Some pictures had surfaced a bit ago from Kadavar‘s video shoot for “Come Back Life” — I don’t think the German trio goes anywhere without a camera following, and neither should they — so the desert theme and the old car had been given some short preview, but that was ultimately little hint of the good use Kadavar would put both to in the clip itself. Kadavar‘s second album and Nuclear Blast debut, Abra Kadavar (review here), is out May 14. They seem to describe some hard times for their first US venture playing SXSW in March, but hopefully that’s not the last time Lupus Lindemann, Tiger and Mammut decide to make the trip over.
Here’s “Come Back Life,” followed by some info from the PR wire:
Kadavar, “Come Back Life” official video
Berlin-based classic rockers KADAVAR proudly present the official video clip for “Come Back Life”! The song comes from their upcoming Nuclear Blast debut Abra Kadavar, which will be released on May 14th in North America. The clip was shot, directed and edited by Nathini van der Meer and Annikki Heinemann of Oddisee Films (www.oddiseefilms.com) during the band’s journey through the USA in March 2013.
“It was the trip of our lives, swaying between heaven and hell,” commented KADAVAR about the experience. “Our baggage got lost and neither did we have a place to sleep for the time of the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, nor a backline or money. As if this wasn’t enough, the ’64 Ford Galaxy that we had bought after a long search blew up in our faces after ten minutes on the highway. Still we met many kind people whose help made it possible for us to reach San Francisco in the end. Our friends Nathini and Annikki have accompanied us during the entire three weeks and have captured footage that’ll stick in our memories forever. After this trip, one of the song’s lines fits even better: Come back life, all is forgiven now…”
Posted in Reviews on April 9th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Berlin trio Kadavar have worked quickly to become one of the most prominent acts in the European heavy underground. Their 2012 self-titled debut sounded so organic that even the mp3s had an analog hiss, and while they carried their songs across with an ultra-natural feel, it was the confidence in the material and the spontaneous feel of the performances that made Kadavar’s Kadavar such a watershed release. It was my pick for the year’s best debut; a lean but frighteningly cohesive 34-minute full-length that showed potential as much as it made an impact on its own. Touring and a split with Aqua Nebula Oscillator followed later in 2012, and Kadavar – vocalist/guitarist Wolf Lindemann, Rivoli bassist Mammut and drummer Tiger — were picked up by Nuclear Blast to join the ranks of Graveyard, Orchid and Witchcraft in the label’s growing stable of tube-amped heavy rockers. Thus it is that their second album, Abra Kadavar, arrives with no small measure of anticipation. Some immediate differences: the sophomore outing is three tracks and about eight minutes longer than the first one, clocking in at a still-vinyl-ready 41:16. The distinctive drum sound of Tiger’s kit – the sort of fuzz that came off his snare with each tap – has abated, though the snare hits hardly sound punched in and an overall natural, live feel has been maintained between both the drums and Mammut’s bass, which was a standout element of the first record and remains so on Abra Kadavar. As regards Lindemann’s vocals, they are forward in classic rock tradition, but more assured and mature for the band’s road time, and he skillfully follows his own lead lines in the second half of opener “Come Back Life,” the trio having already enacted a formidable shuffle en route to the closing solo. Throughout, there is clear, resonant stylistic growth and as much as Abra Kadavar proves the first album wasn’t a fluke, it also shows the three-piece aren’t necessarily limited to the driving ‘70s heavy rock that they nonetheless so effectively convey on the single, “Doomsday Machine.” The self-titled ended psychedelic and extended with the eight-minute “Purple Sage,” but though they’re shorter, the closing trio of “Liquid Dream,” “Rhythm for Endless Minds” and “Abra Kadabra” show a nascent sonic diversity in Kadavar’s approach that incorporates rocking organ, psych swirl, and a heavy jamming sensibility that underlies much of the band’s work to-date, but has yet to be so blatantly expressed.
Evolution is clear too from the start of “Come Back Life,” which gives Abra Kadavar a no less effective initial groove than “An Industry of Murder” brought to Graveyard’s 2012 third album, Lights Out, despite having little in common in terms of sound. Immediately, Mammut’s bass offers rich, warm low end playing off Lindemann’s guitar, though it winds up being the energy in Tiger’s Bonzo-type fills that propels the track. They arrive quickly at a hook with a build and the lines, “Hello darkness my old friend/I won’t talk to you again,” (or somewhere thereabouts) and repeat the progression twice, but then suddenly it disappears in favor of a return to the verse, Lindemann’s lead lines acting as a riff while Mammut and Tiger hold the rhythm together, and subsequent build into a stop-start stomp progression in which the title line is delivered. It’s a rich, near-irresistible groove, fit to open the album, but I keep wondering when that Simon & Garfunkel referential part will return – perhaps as transition out of the last verse into the final solo – and it never does, leaving the structure more open than it might’ve been on the last album as “Come Back Life” crashes to its finish and fades to give way to the start of “Doomsday Machine.” Certainly the single has all the chorus potency one could possibly ask from Kadavar, but even its placement as the second track instead of the first – the debut having opened with its strongest chorus in “All Our Thoughts” – shows the band are trying something new with their second outing. Mood varies throughout on an almost per-track basis, though songs are consistent in general sound and production, but “Doomsday Machine” is a straightforward highlight, its task and structure simple in execution of a tension-building verse and a payoff chorus of driving riffs and classic heavy grooves. “Doomsday Machine” is almost immediately familiar, true to its intent, and offers few frills to a decades-tested formula, an extra layer of Lindemann’s guitar toward the last verse seeming like a grand addition. Following a final chorus, Kadavar end the single instrumentally, the guitar and bass intertwining leads leaving room for a transitional drum fill that’s a standout, two-second solo hinting of something much more lasting perhaps when delivered on stage.
Posted in Features on March 12th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
…Yeah, I know, 24 is a buttload of records to buy in the span of about a month and a half. To do the division, it would mean buying a new album every 2.04 days. Probably not feasible in terms of time, let alone budget, but hell, it’s a nice thought and seeing the onslaught of new stuff coming between now and the end of April, I thought maybe a list would help keep it all straight. Even if I’m only helping myself, I could probably spend my time in worse ways.
Worth noting that even with 24 albums, presented below in order of release, I feel like there’s stuff I’m forgetting. Frankly, it’s an overwhelming amount of material, so if I’ve missed something or there’s something you’d like to see added to the list, as always, that’s why there’s a comments feature.
Okay. These are numbered just for fun, but listed by date:
1. Orange Goblin, A Eulogy for the Fans (March 12)
My understanding is that London’s foremost doom scoundrels, none other than Orange Goblin, have been selling copies of A Eulogy for the Fans since starting their US tour with Clutch on March 8 in Cincinnati, Ohio, but today is the official release date, and I can think of no better place to start than with the four-piece’s ferocious performance at the 2012 Bloodstock festival, captured audio and video in all its bloodsoaked glory. Not to be missed or taken lightly because it’s a live record. Album review here.
2. Borracho, Mob Gathering 7″ (March 13)
Even though it’s comprised of older tracks, the new Mob Gathering 7″ from Borracho is welcome by me for two reasons: I’ve never heard the songs before and Borracho rocks. The Washington D.C.-based riffers recorded “Mob Gathering” and “Short Ride (When it’s Over)” in 2009 and are set to release the cuts on a limited platter in black and orange swirl through Spain’s Ghost Highway Recordings and Germany’s No Balls Records. They’ve been playing live as a mostly-instrumental outfit while guitarist/vocalist Noah is out of the country on what I can only assume is an awesome spy mission, so if you need a Borracho fix — and it’s obvious from the way your hands are shaking that you do — this might be the way to go. More info here.
3. Inter Arma, Sky Burial (March 15)
Like Windhand below, Inter Arma are recent Relapse Records signees from Richmond, Virginia, and Sky Burial will serve as their first release for the label. Literally and figuratively, the album is expansive, topping 69 minutes and pummeling the whole way through with a genre-transcending concoction of bleakness that’s not so much aligned to any particular heavy aesthetic so much as it is set to its own atmospheric purposes. Through this, Inter Arma emerge terrifyingly cohesive where many others would falter, and their second LP behind 2010′s Sundown (review here) leaves a progressive impression despite an almost complete lack of sonic pretense. Mostly, it’s fucking heavy. Track stream and info here.
4. Clutch, Earth Rocker (March 19)
If 2013 ended tomorrow, Clutch‘s Earth Rocker would be my album of the year. That’s not saying the situation will be the same nine months from now when I actually start putting that list together (already dreading it), but as of March 12, it’s the cat’s pajamas and no foolin’. The long-running Marylanders outdid themselves and put together a surprisingly fast, energetic collection of songs that don’t forsake the bluesy tendencies of their last album, 2009′s Strange Cousins from the West, so much as they put some of the jamming on lockdown in favor of all-out pro-grade heavy rock and roll. The velocity is crucial and the wolfman is out, but it feels like the party’s just starting. Look for them on tour sometime between now and forever. Album review here.
5. Black Mare, Field of the Host (March 20)
Black Math Horseman and Ides of Gemini frontwoman Sera Timms (who’s also recently collaborated with Yawning Man‘s Gary Arce in the new outfit Zun) steps further out on her own with the solo-project Black Mare, from whom Field of the Host is the first album. Due March 20 on LP through The Crossing and on cassette through Breathe Plastic, limited in both cases and sure to be gone shortly after release if they’re not already taken through pre-orders. Fans of Timms‘ past works will be glad to hear the misty wash of melody and dreamy, somehow sad, languid roll of “Blind One,” for starters. Audio and info on the forum.
6. Kvelertak, Meir (March 26)
Short of setting themselves on fire, Norwegian triple-guitar six-piece Kvelertak did just about everything they could to get noticed in support of their 2010 self-titled debut LP (review here), and sure enough, their work paid off in getting signed to Roadrunner Records for all territories outside their native Scandinavia (where Indie Recordings holds sway) and trumpeting up a wave of anticipation for their second full-length, Meir. Their energetic, genre-crossing approach might not be for everybody, but the band have turned a lot of heads and I wouldn’t at all be surprised to find them on bigger tours this year with Roadrunner behind them. More info on the forum.
7. Black Pyramid, Adversarial (April 2)
This is actually the first time the Eli Wood cover art for Black Pyramid‘s Adversarial has been seen in full, so you know. The Hydro-Phonic Records release of the third Black Pyramid album and first to be fronted by guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard along with bassist David Gein and drummer Clay Neely punctuates the beginning of a new era for the Massachusetts trio. If the advance listen to closing track “Onyx and Obsidian” is anything to go by, they could very well be at their most potent yet, and though I’d hardly consider myself an impartial observer, as a fan of the band, this is one I’ve been looking forward to for a while now. More to come. Track stream here.
8. Moss, Horrible Night (April 2)
I’ve yet to hear the complete album, but UK trio Moss seem poised to surprise with a cleaner vocal approach on Horrible Night, their first offering since 2008′s impressive Sub Templum LP and two EPs in 2009, so in addition to wondering how they’ll pull it off, the level of the shift remains to be seen. That is, how big a deal is it? Should I call my mom? Is this something grandma needs to know about? Time will tell, but for it having been five years since the last time a Moss record reared its doomly head, it seems only fair to give the band a little breathing room on their evolution. More info and video here.
9. Mars Red Sky, Be My Guide EP (April 8)
How glad am I that French fuzz rockers Mars Red Sky have a new EP coming? Well, I’m not as happy that it’s coming as I am that it’s frickin’ awesome. The trio keep the weighted bass tones that gave so much depth to their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), but they’ve also clearly set to work expanding the formula as well, adding stomp to second track “Seen a Ghost” and an eerie repetitive sense to side B closer “Stranger,” while also broadening their melodic reach and taking claim of whichever side of the line they want between fuzz rock and heavy psychedelia while remaining so much more to the ears than either genre descriptor can offer to the eyes. At half an hour, my only complaint with it is it’s not a full-length album. Video trailer and info here.
10. Blaak Heat Shujaa, The Edge of an Era (April 9)
A sample of the poet Ron Whitehead — who also featured on Blaak Heat Shujaa‘s late-2012 debut EP for Tee Pee Records, The Storm Generation (review here) — comes to clarity just in time for the gonzo Boomer poet to let us all know that, “America is an illusion” (that may be, but it’s an illusion with an army of flying killer robots), and from there, the youngin’ desert transplants embark on a low-end-heavy freakout topped with sweet surf rock guitars and set to use in intricate, sometimes surprisingly jagged, rhythmic dances. Mario Lalli of Fatso Jetson guests, Scott Reeder produced. Review is forthcoming, but till then, there’s more info here.
11. Devil to Pay, Fate is Your Muse (April 9)
Fate is Your Muse serves not only as Indianapolis rockers Devil to Pay‘s Ripple Music debut, but also as the double-guitar foursome’s first outing since 2009′s Heavily Ever After. With tales of lizardmen attacks and the alleged end of the world, it’s got its fair share of personality, and set to the chugging riffs, melodic vocals and straightforward heavy grooves, that personality still goes a long way. I’ll have a review up before this week is out (I hope), but still, I wanted to make sure to include Devil to Pay here too, since their songs command both attention and respect. To wit, I just can’t seem to get “This Train Won’t Stop” out of my head. Video and info here.
12. Cough & Windhand, Reflection of the Negative Split (April 15)
Virginian doomers Cough and Windhand share a hometown in Richmond, a love of volume, a bassist in Parker Chandler and now a label in Relapse Records, so yeah, a split makes sense. Reflection of the Negative will be Windhand‘s first release through Relapse ahead of their sophomore full-length, scheduled for later this year (info here). For Cough, this split marks their first outing since 2010′s An Introduction to the Black Arts split with UK masters The Wounded Kings (review here), and they’ll present the 18-minute “Athame,” while Windhand bring forth “Amaranth” and “Shepherd’s Crook.” More info here.
13. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Mind Control (April 15)
What the last Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats album, 2011′s Blood Lust (semi-review here), did so well was capture the atmosphere and the grainy imagery of late ’60s/early ’70s psychedelic horror and put it into audio form. For that, Blood Lust earned massive praise, but I still think that without the central core of songwriting underneath the genre trappings, it would’ve fallen flat. When it comes to Mind Control, the question waiting to be answered is if the band wants to stick to the blueprint they’ve established or go brazenly into uncharted weirdness. I’m not really sure they can lose, either way. Info and music here.
14. Kadavar, Abra Kadavar (April 16)
Their debut on new label Nuclear Blast and the quick-arriving answer to my pick for 2012 debut of the year, Abra Kadavar arrives with plenty of anticipation leading the way. The retro-rocking German trio have their work cut out for them in following that self-titled, but however it turns out in the comparison, it will be fascinating to learn how Kadavar develops the band’s sound and whether or not they prove able to push the boundaries of their aesthetic while simultaneously setting a new standard for promo photos. New video here.
15. Spiritual Beggars, Earth Blues (April 16)
I guess when it comes to these long-running Swedes, everybody’s got their favorite lineup, their favorite tunes, etc., but for me, I’m just impressed that Michael Amott — now more than 20 years on from starting Spiritual Beggars as a side-project while still in grindcore pioneers Carcass — still has any interest in keeping the classic rock Hammond-loving outfit grooving. Their last outing, 2010′s Return to Zero (review here), was the first to feature vocalist Apollo Papathanasio, formerly of Firewind, and though those songs were solid, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re more settled in on Earth Blues when it drops via InsideOut Music on April 16. More info on the forum.
16. Beastwars, Blood Becomes Fire (April 19)
Alternating between periods of brooding intensity and all-out crushing heaviness, the second full-length from New Zealand’s Beastwars, Blood Becomes Fire, is nasty, nasty, nasty. It’s nasty when it’s quiet and it’s nasty when it’s loud. It’s the kind of record you put on and you’re like, “Damn that’s nasty.” And you’re not wrong. The four-piece — touring shortly with Unida — upped their game even from 2011′s self-titled debut (review here), and for anyone who heard that record, you know that’s saying something. I’m still in the “getting to know it” phase, but so far all that nasty feels pretty right on. More info here.
17. Ghost, Infestissumam (April 19)
Man, this one just kind of happened, huh? I suck — and I mean S-U-C-K suck — at keeping up with band hype. I’m the dude who hears the record three months later and goes, “Yeah, I guess that’s cool,” as countless reviews here can attest, including the one for Ghost‘s 2010 debut, Opus Eponymous, but with the Swedish cult heavyweights, all of a sudden I turned around and blamo, major label deal, semi-name change to Ghost B.C., and enough slathering over the impending Infestissumam to make the first album seem like less than the hyperbole it was treated to initially. Funny how that happens. Out in April? I’m sure I’ll review in June and go, “Yeah, I guess that’s cool.” More info on the forum.
18. One Inch Giant, The Great White Beyond (April 19)
Now signed to Soulseller Records, Swedish heavy rockers One Inch Giant will unveil their debut full-length on April 19 and as three of my favorite words in the English language are “Swedish heavy rockers,” I’m excited to find out how this Gothenburg four-piece follow-up their Malva EP, and if they can capture some of the extreme dynamic they brought to their live show when they toured the US last summer — a run of shows that included a stop at SHoD. Hard not to pull for a band after they come over to play club dates. More info and music here.
19. The Heavy Co., Midwest Electric (April 20)
It was actually the other day writing about The Heavy Co.‘s Midwest Electric that I had the idea for this feature, so however high the profile might be for some of these albums — Ghost walks by on their way to cash a check — it was these unpretentious Hoosier rockers and their new outing, Midwest Electric, that started me off. From what I’ve heard so far, the new collection sounds a little more confident in exploring psychedelia than did the trio’s 2011 debut EP, The Heavy (Please Tune In…) (review here), so I’m looking forward to hearing if and how that plays out over the course of the whole thing. Video trailer here.
20. Gozu, The Fury of a Patient Man (April 23)
I have an interview slated for later this week with Gozu guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney, and I’m even more excited for this time than I was when we last spoke, around their 2009 Small Stone debut, Locust Season (review here), since in everything but its goofball song titles, the sophomore outing marks a huge developmental step in the band’s melodic reach and songwriting chemistry. Stay tuned for that interview and check out the Bandcamp stream included with the album review here.
21. Yawning Man & Fatso Jetson, European Tour Split 7″ (April 26)
Note: I don’t actually know that April 26 is the day that what’s sure to be 2013′s most desert-rocking split is due to arrive, I just know that it’s Fatso Jetson and Yawning Man‘s European tour split, and that’s the day the Euro dates start — with performances at Desertfests London and Berlin, to be more specific. Given both the greatness of Fatso Jetson‘s last record, 2010′s Archaic Volumes (review here), and of Yawning Man‘s own 2010 outing, Nomadic Pursuits (review here), the bands’ shared lineage and the relative infrequency of their touring, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to hope that, even for a single, they pull out all the stops. And starts. And riffs. More info on the forum.
22. Serpent Throne, Brother Lucifer (April 29)
Philly-based instrumental heavy rockers Serpent Throne will follow-up 2010′s White Summer/Black Winter (review here) with Brother Lucifer, and while no one can ever really know what to expect, it’s a safe bet that the dual-guitar outfit will have the solos front and center once again. Having seen them do a couple new songs back in December, I can’t blame them in the slightest. Looking forward to letting these songs sink in for a while and having those solos stuck in my head. Track stream here.
23. Melvins, Everybody Loves Sausages (April 30)
Hey wow, a Melvins covers album. Finally, an opportunity for the band to let their hair down and go wild a bit, right? I mean, at long last, they can really feel free to indulge a little and explore their musical roots in a free and creative way. Okay, you get the point. In all seriousness, it’s a pretty cool idea and anything that teams the Melvins with Scott Kelly to do a Venom song is probably going to be a worthy cause. The most amazing part of it is they haven’t already done a version of “Black Betty.” More info on the forum.
24. Revelation, Inner Harbor (April 30)
Their most progressive outing yet and their first album since 2009, Revelation‘s Inner Harbor (review here) is bound to surprise some who thought they knew what to expect from the Maryland doom stalwarts who double as the classically rocking Against Nature. Good thing Inner Harbor had a digital release last year through the band’s Bland Hand Records to act as a precursor to this Shadow Kingdom CD issue. Rumor has it vinyl’s on the way as well, so keep an eye out, since John Brenner‘s guitar tone should be heard on as natural-sounding an apparatus as possible. More info here.
Okay, so you’re saying to yourself, “Golly, that’s a lot of stuff.” You’re absolutely right. But even as I was typing up this feature, I got word of a new Queen Elephantine full-length coming in April, so even as much as this is, it’s not everything. And that’s not even to mention May, which will bring a new Shroud Eater EP, a new Kylesa record and a new Mark Lanegan collaboration, among however much else. Tons of stuff to keep your ears out for, and like I said way back at the top of this thing, if you have something to add, a comment’s always appreciated.
Why, it doesn’t seem that long ago that German retro rockers Kadavar were posting a clip for “All Our Thoughts” from their self-titled debut. Oh wait, that wasn’t that long ago. Only about two weeks ago, in fact. Nonetheless, time and album cycles invariably march on, and the band has unveiled a video for the charming, bouncing new single “Doomsday Machine,” taken from their sophomore outing and Nuclear Blast debut, Abra Kadavar. The snare sound may have changed, but the overall ethic seems to have remained the same.
Whatever else German retro heavy specialists Kadavar do, they take a good picture. Fortunately they also rock, so you can imagine that once Abra Kadavar, their Nuclear Blast label debut and second offering behind last year’s self-titled, drops, it’ll live up to the high standard set by their facial hair below. If such a thing is possible. The album cover was unveiled today, and it goes a little something like this:
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 5th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Congratulations to German retro powerhouse Kadavar on signing with Nuclear Blast. The trio will reportedly issue a new album in 2013 through the venerable imprint, also home to Graveyard, Witchcraft, Orchid and fast becoming a monolith of riffy heaviness. Dig it:
KADAVAR Sign with Nuclear Blast/Reveal Album Details!
Nuclear Blast Records are more than happy to announce the signing of Germany’s most authentic and passionate psychedelic hard rock combo of our day – KADAVAR! It was with 2012’s eponymous debut album Kadavar that the three-piece from Berlin cast a spell on all fans of solid riff-driven yet doom-like 70’s hard rock à la BLACK SABBATH or PENTAGRAM. Marrying this with the spacy psychedelic approach of early HAWKWIND, and mixing in a distinct own touch while preserving their icon’s warm vintage charm, can be considered the trio’s key to success – astoundingly high vinyl sales and support shows for bands such as SLEEP, SAINT VITUS, PENTAGRAM and ELECTRIC WIZARD as well as stunning festival gigs at Stoned From The Underground, Yellowstock and Fusion Festival, among others, underline KADAVAR’s status as one of the scene’s most exciting acts to watch in 2013!
Nuclear Blast’s Head of A&R Andy Siry comments on the signing: “We’re delighted to bid KADAVAR welcome to the Nuclear Blast family! It was with great interest that we’ve watched their first steps from the founding of the band to the release of their debut record. Eventually, the last-mentioned tipped the balance and led us to offering them a record deal, as we truly believe that these three gentlemen are masters of their craft and can righteously be considered the leaders of the German occult rock movement. We’re looking forward a lot to seeing what the future will bring for KADAVAR!”
Regarding the signing with the Swabian label, drummer Tiger states with a wink: “Even though the relationship between people from Berlin and Swabians is usually considered rather… uneasy, we’re taking the first step to reconciliation: We’re very happy that our second studio album will be released via Nuclear Blast, who can look back on an impressive history. After an eventful year, we’ve locked ourselves up in the studio for the past two months in order to work on said record. The result elates us – we can’t wait ‘til the release date has finally come!”
KADAVAR’s upcoming new album was recorded in drummer Tiger’s studio, where he also took care of the production, mixing and mastering. It’s set for a release this Spring and will be entitled Abra Kadavar. As far as the album recordings are concerned, the multi-talent explains: “After last year’s final show had been played in mid-December, we started writing new songs. We’ve already had a couple of finished tracks in May 2012, but those were eventually released on a split-LP with AQUA NEBULA OSCILLATOR in November 2012, which is why we started at square one again. As we knew that there was no procrastination and no going back for us, we sat down for two weeks straight to finish composing with total commitment. We’re perfectly happy with the outcome – I’d even say that Abra Kadavar comprises the best compositions we’ve created to date. The songs are more diversified, the ideas feel more spontaneous. Moreover, we’ve tried to capture much more of our live energy, which is why we’ve recorded almost everything all together in one room, with the amps turned up to the max – solely the vocals and a handful of guitar solos were added afterwards.”
Posted in Reviews on January 25th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
It was the second night of Graveyard and The Shrine‘s US tour and something of a victory lap for the Swedish forerunners of retro heavy, whose 2012 offering, Lights Out (review here), greatly expanded the soulful side of the band’s approach without — if the crowd assembled at Underground Arts in Philadelphia was anything to go by — alienating their fanbase or falling prey to accusations of going soft or betraying expectation. Lights Out is plenty raucous, as the Gothenburg foursome demonstrated once they took the stage, and the band showed why their reception has been so welcome over the last several years of crossover underground success. Because they rock, that’s why.
I arrived at Underground Arts absurdly early, parked outside and waited for the 9PM doors to open. I know people in Philly. I’m not a complete stranger in the town, and I say this not to tout social connections like I’m not some fucking misanthrope who spends his whole life in front of a keyboard, but just to point out that I had options I could’ve probably exercised instead of, say, sitting for 90 minutes and staring at my phone, obsessively lurking on the forum or reading hard-hitting speculation about the Yankees’ prospects this coming season. I could’ve called somebody and gotten out of my car. It could’ve happened. But on the other hand, it was like 10 degrees out. Cold leads to immobility.
I was downstairs — because here’s a shocker: Underground Arts is actually technically a basement venue despite being able to hold 1,000 people — before the doors opened and waited around with the other early-types, who were right to wonder why no one was being let in to drink even as the DJ had already begun to spin ’70s obscurities from heavy lore. As usual, the issue was dropped once they started letting everyone through and soon, soon enough, Venice Beach retro punkers The Shrine appeared to run smiling through a set of their heavied-up no-frills jams. They pretty clearly dig what they do, and I like to watch that, even if their sound is more suited to an empty pool in SoCal summertime than Philly in January.
The bulk of what they played I recognized from their 2012 Tee Pee debut, Primitive Blast (review here), and I’d seen the trio before opening for Honkyand Fu Manchu in NYC, so I had some vague idea of what to expect, but it’s always different seeing a band after you’ve heard the album, and where so much of my impression of The Shrine had been toward the skate-punk end — perhaps because that aesthetic factors so highly in their presentation; both guitarist/vocalist Josh Landau and drummer Jeff Murray wore shirts bearing the logo of Thrasher magazine — I guess I’d forgotten how thick their sound actually was. Landau shredded through his Marshall, true enough, but it was , bassist Courtland Murphy‘s Sunn providing the foundation on which the songs rested.
And as quick as I was to relate Primitive Blast to Black Flag – not inappropriately, in the case of some of the material — their sound live was actually much fuller and less raw than their grainy video for “Whistlings of Death” would lead one to assume. Album opener “Zipper Tripper” and closer “Deep River (Livin’ to Die)” were memorable highlights, though The Shrine moved quickly enough that they probably could’ve played everything off the record had they so desired (and if they didn’t). As I said above, it was the second night of the tour, so front to back there were aspects of the show’s operation that will probably be tighter in a couple more nights, but The Shrine‘s set delivered more than I could ask for and more than anything else gave me the impression that their real potential isn’t to capture the essence of early ’80s hardcore punk — all but impossible — but to grow into something new and individual based off that, similar to how Graveyard and a (very select) few others have been able to do with ’70s heavy rock. I look forward to seeing how it works out.
I’d chosen to hit Philly for the show instead of Manhattan of Brooklyn for two reasons: The crowd at Bowery Ballroom when Graveyard came through just over a year ago with Radio Moscow (review here) and fond memories of Underground Arts from seeing The Company Band there over the summer (review here). I won’t have been at either New York show to know for sure whether or not I made the right choice, but my inclination as Graveyard hit the stage at 11PM and blasted through 90 minutes of blues rocking supremacy was that the extra road time was justified.
Actually, maybe “blasted” isn’t the right word, because where after 2011′s Hisingen Blues(review here), they’d amassed a short catalog of mostly blistering classic rockers, the songs almost terminally upbeat and jagged in their Zeppelin crotchal thrust, Lights Out is simply a more diverse album atmospherically, with subdued, building numbers like “Slow Motion Countdown” and “Hard Times Lovin’” — both of which were played in Philly — to complement the rush of a song like “Seven Seven” or “Goliath.” Their 2008 self-titled had some of that moodier edge, and Hisingen Bluesdid as well on “Uncomfortably Numb,” which they also played, but its most resonant moments were the testimony of “Ain’t Fit to Live Here” or the title-track, drummer Axel Sjöberg challenging the rest of the band to keep up with him and guitarist/vocalist Joakim Nilsson — and his throaty falsetto — rising to the occasion.
With the siren that launches the album as their intro, they opened with “An Industry of Murder” from Lights Out, and if nothing else, it was clear that everybody had heard the record. That would prove to be the case throughout the 15-song setlist (it was numbered), which covered all three of their albums. Wider distribution for the last two through Nuclear Blast, the momentum of touring and growing repute are doubtless the cause of that. I’ll freely admit to not getting on board with what they were doing until the second record, despite having heard the first, but either way, they made the most of it on stage. Guitarist Jonathan Ramm had several instances of blowing out his Orange head — Landau‘s Marshall was brought in as a replacement and sounded fine, but they tried again with the Orange and met with similar results further into the set — and that derailed the initial push of “An Industry of Murder” into “Hisingen Blues,” which, since it was followed by Lights Out‘s fastest track, “Seven Seven,” clearly wasn’t where they wanted the break to take place.
Still, these things can’t be helped sometimes. Nilsson, Sjöberg and bassist filling in for Rikard Edlund jammed out for a bit while Ramm and the stage crew tried to sort out his amp situation, and before long, “Seven Seven” revived the energy of the set and carried into the downshift of “Slow Motion Countdown.” I thought this was an especially bold inclusion, since so much of what makes that song such a high point of Lights Outis the Rhodes, mellotron and piano added to the guitars, bass and drums, but Graveyard made it work, and where Nilsson had seemed rushed in “Hisingen Blues,” the slower tempo allowed him to work his voice more, much to the song’s benefit. It made a solid lead-in for “Ain’t Fit to Live Here,” “Buying Truth (Tack & Förlåt)” and “Uncomfortably Numb,” a trio from Hisingen Blues beginning with the opener that were each more welcomed than the last. They dipped back to the self-titled for “As the Years Pass by, the Hours Bend” and returned to Lights Outfor “The Suits, the Law and the Uniforms,” which was rough — though lent extra presence by the bassline — but still grooving and “Hard Times Lovin’,” which Nilsson introduced as, “the most beautiful love song you’ve ever heard.”
I stood directly in front, just about in the middle, and the press of the crowd behind me was such that I’d have a line of bruise across my thighs from being pushed into the stage. This was enough at several points to make me think maybe I should head into the back and watch the remainder of the set from a more comfortable vantage, but to Graveyard‘s credit, they kept me where I was the whole time. “Hard Times Lovin’” turned out to be a highlight of the night, followed by “Thin Line” and “Goliath” (yes, those leads killed) to close out the regular set. After a couple minutes and some fervent chanting from the crowd, the band reemerged from backstage and hit into Hisingen Blues closer, “The Siren.”
The place went off. I continued to get pushed forward with nowhere to go. So what did I do? Motherfucker, I leaned back, trustfall-style. Among the few benefits of being a gentleman of such ample proportion is the knowledge that, if I want to go backwards, I’m going. That eased the pressure some and all was fine till some beardo decided it was time to stagedive, jumped up from the side and took my head with him on his way to the floor. After being summarily punched by his body, he caught my sweatshirt — and considerably more painfully, my hair — with him and then all of a sudden I was crouched over, caught and moving one way without really any choice in the matter. “The Siren” seemed 20 minutes long. Eventually whatever part of that dude was attached to my already-thinning-and-not-at-all-needing-to-be-ripped-out hair was unattached and he went on his way. It was… not boring.
He wasn’t the last, but thankfully everyone else was either tiny or going the other way or both. “Endless Night” from Lights Out and “Evil Ways” from the self-titled followed as a closing duo, the latter with an excellent jam included, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if by the end of this tour Graveyard are closing with “The Siren.” That got the biggest response and seemed the most fitting, with the “Tonight a demon came into my head/And tried to choke me in my sleep” chorus igniting even more of a singalong than had the rest of their cuts.
Whatever they do or don’t do with the order though, it was a quality set, 90 solid minutes that wrapped at 12:30AM and sent me back into the cold night for a two-hour ride home that I made shorter the best way I know how — by speeding. I guess Graveyard will have that effect on you.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 22nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Interested to get some thoughts on this one, if you’ve got a minute. Austin, Texas, natives Scorpion Child have signed to Nuclear Blast for the release of their first album, about which you can find the details below. Record’s due in May, like the headline says.
Below that, you can see a lyric/performance video of the cut “Polygon of Eyes,” from the record. The band certainly seems to fit with Nuclear Blast‘s recent splurge of ’70s-worship worship, with a vintage metal sound, rightly compared to Rainbow, Zeppelin, etc. I guess I’m on the fence after just hearing the one track and will have to hear the full LP to make up my mind, but if you’ve got an opinion, please feel free to share.
Here’s the info and clip:
SCORPION CHILD SIGNS TO NUCLEAR BLAST ENTERTAINMENT; ANNOUNCES DEBUT ALBUM DETAILS
Attributes in music are known to be cyclical. Every few years, a band comes along who borrows just enough from the revered past to bring a new infusion of vitality to the musical present. SCORPION CHILD’s sound invokes a time when guitar-driven rock ruled radio’s airwaves, when being hypnotized by a frontman and his bandmates in a concert arena was one of life’s ultimate main events. A five-piece from Austin, Texas, SCORPION CHILD have spent the last few years perfecting both their songwriting and stage show. Guitarists Chris Cowart and David Finner deliver their finessed twin guitar attack with experience older than their years; bassist Shaun Avants and drummer Shawn Alvear are steadfast sentinels of their driving rhythm section; and lead singer Aryn Jonathan Black fronts the psychedelic rock cavalry with a passion & voice reminiscent of the early eras of Robert Plant and Ronnie James Dio.
“I’ve always wanted to hear new musical ingredients within a classic heavy sound,” states vocalist AJB. “It’s great to witness captivating performances where both the live show and the band’s recorded material can complement one another. The heavy-prog sounds of Uriah Heep, Hairy Chapter, and the epic delivery of early Rainbow showcases these crossovers brilliantly and gave us all honest – yet relentless – sonics to aspire to. That’s why it’s important for us as a band to maintain spontaneity while putting a special emphasis into integral hooks.”
This May, Nuclear Blast Entertainment will release SCORPION CHILD’s self-titled, full-length debut. Produced and arranged by Chris “Frenchie” Smith (The Answer, Jet, And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, The Toadies, Dax Riggs), the album uses analog recording technology to organically capture a hybrid of nine, hook-filled chapters of heavy psych rock. The goal? To breathe new life into a neglected yet still important musical heritage.
Dangerous guitar riffs, soul-ridden bass lines, and thunderous drums with powerful rock vocals as lead conductor convey the on-stage swagger of SCORPION CHILD and will prepare you for the live experience awaiting you when the band tours the U.S. and Europe throughout 2013.
To watch the lyric video for “Polygon Of Eyes” or to stream the song, visit SCORPION CHILD at www.facebook.com/scorpionchild
Scorpion Child track listing is:
1. Kings Highway 2. Polygon Of Eyes 3. The Secret Spot 4. Salvation Slave 5. Liquor 6. Antioch 7. In The Arms Of Ecstasy 8. Lover’s Leap 9. Red Blood (The River Flows)
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 7th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Well, no way this one isn’t a win. Norway’s Enslaved will hit North American shores just at that point when you think winter will never end, and they’re bringing Pallbearer and Ancient VVisdom along to support. Enslaved will be promoting their most excellent Riitiirrelease (review here), and I’m already anxious at the thought of seeing “Roots of the Mountain” live. Call the greatness assumed if you want — this is going to fucking rule.
The PR wire sends details:
Norwegian progressive extreme metal band ENSLAVED will return to the U.S. and Canada in early 2013 for a headlining, 20-show “Winter Rite” tour joined by U.S. doom metallers Pallbearer and occult rockers Ancient VVisdom as openers. Kick-off is in Philadelphia on January 30th with the tour closing in New York City on February 22nd.
ENSLAVED rhythm guitarist/songwriter/lyricist Ivar Bjørnson checks in from Norway about the upcoming trek:
“North America has become like a second home-shore to us; the rising support we’ve been getting for the last albums and tours has been amazing! We’re more than ready to come over again and play our new album Riitiir live to show that the new material is extremely well-fitted for a live setting, and to reflect the enthusiasm and dedication we’ve been getting from the fans over there! See you on the road!”
Confirmed dates for ENSLAVED’s headlining “Winter Rite 2013” tour are:
01/30/13 Underground Arts – Philadelphia, PA 01/31/13 Ottobar – Baltimore, MD 02/01/13 Mr. Smalls Theatre – Pittsburgh, PA 02/02/13 Magic Stick – Detroit, MI 02/03/13 Reggie’s Rock Club – Chicago, IL 02/04/13 Mill City Nights – Minneapolis, MN 02/06/13 Marquis Theater – Denver, CO 02/08/13 The Troubadour – West Hollywood, CA 02/09/13 Slim’s – San Francisco, CA 02/10/13 Branx – Portland, OR 02/11/13 The Highline – Seattle, WA 02/12/13 Biltmore Cabaret – Vancouver, B.C. – CANADA 02/14/13 The Pawn Shop – Edmonton, AB – CANADA 02/15/13 Dickens Pub – Calgary, AB – CANADA 02/16/13 The Exchange – Regina, SK – CANADA 02/17/13 Osborne Village Inn – Winnipeg, MB – CANADA 02/19/13 The Opera House – Toronto, ON – CANADA 02/20/13 Les Foufounes Electriques – Montreal, QC – CANADA 02/21/13 The Sinclair – Cambridge, MA 02/22/13 Bowery Ballroom – New York, NY
RIITIIR, ENSLAVED’s twelfth studio album, debuted at #8 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart in October with the band’s highest first-week sales in their career in the United States. The album is already a contender for many “Best of” year-end lists around the world for 2012. Pick up a copy at http://bit.ly/enriitlp and see why that is.
ENSLAVED will be headlining Scion A/V’s Roadburn Records showcase on Saturday, November 10th, 2012 at The Roxy in West Hollywood. Also performing are White Hills, Scott Kelly, Earthless, and Astra. RSVP to the All Ages event here:www.scionav.com/METALSHOW
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 1st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Word just came down the PR wire of Graveyard 2013 US tour dates. The band are not to be missed live, and I for one am looking forward to hearing how they bring their new album, Lights Out(review here), to life on stage.
See you in Philly:
GRAVEYARD: U.S. TOUR DATES ANNOUNCED!
FINALLY: People in the States can stop complaining about not having some real goddamned rock ‘n’ roll shows to go to. Plus, our neighbors to the north & south have good reason to grab their passports and head for their borders.
Rejoice Faithful Disciples of the Scuzz and Fuzz of Analog Sound for I say unto you that Sweden’s finest, GRAVEYARD, are coming back to headline in the U.S. to support their new album, Lights Out, due out in North America on November 6th!
Launching on January 23rd in Boston, Massachusetts, the tour will feature special appearances in Seattle, Washington and Houston, Texas from The Devil’s Blood and Royal Thunder.
Confirmed tour dates are:
01/23/13 Royal Boston – Boston, MA 01/24/13 Underground Arts – Philadelphia, PA 01/25/13 Bowery Ballroom – New York, NY 01/26/13 Black Cat – Washington, D.C. 01/27/13 Music Hall of Williamsburg – Brooklyn, NY 01/29/13 The Orange Peel – Asheville, NC 01/30/13 Exit/In – Nashville, TN 01/31/13 The Masquerade – Atlanta, GA 02/01/13 The Hi-Tone Café – Memphis, TN 02/02/13 The Firebird – St. Louis, MO 02/04/13 The Shelter – Detroit, MI 02/05/13 Lincoln Hall – Chicago, IL 02/06/13 7th Street Entry – Minneapolis, MN 02/08/13 Larimer Lounge – Denver, CO 02/09/13 Urban Lounge – Salt Lake City, UT 02/11/13 The A Club – Spokane, WA 02/12/13 Wonder Ballroom – Portland, OR 02/13/13 Neumos – Seattle, WA *featuring The Devil’s Blood and Royal Thunder* 02/15/13 Slim’s – San Francisco, CA 02/16/13 Slim’s – San Francisco, CA 02/17/13 El Rey Theatre – Los Angeles, CA 02/18/13 The Casbah – San Diego, CA 02/19/13 The Crescent Ballroom – Phoenix, AZ 02/21/13 Emo’s East – Austin, TX 02/22/13 Granada Theater – Dallas, TX 02/23/13 Fitzgerald’s – Houston, TX *featuring The Devil’s Blood and Royal Thunder*
Additional shows will be announced soon.
With legions of devoted fans, you’d best buy your tickets ASAP ‘cause these dates WILL sell out.
Posted in Reviews on October 11th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Not to put too strong a spin on it, but Graveyard’s first two albums were a revelation. The Gothenburg-based retro rocking foursome unveiled their full-length debut via Tee Pee in 2008 and never looked back, garnering a response that had guardians of pop culture high and low singing their praises and heralding their analog-worship fuzz, soulful authenticity and ceaseless motion with hyperbolic aplomb. Years on the road and bureaucratic delays left some space between the two, but when Hisingen Blues (review here) surfaced through Nuclear Blast in 2011, the reaction was no less fervent, only bolstered by Graveyard’s first US headlining tour and numerous fest appearances, videos, etc. Their influence took hold quickly and gave upbeat purpose to the vintage-minded European heavy rock underground – not out of context with what their countrymen in Witchcraft had done on their first three albums, but directed elsewhere sonically – and theirs became a name to be dropped not only among 2011’s best records, but in terms of bands having a genuine impact on the scope of their genre. Lights Out, the third Graveyard full-length and second for Nuclear Blast, has a lot to live up to in this regard. The four-piece band of vocalist/guitarist Joakim Nilsson, bassist Rikard Edlund, drummer Axel Sjöberg and guitarist Jonathan Ramm showed an utter mastery of their form their last time out, and about 18 months later, they return with no real choice but either to expand their aesthetic, branch out into new territory, or face redundancy at the hands of something they’ve already done as well as they (or, arguably, anyone else) could. One might think that would lead the songs on Lights Out to be under-baked, or hurriedly composed or recorded – on first listen to the nine-track/35:33-collection, that was what I expected, anyhow – but they’re not. Instead, they’re the most patient, most expansive Graveyard songs to date, with bolstered arrangements and a sense of drama to them that the band has never before touched on, Nilsson emerging as a charismatic focal point even as cuts like “Slow Motion Countdown,” “Hard Times Lovin’” and the thoughtful closer “20-20 (Tunnel Vision)” introduce a burgeoning creative breadth.
Of course, nothing without sacrifice. The tradeoff is that but for a few of these cuts – the early “Seven Seven” is suitably reckless and the single “Goliath” was well chosen in this regard – much of the frenetic boogie that seemed to be writ large across Hisingen Blues is given over to more complex movements, and true to its name, Lights Out is darker, moodier, lonelier, but also sexier, effectively conveying a wider emotional scope. The raucous testimony of the last album’s title-track or closer “The Siren” has largely dissipated, but one finds precedent for quieter, more brooding stretches in songs like “No Good, Mr. Holden” and “Uncomfortably Numb,” the latter of which serves as a sort of ethical forbear particularly to the strained-relationship narrative of “Hard Times Lovin’,” though at 4:27, exactly what’s gone is that takeoff into riotous classic rock guitar work. But the dynamic in Graveyard’s songwriting hasn’t disappeared, only changed. Underscored by organ, “Hard Times Lovin’” is an effective ballad with a build unto itself, rising and falling much as the earlier “Slow Motion Countdown,” and conveying a focused approach amid the overarching flow of the album. That said, as much as the overall balance of Lights Out may have shifted from the band’s 2011 outing, there remains in the material that sense of teetering dangerousness, that feeling of shaking the songs so hard at times they might just come apart from the inside out, and that continues to make Graveyard an exciting and engaging listen. Impeccably structured throughout and produced with analog warmth and clarity, opener “An Industry of Murder” makes its threat before it even begins, a fading in siren serving as the underscore for a creeping guitar line that gets underway once the push of Sjöberg’s bass drum sets the course of its initial build. At the minute mark, the verse line is introduced, and immediately, Nilsson’s vocals are a central element – intelligent and timely/timeless social commentary is nothing new for the band, though I don’t know if it’s ever been quite as vitriolic as it is here in “An Industry of Murder,” the unbearably catchy “The Suits, the Law and the Uniforms” or “Goliath” – and as they mount the sweep into the chorus, the vibe is more foreboding in no small part because of that intro, but still rife with motion and deft rhythmic shifts. Culmination comes after a second chorus in the form of a from-the-ground-up break and build that hits its payoff in irresistible and surprisingly metallic thrust as Nilsson pushes his voice to Eric Wagner-esque range for the lines “In history lies the future/Your empire will fall.” It’s as powerful as anything Graveyard have yet constructed in their career.
They keep that momentum going through the solo and a final chorus, ending cold at the peak of a rough-hewn psychedelic churn, and drop quickly into the more prevalent low end of “Slow Motion Countdown,” slower, more wistful, with open-ended guitar lines and a simple-enough beginning soon complemented by mellotron in a hint of the grandiose chorus to come. At 1:59, “Slow Motion Countdown” bursts to life – not in the sense of taking off to vintage ‘70s shuffle, but in a more assured, soul-based push. Again, it’s not that Graveyard have lost their dynamic sensibility, they’ve just begun a process of expanding it. Nilsson is more of a frontman than he’s ever been in the chorus to the 5:35 track, which is the longest on the album, and ultimately it’s his insistent cadence that keeps the song grounded in groove, though that’s not to underplay the excellent snare march from Sjöberg, whose performance throughout Lights Out is crucial. The verse/chorus dynamic is no less exciting the second time around for knowing what’s in store, the string sounds feeding into the longing finally made desperate, and a following bridge and instrumental outro revival only enhance the emotionality on display, which soon gives way to the brashness of “Seven Seven,” the shortest and most manic piece of Lights Out’s whole that once again shows not only the range of craft present in Graveyard’s work at this point, but also their ability to set their songs next to each other in a way that highlights same while also creating a complete, classic full-length flow in the process. Something much easier said than done, but stopping to appreciate it will likely result in “Seven Seven” leaving you behind, as the track moves quickly to its hook, past it, through it again and then gone, the immediacy of its verse standing in sharp contrast to the relatively languid beginnings of “An Industry of Murder” and “Slow Motion Countdown,” and Nilsson’s gruffer vocal a far cry from the fragility shown roughly 45 seconds earlier. At 0:23, he even throws in a quick “ooh” grunt that has wound up being one my favorite blips on the record. The structure of the song is roughly the same as “Slow Motion Countdown,” but the context more or less as opposite as it can be and still be in Graveyard’s sphere. I’m glad I don’t have to choose between one side of the band or the other.
Posted in Features on September 14th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
It makes for a pretty vivid scene: In the waiting room of a maternity ward in a Norwegian hospital there sits a man with long hair and a big beard. The room, like most places in a hospital where they let the public go, it smells sterile and is brightly lit, even at night — and it’s Norway in December, right between Christmas and New Year’s, so it’s night a lot — and like most men in maternity ward waiting rooms, the man looks worried. But he doesn’t bite his nails, or tap his fingers, or scratch his head, or jerk his legs. He’s got his phone out and he’s using it to write music.
The man is Ivar Bjørnson. He’s the guitarist and one of two founding members remaining in progressive black metal progenitors Enslaved, and the piece of music he’s writing will not only serve as his daughter’s introduction to the world, but also the resoundingly triumphant final stretch of the song “Roots of the Mountain,” one of many highlight moments spread throughout the eight component tracks of Enslaved‘s 12th full-length and third for Nuclear Blast, Riitiir (review here). Fitting that such a part should be composed in that situation — the thematic tying together the diverse music and lyrics of Riitiir is man’s need for and reliance on ritual for comfort, and one imagines that having been in Enslaved since he was a teenager a good deal of his personal rituals are wrapped up in it. Indeed, the guitarist acknowledges this about himself and his fellow founder, bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson, with whom he started the band in 1991, when he says, “It’s impossible to say where Enslaved stops and our personalities start.”
Appropriate too, then, that Enslaved should have handled the basic engineering job for Riitiir on their own, with work split between Bjørnson‘s home studio and the professional studio run by guitarist Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal and keyboardist/clean vocalist Herbrand Larsen, since the farther inward their songs look, the more intimate and personal they become, no matter what kind of cosmic largesse may emerge in their layers. Once Bjørnson, Kjellson, Isdal, Larsen and drummer Cato Bekkevold had put their tracks to tape, the band returned to Sweden to mix with Jens Bogren at Fascination Street studios as they did with 2010′s Axioma Ethica Odini (review here), which was a stunning progression particularly in its second half from the more stripped down direction they seemed to be taking on 2008′s Joe Barresi-helmed Vertebrae. Perhaps their collaboration with the Opeth, Katatonia and Amon Amarth mixer is becoming a bit of a ritual as well. All the better, since if Riitiirproves anything, it’s that there’s strength to be gained from familiarity, from comfort and repetition.
And yet, Riitiiris also inarguably the farthest out Enslaved have pushed themselves in their progression, so while some of the elements are recognizable and the final output is definitively their own, they’re continuing to reshape what that means. Along with new sounds , experiments in structure and an enduring lack of limitation by genre or doing what’s expected of them — I don’t even know what that would be at this point, except perhaps to step forward from where they were last time out — Enslaved have begun to further highlight the dynamics involved in repetition, introducing a part and then reintroducing it later, somewhat changed, or, as in the case of “Roots of the Mountain,” not being afraid to make the most of a genuinely approachable hook. As a result, the songs have gotten longer in general and more pointed in their development. While ritual may factor in thematically and in terms of process, Enslaved are by no means going through the motions.
Because it’s less a reflection on me than the conversation itself — that is, because it feels less like I’m puffing up my own ego — I don’t mind saying what follows is one of the best interviews I’ve ever conducted. Open, honest and thoughtful, Bjørnson generously gives insight into the Enslaved‘s workings, both in terms of the day-to-day banalities and the more abstract creativity driving the material, while also offering his opinions on the future of the music industry in the age of pay-to-stream, the shift toward more extended material (which is actually a return to earlier days, but in a much different stylistic context), tour plans in support of Riitiir, their Roadburn experience, the state of Norwegian microbrewing and much, much more.
All told, it’s a little over 6,700 words, so if you read it in pieces, I get it. However you take it on, please keep in mind Riitiiris out Oct. 9 in the US (Sept. 28 in Europe), and please, as always, enjoy.
The complete Q&A with Ivar Bjørnson is after the jump.
Posted in Reviews on August 20th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
In some ways, Enslaved’s twelfth album, Riitiir, picks up right where the last one left off. 2010’s Axioma Ethica Odini (review here) was the Norwegian progressive black metallers’ most expansive outing yet. balancing a more traditional (as far as that kind of thing goes with Enslaved) first half with a second that found them pushing the boundaries of influence into doom and even a burgeoning psychedelic sensibility, all driven by their overtly metallic context but given melodic breadth that even pivotal works of their new era like 2004’s Isa or 2006’s Ruun began to point toward and which was all-too-briefly affirmed on last year’s subsequent The Sleeping Gods EP. Since 2004, the band has been putting albums out more or less like clockwork, and despite having moved to Nuclear Blast for each North American release since Vertebrae in 2008 – Riitiir is their third for the label – they’ve been consistent in lineup while exceeding themselves in terms of quality of output. Riitiir – also written as the all-caps RIITIIR, and derived from the words “rites” and “rituals,” themes that encompasses much of the record’s lyrics and musical sensibilities – was recorded across a variety of studios in the band’s native Norway, and overseen by the band personally, but to mix, they teamed with Jens Bogren of Fascination Street Studios in Sweden and listening to the various layers at work on the eight tracks, it’s no mystery why. Along with their most prevalent melodies yet, Riitiir also boasts the complex arrangements vocally and instrumentally that have been a hallmark of the band’s latter-day work. It’s an album you can listen to three times in a row and hear something different each time, whether it’s a tempest guitar lead in “Death in the Eyes of Dawn” from Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal or IvarBjørnson or a subtle harmonic shift in the vocals of keyboardist Herbrand Larsen, whose voice has become more and more a fixture of Enslaved’s work since he joined the band in 2004.
And certainly pre-Larsen albums like 2001’s Monumension or 2003’s Below the Lights were not without their progressive sensibilities, but the work the band has been able to do since his arrival is in a different league entirely. There will be those who disparage their growth as some shedding of black metal trueness. I’m not one of them, and I think to limit Enslaved to one genre or another at this point is to undercut the value of what they do, especially in the songs of Riitiir. Bassist Grutle Kjellson still has his trademark rasp and Ice Dale offers no shortage of monstrous and deathly growls, but it’s the lushness that Larsen brings in his clean singing and synth work – Bjørnson contributes synth as well – that ultimately define some of the most memorable parts of Riitiir, be it the rush of “Veilburner” where he tops a near-punkish beat from drummer Cato Bekkevold or the subdued finale of closer “Forsaken,” the atmosphere of which is no less lonely than its title. Throughout, Enslaved bask in their own indulgences and put them to good use, leaving no avenue in the songs unexplored or underdeveloped. Perhaps unsurprisingly, as a result of this, the individual songs are longer than one might have come to expect from the band, the halfway marker “Roots of the Mountain” – a landmark in more than just its track placement – being the second track to top nine minutes behind opener “Thoughts Like Hammers” and the closer clocking in at a weighted 11:15. That’s not quite the 16 minutes that “793 (Slaget Om Lindisfarne)” took to open 1997’s Eld or the lengths they went to on their 1994 debut, Vikingligr Veldi, but on average, they’ve pushed further time-wise to match their expanding scope on Riitiir, and even on the title-track here, which at 5:26 is the shortest of the bunch, it’s time well spent.
While it’s a little ironic that Enslaved would be around long enough to bring them full-circle from starting off with longer tracks, delving into shorter bursts and then working their way back up over the course of their last several albums, the principle difference between Riitiir and the several outings preceding it is the effectiveness of the blend of influences. Axioma Ethica Odini, which was one of 2010’s best albums, make no mistake, kept the bulk of its progressivism for its second half, and it wasn’t until the last two tracks – “Night Sight” and “Lightening” – that the staggering melodic reach of the band in its current incarnation really unveiled itself. It’s in that regard most of all that Riitiir picks up where Axioma Ethica Odini left off, as there seems to be a willful shedding of concern for expectation happening right from the start of “Thoughts Like Hammers.” The progression is more rock-based and bombastic. The first verse is a genuine stomp, Bekkevold holding back as he does a lot throughout from unleashing blasts or double-bass drumming, and Kjellson starts off Riitiir with a vicious slew of cosmically-themed lyrics. All seems to be going according to plan until the chorus opens up, Larsen comes in on vocals – he’d done a kind of call and response during the verse as well, but the chorus is all him, and in layers – and the majesty really takes hold that the fabric of the record is made apparent. Enslaved won’t be burying their progressive elements this time around, but neither do they shy away from crushing heaviness, as “Thoughts Like Hammers” shows as it approaches its midpoint break, Kjellson and Larsen once more in a call and response, but over a more vicious instrumental burst. An airy solo follows and long synth lines sustained under Bekkevold’s tom runs while Kjellson gurgles out a few more lines, then shouts back a spoken part and a more melodic guitar takes hold to lead back to the initial verse and chorus interchange. If it sounds confusing, it is. If it sounds like a lot going on, it is. Among Riitiir’s impressive achievements, not falling apart halfway through has to be considered right at the top.
Presumably though, if that fate was going to befall a band like Enslaved, it would’ve happened at some point before their twelfth album in. “Thoughts Like Hammers” makes an intriguing opener, showing right away that the band have pushed themselves even further in terms of their arrangements and structuring since the last time out, and that their level of performance, as ever, is second to none. Larsen in particular has surfaced as a defining presence in the band’s sound, and his increased range and confidence on Riitiir only makes the material richer. He appears vocally on every track on the album – he was on almost all of Axioma Ethica Odini as well but for the instrumental interlude – but more than that, he is clearer, more forward and more accomplished-sounding than ever before. Because of the complexity of the arrangements of which he’s a part with Kjellson and Isdal, it wouldn’t be fair to call him a “lead” vocalist, but he makes choruses like that of “Thoughts Like Hammers,” “Death in the Eyes of Dawn” and “Roots of the Mountain” powerful and memorable in ways they simply wouldn’t be without his input. The three distinct voices of Enslaved each have a role to play in the overall balance, but with the bass-heavy groove of “Death in the Eyes of Dawn,” it’s Larsen’s that most stands out, however killer the opening gurgles sound. The song develops some of the spoken ideas of the opener, using throaty semi-whispers to top a bouncingly proggy guitar line during the bridge before Larsen takes over for the pre-chorus and chorus. Isdal returns for the next verse and the cycle seems ready to repeat itself, but a cut to a solo section instead of the Larsen-topped pre-chorus acts as an unpredictable shift and a quick section of effective stops leads to a heavier overall push, Bekkevold announcing its coming with fervent snare rolls and Kjellson coming on for an all-cylinders burst that shifts back to the progressive bounce with hardly any announcement at all. Again, it works. The initial verse/pre-chorus/chorus/post-chorus arrangement repeats, and in the last minute of the song, a stretch of acoustic guitar is introduced to carry the flow into “Veilburner,” which is shorter at 6:46 and more simpler overall in its structure.
Given what Enslaved have so far done on Riitiir, it would just about have to be. Whatever shift it makes to a more established pattern, however, “Veilburner” more than makes up for with its chorus. If modern Enslaved has a prototype arrangement, “Veilburner” is probably it – Kjellson fronting the verse and Larsen taking over for a galloping chorus – but the chorus has a second stage and it’s among the most grand of any on Riitiir. They repeat it twice, Larsen holding the fore once he’s come to it, repeating the lines, “I cannot tolerate being held in the dark/I need to see/I will the flames,” in his kind of drawn out, dreamy melody, seemingly unaffected by the rush beneath him, and when the song opens up and the low-mixed growling accompanies, there’s hardly a finer example of the offsetting melody and brutality to be found in modern metal that is still worthy of the name. Kjellson returns for a final verse and the song cuts to noise that bleeds directly into “Roots of the Mountain,” which stands among “Thoughts Like Hammers” and “Forsaken” as one of the several peaks of the record. At 9:17, it is grandiose, but not inflated. Solid. It is the catchiest chorus on Riitiir and ties together not only the theme of rituals, but the career-long battle-mindedness of Enslaved with their cosmic side and even a flourish of inward wisdom-seeking. Again, it sounds like a lot and it is, but it’s all there. And for those who’d relish the head-down pummel of Enslaved at their blastbeaten heaviest, that’s there too, right in the beginning of the song, which shoves its way through the first verse before you even realize it. It’s only when Bekkevold evens out his bass drum and Larsen hits a newfound falsetto in the chorus that “Roots of the Mountain” makes itself fully known. They rush through another verse and get back to the chorus in good time – rightly so – and let loose a guitar solo before bringing in a different progression, also led out by a solo, this time in an ascending line that leads to a break of Kjellson’s bass and the drums (which sound sampled if they aren’t). The guitars kick in and Larsen spits some raw philosophy, and for a minute, it genuinely seems like the song is in its final stretch.
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 31st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
This press release was posted earlier in the day on the forum as well, but I thought the news warranted an appearance here as well. Swedish retro mavens Graveyard will release their second album for Nuclear Blast (third overall), titled Lights Out, on Oct. 26 in Europe and Nov. 6 in North America.
Graveyard Announce New Album Title and Release Dates
Swedish demigods of bluesy, psychedelic rock GRAVEYARD have set Lights Out as the title for their third studio album, due out in Europe on October 26th and in North America on November 6th.
“’Lights Out’ sums up the feeling of the new album,” states GRAVEYARD drummer Axel Sjöberg, “and a feeling that we have that these times that we live in are strange times… where no one really sees anything straight or the way they are.”
In regards to the album artwork, Sjöberg adds: “We all know that both we and pretty much everyone else was really excited about the cover of Hisingen Blues, so we had to come up with a really strong idea to match the strength of that cover. It’s just about finished now, but even without having seen the final version, we are convinced that no one will be disappointed. We’ve worked with several people who all added their part, and as the saying goes in Sweden, ‘The sum of the parts is bigger than the parts alone.’ So sharpen your raven’s hatches and get ready for Lights Out!”
We’re more than halfway through 2012, and we’ve already seen great releases from the likes of Orange Goblin, Pallbearer, Conan, C.O.C., Saint Vitus and many others, but there’s still a long way to go. The forecast for the next five months? Busy.
In my eternal and inevitably doomed quest to keep up, I’ve compiled a list of 13 still-to-come releases not to miss before the year ends. Some of this information is confirmed — as confirmed as these things ever are, anyway — either by label or band announcements, and some of it is a little bit vaguer in terms of the actual dates, but all this stuff is slated to be out before 2013 hits. That was basically my only criteria for inclusion.
And of course before I start the list, you should know two things: The ordering is dubious, since it’s not like I can judge the quality of an album before I’ve heard it, just my anticipation, and that this is barely the beginning of everything that will be released before the end of 2012. The tip of the fastly-melting iceberg, as it were. If past is prologue, there’s a ton of shit I don’t even know about that (hopefully) you’ll clue me into in the comments.
Nonetheless, let’s have some fun:
1. Colour Haze, She Said(Sept./Oct.)
I know, I know, this one’s been a really, really long time coming. Like two years. Like so long that Colour Haze had to go back and remake the album because of some terrible technical thing that I don’t even know what happened but it doesn’t matter anymore. Notice came down yesterday from guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek that the recording is done and the long-awaited She Saidis on the way to be pressed on vinyl and CD. Got my fingers crossed for no more snags.
2. Enslaved, RIITIIR (Sept. 28)
The progressive Norwegian black metallers have put out 10 albums before it, and would you believe RIITIIRis the first Enslaved album that’s a palindrome? Kind of cheating to include it on this list, because I’ve heard it, but I’ve been through the record 10-plus times and I still feel like I just barely have a grasp on where they’re headed with it, so I think it’ll be really interesting to see what kind of response it gets upon release. Herbrand Larsen kills it all over these songs though, I will say that.
3. Mos Generator, Nomads(Oct. 23)
Hard for me not to be stoked on the prospect of the first new Mos Generator album since 2007, especially looking at that cover, which RippleMusic unveiled on Tuesday when it announced the Oct. 23 release date. It’s pretty grim looking, and even though Mos once put out a record called The Late Great Planet Earth, I’ve never thought of them as being particularly dark or doomed. I look forward to hearing what Tony Reed (Stone Axe, HeavyPink) has up his sleeve for this collection, and if he’s looking to slow down and doom out a bit here, that’s cool too. I’ll take it either way.
4. Ufomammut, Oro – Opus Alter(Sept.)
No, that’s not the cover of Oro – Opus Alter, the second half of Italian space doom grand masters Ufomammut‘s Oro collection — the first being Opus Primum (review here), which served as their Neurot Recordings debut earlier this year. That cover hasn’t been released yet, so I grabbed a promo pic to stand in. I’m really looking forward to this album, though I hope they don’t go the Earth, Angels of Darkness Demons of Lightroute and wind up with two records that, while really good, essentially serve the same purpose. I’ve got my hopes high they can outdo themselves once again.
5. Witchcraft, Legend(Sept. 21)
I guess after their success with Graveyard, Nuclear Blast decided to binge a bit on ’70s loyalist doom, signing Witchcraft and even more recently, Orchid. Can’t fault them that. It’s been half a decade since Witchcraft released The Alchemist and in their absence, doom has caught on in a big way to their methods. With a new lineup around him, will Magnus Pelander continue his divergence into classic progressive rock, or return to the Pentagram-style roots of Witchcraft‘s earliest work? Should be exciting to find out.
6. Wo Fat, The Black Code(Nov.)
After having the chance to hear some rough mixes of Texas fuzzers Wo Fat‘s Small Stone debut, The Black Code, I’m all the more stoked to encounter the finished product, and glad to see the band join the ranks of Lo-Pan, Freedom Hawk and Gozu in heralding the next wave of American fuzz. Wo Fat‘s 2011 third outing, Noche del Chupacabra (review here), greatly expanded the jammed feel in their approach, and I get the sense they’re just beginning to find where they want to end up within that balance.
7. Blood of the Sun, Burning on the Wings of Desire(Late 2012)
As if the glittering logo and booby-lady cover art weren’t enough to grab attention, Blood of the Sun‘s first album for Listenable Records (fourth overall) is sure to garner some extra notice because the band is led by drummer/vocalist Henry Vasquez, better known over the past couple years as the basher for Saint Vitus. Whatever pedigree the band has assumed through that, though, their modern take on classic ’70s heavy has a charm all its own and I can’t wait to hear how Burning on the Wings of Desire pushes that forward. Or backward. Whatever. Rock and roll.
8. Swans, The Seer(Aug. 28)
This one came in the mail last week and I’ve had the chance to make my way through it only once. It’s two discs — and not by a little — and as was the case with Swans‘ 2010 comebacker, My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky(review here), the far less cumbersomely titled The Seeris loaded with guest contributions. Even Jarboe shows up this time around, doing that breathy panting thing she does. Unnerving and challenging as ever, Swans continue to be a litmus for how far experimentalism can go. 3o years on, that’s pretty impressive in itself.
9. Swallow the Sun, Emerald Forest and the Blackbird(Sept. 4)
Apparently the Finnish melo-doom collective’s fifth album, Emerald Forest and the Blackbird, came out earlier this year in Europe, but it’s finally getting an American release in September, and as I’ve always dug the band’s blend of death metal and mournful melodicism, I thought I’d include it here. Like Swans, I’ve heard the Swallow the Sun once through, and it seems to play up more of the quiet, weepy side of their sound, but I look forward to getting to know it better over the coming months.
10. My Sleeping Karma, Soma (Oct. 9)
Just signed to Napalm Records and tapped to open for labelmates Monster Magnet as they tour Europe performing Spine of Godin its entirety this fall, the German four-piece are set to follow-up 2010′s Tri(review here) with Soma. Details were sketchy, of course, until about five minutes after this post initially went up, then the worldwide release dates, cover art and tracklist were revealed, so I updated. Find all that info on the forum.
11.Eagle Twin, The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale(Aug. 28)
Way back in 2009 when I interviewed Eagle Twin guitarist/vocalist Gentry Densley about the band’s Southern Lord debut, he said the band’s next outing would relate to snakes, and if the cover is anything to go by, that seems to have come to fruition on The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale, which is set to release at the end of next month. As the first album was kind of a mash of influences turned into cohesive and contemplative heavy drone, I can’t help but wonder what’s in store this time around.
12. Hooded Menace, Effigies of Evil(Sept. 11)
You know how sometimes you listen to a band and that band turns you on in their liner notes to a ton of other cool bands? I had that experience with Finnish extreme doomers Hooded Menace‘s 2010 second album, Never Cross the Dead (review here), except instead of bands it was hotties of ’70s horror cinema. Needless to say, I anxiously await the arrival of their third record and Relapse debut, Effigies of Evil. Someone needs to start a label and call it Hammer Productions just to sign this band.
13. Yawning Man, New Album (Soon)
Make no mistake. The prospect of a new Yawning Man album would arrive much higher on this list if I was more convinced it was going to come together in time for a 2012 release. As it is, Scrit on the forum has had a steady stream of updates since May about the record — the latest news being that it’s going to be a double album — and Scrit‘s in the know, so I’ll take his word. One thing we do know for sure is that the band in the picture above is not the current Yawning Man lineup. Alfredo Hernandez and Mario Lalli out, Greg Saenz and Billy Cordell in. Bummer about the tumult, but as long as it’s Gary Arce‘s ethereal guitar noodling, I’m hooked one way or another.
Since we closed with rampant speculation, let me not forget that somewhere out there is the looming specter of a new Neurosis album, which the sooner it gets here, the better. Perhaps also a new Clutch full-length, though I doubt that’ll materialize before 2013. And that’s a different list entirely.
Thanks for reading. Anything I forgot or anything you’d like to add to the list, leave a comment.