Tomorrow’s Dream: 42 of 2014′s Most Anticipated Albums

Posted in Features on January 13th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Getting ready to type this list is like standing on the precipice of a canyon. Maybe that’s a little dramatic, but you get the idea. Last year was an all-out assault of music. I couldn’t have heard it all even if I’d wanted to, and while it’ll probably be June before I feel like I’m sufficiently caught up on 2013, the new-car-smelling rush of 2014 is already underway.

And the only thing to do is press on — though I’ve tried on several occasions, I can’t seem to stop time and review everything that I’m fortunate enough to encounter — and that means glancing ahead to what’s coming in 2014. I know I said so before, but once again, Happy New Year.

One of my favorite things to do is to look forward to a new album. I consider it a sign of the endurance of the human spirit not only that new creative works are being completed and distributed at such a constant rate, but that we can still anticipate the resonance of those works upon their arrival. I don’t mind telling you this is the largest of any such list I’ve ever written for this site. Even as I start it, I’m finding more to add, and I’m sure when it’s done it won’t be complete. So it goes.

There’s more to say, but I’ve delayed enough. We’ll go alphabetically, which is only unfortunate because it puts YOB last. Thanks in advance for reading.

 

1. Acid King, TBA

We start the same place we started in 2013, with Acid King. The San Francisco giants have sworn up and down they’ll have a new record out this year, and while I’ve yet to see any solid word of its coming manifest, I remain hopeful that it happens. Of course, that was also pretty much the case going into 2013, but they toured Europe last fall and even came out to the East Coast for a show and played some new material (review here), so if it’s to be that III finally gets a follow-up some nine years later, it’s worth keeping an eye out ahead of time. Acid King on Thee Facebooks.

 

2. Alcest, Shelter

To be released this coming week on Prophecy Productions, the fourth Alcest full-length, Shelter (review here), is billed as a major sonic turn away from the France-based outfit’s black metal influences toward brighter sonic fare. It is that, but the nostalgic melodies and crucial emotionality that has always been the root of Alcest’s sound remains intact. It will be interesting to see what the response is upon its release, but Shelter is an early point of fascination for 2014. Alcest on Thee Facebooks.

 

3. All Them Witches, TBA


I’m not sure what they’re doing in the studio, if it’s a single, an EP or a full-length album, but this past weekend, on Jan. 11, Nashville heavy psych rockers All Them Witches posted the above picture with the simple tagline “Recording.” Fair enough. It seems soon for them to have another LP after 2013′s excellent Lightning at the Door (discussed here), but that album seemed to arrive soon after 2012′s Our Mother Electricity (reissued by Elektrohasch in 2013; review here), so who knows? It’ll be fun to find out either way. All Them Witches on Bandcamp.

 

4. Alunah, TBA

UK doomers Alunah will make their debut on Napalm Records with yet-untitled third album. With wider distribution at their disposal than that received by their 2012 outing, White Hoarhound (review here), I wouldn’t be surprised to see Alunah really leave a mark on 2014, but more fascinating to me than how many people get to hear it is how the band — who’ve swapped out bassists since their last outing — will follow-up the tremendously memorable songs on White Hoarhound. No doubt they can do it, it’s just hard not to be impatient. Alunah on Thee Facebooks.

 

5. Blackwolfgoat, Drone Maintenance

I was fortunate enough to be invited down to Amps vs. Ohms in Boston when Blackwolfgoat (aka Darryl Shepard, also of Black Pyramid, The Scimitar, ex-Hackman, Roadsaw, etc. and a new project I don’t think I’m allowed to talk about yet) was tracking the follow-up to 2011′s Dronolith, which was released on this site’s in-house label, The Maple Forum. Raw tracks can sometimes prove to tell little about the finished product of an album, but each piece on Drone Maintenance that I heard had a distinct atmosphere, and “Cyclopean Utopia” was heavy enough on its own to warrant inclusion here. Rumor also has it that Black Pyramid offshoot The Scimitar will release a studio debut this year. Blackwolfgoat on Bandcamp.

 

6. Causa Sui, Live at Freak Valley

Holding the promise of over 90 minutes of live-recorded material from the 2013 Freak Valley festival in Germany, Causa Sui‘s Live at Freak Valley will see release through the band’s own El Paraiso Records and should provide further insight as a companion piece to their 2013 studio full-length, Euporie Tide. As that album boasted such an engaging live and progressive feel, successfully meshing desert and krautrock influences, I’d expect no less from the live outing, which though they’ve put out studio jams before — their three-volume 2008-2009 Summer Sessions is a joy worthy of the season — is their first official concert recording. El Paraiso Records website.

 

7. Conan, Blood Eagle

Six devastating tracks that both continue Conan‘s sonic dominance and usher in a new era for the band. Not only is their second full-length, Blood Eagle, their debut on Napalm Records, but it’s also the first Conan LP to be recorded at Skyhammer Studios, which was built and is owned by guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis. Producer Chris Fielding worked with the band previously on 2012′s Monnos (review here) and 2010′s Horseback Battle Hammer EP (review here), and Blood Eagle benefits from that now familiar collaboration, bridging the gap between the faster, catchy sides of Monnos and the complementing ultra-plod of its longer tracks. Album opener “Crown of Talons” also ranks among the heaviest things they’ve ever done, and “Foehammer” takes it’s name from Gandalf’s sword, Glamdring, so I don’t know what more you could ever ask of a full-length than that. Conan on Thee Facebooks.

 

8. Eggnogg, You’re all Invited

With the addition of bassist Corey Dozier to the rhythm section with drummer Jason Prushko, Brooklynite doom-funk stompers Eggnogg have been able to move vocalist Bill O’Sullivan to guitar from bass, giving Justin Karol a chance to act all the more as a lead player. How this new four-piece dynamic might play out on You’re all Invited — or even if Dozier played on it — remains to be seen, but from what I’ve caught live, it’s turned them into a thicker, fuller-sounding band, and on new material and old, Eggnogg are coming into their own. They’re still a better band than they know, and one hopes they can get some road time in as well as release the LP to continue to refine their approach. Eggnogg on Thee Facebooks.

 

9. Elder, Live at Roadburn 2013

Granted it’s been available through Burning World Records digitally since last November, but Elder‘s Live at Roadburn 2013 is set for physical issue early this year through the label, and having stood in front of the stage to witness the set myself at Het Patronaat in Tilburg and then seen the line running outside the venue and down the block, I can tell you it’s a beast. Put it on vinyl with cover art by Adrian Dexter and maybe a photo or two by yours truly and you’ve got a good way to get a preview for what their sets at the two Desertfests might hold this year. Elder on Thee Facebooks.

 

10. 40 Watt Sun, TBA

Speaking of Roadburn, emotive UK doomers 40 Watt Sun are set to make a return appearance at the fabled fest in the Netherlands, and the word was they’d do so with material from the follow-up to their 2011 Metal Blade debut, The Inside Room (review here), which established the band, led by guitarist/vocalist Patrick Walker (Warning), as a deeply affecting act with a rich sonic texture. No word of an exact release date for the sophomore effort yet, but one expects it will receive no shortage of fanfare prior to and upon its arrival. 40 Watt Sun on Thee Facebooks.

 

11. The Golden Grass, TBA

Brooklyn trio The Golden GrassOne More Time b/w Tornado debut single was one of the best short releases of 2013, and the sunshiny classic heavy rockers will look to follow it with a first long-player this year. Recording is completed — the tracking was helmed by Andréa Zavareei, who also did the 7″ — and so is mixing, done by Jeff Berner (Naam, etc.), so with mastering in progress, hopefully it’s not too long before The Golden Grass can offer a right-on cure for wintry blues. It will be interesting to hear how they sustain and work within their positive vibes over the course of a complete LP. The Golden Grass on Thee Facebooks.

 

12. Greenleaf, Trails and Passes

Trails and Passes will be Greenleaf‘s first outing since 2003′s Secret Alphabets not to be fronted by Oskar Cedermalm (also of Truckfighters) and also finds the Swedish unit both with a new drummer (hello, Sebastian Olsson) and down from two guitars to one. It was five years between their third album, 2007′s Agents of Ahriman and 2012′s Nest of Vipers (review here), so with a quicker turnaround and a stripped-down songwriting approach that seems geared more toward a live-sounding heavy rock presentation, Greenleaf could easily be positioning themselves as a full(er)-time touring act. The more the merrier. Greenleaf on Thee Facebooks.

 

13. Grifter, The Return of the Bearded Brethren

UK power trio Grifter surprised some with the quality of songwriting on their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), the lacking pretense of which was in proportion to its classic heavy rock influence, but The Return of the Bearded Brethren, which is set to release on Ripple Music, won’t have the advantage of sneaking up. If they’re throwing down a gauntlet, the confrontational pose of the shirtless tattooed beardo on their LP cover would seem to indicate it’s a considerable one indeed, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Grifter made following up on their self-titled sound as easy as they made infectious hooks sound the last time out. Grifter on Thee Facebooks.

 

14. Hull, TBA

Down from a five-piece to a foursome after having lost one of their three guitars since the release of 2011′s stellar second LP, Beyond the Lightless Sky (review here), 2014 marks an interesting point for singular Brooklyn post-thrashers Hull. With a Roadburn appearance slated and a limited vinyl reissue of their 2007 Viking Funeral debut EP in hand, they’ll look to bring their conceptual songwriting into a new presentational arc, and while that’s a fascinating prospect, I’m also looking forward to their new album because it promises to be heavy as fuck whenever it happens to arrive, hopefully by the end of the year. Hull on Thee Facebooks.

 

15. Lowrider, TBA

Were this list numbered in anticipatory rather than alphabetical order, Lowrider would be much closer to the top than lucky number 13. The Swedish four-piece will be recording their first outing since 2000′s genre-landmark Ode to Io this year after reuniting on stage at Desertfest 2013 — they’ll return to London next month with Dozer — and while I don’t know if it’ll be out by the time 2014 is done, I do know that the sheer prospect of a new Lowrider makes this year much better than it would be otherwise. I already invited myself to Sweden for an in-studio. More to come. Lowrider on Thee Facebooks.

 

16. The Machine, TBA

A couple weeks back, Dutch heavy psych rockers The Machine — whose split with now-defunct countrymen Sungrazer (review here) was my favorite short release last year — held a poll on their Thee Facebooks page to name their upcoming fifth album, which will follow 2012′s Calmer than You Are (review here) on Elektrohasch. My suggestion? Come to Light. It has the advantage of sounding psychedelic with an undertone of enlightenment to speak to the band’s continuing progression and it keeps with the prior album in being a reference to The Big Lebowski. No word on whether or not they’ll use it, but I’ve got my fingers crossed. The Machine’s website.

 

17. Mars Red Sky, TBA

Currently in the mixing stage, the second Mars Red Sky long-player will arrive on the heels of 2013′s Be My Guide EP (review here) and the Bordeaux fuzz trio’s self-titled 2011 debut (review here) and a host of tours and festival appearances. While their plans to record in the California desert reportedly didn’t pan out, the trio put much of the album to tape over the course of a week in Brazil following dates in South America, so it should boast plenty of sunshine either way. The album is due for release in April — a pro-shot live video of the new song “Satellites” was recently unveiled — and Mars Red Sky will also play at Hellfest in their native France in June. Mars Red Sky on Bandcamp.

 

18. Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty

The Washington trio’s first album for Listenable Records and their second since picking back up after several years of inactivity while guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed concentrated on Stone Axe, Electric Mountain Majesty is done and mastered as of Jan. 5. Recorded by Reed himself, it will follow a pair of live outings in 2013 (reviews here and here) and 2012′s infectious return, Nomads (review here). I am fully prepared to have these songs stuck in my head for most of 2014, so bring it on. A March release has been floated, which would come ahead of an appearance at Freak Valley in late May. Mos Generator on Thee Facebooks.

 

19. Mr. Peter Hayden, Archdimension Now

Triumphantly creative Finnish cosmic doomers Mr. Peter Hayden will complete a trilogy with Archdimension Now that began with 2010′s Faster than Speed (review here) and 2012′s single-song 68-minute LP, Born a Trip (review here). Crushing tones and a formidable scope don’t seem like unreasonable expectations, though what really interests me is how the Satakunta five-piece will expand on the sound of their last album, which still seems to reveal something new each time I put it on. Their new single “We Fly High,” was streamed here recently and bodes well. Mr. Peter Hayden on Bandcamp.

 

20. Pallbearer, TBA

Pallbearer have toured hard since their 2012 debut, Sorrow and Extinction (review here), hit a nerve with doomers across the globe, and the four-piece from Arkansas are set to begin recording their next LP (presumably) for Profound Lore in February. If that puts a release for sometime in late Spring/early Summer, I would imagine it will come coupled with no shortage of live dates, since the band seems most at home on tour. Should be intriguing to have a document of how all that stage time has manifested in solidifying and adding confidence to their approach, and this is another one preceded by much anticipation. Pallbearer on Thee Facebooks.

 

21. Papir, IIII

It would seem I have some purchases to make in order to catch up with Danish heavy psych jammers Papir. Aside from their recent collaboration with Electric Moon, the upcoming IIII will sure enough be their fourth album. Available now to preorder through El Paraiso Records, it is a vinyl-ready 47 minutes of smoothly shifting transitions between lush atmospherics and driving fuzz-heavy rock, ready to stand in line with progressive European instrumentalists like 35007, My Sleeping Karma and indeed their label honchos, Causa Sui. I had caught wind of 2013′s III previously, but deeper back catalog investigation is definitely warranted. Papir on Thee Facebooks.

 

22. Pilgrim, TBA

Just before they left to tour Europe with Windhand, Providence, Rhode Island, doomers Pilgrim recorded their sophomore full-length at Moonlight Mile Recording in scenic Jersey City, NJ. After the huge response garnered — and, I should say, earned — by their 2012 debut, Misery Wizard, the band jumped from Alan Averill of Primordial‘s Metal Blade imprint, Poison Tongue Records, to Metal Blade proper for the new one, which along with Pallbearer, 40 Watt Sun, Serpent Venom and The Wounded Kings (and no doubt others) makes a prospect for a thoroughly doomed 2014. So be it. Pilgrim on Thee Facebooks.

 

23. Radio Moscow, TBA

As I type these words, heavy rockers Radio Moscow are mixing their yet-untitled fourth album (fifth if you count 2012′s 3 & 3 Quarters, which was comprised of early unreleased material) at Big Fish Recording in Encinitas, CA. Details on the release are sketchy at best at this point, and by that I mean nil, but at least there’s progress being made, and since it’s still January, it seems entirely likely the album will surface one way or another in the next 11 months, barring disaster. The bombastic blues jammers led by Parker Griggs toured Europe last fall and rumor is there’s a run in the works for the US at the end of February into March. Radio Moscow on Thee Facebooks.

 

24. Sigiriya, Darkness Died Today

What’s not to like about a new Sigiriya album? The UK four-piece premiered “Tribe of the Old Oak” from Darkness Died Today here last month, and in addition to the considerable pipes of new vocalist Matt Williams, the track showcased a somewhat moodier psychedelic vibe from the band, who continue to distance themselves from Acrimony, of which bassist Paul Bidmead, guitarist Stuart O’Hara and drummer Darren Ivey were members, while also exploring new avenues from those of Sigiriya‘s debut, 2011′s Return to Earth (review here). I haven’t heard the whole thing yet, but they set a high standard last time. Sigiriya on Thee Facebooks.

 

25. Sixty Watt Shaman, TBA

Reason to Live, was released by Spitfire Records (remember them?) in… wait for it… 2002. Some 12 years ago. Now, these dudes have been kicking around in other bands since Sixty Watt Shaman sort of melted away in the manner that underrated bands often unfortunately do, but with the announcement of their appearances this year at Desertfest (info here) in April and The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 in May (info here) came word of a new studio release. EP or LP unknown at present. As killer as Reason to Live was, it just doesn’t seem fair to expect Sixty Watt Shaman to be the same band they were more than a decade ago. As such, I don’t know what’s coming, but I’m keen to find out. Sixty Watt Shaman on Thee Facebooks.

 

26. Skraeckoedlan, Gigantos

The 2011 debut from upstart Swedish heavy-hitters Skraeckoedlan, titled Äppelträdet (review here), was recorded by Oskar Cedermalm of Truckfighters and had much of that band’s fuzzy compression in blend with their own Mastodon-ic plod. It was a combination that worked so well I thought for sure the young outfit would return to Studio Bombshelter for their next outing, but no dice. As a result, I’m not sure what to expect from Gigantos, but I dug what I heard in a recent live video from them, so we’ll see how it turns out when the LP is done and I’m not about to judge either way until then. Skraeckoedlan on Thee Facebooks.

 

27. The Skull, TBA

I have no interest in downplaying any of the original members of Trouble‘s contributions to that legendary Chicago doom band (nor the work they’re doing now or those contributing to it), but there can be no question that Eric Wagner‘s voice is a signature element, and right now, that’s something The Skull has over the outfit from whence they sprang. Add to that Ron Holzner‘s bass and Jeff “Oly” Olson‘s drums and you’re well on your way to some foundational heavy. Among the best signs is that The Skull were recording with Billy Anderson (Sleep, the Melvins, Acid King, etc.), who obviously knows his shit and is likely to capture their sound as it should be: Completely doomed. Also keep an eye out for Wagner‘s side-project, Blackfinger, who have an LP coming. The Skull on Thee Facebooks.

 

28. Sleep, TBA

This would be the mother of them all, I guess. A new Sleep album. In addition to hinting at new studio outings by his own three-piece Om and Matt Pike‘s High on Fire, bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros let it slip casual-style in an interview somewhere that Sleep were working on new material, thus snapping my Thee Facebooks feed in half. Fair enough. Working on material doesn’t mean we’ll see a record this year, or at all, but obviously if there’s a chance a new album might happen (I’ve been nerding out about the idea for a while; see here and here), it would be proof of justice in the universe. Seems an obvious thing that Billy Anderson would record this as well, and all the better. Can the Sons of Sabbath prove there’s life after Dopesmoker? For now, only the Antarcticans know. Sleep’s website.

 

29. Slough Feg, Digital Resistance

Slated for release through Metal Blade — they’re taking preorders — what if I’m not mistaken is the 32nd Slough Feg LP is due on Feb. 18. As much as I’m looking forward to the release of the record itself, having very, very much enjoyed 2010′s The Animal Spirits (review here), I’m even more interested to see if I finally get up the gumption to interview guitarist/vocalist Mike Scalzi. Something about a dude who doubles as a philosophy professor and who’s been putting out records in his band since I was nine and long before anyone gave a shit I’ve always found intimidating. We’ll see if I’m up to it this year. @Slough_Feg.

 

30. Snail, Feral

Last summer, West Coast riffers Snail announced the departure of guitarist Eric Clausen, which means that their fourth outing, Feral, will be their first as the trio of guitarist/vocalist Mark Johnson, bassist Matt Lynch and drummer Marty Dodson since their 1993 self-titled debut full-length (reissue review here). Should be interesting to see how the shift to their original lineup changes the tenor of Feral as opposed to their two albums with Clausen, 2009′s comebacker Blood (review here) and 2012′s Terminus (review here), but as the first audio from the record begins to surface, Snail‘s sound seems to still very much have its core intact. Terminus brought in something of a rawer heavy metal influence coming off the languid, dreamy Blood, but as they’ve been back together now for going on half a decade, no doubt a few more twists are in store. Snail on Thee Facebooks.

 

31. Steak, TBA

Quickly emerging at the fore of London’s enviable up and coming heavy rock scene — and, in the case of guitarist Reece Tee, helping shape it as one of the architects of DesertfestSteak are set to debut this year on Napalm Records with what will be their first full-length following two EPs, 2012′s Disastronaught (review here) and 2013′s Corned Beef Colossus (review here). They’ve put in time on tour — they’ll play in Spain with Monster Magnet and in London with Lowrider and Dozer in February — and seem to be ready to take the next step in releasing an album, and after the conceptual elements of both EPs, I’m eager to see where the next chapter of their story goes. Steak on Bandcamp.

 

32. Stubb, TBA

Tracking is to begin a few weeks from now for Stubb‘s second album at Jon Davis of Conan‘s Skyhammer Studios. After the release of their 2013 single, Under a Spell (review here), and the departure of drummer Chris West, guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson and bassist/vocalist Peter Holland acquired Tom Fyfe to fill the position, and subsequently found a label home on Ripple Music. It’ll be a different Stubb than they were on their 2012 self-titled debut (review here), but the fuzz runs strong in them however the changes might manifest in the finished product from the studio, and I can’t even think of “Under a Spell” without hearing the chorus in my head, so yeah, I’m on board. Stubb on Thee Facebooks.

 

33. SunnO))) & Ulver,Terrestrials

A collaboration between drone lords SunnO))) and Norwegian post-black metal progenitors Ulver probably isn’t the kind of thing that’s going to make you crush a beer can on your forehead and call your bros to come over and check it out (actually, I don’t know what kind of music does that, but it probably sucks), but Terrestrials has the potential to be one of 2014′s most unique releases all the same. After Ulver‘s delving into orchestral minimalism on 2013′s Messe I-IX, it’s really anyone’s best guess what this will sound like when it comes out on Feb. 4. SunnO))) explored some cinematic ground with 2009′s Monoliths and Dimensions (review here), but still, to speculate seems like setting myself up to be a fool later. Southern Lord Recordings website.

 

34. Tombs, Savage Gold

For their third album for Relapse, Brooklyn three-turned-four-piece Tombs headed south to Florida to record with Hate Eternal‘s Erik Rutan. If vague Thee Facebook posts are anything to go by, the resulting LP is 57:18 and titled Savage Gold. I’m not sure when it’ll be out, but as the follow-up to 2011′s widely and loudly lauded Path of Totality, whatever it’s called and whenever the new Tombs shows up, chances are it’s going to receive as much extremity as it doles out. Tombs on Thee Facebooks.

 

35. Triptykon, Melana Chasmata

Heirs to the black, shiny and probably spiky throne of Celtic Frost, ultra-dark metallers Triptykon will answer 2010′s Eparistera Daimones (review here) with Melana Chasmata, which though it’s somewhat easier to type is no doubt even more gleefully excruciating a listen. As with the debut, they’ll mark the release with an appearance at Roadburn (info here). No audio has surfaced yet, but with a release date set for April 24, that can’t be too far off. Will Tom G. Warrior push Triptykon further away from their Celtic Frost lineage? I don’t know, but if there’s beauty in darkness, he’s the one to find it. Triptykon on Thee Facebooks.

 

36. Truckfighters, Universe

Feb. 4 is the stated release date for Universe (review here), the fourth album from Örebro fuzzdudes Truckfighters. The Swedish three-piece explore ground that at the same time is more emotionally complex than their last outing, 2009′s Mania (review here), and also more straightforward in the songwriting, resulting in a collection of tracks not necessarily as upbeat as some of what they’ve done in the past, but ultimately working toward a different kind of realization. No doubt hard touring will follow throughout the rest of this year, so if you want to catch Truckfighters, you’re likely to get your chance. Truckfighters on Thee Facebooks.

 

37. Valley of the Sun, Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk

Like Truckfighters, Midwestern heavy rockers Valley of the Sun will issue their new album, the somewhat cumbersomely-titled Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk on Fuzzorama Records, and the two acts are slated to tour together in Europe from Feb. 8 through March 14 ahead of Valley of the Sun‘s April 1 release date. If you contributed to their crowdfunding campaign, you might already have a copy of Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk on vinyl, but either way, the official release is worthy of note, particularly for as much growth as the full-length (their debut) shows from 2011′s already-impressive The Sayings of the Seers (review here). Valley of the Sun on Thee Facebooks.

 

38. Weedeater, TBA

Not certain how to tell you this, but I’m not sure we’re going to see a new Weedeater album this year. Between the North Carolina sludgers’ busy tour schedule and Season of Mist reissuing their other four albums, it seems like an awful lot for Weedeater to then also write and record a follow-up to 2011′s Jason… the Dragon (review here). I’m not saying it can’t be done — hell, for all I know they’ve finished writing and the studio is booked — but if a new Weedeater arrives, although it was mentioned with their West Coast tour dates that start this week, right now it seems like it would be later in 2014 or maybe early 2015 by the time it gets here. Hey, I could be wrong. I’d prefer it that way. Weedeater on Thee Facebooks.

 

39. Wolves in the Throne Room, TBA

They put out BBC Session 2011 Anno Domini last year as a kind of holdover release, but last month brought news of new songs for 2014, which would be Wolves in the Throne Room‘s first since Celestial Lineage in 2011. They toured their heaviest yet that record, so a bit of a break wasn’t necessarily out of order, but for an act who inspire the kind of loyalty that Wolves in the Throne Room do, three years can be a long time. Not much by way of specifics on the new release, whether it’s a full-length or not, when they might record, where, or when it might surface, but we know they’ve got new material, and that’s a step. Wolves in the Throne Room’s website.

 

40. The Wounded Kings, Consolamentum

Due Feb. 24 on Candlelight, Consolamentum is the fourth long-player in the tumultuous career of British progressive doomers The Wounded Kings, who despite a seemingly endless series of lineup shifts have managed to release their four albums in a span of six years. With guitarist/founder Steve Mills at the core and the eerie but powerful vocals of Sharie Neyland over top, The Wounded Kings have tapped into a doom quick to separate itself from the pack, and Consolamentum conjures some of their most oppressive atmospherics yet, with expansive cuts like “Gnosis” and “The Silence” fed into by ambient passages and interludes. The Wounded Kings on Thee Facebooks.

 

41. Yawning Man, Gravity is Good for You

Desert legends Yawning Man released a split with Fatso Jetson in 2013 — only appropriate, since the two acts share Mario Lalli — but Gravity is Good for You, like whatever Acid King might have in store, is a holdover from last year’s list. Guitarist Gary Arce of the long-running and hugely influential instrumental jammers has reportedly been in the studio with Lalli and Third Ear Experience drummer Erik Mouness (video surfaced), but there’s yet to be concrete word on when Gravity is Good for You, reportedly a double album and the band’s follow-up to 2010′s Nomadic Pursuits (review here), might be finished. Got my fingers crossed it’s this year. Yawning Man on Thee Facebooks.

 

42. YOB, TBA

Feels like a terribly long way to go only to get to one of the albums I’m most looking forward to hearing, but the alphabet works in mysterious ways sometimes. On Jan. 7, Eugene, Oregon, überdoomers YOB posted the following on their Thee Facebooks: “Had an amazing YOB practice. The new songs are fully in focus. 2 mega DOOM bludgeoners, one “faster” song, and the most beautiful arrangement we’ve ever written to close. 4 songs, 55 minutes.” Last I heard, they were to begin recording for their seventh (man, time flies) LP this week with a release in the months to follow, and since YOB haven’t put out an album since 2004 that I didn’t pick it as my Album of the Year, you can bet your ass I’m looking forward to what they do next. Particularly that part about “the most beautiful arrangement we’ve ever written.” Sold. YOB on Thee Facebooks.

Others to keep an eye on, some mentioned above, some not:

Ararat, III (Another 2013 holdover)
The Atlas Moth, The Old Believer (Out in June)
Brant Bjork, Jakoozi
Blackfinger, Blackfinger
Godhunter, City of Dust
Ice Dragon (Some older releases are being physically pressed and new stuff is never far off)
King Buffalo (Their demo ruled)
King Dead (First audio just surfacing, but holds promise)
Lo-Pan (Been a while in the making at this point, hopefully 2014)
Pet the Preacher, The Cave and the Sunlight
The Proselyte (EP coming on Gypsyblood Records)
Rainbows are Free, Waves ahead of the Ocean
Saint Vitus (Began writing last Fall)
Salem’s Pot, Lurar ut dig på prärien
The Scimitar (Debut from Black Pyramid offshoot)
Seedy Jeezus (Recording in Australia now with Tony Reed)
Serpent Venom, Of Things Seen and Unseen
Spirit Caravan (Nothing announced but you never know)
Various Artists, Songs of Townes Van Zandt Pt. II
Wino & Conny Ochs (Maybe, maybe not)
The Wisdoom, Hypothalamus
Wo Fat (New album recorded)

I’m quite positive that the first thing to happen after this is posted is that someone will chime in with something I forgot. At least I hope that’s what happens. As large as this list has turned out to be (much, much larger than I thought it would be when I started taking notes for it), there’s no way it could cover everything, and I hope if there’s an upcoming release in particular that you’re looking forward to, you’ll please let me know in the comments.

Thank you so much for reading and for all of your support. Here’s to an amazing 2014.

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Wino Wednesday Live Review: Saint Vitus, Pallbearer, The Hookers and Gozu in Boston, 10.15.13

Posted in Reviews on October 16th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

I won’t lie: The fact that Saint Vitus were playing on a Tuesday night had added nerdy glee for me for Wino Wednesday prospects. I was going to the show one way or another, but the fact that I could do two years in a row of live reviews for Wino Wednesday was an extra appeal. Last September, they played Brooklyn on my wedding anniversary and it was one of the best shows I’d ever seen. Doesn’t feel like more than a year ago, but the numbers tell it. Been a hell of a year.

Including, apparently, for Saint Vitus, who rolled through the downstairs space at Boston’s famed Middle East – a name I’ve seen on lists of tour dates forever but hadn’t actually ever been to until this show; the fact that I’ve only lived here for two months might have something to do with it — with Pallbearer and The Hookers in tow. Now well past their “reunion band” novelty and into the sphere of working a tour cycle, Saint Vitus delivered probably the most professional set I’ve seen from them. Gozu had joined the bill as local support, so I made sure to arrive early at the Middle East, which was a fortunate decision for the traffic I sat in getting there, and catch the start of the show.

That itself was also early, with Gozu going on around 7:30 following 7PM doors. I parked a couple blocks away and hustled in my lurching way to get into the venue and to the front of the stage, and here’s how it went from there:

Gozu

Stop me if you’ve heard me say this about Gozu before, but the Beantown natives have hit that echelon of performance where the only thing that can possibly bring them to another level is touring. A band gets to a point where they’re so tight, so crisp in their delivery and so cohesive as a unit that just doing a show, even a relatively big one, which this was — that Middle East stage is wide, and deep; you could put a couch up there and make it your living room — is only going to do so much for them. Two albums in, Gozu have hit that point, so with the prospect of European dates around their impending Roadburn performance in the Netherlands next spring, it was a joy to watch them take a victory stomp over the hometown crowd. I hadn’t heard “Jan-Michael Vincent” from Locust Season in a while, with its funky vocal riding atop a fervent heavy rock groove, and though I still think they could milk that chorus for another round or two, it fit in well accompanied by “Ghost Wipe” from this year’s The Fury of a Patient Man (review here), from which the majority of the set was derived, though both swaggering opener “Meat Charger” and closer “Mr. Riddle” came from the earlier record, the latter following a blistering run through “Charles Bronson Pinchot” from the 2013 album. That song is about as aggressive as Gozu – guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney, guitarist Doug Sherman, bassist Joe Grotto and drummer Barry Spillberg, who seems only more righteously destructive every time I watch him play — have gotten to date, but even “Bald Bull,” which was comparatively unobtrusive in its studio form, was brought to life with considerable movement of air. Ditto that for “Signed, Epstein’s Mom.” I know for a fact that I’ll catch them again before they hit the road in Europe, but I’ll really be interested to see what some solid touring brings to their approach. As it was, they were an early treat well worth the rush-hour traffic to catch.

The Hookers

Monks of the First Church of Lemmy, Scientist, the Kentucky-based metalopunks The Hookers were demented, loud, energetic, and fun. How they wound up on a touring bill with Pallbearer and Saint Vitus, I have no idea, but they were a good time all the same, and seemed to revel in their standout position, frontman Adam “Rock ‘n’ Roll Outlaw” Neal pumping his fist to the d-beat sprint in songs like “Rock ‘n’ Roll Motherfucker,” “Black Magic” and “Black Thunder.” Even their “slow” stuff was fast and they knew it, and I’m not sure if they’ve gotten a mixed response at other shows, but they seemed to think they’d be worse received than they were. Maybe that’s part of the show, positioning themselves as hated to play up the scumbag aspect, but it’s worth noting that toward the end of the set, when bassist/backing vocalist Juan Badmutha came down from the stage into the crowd, he was almost immediately invited to partake in somebody’s PBR, which that showgoer even carefully poured into his mouth so he didn’t have to stop playing. That’s courtesy. They were a long way away from being “my thing,” but they hit hard from the stage and made no effort to pretend they weren’t enjoying themselves or that it wasn’t fun to sing songs about horror movies and booze and whatever else, and I certainly respect the hell out of that. Even from Gozu, who can be plenty uptempo when they get to it, The Hookers were a swift change, covering themselves and their audience in whiskey-soaked grit metal, unabashed in a high-speed AC/DC kind of way with several shredding guitar solos tossed off with foot-on-the-monitor command.

Pallbearer

Most of what Arkansas doomers Pallbearer played was new, as in, after the release of their 2012 full-length debut, Sorrow and Extinction (review here). Two of the songs — the set opener and another of the total three (I think) new ones — didn’t yet have vocals, but the double-guitar four-piece still used one of the instrumentals as the wrap of their set proper because, as guitarist/vocalist Brett Campbell put it, “It’s fun to play.” Campbell is emotive enough on stage to cover for lyrics most of the time anyway, and Pallbearer‘s leads, provided either by him or fellow guitarist Devin Holt, are so mournful that the feeling is conveyed one way or another as bassist Joseph D. Rowland and drummer Mark Lierly hold together the huge, spacious-sounding plod of the material, the former also putting on a headbanging clinic for anyone fortunate enough to be there to watch. Rowland had a whole side of the stage to himself, which was different from every other time I’ve seen Pallbearer Campbell was front and center, splitting Rowland and Holt, where in the past he’s been to the left, with the bassist and guitarist in subsequent left-to-right line. The shift made Campbell come across all the more like a frontman, particularly for that portion of the set which had vocals, including the distinct “Devoid of Redemption” from Sorrow and Extinction, and a surprising but potent take on Black Sabbath‘s “Over and Over,” the closing track from Mob Rules, which was the finale/epilogue to their time. It’s always a bold choice to take on Dio material, whether it’s Sabbath or not, but to their credit, Pallbearer were wise not to try to capture the same kind of feel as the original version, instead slowing it down, thickening it out, and letting Campbell deliver the lyrics — which actually fit pretty well with Pallbearer‘s consistent downer thematics — in his own style. Not only was it the shortest song in their set, but it played to an influence I wouldn’t have expected on the part of the band. A young woman in the crowd shouted, “Put out another fucking album!” and that seemed to be the prevailing sentiment all around. Hopefully in 2014.

Saint Vitus

Right in the middle of their set, just before they launched into “Let Them Fall” from last year’s über-excellent return outing, Lillie: F-65 (review here), Saint Vitus guitarist Dave Chandler got on his mic — which was there solely to address the crowd in such a manner — and say that the song was their first-ever music video and that it got panned by “internet critics,” so let the internet critics fall. That’s always a bummer. Nonetheless, Vitus absolutely destroyed. A Tuesday night, still the beginning the week, I don’t really know what I was expecting, but they came out to “Vertigo” from Lillie: F-65 and with a one-two of “Blessed Night” and “Clear Windowpane,” ignited the crowd and proceeded from there to pummel with classic after classic from their catalog. They’ve toured with some consistency since the record came out, and among the encouraging signs I took from their set was that cuts like the aforementioned “Blessed Night” and “Let Them Fall,” as well as “The Bleeding Ground” and “The Waste of Time” fit exceedingly well with essential Vitus tracks like “Living Backwards,” the anthemic “I Bleed Black” and “War is Our Destiny.” Chandler, vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich, bassist Mark Adams and drummer Henry Vasquez looked like a band who’d been playing shows for the last 11 nights in a row — that is, set in their execution like the whole thing was muscle memory — and the crowd couldn’t have been more into it. Moshing broke out during “The Bleeding Ground,” as Chandler noted, and a couple of surprise inclusions later on like “Shooting Gallery” from 1988′s Mournful Cries and “White Stallions” from 1985′s Hallow’s Victim, which seemed to take the place of their eponymous song in closing out their regular set, made for welcome additions to “The Troll” and the other older material. Vasquez got on mic before the encore to talk up the crowd and introduce the band coming back out. Mark Adams was “Original Member Number 69″ and “the King of Beers” both, and Chandler was “Mr. Doom Himself” or something thereabouts, while Wino was the “Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla” (somebody was a wrestling fan). Each of the three came out on cue and Saint Vitus capped the night with “Dying Inside” and, of course, “Born too Late” – Wino and Chandler both hopping off stage and into the crowd during the course — which only underscored how on their game the band is some four years into what’s apparently (and thankfully) an ongoing reunion. I had some hopes in the back of my mind for a new song, as they put word out in July that Chandler has started writing for their next album, but no dice there. As dead on as they were, I could hardly call it a loss, though, especially with the comfort I get to have in saying “maybe next time” about a band who, a few short years ago, I was convinced I’d never get to see live. Fucking awesome.

As a side note to the review, I just want to say that I met John Perez from Solitude Aeturnus at the show. A personal landmark. There working for Vitus along with former The Gates of Slumber drummer J. Clyde Paradis –which if nothing else should be indicative of the respect doom has for its forebears — he’s someone I’ve been in contact with periodically for the last decade or so who’s been perennially awesome to me, whether I’ve been covering his band or stuff on his Brainticket Records label, whatever it might be, or even just generally offering me advice and shooting the shit back and forth. An all-around great dude and a hand I was very glad to have an opportunity to shake after so long.

Thanks for reading. More pics after the jump.

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audiObelisk: Stream Roadburn 2013 Sets from Elder, Pallbearer, Astra, Spiritual Beggars, Witch Mountain, Seremonia, and More

Posted in audiObelisk on September 11th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Of all the batches of Roadburn 2013 audio that have thus far come to light, this one might be both my favorite and the most comprehensive. From Pallbearer‘s morose doom to Elder‘s heavy psych righteousness, the progressive metal of The Ocean and Spiritual Beggars‘ classic heavy rock, seething black metal from A Forest of Stars, with post-metal from Process of Guilt, blues doom from Witch Mountain and prog from Camera and Astra between — that’s not to mention the genreless freakout of Seremonia — it’s a series as varied as the fest itself.

Please enjoy the Roadburn 2013 streams on the players below and kiss your afternoon goodbye. As you make your way through, don’t forget to check the news below about The Shrine, Papir and Glitter Wizard being added to the Roadburn 2014 lineup, as that continues to impressively take shape.

Thanks as always to Walter and the Roadburn crew:

A Forest of Stars – Live at Roadburn 2013

Astra – Live at Roadburn 2013

Camera

Elder – Live at Roadburn 2013

Pallbearer – Live at Roadburn 2013

Process of Guilt – Live at Roadburn 2013

Seremonia – Live at Roadburn 2013

Spiritual Beggars – Live at Roadburn 2013

The Ocean – Live at Roadburn 2013

The Ruins of Beverast – Live at Roadburn 2013

Witch Mountain – Live at Roadburn 2013

As noted above, Roadburn 2014 has continued this week to add bands to its already considerable lineup. Here’s the latest, courtesy of the fest:

LA’s The Shrine To Bring Some Heavy, Psychedelic, Riff Based Rock n’ Roll To Roadburn Festival 2014

Grab a six pack! It’s time for some high energy, rock ‘n roll action when Los Angeles’ The Shrine hits the stage on Thursday, April 10 at the 013 venue in Tilburg, The Netherlands. We’re feeling inspired… should we put up a skate ramp at Roadburn 2014?

No, let’s empty some pools, and conquer these concrete bowls! Right here, right now, as the hairy dudes in The Shrine could easily have been part of the 1970s Zephyr skateboard team. Or at least, they would have put up their big ass amps (draped with an American flag, of course) next to the pools, and crank some drug addled, SoCal primitive blast to get it all going, pure and simple!

Denmark’s Papir To Transcend Heavy Psych Territory at Roadburn Festival 2014

We here at Roadburn are on our own path and we ensure that when booking the festival it encompasses everything we like – from krautrock through post rock to heavy psych.

Papir, hailing from the suburbs of Copenhagen, are definitely kindred spirits, as this fascinating instrumental three piece have created their own extraordinary type of semi-improvised psychedelic rock by transcending the usual labels – something we immensely admire. Thus we simply can’t wait to dive headfirst into the band’s richly textured sound on Saturday, April 12 at the 013 venue in Tilburg, The Netherlands.

Take A Trip Way Back Into The Future With Glitter Wizard at Roadburn 2014

In our ongoing quest to exhume every artifact of 60s and 70s proto metal, we recently stumbled up on San Francisco’s Glitter Wizard. For a moment, it seemed that we unearthed a forgotten gem, as Hunting Gatherers, the band’s sophomore album, could be easily mistaken for a long lost album from the early 70s.

In our hazy minds’ imagination, the band shared the stage with Steppenwolf, Bloodrock, Black Widow, The Stooges or Iron Butterfly, but Glitter Wizard‘s trippy, swinging sound — replete with catchy riffs, amusing lyrics and space-age keyboards, sax and flutes — isn’t some kind of Nuggets discovery, they are here and now.

Don’t get behind the times when the devil worships Glitter Wizard at Roadburn 2014 on Saturday, April 12 at the 013 venue in Tilburg, The Netherlands. They will take you into future through a doorway hidden in the past.

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Saint Vitus Announce East Coast Tour Dates for October

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 23rd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

The fact that Saint Vitus are heading out in October to tour the East Coast with a couple dates in the Midwest as well is excellent enough. Frankly, I’m just glad these dudes got enough of a response from 2012′s triumphant return album, Lillie: F-65 (review here), that they still want to be a band at all, let alone one that hits the road multiple times a year, either in support of that record or otherwise. Mark it down again, Saint Vitus touring is fucking awesome.

That said, we already know they started writing new material back at the beginning of last month, and we know from past experience that when guitarist Dave Chandler works, he doesn’t waste any time putting things together. You can see where this is going. My question is whether or not Saint Vitus could possibly be road-testing new material for a possible 2014 follow-up to Lillie: F-65. I know that seems like a pretty quick turnaround, but records like Born too Late, Mournful Cries, V and the recently-reissued C.O.D. all had two years from one to the next, so they’d be right on pace.

I’ll be keeping my doomed fingers crossed for a new song or two in the set while I mark the calendar and start nerding out at the chance to see Vitus again. Here are the dates:

SAINT VITUS October 2013 U.S. headlining tour dates

with PALLBEARER, ZOROASTER & THE HOOKERS
https://www.facebook.com/saintvitusofficial
Oct. 4 San Antonio TX @ Korova
Oct. 5 Norman OK @ The Opolis
Oct. 6 St Louis MO @ Firebird
Oct. 7 Minneapolis MN @ 7th St Entry
Oct. 8 Chicago IL @ Reggies
Oct. 9 Grand Rapids @ Pyramid Scheme
Oct. 10 Detroit MI @ Magic Stick
Oct. 11 Cleveland OH @ Grog Shop
Oct. 12 Pittsburgh PA @ Rex Theater
Oct. 13 Baltimore MD @ Metro Gallery
Oct. 14 Upstate NY @ Bogie’s
Oct. 15 Boston MA @ Middle East
Oct. 17 West Chester PA @ The Note
Oct. 18 Brooklyn NY @ Europa
Oct. 19 TBA
Oct. 20 Springfield VA @ Empire
Oct. 21 Richmond VA @ Strange Matter
Oct. 22 Asheville NC @ The Orange Peel
Oct. 23 Nashville TN @ Exit / In
Oct. 24 Atlanta GA @ The EARL
Oct. 25 New Orleans LA @ One Eyed Jacks

Saint Vitus, “The Waste of Time” Live at Sweden Rock 2012

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Revisiting the Top 20 of 2012

Posted in Features on June 27th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

They always say you there’s no going back. I don’t know who they are, but they’re right. As I searched back through posts to find the Top 20 of 2012, I realized it had been way too long since I heard some of these records. It’s so easy to get caught up with what’s current and what’s coming next that sometimes I forget to actually listen to albums I already enjoyed. That happened a couple times along the way.

When a year ends and the lists start coming out, it’s like records as numbered, stocked and then forgotten. I guess I’m guilty of it too. With that in mind, here’s a quick revisit to what I had as my favorites of 2012:

The Top 20 of 2012 Revisited

20. Mos Generator, Nomads
I can’t even look at this album cover without hearing the chorus to “Lonely One Kenobi” play in my head. Still a sentimental favorite.

19. Golden Void, Golden Void
Haven’t put it on in a while, but probably should.

18. Wight, Through the Woods into Deep Water
Ditto. This record was great and if I made the list today, it would probably be higher than it is here.

17. Lord Fowl, Moon Queen
Didn’t I start this week off with Moon Queen? Well, I guess it’s pretty fresh on my mind.

16. Pallbearer, Sorrow and Extinction
I’ve seen them three times so far this year and they’ve delivered each time, but haven’t put on the album itself in a while. Still looking forward to new stuff though.

15. Kadavar, Kadavar
I think I’ve had more fascinating conversations about Kadavar than any other band in the last year. So many opinions, so widely varied. I dig the self-titled, will probably have the follow-up on my list at the end of 2013. Nuclear Blast needs to bring them over to tour, maybe opening for Witchcraft?

14. Stubb, Stubb
Yay fuzz! Catchy songs, easy formula, well structured and impeccably performed.My favorite straight-up heavy rock record of 2012.

13. Orange Goblin, A Eulogy for the Damned
Hard to fuck with these dudes. The production here was a presence, but the songs still hold up.

12. Ararat, II
No shit, I live in terror of having Ararat release their third album and missing it. Like all of a sudden the album will have been out for three months and I’d have no idea.

11. Ufomammut, Oro
Haven’t listened to Opus Primum or Opus Alter since. Can’t help but think if Oro was released as one record, I’d put it on from time to time.

10. Conan, Monnos
I put this in the top 10 for a reason. Because it’s fucking ridiculously heavy. I stand by my reasoning. Looking forward to their new one.

9. My Sleeping Karma, Soma
An album I couldn’t manage to put down even when I wanted to, and one I still pick up from time to time. Glad I finally gave in an bought a copy to get away from the shitty digital promo version.

8. Graveyard, Lights Out
Maybe I burnt myself out on this? I went on a binge after their show in January for a bit and then put Lights Out away and that was that.

7. Saint Vitus, Lillie: F-65
Every time I’m in a record store, flip through the Vitus selection and see my quote on the sticker on the front of the jewel case of Lillie: F-65, I feel like an entire decade of shitty career decisions is justified. No bullshit.

6. Ancestors, In Dreams and Time
Brilliant. Mostly brilliant for closer “First Light,” but that song was brilliant enough to get this spot on the list anyway.

5. High on Fire, De Vermis Mysteriis
Hard to argue with its intensity. Not much staying power as I would’ve thought, but god damn that’s a heavy record.

4. Neurosis, Honor Found in Decay
An overwhelming listen. I have to prepare my head for putting it on, but I continue to find it worth the effort.

3. Greenleaf, Nest of Vipers
It was the highlight of my year last year to see this material live. Greenleaf have a new lineup now and another album in the works, but if Nest of Vipersis how the last one was going out, they killed it.

2. Om, Advaitic Songs
Sometimes I fantasize about living in a temple where I wake up and Advaitic Songs is playing every day. That is 100 percent true.

1. Colour Haze, She Said
I’d probably listen to it even more if it was on one CD, but god damn, this record is amazing. Another one that’s kind of overwhelming, but it gets regular play as I expect it will continue to do into perpetuity.

All in all, pretty great year. Some stuff that’s fallen by the wayside, but a few landmarks as well that have carried over, and more importantly, some that seem like they’ll continue to carry over and grow in appeal as more time passes. Wight should’ve been higher on the list, but other than that, I’ll take it.

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ROADBURN 2013 AFTERBURNER: Floating on Mountains

Posted in Features on April 21st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

04.21.13 — 23.02 — Sunday night — Hotel Mercure, Tilburg

My watch alarm went off at 13.00 to serve notice that it was time to wake up, get cleaned up and head back over to the 013 for Astra kicking off the traditional Afterburner, the final, pared-down day of Roadburn 2013. I hadn’t fallen asleep until after seven, could hear people leaving for an early start to the day outside my room, but rolled into the Main Stage room still with minutes to spare to see another showing of Costin Chioreanu‘s Outside the Great Circle. This time through, I learned Current 93‘s David Tibet was also involved in the music. Not that it was lacking dark and artsy cred anyway, but Tibet always seems to have some to spare.

Though it was a contrast to Outside the Great Circle‘s bleak visuals and the Attila Csihar groans those visuals came with, Astra‘s Cali sunshiny early-King Crimson prog was a welcome way to start the Afterburner. The lush melodies and multiple layers of keyboard wash work especially well in the morning, though of course it was 14.30 when they got on stage. Morning to me, though, so right on. They played most of last year’s The Black Chord (review here), including the title-track, “Bull Torpis,” “Cocoon,” “Quake Meat and the closer, “Barefoot in the Head,” but ultimately, they went back to the first album, The Weirding, to finish out with the eponymous cut.

I was a much bigger fan of the second album than the first, but “The Weirding” is a good song and Astra did justice to the expansive and psychedelic feel of their albums, without losing themselves in the staid, passionless presentation prog often winds up having. Switching between guitar and the keys (a Memotron and then some, it looked like), Richard Vaughn was out front and center with lead guitarist Brian Ellis, who seemed to have dressed up for the occasion. I hadn’t seen the San Diego five-piece since 2009 and they seemed all around a more solid band at the 013, and their heavy prog was just the sort of complex but welcoming start a lineup like this one deserved.

A second round of Pallbearer? Sure, why not? Diagonal, who were supposed to open in the Green Room, canceled on account of illness, so the Arkansas four-piece stepped in for another round in the smaller space — the Green Room is the middle space at 013; smaller than the main stage, bigger than Stage01; also smaller than Het Patronaat, which was closed today at least to Roadburn 2013 types — and were once more filled with potential, emotionally resonant and crushingly heavy. The setlist varied some from the Thursday night show, but they got their point across anyway. Interesting that for such morose music, the mood in the room was pretty up. I guess people were excited to see Pallbearer again or excited to see them having missed out the other night, but when whoever it was in the crowd shouted out a request for “Owner of a Lonely Heart” came through, there were laughs on stage and off. Even guitarist/vocalist Brett Campbell was more animated — not quite thrashing out like bassist Joseph Rowland or guitarist Devin Holt or drummer Mark Lierly — but still more than he was on the Main Stage earlier in the fest.

So be it. Even with less tickets sold than for the fest proper, the same basic rules apply to the Afterburner. If you want to see a band up close and personal, you need to get there early. I’ve done a lot of back and forth this weekend and don’t regret any of it, but with less bands on the bill, there’s more time to stick around and see a full set if you’re so inclined, and that takes some getting used to where over the last three days it’s been, “Okay, I have to run in here, stay for 15 minutes then split out and catch so-and-so over here” and so on. It’s a different vibe, and from all the Dutch I heard being spoken, it seemed that a lot of the people who hadn’t stuck around for this fourth day/transition back to reality were the ones traveling, which made sense.

That said, the crustpunkers — crustpunk is the new doom; also atmospheric black metal; also d-beat hardcore; also doom — behind me watching Pallbearer and brushing my back with their headbanging hair were from Australia, so clearly a sizable “fuck it” contingent was present as well, which I guess I also represented to some degree. Not to that degree, but some degree, anyway. I poked my head in the Main Stage as Sigh were getting ready to go on and found the Japanese black metallers duly theatrical. One doesn’t see fire on stage much anymore, or at least not in the venues I go to on the regular — which is fortunate, because everyone would die — but Sigh had a candle going and some light blowtorchery to go with the pummel and dual vocals. They were black metal-plus. Plus sax, plus fire, plus percussion, and so on. Their albums are supposed to be the shit according to a few in the know, but I’ve never been especially in the know, and the thought of leaving town tomorrow started weighing on me, so I ran back to the hotel to ask the kind soul at the counter if she could print my train ticket, and after about an hour, it worked out that she could.

Sigh were done upon my return, but I watched a couple minutes of Dutch black metallers Nihill (interesting about the lineup; had Diagonal showed, it would’ve been prog on one stage, prog on the other, then black metal on one stage, black metal on the other) through the doorway of the Green Room. Actually, I could’ve at least listened to them in the alley outside the venue, since they were loud enough to make the concrete wall of the building sound paper thin. It was supposedly their first show, though you’d never know it by the crowd gathered to see them play it. I guess everyone who hadn’t yet fully gotten their fix from Sigh were still looking for grim satisfaction.

Me, I was looking for Golden Void, but there was still a long time till they went on ahead of Spiritual Beggars and Electric Moon, the two acts who would close out the list I’d see today and my path through Roadburn 2013 as a whole. Neu! founder Michael Rother was going on doing music from that band and his subsequent project Harmonia, sort of bridging the gap between the prog elements and the psychedelic as only krautrock truly could. Being only remotely familiar with Neu! on any level other than the academic, the driving, spacy rhythms were enough to keep me hooked, but I did break for an early dinner partway through — chicken and gravy, mashertaters, salmon and salad — because I could feel myself dragging ass and wanted to be ready for Golden Void‘s set in the Green Room.

Another Californian act, the Bay Area four-piece set an immediately friendly vibe. The curtain in the Green Room was closed when I got there,  I guess from Nihill (maybe someone can confirm that?) but before it was even reopened, Golden Void guitarist/vocalist Isaiah Mitchell – whose reputation as slinger of epic solos in influential heavy psych jammers Earthless preceded him — poked his head out from under to say hi. He made conversation as the band set up their gear and even when they got started, kept the atmosphere friendly and unpretentious, which couldn’t be anything but welcome. At one point, Mitchell pointed to someone up front in an Earthless shirt and said, “Nice one.”

Camilla Saufley-Mitchell‘s keys played a big role in their sound, bigger than I recalled from their self-titled debut (review here), and they ran through a JCM800 head, so presence wasn’t lacking, and she added backing vocals as well here and there. The Afterburner marked the end of a 12-date (13 if you count the Brooklyn show they did on their way out of the States) European tour, so no wonder they were feeling good. Golden Void were jammier live than on record, Mitchell taking what seemed to be a couple extended solos, or maybe it just came off that way because of the striking verse/chorus structures on the record where one wouldn’t expect from his work in Earthless that they’d be included at all, but they more than held the crowd’s attention, and the new song “Rise out of the Reach” — which they were selling as a Record Store Day-exclusive 7″ single — makes me look forward even more to their next record than I already was.

I would’ve loved to stay, but Spiritual Beggars were going on the Main Stage and it was time for me to once again “Excuse me” and “I’m sorry” my way through the crowd out from the Green Room. The Beggars – I can call them that now that I’ve seen them live — have a new record out called Earth Blues, and they were selling LPs and signed CDs. I’ll pick it up at some point, but haven’t bothered to listen to it for the same reason I don’t listen a ton of shit that comes out: No time and I fucking hate digital promos. That frustration actually made me less inclined to buy the record, though having autographs from Michael Amott (Arch Enemy/Carcass) and his formidable assembled lineup does hold a certain nerdish appeal. In this incarnation of the band are bassist Sharlee D’Angelo (Arch Enemy/Mercyful Fate), drummer Ludwig Witt (Firebird), organist Per Wiberg (Opeth) and vocalist Apollo Papathanasio (Firewind), who now has two albums under his belt in the band and did a more than able job filling the frontman role while also tackling Spiritual Beggars tracks from the eras of Spice and JB Christoffersson, the former now of Band of Spice and the latter in Grand Magus.

Not easy voices to take on by any stretch of the imagination, as both singers could add dramatic flair, soaring highs or growling lows to any given song at any given time, but again, Papathanasio did well in that spot, and the newer stuff they played seemed right in line with their long-standing love of classic heavy rock. Amott‘s the driving force in that he writes all the material, but everyone was clearly on board – Ludwig Witt is a monster drummer — and the stage show was engaging, professional and fun to watch. They played “Turn the Tide” from the new album and dipped back to 2002′s On Fire for “Young Man/Old Soul,” which was a highlight, and just before “Wonderful World” from 2000′s Ad Astra, Papathanasio asked the crowd, “Have you got the energy left?”

The honest answer? Nah, man. It’s been four days solid of rock and rolling and I’m feeling pretty demolished. He got a response from the crowd that was probably less than the roar he’d hoped for, but the band didn’t miss a beat. Their shit was pro-tight and as next year will mark 20 years since the release of their self-titled debut, for all their love of classics, they’re on their way to becoming one as well. A band of string lights wrapped around the inside frame of Amott‘s speaker cabinet, Wiberg had a tapestry hanging from the front of his keyboard, and in everything they did, Spiritual Beggars were very put together, very rehearsed, but also very effective. It wasn’t the first time I liked a band more than I thought I would this weekend, but it was a nice surprise anyway.

Entirely true, I would have relished the notion of seeing Switchblade live, but I had an early-ish train looming, was beat and knew that I wanted Electric Moon to close out my Roadburn 2013. The German jammers were just right for the job — heavy, psychedelic, totally switched on in their groove and, as I learned, swirl-ready at a moment’s notice. Before they were even ready to play, before guitarist Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt had his shoes off, he and bassist Komet Lulu and drummer Michael Bongolious Orloff were jamming. I don’t think they even realized they were doing it, but all of a sudden, Komet Lulu had a groove locked in and the other two stepped right into it. Their set was great to watch too, but I found that little pre-jam even more telling, since it goes to show just how much chemistry there is between these three players. Lulu led a lot of the changes, with Orloff responding accordingly and Schmidt spacing out in guitar swirls, but she also took the time to add to the effects wash with her bass. I was really, really glad to see them.

What songs they played, I don’t know. They jammed like mad and had a recorder set up at the front of the stage, so hopefully audio or video surfaces at some point. Truth be told, they were the one band I really regretted not seeing at last year’s Roadburn, so watching them tonight was an absolute must, and though former Emperor frontman Ihsahn was on the Main Stage backed by progressive rockers Leprous, I couldn’t have felt better about being where I was. Nothing left to do then but slowly peel myself away from Roadburn 2013 as the thought of that train and what time I’m actually going to get to sleep tonight started to gnaw at me. I’d hoped to see fest promoter Walter and tell him thank you for another fantastic year, but no such luck. I tossed my earplugs in the trash, and bid farewell to the 013 for another year, when hopefully I’ll be back to have my brain melted all over again.

Many people to thank before I sign off from Tilburg and make my way to London tomorrow, but I’m going to save it for now and do a big thanks at the end of the trip next weekend. There’s still another week to go before I head back to Jersey — I cannot even begin to tell you about the plate of pasta I’m going to have upon my arrival there — and plenty more to come in the meantime, so please, stay tuned.

Thanks to all for reading. More pics after the jump.

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ROADBURN 2013 Day One: Shore to Cursed Shore

Posted in Features on April 18th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

04.19.13 — 00.17 — Friday morning — Hotel Mercure, Tilburg

I was early to the Green Room, which is the middle-sized space at the 013. The first band on for Roadburn 2013 would be Black Bombaim, and if you’ve been here before, you know the crowds are serious and that if you’re not careful, you can wind up watching an act through an open doorway — which also happened to me more than once throughout the course of the evening. Plenty on time to see Black Bombaim, though, and no regrets for taking the head-first dive into jamming European heavy psychedelia, instrumental meandering to the cosmos. Man, all of a sudden it was a hell of an afternoon.

They were, as was somewhat expected, blissed right out, all-natural, all-jam, immediate swirl. The day had other starts on other stages, but for me, this was what it was about. I was stocked to watch them after digging last year’s Titans and 2010′s Saturdays and Space Travels (review here), and Tojo‘s bass tone served as an immediate reminder of why I can’t get enough of this kind of thing. Warm, grooving and perfectly suited to the band’s extended wandering progressions, I couldn’t have asked for more than I got as a way to kick off this year’s Roadburn. Watching guitarist Ricardo signal changes to drummer Senra, the whole thing had a very organic, very spontaneous vibe, and that’s just what you want. The first song was a little rough, but after that, they settled into a solid groove and stayed there.

Today was a fair amount of running around — less than some, more than others. Pallbearer were on the Main Stage shortly, and after the heavy dose of salivating they got in the US last time I saw them in New York with Enslaved (whose own Grutle Kjellson was kicking around here at some point today, seemingly just to hang out and why not?), I was curious to see how the Euro crowd would respond. Answer: Much the same. I knew what to expect in terms of performance, as it wasn’t that long since I last saw the band, but they still didn’t disappoint, and thinking about it in hindsight after seeing them on this stage, which is sizable to say the least, they were cramped at Bowery Ballroom. Tonally and in terms of presence, they more than held their own as a main stage act, which for only having one record out is all the more exciting.

Most of what they played I recognized from that record, early 2012′s Sorrow and Extinction (review here), and seeing them again, it was easier to get a sense of the four-piece’s live dynamic, Brett Campbell holding down the drama on guitar and vocals while bassist Joseph D. Rowland and guitarist Devin Holt bang their heads like they’re trying to get them to come off on the other side of the stage, and behind, drummer Mark Lierly steadily holding songs together and adapting fluidly to what would otherwise be stark tempo changes. The contrast of Rowland and Holt to Campbell is striking, but it makes Pallbearer a richer experience to watch. They’ve certainly had no shortage of hype around them since cropping up, but whatever else you might say about them and however loudly or emphatically you might say it, they’re well on their way to becoming a really great live act. Hopefully they continue to tour and carve out their sound and chemistry on the road.

Now, at every Roadburn, you’re going to see some things that you’ve never seen before and you’ll probably never see again. And even the stuff you have seen before — like tonight’s headliners, Primordial, for example, who came though NYC years back on the first Paganfest — is special here. Bands play better, play different material, and for an American coming over, it’s a chance to see European acts who probably aren’t going to be touring the States anytime soon. I say this so you understand why I left Pallbearer to go back and watch more of Black Bombaim. Since there’s so much going on at every fest, sometimes you have to make hard choices, and I almost always try to lean toward that which I’m less likely to run into later on or that which I’ve never seen before.

However, the Green Room was full to capacity and then some, so I wound up standing in the hallway in a cluster of people to watch for a couple minutes and then hit up the merch area across the way. I’d figured on picking up some discs and was pleased to find a host of Nasoni stuff again at the Exile on Mainstream table, including Johnson Noise and Vibravoid, as well as Burning World Records discs from The Angelic Process and Slomatics. Later on, I’d roll back through and grab more CDs from Svart and finally get a copy of The Midnight Ghost Train‘s Buffalo (review here) on CD. It wasn’t long though before I had to be back at the Main Stage for the start of Penance. Vocalist Lee Smith prefaced their set by saying it was the first time they’d played together since 1993, which math tells me was 20 years ago.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Butch Balich-era Penance a lot. I thought Spiritualnatural was a killer record and Proving Ground still kicks my ass on occasion, but 1994′s Parallel Corners, with the lineup of Smith on vocals, guitarist Terry Weston, bassist Rich Freund and drummer Mike Smail has to be their high-point. The Pittsburgh natives resided at exactly the juncture where doom becomes metal, and with a riffy looseness and ultra-straightforward Sabbath-loving ethic, cuts like “Crosses” and “Words Not Deeds” brought out more than a fair share of righteous grooves. Both of those were standouts of their set — “Crosses” I took as a personal favor though I’m sure it wasn’t one — though long breaks between songs and surprisingly quiet banter from Smith seemed to undercut the momentum their riffs were building when they were actually playing, so it was hard for them to get on a roll.

No-frills trad doom, Penance nonetheless got their point across in beefy riffs utterly lacking in pretense. I checked in on Blues Pills in the Green Room from the hallway, and they seemed to be holding it down with no trouble, so I wandered back into the Main Stage area in time to catch “Words Not Deeds” round out the Penance set. From there, it was back to the Green Room to catch Pilgrim, who started early following a guitar and bass classic rocking-type jam during the setup that I’d be interested to hear them take elements from for their next album, which reportedly is in the works. They played new material and cuts from 2012′s Misery Wizard debut like the immediately recognizable lumber of opener “Astaroth,” and not at all surprisingly, had the Green Room packed out the door. I don’t know if the Rhode Island trio are friends with the dudes in Pallbearer or what, but that’s a tour that should probably happen at some point. I’ve seen Pilgrim four times now since they put out that album, and they’ve only gotten stronger as a live act.

Though, to be fair, they did seem a little amped up at the start of their set, but the muscle memory kicked in before they were through the first song — you could actually see it — and they were locked in thereafter. I took pictures and then started to make my way through the crowd to watch from the back, and before I knew it, had kind of a, “Well shit, now what?” moment when the only place to be was outside the room. The answer to that question was “dinner.” I started to head out and get something to eat on the quick when I saw Gravetemple were just getting ready to hit the Main Stage for their start. With a lineup of a pedigree like that of Stephen O’Malley, Oren Ambarchi and Attila Csihar, popping my head in seemed like the least I could do on my way by. Csihar stood in front of a table of who knows what kind of manipulation devices, while O’Malley and Ambarchi came in soon enough on drone guitar. It was super-artsy in that particularly O’Malley kind of way, a different take on some of SunnO)))‘s atmospheres with Csihar‘s vocals providing a distinguishing element along the way. I dug it, but time was a factor, so I moved on to get a bite to eat.

Wound up with some salad, fish and plain pasta which I mixed in with the greens and the dill dressing. It was the first thing I’ve really eaten since I got on the plane that wasn’t a protein bar, and — here’s something that’s not at all shocking — I felt much better afterwards. My brain was like, “Dude, you’re the worst at life. You probably should’ve had a meal yesterday, jerk,” and I tried to argue back but there’s really no talking to that guy, so whatever. The salad was glorious in context for being just an ordinary salad, and though I got a piece of clam stuck in my tooth, the mixed fish was most welcome too. Nothing like actual protein drawing a direct comparison to the would be substitutes for it. By the time I was done, I felt like someone had just given me a piece of particleboard with macaroni glued onto it in the shape of the cover to Volume 4, and by that I mean ready to take on the world. This was fortunate, because High on Fire were getting ready to go on the Main Stage and play The Art of Self Defense front to back.

Or maybe they weren’t getting ready. They kind of took their time coming out from the back, but with a backdrop behind them modified from the album’s original cover from its 2000 release on Man’s Ruin, High on Fire stormed — what else would they do, really? — through the riffy sludge of their first record in a manner befitting its grooving bombast. “10,000 Years” and “Blood from Zion” still feature in their set on the regular (they were aired when I saw the band in Philly late last year), but to get a song like “Fireface” out and have bassist Jeff Matz start off its viscous slog, it was a treat the three-piece seemed to enjoy as well, guitarist/vocalist Matt Pike cutting smiles every now and again between solos and the galloping riffs that started it all for the band. Tucked away in the back, drummer Des Kensel punctuated the stomp of “Last” and “Master of Fists” made for a suitably riotous finish, deconstructing at the end to leads and noise.

But they weren’t done. The bonus tracks from the 2001 Tee Pee Records reissue were also included, including the punkish rush of “Steel Shoe” and the Celtic Frost cover “The Usurper,” which Pike called the encore before they started. The room was the most packed out I’d see it the whole day, and it was the first complete set I watched. Elsewhere, other bands were playing, other special gigs taking place, but how could I not watch High on Fire do The Art of Self Defense? In reception, the crowd was unanimous in fervent approval — heads banged, fists pumped, madmen shouted along to Pike‘s long-heralded battle cries — and particularly as the last High on Fire studio outing, De Vermis Mysteriis (review here) was so crisp and tight, it was striking to hear them take on the earlier material. Almost like they were letting their hair down a bit, though as anyone who heard that record can tell you, they’ve hardly lost their edge in the decade-plus since the first record came out.

Rounding out with “The Usurper,” High on Fire still finished early, a good 15 minutes before their scheduled end. I guess there’s only so much album to play. Fair enough. I took notes in my fancypants license place notebook and went back to the merch to pick up some more of the aforementioned odds and ends, and then headed back to the big room in plenty of time for the start of Primordial, who if nothing else were the most thoroughly fronted act I’ve seen so far. The Irish double-guitar five-piece were helmed by vocalist Alan “Nemtheanga” Averill, who came out with a bottle of Jameson and a bottle of wine and was through the better part of both by the time their 90 minutes were done, and from his stage makeup — that’s not to say corpsepaint, because it wasn’t really corpsepaint — and costuming to his intense on-stage persona, Averill positively owned the 013. I saw Primordial years back when they came through New York on the PaganFest tour (it was a lot of glockenspiels to get to a Primordial set, but worth it), so I knew just how much of a factor the performance element was, but like many before him, the singer stepped up his game to match the occasion, and in a space so large, it was an impressive feat of showmanship.

He also noted more than once from the stage that it was the band’s first time playing Roadburn, and made it clear he felt they were overdue in this — provocateur, I suppose, could be part of the role, but either way — and I wondered if perhaps he was putting in a bid for curator next year. That would assure Pilgrim a return slot (Averill released Pilgrim‘s Misery Wizard via his Poison Tongue imprint through Metal Blade Records), and I wouldn’t mind seeing them take on 2007′s To the Nameless Dead in its entirety, were it in the offing. His other band, the nascent and doomier Dread Sovereign, also play tomorrow, so there’s room to work with, I guess. In the meantime, this set touched on To the Nameless Dead and several others in Primordial‘s seven-album discography, beginning with “No Grave Deep Enough” from 2011′s Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand (review here) and spanning genres as much as full-lengths, running from post-black metal to Celtic-inspired progressions and keeping at times a doomly edge, particularly on newer material like “The Mouth of Judas” or “Cities Carved in Stone,” which closed 2005′s The Gathering Wilderness.

That LP’s title-track and “The Coffin Ships” also featured, the latter penultimate to To the Nameless Dead opener “Empire Falls,” with which they closed. In introducing “The Coffin Ships,” Averill mentioned it was about the Irish famine in the 1800s, and said they were bringing a bit of their history and culture to the here and now. By all accounts I’ve seen, he does seem to think of Primordial‘s music as a sort of ambassadorship — they were very much representing the Republic of Ireland on stage — and though I wondered if maybe there was anyone in the audience who hadn’t already heard of the famine, the song left little to want. Averill had slowed some by then, less foot on the monitor, less back and forth from one end of the stage to the other, tossing around the mic stand, calling everyone present including the band lazy cunts, and so on, but revived with “Empire Falls,” letting adrenaline carry him through the end of the set as he got on his knees and shouted the chorus at the somewhat-dwindled but still strong crowd, who were only too glad to return the favor.

So the headliners were done, but the night still had its closing acts to go. Averill had plugged fellow Irishmen Mourning Beloveth‘s set at Het Patronaat a couple times, and former Hawkwind/Meads of Asphodel bassist Alan Davey was doing Space Ritual in full on the Main Stage, but what I really wanted to see was The Midnight Ghost Train, who were playing at Stage01, formerly known as the Bat Cave, the smallest of the three rooms at the 013. It was full by the time I walked over, and I probably could’ve stood there and gotten bumped into again, and again, and again, but after 16 or 17 times, I started to get claustrophobic and had to get out. Much to my surprise, the band followed not long behind me.

Guitarist/vocalist Steve Moss, drummer Brandon Burghart and yet another new bassist walked through the crowd and out of the room. From my spot in the back, I got to say hi to both, and Burghart explained they were doing a stagger-on, one member at a time. Moss had left his guitar feeding back, so there was a steady hum, and I suppose walking back through the audience (no backstage to come out from) there was something of a delay, so that went long, but once their crazed, blues-infused rock got going, the full room of people there to see them had no trouble getting on board for the wild shuffling riffs and Moss‘ throaty vocals. From Kansas to Roadburn. They’re always a lot of fun to watch, and in Tilburg was no exception.

I stayed and got bumped into a few more times and then decided to check out a couple minutes of The Psychedelic Warlords, who were just getting ready for launch at the time. Space rock, man. It sure is spacious. They pulled a good crowd as well of loyal lysergeons and Davey, along with a full lineup of keys, guitar, vocals, drums and sax, were in the process of giving Space Ritual its due. By that point, the “get back to the hotel and start writing” urge was coming on pretty strong, and I didn’t resist. Outside, people sat at the picnic tables (new this year) or ate grub from the outside food stand (also new this year and just closing as I walked by) and smoked whatever they may have felt like smoking. Needless to say, Weirdo Canyon was also abuzz.

Jus Oborn and Liz Buckingham of Electric Wizard were also hanging around the 013 lobby. The band curated tomorrow’s lineup under the heading of “The Electric Acid Orgy,” which one can only imagine will leave but a modicum of survivors. Looking forward.

Extra pics after the jump and more to come tomorrow. Thanks for reading.

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Live Review: Enslaved, Pallbearer, Royal Thunder and Ancient VVisdom in Manhattan, 02.22.13

Posted in Reviews on February 25th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Work kept me late, but as soon as I could, I hauled ass into Manhattan and got downtown to Bowery Ballroom. Parking right across the street from the venue was nothing short of a miracle — it’s embarrassing how much time I think about traffic and parking as relates to going to shows — but I still missed a decent portion of Austin, Texas, natives Ancient VVisdom‘s set opening for Royal Thunder, Pallbearer and Norwegian progressive black metal stalwarts, Enslaved. When I got there, the shenanigans were already well under way.

And I do mean shenanigans. It was the last night of the tour and all four bands had been on the road for a solid month together, so at times it felt less like a show and more like a blowout, but though the crowd hadn’t actually spent a month on the road with Enslaved (ah, to dream), the lighthearted atmosphere was infectious. When I walked in, Ancient VVisdom had been invaded by Enslaved drummer Cato Bekkevold and keyboardist Herbrand Larsen, who were holding up signs with synonyms for the band’s name. My favorite was “Early Medieval Know-How,” but then, I’ve always been a sucker for linguistic humor.

That continued throughout the night, culminating in a free-for-all late into Enslaved‘s set, but there was actually some music played as well. Though I’ve heard their stuff and certainly seen their name around the last few years, I’d never actually seen Ancient VVisdom before, and from the stand-up drums/percussion to frontman Nathan Opposition‘s charismatic delivery, what I saw of their time intrigued. On a basic level, they’re playing metal, but blending acoustic and electric guitar, they revel in a folkish tradition that adjusts the form. I don’t know how much I missed, but I wouldn’t shy away from seeing them again sometime if the occasion should arise.

A quick changeover and Royal Thunder were underway. I probably didn’t give enough attention to the Atlanta natives’ 2012 Relapse Records debut, CVI, but I was glad to finally get the chance to see them, having missed their roll-through with Pallbearer last year. Royal Thunder and Ancient VVisdom would keep on for another week after the Enslaved tour ended, so they were still well into the business end of a show, playing a crisp, tight set of tracks from CVI that culminated in the extended moodiness of “Blue,” which was hypnotic enough to convince me I need to buy the album and dig in further.

They performed as a trio, bassist/vocalist/eschewer-of-vowels Mlny Parsonz, founding guitarist Josh Weaver and drummer Evan DiPrima, and brought a subdued progressive sense to the show, not entirely unaware of their own pop leanings when they came up, but actively avoiding simpler approaches in favor of a headier take while making the complex sound easy. My impression might have been totally different had I spent more significant time with the album, but at very least seeing them made me want to rectify that situation. When they were done, “Blue” having exhausted its course, I wondered how much of Ancient VVisdom I’d actually missed, since the first two of the four bands had blasted through so quickly. It wasn’t yet 10PM by my Casio (yeah, that’s right), and the night was half over. I’d gotten word beforehand that Enslaved were due at about 10:45, so Pallbearer still had a decent amount of room to work with.

No doubt there were a few in the crowd who thought of the gig as a Pallbearer show with Enslaved headlining, and though I wasn’t one of them — sorry, my heart belongs to Norway — such was the level of impact of Pallbearer‘s Profound Lore debut, Sorrow and Extinction (review here), when it hit last year. The Little Rock, Arkansas, four-piece have been through a couple times since then and their NYC fanbase seems only to have grown since I caught them at a packed-out St. Vitus bar last spring. No secret why, with the viscosity of their tones, psychedelic flourish and mournful emotionality.

I stood in front of guitarist/vocalist Brett Campbell, who did well in balancing the melancholy of the songs with a sense that he still wanted to be playing them. Might’ve helped that on the other side of the stage, guitarist Devin Holt and bassist Joseph D. Rowland (interview here) were having a contest to see who could headbang hardest, or that drummer Mark Lierly kept such propulsive time, but though Pallbearer‘s music is inherently contemplative, regretful and lumbering, they weren’t boring to watch as they played it. Even Campbell, who was hardly thrashing around, gave a physical sense of performance to what he played, and it went a long way. The end-of-tour pranking continued when Enslaved bassist Grutle Kjellson came out wearing a Mastodon shirt with a giant fake joint and proceeded to play paddleball by Lierly‘s kit. The band did about as well as one could hope in holding it together.

From what I could see, the room was more or less full by the time Pallbearer started, and the crowd was as interesting a blend as the lineup of acts playing. Metal dudes, rockers and doomers might occupy roughly the same subcultural niche, but I’ll be damned if you could pick out who was who in the audience at Bowery Ballroom. All things considered, everybody got along well enough while Pallbearer wrapped with an unnamed new song that was long, heavy and bleak, making a solid follow-up to Sorrow and Extinction highlight “An Offering of Grief,” the rise and crash of which is nothing if not tidal. Presumably they’d been playing it the whole tour — which would make it decidedly less new from their perspective — but it should say something that even after the reception of their last album, they still believed enough in the strength of their latest work to end with it.

My intent had been at some point during the week prior to give myself an Enslaved refresher, running through the last four or five albums in their catalog in preparation for seeing them for the first time in I don’t know how long — they last came through NYC with Dimmu Borgir in 2011 and I arrived at Terminal 5 just as they were announcing the last song in their set as the title-track to 2004′s Isa; I also missed them at Roadburn in 2010 — but time didn’t permit such luxuries. Not that I don’t know those records, just that Enslaved have a dozen and I’d been immersed in the most recent of them, last year’s Riitiir (review here), to exclusion of everything else and Vertebrae (2008) and Ruun (2006) were ripe for a revisit. Forget it. I don’t have to justify my pre-show rituals to anyone. Point is, I wanted to listen to more Enslaved last week than I actually did. It’s kind of a common affliction for me.

Early into their time, Kjellson said that on the tour they’d been beset by blizzards, power outages and a number of other obstacles to cut them short, but on the last night, they were doing a full set, and they followed through. Most of the material was from their Nuclear Blast era — the last three albums: Riitiir, 2010′s Axioma Ethica Odini (review here) and Vertebrae — but earlier material was sprinkled throughout, beginning with the title cut from Ruun, with followed “Riitiir” at the very start of the setlist. The intricate, proggy rhythm patterning was welcomed by the crowd, well familiar with its twists and turns, and leading to the grand chorus of “The Watcher,” Enslaved did well immediately to show the diversity in their sound more than 20 years on from their beginnings.

If anything was missing, it was “Fusion of Sense and Earth” from Ruun, but the varying textures of “Ruun” and “The Watcher” covered a lot of ground, guitarists Ivar Bjørnson and Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal creating a wash of distortion through which Larsen‘s clean vocals and Kjellson‘s signature rasp cut with little difficulty. When “The Watcher” gave way to “Thoughts Like Hammers,” the Royal Thunder crew came out dressed in a Halloween costume holding up a sign that said “Thor Likes Hammers,” and that was a good bit of fun to go along with the Riitiir opener, though whichever dude it was — nothing against him — hardly made for an attractive valkyrie. “Ethica Odini” led to Riirtiir highlight “Roots of the Mountain,” which alone was worth the drive into Manhattan, and though by then more people had come out on stage — some in their underwear, Royal Thunder‘s Weaver spitting beer on the crowd — Enslaved played through it all coolly.

Bekkevold led the way into “Materal” from the new album, and the shenanigans subsided for a time, though the energy in Enslaved‘s set was consistent throughout. After “Roots of the Mountain,” and more particularly after having beer spit on me, I headed toward the back to watch the rest of the show from a fuller vantage, and while I never considered “Materal” one of Riitiir‘s more engaging tracks, it was different from everything else Enslaved played, and made a good setup for their dip more than a decade back to 2001′s Monumension for “Convoys to Nothingness” and even further to 1993′s Hordanes Land EP for “Slaget I Skogen Bortenfor,” which Kjellson seemed to note would probably be lost on the crowd but clearly enjoyed playing nonetheless. Their regular set capped with a cover of Led Zeppelin‘s “Immigrant Song,” arranged as Kjellson noted, by Ice Dale — and that’s pretty much when all hell broke loose.

In addition to a joke from Bjørnson and a few words from Ice Dale making fun of Kjellson, the bassist also opined while drinking that cognac was France’s only contribution to world cuisine — good for a laugh and a toast from the crowd, whose spirits were likewise high — “Immigrant Song” brought forth members of Ancient VVisdom, Royal Thunder and Pallbearer all, who took to the stage for a brodown the likes of which I’ve rarely seen at a gig. Weaver jumped on Bjørnson‘s back as the band jammed out, and Pallbearer‘s Campbell hit up a Robert Plant falsetto while “sharing” Larsen‘s mic. The chicanery continued on and I don’t think Enslaved were fooling anyone when they took a bow and left the stage, though they were gone a while, presumably doing pre-encore shots. Time well spent and hooch well earned.

“Fenris” from 1994′s Frost and the title-track of 2004′s Isa — “One more short one,” said Kjellson — made for a substantial encore, the raw raging of the former leading to the still-brutal hook of the latter, and when the show and their month-long North American tour was over, Enslaved took a boozy bow and split. Lights came up, house music came on, and I shuffled my way out of the Bowery Ballroom with everyone else who’d stuck it out through the encore, maybe not feeling the same sense of job-well-done accomplishment as the bands, but at very least feeling lucky to have been able to catch the final night of a tour that was clearly so special to everyone involved.

Extra pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Readers Poll Results: The Top 20 of 2012

Posted in Features on January 1st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Happy New Year to everyone around the world. It’s January 1, 2013, and to celebrate the New Year the best way I know how, I got right to work on tabulating the results of the 2012 Readers Poll. I’ve been tracking the results as they’ve come in over the course of December, and as you can see in the list below, it was a tight race for the top spot right up to the end.

Before we run down the finished list, I want to extend gratitude to each and every one of the 296 people who contributed their top 12 so this list could be put together. It’s an amazing response and I was super stoked that so many of you were able to take part. Thank you for that. Right from the first day the form went up, I knew this was going to be awesome, and it wound up exceeding my every expectation. It was a great sendoff to the year. Much appreciated.

Here are the results of the Top 20 of 2012 Readers Poll:

1. Om, Advaitic Songs – 108 votes

2. High on Fire, De Vermis Mysteriis – 106

3. Graveyard, Lights Out – 86

4. Neurosis, Honor Found in Decay – 65

5. Ufomammut, Oro – 63

5. Witchcraft, Legend – 63

6. Colour Haze, She Said – 56

6. Saint Vitus, Lillie: F-65 – 56

7. Kadavar, Kadavar – 49

7. Pallbearer, Sorrow and Extinction – 49

8. Orange Goblin, A Eulogy for the Damned – 46

9. Baroness, Yellow and Green – 39

10. Conan, Monnos – 38

11. Swans, The Seer – 35

12. Astra, The Black Chord – 31

13. Greenleaf, Nest of Vipers – 31

13. The Sword, Apocryphon – 31

14. Royal Thunder, CVI – 26

14. Wo Fat, The Black Code – 26

15. Ancestors, In Dreams and Time – 25

16. Torche, Harmonicraft – 23

17. Corrosion of Conformity, Corrosion of Conformity – 22

18. Enslaved, Riitiir – 19

19. Goat, World Music – 18

19. Melvins Lite, Freak Puke – 18

19. Soundgarden, King Animal – 18

20. Amenra, Mass V – 17

20. Samothrace, Reverence to Stone – 17

16 Votes

Witch Mountain, Cauldron of the Wild
Rush, Clockwork Angels
Stoned Jesus, Seven Thunders Roar
Troubled Horse, Step Inside

15 Votes

Converge, All We Love We Leave Behind – 15
Mighty High, Legalize Tre Bags – 15
My Sleeping Karma, Soma – 15

Pretty wild to have Om and High on Fire so close, and they were tied for a long, long time, but Om retained an early lead and managed to pull it out in the end. As you can see, there were a number of releases that tied with others for their position. Seemed only fair to me to include all of them, and I also threw in those with 16 and 15 votes as well, just because it was close. In total, there were an astounding 1,200+ albums entered into consideration.

Once again, thanks to everyone for making this Readers Poll happen and for taking the time to be a part of it. Already looking forward to some fantastic things to come in 2013, so please stay tuned and keep your lists handy.

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 of 2012

Posted in Features on December 20th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Please note: This list is my personal picks, not the Readers Poll, which is ongoing — if you haven’t added your list yet, please do.

As ever, I’ve kept a Post-It note on my wall all year long, and as the weeks and months have ticked away, I’ve added names of bands to it in preparation for putting together my Top 20 of 2012. There was a glut of excellent material this year, and I know for a fact I didn’t hear everything, but from bold forays into new sonic territory to triumphant returns to startling debuts, 2012 simply astounded. Even as I type this, I’m getting emails about new, exciting releases. It’s enough to make you lose your breath.

Before we get down to it and start in with the numbers, the hyperbole, etc., I want to underscore the point that this list is mine. I made it. It’s not the Readers Poll results, which will be out early in January. It’s based on how I hear things, how much I listened to each of these records, the impressions they left on me — critical opinion enters into it, because whether or not I want to I can’t help but consider things on that level when I listen to a new album these days — but it’s just as much about what I put on when I wanted to hear a band kick ass as it is about which records carried the most critical significance or import within their respective genres.

With that caveat in mind, let’s do this thing:

20. Mos Generator, Nomads

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Sept. 7

Over the last couple years, I’ve come to think of the #20 spot as where I put my sentimental favorite. That was the case with Suplecs last year, and in 2012, the return of Mos Generator earns the spot. The band being led by guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed, Nomads marked a rehifting of Reed‘s priorities from Stone Axe, with whom he’d proffered ’70s worship for several years prior, and wound up as a collection of some of my favorite heavy rock songs of 2012 — tracks like “Cosmic Ark,” “Torches” and “Lonely One Kenobi” were as strong in their hooks as they were thorough in their lack of pretense. But the bottom line is I’m a nerd for Reed‘s songwriting, playing and production (more on that to come), and at this point it’s not really something I can even pretend to judge impartially. Still, the record’s friggin’ awesome and you should hear it as soon as you can.

19. Golden Void, Golden Void

Released by Thrill Jockey. Reviewed Nov. 20.

Seems like it would make sense to say Golden Void would be higher on the list if I’d spent more time with it — written up just a month ago, it’s the most recent review here — but the fact is I’ve sat with Golden Void‘s self-titled debut a lot over the course of the last month-plus, and I’ve been digging the hell out of it. Really, the only reason it’s not further up is because I don’t feel like I have distance enough from it to judge how it holds up over a longer haul, but either way, the Isaiah Mitchell-led outfit’s blend of heavy psych, driving classic rock and retro style gave some hope for beefing up the US’ take on ’70s swagger — usually left to indie bands who, well, suck at it — and also showed Mitchell as a more than capable vocalist where those who knew him from his work in Earthless may only have experienced his instrumental side. A stellar debut, a wonderful surprise, and a band I can’t wait to hear more from in the years to come.

18. Wight, Through the Woods into Deep Water

Released by Fat & Holy/Bilocation. Reviewed Aug. 3.

This was basically the soundtrack to my summer. From the catch-you-off-guard aggression in opener “I Spit on Your Grave” to the extended stoneralia of “Master of Nuggets” and the jammy “Southern Comfort and Northern Lights,” the follow-up to Wight‘s self-produced debut Wight Weedy Wight (review here) showed an astonishing amount of growth, and though it had the laid back, loose feel that distinguishes the best of current European heavy psych, Through the Woods into Deep Water was also coherent, cohesive and impeccably structured. I thought it was one of the year’s strongest albums when it was released, and its appeal has only endured — as much as I listened to it when it was warm over the summer, now in December I put it on wishing the temperature would change to match. The songs showed remarkable potential from the German three-piece and cast them in an entirely different light than did their first out. Really looking forward to where they might go from here, but in the meantime, I’m nowhere near done with Through the Woods into Deep Water yet.

17. Lord Fowl, Moon Queen

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed Aug. 29.

“Oh, Moon Queen! Flyin’ down the world on a moonbeam!” Somehow the first lines of the opening title-track to Lord Fowl‘s Moon Queen always seem to wind up stuck in my head. The Connecticut foursome made their debut on Small Stone with the loosely thematic full-length, and touched on a sense of unabashedly grandiose ’70s heavy rock in the process. That said, Moon Queen wasn’t shooting for retro in the slightest — rather, guitarist/vocalists Vechel Jaynes and Mike Pellegrino fronted the band’s classic sensibilities with a wholly modern edge, like something out of an alternate dimension where rock never started to suck. The classic metal guitar in “Streets of Evermore” and the swaying groove from bassist Jon Conine and drummer Don Freeman under the wandering leads of “Hollow Horn” made Moon Queen more stylistically diverse than it might otherwise have been, but at its core, it was a collection of stellar heavy rock songs, unashamed of its hooks and unafraid to put its passions front and center. They packed a lot into a 47-minute runtime, but I’ve yet to dig into Moon Queen and regret having pressed play. Another band to watch out for.

16. Pallbearer, Sorrow and Extinction

Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed Feb. 14.

It was impossible not to be swept up in the hype surrounding Pallbearer‘s Profound Lore debut, but one listen to Sorrow and Extinction and it was clear that its resounding praise was well earned. By blending thickened psychedelic tonality and emotionally resonant melodies, the Little Rock, Arkansas, four-piece concocted the single most important American doom release of the year. Their efforts did not go unnoticed, and as they supported the album on tour, the swell of the crowds spoke to the right-idea-right-time moment they were able to capture in songs like the stunning “An Offering of Grief” and “The Legend.” There’s room for growth — I wouldn’t be surprised to find guitarist Brett Campbell‘s vocal range greatly developed next time out — but Pallbearer have already left a mark on doom, and if they can keep the momentum going into wherever they go from here, it won’t be long before they’re being cited as having a significant impact on the genre and influencing others in their wake.

15. Kadavar, Kadavar

Released by Tee Pee. Track streamed July 9.

I already singled out Kadavar‘s Kadavar as the 2012 Debut of the Year, so if you need any sense of the reverence I think the German trio earned, take whatever you will from that. There really isn’t much to add — though I could nerd out about Kadavar‘s ultra-effective retroisms all day if you’re up for it — but something I haven’t really touched on yet about the record: When I was out in Philly last weekend, the DJ cleverly mixed Kadavar into a set of early ’70s jams, and it was all but indistinguishable in sound from the actual classics. That in itself is an achievement, but Kadavar‘s level of craft also stands them out among their modern peers, and it was drummer Tiger‘s snare sound that I first recognized in “All Our Thoughts,” so right down to the most intricate details, Kadavar‘s Kadavar was a gripping and enticing affair that proved there’s still ground to cover in proto-heavy worship.

14. Stubb, Stubb

Released by Superhot Records. Reviewed Feb. 2.

The fuzz was great — don’t get me wrong, I loved the fuzz — but with Stubb‘s Stubb, it was even more about the songs themselves. Whether it was the interplay between guitarist Jack Dickinson and bassist Peter Holland (also of Trippy Wicked) on vocals for the chorus of “Scale the Mountain” or the thickened shuffle in “Soul Mover” punctuated by drummer Chris West‘s (also Trippy Wicked and Groan) ever-ready fills, there wasn’t a clunker in the bunch, and though it’s an album I’ve basically been hearing since the beginning of the year, its appeal has endured throughout and I still find myself going back to it where many others have already been forgotten. With the acoustic “Crosses You Bear” and more laid-bare emotionality of “Crying River,” Stubb showed there was more them than excellence of tone and with the seven-minute finale “Galloping Horses,” they showed they were ready to jam with the best. Truly memorable songs — and also one of the live highlights of my year.

13. Orange Goblin, A Eulogy for the Damned

Released by Candlelight Records. Reviewed Dec. 15, 2011.

Orange Goblin‘s purpose seemed reborn on their seventh album and Candlelight Records debut, A Eulogy for the Damned. Culling the best elements from their last couple albums, 2007′s Healing Through Fire and 2004′s Thieving from the House of God, the long-running London troublemakers upped the production value and seemed bent from the start on taking hold of the day’s sympathy toward their brand of heavy. With tales of alcoholic regret, classic horrors and a bit of cosmic exploration for good measure, they marked their ascent to the top of the British scene and took well to the role of statesmen, headlining Desertfest and proceeding to smash audiences to pieces around the continent at fests and on tours. Look for them to do the same when they bring the show Stateside in 2013 with Clutch. Their plunder is well earned, and I still rarely go 48 hours without hearing the bridge of “The Fog” in my head. Can’t wait to see them again.

12. Ararat, II

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed March 28.

While I still miss Los Natas, my grief for their passing has been much eased over the last two years by frontman Sergio Chotsourian‘s doomier explorations in Ararat. The first album, 2009′s Musica de la Resistencia (review here), ran concurrent to Los Natas‘ swansong, Nuevo Orden de la Libertad, but with II, the new three-piece came into their own, setting space rock synth against low-end sprawl, thick drumming and Chotsourian‘s penchant for experimenting with structure. Extended tracks “Caballos” and “La Ira del Dragon (Uno)” were positively encompassing, and showed Ararat not only as a distinct entity from Los Natas, but a turn stylistically for Chotsourian into elephantine plod, wide-open atmospherics and a likewise expansive creative sensibility. The acoustic “El Inmigrante” and piano-led “Atenas” offered sonic diversity while enriching the mood, and closer “Tres de Mayo” hinted at some of the melding of the various sides that might be in store in Ararat‘s future. If the jump from the first record to the second is any indicator, expect something expansive and huge to come.

11. Ufomammut, Oro

Released by Neurot. Reviewed April 3 & Aug. 16.

Italian cosmic doom meganauts Ufomammut outdid themselves yet again with Oro, breaking up a single full-length into two separate releases, Oro: Opus Primum and Oro: Opus Alter. But the album — which I’ve decided to list as the single entity Oro rather than its two component parts basically to save myself some brain space — was more than just big in terms of its runtime. More importantly, Ufomammut were able to hold firm to their commitment to stylistic growth, drawing on their greatest triumph yet, 2010′s Eve (review here), the trio pushed themselves even further on their Neurot Recordings debut, resulting in an album worthy of the legacy of those releasing it. I don’t know if Oro will come to define Ufomammut as Eve already seems to have — dividing it as they did may have made it harder for listeners to grasp it as a single piece — but it shows that there’s simply no scaring the band out of themselves. Brilliantly tied together around a central progression that showed up in “Empireum” from Opus Primum and “Sublime” on Opus Alter, I have the feeling Ufomammut will probably have another album out before Oro‘s breadth has fully set in.

 10. Conan, Monnos

Released by Burning World/Gravedancer. Reviewed March 1.

Behold the standard bearers of heavy. It wasn’t long after hearing UK trio Conan for the first time that I began using them as a touchstone to see how other bands stacked up, and to be honest, almost no one has. Led by the inimitable lumber provided by the tone of guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis (interview here), Conan stripped down their approach for Monnos, returning to Foel Studio in Wales to work with producer Chris Fielding — who’d also helmed their 2010 Horseback Battle Hammer EP — and the resulting effort was both trim and humongous. Early tracks like “Hawk as Weapon,” “Battle in the Swamp” (an old demo given new life) and “Grim Tormentor” actually managed to be catchy as well as sonically looming, and the more extended closing duo of “Headless Hunter” and “Invincible Throne” showed that Conan could both use their tone to build forward momentum and plod their way into ultra-slow, ultra-grim despairing nothingness. Monnos affirmed Conan as one of the most pivotal acts in doom, and with new material and a home studio reportedly in the works, as well as further European touring on the docket for early 2013, their onslaught shows no signs of letting up. Right fucking on.

9. My Sleeping Karma, Soma

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 6.

In some ways, it seems like the easiest thing in the world, but with My Sleeping Karma‘s fourth full-length, Soma, it really was just a question of a band taking their sound to a completely new level. The German heavy psych instrumentalists brought forth the sweetness of tone their guitars have harnessed over the course of their three prior offerings, but the progressive keyboard flourishes, the warmth in the bass, the tight pop of the drums — it all clicked on Soma in a way that the other records hinted was possible and made the album the payoff to the four-piece’s long-established potential. Wrapped around the titular theme of a drink of the gods and with its tracks spaced out by varying ambient interludes, no moment on the album felt like it wasn’t serving the greater purpose of the whole, and the whole proved to be a worthy purpose indeed. Hands down my favorite instrumental release of the year and an effort that pushed My Sleeping Karma to the front of the pack in the crowded European heavy psych scene.

8. Graveyard, Lights Out

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 11.

The damnedest thing happens every time I turn on Graveyard‘s third album, Lights Out, in that before I’m halfway through opener “An Industry of Murder,” I have to turn it up. The reigning kings of Swedish retro heavy wasted no time following up 2011′s stunning sophomore outing, Hisingen Blues (review here), and with the four-year gap between their self-titled debut and the second record, it was a surprise from the moment it was announced, but more than that, Lights Out showed remarkable development in Graveyard‘s sound, offering elements of classic soul on songs like “Slow Motion Coundown” and “Hard Times Lovin’” to stand alongside the brash rock and roll of “Seven Seven” or the irresistible hook provided by “The Suits, the Law and the Uniforms” or the single “Goliath.” A landmark vocal performance from guitarist Joakim Nilsson and newly surfaced political bent to the lyrics hinted that Graveyard were nowhere near done growing, but seriously, if they put out four or five more records in the vein of Lights Out, I doubt there’d be too many complaints. Already one can hear the influence they’ve had on European heavy rock, and Lights Out isn’t likely to slow that process in the slightest.

7. Saint Vitus, Lillie: F-65

Released by Season of Mist. Reviewed March 26.

Three drum hits and then the lurching “Let Them Fall” — the leadoff track on the first Saint Vitus studio album since 1995 — is underway, and it’s exactly that lack of pomp, that lack of pretense, that makes Lillie: F-65 so righteous. Admittedly, it’s a reunion album. They toured for a couple years playing old material, then finally decided to settle in and let guitarist Dave Chandler (interview here) start coming up with a batch of songs, but you can’t argue with the results. They nailed it. With Tony Reed‘s perfect production (discussed here), Vitus captured the classic tonality in Chandler‘s guitar and Mark Adams‘ bass and kept to their sans-bullshit ethic: A short, 33-minute album that leaves their audience wondering where the hell that assault of noise just came from. Scott “Wino” Weinrich‘s presence up front was unmistakable with Chandler‘s punkish, no-frills lyrics (as well as his own on “Blessed Night,” the first song they wrote for the album), and drummer Henry Vasquez not only filled the shoes of the late Armando Acosta but established his own persona behind the kit. I hope it’s not their last record, but if it is, Saint Vitus came into and left Lillie: F-65 as doom legends, and their work remains timeless.

6. Ancestors, In Dreams and Time

Released by Tee Pee. Reviewed March 23.

Talk about a band who shirked expectation. Guitarist/vocalist Justin Maranga and I discussed that aspect of Ancestors a bit in an interview over the summer, but it’s worth underscoring. There was next to nothing in either of Ancestors‘ first two albums to hint at where they’d go with the third. Both Neptune with Fire and Of Sound Mind (review here) were rousing, riff-led efforts that headed toward a particular heavy sensibility, but it was with last year’s Invisible White EP (review here) that the L.A. outfit began to show the progressive direction they were heading. And In Dreams and Time is even a departure from that! It’s kind of a departure from reality as well, with the Moog/organ/synth mesh from Matt Barks and Jason Watkins (also vocals), dreamy basslines from Nick Long and hold-it-all-together drumming of Jamie Miller — since out of the band. Closer “First Light” was my pick for song of the year, and had the album been comprised of that track along, it’d probably still be on this list somewhere, but with the complement given to it by the piano sprawl of “On the Wind” and driving riffs and vocal interplay of “Correyvreckan” (if you haven’t heard Long‘s bass on the latter as well, you should), there was little left to question that this was the strongest Ancestors release of their career to date and hopefully the beginning of a new era in their sound. They’ve never been what people wanted them to be, but I for one like not knowing what to expect before it shows up, at least where these guys are concerned.

5. High on Fire, De Vermis Mysteriis

Released by E1 Music. Reviewed March 12.

After what I saw as a lackluster production for 2010′s Snakes for the Divine, Oakland, CA, trio High on Fire aligned themselves with producer Kurt Ballou (Converge) for De Vermis Mysteriis and completely renewed the vitality in their attack. Built on the insistence of “Bloody Knuckles,” furious fuckall of “Fertile Green,” unmitigated piracy of “Serums of Laio” and eerie crawl in “King of Days,” De Vermis Mysteriis was both aggressive in High on Fire‘s raid-your-brain-for-THC tradition and extreme in ways they’ve never been before. Groovers like the instrumental “Samsara” and earlier “Madness of an Architect” offered bombast where the thrash may have relented, while “Spiritual Rites” proved that guitarist/vocalist Matt Pike (also Sleep; interview here), bassist Jeff Matz and drummer Des Kensell had arrived at a new threshold of speed and intensity. Whatever personal issues may have been in play at the time, High on Fire delivered a blistering full-length that stands up to and in many ways surpasses any prior viciousness in their catalog, and their level of performance on their current tour makes it plain to see that the band is ready for ascendency to the heights of metal. They are conquerors to the last, and if De Vermis Mysteriis is what I get for wavering, then I’ll consider my lesson hammered home in every second of feedback, tom thud and grueling second of distortion topped with Pike‘s signature growl.

4. Neurosis, Honor Found in Decay

Released by Neurot. Reviewed Sept. 21.

When I interviewed interviewed Steve Von Till about Honor Found in Decay, the Neurosis guitarist/vocalist called the band “a chaos process” in reference to their songwriting. I have no trouble believing that, because while Neurosis stand among the most influential heavy metal bands of their generation — having had as much of an effect on what’s come after them as, say, Meshuggah or Sleep, while also having little sonically in common with either of them — it’s also nearly impossible to pinpoint one aspect of their sound that defines them. The churning rhythms in the riffing of Von Till and his fellow frontman, guitarist/vocalist Scott Kelly (interview here), Dave Edwardson‘s intensity on bass and periodic vocal, the assured percussive creativity of Jason Roeder and the experimental edge brought to bear in Noah Landis‘ synth and sampling all prove to be essential elements of the whole. On Honor Found in Decay — and this isn’t to take away anything from any other particular member’s songwriting contributions — it would be Landis standing out with his greatest contributions yet, becoming as much a defining element in songs like “At the Well,” “Bleeding the Pigs” and “Casting of the Ages” as either Kelly or Von Till‘s guitars. Had I never seen the band before, I’d have a hard time believing Honor Found in Decay could possibly be representative of their live sound, but they are every bit as crushing, as oppressive and as emotionally visceral on stage — if not more so — as they are on the album, and while their legacy has long since been set among the most important heavy acts ever, period, as they climb closer to the 30-year mark (they’ll get there in 2015), Neurosis continue to refuse to bow to what’s expected of them or write material that doesn’t further their decades-long progression. They are worthy of every homage paid them, and more.

3. Greenleaf, Nest of Vipers

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed Feb. 28.

It’s hard for me to properly convey just how happy listening to Greenleaf‘s Nest of Vipers makes me, and I’ve got several false starts already deleted to prove it. The Swedish supergroup of vocalist Oskar Cedermalm (Truckfighters), guitarists Tommi Holappa and Johan Rockner (both Dozer), bassist Bengt Bäcke (engineer for Dozer, Demon Cleaner, etc.) and drummer Olle Mårthans (Dozer) last released an album in 2007. That was Agents of Ahriman, which was one of my favorite albums of the last decade. No shit. Not year, decade. With a slightly revamped lineup and Dozer‘s maybe-final album, 2008′s Beyond Colossal, and the never-got-off-the-ground side-project Dahli between, Nest of Vipers landed this past winter and with the shared membership, Karl Daniel Lidén production and consistency of songwriting from Holappa (interview here), I immediately saw it as a sequel to the last Dozer, but really it goes well beyond that. Tracks like “Dreamcatcher,” “Case of Fidelity,” “The Timeline’s History” and soaring opener “Jack Staff” show that although they’d never really toured to that point and been through various lineups over the years, Greenleaf was nonetheless an entity unto its own. Cedermalm‘s vocals were a triumph, Mårthans‘ drumming unhinged and yet grounded, and guest appearances from organist Per Wiberg and vocalists Peder Bergstrand (Lowrider/I are Droid) and Fredrik Nordin (Dozer) only enriched the album for repeat listens, which I’m thrilled to say it gets to this very day. If I called it a worthy successor both to Dozer and to Agents of Ahriman, those words alone would probably fall short of conveying quite how much that means on a personal level, so let its placement stand as testimony instead. This is one I’ll be enjoying for years to come, and when I’m done writing this feature, this is the one I’m gonna put back on to listen through again. It has been, and no doubt will continue to be, a constant.

2. Om, Advaitic Songs

Released by Drag City. Reviewed Aug. 13.

Go figure that the Om record two albums after the one called Pilgrimage would feel so much like a journey. Further including multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Robert A. A. Lowe (also of experimental one-man outfit Lichens) alongside the established core duo of drummer Emil Amos (also of Grails) and bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros (also of Sleep), as well as incorporating a range of guest appearances from the likes of Grayceon‘s Jackie Perez Gratz on cello and Worm Ouroboros‘ Lorraine Rath (who appeared on 2010′s God is Good as well) on flute, Om fleshed out what was once a signature minimalism to the point of being a lush, constantly moving and markedly fluid entity. Cisneros, as the remaining founder and lead vocalist, served as a unifying presence in the material — his bass still was still very much as the center of  “Gethsemane” or the more straightforward and distorted “State of Non-Return” — but those songs and “Addis,” “Sinai” and gloriously melodic closer “Haqq al-Yaqin” amounted to more than any single performance, and where prior Om outings had dug themselves deep into a kind of solitary contemplation, Advaitic Songs looked outward with a palpable sense of musical joy and a richness of experience that could only be called spiritual, however physically or emotionally arresting it might also prove. I’ve found it works best in the morning, as a way to transition from that state of early half-there into the waking world — which no doubt has more harshness in mind than the sweet acoustics and tabla at the end of “Haqq al-Yaqin” — so that some of that sweetness can remain and help me face whatever might come throughout the day. A morning ceremony and a bit of meditation to reorder the consciousness.

1. Colour Haze, She Said


Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed Sept. 18.

Didn’t it have to be Colour Haze? Didn’t it? Two discs of the finest heavy psychedelic rock the world has to offer — yes I mean that — plus all they went through to get it out, the drama of building and rebuilding a studio, recording and re-recording, pressing and repressing, what else could it have been but She Said? After two-plus years of waiting, I was just so glad when it actually existed. Late in 2008, the Munich trio released All, and that was my album of the year that year as well (kudos to anyone who has that issue of Metal Maniacs), but I feel like even if you strip all that away and take away all the drama and the band’s influence, their standing in the European scene, guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek (interview here) fostering next-gen talent on Elektrohasch and whatever else you want or need to remove, She Said still holds up. Just the songs themselves. The extra percussion layered in with Manfred Merwald‘s drums on “She Said,” the horns and Duna Jam-ambience on “Transformation,” the unpretentious boogie of “This” on disc one, or the rush of “Slowdown” on disc two and the culmination the whole album gets when the strings kick in on “Grace.” Those strings. God damn. Suddenly a 2CD release makes sense, when each is given its own progression, its own destination at which to arrive, and tired as I am I still tear up like clockwork when I put on “Grace” just to hear it while I type about it. Beautifully arranged, wonderfully executed, She Said couldn’t be anywhere but at the top spot on this list. The warmth in Koglek‘s guitar and Philipp Rasthofer‘s bass on “Breath” and the way their jams always seem to have someplace to go, I feel like I’m listening to a moment exquisitely captured. There isn’t a doubt in my mind Colour Haze are the most potent heavy rock power trio in the world, and that their chemistry has already and will continue to inspire others around them, but most importantly, She Said met the true album-of-the-year criteria in not seeming at all limited to the confines of 2012 — as though it had some kind of expiration date. Not so. Even though I’ve already been through them more times than I know or would care to share had I counted, I look forward to getting to know the songs on She Said over the years to come, and as I have with Colour Haze‘s works in the past, seeing their appeal change over time the way the best of friends do. It couldn’t have been anything but Colour Haze. Whatever hype other albums or bands have, for me, it’s this, and that’s it.

Honorable Mentions

If this list went to 25, the next five would be:

21. Snail, Terminus
22. Revelation, Inner Harbor
23. Wo Fat, The Black Code
24. Groan, The Divine Right of Kings
25. Caltrop, Ten Million Years and Eight Minutes

Honorable mention goes to: Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight (another one about whom I have a hard time being impartial), Mighty High, At Devil Dirt, Bell Witch, Samothrace, Enslaved, Viaje a 800, and Larman Clamor.

Also worth noting some conspicuous absences: Witchcraft, Swans, Baroness, Royal Thunder, The Sword, Torche. These albums garnered a strong response and have done well in the Readers Poll looking at the results so far, but please keep in mind, this is my list, I took a night to sleep on it, I stand by it and I’ve got my reasons for selecting what I did. You’ll find about 5,000 words of them above.

Thank you as always for reading. If you disagree with any picks, want to add your own take on any of the above, or anything else — really, whatever’s cool — please leave a comment below.

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Roadburn 2013 Adds Primordial, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Cult of Luna, Pallbearer, Royal Thunder, Moss and More to Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 1st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Well, I guess we’re in the thick of it now. Once you break the news that Primordial is headlining one of the days and the likes of Cult of Luna and Pallbearer are showing up, you’ve pretty much got yourself a festival going. I’m sure there’s till a ton more to come, but god damn, Roadburn never fails to deliver.

I know it’s not the highest-profile announcement contained in here, but if you missed it, I recently did a track stream for Finnish weirdo rockers Seremonia, and they’re pretty awesome, so if you haven’t heard them yet, definitely worth checking out.

Alright, here’s the news. There’s a lot of it:

PRIMORDIAL TO HEADLINE ROADBURN THURSDAY DATE; UNCLE ACID & THE DEADBEATS, MOSS, WITCHSORROW AND SEREMONIA CONFIRMED FOR JUS OBORN’S CURATED ROADBURN EVENT, THE ELECTRIC ACID ORGY, CULT OF LUNA, PALLBEARER AND ROYAL THUNDER AND MORE CONFIRMED

Only three more days to go! Roadburn Festival 2013 pre-sales start on Thursday, 4 October 2012, at 8:30pm CET. In the meantime, here are the latest updates from Roadburn headquarters:

We’re elated to announce that Ireland’s epic, pagan metallers Primordial will headline the Thursday Roadburn date, Thursday, April 18th at the 013 venue in Tilburg, Holland. Primordial are truly a band unlike no other; over the last two decades, they have passionately carved a niche of their own, without compromise!

We at Roadburn would like to pay tribute to Primordial‘s massive and melancholic art by inviting them as our Thursday headliners, the band is simply stunning, from their powerful songwriting to the amazing performances. More info on Primordial here: http://wp.me/p1m0FP-6pO

The Electric Wizard is proud to present the 1st confirmed ‘Heavy Friends’ for The Electric Acid Orgy at Roadburn 2013 on Friday, April 19th: “Ladies and Gentlemen, hack your resin filled lungs for our very good friends and Britain’s No1 Super Slo-Mo Doom Kings Moss, who will perform selections from their eagerly awaited new LP plus all their classic tombstone(d) liturgies”, says Jus Oborn.

“Also raise your bongs for these awesome new highs: We have our fellow witchfinders and medieval throwbacks Witchsorrow upholding traditional values with solid Fuckin DOOM!! Finnish Occultists Seremonia promise to deliver an acid-fried heavy metal ride and we have the hotly tipped horrorock phenomenon Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats!!! Alrite!!”

“Now if this doesn’t burst your stoned skulls”, says Jus, “we also have the ELECTRIC GRINDHOUSE CINEMA inside the 013 showing demented,sick,weird and grotesque exploitation films from our own collection. Never seen on DVD, the very darkest creations of the Sick Sick Sixties and Seventies projected for one nite only with special guests performing live soudtracks that will burn your retinas and destroy your minds !!”

More Very, Very Special Guests will be announced soon!  PREPARE TO MEET YOUR MAKERS!!!”  More info on The Electric Acid Orgy here http://wp.me/p1m0FP-6pX

More info on Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats making their live debut in mainland Europe at Jus Oborn’s The Electric Acid Orgy here: http://wp.me/p1m0FP-6pt

Cult of Luna is a Swedish post-metal band from Umeå. After 5 years away, they will return to play Roadburn Festival on April 20th 2013. On October 5th 2012, they will announce some more news about what they have been doing, and what they have planned. More info on Cult of Luna here: http://wp.me/p1m0FP-6pq

Pallbearer will bring their classic doom sound to Roadburn 2013 on Thursday, April 18th at the 013 venue in Tilburg, Holland. Pallbearer’s epic, timeless riffs and modern production have been taking the music world by storm with their recently released debut album Sorrow and Extinction, no small feat for a doom band. More info on Pallbearer: http://wp.me/p1m0FP-6pd

We’re extremely pleased to welcome Atlanta heavy hitters Royal Thunder to Het Patronaat in Tilburg, Holland on Thursday, April 18.  Following up on the critical acclaim their debut Relapse Records’ full-length, CVI received, Royal Thunder bring their uniquely heavy, enthralling, and enveloping rock to European shores for the first time.  More info on Royal Thunder here: http://wp.me/p1m0FP-6p8

Sweden’s My Brother The Wind, led by Anekdoten’s Nicklas Barker, will bring their improvised experimental psychedelia to Roadburn Festival 2013 on Saturday, April 20th at the 013 venue in Tilburg, Holland. More info on My Brother The Wind here: http://wp.me/p1m0FP-6oU

Roadburn Festival 2013 Ticket Pre-Sales Start Thursday, 4 October 2012 at 20:30 CET.

There will be a 2 ticket limit (per order) for 3-day and 4-day passes and Afterburner tickets. The following creditcards will be accepted: American Express, Mastercard and Visa. As with previous years, there will be a designated campsite at De Beekse Bergen. More info on the ticket sales here: www.roadburn.com/roadburn-2013/tickets

Roadburn Festival 2013, including Electric Wizard, Godflesh playing Pure in its entirety for the first time ever, Neige (Alcest) as Artist-in-Residence, Goat and Die Kreuzen reunion among others, will run for four days from Thursday, April 18th to Sunday, April 21st, 2013 (the traditional Afterburner event) at the 013 venue in Tilburg, Holland.

Please visit www.roadburn.com for more info.

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Live Review: Pallbearer and Loss in Brooklyn, NY, 05.19.12

Posted in Reviews on May 21st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

The day before the show, which was Friday, I’d left work early and gone with The Patient Mrs. to Connecticut to see her grandmother, who’d cracked her sternum in a car accident. Grandma was sore but okay, so we went up, did chores, did some grocery shopping, ultimately had a nice dinner out at a place that has Palm on tap — which is about the only condition ever needed to meet my approval — and crashed up that way for the night. Still, even with the drive back to Jersey beforehand, I got to the St. Vitus Bar in Brooklyn earlier than I needed to be there to catch Pallbearer and Loss, and much standing around ensued.

Fundamentally, I am an awkward person. I speak like I write (actually, I think it was the speaking that came first, but why quibble on timing?), and I flat-out suck at meeting people I haven’t already met four times over. This can make things like standing around or, say, existing, kind of rough. Nonetheless, I flopped myself here and there until a few friends showed up and I didn’t have to feel anymore like the whole world was in on a joke I just didn’t get. I ran out for a bit but came back in time for the place, which normally divides its front and back rooms but for this show was open the whole way, to be totally packed out up. I elbowed my way up front to get some pictures as Pallbearer got going and once again wondered what happened that this kind of music draws people now.

Pallbearer — whose Profound Lore debut, Sorrow and Extinction (review here), will undoubtedly be one of 2012′s doomed highlights when the year is over — were the band I was there to see. A noise act called Sewer Goddess had opened, and Loss was playing after, which was probably a mistake considering the bands’ respective pulls, but I wanted to see if Pallbearer could capture the same sense of underlying melody live that they brought to the record, play out the same kind of emotionally wrought atmosphere while still pummeling with volume and tonal heft, building hope and crushing it almost simultaneously.

In short, the Arkansas foursome did precisely that, their Emperor cabinets vibrating from the punishment they were charged to convey on the crowded room. They were less outright emotional than, say, 40 Watt Sun at Roadburn, but running a more modern American vibe along a similar wavelength — the tone, as on Sorrow and Extinction — as prevalent as the mood, though no less voluminous. Their songs, extended and excruciating, were surprisingly engaging and immediately recognizable, and kept grounded by drummer Chuck Schaaf (also of Deadbird) and bassist Joseph D. Rowland (interview here), the riffs had all the room to breath — at least sonically; that room was pretty crowded — they could ever ask for.

Awash in downtrodden melody and the beer that I’d been carrying that spilled directly in my beard after I took an unseen elbow up front toward the stage, I made my way to the back bar, to replenish and get a change of vantage. I was talking to Steve Murphy from Kings Destroy about I don’t even remember what and the dude standing behind him, whose name wound up being Bill asked if I was the guy who ran this site. Whether it was the camera bag, my gut, sandals or the fact that I was bitching about being surrounded by humanity that tipped him off, I don’t know, but I said I was me (which I was) and he asked me, “Do you know Gina Brooks?”

I’ve talked about Rock and Roll Gina a couple times in this space, mostly in the context of awesome music she recommended I check out. She had lung cancer and died this past December. It was hard to take. I’ve missed seeing her out at shows. I’d been thinking of her at this one only moments earlier, and here was someone asking me “Do I know her” and not even, “Did I know her.” He didn’t know she had died. So I told him. Pallbearer were still playing, and that was pretty heavy, but this was heavier.

We shot the shit for a couple minutes about Gina, and he said he’d been trying to get in touch with her but hadn’t heard back in a long time and feared the worst. The language of death is always the same. I missed her right then more than I missed her at her memorial service, and though I’d heard Pallbearer were doing a secret show later at The Acheron and I would’ve relished the chance to see them in front of what would almost certainly be fewer people, I pretty much knew then and there my night was over and it was time to sound my retreat back to Jersey, stew in it for a while, and crash out.

So that’s what I did. I stayed through the end of Pallbearer and waited while Loss set up their gear and got going. I went up front, took a few quick pictures of them — the room had thinned out a bunch, so moving through was easier, but there were still plenty of heads around — but honestly, I wasn’t even hearing the music at that point. My head was somewhere else entirely, and when I left, they were maybe two songs into their set. I just couldn’t do it anymore, and moreover, I didn’t see any need to try. Brooklyn is Brooklyn whether I’m there or not. I’m sure Pallbearer killed at The Acheron. Even though I knew it was the exact opposite of anything Gina would want, I couldn’t stay. There’s a reason we admire the people we admire. They’re better than we are.

I cried most of the 90 minutes  home, turned off the radio and just started shouting at nothing, at myself, I guess, for being alive and whatever else. A long string of impotent curses. I was half-drunk. I’d collect myself, feel like I had it together and then bust out again, tears and yelling. I pulled into my office, which is on the way from the Lincoln Tunnel, and went in and sat for a while, ate the last of the antacids in my desk, drank some water, thought about sleeping here, thought about writing, tried to call The Patient Mrs. to ask her to come pick me up but couldn’t get through.

After a while, I got back in my car and drove home, tried to eat, but ended up just going to bed. Sunday was better.

Extra pics after the jump. The lighting at St. Vitus Bar was less than optimal, as always, so I made the pictures black and white just because I thought they worked better that way this time around. Thanks for reading.

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Pallbearer Interview with Joseph D. Rowland: When Even the Sun Becomes an Offering of Grief

Posted in Features on March 2nd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Amid a slew of hyperbolic reviews and proclamations of their ascendency, Little Rock, Arkansas, traditional doomers Pallbearer seem content to let the music do the talking. Fitting, since that’s what got them there in the first place. The follow-up full-length after a well-received 2010 demo, Sorrow and Extinction, makes its way to the masses caked in semi-psych tonality and riffy churn, copping olde melodies from out of the doomly ether and crafting a five-track journey through distinct emotionality.

They are one of several strong acts in an apparently formative trad doom revival, and if Sorrow and Extinction proves anything — other than the quality of the four-piece’s songwriting — it proves that there’s still fire in the tenets of the genre, still new ground to explore and lines to push, and that with a set focus on mood and atmosphere, it’s possible to engage with ambience even as you crush with distortion. The album (which was reviewed on Valentine’s Day) seems to live up to its titular descriptors in equal measure.

As a result, Pallbearer have earned critical welcome (to put it lightly) and much demand for live performances. Veterans already of Wisconsin’s Days of the Doomed, they’ll no doubt come out of this year’s SXSW a bigger band than they went in — barring disaster, they’ll share bills with the likes of Rwake, The Atlas Moth, Deafheaven, Alcest, Nachtmystium and others (info here and here) — and they’ll also be participating in a Scion-sponsored showcase with YOB, The Atlas Moth and Loss in Los Angeles at the end of this month.

Bassist Joseph D. Rowland credits Loss with getting the band signed to Profound Lore, and the allegiance between the two acts is pervasive. Loss played Pallbearer‘s album release show for Sorrow and Extinction in Little Rock in February and they will head north together for a show in Brooklyn in May. In the interview that follows, Rowland discusses how that came about, as well as bringing in recording engineer Chuck Schaaf (also of Deadbird) to replace drummer Zach Stine, the processes at work behind the more experimental album closer, “Given to the Grave,” their prog influences, and much more.

Pallbearer is Rowland on bass, Schaaf on drums, guitarist/vocalist Brett Campbell, and guitarist Devin Holt.

Complete Q&A is after the jump. Please enjoy.

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Pallbearer, Sorrow and Extinction: This is Why They Call it Doom

Posted in Reviews on February 14th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Little Rock, accurate though it may be geographically, does nothing to convey the huge tonality at work on Pallbearer’s Sorrow and Extinction full-length debut. The album, released by Profound Lore is comprised of five extended cuts of sorrowful plodding, emotionally visceral and traditional doom that immerses the listener right from the quiet acoustic beginnings of opener “Foreigner.” But for those tones – the guitars of Brett Campbell and Devin Holt remind of earlier YOB in the depths to which their distortion plummets – Pallbearer would be almost entirely familiar stylistically, harkening on a mournfulness long since established as a defining element of this kind of doom with a melodic skillfulness that seems to be on the rise within the style as proffered by acts like The Gates of Slumber on their latest album or 40 Watt Sun, whose own debut was so impeccably received last year. Pallbearer have a similar resonance, but the balance is different than either of those two acts in that Sorrow and Extinction is less directly pointed in its mission and seemingly more concerned with the songs than the overall impression. For example, where The Gates of Slumber’s last album, The Wretch, was an excellent turn to a more doomed atmosphere than on their several prior releases, and where 40 Watt Sun’s The Inside Room gave so much to the interplay of melody and heaviness and smoothly broke between acoustics and massive riffing, Pallbearer, while still in the same league as either of the others, keep their focus on the tidal sway within the songs and have the melody – whether it’s in Campbell’s vocals or the instruments themselves – feed into that.

The result is massive, and at loud volumes especially, overwhelming. Given added rumble by the bass of Joseph D. Rowland’s bass, “Foreigner” loses nothing of its heft as the guitars move farther up the neck for drawn-out woe-laden leads in the track’s second half. There’s a build at work, but it’s subtle and more keyed on the emotional element than on loud/quiet interchanges. Campbell proves immediately capable of conveying the lyrics believably and sincerely, and the drumming of Zach Stone – replaced as drummer after the album was recorded by Chuck Schaaf (Deadbird), who engineered and mixed Sorrow and Extinction – is suited both to the more active cymbal work at the beginning of “Devoid of Redemption” and to backing the echoing swirl of Dave Chandler-style noise soloing that arrives later into the song’s low-end barrage. “Devoid of Redemption” is the first of three songs – the other two being “The Legend” and “An Offering of Grief” – that all hover around eight and a half minutes long, and speak to the CD-minded linear structure of the track listing. Pallbearer have the songs arranged so that the record opens with its longest cut (immediate points), “Foreigner” (12:21), plays out three songs of similar mass, and closes with another longer piece, “Given to the Grave,” which clocks in at 10:56. Because the tones are so rich, and because “Devoid of Redemption,” “The Legend” and “An Offering of Grief” have a varied feel mood-wise and elements that make each stand out for different reasons, Sorrow and Extinction avoids feeling formulaic, but there’s clearly some mindfulness of structure at work in more than just the songwriting. As the overall flow of the album feels well served by the songs being positioned as they are, the structure proves effective as more than just nuance.

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Frydee Pallbearer

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 17th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

The Profound Lore debut from Arkansas doom outfit Pallbearer is called Sorrow and Extinction, and it’s due out Feb. 21, 2012. I guess it was a couple weeks ago, as I started putting together the post for the 2011 readers poll, that I started thinking more about 2012 releases and what was to come, rather than looking back on the year that this one has been. And today, I got to hear this album from Pallbearer for the first time, and yesterday, I got to review the Orange Goblin record, and I feel like things are going to be pretty good going into next year.

What works most for me about “An Offering of Grief,” which is the track you can play above if you haven’t yet, is that it matches blow for blow with 40 Watt Sun as regards emotionality, but marries that side of doom with thickened, almost specifically American modern doom tonality. The spaced-out nooding after the 5:20 mark as well is bizarrely intricate, and it speaks to the individuality of the album as a whole, into which I’m looking forward to digging deeper.

That’s a while off, yet. This coming week, I’ll have reviews of the new live Rotor and several other albums, as well as new music from Lantlôs and (I hope) my interview with Eric Wagner, formerly of Trouble and currently of Blackfinger, as well as the returned Six Dumb Questions with German stoner rockers Wight, who, if you didn’t catch it yet, were also featured in the latest podcast, which went up yesterday. I downloaded the six-hour version today at work, and have been making my way through it ever since. So far, if I do say so myself, it rules.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, the Saint Vitus-centric interview with Tony Reed is definitely worth a look, and a special thanks to everyone who checked out and commented on the several live reviews this week and the 290 people so far who liked the Top 20 of 2011 post. I can’t wait to compile the results of everyone’s lists and get that up, but I guess we have a couple weeks. Thanks also to everyone who has submitted a list already. If you haven’t the link is above or in the sidebar.

Good stuff. Thanks for checking in this week, either way. Hope you have a great and safe weekend leading up to the holidays this coming week, and I hope to see you on the forum and back here Monday for more silliness.

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