The Obelisk Questionnaire: Matt Weed of Rosetta

Posted in Questionnaire on May 22nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

rosetta matt weed

One decade after the release of their Translation Loss debut, The Galilean Satellites, Philadelphia’s Rosetta stand on the cusp of their fifth long-player, Quintessential Ephemera. Released in association with Golden Antenna Records, the new album follows 2013’s independently-released The Anaesthete and the 2014 Flies to Flame EP, as well as an original score produced earlier this year for a film about the band, Rosetta: Audio/Visual, and is the latest in a line of deeply creative outings furthering the band’s stylstic meld of atmospheric metal, sludge, post-rock and ambience. Noteworthy also for being their first full-length with the lineup of vocalist/noisemaker Mike Armine, guitarist Matt Weed, bassist Dave Grossman, drummer BJ McMurtrie and guitarist Eric Jernigan after having brought the latter on board in 2014 (he doubles in City of Ships), Quintessential Ephemera continues Rosetta‘s workman-style approach to progressive, fluid and exploratory songwriting, their commitment more to going places they’ve never gone than to any particular genre or other.

Weed took some time out recently to respond to The Obelisk Questionnaire and you’ll find his answers below. Please enjoy:

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Matt Weed

How did you come to do what you do?

Hard to say, since I’ve been in one band or another with our drummer BJ for over half my life. I picked up a guitar when I was 14 and it has always been a kind of territory that I explored, rather than an object I tried to master. So I’ve always written music by default – it was much harder to learn music written by other people. I went to school for totally unrelated stuff and that was probably a good thing, since academic study tends to destroy one’s enjoyment of a thing. I’m a bit of a robot in personality anyway, and music was one of the only ways I could ever access, understand, and communicate about emotion. The verbal language of emotion is either mystifying or outright off-putting to me, but playing an instrument I always felt like I had access to a more truthful way of communicating with people.

Describe your first musical memory.

My parents played a lot of classical LPs on a really crappy integrated turntable/amp system from the ’70s when I was a kid. My dad liked Romantic composers like Brahms and Tchaikovsky a lot, and my mom played the piano in the house, often old hymns. I would sit at the piano and play individual notes to see which I liked. I liked the A two octaves below middle-C the best. I would wail on that note for long periods, sometimes chanting over it (I was about four or five), but my family never complained about it. I guess that was my first foray into drone music.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

In high school, when I was still training on violin, I did a program where high school kids got to sit with members of the Philadelphia Orchestra and play together. Each pair of stand partners was one PO member and one high school student. It was remarkable mainly because I was a “just-okay” student of the violin, but while I was on-stage with such serious players, my technique just seemed like it magically improved, instantly. I had no idea I could play like that. It wasn’t objectively great but it was an order of magnitude better than I was normally capable of. I never forgot it, because it was proof to me that everyone does their best work in collaboration; one person who develops skill and takes risks has a beneficial effect on everyone he or she plays with. Likewise, being lazy or self-satisfied drags down everyone around you.

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

There have been several extended periods where I really struggled with the idea that having integrity and good character is more important than success. I was brought up believing that (my parents were neither achievement-oriented nor overly accommodating), and I still do. But it’s easy to make that statement when you have enough to eat and can make rent and people are regularly affirming the work you do. Society says that integrity matters, but then turns around and judges you exclusively on indicators of wealth, prestige, or social significance. That would probably explain why so many truly awful people are among the most successful. Especially in the world of art, you need to be profitable, popular, or critically acclaimed. If you’re none of the three, you must not be very good at what you do. Then you feel pressure either to adapt your work to the market or to quit entirely. But neither of those options demonstrates integrity. I’m not sure it’s possible to resolve that conflict, ultimately.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Laying aside questions about marketability, it seems like it’s a progression of greater risk-taking. You try something new and then ask, did it communicate what I wanted to say? Was it satisfying? Did I learn something in the process? If it didn’t work, then you go back and try again. If it worked, then you jump off from there and take more risks. If you’re not taking risks, then you’re not making art, you’re producing a commodity. But taking risks necessarily means failing sometimes.

How do you define success?

Sustainability. I don’t just mean that in the financial sense. I’ve never made any money from the band and I probably never will, but I’m happy for the band to support itself. Money hasn’t ever been a goal, it’s just one means to the end of being able to keep going for as long as there is music we want to make. But there are other dimensions to sustainability, like avoiding personal burnout and cultivating new audiences, not getting stuck in unproductive habits, becoming more disciplined people as time goes on. During periods where Rosetta was broke and almost unable to continue, money always loomed as the largest dimension. But once we went independent and the band more or less began to pay for itself, I started to see a lot of different ways it could be derailed that had nothing to do with money. I think success would be a situation where we had what we needed and were spending more time creating than problem-solving.

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

A No Doubt show at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia in 2002. Yes, it was for a girlfriend. Someone puked on my shoes.

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

A drone record made with a guitar and found sounds from my house to a four-track tape recorder.

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

Every year my wife and I try to go on a wilderness backpacking trip to some weird remote location. I always look forward to that. I feel most human in situations where I have to submit to the law of nature, rather than using technology to bend nature to my wishes. Real life seems totally unreal by comparison.

Rosetta, Rosetta: Audio/Visual Original Score (2015)

Rosetta’s website

Rosetta on Thee Facebooks

Rosetta on Twitter

Rosetta on Bandcamp

Golden Antenna Records

 

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Rosetta to Release Quintessential Ephemera on July 3

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 14th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

rosetta

By now, Philly five-piece Rosetta are pretty much self-sustaining. What I mean is, the band, who picked up guitarist/vocalist Eric Jernigan from City of Ships in 2014 as their fifth member, seem to be able to just keep going. They tour hard consistently and do well, and they put out records that usually reap some measure of positive response, but more than anything else, what they’ve become in the decade since they issued their The Galilean Satellites debut on Translation Loss in 2005 is steady. Sustainable. They’ve built a loyal following and can probably keep Rosetta going until they decide it’s time to stop. Not saying it’ll make them rich, not saying it’s not work, but the band has a life of its own without being propped up by hype.

Rosetta‘s new album, Quintessential Ephemera, will be released on CD and LP this summer via Golden Antenna Records and follows a score the band put together for a documentary about them called Rosetta: Audio/Visual that can be name-your-price downloaded from their Bandcamp. They’ll head back to Europe following the upcoming full-length’s arrival, and you can find the dates below for that tour, courtesy of the PR wire:

rosetta quintessential ephemera

Golden Antenna Records: ROSETTA “Quintessential Ephemera” (Members of CITY OF SHIPS, Post Metal/ Rock)

Artist: Rosetta
Title: Quintessential Ephemera
Format: CD, 2xLP
Label: Golden Antenna Records
Distribution: Broken Silence
Release Date: 03/07/2015

With four albums under their belt, and over a thousand shows across a decade of touring, the four people behind Rosetta have branched out.

In 2014, Rosetta made their first-ever lineup change, adding Eric Jernigan of longtime tourmates City of Ships on guitar and vocals. As a five-piece, they recorded 2015’s Quintessential Ephemera, a many-layered collection of songs at once existential and deeply hopeful. Containing some of the band’s most moody and yet accessible work to date, it still has an upward force to it that delivers an appropriate counterpoint to the darkness and disintegration ofThe Anaesthete. After a 12-year journey, Quintessential Ephemera is a rebirth.

On their fifth full length album, Rosetta continues to broaden their harmonic and sonic experiments. Carrying the torch of 90s experimental rock with , they merge a deep melodic sobriety with progressive and confrontational heaviness. Quintessential Ephemera is both existential and deeply hopeful. It has some of the bands most moody work to date, but has an upward force to it that delivers an appropriate counterpoint to the darkness and nihilism of their previous record.

Quintessential Ephemera was recorded and mixed at Machines With Magnets (Battles, The Body, Braveyoung) in Providence, USA and mastered by Colin Marston (of Gorguts, Krallice, Dysrhythmia) at The Thousand Caves in New York. Artwork was designed by american artist called Mark Price.

Pre-order: http://www.goldenantenna.com/shop/advanced_search_result.php?keywords=rosetta
150 copies available on limited green vinyl!

http://warcrimerecordings.bigcartel.com/product/rosetta-quintessential-ephemera-2xlp-preorder-to-ship-end-of-june
2xLP green splatter on transparent vinyl

European Tour
28.07 BEL – Knokke Heist @ Korenbloem
29.07 NL – Utrecht @ dB’s
30.07 GER – Würzburg @ Immerhin
31.07 GER – Bad Kötzting @ VOID FEST
01.08 SK – Trnava @ Art Klub
02.08 HUN – Budapest @ Dürer Kert
03.08 SRB – Belgrade @ KC Grad
04.08 BIH – Sarajevo @ Club Underground
05.08 CRO – Sibenik @ SUPERUHO FEST
06.08 CRO – Cakovec @ Prostor Cezam
07.08 AUT – Vienna @ Chelsea
08.08 CZ – Jaromer @ BRUTAL ASSAULT FEST
09.08 POL – Warsaw @ Klub Hydrozagadka
10.08 GER – Dresden @ Chemiefabrik
11.08 GER – Essen @ Panic Room
12.08 DK – Copenhagen @ Underwerket
13.08 GER – Berlin @ Tiefgrund (Theatersaal)
14.08 GER – Wiesbaden @ Schlachthof
15.08 FRA – Paris @ Le Point Ephémère
16.08 BEL – Ieper @ IEPER SUMMER FEST

http://www.rosettaband.com
http://www.facebook.com/rosettaband
http://www.goldenantenna.com
https://theanaesthete.bandcamp.com/

Rosetta, Rosetta: Audio/Visual (2015)

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Ecstatic Vision to Release Sonic Praise on June 30

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 6th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

ecstatic-vision-(Photo-by-Orion-Landau)

Initially signed to Relapse on the strength of their first demo, Philly heavy psych trio Ecstatic Vision will make their full-length debut in the heat of summer with Sonic Praise. The album is available to preorder now and follows a spring tour the three-piece undertook with YOB and Enslaved — because if you’re going to do something, god damn it, do it right — and arrives with a sense of intrigue as to how the band’s penchant shown onstage for rhythmic intricacy and jamming spiritualism will translate to a studio setting. The album is five songs, so I’m guessing it translates to a couple pretty extended tracks.

No problem there. Sonic Praise is out June 30 on Relapse and the PR wire has details, a stream of the song “Don’t Kill the Vibe” and those preorder links for those who like to be ahead of the game.

Dig it:

ecstatic vision sonic praise

ECSTATIC VISION DETAIL DEBUT ALBUM ‘SONIC PRAISE’ OUT ON RELAPSE RECORDS JUNE 30TH

Philadelphia’s Ecstatic Vision explode onto the scene with one of the most thrilling guitar driven records in a long, long time. Sonic Praise weaves the guitar heroics of the 70’s heavy classics of UFO and Hawkwind with the rhythmic intensity of Sun Ra and Fela Kuti. Massive riffs vibe seamlessly with deep rhythms to create one of the most original and best heavy psych debuts in years. The album is out June 30th on Relapse Records.

Recorded at various studios throughout Philadelphia, the group’s debut is an acid-tinged mix of trance inducing, primitive African tribal and heavy psych a la Hawkwind, Goat and Amon Düül II. The band formed in early 2014 and have already played numerous high profile shows like Pallbearer, Georgia’s Meltasia Festival alongside Black Lips, Nik Turner’s Hawkwind and toured North America with YOB and Enslaved.

ECSTATIC VISION
SONIC PRAISE
RELAPSE RECORDS
JUNE 30, 2015
PRE-ORDER: PHYSICAL | DIGITAL

1 – Journey
2 – Astral Plane
3 – Don’t Kill The Vibe
4 – Sonic Praise
5 – Cross The Divide

https://www.facebook.com/ecstaticvision
https://twitter.com/ecstaticvision_
https://instagram.com/ecstaticvision/
http://ecstaticvision.bandcamp.com/
http://www.relapse.com/ecstatic-vision/

Ecstatic Vision, “Don’t Kill the Vibe”

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Wizard Eye to Release Self-Titled LP on Black Monk Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 21st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

The news is good and has been a while in coming. Philadelphia trio Wizard Eye, whose stonerly sludge is one of the Mid-Atlantic’s best kept secrets at this point in heavy, have signed a deal with the newly-christened Black Monk Records and will release their self-titled sophomore full-length through the label this Summer. This comes after the band hooked up with 313 Artist Management late last year, concurrent to the release of their live EP, Riff Occult Live (review here), back in December.

Since Wizard Eye‘s Wizard Eye will come five years after their 2010 debut, Orbital Rites, I doubt anyone will accuse the three-piece of not being due for a second outing, but while it might have been a while coming together, I’ve little doubt the new record will earn a fair share of nods. Not saying I’ve heard it or anything, just saying keep an eye or an ear out.

Here’s the announcement from the band, pictured below with the Black Monk Records crew:

wizard eye

Wizard Eye Signs With Black Monk Records for Upcoming Vinyl Release

Philadelphia-based stoner/doom band, Wizard Eye, recently announced its partnership with emerging Philadelphia area label, Black Monk Records for the release of its upcoming self-titled album.

“Wizard Eye is thrilled to be working with Black Monk Records,” says David Shahriari, the band’s bassist/vocalist. “As a Philly-based label whose owners have been fans of ours since day one, we can’t imagine a more ideal partnership for our first release on vinyl. Black Monk Records has empowered us to bring our titanic wizard riffs to the masses in exactly the format they need and with complete artistic integrity.”

The newly formed label, started by the owners of Philadelphia record store, Vinyl Altar, will focus on releases from local artists who share their love for high-quality albums with strong aesthetics.

“Wizard Eye has been one of our favorite bands from Philly for some time now,” Christopher Mazeika, one half of Vinyl Altar explains. “When Black Monk Records was ready to put out its first release, it was only natural that we approach Wizard Eye. Black Monk Records is all about local pride with worldwide appeal, and Wizard Eye is all that and more!”

The band and its management see this pairing as natural and highly advantageous for all parties involved.

“Just visit Philadelphia’s Vinyl Altar once, and you’ll know the heart that Chris puts into making it one of the best record shops around,” says the band’s manager, Scott Harrington of 313 INC Artist Management. “It makes sense that his passion would lead him to starting his own label. And that passion is just one of the many reasons we are extremely excited to announce Wizard Eye’s partnership with Black Monk Records for this album.”

The nine-track album, Wizard Eye, was recorded in Haddon Heights, New Jersey, at Gradwell House Recording Studio and is slated for mid-summer release. This collection will be initially made available at a release show to be held at the Vinyl Altar store location, but it will be also be distributed internationally via web and mail orders.

Photo Caption
l-r: Erik Caplan (Wizard Eye vocals, guitar, theremin), David (Wizard Eye bass, vocals), Mike Scarpone (Wizard Eye drums), Annmarie Lamon (Black Monk Records), Christopher Mazeika (front, Black Monk Records)

https://www.facebook.com/wizardeye
https://wizardeye.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/BlackMonkRecords
https://www.facebook.com/vinylaltar
https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Gradwell-House/195259500617649

Wizard Eye, Riff Occult Live (2014)

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Quarterly Review: Bubonic Bear, The F.T.W., Seremonia, JPT Scare Band, Libido Fuzz, Dopethrone, The Moth, War Iron, Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters, Red Mess

Posted in Reviews on April 3rd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk quarterly review

Here we are, the final day of The Obelisk’s Quarterly Review. I won’t lie and say it’s been easy this whole time, but the challenge has been worth it. Will I do another one? I guess that depends on how backed up records get. Even with all of this, I haven’t managed to fit in everything, so yeah, it doesn’t seem unlikely I’ll wind up with fodder for more of this kind of thing. Once again, not at all a hardship to have people interested enough in having me write about their music to send it to me. Not at all something I’m going to complain about.

Thanks to everyone who’s taken the time to read or share the link or whatnot, and of course to bands and labels for caring enough to send the music.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Bubonic Bear, Shaved Heat

bubonic-bear-shaved-heat

In and out of their three-song Shaved Heat tape in under 10 minutes, one could hardly accuse Philly guitar/drum duo Bubonic Bear of being overly elaborate in their approach, but the tracks, particularly closer “Clean,” drive home their post-hardcore rawness with suitable intensity. No frills, just impact. Vocals are raw shouts and the blue tape, which is limited to 50 copies through Bastard Sloth Records, has a kind of avant garde charm, underground in the house-show sense and mean, mean, mean, but probably nice enough to talk to. “Chlorine,” “Witch Pyle” and “Clean” are arranged shortest to longest, but all three hover around three minutes and tear into frenetic turns and let’s-call-it-spirited pummel. Andrew and Dustin, the pair involved, have a slew of EPs and splits and one full-length under their belt, and their six-plus years together are evident in the sheer fact that they can execute material so chaotic without having it fall apart under their stamping feet.

Bubonic Bear on Thee Facebooks

Bastard Sloth Records

The F.T.W., Vendetta Kind of Mood

the-f.t.w.-vendetta-kind-of-mood

From its biker chug to its unabashed confrontationalism and attitude-laced approach to songs like “Who Crowned You King” and “Axe to Grind,” The F.T.W.’s Vendetta Kind of Mood just screams oldschool New York. Not the New York that’s the family-friendly (as long as you’re rich) center of the fashion world, but the New York that was really eager to tell you about how it was going to kick your ass, if not actually do so. The 10-track vinyl self-release is clean in its production and straightforward structurally, but has a gritty undercurrent anyway, showing some thrash (or is that NYHC? So hard to tell sometimes) influence in “Bleed Out” and a bit of rawer punk in “Billy Bats,” though they wait till the closer to actually extract a “Pound of Flesh,” which they slice with a choice solo and some Judas Priest riffing from guitarist TheMajor Nelson, joined in the trio by bassist/vocalist Michael Dolan and drummer Jason Meraz. Something tells me they’re not abbreviating “for the win.”

The F.T.W. on Thee Facebooks

The F.T.W. on Bandcamp

Seremonia, Kristalliarkki

seremonia kristalliarkki

Kristalliarkki is the third offering from Finland’s Seremonia on Svart Records, and while all of their albums have thrilled in that quiet, warm-toned, psych-proto-ritual kind of way, the crystal ark is where it’s at. The record lands big with penultimate 14-minute sprawler jam “Kristalliarkki I,” open enough to set down a blanket and have a picnic next to the tree line, but before they get there, the five-piece of vocalist Noora Federley, guitarists Teemu Markkula and Ville Pirinen drummer/flautist Erno Taipale and bassist Ilkka Vekka vibe out fuzzy hypnosis on eight shorter native-language tracks, otherworldly from the word “go” and held together with a glue of ‘70s-style shufflebuzz on “Lusiferin Lapset” and the quick bouncer “Kuolema Voittaa” that beg to be dug on repeat visits. At just 1:14, “Kristalliarkki II” taps punker soul to close out with a sudden finish that leaves one wondering what the hell just happened, and no doubt that’s exactly what Seremonia had in mind.

Seremonia on Thee Facebooks

Seremonia at Svart Records

JPT Scare Band, Acid Acetate Excursion & Rape of the Titan’s Sirens

jpt scare band acid acetate excursion and rape of the titan's sirens

A twofer! Kansas City acid rockers JPT Scare Band Jeff Littrell (“J”), Paul Grigsby (“P”) and Terry Swope (“T”) – dig into their archival material to couple their first two records, Acid Acetate Excursion and Rape of the Titan’s Sirens, for Ripple Music. Both were recorded in the ‘70s but not released until 1994 and 1998, respectively, and the trio’s blown-out heavy continues to wear its years well, the bluesy fire in Swope’s guitar work leading the way through 81 minutes of long-range jams and classic vibes, still underrated after all these years. The second record has more bite tonally than the first, the recording is rougher, but I won’t take anything away from the force behind the 13-minute “King Rat” from the debut either. Think of it as an archival release more than a reissue, and if you haven’t yet been introduced to JPT Scare Band, think of the vinyl as an educational expense.

JPT Scare Band website

Ripple Music

Libido Fuzz, Kaleido Lumo Age

libido-fuzz-kaleido-lumo-age

Bordeaux trio Libido Fuzz trip out pretty hard on heavy ‘70s influences, but I feel like their Kaleido Lumo Age debut LP (on Pink Tank Records) is all the more praiseworthy for the simple fact that it doesn’t sound like Graveyard. Casting off much of the blues that seems to have afflicted so many the world over, Thibault Guezennec, Pierre-Alexis Mengual and Rory O’Callaghan dip back maybe a couple years before ’71, let’s call it ’68, but filter the Hendrix and The Who influences through modern tonality, which means that a boogier like “Raw Animal” and the proto-stoner shuffle of “Enter the Occult” satisfy in concept and execution. Each of the evident two sides caps with a cut past the eight-minute mark, and both “Redemption of the Bison” and album closer “Haight Ashbury” offer significant heavy psych immersion, though it’s the side B finale that ultimately wins out thanks to its second half journey into noise wash, lysergic swirl, last-minute nod and epilogue of birdsong-esque feedback.

Libido Fuzz on Thee Facebooks

Libido Fuzz at Pink Tank Records

Dopethrone, Hochelaga

dopethrone hochelaga

Filth-caked Montreal trio Dopethrone eat crust and shit riffs on their Totem Cat-released fourth record, Hochelaga, coating themselves in backpatch-worthy tone and throat-searing screams that would do Bongzilla proud. Weedian scummery through and through. Save for “Dry Hitter,” each of Hochelaga’s seven tracks starts with a sample, as if to emphasize the utter stoner fuckall with which Dopethrone – guitarist/vocalist Vincent, bassist Vyk and drummer Borman – execute their rolling grooves and lumbering viciousness once it kicks in. “Sludgekicker,” “Vagabong” and “Riff Dealer” tell the tale, and the record’s 40 minutes play out in largely unipolar but universally righteous fashion, “Scum Fuck Blues” summing up the ethic nicely with the line, “Smoke, drink, die.” Dopethrone make a show of their rawness, but Hochelaga’s fullness of tone and clarity of aesthetic speak to an underlying sense of knowing what they’re doing, and a record this cohesive doesn’t happen by accident, much as it might be telling you otherwise. That doesn’t mean they’re not also high as hell, just that they can keep it together.

Dopethrone on Thee Facebooks

Dopethrone on Bandcamp

The Moth, And Then Rise

the moth and then rise

A presumed sequel to their 2013 debut, They Fall, Hamburg trio The Moth‘s sophomore full-length, And Then Rise, pulls off heavy rock ethics with a heavy metal sense of purpose and basks in an overarching tension throughout its nine tracks. Fast or slow, doomed or thrashing, cuts like “Battle is Over” and “Travel Light” carry a progressive feel to match their hooks, later doomers like “Slowly to Die” and closer “Fire” – which hides a bonus track in its span – holding onto the tightness even as the relinquish in terms of pacing. Dark atmospherically but brazenly intricate, the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Freden, bassist/vocalist Cécile and drummer Tiffy are never showy or putting on a technical clinic, but everything seems to be geared toward the purpose of enhancing the songs, which of course is the ideal. Because the sound is so condensed, it might take a couple listens for And Then Rise to sink in – not saying the chug of “Last Times” doesn’t also have immediate appeal – but The Moth’s genre-bending compositions prove worth the active engagement.

The Moth on Thee Facebooks

The Moth on Bandcamp

War Iron, Precession of the Equinoxes

war iron precession of the equinoxes

I’m pretty sure War Iron could play fast and it would still sound slow. They don’t really try it. Deep, deep low end is cut through by indecipherable-but-get-their-point-across-anyway screams on the Northern Irish four-piece’s third album, Precession of the Equinoxes, which plods out a grueling extremity of doom across its four included tracks, the shortest of which is the 7:37 “Summon Demon Scream the Abyss,” a harsh ritual of sonic heft and disaffection well met by its compatriots, from the churning opener “Bludgeon Lord,” to the title-track – which actually does up the pace somewhat, relatively speaking (and yes, it still sounds slow), and only temporarily – which crushes hopes and eardrums alike leading into the closer “From Napalm Altar,” a final affirmation of the deathly miseries at heart in War Iron’s approach, vocalist Baggy going high-low with screams and growls over the Ross’ guitar, Dave’s bass and Marty’s drums. It is a fearsome and challenging listen.

War Iron on Thee Facebooks

War Iron on Bandcamp

Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters, Earth Hog

chubby-thunderous-bad-kush-masters-earth-hog

Guitarist/vocalist Owen Carty, formerly of underappreciated, coulda-been-contender sludge rockers Dopefight, lends his riffy services to the cumbersomely-named trio Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters (also stylized all-lowercase), who make their debut with the self-released five-song Earth Hog EP. Bassist Will Hart and drummer Mark Buckwell swing heavy and land hard on the opening title-track, and there’s not much letup from there, wah bass and cowbell leading to some fervent stomp in the second half of “Chopsticks and Bad Meatballs,” which starts out as a punk song, and “Devil’s Buttermilk” brazenly tackling Southern riffing without the chestbeating that way, way too often accompanies. More cowbell there too, because if you’re going to do something, overdo it. “Mother Chub” and “Riff Richard” close out, the latter with a slowdown that emphasizes the point: the kush may be bad, but the riffs are primo. Silly name or not, I’ll take this shit any day of the week, and considering Earth Hog was recorded in a living room, I have the feeling it’s only going to get louder from here. Right on.

Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters on Thee Facebooks

Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters on Bandcamp

Red Mess, Drowning in Red

red mess drowning in red

With a sense that they’re continuing to feel out where they want to be sonically, Brazilian three-piece Red Mess follow-up last year’s Crimson EP (review here) with the newly-issued two-tracker Drowning in Red – apparently working on a theme chromatically – the cuts “Daybreak’s Dope” and “Ready to Go” impressive in performance and tone as guitarist/vocalist Thiago Franzim shreds out on the latter atop Lucas Klepa’s bass and Douglas Villa’s speaker-popping kick. Each song has a markedly different approach, with “Daybreak’s Dope” topping seven minutes via a Sleep-style rollout while, true to its title, “Ready to Go” seems to have no interest in holding its shuffle still. Pairing them shows sonic breadth, and in the case of the second, a bit of ‘70s influence to coincide with what they showed on Crimson, though the results will still ultimately be familiar. They’re making progress, though, and their cohesiveness and catchiness through stylistic shifts is encouraging.

Red Mess on Thee Facebooks

Red Mess on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: Leather Nun America, Corsair, Sea, The Munsens, Gondola, Space Mushroom Fuzz, Deep Aeon, Teepee Creeper, Hellrad, Venus Sleeps

Posted in Reviews on April 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk quarterly review

Day four. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling it, but you know, that’s what caffeine is there for. If I push past the day’s quota of mental energy, fine. Hasn’t stopped me yet, and there are only 20 reviews of the total 50 left. Not quite the home stretch, but it’s up there on the horizon. Some cool stuff today, and that always helps as well.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Leather Nun America, Buddha Knievel

leather nun america buddha knievel

Though they’re mostly indebted to a Wino-style Maryland doom sound, San Diego three-piece Leather Nun America touch on more dramatic fare late into their fifth album, the awesomely-titled Buddha Knievel (on Nine Records). Pairing the acoustic-led instrumental “Gloom” and 7:51 “Winter Kill,” which swirls its way to an apex of lead guitar from John Sarnie with some subtle touches of extreme metal from drummer Sergio Carlos, they expand beyond a riff-and-groove ethic – though of course they do that well too. Sarnie and bassist Francis Charles Roberts (also of Old Man Wizard) offer familiar structures but satisfying tones, cuts like “Into Abyss” taking a darker turn on some of Spirit Caravan’s road-ready groove. An intro (“Prologue”) and subsequent interludes offer further depth, but the heart of “Burning Village” and Buddha Knievel as a whole is in the three-piece’s take on doom rock, and some of the record’s most satisfying moments come from precisely that, even unto the surprisingly boogieing closer “Irish Steel.”

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Corsair, One Eyed Horse

corsair one eyed horse

Seems longer than three years since Virginia’s Corsair made their self-titled full-length debut (review here), but with the fervent support of Shadow Kingdom Records, they return with One Eyed Horse, an album much sweeter than its somewhat disturbing cover art might indicate, the four-piece of guitarist/vocalists Marie Landragin and Paul Sebring, bassist/vocalist Jordan Brunk and drummer Michael Taylor gracefully delving further into progressive heavy rock textures in cuts like “Shadows from Breath,” which though it winds up in blastbeats, never loses its sense of pose. That’s emblematic of the masterfully-handed twists and turns One Eyed Horse presents throughout its 45 minutes, highlights like “Sparrows Cragg” soaring and immersive while elsewhere “Brothers” reminds that sometimes it’s important to just get down to business and rock out. Corsair remain a well-kept secret, and one wonders while listening to the harmonies and post-rock bliss of “Royal Stride” just how long they can stay that way. Gorgeous, heavy and definitively their own, there’s nothing one could ask of One Eyed Horse that it doesn’t deliver. And yes, I mean that.

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Sea, Demo

sea demo

“Seer,” “Moros” and “Chronos” are the first three tracks to be released by Boston newcomer post-metallers Sea, but already their Demo showcases an impressive atmospheric breadth. Churning riffs from guitarists Liz Walshak (who also drew the cover; ex-Rozamov) and Mike Blasi (Rhino King) are given added depth from bassist/vocalist Stephen LoVerme (Olde Growth), and propelled ahead by drummer/engineer Andrew Muro, though there’s room left in each cut for ambience as well, “Seer” trading off, “Moros” beginning a linear build, and “Chronos” finding a middle-ground in switching between harsh and clean vocals before a slowdown brings about the chugging, memorable finale. Opening with its longest cut (immediate points), Demo proves an ambitious first release, but there’s nothing Sea set out to do on it that they don’t accomplish, and I take it as a particularly encouraging sign that in three cuts, there’s just about no structural repetition to be found. That bodes well in the classic demo sense, but more than what’s to come, these songs are already worth hearing.

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The Munsens, Weight of Night

the munsens weight of night

Aggressive Sabbath-style doom with East Coast roots – The Munsens recorded at Moonlight Mile with Mike Moebius (Pilgrim, Kings Destroy) in NJ – Weight of Night finds the trio amidst the legal flora of Denver, Colorado, which is a fitting enough setting for the three riff-led cuts they offer on the tape. Of them, side one’s “Slave” is the most decidedly Iommic, a layered solo rounding out after “Under the Sun”-style descent — it also opens with a sample of Julie Newmar as the devil from The Twilight Zone — but both “Weight of Night” and side two’s 11-minute “The Hunt” boast the root influence as well, though the latter is invariably a standout for its crawling progression, almost Pallbearer-esque, that pushes up the tempo in its second half, arriving at a driving pace that’s even farther from where it started than the runtime would have you believe. The opening title-track works somewhat similarly, but ends with a piano interlude, and the shouting, metallic vocals hold back later on “The Hunt,” making its lumbering all the more hypnotic.

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Gondola, Get Bent

gondola get bent

Philly trio Gondola waste just about no time showing off primo guitar antics on their Budro Records-released Get Bent LP, a penchant for jamming underscoring a lot of the wah-drenched movement on opener “Brain Ghost” and its side A compatriots “Psychic Knife,” “Poison Path” and “The Hornet.” There’s a decidedly stoner influence, vocals gaze-out Dead Meadow-style on “Psychic Knife,” but a Naam jam in “Brain Ghost” and the Fu Manchu drive of side B highlight “Electric Werewolf” offer plenty of variety within that sphere, guitarist/vocalist Rocky Rinaldi, bassist/vocalist Jordan Blumling and drummer Tim Plunkett finding space to make their own thanks in no small part to a palpable chemistry between them. Heavy rock and roll, and a damn good time, Get Bent comes across more as a suggestion than an imperative by the time the arm’s returned after “Life Cult” but either way, Gondola’s jam-laden push and brainmelter leads make this one a howler not to be missed, and just because it vibes hard doesn’t meant the songs don’t move.

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Space Mushroom Fuzz, Future Family

space mushroom fuzz future family

Consistently unpredictable and reliably prolific, Boston outfit Space Mushroom Fuzz – spearheaded by Adam Abrams of Blue Aside – isn’t through opener “Let’s Give Them Something to Hate About” before a sampled bong and sickly-sweet solo interwine with a progressive psychedelic jam. One never really knows what’s coming from Space Mushroom Fuzz, and on Future Family, it seems to be a blend of traditional songwriting with the project’s long-established weirdo sensibilities. “A Day in the Strife” is particularly Floydian, but even that has a structure, and “Saving all My Love for U2” has just about the heaviest, most straightforward push I’ve heard from Abrams in this context, even though there’s plenty of freakout to be had as well. What holds the release together is the persistent anything-goes vibe, which is maintained even unto the acoustic-led swirl of closer “L’Americana,” not quite fully departing an underlying cynicism, but escaping sonically the irony in some of the album’s titles in a manner that’s sincere whether or not it wants to be.

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Deep Aeon, Temple of Time

deep aeon temple of time

The key to Deep Aeon’s Temple of Time (released on H42 Records) is in the momentum the German four-piece commence to build on opener “Element 24” and how utterly unwilling they are to relinquish it at any point over the release’s 29-minute span. Even six-minute closer “River” has a shuffle – and handclaps. Vocalist Marcel Röche keeps a gruff edge to his voice throughout, but that could just as easily be from keeping up with guitarist Alexander Weber, bassist Axel Meyer and drummer Nikolaj Marfels. Songs like “Floating” and side-B launch “With that Priest on the Back Seat” offer straightforward fuzzy heavy rock, but rhythmically, Temple of Time swings and swings and swings and there’s just no getting away from it. If the record was 50 minutes long, I’m not sure it would be sustainable – someone’s bound to need to catch their breath, band or listener – but for being in and out in under half an hour, Deep Aeon make a clean, efficient run with little use for letup. Bonus points for the Alexander von Wieding artwork.

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Teepee Creeper, Ashes of the Northwest

teepee creeper ashes of the northwest

“Come with me, let’s go get high,” urges Teepee Creeper guitarist/vocalist Jon Unruh on “Rainbow Sex Glow” from his band’s seven-track/33-minute Ashes of the Northwest full-length, recorded by Mos Generator’s Tony Reed, who also drums and whose band released a split 7” with Teepee Creeper last year (review here). I won’t say “let’s go get high” sums it all up, but a lot of it. Riffs rule the day, and deservedly so, on tracks like “Far Far Away,” the live-tracked “Crushing the Gods of Men” and “The Raven’s Eye,” which caps with a particularly righteous roll. Rounded out by bassist Jeremy Deede – no slight presence in the mix – and now featuring drummer Ian Hall, Teepee Creeper seem to get better the higher the volume goes, the impressive and open-sounding tones surrounding the listener on the aforementioned “Rainbow Sex Glow” like a meaner version of Texas’ Wo Fat, and yes, that is a compliment. The album may or may not reduce their native region to ashes, but it’s bound to turn some heads in their direction.

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Hellräd, Things Never Change

hellrad things never change

How right the umlaut-happy Hellräd are when the Philly sludge slammers posit that Things Never Change. Their destructive, blown-out grime makes its nihilism plain in songs like “Homegrown Terrorist,” “My Jihad Against My Own Mind,” “Dopefiend Jesus,” and of course “Smoke More Crack,” weighted, lumbering grooves switching off at a clip with full-speed punker fuckall. Guitarist Mike Hook, noisemaker/vocalist Dirty Dave (not the same Dirty Dave from The Glasspack), bassist Herb Jowett and drummer Robert Lepor get down to all-out bludgeonry from the start of “Street Zombies,” the opener and longest track (immediate points) at 6:55, but there’s just something about the rolling groove of “Fuck Up (All I’ll Ever Be)” that hits home. Probably not as primal in its making as the energy with which it’s conveyed might lead one to believe, the ultra-nasty 38-minute debut full-length is nonetheless likely to leave a dent in your skull. Or have your skull leave a dent in something else. A wall, maybe. Or another skull.

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Venus Sleeps, Dead Sun Worship

venus sleeps dead sun worship

Working in longer form on the four original tracks included on Dead Sun Worship, their full-length debut, Dublin four-piece Venus Sleeps make an atmospheric centerpiece out of the Syd Barrett cover “Golden Hair,” which in the context of what surrounds it is almost an interlude. Shades of Electric Wizard show themselves on the howling “I am the Night,” but the opening duo of “Ether Sleeper” and “Dawn of Nova” is more progressive, the guitarist/vocalist Sie Carroll, guitarist/backing vocalist Steven Anderson, bassist Seán O’Connor and drummer Fergal Malone exploring a psychedelic blend of doom and heavy rock riffing that comes to the fore again on 11-minute closer “Age of Nothing,” despite that song’s healthy dose of wah. The range they show in the original material seems only bolstered by the cover, and especially as their debut, the ambition and scope Venus Sleeps showcase is admirable. There are moments when the production seems to contract when a given part wants it to expand, to sound bigger, but Dead Sun Worship lacks nothing for clarity in purpose or execution.

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Ruby the Hatchet, Valley of the Snake: Tracking the Behemoth

Posted in Reviews on March 5th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

ruby-the-hatchet-valley-of-the-snake

If right now has a sound somewhere within heavy or heavy psychedelic rock, it probably isn’t far off from what Philadelphia’s Ruby the Hatchet conjure on their second full-length, Valley of the Snake. Released through Tee Pee Records with jaw-droppingly righteous Adam Burke cover art, it is a vinyl-tailored 40 minutes that looks back to ’70s acid rock stylistically via a few choice modern influences, and is crisp, clear and melodic while still offering a satisfying if deceptive sonic heft. Highly-stylized but substantial beyond that, its six cuts speak to the growth of a quality songwriting process, and where 2012’s Ouroboros cut its teeth in shorter bursts of boogie and more upbeat swing, Valley of the Snake melts down those impulses into a molten overarching groove that plays out through longer, more complex tracks. Vocalist Jillian Taylor, guitarist John Scarperia, bassist Mike Parise, drummer Owen Stewart and organist Sean Hur thus craft an exceptionally fluid overarching sense of vibe within which the individual pieces of Valley of the Snake play out. One can hear the impact in recent years of bands like Witch Mountain, whose dirty blues seem to have a presence in side B opener “Unholy Behemoth,” and Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, whose garage-rock style is writ large over the album’s production and to whom “Vast Acid” seems to directly refer in both its riff and in a lyrical nod to that band’s most infectious hook, “I’ll Cut You Down.” With atmospheres intensified and fleshed out by Hur‘s organ and sundry echoes on the guitar and vocals, Ruby the Hatchet nonetheless bring an air of individuality and craft a niche for themselves within these familiar elements.

Between “Vast Acid” and the preceding opener “Heavy Blanket,” the album’s most immediate impression is one of stomp and swing. “Heavy Blanket” in particular brings to mind the nodding clarion “Seer” that launched Witch‘s landmark self-titled debut in 2006, but Taylor‘s vocal layering and the organ present a different context. It’s an immediately fluid groove, opening wide after a 16-second fade-in, and the roll that ensues is as welcoming an introduction as one might ask of Ruby the Hatchet, who make a turn around the halfway point to a more instrumentally focused second half built on vibe and culminating in a twisting finish and sustained organ note that drops out just so the quick start of “Vast Acid” can seem to hit harder. Scarperia‘s guitar seems to be leading the way, a solo is layered on top of organ and bass and plays out intertwining with the central riff, but Taylor is a formidable presence throughout Valley of the Snake, and ultimately there’s a balance found between them, HurStewart and Parise, resulting in warm tones that never step too far out of the mix. “Tomorrow Never Comes,” which follows, begins with poignant acoustic guitar and unfolds from there to a coherent high point of the album, with fluid tempo shifts and a feel somewhere between more traditional doom and Ruby the Hatchet‘s already established commanding rhythmic movement. At 8:49, it is the longest inclusion on Valley of the Snake, but it uses its time well, pushing through a speedier middle before slowing back down and ultimately finding a swirling space between the two sides as it builds to its apex and finishes out with just enough feedback to remind the listener of the danger behind and ahead.

ruby-the-hatchet

Symmetry and structure play a large role throughout Valley of the Snake, both within the songs and in how the record is put together. On side A, two five-minute songs lead to the longer “Tomorrow Never Comes.” Side B mirrors this with the six-minute “Unholy Behemoth” and “Demons” pushing toward the finale of the title-track. The change is more aesthetic. “Unholy Behemoth” is riffier, more insistent, and pulls back from the intangible melody of the organ on “Heavy Blanket” and “Vast Acid” to feature a somewhat darker take. Taylor carries the verses easily in slower pace, but “Unholy Behemoth” picks up in its second half to a more familiar boogie, leading to the grainy ’70s bikerisms of “Demons,” which signals its tension through Stewart‘s hi-hat early and cuts back as it approaches the halfway point to establish a back and forth of pace that plays out again on a smaller scale, capping with a slowed-down deconstruction, the undercurrent of keys winding up the last remaining element of prominence along with some amplifier hum. That leaves only “Valley of the Snake” remaining, and the seven-minute closer is the highlight of the record that bears its name. Like “Tomorrow Never Comes,” it starts with a foundation of acoustic guitar, but stylistically it’s a departure from just about everything else on the album, unfolding with a grace that speaks more to Fleetwood Mac than Uncle Acid, further progressive sensibilities showing up in the full-weight apex — is that a line of flute? — that follows the hypnotic earlier pastoralisms. I’m not sure a complete album in that style would work, but “Valley of the Snake” speaks more to the potential of Ruby the Hatchet than anything before it in balancing heavy acid rock and unashamed pop grandiosity. They finish big, as they’d almost have to, and end their second album with a debut’s hopefulness for what future risk-taking might bring. Whether or not “Valley of the Snake” becomes a model in style or method will have to remain to be seen, but the closer demonstrates plainly the band’s potential and just what it is they might bring to the sphere of heavy psychedelia going forward. Some will cling to the catchy familiarity of the first couple tracks, and I won’t argue against that, but to hear what Ruby the Hatchet really have working for them, one might find it worth the effort to dig a little deeper.

Ruby the Hatchet, Valley of the Snake (2015)

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Crypt Sermon, Out of the Garden: Opening the Temple Doors

Posted in Reviews on February 27th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

crypt sermon out of the garden

Philly traditional doom five-piece Crypt Sermon aren’t yet halfway into album opener “Temple Doors” before vocalist Brooks Wilson tosses in his first Dio reference, copping a cry of “Fool! Fool!” from Black Sabbath‘s “Heaven and Hell.”There are few metal singers harder to take on than Ronnie James Dio, and to his credit, Wilson pays homage without trying to directly imitate on Crypt Sermon‘s full-length debut, Out of the Garden, winding up no more indebted to Dio than to Robert Lowe of Solitude Aeturnus, Messiah Marcolin of Candlemass, or Judas Priest‘s Rob Halford. These are lofty names, particularly in doom and classic metal, but the comparisons hold up throughout Out of the Garden, which is released by Dark Descent Records and follows behind Crypt Sermon‘s Demo MMXIII (review here). That first release also opened with “Temple Doors,” and the song’s hook is all the more resonant here for it, guitarists Steve Jansson and James Lipczynski, bassist Will Mellor and drummer Enrique Sagarnaga making it a launch point for the album’s seven tracks/44 minutes of oldschool revelation. In riffs and atmosphere, Out of the Garden owes more to Leif Edling or to the dual-guitar doom blueprint of Trouble than Tony Iommi — though of course you couldn’t have ones without the other — and the band’s unabashed appreciation for the doom metal of old feels genuine. Not concerned directly with the raw, slow-punk riffing of Saint Vitus or the heavy rock grooves of PentagramCrypt Sermon take a stricter view of doom, and the result here is grand without being overblown, with an ’80s-style echoing snare that only further dogwhistles their sphere of influence. They might be out of the garden, but they’re definitely still under the oak.

Chanting begins “Temple Doors,” which is fitting enough given the song’s religious theme, but the subsequent “Heavy Riders” has a more straightforward take, its chugging verses giving way to an organ-laced bridge and slowdown-into-pickup that seems like it’s just waiting to launch into the chorus of “At the Gallows End,” but Crypt Sermon handle the back and forth tempo changes smoothly and the 5:07 “Byzantium” kicks in with a rolling groove and minor-key lead that subsides to set up a linear build marked out by a repetition of the title as a chorus. It’s a deceptively effective hook, Sagarnaga punctuating the march while the guitars lumber forward, a shredding solo taking hold after the halfway point that Wilson gives appropriate room. By then, “Byzantium” has moved into a quicker pace, so the slowdown and refrain of the opening progression works well as the apex of the build, even if it feels a bit faster than the first time around. I don’t know where the vinyl split is, but my sense is “Will of the Ancient Call” — also the centerpiece of the CD/digital versions — is the closer of side A, which leaves “Into the Holy of Holies,” “The Master’s Bouquet” and “Out of the Garden” for side B. The timing works that way, anyhow, and “Will of the Ancient Call” ties well thematically with “Byzantium”‘s fascination with things lost to time and mystical knowledge and so on, though it’s a catchier track and boasts a particularly fascinating drum progression that sounds almost like there are two tracks running simultaneously. Extra snare hits can catch the listener off-guard who might be expecting something along the lines of “Heavy Riders,” but whether it’s one layer or more, it works, and the guitars and bass hold themselves together well around, Wilson of course adding soaring vocals to an already driving instrumental peak.

crypt-sermon

At 8:15, “Into the Holy of Holies” is the longest cut on Out of the Garden, and its feel is accordingly grandiose, beginning with atmospheric keys and building into acoustic guitar before the intro riff hits, thickened by the bass and given bite with quick runs of snare before the first verse starts around 2:45. To call it the “heaviest” inclusion on the album would seem to take away from what Crypt Sermon do on “Byzantium” or the following “The Master’s Bouquet,” but it’s a highlight all the same, and all the more for the melody of its chorus, which later on boasts some choice layering in the vocals over a guitar lead before they cut back to the initial push for a measure or so to end out. “The Master’s Bouquet” fades in with echoing spoken word and a clean-sung performance worthy of Johan Längquist. The song itself, the shortest on the record at 4:53, is easily overshadowed by “Into the Holy of Holies” before it and “Out of the Garden” after, but Wilson makes it a standout all the same, and since bookending is something Crypt Sermon have done so well across their debut, it’s fitting that the closing title-track should have a Dio reference of its own, this time in Wilson‘s reworking lyrics for an ending that would otherwise be filler were it not so purposeful in its construction. Was certainly filler when Dio did it. Still, the closer offers more than just its last 20 seconds in terms of underscoring just how right Crypt Sermon have gotten traditional doom their first time out, and while they’ve traded in Maryland-style riffing for more epic metal fare, it works for them, tonally, vocally and rhythmically. There’s an underlying current of extremity in some of their guitar solos and in the drums, and I’d be interested to hear how that develops over subsequent releases, but since so much of the aesthetic purpose of trad doom is in paying homage to what’s come before, there isn’t much about Out of the Garden that really needs to be messed with. Rather, the album fulfills the promise the demo held, and sets up Crypt Sermon for more fist-pumping, headbang-worthy doom to come.

Crypt Sermon, “Heavy Riders” from Out of the Garden (2015)

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Dark Descent Records

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