Brave the Waters Premiere “Voice of the Ancient Oak” from Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days

Posted in audiObelisk on April 16th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

brave-the-waters

New York ambient two-piece Brave the Waters will issue their debut EP, Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days, on May 12. A digital self-release, its core this-is-a-beginning thematic as indicated by the title is somewhat less apparent in the six tracks of the offering itself. No doubt for Rick Habeeb (guitar) and Tom Anderer (acoustic guitar and bass) it’s a major stylistic jump — the two are bandmates in the grinding Buckshot Facelift and progressive death metallers Grey Skies Fallen — but the fluidity of atmosphere they enact over the course of Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days could just as easily be the fifth chapter as the first, as it benefits from Habeeb and Anderer‘s knowledge of how the other plays, even if it’s doing so in a different context from how they’ve ever played before.

Much to their credit, Brave the Waters are not trying to reinvent the soundscape their first time out. Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days is an unpretentious 22 minutes that wears its exploratory feel on its sleeve. Most of the material was at least to some degree improvised, and that spirit of immediacy, of the song happening right now feeds into the immersive effect on the listener.brave the waters chapter 1 dawn of days Instrumental for its brief duration an without percussion, Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days is hardly still. Anderer and Habeeb weave guitar lines and ambient backing swirls around and through each other so that from opener “The New King” down through the passing wisps of melody in “At the Old Stone Bridge,” the progress is so smooth as to be alluring no matter how minimal it gets. And ambience is never far. Marked out by its acoustic foundation, the penultimate “Setting up Camp” reminds of Lamp of the Universe‘s cosmic meditations and Pelican‘s rural escapism (a similar idea with a different musical translation), a particularly memorable melody in “Journey through Highwood Forest” having tapped emotional and sonic resonance just one track earlier.

“Interesting Times” carries the foreboding of the proverb in its atmosphere, but the brightness of “Voice of the Ancient Oak,” with its interplay of acoustic, electric and effects-laden guitar, is enough to counteract just about any lingering worry. Composed, according to the duo, in about half an hour, and expressed completely in three minutes, it’s emblematic of the efficiency with which Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days is able to conjure its atmospheres, and still holds firm to the human sensibility at the core of the project — two friends getting together and trying something new instrumentally that’s soaked in reverb and giving a brief look at a vast sonic horizon. Their plan is for yearly releases. With the ground they establish here as a foundation, I do not imagine they’d have any trouble hitting that mark.

Please find Brave the Waters‘ “Voice of the Ancient Oak” on the player below, and enjoy:

Producing a mesmerizing, ethereal brew of beautiful, instrumental movements, far removed from the tumultuous sounds of the extreme output of their other musical creations, BRAVE THE WATERS came together when Grey Skies Fallen and Buckshot Facelift bandmates Tom Anderer (bass guitar, acoustic guitar) and Rick Habeeb (guitar) decided to write and record some instrumentals in a stripped-down fashion. Improvisation and spontaneity were important aspects going in, and while bits and pieces of music were composed prior to entering Keith Moore’s since burned-down Audio Playground Studio, the vast majority of what appears on the band’s six-song debut EP, Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days, was written and recorded on the spot.

Containing six tracks of ambient guitar and bass that you will find very different from the duo’s main bands, BRAVE THE WATERS’ Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days sees pounding drums, intense death metal vocals, and immense guitar distortion completely abandoned, and here replaced with clean guitars, melodic bass lines, and a healthy dose of Strymon’s amazing Big Sky reverberator. Just in time for the Winter’s thaw, these winding passages inspire visions of lush nature and rebirth. Reminiscent of several styles at once, yet emerging as its own being, Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days is an immediately comforting, almost familiar release.

BRAVE THE WATERS will release Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days independently through Bandcamp on May 12th, the EP bearing cover art by Travis Smith (Death, Opeth, King Diamond).

Brave the Waters on Thee Facebooks

Brave the Waters on Bandcamp

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Kings Destroy, Kings Destroy: Songs of the City (Plus Track Premiere!)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 15th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

kings destroy kings destroy

[PLEASE: Press play above to hear the premiere of “Mythomania” from Kings Destroy’s self-titled, due out May 5 on War Crime Recordings. Thanks to the band and label and Earsplit PR for allowing me to host the song with this review.]

There is no band currently active I feel as close to as Kings Destroy, and if you’ve read this site at any point over the last five years, you’ve probably in some measure seen that relationship develop. Their first 7″, Old Yeller/Medusa (review here) introduced them in 2010 as a group of NYHC veterans — guitarists Carl Porcaro and Chris Skowronski of Killing Time, vocalist Steve Murphy of Uppercut, while drummer Rob Sefcik was in both Electric Frankenstein and Begotten — exploring heavy stoner doom riffing in a definitively East Coast style, an undercurrent of aggression never far off even at that formative stage. The subsequent debut LP, And the Rest Will Surely Perish, was released through this site’s in-house label, The Maple Forum (original announcement here), and that album further demonstrated the band’s doomly refinement in cuts like “The Mountie” and “Old Yeller,” which still feature in live sets on the regular. It was a record I was proud to be associated with in the small way I was, and one to which I continue to have significant sentimental attachment, even if everything the band has done since has blown it out of the water. Their second full-length, 2013’s A Time of Hunting (not reviewed, but discussed here), was released on War Crime Recordings and brought changes in the songwriting process with the departure of bassist Ed Bocchino and arrival of Aaron Bumpus, and the result was a genre-defying work that retained the heaviness of the debut, but set a context for itself that was neither doom nor not-doom, a strange and effective atmosphere pervading especially the reaches of side B (a vinyl is due any day now on Hydro-Phonic) songs like “A Time of Hunting” and closer “Turul.” Even the relatively straightforward “Casse-Tete” and “The Toe” had an off-kilter aspect to them, a weirdness to their attack that became, at least for me, the defining characteristic of the album.

I’ve seen Kings Destroy over 30 times in the last few years — that’s a literal figure, not an exaggeration — toured with them twice last year and would again in a minute, conditions permitting. I consider them friends, so when I say that their self-titled third album is their best work to-date, you can take it either one of two ways: Either I’m partial because of my relationship with the band, or I’m the guy who’d know better than just about anyone else, save perhaps the band members themselves and producer Sanford Parker, who’s worked with them on all three of their records (Mike Moebius of Moonlight Mile as well). Comprised of seven tracks totaling a vinyl-minded 34 minutes and topped off with Josh Graham artwork that captures the city-minded grit at the heart of its construction, Kings Destroy‘s Kings Destroy strips down the anti-genre turns of A Time of Hunting to something rawer, truer to their live presentation, and ultimately bolder in its style. When they want to, they write a fierce hook — “Mr. O,” opener “Smokey Robinson,” “Embers” — and when they want to, they delve as deep into oppressive atmospherics as they’ve yet gone — closer “Time for War.” Three albums in, their songwriting is diverse in pace and intent, but equally assured throughout, and their sound has found a place that’s unconcerned with genre even to the point of not working against it. “Mr. O,” an immediate highlight following the Beavis and Butt-Head-worthy chug of “Smokey Robinson,” is an unabashed stoner rock song and a paean to Yankees outfielder Reggie Jackson, called “Mr. October,” that’s laid out honestly enough to not care who it might alienate or how. It finds companionship in the album’s second half with the relatively upbeat “Green Diamonds,” but is nonetheless a beast unto itself within the Kings Destroy catalog. They may never do anything else like it, but even if not, it’s ground they’ve covered and covered well, with all the frenetic movement and blistering solo work one could ask. The subsequent “W2″ thuds harder — Sefcik sets the rolling groove that the guitars and bass seem to be riding — and is slower, but solidifies the concrete-and-pavement vibe of Kings Destroy‘s urban portrayal, the album depicting a city, New York, that’s both dangerous and alluring, dirty and gone, worthy of scorn and nostalgia. It’s not outlet shopping and bike lanes. It’s smoggy air and the fear of being stabbed.

kings destroy (Photo by JJ Koczan)

This atmosphere — a classic image of New York toughness — is maintained without, for the most part, playing into to the band’s hardcore past (also present; Killing Time plays sporadic shows). A confrontational sensibility emerged on A Time for Hunting, which not only was weird as hell but punching you in the face with that weirdness, and there’s some of that on Kings Destroy as well on “Smokey Robinson” or “Time for War,” with its gang vocals and slow, seething crawl, but the album isn’t limited to one angle or direction of approach. Enter “Mythomania,” the centerpiece of the tracklist. With a creeping guitar intro, subdued, open verses and hair-raising chorus payoffs leading to an apex that provides one of Kings Destroy‘s most satisfying emotional resolutions, marked out by Murphy‘s best performance here — his voice and the listener’s back seem to break at the same time at the very end of the song — and leading the way into “Embers,” which is the longest cut at 6:25 and furthers the grandiose feel with an even catchier roll. The ability to shift into and out of these modes so smoothly is one of the clearest instances of growth since their start, and ultimately it’s the balance of patience with an underlying intensity in “Mythomania” and “Embers” that makes them such landmarks for the band. When “Green Diamonds” hits, it’s something of a return to earth, a shorter, quicker pulse placed to set the stage for “Time for War,” though its value is more than positional. An atmospheric shift, it’s also the most straightforward verse/chorus hook on Kings Destroy, emphasizing the album’s little need for frills when a concise, efficient method will do, which it does. How then to explain “Time for War?” A new expression of the experimental bent that last time led to “Turul,” maybe? A nod to the increasingly blurred line between hardcore and doom? Maybe this is a cop-out, but I think it’s just another song Kings Destroy wanted to write. Its build, slow, understated, but still mean, ready to boil over, is perhaps the most “New York” of the bunch, Murphy growling over an abrasive drone and a churning riff before the gang vocals kick in. It’s both the most atmospheric and the most crushing piece on the album, and its duality suits it well.

But Kings Destroy‘s Kings Destroy doesn’t end in the chaos one might expect, and “Time for War” doesn’t build to a driving climax. It has a payoff, to be sure, but ultimately, it passes quietly into a softer drum progression and quiet guitars and bass, that drone still there to lead the way out after Sefcik‘s final crash. All the more fitting that the band should cap the record by skirting the anticipated move, since that’s been their specialty all along, from their let’s-riff-and-see-what-happens beginnings through this self-titled’s assured sense of sonic personality and well-honed, individualized take. It’s true that I’m a fan of the band, and I’m more than willing to acknowledge that I’m in no way impartial as regards their work, but the fact of the matter is I’ve been listening to this record for the better part of a year in one form or another, if not over a year, and it’s quite simply the best thing they’ve done up to now. The songs are memorable and well defined, but feed into an overarching flow that’s executed confidently now matter how far out it goes, and the translation of what Kings Destroy do live is an accomplishment unto itself. Call me biased. I’ll take a lesson from the album and not give a fuck. Recommended.

Kings Destroy on Thee Facebooks

Kings Destroy on Twitter

War Crime Recordings

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Geezer and Bison Machine Announce May Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 14th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

geezer

bison machine (Photo by Erick Buccholz)

Cool bands playing good shows, there’s nothing not to like about New York blues rockers Geezer heading out for a run of gigs alongside Michigan four-piece Bison Machine. The tour is five dates and it starts in Pittsburgh on May 26 with Sinister Haze on the bill, and wraps in Brooklyn on May 30 with The Golden Grass and Wolf Blood. Right on.

Geezer recently parted ways with bassist Freddy Villano and added Richie Touseull to the lineup, so they’ll no doubt be looking to continue to refine the new trio chemistry between Touseull, guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington and drummer Chris Turco following a weekender April 24 and 25 alongside D.C. heavy rollers Borracho, who are also Geezer‘s compatriots in the first installment of Ripple Music‘s The Second Coming of Heavy series of splits. That’s out in June.

For Bison Machine, they’ll head out from their native Hamtramck (and why isn’t there a band called Hamtramck?), MI, to support their early 2015 release, Hoarfrost, which was put out by the band digitally in February but will be released in Spring on Bilocation Records. They’ll play the release show for the Bilocation vinyl as part of the tour, on May 27 at Small‘s in Detroit.

The always-on-point Pat Harrington shared the following info and super-stoner-rock-booby-lady show poster via the PR wire:

geezer brooklyn show poster

 

Geezer/Bison Machine Tour

We’re real excited about this upcoming excursion, which we dubbed the Mind Over Mountain Tour. Highlights include Bison Machine’s vinyl release party in Detroit and a killer lineup to close out the week with Wolf Blood and The Golden Grass at Lucky 13 Saloon in Brooklyn! All the bands along the way are sick, but we are especially jazzed about sharing the stage with Wizard Eye and Sinister Haze!

It’s the first proper tour (longer than a weekender) for both Bison Machine & Geezer. Geezer has been working out a bunch of new material since the arrival of our new bass player Richie Touseull and we’ll be taking this opportunity to try it all out live. We also will be playing songs from our upcoming split with Borracho, The Second Coming Of Heavy: Chapter One, which is slated for release in June through Ripple Music.

Please see the full listing of dates below and the attached Brooklyn show poster by Kim Zangrando (https://instagram.com/kimzang/).

Tuesday May 26th @ 31st St Pub, Pittsburg, PA w/ Sinister Haze & TBA
Wednesday May 27th @ Small’s, Detroit, MI w/ Wild Savages & SLO (Bison Machine: Hoarfrost vinyl release party)
Thursday May 28th @ Blind Bob’s, Dayton, OH w/ Grand Mammoth & Zuel
Friday May 29th @ The Living Room, Stroudsburg PA w/ Wizard Eye
Saturday May 30th @ Lucky 13 Saloon, Brooklyn, NY w/ The Golden Grass & Wolf Blood

https://www.facebook.com/geezerNY
https://geezertown.bandcamp.com/
http://stbrecords.bigcartel.com/
https://www.facebook.com/americanbison
http://bisonmachine.bandcamp.com/
http://bisonmachine.bigcartel.com/

Geezer, Live! FULL Tilt Boogie (2014)

Bison Machine, Hoarfrost (2015)

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Mirror Queen Premiere “Strangers in Our Own Time” from New Album Scaffolds of the Sky

Posted in audiObelisk on April 6th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

mirror queen

New York heavy rockers Mirror Queen pretty much sum up their entire story with “Strangers in Our Own Time,” the nine-minute longest track from their upcoming LP, Scaffolds of the Sky, out April 21 on Tee Pee Records. Both in terms of what works best in their sound — the double-guitar NOWBHM-isms as filtered through ’70s atmospheres, heavy psychedelia and laid back roll — and in how their aesthetic places them as outliers. The four-piece have toured in Europe and the US since the 2011 release of their debut, From Earth Below, playing alongside the likes of Greenleaf, Truckfighters, Blaak Heat Shujaa, among many 0thers, the band having grown out of guitarist/vocalist Kenny Sehgal‘s prior outfit, Aytobach Kreisor.

Joined in Mirror Queen by lead guitarist Phi Moon, bassist James Corallo and drummer Jeremy O’BrienSehgal leads the way through seven tracks of classically progressive heavy rock and roll. Not necessarily all-out psychedelic all the time in terms of an effects wash or unhinged echo swirl, Scaffolds of the Sky nonetheless unfolds with warm, natural tonality and a laid back atmosphere contrary to the intensity of the city in which it was crafted. The opening title-track seems to nod directly at Cream, and as they mirror queen scaffolds of the skypush through crunchier riffs of songs like “Quarantined” and “At the Borderline on the Edge of Time,” the latter not nearly as Hawkwindian as the title might convey, they hold true to the steady roll of “Scaffolds of the Sky,” the push of the trippier “Vagabondage” and “Strangers in Our Own Time,” the closing duo of “Dark Ships Arrived” and “Wings Wetted Down” exploring more open territory with a foundation in Corallo‘s basslines and O’Brien‘s swinging drums, Moon and Sehgal strumming and soloing into a quiet kind of space rock, wide-ranging but somehow still organically textured.

Today I have the distinct pleasure of hosting “Strangers in Our Own Time” for streaming ahead of the Scaffolds of the Sky release this month. Its extended runtime wraps up side A of the album and it provides a particularly hypnotic roll in its central riff, shifting into double-guitar jamming that takes off the chorus hook with a snare build and heady coating of wah. By the time they break it down into the creeping, stop-short retread of the central figure, the charm is writ large over the track as they drive ahead toward the final groove. I hope you’ll agree, and enjoy:

NYC volume dealers MIRROR QUEEN take guitar rock by force on the ominously titled Scaffolds of the Sky. The band’s driving music accelerates at the distinct point where NWOBHM and heavy Prog Rock intersect; a direct and definite delineation of an era when urgent metallic sound was the order of the day. MIRROR QUEEN’s twin-guitar harmonies and rhythmic gallop recall early Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, while its hook-laden, timeless riffs and instrumental fireworks reference cherished champions UFO, Blue Oyster Cult and Captain Beyond.

A mainstay in the NYC hard rock scene, MIRROR QUEEN has shared the stage with heavyweight peers such as Earthless and The Shrine in addition to European tours with legends such as UFO and Uli Jon Roth! Scaffolds of the Sky is a modern day collection of laser-focused, lights out songs that carry the listener across a myriad of musical thresholds, each at once, time-honored and top-notch.

Mirror Queen on Thee Facebooks

Tee Pee Records

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Brave the Waters to Release Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days this Spring

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 31st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Even if you’re not entirely familiar with the bands themselves, you can probably tell from the monikers Grey Skies Fallen and Buckshot Facelift that neither act specializes in ambient psychedelia. Nonetheless, Tom Anderer and Rick Habeeb, who are actually bandmates in both groups, have splintered off — practically and stylistically — to form the new project Brave the Waters, which will make its debut on May 12 with the fittingly titled Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days. The plan is for annual releases and sporadic live appearances, presumably between work on the other bands, but you never really know how these things will work out when a band just gets going.

All the same, the first audio from the two-piece, which arrives in the form of the three-minute “Journey through Highwood Forest” is enticing and immersive, guitars spreading out and layering smooth and serene without the underlying tension one sometimes can hear when those who play extreme music — grind, death metal, etc. — branch into more atmospheric forms. I dig it. If it works out that way, I’d take a record of this every year, easy.

To the PR wire:

brave the waters chapter 1 dawn of days

BRAVE THE WATERS: Duo From Grey Skies Fallen And Buckshot Facelift Creates Instrumental Act; Track From Debut EP Streaming

From the intertwined throng of musicians who hail from New York acts, Grey Skies Fallen, Buckshot Facelift and others, a brand new musical entity is born with BRAVE THE WATERS, as the duo completes their debut EP for independent release this Spring.

Producing a mesmerizing, ethereal brew of beautiful, instrumental movements, far removed from the tumultuous sounds of the extreme output of their other musical creations, BRAVE THE WATERS came together when Grey Skies Fallen and Buckshot Facelift bandmates Tom Anderer (bass guitar, acoustic guitar) and Rick Habeeb (guitar) decided to write and record some instrumentals in a stripped-down fashion. Improvisation and spontaneity were important aspects going in, and while bits and pieces of music were composed prior to entering Keith Moore’s since burned-down Audio Playground Studio, the vast majority of what appears on the band’s six-song debut EP, Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days, was written and recorded on the spot.

Containing six tracks of ambient guitar and bass that you will find very different from the duo’s main bands, BRAVE THE WATERS’ Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days sees pounding drums, intense death metal vocals, and immense guitar distortion completely abandoned, and here replaced with clean guitars, melodic bass lines, and a healthy dose of Strymon’s amazing Big Sky reverberator. Just in time for the Winter’s thaw, these winding passages inspire visions of lush nature and rebirth. Reminiscent of several styles at once, yet emerging as its own being, Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days is immediately comforting, almost familiar release.

BRAVE THE WATERS will release Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days independently through Bandcamp on May 12th, and in advance, the track listing, cover art by Travis Smith (Death, Opeth, King Diamond) and the EP’s fourth song, “Journey Through Highwood Forest,” have been revealed.

Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days Track Listing:

1. The New King
2. Interesting Times
3. Voice of the Ancient Oak
4. Journey Through Highwood Forest
5. Setting Up Camp
6. At the Old Stone Bridge

Anderer and Habeeb plan on continuing the BRAVE THE WATERS project with yearly releases and physical versions following the initial digital releases of their works. More info on Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days will follow in the coming days.

Live performances from BRAVE THE WATERS are likely in the future as well, but in the meantime, the duo continues to scorch the masses with Buckshot Facelift and Grey Skies Fallen, with both bands currently booking new shows and creating new material.

http://bravethewaters.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/bravethewaters

Brave the Waters, “Journey through Highwood Forest”

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Live Review: Enslaved, YOB, Ecstatic Vision and Witch Mountain in NYC, 03.21.15

Posted in Reviews on March 23rd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

enslaved 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Driving the four-plus hours from Massachusetts to NYC to see Enslaved, YOB, Witch Mountain and Ecstatic Vision on Saturday wasn’t the practical choice, but it was the only choice. True, three of the four would be much, much closer to me this week, but to catch them in a bigger room and with Witch Mountain wasn’t an opportunity I wanted to miss. I left much earlier than I needed to, leaving as little as humanly possible to chance in terms of sitting in traffic, stressing out, etc. Turned out to be one of the easier rides south that I’ve had.

A positive omen? Maybe. I had time to hit Academy Records before the the show, which was a rare pleasure, and plenty of opportunity to catch my breath before doors to Gramercy Theatre opened. Last time I was there was for PentagramKings DestroyBang and Blood Ceremony, and as ambivalent as I was at being back in Manhattan itself, it would prove to be a night surrounded by old friends, laughs and good vibes. More than anything, that made trip worthwhile.

But there was a show on as well, and a killer one at that. An early start for a packed night had Witch Mountain on at 7:30, and here’s how it went from there:

Witch Mountain

witch mountain 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

A couple new faces in Portland’s scene-preceding four-piece, Witch Mountain. Very new, as it happened. As in, this was their second show. Led by founding guitarist Rob Wrong and drummer Nate Carson, the band had played Pittsburgh the evening prior, and that was the first gig with newcomer vocalist Kayla Dixon and bassist Justin Brown (also of Lamprey). Night two of the band’s Mk. III lineup was a short set, but they made the most of it and showcased the potential for continued growth. Dixon had a distinctly metallic presence as frontwoman, and the entire band, Brown included, seemed to relish the opportunity to have a bigger stage on which to unfurl their doom. Again, their time was brief, but “Psycho Animundi” from last year’s Mobile of Angels (review here) more than ably demonstrated Dixon‘s vocal range, while “Veil of the Forgotten” and particularly the end of “Shelter” from 2012’s Cauldron of the Wild (review here) thrust into an almost power metal presentation, already edging up to the boundaries of a shifting personality for the band. Especially for it being night two, it was an encouraging sight. I’d expect over time Witch Mountain will loosen up further in presence as they continue to tighten sonically, but I felt fortunate to see that process at its beginning.

Ecstatic Vision

ecstatic vision 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Of the four bands on the bill, I wondered most about how Ecstatic Vision‘s sound would translate to the spaciousness of Gramercy Theatre. The Philly three-piece would hardly be the first act in history to play space rock in a high-ceiling room, but for their being a newer band despite the experience of guitarist/vocalist Doug Sabolik and drummer Jordan Crouse in A Life Once Lost, it was a point of curiosity. Some of Sabolik‘s flourish, the chimes on his mic stand and melodica, weren’t as prevalent as they had been when I saw the band open for YOB at the Saint Vitus Bar in December (review here), but they did well all the same, and bassist Michael Connor‘s tone came through the house clear and warm in kind. Their custom lighting, the rope lights around the drums, strobe, and so on, left Connor more or less out of the equation, and that seemed to create some imbalance on stage, but unless you happened to be the black metal purists positioned in front of me as I watched Estatic Vision space out on encompassing, fluid psychedelic jams, there was little to argue with as they warmed up and settled into their engaging vibe. They still don’t have much recorded but are expected to make a debut sometime later this year on Relapse. Still worth keeping an eye on.

YOB

yob 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Would YOB do “Marrow” in that room? Yes, they would. Three of the four cuts from last year’s Clearing the Path to Ascend (review here) — also my pick for the best album of 2014 — were aired, with opening duo “In Our Blood” and the scorching “Nothing to Win” leading to the aforementioned 19-minute record-closer, which was followed in turn by the title-track of their 2011 sixth album, Atma (review here), the Eugene, Oregon, three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt, bassist Aaron Rieseberg and drummer Travis Foster crisp in their delivery but not at all dead-eyed in the here’s-another-show way one might expect after their having spent the better part of the last three weeks on the road. The run with Enslaved ends this week, but YOB will continue to tour their way back west before returning in May to the East Coast for Maryland Deathfest in Baltimore. In New York, their response showed a considerable crossover response from the clearly-there-for-Enslaved contingent, particularly as the culmination of “Marrow” hit and they followed it by the gallop-laden “Atma,” which seemed all the more furious in comparison. I’ve seen YOB at least five times in the last 12 months and have yet to come out of a set without any regrets. Foster‘s snare was loud in the house mix, but so was everything else, so, you know, it kind of worked itself out. Every accolade YOB gets, they earn. I know they did that European stint last year with Pallbearer, and that was a month-plus on the road, but it’s still a change to think of YOB as a touring band after their years of keeping shows limited. While I wonder what the rest of 2015 will hold for them, I also couldn’t help but notice how sustainable and decidedly un-worn they looked on stage, like they could just keep going. I doubt they’d have met any complaints if they had.

Enslaved

Enslaved (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Last time I saw Enslaved in New York was early 2013. They played the Bowery Ballroom (review here), which is a not-insignificant space in itself, but not as sizable as the Gramercy, and I think it says something about the long-running Norwegian outfit’s growing US fanbase that their return to Manhattan would be in a larger venue. They’re supporting the release of their 13th full-length, In Times (review forthcoming) on Nuclear Blast, but new material or old, they had the room on their side from the word go. Bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson joked with the crowd between songs, and by the time they got down to playing the title-track from In Times laughingly promised the crowd that it would be the last new song they played. For what it’s worth, I didn’t notice much of a change in reception for recent or older material. Sure, a song like “The Watcher” from 2008’s Vertebrae, with its mega-chorus, or a by-now staple like “Ruun” from the 2006 LP of the same name is bound to get a response, but “Thurisaz Dreaming” and “Building with Fire” sat well alongside those and “Death in the Eyes of Dawn” from 2012’s RIITIIR (review here), and wherever the band headed, the crowd went along. Of course, their stage presentation was air-tight, Kjellson holding down a frontman role flanked on either side by guitarists Ivar Bjørnson and Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal, while keyboardist/vocalist Herbrand Larsen made a case for up-front featuring of his own with stellar command of the clean-sung parts — I saw Enslaved for the first time eight years ago at SXSW, and I’d mark Larsen‘s growth as a vocalist among the foremost catalysts enabling their musical progression in that time; that growth was, I’ll note, already underway for several years by then — and drummer Cato Bekkevold sat swallowed up by his expansive kit surrounding. They came out one at a time to start their set and for the encore, and each time Bekkevold sat down, he disappeared. Good for a laugh, but he also used that whole drumset, and flawlessly. Their encore was “As Fire Swept Clean the Earth” from 2003’s Below the Lights, “Fenris” from 1994’s sophomore outing, Frost, and the title-cut from 2004’s landmark Isa, and when it was over, there was nothing left for the audience to do but leave, having so thoroughly been handed its ass on a platter by the five-piece, whose reach seems only to continue growing with time.

If you want the short version, the show was a win, but what made it even better was seeing old friends throughout the night and catching up, and that was something that continued even as security started shuffling people out of the downstairs lounge. On my way back north on Sunday, it was the memories of good times and good music that seemed to make the trip shorter, both thoroughly appreciated.

Speaking of old friends, this review is dedicated to Loana dP Valencia of Nuclear Blast, alongside whom it has been my complete and utter pleasure to work for the last decade.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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GIVEAWAY: Win Borracho & Eggnogg Split 7″ Vinyl from Palaver Records!

Posted in Features on March 23rd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

borracho eggnogg vinyl

[TO ENTER GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment on this post with your email address in the form. You’ll be contacted at that address if you win.]

Easily one of the best short releases I’ve heard so far this year, I’m stoked to be able to giveaway TWO copies of the brand new Sludgy Erna Bastard split 7″ by Borracho and Eggnogg. The vinyl was released on March 19 by Palaver Records, and to win a copy all you have to do is leave a comment on this post. Make sure your email address is in the form provided so if your name is drawn, I actually have a way to contact you. Would be helpful. Winners will be drawn and notified on (or around) Monday, March 30.

Sludgy Erna Bastard (review here) brings new material from both outfits, Washington D.C. trio Borracho‘s “King’s Disease” offering a taste of what the follow-up to 2013’s Oculus might hold and their progression as a riff-riding three-piece after a likewise encouraging split last year with Boston’s Cortez, while Eggnogg provide a reminder of their elephantine stomp and gleefully weirdo vibe with “Slugworth,” their first new studio track since 2012’s Louis EP and released ahead of the coming full-length, You’re all Invited.

I feel like past the words “free vinyl,” this one doesn’t really need me to sell it, but both cuts are quality work on the part of the bands, and I’m thrilled to be able to host the giveaway. Vinyl is limited to 300 copies with art from Eggnogg‘s Justin M. Karol, and if you need a refresher of the badassery on hand, here’s the full stream of both tracks:

Once again, how to enter:

Leave a comment on this post with your email address in the form provided. Please note: I neither have the interest nor the capacity to save or sell any personal information given to me. You will not be added to any email lists as a result of entering. It’s really just free vinyl.

Good luck to all who enter and thanks to Palaver Records for the giveaway! Please check them out and the bands as well.

Palaver Records

Borracho on Thee Facebooks

Eggnogg on Thee Facebooks

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Blackout, Blackout: Cavetone

Posted in Reviews on March 17th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

blackout blackout

Blackout‘s self-titled full-length debut is going to get its point across, even if it has to roll right over you to do it. About 18 months after releasing their debut EP, We are Here (review here), the Brooklynite trio enter RidingEasy Records‘ worldwide search for the biggest riffs with their first LP, a seven-song monolith of thickened tones, blown-out vocals and molasses-churning groove with enough lumber in it to replenish your favorite rainforest. Perhaps its most distinguishing feature is its unrepentant primitive stylization. That is, Blackout are not interested in carving their own niche so much as caveman-clubbing the impulse to do in the first place. Blackout‘s 38 minutes offer little deviation from the central theme of play-loud-play-large, and guitarist/vocalist Christian Gordy, bassist Justin Sherrell and drummer Taryn Waldman seem to delight in such a weighted presentation of a classic punker ethic, keeping simple what, when done so well, requires no complication in the first place. Like We are Here before it, Blackout carves neatly into two sides — all song titles single words — and was clearly intended to convey a vinyl listening experience, but the album goes a step further in affirming that what seemed formative on We are Here is, in fact, the basis for Blackout‘s aesthetic. They weren’t just screwing around, and they weren’t about to go off and sacrifice the heaviness working so much in their favor in the name of progression. One can hear growth on Blackout‘s self-titled from the prior EP, but it’s more about how assured the three-piece sounds in what they’re doing than about an uptick in stylistic range.

This is fortunate. While one may have expected that Blackout‘s stomping MelvinsSleep and (inevitably) Sabbath idolatry would’ve led them to more intricate explorations, the album’s better off for not. A solid minute of feedback buildup introduces opener “Lost,” which delivers its chorus late but makes for a resonant, rumbling launch nonetheless, the first of four on side A and followed by the eponymous “Blackout.” Subtle layers of guitar in the beginning give way to a raucous, shouted hook before a stop sets up a chugging, thudding build that returns to full heft just before the three-minute mark but keeps a slower tempo until about the last 20 seconds, at which point it returns to the hook to finish out. In many ways — tonally, ethically, and for the most part structurally — the course of Blackout‘s Blackout is set. Closing duo “Tannered” and “Human” on side B are longer and push into jammier roll, but as a sample of what the album has to offer, the first two tracks serve well, the underlying sense of chaos in the opener standing in as a preview of the noise wash that also closes. Third cut “Nightmare” picks up with Sherrell‘s bass and Waldman‘s drums before the guitar joins in, but Gordy isn’t far off, and the slowdown and echoing drawl of the vocals feel both in character for the band and a nod to the tempo shifts that make their material fresh and exciting despite its familiar elemental makeup. “Nightmare” has a touch more atmosphere to it than “Blackout,” which is the shortest cut on Blackout at four minutes, and the end-section freak-jam is a highlight of side A, which caps with the marching “Sprites.”

blackout

Side B picks up with “Cross,” which seems to herald business as usual, right down to the wailing over the slowdown in its midsection, but proves immersive nonetheless as its pushes toward a false ending and beyond with commanding, hypnotic repetition that seems to be interrupted by a final verse before a big rock finish that sounds drunker than it probably is ends the song. The primary impression of Blackout‘s second half, however, is in “Tannered” and “Human.” Like the song “Blackout,” “Tannered” appeared last year on Blackout‘s live-recorded Converse EP (review here) along with a cover of Fleetwood Mac‘s “The Chain” that, if the self-titled’s album art is a reference to Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks‘ 1973 Buckingham Nicks debut, at least means it wouldn’t be the first Fleetwood Mac association. Here though, “Tannered” is more assured and volatile. Vocals are layered in shouts and screams, but too deep in the mix to be abrasive, and by the time Blackout get there, pretty much anything goes. Vocals come forward late and the song ends cold, leading to the seven-minute “Human,” which is the longest of the record and follows a linear course pushing to the apex of its final movement with plenty of room for a squibbled solo in the meantime. There aren’t too many surprises on Blackout, and it’s not like GordySherrell and Waldman are hiding anything up their collective sleeve, but what makes the album work is precisely that. It’s a raw, honest and unremittingly heavy full-length debut makes zero effort to pretend to be anything it isn’t, and ultimately, it would seem unfair to ask anything more of it that what’s delivered. Fuck it, riff out.

Blackout, Blackout (2015)

Blackout on Thee Facebooks

Blackout on Bandcamp

RidingEasy Records

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