After wrapping a stint opening for Clutch, Mondo Generator and Saviours on the former’s annual holiday run, Wino and the other support acts headed out to ring in 2013 on their own, crossing the country on a nine-day trek from New York to L.A. The full Wino set from the Pittsburgh gig Jan. 4 at the 31st St. Pub was taped by the company Digitalive Productions and featured here back in January, but it turns out that Wino also sat in with Saviours for a Motörhead cover of the song “Limb from Limb” that Digitalive also caught on tape — or, more likely, SD card — in a multi-camera shoot.
Really, that’s about all I need to hear before I’m ready to climb on board. You’ve got Wino doing a guest spot with the California-based heavy thrashers on a cover tune? Yeah sure, I’ll check that out. What makes this clip even better — aside from the production value — is how tight the cover actually is. Considering they’d only been on tour three days at this point (maybe they’d done it while on the road with Clutch, but they didn’t do it in Allentown when I saw that tour), they’ve more or less got it down with the double-guitar treatment, and of course Wino‘s vocals bring that seething edge to the song that he’s been heralded for all these many years.
“Limb from Limb” originally appeared as the closer of Motörhead‘s 1979 sophomore outing, Overkill, and if nothing else, this version shows the universal nature of the Motörhead influence, since if you sat down to search out every rock song since that used that riff, by the time you finished there’d probably be 30 or 40 new ones to find. Usually how it goes with Motörhead, especially old Motörhead.
Posted in Reviews on April 11th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Underrated Philly instrumentalists Serpent Throne have a talent for making songs memorable without the use of lyrics. Brother Lucifer is their fourth album, released through Prophase Records, and it follows behind 2010’s White Summer – Black Winter (review here) in furthering the four-piece’s wailing chemistry. As with the last record, guitarists and principle songwriters Don Argott and Demian Fenton lead the charge here while the rhythm section of drummer Sean-Paul Fenton (brother to Demian) and bassist Colin Smith provide a solid foundation of groove that I’d almost call an anchor were it not so able to shift at a moment’s notice. The eight-track/39-minute full-length basks in stoner guitar glories, taking classic metal harmonics and using them to elicit instrumental hooks that stay with the listener long after closer “Napalm Mourning” has faded. As with any sans-vocals release, Brother Lucifer relies heavily on its artwork to reinforce the atmosphere of its songs, and so from the jungle spectre and helicopter above the treeline evoking Apocalypse Now to the photo on the CD’s inside liner of helmeted troops crossing a rice paddy, it’s pretty clear Argott and Fenton had the Vietnam War on their minds when putting together the material. If there’s a direct narrative at work in the flow of tracks, I don’t know, but certainly titles like “Foxtrot Tango Whiskey” (a clever allusion to the acronym FTW, which in internet speak is “For the Win,” but I’d suspect is actually a reference to its original and more timely to the Vietnam-era meaning, “Fuck the World” – Serpent Throne’s prior and current ‘70s worship can stand as further argument in favor of the interpretation, and their history of bikerisms as seen on their 2007 debut, Ride Satan Ride), “Widowmaker” (the nickname given to the AR-18 rifle), “Fubar” (itself derived from a military acronym, “Fucked Up Beyond all Repair”), and “Napalm Mourning” (also a reference to Apocalypse Now, given to a play on words) feed into this theme, while side A’s “Devil’s Breath” and “Brother Lucifer” – even the CD tracklisting is broken into sides – comport with Serpent Throne’s long-established penchant for heavy rock Devil-worshiping traditionalism. Second cut “Enough Rope to Hang Yourself” and side B’s corresponding “As the Crow Flies” seem not necessarily to belong to either sphere, but neither are they out of place, the former answering the opener’s bombastic crash with some of Brother Lucifer’s most landmark leadwork and “As the Crow Flies” offering an acoustic build into driving riffs that set up the psychedelia to come on “Fubar,” each functioning to serve the album’s overarching flow.
Which is paramount. Foremost, Brother Lucifer sets up the listener for a direct, album-long ride. Leaner and a full six minutes shorter than White Summer – Black Winter, it’s also more focused, so that as mellotron emerges to add drama to side B, the effect can be genuinely startling after side A’s rush, Fenton and Argott playing leads off riffs on “Enough Rope to Hang Yourself” in a way that sets up Serpent Throne’s chief dynamic. They are guitar rock, through and through, but as up front as the six-stringers are, it’s pivotal to understand the role of Smith’s bass and Sean-Paul’s drums in establishing the sway and swagger underlying the screaming leads that typify so much of the band’s approach. In harmony, the two guitars are given to triumphant runs, but Brother Lucifer has less raucous moments as well, not so much in “Foxtrot Tango Whiskey,” which makes no attempt to interrupt its movement from one killer riff to the next, but in the second half of “Enough Rope to Hang Yourself,” and in the midsection of the subsequent ultra-groover “Devil’s Breath,” they hint at the flourish to come with what sounds an awful lot like Hammond scratch backing airier leads en route to bookending with a stop and return to the nod-worthy groove that began, Demian and Don adding a little soul to the slower final run. And though its title might not immediately feed the Vietnam/military theme, the snare march and dirge leads that introduce “Brother Lucifer” definitely do, prior to gong-ing into the song proper, which at 6:19 is the longest on the first half of the album. This is mirrored on the second half with “Napalm Mourning,” which is the longest on Brother Lucifer as a whole at 6:25, and one more show of Serpent Throne’s sense of structure – of course that’s audible throughout as well. The title-track riffs out for a while in a progression less bouncing but consistent with “Devil’s Breath” and drops into a contemplative, quiet break soon to be built up with (what else?) soloing accompanied by mellotron strings, casting a drama that crashes and fades to end side A, leading to the Iommian solo that starts “Widowmaker” before the Iron Maiden-style pop and chug takes hold.
Posted in Reviews on April 2nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I was asked to take the above pic shortly before Borracho went on at Kung Fu Necktie Saturday night. It was the last of three shows the three bands in question — Borracho, Pittsburgh’s SuperVoid and Austria’s Been Obscene – were playing together, so it was an end-of-tour kind of deal. Been Obscene had done a fuller tour out on the West Coast alongside Ape Machine, and with just the trio of dates on the Eastern Seaboard before they headed back to Europe, I felt lucky to catch them as I did. They had just finished playing, second after SuperVoid with Borracho still to come and current Maple Forum interlocutors Clamfight closing out the night as the local act on the bill.
Actually, they weren’t closing out the night, exactly. Word had come down earlier in the week that the venue had a late-night gig starting at 11, so the four bands would all need to be finished by 10:30PM. On my end, it was nothing but convenient; from a morale standpoint, it’s much easier to start the two-hour drive back north from Philadelphia at 11PM than it would be at 1AM or sometime thereafter. If it was the final gig of three before I left the country, say, or even if I’d come from Pittsburgh or Washington D.C. to play, I might have felt differently about it, but a club’s gotta stay in business to put on good shows in the first place, and if that’s what it takes, then so be it. Like I said, it worked to my benefit as someone with a long ride ahead.
Speaking of convenience, the trip south to Philly also provided a decent excuse to stop at Vintage Vinyl in Fords, NJ, and pick up a few odds and ends that I’ll have more on hopefully later this week. Even with that detour, I got to Kung Fu Necktie early. One thing about these last several months of not drinking: It’s way harder to kill time at a bar — even after paying a cover to get in — if you don’t order a beverage. I met and chatted with the cats from Been Obscene for a while, who’d been staying in New York and told me they had a new song included in their set called “Pilot to Paris” that turned out to be one more reason I was glad I made the trip.
Soon enough, SuperVoid got going with some new material of their own along with the screamier “Wake the Smoke Jumper” from their 2012 debut EP, Endless Planets (review here). These three shows represented the first the band were playing outside their native ‘burgh, so it was expected that the five-piece would seem to be getting their bearings on stage, but they still ran through their songs well and showed personality from within their double-guitar framework. Vocalist Brian showed more melodic range live than on the EP, which bodes extremely well, and the interplay of lead and rhythm guitars balanced metal and rock influences while the rhythm section of John (bass) and Greg (drums) locked in heavy foundational grooves. At one point, they seemed to find their niche between Kyuss and Mastodon, and if that’s going to be their starting point for whatever might come next from them, they could do a hell of a lot worse.
I’d have been happy enough to watch a show with Borracho, Clamfight and SuperVoid on the bill, and might’ve even hiked to Philly to see it, but the chance to catch Been Obscene, and catch them so close to home, was something special even before they started to play. Their two albums to date — 2010′s The Magic Table Dance(review here) and 2011′s Night o’ Mine(review here) — have gotten multiple return visits, and though their set was short, they represented themselves well for the growing populace who made it out to Kung Fu Necktie. There was an eight-band fest happening upstairs, so people were coming and going between the one and the other, but I didn’t move.
I know I already said it was something special to see them make the trip over, and more so to be able to see the last show, but really, it’s worth saying again. Been Obscene played four songs — opening with “Alone” (it also could’ve been “Snake Charmer,” and I’m hoping someone tells me which, as both have been stuck in my head) before hitting their stride in “Demons,” unveiling the jagged desert hues of “Pilot to Paris” and closing out with Night o’ Mineopener “Endless Scheme,” the clarion lead lines of which were presented perfectly fuzzed in spite of the fact that the four-piece — guitarist/vocalist Thomas Nachtigal, guitarist Peter Kreyci, bassist/backing vocalist Philipp Zezula and drummer Robert Schoosleitner – were running through Borracho’s gear. But even as an abridged sampling of their warm heavy psych grooving, it was immediately clear they were running on a different wavelength. I dug the hell out of it, and was reminded of some of the other acts from modern European fuzz set that I’ve been fortunate enough to see: Sungrazer, The Machine, Mars Red Sky, Samsara Blues Experiment and of course the godfathers of the sound, Colour Haze.
As someone who enjoyed how Been Obscene grew into their sound on Night o’ Mine, to be able to see them bring that sensibility and confidence to the naturalist jams of “Demons” from the first album, Nachtigal‘s “Watch the weather changing/Is it my fault” proving standout lines that carried me home after the show nearly as much as I-95. “Pilot to Paris” was less outwardly jammy, featuring some solid backing arrangements from Zezula on vocals, but still had room for a bit of meandering amid a straightforward Queens of the Stone Age start-stop given vitality and fitting attitude from Kreyci rocking out with Schoosleitner. I’m sure it wasn’t the best gig they played in the States — doubtless that happened out west in a clime more fitting to the open space in their aesthetic — but who the hell knows when or if they’ll come back, and even if they do, aren’t the circumstances bound to be different? On a certain level, every show is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This one more so than many.
When they were done, it was picture time as noted above. Borracho were in the process of setting up their gear, but they ran out to take part and then back inside in time to start their set. Similar to the last couple times I’ve seen them — in October in Manhattan and at SHoD in Connecticut — they played as a trio, but in the last few months, guitarist Steve Fisher has further stepped up as a vocalist in place of the fourth in their four-piece, Noah, who last I heard was out of the country and may or may not still be involved in the band on some level. Either way, Fisher — whom I’ll admit I didn’t at first recognize without his long beard — more than held his own in the frontman role, taking on Noah‘s parts without doing an impression of the missing party and sounding comfortable as well in what I discerned to be newer material, presumably from a forthcoming release.
I’d dug them as a mostly-instrumental outfit, but as Fisher tossed off a joke about memorizing lyrics and bassist Tim Martin and drummer Mario Trubiano ran through “Concentric Circles” from their 2011 debut full-length, Splitting Sky, they made a more than solid power trio, and I’d be interested to see how they continue to develop if indeed they stay a three-piece. By the time they were done, Kung Fu Necktie was pretty full. It hadn’t been dark outside for all that long. The SuperVoid and Been Obscene guys were hanging out — I bought their two albums on vinyl and paid in Euros I had leftover from Roadburn last year — and people were up and down the stairs, in and out of the door, back and forth. Some knew what was coming, some were entirely unassuming.
And then it happened. Like the primordial riff-thrashing bastards that they are, Clamfight took the stage. Having helped release their second album, I Versus the Glacier(buy one here), on The Obelisk’s in-house semi-label, I won’t even feign impartiality where they’re concerned, but as I see it, a Clamfight set is always a good way to cap an evening. They got off to a rough start — bassist Louis Koble playing usual opener “The Eagle” where guitarists Sean McKee and Joel Harris and drummer/vocalist Andy Martin had decided to go with “Mountain” instead — but once they locked it in, they were lethal as ever. They dipped back to their first album, 2010′s Volume 1for “Viking Funeral” and the set closer “Rabbit,” but the highlight for me was new song “Block Ship,” which in the span of about five minutes affirmed my suspicions that I Versus the Glacierwas the realization of just a fraction of their overall potential. No bullshit, I got chills up my spine twice.
But as I said, I’m hardly an unbiased observer, so take that for what it’s worth. When their whiplash melee was done, I said a few quick goodbyes and headed back to my car. I know it wasn’t the optimal situation for the bands involved, but for me, it was my favorite kind of show — not because it was early, because it was something I may or may not ever get the chance to see again. Compared to Floor the evening prior, it wasn’t nearly so crowded in Philly, but doesn’t that just make it more exceptional for the people who are there? Maybe it’s the wrong attitude, but I think it does. Been Obscene were obviously a standout, but the whole night delivered, front to back. It was everything I could’ve asked it to be and then some.
Like The Atomic Bitchwax before them, Philly-based heavy rockers Kingsnake recently stopped through the School of Rock in Easton, PA, to film a performance and interview footage as part of the web series My New Show, hosted by UC Steve. I didn’t get to go this time, but the 58-minute episode has gone online and if you’ve never heard them before (three of the four-piece were members of Sugar Daddie, from whence Kingsnake sprung), it’s a decent chance to get to know them ahead of the release of their full-length, One Eyed King of the Blind, which is reportedly due later this month.
They’ve got shows this spring — including one with Clutch and one with Lord Fowl and Heavy Temple — and you’ll find those dates below the clip. Enjoy:
Kingsnake on “My New Show” with UC Steve
Apr 6th York Pa The Depot with Witch Hazel and Crobot Apr 11th Jocelyn’s Media PA Apr 19th Rebel Rock Bar Philly with Lord Fowl, Scareho and Heavy Temple May 17th Electric Factory with Clutch, The Sword and Lionize May 18th Ride to Skate in Philly info TBA
Posted in audiObelisk on March 8th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I was fortunate enough to catch Serpent Throne playing the title-track of their new album, Brother Lucifer, back in December in their native Philadelphia (live review here), and immediately upon hearing the dueling leads that seem to permeate the entire song, the memory of its impact from the stage came flooding back. The four-piece’s last album, White Summer – Black Winter(review here), had no shortage of acrobatic soloing either, but the sway of “Brother Lucifer” seems patient somehow in its sway, and is all the more lethal for it, the mourning intro lines from guitarists Demian Fenton and Don Argott set to the military-style snare roll of drummer Sean-Paul Fenton while bassist Colin Smithholds down the emergent groove below likewise dramatic mellotron sounds.
Prophase Music will release the album on April 29 and currently has the CD up for pre-order. To tease/herald the coming of their fourth full-length, Serpent Throne have posted “Brother Lucifer” for streaming-type enjoyment on their Soundcloud page, and as I’ve listened to it about four times in a row now, it seemed only fair to give you the same opportunity to get the song stuck in your head that I’ve had to get it stuck in mine. These guys are killer, and stay tuned for album review, interview and other whathaveyou to come on Brother Lucifer, because by everything I’ve seen and heard of it so far, it’s going to hit pretty hard.
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 20th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Previously issued by Bilocation Records in Europe on vinyl and limited CD, the Black Cowgirl self-titled double EP compilation will see domestic US shelves May 14 thanks to Restricted Release. The band, who’ve spent the last couple years tightening their approach alongside some hefty touring acts while clocking a bit of their own road time, have recorded a new cover of Rory Gallagher‘s “I’m Not Awake Yet” to accompany the new version.
The PR wire sees it like this:
BLACK COWGIRL ALBUM TO SEE NATIONAL RELEASE
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania’s BLACK COWGIRL will see the North American release of their self-titled double ep released via Restricted Release on May 14. The 11-song recording was produced by the band with mixing and recording by Rich Gavalis. The national release of Black Cowgirl has been expanded to include lyrics previously unavailable on the version of the album sold at live performances and the band’s official webstore. It showcases the unique illustration work of Adrian Brouch.
BLACK COWGIRL recently performed at West Chester’s The Note alongside England’s Viking Skull. It was the UK rocker’s final show. BLACK COWGIRL vocalist/guitarist Ben McGuire shares, “the Viking Skull guys have always been great to us. It is a shame it was their last show. We played our first show with them a couple years ago and were honored to play their last, though I won’t be surprised if they come back from the grave down the road.”
Black Cowgirl will also include a recently recorded cover of “I’m Not Awake Yet” by Rory Gallagher. One of the late Irish singer/guitarist’s most popular songs, it is a tough one for any band to tackle. “I’m Not Awake Yet” is one of our favorite Rory Gallagher songs,” notes McGuire. “We talked about recording it for a while because we felt like it fit in with our other songs pretty well. We are all big fans of his mellow songs that are often overshadowed by his blues rock songs. There is just something about the sad, desperate, lonely feeling he captures in some of his low key songs that strikes a chord with what we are trying to do.”
Originally conceived as a one-man instrumental project by McGuire, BLACK COWGIRL’s current incarnation took shape in 2008. Guitarist Nathan Rosenzweig, bassist Chris Casse, and drummer Mark Hanna with McGuire initially united their talents to record six songs. Recorded quickly, three days in fact, the band immediately set out on tour supporting local heros CKY. Drummer Jess Margera was immediately impressed by the band. “BLACK COWGIRL kicks ass,” he says. “The band combines all the best elements of classic rock, groove rock, and even some prog at times.” Since that maiden tour, BLACK COWGIRL has shared the stage with Graveyard, The Company Band, Radio Moscow, Karma to Burn, Black Tusk, Monstro, and many others.
Complete track listing for Black Cowgirl is: 1. Talk of Wolves 2. Roadmaster 3. The Ride 4. Alkaline 5. Dead House 6. Eclipsor 7. Weight of Oblivion 8. Three Seasons 9. Solarizer 10. Becoming Nothing 11.Unio Mystica 12. I’m Not Awake Yet
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 6th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
You can’t hope to stop Backwoods Payback from touring. You can only hope to contain them. Actually, you can’t really hope for that either, but the important thing is you tried. Or something. Not really.
Whatever. Point is that West Chester’s own merchants of the mud are hitting the road once more, and they’re playing some killer live shows, and if you can, you should go see them. They’ve also got a new EP out digital-like called Live 2012, and you’ll never guess how and when the tracks were recorded. Yes, live. Yes, in 2012. Way to call it.
The kicker is that the EP features some new songs not yet released in studio form, so it’s a glimpse at where Backwoods Payback might be headed as they follow-up 2011′s riffy Momantha, hopefully later this year. Oh, and it’s free. And you can hear it below. So there you have it.
Word from the source:
Small Stone Records recording artists and purveyors of the riff BACKWOODS PAYBACK will hit the road once again this March bringing their vision to the masses.
The US tour kicks off March 7th in Delaware and sees the band sharing the stage with friends and contemporaries such as Pilgrim, Lo-Pan, Inter Arma, Royal Thunder and Batillus along the way. A few acoustic sets thrown in for good measure ensures none of these dates are to be missed. In preparation for the tour the band has released a Live EP available now on their bandcamp site FOR FREE thru the duration of the trip. The EP includes old favorites as well as brand new songs, not yet released.
I don’t know what Pittsburgh’s Low Man are going to do next, but whatever it is, chances are the four-piece will sound markedly different than on their 2012 self-titled EP. That release (review here) captured a nascent but discernible love of a variety of heavy styles, from thickened up punk to classic proto-doom, and perhaps most impressively, Low Man made the sounds bend to their will rather than the other way around. There remained work to be done in their songwriting and production, but the potential was there and it was palpable.
They’ve had a little road time since, tightening their approach, and as Low Man‘s Low Man was recorded as the trio of guitarist/vocalist Luke Rifugiato, bassist/vocalist Jeremy Zerbe and drummer/vocalist Derek Krystek before guitarist Alex Byers joined, there are bound to be some changes in approach to account for new influences in the writing and construction of the songs. As such, as they continue to grow and develop over the course of gigs and jamming out in the rehearsal space, this seemed like a prime moment to discuss the beginnings of the band and how they’ve arrived at this stage in their development.
The Low ManEP — a follow-up to their debut single, Snake Farmer/Jackhammerhead– was recorded in Pittsburgh at +/- Studio by Jason Jouver and Justin Novak and features a host of guest players on vocals and guitar. Zerbe took time out to talk about getting the band together, putting the EP to tape and bringing in Byers on guitar with Rifugiato. Along the way, insight is given as to Low Man‘s songwriting process, influences and penchant for gang vocals. Hope you dig it.
Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions.
1. Give me the background on how Low Man got together. When did the band form and how does the songwriting process usually work? When were the songs for the self-titled EP written? Are there multiple songwriters, or was it a span of time as the material came together?
Low Man started when I moved back to Pittsburgh and began playing music with Luke Rifugiato, the band’s other vocalist and guitarist, in the fall of 2010. He introduced me to AlexByers and EvanFlaherty, the lead guitarist and drummer he had been jamming with and we sort of just fell into playing together. Besides both being into punk music, Luke was really into Queens of the Stone Age and Fu Manchu and I was a huge fan of Black Mountain and The Black Angels, so the music sort of just started from there.
We both had had other bands before and brought some songs we’d been working on for those bands with us, which is why our EP sounds a little all-over-the-place. That EP and the single we released before it are just a collection of our earliest songs, before we really had a set idea of what we were trying to achieve. We knew we wanted it to be loud and fuzzy, but we didn’t really sit down and say, “We should be a stoner rock band.” We still really haven’t, though the music comes together a lot more organically these days. We write pretty much everything as a group now and our sound has really benefited from that, I think.
2. Tell me about recording the EP. How long were you in the studio and how did you wind up bringing in gang vocals and extra guitar, etc.?
We recorded the EP in February of 2012 and were at a transitional period in the band. Alex had gone on hiatus a few months before to finish his degree, and we’d also found a new drummer in DerekKrystek. We were in the process of finding a replacement for Alex, playing shows with our friends JustinGross and MikeMyzak when we decided to just go into the studio and take care of the recording as a trio. We laid down the basic tracks in one day, then went back a second day to overdub solos and vocals. Mixing took a hell of a lot longer, and honestly we still didn’t spend enough time with it, but we were poor and the studio time was by the hour.
I laid down a couple of rhythm parts, and Luke took the reins on all of the solos except half of the dueling one in “American Literature from 1860.” When Alex was in the band, the two of them traded it off, but without him, we asked the producer, Jason Jouver, and his engineer, Justin Novak, to lay down a couple of quick licks between Luke’s. Gang vocals were something I’d wanted in a couple of songs since I first wrote them, so at the end of our second day, we had some of our friends come to the studio with a case of beer. The two main harmony voices you hear (especially on “Roll the River Down”) are members of Derek’s other band, Sleepy V.
3. How much does the EP represent the live version of the band? What was the timing on bringing Alex in on guitar? Has that changed the dynamic on stage, and if so, in what ways?
Now that Alex is back in the band, the live version of LowMan is infinitely more interesting than the recording. He’s by far the most talented guitarist of us, and he plays these harmony lines throughout songs like “Migraine” that make them a million times better. I have promised him that if we get a chance to remix the album, I’d like him to lay down his parts and throw them in where they rightfully belong. I also think it’s always hard to really translate a loud, intense band on tape. As good as the EP turned out, I wish it were more raw and energetic. But that’s just sort of how it goes I guess. Unless you’re working with Steve Albini (call me!) that is.
4. In what direction(s) do you see Low Man growing from here? The EP and the Snake Farmer/Jackhammerhead single sound completely different from each other. Have you started writing for a follow-up yet, and if so, is there something different you’re specifically trying to bring out sound-wise? There’s a pretty wide berth of influences already.
The songs from the single and the EP were all written at about the same time, early in the life of the band. We’ve been around for just over two years now and have gone through a fair number of changes, so whenever we get the time and money to hit a studio, we’re always trying to play catch up and record the oldest stuff first to get it out of the way for new things. It’s not the best system in the world, I’ll be the first to admit. Right now we’re trying to get back into the studio again for a follow-up, but we’ve got enough songs to record two in a row, so it is this race to get it all to tape.
As we’re moving forward though, what you’ll hear is a more focused, more aggressive sound, like that of “Machine,” “American Literature From 1860” or even “Snake Farmer” I think. The newer songs we’ve been writing do a lot of playing around with time signature — one of them alternates between 5/8 and 6/8 in the verse and then moves into 13 for the chorus before this weird layered, math-intensive bridge happens. And I mean that about the math: I actually had to sit down and work it out to make sure we’d all end on the same note.
But even with that kind of stuff, we’re finally able to say, “This is a Low Man song, this isn’t,” unlike early in our existence. You’ll never hear another song quite as poppy as “Pay the Bills” is, and we’ve scuttled some of our older songs for that exact reason. On stage we’re a relatively aggro, somewhat serious band, and we don’t have room for our ‘60s Wayne Cochran-esque pop ballad anymore. Inspiration still isn’t coming from just one place, so we’ll never exactly be a traditional “stoner rock” band, but we’re too much of suckers for poppy hooks for that anyway.
5. Are you conscious in writing of playing to one side of the band’s personality or another, or is it just whatever comes out of jamming or somebody’s song idea?
There is definitely still a bit of personality that finds its way into Luke’s songs or mine, though the lines have been blurred as we’ve played together more. I used to show up with nearly complete songs written and try to teach everyone everything, whereas Luke preferred to just come up with riffs and piece them together as a band. My need for exactness and completion is partially due to suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder, but also was just born out of necessity in my old bands: I was the only songwriter, the band manager, the driver and the tuning fork. Usually, I was the only guy sober enough to play the songs too.
Over the past two years though, I’ve changed a lot and become a lot more like Luke in writing. I realized what an absolute treasure Alex is, because I’d be struggling at home trying to figure out chords to a melody when he could just listen to me hum and it say, “Oh, that’s Am C G7 and then F# with an A as the root,” or whatever. Now I’ll bring my melody lines and lyrics and let the band jam out transitions and riffs in between. We just wrote two brand-new songs this past weekend exactly like that. It’s way better to work that way, getting everyone involved. It really makes them Low Man songs instead of Luke songs or Jeremy songs.
6. Any shows, other plans or closing words you want to mention?
We went on a weekend tour in early December and we hope to be doing that again soon, but after we got home from the couple days out, Derek texted me to call it quits for some personal reasons. It sucked because, not only was he like a brother to us, but we’d been writing a lot of our newer music (like the wacky time signature one I mentioned earlier) around his style of proggy, jazzy drumming. Now we’re in the process of auditioning drummers and getting the engine started again. As soon as we’ve got someone up to speed, we’ll be back out on the road, and then heading into the studio for our second EP — hopefully by spring. If all goes according to plan, I’d love to have the first EP remixed and then press both records to vinyl by winter. It’s a long way away and we hope to get ahead of schedule, but the one thing we’ve learned over the last two years is that the only thing you can count on is not being able to count on anything at all.
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 5th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Last heard from in their 2011 split with Ominous Black, Philly duo Sadgiqacea will release their Candlelight Records debut, False Prism, on May 7. The two-piece are gearing up to hit the road as well, so keep an eye out for much more to come. Till then, the PR wire has it thusly:
SADGIQACEA Album Confirmed For Release
Candlelight Records today confirms May 7 as the North American release date for False Prism, the debut full-length from SADGIQACEA. Produced by Chris Grigg (Woe), the album’s four mammoth songs will pummel listeners for close to 40-minutes. The album follows their 2011 EP, Submerged in Manichea (Horror Pain Gore Death Productions) and two regarded split recordings with Ominous Black and Grass (Anthropic).
Heavy Planet says, “While destroying everything in their path, Philadelphia-based SADGIQACEA creates an inspiring assault of devastation. Crushing riffs and ambient beauty swirl as the vocals bark… epic and full-on sludge.” Fueled by the duo of Evan Schaefer (vocals/guitar) and Fred Grabosky (vocals/drums), the band has already proven themselves road savvy. Plans are already in order to return to the road for the album’s springtime release. “We are honored to be working with Candlelight Records and ready to spread our music to masses with their support,” says the band. “We are currently planning our second full American tour with our Philadelphia brothers Hivelords for Summer 2013.”
Formed in 2010, SADGIQACEA (pronounced sad-juh-kay-sha) forge a diverse sonic palette that has been likened at times to Neurosis, Intronaut, Weakling, and Kylesa. Musically and artistically, the band draws from a melting pot of influences that together presents a lush yet tension-filled sound. They call it, “music for our trodden minds and sodden souls.” SADGIQACEA has performed alongside 40 Watt Sun, Floor, Cough, Weedeater, Fight Amp, Mose Giganticus, ASG, Funeral Pyre, Hull and countless others in their still short history.
Recorded early September 2012 at Gradwell House in Haddon Heights, New Jersey, False Prism features sparring use of overdubs; the band wishing to preserve the authentic recording quality of the live performance. Writing and performing as a duo, the unique band is committed to their craft. Discussing the album SADGIQACEA says, “The album has themes of inner struggle, spirituality, and our own reflections on the dualistic nature of the evil that we all see and experience in our lives.”
Falm Prism will be released on CD and vinyl (under license to Anthropic Records).
Posted in Reviews on January 25th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
It was the second night of Graveyard and The Shrine‘s US tour and something of a victory lap for the Swedish forerunners of retro heavy, whose 2012 offering, Lights Out (review here), greatly expanded the soulful side of the band’s approach without — if the crowd assembled at Underground Arts in Philadelphia was anything to go by — alienating their fanbase or falling prey to accusations of going soft or betraying expectation. Lights Out is plenty raucous, as the Gothenburg foursome demonstrated once they took the stage, and the band showed why their reception has been so welcome over the last several years of crossover underground success. Because they rock, that’s why.
I arrived at Underground Arts absurdly early, parked outside and waited for the 9PM doors to open. I know people in Philly. I’m not a complete stranger in the town, and I say this not to tout social connections like I’m not some fucking misanthrope who spends his whole life in front of a keyboard, but just to point out that I had options I could’ve probably exercised instead of, say, sitting for 90 minutes and staring at my phone, obsessively lurking on the forum or reading hard-hitting speculation about the Yankees’ prospects this coming season. I could’ve called somebody and gotten out of my car. It could’ve happened. But on the other hand, it was like 10 degrees out. Cold leads to immobility.
I was downstairs — because here’s a shocker: Underground Arts is actually technically a basement venue despite being able to hold 1,000 people — before the doors opened and waited around with the other early-types, who were right to wonder why no one was being let in to drink even as the DJ had already begun to spin ’70s obscurities from heavy lore. As usual, the issue was dropped once they started letting everyone through and soon, soon enough, Venice Beach retro punkers The Shrine appeared to run smiling through a set of their heavied-up no-frills jams. They pretty clearly dig what they do, and I like to watch that, even if their sound is more suited to an empty pool in SoCal summertime than Philly in January.
The bulk of what they played I recognized from their 2012 Tee Pee debut, Primitive Blast (review here), and I’d seen the trio before opening for Honkyand Fu Manchu in NYC, so I had some vague idea of what to expect, but it’s always different seeing a band after you’ve heard the album, and where so much of my impression of The Shrine had been toward the skate-punk end — perhaps because that aesthetic factors so highly in their presentation; both guitarist/vocalist Josh Landau and drummer Jeff Murray wore shirts bearing the logo of Thrasher magazine — I guess I’d forgotten how thick their sound actually was. Landau shredded through his Marshall, true enough, but it was , bassist Courtland Murphy‘s Sunn providing the foundation on which the songs rested.
And as quick as I was to relate Primitive Blast to Black Flag – not inappropriately, in the case of some of the material — their sound live was actually much fuller and less raw than their grainy video for “Whistlings of Death” would lead one to assume. Album opener “Zipper Tripper” and closer “Deep River (Livin’ to Die)” were memorable highlights, though The Shrine moved quickly enough that they probably could’ve played everything off the record had they so desired (and if they didn’t). As I said above, it was the second night of the tour, so front to back there were aspects of the show’s operation that will probably be tighter in a couple more nights, but The Shrine‘s set delivered more than I could ask for and more than anything else gave me the impression that their real potential isn’t to capture the essence of early ’80s hardcore punk — all but impossible — but to grow into something new and individual based off that, similar to how Graveyard and a (very select) few others have been able to do with ’70s heavy rock. I look forward to seeing how it works out.
I’d chosen to hit Philly for the show instead of Manhattan of Brooklyn for two reasons: The crowd at Bowery Ballroom when Graveyard came through just over a year ago with Radio Moscow (review here) and fond memories of Underground Arts from seeing The Company Band there over the summer (review here). I won’t have been at either New York show to know for sure whether or not I made the right choice, but my inclination as Graveyard hit the stage at 11PM and blasted through 90 minutes of blues rocking supremacy was that the extra road time was justified.
Actually, maybe “blasted” isn’t the right word, because where after 2011′s Hisingen Blues(review here), they’d amassed a short catalog of mostly blistering classic rockers, the songs almost terminally upbeat and jagged in their Zeppelin crotchal thrust, Lights Out is simply a more diverse album atmospherically, with subdued, building numbers like “Slow Motion Countdown” and “Hard Times Lovin’” — both of which were played in Philly — to complement the rush of a song like “Seven Seven” or “Goliath.” Their 2008 self-titled had some of that moodier edge, and Hisingen Bluesdid as well on “Uncomfortably Numb,” which they also played, but its most resonant moments were the testimony of “Ain’t Fit to Live Here” or the title-track, drummer Axel Sjöberg challenging the rest of the band to keep up with him and guitarist/vocalist Joakim Nilsson — and his throaty falsetto — rising to the occasion.
With the siren that launches the album as their intro, they opened with “An Industry of Murder” from Lights Out, and if nothing else, it was clear that everybody had heard the record. That would prove to be the case throughout the 15-song setlist (it was numbered), which covered all three of their albums. Wider distribution for the last two through Nuclear Blast, the momentum of touring and growing repute are doubtless the cause of that. I’ll freely admit to not getting on board with what they were doing until the second record, despite having heard the first, but either way, they made the most of it on stage. Guitarist Jonathan Ramm had several instances of blowing out his Orange head — Landau‘s Marshall was brought in as a replacement and sounded fine, but they tried again with the Orange and met with similar results further into the set — and that derailed the initial push of “An Industry of Murder” into “Hisingen Blues,” which, since it was followed by Lights Out‘s fastest track, “Seven Seven,” clearly wasn’t where they wanted the break to take place.
Still, these things can’t be helped sometimes. Nilsson, Sjöberg and bassist filling in for Rikard Edlund jammed out for a bit while Ramm and the stage crew tried to sort out his amp situation, and before long, “Seven Seven” revived the energy of the set and carried into the downshift of “Slow Motion Countdown.” I thought this was an especially bold inclusion, since so much of what makes that song such a high point of Lights Outis the Rhodes, mellotron and piano added to the guitars, bass and drums, but Graveyard made it work, and where Nilsson had seemed rushed in “Hisingen Blues,” the slower tempo allowed him to work his voice more, much to the song’s benefit. It made a solid lead-in for “Ain’t Fit to Live Here,” “Buying Truth (Tack & Förlåt)” and “Uncomfortably Numb,” a trio from Hisingen Blues beginning with the opener that were each more welcomed than the last. They dipped back to the self-titled for “As the Years Pass by, the Hours Bend” and returned to Lights Outfor “The Suits, the Law and the Uniforms,” which was rough — though lent extra presence by the bassline — but still grooving and “Hard Times Lovin’,” which Nilsson introduced as, “the most beautiful love song you’ve ever heard.”
I stood directly in front, just about in the middle, and the press of the crowd behind me was such that I’d have a line of bruise across my thighs from being pushed into the stage. This was enough at several points to make me think maybe I should head into the back and watch the remainder of the set from a more comfortable vantage, but to Graveyard‘s credit, they kept me where I was the whole time. “Hard Times Lovin’” turned out to be a highlight of the night, followed by “Thin Line” and “Goliath” (yes, those leads killed) to close out the regular set. After a couple minutes and some fervent chanting from the crowd, the band reemerged from backstage and hit into Hisingen Blues closer, “The Siren.”
The place went off. I continued to get pushed forward with nowhere to go. So what did I do? Motherfucker, I leaned back, trustfall-style. Among the few benefits of being a gentleman of such ample proportion is the knowledge that, if I want to go backwards, I’m going. That eased the pressure some and all was fine till some beardo decided it was time to stagedive, jumped up from the side and took my head with him on his way to the floor. After being summarily punched by his body, he caught my sweatshirt — and considerably more painfully, my hair — with him and then all of a sudden I was crouched over, caught and moving one way without really any choice in the matter. “The Siren” seemed 20 minutes long. Eventually whatever part of that dude was attached to my already-thinning-and-not-at-all-needing-to-be-ripped-out hair was unattached and he went on his way. It was… not boring.
He wasn’t the last, but thankfully everyone else was either tiny or going the other way or both. “Endless Night” from Lights Out and “Evil Ways” from the self-titled followed as a closing duo, the latter with an excellent jam included, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if by the end of this tour Graveyard are closing with “The Siren.” That got the biggest response and seemed the most fitting, with the “Tonight a demon came into my head/And tried to choke me in my sleep” chorus igniting even more of a singalong than had the rest of their cuts.
Whatever they do or don’t do with the order though, it was a quality set, 90 solid minutes that wrapped at 12:30AM and sent me back into the cold night for a two-hour ride home that I made shorter the best way I know how — by speeding. I guess Graveyard will have that effect on you.
Posted in Reviews on January 17th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Their sound is rooted deep in classic stoner punk, but Pittsburgh three-or-four-piece Low Man don’t necessarily limit themselves stylistically on their self-titled, self-released seven-track EP. Recorded as a trio with a slew of guest vocalists, the production on Low Man’s Low Man is rough, but still crisp enough to give a debut’s look at a band getting their bearings, and as drummer Derek Krystek, bassist Jeremy Zerbe and guitarist Luke Rifugiato all contribute vocals throughout in addition to the guests, the half-hour release has a surprising amount of variety from song to song. That doesn’t put Low Man in a position to establish much more than a cursory flow between the tracks, but with an EP, there’s less of that expectation at play, and all the more since unnamed closer that follows “Roll the River Down” is six and a half minutes solid of feedback and noise. Such a consideration puts the runtime song-wise at just under 24 minutes, but Low Man otherwise make decent use of their time, the initial push of opener “Migraine” reminding a bit of formative The Brought Low vocally while engaging in straightforward rhythmic thrust and upbeat classic rocking. Rifugiato proves early and often to be an engaging lead guitarist – if in fact that’s him; Zerbe and Jason Jouver, who mixed, and Justin Novak, who engineered, are also listed as adding guitar and it’s not clear who’s where – dropping layered solos atop the final stretch of “Migraine” and leading the charge on the subsequent “Golden Dawn,” which moves more into a classic-Pentagram-via-earliest-Witchcraft groove with a bluesy vocal to complement and easily the strongest instrumental hook of the EP. The guest vocals seem to come into play during the chorus, which rounds out with aggressive shouts in a bridge part leading back to one last chorus and a brief descending transitional progression that appeared earlier in the song, showing a nascent but nonetheless prevalent knack for structure that they carry into the faster chugging of “American Literature from 1860.”
Its central hook isn’t as strong as that of “Golden Dawn,” but “American Literature from 1860” is also coming from someplace else stylistically, proffering sans-frills garage punk with bite in the tempo and what feels like less focus directly on the arrangement. If Low Man are looking to set one side of their sound against the other, they paired up the two tracks to do it with for sure. I’d be interested to hear how the differences in sound – which presumably are the result of multiple songwriters, though all songs are credited to Low Man as a whole – might be carried across with a fuller production or more attention to the vocal recording and placement in the mix, but on “American Literature from 1860,” the idea is obviously to hone in on rawer musical ideas from the start. The shortest track at 2:53, it begins with a quick sample and then is off without giving the listener a chance to process what they’re hearing, a biker-style verse opening to a chorus that still seems unwilling to fully relinquish its tension. The post-chorus bridge locks in a groove quickly shirked off to go back to the verse and the cycle repeats – a basic structure echoing the straightforward musicality to set up solos traded back and forth between the right and left channel. The jump from the solo back into the ending chorus is a little abrupt, but Low Man don’t really leave you time to get caught on speedbumps, and their momentum continues into the gang-vocalized “Pay the Bills,” made memorable with “heya-hey”s and an early ‘90s bassline. Here too the verse hook proves stronger than the chorus, but the gang vocals go a long way in keeping attention snapped to, and an echoing lead behind the vocals before the ending sample offers a bit of change from what the band has already managed to establish as their norm.
Posted in Reviews on January 2nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
How bummed was I to miss Wino opening for Clutch, you ask? Well I was super friggin’ bummed. Thanks for rubbing it in. Between parking and standing on line to get into Crocodile Rock, I missed his set entirely to the point that I thought maybe he was going on after Saviours and before Mondo Generator, or maybe even after Mondo Generator and before Clutch, where they could transition from one set to another by launching into “Red Horse Rainbow” from Pure Rock Fury, on the album version of which Wino guested on guitar. No such luck. Turns out I just missed him.
It was a shitter way to start out an otherwise great night. Saviours were just getting ready to start up when I walked in. In all the years I’ve been going to shows, this was my first time at Crocodile Rock, which reminded me a bit of the Machine Shop in Flint, MI, in its late-’90s vibe. They were around for nü-metal and had the framed pictures on the wall of Union and Ill Nino to prove it. The sound wasn’t bad, but the place was already packed and only became more so. Doubtless a good portion of the crowd came as refugees from the originally scheduled Starland Ballroom show, unfortunately canceled in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy while that venue, which was flooded out, rebuilds and regroups.
But for missing Wino (I mean, seriously, how do I miss Wino? I’m Mr. Wino Wednesday — you’d think I’d just have like a Wino-dar to go off and let me know when he’s playing), the evening had much to offer. Clutch rolling through on their annual holiday run playing no fewer than four new songs from the forthcoming Earth Rocker, a reinvigorated Mondo Generator, and Saviours, who I hadn’t seen in three years since they hit Brooklyn supporting Saint Vitus. Not much had changed, though their stonerly riffer’s thrash seemed all the more Californian perhaps because it was 20 degrees outside and half the crowd had their winter coats on. Some stuff is just better left to warmer weather.
Still, the band seemed to waste no time in winning over any skeptics who might have been present. “Crucifire,” from their full-length debut of the same name, was especially visceral, with guitarists Austin Barber and Sonny Reinhardt doing classic metal harmonics for an audience that seemed to appreciate the Maiden influence. Bassist Carson Binks and drummer Scott Batiste made a formidable rhythm section beneath the rampant soloing, locking in fast grooves in a kind of insistent thrust, all thrash but aware too of classic metal and hints of doomed thickness. Whatever else you can say about Saviours, they’ve always effectively straddled genre lines, and though I basically missed the boat on their 2011 album, Death’s Procession, they made a resounding statement in its favor by closing with “Crete’n” from it. If I’d been able to get to the merch table from where I was standing, I’d probably have bought a copy.
Ditto that for Mondo Generator‘s 2012 offering, Hell Comes to Your Heart, because whatever else you can say about Nick Oliveri‘s many adventures — in and out of Kyuss Lives/Vista Chino, on probation for a well-publicized swat team incident, etc. — he fucking brought it to Croc Rock. I was surprised, though I probably shouldn’t have been. He’s got more than enough presence to front a band, and though in Mondo Generator, the focus is largely on the abrasive-type edge he brought to Queens of the Stone Age during his tenure there, his songwriting core remains above average. I’m a firm believer that neither he nor Josh Homme are as strong separately as they are together, but I suppose you could say the same for any number of pivotal collaborations. Either way, the band behind him was tight, and they threw in enough QOTSA material — opening with “Ode to Clarissa” and also sprinkling “Gonna Leave You” and “Millionaire” throughout — to keep any attention that might have otherwise wandered, my own included.
At least from where I was standing, it seemed like a pretty hip room, so I think most people knew what and whom they were watching, though I heard someone comment that they must have been from NJ because guitarist Ian Taylor was wearing a shirt that said “Don’t Mess with Jersey” on the front. That led me to wonder what it might be like to see Mondo Generator without any of the context of Oliveri‘s time in Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age, etc., and just to take it all on the level of “some band opening for Clutch.” I think I’d still call them a solid stage act, but the level of appreciation would undoubtedly be different, as when they closed with “13th Floor” from 2000′s Cocaine Rodeo, realizing the song also appeared on QOTSA‘s Rated Ras “Tension Head.” It’s the little things. In any case, for never having caught Oliveri‘s outfit live before, they impressed, and his bass tone remains enviable pretty much unto itself.
I was still holding out hope that Wino might just jump on stage for a couple acoustic songs before Clutch got going, but no dice. It would’ve been hard to follow the unhinged punkisms of Mondo Generator anyway, and the crowd around me didn’t exactly look like the unplugged type. Dudes in Fear Factory and Deftones shirts, Black Label Society and so forth. Sometimes I forget how distinguishable “heavy” and “metal” can be, but it’s cool, or at least it was once Clutch took the stage. They were universally agreed upon.
The set opened with “The Mob Goes Wild” and went right into “Walking in the Great Shining Path of Monster Trucks” from Transnational Speedway League: Anthems, Anecdotes and Undeniable Truths. That Clutch would hit up their full-length debut — which turns 20 in 2013 — at all was a shocker, but to do it so early in the set even more so. By the time they got around to some of the new songs, though, it made sense. Following “50,000 Unstoppable Watts” from 2009′s Strange Cousins from the West, the landmark Maryland foursome dove headfirst into “Crucial Velocity,” which was as straight-ahead and aggressive a song from them as I’ve heard since 2001′s Pure Rock Fury. They’ve said all along that was their intent for Earth Rocker, or at least how things wound up, but still, “Crucial Velocity” hit with a surprising swiftness from a band who’ve spent their last three records reveling in blues and funk influences almost exclusively.
Nothing against either approach. Frankly, Clutch could do whatever the hell they want and their audience, likely myself included, would be along for the ride. And if Clutch have in fact decided to take an approach more similar to their earlier noise-rocking days — some of the stuff I’ve heard from Earth Rocker bears that out, some less so; I’ve yet to listen the whole album and can only go on what I’ve seen them do live — it makes an interesting kind of sense in terms of how they relate one album to the next. Interview fodder, if nothing else. They backed “Crucial Velocity” with “Gravel Road,” frontman Neil Fallon picking up his slide and joining Tim Sult on guitar, while bassist Dan Maines — who I ‘m pretty sure was in the pocket before he even walked on stage — and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster held together a semi-extended jam that seemed to indicate that Clutch are working on reconciling the different aspects of their musical personality, still developing after more than 22 years.
“Earth Rocker” itself, the title-track of the upcoming album, reads more or less like a manifesto. Lines like, “If you’re gonna do it, do it live on stage/Or don’t do it at all,” and, “I don’t need your stinkin’ laminate/I don’t need your VIP/I don’t need your dedications/’Cause I wear it on my sleeve,” certainly back that up, and Fallon makes a convincing case with Clutch‘s roadtime bolstering his argument. The chorus was smoother in Allentown even than when I saw them play the track in Jersey in October. Once again offsetting old and new, “Earth Rocker” shot into “A Shogun Named Marcus,” and though I’d seen the setlist beforehand to take a picture of it, it was still a palpable thrill when they threw in “Regulator” from 2004′s Blast Tyrant — their first collaboration with producer Machine, who also helmed the new album. Have I mentioned Clutch have a new record coming yet? Oh, I have? Okay then.
One hopes you’ll forgive the overkill on the point, but honestly, seeing the new stuff was a big part of the reason I wanted to catch the show, Clutch‘s holiday tour tradition notwithstanding. “Cyborg Betty” seemed like it needed some more time to set in than the other two — or maybe that’s just because I didn’t know it as well — though it did well shifting into “Child of the City” from From Beale Street to Oblivion, which is a cut I initially wrote off when the record came out but has since become a favorite live, and “Cypress Grove” once again from Blast Tyrant, the pair of songs united by a heavy stomp that is definitively Clutch‘s own, and before I knew it, the show was almost over. I stayed up front the whole time, having kind of hollowed out a niche near the security barricade, and waited for “D.C. Sound Attack,” positioned as the penultimate feature of the regular set, right before “Electric Worry.”
That’s pretty good company to keep, especially for a new song, but Clutch seemed to be betting that the harmonica and midsection cowbell jam would find favor even among people unfamiliar with the song as a whole, and they were right. Probably also helped that “D.C. Sound Attack” has one of those choruses you seem to want to sing along to even before it’s over the first time — “Hell hounds on your trail/What a pity/But that’s the price you pay/Shaking hands in Necro City” — but no question that the place went off when Fallon picked up the cowbell from his mic stand. They seemed like they were still nailing down some of the transitions, and especially compared to “Cypress Grove” or “Child of the City,” two songs Clutch could probably play in their sleep if they were so inclined, “D.C. Sound Attack” seemed particularly new, but they killed it nonetheless, and one imagines that by the time Earth Rocker is out and they come back through with Orange Goblin in tow, the response will be significant.
When they came back out for an encore following “Electric Worry” — a fight broke out in the middle of the song and Fallon called it “boring” — the joke was that it was for “a couple more thrashers,” but with “Animal Farm” from 1995′s self-titled and “Pure Rock Fury,” that kind of turned out to be the case. They ripped through one song and then the next, both are classics in the Clutch canon at this point, and then were gone, offstage just past midnight. It seemed like a fast 90 minutes, but there you go.
By the time I got home about 95 minutes later, I could already feel the cold I’d been nursing come to its full brunt, and though I consoled myself for missing Wino by saying I’d catch him in Brooklyn with Mondo Generator and Saviours as their tour continues following the end of the Clutch holiday run, I left work early on account of feeling like crap and now know that’s not the case. So it goes. But though I spent Dec. 31 in full-on dead duck mode, hopped up (down?) on NyQuil and barely conscious, I still feel like I sent out 2012 in high spirits for having seen Clutch one more time before hanging up the new calendar.
Posted in Reviews on December 17th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
My intent was to catch Columbus, Ohio, psych rockers EYE when they hit Brooklyn the night before, but a yes-that-late workday prevented me from making it to the show in time. As such, there was a tinge of stubbornness that came with the decision to head down to Philly on Friday night and see EYE at Johnny Brenda‘s on a bill that also included opener Randall of Nazareth and local heroes Serpent Throne as headliners. Even if I wasn’t doing it partly out of frustration, that’s a pretty killer lineup and I figured that if I’m going to refuse to miss EYE rolling through, that’s the show to refuse to miss.
Everything was fine until, just as I was getting on I-95 and approaching downtown Philly, the Google Maps app on my phone shit the bed. I wound up finding Frankford Ave., but going the wrong way down it — after going the right way and then turning around to be wrong; a very me way of getting lost — and having no idea what the hell I was doing. I called The Patient Mrs. and wound up calling out street names as I passed by them until she could figure out where I was and get me turned back around the right way. Which was the way I’d gone initially. Ugh.
Even with getting all turned around, it was early when I got to Johnny Brenda’s. Early enough so that the upstairs room above the bar/restaurant that serves as the venue proper wasn’t open yet. The woman at the door looked at me, asked me if I was in a band, and when I said no, sent me on my way. I wasn’t drinking, had nowhere to be, so I sat down at a table, took out a notebook and ordered a caesar salad to help pass the time. It arrived some moments later a whole wedge of iceberg lettuce resting on a generous dollop of dressing, topped with a grilled breast of chicken — all the ingredients of a caesar salad waiting to be chopped up and turned into one. I was happy to kill another two or three minutes obliging my dinner its construction.
These are the hazards of going to shows alone, I thought to myself as I made my way up to the balcony to do some more writing. Downstairs the DJ was just beginning to spin heavy ’70s rock — familiarities from Blue Cheer and early Pentagram met with modern derivatives from Graveyard and Kadavar — and there were still about 40 minutes to pass before Randall of Nazareth took the stage. They went slow. I wrote, screwed around on the internet, loaded this site to make sure the radio stream was still up, then did it again, looked over to the bar, waited. Waited. Finally, tired of being in that spot at that table on the balcony, I went downstairs and waited there, stood in the back for a while went through the same routine all over.
It’s not that the show was late, I was just early. Randall of Nazareth – AKA guitarist/vocalist Randall Huth of underrated PA pastoralists Pearls and Brass — went on at about 9:20PM, maybe a couple minutes after, but that was hardly off the scheduled start time, I’m just awkward. Huth put out an album under the Randall of Nazareth moniker on Drag City in 2007, and though I was always curious as to what it might sound like, it eluded me. I’d hoped for a copy at the merch table, or better, something newer, an independently released CDR or something like that, but no dice.
Still, Huth brought to his acoustic solo set much the same sense of town fair twang he brings to the sepia blues-worship of Pearls and Brass — it was mostly the context was different. He had two acoustics with him and his vocals were suited to the material, soft and sometimes barely there and never really hitting more than a bluesman’s garble. Perhaps an affectation, but one well used, in any case, and his presence on stage matched. Cutting a humble figure in the spotlight while EYE‘s not-inconsiderable Moog setup loomed in the darkness just a few feet adjacent, Huth played his songs banjo-fast — adding impressive neo-folk fingerpicked noodling to his semi-countrified moodiness on the acoustic guitar — but gave off no perceptible sense of anxiousness. As he turned after his first or second song, he listened to the strings and said, “This is gonna be terrible.” It wasn’t.
As will happen to the acoustic opener at the rock show, a swell of conversational volume gradually took hold the longer he played. In addition to his other songs, he did two instrumentals, one which closed the set, and one cover, and then was gone as quick as he’d gotten started once he took the stage. EYE arrived shortly thereafter and started into their first song I think before anyone actually realized they were beginning with a jam that sort of gradually took shape as a classic progressive space rocking thrust, very much indebted to Hawkwind but more visceral necessarily than their 2011 full-length, Center of the Sun(review here) — re-released by Kemado earlier this year — might have you believe. The Moog, handled by Adam Smith, played a major role in the band’s sound, and Smith added his vocals to those of drummer Brandon Smith – it was reportedly his birthday — and guitarist Matt Auxier for three-part post-lysergic ritual paeans to the cosmos. They were an easy band to dig.
Almost immediately, I was glad to have made the trip. Bassist Matt Bailey locked into the groove with Brandon, which allowed Matt to explore a solar system of effects while Adam tore into a raging solo or two of his own. Parts of songs I recognized from Center of theSun, but some of the material seemed to be new as well, or at least more loosely constructed for a live setting, the band using the space afforded them by the Moog to wander where and when they willed. Their repetitions proved almost hypnotic, but were very definitely headed in that direction, and if 2013 is to bring new recordings from EYE, they’ll be welcome by me. They had space rock down, and the crowd that had been growing at a steady clip since the show started only agreed more as time went on.
When it was Serpent Throne‘s time to take the stage, I realized just how much of the room was their audience. They conquered Johnny Brenda’s before playing a single note as only the best of local noteworthies can, inspiring a particular devotion for their instrumental sonic niche somewhere ’70s motor groove, doomly stomp, classic dual guitar metal and devil-loving stoner rock. The brotherly duo of guitarist Demian Fenton and drummer Sean-Paul Fenton dominated the room, but neither bassist Colin Smith or by-no-means-second guitarist Don Argott gave any ground of their own real estate — and it was theirs but the time they actually started playing. The place lit up for “Rock Formation” from 2009′s The Battle of Old Crowand continued the enthusiasm for cuts like “Controlled by Lunar Forces” or the title-track from 2010′s White Summer – Black Winter, which Demian preceded with a warning that, “it was a long one.”
He had a mic, despite the band’s being instrumental-only, and the between-song banter showed his familiarity with the room and the people in it. New cut “Foxtrot” from a forthcoming release reportedly titled Brother Lucifer was advanced with a dedication to “any Vietnam vets in the room,” which drew a couple laughs, and afterwards the guitarist apologized to Vietnam vets everywhere before Serpent Throne launched into “Wheels of Satan” from their 2007 debut, Ride Satan Ride, the classic biker riffing of which earned the night’s most vehement response. By then, I was sitting at the bar — again, not drinking — but watching from there I could find no argument against what they had on offer nor with “yes” vote the rifferendum gleaned. Johnny Brenda’s had packed out pretty well and when Serpent Throne were done, the staff of the place came through and said they were towing cars outside, which may or may not have been a load, but having already gotten lost once, I wasn’t about to risk having to look for a city tow yard. I cut out on the quick like I do.
Still without GPS, the ride back was pulled off successfully by memory, and the act of mental engagement was enough to keep me awake, as if the day’s news reports weren’t enough. Nothing makes your shit feel trivial faster than dead kids, and rightly so. I was glad for the opportunity to get out of my head for a little while, and I don’t think I was the only one.
Posted in On the Radar on December 11th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Aptly-titled and steeped in classic metal and punk, the First EPdebut from Philly heavy bashers No Stayer is only about 12 minutes long, but that’s enough to give an indication of the sometimes bizarre range of influence from which they’re working. Solos rip in crisp, classic fashion and the central riff of A side “Undesired” is right out of the Judas Priest playbook of metallic swagger, but Pro-Pain-esque barks and gang vocals top the would-be hook of the chorus and as brash as they are, the trio have a pervasive sense of professionalism throughout both that track and “Forest by the Mountain,” which follows on side B.
That extends to the packaging of the 7″ as well, which comes in a high-quality matte cardboard sleeve with a thick-paper lyric sheet, also two-sided to mirror the vinyl itself. “Undesired” and “Forest by the Mountain” likewise show varied personalities — the latter’s speed-gallop riffing seems to come more from the early (of course) Metallica school of alcoholic frenzy, and while the vocals could very well wind up showing a Motörhead influence in the rhythm, they’re not quite there yet and so stay unipolar in their harsh throatiness. No Stayer claim a punk influence, and “Undesired” shows it more than “Forest by the Mountain,” but neither cut is out of place next to the other, and the B side culminates with a rushing solo and furious metallic drumming before returning to the verse/chorus progression.
As advertised, First EPis a first EP, but No Stayer have been around since 2009, and “Undesired” and “Forest by the Mountain” sound like they’ve been worked over and honed, either in a practice space or a live setting. The production value — tracks were recorded at Permanent Hearing Damage by Steve Roche this past summer — also greatly helps the sense of professionalism that comes through, and the packaging for the physical 7″ release only confirms it. They may just be starting out in terms of recording, but if Kvelertak were coming through, I’d go seeNo Stayeropen any night of the week, and likely spill some beer on myself in the process. Thrash on, gentlemen. Looking forward to more.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 7th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
While any opportunity to see Pennsylvania doom classicists Argus is always welcome, the band unfortunately have announced they won’t be taking part in Days of the Doomed III next year in Wisconsin. Taking their place is Leather Nun America from California, who released their fourth album, Kult Occult, on PsycheDOOMelic last year. I’ll look forward to picking up a copy at the show in June.
Fest organizer Mercyful Mike Smith sent along word:
Well, unfortunately due to unforeseen family commitments, ARGUS has been forced to pull out of Days Of The Doomed Fest III. Bummer, but family always comes first.
That being said, I am extremely excited to announce that we have added west coast doom mongers LEATHER NUN America to DOTD Fest III! Prepare for the bludgeoning! Tickets are on sale now at www.daysofthedoomed.com! Don’t miss out!