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.
Posted in Label Stuff on March 25th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
21 11 Copies Left.
Once again, if you’ve managed to pick up a copy of Clamfight‘s new CD, I Versus the Glacier, either using the Paypal button above or through the Maple Forum BigCartel store, you have my sincere thanks as well as that of the band.
We’re in the home stretch — a scant 21 copies remain in my possession and they’re going at a steady pace. If you’ve been on the fence, it’s a get-it-now-or-regret-it-later kind of deal. The Maple Forum doesn’t do second runs. It’s in the charter. Okay, there isn’t a charter, but seriously, the discs are moving, so thank you for that and they won’t be around for much longer. I guess that’s the point.
If you’re in Philly this coming weekend, as I know I’ll be, catch them Saturday, March 30 at Kung Fu Necktie with Borracho, Been Obscene and Supervoid. Friday, they’re at Cafe 611 in Frederick, MD, with Ichabod, War Injun, Beelzefuzz and Hollow Leg, and the band has sent along word of more shows to come, including confirmation that they’re looking to hit the West Coast this summer and news about new material in progress!
Anyone can bring you a Clamfight update with show news. Here’s one from drummer/vocalist Andy Martin that has a unicorn:
Forgive me for the bullet points folks, but I’m bashing this out on a borrowed laptop in a hotel somewhere deep in the wilds of Pennslytucky, and time is of the essence…
We’ve got two great shows this weekend, we’re at Cafe 611 in Fredrick Maryland with Ichabod, War Injun, Beelzefuzz, and Hollow Leg on Friday the 29th, and we’ll be hooking up with Supervoid, Been Obscene, and Borracho at Kung Fu Necktie in Philly on Saturday, March 30.
April 6th we’re atThe Depot in York PA with Crobot, Kingsnake, and Witch Hazel.
April 25th we’re back at Kung Fu Necktie with Holly Hunt, Sunburster, and the mighty Shroud Eater, in a show that’s sure to start our great southern weekender off with aching heads and rumbly tummies.
April 26th-29th with our bosom chums/band-I-am-also-in, Heavy Temple, we’ll be rampaging through the southeast. Friday the 26th sees us both at the Oasis in Charleston, South Carolina, with Compel, Greenseer and possibly one more TBA, Saturday will likely see us in Virginia (details still getting ironed out on that one), and Sunday the 29th we’ll be wrapping it up with the Akris at Lallo’s in Knoxville Maryland.
The other massive (for us anyway) show news is that we will be slipping the surly bonds of the east coast this summer. We can’t say when or with who but trust us, Clamfight will be heading west this summer.
The final bit of big news is that we are actively writing the next record. We’ve demoed about 25 minutes of material and have rolled out one new song, “Block Ship” live. Obviously things are very premature at the moment but we’re aiming to be in the studio by next winter. Saying much more would almost feel like cursing a process that’s been going really, really well for us, so we’ll just say this, we aim to be studio bound not long after hitting Richmond, Virginia, for Stoner Hands of Doom XIII this November.
Speaking of SHOD and “Block Ship,” we’ll be heading back to Gradwell House as soon as our schedules allow to record both “Block Ship” and a reworked version of a tune that shall remain nameless (for the time being) from our first record for our special SHOD-only split with Wizard Eye and Allthing.
Finally we’d just like to say one last thanks to Thump Box, Brain Candle, The Workhorse 3, Black Hand, and the many, many friends who came out to see us in Delaware last week. Delaware’s somehow always been incredibly cool to us and due to our show/my digging schedule last week’s show may have been our last in Delaware till the fall. Fear not first staters… We shall return.
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 21st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
File under, “Damn, Yo.” Roadsaw, Orange Goblin and Kings Destroy are making it happen, and by “it,” I mean cirrhosis.
I’ve heard legends of Goblin/Roadsaw shows before — the sheer sonic destructiveness of it all, and now they’re bringing that mess to Philly, Brooklyn and Boston in April as Orange Goblin headline a few dates after the end of their run of gigs with Clutch. And to have Kings Destroy on the bill. Well, damn, yo.
Only bummer is I won’t be in the country when it happens. Guess I’ll just have to admire the crater left in their wake upon my return. Here’s the news straight from Roadsaw:
Alright people…..very exciting news from our friends Orange Goblin ……the next ROADSAW shows….boom!
“Orange Goblin have confirmed 3 headline shows which will take place at the end of their tour supporting Clutch in April. The 3 headline shows will be:
Sun 21 Apr – North Star Bar, Philadelphia, PA Mon 22 Apr – Saint Vitus Bar, Brooklyn, NY Tue 23 Apr – Middle East (Downstairs), Boston, MA
These 3 shows will be a 4 band bill with our good friends ROADSAW, KINGS DESTROY”
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 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 Reviews on December 3rd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Here’s a quick metaphor for how I feel about the city of Philadelphia. I was on my way down to Philly from my office, wanting to get to Union Transfer early to see High on Fire, Goatwhore, Primate and Lo-Pan. And I’m doing my usual not-there-yet stress thing. I’d never been to Union Transfer before, so what if there’s no parking anywhere, what if I can’t find it, what if I drive off the edge of a cliff — all that ultra-reasonable anxiety that sometimes is enough to keep me at home but generally accompanies me one way or another everywhere I go.
Parking space right outside the venue. Maybe 50 feet from the door. Street parking, free because it was after 6:30PM. Once more, Philly, your hospitality astonishes.
It was chilly waiting for the door to open, but I’d listened to enough NPR en route and the cold did me some good. My understanding is UnionTransfer is a relatively recent advent, show-wise, and if it was actually a train station at one point, it makes a decent club. The room was sizable and the stage can be moved either forward or back to allow for more space on the floor. It was pretty far up. Apparently advance sales for the Thursday night show weren’t great, so the balcony was also closed, which was a bummer because that’s probably where I’d have been otherwise.
I grabbed a beer early (it would be my only one of the night) and waited about an hour for Lo-Pan to go on, sitting at one of the side tables killing time to the best of my ability. Gradually I made my way toward the floor and then up front. Though the room wasn’t nearly as full as it would be later, there were already a bunch of people there and I figured better safe than taking pictures of the back of some dude’s head.
Of the four bands on the bill, I really only had more than nominal interest in two: Lo-Pan and High on Fire, the bookends on the bill. That said, I hardly suffered through either Primate or Goatwhore‘s sets. It went down like so:
I was especially looking forward to seeing Lo-Pan on this tour, it being the hardworking Columbus, Ohio, natives’ biggest yet. They lined up toward the front of the stage, all in a row, from bassist Scott Thompson on down through drummer Jesse Bartz, vocalist Jeff Martin and guitarist Brian Fristoe. Martin, who’s usually in the back while Bartz is out front — at least that’s how it’s been at every Lo-Pan show I’ve seen and I don’t mind saying I’ve seen a few at this point — was up there with everyone else and held his position well, projecting his powerful, soulful voice upward into the mic in front of him. Pipes for days. They played “Colossus” and “Eastern Seas,” the two new songs they had included in their set at the Small Stone Records showcase in Boston at the start of the month (review here), and though the one right after the other threw me for a bit, the driving “Chichen Itza” from Salvadorwas a highlight and “Dragline” from 2009′s Sasquanautwas something of a surprise. They intended to close with it but were granted some extra time and made the most of it with one more song. It wasn’t the most comfortable I’ve ever seen them, but as the openers, I imagine they’ve made a positive first impression on a lot of heads throughout this tour. They were more than worth showing up early for, and I hope they continue to tour at this level, because they’ve proven that they’re more than ready to carry the flag for heavy rock to a wider audience that won’t know what hit it.
Seems like the appeal of Atlanta-based grinders Primate was rooted in the fact that the band features Brutal Truth vocalist Kevin Sharp and Mastodon guitarist Bill Kelliher in the lineup. For a more Philly-specific angle, second guitarist Mike Brennan once slung for Philly dirt thrashers Javelina. Whatever the status of that band, his contributions to Primate were in line with the band’s general modus: Play fast, be angry. The barefoot Sharp has nothing to prove as a frontman, and his vocals remained consistently intense throughout the tightly-delivered set. Likewise, Kelliher‘s resume doesn’t exactly need padding at this point either. He made playing fast look like playing slow, hardly breaking a sweat as they went on. A straight-up hardcore punk persisted, and Primate only confirmed their intent with a cover of Black Flag‘s “Rise Above,” which the young dude standing next to me went — pun most definitely intended — apeshit for. He was not alone by any means. Theirs was a different kind of heavy from what I’m used to seeing, but hell man, I’ve done my time with extremity of sound and I can get down with that if need be. Their stuff was pummeling and precise in kind, and when that’s the case, even if it’s not what I’m interested in hearing on a given night, I have a hard time not appreciating it on its own level.
I’d have to go back and check the archives to be sure, but I think Goatwhore might be the fastest band I’ve ever taken pictures of. Maybe that’s not saying much, considering the context, but still, it was a new experience for me. It’s been more than half a decade since I even really vaguely paid attention to what they had going on, but it didn’t seem at Union Transfer that I’d missed all that much. Frontman Ben Falgoust still had his strangely effective hand gestures and every time I looked at guitarist Sammy Duet, I still just thought to myself, “Wow, he’s the dude from Acid Bath.” So it went. They were pro, though, and made the fine line between metal and capital-h Heavy seem much thicker than it has at other times. Duet spit on the stage at one point and I caught some ricochet, but other than that, it wasn’t unpleasant in the slightest. Despite all the time that’s passed since I heard one of their records, I recognized the breakdown in “Alchemy of the Black Sun Cult,” and that was as much landmark as I really needed. The crowd I guess wasn’t as into it as Falgoust was hoping for, since at one point he reminded from the stage that, “It’s cool to like metal again.” I didn’t know it was ever cool to like metal. Someone better tell Shakira to get on that shit, lest she lose her pop relevance. Either way, when they were done, they broke down their own gear, and for a band who’ve been around as long as they have and toured as much as they have, I found that admirable.
High on Fire
Near as I can tell from the small sample I’ve seen, here’s the difference between watching Matt Pike sober now and Matt Pike not at all sober before: Earlier in his career, he came out on stage like he was swinging a double-sided battle axe and conquered the stage, claiming the heads of any and all who opposed him as though anyone would be foolish enough to attempt such a thing. He was a shirtless madman. That’s enjoyable but hardly sustainable for a career. Now when Matt Pike comes out on stage, it’s not even a question whose stage it is. The battle axe need not apply. He just owns it. That’s not to say High on Fire were in any way lacking their trademark sonic fury, just that it had direction, knew where it was headed and the band — Pike, bassist Jeff Matz and drummer Des Kensell — were smarter with the tools of their trade. They fucking killed. Most of the set came from this year’s De Vermiis Mysteriis (review here), set opener “Serums of Laio” even more riotous on stage than it is starting off the record. “Last” and especially “10,000 Years” from the recently-reissued The Art of Self-Defense were highlights, and the moments of slower groove on “DII” or “Madness of an Architect” came as welcome changes of pace from the ripping likes of “Spiritual Rites,” “Fury Whip” or “Devilution.” High on Fire have a catalog of five strong albums to draw from — “Speedwolf” represented 2002′s Surrounded by Thieves — but it was the title-track to 2010′s Snakes for the Divinethat did the closing duties, and with its grandiose lead work, it seemed suited to the task. By then I’d long since moved to the back of Union Transfer to extricate myself from the violence up front, but wherever you were, there was no getting away from the fact that High on Fire have pushed themselves forward and that watching them now, there’s no doubt who the headliners are. Pike was more subdued in his stage persona, as one would have to expect, but he still played to the crowd, as did Matz, and Kensell was so buried in his kit you could only really see the top of his head, so if High on Fire have a rock star aura about them, it’s certainly one cast in their own image. However derailed they may have seemed or whatever hit their momentum may have taken earlier this year by their ducking out on the commercial exposure Mayhem fest would’ve brought, they’re back rolling hard and they seem clear-headed and ready for whatever could be coming their way. The stage looked small around them.
I’d taken Friday off from work, but a drive to Boston awaited in the morning and I had a two-hour trip home to my humble river valley, so I was out of there pretty quick once the house lights came on. Of course, it was Philly, so I had no trouble getting to where I was going, hit no traffic and made it home in record time. God damn I love that city.
Posted in Label Stuff on November 8th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Yes, the rumors are true. Those soft rumblings you’ve heard from the ground, the whispers on the wind. Clamfight‘s second album, I vs. the Glacier, has been giving a Jan. 22, 2013, release date via The Maple Forum. The discs are back from the pressing plant, and they’re just sitting in my office waiting to go out. We’ll have preorder info up in the next couple weeks.
And before we get to January, the band are going to be breaking their asses to promote. There’s talks of a video, track streams, late-night talk show appearances, etc., and to help them in their quest for riffy thrash domination, the four-piece have enlisted the ultra-capable Earsplit PR, whose dedication to the cause and work with the likes of Neurosis, C.O.C. and EyeHateGod (among countless others) has rendered their expertise unfuckwithable. Clamfight are in good hands.
Earsplit sent the following announcement down (what else?) the PR wire:
CLAMFIGHT Prep New Album For Deployment
Mini-Tour With Black Pyramid, Kings Destroy Begins This Week
Riffmongering Westmont, New Jersey-based CLAMFIGHT has completed their second album, and are preparing it for deployment in early 2013, unless there is some truth to this Mayan calendar fiasco that is.
As with their impressive 2010 debut Volume I, the new opus, I Versus The Glacier, was recorded by Steve Poponi at Gradwell House Recording in Haddon Heights, New Jersey. The thundering nine-track ruckus that is I Versus The Glacier magnifies the signature CLAMFIGHT blend of sludge, thrash, and doom that, according to Doommantia webzine, “has more than enough groove to break down walls,” yet ventures into even more expansive and torrentially-infectious territory on the nearly fifty-minute album.
I Versus The Glacier will see release on January 22nd, 2013 exclusively through New Jersey-based The Maple Forum, the official label imprint born of admired webzine/music community The Obelisk. In coordination with BrooklynVegan, The Maple Forum is co-sponsoring a weekend warrior tour kicking off in Brooklyn this Friday and plowing through Rochester, New York and Allston, Massachusetts, uniting CLAMFIGHT alongside Kings Destroy (members of Killing Time) and Black Pyramid.
CLAMFIGHT Live Engagements: 11/09/2012 Union Pool – Brooklyn, NY w/ Kings Destroy, Black Pyramid 11/10/2012 Monty’s Krowne – Rochester, NY w/ Kings Destroy, Black Pyramid, Babayaga 11/11/2012 O’Brien’s Pub – Allston, MA w/ Kings Destroy, Black Pyramid 11/20/2012 Kung Fu Necktie – Philadelphia, PA w/ Thee Nosebleeds, Screaming Rattler
Additional live excursions are being devised for the coming weeks and will be announced as the album’s release date nears.
I vs. the Glacier Track Listing: 1. The Eagle 2. Sandriders 3. Shadow Line 4. I vs. the Glacier 5. Age of Reptiles 6. River of Ice 7. Mountain 8. Tower of the Elephant II 9. Stealing the Ghost Horse
Posted in Label Stuff on October 4th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
I stopped off at the post office on my way to work this morning and shipped out the master, the art and everything else has been uploaded, so Clamfight‘s long-awaited second album, I vs. the Glacier, is officially in production. It’s been a long time coming, but the band worked their asses off getting the record together, the songs are even better than I could’ve hoped for, and I’m stoked to be involved in the release via The Obelisk’s in-house label, The Maple Forum. It’ll be a full four-panel digipak with sophomore-year-notebook-worthy artwork that we’ll have more on in the future.
As for when that release will actually be out, we’re not sure yet. The impulse every time I get a disc back from the press — or, in the case of HeavyPink‘s 7″ single, from Tony Reed — is to put it on sale right away, because I’m all excited and whatnot and suddenly it makes a ton of sense to release something I’m super-into without really telling anyone about it first. Maybe I’ve learned my lesson on that one, maybe not. This record’s been in the works for a while and I don’t want to be the cause of further delay. On the other hand, it’s a killer album and it deserves whatever fanfare it can accrue before actually coming out, be it reviews, word of mouth, whatever.
So there’s some coordination that still needs to happen, but for today, I’m just going to be thrilled that at long last, Clamfight‘s Ivs. the Glacierwill be pressed. The CD will be limited to 300 copies, of which I’ll have 100 for sale. As we get closer to the eventual release, we’ll talk tracklisting, recording info, etc. But that’s all for later. For now, I raise my coffee mug in salute to the havoc this excellent frickin’ record is going to wreak on any ears fortunate enough to hear it.
Thanks for your continued support of The Maple Forum and of this site.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 7th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Black Pyramid, Kings Destroy and Clamfight. Well damn.
They should just go ahead and call it the “WEEKENDER TO END ALL WEEKENDERS.” I think maybe I’ll get in my car and follow them around for all three dates, but like, not tell them I’m going to do it and just keep showing up at the shows and being like, “What?”
Black Pyramid, fresh off SHoD XII and the recording of a new album, Kings Destroy, also fresh off recording a new album (and also playing with Pallbearer next week in Brooklyn), and Clamfight, the album art for whose Maple Forum debut is apparently done at last — all three teamed up? That’s worth the price of gas for sure.
Good bands and good people mean good shows. You should go to any and all of the following:
Friday, 11/9 – Union Pool, Brooklyn, NY
Saturday, 11/10 – Monty’s Krown, Rochester, NY
Sunday, 11/11 – Radio, Somerville, MA
Expect more news to come in the next few weeks and months about new records from all three of these bands — and by “news,” I mean fanboy slobbering. Awesome.
Posted in Reviews on July 30th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
The forecast was ominous, and I don’t mean a little. Listening to the news on the radio on my way southbound on the Turnpike to see The Company Band, Lionize and Black Cowgirl in Philly, it sounded like that movie The Day After Tomorrow when all the storms come together in a rousing bout of disaster porn. Sure, the sun was out, but whatever the hell a “derecho” storm was, it was headed our way. I guess people in this region have gotten used to the threats of your standard El Ninos and Noreasters, so corporate media has to come up with something else to scare my mom with. Fuckers.
It did storm, but by the time it started I was well secure within the walls of Underground Arts, a new venue in a mostly empty but highway-convenient section of Philadelphia that I wouldn’t be surprised to see gentrify within the next couple years — I immediately started looking at spaces to open a bar, and there were several (have I mentioned how much I fucking love Philly?). The place was cool enough, kind of reminded me of Santos Party House in NYC with two large columns on either side of the stage and a professional setup, P.A. and lighting rig. The lights were LCDs or some such like that, which was fascinating. Turns out it’s the future after all.
Underground Arts had good beer on tap — the Stoudts Pils and Yards were the local contingent — and it was decently cheap as well, but with the weather and work Friday still to go, I wasn’t drinking. More the fool I. I’d been asked to come down early and take some promo shots of The Company Band, who were headlining as one show on a three-night tour that would subsequently hit Brooklyn and Washington D.C. That’s not something I’ve ever done before, but I figured if there’s going to be a first time, a band that has members of Clutch, Fireball Ministry and Fu Manchu can’t be a bad place to start. It went alright and I got some decent shots out of it. The guys — vocalist Neil Fallon, guitarists Jim Rota and Dave Bone, bassist Brad Davis and drummer Jess Margera — were all cordial, and as inexperienced as I was, it wasn’t the first time any of them had had their picture taken.
There was a while between the end of that process and the start of the actual show, which was opened by Lancaster, PA’s Black Cowgirl — no strangers to Margera, having played with his main outfit, CKY, in Philly last year — so I went in search of some Advil to help quiet down a headache I’d acquired on the drive down. All the sunshine. Ironic enough, considering the armageddon I was hearing about on the radio. I stumbled on and then into a Shell station and bought two of the little travel packs of two pills each. A short while later, Black Cowgirl hit the stage to play songs from the two EPs that they’ll release as one self-titled full-length collection on Bilocation Records this week. They had the CDs with them; vinyl is due in August.
A two-guitar four-piece, they were a band I’ve wanted to see for a while. Guitarist/vocalist Ben McGuire set up on stage right, his fellow six-stringer/singer Nate Rosenzweig way on the other side with drummer Mark Hanna and bassist Chris Casse in between. They were almost in a line — McGuire, Hanna, Casse and Rosenzweig — but the drummer was a little further back on stage and Casse out in front, and they looked ready to tour, excited to be there on the bill with the other two acts. Casse was more in the pocket than fronting the band, and McGuire was partially obscured by the giant column on his side, but the songs were tight and the band gave a solid impression to people in the crowd who, like me, hadn’t seen them play before.
To put a point on it, they looked ready to tour. You know how sometimes you see a local band play in their home territory and it just seems like they’re ready to get out? If Black Cowgirl isn’t there, they’re close. I don’t know the life circumstances of the members of the band, if they would permit larger-scale touring, but they seem to have learned what they need to know about opening shows like this one and they’re ready. Someone get Lo-Pan on the phone and tell them to book four or five weeks. I bet Black Cowgirl would come back absolutely lethal, and that their resulting confidence — McGuire seemed to hesitate to “front” the band, where his beard alone would’ve given him the ground to do so — would let them lay waste to any room they played. Still, good band, and well on their way. They threw in a couple moments of three-part vocals — Hanna joining McGuire and Rosenzweig — and it’s something I hope they continue to develop.
It was to be an early night. The Company Band were slated to be done by 10:40PM, which, yeah, might not feed into that whole “rock and roll all night” thing, but whatever, I’m not 17 years old anymore, I drove two hours to get to this show and I had to work in the morning, so I’ll take it anytime I can get it and let KISS‘ “Official Banking Partners” or whatever they have now worry about the all-nighters. Lionize went on shortly after Black Cowgirl finished up. They brought out the organ and soon got underway with their blend of whiteboy reggae and semi-heavy jamming rock.
Stylistically, they remain unaffiliated, and in terms of having seen them three or four times now as they’ve been for a while in Clutch‘s regular stable of openers and their having collaborated with Clutch guitarist Tim Sult, I remain ambivalent. The crowd at Underground Arts dug them, and I know a lot of people who do as well, but there were several instances during their time where I stood and asked myself, “Okay, what part of this doesn’t sound like Sublime?” They threw a few Clutch-esque riffs in, but ultimately left me cold and were standoffish on stage, like they wanted to bust out into hardcore punk but didn’t want to upset anyone by doing so. Come on, gentlemen. I know it’s an early night, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t disturb the peace a little. Some you win, some you lose.
As regards The Company Band, it was a win. They marked the show as being their first in four years. I didn’t doubt it, but you’d never know it to watch them play. Each of the five members of the band have a distinct personality, but they gelled remarkably well. Fallon was out front, as you’d expect, and Bone — the only member of The Company Band whose name is not immediately followed by a parenthetical, à la Rota (Fireball Ministry) or Davis (Fu Manchu) — had stage left to himself. Responsible for all the band’s songwriting and taller by a head than everyone else up there except perhaps Margera, who was sitting behind the drums anyway, it just made sense.
“House of Capricorn,” the first cut off their new Pros and Cons EP (review here), made for an appropriate set opener, with its lyrics welcoming everyone and thanking them for their cooperation, etc. Like the venue itself, the band was thoroughly professional. It was clear in watching them that although Fallon is an undeniable presence at the front of the stage, it’s the songwriting driving the material. In the past, I’ve attributed this to Rota, who’s long showcased powerful pop structures in Fireball Ministry — whose last album was overproduced but not lacking in excellent choruses — there are elements culled from classic rock’s methods without aping what those bands actually did. Pros and Cons draws on earlier metal — Fallon called the quieter “El Dorado” a heavy metal ballad — but songs like “Hot Topic Woman” and “Who Else but Us?” from The Company Band‘s 2009 self-titled full-length sounded well within the sphere of what Fireball Ministry does musically at their best, despite the fact that they were penned by Bone.
With that album, the new EP and the 2007 Sign Here, Here, and Here EP that launched the project, The Company Band had no trouble filling an hour. All four tracks from that initial release made their way into the set and were highlights, particularly “Heartache and Misery.” As the lead guitar lines that make up the first part of the verse transitioned into the slower nodding riff, one could practically feel the air push from Rota and Bones‘ guitars and Davis‘ bass. Davis, however, made the newer “Loc Nar” a standout, and though obscured to many standing directly in front of the stage by the column on the side, he nonetheless made his presence felt by riding out in-pocket grooves on top of Margera‘s straightforward drumming.
That song and “Hot Topic Woman” were fun, as had been the earlier and absurdly catchy “Fortune’s a Mistress,” but the regular set rounded out with “El Dorado” and full-length opener “Zombie Barricades,” and the band left stage. There was no way they weren’t going to round out with “Company Man,” the first track off the first EP, but they started the encore after joking that bands do nothing but stare at each other when they wait to come back out with “Spellbinder,” and here several days later, that’s still the song I have stuck in my head. Rota joined Fallon on vocals (more of that please; their voices complement each other absurdly well) and left a sting that in no way felt like “side-project.” They hit “Company Man” quick after that, playing it so fast it was practically a punk song, and then the house lights came up. Show over.
Perhaps it had been the awesome power of heavy rock and roll that had thwarted the climate change apocalypse that had almost certainly assured the destruction of America’s northeastern quadrant, but it was raining and lightning-ing when I left Underground Arts. I’d told The Patient Mrs. on the phone earlier that if it was the end of the world, I’d come north in snow shoes like Dennis Quaid, but it didn’t come to that. I got in the car and got back on the Turnpike, soberly weaving around the cars who’d either given into the Thirsty Thursday impulse or bought into the Weather Channel’s propaganda machine and believed rain to be the new snow of roadway hazards. I’m not gonna tell you the world is or isn’t ending, just that even if it is, it’s not gonna go out like the people who fill time between the “Kars for Kids” commercials say it is.