The only thing I don’t get about the new video for the title-track of Dead Rock Commandos — the 2012 Small Stone debut from long-running Greek rockers Nightstalker — is the kidnapping. Okay, so Nightstalker are getting chased through the woods by mysterious gasmasked paramilitary forces. I got that. But then they get kidnapped, the hoods over their heads and the whole bit, and marched single-file to an also-mysterious white room with instruments… and they start rocking out.
So the part I don’t get is, weren’t Nightstalker going to rock out anyway? Why would these commandos need to bring them into this room? And what is the room? Could it be that the volume from their heavy riffing output is being harvested to power some kind of sinister death ray? Or worse, that Nightstalker are being set up as some kind of exhibit in a terrible post-apocalyptic rock and roll zoo? Truly, there are many questions still to be answered.
What’s way clearer in watching “Dead Rock Commandos” is that Nightstalker have the stoner thing on lockdown. The video premiered today, and Nightstalker will bring the rock directly to the people starting May 31 with Ape Machine supporting. Dates follow the clip below:
Nightstalker, “Dead Rock Commandos” official video
Including an appearance at the 2013 Freak Valley Festival, Nightstalker will be heading out on a European tour in support of 2012’s Dead Rock Commandos. The ultra-catchy riff-fest was released by Small Stone last year and found the long-running Athens outfit right at home in classic heavy fuzz ‘n’ roll.
Nightstalker tour dates: May 31 Munster, DE Rare Guitar Jun 1 Netphen, DE Freak Valley Festival Jun 2 Antwerpen, BE Antwerpen Music City Jun 4 Paris, FR Les Combustibles Jun 5 Leuven, BE Rockbar Jun 6 Wild Rover Aachen, DE Jun 7 Hasselt, BE Carpe Diem Jun 8 Wurzburg, DE Immerhin Jun 9 Salzburg, AT Rockhouse Jun 11 St. Gallen, CH Rumpeltum Jun 12 Feldkirch, AT Graf Hugo Jun 13 Erfurt, DE Stadtgarten Jun 14 Berlin, DE White Trash
Posted in audiObelisk on July 11th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
A rock and roll powerhouse for more than two decades, Greek heavy heads Nightstalker got their start founded by frontman Argy in 1989. They were a far cry then from they band that 2012 finds them, but they held onto “best kept secret” status and managed to survive the grunge movement, the semi-commercialization of stoner rock, and, to date, the Euro. In 2009, they released their MeteorCity debut, Superfreak (review here), and to follow-up, they present their brand new, self-produced effort, Dead Rock Commandos, on Small Stone.
Seems kind of ignorant to say a band that had already been around for 20 years at the time were making a debut of sorts with Superfreak, but as it was their first album to really get a North American push, it’s not much of a surprise to find Dead Rock Commandosreleased through another US label. All the elements that make heavy rock what it is are there: Fuzz distortion, catchy hooks, classic rhythms and an ultra-straightforward, keep-it-simple approach render Nightstalker not nearly as foreboding as their name might imply, and Dead Rock Commandos proves they’re very much alive after all this time. The songs are varied, engaging, familiar but still unpredictable. Sometimes there’s just no arguing with rock done well, so I won’t waste my time to try.
I’ve included the band’s bio to help give some sense of their history. Dead Rock Commandos is streaming in its entirety on the player blow. Please enjoy:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
Formed in Greece, in late 1989, by singer (and at the time drummer) Argy and made truly stable with the addition of RottingChrist bassist Andreas in 1992, Nightstalker managed to meld their heavy rock influences with funky rhythms and grungy melodies to create a whole new beast.
With all these elements in place they released the first EP in 1994, titled SideFx. With the release of their first full-length album, USE, in 1996, the band established themselves and their own trademark brand of dark heavy sounds. 2000 saw a slight shuffle in membership as well as a new EP, The Ritual, which found Nightstalker treading further in to the realms of deepest, darkest psychedelia. Lineup fully entrenched, the ensuing pair of albums, 2004’s Just A Burn and 2009’s Superfreak garnered the band a new and loyal following across the world.
Which sets the stage for their newest dark masterpiece, Dead Rock Commandos. Another album’s worth of raw rock ‘n’ roll simplicity, filled with stunning riffs and electric haze. More heavy sounds, groovy rhythms and intense bass playing all merging with the power of Argy’s vocals, which is the secret to the music of Nightstalker that has kept the band going for more than 20 years and made them one of the most important bands in the history of the European Hard Rock scene.
Founded in 1995 by Scott Hamilton, Detroit imprint Small Stone Records is the single most influential American heavy rock label of the post-Man’s Ruin era. What started as Hamilton releasing local Detroit acts of varied genres like Morsel, 36D and Perplexa soon took on a dedication to the heavy aesthetic that remains unmatched in both its scope and its reach of influence. Looking back, Five Horse Johnson‘s 1997 Double Down debut, seems to have been the beginning of Small Stone‘s turn down the fuzzly path. It’s like Hamilton followed the riff right down the rabbit hole and never looked back.
Now, 17 years on, Small Stone has a reach that goes beyond even the distribution of the albums it puts out. Thanks to the diligent work of Hamilton and oft-encountered names like Mad Oak Studios engineer/mixer Benny Grotto, mastering engineer Chris Gooseman, graphic artist Alexander von Wieding, among others, the label has earned a reputation for quality output that new releases are constantly reaffirming. Over the years, Man’s Ruin refugees like Sons of Otis, (The Men Of) Porn, Acid King and VALIS have come into the fold, but the crux of Small Stone‘s catalog is made up of acts like Roadsaw, Dixie Witch, Halfway to Gone, Throttlerod, Puny Human and Novadriver, who no matter what else they put out or who they put it out with, will always be considered “Small Stone bands.”
That designation and those groups specifically have helped establish a core American-style heavy rocking sound that the label seems to delight in toying with even as it continues to promulgate. Next generation bands like Gozu, Lo-Pan, Freedom Hawk, Backwoods Payback and even newer newcomers Wo Fat, Supermachine, Lord Fowl and Mellow Bravo — who don’t yet have albums out on the label — are expanding its breadth, and recent international signees Asteroid, Abrahma, Mangoo, Nightstalker and Mother of God should help ensure that Small Stone keeps pushing both itself and genre boundaries well into the next several years.
One of the hazards, however, of an ever-growing catalog, is that it can be hard to figure out where to start taking it on, and to that end, I’m happy to provide you with 10 essential Small Stone picks. Note I didn’t say “the 10 essential Small Stone picks,” because the reality of the situation is this is just the tip of the fuzzberg. If it’s any indication, I started out with five and couldn’t leave the rest out.
Here they are, ordered by the date of release:
1. Novadriver, Void (ss-022/2001)
Still an album that’s more or less impossible to pin to just one genre, the stoner/space/weirdo jams of Novadriver‘s 2001 outing, Void, reside somewhere between Monster Magnet‘s early Hawkwind worship and the unbridled intensity of groove that came out of Detroit’s early- and mid-’70s heavy rock and proto-metal. The fact that Novadriver also came from the Motor City speaks to the label’s local roots, but if Void was coming out even today, it’d be coming out on Small Stone.
2. Los Natas, Corsario Negro (ss-028/2002)
Personally, I think 2005’s El Hombre Montaña is a better album and 2009’s Nuevo Orden de la Libertad is an even better album than that, but Corsario Negro earns the edge as a starting point because it was the beginning of the Argentinian rockers’ relationship with Small Stone (they too were left without a home in the wake of Man’s Ruin folding). Plus, if you haven’t heard them before and you get this, you can still marvel at the subsequent offerings. Either way, totally necessary.
3. Various Artists, Sucking the ’70s (ss-032/2002)
In a lot of ways, this is what it’s all about. Badass bands playing badass songs. By this point, The Glasspack, Los Natas, Fireball Ministry, Halfway to Gone and Five Horse Johnson (who lead off the first disc) had already put out at least one album through Small Stone, but Sucking the ’70s made the most of the label’s burgeoning reputation, bringing in Clutch, Alabama Thunderpussy and Lowrider, along with bands who’d later add records to the catalog like Roadsaw, Suplecs and Lord Sterling, all covering hits and obscurities from the heavy ’70s. A gorgeous collection that would get a sequel in 2006. Still waiting on part three.
4. Dixie Witch, One Bird, Two Stones (ss-037/2003)
The Austin, Texas, trio would go on to become one of the most pivotal acts on the Small Stone roster, and they’d do so on the strength of their Southern riffs and the soul in their songwriting. Led by drummer/vocalist Trinidad Leal, Dixie Witch hooked up with Small Stone on the heels of their 2001 debut, Into the Sun, which was released by Brainticket, and quickly gained a reputation for some of the finest classic road songs that Grand Funk never wrote (see “The Wheel”). Their 2011 offering, Let it Roll, affirmed their statesmen status among their labelmates.
5. Sasquatch, Sasquatch (ss-044/2004)
I was pretty well convinced that when the L.A.-based Sasquatch released their self-titled debut in 2004, rock and roll was saved. Whoever it needed saving from, whatever needed to take place to make that happen, this record did it. Truth is, rock and roll didn’t really need to be saved — it needed a stiff drink, as we all do from time to time — but Sasquatch would’ve been right there even if it had. They’re a Small Stone original with all three of their records to date out through the label, and still one of the strongest acts in the American rock underground, even though they’d never be quite this fuzzy again.
6. Dozer, Through the Eyes of Heathens (ss-061/2005)
Even now, seven years later, I can’t look at this album cover without hearing the chorus to “The Roof, the River, the Revolver.” Between that and songs like “Man of Fire,” “Born a Legend” and “From Fire Fell,” Swedish rockers Dozer made their definitive statement in their label debut (fourth album overall). Another former Man’s Ruin band, they’d already begun to grow past their desert rock roots by the time they hooked up with Hamilton, and Through the Eyes of Heathens played out like what heavy metal should’ve turned into after the commercial atrocities of the late-’90s. A gorgeous record and still a joy to hear.
7. Greenleaf, Agents of Ahriman (ss-074/2007)
It’s like they built nearly every song on here out of undeniable choruses. Even the verses are catchy. I’ve championed Agents of Ahriman since before I started this site, and I feel no less vehement in doing so now than I did then. A side-project of Dozer guitarist Tommi Holappa that on this, their third album, included and featured members of Truckfighters, Lowrider, The Awesome Machine and others, Greenleaf became a distillation of many of the elements that make Swedish heavy rock unique in the world. It wasn’t aping classic rock, it was giving it a rebirth, and every Hammond note was an absolute triumph.
8. Iota, Tales (ss-084/2008)
Once, I had a t-shirt with the cover of Iota‘s Tales on the front. I wore it until it got holes, and then I bought another. That’s the kind of album Tales was. A trio crawled from out of Utah’s Great Salt Lake, Iota took Kyuss, launched them into space, and jammed out for five, 10 or 20 minutes to celebrate the success of the mission. Recently, guitarist/vocalist Joey Toscano has resurfaced in the bluesier, more earthbound Dwellers, which teams him with the rhythm section of SubRosa. Their debut, Good Morning Harakiri, was a highlight of early 2012, building on what Iota was able to accomplish here while pushing in a different direction.
9. Solace, A.D. (ss-093/2010)
It took the better part of a decade for the Jersey-bred metallers to finish what became their Small Stone debut after two full-lengths for MeteorCity, but when it finally dropped, there was no denying A.D.‘s power. My album of the year in 2010, the band delivered front to back on seven years’ worth of promise, and though it was recorded in more studios than I can count over a longer stretch than I think even Solace knows, it became a cohesive, challenging album, giving listeners a kick in the ass even as it handed them their next beer. I still get chills every time I put on “From Below,” and I put it on with near-embarrassing regularity.
10. Lo-Pan, Salvador (ss-116/2011)
If you know this site, this one’s probably a no-brainer pick, but the Columbus, Ohio-based riff merchants took on unabashed stoner rock fuzz for their Small Stone debut (third album overall) and made some of 2011’s most memorable songs in the process. Subversively varied in mood and heavy as hell no matter what they were doing, every part of Lo-Pan‘s Salvador worked. There was no lag. Small Stone also reissued the band’s 2009 outing, Sasquanaut, in 2011, but Salvador surpassed it entirely, bringing the band to new heights of professionalism they’d confirm by touring, well, perpetually. They’re still touring for it. You should go see them and behold the future of fuzz.
That’s the list as much as I could limit it. If you want to immediately add five more, throw in Roadsaw‘s self-titled (they’re writing the best songs of their career right now, I don’t care how attached to the early records you are), Puny Human‘s Universal Freak Out, Halfway to Gone‘s High Five, Milligram‘s This is Class War and Five Horse Johnson‘s Fat Black Pussycat. If you want to semi-immediately add five more than that, get the reissue of Acid King‘s Busse Woods, Mos Generator‘sSongs for Future Gods, The Brought Low‘s Third Record, Tummler‘s Early Man and Erik Larson‘s The Resounding. There. We just doubled the length of the list.
And the real trouble? I could go on. We didn’t even touch on curios like Axehandle, Lord Sterling and Brain Police, or The Might Could‘s Southern aggression, Hackman‘s instrumentalism or the druggy post-grunge of VALIS. Suffice it to say that Small Stone is one of very few labels out there from whom any output will at least be worth a cursory investigation. As the label continues to grow and develop in 2012 and beyond with new bands and new releases from its staple acts, taking on new avenues of commerce — like releasing vinyl for the first time, which it did in 2011 — whatever changes might crop up, Small Stone seems ready to meet the future, distortion pedal first. Can’t ask more of rock than that.
Posted in Whathaveyou on April 27th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
What I like about the Stoned from the Underground festival, aside from the lineup, is the acronym STFU, which I’m told in clever internet-speak means “shut the fuck up.” Certainly I’d never have figured that out on my own, but it’s good to know. The fest is set to take place this July in ol’ BundesrepublikDeutschland, and will feature a host of European stoner types as well as Garcia Plays Kyuss and a few other American acts thrown in for good measure. MeteorCity, via the PR wire, make it known that Greece‘s Nightstalker will partake:
MeteorCity recording artists, Nightstalker, will play this year’s Stoned from the Underground festival in Germany. It’s the 10th anniversary of this festival and it will be held on July 9th and 10th. Other bands performing include Garcia Plays Kyuss, Yawning Man, Black Cobra, Weedeater, Firebird, Ufomammut and many others! This is clearly a festival that you should not miss!
Posted in Reviews on December 21st, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster
Greece doesn’t have the stoner scene reputation of Sweden or the Palm Desert in California, but you’d never know it once you got lost in Superfreak, the latest offering (first for MeteorCity) from long-running rockers Nightstalker. The band formed in 1990 and has been going steadily ever since, but even if Superfreak is your first experience with them – as it was mine – the easily accessible songs, catchy choruses and memorable musical hooks will make the band a standout in your mind, especially if you’re a fan of a straightforward approach.
Actually, make that “especially” a double. Though on a couple tracks it can feel like Nightstalker are pounding you over the head with the repeated lines of a chorus – “Baby, God is Dead,” “The Light,” “Superfreak” – these are also some of the record’s strongest moments. Nightstalker have all the tightness in their presentation of a solid but underrated Euro act like Red Aim, but vocalist Argy alternately channels Ozzy Osbourne and Dave Wyndorf, setting the band apart from an otherwise forgettable pack of similarly-minded acts.
Being scholars themselves, Greek trio Nightstalker would obviously be familiar with the philosophical works of Friedrich Nietzsche. Doubtless when they were composing songs for their MeteorCity debut, Superfreak, they did so with the following quote from The Joyful Wisdom in mind:
“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, murderers of all murderers, console ourselves? That which was the holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet possessed has bled to death under our knives. …Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we not ourselves become gods simply to be worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whosoever shall be born after us — for the sake of this deed he shall be part of a higher history than all history hitherto.”
Of course, Nightstalker manage to put it more succinctly, as we can see with the title of the song around which their latest video is based, “Baby, God is Dead.” As audience members, we can be sure the speeding roadster and green-screen antics are meant to serve as an allegory for the falsehoods and distractions man inevitably must conquer on his journey toward embodying the ?bermensch. Kudos to the band on their subtlety of presentation.