Naam, White Hills, Black Rainbows and The Flying Eyes Split: So Much Space, So Little Time

Posted in Reviews on June 11th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

The four bands included, tripped out as they are, can hardly account for the amount of space traversed. Italy’s Black Rainbows, led by guitarist/vocalist Gabriele Fiori — whose own contributions to European psychedelia include running the label issuing this release, Heavy Psych Sounds and assembling this year’s inaugural Totem Psych Fest, taking place this summer outside of Rome (more info here) — unite with Brooklyn heavy space rockers and past tourmates Naam, well-kept New York secret outfit White Hills and bluesy Baltimore explorers The Flying Eyes for a 2LP gatefold four-way split featuring a side from each. All four groups work regularly in pretty extended forms, so you basically get a song or two from each, but still, the fact that they all got together and combined their efforts for this release makes it something special, the limited numbers of the vinyl and various colors (as well as a CD version) having been pressed in time for this year’s Desertfest, at which Black Rainbows also appeared. Everyone involved shares an obvious affinity for heavy psychedelic rock, but as one would hope for a release of this nature, there are also four distinct takes presented across the split — the official title of which is Heavy Psych Sounds 4-Way Split Vol. I – and each band takes advantage of an opportunity to bliss out in their own way, beginning with Naam – who’ve spent significant time on tour in Europe both before and after issuing their latest album, 2013′s Vow (review here) — on their two tracks, “Skyscraper (Ambient Mix)” and “Thickening Web,” which are included as side 1A leading off the 51-minute double-LP.

Its title is a dead giveaway, but “Skyscraper (Ambient Mix)” is a reworking of Vow highlight “Skyscraper,” and what was a landmark on the ultra-spacey sophomore full-length from the Brooklyn four-piece arises on the Heavy Psych Sounds split as a stripped-down wash of effects, elements dropping in and out over the course of its seven-plus minutes, guitarist/vocalist Ryan Lee Lugar‘s voice barely distinct for the reverb it carries, a slow, mellow progression playing out behind given further depth between the high and low end thanks to a swirl of effects. “Skyscraper” proper was not short on ambience, between the guitar, John Weingarten‘s keys, John Preston Bundy‘s bass and Eli Pizzuto‘s percussive roll, but “Skyscraper (Ambient Mix)” — on which engineer/mixer Jeff Berner has added some instrumentation as well — feels thoroughly reworked and comes across experimental enough to make the original seem straightforward in comparison. With a fuller-sounding instrumental stretch to over eight minutes, “Thickening Web” furthers the atmosphere of the opener while building on it, Weingarten coming to the fore in a dreamy midsection as the bass, guitar and drums fade out and back in around his keys. There’s a build at work and constant movement, but Naam still evoke a laid back feel, which is all the more fitting leading into White Hills‘ experimental 11-minute “They’ve Got Blood… Like You’ve Got Blood,” presented here as an alternate version to what appeared as the title-track of the 2005 self-released full-length, They’ve Got Blood Like We’ve Got Blood. As much as they’re clearly separate entities with their own sonic aims, a linear flow is present as well, and White Hills further Naam‘s sprawling ambience and percussive undertones with engrossing space-drones and an ending movement with lo-fi techno beats and organ leadout. You’ve got four psych bands all contributing to the release. It was bound to get weird at some point.

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The Golden Grass Tour Starts Tomorrow

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 3rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Starting tomorrow, Brooklyn heavy summer rockers The Golden Grass will head to the Midwest for a few shows in Ohio, Kentucky, Pittsburgh and Detroit. They’re playing with some killer acts along the way — see Main Street Gospel, Mike Cummings from Backwoods Payback, and the very, very fuzzy Electric Lucifer — and they’ll get back to Brooklyn just in time to play two shows at this year’s Northside Festival on June 14 and 15, which no doubt will be a righteous coming home party.

The Golden Grass head out supporting their self-titled Svart Records debut, which was streamed in full here. They’ve also got a new video for the song “One More Time” that you can dig into following the PR wire info below:

THE GOLDEN GRASS to embark on USA tour

Beginning tomorrow, THE GOLDEN GRASS will embark upon a mini-tour of the United States, supporting their self-titled debut album for SVART RECORDS (which can be streamed in its entirety HERE). Released last month, The Golden Grass has won over critics worldwide with a sound that authentically hearkens back to the golden age when heavy rock music was upbeat, skillfully played, energetic, edgy, and bursting with goodtime sunshine vibes. Now, THE GOLDEN GRASS will be taking those psychedelic textures and jaw-dropping proto-metal moves to audiences across the USA. Confirmed dates and venues are as follows:

June 4 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Brillobox w/ OUTSIDE INSIDE + COME HOLY SPIRIT
June 5 – Cleveland, OH @ Now That’s Class w/ ELECTRIC LUCIFER + WEATHERED LOVER
June 6 – Columbus, OH @ The Tree Bar w/ MAIN STREET GOSPEL
June 7 – Cincinnati, OH @ House Show (e-mail pactinkrecords@yahoo.com for RSVP/Facebook invite)
June 8 – Louisville, KY @ Modern Cult Records w/ TEMPLE OF THE GOLDEN DAWN
June 9 – Akron, OH @ Annabell’s w/ Mike Cummings (BACKWOODS PAYBACK)
June 10 – Detroit, MI @ Painted Lady Lounge
June 14 – Brooklyn, NY @ Northside Fest/Spike Hill w/ RUBY THE HATCHET + NIGHTBITCH + GODS + CONTACT
June 15 – Brooklyn, NY @ Northside Fest/Baby’s All Right w/ ANCIENT SKY, SLOTHRUST + NOWAY? + Drippy Eye Projections <***matinee/early show***>

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 Brooklyn, 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, “One More Time” official video

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Serpentine Path Stream New Album Emanations in Full

Posted in audiObelisk on May 27th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

When it comes to Emanations, the second long-player from metro NYC-based Serpentine Path, you’re probably going to hear a lot of people talk about how dark it is. How extreme. How their death-sludge sounds even more like some kind of East River pollution tar pit that’s growing by the year and smells like decay. Okay, maybe that last one you won’t hear all the time, but you get my point. It’s fucking dark. What you’re not going to hear people talk about is the obvious glee the band — who probably qualify for supergroup status with vocalist Ryan Lipynski (ex-Unearthly Trance, The Howling Wind), guitarists Tim Bagshaw (ex-Ramesses) and Stephen Flam (Winter), bassist Jay Newman (ex-Unearthly Trance) and drummer Darren Verni (ex-Unearthly Trance), though I’m not sure if they’ve filled out the proper paperwork to be certified — have for the miseries they create. They’re well enough hidden, but in the soloing at the end of “Torment” or the unmitigated stomp that follows, or in the twisted hook of the preceding “Systematic Extinction,” it’s there. Just because a band is skull-cavingly heavy doesn’t mean they can’t also have a good time.

Maybe that’s not the thing to say, but when I listen to a song like the mournful “Treacherous Waters” and cringe at the grueling, malevolent churn that Serpentine Path have crafted as the follow-up to their 2012 self-titled debut (discussed here), it sounds as much like the band is celebrating their extremity as much as they’re using it to create bleak, abrasive soundscapes. It’s not like Serpentine Path are writing joke songs and goofing around, but neither is their deep-low-end viciousness delivered without passion. Emanations is not a cold album, and that separates it from a lot of extreme metal, which comes across as plenty heavy, but also clinical and more concerned with technique than atmosphere. As if to begin in direct contrast to the very idea, the way opener “House of Worship” hits immediately, no intro, and launches into its first verse is practically punk rock, just twisted into slow grinding and given a sludgy groove that, as “Treacherous Waters” and “Claws” move into the highlight cut “Disfigured Colossus,” answers back the depressive melodicism of ’90s Euro-doom with a gritty, particularly dismal reinterpretation that’s as nasty as anything that’s come before it.

They don’t take much longer than that first verse to distinguish themselves and set the course for what’s to play out over Emanations‘ seven-song/45-minute span, but in kind with the classic death metal sensibilities evoked by the music as much as the cover art, the wretched psychedelia they create is an abyss of deceptive depth, and one that warrants a headphone listen to experience correctly. Their tales may be morbid, and they may tell them with a lumbering brutality, but Serpentine Path also stand for the excellent end results that can occur with an assemblage of those whose joy derives from such dark artistry. And with the addition of Flam since the release of the self-titled, the continued chemistry of Lipynski, Newman and Verni bled over from Unearthly Trance, as well as the lethally heavy collaboration with Bagshaw which is all the more cohesive this second time out, they have plenty to be glad about with the crushing filth they’ve created.

The album is out today on Relapse and I have the honor of streaming it in full. Find it below and please enjoy:

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

Serpentine Path‘s Emanations was recorded by Jay Newman and is available now on Relapse Records LP, CD and digital. For more info, check the links.

Serpentine Path on Thee Facebooks

Relapse Records

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Friday Full-Length: Naam, Naam

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 24th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Naam, Naam (2009)

The 2009 self-titled debut from Brooklyn heavy psych forerunners Naam is an album that’s only grown in my esteem since its release, now five years ago, on Tee Pee Records. I think at the time my head was still trying to wrap around the preceding Kingdom EP, so when the full-length came out with the sprawling, 16-minute “Kingdom” as the title-track, it was almost too easy for me to take it as an extension of Naam‘s first offering, rather than the standalone beast that it is. At least that’s how I see it now. Looking back on the interview I did with drummer Eli Pizzuto around when it came out, I seemed pretty into it. Half a decade can do funny things to your brain.

Point is that for as brilliantly open and far out as the entire hour-long stretch of the album is, there’s no part of it that’s to be overlooked. It was last July that I most recently had the occasion to catch them live, which frankly is longer than I’d prefer — Massachusetts has a lot of rock and roll but not much of it could be called psychedelic — and Naam have grown beyond where they were with the self-titled even before you get to factors like the full-time addition of John Weingarten on keys, but that doesn’t at all diminish the appeal of this record for me, the bombastic space rock moments or the quiet stretch of “Tidal Barrens.” There’s so much here that I still feel like I’m digging into something new when I put it on.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

I went and saw Negative Reaction tonight in Allston. Speaking of “been too long.” Ken-E Bones and company were in top form and got a great response from the crowd. Might be Tuesday before I get a review up, depending on holiday plans and whatnot for Memorial Day, but either way I got one or two pics at O’Brien’s to go with, so I’ll roll with that. Basically though it was just awesome to see them and to talk with Bones because, again, it had been a long time.

Also on Tuesday, look out for a full stream of the new Serpentine Path album. It’s out Tuesday, so we’re doing it up for the release date. I’m also interviewing John Garcia on Tuesday, and his solo album isn’t out for a while yet, but would be good to get that posted sooner rather than later. Wednesday I’m premiering a new Mars Red Sky video as well, so much goodness to come. At some point in there I’m also going to squeeze a Radio Moscow album review, and maybe one for that new Eyehategod too if I have time. That too depends on the holiday.

If you’re celebrating Memorial Day, I hope you have a good and not overly jingoistic one. Please have fun and be safe and I’ll see you back here either Monday or Tuesday for more of the ol’ clacky-clacky on the keyboard.

Please check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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The Golden Grass Interview with Adam Kriney: To Places and Faces (Plus Album Stream!)

Posted in Features on May 7th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Press play above to stream the debut album from Brooklyn feelgood rockers The Golden Grass in its entirety. The self-titled offering (review here) releases Friday on Svart Records, and brings with it the promise of summer ahead. A traditional power trio with warm tones and inviting melodies, The Golden Grass meld psychedelic flourish and straightforward, classic structures and clear, modern production to craft a sound that’s immediately their own. Their debut 7″, One More Time b/w Tornado, was issued last year through Svart and Electric Assault Records, and served as initial notice of the friendly vibes coming through the still-weighted guitars and funked-out basslines, and the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Michael Rafalowich, drummer/vocalist Adam Kriney and bassist Joe Noval set to work on the album with the same engineering and mixing team of Andréa Zavareei and Jeff Berner, respectively, expanding initial ideas for the full-length that would wind up with “One More Time” as its centerpiece.

The phrase “wind up” denotes some measure of happenstance, and while Kriney recalls a series of fortunate coincidences that brought the band together back in 2012, the actual crafting of the five songs on the 37-minute debut is a much more considered process of writing and revising, refining pieces until they’re finally done and ready to be put to tape. A telling moment in the interview that follows here is when Kriney mentions the months The Golden Grass put into their material prior to playing out for the first time, working on getting everything nailed down just so before letting the public see it. If you want proof that the time was well spent, the clarity of ideas on the album and the fact that it’s out through Svart — whose roster ranges widely in sound while keeping a standard of quality that few can match — speak to the success of the band’s vision.

Rafalowich and Kriney sharing vocal duties and harmonizing over unpretentious, easy-rolling grooves, The Golden Grass‘ debut is as stylistically cohesive as it is memorable, each of the tracks making a standout impression one way or another, be it the initial strut of “Please Man,” the more psychedelically boogie-fied “Wheels” — an extended jam which comes complete with a drum solo — the catchy also-highway-song “Stuck on a Mountain,” unmitigated fun of closer “Sugar ‘n’ Spice” or the nostalgia-for-the-impossible of “One More Time.” The band are recent veterans of the Hudson Valley Psych Fest alongside White Hills and It’s Not Night: It’s Space, and will look to tour more in the months that follow the release, bringing a stage presence that doesn’t rely on its heaviness or aggression (there’s just about none of the latter and the former is by no means the basis of their sound) to make an impact, but instead on its positivity and upbeat approach. The Golden Grass are a stirring reminder both of how enjoyable classic rock and roll can be and how just because something’s a good time doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to be dumbed down or stripped of personality in the name of accessibility.

I could go on, but you can hear the album for yourself above. No doubt when 2014′s over, The Golden GrassThe Golden Grass will have been one of its best debuts. After the jump, Kriney talks about how it all came together and much more.

Please enjoy:

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Wino Wednesday: Spirit Caravan Live at Saint Vitus Bar, April 15, 2014

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 23rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

I wasn’t fortunate enough to catch Spirit Caravan‘s reunion tour. Missed the Providence show by a couple hours as I was coming back from Roadburn — not at all a hardship — and as such, I was hoping the venerable Frank Huang would be on hand in Brooklyn to film the closing night of the tour at the St. Vitus Bar. As it happens, he got the whole set in glorious high definition, and the band looks and sounds killer running through classic Spirit Caravan material on the final evening of a long slog alongside doomly up-’n’comers Pilgrim.

The circa-35-date tour began in Maryland, fittingly enough for a band native and so pivotal to the underground there, but I can think of few places in the country as appropriate for it to wrap than at the Vitus Bar. As you can see in Huang‘s clip, the crowd is into it, the trio of Scott “Wino” Weinrich, bassist Dave Sherman (in an Earthride hat, killing it) and drummer Henry Vasquez sound as tight as one could ask for a band who’ve been on the road for more than a month across the country, and if ever there was a Wino Wednesday video to put on full-screen and groove to front to back, this one might be it.

Spirit Caravan are in Europe now getting ready to headline this weekend at Desertfest in Berlin and London. There are other shows booked throughout Europe for the summer and hopefully they do more in the US as well, if not 35 shows in a row. Though if they did, all the better to nail down the dynamic and the better chance of putting together a new studio album. Of course, I’d take a live record in the interim, but until that shows up, I’m even gladder to have footage like this of them at the top of their game on stage.

Enjoy and have a great Wino Wednesday:

Spirit Caravan, Live at St. Vitus Bar, April 15, 2014

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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 2013 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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