, whether that arrives in the sarcasm rooted in the lyrics of “Paradise” or the underlying scathe of “Mindless Ones,” which in itself has some measure of swirl but still drives like heavy rocking Monster Magnet at their most unbridled.

The limited version of Last Patrol maintains the atmosphere overall, but the listening experience is far different. Spreading the nine tracks of the album proper and the two bonus cuts, “Strobe Light Beatdown” and “One Dead Moon” over the course of two LPs means that each of the four sides save for side A only has three songs on it. By the time opener “I Live behind the Clouds” and the following “Last Patrol” are done, it’s time to get up and flip the record, and where in a more linear mode of listening, one might just get carried off by the flow of one song into the next, here the process is more interactive. “Three Kingfishers” into “Paradise” into “Hallelujah” is a quick listen.

If there’s a downside, it’s that the changing of LPs takes away from the smoothness of some of the song-to-song transitions, like “Hallelujah” into “Mindless Ones” and “End of Time” into “Stay Tuned,” but the tradeoff is you’re a more conscious audience. Last Patrol in this form doesn’t let you get so swept away by psychedelic hypnosis that  you miss a minute of it, and ultimately this serves the tracks in a different way than either the CD, digital (or presumably) the single LP versions possibly could. The inclusion of bonus material, whether it’s the more upbeat “Strobe Light Beatdown” or the building “One Dead Moon” further distinguishes this version, and for fans who’d take on a package like this one, these are songs well worth hearing.

Casual Monster Magnet fans probably won’t feel the need to dig in on this level, but this doesn’t seem to be geared toward that audience anyway. It’s for the Monster Magnet fan who’s waited a long time for the band to put out something like Last Patrol — more complex in its personality than anything they’ve done in the last decade — and as I count myself among that number, I’m happy to be able to dig into a package that’s a gorgeous and honest as the album itself. To see the John Sumrow art alone in this iteration, I’d feel compelled to frame it if I didn’t want to keep listening so much.

Monster Magnet, Last Patrol (2013)

Monster Magnet’s website

Napalm Records store

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Chris Kosnik Joins Monster Magnet on Bass

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 17th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

There’s a fascinating bit of scene-symmetry here. The Atomic Bitchwax, when they formed in the late ’90s out of the dismantling of bassist Chris Kosnik‘s prior outfit, Godspeed, featured then-Monster Magnet guitarist Ed Mundell, and were widely regarded in their beginnings as a Monster Magnet side-project. Now, with Mundell long out of the Bitchwax and more recently (three years as opposed to seven or eight) out of Magnet, along comes the announcement that Chris Kosnik, the last remaining founding member of The Atomic Bitchwax, is to serve as the new bassist for Monster Magnet, replacing Jim Baglino, who left earlier this year. Got all that?

I’m not sure where this leaves The Atomic Bitchwax, who’ve continued to play shows — they ruled on the Rocks off Concert Cruise around Manhattan in June — since the release in 2011 of The Local Fuzz (review here), but since Bitchwax drummer Bob Pantella was going to be busy playing in Monster Magnet anyway, it makes a weird kind of sense to have Kosnik join him there in the rhythm section. Hey man, Red Bank isn’t exactly a huge town.

Kudos and best of luck to Kosnik. Here’s the announcement from Monster Magnet frontman Dave Wyndorf from the band’s forum, followed by their upcoming North American tour dates:

Monster Magnet welcomes new bass player Chris Kosnik


We’d like to welcome bassist Chris Kosnik into the Magnet family of undying reverberation.

Chris is a fantastic player as many might already know.

He’s a founding and current member of Atomic Bitchwax and has chopped wood with Godspeed and Black Nasa.

What else can we say? The guy rocks.

Welcome, Chris!

MONSTER MAGNET North American Tour:
11/14: Grand Rapids, MI @ Intersection
11/15: Detroit, MI @ St. Andrews
11/16: Chicago, IL @ Bottom Lounge
11/17: Minneapolis, MN @ Mill City Nights
11/19: Denver, CO @ Marquis Theater
11/20: Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
11/22: Seattle, WA @ Neumos
11/23: Vancouver, BC @ Rickshaw Theater
11/24: Portland, OR @ Hawthorne Theater
11/26: San Francisco, CA @ The Independent
11/27: Los Angeles, CA @ House of Blues
11/29: Tempe, AZ @ Club Red
11/30: Albuquerque, NM @ Launch Pad
12/2: Austin, TX @ Red 7
12/3: Houston, TX @ Fitzgeralds
12/4: Dallas, TX @ Trees
12/6: Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade
12/7: Charlotte, NC @ Amos Southend
12/8: Baltimore, MD @ Baltimore Sound Stage
12/10: Toronto, ON @ Lee’s Palace
12/12: Boston, MA @ Sinclair
12/13: West Chester, PA @ The Note
12/14: New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom

For More Info Visit:

Monster Magnet, “Mindless Ones” official video

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Monster Magnet Interview with Dave Wyndorf: The Beginning that Lurks at the End of Time

Posted in Features on October 11th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Any way you want to look at it, Last Patrol is a landmark in the Monster Magnet catalog. Before you even get to the music and whether or not the band accomplished the goals of their ninth album overall and second for Napalm Records — incidentally, I’ll gladly argue they did with anyone who might be interested in picking up the other side — the sheer fact of their shift from the straightforward hard rock sound of their string of albums from 2001′s God Says No to 2010′s Mastermind (review here) to a moodier, more psychedelic feel derived from earlier works like 1991′s genre-defining Spine of God debut and subsequent psych-rockers Superjudge (1993) and Dopes to Infinity (1995), makes Last Patrol a defining moment. I’m hesitant to call it a turning point, as it would be foolish to speculate on what whims might catch hold for guitarist, songwriter, vocalist and founder Dave Wyndorf between now and when he next puts together a full-length for the band, but it’s unquestionably the biggest stylistic turn they’ve made in the 15 years since their 1998 blend of classic attitude and driving hard rock, Powertrip, propelled them to international acclaim and genuine rock stardom.

So before you even press play, or maybe about 15 seconds after, as opener “I Live behind the Clouds” starts to unfold with its catch-you-off-guard brooding sensibility — all on purpose, all for effect — Last Patrol (review here) stands out from a decade-plus of Monster Magnet‘s output and signals, if nothing else, a reshuffling of sonic priorities. It also helps that it’s hands down one of the best records to come out in 2013. As seen in the gorgeous John Sumrow artwork, the Bullgod (Magnet‘s mascot since their first album) has gone galaxial, and extended pieces like the title-track and “End of Time” thrive on the apparent danger that at any moment they could fly completely off the rails, while stompers like “Hallelujah” and “Mindless Ones” find Wyndorf, bassist/guitarist Phil Caivano, guitarist Garrett Sweeny and drummer Bob Pantella locked into an irresistible push that seems all the more vibrant playing off quieter stretches in “Paradise,” the Donovan cover “Three Kingfishers, “The Duke (of Supernature)” (streamed here) and ultra-ambiguous closer “Stay Tuned.”

Between the name of the album, the palpable full-circle sonic impression it leaves and that song, I immediately speculated in hearing it that it might be the final offering from Monster Magnet, that perhaps it was a way for Wyndorf to tie loose ends stylistically and placate a section of his fanbase by “getting weird again,” which was something he also discussed three years ago in an interview for Mastermind. But no. It’s not. Wyndorf is quick to delight in the ambiguity of the title and the album’s message and musical journey, having both reconciled himself to a “no one’s gonna get it” mentality and pushed to simply enjoy the process of creating Monster Magnet songs. There can’t really be any doubt he’s working from a master plan — that is, the shift in approach with this batch of material didn’t just happen. That’s not how Monster Magnet works and even Wyndorf refers to himself in a kind of directorial role, saying he wanted to do this even as Mastermind was still coming together. But that’s not to say either that he, Caivano and the rest of the band aren’t having a good time, or that they don’t sound like it in the final outcome of these songs. Quite the opposite.

Not surprisingly, there was a lot to talk about. Monster Magnet will embark starting Nov. 14 on their first coast-to-coast US run in a decade, taking the temperature of the touring climate here after years of focusing on Europe, and extra intrigue is added with the departure of bassist Jim Baglino, who didn’t play on the album but has been a figure in Monster Magnet live shows since the turn of the century, this being their first outing since 1992 without guitarist Ed Mundell, and more. For what it’s worth, Wyndorf seemed to take a special kind of pleasure in discussing the process of recording Last Patrol with Caivano, thriving in what he describes as a chaotic writing and tracking process in taking these songs from the bare demos he created for them to their realized, complete versions, and so I wanted to focus on that. The word “fun” was used 25 times, if that tells you anything. Wyndorf‘s passion for this process came through in his voice, his quick back-and-forths with himself, and it’s my sincere hope that it comes across in this interview as well.

After the jump, please find the complete 7,400-word Q&A of my interview with Dave Wyndorf, and please enjoy.

Read more »

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Clamfight Update on Fall Shows

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 26th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Returning with a vengeance — and also a new song — after their summer hiatus, Maple Forum alums Clamfight have announced a slew of fall tour dates. In addition to a slot at Stoner Hands of Doom at Strange Matter in Richmond, Virginia, on Nov. 7, the four-piece are doing two gigs  THIS. VERY. WEEKEND. with Philly rockers Thee Nosebleeds and in addition to regular-type local stuff, they’ll head south following SHoD to bang out a couple evenings in the good company of Hollow Leg and Shroud Eater, among others.

In their typical style, the band sent along this update:

We’re back gang….and find ourselves another season’s worth of Neolithic archaeology lyrical fodder richer, but one gall bladder poorer.

So it goes.

Here’s where to get palm muted/yelled at about rock art:

This weekend we’re out and about and possibly falling over with Philly’s best rock and roll band, THEE NOSEBLEEDS (sorry, rock that nasty requires all caps).

Friday 9/27 we’re at the El ‘N’ Gee in New London, Connecticut with Thee Nosebleeds, the Cryptics, and Empty Vessels.

Saturday 9/28 we’re at the Firehouse Saloon in Rochester, New York with Thee Nosebleeds, Baba Yaga, and Pink Elephant.

October 26th we’re at the Boot and Saddle in Philadelphia with Screaming Rattler and Wizard Eye (who a little bird with 6 foot long dreadlocks tells me are hitting the studio shortly to record a new full length).

November 7th we’re at Strange Matter in Richmond, Virginia for the opening night of Stoner Hands of Doom 13 with A.P.F, Pill Buster, Compel, and more In honor of how excited we are to be part of such an amazing festival (the rest of the weekend includes Wizard Eye, Beelzefuzz, Admiral Browning, Lo-Pan, Backwoods Payback, Faces of Bayon, Second Grave, Wasted Theory and many, many more) we’ll pressing 100 copies of a seven inch of our new song “Bathosphere.” We have no plans to release it in any other format and once it’s gone, it’s gone.

November 8th we’ll be in Orlando Florida to challenge Hollow Leg and Shroud Eater in between some serious air boat racing/alligator wrasslin’ we’re going to play a show at a location to be announced.

November 9th we’re at the Jinx in Savannah Georgia with Hollow Leg and Shroud Eater and Crazy Bag Lady.

November 12th we’re at JR’s in Philadelphia with Devil to Pay, Heavy Temple, and the Cloth.

November 22 we’re at Mojo Main in Delaware with Braincandle and Count Von Count.

And until we have something solid to say about our third record here’s a song that will definitely be on it:

Clamfight, “Block Ship” from Doommantia Vol. 2 (2013)

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Buried Treasure and the Echo all over the World

Posted in Buried Treasure on September 18th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

A bit about me: While most children were out playing sports, making friends, scraping knees and engaging in the socialization now prescribed as essential for healthy personal development (whoops), I was collecting. Not surprisingly, this was a learned behavior, and one I picked up in no small part because, well, I was going to get dragged to antique stores either way, so there you go. I still collect CDs, books, and so on, but when I was a kid, it was action figures, video games, shot glasses, old lighters, pretty much anything I could hold in my oversized 10-year-old ogre paws.

My mother was a big influence on me in this way, and as a result of going from shop to shop to auction house and so on, I’ve got a pretty decent knowledge base of a whole host of random artifacts, from Stickley Furniture to Northwood glass. Hardly the most masculine of trivial pursuits for an already awkward boy child, but maybe the intent was to take traditional gender roles down a peg. Or maybe it was just, “Well, the world doesn’t have enough weirdos.” I don’t really know. When I was out this past weekend and stumbled on a couple Edison Records cylinders, I was plenty happy just to recognize what they were.

By now it’s more or less commonly accepted that Thomas Edison — inventor of the lightbulb, phonograph, etc. and hero of Fourth Grade Social Studies textbooks across his and my native New Jersey — was a prick and a thief. Bullying competitors into either leaving the East Coast, as he did with the founders of Hollywood, or putting others like Thomas Lambert out of business with a barrage of patent suits, Edison was ruthless in the tradition of any number of capitalist supervillains, the only difference was a question of scale. Where others in his era might’ve sent Pinkertons in to bust up a union, Edison seems not to have been above getting a goon squad to pound on some nerds. Probably the kind who went antiquing as kids. So it goes… allegedly.

To this day, in the dining room of mom’s place in Jersey, there resides in a china cabinet an Edison Standard Phonograph and a couple of “Gold Moulded Records” — cylinder records from around the turn of the 20th century, predating the flatter discs that would emerge as the dominant format (78s were so hip) in the 1910s. I bought the ones I saw the other day (of course) and brought them home for a bit of investigation. There are two different labels on top of the thick cardboard case around each black wax cylinder. One has had its catalog number fade away — good luck finding out what it is — and the other is written over. What was at one point “You Can’t Stop Me from Loving You” by Manuel Romain from 1909 is now labeled as “The Messenger Boy March,” which was recorded for Edison by the awesomely-monikered Imperial Marimba Band and released on Blue Amberol, which was a different production method and actually blue wax (limited numbers, dude), in 1917.

Because the record in that container is black, not blue, I think it’s probably the original and that the case was just used to store “The Messenger Boy March,” but without a working player, I don’t really have confirmation it’s that and not some other release. The outsides look good, but both of the records also have some cardboard residue on them from being in the cases for so long and at some point probably encountering some moisture, so I don’t even know if they’re playable. But screw it, they look good on top of the bookshelf in the living room.

Also in my pitiful round of Googling — being married to somebody who actually does research for a living is humbling in so many ways — I found a company called Vulcan in the UK who make new cylinders you can buy if you have an old phonograph to play them (their website is here). I’ve always thought that would be a cool idea for black metal bands with short songs who don’t find tapes “kvlt” or shitty-sounding enough. Probably won’t take off as a trend, but as someone who regularly hears about this or that “dead format,” be it cassettes, CDs or vinyl, I’d die laughing to get a single on an Edison cylinder to review. Just make sure to include a download card.

Imperial Marimba Band, “The Messenger Boy March” (1917)

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Monster Magnet, Last Patrol: Turn Your Wheel into the Sun

Posted in Reviews on September 12th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

There’s is a thread of self-awareness running through Last Patrol, which is Monster Magnet‘s ninth full-length overall and second for Napalm Records behind 2010′s Mastermind (review here), an overarching consciousness that bleeds into the material and manifests itself in the lyrics of songs like “Mindless Ones,” “Last Patrol,” “Paradise, “End of Time” and “Stay Tuned.” Even the John Sumrow artwork could be argued as having a play in the purposeful exposition of concept — very much what we get on the album is the Bullgod gone cosmic. Last Patrol marks not necessarily a return to the drugged-out psychedelia of albums like 1993′s Superjudge or 1991′s ultra-landmark debut Spine of God, but easily the most swirling release the long-running and massively influential New Jersey outfit have had since 1995′s Dopes to Infinity. Vocalist, guitarist, songwriter and figurehead Dave Wyndorf – who also recorded Last Patrol with rhythm guitarist Phil Caivano in an attempt to capture a DIY spirit — has clearly made a conscious decision to harken back to Monster Magnet‘s earliest days. He’s taking a risk by doing so. A big one. Since 1998′s Powertrip, the band has been geared around a straightforward hard rock sound, always definitely their own, but increasingly straightforward. Following the commercial breakthrough of 1998′s Powertrip – do I even need to mention the “Space Lord” single? — and across 2001′s God Says No, 2004′s Monolithic Baby! and 2007′s 4-Way Diablo, Wyndorf refined this approach, writing skillfully crafted but increasingly staid hard rockers with faint traces of the personality that flourished in his earlier works. Mastermind satisfied tonally but essentially stuck to the same songwriting modus, and while there was always a sense of development there and Wyndorf‘s careful hand has never relinquished control over the band or its sense of mastery, it was clear Monster Magnet had long since conquered the form. Time for a change. But it’s a risk because the band Wyndorf has built around him — Caivano, lead guitarist Garrett Sweeny, bassist Jim Baglino and drummer Bob Pantella – has been geared the whole time toward playing the more straightforward style.

Baglino and Pantella are the longest-running members of the band at this point — apart from Wyndorf, obviously, who founded the band in 1989 with John McBain and Tim Cronin – but even they came aboard in 1999, after Powertrip was released. Certainly they’re adaptable players, as shown in Baglino‘s past participation in Lord Sterling and Pantella‘s in The Atomic Bitchwax, but the critical question when it comes to the shift in sound on Last Patrol is whether or not Monster Magnet could “go psychedelic” without lead guitarist Ed Mundell. Mundell left the band late in 2010, following the release of Mastermind, but had been a part of Monster Magnet since 1992 and was widely regarded as a crucial element to the band’s sound. So not only has Dave Wyndorf stepped into unknown territory with this latest record without knowing how the majority of his audience will react, but he’s done so without the guitarist whose blazing leads were such an essential part of what drew a line from the band’s classic psychedelic material to where they went up to 2010. In many ways, Mundell, who has since embarked on an interstellar journey of his own with the instrumental jam trio The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic — their self-titled debut was released earlier in 2013 (review here) — would likely be more at home on Last Patrol than on any Monster Magnet outing since Dopes to Infinity, but Sweeny and Caivano perform more than ably here, tearing into some deft Hendrixisms as the penultimate “End of Time” brings Last Patrol to its apex and helping propel the space-rocking pulse of “Last Patrol” while adding to the bluesy quirk of centerpiece “Hallelujah.” The rhythm section, which also includes Caivano, who reportedly also recorded the bass parts, prove likewise amenable to the change, and ultimately, Wyndorf‘s personality shines through all the more for it. Even in studio recordings, his charisma has always been a big part of Monster Magnet‘s draw, never a technical singer — though he does will with a cover of Donovan‘s “Three Kingfishers” as the third track — but a consummate frontman and brilliant lyricist, and on Last Patrol, the latter particularly comes to the fore right from the start of opener “I Live behind the Clouds,” which with the 9:24 title cut following forms a bookend that finds its mirror in the closing duo of “End of Time” (7:45) and “Stay Tuned,” starting subdued then rocking out, where with the final two, it’s the other way around, rocking out and then finishing subdued.

Much of Last Patrol and indeed many of its highlight moments are in moodier pieces like “I Live behind the Clouds,” “Three Kingfishers,” “Paradise” “The Duke (of Supernature)” and “Stay Tuned” — more than half of the nine-track/51-minute outing — and as much as Wyndorf‘s inescapable penchant for crafting memorable hooks comes through in the more driving reaches of “Mindless Ones” and the revival stomp of “Hallelujah,” it’s the dynamic throughout the work as a whole that makes Last Patrol such a success. Where Mastermind seemed largely monochromatic stylistically, leading with its strongest material in songs like “Hallucination Bomb,” “Gods and Punks” and “Dig that Hole” — the latter of which, admittedly, could be seen as a precursor to “Hallelujah”‘s gospel snakehandling — sticking closely to an approach that was if nothing else the most tonally weighted of the band’s career, Last Patrol plays out in a manner that’s freer and as engaging in overall flow as it is on a track-by-track basis. Still, Wyndorf – and you’ll have to forgive the presumption that where there’s a decision being made about Monster Magnet, he’s the one making it — does right to start the album with “I Live behind the Clouds.” Open-feeling with a gust of wind behind it, it nonetheless holds a tension in its steady guitar line that finds its release in the bounce and groove of “Last Patrol” and sets up the other quieter pieces noted above. The album’s first vocals are barely above a whisper, and for a man who once triumphantly proclaimed “I’m never gonna work another day in my life,” the line “I stay behind the clouds” comes on like a humble declaration, less that he’s a god than he’s hiding someplace no one will look. Drums come in after two of the opener’s four minutes and the song takes off, but it’s a fitting summation of Last Patrol‘s dynamic and holds to its mood even as Sweeny launches the first of many soaring solos. Bringing it back down for a quiet final verse and chorus, “Last Patrol” is set up with satisfying turns punctuated by Pantella‘s crash and given warmth by Caivano‘s prominent bass as Wyndorf teases with lines about cashing out and going to meet up with his 10-foot blonde. In movements, “Last Patrol” shifts from effective space rock turns with no shortage of backing swirl to a solo and then on to a quiet break as the echoes fade. Synth and effects back cymbal flourish and the rhythm guitar line as “Last Patrol” reemerges, gradually making its way back up from the ether with a new progression, no less insistent, but thick tonally, layers of wails and churns brought to a satisfying build as a victorious riff takes hold.

It’s the longest single piece on Last Patrol and it earns the honor of having the album named for it. Extra percussion is layered into the second half as a solo once again takes hold and Monster Magnet ride the groove while Wyndorf tosses in vague incantations in the lower regions of the mix. Even the jam is dynamic, and it’s some of Sweeny‘s best lead work, cutting suddenly to let the effects loops that have underscored carry the song to its finish. One could argue that “Three Kingfishers,” “Paradise,” “Hallelujah,” “Mindless Ones” and “The Duke (of Supernature)” represent the “meat” of Last Patrol between the front and back bookend pieces, but I wouldn’t intend that in the sense of taking away from the substance of the opening or closing pairs. Still, it’s with the Donovan cover, “Three Kingfishers” that the album begins to move past the initial shock of its opening and hit its stride. “Three Kingfishers,” particularly early on, is fairly loyal to the original, which appeared on the Scottish singer-songwriter’s classic 1966 formative masterpiece of psych-folk pop, Sunshine Superman, though where Donovan‘s version takes off with strings and sitar following its first two verses, Monster Magnet substitutes big riffs and guitar leads after the first, finding a middle ground between the heavier side of Last Patrol and the quieter that seems to delight in playing one directly off the other, the lead guitar once again distinguishing itself with classic and classy fretwork. At first, “Paradise” seems to echo the tense strum of “I Live behind the Clouds,” but it stays quieter for the duration, giving the title a sarcastic edge as the acoustic rhythm couples with intermittent kick-drum thud and electrified, fuzzy leads. Echoes and effects lend depth to the arrangement, but even at its most active, “Paradise,” despite a relatively quick tempo, keeps its groove away from the kind of raucousness that showed up on “Last Patrol” or even “Three Kingfishers,” opting instead for a brooding groove that finds satisfying resolution in the clap-your-hands-and-stomp-your-feet push of “Hallelujah” — a wake-up call if ever there was one. Wyndorf answers his own sung lines with megaphone-spoken wit, and the titular chorus brings an array of layers and attitude. The verses are propelled by the preaching in the vocals (hard for a heavy rocker not to think of Clutch here, but Wyndorf‘s influences are rarely so easy to pin down, except perhaps when he’s working under his own influence), but as the band locks into that “hallelujah!” exclamation, it’s funky enough to make me want to throw my hands up and testify.

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