Kind of an interesting turn here as regards Swedish retro trio Vidunder, whose self-titled debut was released this week on Crusher Records, since the heavy classic rockers not only take influence from the usual heavy ’70s suspects — your earliest Pentagram, Sabbath, Blue Cheer and Budgie — but also from the league of European bands who’ve already come up under that influence. Most particularly in Vidunder‘s case, it’s Graveyard and Kadavar.
They’re not the first act to come along with a flair for the modern end of the retro aesthetic, but it’s fascinating to see that happening across the last year or so as more bands crop up in this vein. Invariably, this will lead to the continued evolution of the sound — I think last year’s Legend already proves Witchcraft were bored of ’70s vintage-isms — as the forebears of the style search out new modes of expression, while newcomers like Vidunder here help affirm the notion of classic heavy as a modern subgenre and not just a couple acts who have a thing for bellbottoms.
Whether or not that’s how it plays out, I guess we’ll have to wait and see, but I’ll take some catchy Graveyard-style rock in the interim, and Vidunder certainly have that going on. It’s going to be a sad day when disco comes to Örebro:
Posted in Reviews on March 1st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Relatively speaking, there hasn’t been much word out of Swedish fuzz rockers Asteroid‘s camp since they signed to Small Stone about a year ago. They played Desertfest (review here) and did other shows as well, but after losing drummer Elvis Campbell in 2010, the focus seems to have been on resolidifying the trio with new percussionist Henrik Jannson alongside guitarist/vocalist Robin Hirse and bassist/vocalist Johannes Nilsson. If that seems like a while to get things hammered out, then weigh that time against the organic nature of Asteroid‘s approach and it will probably make more sense — purveyors of laid back groove and whole-grain fuzz that they are, one imagines it takes some time to get the vibe just so, like trying to make sure a painting is even on all sides. Toward the end of last year, Asteroid issued their first offering with the Jannson/Hirse/Nilsson lineup, a self-released, limited 7″ single featuring the songs “Move a Mountain” and “One Foot in the Grave.” Strictly speaking, it’s the first Asteroid studio output since 2010′s much-loved II(review here) dropped courtesy of Fuzzorama, and as quick as it is, the new tracks are nonetheless a welcome arrival, hopefully heralding a new full-length to come, if not this year than sometime sooner rather than later.
It is short, though. “One Foot in the Grave,” a straightforward, heavy rocking B side less jammy than some of Asteroid‘s material, is reportedly the shortest thing the Fuzzorama alums have ever done, and I tend to believe it. Even the bluesier “Move a Mountain” feels relatively frill-less, though Hirse still finds room for an engaging solo in an instrumental break. It’s a blues, not 12-bar, but of a similar descending construction, and the three-piece sound at least as organic as they did on II, the vinyl’s compression only pushing forward the richness in Nilsson‘s tone and the rush of the guitar. As ever, the dual vocals from Hirse and Nilsson are a distinguishing factor (more on side B), and their approach remains neither completely aligned to a straightforward heavy rock take nor to Sweden’s oh-so-prominent post-Graveyard retro set. It’s mainly the open space in their songwriting that allows them to distinguish themselves so, and Jannson has made himself right at home in the groove of “Move a Mountain,” punctuating the bassline while Hirse strums out a teasing lead line near the song’s midpoint before a dead stop brings about a return to the verse. Hard to imagine this jam wouldn’t be longer live, but there’s only so much room on a 7″ single and they do well working efficiently anyhow, highlighting the catchiness of their blues and the lack of pretense with which they present it as the structure once again gives way to an instrumental break, Jannson‘s cymbals playing as much of a role in the build as Hirse‘s guitar and Nilsson‘s bass — the trio ideal.
The driving groove they elicit as the “Move a Mountain” peaks (get it?) bodes well for the dynamics they might be able to bring to a full-length, and on the other side of the platter, “One Foot in the Grave” is more of a shuffle — not necessarily in a rush, but an uptempo, classic groover that Nilsson and Hirse top with quick verses that leave little room for instrumental explorations. More than “Move a Mountain,” “One Foot in the Grave” is a departure, but it’s not necessarily out of character either with what Asteroid did on II, though were it to appear on that record, it would probably be more developed. The temptation is to read some change into it that might show up on a subsequent full-length, but really, it’s just the B side of a limited single and if Asteroid are signalling a shift in approach or some development of their style, likely that won’t come at the expense of any of the tonal warmth that has typified both of their full-lengths or their earlier debut split with Blowback. These guys arrived with a good sense of what they wanted to do, and “One Foot in the Grave” is enough in line with that so as not to be jarring so much in its approach — they’re not all of a sudden ripping out black metal screams or something — as it is for the sheer fact that it’s faster and shorter. It’s a fun experiment, and if Asteroid work in some higher-tempo material on their next record, the variety can really only make it a stronger offering.
Really, from my standpoint, that’s what Move a Mountain/One Foot in the Graveis accomplishing: It’s Asteroid signalling that despite the lineup change, the personality of the band remains intact and they’ve been working on getting themselves back up to speed, so to speak, perhaps with incorporating some new elements along the way. As a special release for fans to enjoy who might seek it out, the 7″ gets that message across well and revives some of the momentum Asteroid had coming off of IIahead of the potential III, which, the sooner it gets here, the better.
Posted in Reviews on December 21st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
After making a splash at Roadburn 2010 on the strength of their “Bring My Horses Home” single and after about a decade of writing material and playing shows, Sweden-based ’70S aficionados Troubled Horse have made their full-length debut in the form of Step In, on Rise Above/Metal Blade. The album has already met with a sizable and welcome reception, and Witchcraft comparisons have abounded for songs like “All Your Fears” and “Sleep in Your Head.”
This is probably to be expected. While fronted by Martin Heppich, whose presence is strong throughout Step In‘s 10 component tracks/36 minutes — even on the record, he’s very much a frontman — the rest of Troubled Horse traces a lineage directly back to the aforementioned forebears of Örebro retro rocking. Bassist Ola Henriksson is still a member and can be heard on Witchcraft‘s 2012 outing, Legend(review here), while guitarist/backing vocalist John Hoyles and drummer Jens Henriksson (Ola‘s brother) both used to be in the band, Jens having left after playing with them in their early days and producing the first two records while Hoyles stayed aboard for The Alchemist before leaving to focus on Troubled Horse and his other band, Spiders.
On Step In, which sounds no less inviting than its title might imply, the four-piece sound as experienced as they are, and though cuts like the aforementioned “Bring My Horses Home” and “All Your Fears” are highlights, it’s songs like the brash “Shirleen” that actually do the brunt of distinguishing Troubled Horse from either Witchcraft or anyone else in Sweden’s densely populated retro set. Heppich contributes guitar as well alongside Hoyles, and while it’s the riffs setting a course throughout, the all-Henriksson rhythm section is culls rich, classic grooves on the Blue Cheer-esque “As You Sow,” laying a strong foundation for Heppich‘s vocals, which are a standout element thanks in part to movement into and out of a Bobby Liebling-style delivery that plays up familiarity while introducing new context.
It’s also worth mentioning that while there is a current of heavy ’70s lovin’ running throughout Step In– in places it feels like Witchcraft decided to stop sounding like Witchcraft, so Troubled Horse stepped in (ahem) to pick up the slack — the production seems to be neither postured tape for tape’s sake nor overtly retro-minded. The post-Morricone spaghetti western guitar line in the verse of “Don’t Lie” is organic, but it’s bringing the past to meet the present rather than taking pretending the last 40 years of advances in production never happened. It’s a bigger difference than one might think, and on Step In, it’s the difference between Troubled Horse being a toss-off in a crowded scene and finding their individual mark in the balance they strike between clarity of ideas and fullness of sound.
Principally though, Step In works because of the songs; the swagger Heppich puts into his cadence on “Another Man’s Name,” and the circus atmosphere the organ brings out in closer “I’ve Been Losing,” the super-catchy chorus of which — “Yes, I’ve been losing/But the winds begin to change/And this over/I have the upper hand” — provides ample culmination for the record, wrapping up a swirl first introduced in Jens‘ steady snare on opener “Tainted Water,” shades of late-’60s psych as reinterpreted à la Baby Woodrose beginning to show themselves. If Step Inreally is the result of 10 years’ work, I wouldn’t call the time misspent.
That said, one does wonder what Troubled Horse would/will be able to do with a shorter songwriting span, as in, if it’s not another decade before they put out another record. But I suppose those are questions for another time. For now, the brash insistence of “Shirleen,” the proto-metal chug and stomp of “Tainted Water” and Heppich’s brazen, soulful hooks are more than enough.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 1st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Word just came down the PR wire of Graveyard 2013 US tour dates. The band are not to be missed live, and I for one am looking forward to hearing how they bring their new album, Lights Out(review here), to life on stage.
See you in Philly:
GRAVEYARD: U.S. TOUR DATES ANNOUNCED!
FINALLY: People in the States can stop complaining about not having some real goddamned rock ‘n’ roll shows to go to. Plus, our neighbors to the north & south have good reason to grab their passports and head for their borders.
Rejoice Faithful Disciples of the Scuzz and Fuzz of Analog Sound for I say unto you that Sweden’s finest, GRAVEYARD, are coming back to headline in the U.S. to support their new album, Lights Out, due out in North America on November 6th!
Launching on January 23rd in Boston, Massachusetts, the tour will feature special appearances in Seattle, Washington and Houston, Texas from The Devil’s Blood and Royal Thunder.
Confirmed tour dates are:
01/23/13 Royal Boston – Boston, MA 01/24/13 Underground Arts – Philadelphia, PA 01/25/13 Bowery Ballroom – New York, NY 01/26/13 Black Cat – Washington, D.C. 01/27/13 Music Hall of Williamsburg – Brooklyn, NY 01/29/13 The Orange Peel – Asheville, NC 01/30/13 Exit/In – Nashville, TN 01/31/13 The Masquerade – Atlanta, GA 02/01/13 The Hi-Tone Café – Memphis, TN 02/02/13 The Firebird – St. Louis, MO 02/04/13 The Shelter – Detroit, MI 02/05/13 Lincoln Hall – Chicago, IL 02/06/13 7th Street Entry – Minneapolis, MN 02/08/13 Larimer Lounge – Denver, CO 02/09/13 Urban Lounge – Salt Lake City, UT 02/11/13 The A Club – Spokane, WA 02/12/13 Wonder Ballroom – Portland, OR 02/13/13 Neumos – Seattle, WA *featuring The Devil’s Blood and Royal Thunder* 02/15/13 Slim’s – San Francisco, CA 02/16/13 Slim’s – San Francisco, CA 02/17/13 El Rey Theatre – Los Angeles, CA 02/18/13 The Casbah – San Diego, CA 02/19/13 The Crescent Ballroom – Phoenix, AZ 02/21/13 Emo’s East – Austin, TX 02/22/13 Granada Theater – Dallas, TX 02/23/13 Fitzgerald’s – Houston, TX *featuring The Devil’s Blood and Royal Thunder*
Additional shows will be announced soon.
With legions of devoted fans, you’d best buy your tickets ASAP ‘cause these dates WILL sell out.
Posted in Features on March 8th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s a big world out there, and no one in it rocks quite like Truckfighters rock. Their fuzz is just a little warmer, their deserts a little sandier, and where so much of capital ‘h’ Heavy the underground comes up with arrives sluggishly at the sacrifice of energy, the trio from Örebro carry across their material — especially on stage — with apparent ease and an upbeat pulse that only subsides when they direct it elsewhere.
Now embroiled in their second-ever US tour and also their second in less than a year’s time, Truckfighters have seen a boost in profile since their last album, 2009′s Mania, thanks in part to a feature-length documentary from filmmakers Joerg Steineck and Christian Maciejewski (review here), that has led to Tee Pee Records picking up the band for a digipak reissue of Mania that’s due out May 8.
Although their 2005 debut, Gravity X, saw North American release in conjunction with MeteorCity, this new issue of Mania (original review here) will be the first time Truckfighters are really entrusting a label with the distribution and promotion of one of their records, and it’s a bolder step considering the record in question has already been out for going on three years. Still, with the run of US shows they did last summer and the current follow-up, the timing couldn’t be better to bring Mania back into listeners’ consciousness, and considering they’re in the States and I didn’t even have to dial international to get guitarist Niklas ”Dango” Källgren on the phone for the following interview, the timing couldn’t have been better for that either.
They were in Chicago when we spoke, having played what he characterized as a good set the night before in Dayton, Ohio, alongside tour and travelmates The Midnight Ghost Train, who came aboard last minute as a replacement for Karma to Burn. In our relatively brief conversation, Källgren discussed how that switch was made as well as the tumultuous booking of these shows, how he and bassist/vocalist Oskar “Ozo” Cedarmalm feel about the end result of the documentary, the revolving door tenure of drummer Oscar “Pezo” Johansson (which is chronicled in one of the most entertaining sections of Steineck and Maciejewski‘s movie and who now also plays in Witchcraft), signing with Tee Pee, progress on their next album, and — as the headline above hints — much more.
Please find the complete Q&A after the jump, and enjoy.
I guess I never got the email or whatever — or else I’ve posted the clip three times by now and just forgotten — but at some point Örebro fuzz heroes Truckfighters put out a video for “Con of Man” from Mania, and it’s hitting the spot perfectly tonight. What I like best about it is it’s not their most accessible track, not their most immediate single, but I dare you to not have it stuck in your head after even one listen. The underlying political implications of the video I consider a bonus.
Thanks to everyone who downloaded the podcast this week and who entered the contest to win the Moth Eater/Black Thai split. The running for that is over, and I fully plan on selecting names out of a hat to get the winners list this coming Monday, so that should be fun. For the time being, it’s been a tiring week in terms of work and class, and I’m glad to see it come to an end.
It was also my birthday this week (please don’t say “happy birthday”) and I always have trouble with that, but that really was only one factor to add to the overall stress. It was a relief tonight to come back to the valley after work, go to dinner with The Patient Mrs., drink some wine and enjoy the evening. I know it was something, but I honestly don’t even remember what was happening this evening in Brooklyn, and I’m just fine with that. Sometimes life turns out to be what we most need it to be at that moment. I’ll take it.
Again, appreciation to everyone who checked in this week. Starting Monday, I’ll be taking a look at records from Generation of Vipers, Morbid Wizard, The House of Capricorn and Ogressa. I’ll also hopefully have my interview with Black Cobra posted by the end of the week, and barring disaster, on Tuesday we’ll have a new track premiere from Rue as well, so stay tuned for that. It’s interesting to see the hierarchy of blog prominence come into play with that kind of thing — at some point, I’d like to write an essay about it, but I probably won’t — but I’ll continue to have new audio as often as possible to the best of my dictated ability. I guess some sites’ hipster cred has to pay off somewhere. Ha.
But anyhoo, this curious fuckall corner of the interwebs wishes you the best and safest of weekends. I hope if you choose to alter your consciousness, you do so in a wholesome and friendly environment, with appropriate aural accompaniment. See you in the Dingerhaus and back here on Monday for more silliness.
Posted in Features on December 20th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
Before I actually knuckled down and bought it, I was kind of annoyed Fuzzorama Records wouldn’t send me a finished copy of Swedish fuzz rockers Asteroid‘s masterpiece second album, II. Entitled prick that I am, I thought maybe I’d earned it with all the sucking off I did of the release between my extensive review, interview and other posts. Hell, II was my number one pick for the first half of 2010! I recall it being with some resignation that I finally made the purchase.
Then I got the thing, and if you haven’t picked it up, then you don’t know, but the packaging is beautiful — it’s this gorgeous die-cut digibox fold-out kind of thing with the panels as part of the artwork itself. Suddenly it made sense. I wouldn’t give that shit away either! Fuck that. Let the reviewers buy it. Score one for Fuzzorama.
Actually, score two for Fuzzorama, because the album itself is magnificent. The only reason I mention the artwork now is because I really think I’ve exhausted everything else there is to say about Asteroid‘s second outing; the increased jam feel, the stunning vocals, the memorable songwriting and much more all well documented by now in the annals of searchable Obelisk lore. It may not have ended up in the top five at the end of the year, but I have the feeling when/if this list gets revisited in 2011, I’ll still be rocking II while others have fallen by the wayside. It’s a keeper in every sense. I’m glad I bought it.
Posted in On the Radar on November 9th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
A trio made up of two-thirds Asteroid and one-third Dead Man, it’s a safe bet that whatever Hexan does, it’s going to be space-licious and ultra-Swedish. Such proves to be the case with the three tracks the new outfit/side-project have posted over on their Facebook page. The songs are instrumental and classically jammed out, less like the interludes on Asteroid‘s brilliant II album than one might think. Rather, it seems guitarist Robin Hirse and bassist Johannes Nilsson are genuinely exploring a different musical side of the jam. It’s less about fuzz and more about exploration.
It’s an admirable turn for Nilsson and Hirse to make, and drummer Jonas Askerlund proves equally able to keep up and take the lead on “Baba Yaga,” deftly adding wide-spaced cymbals to the noodling guitar and bass, grounding the song and emphasizing its twists at the same time. Nilsson‘s tonal warmth is a standout on that track as well, and as the only vocals present are a shouted-out “alright!” I can’t help but agree.
If, like me, you’ve spent the better part of this year worshiping at the foot of Asteroid‘s II, then you could only be doing yourself a favor in checking out Hexan. The third of the three tracks from the Örebro trio, “Hexuba,” proves the most Asteroid-esque, with Hirse‘s guitar driving the song in a manner similar to “Edge” from the aforementioned numerically-titled record. As that album was jammier than its predecessor, it’s not really a surprise to hear Hirse and Nilsson go off in that direction, and with Askerlund as a suitable companion, I can only eagerly await Hexan‘s first release. Till then, feel free to dig on the tracks in the player below.
Posted in Features on June 21st, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
A quick search on this site and you’ll see almost immediately that I’ve barely been able to even mention the word Sweden in the last, oh, seven or eight months, without accompanying it with the word Asteroid. Very quickly, the Örebro trio have become a touchstone to which I compare almost every act from their home country, fairly or unfairly — it certainly applies more to Blowback than Barren Earth — and because I’ve gone back to it for more repeat listens than anything else in 2010, their second album, II, is my number one pick for the first half of the year.
Even after reviewing the disc and interviewing bassist/vocalist Johannes Nilsson, I’m blown away by the natural feel of the record. If you take the time to listen to II, the songs begin to seep into your consciousness, and I think a big part of that comes from how well balanced the production is. Songs like “Edge” and “Time” might sound simple your first time through, but examine the depth of the arrangements, the vocal interplay between Nilsson and guitarist Robin Hirse, the personality behind the drumming of Elvis Campbell and the flowing but distinguishable jams that permeate the tracks, and you’ll hear an organic clarity that few bands can affect on a recording. Asteroid make it seem easy.
It’s a cliche among music fans: “I haven’t taken it out of my player since I got it.” Obviously that’s not true or there’d be a serious dearth of reviews around here, but safe to say that Asteroid‘s II has gone back in said player more times than anything else in 2010. After finally buying a full copy of the record and seeing the gorgeously intricate cut digipak packaging, my appreciation went even further. Every part of this album is uniquely Asteroid, from the music on.
What it all boils down to is that my enjoyment of II has only increased with the number of times I’ve heard it. It’s far from the highest profile release in terms of the promotional machine, but for me, it’s the richest, most satisfying listen I’ve come across this year, and since it came out in January, I’ve had plenty of time to get tired of it and it hasn’t happened yet. Had II not been my number one pick, this whole list would be a sham.