According to Lamprey bassist Justin Brown, he and Sarah Crosley took on the task of creating the band’s stop-motion video for their new song “Iron Awake” as a way of developing his video-editing skills. I don’t know much about stop-motion, but it sounds to me a little like jumping off a mountain to learn to climb back up. Nonetheless, for Lamprey, a power trio employing two basses where one might otherwise find a guitar, it’s fitting with their character to go all out.
Brown, bassist/vocalist Blaine Burnham and drummer Spencer Norman have a new record due early in 2015 recorded by Adam Pike at Toadhouse Studio (see also Red Fang, Last Giant, etc.), and while info on that is as-yet minimal, a lot of what one might need to know about the follow-up to Lamprey‘s 2012 The Burden of Beasts EP (review here), one can probably glean from “Iron Awake” itself, aurally and visually. The song is 94 rumbling seconds that pummel efficiently and broadly, an epic feel immediate in the stomping riff, echoing vocals and lead tones (yes, that’s still bass; Lamprey are wizards), Norman‘s crash huge and fitting the tones Burnham and Brown conjure. In the video, the band is represented by three loincloth-clad warriors — pretty sure those are old He-Man action figures, but I wouldn’t be able to tell you which ones — who meet various villainous presences along their path.
Werewolves are beheaded, monsters and giants are bested, and in the end, Lamprey are transported by what looks like a tooth-covered shower head with googly eyes (fuck yes) to what I can only assume is the “Stage Playset” from which individual figures are sold separately, where they pick up their instruments and rock out the last couple seconds of the song before being once more blipped away.
“Iron Awake” is the first audio I’m hearing from Lamprey‘s new release, but in both sound and in how they present it, you’ll get no argument out of me. A minute and a half excellently spent:
Posted in Features on December 8th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Before any music had surfaced from YOB‘s 2014 outing, Clearing the Path to Ascend (review here), the band posted an update about the songwriting that referred to “the most beautiful arrangement” they had ever done. When the 18:48 closing track “Marrow” surfaced on their seventh album and Neurot Recordings debut, there was little doubt concerning which was the arrangement in question.
The first time I heard “Marrow” was sitting in the basement of V39, which is the building across from the 013 venue in Tilburg, the Netherlands, where Roadburn is held. Upstairs, the merch market was setting up for the day, but in the basement, in a dark room with a tiny stage, rows of chairs, a small P.A. and a bar in back, was a listening session for the album, the title of which was printed on a small promotional postcard placed on each chair. “Coming this fall.” Fair enough.
“Marrow” is led into by “Unmask the Spectre,” a 15-minute exploration that hits its apex late. There is, however, about 40-seconds of ambient guitar and spacious effects swirling after the chaos has subsided, and the fadeout of that gives flowing movement into the silence from which the opening guitar line of “Marrow” emerges. It’s less than a minute before bassist Aaron Rieseberg and drummer Travis Foster join in, which leaves guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt to set the initial atmosphere for what will become YOB‘s boldest and most melodic construction to date. Already by then, Clearing the Path to Ascend has taken listeners up, down and through an emotional torrent, songs like the raging “Nothing to Win” and the perpetually-searching “In Our Blood” establishing the dynamic course beyond YOB‘s beginnings — which, make no mistake, are essential to the makeup of what we think of today as cosmic doom — and further into something wholly their own; a sound as distinct and identifiable as Sleep‘s is to Sleep, as Neurosis‘ is to Neurosis.
It’s just before two and half minutes have passed that “Marrow” kicks in a fuller-toned roll, more low end and harder-hit drums, but the pace is still fluid, more serene than tense. Scheidt‘s vocals follow a pattern of shorter lines feeding into longer ones, his voice clean, ethereal and echoing over the distortion and a shift into the bridge that leads to the first of the song’s choruses:
Fall and see When there’s no ground To feel, To endure Rise, rise in your heart Time will crawl to the sea Time will fall inside the dream
The cycle stops to begin again with the verse, but already the layering in Scheidt‘s voice distinguishes the song as something special and expanding YOB‘s breadth from what they’ve done before. In both his guitar work — a later solo has a wistful blues to it that speaks to classic rock — and his vocals, Scheidt‘s expressiveness throughout “Marrow” is raw. He sounds sincere no matter how many layers of his voice appear, and there are only more as the next chorus arrives. Just past 10:30, after a soulful harmonization of the word “time,” the bass and drums drop out and it’s the guitar left alone again. Producer Billy Barnett contributes Hammond as Rieseberg and Foster rejoin the progression, and Clearing the Path to Ascend‘s final movement is underway.
I didn’t know the lyrics sitting in that small theater room downstairs at V39, but even without, tears welled up in my eyes. It is, as advertised, the most beautiful arrangement YOB have ever done, and “beautiful” is precisely the right word for it. “Marrow” never has its roaring moment as so many YOB songs do, but it builds in that final movement to an apex that’s as satisfying if not more so than any growl could be. Rieseberg‘s bass swells in the mix gorgeously shortly after the 14-minute mark, and Scheidt repeats the last verse over the build in progress. At 17:49, after its complete, swirling crescendo, “Marrow” cuts back to the quiet guitar line that started it. What needed to be said has been said, and the final sustained note hums its finish.
YOB have a tradition of grand closers. It goes all the way back: 2011’s Atma had “Adrift in the Ocean,” 2009’s The Great Cessation had its title-track, 2005’s The Unreal Never Lived had “The Mental Tyrant,” 2004’s The Illusion of Motion had its title-track, 2003’s Catharsis likewise, and 2002’s Elaborations of Carbon, formative as it was, had “Asleep in Samsara.” “Marrow” is not only the most forward-thinking of them, it is a singular achievement in songwriting and execution. For Scheidt, Rieseberg and Foster, it is a triumph along a creative pursuit that seems to be relentless in its tenure and its honesty, and for me, it’s the song by which 2014 will be defined.
Honorable mention to Witch Mountain‘s “Can’t Settle,” Mars Red Sky‘s “Join the Race,” Wo Fat‘s “The Conjuring” and Sleep‘s “The Clarity.”
Posted in Radio on December 5th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
I try to do these every week. I’d like to, ideally, but it seems to be more like when folders and zip files clog up my desktop enough to really get on my nerves. Fair enough. A full 20 records joined the playlist today, including a couple wintry classics from Anathema that either were overlooked by me or wrongly left out, plus the new Witch Mountain album, and some other recently-reviewed and otherwise-written-about stuff. It’s actually a pretty killer list. If you’re into it, or if you want to see what else has been added lately or what was played today, check out the Playlist and Updates Page. I spend an embarrassing amount of time there. Here are a few more reasons why.
The Obelisk Radio Adds for Dec. 5, 2014:
Burning Saviours, Unholy Tales from the North
The unheralded heroes of Sweden’s retro heavy movement return with their first full-length since 2007. Their fifth outing overall, Burning Saviours‘ Unholy Tales from the North follows a series of four singles released between 2012 and 2013 (recently compiled by I Hate Records and released under the title Boken Om Förbannelsen) and finds the Örebro four-piece reveling in ’70s-style doom once more, albeit with a rawer and less directly ’70s-style production. That is, it’s not as directly fuzzed as their self-titled debut was nine years ago, when it was pretty much them and Witchcraft digging on classic Pentagram alone, but still presented in the same spirit, a strong opening trio of “They Will Rise Tonight,” “And the Wolves Cried Out” and “Your Love Hurts Like Fire” creating a lasting impression somewhere between early metal (think Rocka Rolla-era Priest) and the heavy rock that preceded it. Two Swedish-language tracks, “Ondskan” and “Lyktgubben,” end each side, and at 28 minutes, it’s a quick runthrough, but shows easily that Burning Saviours – since 2010 the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Mikael Monks, lead guitarist Jonas Hartikainen, bassist Fredrik Evertsson and drummer Martin Wijkström — remain vital in their approach, cuts like “Inside My Mind” and “The Sons of the North” exploring metal’s roots effectively and organically while crafting something new, if familiar, from them. Burning Saviours on Thee Facebooks, at Transubstans Records.
Soldat Hans, Dress Rehearsal
Swiss newcomers Soldat Hans seem to be embarking on an admirably ambitious journey with their self-released debut, Dress Rehearsal, the title of which hints at their thinking of it as a demo, but for which the extended four tracks included serve to craft a sense of ambience that marks it unmistakably as a full-length. Engrossing in its atmosphere, patient in its construction and impeccably conceived, Dress Rehearsal plays out lengthy builds fluidly and takes listeners from minimalist drone and slow unfolding to massive, feedback-caked sludge, and then back again, sounding natural in the process and brilliant for both its pummel and restraint. None of the four cuts — “Meine Liebste; Sie zerbricht sich” (15:21), “Esthère (im bronzefarbenen Licht)” (13:34), “Zikueth! Zikueth!” (18:25) and “Liefdesgrot” (15:08) — really departs from a bleak, moody feel, but there are shifts throughout, as “Esthère (im bronzefarbenen Licht)” moves from the linearity of the opener to brooding post-rock and jazzy exploration before hitting its own wash of viciousness. To have a band take such control of their sound on their first outing is remarkable, and the longest and farthest ranging of the tracks, “Zikueth! Zikueth!” provides Soldat Hans their shining moment, theatrical but not overdone, melodic early and raging late, hypnotic in the middle, as classic as it is avant garde. They close out with another maddening payoff in “Liefdesgrot,” and while in the future I’d be interested to hear them take on structures as wide-ranging as what they bring sonically to Dress Rehearsal, if this is just practice, I can’t wait for the show to start. Soldat Hans on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
If you were to go by their sound alone, I don’t think there’s any way you could come out of hearing burly five-piece Olde‘s Hypaethral Records debut long-player, I, and not imagine they were from Virginia. In fact, they come from Toronto, but the aggro Southern metal they purvey on the album’s eight bruising tracks would be right at home in the heart of sludgeland, full as it is of steady rolls — Sons of Otis drummer Ryan Aubin provides trailmarking thud — the from-the-chest growling from Doug McLarty and lumbering riffs, songs like “Heart Attack” and “Changelings” in the tracklist’s midsection readily crossing the line between sludge and doom, all mudhole stomp, metallic affiliation and violent groove. There’s atmosphere at work, but it comes out through the aggression portrayed, and ultimately, I has about as all the ambience of having your teeth kicked in. And yes, that counts the variation on the theme in the closing “Perimeter Walk,” the more echoing guitar, farther back vocals, and so on. With a crisp production behind it, Olde‘s debut knows precisely the kind of beatdown it wants to deliver and sets about its task with brutal efficiency. Olde on Thee Facebooks, Hypaethral Records on Bandcamp.
Holy Grove, Live at Jooniors
Recorded at some point between then and now at Joonior Studios in Seattle, Washington — I’m guessing more toward “then” — the 2014 outing Live at Jooniors from Portland four-piece Holy Grove is only two songs, but even one would be enough to serve notice of their warm tonality and the bluesy vocals of Andrea Vidal, who pushes her voice to its reaches on “Holy Grove” and still manages to nail the emotional crux. Honestly, that would probably be enough to carry “Holy Grove” and the following “Nix” on its own — sold; I’m on board — but I won’t discount the fuzz in Trent Jacobs‘ guitar or bassist Gregg Emley‘s fills in “Nix,” or the seamless shift drummer Craig Bradford leads between subdued verses and the tense chorus of “Holy Grove.” As far as serving notice goes, Live at Jooniors does so and then some, and without sacrificing sound quality as so many underground live recordings do. Seems to me a 7″ release wouldn’t be out of order, but Holy Grove seem more intent on getting together their full-length debut, which if they can bring to the studio the vibe they create in just 13 minutes on stage, is going to be something to look out for indeed. Learn the name, because you’ll hear it again. Holy Grove on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Buenos Aires instrumental four-piece Persona formed in 2004/2005, but their newly-released self-titled appears to be their first LP, preceded by a 2012 EP. If the better part of the intermittent decade was spent jamming, it doesn’t seem to have hurt the band, who present nine plotted but flowing tracks that keep some loose sensibility to them while following a course of classic heavy and fuzz rock. The lineup of guitarist/bassists Lucas Podestá and Santiago Adano, guitarist Gustavo Hernández and drummer Esteban Podestá touch here and there on more metal tendencies, as on “Los Perros” and the brief “Cortina,” but that’s no more out of place than the proggy exploration of “Cuna de Fantasmas,” a King Crimson-style noodling underscored by subtly engaging snare work and giving way to a heavier push. The lead guitar on “Cazador” provides a particularly engaging moment of payoff for the album’s first half, but there’s enough variety throughout that Persona‘s Persona offers a range of satisfying moments. Still room for the band to develop their style, but they obviously have the will and chemistry to do so. Persona on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Dungaree, Climb out of the River
I’ll give it to Hungarian four-piece Dungaree based on their moniker alone. It’s simple, fun to say, and it evokes the rebelliousness of a bygone time. Their debut release, a three-song EP dubbed Climb out of the River, is likewise sharp-dressed, with a grunge-style production that pushes the dudely vocals of László Gergely to the fore ahead of Horváth T. Zoltán‘s guitar, Balogh Attila‘s bass and Dencs Dominik‘s drums to result in a sound that comes across to my American ears more akin to commercial hard rock than underground heavy, though in my experience the line in Europe and particularly Eastern Europe is both less distinct and less relevant. The tracks are short, straightforward, hard-hitting and catchy, with “Climb out of the River” a strong opening hook, “Dream Again” pushing into metallic guitar chugging in its breakneck chorus, and “Right Words” toying with a lounge boogie — snapping fingers and all — that assures the listener that although Dungaree have their sharp corners, they’re not about to take themselves too seriously either. Might not be for everyone, but shows a strong foundation of songwriting, and I wouldn’t ask any more of a first outing than that. Dungaree on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Six releases, and a pretty varied bunch at that. It’s still really just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what went up to the server. I always like putting stuff on there — it’s like casting a fishing lure, except maybe without killing? I don’t know. More like tossing a fish in the ocean maybe and not knowing when it will swim by the boat again. Or maybe I just (re)watched Jaws recently and have aquatics on the brain.
Either way, we’ve passed the two-year mark since the stream went online and I’m very happy with how The Obelisk Radio has turned out. Special thanks to Slevin for all the work he’s put in over that time in helping me with hosting and making it go, and thank you as always for reading and listening.
Posted in audiObelisk on December 3rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
There’s a definite good-time vibe running throughout Last Giant‘s Heavy Habitat in songs like “Captain My Captain,” “Jef Leppard” and the swing-happy “Ginger Baker,” and of course there’s bound to be some comparison since the band — a solo-project of RFK Heise (ex-System and Station) in the studio, a trio live — worked with engineer Adam Pike, who also helmed the last Red Fang album, but the truth is there’s much more lurking under the surface of Heavy Habitat than skate-rock grooves and cheap-beer worship. Opener “2’s & 3’s” starts the 10-track release on a melancholy and progressive note closer to Porcupine Tree, and cuts like “Mountain Size” and “Emperor in Reverse” delve into mature-sounding melodies more contemplative than brash.
Ditto that the vocal exploration “Harmony” near the album’s midpoint and the airy, drumless finale “Swim Till We’re Sober… Then We Start Over,” with its pervasive sense of wistfulness and Beatlesian multi-track backing vocals (think “Because”). There are punk roots, and a loyalty to the form and structures of classic rock, but Last Giant doesn’t seem content to settle for one or the other. All the better for Heise, who’s joined in the band on stage by bassist Adam Shultz and drummer Matt Wiles, and who played every instrument on Heavy Habitat. In “Big Dumb Words,” he recalls a ’90s-style openness somewhere between Jane’s Addiction and Blind Melon, and “Night Swimming” (not an R.E.M. cover) swells in its middle third from a quiet beginning into one of the album’s most memorable thrusts, but Heise is no more allied ultimately to one side or another. For an actual band to construct a varied debut full-length is impressive enough. For a solo outing to do the same while sounding like a full band is even more so, and Heise fluidly arranges the songs so that just as “Night Swimming” finishes out all thoughtful and quiet, the more raucous “Ginger Baker” steps in to pick up the momentum.
Pike‘s production gives Heavy Habitat an overarching smoothness that serves to unite the material further, and Heise seems to relish the chance to center the proceedings around songwriting. All told, Last Giant‘s debut is a vinyl-ready 38 minutes that will see release in Feb. 2015 through Little One Ate the Big One Records, and as early notice, I’m fortunate enough to be able to host “Captain My Captain” for streaming. I don’t think any one track could completely sum up everything the record has to offer, but as one of its most upbeat movers and strongest hooks, it makes a fitting introduction anyhow, and the layers of vocals in the chorus and the stylized bass fills give some hint as to the progressive sensibilities underlying what Heise has put together.
Please find “Captain My Captain” — I keep feeling like there’s an “O” missing in that title — on the player below, followed by some background on Last Giant courtesy of the PR wire, and enjoy:
Last Giant (ex-System and Station) Announce Debut Album “Heavy Habitat” Out February 2015 on Little One Ate The Big One Records
Blood, sweat and tears used to mean something, more than just clichéd words. They represented the core attributes of what makes rock special. RFK Heise, a rock veteran, has been crafting music by that standard since long before reality television became a dominant star-making machine. As front man for Portland, Ore. stalwarts SYSTEM AND STATION, he’s built a devoted audience through strong songwriting and an honest attention to craft. In 2014 though, Heise decided to make a daring move: to take on the recording process alone. What resulted was a hard rocking opus titled Heavy Habitat under the moniker LAST GIANT. The album is slated for an early 2015 release with live support from Adam Shultz (bass) and Matt Wiles (drums).
Heise worked on Heavy Habitat while touring in support of the latest SYSTEM AND STATION record, and spent more than seven months honing and demoing the new material. “It’s easy for me to wear two hats,” he says. Although the process of going it alone was scary at times, the upshot was a measure of creative control he felt he needed for his artistic expression. “This record was more personal,” Heise says. “I could just hear every song in full.” Heise’s decision to record solo came from a desire for artistic clarity. Collaborating with SYSTEM AND STATION allowed the members to develop material together, to the overall improvement of the original concept. Not these songs though, he is quick to say. While some of the LAST GIANT songs came from dreams and others were spawned from real life experiences, each is, as Heise describes, “my own soundtrack. A statement of my life at the moment.”
Heise characterizes the recording of Heavy Habitat, in which he played every instrument, as an emotional and energizing process. Even though there was pressure to realize his ambitious vision, he relished his opportunity to bring this record to life. While in the studio, Adam Pike of Toadhouse Recordings (who also worked on Red Fang’s critically acclaimed “Whales & Leeches”) served as engineer, tasked with helping craft its hard rocking sound. The impetus of Heavy Habitat was to craft something hard, straightforward and ultimately satisfying, the germ of which came under the influence of a great deal of ‘70s heavy metal. As Heise puts it, “it’s a serious party record. A hard hitting party record.” The constant in Heise’s projects is the need to create real, honest albums, filled with songs that you like and are willing to stand behind. “The record,” he says, “That sets the standard.”
Posted in Features on November 20th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Something is stirring in the Witch Mountain camp. I don’t know quite what yet, but on Nov. 10, the Portland, Oregon, outfit posted the following: “Just booked studio time to record a song in early December. Details when we are allowed to share them.”
Cryptic but precise, obscure and calculated, the message itself sums up a lot of what Witch Mountain have become over the last few years. After getting off tour this fall Nik Turner‘s incarnation of Hawkwind, the band — founded by guitarist Rob Wrong (to whom I’ve never spoken because he used to review records for stonerrock.com and would blow my meager knowledge of heavy out of the water) and drummer Nathan Carson (who also runs Nanotear Booking and has been interviewed here before) — said farewell to vocalist Uta Plotkin. They lost their bassist at the time as well, but it was Plotkin who grabbed the headlines, and reasonably so. Among metal singers, hers was a singular voice, resonant in its power and presence, but able also to convey emotion, bluesy soul and, particularly in the case of their latest album, Mobile of Angels (review here), a desperate sense of longing.
Their third offering for Profound Lore and third since reactivating following a long hiatus after their 2001 debut, Come the Mountain (discussed here), it’s easy to think of Mobile of Angels as a culmination in light of Plotkin‘s departure, and certainly it is their crowning achievement to date, but it’s also a step in an interrupted progression from their last two outings, 2012’s Cauldron of the Wild (review here) and 2011’s South of Salem (review here). With the constant thread of Billy Anderson‘s production, one can hear Witch Mountain growing on these three albums, becoming the assured, progressive act they are on Mobile of Angels, patiently presenting an all-too-brief 38 minutes that’s beautiful and desolate at the same time.
Carson knows that whoever takes the vocalist role has a challenge ahead of them. In the interview that follows, he talks about how Plotkin‘s leaving took shape, making Mobile of Angels, the mood on this last tour and what they might be looking for in a new singer. The question at this point, after the above Nov. 10 post, is whether or not they’ve found that person. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
If you want a little extra thrill, plug in some headphones and turn the bass up as Disenchanter run through the below rendition of the song “Green Queen.” The track, which of course shares its name with a strain of weed — wasn’t that just a given? — makes a fantastic showcase for the low tone of four-stringer Joey DeMartini, and with Sabine Stangenberg‘s riffs and vocals leading the charge and Jay Erbe playing one tom against the other on drums, it’s halfway between boogie rock and all out heavy rager, and seems content to find a place somewhere not quite one or the other. This version was recorded earlier this year in Disenchanter‘s hometown of Portland, Oregon, at the Ceremony of Sludge festival, and is part of a series of clips I’ve been fortunate enough to premiere recorded over the course of that fest’s two days.
Disenchanter opened the second day of Ceremony of Sludge, which was held at Club 21, and while they’ve showcased a penchant for epic metallurgy or at least an appreciation for the grandiose on their two three-song releases to date, 2013’s Back to Earth and this year’s On through Portals (review here), “Green Queen” hones in a more straight-ahead heavy rock sound built around a strong hook, a still driving riff and the melody in Stangenberg‘s voice. I don’t know if that’s meant to be emblematic of some shift in direction or if Disenchanter were pulling a one off or if the song might even be a cover — go Google “Green Queen” and you’re only gonna find pot info — but it’s a cool groove one way or another and the band carries it just as well as some of their more epic material.
You can click here to see the other clips thus far released in the Ceremony of Sludge 2014 video series, and check out Disenchanter‘s “Green Queen” on the player followed by video info below. Please enjoy:
Disenchanter, “Green Queen” Live at Ceremony of Sludge
Disenchanter perform “Green Queen” live at the third annual Ceremony of Sludge (Club 21, Portland, Oregon, 3/8/14).
Edited by Cole Boggess. Cameras: Cole Boggess, Justin Anderson, Justin Brown, Eli Duke. Audio: Tim Burke
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 15th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Portland death-sludgers Lord Dying have finished work on their second album for Relapse, and Poisoned Altars is expected out sometime early next year. In the meantime, the four-piece — who recently toured opening for the formidable bill of Bl’ast, C.O.C. and Brant Bjork – will hit the road once again, this time alongside San Francisco’s Castle, for a stint of West Coast dates beginning Nov. 8. They’re calling it the “Peaceless Savage” tour, and I think the flyer gets the point across pretty well.
This from the PR wire:
LORD DYING: Complete New Album; Announce West Coast Tour Dates
Portland, Oregon’s LORD DYING have completed recording their much anticipated sophomore album and are set to embark on a West Coast tour with stoner/sludge trio Castle. The new record, entitled Poisoned Altars, was recorded with Toxic Holocaust’s Joel Grind (Black Tusk) at Audiosiege Studios in Portland and will see an early 2015 release via Relapse Records.
Poisoned Altars is direct result of the relentless work the band put in the past 18 months grinding it out on the road touring non-stop with the likes of Red Fang, Black Tusk, Corrosion of Conformity, Valient Thorr and more. Now the band will test out new material back on the road starting November 8th in Spokane, WA through November 26th in their hometown, Portland. Frontman Erik Olson commented on the upcoming dates:
“We are excited to get out on the road and pummel you with endless riffs! This time we will be joined with San Francisco’s Castle. This will be heavy as hell, don’t snooze and lose!”
More details on Poisoned Altars, including cover art, tracklisting and a release date will be announced shortly.
LORD DYING’s video for the song “Dreams of Mercy”, directed by Whitey McConnaughy (Red Fang, ZZ Top) can be seen HERE.
LORD DYING’s debut Summon the Faithless is available now on Relapse Records. The album is available in CD and LP formats which can be purchasedHEREand digitally viaiTunes.
Summon the Faithless can be streamed in full on LORD DYING’sBandCamp.
LORD DYING Tour Dates:
*All Dates with Castle* 11/8/2014 Spokane, WA The Hop 11/9/2014 Billings, MT Babcock Theater 11/10/2014 Salt Lake City, UT Bar Deluxe 11/11/2014 Denver, CO The Marquis 11/13/2014 Colorado Springs, CO Black Sheep 11/15/2014 Juarez, MX Hysteria Bar 11/16/2014 Tucson, AZ The Rock 11/17/2014 Mesa, AZ Club Red 11/18/2014 San Diego, CA Brick By Brick 11/19/2014 Fullerton, CA The Slidebar (21+) 11/20/2014 Van Nuys, CA White Oaks Music 11/22/2014 Walnut Creek, CA The Red House 11/23/2014 Reno, NV Jub Jubs 11/24/2014 Bend, OR 3rd Street Pub 11/25/2014 Seattle, WA El Corazon 11/26/2014 Portland, OR Hawthorne Theater
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 2nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Portland heavy rockers Ape Machine are heading out again in support of their Ripple Music debut, Mangled by the Machine (review here). They’ve done a few runs at this point since the record came out last year, and they even got to open for Motörhead earlier this year, but this will be the longest tour they’ve done since this Spring and going to Europe in 2013, covering up and down in California and heading as far inland as Texas as they make their way around and back to the coast. No official word yet on writing or recording for a follow-up to Mangled by the Machine, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they busted out a new song or two for the trip.
The PR wire ain’t afraid of no ghosts:
APE MACHINE announce fall U.S. tour dates
Portland, Oregon stoner-rockers APE MACHINE have announced fall U.S. tour dates in support of their latest record, Mangled By The Machine, which is out now via Ripple Music. (Orderhere.)
The name Ape Machine is a nod to the days of reel-to-reel magnetic tape audio recording; a fitting moniker for the heavy-hitting quartet as the band plays through vintage tube amplifiers and lays down its songs using exclusively throwback quality studio equipment. With a heady mix of animal aggression and technical precision, Ape Machine’s music carries an organic depth and warmth rarely heard since the time of rock’s glorious early years (or your Dad’s bad ass record collection) infused with an exceptional modern sensibility. When the mystical lyrics of vocalist Caleb Heinze lock in with the band’s stone-cold groove, Ape Machine demonstrates an earth-shaking ability to rock. A true four-piece, the group has been called “a rock and roll band with a finger on the pulse of the ’70s and their asses firmly in the present” and “real heavy-psych for the iPhone generation” that delivers “true guts and glory rock and roll.”
Blending equal parts rock ‘n’ roll, blues, stoner rock and psychedelia, Ape Machine is out to melt faces and pound the apathy out of otherwise jaded listeners with a wall of heavy rock n’ roll tones unheard since the days of bell bottoms, long hair and blaring tube amplifiers.
Ape Machine’s mission is to combine intense melody, cutting riffs and blistering live improvisation. Where many bands rely on meticulously rehearsed, just-like-the-record-parts, they provide a live experience that is as unique as each evening it shares with an audience.
Oct 16: Black Forest – Eugene OR Oct 17: Witch Room – Sacramento CA Oct 18: Eli’s Mile High Club – Oakland CA Oct 19: Redwood Bar – LA CA Oct 20: Flycatcher – Tucson AZ Oct 21: JRs – Sierra Vista AZ Oct 22: Lowbrow Palace – El Paso TX Oct 23: House of Rock – Corpus Christi TX Oct 24: Continental Club – Houston TX Oct 25: The Grotto – Ft Worth TX Oct 26: Underground – Sante FE NM Oct 27: Pub Rock – Phoenix AZ Oct 28: Copper Door – Santa Ana CA Oct 29: U-31 – San Diego CA Oct 30: Prospector – Long Beach CA Oct 31: Soda Bar – San Diego CA Nov 1: Audie’s – Fresno CA Nov 2: Paddys Pub – San Jose CA Nov 3: Elbo Room – San Francisco CA
Posted in audiObelisk on September 29th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Experimentalists of the proggy psychedelia, Portland’s Eternal Tapestry always seem to conjure something different with each release. Their latest outing, Guru Overload – I keep wanting to type “overlord,” but it’s not, it’s “overload” — is available now through Finland’s Oaken Palace Records and is a hypnotically ambient collection of Krautrock-inspired musings given melt-in-it presence through warm tones, synthesized beats and a self-directed will to let an idea go where it will. With an opening duo that comprises more than half the total 41-minute runtime, Guru Overload is shoegaze peaceful and heavy psych resonant without giving way really to one side or another.
This is respectable in itself, but the spirit throughout has less to do with respectability than with tripping out on wah-drenched vibery and languid rhythmic push on opener “Trout Fishing on the Street of Eternity” or the later, drone-fueled “The Double Bed Dream Gallows,” which rings out minimalism in swirling tones behind a barely-there guitar. Each of the five included cuts gives something of a different take, but by the time “Trout Fishing on the Street of Eternity” and the 11-minute follow-up, “Karma Repair Kit,” are done, one is bound to be lost in the album’s flow. More to the point, “Karma Repair Kit” in itself has a formidable dangling-watch effect, the five-piece pulling a “you’re getting very sleepy” with what, because of the beat underneath, winds up being one of Guru Overload‘s more grounded jams. Still, its blend of organic and synth elements and the not-all-who-wander-ism throughout make “Karma Repair Kit” a more than satisfying journey in itself, and an excellent sample of the cranial alterations Eternal Tapestry render so smoothly across the board.
The album is out as of this past weekend in 140g vinyl through Oaken Palace, with proceeds going to The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation. More info follows the song, which you can stream on the player below.
Oaken Palace Records is proud to announce the release of the new full-length by Portland-based psych overlords Eternal Tapestry! As every release on Oaken Palace Records, the new album – entitled Guru Overload – is dedicated to an endangered species. Eternal Tapestry have chosen the orang-utan, and all profits will be donated to The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation.
Guru Overload, mastered by James Plotkin, features 5 new jams that the band recorded in a private cabin deep in the woods. The album manages to strike a balance between the freaked-out “A World Out Of Time” and the more laid-back “Dawn In 2 Dimensions”, both in terms of style as well as track length. The result is a wonderfully smooth flow of new material that combines exotic and new sounds with the best of Krautrock and Psychedelic Rock.
The first pressing will be limited to 500 copies on 140g red vinyl, housed in a 100% recycled card sleeve, printed with non-toxic colours, and produced by a carbon neutral pressing plant. An additional 20 test pressing copies on black vinyl, housed in hand-crafted sleeves with alternative artwork, will be available exclusively in the Oaken Palace webshop. Both editions come with a free download code. Oaken Palace Records is a registered charity (#1154786).
This week marks three full years of Wino Wednesday. It is Wino Wednesday #156. In that time, I feel like we’ve just about covered the man’s entire career, from his days playing with Warhorse in high school on down through Spirit Caravan‘s 2014 reunion. In and out of bands like The Obsessed, Saint Vitus, Spirit Caravan, The Hidden Hand, Place of Skulls, Premonition 13, his own Wino band and on and on with more guest appearances live and recorded than I think anyone can count, it’s been a three-year investigation into one of doom’s most storied and most accomplished figures. I don’t think when I started out that I imagined this feature would go on for so long, but I’ve yet to run out of things to post, so I guess until that happens, onward we go.
“Look Behind You” appeared on 1987’s three-song Thirsty andMiserable EP, sharing the B-side with the titular Black Flag cover. Tough bill, since when one thinks of that release, it’s the radical slowdown of the Black Flag song that invariably comes to mind first, but “Look Behind You” has been a live staple for Saint Vitus more or less since. It showed up on their 1990 Live album, and it has been a regular feature of sets since their reunion in 2009, its Motörhead-style rush made to turn on its head by Dave Chandler‘s transitions and thickened by his inimitable tone. The song goes back further than Thirsty and Miserable, though. In 1979, Tyrant (the original Vitus lineup under its first name) included it on their demo, so it’s clearly been around even longer than Thirsty and Miserable, and as you can see in the version below, which was taped live in Portland, Oregon, at the Satyricon in June 2010, it wears its age well.
Here’s to three years of Wino Wednesday and more to come. Enjoy:
Saint Vitus, “Look Behind You” Live in Portland, OR, June 26, 2010
Posted in audiObelisk on September 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Calculated chaos abounds on Portland, Oregon, trio U Sco‘s full-length debut, Treffpunkt. The LP releases next week on New Atlantis Records and compiles eight brainbending instrumental selections of noise-gone-prog, churning high-speed math metal changes out with raw punker tones and some feedbackular hum for atmosphere and abrasion alike. It’s a dizzying array of sounds proffered by guitarist Ryan Miller, bassist Jon Scheid and drummer Phil Cleary, and if you were to follow the bouncing ball on a cut like the six-minute “Crack in the Crystal Glass,” you’d likely need more than three dimensions to do it. They turn and they drive and they shuffle and they even boogie a little bit (there’s some get-down in there), and spazz quick enough from one to the other that you’d almost be tempted to call it jazz if it didn’t already have 50 other designations. By whatever name, dudes are freaking out.
If you’re like, “Whatever, chief” and think you’re all set to hang with the bird-chirp guitar noise that starts “Tuskflower” or the litany of furies that unfold therefrom like sentient origami, knock yourself out, but be warned that Treffpunkt gets pretty brutal. Not in the growly ruh-ruh-ruh death metal sense, but throwing down a challenge anyway in its chops and technical prowess that, since it’s beyond the realm of my simpleton understanding, I’m just gonna have to assume is magic. The appearance of some standup bass in the title-track is noteworthy, and all the more so if you can find it amidst the surrounding assault, and right when the whole record seems like it’s going to burst, with the mega-noodle tap-ery of “Iguana House,” U Sco pull back and drone out on “Glm Lrkr” (which I’ll assume is pronounced “glum lurker” as opposed to some other configuration of vowels), slow riffing for a while before letting a wave of noise carry the last six minutes or so of the nine-minute track. You know, just in case you dared to think you knew what was coming or something like that.
It’s a Sept. 23 release date, and I’ve been given the nod to host the full doodad ahead of time, so find it on the player below, followed by PR wire info and order-type links, and enjoy:
Featuring members of notable, genre-bending Portland-bred projects such as Jezebel Spirit, With Eyes Abstract and Duck. Little Brother, Duck!, U Sco has been an electrifying, formidable staple of Portland’s unparalleled punk scene since their formation in 2011.
Treffpunkt was recorded and mixed by Paurl Walsh at Roadhouse Studios in Portland in the winter of 2013. Sonically, it’s the best representation of the band so far, combining the dizzying velocity of their live performances with an aural spaciousness and lucidity that highlights the group’s breathtaking consideration for musical minutiae. Treffpunkt is an immensely challenging (and equally rewarding) listen, but one should hesitate to use the word “inaccessible” – U Sco’s blood is red hot. In vulgar terms, this is progressive rock with a hardcore heart. A far cry from the emotionally-detached, irritatingly-positive, regurgitated diatonic Don Caballero-worship that characterizes most contemporary math rock. This is not happy music; this is not superficially fun music. Dissonant, propulsive, and pantonal- this is monolithic art rock, triumphant its raw, discomforting sonic catharsis.
A couple weeks ago, we began a series of pro-shot live videos shot at this year’s Ceremony of Sludge in Portland, Oregon, with footage of Beard of Bees playing “General Butt Naked.” It was as raucous a start as one could’ve hoped for, and with the second installment, we move into precision post-sludge tectonic riffing, courtesy of Portland’s own Sioux and their chug-a-lug stomper “Let in the Night.” Among the other things it is — progressive, complex, atmospheric — it is righteously heavy.
Sioux debuted in 2013 with a self-titled EP (review here), and at Ceremony of Sludge – held March 7 and 8 at Club 21 in Portland — they celebrated the release of their full-length debut, The One and the Many. “Let in the Night” is the opener from that album, and it highlights the addition of the former trio’s fourth member, synth-specialist/vocalist/sampler Ben Jackson, whose alternately screamed and clean-sung approach makes an excellent complement to the gruff, sludgy style of bassist Kirk Evans. On “Let in the Night,” they trade parts effectively but make highlight moments out of unison between them, adding depth and a sense of arrangement to the already rich turns of guitarist Juan Caceres and gloriously half-timed plod of drummer Ryan McPhaill. The sense of early Mastodonic lumbering that pervaded the EP is still there, but no question Sioux have taken their approach to a new level.
They were the penultimate act on the second night of the fest, with only Holy Grove following, so it was a fitting way to mark the beginning of this stage of the band. Last week, Sioux followed up The One and the Many with a digital single covering Nine Inch Nails‘ 1994 breakout radio hit single “Closer” that’s available as a name-your-price download from their Bandcamp page. However you might feel about the original source, it’s a bold song to take on and Sioux do well in putting their own spin on it.
As with last time, Sioux‘s “Let in the Night” was filmed by Cole Boggess, Justin Anderson, Justin Brown and Eli Duke, and edited by Cole Boggess with sound by Tim Burke. Stay tuned for more in the weeks to come from the third annual Ceremony of Sludge, and please, enjoy:
Sioux, “Let in the Night” Live at Ceremony of Sludge, Portland, OR, March 8, 2014
Posted in Reviews on September 3rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Clearing the Path to Ascendis the point at which YOB abandons the formula they’ve been building over the course of the last five years. In its construction and in the execution of the songs themselves, it is still very much their own, but stands apart immediately from past outings, particularly the two released since the Eugene, Oregon, trio got back together after their 2005 breakup, 2009’s The Great Cessation(review here) and 2011’s Atma(review here). Clearing the Path to Ascend– also the band’s Neurot Recordings label debut — strips away a lot of what united those two records, elements like catchy openers “Burning the Altar” and “Prepare the Ground,” and a near-standard foray in guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt‘s signature triplet gallop, which is something that YOB has used to send chills up doomers’ spines since 2005’s The Unreal Never Lived. Songs like “Breathing from the Shallows,” these massive washes of abrasive, unyielding noise, seem as well to be a thing of the past. That’s not to say YOB can’t or won’t ever incorporate any of these things again, but even if they do, Clearing the Path to Ascendwill have been the record that proved that wasn’t what the band needed to be. In the meantime, what we’re left with on their seventh full-length and pivotal third since reuniting with Scheidt, drummer Travis Foster and bassist Aaron Rieseberg, is a scathingly honest, human creativity unlike anything else in doom, cosmic or otherwise. An hour-plus four-track release with no individual piece under 11 minutes, it is YOB at their most melodically progressive and an album that dares to let its emotional resonance meet and, especially in closer “Marrow,” surpass an at times barbarous tonal heft. YOB haven’t put a studio LP out in a decade that I didn’t pick as my Album of the Year, and given the sincere nature of the material on display here it seems all the more foolish to feign impartiality. I am a fan of the band, and Clearing the Path to Ascendis their most accomplished outing yet.
Opener “In Our Blood” (16:56) begins with a sample that says simply, “It’s time to wake up.” While this would seem to promise an explosion, but instead, Scheidt‘s guitar quietly introduces the undulating rhythm line that will comprise the core of the song, a roll that, when Foster and Rieseberg kick in after the first minute, sets a lumbering course pace-wise that the bulk of the record will stick to. Vocals, which in years past have typically come either in an ethereal wail or destructive growl, are clearer, cleaner and more confident than they’ve ever been — Scheidt‘s debut solo work, Stay Awake(review here), and subsequent touring could easily be read as a factor in that — but when “In Our Blood”‘s first growls arrive shortly before the five-minute mark, they’re no less vicious than they’ve ever been. Already, YOB have changed course from their last several albums, the way Clearing the Path to Ascendlurches gradually to life rather than slamming listeners with an initial immediacy only to expand from there. It comes across as dispensing with a formality — getting right to the heart of the matter in a different way that’s more immersive for the listening experience of the entirety rather than giving an initial standout and then letting the rest of the album make its statement. Another clean, rolling verse ensues and trades back to growls — it’s not a chorus, but a repeated and expanded part, anyway — before “In Our Blood” shifts into its next movement near its halfway point, a bridge leading to an ambient break, Rieseberg and Foster dropping out to leave the guitar as a bed for an expanded version of the sample that began the song, British philosopher Alan Watts asking, “What is reality? Obviously, no one can say because it isn’t words. It isn’t material, that’s just an idea. It isn’t spiritual — that’s also an idea,” before the “Time to wake up” is repeated and the song bursts back to life, Scheidt loosing a roar that’s primal but which serves more of an ambient purpose than an aggressive one. The riff that will serve as the foundation for the remaining time takes hold, a guitar solo is layered in, deep in the mix, and cycles meet a culmination after 15 minutes in as guitars continue to build and growling lines surface from the plod, the last of them sustained to the point of Scheidt‘s voice breaking as the instruments behind end with a barrage of feedback giving way directly to the punch of drums that start “Nothing to Win.”
That punch, which becomes the core of “Nothing to Win” over its 11:22 run, is not to be understated. Foster‘s tom progression is indebted, almost singularly, to Neurosis‘ “Through Silver in Blood,” but the space those fills occupy, the way they’re used in the track and the sheer stamina required to pull them off make them all the more staggering. The second of Clearing the Path to Ascend‘s four pieces is the most intense, playing off building verse tension via those drums and the guitar and bass that follow them and opening to a chorus that arrives at the title line in a manner fitting the conclusion itself — there’s nothing to win. Listening to it, I’m reminded of a conversation about ambition back in 2011 that was part of an interview with Scheidt for Atma, but without a lyric sheet I wouldn’t speculate in concrete terms what’s being won, or not, and either way, the ferocity remains striking, Scheidt moving into a semi-spoken, seething delivery for the verse and layering shouts and growls for the chorus. Foster again takes the lead after halfway through, switching from the chorus progression to an even more intense run of fills that builds for a minute or so until finally the song seems to collapse under its own frustrations, Scheidt growling out a line that turns to a kind of agonized plead before its end, Rieseberg and Foster coming back in over feedback before the guitar rejoins them on the transition into the song’s last movement, a churning riff, deceptively intricate in its timing, taking hold and carrying YOB through the finish, Scheidt reminding along the way that, indeed, there’s nothing to win, channeling the abrasiveness that once fueled “Breathing from the Shallows” or “Kosmos” from The Unreal Never Livedinto a concise declaration that leaves an impression even after the album has finished. Its message gets through, in other words, before a relatively quick fadeout rounds the song out and “Unmask the Spectre” (15:25) begins with a soft guitar line somewhat reminiscent of the opening track and “Marrow” still to come.
Given its heavy/atmospheric tradeoffs — in softer parts, Scheidt‘s guitar seems to have been recorded in some terrifyingly vast expanse, at night — set out along a linear path and the melodic instrumental complexity at which it arrives in its apex guitar solo, it seems fair to think of “Unmask the Spectre” as a lead-in for “Marrow,” but at more than 15 minutes, it’s also a substantial portion of the album, and the fact that it’s paired well with the closer shouldn’t necessarily detract from its individual appeal or the work it does in furthering the atmosphere of Clearing the Path to Ascendoverall, cutting back as it does the furious push of “Nothing to Win” and moving YOB back into a more gradual space, patient, encompassing, and resoundingly slow. A high-viscosity chug takes hold as the main riff cycles through early, having lumbered forth from the quieter start, and “Unmask the Spectre” seems to take a different path toward similar venting to “Nothing to Win,” growls and screams topping steady thud from Foster and starts and stops in the bass and guitar. By this point in the album, it’s easy to be lost in Clearing the Path to Ascend, particularly on the first couple listens, and “Unmask the Spectre” sets an especially turbulent course on which the listener is carried, moving between this thunderous stomp and the airy quieter movement, underscored by various rumbling threats, vague noise, and low-mixed shouts and effects-distorted pleas. A rising shout before five minutes in reintroduces the heavy progression, Scheidt losing his fucking mind in the process, and the momentum is carried into the song’s next stage. If there’s a spectre being unmasked, it starts to happen at about the sixth minute, at which the tense, crushing heft spreads itself out to some kind of resolution, Scheidt taking a cleaner approach vocally over his riff, Rieseberg‘s smoothed out bassline and Foster‘s more forward-directed drums. A wavering guitar solo follows a verse past halfway through, but there’s another dropout. As low and minimal as YOB get on Clearing the Path to Ascend, heaviness is never completely absent, Scheidt whispering over windy backing swirl and his own barely-there guitar before Foster thumps the lurch back into place, a crawling return to YOB at their most feedback-drenched and excruciating. It seems like that’s going to be the end — both preceding cuts have had clearly announced final movements — but there’s a switch to cleaner vocals again and the guitar teases melodic leads. It’s a sudden cut to the backing “wind,” but the subdued guitar accompanies, seeming like it’s searching for a way to lead directly into “Marrow,” and not quite making the switch seamless, but coming as close to tying the two pieces together as one could reasonably ask.
Before the album was recorded, the band posted an update to Facebook referring to “the most beautiful arrangement we’ve ever written.” No question “Marrow” (18:49) was the arrangement being described, and accurately. It is lush, and gorgeous, and where it wants to, it launches into a soothing wash of tone more cathartic than “Catharsis” and arguably YOB‘s most singularly ambitious song. Like “Unmask the Spectre,” it starts quiet, but instead of bursting out, Foster and Rieseberg join the quiet guitar line early, making for a more gradual beginning, less jarring in its shift. At 2:25, a fuller rumble emerges, but the soft guitar line is still repeated over it, a peaceful, almost resigned mood emanating from the heavy rollout. There are no growls or screams on “Marrow,” the vocals entirely clean-sung for the duration, but it is Clearing the Path to Ascend‘s most righteous moment, conveying more of an emotional turbulence than a musical one in its initial verse and the movement to the first chorus, which arrives subtly just after five minutes and surprises with Scheidt layering his voice for a kind of harmonized choir effect, resulting in his most soulful performance to date, in YOB or out of it. A quick second to catch breath — one needs it — and the verse is renewed. I’m not sure I can properly convey the sense of arrival that chorus brings with it, or how gently it comes on, led into by a first stage already departed from the verse but not yet giving away the full breadth to come. The effect is only enhanced the second time through, the chorus expanded as “Marrow” moves toward its 10th minute, building to a thudding head, the word “time” repeated and drawn melodically into a hymnal. At 10:33, with more than eight minutes to go, the bass and drums drop out to let the guitar set the foundation of the album’s finale. As with the intro, the guitar, bass and drums all explore this part so that it’s not so much a minimalist interlude as an essential piece of the whole, a background layer of organ — or guitar effects made to sound like organ — hinting of the epiphany and climax still to come. Scheidt sings low and quiet after 12 minutes in, a verse that leads to the most gripping and resonant guitar solo I’ve heard since Ancestors‘ “First Light,” very classic rock in its style, but speaking more to the central melody of “Marrow” than a YOB lead ever has to its respective song. It swirls louder in the mix and carries into a heavier movement — Rieseberg‘s bassline no less astounding than any of the guitar layers — and the vocals return after a few measures to drive “Marrow” further toward into apex, which arrives in multiple stages as a wash of immersive realization. It ends, without a second wasted, by cutting back to the quiet guitar line that introduced the song and noodling out the last note for a final echo giving way to silence.
I know I said this when I saw them play at Roadburn earlier this year, but it’s worth repeating: YOB are a once-in-a-generation band. It is rare enough to find an act willing to push itself at all creatively seven albums in, but to deliberately cast off any sense of playing to expectation in favor of such raw expression — it’s the kind of thing that one or two groups in a decade might actually manage to pull off. More importantly, in doing so, Clearing the Path to Ascendmakes YOB‘s a more sustainable evolution by breaking down the increasingly rigid boundaries of “what YOB sounds like” and commandingly taking their songwriting to somewhere new both for them and for the genre as a whole. Nearly 15 years on from their first demo, they sound like they’re just getting started. If this album is true to its title, and YOB are clearing their path by tossing away these preconceived notions of what they are and what “doom” is, and if perhaps what comes next is ascension, then so be it. They’re obviously ready.
YOB, “Marrow” from Clearing the Path to Ascend (2014)
Admittedly, it was a while ago, so if you don’t remember or had chalked it up to the ol’ sometimes-things-fall-through, no worries, but when this year’s Ceremony of Sludge was announced back in January, it was noted that I’d be premiering a series of videos captured there at Club 21 in Portland, Oregon, over the course of the two-day event. Well, the fest happened March 7 and 8, and sure enough, it was filmed, and last night, I was sent the first of what I hope will be many clips to come from that weekend.
The band in question is Beard of Bees, a Salem, OR, guitar/drum two-piece who kicked off the first night of the festival. They shared the stage with Tsepesch, Serial Hawk and Lamprey, and playing to an already crowded room, they evoked ’90s noise pummel and brandished thick, mostly instrumental grooves of considerable threat. It’s my first time hearing the band, which is comprised of guitarist/vocalist Russell Brown and drummer Nick Plaff – going by their Thee Facebooks address, they were at some point a trio and Bob left — but the tension in their buildups and the locked-in chugging of the ensuing payoffs makes for a satisfyingly heavy roll that has me empathizing with those in the crowd raising their beer cans in appreciation.
As for the song itself, it’s called “General Butt Naked,” and the clip was filmed by Cole Boggess, Justin Anderson, Justin Brown (Russell‘s brother and one of Lamprey‘s two bassists) and Eli Duke, and edited by Boggess. Beard of Bees don’t seem to have anything recorded or released as yet — they first got together in 2011 — so if you go looking and find some other band with the name, don’t be confused, but as an introduction, I think the live clip works well to make a favorable impression, and if nothing else, looks like the kickoff to a hell of an evening.
Beard of Bees, “General Butt Naked” Live at Ceremony of Sludge, Portland, OR, March 7, 2014
Posted in Reviews on August 20th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Certainly the announcement that vocalist Uta Plotkin will leave Witch Mountain following their Fall US tour with Nik Turner’s Hawkwind places Mobile of Angels, the band’s fourth album overall and third with Plotkin fronting, into a different context. If nothing else, it lets lyrics longing for escape in “Psycho Animundi” and “Can’t Settle” — lines like “Living in filth and dirt in rooms less colorful and cheerful than the cages in which we put animals in a zoo” from the former and the richly, beautifully crooned “Oh, it’s time to go” in the back half chorus of the latter — be read in ways opposed to how they otherwise might. Witch Mountain‘s music has never been particularly upbeat, but the blues in Plotkin‘s voice seem to have a focal point here and if it’s a change that needed to happen, then the only really unfortunate part about it is that it comes as the four-piece of Plotkin, guitarist Rob Wrong, drummer Nate Carson and bassist Charles Thomas (also of Blackwitch Pudding and the latest in a succession of bass players) reach their highest creative watermark to date. Released by Profound Lore in North America and Svart in Europe, Mobile of Angelsfollows two strong outings in 2012’s Cauldron of the Wild (review here) and 2011’s South of Salem (review here) — their debut, Come the Mountain(discussed here) having been released in 2001 on Rage of Achilles before an extended hiatus — but it is leaner than Cauldronand more developed than Salem, the band’s considerable road-time paying dividends in the tightness of performance and the ground they’re able and willing to cover stylistically. Production by Billy Anderson never hurts either, but what’s most striking about Mobile of Angelsisn’t how the five songs sound so much as where they go.
The lurching chug in Wrong‘s riffs is a signature element in Witch Mountain‘s approach, and as the opener, “Psycho Animundi” dives immediately into an affirmation of it. Cauldron of the Wild‘s “The Ballad of Lanky Rae” was similarly direct, but the bluesier atmosphere of that track is contrasted by “Psycho Animundi”‘s purely doomed stomp, underscored by the slow march in Carson‘s drumming. At nearly nine minutes, it’s second only to centerpiece “Your Corrupt Ways (Sour the Hymn),” and fittingly immersive, but there’s still a right-down-to-business feel, and the vocals start less than a minute into the track, beginning a tradeoff of verses and guitar solos that carries the central chug through a duration that feels less extended than it is. Plotkin‘s voice is given to soaring, and it does so liberally here, finding contrast in secret-weapon growls in the metallic midsection of “Can’t Settle,” the second half of which stands as an early apex of the record, perhaps rivaled by the guitar nods to YOB‘s “Catharsis” in closer “The Shape Truth Takes,” but a moment unto itself for the vocal harmonies at play in any case. That one would even be tempted to hyperbolize and call it Plotkin‘s best performance in Witch Mountain should be enough to emphasize the point. The 10-minute “Your Corrupt Ways (Sour the Hymn)” follows, executing a few quiet/loud tradeoffs en route to Mobile of Angels‘ most patient build, the full band in complete command of their movement as soulful backing vocals guide the way through the early stretches and the guitar, bass and drums begin their push toward a peak that arrives after seven minutes in, Wrong taking the fore for one of the album’s best solos — he also works in layers — and giving way to a morose final verse before a more open, ethereal ending shifts into the otherworldly title-track, relatively quick at 3:30, but hypnotic thanks to organ scratch and an interweaving of spoken and sung incantations.
A subdued finale, maybe, but “The Shape Truth Takes” is glorious in its melancholy. Plotkin seems to be playing off Debbie Harry‘s unrealistic range, and the quieter instrumentation behind her gives a perfect showcase in the song’s initial moments, the lead-in from “Mobile of Angels” opening fluidly to the peaceful noodling of the guitar, Witch Mountain proving just as capable of conveying weight in emotionality as in their tones, Plotkin‘s swirling layers recalling “Can’t Settle” as Thomas, Carson and Wrong weave their way through a forward but deceptive progression, finding an explosive point after the three-minute mark, at which point “The Shape Truth Takes” opens to a fuller but still not overblown breadth. Regret? Sadness? It’s hard to know what’s in there without reading too much in, but it’s not bitter in the way “Psycho Animundi” is. Maybe it’s just a moment of resignation that gets swept up in Wrong‘s solo before five minutes in, the album’s final crescendo coming in the solo/vocal trade much like that of “Your Corrupt Ways (Sour the Hymn),” but leading to a relatively quick outro and final chug of the guitar, as though it’s looking to hold onto the song even as it’s already passed. Witch Mountain, which was founded by Wrong and Carson in the late ’90s, has said the band will continue without Plotkin, but there can be little doubt they’ll have their work cut out for them in assembling a new dynamic after the utter mastery they show on Mobile of Angels. That’s not to say it can’t be done, only that it will take time. When one considers the efforts put in by the band on tour and over the two records leading to this one, Mobile of Angelslooks all the more like a high point reached, the culmination of the years since Witch Mountain came back together and the arrival at what they’ve been pursuing all along. If subsequent outings show that’s not the case — i.e., if that pursuit continues off in a different direction — then all the better, but no question Mobile of Angelsmarks the end of something special for Witch Mountain and is bittersweet for American doom. All is fleeting.