Posted in Whathaveyou on February 11th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Riffy Oakland metallers Blackwülf are the latest act to join forces with Ripple Music in what’s been an active early 2015 for the label, who announced last week that they’d also signed Desert Suns and that they’ll release a series of splits called The Second Coming of Heavy beginning in April. Their streak continues with Blackwülf, whose umlaut-laden sans-frills heaviness will make its label debut in June.
To mark the occasion, Blackwülf are streaming the song “Wings of Steel” — the reference to Judas Priest‘s “Painkiller” may or may not be intentional — from the album, and you can hear it via the Soundcloud player under the PR wire info that follows:
Ripple Music announce signing of Californian Quartet Blackwülf
Ripple Music is thrilled to announce the signing of Oakland, California’s Blackwülf to their ever-growing and impressive roster of artists in 2015.
The band – made up of vocalist Alex Cunningham, guitarist Pete Holmes, drummer Dave Pankenier and bassist Scott Peterson – prowl the musical feeding grounds of stoner rock, doom-cloaked soundscapes and vintage heavy metal. Dark sonic forests that provide coverage for their unholy mix of parapsychological anger and aggression, and bluesy head-banging riffs.
With a résumé that includes member stints with bands like San Francisco’s Acid King, The Nads, Tucson’s Naked Prey and Mountain Pig, Blackwülf is already a seasoned predator. Formed in 2012, it wasn’t until January of last year that the band unleashed their debut album Mind Traveller on Wicker Man Recordings, pressed on clear red vinyl and featuring jacket illustrations from acclaimed San Franciscan artist Alan Forbes (Queens Of The Stone Age, The Misfits). The record, much like Blackwülf themselves was unabashed in its typical, “What you see is what you get” aesthetic. Melding heavy stoner riffs to sincere, pure rock indulgence that has since paved the way for the self-released 7” split single ‘Acid Reign’ with Portland’s Black Snake last September.
Offering up another dose of melody and raw power and a nod to the golden old schools of heavy 70s and 80s pre-thrash metal Blackwülf will release their new album this June via Ripple Music.
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 6th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Oakland progressive doomers Secrets of the Sky have signed to Metal Blade Records for the release of their as-yet-untitled second album later this year. The new record, which follows 2013’s To Sail Black Waters, has been recorded and is I guess just kind of hanging out until the schedules align. Figure with Secrets of the Sky‘s blend of black metal, doom, post-whathaveyou and penchant for atmospherics, you’d expect a summer or fall release, but we’ll see if they want to wait that long. Probably depends on tour plans as well, since I doubt Secrets of the Sky would’ve been picked up had their promotional plan involved sitting on ass.
Bottom line? Same as ever: More to come as I hear it. For now, this from the PR wire:
Secrets of the Sky signs to Metal Blade Records
Oakland, CA natives, Secrets of the Sky, have signed with Metal Blade Records and will be releasing their sophomore album in the summer of 2015! The psychedelic, doom act released “To Sail Black Waters” through Kolony Records in late 2013.
After touring in support of “To Sail Black Waters” over the past two years, Secrets of the Sky are prepared to take their next step. They’ve completed tracking their sophomore album at Trident Studios with producer/engineer Juan Urteaga (Testament, Machine Head, Cattle Decapitation). Details and new music will be released this summer.
Secrets of the Sky comments on joining forces with Metal Blade Records: “We are very excited to be joining the Metal Blade Records roster. The Metal Blade legacy, reputation and commitment to heavy music has stood the test of time. The staff we have been working with genuinely “get” what it is that our band is doing and have been tremendously supportive of it thus far. We are also pleased to announce that our second full length will be released in the coming months. The album was again recorded by Juan Urteaga at Trident Studios and is another abstract concept piece. We believe we pushed ourselves in writing it to further develop our sound and we put more focus on creating a collection of songs that flow from beginning to end, while still retaining the cinematic qualities we originally set out with on our debut.”
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 5th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Longtime residents of Kemado Records‘ lineup, Oakland heavy thrashers Saviours have signed to Listenable Records for the release their next album, to be recorded this Spring with none other than Billy “I have the original mixes of Dopesmoker under my desk” Anderson following a quick West Coast tour in March. Saviours mark a decade since the release of their Warship debut EP in 2015, and they’ve been slugging it out the hard way most of that time, heavy touring and a string of four-to-date full-lengths that have kept them in public consciousness as they’ve heralded a new breed of West Coast heavy rock.
It’s been four years since Death’s Procession, their last LP, and I don’t think I’m telling you anything you don’t know when I say the climate for heavy bands has changed in that time and is continuing to change, so I’ll be interested to see what kind of response Saviours gets, and if the band is able to transition to maturity while keeping the brashness that’s served for the last 10 years as the core of their sound.
While I stroke my beard and consider the possibilities fully aware of my own ridiculousness, feel free to dig into this off the PR wire:
SAVIOURS ink deal with Listenable Records!
California’s SAVIOURS continue to forge ahead with towering riffs, colossal rhythm, monumental guitar harmonies and an obsession with the end of times, the occult, psychedelics and arcane. Still building upon the foundations laid by Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Thin Lizzy and Motörhead, SAVIOURS enter their second decade in a new partnership with French label LISTENABLE RECORDS, preparing a new album for a Fall 2015 release.
The band generously comments: “We’re very happy to finally announce our deal with Listenable. They’re true supporters of what we do and have been a pleasure to work with thus far. Since last June we’ve been beating the new songs into submission and now its really starting to take shape and sound killer. There are some doomy crushers and faster ragers in the mix so its sounding like a natural and logical continuation of where we left off with Death’s Procession. In March we’ll play some West Coast shows then begin recording at Type Foundry in Portland with the inimitable Billy Anderson. Can’t wait to get this new record out, its been too fucking long!”
SAVIOURS new album will be recorded this spring for a later 2015 release.
The band will also be in for a short West Coast tour this March.
SAVIOURS Possess The West 2015 Tour 18.03 – LOS ANGELES (CA) Los Globos 19.03 – SAN DIEGO (CA) Soda Bar 20.03 – SAN FRANCISCO (CA) DNA Lounge 21.03 – RENO (NV) Shea’s Tavern
SAVIOURS IS: Austin Barber – Guitar & Vocals Sonny Reinhardt – Guitar & Vocals Scott Batiste – Drums Andy Anderson – Bass
DISCOGRAPHY Full length albums: “Crucifire” – LP / CD (Level Plane, 2006) “Into Abaddon” – LP / CD (Kemado, 2008) “Accelerated Living” – 2LP / CD (Kemado, 2009) “Death’s Procession” – LP / CD (Kemado, 2011)
EP and singles: S/T Demo – Cassette (Self released, 2004) “Warship” – 12″ EP / CDEP (Level Plane, 2005) “Cavern Of Mind” – 12″ EP (Kemado, 2007) “F.G.T.” – 7″ EP (Kemado, 2009) “Burnin Cross” – 7″ EP (Kemado, 2009) “Acid Hand” – 7″ EP (Kemado, 2009) “The Eye Obscene” – 12″ EP (Kemado, 2011) “Crete’n” – 12″ EP (Kemado, 2011)
It’s the shortest track on the album, but “Zephyr” is a pretty efficient summary of what Oakland-based Mondo Drag have going on their self-titled offering (review here), newly released as of Jan. 16 on Kozmik Artifactz. The keys-laden shuffle and resonant psychedelic boogie that fades in to start the record continues as a running theme throughout, and though it’s just a snippet of the fleshed-out and expansive whole, “Zephyr” serves well along with the trippy imagery, animated cover art and stellar photography that get interlaced along with the video itself, the whole thing feeding into a space rock thick on vibe and progressive in tone. So like I say, an efficient summary of the album.
Recorded in Iowa before the band relocated to the West Coast, Mondo Drag features the rhythm section of Zack Anderson and Cory Berry, both formerly of Radio Moscow, who would go on to found Blues Pills after recording with Mondo Drag guitarists Nolan Girard and Jake Sheley and vocalist/keyboardist John Gamino, who have continued on in Oakland, bringing in bassist Ventura Garcia and drummer Andrew O’Neil to help forge the next stage of the five-piece. When output might arrive from Mondo Drag as they are now, I don’t know, but for being the result of a brief period in the band’s history, the self-titled offers a glimpse at something special. So think of the new clip as a glimpse at the glimpse, if that makes any sense. Either way, those must have been some jams that birthed these songs.
Video for “Zephyr” below, followed by the album release announcement and live dates off the PR wire:
Mondo Drag, “Zephyr” official video
HEAVY PSYCH ROCKERS MONDO DRAG RELEASE NEW ALBUM; OFFER FIRST VIDEO SINGLE
Heavy psych / prog band MONDO DRAG has just released their Self-Titled LP and a music video for the single, ‘Zephyr’. The Oakland, CA-based outfit’s heavy-hitting Self-Titled LP has been released via Kozmik Artifactz – on CD and vinyl (180-gram, gatefold LP).
Mondo Drag “Zephyr” Album: Mondo Drag Label: Kozmik Artifactz Artwork by: Robert Beatty Video: Matt Robeson
This album features the lineup of John Gamino (vocals / keyboards), Nolan Girard (guitar), Jake Sheley (guitar), and the rhythm section of Zack Anderson (bass), and Cory Berry (drums), both formerly of Radio Moscow and founding members of Blues Pills.
UPCOMING LIVE DATES January 25 – San Francisco, CA – Brick And Mortar Music Hall February 13 – Oakland, CA – Leo’s Music Club (RECORD RELEASE SHOW) February 27 – San Francisco, CA – Brick And Mortar Music Hall (NOISE POP)
Posted in Reviews on January 8th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
The story gets kind of complicated, so stick with me. In 2010, then-Iowa-based psych/prog five-piece Mondo Drag released their Alive Naturalsound debut, New Rituals (review here), which was full of ’70s-style lysergic serenity, open spaced guitars and heady vibes. It was, in short, a winner. The next year, Mondo Drag‘s labelmates Radio Moscow — who also have their roots in Iowa — imploded. It was the stuff of viral video. Radio Moscow bassist Zack Anderson and drummer Cory Berry moved home shortly thereafter, to Iowa, and got together with Mondo Drag vocalist/keyboardist John Gamino, guitarist Nolan Girard (also synth), and guitarist Jake Sheley. At the same time they were recording as the new rhythm section of Mondo Drag, Anderson and Berry were also putting together Blues Pills with Swedish vocalist Elin Larsson. That band took off, and the bass player and drummer moved to Sweden as a result, but not before Mondo Drag had recorded — mostly live — the seven tracks of their self-titled sophomore outing, which also found Gamino taking the vocalist role, using a host of vintage gear and analog tape to further play into a classic feel. After the departure of the rhythm section, the remaining three members of Mondo Drag picked up and headed for the West Coast, where swing-drummers and warm-toned bassists looking for psych rock acts to join rule the land, and in Oakland, California, they met up with bassist Ventura Garcia and drummer Andrew O’Neil, who along with Gamino, Girard and Sheley, comprise the current lineup of the band.
Got all that?
When you whittle down all the complexities of comings, goings and relocatings, what you’re left with is the fact that Mondo Drag‘s Mondo Drag (released on wax by Bilocation Records) captures a very special moment in the life of the group. It’s a credit to Mondo Drag that it exists at all, and not just because Anderson and Berry would go on to attain a higher profile in Blues Pills (Berry has since left that band as well), but also for the cohesion they managed to make out of all that flux. With ultra-organic atmosphere across the board — guitar, bass, keys, drums, vocals — the seven-song/35-minute run of Mondo Drag is gripping on side A, hypnotic on side B and wonderfully progressive throughout. Later moments like the penultimate instrumental “Pillars of the Sky” call to mind a wash of keys Astra might be able to conjure, but the analog spirit of the recording is relentless, and the album winds up with its own character, warm and welcoming. No need for pretense here, whether it’s the key-led fade-in and shuffle of “Zephyr” or the organ-soaked build of side A closer “Plumajilla,” which comes brilliantly to an instrumental head after swinging verses and choruses that foreshadow the sleazier side B finale “Snakeskin,” the guitars providing a highlight solo to transition into the quiet start of the build. Second cut “Crystal Visions Open Eyes” brings Gamino‘s vocals forward to create an immediately memorable impression, moving quickly through verses of subtle intricacy toward a descending instrumental finish in an early showing of how well the guitar and synth work together throughout, and of course how well that work rests atop the rhythmic foundation of the bass and drums.
Some jabbing starts and stops pervade the three-minute “The Dawn,” but nothing about its garage psych roll is abrasive or interrupting the overarching flow, a boogie solo and run emerging in the midsection to help ease the way into “Plumajilla”‘s two-movement run, which in linear form — i.e. digital — makes a fitting centerpiece solid transition into the second half of the record, which slips into more exploratory material with the tense undercurrent of synth and bass on “Shifting Sands” and the interwoven lines of keys and synth on “Pillars of the Sky,” which follows, taking the best of pre-noodling progressive heavy psych and topping it with a bluesy-but-not-overdone plotted guitar lead. A peaceful mood emerges, the song in conversation with the back half of “Plumajilla,” and the richness of Mondo Drag‘s layering becomes a hook unto itself, despite no actual chorus present. Closer “Snakeskin” arrives quietly but unfolds a Doors-style throb given bluesy fervor not unlike the echoing output of Maryland’s The Flying Eyes, but perhaps more atmospherically dense. A final reaffirmation of swagger at the heart of Mondo Drag‘s Mondo Drag only makes the album more impressive, both in the actual listening experience and in context when one considers how quickly such fluid chemistry emerged between the five players involved, two of whom would soon enough be gone. As Mondo Drag was recorded in 2011/2012, and since the band has moved to the fertile psych ground of the West Coast, one can’t help but wonder what conjurations they may have come up with since these songs were written, and when those might appear and follow-up the lush but humble resonance of this self-titled. More important right now, however, is the achievement Mondo Drag managed in capturing this fleeting incarnation of the band, which will be plainly evident to any among the converted whose ears it reaches.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 15th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
The tones are warm, the vibe is free and the vinyl is limited. Oakland heavy psych outfit Mondo Drag‘s forthcoming self-titled sophomore outing is set to release in January on Bilocation Records. The cover is a triptych, but the album itself seems to break up nicely into two sides of the LP, which will arrive in gatefold form in an edition of 500 copies as the follow-up to 2010’s New Rituals (review here) debut, recorded in 2011/2012 with Blues Pills‘ Cory Berry and Zack Anderson as the rhythm section. A pretty special moment to bring to light, even if that’s not the current lineup of the band, which features vocalist/keyboardist John Gamino, guitarists Jake Sheley and Nolan Girard (also synth), bassist Andrew O’Neil and drummer Ventura Garcia.
MONDO DRAG to release new album on 16/01/15. Pre-sale started!
The highly anticipated second album by Oakland’s finest heavy-psych-rockers MONDO DRAG will see the light of day through Kozmik Artifactz on January 16th, 2015. It contains seven analogue recorded tracks. To be released on CD & high performance 180g vinyl!
Under the spiritual guidance of the forefathers of heavy psych, prog, and proto-metal, Mondo Drag has created an amalgamation of sounds the likes of which have not resounded through the atmosphere for decades. The band’s unique sound, and rare cohesion probably stem from the fact that core members John Gamino, Nolan Girard, and Jake Sheley actually grew up within a one mile radius from each other, attended the same schools, were a part of the same scene, and have played music with each other for 15 years.
Produced, engineered & mixed by Mondo Drag and Patrick Stolley. Mastered by Jim Brick. Artwork by Robert Beatty.
Available as CD & limited Vinyl
VINYL FACTZ – 100x marbled (EXCLUSIVE MAILORDER version) – 200x yellow – 200x black – Plated & pressed on high performance vinyl in Germany – Matt laquered 300gsm gatefold cover – Handnumbered – Mastered for vinyl
TRACKS A1. Zephyr 2:34 A2. Crystal Visions Open Eyes 4:36 A3. The Dawn 3:04 A4. Plumajilla 6:40
B1. Shifting Sands 5:24 B2. Pillars Of The Sky 6:45 B3. Snakeskin 6:10
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 12th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
What’s that you say? High on Fire wanna do a quick run up the East Coast to wind up in Salem, Massachusetts, where they’ll record their next album? Who in the hell would possibly want or dare to stand in their way? The three-piece are about due in 2015 for a new full-length to follow-up 2012’s De Vermis Mysteriis (review here), and if you’re headed north, you might as well put in a week or so of shows and make a thing out of it.
Seems likely you might hear a new song or two as the band kicks themselves into top form on these dates, but whatever they decide to break out, it’s not like you lose by seeing High on Fire, ever, so what the hell? They’re coming through? It’s cold? Screw it, blood’s warm, and they’re always ready to shed a bit of that.
The PR wire brings good news:
HIGH ON FIRE Announce North American Tour Dates
Award Winning Metal Band Set to Record Highly Anticipated New Album
Herculean hard rock heavyweights HIGH ON FIRE have announced winter 2015 tour dates. The globally celebrated heavy metal pioneers will kick off the must-see live performances on January 6 in Birmingham, AL. The just-announced run will continue with stops in Richmond, VA (Jan. 8), Brooklyn (Jan. 9) and more, running through January 14. See below for full routing and details.
Immediately following the east coast run, HIGH ON FIRE will enter Salem, Massachusetts’ GodCity Studios with producer Kurt Ballou to record its new, as-yet-untitled studio album. Earlier this year, the group convened for strategic writing sessions in both New Orleans, LA and Oakland, CA, with early reports indicating the band’s new material to be both “epic” and “sonically huge”. A 2015 release date via eOne Music will be announced soon for the new LP, the follow-up to 2012’s De Vermis Mysteriis.
“Everyone is asking what the new High on Fire music sounds like,” says drummer Des Kensel. “Chew on some mescaline and listen to side B of Sabbath’s “Master of Reality” backwards at 78 RPM and it might give you an idea.”
HIGH ON FIRE tour dates: January 6 Birmingham, AL Zydeco January 7 West Columbia, SC New Brookland Tavern January 8 Richmond, VA The Broadberry January 9 Brooklyn, NY Saint Vitus Bar January 10 Hartford, CT Webster Underground January 11 Portland, ME Port City Music Hall January 13 Poughkeepsie, NY The Loft at The Chance Theatre January 14 Providence, RI Simon’s 677
Universally recognized as one of the most potent acts in music today, HIGH ON FIRE creates modern heavy metal that merges primal fury and aggression, hesher bombast and hall of fame heaviness. Described as “a supersonic exercise in conquest by volume,” HIGH ON FIRE has rewritten the hard rock rule book since its formation in 1998, forging a style and sound that is both critically celebrated and absolutely unique. The group features vocalist and cult guitar hero Matt Pike — also a founding member of the famed underground band SLEEP — along with powerhouse drummer Des Kensel and talented bassist Jeff Matz. HIGH ON FIRE’s most recent studio album De Vermis Mysteriis was released on April 3, 2012.
Riff legends and Iommic scholars Sleep launch an Australian tour this coming weekend. The other night, I saw they posted the following on their Thee Facebooks page. I guess they had been getting requests — probably daily, if not hourly — for a reissue of 1992’s ultra-classic Sleep’s Holy Mountain, and this was their response:
For those asking…
Sleep cannot re-issue Holy Mountain on vinyl. Or CD. Or MP3.
Nor can Sleep print t-shirts or posters, etc with the original Holy Mountain artwork.
All rights to that album (and any related art) are owned by Earache records. Forever.
…and no, Sleep doesn’t make a dime from that record and hasn’t since the early 90’s.
Bands: Please be very careful what you sign.
My immediate reaction is, “Really, Earache?” and that seems as good a place to begin as any.
With landmark back catalogs from Napalm Death, Entombed, Godflesh, Cathedral and many, many others, UK imprint Earache Records has one of the most enviable discographies in heavy music. Formed in 1986, it’s seen trends come and go and like few others — Metal Blade comes to mind first as a comparison — it has managed to thrive. Is Earache well within its rights to hold onto Sleep’s Holy Mountain and use that property for all it’s worth? It would seem so. They reissued it on CD in 2009 (review here), still press t-shirts with the cover art (or at least they did last time I bought one), and the above indicates that Earache owns copyright on the music and art for the record into perpetuity and there’s nothing the band can do about it.
Not a great contract if you’re Sleep.
The answer for the trio — bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros, guitarist Matt Pike and then drummer Chris Hakius (now drummer Jason Roeder) — at first seems like an easy one. Bootleg it. Fuck it. They’ve done it before, as the initial, unofficial self-release of Jerusalem with its righteous Arik Roper cover showed. Not as simple to do now as it was in 1998, however. Look at the response they got to the new single “The Clarity” (review here) this year. Granted, it wouldn’t be the same for a reissue as for the first new music to come from them in over a decade, but still. Sleep are a much higher-profile band than they were in the late ’90s, and if they were to just press up a bunch of copies of Sleep’s Holy Mountain, even to sell at shows, they’d probably catch hell for it one way or another, probably with litigation.
A pretty great contract if you’re Earache.
I won’t pretend to know the circumstances of the label’s wares, that is, how much of its back catalog it owns as thoroughly as it seems to own Sleep’s Holy Mountain, and neither will I give into some doomer-hippie impulse and say something like, “Oh man, they should just give Sleep the rights because it would be the cool thing to do and art for artists and whatever blah blah.” That’s naive as shit and not in any way reflective of the world in which we live. Earache has the rights, Sleep signed that deal. Bam. Done. The label is under no obligation to let the band have anything, so if they don’t want to, that’s their prerogative.
No question Sleep’s Holy Mountain is one of the most pivotal records in heavy rock and doom. What Pike, Cisneros and Hakius crafted has spread through influence the world over, to bands from Europe, South America, Asia, and Australia. They’re as close as an underground band can be to being a household name, and their work helped define a generation of heaviness. It is timeless, integral, and essential. They deserve to be making money from it.
People don’t like to talk about money and its effect on creativity, as though art and commerce are church and state, but in practice, they’re no more separate. Sleep probably do well at this point in terms of their take-home from shows, but it took them 20 years and success in other bands — Om, High on Fire — to get there, and they don’t tour 100 gigs a year. I don’t know if they have dayjobs or not, and I highly doubt any income earned on Sleep’s Holy Mountain would be life-changing in that regard one way or another, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve it.
But “deserve” is irrelevant. Sleep “should” earn money from Sleep’s Holy Mountain? So what?
It seems to me there’s some opportunity for middle ground somewhere between “label gets all” and “band gets all,” whether that’s a licensing fee Sleep pay to Earache or something like that — hell, I’m sure if Earache were to put the rights up for sale, the band could crowdfund just about any price named and not even have to go out-of-pocket — or like a rent-to-own deal on the publishing. I’m not going to call Earache dicks for not coming to the table if there’s been any discussion of a discussion, they’re a business acting like a business needs to act in order to survive, but if Sleep were able to work Sleep’s Holy Mountain again in some way mutually beneficial to themselves and the label, I don’t see where anyone loses.
Doesn’t matter if Earache doesn’t want to budge and if they’re still able to sell those shirts with the cover on it or repress the album every so often. An unfortunate situation for a band that have earned their place in the pantheon of heavy and managed to, like the label, remain vital where so many others haven’t, but as they say, be careful what you sign. Too bad that’s a lesson that had to be so harshly learned, and too bad a record so warmly loved by fans has to carry such baggage for the band themselves.