Serpentine Path to Release Second Album Emanations on May 27

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 2nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

I’ve called bands supergroups for way less than ties to Electric Wizard, Winter and Unearthly Trance, but when it comes to New York-based Serpentine Path, what’s exciting about them isn’t what the component members have done before so much as what they’ll do together going forward. Their 2012 self-titled debut (review here) delighted in blurring the lines between death metal, doom and sludge, and the upcoming Emanations – set for release May 27 on Relapse – will arrive heralded by the potential they showed the first time out to push into further extremity.

Album info and a trailer with song clips follows, having oozed its way down the PR wire:

SERPENTINE PATH: Info On Second Relapse LP From NYC Morbid Metal Crew Released

Following a two-year release stretch since their bold self-titled debut LP was issued, Relapse Records this week unveils the release details on the highly-anticipated second LP from New York City-based morbid sludge metal executioners, SERPENTINE PATH.

Born from within the smoldering remains of Unearthly Trance in 2011, UT members, bassist Jay Newman, drummer Darren Verni and vocalist Ryan Lipynsky (The Howling Wind) recruited guitarist Tim Bagshaw (ex-Ramesses, ex-Electric Wizard) to complete the SERPENTINE PATH lineup.

Now officially augmented by new second guitarist Stephen Flam, the mastermind behind NYC doom/death legends, Winter, SERPENTINE PATH brings forth their most demoralizing and anguish-filled slow-motion chaos yet, with the newly-completed Emanations. As with their first album, Emanations was recorded by the band’sJay Newman, after which it was honed to devastating perfection at Audiosiege, the album capturing forty-five minutes of true sludge punishment with seven brand new songs from this true underground all-star team. Sure, the pedigree is undeniable, but regardless of their “members of” status, SERPENTINE PATH is one of the most scathing sludge acts on the planet.

Emanations will see parole via Relapse May 27th, 2014 on CD, LP and digital formats. A new trailer featuring a sample of the audio, as well as the cover art by in-house Relapse artist Orion Landau and more has been released. View the trailer HERE, and place preorders for the album HERE.

SERPENTINE PATH:
Tim Bagshaw – guitars
Stephen Flam – guitars
Jay Newman – bass
Darren Verni – drums
Ryan Lipynsky – vocals

Emanations Track Listing:
1. House Of Worship
2. Treacherous Waters
3. Claws
4. Disfigured Colossus
5. Systematic Extinction
6. Torment
7. Essence of Heresy

http://www.relapse.com/serpentinepathemanations
http://serpentinepath.blogspot.com
https://www.facebook.com/serpentinepath
http://serpentinepath.bandcamp.com
http://www.relapse.com
http://relapserecords.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords

Serpentine Path, Emanations album trailer

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The Golden Grass, The Golden Grass: Heading for the County Line

Posted in Reviews on March 25th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

What sets  Brooklyn trio The Golden Grass apart from the hundreds of bands the world over who cull the bulk of their influence from the heavy rock of the early ’70s and/or the original psychedelic era is a relentlessly positive mindset. Where the current retro rock movement — and because of the modern production on the three-piece’s self-titled Svart Records full-length debut, I’d hesitate to even call it “retro” — spearheaded by the likes of Graveyard and the first couple Witchcraft outings has resulted in a slew of acts pretending to worship both the Devil and Jinx Dawson with due candles, incense and pomp, The Golden Grass turn that formula on its head and delight in a boogie free from these thematic constraints and the inherent moodiness they bring to classic rock sound. This was evident from their 2012 debut single, One More Time b/w Tornado, and the limited 456th Div. tape (review here), and the upbeat vibes remain consistent throughout The Golden Grass‘ farthest-out, most wandering moments, which arrive in the 12:51 penultimate jammer “Wheels,” a side B standout on a 36-minute LP that in no way overstays its welcome. As they did for the prior single, guitarist/vocalist Michael Rafalowich (Strange Haze), bassist Joe Noval and drummer/vocalist Adam Kriney (La Otracina) recorded with Andrea Zavareei at Urban Spaceman Studio, and Jeff Berner mixed at Galuminum Foil, and it’s a collaboration whose dividends show themselves in the crisp but natural feel of the songs and the balance that highlights organic tones without sacrificing the clarity of the vocal arrangements.

Those arrangements are a big part of what gives The Golden GrassThe Golden Grass its personality. There’s laughter on the album, and though its songs are heavy and relatively extended — the shortest is opener “Please Man” at 5:23 — it’s a friendly, inviting listen that even at its most driving, heading toward the finale of closer “Sugar ‘n’ Spice,” in the early verses of “Wheels” or eliciting the riffy bounce of “One More Time,” the initial single which makes a reappearance here as the centerpiece of the tracklist, is never outwardly aggressive. Rafalowich and Kriney trade off in the lead spot, but whoever’s out front, the other is never far off, and as “Please Man” emerges with a drum fill from its build-up intro wash of psychedelic guitar, it’s not long before the two are working together to get the most out of their harmonic range. The balance of straightforward, catchy rock and psychedelia is something else that shifts fluidly throughout the proceedings, and when they want to, The Golden Grass are well capable of playing one side off the other. “Please Man” does this in Rafalowich‘s opening and subsequent solo sections, as well as the slow, dreamy ending that gives way to the uptempo push of “Stuck on a Mountain,” the call and responses of which seem to be begging for a sing-along. There’s more engaging vocal interplay and Noval offers no shortage of texture in matching and side-stepping the riffs, but the real payoff in “Stuck on a Mountain” is when a build opens up to the chorus and The Golden Grass still don’t get mad.

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Blood Farmers, Headless Eyes: Sorcerers Have Their Night

Posted in Reviews on March 24th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

It has been 19 years since New York City doomers Blood Farmers released their self-titled debut on Hellhound Records, and while that album and their 1991 Permanent Brain Damage demo were reissued via Japan’s Leaf Hound Records in 2008 and 2004, respectively, and trio have been playing periodic shows for a half-decade if not longer, if a new record was ever going to happen, it was nothing if not due. Thus arrives Headless Eyes, the long-anticipated second offering from Blood Farmers, keeping with the horror-obsessed aesthetic, pushing the sound to places they haven’t taken it before, but keeping a controlled current of tension in its lumbering riffs. The three-piece of vocalist Eli Brown, guitarist Dave Szulkin (who also plays bass here, while Brown handles it live) and drummer Tad Léger have a stripped down approach to the genre, and for the lack of frills throughout its 44-minute course, one might call Headless Eyes minimal, though that hardly does justice to the depth of its production, atmospheric density or attention to sonic detail, as evidenced in the creative use of sampling for a call and response in the chorus of the title-track, or the synth textures that emerge on the penultimate 10-minute instrumental “Night of the Sorcerers” and closing David Hess cover, “The Road Leads to Nowhere,” taken from Hess’ soundtrack to the 1972 horror film, The Last House on the Left.

So rather than minimal, let’s say Headless Eyes has been chased through the woods by some unseen terror and forced to cast off its bullshit along the way. A substantial portion of the record is instrumental, since the aforementioned “Night of the Sorcerers” (nonetheless a highlight) and the earlier “The Creeper” account for about 16 minutes of the runtime, and together with the cover, which is another six minutes, that leaves opener “Gut Shot,” “Headless Eyes,” and “Thousand-Yard Stare” as anchors for an album that draws the listener deeper into its foggy depths before offering the melodies of “The Road Leads to Nowhere” as a way back to reality. It’s no coincidence that “Gut Shot” and “Headless Eyes” lead off. The former is a tortured, slow nod of a riff with Brown recounting a tale of agony to accompany the drawn out notes and Léger‘s careful stomp underneath. Also responsible for the Headless Eyes graphic design, Léger was an original member of Westchester, NY, thrashers Toxik, but that pedigree would seem to serve him little in matching time with Szulkin‘s guitar and bass and Brown‘s carefully positioned verses. Likewise, Szulkin has two album with sludge-thrashers The Disease Concept under his belt, and though it comes out a bit in his leads on “Thousand-Yard Stare” and maybe a touch in “Night of the Sorcerers,” the bulk of Headless Eyes is more mournful than malevolent, though as noted, an atmosphere of threat is never far off.

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The Golden Grass to Release Full-Length Debut May 9 on Svart

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 10th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Confession time: I’ve been looking forward to reviewing The Golden Grass‘ self-titled debut for a while now, and seeing the artwork today with the official tracklisting and release date reveal has only made me more so. The Brooklynite feelgood trio will issue the five-track The Golden Grass on May 9 via respected purveyors Svart Records.

Of course, before that, they will have already played shows this spring alongside White Hills, It’s Not Night: It’s Space, Blackout and Aqua Nebula Oscillator, so hit up their Thee Facebooks if you want to get fully caught up on their doings. The PR wire sends over plenty to dig into as well:

THE GOLDEN GRASS set release date for SVART debut

The glory of American hard rock has returned with the debut eponymous album by THE GOLDEN GRASS, set for international release on May 9th via SVART RECORDS. This Brooklyn-based power-trio is the real deal, and their LP harkens back to the golden age when heavy rock music was upbeat, skillfully played, energetic, edgy, and bursting with goodtime sunshine vibes. They come hard with a strong backbone of deep-pocket funky flare and an earnest/uplifting southern/country/mountain rock vibe, layered with waves of psychedelic textures that explode into jaw-dropping proto-metal moves. And throughout their progressive arrangements and timeless grooves are lush and powerfully delivered vocals, stacked with gorgeous harmonies and maddeningly catchy verses and choruses singing the tales of real-life loves, losses, and the drive to keep on keepin’ on! Cover and tracklisting are as follows:

Tracklisting for THE GOLDEN GRASS’ The Golden Grass
1. Please Man
2. Stuck On A Mountain
3. One More Time
4. Wheels
5. Sugar N’ Spice

THE GOLDEN GRASS formed in early 2013, and before they had even played their first show, they were signed to Svart Records. Their debut 7” was issued in October of that, as a split release with US label Electric Assault Records. Since playing their first show in September of 2013, they’ve shared the stage with an impressive and eclectic range of rock and metal groups, including Windhand, Natur, Ramming Speed, Serpent Throne, Wolf People, and an appearance at the Cincy Psych Fest.

What truly sets THE GOLDEN GRASS apart from the pack of modern ’70s-inspired music is their relentlessly upbeat, soulful energy and feel-good vibe, which is a welcome departure from the faceless sea of proto-metal/doom bands currently drowning the underground scene. This catchy five-track album will make you dance, smile, and catch yourself singing along! This album is a sure treat for fans of classic underground hard rock such as Truth and Janey, Dust, and Josefus as well as fans of classic UK psychedelia such as The Move, The Pretty Things, and Mighty Baby. THE GOLDEN GRASS will also greatly appeal to folks into the contemporary sounds of Danava, Horisont, Graveyard, and Dead Man.

The album was recorded by Andrea Zavareei at Urban Spaceman Studio in Brookly, New York where many seminal early La Otracina albums were also tracked. The album was mixed by Jeff Berner at Galuminum Foil Studio in Brooklyn. Jeff has also recorded albums by Naam, Heliotropes, and Weird Owl, among others, at this studio, and he is also a member of Psychic TV. The album was mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege. The artwork was constructed by Niko Potocnjak of Seven That Spells. The collective experiences and talents of all involved were of utmost importance to the creation of this album.

THE GOLDEN GRASS is:
Adam Kriney – drums/vocals (also of LA OTRACINA and past tour member of NEBULA/CULT OF YOUTH/CASTANETS/CLOUDLAND CANYON)
Michael Rafalowich – electric guitar/vocals (also of STRANGE HAZE/WHOOPING CRANE and past tour member of TAV FALCO’S PANTHER BURNS)
Joe Noval – electric bass

MORE INFO:
www.facebook.com/thegoldengrass
www.svartrecords.com
www.facebook.com/thegoldengrass

The Golden Grass, Live at Johnny Brenda’s in Philly, Dec. 2013

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Full Album Art Revealed for Blood Farmers’ Headless Eyes

Posted in Visual Evidence on March 5th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Reunited New York doomers Blood Farmers are taking orders now for their sophomore album, Headless Eyes. A self-release, Headless Eyes is the first Blood Farmers long-player to surface in the 19 years since their self-titled debut came out on Hellhound, and it has been awaited since the band first started doing shows again a few years back. Their fetish for all things horror comes through both in the title of the album and its graphic design, handled by drummer Tad Leger, who’s given a sampling of the art for anyone who’s yet to pick up a copy of the CD. He’s joined in the band by vocalist Eli Brown and guitarist/bassist Dave Szulkin.

Blood Farmers‘ debut was reissued on Japan’s Leaf Hound Records in 2008 with a bonus track — their 1991 demo, Permanent Brain Damage, had been put out by the same label in 2004 — and the band has toured and made fest appearances leading up to the Headless Eyes release, hitting Europe in 2011 alongside Black Pyramid and also playing Days of the Doomed in Wisconsin.

Click the image below to get a feel for the art — front and back cover, plus liner, etc. — for Headless Eyes, which comes with an update from Leger and the tracklisting. I’ve also included a clip of the title-track so you can have a taste of Blood Farmers‘ grainy, VHS-style doom. Enjoy:

Here’s a peek at some of the sickening art that houses each copy of the new Blood Farmers album, Headless Eyes. It’s not pretty but that was our goal when creating it really. Thanks to all the kind folks who have supported this release. All sales go straight to the band. NO labels, distributors or anyone involved in this. So please help us spread the word. Our sincere thanks to the TRUE Doom culture!

Tracks are:
1.Gut Shot (6:17)
2.Headless Eyes (10:49)
3.The Creeper (4:51)
4.Thousand-Yard Stare (6:34)
5.Night Of The Sorcerers (10:15)
6.The Road Leads To Nowhere (5:59)

http://bloodfarmers.wordpress.com/

Blood Farmers, “Headless Eyes” from Headless Eyes (2014)

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Pentagram, Radio Moscow and Kings Destroy West Coast Tour, Pt. 1: Song for Eris

Posted in Features on February 21st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

02.21.14 – 4:43PM Eastern – Friday – Gate B30, JFK International

“Your attention, please…” – Airport P.A.

I had never smelled anything so disgusting as Panda Express. Turned a corner and there it was, a punch of grease and ginger powder in the olfactory. Then I passed PizzaVino, which near as I can tell doesn’t actually serve wine. JFK looks like someone’s vision of a terrible Cold War post-nuclear-fallout future in progress. There is a man with a long grey goatee and one eye wandering lost. Pardon our appearance.

There’s a lot about this trip I don’t know yet. The bands I know: Pentagram, Radio Moscow, Kings Destroy, playing each night in that order. First show is tomorrow, Feb. 22 in Seattle, where we’re flying tonight. Lesbian and Ancient Warlocks are on the bill at El Corazon, which is good news because I’ve seen neither and I’d like to. After that Portland. After that, I’m not really sure. San Francisco, maybe. I could look it up, and probably will at some point. Transport, where we might stay on any given night, and so on. Much mystery.

Everyone in the airport looks like someone. Me too. I know I’m on the same flight as the Kings Destroy cats because it was the same reservation. Traffic was two hours-plus to get here from Jersey, and that’s not counting the four hours to get from Massachusetts to NJ last night. Quite a commute. I have no doubt it will be worth it when I land and whatever it is that’s supposed to be happening happens. The weather is shit until then and I think Lee Renaldo just walked past with an entourage. That would fill my New York quota probably for the rest of the year. A member of Sonic Youth: 300 points.

Last time I was at this airport was at least eight years ago. I had a friend who was coming back from war. In uniform, the whole bit. He had a layover here at some absurd hour of the morning – maybe eight? We drive out here to see him. I was so hungover that as we were driving up I opened the door and puked out the side of the car. Then he poured shots of whiskey. At eight in the morning. He’s a lawyer now.

Flight’s at 6:35PM. Time to spare.

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The Obelisk Radio Add of the Week: Hull, Legend of the Swamp Goat

Posted in Radio on February 19th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Written and initially recorded in 2007, Hull‘s “Legend of the Swamp Goat” coincides timing-wise with their debut EP, Viking Funeral as some of the earliest material from the band. The Brooklyn now-foursome never released the song to my knowledge, but it now emerges on a 7″ of the same name released in a variety of colors DIY through their own Iron Works Orchestra imprint to mark the occasion of a European tour with Boston’s Elder that will begin at Roadburn and end at Desertfest in London. It is, however, more than just a dug-up lost recording trotted out because they needed something for the shows. Guitarist/vocalist Nicholas Palmirotto went back in and tracked vocals and reworked the guitar, and the song is newly mixed and mastered, so while it also predates Hull‘s first full-length, 2009′s Sole Lord, it’s also their first studio output since their brilliant 2011 album, Beyond the Lightless Sky (review here). Sure enough, the single — which clocks in at just over five minutes long and features a laser etching on the B-side — is a blend of new ideas and old.

I wouldn’t speculate on which layers are new and which ones older, but the sweeping lead that takes hold at 1:52 certainly reminds tonally of any number of Beyond the Lightless Sky‘s triumphant solos. Likewise, the multiple tracks of vocals show a complexity of arrangement that the band simply hadn’t yet developed on Viking Funeral – destructive as the debut was — and Palmirotto‘s voice holds the confidence of an approach that’s way more coming off its second record than making an initial demo. Fellow guitarist/vocalist Carmine Laietta, bassist/vocalist Seanbryant Dunn, then-guitarist/vocalist Drew Mack (currently in Cleanteeth) and drummer Jeff Stieber blend acoustics and electrics throughout and lock in a solid groove, showing some stoner roots in the verse rhythm, resulting in a Sleep-style march that Hull have since largely left behind. That, taken into account with the title “Legend of the Swamp Goat” itself and the swaggering riff-led midsection, give a somewhat lighthearted feel. It’s not exactly congruous with Sole Lord or Beyond the Lightless Sky, which were conceptual works both in theme and structure, but it’s fun, and the intensity of the final rush that caps “Legend of the Swamp Goat” gives a metallized apex that shows how willing Hull were even seven years ago to play various genre elements off each other, and how effectively they could do it.

Something of a curio, maybe, in terms of their overall catalog, but if the tour was an excuse for the single to surface, then three years beyond Beyond the Lightless Sky, I’m inclined to take what I can get. When or if a third Hull full-length will arrive remains to be seen, but the Legend of the Swamp Goat 7″ offers more substance than a stopgap and provides a listen unlike anything else in the band’s to-date discography. Paired alongside their recent vinyl reissue of Viking Funeral, it provides an insight into Hull‘s beginnings that may also offer some hint of where they may be headed.

Hear “Legend of the Swamp Goat” now as part of the 24/7 stream of The Obelisk Radio, and take a listen via the player below, snagged from Hull‘s Bandcamp page, where the 7″ can also be ordered:

Hull, “Legend of the Swamp Goat”

Hull on Thee Facebooks

Hull on Bandcamp

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Friday Full-Length: Puny Human, Universal Freak Out

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 15th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Puny Human, Universal Freak Out (2007)

Man, I don’t care who you were on that stage, if it’s a personality contest, Jim Starace was gonna win it. One of the best local rock shows I ever caught in NYC (and one I saw a couple times) was Puny Human around the time Universal Freak Out came out in 2007 with Solace at Ace of Clubs in Manhattan. That was the tail end of shows in Manhattan, I guess, but they were so right on. Heavy, a good time, phenomenal songs. Their earlier two records on Small Stone (lots of Small Stone around here these days, but I figured I’d roll with it to close the week), 2001′s Revenge is Easy and 2003′s It’s Not the Heat, it’s the Humanity, probably get most of the love. It was those albums that had the band opening for Clutch. But I thought Universal Freak Out was such a boot to the ass of an NYC scene that was just starting to take itself way too seriously, and from “Wake up Williamsburg” to “Number of the Beauty” to “Twin Fever,” it remains in my eyes a record that doesn’t have nearly enough worshipers to its credit.

Starace — who was joined in Puny Human on Universal Freak Out by brothers Josh (bass) and Jason (guitar) Diamond as well as drummer/backing vocalist John Bongiorno replacing Iann Robinson, who played on the first two full-lengths — passed away late in 2012, and while the album was already something special in my eyes, it’s since become all the more precious, from the “oh, frickin’ yeah” in “The Real Johnny Charm,” which also boasts a Danko Jones guest appearance, to the sheer cleverness running through “Planting My Impatience” and the hooks that run across all its tracks. It’s a close to perfect heavy rock record. Very New York, which is probably why the rest of the galaxy didn’t fall at its feet — that and as I recall they weren’t doing much in the way of touring by then — but a collection of songs that really tapped into something special in East Coast riffing and a singular sense of humor and presence that unfortunately Starace took with him.

It’s strange to me to think of something just seven years ago as a bygone age, but to look at the “NYC scene” now — first of all, there isn’t one, it’s the Brooklyn scene — it really is a completely different generation. Where have you gone, Atomic Number 76? Brooklyn’s not bad though, just new. More varied, if anything. Anyway, I loved this Puny Human record when it came out and I still do. Hope you do too.

Last night, I drove down to New Jersey in a snowstorm. It was hellish. Tonight I drove back to Massachusetts in cold but otherwise far more preferable climate conditions. Tomorrow The Patient Mrs. has family coming to celebrate her birthday, which was this week. They’re bringing the kids and staying over to Sunday. I do not expect much in the way of sleep. Add to that the six-plus inches of snow we’re supposed to be getting starting at noon tomorrow and yeah. I’m not expecting a restful couple of days. Doesn’t matter, I have work to do anyway.

Next Friday, I fly out of JFK Airport — yup, another trip south in less than a week’s time; if you’re not familiar with the Eastern Seaboard, it’s four hours each way in the car — to join Kings Destroy on their tour with Pentagram and Radio Moscow. I am unreasonably excited for the trip. I will have my camera and my laptop and a number of charging utilities to try and keep it all up and running and I will update as much as I am able on the shows and the travel. I expect to have some time and that by the end of the week, all the members of Kings Destroy will be very tired of listening to me type. Apologies in advance, gents.

Much to do before I go. Monday, a full stream of the new Backwoods Payback EP. Tuesday, a track premiere from Million Dollar Fix. Wednesday… well, it’s Wino Wednesday, isn’t it? That’s an event unto itself. Thursday brings a video premiere from The Graviators and then whoosh, I’m out. I’d like to try to sneak a review or two in there and a new podcast as well, but frankly I’ve got I lot of ducks to get in a row for job-type work, so I expect to be somewhat pressed for time. You know whatever I can do I’m going to try to get done.

We’re getting on two in the morning and I don’t know if anyone is going to see this so late anyway, but if you do, I hope you check out the Puny Human and dig it and I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Ben Smith of The Brought Low

Posted in Questionnaire on February 10th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

If The Brought Low are on stage, you can safely bet that you’re going to have a good time. With thickened blues-via-punk grooves from bassist Bob Russell and drummer Nick Heller and a touch of twang in the vocal delivery of guitarist Ben Smith, the NYC trio’s songs present a character to heavy rock that no one else captures in quite the same way. At this point, experience is a factor. 2014 marks 15 years of The Brought Low, which formed in 1999 after the dissolution of Smith and Heller‘s prior outfit, the hardcore band Sweet Diesel. Their first, self-titled album was released on Tee Pee in 2001, and it would be half a decade before the follow-up, Right on Time, surfaced through Small Stone. Their aptly-titled 2010 Third Record (review here) was very much that, literally as well as figuratively in terms of expanding their range of influence and solidifying the progression of their first two outings. It delved further into blues and sad country, but still held firm to its rock and roll roots, ultra-memorable songs like “The Kelly Rose” and “Old Century” positioning The Brought Low as a band out of time even as they were utterly in their element being so.

Northeast regional shows have always been The Brought Low‘s trade, but they get out from time to time if the occasion suits, as SXSW has a couple times. Their latest release, an EP through Coextinction Recordings (stream here), arrived in 2011 and the band continues to work on their next full-length, while Smith and Heller step aside as well for periodic reunion gigs with Sweet Diesel.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Benjamin Howard Smith

How did you come to do what you do?

I was very lucky to have been born into a big, artistic, musical family. My father wrote plays, my mother wrote novels, my sister sang in the church choir and my brothers played in rock bands. Playing music and being creative wasn’t an act of rebellion for me. It was something I was expected to do, like, “When are you going to learn how to play an instrument?” My brother taking me to see The Who movie The Kids Are Alright is what made me want to play guitar though it took a couple stops and starts before I really made the effort to learn how to play. A friend once said to me, “You love music so much you should really learn how to play,” which made a lot sense.

Describe your first musical memory.

When I was two years old my family did a house exchange and spent the summer in North London. Upstairs there was a record player and a stack of 45s including “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones, or as I called it, “GET NO!,” which I made my siblings play over and over and over and over and over and over…

Describe your best musical memory to date.

As a musician? As a music fan? As a human being? So many. You know, the first thing that comes to mind is Christmas morning, 1980, coming down and seeing a row of records propped up on one corner, like diamonds, across the living room couch. It was The Clash, London Calling, and Ramones, Rocket To Russia, and probably something by Led Zeppelin and Rush as well. The smell of new records and getting a paper cut under your thumbnail opening them and looking at the packaging and reading the lyrics and discovering all this new music. It’s still one of the greatest joys in life and still happens to this day. Well, you know, the discovering new music part, not the diamond LP display. Though that would be awesome too.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

Nothing comes immediately to mind though I think all your beliefs should be tested and examined and questioned. Otherwise it’s not a belief; it’s just something you were taught and arbitrarily decided you agreed with. Or maybe that is belief. I’ve had lots of beliefs since I was born. Some of these beliefs I still follow to this day. Others I have examined and decided I no longer agreed with. I don’t know. What’s with the serious questions, man?!?! Shouldn’t we be talking about Les Pauls and Black Sabbath already?

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Death. No, just kidding. For argument’s sake you could say AC/DC and Motörhead and plenty of folk and blues artists have had little use for it and it hasn’t seemed to hurt them any. By the same token, other musicians constantly evolve and change and push themselves. Both instincts can lead to great music. Also, if you play music for any amount of time you will, generally speaking, evolve and progress as a player. For myself, I am certainly a different person and musician than I was when I started out in bands.

How do you define success?

I’ve always felt as long as I could find someone who wants to put out my records, I have succeeded. I actually see some money now thanks to some of our songs being licensed to TV shows but in the end it’s a nominal amount and not enough to live on let alone support a family. I feel extremely blessed though for all the good fortune I’ve had as a musician. I have many talented friends who have not had the opportunities I have. Music has helped me see the country and even some other countries. Music is how I met my wife. Music is how I’ve made the majority of my friends over the last 20 years including some people whose records I used to buy. How cool is that? I have friends who are in more successful bands, some who actually make a living as a musician. Some of them are in bands with people they hate and are watching their children grow up on their iPads. I have always played in bands with my best friends and have had the joy of watching my daughter grow up first hand. Success is relative. Ultimately the success I’m most concerned with is the artistic achievement. Greatness is always the goal.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

Nothing. I’m glad I have seen everything I have, good and bad, beautiful and ugly. All of it is part of me and is something I have learned from or lived through, even if it was disturbing or upsetting. That said, I’m not a homicide detective or a combat soldier and the things I have seen in my life don’t compare to what people see who live in worlds where death and violence are a constant presence.

I will say, I lived in Manhattan on September 11th and stepped onto 5thAve., which looked down at the World Trade Center, moments after Tower One fell and I am glad I didn’t see that with my own two eyes. Also, I truly detest the sight of another human’s feces. So anytime I stepped into a bathroom and saw another person’s shit, I wish I hadn’t seen that.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

A soul album. Like Stax, Muscle Shoals-style Southern soul. With horns and ballads and backup singers, the whole nine. And guitar solos. If I had infinite time and resources I’d be in about 10 different bands playing 10 different styles of music.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

All of it. The seasons, life, watching my daughter grow up, taking on new challenges. I am pretty cynical by nature and generally pessimistic about humanity but let’s be real, we all, all of us here in America and in the world where we can read stoner rock music blogs on our computers live lives of tremendous ease and good fortune. Life is good. Yes, we sometimes have personal struggles, financial, physical or otherwise, but really, compared to so many in the world, we have so much. I am very thankful for all the good fortune I have had in my life; having a great family, growing up in the greatest city in the world, having the best friends a guy could ever want. Whatever happens next, I’m down.

The Brought Low, Third Record (2011)

The Brought Low on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records

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Mountain God Announce New Forest of the Lost EP and Regional Shows

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 7th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

I was fortunate enough to get a taste of Mountain God‘s forthcoming single-track EP release, Forest of the Lost, seeing them in Brooklyn late last year. They’ll be playing the piece in full this April at the same venue, the Grand Victory, and they’ve slated a handful of other killer gigs as well for the spring, including O’Brien’s in Allston, MA, with Summoner and Second Grave and at the St. Vitus bar in Brooklyn with Syphilitic Lust. Not sure when they’ll record or if they already have, but I’m looking forward to hearing what the four-piece concocts to follow up on their 2013 demo tape, Experimentation on the Unwilling (review here).

The band sent show details and some background on Forest of the Lost down the PR wire:

Mountain God, the atmospheric doom band from Brooklyn NY, have announced a series of dates in support of their first album, “Experimentation on the Unwilling”. Since the album was released in July of 2013, it has been described as “moving forward irresistibly, often leaning into a rather hypnotic territory before another well placed riff shakes you out of your daze and gets you pumping your first again.” Their spring dates include gigs at St Vitus and the Acheron, and culminate with what should be a hellish show with fellow Brooklyn band Throaat, and Boston mainstays Summoner and Second Grave. A limited run of “Experimentation” cassettes will be available at each show.

In addition, Mountain God will be road-testing material for their new EP, tentatively titled “Forest of the Lost”. The EP is a concept record, consisting of a single song broken down into different movements. The diverse track twists and turns over the course of 20 minutes, focusing on the plight of a medieval village, whose children disappear into the night searching for proof of a local witch, all the while their parents engage in acts of depravity and debauchery. The EP, slated for a spring/summer release, is a melding of 60s and 70s psychedelics with the heaviness, crunch, and shattering riffs of traditional doom and metal. The band will be performing this EP at the Grand Victory on April 23rd, along with bands Jovian Drifts, We are all Savages, and Eidetic Seeing. This is the first time the song will be played in its entirety.

Upcoming Mountain God Shows:
Thursday February 20 at St Vitus/Brooklyn NY w/Syphilitic Lust, Arsantiqva and Jotunheim
Wednesday, March 5th at The Acheron/Brooklyn NY w/Mortals and Immortal Bird
Saturday, March 22nd at O’Briens/Allston MA w/Throaat, Summoner, Second Grave
Thursday, April 23rd at Grand Victory/Brooklyn NY w/Jovian Drifts, We are all Savages, Eidetic Seeing

https://www.facebook.com/MountainGodBand
http://mountain-god.bandcamp.com/album/experimentation-on-the-unwilling

Mountain God, Experimentation on the Unwilling Demo (2013)

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The Golden Grass Announce March and April Live Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 5th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Brooklyn it’s-okay-to-have-fun-while-you-play-rock-and-roll rockers The Golden Grass have their new LP in the can. I don’t have the release details or I’d give them, but like the preceding One More Time b/w Tornado single, it was engineered by Andréa Zavareei and mixed by Jeff Berner, so it’s not out of line to expect the same kind of crisp, classic-but-clear warmth in the sound of the full-length.

Maybe a spring release? That, again, would make sense with the sound of the trio, who serve as a fitting reminder that just because a song is heavy doesn’t mean it has to be mad about it, but we’ll see how it goes. The hint they drop below about doing some shows alongside Aqua Nebula Oscillator is particularly fascinating in that regard, and The Golden Grass have detailed other dates coming up in the next couple months, including a weekender split between Providence and Brooklyn and a couple other Friday nights worth noting, most importantly that at the BSP Lounge with the formidable assemblage of White Hills, It’s Not Night: It’s Space, Eidetic Seeing and Queen Elephantine. That gig is presented by Hudson Valley Psych Fest, though I’m not sure if it actually is the fest itself. I’d believe you if you told me it was. It could be.

Dates and details below, swiped from The Golden Grass‘ Thee Facebooks page:

upcoming THE GOLDEN GRASS shows!!!!

Friday March 7 at Kung Fu Necktie/Philadelphia/PA w/ RINGO DEATHSTARR + PURPLE + SORE SAINTS
Friday March 28 at Dusk/Providence/RI w/ HESSIAN + NIGHTBITCH + ALPHA OWL
Saturday March 29 at The Paper Box/Brooklyn/NY w/ HESSIAN + BLACKOUT
Friday April 4 at The Acheron/Brooklyn/NY w/ SATAN’S SATYRS + TBA
Friday April 18 at BSP Lounge/Kingston/NY w/ WHITE HILLS + ITS NOT NIGHT: ITS SPACE + EIDETIC SEEING + QUEEN ELEPHANTINE

Late April/Early May select tour dates with AQUA NEBULA OSCILLATOR (details coming)

https://www.facebook.com/thegoldengrass
https://www.facebook.com/events/1419345341637657/

The Golden Grass, One More Time b/w Tornado (2013)

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Geezer Make the Most of a Monday Night in “Pony” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 8th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

It’s billed as “A Music Film,” but Geezer‘s new live video for the song “Pony” could just as easily have been dubbed “A Drinking Film,” since that seems to be most of what’s going on while the band is playing. Filmed on a Monday night at The Anchor in Kingston, NY — The Midnight Ghost Train must have also been on the bill, since there’s a shot of the merch table with their Buffalo vinyl on it — it captures Geezer more or less as they are: Unpretentious and grooving. Interspersed with shots of patrons at The Anchor who probably didn’t make it to work the next morning, Geezer roll their way through “Pony,” which can also be found on their 2013 debut full-length, Electrically Recorded Handmade Heavy Blues, with an engaging push.

Whatever you ultimately decide to call it, the clip was directed by Samantha June of Arius Photo out of New Paltz, and there are moments where, as glasses fade into and out of focus, it feels both like a whiskey commercial and an anthropological study — “We now approach the booze rockers in their natural habitat” — but chiefly, it is Geezer‘s somewhat unassuming presence, their unwillingness to be anything other than what they really are, that comes across, and the song itself — a soundboard recording? — unfolds into a lazy kind of bounce marked out by starts and stops executed cleanly by bassist Freddy Villano, guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington and drummer Chris Turco, meeting stoner rock at the place where it departs from their titular heavy blues, but refusing to stand on one side or the other of that line.

Geezer have been tapped to play the Small Stone Records showcase at St. Vitus bar in Brooklyn on March 29 and will also feature at The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 in Worcester, Massachusetts, which runs May 3 and 4. More info and music at the links under the video.

Geezer, “Pony. A Music Film”

Geezer on Thee Facebooks

Geezer on Bandcamp

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Live Review: The Golden Grass, Weird Owl and Worthless in Brooklyn, 12.06.13

Posted in Reviews on December 9th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

It was like someone dared the weather to be as miserable as possible. Just an awful night. Cold, bordering on freezing rain falling more or less in buckets, city wind blowing in your face. Visibility was pretty low as I drove over the Brooklyn Bridge to get to Hank’s Saloon, but screw it, I was going. My curiosity about The Golden Grass had been piqued by their debut single, and having managed to sneak a little family time in after the workday on what was a short post-Thanksgiving trip south, I made sure that even with the rain I got to Brooklyn in plenty of time to see them share the stage with fellow locals Weird Owl and Worthless.

The latter were on first, playing an engaging shoegazey psychedelic rock in a five-piece congregation that made the small stage at Hank’s – one of the room’s assets, in my opinion — appear even more crowded than usual. Flourishes of synth/organ from Nicole Zamfes and effects gave suitable echo and swirl to their material, with a current of guitar, bass and drums at the core to keep material fluid but anchored in a light, contemplative feel. Bassist Skyler Toski‘s vocals came through with an English accent, while guitarist Curtis Godino had more of an indie delivery, and the blend worked well, the drums not crashing so much as keeping a steady beat to ground the complexity around them in songs like “Slumber Time Blues” and “Summer of Love” from Worthless‘ debut tape. The only issue was the P.A.

Godino‘s mic had a persistent crackle, and the right side of the P.A. cut out on more than one occasion. It happened to Toski too and frustration was evident. Soon enough it would be the running theme of the night, which was twice a bummer since the downshift in mood didn’t exactly mesh with the sunshine in Worthless‘ jams. Still, they made the most of what they had, and while they sounded and seemed on stage as though they were still sorting out the dynamic between players in creating their sonic texture, the late ’60s vibe was appreciably realized. I dug it. The obvious thing to say would be they didn’t at all live up to their name, but there you go.

I wasn’t sure where all the people had come from when I turned around following the end of Worthless‘ last song, but Weird Owl pulled in a good crowd. The Tee Pee Records veterans released an EP this fall called Healing through Anton Newcombe of Brian Jonestown Massacre‘s A Recordings (info here), and “Change Your Mind” from it was a recognizable highlight of their set. The tracks for that were recorded by Jeff Berner (Naam, La Otracina, etc.), and as he’d also recently worked with The Golden Grass on an upcoming release, he turned out to see the two bands play. Weird Owl, who upped the synth level even from Worthless‘ material, with John Cassidy trading off between bass and keys (and tambourine), and J. David Nugent furthering the slowed-down space rock feel with an array of synth as guitarist/vocalist Trevor Tyrrell added an effects wash of his own.

Both the exploratory drift of their performance and the stretches wherein drummer Sean Reynolds stepped up to drive the material forward were welcome, but technical problems persisted. More P.A. crackling and cutting out. Watching them play, it was kind of hard to get lost in the groove with the interruptions, but the crowd didn’t seem to mind. Of more concern to me standing in front of the stage was the incense burning on the floor. I guess for a while I was standing right where the smell was coming up and hadn’t realized it and then it hit me all at once. I had to move to the back of Hank’s and wound up staying there for the rest of Weird Owl‘s set, though for what it’s worth, a new song that Tyrrell later referred to as “Craft” when I asked was a standout jam no matter where you were standing at the time. Weird Owl have been around a while at this point and this was the first time I’d seen them. It made me want to pay another visit to Healing and their two Tee Pee outings, 2009′s Ever the Silver Cord be Loosed and 2011′s Build Your Beast a Fire (track stream here).

And as for The Golden Grass, well, part of what made me want to catch their live show so badly was the sense of positivity that bleeds through the songs on their first single, One More Time b/w Tornado. There’s no shortage the world over of rock acts paying homage to the style and substance of the heavy ’70s era, but there is a shortage of those who are willing to let themselves look like they’re having fun doing it. The Golden Grass do not suffer from this if-we-don’t-seem-miserable-we-won’t-be-artsy phobia either on the single or their 456th Div. tape (review here), and I was pleased to find that the same applied to their stage presence, whether it was guitarist/vocalist Michael Rafalowich boogieing down as he took a solo in “Please Man,” drummer Adam Kriney propelling a shuffle all his own on drums while simultaneously contributing a major of the singing, including harmonies with Rafalowich on “Stuck on a Mountain” and others, or bassist Joe Noval grinning, satisfied, as he held down yet another warm, engaging groove. The Golden Grass were a damn good time, and that was the whole point.

Only trouble? They got it the worst when it came to the night’s technical problems. It turned out there was something wrong with one of the power bars that everything was plugged into, and Rafalowich‘s guitar (along with the Xmas lights on stage) cut out a few times early on. Kriney called for tape, but it had already been taped. Some kind soul swapped out for a different outlet a few songs in, but the toll was taken on the mood and the crowd. Having come from a ways away, it was a bummer to see, but the songs themselves were still right on, even through the technical problems. They opened with the B-side of the 7″, “Tornado,” and played the memorable “Stuck on a Mountain” and “Please Man” from the 456th Div. tape, hit “One More Time” — their signature cut as yet — jammed with a drum solo on “Wheels” and finished up with a song I hadn’t heard yet, “Sugar and Spice,” which nailed the lighthearted vibe perfectly. I can’t imagine it wouldn’t, but I hope it makes it onto the album when that arrives.

It was a rough night technically, I think probably most of all for The Golden Grass, but none of the three bands let that derail them. I picked up a copy of One More Time b/w Tornado and said a quick-enough goodnight before heading out into the rain. It was around one in the morning. I was fortunate enough to have been offered a place to crash in Manhattan, and woke up a bit before 6:30AM to start the drive back north. No regrets for the travel, no regrets for the weather, no regrets for the P.A. I had wanted to see if The Golden Grass would be able to convey the same sense of positivity in their live show as they do on the studio versions of their songs, and even in rough circumstances, the answer was a resounding yes.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

Read more »

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Kowloon Walled City and Batillus to Release Split 7″ on Dec. 10

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 25th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Trading singers and covering industrial pioneers, Kowloon Walled City and Batillus have united in a bi-coastal split 7″ that will be the third in a series put out by Brutal Panda Records. Fade Kainer of Batillus joins Kowloon Walled City for a rendition of “Anthem” by Godflesh – no word on whether it will synch up with Jesus Christ Superstar as well as the original, but one can hope — and Scott Evans will join Batillus to take on Ministry‘s “Lava.” Sound like a neat idea? It is.

The PR wire has more info, band links and the goods on where a pre-order for the 7″, due out on Dec. 10, can be placed, so get up if you wanna get down:

KOWLOON WALLED CITY / BATILLUS Announce Split 7″

San Francisco’s KOWLOON WALLED CITY and Brooklyn’s BATILLUS have teamed up for a split 7″ of cover songs as part of the the third release in Brutal Panda Records’ split 7″ series.  Recorded at Sharkbite Studios in Oakland, CA and mixed by Scott Evans at Antisleep, the split features KWC playing a cover of the Godflesh classic “Anthem” with Fade Kainer of BATILLUS on vocals.  Side B features BATILLUS covering Ministry’s “Lava” with Scott Evans of KWC on vocals.

The split will be officially released on December 10th and is available for pre-order here.  Also released in the 7″ series were splits from BLACK TUSK / FIGHT AMP and HELMS ALEE / LADDER DEVILS.  The fourth and final release will be a split between WHORES and RABBITS with details to emerge soon.

Kowloon Walled City on Facebook
Kowloon Walled City on Bandcamp

Batillus on Facebook
Batillus on Bandcamp

Kowloon Walled City, Container Ships (2012)

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On Wax: Blackout, We are Here

Posted in On Wax on November 22nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

I think I finally figured out what I like so darn much about We are Here, the six-song debut from Brooklyn heavy plodders Blackout. It often happens early into a stoner rock band’s career that they have one riff to rule them all. There’s one song that everyone in their scene knows them for and at least for a while, that’s their hit. With Blackout, almost every riff is that riff, so by the time you get around to the end of side B and the we’ll-just-go-right-over-these-skulls march of “Seven,” the scale of judgment is completely thrown off. I’m not saying it’s revolutionary — the three-piece seem purposefully bent on not fucking with what the Melvins got right the first time around — just that, while formative, it’s done remarkably well.

The vinyl edition of We are Here arrives, with a download card, pressed on 180g wax, but rather than the pressing info (one can only imagine it’s limited to some number or other), the highlight of the album is the crushing weight of it. There’s an almost garage sense of dirty echo to Christian Gordy‘s guitar, Justin Sherrell‘s bass and Taryn Waldman‘s drums, and that gives the recording, which was helmed by Rob Laasko and mastered by Kyle Spence of Harvey Milk, a raw feel, but it lacks nothing for heft in part because of that space created in the audio and how well the three-piece fills it with nodding, unashamedly heavy groove, at least partially derived from Sleep, but already en route to an individual push.

Part of the reason I say that comes down to Gordy‘s vocals, which have a compressed effect on them on each of the tracks. In another context, this might get redundant, but as We are Here doesn’t overstay its welcome and as so much more of the focus to songs like “Indian” and the side A closer “Smoker” is on the riffs, the compression gives the songs just a touch of something to distinguish them, just something to make them weird, and both in theory and in the actual finished product of the album, the effect is to make Blackout stand out. They’re not trying too hard to be unique, they’re not trying too hard to fit into a genre. They’re being themselves and writing songs, and what came out of that on their debut is all the stronger for it.

Things get pretty blown out as “Seven” heads toward its inevitable collapse and the needle makes its return, but in the context of the heft thrown around on “Amnesia” and the ensuing creeper progression in “Smoker” — which, the more I hear the record the more it replaces “Seven” as my pick of the bunch — it works, and if it’s an added level of quirk in line the vocals and garage stomp, that’s fine too. Included with the record and download is an insert with the lyrics on one side and Blackout‘s should-be-iconic band photo on the other, so any way you want to look at it, We are Here is as complete a document of the band’s arrival as one could ask.

Blackout, We are Here (2013)

Blackout on Thee Facebooks

Blackout on Bandcamp

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