Posted in Whathaveyou on July 19th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
In addition to joining the fray at Psycho Las Vegas — and no doubt causing a large portion of it — High on Fire will tour this fall alongside metal innovators Meshuggah. The heavy thrash kingpins continue to support 2015’s Luminiferous (review here), released on eOne Heavy, and have already done US and Aus/NZ tours this year. You know, in addition to the many, many times they’ve been back and forth the country prior to 2016. I might’ve expected them to hit Europe this autumn, but it’s hard to argue with the company they’re keeping of late, and as we’ve seen develop, Europe’s becoming an increasingly crowded market.
From the PR wire:
HIGH ON FIRE Joins Forces with Meshuggah for Fall North American Tour
World-renowned heavy metal power trio HIGH ON FIRE has announced a fall North American tour as direct support to Sweden’s Meshuggah. The titanic team-up will kick off on October 11 in Atlanta, GA, running through November 6 in Silver Spring, MD. Tickets will go on sale Friday, July 22.
Featuring vocalist and guitar hero Matt Pike, drummer Des Kensel and bassist Jeff Matz, HIGH ON FIRE continues to tour in support of its most recent album, Luminiferous.
HIGH ON FIRE tour dates:
August 27 Las Vegas, NV House of Blues (as part of Psycho Las Vegas w/ Blue Oyster Cult, Alice Cooper, etc.) September 25 San Francisco, CA Stinky’s al Fresco
(w / Meshuggah) October 11 Atlanta, GA Tabernacle October 12 St. Louis, MO The Pageant October 13 Nashville, TN Marathon Music Works October 16 Houston, TX House of Blues October 17 Dallas, TX House of Blues October 19 Los Angeles, CA The Novo October 24 Denver, CO Ogden Theatre October 25 Lawrence, KS Liberty Hall October 26 Minneapolis, MN Mill City Nights October 28 Chicago, IL House of Blues October 29 Detroit, MI The Majestic October 30 Toronto, ON Phoenix Concert Theatre October 31 Montreal, QC Metropolis November 2 Boston, MA House of Blues November 3 New York, NY PlayStation Theatre November 4 Philadelphia, PA Trocadero Theatre November 5 Sayreville, NJ Starland Ballroom November 6 Silver Spring, MD The Fillmore
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 14th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Lurkers of the world — unite! Californian doomers Swamp Witch celebrate the bleak and the misanthropic on their 2015 sophomore outing, The Slithering Bog, and as it happens that very same album has been confirmed for a vinyl release through Tribunal of the Axe later this month. It was originally issued on cassette by Transylvanian Tapes, but this will be the first LP edition and there are three colors. It’s been two years since the album was first recorded in San Francisco, so where the band might be on a follow-up could go either way, but for those who can’t get enough of that crawling feeling with their heavy, Swamp Witch should make you feel right at home, as much as anything ever does.
Preorders available now. To wit:
SWAMP WITCH: Punishing Doom Practitioners To Release The Slithering Bog Via Tribunal Of The Axe
SWAMP WITCH is the culmination of psychedelic substances, occult practices, and a collective interest in dark, strange, and ultimately hallucinogenic music originally devised with the sole intent to commit and record ritualistic extremities through heavy music only for the night of 9/9/09. In the aftermath, members found themselves pressed to continue the slow-burning drudgery sparked on that September ninth into the months that followed, leading to shows, recordings, band members towing themselves out of the smog from Central Valley, California and into Oakland (and Arcata, respectively) and finally, the vinyl release that recollects the original material of that evening: Gnosis.
The punishing, murky layers protruding from 2011’s Gnosis recordings drip with the trance-laden, drug-induced efforts of ’70s psychedelia compressed into the claustrophobic toil and painful repetition of ’90s sludge. This concept of Gnosis actually seems more akin to H. P. Lovecraft’s ideas of psychosis and derealization as the only thing the feeble human mind can experience when confronting truth (cosmicism), as opposed to gnosis in the classic, transcendental sense of the term. In other words, it’s fucked up.
While Gnosis was being released on cassette, and finally, vinyl, SWAMP WITCH had already begun preparing material for what was to become the six claustrophobic tracks that make up The Slithering Bog. To help achieve this, former drummer Dirk V took up second guitar duties and helped further emphasize the psychedelic undertones heard in Gnosis, while collaborator Adam T. took on drums. The end result of almost two years of writing proved worthy, as warped landscapes and fungal textures resting somewhere between dream-like and sleep paralysis culminated into The Slithering Bog recording of late 2014.
The decaying sounds of The Slithering Bog were captured during July 2014 at Earhammer Studios in Oakland, California by Greg Wilkinson (Brainoil, Annihilation Time, Noothgrush, et al) and mastered at Trakworx in San Francisco by Justin Weiss (Ludicra, Slough Feg, Cormorant, et al). Initially released on cassette last year via Transylvanian Tapes, the collection of nightmare rituals that made this release so necessary and bizarre has finally oozed its way onto vinyl on three color variants (black, purple haze and swamp green) thanks to Tribunal Of The Axe Records who will unleash the offering later this month.
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 5th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Neurosis release their 11th album, Fires Within Fires, on Sept. 23 via Neurot Recordings. Today, the cover art and tracklisting for the album has been revealed, showing the titles for six included tracks that one can only imagine must at least in part be pretty long, but the cover brings to mind older Neurosis records as well — thinking of The Word as Law and maybe Times of Grace — and they’ve been paying homage to their 30th anniversary all year, so it’s entirely possible that will have played into the songwriting as well, though if one can ever expect anything from Neurosis, it’s forward movement.
Hands down my most anticipated album for the rest of this year.
From the PR wire:
NEUROSIS: MORE ALBUM DETAILS EMERGE AND ARTWORK IS REVEALED FOR THEIR ELEVENTH OPUS, FIRES WITHIN FIRES
Of all that humankind has inherited through our ancestry, no single language has transcended every age as powerfully as music. For thirty years, Neurosis have formed an unbreakable union, channelling that inheritance of sound with great command and authority. Showing their discontent with convention from the very beginning, Neurosis revealed what would become an instinct for transformation in sound and scope. Their sound has become interchangeable with vision of the conscious and unconscious, coexisting in an infinite audial spectrum. A vision that challenged not only the constraints of what listeners, and indeed the band themselves expected, but of themselves as beings. Going beyond the remarkable, Neurosis have become unforgettable.
The journey of their music has found the band relishing the unpredictable, embracing the unknown and exploring the possibility of where the music was capable of taking them. This year finds Neurosis taking a dominant leap with their eleventh full-length, Fires Within Fires. Three decades in the making, and following 2012’s Honor Found In Decay, the album is a testament both to the history and future of Neurosis. In true Ouroborean style, Fires Within Fires gives due to its predecessors while progressing forward into the unfamiliar and formidable. Striking the band’s signature balance between light and dark, beauty and repulsion, dense sonic heaviness and reflective space. Fires Within Fires is succinct, raw and deeply soulful, an all-encompassing reminder to all that transfiguration in sound remains their most commanding and inimitable strength.
Created by Scott Kelly, Steve Von Till, Jason Roeder, Noah Landis, and Dave Edwardson. The album features exquisite album artwork from the renowned Thomas Hooper and the stellar recording work of the group’s longstanding engineer Steve Albini. We are proud to reveal the artwork and track listing for the album below…
TRACK LIST 1. Bending Light 2. A Shadow Memory 3. Fire is the End Lesson 4. Broken Ground 5. Reach
Fires Within Fires is the next powerful step towards a destination that has long been and continues to be the very heart of “becoming” for Neurosis.
Neurot Recordings shall release the album on 23rd September worldwide, more information on pre-orders very soon. In the meantime, here’s where you can experience Neurosis live in the near future, including some newly added Steve Von Till shows…
NEUROSIS LIVE DATES: 10.08.2016 – CZ, Jaromer, Brutal Assault Festival (with Tesa) 11.08.2016 – IT, Brescia, Festa Radio Onda D’Urto (with Tesa) 12.08.2016 – CH, Le Locle, Rock Altitude Festival (with Tesa) 13.08.2016 – NO, Oslo, Oya Festival 14.08.2016 – AT, Vienna, Arena (with Tesa & Ufomammut) 15.08.2016 – GER, Leipzig, UT Connewitz (with Tesa) 16.08.2016 – GER, Hamburg, Gruenspan (with Tesa) 17.08.2016 – NL, Haarlem, Patronaat (with Tesa) 18.08.2016 – BE, Hasselt– Pukkelpop Festival 19.08.2016 – GER, Karlsruhe, Substage (with Tesa) 20.08.2016 – FR, St. Nolff – Motocultor Festival 21.08.2016 – PT, Porto – Amplifest (with Tesa)
STEVE VON TILL SOLO DATES: 10.08.2016 – CZ, Prague – 007 22.08.2016 – PT, Porto – Amplifest, Passos Manuel
Posted in Whathaveyou on June 21st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Neurosis have set a Sept. 23 release date for their new album, Fires Within Fires, via their own Neurot Recordings. It’s fitting that, four years after issuing their last outing, Honor Found in Decay (review here), the occasion should also come at a time when the band are continuing to mark their 30th anniversary, as they did earlier this year with special sets in San Francisco and at Roadburn 2016 (reviews here and here). Fires Within Fires was once again recorded with the band’s longtime producer, Steve Albini at Electrical Audio Studio in Chicago.
Not much more info at this point beyond the title and release date — no art, tracks, audio, or other teasers at this point — but this is my most anticipated album for the remainder of 2016. The fall season is still taking shape, but everyone who knows Neurosis knows that each record is a landmark.
So says the PR wire:
NEUROSIS Reveals Initial Information About Their Eleventh Album; Additional European Live Dates Revealed
As the key events of their thirty-year milestone unfold, NEUROSIS officially announces the name and release date of eleventh full length, Fires Within Fires.
The new album will be released worldwide on September 23rd via their own Neurot Recordings. The announcement of more specific details of Fires Within Fires is imminent, but in the meantime NEUROSIS announces a dozen new live performances across Europe in August, where they will be joined on select dates by Latvia’s fascinating experimental trio, Tesa.
NEUROSIS is in fine form following recent and rapturously received shows in San Francisco and Roadburn, celebrating their thirty-year anniversary. Stand by for further info on Fires Within Fires to be released in the weeks ahead.
NEUROSIS Live Dates: 8/10/2016 Brutal Assault Festival – Jaromer, CZ 8/11/2016 Festa Radio Onda D’Urto – Brescia, IT 8/12/2016 Rock Altitude Festival – Le Locle, CH w/ Tesa 8/13/2016 Oya Festival – Oslo, NO 8/14/2016 Arena – Vienna, AT w/ Ufomammut, Tesa 8/15/2016 UT Connewitz – Leipzig, DE w/ Tesa 8/16/2016 Gruenspan – Hamburg, DE w/ Tesa 8/17/2016 Patronaat – Haarlem, NL w/ Tesa 8/18/2016 Pukkelpop Festival – Hasselt, BE 8/19/2016 Substage – Karlsruhe, DE w/ Tesa 8/20/2016 Motocultor Festival – St. Nolff, FR 8/21/2016 Amplifest – Porto, PT w/ Tesa
Posted in Whathaveyou on April 7th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
I was all set to think of War Cloud‘s new single as their debut, but then — intrigue! A quick clickover to their BigCartel store reveals that not only is “Vulture City” not the Oakland, California, four-piece’s debut single, as posited in their initial communication, but they’ve already got an EP under their collective belt called Hurricane, with upward of five tracks on it. Entirely possible they’ve got a new lineup or something like that, and “Vulture City” is (obviously) my first exposure to the band, but just because it’s the only thing on their Bandcamp page doesn’t mean it’s the only thing they’ve put out. Life lessons all over the place.
First or no, “Vulture City” finds War Cloud digging into an encouraging dual-guitar blend of early thrash and heavy rock and roll, not necessarily out of place with the West Coast’s current riffy boom, but looking for a niche within it. I asked vocalist/guitarist Alex Wein for some comment on the track, and he confirmed that War Cloud will hit the studio again this summer and tour on the West Coast.
Info on “Vulture City,” words from him and the stream of the song itself follow here:
Our latest track, Vulture City, now available here!
Recorded at Different Fur Studios, San Francisco, California. Mixed and mastered by Ron Graves.
Alex Wein on “Vulture City”
War Cloud received the opportunity to record at Different Fur Studios for Converse Rubber Tracks and we wrote Vulture City only days prior. We draw from all eras of rock, bringing Lizzy-like twin guitar leads, driving Motörhead rhythms, and bellowing Pentagram vocals. We are booked to record again in July at Louder studios for various upcoming projects and splits, which will be announced soon, as well as a west coast tour towards the end of Summer.
Alex Wein – Vocals/Guitar Tony Campos – Guitar/Vocals Sean Nishi – Bass/Vocals Joaquin Ridgell – Drums/Vocals
Posted in Reviews on February 11th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Before we get to any question of whether Mondo Drag‘s third album, The Occultation of Light (also their second release on RidingEasy), is the band’s best work, or how it shows them progressing or any of this or that, the first thing to say about it is that it is easily their most accurate LP to-date. What the hell does that mean? Well, their 2009 debut, New Rituals (review here), had no shortage of neo-psych charm, but was formative and didn’t really portray the full breadth of what their sound has become. That’s not taking away from it; the band’s circumstances changed. Recorded in 2012, their 2015 sophomore outing, Mondo Drag (review here), was captured prior to a move from Davenport, Iowa, to Oakland, California, and featured a short-lived incarnation of the band which, by the time the record came out, already had traded its rhythm section for the current one with bassist Andrew O’Neil and drummer Ventura Garcia.
I won’t take away from that album either — it was among my favorites of last year — but as the eight tracks of The Occultation of Light were recorded last year, by Phil Manley (Trans Am, Wooden Shjips), as they were recorded live to tape, and as they were tracked just after the band got off tour, their current lineup of Garcia, O’Neal, guitarists Jake Sheley and Nolan Girard (also synth) and keyboardist/vocalist John Gamino intact, there can be little question that the band’s third offering is their most accurate portrayal yet of where they actually are in their growth, their songwriting and their collective performance.
I won’t say that makes it like a debut, since they’re definitely benefiting here from the several years this lineup has played together and the experience from the two prior LPs, but for what it’s worth, they seem to be in a good place, and their sound is fresh even as it plays off classic ideas throughout the winding opener “Initiation” and the transprogrified “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”-style roll of “Out of Sight.” More even than the self-titled, vintage progressive rock plays a role in Mondo Drag‘s sound here, whether that comes in the twists, underlying shuffle and key solo of the opener or the synth flourish in the subsequent track and the organ/drum lead-in for “Rising Omen,” which should be a highlight for anyone who has missed underrated King Crimson disciples Hypnos 69 as it unfurls a groove languid enough to make it totally natural when Gamino enters for the first verse and half the song is already over.
As much about atmosphere as its later energetic uptick, “Rising Omen” builds as it goes, but remains patient enough so that the immediacy of Garcia‘s bouncing snare at the start of “Incendiary Procession” is a direct contradiction, and one clearly enacted on purpose. Met by keys/synth for a lead in the first half and a noteworthy stretch of chases and stops in the second, it’s an instrumental finish to The Occultation of Light‘s first half that shows diversity in songwriting for exactly how plotted it is in comparison to the cut preceding, which seemed intended as more of a showcase for the band’s psychedelic side and foundation in a natural writing process.
That side will come up again throughout “The Eye” and “In Your Head (Part I & II)” and the near-eight-minute “Dying Light” on side B before “Ride the Sky” (not a Lucifer’s Friend cover) wraps the album, but what’s even more striking about The Occultation of Light‘s back end is how fluidly one piece transitions into the next. Particularly among the first three tracks — “Dying Light” ends cold and “Ride the Sky” picks up from there; not lacking flow, but not shifting immediately one into the other — there are no discernible seams. Also instrumental save for some Hawkwindy spoken word later on, “The Eye” starts with “Moonchild”-style minimalism and from there looses a rich, not-at-all-haphazard psychedelic push, organ and guitar intertwining late en route to the crashing start of “In Your Head (Part I & II),” which starts intense but mellows presumably as it shifts between its two component parts (there’s a stop beat and then all is chill), allowing space for some ethereal verses as it moves toward the end, which “Dying Light” meets quickly with a tense measure of amp noise before exploding into its full vibrancy.
The longest track included at 7:52, it’s also rife with movement throughout, shifting smoothly between its parts early on, riding a choice bassline as it moves toward its middle and building to a full-on prog freakout by about five minutes in, only to end on a line of guitars, keys, bass and drums, the band hitting into a swing riff and bringing it to a quick end before “Ride the Sky” takes hold. Probably not fair to call the shorter piece an afterthought, as its boogieing blend of organ and guitar helps reground The Occultation of Light in its final moments, but it’s obviously not at all geared toward the same kind of expanse as the rest of the side before it.
This too is clearly a purposeful move on the band’s part, since as they’re giving listeners this most accurate glimpse at who they are sonically, that persona they establish here is nothing if not cognizant of the choices it’s making. While it’s only hitting a year after their preceding album, The Occultation of Light is a long time coming from Mondo Drag, and while it builds on what they’ve done before and particularly the progressive stylizations were taking hold with the self-titled, it also finds a core part of their identity in that process of moving forward. It feels like an arrival, but I wouldn’t bet on the band staying put for too long, creatively-speaking.
Posted in Reviews on January 8th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Last day. It’s been some week. When I otherwise would’ve been putting these reviews together yesterday? Jury duty. Yup, my civic responsibility. Add that to a busted laptop, a full-time job and a couple busy days for news, and you have a good argument for why with Quarterly Reviews prior I’ve gotten up at six in the morning over the weekend before and started writing to get as much out of the way as possible. Oh wait, I did that this time too. Well, maybe it was seven.
Either way, as it comes to a close, I want to personally express my thanks to you for checking it out and being a part of what’s become a weird seasonal ritual for me. I hope you’ve found something (or find something today) that resonates with you and stays with you for a long time. I’m pretty sure that’s what it’s all about.
Quarterly Review #41-50:
Satan’s Satyrs, Don’t Deliver Us
Virginian riff-turner trio Satan’s Satyrs passed the half-decade mark with their third album, late-2015’s Don’t Deliver Us (on Bad Omen Records), just one year after their sophomore outing, Die Screaming! crawled up from the foggy ’70s ether. In addition to touring the US with Electric Wizard, with whom Satan’s Satyrs shares bassist Clayton Burgess (also vocals), one assumes the trio spent the remainder of the year mining old VHS discount-bin horror to find inspiration and fitting subject matter for quick-turning cuts like “(Won’t You be My) Gravedancer” and “Crimes and Blood,” but whatever they did, it worked. As “Spooky Nuisance” jams out its Hendrix-via-Sabbath vibing and the subsequent “Germanium Bomb” leans into yet another impressive solo by guitarist Jarrett Nettnin complemented by the fills of drummer Stephen Fairfield, there’s an element of performance to what they do, but whether it’s the proto-doom of closer “Round the Bend” or the motor-chug of “Two Hands,” Satan’s Satyrs find that sweet spot wherein they constantly sound like they’re about to fall apart, but never actually do. For sounding so loose, they are enviably tight.
Sometimes you have an idea for a band, and it’s like, “I’m gonna start a band that puts this genre and this genre together.” In the case of Aussie four-piece Wildeornes, it’s stoner and black metal coming together on their second full-length, Erosion of the Self. I’ll give it to them, they pull it off. I’m not sure the “arising” instead of “rising” in “Serpent Arising” or the “So fucking high!” at the end of “The Subject” are really necessary, but hard to ignore the fact that before they get there, they’ve nodded at Pentagram, Crowbar, and Goatsnakeand included a couple measures of blastbeats, or the fact that throughout the album they effectively tilt to one side or the other, riding atmospheric cymbals over a rolling groove in “The Oblivion of Being” only to tap into Nile-brand Egyptology in “Incantation for the Demise of Autumn” only to affect Erosion of the Self‘s biggest chorus on “Winter’s Eve.” Whatever genre tag they, you or I want to give it, their roots are definitely metal, but the juxtaposition they offer within that sphere works for them.
Raw groove is at the core of what Oakland, California’s Blackwülf offer on their second album and Ripple Music debut, Oblivion Cycle. Divided neatly into two sides for an LP, its 10 track hearken to a stripped-down vision of classic metal on “Memories,” Sabbath and Maiden both a factor but not the end of the line when it comes to the four-piece’s influences. Somebody in this band (if not multiple somebodies) is a punker. The two impulses play out in a balance of grand stylization and lean production – to wit, “Wings of Steel” sneers even as it puts a triumphant foot on the stage monitor and gallops off – and if the punk/metal battle isn’t enough of a tip-off, let the umlaut serve as confirmation that these guys are going to miss Lemmy (who isn’t?), but their methods ultimately prove more indebted to Judas Priest than Motörhead by the time they get down to “Never Forget,” which touches on some vocal soaring as it rounds out that feels especially bold as well as well placed as a late gem before the slamming-groove-into-Iommic-flourish of closer “March of the Damned.” As much as Oblivion Cycle has these elements butting heads across its span, that’s not to say Blackwülf lack control or don’t know what they’re doing. Just the opposite. Their pitting ideas against each other is a big part of the appeal, for listeners and likely for the band as well.
Four years after issuing their second album, 2011’s Galaxia (review here), late-2015’s Phantom of an Era finds Connecticut’s VRSA a considerably more crunch-laden entity. They’ve have some lineup changes in the past half-decade, which is fair enough, but guitarist Andrius and guitarist/vocalist Josh remain prominent, leading the rhythm section of bassist/vocalist John and drummer Wes through prog-metal cascades, quiet parts shifting on a dime to full-volume assaults or holding off and making the change more gradual as tension builds. Either way, if the end-goal is heavy, VRSA get there, whether it’s the rolling, chugging and growling of “Grand Bois” or the winding and crashing and thrashing of the later “Marble Orchard,” or how closer “Baron Cimetière” sets up its waltz rhythm subtly in the beginning only to bash the listener’s skull with it as the inevitable crushing begins anew. There’s plenty of it to go around on Phantom of an Era, which keeps a consistent air of brutality even as it veers into clean, progressive or atmospheric forms.
As they get down elsewhere with hard-driving, Steak-style post-Kyuss desertism, Swiss four-piece Marant have just a couple of more laid back trips perfectly placed along the path of their debut album, High Octane Diesel. The first of them, “Smoothie,” follows opener “Kathy’s Trophy,” and like the later “Road 222,” it has its more raucous side as well, but the big tone-wash happens with the languid heavy psych roll of closer “N’BaCon?,” also the longest track at 8:47. The effect that varying their modus has on broadening the scope of more straightforward songs like “Evil Schnaps” and “The Good the Bad and the Trip” isn’t to be understated. Not only does it show a different side of the emerging chemistry between vocalist Jimmy, guitarist Sergio Calabrian Donkey, bassist Aff Lee and drummer Sir Oli with Snake, but it gives High Octane Diesel an atmospheric range beyond the desert and into an expanse no less ripe for exploration. Whichever method they employ, Marant engage fluidly across their first record.
Lot of noise, lot of fuckall, not too many songs. Connecticut trio Grizzlor manage to pack seven songs onto a 7” release called Cycloptic (on Hex Records), most of which hover on either side of 90 seconds apiece. Dissonance, grit and tension pervade the offering front to back, and between “Sundays are Stupid” and “I’m that Asshole,” there’s an edge of experimentation in the vocals and rhythm as well, some starts and stops that add to the songwriting, though the peeled-skin noise rock of “Tommy” and the build-into-mayhem of “Winter Blows” ensure that the business of punkish intensity isn’t left out. Was it a danger to start with? Nah. Closer “Starship Mother Shit” and the earlier “Life’s a Joke” rolls out a sludgy-style groove, but with sneering and shouting overtop and hard-edged percussive punctuation, there’s no question where Grizzlor got all that aggression from. If Grizzlor are playing in the basement, somebody’s gonna call the cops.
Bull-in-a-china-shop’ing their way through nine mostly-blistering tracks in 43 minutes, Seattle trio Mother Crone make their full-length debut with the appropriately titled Awakening, a record that melts doom and thrash together with the best of earliest Mastodon and comes out of it sounding righteous, wildly heavy and solidly in control of their methods. Don’t believe it? First of all, why not? Second, check out the six-minute “Descending the North” – the third track after a beastly opening with the mysteriously JFK-sampling intro “Silt Laden Black” and “Black Sea” – which chugs and twists and stomps through its first half only to drop out to just-guitar ambience and burst to life again with a shredding solo finish that leads to – wait for it – the quiet guitar-and-vocals only spaciousness of “The Dream,” which marks a twist into a more experimental middle quotient of the album, the subsequent “Halocline” and furiously building “Revelation” more experimental in form, before the sludgy “Turning Tides” and raging “Apollyon” make the job of the nine-minute closing title-track even more difficult in summarizing everything that came before it. A task of which that song makes short work. For the momentum they build and the brashness they execute within that, Mother Crone‘s Awakening is indeed bound to stir.
Italian four-piece Psychedelic Witchcraft issued Black Magic Man in mid-2015 as their debut EP, and wound up selling through both its limited 10” vinyl pressings. For the Twin Earth Records CD version, it’s been expanded by two tracks – still EP length at 27 minutes – and given new artwork that underscores the band’s cultish bent, which comes across strong in the vocals of Virginia Monti, very much at the forefront of the group’s presentation on “Angela” and “Lying in Iron,” the opening duo that give way to the desert-toned push of the title-track, also the strongest hook included. Drummer Daniele Parrella leads the march into the grungier “Slave of Grief,” in which the guitar of Jacopo Fallai will take a noisy forward position in the midsection, giving way later to some blown-out singing from Monti given heft by bassist Riccardo Giuffrè, like 1967 time traveling to 1971. The production on the last two cuts, “Wicked Dream” and “Set Me Free” is audibly different (Vanni also plays bass), more modernly-styled, but the band’s core intent of living up to their name remains true.
Philadelphia and New York rarely agree on anything, but Chimpgrinder and Miscegenator, who make their homes respectively in those burgs, have come together at least long enough to share a split 7” between them, though of course what they do with that time is vastly different. Chimpgrinder proliferate a raw kind of sludge on their two tracks, not completely void of melody, but more geared toward groove than expanse, “Gates” taking off on an lengthy solo and deciding it’d rather not come back, ending in feedback fading to abrasive noise. That’s a fitting lead-in for what NY’s Miscegenator are up to on the other side, as “Hate Hate Hate” leads off a six-song set of visceral grind. Shit is raw and mean, and it d-beats its way either into your heart or off your turntable – it’s not the kind of music anyone ever played because they were feeling friendly. Blink and its gone, but the punk-rooted abrasion is like as not to leave a scar as closer “Tony Randall was Right” goes slicing, which is a fair enough answer to the pummel Chimpgrinder made their own a whopping five minutes earlier.
The self-titled, self-released, self-recorded debut EP from London four-piece Oak saves its burliest impression for “Ride with Me,” the third of its four component tracks. That’s not to say that “All Above” and “Queen of this Land” aren’t plenty dudely – the vocals of Andy Wisbey see to that – but “Ride with Me” feels particularly caked in testosterone. Somewhat quizzical that it also finds guitarist/engineer Kevin Germain, bassist Scott Mason and drummer Rob Emms (since replaced by Sergiu, it would seem) vibing out for a bit of quiet desert noodling in the middle and ending with a primo shuffle of the post-Kyuss variety. Maybe it’s a fine line when one considers the body of work of Orange Goblin as an influence, but it gives a different context to the two songs before and certainly to the stonerly bounce of “Dissolve” after to know that Oak have more in their playbook than the standard beer-pounding and chestbeating. Should be interesting to hear how the various impulses play out as they more forward.
Posted in Reviews on January 7th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
This, I suppose, is where things get interesting. As I normally would’ve been putting these reviews together, my laptop decided it had apparently had too much of riffs and decided to unceremoniously shit the bed. Naturally, this is a bummer of considerable proportion. As to what it means to the rest of this Quarterly Review, I guess we’ll find out over the next two days. For now I’m using an old machine of The Patient Mrs.‘ which, among other charms, has no battery in it and can only run when plugged in. Hope that cable doesn’t come loose. A goodly portion of the music I was going to review in this and tomorrow’s batch, of course, is on my busted, hopefully-soon-to-be-repaired laptop, but with Bandcamps and the fact that it’s not my first time hearing any of these records, I should be able to get by. Still, an element of adventure. Unexpected and shitty. Whether it’s repair or replace, I do not anticipate it will be a cheap fix, so I’ll relieve stress the best way I know how, which is by reviewing 10 albums in a row.
Quarterly Review #31-40:
Saviours, Palace of Vision
Strange to think of the decade that has passed since Oakland dual-guitar four-piece Saviours offered up their first EP, Warship, and yet it’s difficult to imagine the sphere of underground heavy rock without them. Particularly on the West Coast, their skate-thrash-meets-thick-grooves has had a marked influence, and their fifth full-length, 2015’s Palace of Vision (also their debut on Listenable Records), affirms their hard-driving take on classic metal even as “Flesh of Fire” and “Cursed Night” show an acute melodic awareness, the latter in doom-caked guitars and a rolling groove that, for many bands, would be enough to base their entire sound. For Saviours, it answers the gallop of the prior “The Beast Remains” and precedes 6:38 closer “The Seeker,” a vast departure from how raw they once were, but another example of the righteousness that has held steady throughout their growth. They’re an easy band to take for granted, mostly because they’re so damn reliable.
The solo debut from underrated vocalist/guitarist Dave Heumann from likewise underrated Baltimore fuzz-folkers Arbouretum, Here in the Deep (on Thrill Jockey) basks in a glow of ’70s singer-songwriter intent, but tends to surprise with just how much is going on at any given moment. A solo album in name, it’s by no means minimal, even though it sometimes veers into guy-and-guitar methods, as on the sweet instrumental “Leaves Underfoot.” Elsewhere, arrangements of strings, drums, acoustic and electric guitars create a rich variety of mood and depth of mix, wistful on “Ides of Summer” and “Here in the Deep,” joyous on “Greenwood Side” and the pointedly psych-folk “Holly King on a Hill.” The seven-minute penultimate “Ends of the Earth” is as close as Heumann – who’s joined by a swath of players throughout, including the rest of Arbouretum on this track– comes to his main outfit stylistically, but by then the context is so much Here in the Deep‘s own and between that and the sonic clarity permeated all the while, it just becomes one more turn on an album that makes difficult ones seem effortless. Heumann remains a more accomplished songwriter than people know.
Between their underlying currents of grunge in the guitar, metal in the drums and an air of Foo Fighters in the vocals (“Blues in You”), Massachusetts trio The Dead Nobodies are up front about their ’90s influence. The 10-track, Tad Doyle-mixed/mastered The Wake is their third album behind 2014’s Return of the Tide and 2012’s Ride in with Death, and some of the material has been released by the band before on demos and other short offerings. Still, there’s an air of cohesion to the melodies that surface in “Somatic Complaints,” “Pancakes” and the later “Joel Returns.” Self-released on CD, the album eschews the trappings of genre – or at least of subgenre – for the most part and takes a more overarching approach to not-quite-metal, but what they’re doing seems to work for them, so I’m not inclined to argue. More hard rock than heavy rock for those inclined to split hairs, but accessible enough anyway.
Making their debut on Heavy Psych Sounds, UK-based Old Man Lizard revisit a 2012 EP with what’s become their self-titled sophomore full-length. All the tracks from that five-song outing are included here, the order adjusted, and two more are added on in the closing duo “Craniopagus Parasiticus” and “A Gruesome Mess,” and what I don’t know is if the entire album was re-recorded, or it’s the old recording with two new songs tacked on, or all of it was recorded prior to the release of Old Man Lizard‘s 2014 debut LP, Lone Wolf vs. Brown Bear. It matters mostly because Old Man Lizard is good, and it’s a question of which came first to see how their progression is playing out, whether the techishred of “El Doctor” is the latest step or a first. Either way, the band skillfully brings together twanging riffs, neo-prog post-Mastodon crush and a swing that brings to mind the scope of Elder circa Dead Roots Stirring, sounding even more patient on the aforementioned “Craniopagus Parasiticus” than anything before it. If I continue to have questions about the release, the quality isn’t one of them.
An instrumental three-piece based in Hildesheim, Germany, Kalamata make their message pretty plain in the seven tracks of their debut album, You (originally released in 2014, with vinyl new from Pink Tank Records), which line up to form the sentence, “You have to die soon mother fucker.” The music is somewhat less aggressive, Peter Jaun leading the trio with open-spaced riffs as Maik Blümke fills those spaces — see “Have” — with an engaging rumble and drummer Olly Opitz holds tension until the gradual payoff hits. Never an easy thing for a band whose sound is by necessity based on dynamic to make a debut, but Kalamata pull off You without a second thought, making the centerpiece, “Die,” a highlight of classic semi-desert heavy rock that unfolds a patient linear build that leaves closer “Fucker” the task of rolling out the record’s largest nod. No doubt this material would make more of an impact live, but particularly on repeat listens, the depth of tone comes across well and the trio match their aggression to a crisp delivery.
Italy’s futuristically named Unimother 27 – which sounds like the futurebot that raised some dystopian antihero protagonist of a novel/film franchise; I’m sure it’s a reference I’m too ignorant to know – is populated only by multi-instrumentalist and sometimes-vocalist Piero Ranalli. Ranalli, who also plays bass in Insider with his brother, Marco, progs out hard on the solo-project’s fourth full-length and first in eight years, Frozen Information (on Pineal Gland Lab). One expects a certain amount of indulgence on an album of keyboard-laden krautrock explorations, and “Clear Light Healing” certainly delivers on that, but from the opening “Moksha (to Huxley)” through the closing pair of “Hymn to the Hidden God” and “Brief Moments of Eternity,” which features an extended if vague spoken word from Ranalli, Frozen Information remains immersive and, with its quiet, maybe-programmed drums, hypnotic across its span. It is enduringly and endearingly weird, and experimental in a genuine way that most could only hope to be.
The wah that shows up in the second half of “Tad” on Toronto instrumental trio Electric Magma‘s seventh full-length, Silverball, has a distinct mark of Clutchitude to it, but the band owe more to the Fu Manchu pastiche of trad heavy fuzz. Karma to Burn are a name that comes to mind out of necessity more than direct comparison, but the three-piece of guitarist Tim Reesor, drummer Neil Lukewich-Pheaton and bassist Tryg Smith aren’t quite so straightforward, “The Oscillator” tossing a Sleep-style riff into its middle and the later “Sidebar” finding itself on funkier ground altogether. The eight-track/32-minute release seems to set pinball as its central theme, starting with the intro “Silverball” and ending with the harmonica’d “Multiball,” but more than that, they’re preaching a riff-led gospel that the converted should have no trouble getting on board with, the band putting up no pretenses as to doing anything more than having a good time.
Portland, Oregon’s Mane of the Cur would seem to be making a reboot with the three-song Three of Cups EP, some shuffling of lineup establishing them as vocalist Melynda Amann, guitarist Shawn Mentzer, bassist Cory DeCaire, keyboardist “Nasty” Nate Baisch and drummer Blaine Burnham (ex-Lamprey). The five-piece outfit are quick to establish themselves somewhere between classic doom and cult rock, but while Three of Cups doesn’t have the most elaborate production I’ve heard this week, it seems to avoid a lot of the ’70s traditionalism that much of the style embraces so wholeheartedly. That’s not to say the gradually-deconstructed “Kiss of Neptune,” the lightly progressive “Prehistoric Bitch” and the noddingly ethereal “Foolish are Magic” don’t sound natural, just that they don’t sound like it’s 1972. This is to their credit, ultimately, since it only helps Three of Cups give a more individual impression overall, which can’t hurt leading to whatever the band decides to do next.
Polish instrumentalists Major Kong oversaw a vinyl release of their 2012 debut, Doom for the Black Sun (review here), in 2014 on Transubstans, but they’re once again working under their own banner for the four-song Galactic Cannibalism, a 24-minute (or thereabouts) riffpusher that’s set its controls for the heart of oblivion and is happy to tone-crush anything in its path. Guitarist Misiek, bassist Domel and drummer Bolek also released a split with Dopelord in 2015 on which the EP’s closer, “Magnetar,” also appeared, but Galactic Cannibalism has them all on their own, and unsurprisingly they nail it. They’re not doing anything outlandish stylistically, but they effectively conjure and capture big riffs and big nod, varying pace between “Supercluster,” “Diabolic Mind Control” and the mega-chugging “Morlock” to give a sense of flow, but keeping in mind the next plus-sized groove, which seems always to be right around the corner. With two full-lengths out, I’m a little surprised they went for a shorter release rather than a third album, but they make it hard to argue.
Lithuanian two-piece Hellhookah make their debut with the full-length Endless Serpents, a seven-track/35-minute collection of tracks that’s shy neither about showcasing its influences — it caps with a cover of Saint Vitus’ “Born too Late,” for example — nor about rolling molasses-thick grooves one into the next. Recording as guitarist/bassist/vocalist Arnas and drummer Gintare, they meter out dense tonality and traditional formulations in the mission-setting title-track, which follows the somewhat quicker opener “A Storm in the Hidden World.” Rhythmically, they add some shuffle to “No Brakes,” “The Overman’s Eye” and even the midsection of “The Way,” which is the longest cut here at 6:34 and presumably the end of what would be a vinyl side A, but the core sensibility and atmosphere of doom is maintained throughout, and as the instrumental “Free Fall” leads into that aforementioned take on “Born too Late,” there’s no doubt as to where Hellhookah’s heart lies. Formative and raw it may be, but Endless Serpents hits its marks as the beginning of the band’s progression.