Posted in Whathaveyou on April 21st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
The news is good and has been a while in coming. Philadelphia trio Wizard Eye, whose stonerly sludge is one of the Mid-Atlantic’s best kept secrets at this point in heavy, have signed a deal with the newly-christened Black Monk Records and will release their self-titled sophomore full-length through the label this Summer. This comes after the band hooked up with 313 Artist Management late last year, concurrent to the release of their live EP, Riff Occult Live (review here), back in December.
Since Wizard Eye‘s Wizard Eye will come five years after their 2010 debut, Orbital Rites, I doubt anyone will accuse the three-piece of not being due for a second outing, but while it might have been a while coming together, I’ve little doubt the new record will earn a fair share of nods. Not saying I’ve heard it or anything, just saying keep an eye or an ear out.
Here’s the announcement from the band, pictured below with the Black Monk Records crew:
Wizard Eye Signs With Black Monk Records for Upcoming Vinyl Release
Philadelphia-based stoner/doom band, Wizard Eye, recently announced its partnership with emerging Philadelphia area label, Black Monk Records for the release of its upcoming self-titled album.
“Wizard Eye is thrilled to be working with Black Monk Records,” says David Shahriari, the band’s bassist/vocalist. “As a Philly-based label whose owners have been fans of ours since day one, we can’t imagine a more ideal partnership for our first release on vinyl. Black Monk Records has empowered us to bring our titanic wizard riffs to the masses in exactly the format they need and with complete artistic integrity.”
The newly formed label, started by the owners of Philadelphia record store, Vinyl Altar, will focus on releases from local artists who share their love for high-quality albums with strong aesthetics.
“Wizard Eye has been one of our favorite bands from Philly for some time now,” Christopher Mazeika, one half of Vinyl Altar explains. “When Black Monk Records was ready to put out its first release, it was only natural that we approach Wizard Eye. Black Monk Records is all about local pride with worldwide appeal, and Wizard Eye is all that and more!”
The band and its management see this pairing as natural and highly advantageous for all parties involved.
“Just visit Philadelphia’s Vinyl Altar once, and you’ll know the heart that Chris puts into making it one of the best record shops around,” says the band’s manager, Scott Harrington of 313 INC Artist Management. “It makes sense that his passion would lead him to starting his own label. And that passion is just one of the many reasons we are extremely excited to announce Wizard Eye’s partnership with Black Monk Records for this album.”
The nine-track album, Wizard Eye, was recorded in Haddon Heights, New Jersey, at Gradwell House Recording Studio and is slated for mid-summer release. This collection will be initially made available at a release show to be held at the Vinyl Altar store location, but it will be also be distributed internationally via web and mail orders.
Photo Caption l-r: Erik Caplan (Wizard Eye vocals, guitar, theremin), David (Wizard Eye bass, vocals), Mike Scarpone (Wizard Eye drums), Annmarie Lamon (Black Monk Records), Christopher Mazeika (front, Black Monk Records)
Posted in Reviews on April 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Day four. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling it, but you know, that’s what caffeine is there for. If I push past the day’s quota of mental energy, fine. Hasn’t stopped me yet, and there are only 20 reviews of the total 50 left. Not quite the home stretch, but it’s up there on the horizon. Some cool stuff today, and that always helps as well.
Quarterly Review #31-40:
Leather Nun America, Buddha Knievel
Though they’re mostly indebted to a Wino-style Maryland doom sound, San Diego three-piece Leather Nun America touch on more dramatic fare late into their fifth album, the awesomely-titled Buddha Knievel (on Nine Records). Pairing the acoustic-led instrumental “Gloom” and 7:51 “Winter Kill,” which swirls its way to an apex of lead guitar from John Sarnie with some subtle touches of extreme metal from drummer Sergio Carlos, they expand beyond a riff-and-groove ethic – though of course they do that well too. Sarnie and bassist Francis Charles Roberts (also of Old Man Wizard) offer familiar structures but satisfying tones, cuts like “Into Abyss” taking a darker turn on some of Spirit Caravan’s road-ready groove. An intro (“Prologue”) and subsequent interludes offer further depth, but the heart of “Burning Village” and Buddha Knievel as a whole is in the three-piece’s take on doom rock, and some of the record’s most satisfying moments come from precisely that, even unto the surprisingly boogieing closer “Irish Steel.”
Seems longer than three years since Virginia’s Corsair made their self-titled full-length debut (review here), but with the fervent support of Shadow Kingdom Records, they return with One Eyed Horse, an album much sweeter than its somewhat disturbing cover art might indicate, the four-piece of guitarist/vocalists Marie Landragin and Paul Sebring, bassist/vocalist Jordan Brunk and drummer Michael Taylor gracefully delving further into progressive heavy rock textures in cuts like “Shadows from Breath,” which though it winds up in blastbeats, never loses its sense of pose. That’s emblematic of the masterfully-handed twists and turns One Eyed Horse presents throughout its 45 minutes, highlights like “Sparrows Cragg” soaring and immersive while elsewhere “Brothers” reminds that sometimes it’s important to just get down to business and rock out. Corsair remain a well-kept secret, and one wonders while listening to the harmonies and post-rock bliss of “Royal Stride” just how long they can stay that way. Gorgeous, heavy and definitively their own, there’s nothing one could ask of One Eyed Horse that it doesn’t deliver. And yes, I mean that.
“Seer,” “Moros” and “Chronos” are the first three tracks to be released by Boston newcomer post-metallers Sea, but already their Demo showcases an impressive atmospheric breadth. Churning riffs from guitarists Liz Walshak (who also drew the cover; ex-Rozamov) and Mike Blasi (Rhino King) are given added depth from bassist/vocalist Stephen LoVerme (Olde Growth), and propelled ahead by drummer/engineer Andrew Muro, though there’s room left in each cut for ambience as well, “Seer” trading off, “Moros” beginning a linear build, and “Chronos” finding a middle-ground in switching between harsh and clean vocals before a slowdown brings about the chugging, memorable finale. Opening with its longest cut (immediate points), Demo proves an ambitious first release, but there’s nothing Sea set out to do on it that they don’t accomplish, and I take it as a particularly encouraging sign that in three cuts, there’s just about no structural repetition to be found. That bodes well in the classic demo sense, but more than what’s to come, these songs are already worth hearing.
Aggressive Sabbath-style doom with East Coast roots – The Munsens recorded at Moonlight Mile with Mike Moebius (Pilgrim, Kings Destroy) in NJ – Weight of Night finds the trio amidst the legal flora of Denver, Colorado, which is a fitting enough setting for the three riff-led cuts they offer on the tape. Of them, side one’s “Slave” is the most decidedly Iommic, a layered solo rounding out after “Under the Sun”-style descent — it also opens with a sample of Julie Newmar as the devil from The Twilight Zone — but both “Weight of Night” and side two’s 11-minute “The Hunt” boast the root influence as well, though the latter is invariably a standout for its crawling progression, almost Pallbearer-esque, that pushes up the tempo in its second half, arriving at a driving pace that’s even farther from where it started than the runtime would have you believe. The opening title-track works somewhat similarly, but ends with a piano interlude, and the shouting, metallic vocals hold back later on “The Hunt,” making its lumbering all the more hypnotic.
Philly trio Gondola waste just about no time showing off primo guitar antics on their Budro Records-released Get Bent LP, a penchant for jamming underscoring a lot of the wah-drenched movement on opener “Brain Ghost” and its side A compatriots “Psychic Knife,” “Poison Path” and “The Hornet.” There’s a decidedly stoner influence, vocals gaze-out Dead Meadow-style on “Psychic Knife,” but a Naam jam in “Brain Ghost” and the Fu Manchu drive of side B highlight “Electric Werewolf” offer plenty of variety within that sphere, guitarist/vocalist Rocky Rinaldi, bassist/vocalist Jordan Blumling and drummer Tim Plunkett finding space to make their own thanks in no small part to a palpable chemistry between them. Heavy rock and roll, and a damn good time, Get Bent comes across more as a suggestion than an imperative by the time the arm’s returned after “Life Cult” but either way, Gondola’s jam-laden push and brainmelter leads make this one a howler not to be missed, and just because it vibes hard doesn’t meant the songs don’t move.
Consistently unpredictable and reliably prolific, Boston outfit Space Mushroom Fuzz – spearheaded by Adam Abrams of Blue Aside – isn’t through opener “Let’s Give Them Something to Hate About” before a sampled bong and sickly-sweet solo interwine with a progressive psychedelic jam. One never really knows what’s coming from Space Mushroom Fuzz, and on Future Family, it seems to be a blend of traditional songwriting with the project’s long-established weirdo sensibilities. “A Day in the Strife” is particularly Floydian, but even that has a structure, and “Saving all My Love for U2” has just about the heaviest, most straightforward push I’ve heard from Abrams in this context, even though there’s plenty of freakout to be had as well. What holds the release together is the persistent anything-goes vibe, which is maintained even unto the acoustic-led swirl of closer “L’Americana,” not quite fully departing an underlying cynicism, but escaping sonically the irony in some of the album’s titles in a manner that’s sincere whether or not it wants to be.
The key to Deep Aeon’s Temple of Time (released on H42 Records) is in the momentum the German four-piece commence to build on opener “Element 24” and how utterly unwilling they are to relinquish it at any point over the release’s 29-minute span. Even six-minute closer “River” has a shuffle – and handclaps. Vocalist Marcel Röche keeps a gruff edge to his voice throughout, but that could just as easily be from keeping up with guitarist Alexander Weber, bassist Axel Meyer and drummer Nikolaj Marfels. Songs like “Floating” and side-B launch “With that Priest on the Back Seat” offer straightforward fuzzy heavy rock, but rhythmically, Temple of Time swings and swings and swings and there’s just no getting away from it. If the record was 50 minutes long, I’m not sure it would be sustainable – someone’s bound to need to catch their breath, band or listener – but for being in and out in under half an hour, Deep Aeon make a clean, efficient run with little use for letup. Bonus points for the Alexander von Wieding artwork.
“Come with me, let’s go get high,” urges Teepee Creeper guitarist/vocalist Jon Unruh on “Rainbow Sex Glow” from his band’s seven-track/33-minute Ashes of the Northwest full-length, recorded by Mos Generator’s Tony Reed, who also drums and whose band released a split 7” with Teepee Creeper last year (review here). I won’t say “let’s go get high” sums it all up, but a lot of it. Riffs rule the day, and deservedly so, on tracks like “Far Far Away,” the live-tracked “Crushing the Gods of Men” and “The Raven’s Eye,” which caps with a particularly righteous roll. Rounded out by bassist Jeremy Deede – no slight presence in the mix – and now featuring drummer Ian Hall, Teepee Creeper seem to get better the higher the volume goes, the impressive and open-sounding tones surrounding the listener on the aforementioned “Rainbow Sex Glow” like a meaner version of Texas’ Wo Fat, and yes, that is a compliment. The album may or may not reduce their native region to ashes, but it’s bound to turn some heads in their direction.
How right the umlaut-happy Hellräd are when the Philly sludge slammers posit that Things Never Change. Their destructive, blown-out grime makes its nihilism plain in songs like “Homegrown Terrorist,” “My Jihad Against My Own Mind,” “Dopefiend Jesus,” and of course “Smoke More Crack,” weighted, lumbering grooves switching off at a clip with full-speed punker fuckall. Guitarist Mike Hook, noisemaker/vocalist Dirty Dave (not the same Dirty Dave from The Glasspack), bassist Herb Jowett and drummer Robert Lepor get down to all-out bludgeonry from the start of “Street Zombies,” the opener and longest track (immediate points) at 6:55, but there’s just something about the rolling groove of “Fuck Up (All I’ll Ever Be)” that hits home. Probably not as primal in its making as the energy with which it’s conveyed might lead one to believe, the ultra-nasty 38-minute debut full-length is nonetheless likely to leave a dent in your skull. Or have your skull leave a dent in something else. A wall, maybe. Or another skull.
Working in longer form on the four original tracks included on Dead Sun Worship, their full-length debut, Dublin four-piece Venus Sleeps make an atmospheric centerpiece out of the Syd Barrett cover “Golden Hair,” which in the context of what surrounds it is almost an interlude. Shades of Electric Wizard show themselves on the howling “I am the Night,” but the opening duo of “Ether Sleeper” and “Dawn of Nova” is more progressive, the guitarist/vocalist Sie Carroll, guitarist/backing vocalist Steven Anderson, bassist Seán O’Connor and drummer Fergal Malone exploring a psychedelic blend of doom and heavy rock riffing that comes to the fore again on 11-minute closer “Age of Nothing,” despite that song’s healthy dose of wah. The range they show in the original material seems only bolstered by the cover, and especially as their debut, the ambition and scope Venus Sleeps showcase is admirable. There are moments when the production seems to contract when a given part wants it to expand, to sound bigger, but Dead Sun Worship lacks nothing for clarity in purpose or execution.
Later this year, Pittsburgh riff metallers Supervoid will release a split with Minneapolis four-piece Red Desert on Ripple Music as part of the label’s noble oh-my-god-there-are-too-many-bands-okay-fine-we’ll-just-put-out-stuff-from-everyone series of splits titled The Second Coming of Heavy. They recently tracked new material with Matt Very at Very Tight Recordings to include for their part and, diligent sirs that they are, video recorded what seems more or less like the entire experience. Or at least enough of it to edit it down and give everyone a little glimpse at what it was like in the studio.
Seems like a pretty laid back atmosphere, which always helps. If you’ve ever seen Supervoid‘s press shots, you know they’re not inclined to take themselves too seriously — though in my experience even the most heads-down-get-to-business session has a tendency to devolve into running gags, dick jokes, etc. — so it’s not much of a surprise they’d be having a good time while recording. Even better though is the fact that, as you hear the song being built in the beginning, one part at a time, the second half brings a (partial) reveal of the finished track along with a montage of its making. So you get a taste of the completed new music as well as a look at how it came together.
If I’m not mistaken, this will be Supervoid‘s first outing as a four-piece after quietly parting ways with guitarist Dave following 2013’s Filaments long-player (review here) and the subsequent 2014 digi-single, “Against Sunrise,” so I wouldn’t be surprised if some sonic changes are in store as they move from two guitars to one. Filaments is mostly sold-out, but there are a few limited-edition hand-made digipaks available at their Bandcamp, which will likely be gone by the time they make the trip to Long Island for the Eye of the Stoned Goat 5 fest in June. More info on that here.
Posted in Reviews on March 5th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
If right now has a sound somewhere within heavy or heavy psychedelic rock, it probably isn’t far off from what Philadelphia’s Ruby the Hatchet conjure on their second full-length, Valley of the Snake. Released through Tee Pee Records with jaw-droppingly righteous Adam Burke cover art, it is a vinyl-tailored 40 minutes that looks back to ’70s acid rock stylistically via a few choice modern influences, and is crisp, clear and melodic while still offering a satisfying if deceptive sonic heft. Highly-stylized but substantial beyond that, its six cuts speak to the growth of a quality songwriting process, and where 2012’s Ouroboros cut its teeth in shorter bursts of boogie and more upbeat swing, Valley of the Snake melts down those impulses into a molten overarching groove that plays out through longer, more complex tracks. Vocalist Jillian Taylor, guitarist John Scarperia, bassist Mike Parise, drummer Owen Stewart and organist Sean Hur thus craft an exceptionally fluid overarching sense of vibe within which the individual pieces of Valley of the Snake play out. One can hear the impact in recent years of bands like Witch Mountain, whose dirty blues seem to have a presence in side B opener “Unholy Behemoth,” and Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, whose garage-rock style is writ large over the album’s production and to whom “Vast Acid” seems to directly refer in both its riff and in a lyrical nod to that band’s most infectious hook, “I’ll Cut You Down.” With atmospheres intensified and fleshed out by Hur‘s organ and sundry echoes on the guitar and vocals, Ruby the Hatchet nonetheless bring an air of individuality and craft a niche for themselves within these familiar elements.
Between “Vast Acid” and the preceding opener “Heavy Blanket,” the album’s most immediate impression is one of stomp and swing. “Heavy Blanket” in particular brings to mind the nodding clarion “Seer” that launched Witch‘s landmark self-titled debut in 2006, but Taylor‘s vocal layering and the organ present a different context. It’s an immediately fluid groove, opening wide after a 16-second fade-in, and the roll that ensues is as welcoming an introduction as one might ask of Ruby the Hatchet, who make a turn around the halfway point to a more instrumentally focused second half built on vibe and culminating in a twisting finish and sustained organ note that drops out just so the quick start of “Vast Acid” can seem to hit harder. Scarperia‘s guitar seems to be leading the way, a solo is layered on top of organ and bass and plays out intertwining with the central riff, but Taylor is a formidable presence throughout Valley of the Snake, and ultimately there’s a balance found between them, Hur, Stewart and Parise, resulting in warm tones that never step too far out of the mix. “Tomorrow Never Comes,” which follows, begins with poignant acoustic guitar and unfolds from there to a coherent high point of the album, with fluid tempo shifts and a feel somewhere between more traditional doom and Ruby the Hatchet‘s already established commanding rhythmic movement. At 8:49, it is the longest inclusion on Valley of the Snake, but it uses its time well, pushing through a speedier middle before slowing back down and ultimately finding a swirling space between the two sides as it builds to its apex and finishes out with just enough feedback to remind the listener of the danger behind and ahead.
Symmetry and structure play a large role throughout Valley of the Snake, both within the songs and in how the record is put together. On side A, two five-minute songs lead to the longer “Tomorrow Never Comes.” Side B mirrors this with the six-minute “Unholy Behemoth” and “Demons” pushing toward the finale of the title-track. The change is more aesthetic. “Unholy Behemoth” is riffier, more insistent, and pulls back from the intangible melody of the organ on “Heavy Blanket” and “Vast Acid” to feature a somewhat darker take. Taylor carries the verses easily in slower pace, but “Unholy Behemoth” picks up in its second half to a more familiar boogie, leading to the grainy ’70s bikerisms of “Demons,” which signals its tension through Stewart‘s hi-hat early and cuts back as it approaches the halfway point to establish a back and forth of pace that plays out again on a smaller scale, capping with a slowed-down deconstruction, the undercurrent of keys winding up the last remaining element of prominence along with some amplifier hum. That leaves only “Valley of the Snake” remaining, and the seven-minute closer is the highlight of the record that bears its name. Like “Tomorrow Never Comes,” it starts with a foundation of acoustic guitar, but stylistically it’s a departure from just about everything else on the album, unfolding with a grace that speaks more to Fleetwood Mac than Uncle Acid, further progressive sensibilities showing up in the full-weight apex — is that a line of flute? — that follows the hypnotic earlier pastoralisms. I’m not sure a complete album in that style would work, but “Valley of the Snake” speaks more to the potential of Ruby the Hatchet than anything before it in balancing heavy acid rock and unashamed pop grandiosity. They finish big, as they’d almost have to, and end their second album with a debut’s hopefulness for what future risk-taking might bring. Whether or not “Valley of the Snake” becomes a model in style or method will have to remain to be seen, but the closer demonstrates plainly the band’s potential and just what it is they might bring to the sphere of heavy psychedelia going forward. Some will cling to the catchy familiarity of the first couple tracks, and I won’t argue against that, but to hear what Ruby the Hatchet really have working for them, one might find it worth the effort to dig a little deeper.
Posted in Reviews on February 27th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Philly traditional doom five-piece Crypt Sermon aren’t yet halfway into album opener “Temple Doors” before vocalist Brooks Wilson tosses in his first Dio reference, copping a cry of “Fool! Fool!” from Black Sabbath‘s “Heaven and Hell.”There are few metal singers harder to take on than Ronnie James Dio, and to his credit, Wilson pays homage without trying to directly imitate on Crypt Sermon‘s full-length debut, Out of the Garden, winding up no more indebted to Dio than to Robert Lowe of Solitude Aeturnus, Messiah Marcolin of Candlemass, or Judas Priest‘s Rob Halford. These are lofty names, particularly in doom and classic metal, but the comparisons hold up throughout Out of the Garden, which is released by Dark Descent Records and follows behind Crypt Sermon‘s Demo MMXIII (review here). That first release also opened with “Temple Doors,” and the song’s hook is all the more resonant here for it, guitarists Steve Jansson and James Lipczynski, bassist Will Mellor and drummer Enrique Sagarnaga making it a launch point for the album’s seven tracks/44 minutes of oldschool revelation. In riffs and atmosphere, Out of the Garden owes more to Leif Edling or to the dual-guitar doom blueprint of Trouble than Tony Iommi — though of course you couldn’t have ones without the other — and the band’s unabashed appreciation for the doom metal of old feels genuine. Not concerned directly with the raw, slow-punk riffing of Saint Vitus or the heavy rock grooves of Pentagram, Crypt Sermon take a stricter view of doom, and the result here is grand without being overblown, with an ’80s-style echoing snare that only further dogwhistles their sphere of influence. They might be out of the garden, but they’re definitely still under the oak.
Chanting begins “Temple Doors,” which is fitting enough given the song’s religious theme, but the subsequent “Heavy Riders” has a more straightforward take, its chugging verses giving way to an organ-laced bridge and slowdown-into-pickup that seems like it’s just waiting to launch into the chorus of “At the Gallows End,” but Crypt Sermon handle the back and forth tempo changes smoothly and the 5:07 “Byzantium” kicks in with a rolling groove and minor-key lead that subsides to set up a linear build marked out by a repetition of the title as a chorus. It’s a deceptively effective hook, Sagarnaga punctuating the march while the guitars lumber forward, a shredding solo taking hold after the halfway point that Wilson gives appropriate room. By then, “Byzantium” has moved into a quicker pace, so the slowdown and refrain of the opening progression works well as the apex of the build, even if it feels a bit faster than the first time around. I don’t know where the vinyl split is, but my sense is “Will of the Ancient Call” — also the centerpiece of the CD/digital versions — is the closer of side A, which leaves “Into the Holy of Holies,” “The Master’s Bouquet” and “Out of the Garden” for side B. The timing works that way, anyhow, and “Will of the Ancient Call” ties well thematically with “Byzantium”‘s fascination with things lost to time and mystical knowledge and so on, though it’s a catchier track and boasts a particularly fascinating drum progression that sounds almost like there are two tracks running simultaneously. Extra snare hits can catch the listener off-guard who might be expecting something along the lines of “Heavy Riders,” but whether it’s one layer or more, it works, and the guitars and bass hold themselves together well around, Wilson of course adding soaring vocals to an already driving instrumental peak.
At 8:15, “Into the Holy of Holies” is the longest cut on Out of the Garden, and its feel is accordingly grandiose, beginning with atmospheric keys and building into acoustic guitar before the intro riff hits, thickened by the bass and given bite with quick runs of snare before the first verse starts around 2:45. To call it the “heaviest” inclusion on the album would seem to take away from what Crypt Sermon do on “Byzantium” or the following “The Master’s Bouquet,” but it’s a highlight all the same, and all the more for the melody of its chorus, which later on boasts some choice layering in the vocals over a guitar lead before they cut back to the initial push for a measure or so to end out. “The Master’s Bouquet” fades in with echoing spoken word and a clean-sung performance worthy of Johan Längquist. The song itself, the shortest on the record at 4:53, is easily overshadowed by “Into the Holy of Holies” before it and “Out of the Garden” after, but Wilson makes it a standout all the same, and since bookending is something Crypt Sermon have done so well across their debut, it’s fitting that the closing title-track should have a Dio reference of its own, this time in Wilson‘s reworking lyrics for an ending that would otherwise be filler were it not so purposeful in its construction. Was certainly filler when Dio did it. Still, the closer offers more than just its last 20 seconds in terms of underscoring just how right Crypt Sermon have gotten traditional doom their first time out, and while they’ve traded in Maryland-style riffing for more epic metal fare, it works for them, tonally, vocally and rhythmically. There’s an underlying current of extremity in some of their guitar solos and in the drums, and I’d be interested to hear how that develops over subsequent releases, but since so much of the aesthetic purpose of trad doom is in paying homage to what’s come before, there isn’t much about Out of the Garden that really needs to be messed with. Rather, the album fulfills the promise the demo held, and sets up Crypt Sermon for more fist-pumping, headbang-worthy doom to come.
Crypt Sermon, “Heavy Riders” from Out of the Garden (2015)
While Philadelphia-based Randall Coon has a few prior digital releases under his belt for the solo-project Skunk Hawk, as I understand it, the six-song self-titled/self-released tape is the first to receive a physical pressing. The cassette is limited to 100 copies with a pro-printed tape and two-panel j-card, and finds the multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Coon — who appeared with King Buffalo on their 2013 demo (review here) and was in Velvet Elvis at the time of their 2012 release, In Deep Time (review here); both obviously based in Upstate NY — employing a variety of gleefully strange pop textures in a meld of psychedelic folk and bedroom stoner fuzz. Interestingly, the tracklist on the j-card lists the song “Frigidaire,” which closes side two, twice. The download version (not included with the tape, but available on Bandcamp) has it listed with side one comprised of “Water Born Devil,” “High School Ball” and “All My Heart,” and side two “There Will be Another Day, Love” (listed on the tape as “Another Day”), “Lovers of Pompeii” and “Frigidaire,” though in the download version, “Lovers of Pompeii” and “Frigidaire” are the same song. The tape also lists “Stone Embrace” on side two, so maybe there are still some kinks to work out.
My working theory is that “Stone Embrace” and “Lovers of Pompeii” are the same track with a changed title, and that that song is the middle one on side two of the tape, also the most intense of the collection, and that the actual closer of the tape is “Frigidaire,” which has a pulsing bassline and howled hook, which is accidentally listed twice on the tape but doesn’t come in the download. Nonetheless, it’s kind of hard to know what’s where, but however one chooses to listen, there’s plenty to dig into. A rawer form of “There Will be Another Day, Love” appeared on Skunk Hawk‘s 2011 EP, I Fell into the Sea and into the Earth, but other than that, the material here is new, and from the Angelo Badalamenti-style pop drama of “High School Ball” to the church organ-laced rhythmic drive of “Stone Embrace/Lovers of Pompeii,” Coon never relinquishes the experimental edge in the sound. “There Will be Another Day, Love” winds up a highlight for its insistent play of fuzz guitar and keys and Neil Young-via-Arbouretum vocal performance, but the jangly oddity and blown-out singing of “All My Heart” and the subtly-drummed vulnerability of “Water Born Devil” offer likewise satisfying results even if they take different routes to get there. If it’s confusing in a practical way, Skunk Hawk is as proportionally an engaging listen, toying with the balance between fuzzy rock and off-kilter less-frenetic Man Man-style indie songwriting in a manner that few would attempt, and pulling it off while crafting a personality of its own.
One can see easily why after several other releases, Coon might see fit to make Skunk Hawk‘s Skunk Hawk the first physical pressing from the project. I hope it’s not the last. It may be tough to figure out where one is at any given moment, but somehow that makes the listener more receptive to turns like the sneering apex of “Another Day,” “High School Ball”‘s abrasive midsection feedback or the low-mixed currents of effects noise, drones and other flourish sounds that crop up throughout. It’s not a release looking to be fully understood, and that’s one of the most exciting aspects of it.
Posted in Radio on January 9th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Usually I approach doing a batch of radio adds with some trepidation — after all, I’m basically writing five (or, in this week’s case, six) short reviews — but after doing that Last Licks series last week, this honestly feels like a breeze. Perspective is everything, and to add to yours and mine, I’ve got 18 records joining The Obelisk Radio playlist this afternoon, and it’s a widely varied bunch, both in what’s written up here and the actual makeup of the stuff.
Full-lengths, EPs, splits, a live release, a single, some doom, some black metal, some heavy rock, sludge, psych, you name it. I had the radio going for a while yesterday and heard a few really satisfying changes in style. I like that and I hope you do too, because I don’t think it’s going to change anytime soon. Full list of adds is on the Updates and Playlist Page.
The Obelisk Radio adds for Jan. 9, 2015:
Formes, Dysphoria Part 1
For an album that starts “Through this Hole” and finishes in “Dead Ends,” Formes‘ Dypsphoria Part 1 is a resoundingly progressive and diverse outing that, at its core, works primarily in playing shoegaze psych and extreme metal off each other. Somewhere between Dead Meadow and Akercocke, a song like “Dead Ends” finds a way to mesh wub-chug riffing with the crooning vocals of guitarist/bassist Steve McNamara with the responding death growls of his brother, drummer/guitarist Jordan. The UK three-piece is rounded out by Rob “The Alchemist” Hemingway, whose synths feature heavily in songs like “I am Nothing” and “Tumult,” which atmospherically expand on the ideas the opener presents, thrusting these two sides into the same place and, in defiance of what are generally thought of as the physics of genre, making it work. Formes‘ most effective moments are when they ram one into the other, as on the acoustic-to-doom-pummeling “Smile Club,” which follows quietly seething brooder “I Will Make You Ill” and rounds out with an extended whistle of harsh feedback, but I won’t discount the value they clearly place on structural variety either. Together, they make Dysphoria Part 1 as satisfying as it is unpredictable, and while I don’t know when one might expect Part 2 or just how many installments of Dysphoria there might be, I look forward to when I can next encounter the fruits of Formes‘ stylistic restlessness. Formes on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Romero, Gold for the Hunt
Madison, Wisconsin, sludge poppers Romero made a New Year’s present out of “Gold for the Hunt” by offering the song as a free download on Jan. 1, but it’s also the first new studio material to come from the four-piece since their early 2013 full-length, Take the Potion (review here). Like that album, the single revels in a Floor/Torche influence, but seems to delight even more in its fuzzy tone and burly edge in the vocals of guitarist Jeffrey Mundt and drummer Ben Brooks. With the foundation of Patrick Hotlen‘s bass rumbling beneath, the guitar and vocals push through a tension-release chorus and into a well-layered chugging bridge that further highlights Romero‘s penchant for melodic bellowing. Guitarist/percussionist/organist Tim Consequence seems all but absent initially, but in the final movement, a sustained current of organ winds up as one of “Gold for the Hunt”‘s most distinguishing factors. Well, that and the brutal growing, anyway. Glad to hear from Romero, even in so abbreviated a manner. If you’ve never encountered them before, “Gold for the Hunt” provides a quick, efficient summary of their approach, and if you heard Take the Potion, the new song will only make you further anticipate the follow-up. Romero on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Bellringer, Bellringer EP
Based in the weirdo haven of Austin, Texas, newcomer trio Bellringer — for whom this untitled/self-titled, self-released EP is the first outing — boast a familiar face (or at least a familiar cowboy hat) in guitarist/vocalist Mark Deutrom (Clown Alley, peak-era Melvins), who’s joined by bassist Corey Cottrell (ex-Megazilla) and drummer Craig Nichols (Guided by Voices, The Breeders) on these four tracks. The sound, while adventurous stylistically and in terms of the construction of individual parts, is rooted in heavy rock, opener “Vapor Lock,” a catchy number like “Wait” and the instrumental chorus of “Von Fledermaus” reminding some that, yes, Deutrom was the bass player on Stoner Witch, but particularly in the latter an even more resonant impression comes across like Masters of Reality‘s blend of pop and heavy rock oddness. That vibe continues on the nine-minute psych-jam closer “The Burning Gift,” which brings Deutrom‘s vocals forward and works in keyboard arrangement flourish, bell sounds, string sounds and various melodic volume swells to underscore the point that, even on Bellringer‘s introduction, pretty much anything goes if it works. So be it. The world needs more experimental rock that doesn’t forget there are two sides to that equation, and Bellringer seem to come out of the gate ready to gleefully tip the scales one way or the other. Bellringer on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Wizard Eye, Riff Occult Live
If, like me, you’ve been itching to get a handle on some new music from Philly’s theremin-laced, golly-these-guys-need-to-get-a-new-record-out stoner doom trio Wizard Eye, Riff Occult Live should do the trick. All but two of the tracks — “On the Banks of a River” and the meshed-together “Gravebreath/Say No More” — come from the riffy three-piece’s forthcoming sophomore outing, and while it’s definitely a live record, the dense fuzz and nod-ready roll that guitarist/thereminist/vocalist Erik Caplan, on-a-first-name-bassist Dave and drummer Mike Scarpone conjure wins out anyway on cuts like “Drowning Daydream” and “Flying/Falling,” Scarpone‘s kick drum a pop in the low end while Wizard Eye ooze their way through one Sabbathian jam into the next. Opener “Eye of the Deep” sets a tone for extended solos and thick groove, and Wizard Eye do not falter from that path as the set makes its way to the 11-minute final jam, each riff arriving, kicking ass, and moving on in well-purposed succession. Riff Occult Live doesn’t entirely sate the anticipation for a new album, but it certainly doesn’t hurt either. Wizard Eye on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Lewd Flesh, Op I Røven, Dø I Smerte
Marked out immediately by the echoing, over-the-top bluesy vocals of Malene Pedersen, Copenhagen heavy rockers Lewd Flesh make their Spaghetti Casetti Records debut with the Op I Røven, Dø I Smerte 7″, bringing together the two songs “Acid Rider” and “Lewd Troves” to give a professional, crisp first impression across two sides and about 11 minutes. Guitarists Nanna Braunschweig Hansen and Casper Nilsson, bassist John Madsen and drummer Jakob provide the backdrop for Pedersen‘s rocked-out vocal thrust on “Acid Rider,” and more ’90s-style cues are taken on “Lewd Troves,” the wailing guitars offering a flourish of noise influence to coincide with the band’s straightforward production. It is their first outing, and two songs, and it’s a raucous start to make, but there’s room to grow as well in Lewd Flesh‘s hammering out their balance of grunge, noise and heavy rock impulses and figuring out where to place the vocals in the mix. To the credit of both the band and the release, Op I Røven, Dø I Smerte sounds both smoothly produced and on-stage energetic, and hopefully they can keep that spirit intact as they continue to grow. Lewd Flesh on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Red Mess, Crimson EP
Familiar riffs abound on Red Mess‘ debut EP, Crimson, and the Brazilian trio give due reverence to the likes of Sabbath and Goatsnake, but it’s the rougher, semi-retro presentation that draws the listener into the atmosphere created by guitarist/vocalist Thiago Franzim, bassist Lucas Klepa and drummer Douglas Labigalini over the four tracks/22 minutes. There’s something theatrical in Franzim‘s vocals to opener “Trapped in My Mind” that also give a classic Alice Cooper Band feel to the proceedings as well, and that’s really just one element of heavy ’70s worship that continues on “Hole” and the subsequent, motor-ready “Stoneage Coopers,” but they save the best for last in 5:30 closer “Through the Trees,” which offsets Graveyard-style subdued blues noodling with heavy rock thrust, a highlight performance from Klepa alongside Labigalini‘s swinging cymbal and tom work, and an engaging build throughout. They’re feeling their way through developing their sound, and that’s exciting to hear since the three-piece already has some considerable chemistry between them. Hopefully they’re able to take lessons from Crimson — named, apparently, in homage to a classic prog influence — and move forward as they discover where they want to go and how they want their songs to take them there. Red Mess on YouTube, on Bandcamp.
Had to get that sixth one in there, and not just because it frees up another space on my desktop. The idea behind doing adds like this isn’t just to remind people there’s a radio component to this site. That’s part of it, sure, but the bigger agenda here is to hopefully give you another opportunity to check out music you might dig. That’s why the audio is right there under each review. I sincerely hope something above piques your interest and that you also share it with someone you think will enjoy.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 6th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
That most-anticipated-for-2015 list just keeps growing, and today, Philly five-piece Ruby the Hatchet make an entry with the impending Feb. 24 release of their Tee Pee Records debut long-player, Valley of the Snake. The cover art and tracklisting have just been posted for the album, for which Ruby the Hatchet have booked a trio of quality NYC gigs to support in Feb. ahead, presumably, of other live plans to be revealed. Their prior single, Eliminator, was released last Feb. on 7″ and tape, and like that single, the new album features cover art from Adam Burke.
Details off the PR wire spread blue cheer:
RUBY THE HATCHET to Release New LP Valley of the Snake February 24
Philadelphia Psych Metal Group Unveils New Album Details
Philadelphia psychedelic doombringers RUBY THE HATCHET are one of heavy music’s finest on-the-rise bands. The critically acclaimed psych metal group will release its new album, Valley of the Snake, on February 24 via Tee Pee Records. The hotly-tipped quintet recorded the new LP at Retro City Studios in Germantown, PA.
RUBY THE HATCHET’s music fuses the sinister tactic of brainwash with blistering riffs and the rebellious mood of sorcery, re-imagining a different path for metal. Evoking a decade’s worth of maturity gained in just a few short years, the genesis from the band’s 2011 self-titled EP to present day has been nothing short of stunning. Valley of the Snake is a six song journey; a fantastical trek with huge, blistering tracks that journey over peaks and valleys and ditches and oceans before leaving you spinning. Seething and spitting, RUBY THE HATCHET hammers behemoth waves of dogma and doom, merging precision and patience with a sinister foot-stomping, head-bobbing power. Vocalist Jillian Taylor’s serpentine vocals, scene-stealing howls and macabre lyrics conjure holistic atmospheres over swollen grooves that grow and flow in circles and waves. Guitars crunch, wail and burn.
Heavy-handed and hypnotic in equal parts, RUBY THE HATCHET creates the perfect shape shift between psych density and metal grandiosity, representing something utterly imposing; primeval and oppressively heavy while maintaining a level of breathless intensity over the course of the full album. This hex is for you.
RUBY THE HATCHET Valley of the Snake Track listing: 1.) Heavy Blanket 2.) Vast Acid 3.) Tomorrow Never Comes 4.) Unholy Behemoth 5.) Demons 6.) Valley of the Snake
* Valley of the Snake is available for pre-order purchase now:iTunes/Amazon.
RUBY THE HATCHET live dates:
February 5 New York, NY Saint Vitus (w/ Danava, Natur, Dirty Fences) February 14 New York, NY The Acheron (w/ Joy) February 17 New York, NY Cake Shop (w/ Joy, Carousel)