The Obelisk Questionnaire: Mike Cummings of Backwoods Payback

Posted in Questionnaire on April 17th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

My understanding is that if you’re in a heavy band and you’ve made your way through West Chester, Pennsylvania, on an East Coast tour, you’ve probably either stayed at Mike Cummings‘ house or played with his band, Backwoods Payback. As the frontman of the underappreciated and hard-driving foursome, Cummings presents an indomitable personality on stage and off, but is given to backing that up with a thoughtful approach in his lyrics as well as in writings apart from the band. A book of poetry, Confessions of a Lackluster Performer, was published in 2009, and aside from the self-deprecating title, it showed Cummings able to work in textures beyond those of his songcraft, though it seems to be that side of his creativity that most exerts itself. Backwoods Payback made their debut on Small Stone with 2011′s Momantha (review here) and subsequently issued a live EP in 2012 and a studio EP, In the Ditch (streamed here), earlier in 2014.

In addition, Cummings embarked on his first solo acoustic tour last fall (review here), and the release of his full-length solo debut, Get Low, is expected April 19.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Michael Rudolph Cummings

How did you come to do what you do?

I’ve always written in some form or another, since as early as I can remember. Music just seemed to be the next extension of that. It just happened.

Describe your first musical memory.

I had a little portable record player in a blue canvas-colored suitcase. I’m sure there was one in most households with a kid my age (or maybe not, the more I think about it). The movie E.T. had just come out and my mom gave me the Neil Diamond “Heartlight” single. I played that for hours at a time, over and over.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

It changes all the time. Whenever I finish a recording or write a new song, that’s the high I’m always chasing. I just finished my first solo record. Listening back to the tape in the room and forgetting how we even made this thing that was being played back to me…that’s my best memory at the moment.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

Every day something I believe in is tested.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

I can’t even begin to try and imagine where it leads. I just follow it wherever it wants to take me.

How do you define success?

Doing the best I can at whatever it is that I am doing and knowing that I gave it all I had.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

Everything I have seen makes me who I am today. Nothing… Some things are just harder to handle than others.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

I have so much to do still, books to write, songs to sing, pictures to draw. It’s such a strange trip when it happens. I can’t sit and force it. It’s like a wave, and I have to ride it out when it comes.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

Waking up tomorrow.

Michael Rudolph Cummings, “Ranch Song” from Get Low (2014)

Mike Cummings on Thee Facebooks

Mike Cummings on Bandcamp

Backwoods Payback on Thee Facebooks

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Crobot to Release Self-Titled EP on May 13

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 28th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Fresh off a tour alongside Truckfighters that took them through SXSW before heading out west, Pennsylvania’s Crobot have announced they’ll release their new, self-titled EP through Wind-Up Records on May 13. The four-tracker was recorded by Machine, whose largesse-capturing handiwork one might remember from Clutch‘s 2013 outing, Earth Rocker, and after a gig in Texas tonight — one of two this week; I’ve been lagging in keeping up with the news — they’ll meet up with Kyng and Kill Devil Hill at the end of next month, presumably to explore where the line between heavy rock and roll and something remotely viable to a wider audience exists. Intrepid work, gents. Best of luck.

As ever, the PR wire asks the hard-hitting questions:

WHO THE F**K IS CROBOT?

FIND OUT WHEN THE DIRTY GROOVE-ROCKERS RELEASE THEIR SELF-TITLED EP MAY 13

ON TOUR NOW, DATES WITH KYNG AND KILL DEVIL HILL ANNOUNCED, PLAYING ROCK ON THE RANGE

Central Pennsylvania band Crobot will release their self-titled four-song EP on Wind-up Records May 13, 2014. Tracks include “Legend of the Spaceborne Killer,” “Nowhere to Hide,” “La Mano de Lucifer” and “Skull of Geronimo” and were produced by famed producer Machine (Clutch, Lamb of God, Cobra Starship, Gym Class Heroes). Machine and the band are finishing up their debut album which will be released later this year. “Legend of the Spaceborne Killer” will be available April 1 for download and streaming but fans can go to crobotband.com now and unlock #TheLegend to get a free version of the song. “Nowhere to Hide” is going to rock radio on Cinco de Mayo – May 5.

So who the f**k is Crobot?

The band embodies a mixture of groove-heavy riff-rock that will want to make you bang your head and shake your ass. Think of them as Wolfmother’s American cousins who smell like leather (they make leather-scented air fresheners!) and whose music scorches your ears like hot sauce to the taste (yes, they even have their own hot sauce!). You can’t help but feel that you are taken into another dimension and back again with the songs of Crobot.

Crobot will be on tour in select cities across the United States in 2014 doing solo shows, touring with Kyng and Kill Devil Hill and at Rock on the Range (dates below). More dates will be announced soon.

Crobot is Brandon Yeagley (Lead Vocals, Harmonica), Chris Bishop (Guitar, Vocals), Jake Figuroa (Bass) and Paul Figuroa (Drums).

EP TRACK LISTING:
“Legend of the Spaceborne Killer”
“Nowhere to Hide”
“La Mano de Lucifer”
“Skull of Geronimo”

TOUR DATES:
Mar 28 Corpus Christi TX Zeros Hardrock Club
Apr 28 Atlanta GA The Masquerade With Kyng and Kill Devil Hill
Apr 29 Wilmington NC Ziggy’s By The Sea With Kyng and Kill Devil Hill
May 2 Winston-Salem, NC Ziggy’s With Kill Devil Hill
May 6 New York NY Marlin Room @ Webster Hall With Kyng and Kill Devil Hill
May 7 Springfield VA Empire With Kyng and Kill Devil Hill
May 9 Syracuse NY Lost Horizon With Kill Devil Hill
May 10 Lancaster PA Chameleon Club With Kill Devil Hill
May 11 Worcester MA The Palladium (upstairs) With Kyng and Kill Devil Hill
May 15 Flint MI The Machine Shop With Kyng and Kill Devil Hill
May 17 Columbus OH Rock on the Range
May 20 Joliet IL Mojoes With Kyng and Kill Devil Hill
May 21 St. Louis MO The Firebird With Kyng and Kill Devil Hill
May 25 Lubbock TX Lonestar Amphitheater FMX Big Purple Party

http://www.crobotband.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Crobotband
https://twitter.com/Crobotband
http://followgram.me/tag/crobot/

Crobot EPK

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King Dead Premiere “Length of Rope” from Debut CD

Posted in audiObelisk on March 28th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

At 33 minutes, the self-titled and self-released debut from Pennsylvania instrumentalists King Dead sits right between an EP and a full-length outing. The trio’s sound is similarly nebulous, hovering between psychedelic post-rock, heavier amplified push and Morricone-via-Earth soundscaping, and as their first five songs showcase, they come equipped with a formidable scope. Shades of Pelican show up in the payoff to the cumbersomely-titled “As One Plows and Breaks up the Earth, so Our Bones Have Been Scattered at the Mouth of the Grave,” and when closer “God Makes a Lot of Fucking Promises” launches from its Dustbowl swirl into lumbering crashes and more vicious churn, Neurosis‘ “Times of Grace” seems a ready comparison-point, but King Dead – the Stroudsburg-based trio of four-string bassist Kevin Vanderhoof, six-string bassist Will McGrath and drummer Steve Truglio (the latter of whom, in the interest of full disclosure, I’ve known and worked with for years) — do well to incorporate these into a still-forming cohesion, boldly captured live on this self-titled.

They recorded in Stroudsburg’s Living Room on Jan. 25, so the material is pretty fresh, and whether it’s the Hex: Or Printing in the Infernal Method-style sustained nod of opener “Ghosts along the Riverbank” or the loose-string jangle of centerpiece “Length of Rope,” their contemplation comes metered out in weighted bottom-end and patient timekeeping. The middle cut strikes as the smoothest in its transitions and the fullness of its course, a build taking place over the 6:42 run while parts are intertwined, refrained and deconstructed. It happens subtly, but when the high end drops out before the four-minute mark and McGrath and Truglio carry the atmosphere on their own, the return is clearly the beginning of an apex that, save perhaps for that of the more jagged closer, is the most satisfying to be had on King Dead‘s King Dead. And while the follow it with the shortest and most uptempo song on the release, “Drowning in Dust,” even there they continue an impressive grip on the ambience, some whistling arriving late to introduce a gallop straight out of the Spaghetti West.

Tracks also work smoothly one into the next, but to give a general idea of where King Dead are at their first time out and where they might subsequently progress, “Length of Rope” finds them in an engaging balance of driving push and tidal sway. King Dead will be available on CD starting April 19. Please find “Length of Rope” on the player below, and enjoy:

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

King Dead have been conspicuoulsy haunting the Stroudsburg PA area lately. Bass players Will McGrath and Kevin Vanderhoof, recruited New Jersey Transplant Steve Truglio on drums last summer, and have begun to wander around the NEPA/NJ area. Their debut record on the cusp of release, was recorded LIVE in their practice and performance home venue at The Living Room in Stroudsburg by Dave Reiser of ROCK HARD STUDIOS. They definitely have their own sound.

Call it sludge, doom, or what we like to say is spaghetti western doom sludge, it sure doesn’t sound like yer typical heavy 3 piece band these days. With virtually no vocals, aside from one song(not on the record) and a whistle solo in another, its all about dynamics and the building tempos. Creepy, dreary, sleepy and melodic riffs layered over deep bottom and pounding drums. A good soundtrack for any lethal injection event.

King Dead on Thee Facebooks

King Dead on Bandcamp

King Dead on YouTube

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audiObelisk: Stream Backwoods Payback’s In the Ditch EP in its Entirety

Posted in audiObelisk on February 17th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Pennsylvania heavy rockers Backwoods Payback will release their new EP, In the Ditch, this coming Friday, Feb. 21. Usually when I post something about the band, it’s a list of tour dates. They’ve put in some regular road time before and since the release of their 2011 Small Stone debut, Momantha (review here), and an early-2013 live album (discussed here) kept momentum going around touring on the West Coast, various festival appearances, etc. In the Ditch, though, is the four-piece’s first studio outing since Momantha, and it’s even more of a follow-up than one might initially think. The six-track, 28-minute EP — they’re reportedly pressing a limited number of physical copies for a release show Friday night with Buzzard Wagon and Bob Wayne and the Outlaw Carnies at Shore Road Tavern in Philly — was put to tape in late 2011/early 2012, so while it’s newly mixed and mastered, In the Ditch is about as direct a companion piece timing-wise for Momantha as one could ask.

As its title hints, In the Ditch is a hard-times release, and there’s a core of raw honesty that underscores the songwriting across its tracks, whether it’s “On the Chain” asking “What’s the point of leaving if you didn’t need me to stay?” or the frustrations of closer “Buffalo Nickel.” Guitarist/vocalist Mike Cummings‘ vocals are front and center, presented largely void of effects, and while In the Ditch is short, it efficiently demonstrates a range on the part of Cummings, bassist Jessica Baker, guitarist Rylan Caspar and drummer W.S. Curtiss that finds them no less at home in the sludgy lumber of “Fooled You” than the swaggering grunge of “The Village.” The EP hits its stride with “Always Something,” the third of the six cuts and sort of the emotional summary of where Backwoods Payback are coming from on the release. Over acoustic and electric guitars, Cummings recounts with effectively conveyed resignation the personal loss that seems to be at the heart of In the Ditch. The tone isn’t overly sentimental, but there’s a sense of redemption in the second half of “Always Something” that gives the remainder of the EP a more hopeful context.

The recording itself, engineered by Mike Bardzik at Noisy Little Critter Studio in the band’s native West Chester, PA, is bare-bones but more than clear enough to get a feel for the material, and flourishes like the acoustics in “Always Something” — also a bit of Alice in Chains‘ “I Stay Away” seems to show up around the 2:20 mark — the background shouts in opener “On the Chain” and the harmonies in “The Village” lend sonic depth and variety alike, but again, the crux of In the Ditch is the sincerity with which the tracks are presented, and that comes through superbly no matter how many layers are at work at any given point.

Please find In the Ditch in its entirety on the player below, followed by some commentary from the band, and enjoy:

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

Backwoods Payback are now taking preorders for In the Ditch at their Bandcamp page, and will release the EP this Friday at Shore Road Tavern in Philadelphia, PA. Here’s what they have to say about it:

(to start at the beginning would take too long. you wouldn’t want to hear about most of it anyway.)

we were having one of those kind of lives.
the kind where you almost run out of gas, but the tank is full enough to get you where you want. and that road gets winding, but every now and again there’s those stretches. those beautiful perfect stretches. and you can’t tell if the sun is coming up or going down, but you know you’re right in the middle of it either way.
it was one of those kind of lives. and then the bottom fell out. and then when you didn’t think the bottom could fall out anymore, it fell out again.

you never really look at the clouds the same after that. they’re not floating anymore. they’re just kind of there.

you’re just kind of there.

Backwoods Payback on Thee Facebooks

In the Ditch release show event page

Backwoods Payback on Bandcamp

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Black Cowgirl at Work on New Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 8th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Pennsylvanian heavy rockers Black Cowgirl had a pretty busy 2013, what with getting their own beer, playing The Artie Lange Show, putting out their self-titled debut on Restricted Release and so on, but rather than rest on their laurels — which, though guitarist/vocalist Ben McGuire makes light of them in the announcement below, are considerable — the four-piece have gotten to work on a sophomore outing to be recorded later this winter. The final touches are being put on the songs now, so chances are they’ll break out a couple new ones on Feb. 15 when they play The Depot in York, PA, with Borracho, Backwoods Payback and Kingsnake.

Good bill. Free pizza makes it even better. The PR wire presents details:

Black Cowgirl new album news

Lancaster County Pennsylvania’s practitioners of riffcraft Black Cowgirl are finishing writing their second album and preparing to record it later this winter. The album to be recorded will be the follow up to their self titled LP that received a national release last summer via Restricted Release Records.

2013 was a big year for the band, as Black Cowgirl imposed total domination of the Canadian AM radio charts for a almost a month pushing the legendary Black Sabbath out of the #1 spot for a bit. Last year also saw the release of South County Brewing’s Black Cowgirl Double Black IPA, and the bands first drunk television appearance which took place on The Artie Lange show.

Guitarist/vocalist Ben McGuire of the band had this to say: “If it was the 1970’s when AM radio was still a rock and roll delivery system to be reckoned with and the whole world was Canada and the signature Black Cowgirl beer was released by Miller Light or whatever our Dad’s were sipping on in the Nixon era and it was Black Sabbath vol. 4 that was pushed off of it’s throne and not Rick Rubbinz 13……then we would be quitting our jobs and hitting the road forever, but it is 2014 and I have to be at work in a hour.”

No word on what label will be releasing the next album yet but a vinyl version is expected regardless and shows to follow.

Black Cowgirl will be playing their first show of 2014 at The Depot in York PA February 15th. The show is FREE and will also feature FREE PIZZA! Backwoods Payback, Kingsnake, and Borracho will also be there.

www.facebook.com/blackcowgirl1989

Black Cowgirl on The Artie Lange Show

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Supervoid, Filaments: Radiate the Inside

Posted in Reviews on December 12th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Each of the eight tracks on Filaments, the self-released debut full-length from Pittsburgh five-piece Supervoid, is given visual representation in the icons of the album’s cover. Opener “Coat of Luminous” is the fire, the subsequent “Braymerian: War Elephant” — listed just as “War Elephant” on the digipak — is the elephant, “Ride the Snake” is the snake, and so on clockwise around the circular design of the artwork itself. I mention it not just because it’s clever, though it is, but also because it stands as an example of the level of concept with which Supervoid are working on the follow-up to last year’s Endless Planets EP, both tracks from which, “Arcane Groves” and “Wake of the Smoke Jumper,” also appear refined here. Near as I can tell, Filaments doesn’t follow a narrative course — there’s no story to it in the tradition of the concept album (there will be time for that later) — but it’s clear that the band is putting effort into how they represent their material, not just lazily throwing songs together in an order that flows well, though in some atmospheres that works to a record’s benefit, and most importantly of all, that same level of thought is being given to the sound itself and the production of the material. Supervoid effectively blend newer-school metal, from the advent of melodic death metal in At the Gates, The Crown and In Flames on, let’s say, with driving stoner rock musicality, so that the growls of vocalist Brian accompany desert riffing from guitarists Joe and Dave, while bassist John and drummer Greg hold down Kyuss-influenced groove and even help foster a bit of psychedelia on the penultimate “Rodeo Queens of Allegheny County,” pulling back on the pace of songs like “Ride the Snake” and “Ladders” to offer dynamic to match the tradeoffs between clean singing and more extreme vocal styles. And that’s worth immediately noting: That Brian can sing. In his tradeoffs from deathly growls in the verse of “Ride the Snake,” he soars in the chorus, and the technicality of his approach — hitting the notes he’s reaching for — is what makes both sides of his vocal personality work so well.

He’s not the only metal element in what Supervoid do. Though some of their riffs derive from stoner rock, and “Braymerian: War Elephant” has a calmer groove, the guitar tone is never particularly fuzzed out, and when the band locks into forward motion like that of “Coat of Luminous,” the line between heavy rock and metal becomes blurrier. The album also trades tempos back and forth similar to Brian‘s dynamic approach to singing, so that “Braymerian: War Elephant” slows down to contrast the speedy “Coat of Luminous” and the rush of “Ladders” contrasts the slower roll of “Wake of the Smoke Jumper,” however large in its sound that roll might be. That structure, along with breaking the tracklisting into vinyl-style sides even on the CD version, adds to the versatility of the album, and as Brian does a better job following the riff leading to the apex of “Wake of the Smoke Jumper” than most singers do who don’t also belt out vicious growls and screams to change things up, the level of professionalism the band is working with on every level is clear. Filaments is their first full-length, but they know what they’re doing, their sound isn’t an accident, and taken with an open mind, it works really well. The ripe hooks in “Ladders” call to mind Gozu‘s heavier thrust — the vocals are totally clean — and with the hook of “Ride the Snake” before and “Rodeo Queens of Allegheny County” still to come, Supervoid showcase an obvious penchant for memorable songwriting that even their longer cuts like “Arcane Groves” (the longest at 9:25) and closer “The Bear” (no slouch at 8:23) hold to firmly. That was true of Endless Planets as well, since it was two of the same songs, but the context of the LP reinforces a varied delivery and burgeoning aesthetic within their sound. They call it “psychedelic metal,” which is fair since it contains elements of both psychedelia and no shortage of metal, but that hardly sums up the whole of their approach or how crisply they blend the pieces. Riff metal, maybe? The simple fact that it’s a question rather than an answer makes me enjoy Filaments that much more.

Read more »

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10 Days of SHoD XIII, Pt. 6: Doctor Smoke Go to Tape

Posted in Features, On the Radar on October 31st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Part of the appeal of attending any festival worthy of the name is getting introduced to bands you might not have heard or encountered before, and when it comes to the lineup for this year’s Stoner Hands of Doom, which is set to run from Nov. 7-10 at Strange Matter in Richmond, Virginia, the riffy four-piece Doctor Smoke immediately caught my eye. I can’t help it. Not one week goes by that I don’t still wind up with the chorus to the closing track of Swedish trio Asteroid‘s first album stuck in my head: “Doctor Smoke… Doctor Smoke/Life is but a joke to Doctor Smoke.” Seriously, that album came out in 2007. I’m kind of surprised it took so long for a band to take the name.

Doctor Smoke play Friday night, Nov. 8, at SHoD XIII, sharing the evening’s bill with It’s Not Night: It’s Space, Gozu, Weed is Weed, Order of the Owl, Freedom Hawk and others. It’s a considerable evening to play, and Doctor Smoke have an admirable slot on the strength of their debut four-track demo, aptly-titled Demo 2013, which was released at the end of August. Sure enough, Demo 2013 makes an impression, and the four-piece of guitarist/vocalist Matt Tluchowski, lead guitarist Steve Lehocky, bassist Cody Cooke and drummer Dave Trikones offer a surprisingly cohesive, nigh-on-slick take on modern stoner metal, nodding at cult rock but never really taking it past “we watch horror movies” level, which is likely for the best.

Certainly it serves the material well. The swaggering opener “The Willow” darkens up heavy ’70s riffage, and the drive is modern, with Tluchowski‘s wizard doom vocals adding a modern edge somewhere between Kyle Thomas on the first Witch record and, on “Blood and Whiskey,” Billy Corgan‘s mid-’90s snarl. The dynamic between his and Lehocky‘s guitars accounts for a lot of the immediacy in Doctor Smoke‘s material — tradeoffs between leads and riffs are traditional, but well done — though Cooke and Trikones make their presence felt both on the slower “The Seeker” and the Pentagram cover, “Sign of the Wolf,” which closes Demo 2013 in appropriate and chugging fashion.

As they also prepare for Stoner Hands of Doom XIII, Doctor Smoke are looking past the demo as well and have plans to start recording their debut full-length completely analog at The Bombshelter Studio in Nashville (not to be confused with TruckfightersStudio Bombshelter). In order to help with the cost of going to tape, the foursome have started an Indiegogo campaign and are past the halfway mark on their goal of $3,000. It’s a pretty bold move for a band without a record out to hit up fans like that, but considering they’ve already got four takers on the $200 “We’ll write a special song just for you” contribution, obviously they inspire a good deal of loyalty in their listeners. At this rate, they might have enough material for a sophomore outing before they’ve even finished their debut.

Doctor Smoke, Demo 2013

Stoner Hands of Doom XIII

Doctor Smoke Indiegogo campaign

Doctor Smoke on Thee Facebooks

Doctor Smoke on Bandcamp

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10 Days of SHoD XIII, Pt. 3: Clamfight Premiere “Bathosphere” from SHoD-Exclusive Compilation

Posted in audiObelisk on October 28th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

From their demo and early days of “Fuck Bulldozers” and “Viking Funeral” on down to “Stealing the Ghost Horse,” I’ve heard just about everything that Philly brain-bruisers Clamfight have come up with to date. So when I tell you that the new song “Bathosphere” from a forthcoming limited compilation CDR that the four-piece will have exclusively on hand at this year’s Stoner Hands of Doom fest — taking place at Strange Matter in Richmond, Virginia, Nov. 7-10 — is the heaviest thing I’ve ever heard them play, please understand there’s the slightest chance I know what I’m talking about. Heavier than “Rabbit” from the first record? Yes, heavier than “Rabbit.”

As the band begins to move past their earlier-2013 sophomore full-length, I vs. the Glacier – released on The Maple Forum, this site’s in-house semi-label — they do so with the utmost brutality. At 3:49, “Bathosphere” is brief compared to some of Clamfight‘s more spacious material, the guitars of Sean McKee and Joel Harris having somewhat less room to spread out over the pummeling groove of bassist Louis Koble and drummer/vocalist Andy Martin, but what it lacks in runtime, it accounts for in intensity, biting down hard with an initial tension build of feedback and tom runs before unleashing its thrashing course following an introductory growl from Martin. It’s a heads-down push, but Clamfight handle it well, letting off the gas just slightly for a chorus before resuming what’s among their most vicious riffs en route to a squibbly churn and unbridled slam of a finish.

“Bathosphere” is set to be included as one of two new tracks on the SHoD-only release (presumably they’ll have a couple for the other shows on their tour south, but who knows?). The other is “Blockship,” and unlike that song, “Bathosphere” won’t appear on Clamfight‘s next album. It’s for this CDR only.

Martin gives some details on the release and tour dates, under the player below on which you can check out “Bathosphere.” Bring a helmet:

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

We’ll be making one hundred CD-R copies of “Bathosphere” and they will available on the cheap at SHOD 13 on November 7th at Strange Matter in Richmond, VA and after that until they run out. Once they’re gone, they’re gone and we have no plans of making it available in any other format. Also included on the CD will be  “Blockship” a track which will be appearing on our third record, as well as many of our old demos as we can lay our hands on.

The CD will also include art by Chris Jones of the mighty Rukut.

From Richmond we’ll be heading to Uncle Lou’s in Orlando Florida to team up with our good friends in Hollow Leg, Shroud Eater and Ad Nauseum on November 8th. November 9th sees us at The Jinx in Savannah Georgia with Hollow Leg, Shroud Eater, and Crazy Bag Lady, and November 12th sees us at JR’s in Philly with Heavy Temple, the Cloth, and Devil to Pay.

“Bathosphere” and “Block Ship” were recorded by Steve Poponi at the Gradwell House in Haddon Heights New Jersey over a day and half last May. “Bathosphere” is probably my favorite thing we’ve done with Steve. We recorded the instruments in the early afternoon and I wrote the lyrics in my car as the guys did over dubs. With the exception of the death growls, the vocals were recorded in one go, so all told, from start to finish “Bathosphere” was recorded in less than four hours. I can’t speak for everyone but for me something about the speed and aggression of this song makes it feel the closer to what we do live than of any of our recordings, and that sort of “fuck it, let’s just destroy” attitude we had about the session itself made the whole day a blast.

Oh and I got disco fries after I tracked my vocals.

Disco fries make any day your birthday.

Clamfight on Thee Facebooks

Clamfight on Bandcamp

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audiObelisk: Supervoid Premiere “Ride the Snake” from Filaments

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 10th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

I’ll be interested to see how Pittsburgh riff metallers Supervoid‘s full-length debut, Filaments, is received upon its Oct. 26 release. Their 2012 EP, Endless Planets (discussed here), left a positive impression with a blend of stoner riffing and more extreme metal vocals that one rarely comes across. Not everybody is into harsh vocals, but I am when they’re done well and serve a purpose, and Supervoid singer Brian offsets his Dark Tranquility-style growls with a soulful belt-it-out cleaner approach, taking some of what American metalcore acts around the turn of the century were able to do with their melodeath influence and putting it to use in a different context. As that generation of headbangers continues to grow up, I would expect to find more bands employing similar methods, but Supervoid have gotten in early and the stylistic shift immediately marks them out from their peers in the current self-releasing heavy rock sphere.

Add to that a sense of humor epitomized by the photo above that coincides with a dedication to conceptual craft that lets each of the symbols on the cover of Filaments – the snake, the elephant, the bear, the smoke, etc. — serve as visual representation for one of the album’s eight total tracks, and Supervoid seem to be working on multiple balances at once. Early cuts like “Coat of Luminous” and “Braymerian: War Elephant” show a propensity in guitarists Joe and Dave to lead the band through spaced-out jams — that’s not to mention the penultimate “Arcane Groves,” which takes nine minutes and summarizes much of the record’s crux — and the ambience only underscores how driving the material is when they, Brian, bassist John and drummer Greg lock into an engaging motor groove, be it the chugging “Ladders” or the it-already-ran-you-over “Ride the Snake,” which — though it’s a phrase I’ll forever associate with the actor Jim Carrey doing “Jimmy Tango’s Fat Busters” on Saturday Night Live (look it up, kids) more than the Doors reference it’s probably supposed to be — is among Filaments‘ catchiest and most satisfying tracks.

Because it’s also a marked example of their penchant for meshing more extreme metal and heavy rock elements, starting with quick snare hits that open to smooth, Fu Manchu-style stonerly fuzz and giving way after a couple minutes to melodeath guitar harmonies and Brian‘s throaty rasp, I’m all the more thrilled to be able to premiere “Ride the Snake” ahead of Filaments‘ release. You’ll find its fast-footed grooves on the player below. Please enjoy:

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

Supervoid will release Filaments on Oct. 26 as they open for Orange Goblin at Pittsburgh‘s Rex Theater. More info and tickets at the links following.

Supervoid on Thee Facebooks

Supervoid on Bandcamp

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On the Radar: Zom

Posted in On the Radar on October 7th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

If you’re looking to grab attention, having bright blue, red, orange and yellow lightning bolt artwork of a Shiva-esque alien destructive force made out of electricity might not be a bad way to go. Such is the fare in which DIY Pittsburgh duo Zom traffic, and while one might expect based on the striking visual that their music is a sort of hyper-caffeinated tech-prog full of fretboard sprints and light on groove, nothing could be further from the case. Zom‘s debut — a self-titled, self-recorded, self-released, six-song EP — rests easy on a bed of thick riffs and post-Pepper-era-C.O.C. burl American style, not quite veering into “hey whoa mama yeah” chestbeating, but hardly lacking dudeliness either.

Stoner metal in the sense of having more crunch than fuzz tonally but still using it to riff out, Zom (also stylized in all-caps) is comprised of vocalist/guitarist Gero von Dehn and bassist/drummer Andrew D’Cagna, who also recorded Zom at Sacred Sound (both are listed as producers).  Solos on three of the six songs come courtesy of guest-guitarist Justin Wood (Black Plastic Caskets), and Creighton Hill supplied the aforementioned cover art, but otherwise, Zom is a two-person outfit. Rather than bask in the inherent minimalism a guitar/drum duo brings about, Zom sound like at least a trio, if not a four-piece, in terms of their layering and the fullness. D’Cagna‘s bass obviously makes a huge difference in this regard, and while yeah, there’s two of them, from the start of “Nebulos/Alien,” Zom come across as a complete band.

I don’t know if von Dehn and D’Cagna are looking for anyone else to join or if they’ll make a go as a twosome — they’d have a hard time sounding this full live, at least without sampling or running the guitar through multiple rigs — but the songs on the EP are catchy and straightforward. More or less unipolar — set phasers to “rock” — one hears shades of a less fuzz-soaked Wo Fat and von Dehn‘s belted-out vocals follow his riffing more than ably on “Burning” and veer into echoing Southernisms on the 6:56 “Solitary,” so it’s not as if Zom only have grabbed attention only to bore, though at this point they’re clearly more confident in the weighted thrust that emerges even in “Solitary,” even if later. Still, both D’Cagna and von Dehn have done time in a host of Pittsburgh metal acts, and that experience shows through in an overarching sense of professionalism that runs counter to what one might expect from a “new” band.

The “Holy in the Sky” revision of “The Greedy Few” owes almost as much to stoner-era Cathedral as to Sabbath, but even there — I’d argue it’s the EP’s most obviously derivative moment and that it’s designed to be — Zom seem to be shooting to make something familiar their own, and ending cut “There’s Only Me” hints at a burgeoning melodic adventurousness in von Dehn‘s vocals in what would’ve been a strong hook even without, so they show some promise for continuing to develop a more individual personality. There’s part of me that thinks adding more members would aid in this, but there are an awful lot of three- and four-piece acts out there. A lot of duos too, but fewer shooting for a full-band aesthetic. However they choose to proceed, Zom‘s debut fulfills its electrified threat. If they wanted attention, well, okay. Now what?

Zom, Zom (2013)

Zom on Thee Facebooks

Zom on Bandcamp

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Pale Divine Have a New Demo and Management Deal

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 1st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Last year’s nonetheless righteous Painted Windows Black (review here) seems now in hindsight like it caught the Pennsylvania traditional doomers at an in-between moment. Guitarist/vocalist Greg Diener and drummer Darin McCloskey (also of Beelzefuzz) were joined for that outing by bassist Jerry Bright, but in the time since, Admiral Browning‘s Ron “Fezz” McGinnis has taken over the role, and if performances at Eye of the Stoned Goat 2 and at Days of the Doomed III are anything to go by, he fits right in with the trio, who seem to have been waiting for an injection of energy since 2007′s soon-to-be-reissued Cemetery Earth.

Well, if the demo below for “Curse the Shadows” is anything to go by, they’ve gotten precisely that. Announcement came down yesterday that the three-piece has signed with Mercyful Mike Smith‘s — he of the Days of the Doomed fest — Mercyful Mike Management & Productions and continuing work on new material. It goes a little something like this:

I am extremely excited to announce the addition of Pennsylvania doom stalwarts PALE DIVINE to the Mercyful Mike Management & Productions roster!

With a career spanning back to 1995, Pale Divine has consistently churned out traditional doom metal with its own unique watermark, producing genre-defining albums such as “Thunder Perfect Mind” and “Cemetery Earth”. After a 5 year hiatus, Pale Divine unleashed “Painted Windows Black” in 2012 to high acclaim, landing the band on several yearend “best of” lists. 2012 also saw the recruitment of journeyman bassist Ron “Fezz” McGinnis (Admiral Browning/Trilogy) to the Pale Divine ranks, solidifying their lineup like never before. With momentum rolling in their favor, Pale Divine is gaining steam and showing no signs of slowing down.

Fast forward to Fall of 2013 and the trio of McGinnis, along with founding members Greg Diener (guitars) and Darin McCloskey (drums) are ready to give fans a sneak peek at what’s to come in the form of a new demo entitled “Curse the Shadows.” Infused with aggression and that signature Pale Divine sound, this tune is a sure fire indication that Pale Divine are once again poised, primed, and ready to storm the gates of doom… with a vengeance!

As if that’s not enough, Shadow Kingdom Records is putting the finishing touches on the reissue of 2007’s monumental slab “Cemetery Earth”. The album will be completely remastered, and include a bonus disc jammed full of demos and live tracks. Watch for it in early 2014!

To stay up to date on everything Pale Divine related, please visit their official Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pale-Divine/124093500958716

Pale Divine, “Curse the Shadows” Demo

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Michael Rudolph Cummings Firms up Tour Dates and Announces Album Title

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 24th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Continuing to shore up the dates for his first solo tour next month, Michael Rudolph Cummings has also announced that his full-length — from which you can hear a rough version of the song “Maybe Time” below — will be titled Get Low. There is a date or two yet to be filled in for the solo run from the Backwoods Payback guitarist/frontman, but already he’s tapped some good company for the shows, including Erik Larson (formerly of Alabama Thunderpussy), Ben Smith from The Brought Low, Jim Healy of Black Thai and Helena Goldberg of Akris. If you’ve got to travel, it’s better to have friends.

Tour dates, the poster and more info on Get Low follow:

Michael Rudolph Cummings is the vocalist/guitarist for the Small Stone Recordings band Backwoods Payback. After years of playing in hardcore bands, Cummings sat down with a four-track and a love of Neil Young, Black Flag, and Black Sabbath to create the outline of Backwoods Payback. Years later, and after relentless touring around the world, Backwoods Payback are at the top of their fuzzed-out, riff worship game. Cummings’s solo material is equally dark but subdued in volume and temperance, recalling the ditch-trilogy era of Neil Young and the slower moments of Townes Van Zandt.

Self releasing a number of solo acoustic EPs throughout the last decade, this tour marks the first time MRC will be journeying outside of the Philadelphia region and supporting a solo record “GET LOW” on his own.

“GET LOW” features contributions from a who’s who of the east coast underground music scene.

Members of Hoots & Hellmouth, Heavy Temple, All Else Failed, Monty Are I, The Boils, and of course Backwoods Payback add individual nuances to a number of the tracks, making for record that recalls the subtleties of classics ranging from “Harvest” to “Pink Moon” all while staying true to MRCs do it yourself roots.

OCTOBER
23 – Hanks Saloon – Broooklyn NY w/ Ben (The Brought Low), Keith R. Montgomery
24 – Radio (downstairs) – Somerville MA w/ Jim Healy (Black Thai), Jess & Keith (Mellow Bravo)
25 – Café Nine – New Haven CT (early show 5pm)
27 – Dogpatch Tavern – Frederick MD w/ Helena Goldberg (Akris)
28 – The Blue Nile – Harrisonburg VA w/ Helena Goldberg (Akris)
29 – Longbranch Saloon – Knoxville TN
30 – The Station – Carrboro NC

NOVEMBER
1 – TBA – Richmond VA w/ Erik Larson (Alabama Thunderpussy)
2 – Rancho Del Rudo – West Chester PA

http://michaelrudolphcummings.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/events/598341646875466/

Michael Rudolph Cummings, “Maybe Time (Rough Mix)” (2013)

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Sadgiqacea Announce Tour with Haethen

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 9th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Including a two-show day on Sept. 21 covering the Indianapolis Metalfest III and later that evening in Dayton, Ohio — just a thrilling trip down I-70 away — Sadgiqacea are once again hitting the road in support of their 2013 Candlelight Records debut, False Prism, and they’re bringing along the also-difficult-to-spell-but-in-a-subtler-way Haethen for the trip. It’s a week of shows that start next Wednesday and they’ve aptly called it the “Week Long Tour.” Truth in advertising.

Also sprach the PR wire:

SADGIQACEA: September Eastern US Tour Dates Confirmed

While still unpacking from their massive recent Summer trek which saw the duo occupying more than forty cities across the country with cohorts Hivelords, this week Philadelphia-based spiritualistic sludge duo SADGIQACEA confirms yet another new tour in support of their Candlelight Records debut False Prism.

Originating in Boston on Wednesday, September 18th, the new bout of East Coast performances will take SADGIQACEA on a six-city trek through Washington, Columbus, Indianapolis and Dayton before the final show in Pittsburgh on Sunday the 22nd. SADGIQACEA will be performing alongside their comrades Haethen for all shows except the Indianapolis Metalfest III where they’ll play alongside the likes of Incantation, Decrepit Birth, Byzantine and more, but following their early set at the fest the duo will trek over to Dayton, Ohio to meet back up with Haethen for a second show that day.

SADGIQACEA Fall Tour w/ Haethen:
9/18/2013 Roggies – Boston, MA w/ The Binary Code, Scaphism, Brain Famine
9/19/2013 The Pinch Bar – Washington, DC w/ Caustic Casanova
9/20/2013 The Summit – Columbus, OH w/ Swarm
9/21/2013 Old National Centre – Indianapolis, IN @ Indianapolis Metalfest III (*no Haethen)
9/21/2013 Blind Bob’s – Dayton, OH w/ Half Ghost
9/22/2013 The Smiling Moose – Pittsburgh, PA w/ Dendritic Arbor, Wrought Iron, Dutchguts, Ubasute, Dope Lake

SADGIQACEA draws from a melting pot of influences that together presents a lush yet tension-filled sound. Their debut full-length, False Prism, is a forty-minute journey bearing four mammoth tracks, captured without the use of overdubs to preserve the authentic recording quality of their live performances, recorded and produced by Chris Grigg of Woe. False Prism was released via Candlelight on CD and limited edition vinyl via Anthropic Records in May.

http://sadgiqacea.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/sadgiqacea
http://www.twitter.com/sadgiqacea
http://www.candlelightrecordsusa.com

Sadgiqacea, False Prism (2013)

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Mike Cummings of Backwoods Payback Releases First Solo Single

Posted in audiObelisk on August 28th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

“Maybe Time” is the debut single from Backwoods Payback guitarist/vocalist Mike Cummings, who with it departs from the heavy and sometimes brash Southern-ish rock of his main outfit in favor of a more subdued, traditional singer-songwriter approach. Leading with an acoustic strum, Cummings gradually incorporates electric guitar, strings and drums, but even so, the feel is a departure from Backwoods. Cummings is hardly the first frontman of a heavy act to explore aesthetics beyond those confines — and he’s shown a range of expression before, as the poetry book Confessions of a Lackluster Performer can attest — but even in its rough mix form, “Maybe Time” bodes well for a breadth of influence to come when Cummings makes his solo debut with the upcoming full-length, Get Low.

When exactly that album will surface has yet to be revealed. Backwoods Payback were last heard from earlier this year with the issue of their Live 2012 EP (info here), which was a digital release following up on their 2011 Small Stone debut, Momantha (review here), and it’s clear the band’s tour-heavy/tour-often approach is carrying over to Cummings‘ solo work, as he reportedly has a stint in the works for the fall. As a first taste of Get Low, however, “Maybe Time” takes Cummings‘ already proven songwriting acumen and adds to it a prevailing focus on arrangement that quickly shows considerable depth. What form “Maybe Time” and the other material might take in a live setting remains to be seen — he’s done solo acoustic shows in the past, but I wouldn’t speculate that that’s what in store without knowing for sure; the song features members of Heavy TempleAll Else Failed and The Boils — but if “Maybe Time” demonstrates anything, it’s that it’s worth finding out.

Cummings, who’s also chosen to go by his full name for the project, has made the rough mix of “Maybe Time” available for streaming via Bandcamp and you can find it on the player below. Please enjoy:

Michael Rudolph Cummings, “Maybe Time” (2013)

Michael Rudolph Cummings on Bandcamp

Backwoods Payback website

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Argus, Beyond the Martyrs: The Raging Spirits

Posted in Reviews on August 27th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

It’s hard to discern just what Pennsylvania traditional doom metallers Argus intend with the title of their third album, Beyond the Martyrs. On a superficial level, one doesn’t think of a martyr as a place or a level of development to move past, but more than that, what’s supposed to be beyond them? What comes after that? Death? Devastation? Peace? Paradise? Which martyrs are the five-piece talking about? Is it a Christ figure? The al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades? The closing title-track — which arrives eighth on the 42-minute Cruz del Sur LP with cover art by Brad Moore — is instrumental, so that’s not much help in terms of answering the questions of theme. Tracks prior like “No Peace Beyond the Line” and “Trinity,” “Cast out all Raging Spirits” and opener “By Endurance We Conquer” could be read to have elements of religious conflict to them — certainly conflict, anyway — but if there’s a narrative to Beyond the Martyrs, it’s not one as stated by the band so much as one that relies on the listener to plot its course. Maybe that’s on purpose. As a band, Argus seem much more interested in making solid and conscious use of the dual guitars of Jason Mucio and Erik Johnson and one of traditional metal’s most powerful belt-it-out voices in former Penance vocalist Brian “Butch” Balich, who delivers a standout performance here no less righteous than that on 2011′s Boldly Stride the Doomed (discussed here) and 2009′s self-titled debut (review here). Balich is a big part of carrying across the dramas of Beyond the Martyrs – as a standalone frontman should be — and the songs he’s working on top of set a memorable foundation from which to soar as he and a bevvy of guitar solos please, bassist Andy Ramage and drummer Kevin Latchaw hammering out straightforward structures to make “No Peace Beyond the Line,” “Trinity” and “Cast out all Raging Spirits” among the album’s several highlights. That is to say, Argus isn’t just about its singer, despite his considerable presence within these tracks, and Beyond the Martyrs finds a progressive balance between metal and doom that moves fluidly to cast its own personality somewhere between the two.

That process begins immediately with the deceptively catchy chorus of “By Endurance We Conquer.” Latchaw double-times it on his hi-hat to build up tension during the verse before the hook opens up. I don’t know whether it’s because of the arching militaristic bombast of the song or if it’s just the way the epic feel is crafted, but on first impression, “By Endurance We Conquer” stands out more for its voracious chestbeating and listing of virtues than for the delivery of the title line, but after a couple times through, the opener more than justifies its presence at the fore of Beyond the Martyrs, acting as something of a vanguard for the rest of the album to come. Already much of the record’s ethic is established: Balich carries a verse into a memorable refrain and the guitars answer back with accomplished solos and driving riffs underscored by strong, powerful heavy metal rhythms. As far as songwriting methodologies go, you could do a lot worse. “No Peace Beyond the Line” takes more time to unfold, but winds up in a fist-pump chug for its verse as the vocals tease the song’s greater hook still to come in a sort of bridge part that early on substitutes for an actual chorus. They cycle through twice before the guitar solo takes hold, and though it’s not until the last minute that they arrive, it’s the repetitions of “There is no/There is no/There is no peace beyond the line” that ultimately give the song one of Beyond the Martyrs‘ most lasting impressions, the vocals doing a layered call and response to deliver the title and finish with a nailed-it adrenaline-push yell. I don’t know where the line is, but there’s no peace beyond it. The issue is settled. After such a strong opening duo, some comedown is inevitable, but “The Hands of Time are Bleeding” fights redundancy by upping the doom in its slower early going and picking up to an effective linear build in both pace and overall rush. A stop at 3:09 is a startling transition, but I’d guess that was probably the idea, and the solo that continues after stands out all the more for it. Vocals return toward the end, and though the results aren’t quite as instantly engaging as with “No Peace Beyond the Line,” the change in mood is effective leading to “Trinity” which is arguably the darkest moment on the album.

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