Posted in Label Stuff on November 8th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Yes, the rumors are true. Those soft rumblings you’ve heard from the ground, the whispers on the wind. Clamfight‘s second album, I vs. the Glacier, has been giving a Jan. 22, 2013, release date via The Maple Forum. The discs are back from the pressing plant, and they’re just sitting in my office waiting to go out. We’ll have preorder info up in the next couple weeks.
And before we get to January, the band are going to be breaking their asses to promote. There’s talks of a video, track streams, late-night talk show appearances, etc., and to help them in their quest for riffy thrash domination, the four-piece have enlisted the ultra-capable Earsplit PR, whose dedication to the cause and work with the likes of Neurosis, C.O.C. and EyeHateGod (among countless others) has rendered their expertise unfuckwithable. Clamfight are in good hands.
Earsplit sent the following announcement down (what else?) the PR wire:
CLAMFIGHT Prep New Album For Deployment
Mini-Tour With Black Pyramid, Kings Destroy Begins This Week
Riffmongering Westmont, New Jersey-based CLAMFIGHT has completed their second album, and are preparing it for deployment in early 2013, unless there is some truth to this Mayan calendar fiasco that is.
As with their impressive 2010 debut Volume I, the new opus, I Versus The Glacier, was recorded by Steve Poponi at Gradwell House Recording in Haddon Heights, New Jersey. The thundering nine-track ruckus that is I Versus The Glacier magnifies the signature CLAMFIGHT blend of sludge, thrash, and doom that, according to Doommantia webzine, “has more than enough groove to break down walls,” yet ventures into even more expansive and torrentially-infectious territory on the nearly fifty-minute album.
I Versus The Glacier will see release on January 22nd, 2013 exclusively through New Jersey-based The Maple Forum, the official label imprint born of admired webzine/music community The Obelisk. In coordination with BrooklynVegan, The Maple Forum is co-sponsoring a weekend warrior tour kicking off in Brooklyn this Friday and plowing through Rochester, New York and Allston, Massachusetts, uniting CLAMFIGHT alongside Kings Destroy (members of Killing Time) and Black Pyramid.
CLAMFIGHT Live Engagements: 11/09/2012 Union Pool – Brooklyn, NY w/ Kings Destroy, Black Pyramid 11/10/2012 Monty’s Krowne – Rochester, NY w/ Kings Destroy, Black Pyramid, Babayaga 11/11/2012 O’Brien’s Pub – Allston, MA w/ Kings Destroy, Black Pyramid 11/20/2012 Kung Fu Necktie – Philadelphia, PA w/ Thee Nosebleeds, Screaming Rattler
Additional live excursions are being devised for the coming weeks and will be announced as the album’s release date nears.
I vs. the Glacier Track Listing: 1. The Eagle 2. Sandriders 3. Shadow Line 4. I vs. the Glacier 5. Age of Reptiles 6. River of Ice 7. Mountain 8. Tower of the Elephant II 9. Stealing the Ghost Horse
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 1st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
We heard the crack a little after 9PM on Monday. By then, Hurricane Sandy was raging, but so were we. I’d stocked up on beers as standard storm prep and we started drinking them even before the lights went out, around seven or so. Going out to look at it in the wind and the rain didn’t seem so outlandish. It seemed like fun. As I ran toward the back yard to see what fell with my flashlight, I was singing Clutch‘s “Big News II” out loud. “Can’t funk with the feel…”
The pine was one of several on the property that stand (or stood, in this one’s case) probably 100 feet tall. Something so ancient, your tendency is to think of it as an old man. For a moment, I called the remaining three the “three wise men,” but it seems inappropriate to credit man with this kind of wisdom. This one, upended root tangle alone stood almost a story in itself, with many of the roots thick enough on their own to be trees in another context. Because the trunk had split and then split again ages ago, it had a network of branches that my wife climbed as a child, and not last year I pushed my niece on a swing hung from one. It had four tops and that was apparently enough to catch the wind.
Nobody knew how old it was, basically because it was older than everything. The area started to be developed circa 1900 and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if that row of trees was there when they started laying foundations for the farmhouses that still remain today. In the pic below, you can see the remaining trees — one, two and then another one that appears shorter but is of a height and just on an angle — and if you click to enlarge, there’s the top of a house off to the bottom left. To give you some idea of the scale, that house has a full three stories.
Where it fell you could really only call convenient. The angle left it right between our neighbor’s standalone garage and his house. Only the very top brushed against the side of his house, and the next morning, when all that remained of the storm was the occasional spritz of water, a cool breeze and an odd sense of electric trauma in the air, John, who owns the house, was already out with a chainsaw, removing branches. He’ll have to get someone in for the trunk itself, or else just spend a year on it.
I worry for the other three trees. The one in the middle above lost part of its top in a bad snowstorm we had last October, but all of them had stood up to Irene last year, though I think that was a tropical storm by the time it hit New Jersey. Not only are they exposed to conditions they’ve never known before, but with one of them gone, the others will catch wind in different ways, be pushed in different angles, etc. Still, not like you can have them taken down. Even if the cost wasn’t prohibitive, they deserve to be there more than the house does. Any of the houses.
It’s a bummer to see, but you have to put it into perspective. I’m talking about the tree we lost in the storm. Not the house, not the person, not the car the tree fell on, or anything — and plenty of people didn’t get off so light. I’ll think of the yard as having a scar, and not just for the crater where the roots lifted up, but if it had to be life and limb, it could’ve been much, much worse.
To the best of my knowledge, we still don’t have power, cell service or running water. The Patient Mrs. and I let out for Connecticut late last night. After waiting an hour and a half on line to get gas at the Hess, we packed up and booked a room in New Britain, near enough to where her sister lives to go over there and do laundry today and in a hotel that takes pets so we wouldn’t have to leave the little dog Dio behind.
It also puts me in a better position to get to the Small Stone showcase in Boston this weekend, so all around it seemed the winning choice as much as there was one. When the lights and water come back on in the valley, we’ll have to flush all the toilets, clear out the fridge and freezer and pick up pieces of other trees, but that’ll just about be the end of it. We were lucky. If you were in the path, I hope you were too.
Once again, I doff my hat to the work of Sean “Skillit” McEleny, who just sent over this poster for the Black Pyramid, Kings Destroy and Clamfight “Annihilate All Weekend Long” weekender tour next month. You may know Skillit‘s stuff from, uh, scroll up, he did the header for this site, as well as from kickass shows and artists too numerous to mention in a post that’s just supposed to be about artwork. His site is here.
I wanna be friends with it:
Friday, 11/9 – Union Pool, Brooklyn, NY **FREE SHOW**
Saturday, 11/10 – Monty’s Krown, Rochester, NY
Sunday, 11/11 – O’Brien’s Pub, Somerville, MA
By way of band updates:
Kings Destroy will also be playing Nov. 2 at the St. Vitus bar in Brooklyn with Witch Mountain. Their new album is being mastered next week by Joe Lambert in Brooklyn, and will be out early 2013.
Clamfight are in Delaware this weekend with Wizard Eye and others. The latest on their new album is here. I can’t fucking wait for it to be released.
Black Pyramid kick ass. That’s not really news, but it’s true all the same.
Posted in Label Stuff on October 24th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Got home from work last night and found a big ol’ box of Clamfight CDs. It was enough to have made the workday worthwhile.
They’re geeerjus, as you can see in the totally natural, not-at-all-arranged picture above. I’m always stoked on everything The Maple Forum puts out, but Clamfight are friends going back years and years. We played shows together when they were barely a band, and I’ve only become more of a fan as they’ve grown into the unwieldy riff ‘n’ thrash monster they are now. I vs. the Glacieris going to stomp your face.
It’s a four-panel digipak. Here’s the full outside cover, with firehorses and scantily :
Here’s the inside cover with the disc:
And here’s a closer look at the cover:
We’re eying a January release. Stay tuned for pre-order info. Of course, the band might also have some copies with them on the upcoming Clamfight, Kings Destroy and Black Pyramid “We vs. the Weekender” tour, about which you can find more details here or here.
It had been a while since I’d been to the Second Saturday Record Show in flood-prone Wayne, NJ. In fact, relatively speaking, my load of CD acquisitions has been light of late, a combination of pricing myself out of the market, saving cash to move, being annoyed at digital promos, etc. But Saturday was the record show and I happened to be in the state, so I wasn’t going to miss it.
The Wayne Firehouse, which is where the show has been held since before time began, was as packed as I’ve ever seen it, and with more vinyl. Believe the hype, I guess. People were pushing through the aisles at crowded tables, and even though I was working under my self-imposed limit to CDs and tapes, I wavered when I happened upon an original LP of the first Goatsnake record. I didn’t buy it, because it was $75, but I came close.
Treasures persisted though. Here’s a quick rundown.
Among the CDs, the self-titled Electric Wizard was the highlight, no doubt about. Original jewel case issue on Rise Above. I’d only had the reissue before that paired it with Come My Fanaticsand the digipak that came out even later, so to get the first version was a treat. Of course the album rules, but I already knew that going into it.
Tapes were three for two bucks at one seller’s table, so I grabbed the Dio, Sacred Heart, and Black Sabbath, Mob Rules and Born Againtapes from him, as well as the three-tape set of Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks‘ The 2,000 Year Old Man, which is a classic. The Ozzy tape came from his as well, which threw off the three-for-two thing, but it was worth the extra 50 cents anyway. I think actually I only wound up paying $2.50 anyhow. Fucking awesome.
The Hendrix tape in the top right corner I bought off a different dude for a buck. It’s a dub of “Top Gear”/BBC stuff (click here to pop up the full tracklist), and yeah, it’s probably all been officially released at this point, but it fucking rules anyway, front to back. 1967. Gorgeous.
The 1996 debut by Canada’s Sheavy was in the same bin as the Electric Wizard (and some Death SS, which I picked up as well), but might have been an even bigger surprise, if only because it was so random. I’ve never been really hooked by the band — though they do take Sabbath worship to a different level entirely and there’s something inherently admirable in that — but the record’s cool and it’s got a handmade-looking foldout included detailing the bonus tracks and even a little pyramid-shaped piece of paper that seems to be a kind of mail-order catalog:
And here’s the foldout, when folded out:
Pretty cool that that stuff would be with the album after all these years, and in impeccable shape at that. The CD was obviously well loved, kept out of sunlight, and so on. Hard not to appreciate stumbling on something like that, no matter how attached to Sheavy‘s work I may or may not be.
One of my main reasons for going in the first place, however, was the hope of picking up a turntable on the cheap. I’ve invested about as much time and effort into trying to repair the one at my office as I care to, and it’s time to move on. They didn’t have any at the record show, which was a bummer, but en route to other errands, The Patient Mrs. found a $40 Best Buy gift card that’s apparently been in my wallet since 2009. Could only be providence, right?
We shot over to the local big-box — a desert of outdated technologies (which actually gave it a certain charm in my eyes) — and grabbed the floor model of one of those “put your LPs on your iPod” turntables for what turned out to be $24 after the gift card was applied. Brought it to the office this morning, and of course it didn’t work. Now I’m 0-2 and I’ve got two busted record players one on top of the other on top of my office shelf unit, which I think makes me some kind of warped reality redneck.
Some you win, some you lose. I’ll try to return it and see if I can give it another go, and I’ve got plenty to keep me busy in the meantime. If nothing else, the growling and howling in “Hound Dog” on that Hendrix tape has the little dog Dio eyeballing the speaker curiously, and that’s bound to be hours of entertainment. Rock and roll.
Posted in Reviews on August 27th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Now in their 18th year (20th if you count their beginnings as Funereus), Lyndhurst, New Jersey, death/doom outfit Evoken remain both an anomaly in their surroundings and crushing in both their sonics and their atmospherics. Their new album, Atra Mors, is their first since 2007’s A Caress of the Void and marks their debut on Profound Lore, following a 2010 I Hate Records split with Beneath the Frozen Soil (review here). For anyone who has never encountered the band before, they are unrelenting in their doomed miseries. The music, even when it moves fast, is lurching, lumbering under the weight of its enveloping sadness. We think of this sound now as classic, and Evoken’s work within it is a part of the reason why. Death/doom acts are few and far between on the East Coast (believe me), but though Evoken were preceded by the likes of Winter, the fact that original members John Paradiso (vocals, guitar) and Vince Verkay (drums) have been able to stick it out through the years and ensuing trends while remaining loyal to the band’s original mission – not without expanding the creative scope – has led to a growing respect for what they do that Atra Mors can only further. The album itself is eight tracks and 67 minutes, broken down so that pairs of extended tracks are broken up by interludes that presumably are meant to allow the listener a chance to catch their breath before being submerged again in Evoken’s wrenching abysmal churn. A look at the tracklisting makes the structure clear:
1. Atra Mors (11:54)
2. Descent into Chaotic Dream (11:14)
3. A Tenebrous Vision (2:19)
4. Grim Eloquence (9:40)
5. An Extrinsic Divide (10:11)
6. Requies Aeterna (1:59)
7. The Unechoing Dread (9:47)
8. Into Aphotic Devastation (10:07)
Both of the interludes – “A Tenebrous Vision” and “Requies Aeterna” – are instrumental, ambient works that serve to further the bleak dreariness of the mood and bridge groups of longer cuts. Their effectiveness in this regard proves them all the more necessary. At a total 67 minutes, Atra Mors is encompassing on a level that, frankly, is surprising.
With extensive keyboard work from Don Zaros featured alongside Paradiso and Chris Molinari’s guitars, Evoken’s reveling in pomposity is writ large across Atra Mors, and whether it’s the strings on “Requies Aeterna” or the sustained ringing notes of the opening title-track, they’re responsible for much of the album’s melodic underpinning. While Paradiso keeps his vocals either to low, deathly growls or spoken word-type recitations, Zaros’ keys give the material a richness that adds complexity to the overarching darkness of the songs. He drops out periodically to enhance the drama – doing as much through silence as he does with his instrument – but there’s no question Atra Mors couldn’t be nearly as successful as it is in conveying its wretchedness without him. That’s not to say the guitars are entirely lacking melodic flourish, but in kind with David Wagner’s bass, they’re so entrenched in low end as to barely let light escape. The keys are understated at times, but their contrast to the rest of the music – and how well that contrast is ingrained in the overall sound of the album – is essential. That’s no less true as the drudgery of “Descent into Chaotic Dream” gives way after seven minutes in to a release in the tension of true death metal groove, complete with double-kick from Verkay and a head-down chug to match. As I said, even fast, Evoken sound slow, but they move between the death and the doom in their death/doom with marked fluidity, breaking suddenly at 8:50 to an open-spaced guitar line that leads back to the lumbering dirge of the song’s beginnings, which is topped with one of the album’s best and most emotionally visceral guitar solos – echoing tones playing out an ethereal blues that soon gives way to the no-less-mournful piano warble of “A Tenebrous Vision.” Either I’m imagining things (possible), or there’s an effect on there to make Zaros’ lines sound like they were recorded 100 years ago. It’s not fake crackle, but there’s something there, severe and older.
Posted in Features on July 27th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Late last Saturday night, New Jersey’s Halfway to Gone stood on the stage of an overheated Brighton Bar and positively destroyed the place. It wasn’t their first time doing so, but this show in particular (review here) will hopefully serve as the beginning of a new era for the band. Not a moment too soon.
It’s been eight long years since Halfway released their third album. Self-titled, it was a fitting culmination of what the trio of bassist/vocalist Lou Gorra, guitarist Lee Gollin, aka Stu, and drummer Danny Gollin had accomplished on their 2001 debut, High Five and its 2002 follow-up, Second Season. More melodically complex, it never quite let go of the Red Bank three-piece’s Southern rock fetish, and tracks like the landmark opening duo “Turnpike” and “Couldn’t Even Find a Fight” became part of the Halfway to Gone canon, no less heralded than, say, “Holiday in Altamont” from the first record or the anthemic “Great American Scumbag” from the second.
But eight years feels like forever. In rock and roll, that might as well be a generation, and despite sporadic appearances here and there, usually at the Brighton, Halfway to Gone‘s legacy seemed set. Like many before them — including Solarized, in which Lou played bass and Stu guitar — and many after, they seemed to be another Jersey heavy rock act who never quite got their due. On June 2, I got a text from Gorra that they were playing, and that Solarized guitarist Jim Hogan and drummer Reg Hogan‘s new band Electrikill would be sharing the bill, that a new album was in the works and they’d be playing new material at the gig. Well, that was all I needed to hear.
Electrikill didn’t wind up on that bill, but Halfway ruled and their triumph played out in heavy distortion and thunderous riffs. Prior to, I’d had the chance to get on the phone with Gorra and talk about some of the practicalities involved in getting Halfway to Gone moving again, writing new material, and what they might look to accomplish this time around with the band. Having already toured the US extensively in their initial run, Gorra was candid about his desire to get over to Europe, and I’m hard pressed to think of ambassadors as fitting for all that’s righteous in American heavy rock.
Complete Q&A with Lou Gorra of Halfway to Gone is after the jump. Thanks for reading.
Posted in Reviews on July 18th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Generally speaking, there are two kinds of shows at Long Branch’s Brighton Bar: Late shows and really late shows. The club has for a long time now famously supported its local scene, and that’s great, but that means loaded bills and late nights almost without exception. If you’re going to the Brighton — once the home of New Jersey’s stoner rock scene and a place where acts like Monster Magnet, Core, The Atomic Bitchwax, Godspeed, Solace, Solarized and many others cut their teeth — you can safely bet you’re in for a long evening.
So it was on Monday when I headed down the Parkway to get there at around 9PM and found that only one of the five bands to play had been on. Radio Moscow were headlining, so they’d be on last, and Nashville upstarts The Dirty Streets would play before them, but locals were frontloaded as ever. I missed Buzzard Wagon — who I actually would’ve been interested in seeing — but got there as Iron Front were just getting started and watched their set along with The Loose Roosters, who followed in neo-grunge fashion and were a guitar/drum duo joined by two guest bassists. They sounded like Nirvana more than a little and weren’t who I was there to see, but it could’ve been worse.
One thing about the Brighton, though, is that it’s hot. And Jersey has not been exempted from the “definitely not climate-change-driven” surge in temperatures that has the rest of the country sweating off its collective balls. I knew that going into the show, though, and by the time The Dirty Streets went on, things were somewhat less dire. I’ll admit it’s been a bit since I listened to their 2011 album, Movements (review here), but as they played, the songs came right back, the catchy hooks and Blue Cheer vibing of “Cloud of Strange” from guitarist/vocalist Justin Toland serving as an instant refresher of their own infectiousness.
Along for the tour apparently and adding a striking visual element, Mad Alchemy‘s Lance Gordon stood on stage and spilled oils and projected swirls onto a white sheet behind both touring acts. Gordon (who was with Radio Moscow earlier this year as well when they toured with Graveyard) worked on one projector for The Dirty Streets and two for Radio Moscow, and underscored the psych elements in both bands with oranges, reds, greens, purples and so on. As The Dirty Streets‘ set progressed, I was taking pictures as local artist Megan Mosher, whom I’ve never actually met, handed me a small piece of paper with a Sharpie portrait on it, of me, that you can see above.
Flattering as the ego boost of even the momentary fascination of a young lady is for an oaf such as me, I bowed to thank Ms. Mosher for her work and went back to watching and shooting the band, who seemed to have a couple new songs in their set in addition to the material from Movements. Nonetheless, it was tracks like “Fight You,” “It’s About Time” and “Broke as a Man Can Be” that especially gave me a new appreciation for bassist Thomas Storz, who, though he barely faced front at all — to do so would’ve required turning away from his locked-in position in the rhythm section with drummer Andrew Denham — offered warmth of tone and complexity of play in kind. Relistening to Movements afterward, I was reminded of how much I enjoyed his performance on the record in the first place.
They closed out with their most memorable chorus to date in “What Do You Know,” which had me singing along — rare these days — by the end, and seemed overall like they’re still developing as a live act, but were already in a position where any number of American purveyors (i.e. labels) would be lucky to have them. Similar to Radio Moscow, The Dirty Streets could also be one of those heavy rock bands that crosses over into indie appeal, and doubtless tours like this one would be just how they did it. Most of all, it’ll be exciting to hear how their next record builds on the strengths they so naturally conveyed from the stage at the Brighton Bar.
Was it really 11:30PM when Radio Moscow went on? It felt later, but that’s the magic of a Monday show, or part of it, anyhow. Just three days after being Mr. Ultra Responsible and skipping out on a Friday night show before seeing a band I wanted to see (in this case, The Giraffes on their home turf in Brooklyn) because I had to work the next day, I decided to do the exact opposite and take my dose of rock and roll exhaustion with a smile. As soon as they started, I knew there was no way I wasn’t going to be watching Radio Moscow‘s set the whole way through.
Much was made earlier this year of the unceremonious and violent manner in which Radio Moscow‘s previous lineup imploded (the former members of the Iowa trio have since reemerged in Blues Pills), but guitarist/vocalist Parker Griggs has assembled a rhythm section around him now that’s second to none I’ve ever seen in a power trio format — and yes, I mean that. I don’t know if it was the fact that Radio Moscow was already decently known when they fell apart or what, but it’s no wonder Griggs is grinning so wide in the band’s press shot: bassist Billy Ellsworth and drummer Lonnie Blanton answered back every bit of his frenetic musicality, resulting in classic fire-under-the-ass whiteboy blues jams that if you could divorce the speed/death metal connotations from the word, you’d almost have to call “extreme.”
Apparently someone broke into their van outside Webster Hall in NYC the night before — so if you see them on this tour, which is ongoing, bring them some pants — but neither that nor the fact that they went on later than they otherwise might have seemed to dampen their spirits. The room took on the sharp smell of Gordon‘s various oils as Radio Moscow tore into their catalog with ferocity gloriously inappropriate for a Monday night, Blanton running circles around a stripped-down kit and hitting ghost notes on the snare while somehow also making each one of them count and Ellsworth bolstering Griggs‘ own fleetness of finger with no shortage of his own. Two inebriated bona fide classic rockers up front were much pleased, as was everyone else in the room with a soul.
I don’t know if you can really say Radio Moscow is still out supporting 2011′s The Great Escape of Leslie Magnafuzz(the CD of which continues to elude me; I’ll grab it one of these days but didn’t have the cash at the show) since it’s a totally different band now and their latest release is actually the previously-unissued 3 & 3 Quarterswhich was recorded in 2003 and has Griggs alone on it, but cuts therefrom like “Speed Freak” and the late-arriving “Densaflorativa,” on which Ellsworth joined Blanton‘s percussion by hitting a bongo with maracas, were notably potent. Finishing with the John Lee Hooker-esque 12-bar “Deep Blue Sea” from their 2007′s self-titled debut, Griggs — situated closest to the Brighton‘s stage right wind machine and so absorbing the brunt of it for the duration — leading an extended jam that proved the prior hour of raging had not at all diminished his capacity for blinding lead work.
What it might take to do that, I don’t know, but when they were finished, Griggs looked ready for a second set. The band started to load their gear off the stage, Ellsworth as collected in his presence as he had been the whole time on stage apart from that maraca jam as he and Blanton signed vinyl albums they didn’t play on. To that end, let me say I hope current Radio Moscow gets to put out an album in this form. Griggs, who’s handled drums on every release to this point and is clearly in his right as leader of the band to make decisions in this regard, has a tough choice ahead of him for their next collection as regards whether to do it himself or have Blanton take on the role in the studio. I guess that’s a while out, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens there.
Ultimately, that’s why I went to this show. I could very easily have gone to Sunday night at Webster Hall instead and had both an earlier evening and probably a shorter drive, but when it came down to it — aside from wanting to support even the basic idea of a decent show happening in my beloved Garden State — I was there for the music. I wanted to see the bands, to really watch what they were doing, how they interacted and how it sounded in a smaller space than even the downstairs room at the New York venue would’ve provided. When Radio Moscow were done, I was one of maybe 25 people in the place. I don’t care what gig you were at, that’s a special memory for me even if the bands hadn’t been so killer.
So while it wasn’t the most practical start to this week, which has thus far taken the hit of my irresponsibility and will no doubt continue to do so until Saturday when I can, barring disaster, catch up on sleep before returning to the Brighton to see Halfway to Gone, I have no regrets. I got back to my humble river valley at around 2:15AM and was asleep a little after three, the grumpy Tuesday that followed a small price to pay for the night preceding.
Posted in Whathaveyou on April 26th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
My plan last night was to drive down to New Brunswick to catch a house show of up-and-coming Jersey sludge bands topped off with the final gig of Massachusetts duo Olde Growth‘s most recent tour. Also on the bill were Pharaoh (not to be confused with the trad metal band from Chicago), the previously On the Radar-ized Eternal Fuzz, and Dutchguts, whom I’ve seen kicking around Jersey a couple times and who run the multi-stage basement venue The Meatlocker in Montclair — where Olde Growth played last time they came through.
Being forever in the shadow of NYC as regards actual venues — that is, the second anyone’s big enough to fill a bar, they’re not doing it here anymore — New Jersey has a long tradition of house shows. In the mid to late ’90s, it was how frantic tech metallers The Dillinger Escape Plan and numerous others first cut their teeth, and it’s been the foundation of the state’s obnoxiously/admirably persistent punk rock scene ever since. I wasn’t a part of that scene. Too young. The place where this show was held was just an old house on a wide street full of old houses. They called it The Alamo, and I walked through the side yard and around the back and knew almost immediately I was too old to be there.
I’d left work at six, dropped the dog off at home and driven, hurriedly, an hour south to go to the show. I genuinely wanted to see it. But you gotta understand, these were kids. I played a New Brunswick house show a few years back, but it’s different when you’re not actually in a band, and it was weird. I had my camera bag with me, but as the first band was getting ready to go on — the dude I asked didn’t know their name but said they had the guitar player from Sonofabitch, which didn’t help much — my choice very quickly became clear. I could stand around and be the old guy no one knows at the house show, or I could split. There wasn’t going to be any middle ground.
The year I was born, 1981, is listed as the dividing point between Generation X and the Millennials, but the reality of the situation is, I’ve never felt like I’ve belonged to one generation or another. I turn 31 later this year, and by the time I was a senior in high school, I knew the freshmen were coming from someplace completely different. Most of my youth I spent trying to hang around with people older than me. I sucked at being young. But I never really hit a point where I could relate to the perspective of those older than me either. It’s an awkward middle-ground that feels half a decade on the wrong side of either place. Born too late, born too early.
I don’t have a problem with being too old for the house show. Like I said, I sucked at being young, and so youth — inasmuch as it’s something I’ve “lost” — isn’t something I really miss. Youth had a lot of dire-seeming bullshit that I hated, and everyone treated each other like a motherfucker. But being where I was when I was, I never had a scene like the one growing now in Jersey, and the lesson I learned last night was that at least in the capacity of going to the shows and digging on these bands as they come up and get their footing creatively and in terms of performance, it’s just not going to work. I can support bands the way I do (i.e. writing), but being a part of it, being actually in it and of it, is something I’ve missed out on.
And in another three or four years, assuming they can keep it together, these bands are going to slay. Dutchguts, Pharaoh. I haven’t seen Eternal Fuzz yet, but I can only assume from what I’ve heard on the recording that the same applies. They’re young and arrogant enough to have their discovery of bands like Eyehategod be a natural outcrop of post-hardcore, and not so self-aware yet that they’ve lost their edge. I heard a report on the BBC yesterday that adolescence, that brain development, continues until the age of about 25. If they can make the most of the freedom they have — and especially doing it in an environment where they support and encourage each other, as they seem to be — then New Jersey’s heavy future is bright. I’ll look forward to hearing those records.
But there are things you can do that come with age and things you can’t, and at 30, my needs and my desires aren’t what they were even three years ago, let alone five or 10. I made my way through the house and down the small entranceway to the old basement, a pipe coming down from the already-low ceiling that I had to duck under, and watched that first band for a couple songs. Two guitars, drums, vocals, coming through Sunn heads and a shitty P.A., grooving out slow riffs like they just invented them, and just knew I was in the wrong place. I didn’t even want to take the camera out of my bag to take pictures. I didn’t want to move except to leave. So I left.
Maybe it didn’t matter. I don’t live under the delusion that wherever I go people are automatically paying attention to me, but I stood out and it made me uncomfortable. I was older, I was bigger, and if I wasn’t going to enjoy being there, what’s the point? Everything else sucks, music doesn’t. If going to shows is going to be a pain in my ass, then pretty much I’ve got nothing going for me. I didn’t see the Olde Growth dudes, and I didn’t get to catch Dutchguts, Pharaoh or Eternal Fuzz, as I wish I had, but in that place at that time, it just wasn’t going to work. Whether or not I actually was, I felt like I was intruding.
On my way out, I spoke to Rich Bukowski from Pharaoh for a bit. He was a couple years behind me (of course) at Seton Hall, and I’ve seen him around at shows ever since, so we’re friendly enough to say hey when we run into each other. I told him I envy what’s happening with these bands right now, that I wished it had been going on six years ago, and that I was going home. And then I did. The band inside was just launching into a cover of “Sister Fucker Pt. 1.” I got back in my car, turned on the Yankees, and the dulcet tones of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman provided theatre of the mind for what turned out to be a shitty game as I made my way the hour back north to my humble river valley, where upon arrival I made myself a bowl of cereal, checked my email, and went to bed, kept awake yet for hours by the caffeine I’d ingested prior to heading out in the first place.
In his second “Spine of Overkill” column for The Obelisk, Chris “Woody High” MacDermott is a man after my own heart, writing about New Jersey thrash heroes Overkill‘s very first demo, Power in Black.
If you haven’t seen it yet, Woody‘s band, Mighty High, recently announced a record release show for their new album, Legalize Tre Bags, for April 20 in Brooklyn.
When your humble editor asked me to write about heavy music from the 1980s, I immediately said yes but had a helluva time coming up with a decent name for the column. He rejected all of my suggestions saying that I could do better. I knew he was right and it took some thinking and drinking before coming up with just the right one. Finally, one night it was literally staring me right in my face. I went over to a friend’s place to listen to albums and guzzle his beer. He had recently picked up the triple-LP version of Motörhead’s Overkill. I remarked how the spine of Overkill was dwarfing everything else in his LP collection and I knew I finally had what was needed. Since Motörhead’s Overkill was released in 1979, it’s not eligible for my ramblings on the Obelisk, but I can certainly write about New Jersey’s finest thrash metal band — Overkill. Even though it’s been about 25 years since I’ve seen them live or bought one of their albums they had a profound impact on me.
Back in 1982/’83, as I was really starting to discover all the incredible new metal that was being pumped out across the globe at a furious rate, I was having trouble keeping up. Import records were essential but really expensive. The next step was to get into tape trading. Through classified ads in the almighty Kick Ass fanzine, I started corresponding with other creeps around the country that had lists of tapes that they would dub in exchange for stuff they were looking for. I didn’t have many demos but luckily found some cool dudes who would dub stuff for me if I sent them blank tapes and money for postage. I’d usually send them an extra blank for them to keep or they could send me even more stuff. It was awesome coming home from my after school job to find these packages waiting for me. Who wants to do homework when there are live Exodus shows to listen to? I got Metallica‘s No Life til Leather demo not too long before Kill ‘em All was released and was really into it. Most of the demos I was getting were good but nowhere close to that.
But one that really kicked my ass was Overkill‘s Power in Black five-song demo, released in 1983. I figured a band named after my favorite Motörhead album had to be good, right? (I later learned that they almost named themselves “Virgin Killer” after the Scorpions classic.) Their logo was Iron Maiden-esque and they looked totally evil in the xeroxed photo on the cover. And they were from New Jersey! That was a hell of a lot closer than San Francisco. The first sound I heard on Power in Black (or “power in blacks” as we liked to say in New Rochelle) was tape hiss. Lots of it. Heavy tape hiss and then the sinister riff for their theme song, “Overkill,” played by guitarist BobbyGustafson. A big thud from drummer RatSkates and bassist D.D. Verni introduced the lead-screech vocals of Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth. If the fidelity on No Life til Leather was primitive, then Power in Black is ancient. It sounds like these guys were playing so loud that the only way the condenser mic on their boom box could record them was if they set it up across the street – thin, trebly, wooshy sound made even worse from being dubbed so many times only added to the appeal. And by the time the song wrapped up with Blitz screaming “KILL!” five times, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to rewind the tape to listen to it again or check out the rest of the songs.
I decided to let the tape play and was rewarded with a pummeling Judas Priest-influenced song called “The Beast Within.” Blitz does some nice BelaLugosi-ish bellowing on it and there are a few killer time changes to accommodate a variety of headbanging speeds. It’s been suggested that this is one of the very first thrash metal songs ever written since it dates back to 1981. Side one of the tape wraps up with the very fast “There’s No Tomorrow.” After about a minute and a half of mega-speed boogie, things slow down for a metal waltz part. Blitz lets out a bloodcurdling scream and things go back to rapid-fire tempo for a scorching axe solo from Bobby G. The rhythm section is pretty much buried in the noise, but Rat Skates gets some tasty CliveBurr-style fills audible from time to time. Flip the tape over and there are twp more thrash classics – “Death Rider” (not to be confused with Anthrax‘s “Deathrider”) and “Raise the Dead” (not to be confused with “Raise the Dead” by Venom). “Death Rider” has a Sad Wings/Stained Class-style Priest intro before blasting into faster territory. This song later wound up on Metal Massacre V. “Raise the Dead” follows a similar metal template and later turned up as the opening song on their debut album, Feel the Fire.
This tape really blew me away. And when I finally got to see them at L’amour in Brooklyn in either late ‘84 or early ’85, they literally blew me away. Not only were they really fucking loud, they let off these massive explosions that really shook the rafters. Holy shit, that was scary. That wasn’t the only thing that was scary.Overkill had a huge following of really delinquent fuckups. The club was packed with dudes riding the mescalator and/or dusted out. Add Budweiser and Jack Daniels to the mix and you’ve got a really great time. They were also the first metal band that I ever saw where headbangers were slam dancing and stage diving. I was used to being pressed up against the stage, head banging and fist pumping, but now you had to look out for hopped-up degenerates with spikes getting thrown into you. When they covered D.O.A.‘s version of the Subhumans song “Fuck You,” things got even crazier. After that assault, how could I not buy a t-shirt with the catchphrase “Blood Metal Donor” on the back?
In a perfect world Overkill should have released their debut album in 1984. Their epic song “Feel the Fire” was one of the few highlights of the pretty crappy NY Metal ‘84 compilation (Long Island’s FrigidBich were my other favorite). They released a killer four-song EP called Overkill also in 1984 but the label was lame and it was out of print almost immediately. It contains one of my all time favorite Overkill songs, “The Answer.” Doom metal freaks should track it down. Not many thrash bands really did slow, heavy, Sabbath-style songs back then and it’s a great “Wheels Of Confusion” rewrite. By the time Feel the Fire was released in late 1985 most of their fans knew the songs inside and out and there was suddenly a lot more competition for a headbanger’s limited attention span. A similar thing happened to Exodus. By the time Bonded by Blood was released, most hardcore metal maniacs had all the songs on tape for about a year.
Anyone interested in the early days – of not just Overkill but early thrash metal as a whole – should check out the DVD that RatSkates put out a few years ago called Born in the Basement. The highlight is when he talks about how a member of the band was kicked out of the group for showing up to band practice wearing a white leather jacket. Say no to white leather, say yes to the Power in Black!
One thing about O’Brien’s Pub in Allston, Massachusetts, is that it’s not the Brighton Bar in Long Branch, NJ, and for that, I’m a little bummed watching this video for Infernal Overdrive‘s “Duel” from their soon-to-be-released Last Rays of the Dying Sun debut full-length (review here). No denying the band’s Massachusetts roots, I guess. Guitarist/vocalist Marc Schleicher used to be in Cracktorch (they weren’t the problem) and they’re playing one of the release shows for the album — the one around the release — in MA as well. And they recorded there too, now that I think about it. Points for consistency.
Some things to watch for in the “Duel” video: a Darryl Shepard cameo at 1:02 (he’s later mentioned in the on-screen “texts” as well) and references to both Monty Python and the Holy Grail and The Big Lebowski. Also make sure you get a look at bassist Keith Schleicher‘s Shiner Beer t-shirt, since if you’re ever lucky enough to catch Infernal Overdrive at a show, chances are he’ll be wearing it. The clip was directed by Mike Gill and the assistant director was Roadsaw‘s own Tim Catz, whose debut column you may have seen here last week.
And since I’ll be headed up that way March 3 and I thought you might want to as well, here’s the flyer for the Last Rays of the Dying Sun release shows — one in Massachusetts and one in Jersey:
Posted in On the Radar on January 31st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s not every day I get to write about a band from what’s essentially my own back yard. Space-riffing foursome Eternal Fuzz make their home in New Brunswick, New Jersey, which is about half an hour south on the Parkway from where I currently sit. It’s a college town, hosting the main campus of Rutgers University, and from what I can tell from the (somehow appropriately) fuzzy video above, the double-guitar outfit is pretty young.
Far more revealing about Eternal Fuzz though is their summer 2011 demo, which is currently available for streaming on their Bandcamp page. With warm low end and ghostly echoing vocals, shades of Om meet with a kind of miniaturized riffy splendor and Torche-esque brevity on “Vexed by the Curse of the Sloth,” which sounds short at just three minutes.
I’d be surprised if the demo wasn’t recorded live, since it comes off so much that way, but rough production becomes part of the band’s character by the end of the five songs, and with the striking build of “Moody Hum” acting as a centerpiece, Eternal Fuzz show a surprising amount of clarity for an act who should still just be getting their bearings sound-wise.
For that, I’m happy to include them in the same school of formative NJ acts like sludge villains Dutchguts and bass/drum duo The Badeda Ladies, who both also have growing to do but are making a strong start. Here’s Eternal Fuzz‘s demo if you want to check it out:
Posted in Reviews on December 22nd, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
For their second album through the German imprint Metalville Records, native New Jerseyan Monster Magnet offshoot Riotgod present a sound that is crisper, tighter and more assured than on their 2010 self-titled debut. is also more directly derived from the stoner/heavy rock vein than was Riotgod (review here), and shows clear intent even in its track listing. Each of the album’s two presented “sides” – in quotes because it’s a CD release and at 59:31, it’s too long to fit on a single LP – ends with a ballad, those being “Gas Station Roses” and “Rebirth,” that through their mere placement set themselves as the cornerstones of what Riotgod is looking to accomplish their second time out. In terms of songwriting, the four-piece doesn’t seem to want to stray too far from the straightforward, well-structured verses and choruses they presented the first time around, but both the guitars of Garrett Sweeny and the vocals of Mark Sunshine offer more diversity, with the rhythm section of bassist Jim Baglino and drummer Bob Pantella (they being the Monster Magnet contingent) keeping a consistent and forward-pointed push whether it’s the darker, moodier chug of “Crossfade” or the grander emotionality of later cut “Loosely Bound.” At just under an hour, Invisible Empire feels long, and some songs work better than others, but each of the total 12 seems to justify its inclusion through diversity, however subtle it might be, whereas with the self-titled that wasn’t the case. If that’s to be the form of Riotgod’s progress, I’ll take it.
The album begins with the formidable swagger of “Breed,” and that sets a tone of classic rock appreciation that the rest of the songs bear out, both riff-wise and in Sunshine’s vocals, which are stellar in their performance but too forward in the mix. His voice has that ability that Chris Cornell had at his peak to just contort seemingly at will and jump in register to what feel like places it shouldn’t be able to jump. He throws some John Garcia-type grit into the approach as well and manages to shift to suit the music, as on the swaying “Firebrand.” As Pantella keeps steady waltz time on the drums and Sweeny noodles a subdued verse, Sunshine takes charge of the melody and caries the track into its chorus, which is among the most effective on Invisible Empire. True, some of the melodies can seem repetitive – more than once through the Alice in Chains-esque backups on “Fool” and they begin to feel overused – but Sunshine could carry this band if he needed to. Fact is, however, that he doesn’t need to. As the ballsier riffing of “Fool” and “Crossfade” work in ‘90s-style distortion behind their verses, the music more than stands up to the vocals, however more prominent the latter might be mix-wise. With “Slow Death,” as with “Breed,” Riotgod modernize a classic approach in a way not so dissimilar from what European tour and labelmates The Quill did on their 2011 offering, Full Circle.
Posted in Reviews on December 13th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Earlier in the day, while waiting for a table at the Alexis Diner on Rt. 10 in Denville, I asked The Patient Mrs. to buy a ticket for the Powerball. I don’t usually play the lottery, but we’d been there for a bit waiting for the rest of my family to show up (lunch following my nephew’s Xmas pageant was one of the day’s several social obligations), and still tired from seeing Mighty High and Cortez the night before, I thought how great it would be to both win the Powerball and see Kyuss Lives! in the same day. My reasoning was that one was great enough, but imagine both!
It’s a wonder I’m not divorced.
The early part of that same evening found The Patient Mrs. and I (she was driving; I’d already had a few and I’d have a few more before the night was out) racing northbound on the Parkway to get to the Wellmont Theatre in scenic Montclair, NJ, in time to catch The Atomic Bitchwax open the show for Black Cobra, The Sword and Kyuss Lives!, who were on the last night of their tour and under whose banner the whole show took place. The Bitchwax being Jersey locals, the appeal was plain, and with the added interest of Dave Witte (Human Remains, Burnt by the Sun, Exit-13, Birds of Prey, Municipal Waste, etc.) filling in on drums, I didn’t want to miss it. You know that hurried feeling when you get all anxious that you’re not going to make it in time? It was like at, and as per usual, completely without reason. We arrived well in time for the start of their set.
Last time I saw The Atomic Bitchwax was at the Saint in Asbury Park with Karma to Burn, and it was high on the list of the best shows I’ve ever seen them play. With Witte‘s taking Bob Pantella‘s spot on drums while the latter is on a European run with Monster Magnet, intrigue was high. Sure enough, Witte more than held his own, but as you’d expect, the chemistry that’s developed between Pantella and bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik and guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan just wasn’t there. Still, they did Jersey proud, and I spent the whole time trying to figure out how Kosnik would know Witte (Human Remains was a Jersey band; that’s the best I could come up with), taking minor mental detours to enjoy “Destroyer,” “Gettin’ Old,” “So Come On,” “Shitkicker,” “Hope You Die,” the Core cover, “Kiss the Sun” and the curious instrumental choice of closer, “Force Field.”
Witte is a master drummer. The reason he’s involved in so many projects is he’s so adaptable, and in The Atomic Bitchwax, he nestled in well alongside the fast-winding riffs of Kosnik and Ryan, though there was part of him that looked ready to bust out a grindcore blastbeat at any moment, and his snare seemed to pop with that kind of expectation. By contrast, Rafa Martinez of Black Cobra did unleash a few blasts, most notably during “Obliteration” from the band’s most recent Invernal album, but hit with a different technique altogether. This was the first I’d seen Black Cobra since Invernal came out, and I was glad to find them focusing on the new material, since I think it’s their best yet.
That Martinez and guitarist/vocalist Jason Landrian were unbelievably tight should almost go without saying at this point, since that’s pretty much been the case with the duo since their inception as a touring act seven or eight years ago at this point. They opened with “Avalanche” from the new album, though, and it occurred to me how much they’ve grown in terms of stagecraft. Landrian, quiet and subdued off stage, is more confident than ever while on, and more apt to engage the audience as a frontman. He held his guitar over his head, headbanged, yelled off-mic at the crowd and generally worked to bring people into the show. It wasn’t yet crowded at the Wellmont, but the people who showed up early knew why they were there, and I think Landrian‘s efforts were appreciated.
“Avalanche” and “Obliteration” were highlights, but the irresistible riffing of “Corrosion Fields” made their set, and it would do so again the next night in Brooklyn. That kind of chugging groove is unmistakably righteous, and I didn’t in the least envy Austin, Texas, riffers The Sword for having to follow it. Still, they did, and as The Sword are more or less the commercial vanguard at this point for heavy rock, I felt in watching them like they were unavoidable. Bound to happen. I didn’t hear their last record, 2010′s Warp Riders, and I don’t remember the one before that, but I immediately recognized “Freya” from Age of Winters for its epic riffing and battle tales, and that was fine.
Look. At this point, The Sword aren’t going anywhere. They have a more than solid fanbase, have worked hard enough on the road to give their now-former drummer a nervous breakdown, and as guitarist/vocalist J.D. Cronise was out front watching The Atomic Bitchwax during their set, I’m inclined to think their hearts are in the right place, whatever the hype or promotional push around them might be. Hipster metal isn’t all The Sword‘s fault, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t even like the band. They did their thing and the crowd responded well to it, and if I wasn’t into it, then at least I got a few minutes once I was done taking pictures to grab another beer and sit down before Kyuss came on, which I appreciated thoroughly.
And you’ll notice in that last sentence I dropped the “Lives!” from Kyuss Lives!, which seems only fair at this point. The looming prospect of a new album next year, plus the time the foursome of vocalist John Garcia, bassist Nick Oliveri, guitarist Bruno Fevery and drummer Brant Bjork have put in on the road playing those old tunes, they’ve earned it. It’s Kyuss. You know it, I know it. This was my second time seeing them, and yeah, Josh Homme wasn’t in the building, but seriously, bands have toured with fewer founding members, and I defy you to watch Brant Bjork during “Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop” and call it anything other than Kyuss.
It was pretty clear they were tired from being on the road, the show wasn’t exactly sold out even at its most crowded point, and the cavernous high ceiling of the Wellmont that so well suited Black Cobra didn’t do them any favors sound-wise, but how could I possibly think of a Kyuss set as anything other than a positive? What else would I have been doing that night that would’ve been better than drunkenly belting out the parts to “El Rodeo” along with Oliveri and Garcia, or watching the jam that developed out of “50 Million Year Trip (downside up)?” Nothing. Watching the current incarnation of Kyuss tear through their set with the level of poise and professionalism they did was a blast. Garcia didn’t talk much, but sounded killer singing, and Fevery seemed even more comfortable on the songs than he had in Philly, making “Hurricane,” “Freedom Run” and “One Inch Man” high points of a night mostly comprised of high points.
Whatever becomes of the Kyuss Lives! lineup, with Oliveri facing jail-time following a SWAT standoff earlier this year and Scott Reeder waiting in the wings to take up the bassist position as he did prior to the release of 1994′s genre-defining Welcome to Sky Valley, they’ve done well by themselves and most importantly, by the material on these American and European tours. After absolutely nailing “Demon Cleaner,” they came out to do a quickie encore that included “Green Machine” and (I think; someone please correct me if I’m wrong) “Odyssey,” and then were done. I’d expected “Thumb,” but the Wellmont house lights came back up and the audience was quickly escorted out the door and into the cold.
Jersey doesn’t get shit for heavy rock shows. Generally speaking, if it’s coming anywhere these days, it’s coming to Brooklyn or maybe Manhattan if it’s a big enough deal to get into one of the corporate venues, but something like seeing Kyuss on my home turf in North Jersey, I felt like it was a really special opportunity and one I think I made the most of. It was night two of three shows in a row for me, but definitely will standout as more than just the middle in a series. I got everything I could’ve asked for except cheaper beer, and as I woke up the next day sans hangover, I felt like even the $7 Shiner Bock was a favor directed in my way (well, maybe not). I didn’t win the Powerball, but I’d hardly call it a loss for that.
Posted in Features on December 6th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
In conjunction with my full-time gig at The Aquarian, I’ve been granted permission to host a giveaway for tickets to see Kyuss Lives!, The Sword, Black Cobra and The Atomic Bitchwax this weekend at the Wellmont Theatre in Montclair, New Jersey.
The show is Saturday night, Dec. 10, and the only snag for the giveaway is that it ends tomorrow afternoon, Wednesday, Dec. 6. If you want to go, just fill out the info below and hit send:
[Please note: This contest is now closed. Thanks to all who entered. Winners will be notified by email.]