Posted in Whathaveyou on January 29th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Several days ago, Portland, Oregon, doomers Witch Mountain posted the above image on their Facebook page as a way of teasing the fact that they are once again a complete four-piece. Today, the parties joining with founding guitarist Rob Wrong and drummer Nathan Carson have been officially announced as vocalist Kayla Dixon and bassist Justin Brown.
Formerly based in Ohio, Dixon comes to Witch Mountain via Cleveland metallers Demons Within. She steps into the vocalist role in place of Uta Plotkin, who over the course of Witch Mountain‘s three post-reactivation full-lengths on Profound Lore, 2011’s South of Salem (review here), 2012’s Cauldron of the Wild (review here) and last year’s Mobile of Angels (review here), became one of doom’s most recognizable voices, with a soulful, bluesy inflection that has already left an influential stamp on the genre. When Plotkin announced her departure from the band prior to their tour in Sept. with Nick Turner’s Hawkwind, it was a shock but only made the lyrics to Mobile of Angels tracks like “Can’t Settle,” “Your Corrupt Ways (Sour the Hymn)” and “The Shape Turth Takes” even more visceral.
In an interview here last fall, Carson speculated that it could be years before the right voice was found to fill the position. That the band was aware and mindful of the task before them serves as further endorsement of Dixon‘s ability and the potential for their continued progress as a group with her on board. Bassist Justin Brown enters the lineup having spent the last several years in the two-bass/no-guitar trio Lamprey, from whom a follow-up long-player to 2012’s The Burden of Beasts EP (review here) is expected sometime this year, its coming heralded by a recent video for the track “Iron Awake” that was featured here.
Witch Mountain are slated to take part in an upcoming Black Sabbath tribute that will also feature Kylesa and Wo Fat, among others, though at this time it’s not clear when their contribution was recorded or who was involved. They have toured extensively in support of each of their three records since returning from a decade’s hiatus, and the first road test of the new lineup will be a run of shows alongside YOB following that outfit’s stint with Enslaved in March. With congratulations to Brown and Dixon on landing what can only be considered as enviable as a gig playing doom can get by playing in Witch Mountain, the tour dates follow here:
YOB + Witch Mountain
3/21 New York, NY @ Gramercy Theatre w/ Enslaved, YOB, Ecstatic Vision
3/22 Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer w/ Enslaved, YOB, Ecstatic Vision
3/25 Richmond, VA @ Strange Matter
3/26 Raleigh, NC @ King’s Barcade
3/27 Johnson City, TN @ The Hideaway
3/28 Atlanta, GA @ The Earl
3/29 Memphis, TN @ Hi-Tone
3/30 New Orleans, LA @ Siberia
3/31 Houston, TX @ Walter’s
4/01 Austin, TX @ Red 7
4/03 Albuquerque, NM @ Launch Pad
4/04 Tucson, AZ @ The Flycatcher
4/05 Los Angeles, CA @ Los Globos
4/07 San Francisco, CA @ Golden Bull
4/08 Sacramento, CA @ Press Club
4/10 Seattle, WA @ Victory
4/11 Portland, OR @ Star Theater
Seattle trio Serial Hawk have a new album coming soon. Last year, before releasing their Lying in Wait 7″ in the fall, the three-piece made the trip to Portland, Oregon, to take part in the Ceremony of Sludge festival, along with Lamprey, Holy Grove, Blackwitch Pudding, Sioux, Disenchanter and others. Over the last couple months, parts of each act’s set have been premiered here. Serial Hawk played the first night of the fest, March 7, with Lamprey, Towers, and Beard of Bees at Club 21 in Portland, and the video was filmed by Cole Boggess and Justin Anderson with audio by Tim Burke.
The song is called “Desolate,” and it comes as a preview of what the new Serial Hawk LP holds in store in following up the 2014 single, 2012’s Buried in the Gray EP and the band’s first demo, released in 2011. Drummer Sean Bulkley, who was announced as the band’s drummer at the end of last Jan., does the honors in starting the song with a persistent tom rhythm that holds firm as the guitar and bass rumble to life. By 90 seconds in, a heavy foundation is established, and the rolling riffery that takes hold from there is both massive and open, guitarist Will Bassin topping the crash and distortion with raw shouts while bassist Adam Holbrook drives home a groove to which even the camera can’t seem to resist nodding.
A big slowdown brings about some choice feedback-laden deconstruction as Serial Hawk build the track up only to tear it apart again. Their appearance at Ceremony of Sludge was the first night of a West Coast tour that lasted two weeks (they did a full US tour in the Fall as well), and it seems pretty safe to say that run got off to a good start.
More on the new Serial Hawk album hopefully to come as we near the release. Enjoy “Desolate” in the meantime, with thanks to Justin Brown and Ceremony of Sludge:
Serial Hawk, “Desolate” Live at Ceremony of Sludge 2014 in Portland, OR
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 22nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Any new endeavor from Aaron Edge is welcome by me. The many-banded guitarist — Roareth, iamthethorn, Rote Hexe, etc. — was last heard from in 2013 when he joined forces with YOB‘s Mike Scheidt and his former Brothers of the Sonic Cloth bandmate Tad Doyle for Lumbar‘s The First and Last Days of Unwelcome (review here), Edge has a new project going (always, it seems) with vocalist Tim Singer of Deadguy and Kiss it Goodbye. The band is called Process Black. Edge first discussed teaming with Singer here around the time the Lumbar was released, and today, Demo 2015 has made its way to the public as the first audio from the band.
You can buy a download if you have an extra $666 handy, but more likely you’ll want to keep it to streaming, which you can do via a Bandcamp page set up with astronaut-centric design work from Edge himself. As for the sound of the demo’s three tracks, it’s raw noise rock with Edge on guitar and bass, Singer on vocals (go figure) and Brock Lowry (Craft Spells) on drums, but tonally thick enough to stand up, and the recording quality is way more “album” than “demo.” Reportedly there’s more to come.
Until then, here’s info and audio:
Process Black, we have liftoff!
This, a demo of our first three songs, is done. We are going to pass this ’round to a few record labels and see what kind of trouble it stirs up. It’s heavy, dynamic, and jarring… and there’s seven other unheard tracks in the bag and ready for the next record.
Guitar and bass recorded by Aaron D.C. Edge at AlphaBaphomet Studios in Portland, OR. Drums recorded by Derek Moree at The Red Room in Seattle, WA. Vocals recorded by Joe Boldizar at Retro City Studios, Philadelphia PA. Demo cover designed by Aaron Edge.
released 22 January 2015
Process Black: Tim Singer: throat Brock Lowry: percussion Aaron Edge: strings
Members of: Kiss it Goodbye, Craft Spells, Roareth, Deadguy, iamthethorn, No Escape, Lumbar, Cascabel.
Posted in Radio on January 16th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
If I told you it was a varied bunch of stuff added to the server today, would you believe me? Seems I say the same thing every time I do one of these posts, but it applies each time, anyhow. This is the second round of adds of 2015, which means I’m two-for-two on weeks for the year. I doubt very much I’ll be able to keep that pace until we get to 2016 — which sounds like a distant and horrifying future in which cars fly and people work diligently to cure Martians of chicken pox — but it’s good for now. I’m trying to keep more of a handle on reviews than I did last year, and things like this help.
Though it’s only been a week and files haven’t had too much time to pile up — again, that’s the whole idea — there are still 11 records new to the playlist as of this afternoon, so please feel free to hit up the Updates and Playlist Page and check out the full batch for yourself. And with that link plugged, let’s get to it.
The Obelisk Radio adds for Jan. 16, 2015:
Black Pussy, Magic Mustache
After an interim split with Biblical Proof of UFOs that boasted the 20-minute jam “Galaxies,” Portland, Oregon’s Black Pussy return with their second full-length, Magic Mustache, which takes the hazy heavy psych of 2012’s On Blonde and gives it focus around natural tones, brazen hooks and diligently fuzzed variety, tripping out with synth and guitar effects on cuts like “Protopipe” and the brief-but-nod-worthy “Farrah Fawcett” while going full-on Queens of the Stone Age bounce on lead-single “For the Sake of Argument,” motorik space-rock on “Happy” and upping the lysergic swirl on the seven-minute closing title-track. It’s a quality record from a band with a rich sound, engaging songwriting and a well-honed psychedelia, a molten flow on “Lion’s Breath” and “On Top of the World” and others, and while every time I listen to it I can’t help but be bummed out by their moniker — which, despite being Black Pussy is so white and so male in its appropriation; no less so now than when The Rolling Stones picked it as the original title of “Brown Sugar” — I won’t discount the vibe that’s melted all over this material. Still, the distraction takes away from an otherwise righteous listening experience, and at least in my view, hurts a killer band. I wonder if it’s worth it. Black Pussy on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Time Rift, Demo 2015
But for the portraiture of the cover art, one might be tempted to call Demo 2015 a humble beginning for Portland trio Time Rift, whose launch represents a restart for vocalist/bassist Levi Campbell, guitarist Justin Kaye, and drummer Matt Amott, a three-piece formerly operating under the moniker Doomsower. To their credit, Time Rift is a better name, but more than just a switch, Demo 2015 presents them as an entirely new band, more rock-based, rawer in a ’70s-style presentation and less outwardly doomed. Even the seven-minute “The Cimmerian,” which dives headfirst into pre-NWOBHM early metal idolatry (and, yes, gets fairly doomed), keeps a melodic focus, and if there was a need to redirect their approach, at least Time Rift was able to do so while building on the chemistry already developing between them. The short, swing-heavy “Dusty Shelf” and layered vocal chorus of “Demon Hex” and proto-catchiness of “Starcrossed” legitimately sound like Campbell, Kaye and Amott have gone back to the start, and the exploration they’re embarking on seems like one well worth pursuing. One hopes they’re in a place sound-wise where they want to be, because it suits them. Time Rift on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
The Dust Bowl, Sangre Grande
Spanish heavy rockers The Dust Bowl released their second album, Sangre Grande, late last year and with it, they revel in grunge and desert rock atmospherics. Produced and mixed by guitarist César Royo (also organ, percussion, harmonica, etc.), it’s a vigilantly straightforward offering, delving into pop showmanship on “Bad Feeling,” but otherwise nestling cleanly into the post-QOTSA milieu of crunchy tones, strong hooks and melodic vocals. “Flow down this River” might be its most “the ’90s” moment, but there’s some stiff competition in that regard, while the quietly pulsing “Aqua de 1000 Cactus” brings to mind Kyuss‘ “Space Cadet” before the title-track finishes out in more raucous instrumental fashion. Touches of acoustic guitar, percussion, djembe, organ, backing vocals, and so on give their arrangements more depth than they might otherwise have, but at their core, The Dust Bowl – Royo, vocalist José Ángel Navarro, bassist Alejandro “Vilo” Viloria and drummer Manuel Navarro — are well rooted in the tenets of their genre, and they bring forth an able execution thereof. The Dust Bowl on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
The Sorrows, Gonna Find a Cave
Some lines it’s hard to make sound cool, but I firmly believe that if The Sorrows can sell, “Wanna be your ever-lovin’ caveman,” they can do just about anything. The reactivated UK group had a couple of singles out in the ’60s, but the three-song Gonna Find a Cave 7″ is brand new, though you’d hardly know it from the sound of the ultra-catchy title-track, or “Don’t Do That” and “Doin’ Alright Tonight,” which follow. The last of them has some touches of what could be an acknowledgement that the ’70s or anything thereafter happened and is so immediately familiar that it has me wondering if it’s a cover and I just can’t place it (any help in that regard is appreciated), but otherwise vocalist Don Fardon and company revel in pure 1965, pre-psychedelic pop rock, right at that moment after the British Invasion but before all the freakout that came next. It’s a place just about nobody these days dares inhabit, and the fact that they were there the first time around only makes Gonna Find a Cave more of a curio. Rise Above Records has unearthed some fascinating releases with roots in this era (see also their Rog & Pip compendium, issued last year), and The Sorrows bring it to life with unquestionable realism on these tracks. The Sorrows at Rise Above Records, Rise Above on Soundcloud.
Einstein-Rosen, Le Pont Noir
Acoustic intro “Prologue” sets a brooding tone for Le Pont Noir, the debut full-length from Quebecois prog metal instrumental outfit Einstein-Rosen, a solo-project from Louis-Alexandre Jacques, who doubles as guitarist in stoner metallers Grand Morne. Jacques plays all the instruments on Le Pont Noir, which is all the more impressive when he gets down to the shifting tempos and blastbeats in “Vénérable Vestige,” but the entirety of the album proves more dynamic than one might think for being executed by just one player, breaking into two sides as “Isthme” leads the way into the solo-topped “Neptune” at the start of the second half, the alternating thrash and plod of “Vortex” giving over to cinematic ambience as the nine-minute “Brume Quantique” closes out. Shred-prone stretches like those of “Ruinam” and “Vortex” tell the story of Jacques‘ underlying metal influence, but he seems no more likely to be kept to one single style as to one single band, and Einstein-Rosen‘s first outing only heralds development of an even broader reach. Einstein-Rosen on Bandcamp, Grand Morne on Thee Facebooks.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 16th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
I seem to recall about a decade ago there being talk of a Graves at Sea full-length after the stir rightly caused by their 2003 demo, Documents of Grief. Then based in Oakland, CA, and now residing in Portland, OR, the reborn-in-sludge four-piece outfit have inked a deal with none other than Relapse Records and will reportedly set about recording that long-awaited debut this summer. Funny how things work out sometimes.
Graves at Sea released the vinyl This Place is Poison EP last year, as well as a split with Sourvein, and having made stops at Roadburn and Desertfest, among others, they’ve been anything but idle since reforming. The Relapse signing makes sense for them, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the label decided to do a run of Documents of Grief sooner or later as well. Would be nice to see that one get its due with some deluxe-edition pomp and circumstance.
The PR wire has words:
GRAVES AT SEA Sign to Relapse Records
Band Set To Record Debut Full-Length This Summer
Relapse Records is extremely proud to announce the signing of underground, cult doom/sludge quartet GRAVES AT SEA. Formed in 2002, the band self-released the demo Documents of Grief which quickly became one of the most talked about underground demos of the decade. After recording their debut 7″ and a split with Asunder in 2004 and 2005 respectively, the band went on hiatus. GRAVES AT SEA are now stronger than ever, focusing their efforts on touring and recording new material. 2014 saw the group release their first new material in over nine years including a split with Sourvein and a separate two song EP.
Now thirteen years since forming, GRAVES AT SEA will record their highly anticipated first official full-length this summer with producer Greg Wilkinson (Brainoil) at Audible Alchemy in Portland, OR. The group commented on the signing and new material:
“So now this is gonna happen…We’re proud to say our first full length ever is coming out on Relapse Records. Relapse has been extremely cool to work with and we think it’s going to be a killer fit. Cheers. DFFD.”
Stay tuned for more info on GRAVES AT SEA including tour dates and more album details.
Graves at Sea Tour Dates 1/31 – Portland, Or – Mississippi Studios w/ Lord Dying and Sons Of Huns
Graves at Sea was formed in 2002 by friends Nick Phit and Nathan Misterek, with then members Roger Williams & Steve Klatz (RIP). After self-releasing the demo titled Documents of Grief, they toured extensively and were quickly noticed by Greg Anderson of Southern Lord/Sunn, who released their 7″ Cirrohosis/Atavist Arise in 2004. Later in 2005 the band released a split with friends Asunder on Life is Abuse (CD) and 20 Buck Spin (vinyl).
In 2007 Graves at Sea went through a line up change when Nathan moved to Oakland and Nick moved to Portland, OR. After playing two final shows with Chiyo Nukaga (Noothgrush) on drums and Miguel Veliz (ex-Sourvein, The Roller) on bass, the band broke up in 2008. In 2012, however, they decided to reunite with Chiyo on drums and Greg Wilkinson (Brainoil) on bass, but due to touring restraints, Chiyo and Greg decided to step down.
2013 marked the band’s first venture to Europe with a lengthy tour including appearances at Roadburn Festival and SWR Festival and a string of West Coast performances. 2014 brought forth their first new material since 2005. Graves At Sea released their split LP with Sourvein on Seventh Rule records at the start of their second European tour (this time with Sourvein). The split was quickly followed up by an EP on Eolian records titled “This Place Is Poison” and numerous US performances including Maryland Deathfest and California’s Day of the Shred Festival.
Graves at Sea is:
Nathan Misterek- vocals Nick Phit- guitar Bryan Sours – drums Jeff McGarrity- bass
Posted in Reviews on January 15th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Portland, Oregon’s Lord Dying deliver an efficient sludge-thrash beatdown on their second album for Relapse, Poisoned Altars. The follow-up to their 2013 debut, the Sanford Parker-recorded Summon the Faithless, the eight-track/34-minute Poisoned Altars was recorded by Joel Grind of Toxic Holocaust and arrives as the answer to anyone’s question as to just what Lord Dying were spending so much time on the road for, shifting away from some of the High on Fire-worship of their debut — side B’s “Offering Pain (and an Open Minded Center)” and “Suckling at the Teat of a She-Beast” will still fill any quota thereof — while beginning to feel out a more individualized sonic space. Sludge metal prevails, with dual emphasis. In their sound and their cover art, Lord Dying have espoused a penchant for the extreme, and Poisoned Altars, from its opening title-track down through the just-under-seven-minute finale “Darkness Remains,” holds firm to that, but there’s also an emerging rock groove in a track like “A Wound outside of Time” to contend with, and “An Open Sore”‘s second-half bridge brings in Aaron Beam from tourmates and apparent buds Red Fang for a guest appearance noteworthy both for Red Fang‘s profile at this point and for the upbeat catchiness of that part itself. Ultimately, even this fits into Lord Dying‘s stripped-down pummel, from which shades of Matt Pike and Kirk Windstein are never far, but as an example of the band’s growth since their debut, it’s hard to ignore. Ditto that for Poisoned Altars itself, which at the proper volume moves between nods and headbangs in commanding fashion, Lord Dying seeming, in defiance of their moniker, to thrive all the while.
That the album breaks so neatly into two sides with four tracks each is only further indication of its prevailing lack of pretentiousness. Lord Dying know why they’re there, and you know why they’re there — or otherwise they’re going to make it quickly apparent. “Poisoned Altars” itself makes a solid opener in setting up the tempo shifts and tradeoffs between riff styles that guitarist/vocalist Erik Olson, guitarist Chris Evans, bassist Don Capuano and drummer Rob Shaffer (formerly of Dark Castle and seemingly since out of the band, replaced by Nickolis Parks) toy with throughout subsequent tracks. Olson is clearly trying to expand his vocal reach from the Pike/Windstein snarl, and should be commended for both the effort and the result. Their sound being largely straightforward — that is, there’s little flourish or trickery involved in what they do — one can’t help but wonder if Lord Dying see a trap ahead of them in getting too boxed into “what they do,” and if parts of Poisoned Altars aren’t working, consciously or not, to expand those bounds. The opener and “The Clearing at the End of the Path” bludgeon neatly, but with the more open-grooving “A Wound outside of Time” and “An Open Sore” behind them, side A isn’t even done before Lord Dying are working toward a broader reach. This could just be a result of their extensive touring playing out in the progression of their style, or it could be something done on purpose to avoid stagnation. Either way, it’s noteworthy growth from an already vicious style that seems unwilling to relent its extremity. Those who dug Summon the Faithless‘ heaviest moments will no doubt find comfort in those of Poisoned Altars. Lord Dying are growing, but not at the expense of what worked so well on their debut.
Arranged shortest to longest, side B continues the push with a midsection solo giving way to raw-throated screams and a classic thrash riff that slows and speeds up to lead into the all-out drive of “Suckling at the Teat of a She-Beast,” an album highlight. It trades back and forth between Slayerized tension and a familiar gallop, but particularly in the context of what surrounds and with a change in vocals (not sure if that’s Olson switching approaches or a second guest appearance), it works with metallic righteousness. “(All Hopes of a New Day) …Extinguished” follows, the second parenthetical title on side B and the penultimate of the record, with a slowdown that, next to “Suckling at the Teat of a She-Beast,” emphasizes the two sides of Lord Dying‘s sound and the extremity that ties them together on Poisoned Altars‘ sprint-to-the-finish back half. Past a minute in, “Darkness Remains” hits the most Crowbarian moment here present in a particularly strained bark from Olson, but by then, the point has been so nailed down that one would hardly blink at it. They shift into an instrumental concluding movement — lead and rhythm guitars intertwining fluidly; the solo is a standout — and end by deconstructing the tight riffing by fading it into a swell of rumbling amp noise that concludes the album without further word. They’re gone as brutally as they arrived, but Lord Dying nonetheless leave the impression of a turn to come. Particularly with their habit of hard touring, Poisoned Altars seems to have set them up for a pivotal moment to come as they bring the progression here to further fruition their next time out. It will be their third record that determines ultimately their course as a band, but their second serves as much more than a placeholder in affirming the payoff of the effort they’ve put in on the road thus far. It is evolution won the hard way.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 14th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Scott Kelly and the Road Home‘s “The Field that Surrounds Me,” taken from 2012’s The Forgiven Ghost in Me (review here), is one of those songs I go back to when I’m absolutely out of my mind. Needless to say, it’s come up a couple times since the album was released, and so I’m pleased to see Kelly and his Neurosis bandmate Noah Landis bringing in Munly J. Munly of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club and Munly and the Lee Lewis Harlots as a full-time member and moving forward with the project. Re-dubbed The Road Home, the trio will embark on a 12-date tour starting Jan. 22, joined for a couple shows by Mike Scheidt and linking up with the Karma to Burn/Sierra tour for a gig in there as well.
Hopefully they come east at some point so I can intend to go see them and, should I actually manage to do so, get pulled over on the way. Because that’s what happens every other fucking time I try to leave the house and go someplace in this godforsaken over-copped perma-gray wintry hellhole where I live. Fuck everything. Cool project though. I got sidetracked. Sorry.
To the PR wire:
THE ROAD HOME: Scott Kelly Solo Venture Takes New Form With Full-Time Members Noah Landis And Munly J Munly
West Coast Tour Dates Begin Next Week
With the addition of new full-time members, the project forged as SCOTT KELLY AND THE ROAD HOME — orchestrated by Neurosis’ founding guitarist/vocalist, Scott Kelly — has since taken a new form as simply, THE ROAD HOME.
Neurosis’ keyboard/effects wizard, Noah Landis, has been a part of the project since the creation of SCOTT KELLY AND THE ROAD HOME’s 2012-released debut album, The Forgiven Ghost In Me, providing baritone guitars and keyboards to the record and on stage. Yet, since his role in the outfit has become much more expansive and significant, in both inception and delivery of the tunes, his place in the lineup has therefore become more permanent. Additionally, renowned singer/songwriter Munly J Munly has joined the group in recent months, helping reshape the band’s sound. An iconic folk/country/gospel multi-instrumentalist who has helped shape the contemporary sound of Denver, Munly is part of several current acts, including his own Munly and the Lee Lewis Harlots, as well as Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, Denver Broncos UK and others, with releases on Smooch Records, Alternative Tentacles and more, in addition to being an awarded author, and so on.
Issues Kelly of the current state of THE ROAD HOME, “We changed the name because with the addition of Munly and Noah’s already prominent role in the process it felt that this had become a band of absolutely equal parts in every way. We will be working on new material throughout the year in preparation for a new record.”
As their next recorded chapter comes together, THE ROAD HOME’s new lineup will be playing live whenever possible, beginning with a newly-confirmed Western US tour which begins next week. From Thursday, January 22rd through Wednesday, February 4th, they will traverse through California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Idaho and Washington with twelve dates confirmed.
Additional tour and release news on THE ROAD HOME will be confirmed and announced in the months ahead.
THE ROAD HOME Winter Tour Dates: 1/22/2015 1234 Go! Records – Oakland, CA – in-store performance 1/23/2015 Metavinyl – Santa Cruz, CA 1/24/2015 Audies Olympic – Fresno, CA 1/25/2015 Against The Stream Buddhist Meditation Society – Los Angeles, CA 1/27/2015 TKO Records – Huntington Beach, CA – in-store performance 1/28/2015 Yucca Tap Room – Phoenix, AZ 1/29/2015 Dive Bar – Las Vegas, NV 1/30/2015 Heart of Gold Tattoo – Salt Lake City, UT 1/31/2015 Crazy Heart – Boise, ID 2/02/2015 The Shakedown – Bellingham, WA 2/03/2015 El Corazon – Seattle, WA 2/04/2015 Hawthorne Theatre front room – Portland, OR
Neurot Recordings released SCOTT KELLY AND THE ROAD HOME’s debut outing, The Forgiven Ghost In Me, in August 2012. Dissimilar to his previously-released solo outings, on this recording Kelly sought out additional musicians to help bring his written vision to fruition, recruiting the talents of Greg Dale and Noah Landis, as well as guest contributions from Jason Roeder (Neurosis, Sleep) and Josh Graham (A Storm Of Light, ex-Neurosis). The Forgiven Ghost In Me, flows with over forty minutes of foreboding Americana showcasing the ever-evolving artist brandishing some of Kelly’s most expressive hymns of pain, reflection and redemption to date.
If you put your mind to it, you can probably think of one or two things as romantic to do on Valentine’s Day as going to see Portland’s own Gods of Grungus Blackwitch Pudding close out their “Magic up Your Butt” West Coast tour with a hometown gig at High Water Mark, but I doubt any of them would be as much fun. The wizard-robed three-piece streamed their Covered in Pudding Vol. 1 EP here earlier this year, and it was a work of demented genius to follow-up their 2013 debut full-length, Taste the Pudding (review here), but I don’t imagine either captures the full tonal spellcasting they do on stage.
To that end, the series of occasional video premieres we’ve been doing (“we” being you and I) from the 2014 Ceremony of Sludge continues, this time with Blackwitch Pudding themselves. The song they dig into in the clip below carries the charm-laden title “Gathering Panties,” and it comes from the LP. You’ll note the creeper riff at the start and the pummeling it portends. More curious, perhaps, is the arrival of a fourth wizard on keyboard. I’m not sure the designation of this particular magician. Likely he was conjured from the ether to further the efforts of Space Wizard, Lizard Wizard and Wizard Wizard in crafting their otherworldly murk, and to that ether he soon returned. Or something.
We’re getting to the point where Ceremony of Sludge should be announcing who’ll be taking part in 2015 — the festival was held in March this year at Club 21 and seems to have drawn a good crowd — so if and when I hear anything on that, I’ll keep you posted, but in the meantime, Blackwitch Pudding have some underwear they’d like to round up and I’m no one to stand in the way.
Direction by Cole Boggess, audio by Tim Burke. Tour details follow the video:
Blackwitch Pudding, “Gathering Panties” Live at Ceremony of Sludge
Paying Homage to the rotten filth from which they were born, Blackwitch Pudding are actually a band of three wizards. Legend has it they were raised from a stagnant, used puddle of ergot, left by the mysterious Blackwitch no less than 600 years ago. Trained in the dark arts of doom and witchery, these wizards wander the cosmos in search of nothing, for their path is a simple one: The riffs must be heavy and the smoke must be heavier.
Following the wildly successful release of their new EP, Covered In Pudding Vol. 1, the 600-year-old wizards of Blackwitch Pudding are taking their magic, their smoke, their lazers–and most importantly their riffs–on the road. Starting January 15th, you can catch the traveling wizard doom party extravaganza across the U.S….and a show so entertaining that no other doom metal band in their weight class can muster.
“MAGIC UP YOUR BUTT” U.S. TOUR DATES:
1/15 Seattle, WA @ The Narwhal 1/16 Portland, OR @ The Kenton Club 1/17 Ashland, OR @ Club 66 1/18 Sacramento, CA @ TBA 1/21 San Diego, CA @ The Til Two Club 1/22 Pomona, CA @ Characters 1/23 Tempe, AZ @ Tempe Tavern 1/24 Tucson, AZ @ Sky Bar 1/25 El Paso, TX @ Grynde Bar 1/26 San Antonio, TX @ Lime Light Bar 1/27 Houston, TX @ Rudyards 1/29 Austin, TX @ The Lost Well 1/30 Dallas, TX @ Lola’s Room 1/31 Little Rock, AR @ Vino’s 2/1 Oklahoma City, OK @ The Conservatory 2/2 Amarillo, TX @ TBA 2/3 Santa Fe, NM @ The Launchpad 2/4 Flagstaff, AZ @ The Hive 2/5 Las Vegas, NV @ The Dive Bar 2/6 Los Angeles, CA @ Los Globos 2/7 San Luis Obispo, CA @ Sweet Springs Saloon 2/8 San Francisco, CA @ The Hemlock Tavern 2/10 Bend, OR @ TBA 2/14 Portland, OR @ High Water Mark
Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Please note: These are not the results of the Readers Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t added your list yet, please do.
This was a hard list to put together. The top three have been set in my mind for probably the last month, but trying to work my way backwards from there was a real challenge — what’s a top 10 record, a top 20 record, a top 30, honorable mentions and all the rest. I’ve never done a full top 30 before, always 20, but the truth is there was just too much this year to not expand.
I’m still juggling numbers even as I put together this post, and I’m sure that by the time I’m done several records will have switched places. That’s always how it seems to go. What I’m confident that I have is a list accurately representing critique and my own habits, both what I gravitated toward in listening throughout the year and what I feel is noteworthy on a critical level. This site has always been a blend of those two impulses. It’s only fair this list should be as well.
Before we dig in, you should note this is full-length albums only. I’ll have a list of short releases (EPs, singles, demos) to come, as well as a special list of debut releases, since it seemed to be a particularly good year for them. And since I’m only one person, I couldn’t hear everything, much as I tried.
The kings of London’s heavy scene offered more powerhouse heavy rock with their eighth album and second for Candlelight, and their rabid and ever-growing fanbase ate it up. Back from the Abyss proved yet again that few can attain the kind of vicious force that seems to come so natural to Orange Goblin, and made it clear their domination shows no signs of losing momentum.
A darker affair from Port Orchard, Washington’s Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty still found its core in the songwriting led by guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed. They’re a band with some changes on the horizon, and I’ll be interested to hear what hindsight does to these songs. As it was, the hooks and downer vibes may have been in conceptual conflict, but the execution was inarguable.
Richer in the listening than 2012’s Misery Wizard debut, Pilgrim‘s II: Void Worship nonetheless held firm to the doomly spirit that’s made the Rhode Island outfit such a sensation these last couple years. Its longer songs, “Master’s Chamber,” “Void Worship” and the emotionally weighted “Away from Here,” were particularly immersive, and they remain a bright spot in doom’s future.
His long-awaited solo debut, John Garcia‘s John Garcia offered memorable tracks culled from years of songwriting from the former Kyuss, Slo Burn, Unida and Hermano frontman, performed in the classic desert rock style he helped define. I’m not sure it was worth trading a second Vista Chino record for, but it was hard to argue with “The Blvd” and “All These Walls.”
An overwhelming two-disc barrage from a relentless creativity that, more than 30 years on from its first public incarnation, is still to be considered avant garde. I’m not sure planet earth realizes how lucky it is to have Swans running around unleashing all this chaos, but I hope they don’t stop anytime soon. To be Kind was brutal and beautiful in like measure.
Icelandic four-piece Sólstafir hit on a rarely attained balance of gorgeousness and melancholy, and while Ótta is expansive, it’s also gripping front to back and is the best execution of its style I’ve heard since Anathema‘s Alternative 4, which is not a comparison I make lightly. A challenging record, but satisfying in kind and universal in its expressiveness.
The follow-up to Greenleaf‘s stellar 2012 outing Nest of Vipers (review here) brought lineup changes and stripped away many of the textural elements of the band’s sound — guest appearances, arrangement flourishes — in order to get back to a classic heavy rock sound and translate better to the stage. With guitarist Tommi Holappa‘s songwriting ever at the core, it would be unfair to call the process anything but a success.
Most of the headlines went to the fact that Primitive and Deadly had vocals, where the generally-instrumental Earth had avoided singers for 18 years prior, but even putting aside Mark Lanegan and Rabi Shabeen Qazi, whose performance on “From the Zodiacal Light” was the high point of the record, presented Earth‘s always progressive tensions in a rawer, heavier production, and was a joy for longtime fans.
Six years and one breakup later, Portland, Maine, doom trio Ogre returned with The Last Neanderthal, neither afraid to revel in Sabbathian traditionalism or rock out a more upbeat cut like opener “Nine Princes in Amber.” For bassist/vocalist Ed Cunningham, guitarist Ross Markonish and drummer Will Broadbent, it was a welcome resurgence of pretense-free heavy riffs and grooves.
Of course, at the time we didn’t know it would be the final outing from this lineup of UK doomers The Wounded Kings, whose guitarist/founder Steve Mills has now reunited with original vocalist George Birch, but Consolamentum was a hell of a closing statement anyway for this era of the band, showcasing their murky, increasingly progressive style still waiting for wider appreciation.
Wasn’t sure where to put Floor‘s reunion offering, Oblation, on this list at first, since I kind of fell off listening to it as the year went on, but I’ve gone back to it over the last couple weeks and it has held up to the revisit, whether it’s songs like the extended “Sign of Aeth” or shorter, catchy pummelers like “Rocinante” or “War Party.” Floor‘s 2002 self-titled holds an untouchable legacy in heavy rock, but I think the years will prove Oblation a worthy successor. Nobody knew what they had with Floor at the time either.
Little on 2011’s Motherfucker Rising (review here) or their 2010 demo (review here) prepared for the kind of assault that Druglord‘s Enter Venus brought to bear. Four stomp-laden slabs of tectonic crash and distortion, vocals buried under and calling up from the amp-bred fog. The Virginian trio were in and out on the 27-minute 12″ release, but had enough heavy for a record twice as long, and the tinges of darkened psychedelia made their songs like a lurking presence just on the edge of consciousness, a threat waiting to be unleashed.
For the sheer variety of Ararat‘s third album in rockers like “Nicotina y Destrucción,” “El Hijo de Ignacio,” the experimentalism of “El Arca” and the piano-driven “Los Viajes” and the acoustic closer “Atalayah,” and the assured, flowing manner in which the Argentina trio pulled it all off, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz should be higher on this list than it is. Part of that might be my frustration at my apparent inability to buy a copy, but don’t let that take away from the quality of the material here, which is wonderfully chaotic, memorable and engaging, rushing in some places and stopping to weep in others.
You won’t hear me deny that Radio Moscow‘s primary impact is as a live band, but their fifth album, Magical Dirt, managed to bring forth much of their psychedelic blues presence in “Death of a Queen,” “Before it Burns” and “Gypsy Fast Woman,” the blinding rhythmic turns and wah-soaked guitar supremacy of Parker Griggs front and center throughout. Together with bassist Anthony Meier (also Sacri Monti) and drummer Paul Marrone (also Astra and Psicomagia), Radio Moscow are hitting their stride as one of heavy rock’s most powerful power trios. One never knows what to expect, but hopefully they keep going the way they are.
Four years isn’t the longest time I’ve ever waited for a record to come out, but in the case of Indianapolis’ Apostle of Solitude, it felt like an especially long stretch. Their third full-length and first for Cruz del Sur, Of Woe and Wounds followed the anticipation-building Demo 2012 (review here) and a couple splits and brought aboard bassist Dan Dividson and guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak (also Devil to Pay), who fit well with drummer Corey Webb and guitarist/vocalist Chuck Brown to result in a payoff worthy and indicative of the time that went into its making. Hands down one of the finest acts in American doom.
Stubb‘s second long-player, also their debut on Ripple, gets a nod for the sense of progression it brought in answering the potential of the trio’s 2012 self-titled debut (review here), guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson, bassist Peter Holland and new drummer Tom Fyfe expanding the scope to include more heavy psych influence and soul along with the fuzz riffs and steady rolling while giving no ground in terms of the level of craft at work. Cry of the Ocean has become one of those albums where all I have to do is look at a title, be it “Cry of the Ocean Pt. I” or “Sail Forever” or “Heartbreaker,” and the song is immediately stuck in my head. With these tracks, that’s not at all a complaint.
14. Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, Black Power Flower
Brant Bjork has worn many hats, literal and figurative, over the years, whether it’s drummer in Kyuss or Fu Manchu, producer, solo artist or bandleader. With Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, he steps once again into the latter role, and with guitarist Bubba DuPree, bassist Dave Dinsmore and drummer Tony Tornay, presents not only on his heaviest record to date, but what could easily begin a sustainable full-band progression that can go just about anywhere his songwriting wants to take it. “Stokely up Now,” “That’s a Fact Jack,” “Controllers Denied” and “Boogie Woogie on Your Brain” made for some of 2014’s best in desert rock, and Black Power Flower was an stellar return for Bjork to his “solo” work.
An earlier version of this list had Pagan Fruit at a lower number, but I couldn’t live with it not being closer to the top 10. Salt Lake City’s Dwellers pushed deeper into laid back psych and blues on their second album, and in doing so, crafted an atmosphere entirely their own. From “Creature Comfort” down to “Call of the Hollowed Horn,” with triumphs along the way like “Rare Eagle,” “Totem Crawler” (“Ohh, my queen… To whom, I crawl…) and “Son of Raven,” Pagan Fruit became a staple of my 2014, building off their 2012 debut, Good Morning Harakiri (review here), but presenting their stylistic growth with a confidence and poise that can only come from a band who’ve figured out what they want to be doing and how they want to do it. Front to back, Pagan Fruit sounds like an arrival.
What made Brooklyn trio The Golden Grass‘ self-titled debut such a special released wasn’t just that it was heavy, or that the tracks were catchy, or that guitarist Michael Rafalowich and drummer Adam Kriney could harmonize over Joe Noval‘s warm-toned basslines. That was all great, don’t get me wrong, but what really stood out about The Golden Grass was its irony-free positivity, the way it was able to capture an upbeat, sunshiny feel without having to smirk about it on the other side of its mouth. It was self-aware, to be sure — knew what it was doing — but the way I see it, consciousness only makes the stylistic choices more impressive. Add to that the nuance they brought to ’70s revivalism, and all that stuff about catchiness and the harmonies, and there just wasn’t a level on which the album didn’t work.
My appreciation continues to grow for The Well‘s Samsara, which successfully pulled together influences from garage doom and heavy psychedelia while crafting an identity for the Austin, Texas, three-piece at once raw and melodically accomplished, guitarist Ian Graham and bassist Lisa Alley sharing vocals to classic effect on “Refuge” while otherwise trading off lead position to bolster variety in the material. The high point might’ve been the eight-minute “Eternal Well,” on which Graham, Alley and drummer Jason Sullivvan conjured some of their grooviest demons, but the hooks of “Mortal Bones,” “Trespass” and the attitude-laced “Dragon Snort” were no less engaging. One of many strong releases from their label this year — Slow Season, The Picturebooks, etc. — they seemed to come ready to serve notice of a stylistic movement underway.
10. Montibus Communitas, The Pilgrim to the Absolute
Peruvian psych adventurers Montibus Communitas more or less blew my mind when I heard their late-2013 offering, Harvest Times earlier this year, and the narrative, conceptual 2014 release, The Pilgrim to the Absolute, is even more of an achievement in its portrayal of improvised exploration, sonic ritualism and open creativity. The weaving of longer pieces against shorter ones with the various steps along the path as presented in the titles, some journeying, some arriving, some descriptive, almost all accompanied by nature in one form or another, gives The Pilgrim to the Absolute an almost impressionistic quality, so that even as you listen to it, you engage it as much as it carries you along its vibrant, breathtaking progression en route to the closing title-track, which is a destination every bit worthy of the journey. This is the most recently reviewed inclusion on this list, but Montibus Communitas‘ latest readily earns its place in the top 10. It is unique in its surroundings.
Looking back at the last two Fu Manchu records, 2007’s We Must Obey and 2009’s Signs of Infinite Power, it seemed reasonable to expect the groundbreaking SoCal fuzz foursome to put out another collection of big-sounding riffs in a big-sounding production. Nothing to complain about, but probably not a landmark. By going the other way completely — stripping their buzzed-out riffing down to its punkish core thanks in no small part to recording with Moab‘s Andrew Giacumakis — Fu Manchu served up a raw reminder both of where they came from and how top notch their songwriting remains. Reissuing their earliest work and being on their own label might’ve had something to do with it, but whatever it was, the 35 minutes of Gigantoid was as efficient a heavy rock outing as one could hope from an already legendary band, whether it was the hook-prone opening salvo of “Dimension Shifter,” “Invaders on My Back,” “Anxiety Reducer” and “Radio Source Sagittarius” or the righteous ending jam “The Last Question.”
Given the origins of The Skull — ex-Trouble members Eric Wagner, Jeff “Oly” Olson and Ron Holzner joining with Lothar Keller and a series of other guitarists, finally Matt Goldsborough, working essentially as a tribute band to their former outfit — I think not only did the quality of the material and performance on For Those Which are Asleep surprise, as well as the classically doomed feel that resonates throughout the album, but the sheer heartfelt nature of songs like “Sick of it All,” “Send Judas Down” and the title-track itself. This wasn’t a cynical attempt to make a go of an already set legacy. It was an expression of appreciation both for what they accomplished as Trouble and a desire to continue that work. The Skull‘s whole thing has been that they’re “more Trouble than Trouble,” and in their lineup that’s been true since they brought Olson on board. For Those Which are Asleep demonstrated that the classic spirit of that band is alive and well, its address has just changed. Moreover, it’s the beginning of a new progression for that spirit, and I hope it continues.
Nineteen years after releasing their self-titled debut, New York’s Blood Farmers contended for 2014’s comeback of the year with their sophomore outing, Headless Eyes — a morose, horror-obsessed six-track collection that on “Night of the Sorcerers” owed as much to Goblin as to Sabbath. The closing cover of David Hess‘ theme from The Last House on the Left, “The Road Leads to Nowhere,” was a late bit of melodic flourish to add depth, but how could the highlight be anything other than the 10-minute title-track itself, with its samples from the 1971 horror flick The Headless Eyes, bassist Eli Brown in a call and response with lyrics comprised of lines directly taken from the movie? That after playing shows the last several years, Blood Farmers managed to get a record out was impressive enough. That Headless Eyes turned out to be the year’s best traditional doom release was an entirely different level of surprise. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for their third, but Brown, guitarist David Szulkin and drummer Tad Leger gave plenty to chew on with Blood Farmers‘ second. It was better than would’ve been fair to expect.
A lot of what you need to know about Lo-Pan‘s fourth album you learn in the first five seconds of opener “Regulus.” There’s no fancy intro, no time wasted, nothing to take away from the directness of the song itself. Tones are crisp — the verse is already underway — and guitar, bass and drums are laser-focused in their forward movement. Even when vocalist Jeff Martin enters the song, roughly six seconds later, his arrival comes with no indulgence, no pomp. Colossus is easily Lo-Pan‘s most immediate work to date, and throughout, Martin, guitarist Brian Fristoe (since replaced by Adrian Zambrano), bassist Scott Thompson and drummer Jesse Bartz retain that focus no matter where the material takes them, delivering a clinic in how to kick as much ass as possible at any given moment on cuts like “Marathon Man” and “Eastern Seas,” or even bringing in guest vocalist Jason Alexander Byers, who also designed the album cover, for a spot on “Vox.” They had a hard task in following up 2011’s Salvador (review here), but the Columbus, Ohio, unit stood up to the challenge and met it and everyone else head-on.
What to do with All Them Witches‘ Lightning at the Door? The Nashville four-piece released the album last fall digitally, but it wasn’t until this September that it saw a physical manifestation. In fact, if you go back, it was included on the Top 20 of 2013 as well. Which is the release date? I don’t know. What I know is that in terms of the sheer amount of time spent listening, I put on Lightning at the Door more than any other record this year. From where I sit, that alone gets it a place in the top five. Yeah, it might be a cop-out to do a “5a,” but sometimes exceptions have to be made, and All Them Witches have proved to be nothing if not exceptional in their still relatively brief, jam-laden history, the psych-blues dynamic between bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, Fender Rhodes specialist Allan van Cleave and drummer Robby Staebler pushing them quickly to the fore of American heavy rock’s innovators, their natural, improv-sounding material feeling brazen and exploratory while reshaping the elements of genre to suit their needs. One can only see this dynamic developing further as they continue to grow as a live band, so Lightning at the Door may just be the start, and that’s perhaps most exciting of all.
A beautiful, stunning work made even more powerful by the honesty driving it. Portland, Oregon’s Witch Mountain completed a trilogy with the Billy Anderson-produced Mobile of Angelsthat brought about some of the best doom of this young decade, their 2011 return from a years-long hiatus, South of Salem (review here) serving as the foundation for a stylistic progression that continued on the following year’s Cauldron of the Wild (review here) and onto Mobile of Angels itself as the four-piece’s most accomplished album to date. The reason it feels like such a concluding chapter is because of the departure of vocalist Uta Plotkin, whose voice helped establish Witch Mountain both on stage and in the studio, leaving founders Rob Wrong (guitar) and Nathan Carson (drums) with the sizable task of finding a replacement. That situation will be what it will be, but Mobile of Angels remains a gorgeous, lonely testament. Plotkin gives a landmark performance on “Can’t Settle” and “The Shape Truth Takes,” which in the context of what was happening in Witch Mountain at the time ring with a truth that’s rare in or out of doom, and she seems to have left the band just as they were hitting their finest hour. So it goes.
In all of heavy, there is no assault so severe as Conan‘s. With their second full-length and debut on Napalm Records, the UK trio solidified the two sides of the preceding 2012 outing, Monnos (review here), in constructing material that, fast or slow, short or long, retained an epic feel melded with their ungodly tonality and memorable songwriting. Their first recording at guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis‘ Skyhammer Studio, it affirmed Conan‘s will to conquer in its two massive bookends, “Crown of Talons” and “Altar of Grief,” and in the High on Fire-worthy gallop of “Foehammer” — a bludgeon commandingly wielded by Davis, bassist/vocalist Phil Coumbe and drummer Paul O’Neil, the latter to of whom have since left the band to be replaced by longtime-producer Chris Fielding and Rich Lewis, respectively. What effect the changes might have on the band — except apparently more touring, which isn’t a bad thing — have yet to be seen, but Conan are already in the process of writing a follow-up to Blood Eagle, so it doesn’t seem like it’ll be all that long until we find out. With Davis still steering the band in songwriting and overall direction, one severely doubts they’ll be fixing what obviously isn’t broken anytime soon. None heavier.
Dallas riff-rockers Wo Fat have grown steadily over the course of their five albums, from the nascent heavy roll of 2006’s The Gathering Dark, to the hooks of 2008’s Psychedelonaut (review here), the jamming that started to surface on 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra (review here) and was pushed further on 2012’s The Black Code (review here). And their approach has been as steady as the frequency of their releases. In making The Conjuring, the three-piece were simply engaging the next step in their progression, but the material on the five-track/48-minute outing goes further than just that. Putting aside (momentarily) the 17-minute closer “Dreamwalker,” the other cuts, “The Conjuring,” “Read the Omens,” “Pale Rider from the Ice” and “Beggar’s Bargain” each found a place for themselves in pulling together jammed-sounding elements with a memorable construction, and when guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer Michael Walter did kick into “Dreamwalker,” they hit on not only their longest piece yet, but their most accomplished showcase of the chemistry that has developed between them. That song is a beast unto itself, but as has been the case with Wo Fat each time out so far in their career, there’s nothing on The Conjuring to give the impression the band can’t or won’t continue to keep going on the path that’s worked so well for them on this point. They’ve spent the last eight years on the right track and have yet to waiver. The Conjuring should be played at top volume for anyone who contends there’s no life left in heavy rock and roll.
Mars Red Sky‘s second LP and first for Listenable, Stranded in Arcadia was originally supposed to be recorded in the California desert, but visa problems kept the French trio of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matgaz in Brazil, where they’d previously been touring. Thus, “stranded in Arcadia,” which is basically another way of saying “lost in paradise.” Can’t say the Bordeaux three-piece didn’t make the most of it, though. Songs like “The Light Beyond” and “Hovering Satellites” — not to mention the utter melodic bliss of “Join the Race” — took cues from their 2011 self-titled debut (review here) in terms of memorable songwriting and melodic craft, but added to that heft and tonal richness more of a psychedelic vibe, so that not only was there fuzz and wah, but a spacious world in which the songs took place. With Kinast on lead vocals, the sneaky boogie of “Holy Mondays” became a highlight, and the one-two swing ‘n’ stomp of “Circles” and “Seen a Ghost” were a perfect demonstration by the band of the various sides of their sound, particularly following after the dreamy instrumental “Arcadia,” an echoing jam distinguished by Pras‘ wistful guitar lead and coming before the closing “Beyond the Light,” which reprises the opener’s resonant unfolding. It probably wasn’t the record they intended to make, but Stranded in Arcadia became one of my go-to albums for 2014, and like the best of any given year’s output, I’ve no doubt it will transcend the passage of time and continue to deliver for years to come. Hell, I was barely done with the debut when this one came out.
Can’t imagine this is any great surprise. Not only did Clearing the Path to Ascend – YOB‘s seventh album and first for Neurot — produce my pick for song of the year in its sprawling, emotionally weighted 18-minute closer, “Marrow,” but in the three full-lengths the Eugene, Oregon, trio of drummer Travis Foster, bassist Aaron Rieseberg and guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt have released since the latter reformed the band after breaking it up following 2005’s The Unreal Never Lived, all three have been my album of the year. The Great Cessation was in 2009, and Atma was in 2011. Consistency aside, I’ll point out specifically that each of the same three records has earned that position, perhaps Clearing the Path to Ascend most of all for its progressive feel, moving past genre even at its most raging moment, second cut “Nothing to Win,” the chorus of which proved that among everything else YOB could be, they could be anthemic. The cosmic, spiritual questing that has always been present in their songs, that feeling of searching, showed up in opener “In Our Blood,” but even there, it was evident YOB were pushing themselves beyond what they’ve done before, rewriting their own formulas incorporating lessons from their past in among their other points of inspiration. “Unmask the Spectre” could have easily been an album closer itself, with its patient exploration and feverishly intense payoff, but with the melodic progressivism of “Marrow” and the soul poured into every second of that track, every verse and chorus, solo and build — including the Hammond added to the last of them by producer Billy Barnett — YOB created a landmark both for themselves and the increasing many working under their influence. I’ve said on several occasions (bordering on “many” at this point) that YOB are a once-in-a-generation band, and it feels truer in thinking of Clearing the Path to Ascend than it ever has. Without a doubt, album of the year and then some.
First, special note to Colour Haze‘s To the Highest Gods We Know. I’ve decided to count it as a 2015 release since the vinyl will be out in Spring, but otherwise surely it would earn a place on this list. Blackwolfgoat‘s Drone Maintenance also deserves note.
A few other honorable mentions:
Mothership, Mothership II — It’s hard to argue with a classic heavy rock power trio kicking ass. I won’t try.
Alunah, Awakening the Forest — Every time I make a list, no matter what kind of list it is, there’s a band I wind up kicking myself for forgetting about at the time. This is the case 100 percent with why Alunah aren’t in the Top 30. In fact, I might go in and swap them out with somebody.
Ice Dragon, Seeds from a Dying Garden — Boston experimental psych/garage doomers continue to defy expectation. May their weirdness last forever and continue to produce material so satisfying.
Truckfighters, Universe – I thought at some point I’d go back to Universe again, but never really did. A problem with me more than the album.
Steak, Slab City — An impressive debut following two strong EPs.
Godflesh, A World Lit Only by Fire — I never got a review copy, so I never reviewed it. Its name is here because I’m a fan of the band and glad they’re back.
Thou, Heathen — Just recently purchased this and am only getting to know it, but a ridiculously strong album.
Corrosion of Conformity, IX — Everybody who gets a boner whenever Pepper Keenan is mentioned in connection with this band has missed out. This record and the self-titled kick ass.
Spidergawd, Spidergawd — Holy shit they’re over here! No they’re over there! No wait over here again! Oh my god I’ve just gone blind!
Monster Magnet, Milking the Stars — I wasn’t sure what to do with this since technically it’s not a new album, mostly reworked songs from the last one. I still listened to it a ton though, whatever it is.
Slomatics, Estron — Another one I’m just getting to know, but am very much digging.
Electric Wizard, Time to Die — People seem to do this thing where Electric Wizard puts out a record, everyone slathers over it for a few months and then spends the next two years talking about how it sucked. I guess I’ll be on the ground floor with not having been that into Time to Die.
Pallbearer, Foundations of Burden — Had to put their name somewhere on this list or someone would burn my house down. Album of the year for many.
The list goes on: Monolord, Comet Control, Mammatus, Triptykon, Eyehategod, Fever Dog, Moab, Karma to Burn, Atavismo, Grifter, 1000mods, Megaton Leviathan, Wovenhand, Mr. Peter Hayden, Primordial, and many more.
Before I check out and go sit in a corner somewhere to try and rebuild brain power after this massive dump of a purge, I want to sincerely thank you for reading. If you check in regularly, or if you’ve never been to the site before, if you don’t give a crap about lists or if you’re gonna go listen to even one band on here, it’s fantastic to me. Thank you so much for all the support this site receives, for your comments, for sharing links, retweeting, whatever it is. I am a real person — I’m sitting on my couch at this very moment — and being able to do this and have people see it and be a part of it with me is unbelievable. I realize how fortunate I am. So thank you. Thank you.
More to come as we close out 2014. I’ll have a list of short/split/demo releases, a year-end podcast, a list of the best debuts, a round up of the best live shows I saw, as much more as time allows. Please stay tuned.
And again, thank you. If I left anyone off the list, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments and contribute your own top albums, however many there are, to the Readers Poll.
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