The Obelisk Presents: The Top 15 of 2015 So Far

Posted in Features on July 6th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

top 15 of 2015 so far the-rhinoceros-albrecht-durer

If 2015 ended tomorrow, I think you’d still have to say it was a pretty good year for heavy rock. Doom veered into a swath extremes — its own subgenres emerging almost one by one in a growing splinter that nonetheless continues to draw water from its roots — while the neo-stoner ignition of the West Coast continued its boom of new acts proffering classic groove. The East reveled in a progressive vision just waiting to be picked up by others, and in Europe, the ’70s traditionalist movement spread ever wider, essentially defining a modern sound in organic sounding, sometimes-vintage elements. Whether you’re going for crushing, oppressive barbarism or cosmos-bound blissouts, it is, in short, a good time to be alive.

Of course, 2015 doesn’t end tomorrow, and there’s still a whole lot of year to come. About half, as it happens. So, as has been the tradition around here for the last half-decade — and seems to be the tradition in a growing number of outlets; not taking credit or claiming to have invented anything, just noting a proliferation — it’s time to count down the best records of the year so far. There have been more than a handful of gems, and since in December I’m planning on doing a top 30, we’ll mark half the year with a top 15. Seems only fair.

Please note that this isn’t purely a critical evaluation, but a personal list, and that what I’ve put on most is as crucial a factor in my ranking as how important I think a given record is. You know the drill by now. Let’s go:

15. Stoned Jesus, The Harvest

stoned jesus the harvest

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 20.

Kiev three-piece Stoned Jesus have a varied stylistic history, and their third outing, The Harvest was ultimately a success in large part because of its complete refusal to be defined. Atop a foundation of quality songcraft, the trio proffered a sound that was not necessarily experimental in terms of anti-structure noise or effects onslaughts, but bold in each of its forays outward from its heavy rock underpinnings.

 

14. Freedom Hawk, Into Your Mind

freedom hawk into your mind

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed June 26.

It has consistently taken me a while to get a hold on what Freedom Hawk are up to. The steady elements in their sound are held to so firmly that on the first couple listens, it seems to just be more of the same. But the more one digs in, the more there is to be found, and with Into Your Mind, the Virginia Beach trio overcome losing a member to create their most progressive outing to date, flourishes of psychedelia melding easily with their signature style of sunshiny riffing.

 

13. My Sleeping Karma, Moksha

my sleeping karma moksha

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed May 12.

Five albums deep, Germany’s My Sleeping Karma are an act unto themselves. Their progress has been natural, fueled by a clear, varied sense of exploratory will, and the results on this year’s Moksha were nothing short of stunning. Branching out their arrangements might not be new to them, but the inclusion of horns, drones, percussion, etc., amid the central guitar, bass, keys and drums lent an almost orchestral feel to the flow between the tracks, and one can only hope they continue on their current path, because it is unquestionably the right one.

 

12. Death Alley, Black Magick Boogieland

death alley black magick boogieland

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed June 8.

So much potential, so much vitality at the heart of this debut from Death Alley. The Amsterdam-based four-piece (interview here) stormed out of the gate with a ripper of a debut, and just when you seemed to have it all figured out, they hit the ignition on a 12-minute full-impulse space rock thrust, a guest vocal appearance from Farida Lemouchi (a former bandmate of Death Alley guitarist Oeds Beydals in The Devil’s Blood) adding both mystique and emotional resonance to what was already a stunning track. With all the riotousness preceding, Black Magick Boogieland readily lived up to its righteous title.

 

11. Mondo Drag, Mondo Drag

mondo drag self titled

Released on RidingEasy Records and Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed Jan. 8.

Midwestern-turned-West-Coast heavy psych rockers Mondo Drag may have taken their time in releasing their self-titled sophomore outing, which followed their 2010 debut, New Rituals (review here), and was recorded in 2012, but it’s easy to imagine that’s because they wanted the circumstances to be as special as the album itself, recorded with a fleeting five-piece lineup that included the one-time rhythm section of Radio Moscow who wound up leaving to further their then-nascent project, Blues Pills. Even without that lineup shift as a factor, the late ’60s vibe Mondo Drag brought out across the release proved eminently listenable and has held up on repeat visits.

 

10. Cigale, Cigale

cigale self-titled

Self-released. Reviewed May 4.

A gorgeous, shimmering and melodically resonant debut from the Dutch four-piece Cigale, their self-titled gracefully maintained tonal presence and warmth while also enacting a psychedelic sprawl and grooving serenity that acted like the landscape in which the songs took place. It was a rich, bright vibe, and an utter joy to behold, tracks like “Harvest Begun,” “Feel the Heat” and “Eyes Wide Shut” proving as memorable as they were inviting. Having two former members of the much-missed fuzz rock outfit Sungrazer may have initially turned some heads in their direction, but Cigale‘s first album proved they’re an outfit with their own personality, their own development to undertake, and already much to offer.

 

9. The Machine, Offblast!

the machine offblast

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed May 28.

The awaited return of The Machine brought the band’s fifth album and a further-refined sense of maturity in their processes, as well as intrigue as to where they might be headed, two dual modes of open-ended jamming and more structured songwriting playing off each other in the extended “Chrysalis (J.A.M.)” and “Come to Light” and the more verse/chorus stylizations of “Dry End” and “Off Course.” To be perfectly honest, I doubt The Machine will ultimately pick one side over another, since if Offblast! proved anything it’s that they can easily handle either or both, but as they continue to grow, it’s encouraging to have their style establish itself as so multi-faceted.

 

8. The Atomic Bitchwax, Gravitron

the atomic bitchwax gravitron

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed April 20.

First time I pressed play on Gravitron was a real “oh shit!” moment. The last release from NJ stalwarts The Atomic Bitchwax was 2011’s The Local Fuzz (review here), a single-song full-length instrumental riff onslaught that had its charm but was inherently divorced from the appeal of the band’s songwriting. Not only does Gravitron re-factor that in with songs like “Roseland,” “It’s Alright,” “Coming in Hot” and “Ice Age Hey Baby,” among others, but it hits with kick-in-the-ass production force and an all-out heaviness that 2008’s TAB4 showed the three-piece steering directly away from. Just a killer record. Utterly void of pretense. No bullshit. No need to rely on anything more than chemistry, and with the Bitchwax, that’s plenty.

 

7. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth

brothers of the sonic cloth self titled

Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed March 3.

Right now, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth are my band to beat for Debut of the Year, and I’m quite frankly not sure how anyone is going to be able to do it, so if list time comes in Dec. and you see Tad Doyle‘s trio marked out as such, know that it’s been that way in my head for some time. The three-piece of Doyle, bassist Peggy “Pegadeth” Tully and drummer Dave French arrived with a roar, and even when their self-titled let up sonically, the atmosphere remained viscerally heavy. Six years having passed since the release of their first demo (review here), I wasn’t sure there was ever going to be an album, but then to have Brothers of the Sonic Cloth show up and enact such thorough demolition only made it more impressive.

 

6. High on Fire, Luminiferous

high on fire luminiferous

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed June 15.

It can’t possibly be a surprise to have Luminiferous show up somewhere on this list. The seventh long-player by High on Fire had all the rage and bombast in “Slave the Hive” and “The Black Plot” that have become the band’s hallmarks over their 17 years together, but branched out progressively as well in songs like “The Cave” and “The Falconist,” the latter of which was brazenly catchy and about as emotionally direct as the band has ever gotten, their general modus being — and in that song too, just to a lesser extent — a metaphor-laced lyrical approach. That song was a triumph and so was the album as a whole; the second collaboration with producer Kurt Ballou building on the rampaging victories of 2012’s De Vermis Mysteriis (review here) while also showing growth on the part of one of modern metal’s most pivotal bands.

 

5. Kings Destroy, Kings Destroy

kings destroy self titled

Released by War Crime Recordings. Reviewed April 15.

Hitting more or less concurrent with a vinyl release of their prior album, 2013’s A Time of Hunting (review here), Kings Destroy‘s Kings Destroy is not at all coincidentally titled. Over the course of now three full-lengths, the New York five-piece — about whom I feign no impartiality, let it be noted — have distinguished themselves with a sound neither noise, nor doom, nor heavy rock, but drawing on elements of all three when it suits their purposes with chemistry built from years of being in bands together of various stripes and in various genres. What stands the self-titled out from their past work, in part, is that it is the closest they’ve yet come to capturing their live sound in the studio, and accordingly, it’s a volatile kind of heavy that bends aesthetic to its will rather than capitulating to expectations of any sort. I don’t think they’re done growing by any stretch, but Kings Destroy feels like an arrival front-to-back.

 

4. Colour Haze, To the Highest Gods We Know

colour haze to the highest gods we know

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed Jan. 6.

This one was almost a sneak-attack. German heavy psych forerunners Colour Haze released To the Highest Gods We Know, their 11th full-length, in Dec. 2014 on CD (the vinyl was in 2015, which is what we’re counting in this instance), with very, very little fanfare of any sort. There was a track premiere here that came shortly after the album was announced, but I think it was officially out less than a month after its existence was made public, which for a band of Colour Haze‘s stature and influence was surprising. Less devoted to grandeur than 2012’s 2CD She Said (review here), it nonetheless pushed the band’s sound forward and found them experimenting in their studio, particularly on the string-quartet-inclusive finale title-track, which offset jams like “Überall” and the laid back highlight “Call” with a rhythmic oddness that was somehow still Colour Haze‘s own. I couldn’t help but wonder where it was leading, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t masterful in its own right.

 

3. Goatsnake, Black Age Blues

goatsnake black age blues

Released by Southern Lord Recordings. Reviewed May 19.

Goatsnake didn’t have it easy going into their third album. It had been 15 years since their sophomore outing, Flower of Disease, 11 since their last EP, and five since they first started playing shows again. Expectations? Through the roof. Among heavy rock heads, a new Goatsnake was like seeing the mountaintop. I mean, a big fucking deal and then some. Then the record hits, and there’s just about no way it can live up to the anticipation, but god damn if Goatsnake not only finally put out a third album, but one that was better than I think anyone could’ve hoped for. Hearing Pete Stahl with however many backup singers he had on “Another River to Cross” et. al. was like finding an animal in its native habitat, and between his soul, Greg Anderson‘s riffs, bassist Scott Renner‘s low end rumble and drummer Greg Rogers‘ roll, Black Age Blues won almost immediately and then spent the rest of its 47 minutes throwing itself a victory party. “Elevated Man,” “House of the Moon,” “Jimi’s Gone,” “Grandpa Jones,” almost on a per-track basis, Goatsnake added to the reasons they’ve been so heralded despite a decade-plus’ absence from the studio.

 

2. Elder, Lore

elder lore

Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed Feb. 19.

On the level of achievement alone, Elder‘s Lore will be the album of the year for many, and there are times (such as right now) when I listen to it and question whether or not it isn’t also my pick for that honor, but wherever it falls on whatever list, far more important is what the Massachusetts/Rhode Island/New York trio manage to accomplish across their third LP’s formidable five-track/59-minute span, songs like “Compendium” and “Deadweight” bridging a rarely approached gap between heavy and progressive rocks while maintaining a flow consistent with the psychedelic vibing of 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here) but grown outward in another aesthetic direction and no sooner setting foot on the ground than seeming to master it in a flurry of blinding turns, sprawling soundscapes and clarity of mind that found perhaps its greatest expression in the centerpiece title-track, the 15-minute “Lore” itself, which I’ve no doubt will stand among if not atop the best songs of 2015 when the year is over and encapsulates the ambition and the corresponding breadth of Elder‘s songwriting, the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan, and drummer Matt Couto rising as one of the East Coast’s most pivotal acts, with a sound completely their own.

 

1. Acid King, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere

acid king middle of nowhere center of everywhere

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 19.

I use the word “molten” pretty regularly to describe an album or song that seems to just ooze its way out of the speakers or shift seamlessly between its songs, but Acid King set an entirely new standard for the term with Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere. Their first outing for Svart and their first release in a decade, its 55 minutes were a riff-rolling nirvana of lurching fuzz and tonal excellence, the guitar of Lori S. at the fore accompanied by Mark Lamb‘s bass and Joey Osbourne‘s drums, the swing of which propelled a highlight track like “Coming down from Outer Space” right back into it, while elsewhere on the record, “Silent Pictures,” “Red River” and “Infinite Skies” torched stoner conventions into a new space-biker rock, culminating in the heavy psych of “Center of Everywhere,” which seemed to emanate from the place it was describing, at once empty and full. More than just a welcome return after a long dearth of releases, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere found Acid King progressed even beyond where they were with 2005’s III, though more than anything else, what makes it my top pick for the year so far is the fact that I can’t seem to walk away from it for too long before going back, and ultimately, that’s what it all comes down to with his kind of thing. I’ve yet to find a standard to which these songs don’t live up.

Honorable Mention:

A few others worth noting. The Sun Blood Stories album (streamed here) continues to resonate. Also MonolordValkyrie, Lamp of the UniverseGarden of WormWo Fat‘s live record, The Midnight Ghost Train‘s Cold was the Ground and Ufomammut‘s Ecate. The Black Rainbows was a joy, as was Spidergawd‘s second LP, and while I still feel like I haven’t given it its due, the Sumac won many over and should get a mention. Steve Von Till‘s solo outing and the latest from Enslaved are worth seeking out as well for anyone who hasn’t heard them yet.

More to Come:

The year’s only half over, which is kind of a scary thought but true nonetheless. Watch out in the coming months for new stuff from BloodcowAll Them WitchesClutchGraveyardZunSacri Monti (if that one’s not already out), SnailUncle Acid, and Kind. The new Kadavar is a sure-fire top tenner, and between that, the potential for a new Neurosis album and stuff like Magnetic Eye Records‘ Electric Ladyland [Redux], there’s no way the book is written on the best of 2015.

So stay tuned.

And if I’ve still got your attention, thanks for reading.
 

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Eternal Black Release Self-Titled Debut EP

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

If there was such a thing to be sounded as a “good dude alert,” it would be ringing. The reigning Prince of Long Island, drummer Joe Wood — known best for his work in long-running hard rockers Borgo Pass, but also formerly of sludge-slingers 12 Eyes, a former bandmate of mine and all around one of the best guys you could hope to know on the Eastern Seaboard — has a new band going. The Brooklyn-based trio, with Wood on drums, Ken Wohlrob on guitar/vocals and Hal Miller on bass, are called Eternal Black after an initial introduction as The Black Hand, and their self-titled EP has just been released through their own Obsidian Sky Records.

Announcement and stream follow. More to come:

eternal black eternal black

Eternal Black Unleashes Their Doomy Self-Titled EP

Brooklyn-based doom band Eternal Black have unleashed their debut self-titled EP via their own Obsidian Sky Records. Steeped in the American doom tradition of Saint Vitus, The Obsessed, Spirit Caravan, and EyeHateGod, Eternal Black’s music is full of heavy and bluesy riffs, Bonham-esque drums, and rumbling low-end. Sonically and lyrically, the three tracks on the EP are Armageddon blues songs.

Formed in late 2014, Eternal Black is made up of Joe Wood on drums (Borgo Pass, Bloody Sabbath), Hal Miller on Bass, and Ken Wohlrob on guitar and vocals. The group came together out of a desire to create dark songs driven by fuzz-drenched riffs and old-school heavy grooves.

The Eternal Black EP was produced by Kol Marshall (King Diamond, Mercyful Fate, Absu, Ministry) and Joe Kelly (Provan, John Hovorka and the Dawn of Mechanized Farming) at the latter’s Suburban Elvis studios. Digital downloads of the album are available now via Bandcamp, iTunes, Amazon, and other digital music retailers.
https://eternalblack.bandcamp.com
https://itun.es/i6L54nk

Details for Eternal Black’s self-titled EP

Track listing:
1. Obsidian Sky
2. The Dead Die Hard
3. Armageddon’s Embrace

Produced, mixed, and mastered by Joe Kelly and Kol Marshall
Recorded at Suburban Elvis Studios, May 2015
Released by Obsidian Sky Records

Band members:
Hal Miller: Bass
Joe Wood: Drums
Ken Wohlrob: Guitars, Vocals

For the latest updates on Eternal Black:
http://eternalblackdoom.tumblr.com/
https://eternalblack.bandcamp.com
https://soundcloud.com/eternalblackdoom
https://www.facebook.com/blackhanddoom
https://instagram.com/eternalblackdoom/

Eternal Black, Eternal Black (2015)

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Geezer Release New Single “Long Dull Knife”

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 13th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

geezer

I know we’ve recently recounted the busy 2015 for NY heavy blues specialists Geezer, what with their tour with Bison Machine this month, appearance at Eye of the Stoned Goat in June, split forthcoming on Ripple Music with Borracho, and so on, but why not throw a new single in the mix as well? The trio just today let loose the free download track “Long Dull Knife,” which marks their first studio recording released with bassist Richie Touseull alongside guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington and drummer Chris Turco.

You might recall a live version of “Long Dull Knife” was included on Geezer‘s 2014 Live! Full Tilt Boogie tape (review here), but the studio recording boasts a couple surprises, namely the less-whiskey-soaked feel in Harrington‘s vocals and a Hammond contribution (never hurts) from Jeff Mercel that only adds to the bluesy roll of the riff that leads the way through. I haven’t seen word of Geezer starting work on their next full-length yet, but this kind of branching out bodes well for when they get there.

Geezer‘s aforementioned run of shows with Bison Machine starts May 26. Those dates follow the announcement that came with the track, which you’ll find below:

geezer long dull knife

We wanted to share something special with our fans to show our appreciation for all the amazing support you’ve given us. What better way to do that than with free music?

Thank you!

Long Dull Knife is the first studio release to include Richie Touseull on bass.

released 13 May 2015
Recorded at Dreamland Studio, Woodstock, NY

Produced by: Pat Harrington
Recorded & Mixed by: Matthew Cullen

Pat Harrington: guitar/vocals
Richie Touseull: bass
Chris Turco: drums

Jeff Mercel: Hammond B3

Artwork by: Josh Wilkinson @ The Company Design
@thecompanydesign (IG)

Geezer: Mind Over Mountain Tour with Bison Machine
Tuesday May 26th @ 31st St Pub, Pittsburg, PA w/ Sinister Haze & Old Dream
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://geezertown.bandcamp.com/track/long-dull-knife-digital-single
https://www.facebook.com/geezerNY/

Geezer, “Long Dull Knife”

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Geezer Comment on Joining Lineup for Eye of the Stoned Goat 5

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 27th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

geezer

It is a busy few months ahead of New York blues rockers Geezer. Already this year, the trio oversaw the CD release through Ripple Music of their 2014 full-length, Gage (review here), the vinyl of which came out through STB and blew through its pressing more or less immediately following its going on sale in the Fall, and they’re soon to issue a split with Washington D.C. heavy riffers Borracho, also through Ripple, as the opening chapter of the label’s The Second Coming of Heavy series of multi-band vinyls, stepping in to replace Volume IV in that capacity. That’s not to mention working on new material with their recently-added bassist Richie Touseull, including a trip to the studio not so long ago to record a Hendrix cover as part of Magnetic Eye Records‘ forthcoming The Best of James Marshall Hendrix compilation.

Show-wise, 2015 seems to be likewise packed. Having just this past weekend done a couple gigs with Borracho that included a filmed, soon-to-be-unveiled set at The Living Room in Stroudsburg, PA, Geezer will take off in late May for a round of dates alongside Bison Machine (who opened the latest podcast), playing with Sinister Haze, The Golden Grass, Wizard Eye and others — AND — finally I’m getting here, do you think it was built up enough??? — the trio have just been added to the Eye of the Stoned Goat 5 fest in June as a replacement for Weed is Weed, where they’ll play as direct support for Mos Generator as they headline the second of the festival’s two nights at Amityville Music Hall in Long Island, NY.

Badass? Yes, it is. That’s why I hounded Geezer guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington (Obelisk Questionnaire here) this weekend for some comment on the matter. This will be Geezer‘s third appearance at the Stoned Goat, having played the last two editions of the fest in Worcester, Massachusetts, and in Brooklyn, and you can find Harrington‘s words, Geezer’s tour dates with Bison Machine and the announcement from the fest following the poster below:

the eye of the stoned goat 5 poster

Once again, due to unforeseen circumstances, Weed is Weed will be unable to join us at this year’s event… but fear not folks, we have managed to actually fill the slot with a fucking sonic wrecking ball of a band. I give you the incomparable heavy blues of… Geezer!!!

Says Geezer‘s Pat Harrington:

Geezer is stoked to once again be a part of the Eye Of The Stoned Goat! This will be our third one and it looks to be the best one yet! So many killer bands to see and friends to catch up with. We’ll be fresh off our tour with Bison Machine and expect to be hitting on all cylinders with plenty of new tunes to get everyone grooving. Can’t wait!”

Geezer: Mind Over Mountain Tour with Bison Machine
Tuesday May 26th @ 31st St Pub, Pittsburg, PA w/ Sinister Haze & Old Dream
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://geezertown.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/events/853840991328849/
https://www.facebook.com/TheEyeOfTheStonedGoat

Geezer, Gage (2014)

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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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Axis/Orbit to Release LP on Nasoni Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 24th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

axis orbit

Long Island trio Axis/Orbit have announced they’ll release their debut LP on limited vinyl through ultra-respected long-running German imprint Nasoni Records. The LP, of which the title has yet to be revealed, is the follow-up to a self-titled EP that contains three songs and was issued by the band digitally late in 2014, and to my knowledge, this will be their first physical pressing. Due date is June 1, though as the band notes, that’s tentative.

The prior EP is streaming on the band’s Bandcamp, and as you can hear below, they dig into classic heavy rock with some garage-style flourish. Tones are warm but not necessarily retro, and the vibe on cuts like “Hazy” and the bass-led “The Owl” is laid back — at least until the animal noises kick in — and closer “Riot Canal” has an open-spaced, jammy sensibility that follows a linear course toward a satisfying freakout. Not to spoil it if you were going to listen, but solos are had.

Here’s the announcement and the band’s bio off the PR wire:

axis orbit ep

Axis/Orbit sign with Nasoni Records to release limited edition vinyl!!

Long Island’s stone groovers Axis Orbit have signed with seminal Stoner/Psych label Nasoni Records in Berlin to release their debut LP in a limited edition run of colored vinyl. Tentative release is June 1, 2015. Distribution through Clearspot of the Netherlands.

The album was recorded at Freedom of Speech Recording and engineered by Micky James (Chris Angel Mindfreak). Original art by Vincent Scala (www.vincentscala.com).

Axis/Orbit makes Rock and Roll. Stoner rock, retro rock, doomy, but unabashedly not completely metal. More of a cavalcade of 60’s-70’s rock stylings from the menace of Sabbath to the spaciness of Floyd’s cosmic tracks, to the heavy prog jam trio art of Cream and Band of Gypsies, with strokes of classic Cali folk rock, vintage grunge and straight up garage rawk. Formed in 2014 on Long Island, NY by drummer Mike Margulis, guitarist Bill Fridrich and bassist Lee Greenman with all contributing to writing, arranging and vocal duties, the group is rapidly gaining a following headlining regional shows, releasing an EP and preparing for a full length album of heavy psyche rancor for 2015.

https://www.facebook.com/axisorbitmusic
http://www.axisorbitmusic.com
http://axisorbit.bandcamp.com/releases
https://twitter.com/axisorbit
http://www.nasoni-records.com/

Axis/Orbit, EP (2014)

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Sun Voyager to Release Lazy Daze EP Next Week

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

sun voyager

It is my sincere hope that, come April 18, I get to see Sun Voyager live. It would be a while in the making. Last time the New York groove-rolling four-piece made a trip north, I was already booked for the evening. Their current-planned excursion follows the arrival of a new tape on King Pizza Records compiling some recently-issued tracks onto an EP called Lazy Daze, with five-cuts of their heavygaze vibing that will be out digitally next week with a cassette release to follow shortly thereafter.

I’m not sure if the below is or isn’t the cover of Lazy Daze, but the band sent the following encouraging words down the PR wire, and new news is good news:

sun voyager lazy daze

SUN VOYAGER “LAZY DAZE” EP RELEASE DETAILS

Wanted to reach out and share some super exciting news with you regarding a little release we’re putting out next week on King Pizza Records.

You may have heard Cosmic Tides, Mecca, or our latest split with our friends Greasy Hearts. Those all had three songs. This one’s got five, baby.

“Lazy Daze” is the title of our next release. It’s a tape. You may have heard God Is Dead, Be Here Now, Gypsy Hill, and Black Angel. Well those tracks will finally have a home. You can hear them now on soundcloud. The whole thing will be on bandcamp early next week. Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, & more coming soon.

We’re throwing release parties in Brooklyn, Newburgh, and Boston where you can buy our tape and share in the fun. Here are some details on those parties:

4/3 – Brooklyn, NY – Don Pedro w/ Psychiatric Metaphors, St James & The Apostles, The Off White
4/9 – Brooklyn, NY – Don Pedro w/ Mountain God, Kosmodemonic, Maggot Brain
4/11 – Newburgh, NY – The Wherehouse w/ St James & The Apostles
4/18 – Boston, MA – The Womb w/ Black Beach, Midriffs, & CREATUROS

Come party with us. We’re grateful to have you all as fans and can’t wait to share this with you.

http://sun-voyager.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/sunvoyagerband
http://www.twitter.com/sunvoyager_rock
http://sunvoyagerband.tumblr.com
https://soundcloud.com/sunvoyager

Sun Voyager, “Black Angel”

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On Wax: Lé Betre and King Buffalo, Split

Posted in On Wax on March 18th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

le-betre-king-buffalo-vinyl-and-cover

It seems unlikely at this point that I’d need to once more trumpet the quality of STB Records‘ vinyl. The NJ-based label has quickly thrust itself to the fore of American heavy rock purveyors, bringing forth limited releases that seem to be gone before they’re even out and delving into next-generation heavy rock with an ear for tone and a consistently mindful presentation. In the case of the split 12″ between Sweden’s Lé Betre and New York’s King Buffalo, the vinyl is, of course, already gone. Second pressing coming soon. Numbers were limited — 350 or so copies in white, orange, white and orange or clear with orange splatter — but as with everything STB puts out at this point, speed is required if you actually want to get a copy. Pressed to 180g white vinyl with a two-sided liner (one side for each band) le-betre-king-buffalo-vinyl-side-band evocative cover art, the Lé Betre and King Buffalo split does justice to the up and coming nature of both bands.

That in itself is saying something. Lé Betre also released what was apparently a super-limited, 30-copies-only edition of their 2014 debut album, Melas, through STB that likewise vanished as soon as it arrived, and it’s from that album that most of their material for this split comes. Three out of their five tracks, “Gowns and Crowns,” “Snake Eyes” and  “By the Great White Lights,” which has a companion piece included on the prior release, seem to have their roots on Melas, the four-piece of guitarist/vocalist/pianist Marcus Jonsson, guitarist/vocalist Anders Westman, bassist/vocalist Roger Lysén and drummer Jonas Sahlberg tapping into Graveyard-style blues rock without going full-retro in terms of the production, a song like “Jesper Eriksson” pushing vocals forward amid a steady roll that’s open and natural-sounding, but not nearly as analog-minded as one might expect going into it. Keyboard and/or organ plays a large part as well, and with the due fuzz and strum, it’s hard to tell on “Gowns and Crowns” where the guitars end and the keys begin, but that winds up being half the fun. Soulful if familiar, the jangle of “By the Great White Lights” makes a suitable centerpiece to side A, though handclap-infused closer “Mother,” also the longest Lé Betre inclusion, is their most resonant take, providing a better look at the band’s balance of organic flow and tight songwriting than earlier, shorter cuts, catchy as those are.

I’ll admit to some pretty high anticipation when it came to hearing new material from King Buffalo, whose 2013 demo (review here) still gets regular plays. Then a four-piece and now a trio — if you’re looking for former guitarist/vocalist Randall Coon, check out Skunk HawkKing Buffalo seem to have solidified some of their jammier impulses. Of their three inclusions, closer “Providence Eye” is the only one that previously appeared on the demo, and it was re-recorded by guitarist/vocalist Sean McVay along with the two new tracks, “New Time” and “Like a Cadillac,” which both follow suit from Lé Betre‘s jammy songwriting blend, if with their own, more pastoral take. McVay, bassist Dan Reynolds and drummer Scott Donaldson started out with a noteworthy chemistry and have only pushed it forward over the last year-plus, as a comparison of the two versions of “Providence Eye” shows, but “New Time” and “Like a Cadillac” tell more of the story of their progression, taking the swing and molten vibe of their looser, longer demo material and tightening it up with more structured songwriting. le-betre-king-buffalo-front-coverI’m dying to hear what these guys come up with for a full-length, and what experimental edge they might be able to bring to that form in acoustic parts, keyboard interludes, etc., but the commitment to a natural sound King Buffalo show on this split shines all on its own and wants little for expansion. They were on the right track before, they’re still on the right track. It’s good to know, and hopefully they keep writing.

While it would be inappropriate to call either band “established” at this point, both seem to be heading in that direction, Lé Betre following their Melas album, King Buffalo following their demo and lineup change, and it’s particularly remarkable that Lé Betre, for whom this split is ostensibly the first North American release, would get the A side and King Buffalo the B, considering the latter act has toured at least on the East Coast and is native to the region from which the label also hails. I chalk it up to STB and both bands making the decision to put exposing Lé Betre to as many ears as possible a top priority, and that proves a worthy cause as the Swedish act’s five songs play out. Lé Betre‘s bluesy inflection and King Buffalo‘s rural roll wind up giving a glimpse at where European and American heavy rock are headed, and wouldn’t you know, they fit together very, very well.

Lé Betre, “Gowns and Crowns”

King Buffalo, “Providence Eye”

Lé Betre on Thee Facebooks

Lé Betre on Bandcamp

King Buffalo on Thee Facebooks

King Buffalo on Bandcamp

STB Records

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