Posted in Radio on March 20th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
You probably wouldn’t think a song with lines like, “And so we shed these tears of blood upon the ground/As the ancestors await us in the sky,” and a chorus about butchering those who sleep at night would be so damn catchy, but kudos to Boston bass/drum duo Olde Growth for turning grim tales into potent hooks. Hell, with bassist/vocalist Stephen LoVerme‘s delivery, it practically swings. Could be a lounge arrangement in an alternate universe. That would rule a little bit.
As it stands, LoVerme and drummer Ryan Berry do pretty well even without the Rat Pack tuxedos, and their new OwlEP slays all the more for the swagger they put into it. The four-track collection was originally released in 2012 as a limited-type tour-only cassette (initial nerding out here), but the material stands up to the wider — if still pretty limited — self-release it’s now receiving. “Tears of Blood” is a highlight, but each of the cuts stands itself out, and though I noted it prior, Olde Growth‘s development since their self-titled still rings true in these songs, given new context by John Trimmer artwork and due out shortly in an edition of 100 CDs and 50 tapes.
“Brother of the Moon” broods as much as its propels, its riff sounding big enough to stand up to the band’s epic lyrical ethic while still maintaining a stonerly fuzz. As the band is essentially a rhythm section, there’s no shortage of groove throughout, but LoVerme‘s capable of carrying a melody at this point even as he offsets it with gruffer shouting. Alternately manic and doomed, “Brother of the Moon” leads into “Warrior Child”‘s blend of bass groove and subtle effects swirl, marauding its way through a verse before a shouting chorus that plays out in call and answer before bowing to a final slowdown, heavy and a not unexpected but certainly welcome guest.
The longest of this small batch at 5:22, “Tears of Blood” is a ripper straight through, engaging in Olde Growth‘s post-High on Fire battle axe rush. It’s the melody that holds the song together, LoVerme following the riff but beginning to show that he doesn’t necessarily need to while Berry punctuates each line with a snare fill, cymbal crashes, sometimes both. If anything on Owlmight foreshadow the next stage in Olde Growth‘s evolution, I hope it’s “Tears of Blood,” but that’s not to count out the handclap-ready bass drum of closer “Edge of the Sea,” which pulses with energy but finds room for a chorus slowdown that only serves to highlight the evolving dynamics of the two-piece outfit.
I dug this when it was called Tour EP 2012and I find my appreciation not at all diminished for it as Owl, so I’m glad to have the excuse to revisit it by making it The Obelisk Radio‘s Add of the Week. In addition to having the CD and tape up for preorder, LoVerme and Berry have put the EP up for a limited-time-only pay-what-you-will download at the Olde Growth Bandcamp, from whence the following is also hoisted:
I consider myself pretty progressive, politically speaking. As in all facets of my existence, I’m at very least an opinionated dick. But even though I’ll rant about wealth redistribution and the need for violent uprising among the American working and middle classes against the corporate fascists and right wing demagogues stealing their potential for social advancement and polluting their bodies and minds, there’s still a part of me that gets all imperialist when it comes to limited runs and “I have it and you don’t.”
That being the case, I was all the more stoked when Massachusetts stonerly doom stompers Olde Growth sent over a copy of their Tour EP 2012, a limited-to-50 tape release that they brought with them on their Spring 2012 tour. I almost got to see them on that string of shows (almost-review here), but even though I creeped myself out in the process, the band was kind enough to mail in the last remaining copy of the cassette, along with a CD version of earlier mixes of the tracks that apparently wasn’t ever for sale.
The tape, which is hand decorated as you can see above, is blown way the fuck out. Like, into the next room blown out. Like, went down the street to the deli blown out. I guess when bassist/vocalist Stephen LoVerme and drummer Ryan Berry had James Plotkin master the thing, they didn’t share the info that it was going to be a cassette. I like that about it, but the gnarl is strong in this one, running through each of the four tracks that, though Berry‘s snare is a little high and raw in the mix, sound much clearer on CD.
Apart from the whole appeal of having it, though, I wanted to post about Olde Growth‘s Tour EP 2012specifically to note the quality of the songs themselves. There are four tracks on the tape — “Brother of the Moon,” “Warrior Child,” “Tears of Blood” and “Edge of the Sea” — and even in relation to their 2010 MeteorCity self-titled debut, growth is evident in their songwriting and overall approach. LoVerme‘s vocals are clearer, and cleaner, the melodies more prevalent, and though the songs are kind of barebones in terms of the recording itself, there’s a natural feel that sounds recorded live, and the songs are almost instantly familiar, the opener and closer being particularly memorable.
There’s noise to bridge the gaps between the cuts, and it you didn’t get the chance to get Tour EP 2012when Olde Growth were on the road earlier this year, rest easy, as I hear there’s a vinyl release in the works for 2013. One imagines it’ll get a different name between now than then — any one of the four would do for a title-track, though “Brother of the Moon” has a special ring to it — but either way, the EP is a more than suitable follow-up to what was an impressive debut, and something to look out for when it comes to vinyl. In the meantime, I’m stoked to have my nerdly completist greed sated and glad I got to hear these songs.
Posted in Whathaveyou on April 26th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
My plan last night was to drive down to New Brunswick to catch a house show of up-and-coming Jersey sludge bands topped off with the final gig of Massachusetts duo Olde Growth‘s most recent tour. Also on the bill were Pharaoh (not to be confused with the trad metal band from Chicago), the previously On the Radar-ized Eternal Fuzz, and Dutchguts, whom I’ve seen kicking around Jersey a couple times and who run the multi-stage basement venue The Meatlocker in Montclair — where Olde Growth played last time they came through.
Being forever in the shadow of NYC as regards actual venues — that is, the second anyone’s big enough to fill a bar, they’re not doing it here anymore — New Jersey has a long tradition of house shows. In the mid to late ’90s, it was how frantic tech metallers The Dillinger Escape Plan and numerous others first cut their teeth, and it’s been the foundation of the state’s obnoxiously/admirably persistent punk rock scene ever since. I wasn’t a part of that scene. Too young. The place where this show was held was just an old house on a wide street full of old houses. They called it The Alamo, and I walked through the side yard and around the back and knew almost immediately I was too old to be there.
I’d left work at six, dropped the dog off at home and driven, hurriedly, an hour south to go to the show. I genuinely wanted to see it. But you gotta understand, these were kids. I played a New Brunswick house show a few years back, but it’s different when you’re not actually in a band, and it was weird. I had my camera bag with me, but as the first band was getting ready to go on — the dude I asked didn’t know their name but said they had the guitar player from Sonofabitch, which didn’t help much — my choice very quickly became clear. I could stand around and be the old guy no one knows at the house show, or I could split. There wasn’t going to be any middle ground.
The year I was born, 1981, is listed as the dividing point between Generation X and the Millennials, but the reality of the situation is, I’ve never felt like I’ve belonged to one generation or another. I turn 31 later this year, and by the time I was a senior in high school, I knew the freshmen were coming from someplace completely different. Most of my youth I spent trying to hang around with people older than me. I sucked at being young. But I never really hit a point where I could relate to the perspective of those older than me either. It’s an awkward middle-ground that feels half a decade on the wrong side of either place. Born too late, born too early.
I don’t have a problem with being too old for the house show. Like I said, I sucked at being young, and so youth — inasmuch as it’s something I’ve “lost” — isn’t something I really miss. Youth had a lot of dire-seeming bullshit that I hated, and everyone treated each other like a motherfucker. But being where I was when I was, I never had a scene like the one growing now in Jersey, and the lesson I learned last night was that at least in the capacity of going to the shows and digging on these bands as they come up and get their footing creatively and in terms of performance, it’s just not going to work. I can support bands the way I do (i.e. writing), but being a part of it, being actually in it and of it, is something I’ve missed out on.
And in another three or four years, assuming they can keep it together, these bands are going to slay. Dutchguts, Pharaoh. I haven’t seen Eternal Fuzz yet, but I can only assume from what I’ve heard on the recording that the same applies. They’re young and arrogant enough to have their discovery of bands like Eyehategod be a natural outcrop of post-hardcore, and not so self-aware yet that they’ve lost their edge. I heard a report on the BBC yesterday that adolescence, that brain development, continues until the age of about 25. If they can make the most of the freedom they have — and especially doing it in an environment where they support and encourage each other, as they seem to be — then New Jersey’s heavy future is bright. I’ll look forward to hearing those records.
But there are things you can do that come with age and things you can’t, and at 30, my needs and my desires aren’t what they were even three years ago, let alone five or 10. I made my way through the house and down the small entranceway to the old basement, a pipe coming down from the already-low ceiling that I had to duck under, and watched that first band for a couple songs. Two guitars, drums, vocals, coming through Sunn heads and a shitty P.A., grooving out slow riffs like they just invented them, and just knew I was in the wrong place. I didn’t even want to take the camera out of my bag to take pictures. I didn’t want to move except to leave. So I left.
Maybe it didn’t matter. I don’t live under the delusion that wherever I go people are automatically paying attention to me, but I stood out and it made me uncomfortable. I was older, I was bigger, and if I wasn’t going to enjoy being there, what’s the point? Everything else sucks, music doesn’t. If going to shows is going to be a pain in my ass, then pretty much I’ve got nothing going for me. I didn’t see the Olde Growth dudes, and I didn’t get to catch Dutchguts, Pharaoh or Eternal Fuzz, as I wish I had, but in that place at that time, it just wasn’t going to work. Whether or not I actually was, I felt like I was intruding.
On my way out, I spoke to Rich Bukowski from Pharaoh for a bit. He was a couple years behind me (of course) at Seton Hall, and I’ve seen him around at shows ever since, so we’re friendly enough to say hey when we run into each other. I told him I envy what’s happening with these bands right now, that I wished it had been going on six years ago, and that I was going home. And then I did. The band inside was just launching into a cover of “Sister Fucker Pt. 1.” I got back in my car, turned on the Yankees, and the dulcet tones of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman provided theatre of the mind for what turned out to be a shitty game as I made my way the hour back north to my humble river valley, where upon arrival I made myself a bowl of cereal, checked my email, and went to bed, kept awake yet for hours by the caffeine I’d ingested prior to heading out in the first place.
Normally I’d hold off posting these dates and this video until I’m back in the States next week, but by then, the tour will have already started, so here we are. Massachusetts thunderduo Olde Growth are hitting the road out through the Midwest and back up the East Coast starting on Sunday, April 15, to herald the forthcoming Hydro-Phonic Records vinyl issue of their 2010 self-titled (review here). The new pressing features a cover by John Trimmer, and the band will be bringing along a limited edition tape of new material on the road.
In addition, they’ve got a new video for the song “Sequoia” that they’ve given me permission to be the first to host. It reminds me of something you would’ve seen on Headbangers Ball at two in the morning in the early ’90s. Dig it:
Posted in Features on December 9th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Please note: This list is made up of my personal picks, not the results of the Readers Poll, which is ongoing — if you haven’t added your top 11 to that yet, please do.
It was an impossible task to keep up with everything that came out this year. I’ll say flat out that I didn’t. There are records that I just didn’t get to hear, and I should note at the outset that this list is mine. It’s based on my personal opinions, what I listened to the most this year and what I think 2011′s most crucial releases have been.
I’ve spent the better part of this week (and last, if brain-time counts) constructing this list, and I finally got it to a point where I feel comfortable sharing. Since last December, I’ve kept a Post-It of names, and all year, I’ve logged bands I’d want to consider for the final top 20. In the end, there were 78 bands and more that I didn’t get to write down for whatever reason. 2011 was nothing if it wasn’t overwhelming.
But here we are, anyway, and it’s done. Let’s get to it:
This is nothing if not a sentimental pick. Last year, I put Electric Wizard in the #20 spot because the record wasn’t out yet, and this year, I’m putting Suplecs (interview with bassist Danny Nick here) in just because I couldn’t imagine this list without them. Until literally a few minutes before I clicked “Publish” on this post, there was someone else in this spot, but ultimately, it had to be them. The New Orleans trio’s first record in half a decade wasn’t what I listened to most in 2011, it wasn’t the best album, or the most important, or career-defining, but when it came right down to it, god damn, I was just happy to have Suplecs back. It had been too long.
After a while, I was kind of shocked to find myself continuing to listen to Favourite State of Mind, the second album by Polish rockers Elvis Deluxe. The record’s dynamics didn’t immediately open up to me, but once I dug into the songs, I was wowed by their balance of catchy hooks and substantial-sounding riffs. The album was genre-relevant without being genre-minded, with vocal changes, organ, atmospheric shifts and a whole host of moods and turns. After hearing their 2007 debut, Lazy, I wasn’t expecting much out of the norm from Favourite State of Mind, and I’m still thrilled by just how wrong I was, and “Take it Slow” is among my favorite single songs of the year.
The gloomy opening statement from former Warning guitarist/vocalist Patrick Walker turned heads around the world with its unabashed emotional conviction, which was so much the central focus of the record as to be made a novelty by those who don’t usually consider doom an emotionally relevant genre (the widespread arguments against that notion I’ll leave for another time). What most stood out to me about The Inside Room was how the sentimentality translated into a gorgeous melodic sensibility and resulted in a lonely mood that was engrossing. On that level, it was easily among 2011′s most effective releases. It made you feel what it seemed to be feeling.
It was an album that lived up to its name. Return to Earth marked the remaking of one of heavy rocks most stoned outfits: Acrimony. But, as Sigiriya (interview with drummer Darren Ivey here), the four-piece (down from five) would show that the years since the demise of their former band had found them progressing as musicians, resulting in a sound less directly stoner, more modern, more earthy. The songs, however, were what made it. It’s still a rare day that goes by that I don’t hum at least part of the chorus of “Mountain Goat” to myself, and if Return to Earth was a new beginning for these players, I can’t wait to see where they go next.
In addition to being Totimoshi‘s first album for At a Loss following the end of their deal with Volcom, Avenger was the first Totimoshi record since 2003′s ¿Mysterioso? not to be produced by Page Hamilton, and where 2006′s Ladrón and 2008′s Milagrosa moved away from some of the noisy crunch in the guitar of Tony Aguilar (interview here), Avenger managed to be both a return to form and a progression of the band’s melodicism. It seems, as ever, to have flown under most radars, but Totimoshi continue to refine their songwriting and have become one of the heavy underground’s most formidable and least classifiable bands.
With their 2010 EP release, upstart British trio Grifter informed us that The Simplicity of the Riff is Key, and on their self-titled Ripple Music debut, they put that ethic to excellent use, resulting in straightforward, catchy songs that were as high-octane as they were low-bullshit. The ultra-catchy “Good Day for Bad News” showed Grifter at the top of their form, and with a dose of humor thrown in, Grifter was the drunken stoner rock party you always wanted to be invited to and, of course, finally were. Now if only I could get Skype to work and get that interview with Ollie Stygall moving, I’d be happy to tell him personally he put out one of 2011′s most kickass rock records.
I don’t know what’s most impressive about The Book of Knots‘ Garden of Fainting Stars — the songs themselves or that they were able to make any songs at all. With upwards of 20 guest spots around the core four-piece, the third in a purported trilogy of records from the avant rock originalists was an epic in every listen. Songs like “Microgravity” and the Mike Watt spoken word “Yeager’s Approach” pushed the limits of both genre and expectation, and miraculously, Garden of Fainting Stars was cohesive and enthralling in its narrative aspect. If it really was their last album, it was triumphant in a manner befitting its expanding-universe thematics.
Had it been a full-length, Invisible White would be higher on this list. Many out there who were enamored of Ancestors‘ 2008 Neptune with Fire debut have gone on to bemoan the Californian collective’s shift away from extended sections of heavy riffing and tales of sea monsters and other things that go “doom” in the night. I’m not one of them. The Invisible White EP was a brave step along a fascinating progression, and as Crippled Black Phoenix didn’t release a new album in 2011, I was glad to have Ancestors there to fill that morose, contemplative void, and I look forward to seeing how they expand on the ideas presented on Invisible White (if they decide to stick to this direction) for their next full-length.
Speaking of shifting approaches, still-young Massachusetts trio Elder also moved away from the Sleep-centric methods of their 2008 self-titled debut on the follow-up, Dead Roots Stirring. Still based very much around the guitar work of Nick DiSalvo (interview here), Elder songs like “Gemini” and the über-soloed “The End” pushed an influence of European heavy psych into the band’s aesthetic, and the result was both grippingly heavy and blown of mind. As an album long delayed by mixing and business concerns, when Dead Roots Stirring finally arrived, it was a relief to hear that Elder, though they’d varied the path, were still headed in the right direction.
Hands down the year’s best traditional doom release. The Wretch so gleefully and so earnestly employed the conventions of ’80s-style doom — most especially those of Saint Vitus and Trouble — that even though the lyrical and musical content was miserable, I couldn’t help but smile as I listened. Songs like “Bastards Born” and “The Scovrge ov Drvnkenness” pushed The Gates of Slumber away from the barbarism the Indianapolis outfit had been touting on their last couple albums, including 2008′s Conqueror breakthrough, in favor of a more purely Chandlerian plod. “To the Rack with Them” remains a standout favorite and a line often referenced in my workplace dealings.
I don’t know what you say to someone at this point who doesn’t like Weedeater. It just seems like a terrible way to go through life, without the madman ranting of “Dixie” Dave Collins (interview here) echoing perpetually in your ears, or never having witnessed their ultra-viscous fuzz in person. Jason… the Dragon was one of the earliest landmark releases of 2011, and practically the whole year later, it retains its hold, whether it’s the stomping fury of “Mancoon,” the lumbering groove of “Long Gone” or the surprisingly melodic “Homecoming.” The hard-touring, hard-hitting band did right in recording with Steve Albini to capture their live sound, and Jason… the Dragon was their strongest outing yet in terms of both songwriting and that unmistakable quality that makes Weedeater records Weedeater records.
I was surprised to see Rwake crack the top 10. Not because their first album in four years, the Sanford Parker-produced Rest, wasn’t superb, but because of how much the songs on the album stayed with me after listening. The Arkansas band’s last outing, Voices of Omens, was heavy and dark and had a lot going for it, but Rest upped the songwriting on every level and together with frontman CT (interview here) adopting a more decipherable shout over most of the record’s four main extended tracks, Rwake felt like a band reborn, and theirs was a highlight among several 2011 albums that showed there’s still room for individual growth and stylistic nuance within the sphere of post-metal.
It was back and forth, nine and eight, between Rwake and Hull for a while, but when all was said and done, the fantastic scope of Beyond the Lightless Sky gave the Brooklyn triple-guitar masters the edge. With a narrative structure behind it and a breadth of ambience and crushing, post-doomly riffing, Beyond the Lightless Sky was the defining moment that those who’ve followed Hull since their Viking Funeral demo have been waiting for. In concept, in performance, in sound and structure and heft, it absolutely floored me, and of all the heavy records I’ve heard with the tag applied to them in 2011, Hull‘s second full-length seems most to earn the tag “progressive.” A stunning and groundbreaking achievement.
One of 2011′s most fascinating developments has been the boom in European heavy psychedelia, and the self-titled debut from French band Mars Red Sky was among the best releases to blend a jam-based sensibility with thick, warm fuzz and memorable riffs. Together with the sweet-hued vocals of Julien Pras (interview here), those riffs made for some of the most infectious hooks I heard all year on songs like “Strong Reflection” and “Way to Rome,” and where other bands jammed their way into psychedelic oblivion, Mars Red Sky were able to balance their focus on crafting quality songs, so that although they sounded spontaneous, the material was never self-indulgent or lacking accessibility. One just hopes they don’t lose sight of that musical humility their next time out.
There was a point earlier this year at which I had forgotten about All We Destroy. After reviewing it in March, I simply moved on to the next thing on my list, and the thing after, and the thing after. But before I knew it, in my head was the voice of Jackie Perez Gratz, singing the line “As I live and breathe” over her own cello, the guitar of Max Doyle and Max Doyle‘s drums. It got so persistent that, eventually, I went out and bought the record, because the mp3s I’d been given to review simply weren’t enough. That was probably July, and I don’t think I’ve gone a week since without listening to Grayceon. So although I classify it in the same league as Rwake and Hull in terms of what it accomplishes in and for its genre, All We Destroy gets the extra nod for the fact that I simply haven’t been able to let it go. And though I’ve come to further appreciate “Shellmounds,” “Once a Shadow” and “A Road Less Traveled,” the 17-minute “We Can” — from which the above-noted lyric is taken — remains the best single song I heard in 2011.
On paper, this one should’ve flopped: Band with minor buzz and a cool video hooks up with indie rock dude to record an album of dopey riffs and beardo bombast. Instead, Red Fang‘s second album and Relapse debut became the 2011 vanguard release for the Portland heavy underground, which is arguably the most fertile scene in the US right now. They toured the record widely, and made another killer video for the mega-single “Wires,” but the reason Murder the Mountains is top five material is because it’s lasted. It was February that I reviewed this record, and March that I interviewed guitarist/vocalist Bryan Giles, and I still can’t get “Into the Eye” and “Hank is Dead” and “Number Thirteen” (especially the latter) out of my head. When it came down to it, the songs on Murder the Mountains lived up to any hype the album received, and I’m a sucker for quality songwriting. I mean, seriously. That key change late into “Number Thirteen?” It’s the stuff of the gods.
I wasn’t particularly a fan of Swedish rockers Graveyard‘s 2008 self-titled debut. Even watching them at Roadburn in 2010, I was underwhelmed. But when I heard Hisingen Blues and was able to get a feel for what the retro-minded foursome were getting at stylistically — and most of all, that they were acknowledging that they were doing it without being glib or ironic about it — I found the material irresistible. We’re getting into seriously indispensable records now; ones that I’ve been unwilling to leave home without since they came, in, and Graveyard‘s Hisingen Blues has been a constant feature in heavy rotation. Everything from the devilish testimony of the title-track to the wiry guitars of the chorus to “Ungrateful are the Dead,” to the Skynyrd-ified solo capping “Uncomfortably Numb”: It’s been a year of revelry in all of it, and since they overcame my prejudice to impress on such a level, Graveyard (interview with drummer Axel Sjöberg here) are all the more deserving of their spot on this list.
What I hear in the second album from Dutch trio Sungrazer is the heralding of a new generation of fuzz rock. Taking influence from their forebears in Colour Haze and Kyuss, the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Rutger Smeets (interview here), bassist/vocalist Sander Haagmans and drummer Hans Mulders followed and surpassed their stellar 2010 debut on every level, playing heavy riffs on expansive psychedelic jams and still finding room for some of 2011′s most memorable choruses in songs like “Sea” and “Goldstrike.” In so doing, Sungrazer affirmed the character of next-gen European fuzz and placed themselves at the fore of their scene, with touring and festival appearances to support. For their warmth of tone and for the fact that I spent the better part of the summer streaming the record through the Dutch website 3voor12, there was no way they were going to be left out of the top 20. It wasn’t until I sat down and actually put the numbers together, though, that I realized how vital Mirador actually was.
I was lucky enough to be sent some rough listening mixes of Ohio outfit Lo-Pan‘s Small Stone Records debut (following a reworked reissue of their Sasquanaut sophomore full-length), and in my email back to label head Scott Hamilton, I told him I thought he had a genuine classic on his hands. A year, I don’t even know how many Lo-Pan gigs and listens through Salvador later, I still feel that way 100 percent. If you were from another planet, and we got to talking at a bar, and you asked me what rock and roll should sound like in the place where I’m from, I’d hand you Salvador. I still think they should’ve started the album with “Generations,” but if that’s my biggest gripe, they’re clearly doing alright. “Bird of Prey” was the best live song I saw all year, and I saw it plenty, and cuts like “Bleeding Out” and “Struck Match” set the standard by which I’ll judge American heavy rock for a long time to come. Like the best of any class, Salvador is bigger than just the year in which it was released, and at this point, I don’t know what else to say about it.
This is as good as it gets, and by “it,” I mean life. YOB‘s last album, 2009′s The Great Cessation, was my album of the year that year as well, and I knew from the second I heard the self-produced Atma that nothing to come this year would top it. Like Ufomammut‘s Eve in 2010, Atma brings the entire genre of doom along with it on the new ground it breaks, refining what’s fast becoming YOB‘s signature approach even as it pushes ever forward. I still have to stop whatever I’m doing (not exactly good for productivity) whenever “Prepare the Ground” comes on, and songs like “Adrift in the Ocean” and “Before We Dreamed of Two” were humbling. Seriously. Humbling. Listening to them was like looking at those photographs from the Hubble that cover trillions of miles that we’ll never know and reveal gorgeous colors where our naked eyes only see black. If that sounds hyperbolic, thanks for getting it. YOB guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt (interview here) is, almost in spite of himself, one of American doom’s most crucial contributors, and with Atma, he and the rhythm section of bassist Aaron Reiseberg and drummer Travis Foster released what is without a doubt the best album of 2011.
A few quick housekeeping items and we’ll call it quits. First, honorable mentions. If this list went to 25, also included would be The Wounded Kings, Earth, Larman Clamor, Olde Growth and The Atlas Moth. Roadsaw were also in heavy consideration, so they’re worth noting, as are many others.
Obviously, I couldn’t include them, but two of my favorite releases in 2011 also came from Blackwolfgoat and HeavyPink, and I’m thrilled and honored to have helped put them out in the small way I did.
And as I said above, there are records I didn’t hear. I haven’t heard the new Black Pyramid yet. Or Orchid. Or a bunch more that I could go on listing. I’m only one man and this is only my list, for better or worse. Again, I really do hope you’ll contribute yours to the group poll, the results of which will be out Jan. 1.
I’ll probably have some more to wrap up 2011 as the month winds down, but until then, thank you so much for reading this and the rest of the wordy nonsense I’ve put up the whole year long. Your support and encouragement means more than I’m able to tell. Here’s to 2012 to come.
Well, not exactly from them, but definitely featuring them. The video below was made with clips from the 1978 Lord of the Rings cartoon edited in with Olde Growth‘s 10-minute, three-part epic, “Cry of the Nazgul/The Second Darkness/To the Black Gate.” I’m posting it because it rules, both the video and the song, which is taken from the band’s self-titled MeteorCity debut.
And about that song: Given all the riotousness that takes place before the third and final movement of the track, you’d think the bass/drums-only duo would have a hard time coming up with sufficient payoff, but they totally nail it, cutting back on the heavy vocals at just the right time to add subdued melody — just the opposite of what you expect in listening — in a breathy delivery that practically paints the walls in groove and brain matter. It doesn’t so much hold the attention as it crushes it.
Thanks to MeteorCity for sending this along in their latest label update:
Founded in the sun-bleached desert lands of Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1998 by Jadd Shickler (also of the band Spiritu) and Aaron Emmel, the imprint MeteorCity had its humble beginnings supporting a genre of underground rock that, to date, finds kinship among relatively few listeners. The two were new to underground rock. I recall interviewing Shickler years back and he told me that people would ask him if his online store, All That’s Heavy, would be stocking the new Orange Goblin album, and he said, “Yeah, of course!” and promptly set about to discover who the band was. 1998 was, if nothing else, a long time ago.
Along the way, though, MeteorCity became inextricably linked with All That’s Heavy and eventually with the much-missed StonerRock.com, becoming one of the most important heavy rock imprints of the post-Man’s Ruin era. Starting with the first Welcome to MeteorCity compilation in 1998, Shickler and Emmel helped establish what stoner rock became in the wake of Kyuss‘ demise, and albums released from Nebula, Solace, The Atomic Bitchwax, Blind Dog and Eternal Elysium provided a model for bands and other labels alike.
In 2007, Shickler and Emmel said goodbye to the label they started and the scene they helped found, selling the site to Dan and Melanie Beland, who had previously taken over All That is Heavy (now with the full “is”) in addition to hosting StonerRock.com. Their farewell came in the form of another comp, this time the three-disc …And Back to Earth Again — for which I was fortunate enough to have contributed to the liner notes, and which was less an inflation of an ego and a “look what we did, how important we are” than a “I can’t believe how lucky we were to put out so much good music.”
Shickler and Emmel, who were admittedly burned out on the genre, went on to other work, and Dan and Melanie embarked on a string of incredibly strong releases, effectively revitalizing MeteorCity and declaring in no uncertain terms that a new generation of the heavy underground was rising to the fore. Full-lengths by Black Pyramid, Elder, Snail and Freedom Hawk (among others) demonstrated that not only was there life in the style, but that the label had its ear to the ground when it came to finding bands and choosing which acts to highlight.
Adopting the ethic of taking on acts with strong self-releases and bringing them under the MeteorCity fold, the imprint released CDs from SardoniS, Egypt, Valkyrie and Dead Man (again, among others), and though StonerRock.com met its demise at the end of last year, the enterprises of MeteorCity and All That is Heavy have continued on into 2011, with the label re-releasing the self-titled debut from Boston duo Olde Growth, the second album from New Keepers of the Water Towers, and most recently, a compilation of vinyl-only and previously-unreleased tracks from Black Pyramid called Stormbringer, with more expected before 2011 is through.
The inevitable question, then, is where to start. If you’re new to the label or maybe have a couple of the discs you picked up along the line, which in their catalog are the most essential releases? Well, here are my picks…
Posted in Reviews on April 26th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Originally a 2010 self-release, the self-titled debut from Boston bass/drum duo Olde Growth is given a second look thanks to MeteorCity. The 46-minute offering plays to a wide host of riffy influences, and the duo do well in carving out an identity for themselves among the melee of energetic songs. Of the seven tracks on Olde Growth, only the feedback interlude “Red Dwarf” is under five minutes long, but the cuts nonetheless move quickly one to the next, and no matter what tempo they’re working in – thrashingly fast, drearily slow or somewhere in between – Olde Growth pull off an immediacy in the music that might be their greatest asset. Parts abound in the songs, and there are both chorus-based and more linearly-structured passages (the third track is a three-parter), but as complex as bassist/vocalist Stephen Loverme and drummer Ryan Berry get, they don’t lose sight of either the thickness of tone or the subtle melodicism that finds its way into sections of Olde Growth, and that works much to the album’s benefit.
Being a duo with bass and drums and playing this genre, one would be remiss to not cite Om as an influence – conceptually if not musically. If that reference shows up anywhere, it’s in the late-album instrumental, “Everything Dies,” or the contemplative, subdued beginning of 10-minute closer “Awake.” The bulk of Olde Growth owes more to the likes of Sleep and High on Fire (if you want to stay in the same family tree of bands), with some more bombastic tertiary-feeling desert influence and a dose of Acid King’s expansive doom in the clean-sung sections of “Sequoia.” Loverme, in addition to writing inventive riffs on which the songs are based, has a good sense for varying his vocal approach. Screams, shouts and melody are all well placed over the music, starting immediately with a rhythmic/melodic interplay on opener “The Grand Illusion” that provides Olde Growth’s most memorable chorus. Lyrically centered around the occasional bit of epic stoner nature worship (see “Sequoia”), with “Cry of the Nazgul/The Second Darkness/To the Black Gate” being – appropriately enough – a trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Olde Growth prove consistent mostly in terms of the quality of their material and the heaviness of atmosphere they affect. Everything else on these tracks feels like it could change at a moment’s notice.
In such cases, it’s often easy for a band to come across as overly angular, but Loverme and Berry avoid this with the injection of stoner groove like that which shows up in the break of “The Grand Illusion” or for the bulk of the sludge-laden “Life in the Present.” They’re not technically focused by any stretch, but the duo does work well together and that’s essential to the album’s success. Early into “Cry of the Nazgul,” Berry’s drums seem to cut through the mix more than is warranted, which, honestly, I don’t know how you avoid when Loverme is on the low end of the low-end and there’s nothing else to fill out the sound, but the abrasion doesn’t necessarily feel like it’s anything more than Olde Growth wanted it to be, and “The Second Darkness” is faster and more melodically aware, setting up one of the full-length’s arguable apexes in “To the Black Gate,” where Loverme layers his vocals over a frantic riff/crash combination. If not for what was still to come on “Sequoia” and “Awake,” it would probably be the most satisfying moment on the album.
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 23rd, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Upon sampling their self-titled debut, I thought Boston‘s massively-toned Olde Growth were good enough to justify hanging out in a Jersey basement with a bunch of 20 year olds to see. That’s pretty damn good, as far as I’m concerned. The bass/drums duo have announced they’ll reissue said self-titled through MeteorCity on April 26, and good for them. They made a killer record and the more people who hear it, the better.
The PR wire has info and the scoop from bassist/vocalist Stephen LoVerme:
Heavy Boston, Massachusetts, duo Olde Growth will release its eponymously-titled debut Olde Growth on April 26 via MeteorCity. Recorded by AJ Peters at Black Box Studio (Batillus, Disappearer), the album features seven tracks of powerhouse doom metal “inspired by noise, nature, sound and space.” The group features Stephen LoVerme(bass / vocals) and Ryan Berry (drums), but the sound it delivers is thick enough to make you think they have an army behind them pummeling away.
“We wanted the album to have a raw, immediate quality to it, the kind you get from playing live in the same room together. So that’s exactly what we did,” commented LoVerme. “I think we struck a pretty good balance between raw and polished; the sound is thick, warm and organic, and a listen all the way through will take you on a winding journey through some unexpected places. For our debut record we couldn’t be happier!”
Olde Growth tracklisting:
1. The Grand Illusion (6:47)
2. Life in the Present (5:12)
3. Cry of the Nazgul / The Second Darkness / To the Black Gate (9:55)
4. Sequoia (6:41)
5. Red Dwarf (1:05)
6. Everything Dies (5:45)
7. Awake (10:38)
Olde Growth will celebrate the album’s impending arrival with a record release party and live performance on April 7 at the Church of Boston (69 Kilmarnock Street, Boston, MA). Also appearing at the special show will be the band’s new labelmates Black Pyramid.
Posted in Reviews on January 10th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
The place was unmarked from outside by everything but the hip-looking kids loitering in front of the restaurant next door. I’d never before been to The Meatlocker in Montclair, but I went to see Olde Growth (down from their home in Boston) and a couple other acts, arriving half an hour late for a 9PM start and finding I was still about two hours too early. They were just gonna wait for some more people to show up. I went to the bar by the train station. See you later.
A round of Smithwicks later, Brooklyn post-whathaveyou kids Yorba Linda started the show off. The Meatlocker, for all its “I’m a fire hazard basement” atmosphere, was actually run pretty efficiently. The dudes from Dutchguts, who I’d seen a couple weeks ago at Lit Lounge for a Precious Metal show with Rukut that I meant to review but never did (it was the week of Xmas), seemed to be involved with running the show, and they had it going festival style: one band plays on one stage while another sets up on another. By the time I got back from the bar, Yorba Linda was maybe halfway through their set, and the tiny room in which they played was so packed I could barely poke my head in. It’s okay, I could hear fine from the hall.
It is a basement. Graffiti on the walls, space heaters, cement. Kids by the dozens and me standing there wondering where all the sludge-heads came from and where the hell they were six years ago. As the more bearded of my two show-going compatriots accurately pointed out: Grade school. Six years ago, they were in grade school.
Even before I heard the Saint Vitus song that so concisely put it into words, I’ve always thought of myself as being born too late. In 1981. And I don’t say that so if you’re older than me you can say, “If you were born too late, what am I?” like it’s some fucking contest. I only mention it because the peculiar timing means I’m too young by a few years to be prime Generation X and I’m too old by a few years to be whatever the hell these kids are now. Music-wise, I skew older, but I’ll admit to being not a little jealous of the scene at The Meatlocker. I never had that. Even when I was younger and really into metal, I couldn’t go to a place in my town and see three or four local bands play. And now I’m right on the border of being the creepy older guy at the basement show. I missed my shot at that. I’m back and forth on the regret level.
I’d bought a disc from Olde Growth before leaving to go to the bar, in case I didn’t make it back, but there was one more band between Yorba Linda and their set. In the bigger of the two active rooms (it looked like the venue could have gotten a third going if they’d wanted), local-types The Sun the Moon the Stars lit up a Relapse-style new-school Southern metal pit the likes of which I’d not seen in a long time. Standing there and watching, I realized that four years ago these were all probably scenester post-hardcore kids. They kept the skinny jeans and started doping Dixie Witch riffs at double-speed, but it was energetic, and it was good, and the crowd loved it. I alternated between nodding, like I do, and shaking my head at the moshing heathens, also like I do.
Once they were set up back in the small room, Olde Growth got a couple songs off from their stunning self-titled disc soon to be reissued on MeteorCity before the bass amp blew out. When you’re a bass and drums duo, you kind of need that, so a break was taken while they got it operational. It took a minute or two, but they did, and you knew it was real doom because no one could mosh to it. A couple kids tried, but it was too slow, too thick. I like that.
It was made apparent when the bass went the second time that it was going to be a theme for the evening. I felt bad for the band, and doubly so since apparently Dutchguts — who were the night’s big draw, apparently — decided to start their own set in the big room right then. I don’t know whether they thought Olde Growth were finished or what, but by the time Olde Growth got to the point where they could play their last song, there were six people watching and I’d brought two of them with me. The other three, to their credit, were Yorba Linda. A skinny weirdo kid with a bad moustache popped in every now and again to do homoerotic spazz-freakouts dangerously close to the band. He’ll probably grow up to be a CEO.
While their equipment was working, Olde Growth were refreshingly good. A formidable rhythm section playing grooving doom is never unwelcome as far as I’m concerned, even if that’s all there is in the band. Drummer Ryan Berry hit hard and refused to end the set after the second time Stephen Loverme‘s bass blew, which was admirable, and Loverme in turn delivered in tonal weight on the three-part closing act, “Cry of the Nazgul.” I didn’t at all feel like a guitar was missing or would have added anything to their sound that Olde Growth wasn’t already delivering, and I hope it’s not the last time I see them play.
I caught about two minutes of Dutchguts‘ abrasively-stoned sludge assault on my way out the door and left off to the shortest ride back to the valley I’ve had from a show in recent memory. It’s unlikely I’ll be a regular at The Meatlocker, but for the purpose I needed it to serve, it was just right. Some shows call for a grimy basement, and I’m glad to know a place like this is out there, fostering a scene of which I’ll never be a part.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 31st, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s not often shows get as close to where I live as Montclair, NJ, so I think that pretty much the only way I could justify not going to see Boston outfit Olde Growth on their upcoming run down the eastern seaboard is if they started talking smack about my mama. Which would just be unnecessary, as she’s a lovely lady.
Ever vigilant and supportive of their bands, MeteorCity sent the following info down the PR wire:
MeteorCity recording artists OldeGrowth will be touring the East Coast of the USA during the first two weeks of January 2011. Get out and see ‘em!
01/02 The Cookie Jar, NewHaven, CTw/ Edhochuli, Worn Out Tiger, World’s Strongest Man
01/03 AS220, Providence, RIw/ Thrillhouse, Mout, Mouth of Flowers
01/05 The Archeron, Brooklyn, NYw/ Bad Dream, Lost Coves
01/07 The Meatlocker, Montclair, NJ w/ Lorba Linda, Stone Titan, Gowl, more
01/08 House Party, Philadelphia, PA w/ Bubonic Bear, more
01/09 Hole in the Sky, Washington D.C. w/ Ilsa, more
01/10 Strange Matter, Richmond, VAw/ Time Warp Trio
01/11 TBA, Charlotte, NC
01/12 The Drunken Unicorn, Atlanta, GA w/ Beeravore, Sadistic Ritual
01/13 Will’s Pub, Orlando, FL w/ DruidLord, PutrescentSecretancy, Sterile Prophet