Fall Tour Pt. 14: Pentagram, Radio Moscow, Bang and Kings Destroy in Pittsburgh, PA

Posted in Reviews on October 29th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

mr smalls

…Or at least near Pittsburgh, if not actually “in” it. Mr. Smalls Theatre, a righteously converted church with cavernous ceilings, incense smell baked into the walls and, thankfully, a spacious balcony, seems to be across the river from downtown, so I’m not sure what the exact designation is. Millvale, maybe? Anyway, it’s damn close to Pittsburgh, and that’ll have to do.

When I first got inside, I went and talked to the sound guy for a minute, just to say hi, cool room, etc. He asked which band I was with, and I said I was touring with Kings Destroy but I didn’t play, and he goes, “Just a hanger on?” That felt good. Deeply good. I think I said something like, “Yeah, basically,” and asked him for the wifi password. For what it’s worth, the sound all night was excellent. As I said last post, I was feeling kings destroy pbpretty under the weather for this one, so I stayed on that balcony for the duration. The show was the four touring bands — Kings DestroyBangRadio Moscow and Pentagram, in that order — and the place got fairly packed out by the time Radio Moscow went on, but even for Kings Destroy with an early 7:30PM start, there were people there. They were thanked for showing up early.

Granted, I was in a haze anyway — I kept nodding off before the bands went on, sitting in my chair on the balcony — but it was a very different experience watching the show from such a distance. More like a clip on YouTube or something. The energy was still there, but the physical sense of being away from it made it another kind of appeal. Add to that the pressure in my sinuses, which with the earplugs in made the whole thing kind of otherworldly as Kings Destroy started up with “Old Yeller” and got the show rolling in their lurching kind of way. “The Toe” followed, and while people were still coming in, I could see up front they were getting into it. A bird’s eye view of what I’ve been able to sense happening all along. I felt a little bit bang pblike I was doing an anthropological study.

The tour is in go-mode, so it wasn’t a surprise that Kings Destroy or anyone who played after them owned the stage as well as they did. It didn’t really matter how many people were there at any point, they were doing their show and did it well with nearly a week of every-night plowing through behind them. “Smokey Robinson” from the new album was one of three newer songs to be aired, with “Mr. O” given a much appreciated shout to yours truly and “Embers” following. Three really killer songs that represent the new record well in being some of their best work to date. “Blood of Recompense” closed and Bang came out after a long changeover and gave their set a workout. They’ve played the same songs every night, but they’re more locked in now than they were when the tour started in Chicago, Frank FerraraFrankie Gilcken and Jake Leger continuously smoothing out their classic sound, Leger blending seamlessly radio moscow pbwith the two original members in giving a fresh swing to the warm grooves, paced well and easy-rolling.

Radio Moscow absolutely scorched. Opening with “So Alone,” they tore into “Broke Down” and the dangerously catchy “Death of a Queen” from this year’s Magical Dirt LP, the always-welcome “Just Don’t Know” and “Open Your Eyes” — I think — before having their set cut short. That was a bummer and the crowd expressed their discontent in a round of boos that turned to cheers in support for the band. Nothing was broken, nothing out of order — guitarist/vocalist Parker Griggs, bassist Anthony Meier and drummer Paul Marrone had been tearing ass through their frenetic heavy psych jams of which, even from as far away as I was, I could feel the vibrancy. Apparently the show was just running late and they were the ones who took the hit. Still, even the chance to see them play any songs at all was a win for Mr. Smalls, which showed appreciation in a fervent round of applause.

I was fading fast. I’d been nodding off during Bang – that’s not a slight pentagram pbon their performance, just noting that I was having a hard time keeping my head up. I knew I wanted to stick around for at least the start of Pentagram, and I did do that, watching “Death Row” and “All Your Sins” and the The Animals cover, “Don’t Let Me be Misunderstood” that has become a nightly inclusion before I had to tap out. The good news was that Mr. Smalls was loud enough that even laying down in the back of the van, I could still clearly hear the band playing, but yeah, my evening was done a little early.

Load-out happened at its usual leisurely pace and I drove to where we were staying, about 25 minutes out of Pittsburgh in a place called New Stanton. Got in around one and I know I was out before two, though much of the night was spent coughing and trying to keep my head in a position to allow the mucus to drain. Would I be out of line if I said “ugh?” Not my best night, but at least the show was good.

No extra pics this time, but I’ll hope to pick back up in Baltimore as the tour moves on for the next gig.

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Fall Tour Pt. 13: Heaven and Hell

Posted in Features on October 28th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster


10.28.14 — 5:52PM — Tuesday evening — Mr. Smalls balcony, Pittsburgh, PA

“I am Dr. Remulak. I am Dr. Remulak.” — Chris Skowronski and Rob Sefcik

My head feels like it’s going to cave in. Not in that good, rock and roll kind of way either, like when I watched Beast in the Field the other night. Like in the my-sinuses-have-revolted-and-are-trying-to take-the-rest-of-me-down-from-the-inside kind of way. I could feel it yesterday (was that yesterday?) when I woke up at Postman Dan’s, but it started to get real bad overnight last night, tossing and turning, unable to breathe and all that wonderful at vanhaving-a-cold stuff. Traveling sick. I used to call it SARS. I guess if I wanted to be current I’d call it ebola. Another day, another plague.

I had a cold the week before I left to come on this tour, but was pretty sure I’d gotten over it, so I think this is just another round from the road time, lack of sleep and so on. I got maybe four hours of sleep last night, nodded off at 3:30 and woke up at 4:45 just in agony. It sucked. I shit you not, I walked outside the Red Roof Inn to see how far away I was from the traffic I wanted to go play in, but I was too far to even do that. Fucking brutal. Today I’ve been a full-on booger fountain, and coughing, and the pressure in my head pounding away. I claimed a spot on the balcony at Mr. Smalls — which as a photographer I met in Cleveland last night told me, is an awesome room in a converted old church — and plan to stay here for the duration, but even so, I might not make it through the show before I go back and lay down in the van. Aaron was kind enough to give me a pack of Halls he had that was apparently a spare, and I bought some severe strength DayQuil and have taken Advil in an attempt to bring the swelling down in my sinuses, but nothing’s given me any real relief. I’m also warm as fuck and think it’s probably a fever. My Ron Burgundy impression has taken a real hit as a result.

Honestly, feeling like shit has been my major activity for the day. We stopped once in Ohio on the way to Pittsburgh and sat in some bridge traffic once we got to the city, but other than stopping for a very quiet pre-show meal — not quite dinner, not quite lunch — at some sub-hipster exposed-brick brewpub in what quickly got referred to as the “Massage District” and getting a chicken caesar wrap and some fries and foolishly not getting a cup of coffee when it was being ordered, it’s been pretty tame. There’s like a 70 percent chance I’m going to take my shoes off as I watch this show tonight sitting on the balcony. Maybe band eatingeven 83 percent. It’s going up by the minute because tilting my head downward to look at the laptop monitor is pushing all the mucus toward my face. Once again, brutal.

It’s worth noting that as of tonight, this tour is more than halfway over. Pittsburgh is the fifth of the 10 dates Kings Destroy are doing with Radio Moscow, Bang and Pentagram, but when you factor in the Lansing show, it’s the centerpiece of an 11-date run and it’ll mean more than half the tour is down when it’s over. A while to go before we get there, since the night hasn’t started, and I won’t say I’m not looking forward to watching the gig, but neither will I mind falling asleep as quickly as I possibly can afterwards and hopefully staying that way for at least five solid hours. Doesn’t seem like an unreasonable demand, but we’ll see how it goes.

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Supervoid Release New Track “Against Sunrise”

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

I’ve never made a zombie movie, but if I were to do such a thing, I can see the appeal of getting Pittsburgh riff metallers Supervoid involved. The double-guitar five-piece have just the right balance of metallic tone and stonerly charm — plus a decent sense of humor — to be a good fit, and they seem to bang out hooks the way I eat bowls of Peanut Butter Puffins cereal, which is daily, so yeah, it makes sense. That the flick in question, The Other Side, is filmed in and around Pittsburgh and that the soundtrack features bands all local to that area only furthers the logic involved, putting it square in the territory of the “no brainer.” Insert zombie pun here.

The film itself isn’t due until later in the year as I understand it, but being the energetic chaps they are, Supervoid have jumped the gun and made their soundtrack inclusion, “Against Sunrise” available now as a pay-what-you-want download through their Bandcamp. Those who heard their late-2013 full-length, Filaments (review here), will likely recognize the Kyuss-riff-meets-melodic-death-metal-vocal approach, no less gleefully flying in the face of trend here than it was on the last record. I like that about Supervoid, but the appeal of their songwriting also goes past whatever novelty factor one might tack to them because of the growling.

Like so:

Space cadets, aliens, fellow space riffers, here is our new track we wrote and recorded for the local Pittsburgh film The Other Side. Please share it with your friends and let us know what you think!

This song was written and recorded for the full length feature film ‘The Other Side’ created by Pittsburgh-based indie production company Orchard Place Productions. The film showcases many local Pittsburgh bands in the soundtrack. Be sure to check out the movie once it is released!


Supervoid, “Against Sunrise” (2014)

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Supervoid, Filaments: Radiate the Inside

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

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

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

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Black Sabbath and the Dirtiest “Dirty Women”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 11th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

It’s well documented at this point that by the time 1976 rolled around, Black Sabbath had demolished the majority of their brain cells. If you ever need proof of this, look no further than the immediate drop in quality between 1975’s Sabotage, which brought such classics as “Hole in the Sky” and “Symptom of the Universe,” and 1976’s Technical Ecstasy, which languished in the comparative mediocrity of “Rock and Roll Doctor” and “It’s Alright.” It’s like you could pinpoint the exact moment where they traded pot for cocaine for real (“Snowblind” notwithstanding) and where the music took a backseat to the chemicals their money could buy.

Of course, they toured for several more years before giving Ozzy Osbourne the boot in 1978, and got it together enough to put out Never Say Die before that, which though it was a far cry even from the heights of 1973’s Sabbath Bloody Sabbath let alone the sacred texts of their first four albums, was still a step up from Technical Ecstasy, which was arguably the nadir creatively of the band’s first Osbourne-fronted run — Black Sabbath‘s actual rock bottom would come years later, prior to reuniting with Ozzy in the late ’90s — and a record that while it showed some stylistic experimentation on a song like “All Moving Parts (Stand Still)” wound up an utter bore.

Which brings me around to “Dirty Women” and Sabbath‘s Fall 1976 North American tour in support of Techincal Ecstasy. It’s a cut that Sabbath played even up to their latest US run, which heralded another reunion with Osbourne and the long-awaited new studio album, 13 (review here), and I don’t know if they wrote it so that the ladies in their audience would take their tops off in the arena crowds, but the softcore vintage porn they played while trotting out the chorus seemed hopeful. Probably less likely in 2013 — these are mothers who’ve brought their children to the show! — than it was in 1976.

I’ve chased down a couple bootlegs from that ’76 tour, and almost universally, Sabbath are a trainwreck. Osbourne was never one for remembering lyrics when the band were at the top of their game, but even up to Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward‘s playing, they’re like the dudes at their own party who threw up on the rug. Just a mess.

I’m not a big fan of the song “Dirty Women,” but in the context of that tour and of the utter self-directed wrecking ball that Black Sabbath became in that era, it’s perfect. Of the versions I’ve heard from that tour, the soundboard recording from Pittsburgh, taped Dec. 8, at the Civic Arena for the King Biscuit Flower Hour is my favorite. It’s raw and raunchy and caked in its own crust like nothing else from Sabbath that I’ve ever come across. When Osbourne starts in with, “Ohh dirty women,” he sounds like he’s about to fall over. I don’t know whether to cringe or laugh or travel back in time and call a doctor. Amazing.

Take a listen:

Black Sabbath, “Dirty Women” live in Pittsburgh, PA, Dec. 7, 1976

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audiObelisk: Supervoid Premiere “Ride the Snake” from Filaments

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

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

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

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

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

Supervoid on Thee Facebooks

Supervoid on Bandcamp

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On the Radar: Zom

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

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

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

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

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

Zom, Zom (2013)

Zom on Thee Facebooks

Zom on Bandcamp

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Argus, Beyond the Martyrs: The Raging Spirits

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

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

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

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audiObelisk: Stream Carousel’s Jeweler’s Daughter in its Entirety

Posted in audiObelisk on August 19th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Tomorrow, Aug. 20, marks the release of Pittsburgh classic heavy rockers Carousel‘s Tee Pee Records full-length debut, Jeweler’s Daughter. It’s an album that arrives with no shortage of fanfare leading its charge, but the highwire double-guitar feats of Dave Wheeler (also vocals) and Chris Tritschler and the upbeat grooves of bassist Jim Wilson and drummer Jake Leger justify the excitement. From the heavy rock motor-chug of the opening title-track to the watch-out-for-that-spilled-beer slide of closer “Penance,” Carousel work in a blend of elder metal that sits well alongside the overarching natural feel of the album.

Most of all, though, it’s a rager. Similar in spirit — though taking out some of that SoCal skatepunk vibe — to the success Tee Pee found last year with The Shrine‘s Primitive Blast, Carousel wind up someplace between Bible of the Devil‘s worship of Motörhead, Thin Lizzy and Judas Priest and a modern take on early ’70s swagger. Wheeler and Tritschler are very much in the position of driving the material throughout, but songs like “Long Time” and “On My Way” are memorable for more than their riffs and leads, the latter tapping most into the Motörhead vibe, starting at full-speed and staying there, but adding an individual sensibility through the dueling solos to make the song sound not-at-all incomplete at 2:19.

Side B shows more breadth, as it should. “Light of Day” picks up with a strong hook where album-highlight “Waste of Time” left off, but finds Wheeler more vocally brazen in his layering, and the subsequent “Nightfall” taps Dixie Witch moodiness as it cuts the pace somewhat to deepen the vibe. Between the play of opposites of “Light of Day” and “Nightfall,” as well as that of “Contrition” and “Penance,” one could easily read a sense of narrative into the second half of Jeweler’s Daughter, and while I don’t know if that’s the band’s intent, as the latter kicks out its extended shake-and-stomp intro, the possibility that such a thing would arrive with a thematic underscore makes the record’s finish all the more intriguing and enjoyable.

Not to mention the groove they jam on at the end, which, you know, riffs and booze and denim jackets and whathaveyou. Right on.

Today I have the pleasure of hosting a stream of Jeweler’s Daughter in its entirety ahead of tomorrow’s release date. Please find it on the player below and enjoy:

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

Carousel‘s Jeweler’s Daughter is out tomorrow on CD and LP through Tee Pee Records. It can be pre-ordered through iTunes now: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/jewelers-daughter/id677035381

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Tee Pee Records

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Vulture Call it Quits

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 15th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Vulture will be missed. Here’s a fun fact about the Pittsburgh sludgers who announced today they’re making their exit as a band: They were the first package I ever got sent for this site. It’s true. I still have the envelope sent by drummer Kelly Benson Gabany containing 2009’s self-released debut EP (review here). Their permanent vacation to Splittsville is a double-bummer though on account of last year’s Oblivious to Ruin (review here) seeming so much like the start of a new era of productivity.

Best of luck to the dudes and lady of Vulture. Hopefully it’s not too long before they sludge anew:

Vulture 2007-2013

After six years, Vulture has decided to call it a day. Over the last year or so it’s become increasingly difficult to get together due to schedules, distance to rehearsal, life, etc. We tried to make it work after our Winter’s Wake performance last February, but it just didn’t take.

We want to thank Innervenus for the last couple of years and releasing our record, Chris Smith for all of the amazing artwork, James Curl and Garret Costlow for the tireless work on our recordings, all the bands we’ve ever played with, the venues we’ve played, the promoters that booked us, the magazines/blogs that’s interviewed, reviewed and featured us, radio shows that played us, the friends we’ve made along the way and each and every one of you that has ever been to a show, bought a t-shirt, cd or supported us in any way.

With that said, we’ll be playing two final shows, the first being The Blackout Cookout IV on August 24th in Kent, Ohio and then a yet to be announced Pittsburgh show that will take place in November. More details as we get them.

Let’s party.

Vulture, “Oblivious to Ruin” from Oblivious to Ruin

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Wino Wednesday: Wino Sits in on Vocals with Saviours Covering Motörhead in Pittsburgh, 2013

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 15th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

After wrapping a stint opening for Clutch, Mondo Generator and Saviours on the former’s annual holiday run, Wino and the other support acts headed out to ring in 2013 on their own, crossing the country on a nine-day trek from New York to L.A. The full Wino set from the Pittsburgh gig Jan. 4 at the 31st St. Pub was taped by the company Digitalive Productions and featured here back in January, but it turns out that Wino also sat in with Saviours for a Motörhead cover of the song “Limb from Limb” that Digitalive also caught on tape — or, more likely, SD card — in a multi-camera shoot.

Really, that’s about all I need to hear before I’m ready to climb on board. You’ve got Wino doing a guest spot with the California-based heavy thrashers on a cover tune? Yeah sure, I’ll check that out. What makes this clip even better — aside from the production value — is how tight the cover actually is. Considering they’d only been on tour three days at this point (maybe they’d done it while on the road with Clutch, but they didn’t do it in Allentown when I saw that tour), they’ve more or less got it down with the double-guitar treatment, and of course Wino‘s vocals bring that seething edge to the song that he’s been heralded for all these many years.

“Limb from Limb” originally appeared as the closer of Motörhead‘s 1979 sophomore outing, Overkill, and if nothing else, this version shows the universal nature of the Motörhead influence, since if you sat down to search out every rock song since that used that riff, by the time you finished there’d probably be 30 or 40 new ones to find. Usually how it goes with Motörhead, especially old Motörhead.

This is week number 87 of Wino Wednesday. Hope you have a good one:

Saviours w/ Wino, “Limb from Limb” live in Pittsburgh, 2013

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Six Dumb Questions with Low Man

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on February 6th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

I don’t know what Pittsburgh’s Low Man are going to do next, but whatever it is, chances are the four-piece will sound markedly different than on their 2012 self-titled EP. That release (review here) captured a nascent but discernible love of a variety of heavy styles, from thickened up punk to classic proto-doom, and perhaps most impressively, Low Man made the sounds bend to their will rather than the other way around. There remained work to be done in their songwriting and production, but the potential was there and it was palpable.

They’ve had a little road time since, tightening their approach, and as Low Man‘s Low Man was recorded as the trio of guitarist/vocalist Luke Rifugiato, bassist/vocalist Jeremy Zerbe and drummer/vocalist Derek Krystek before guitarist Alex Byers joined, there are bound to be some changes in approach to account for new influences in the writing and construction of the songs. As such, as they continue to grow and develop over the course of gigs and jamming out in the rehearsal space, this seemed like a prime moment to discuss the beginnings of the band and how they’ve arrived at this stage in their development.

The Low Man EP — a follow-up to their debut single, Snake Farmer/Jackhammerhead – was  recorded in Pittsburgh at +/- Studio by Jason Jouver and Justin Novak and features a host of guest players on vocals and guitar. Zerbe took time out to talk about getting the band together, putting the EP to tape and bringing in Byers on guitar with Rifugiato. Along the way, insight is given as to Low Man‘s songwriting process, influences and penchant for gang vocals. Hope you dig it.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions.

1. Give me the background on how Low Man got together. When did the band form and how does the songwriting process usually work? When were the songs for the self-titled EP written? Are there multiple songwriters, or was it a span of time as the material came together?

Low Man started when I moved back to Pittsburgh and began playing music with Luke Rifugiato, the band’s other vocalist and guitarist, in the fall of 2010. He introduced me to Alex Byers and Evan Flaherty, the lead guitarist and drummer he had been jamming with and we sort of just fell into playing together. Besides both being into punk music, Luke was really into Queens of the Stone Age and Fu Manchu and I was a huge fan of Black Mountain and The Black Angels, so the music sort of just started from there.

We both had had other bands before and brought some songs we’d been working on for those bands with us, which is why our EP sounds a little all-over-the-place. That EP and the single we released before it are just a collection of our earliest songs, before we really had a set idea of what we were trying to achieve. We knew we wanted it to be loud and fuzzy, but we didn’t really sit down and say, “We should be a stoner rock band.” We still really haven’t, though the music comes together a lot more organically these days. We write pretty much everything as a group now and our sound has really benefited from that, I think.

2. Tell me about recording the EP. How long were you in the studio and how did you wind up bringing in gang vocals and extra guitar, etc.?

We recorded the EP in February of 2012 and were at a transitional period in the band. Alex had gone on hiatus a few months before to finish his degree, and we’d also found a new drummer in Derek Krystek. We were in the process of finding a replacement for Alex, playing shows with our friends Justin Gross and Mike Myzak when we decided to just go into the studio and take care of the recording as a trio. We laid down the basic tracks in one day, then went back a second day to overdub solos and vocals. Mixing took a hell of a lot longer, and honestly we still didn’t spend enough time with it, but we were poor and the studio time was by the hour.

I laid down a couple of rhythm parts, and Luke took the reins on all of the solos except half of the dueling one in “American Literature from 1860.” When Alex was in the band, the two of them traded it off, but without him, we asked the producer, Jason Jouver, and his engineer, Justin Novak, to lay down a couple of quick licks between Luke’s. Gang vocals were something I’d wanted in a couple of songs since I first wrote them, so at the end of our second day, we had some of our friends come to the studio with a case of beer. The two main harmony voices you hear (especially on “Roll the River Down”) are members of Derek’s other band, Sleepy V.

3. How much does the EP represent the live version of the band? What was the timing on bringing Alex in on guitar? Has that changed the dynamic on stage, and if so, in what ways?

Now that Alex is back in the band, the live version of Low Man is infinitely more interesting than the recording. He’s by far the most talented guitarist of us, and he plays these harmony lines throughout songs like “Migraine” that make them a million times better. I have promised him that if we get a chance to remix the album, I’d like him to lay down his parts and throw them in where they rightfully belong. I also think it’s always hard to really translate a loud, intense band on tape. As good as the EP turned out, I wish it were more raw and energetic. But that’s just sort of how it goes I guess. Unless you’re working with Steve Albini (call me!) that is.

4. In what direction(s) do you see Low Man growing from here? The EP and the Snake Farmer/Jackhammerhead single sound completely different from each other. Have you started writing for a follow-up yet, and if so, is there something different you’re specifically trying to bring out sound-wise? There’s a pretty wide berth of influences already.

The songs from the single and the EP were all written at about the same time, early in the life of the band. We’ve been around for just over two years now and have gone through a fair number of changes, so whenever we get the time and money to hit a studio, we’re always trying to play catch up and record the oldest stuff first to get it out of the way for new things. It’s not the best system in the world, I’ll be the first to admit. Right now we’re trying to get back into the studio again for a follow-up, but we’ve got enough songs to record two in a row, so it is this race to get it all to tape.

As we’re moving forward though, what you’ll hear is a more focused, more aggressive sound, like that of “Machine,” “American Literature From 1860” or even “Snake Farmer” I think. The newer songs we’ve been writing do a lot of playing around with time signature — one of them alternates between 5/8 and 6/8 in the verse and then moves into 13 for the chorus before this weird layered, math-intensive bridge happens. And I mean that about the math: I actually had to sit down and work it out to make sure we’d all end on the same note.

But even with that kind of stuff, we’re finally able to say, “This is a Low Man song, this isn’t,” unlike early in our existence. You’ll never hear another song quite as poppy as “Pay the Bills” is, and we’ve scuttled some of our older songs for that exact reason. On stage we’re a relatively aggro, somewhat serious band, and we don’t have room for our ‘60s Wayne Cochran-esque pop ballad anymore. Inspiration still isn’t coming from just one place, so we’ll never exactly be a traditional “stoner rock” band, but we’re too much of suckers for poppy hooks for that anyway.

5. Are you conscious in writing of playing to one side of the band’s personality or another, or is it just whatever comes out of jamming or somebody’s song idea?

There is definitely still a bit of personality that finds its way into Luke’s songs or mine, though the lines have been blurred as we’ve played together more. I used to show up with nearly complete songs written and try to teach everyone everything, whereas Luke preferred to just come up with riffs and piece them together as a band. My need for exactness and completion is partially due to suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder, but also was just born out of necessity in my old bands: I was the only songwriter, the band manager, the driver and the tuning fork. Usually, I was the only guy sober enough to play the songs too.

Over the past two years though, I’ve changed a lot and become a lot more like Luke in writing. I realized what an absolute treasure Alex is, because I’d be struggling at home trying to figure out chords to a melody when he could just listen to me hum and it say, “Oh, that’s Am C G7 and then F# with an A as the root,” or whatever. Now I’ll bring my melody lines and lyrics and let the band jam out transitions and riffs in between. We just wrote two brand-new songs this past weekend exactly like that. It’s way better to work that way, getting everyone involved. It really makes them Low Man songs instead of Luke songs or Jeremy songs.

6. Any shows, other plans or closing words you want to mention?

We went on a weekend tour in early December and we hope to be doing that again soon, but after we got home from the couple days out, Derek texted me to call it quits for some personal reasons. It sucked because, not only was he like a brother to us, but we’d been writing a lot of our newer music (like the wacky time signature one I mentioned earlier) around his style of proggy, jazzy drumming. Now we’re in the process of auditioning drummers and getting the engine started again. As soon as we’ve got someone up to speed, we’ll be back out on the road, and then heading into the studio for our second EP — hopefully by spring. If all goes according to plan, I’d love to have the first EP remixed and then press both records to vinyl by winter. It’s a long way away and we hope to get ahead of schedule, but the one thing we’ve learned over the last two years is that the only thing you can count on is not being able to count on anything at all.

Low Man on Thee Facebooks

Low Man on Bandcamp

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Low Man, Low Man: Rolling the River Down

Posted in Reviews on January 17th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Their sound is rooted deep in classic stoner punk, but Pittsburgh three-or-four-piece Low Man don’t necessarily limit themselves stylistically on their self-titled, self-released seven-track EP. Recorded as a trio with a slew of guest vocalists, the production on Low Man’s Low Man is rough, but still crisp enough to give a debut’s look at a band getting their bearings, and as drummer Derek Krystek, bassist Jeremy Zerbe and guitarist Luke Rifugiato all contribute vocals throughout in addition to the guests, the half-hour release has a surprising amount of variety from song to song. That doesn’t put Low Man in a position to establish much more than a cursory flow between the tracks, but with an EP, there’s less of that expectation at play, and all the more since unnamed closer that follows “Roll the River Down” is six and a half minutes solid of feedback and noise. Such a consideration puts the runtime song-wise at just under 24 minutes, but Low Man otherwise make decent use of their time, the initial push of opener “Migraine” reminding a bit of formative The Brought Low vocally while engaging in straightforward rhythmic thrust and upbeat classic rocking. Rifugiato proves early and often to be an engaging lead guitarist – if in fact that’s him; Zerbe and Jason Jouver, who mixed, and Justin Novak, who engineered, are also listed as adding guitar and it’s not clear who’s where – dropping layered solos atop the final stretch of “Migraine” and leading the charge on the subsequent “Golden Dawn,” which moves more into a classic-Pentagram-via-earliest-Witchcraft groove with a bluesy vocal to complement and easily the strongest instrumental hook of the EP. The guest vocals seem to come into play during the chorus, which rounds out with aggressive shouts in a bridge part leading back to one last chorus and a brief descending transitional progression that appeared earlier in the song, showing a nascent but nonetheless prevalent knack for structure that they carry into the faster chugging of “American Literature from 1860.”

Its central hook isn’t as strong as that of “Golden Dawn,” but “American Literature from 1860” is also coming from someplace else stylistically, proffering sans-frills garage punk with bite in the tempo and what feels like less focus directly on the arrangement. If Low Man are looking to set one side of their sound against the other, they paired up the two tracks to do it with for sure. I’d be interested to hear how the differences in sound – which presumably are the result of multiple songwriters, though all songs are credited to Low Man as a whole – might be carried across with a fuller production or more attention to the vocal recording and placement in the mix, but on “American Literature from 1860,” the idea is obviously to hone in on rawer musical ideas from the start. The shortest track at 2:53, it begins with a quick sample and then is off without giving the listener a chance to process what they’re hearing, a biker-style verse opening to a chorus that still seems unwilling to fully relinquish its tension. The post-chorus bridge locks in a groove quickly shirked off to go back to the verse and the cycle repeats – a basic structure echoing the straightforward  musicality to set up solos traded back and forth between the right and left channel. The jump from the solo back into the ending chorus is a little abrupt, but Low Man don’t really leave you time to get caught on speedbumps, and their momentum continues into the gang-vocalized “Pay the Bills,” made memorable with “heya-hey”s and an early ‘90s bassline. Here too the verse hook proves stronger than the chorus, but the gang vocals go a long way in keeping attention snapped to, and an echoing lead behind the vocals before the ending sample offers a bit of change from what the band has already managed to establish as their norm.

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On the Radar: Supervoid

Posted in On the Radar on November 29th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Melting together dreamy spacedelic explorations with heavy riffing and bouts of all-out extremity, Pittsburgh’s own Supervoid make their self-released debut via the two-tracker EP, Endless Planets. There are those who decry the use of harsh vocals in stonerly contexts. I’ve never been one of them. Vocalist Brian flows naturally between clean singing and newer-school metallic sludge growls, and where he uses either the choice works to the songs’ favor.

“Arcane Groves,” at just under 10 minutes, has more room to space out, and “Wake of the Smoke Jumper” is more straightforward in its post-Mastodon chug, but both tracks give a solid first showing from the band, whose heaviness arrives in distorted bursts through the two guitars of Joe and Dave, John‘s bass and the precise timekeeping of Greg‘s drums. There are touches of post-metal jangle in their tones, but Endless Planets feels altogether meaner and straightforward than most of what that genre designation implies, and the classic rock leads in the second half of “Wake of the Smoke Jumper” are coming from someplace else entirely.

The songs were recorded and mixed by Dave Hidek at Treelady Studios and the production is thick and professional, giving a basic idea of the sound Supervoid are hitting on and showing some potential for what they might do with it going forward. Endless Planets is apparently available on CD and the band has made it a name-your-price download at the Supervoid Bandcamp as well. Here’s the stream, courtesy of that page:

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BerT and Triangle & Rhino, Monster Book: Three Thousand Consecutive McBubbas

Posted in Reviews on August 24th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Foremost, it’s a hell of a package. The whole release is billed, somewhat appropriately, as Monster Book. Released through Madlantis Records, the core of the thing is a limited-to-300 green-splatter 12” vinyl split between Lansing, Michigan, weirdo rockers BerT and abrasive Pittsburgh noisemakers Triangle and Rhino. That’s part of it. Monster Book, however, is not the first time these two bands have come together. Triangle and Rhino titled their side of the vinyl In the Company of Creeps and BerT gave theirs the name Wall of Bees, but all of the material on either vinyl side can also be found on an included CDR, as well as songs culled from prior BerT/Triangle and Rhino splits (there’ve been two that I can find, perhaps more are out there), and Monster Book also includes a killer foldout poster (image above; click the picture for the full thing) and an actual ‘zine. It’s small and hard to read and pretty clearly a homemade job, but it’s got interviews with Elk Nebula, Lord Vapid, Hordes, Switchblade Cheetah and others, as well as full questionnaires from both BerT and Triangle and Rhino and a section right in the middle where everyone who appears elsewhere in the 40-page ‘zine answers the age-old question of who would win if Godzilla fought King Kong – wait for it – in space. The ‘zine itself is no less harshly laid out than the jagged noise Triangle and Rhino get down with or the thickened garage riffing of BerT, and so it makes an excellent companion for its total fuckedness, and the two-sided cover the LP is textured and foreboding of the massive amount of information Monster Book contains. The occasion of the release was a just-ended tour that brought both bands eastward (much to my regret, I failed to see them both in Philly and Boston, though in the interest of full disclosure, BerT did crash at my house on their way north after the former; the LP/CD/’zine had long since arrived), and it seems a fitting occasion for a project of such a frankly intimidating scope.

Because my format preferences lend me to do so anyway and because I feel compelled to at least provide some focus to this review other than to say, “Gosh, look at all this BerT and Triangle and Rhino stuff,” I’m going to stick to the CD in terms of referencing the actual tracks. The reason I mention it is because while the LP has three cuts from Triangle and Rhino on In the Company of Creeps and six from BerT on Wall of Bees, the CD nearly doubles that, with a total of six from Triangle and Rhino and 10 from BerT, resulting in a total runtime of nearly 77 minutes. Tracks are taken from the current and past splits between the two bands and what BerT calls “some other extra jazz as well.” On its own, the CD is a lot to take in, especially with the leadoff Triangle and Rhino give it for the first six cuts, beginning with the three from the LP, “Limb Lopper,” “In the Company of Creeps” and “Three Thousand Consecutive Breaths.” Their sound is a punishing sort of noise, with guitarist J. Lexso and drummer M. Rappa both contributing various sorts of synth, oscillations and programming, resulting in periods of near-unlistenable high-pitched audio knives. The moody rumble and electronic-sounding drums of “Limb Lopper” are dark enough, but it’s not long before Triangle and Rhino unveil just how challenging they want to be, in that song, the more frenetically rhythmic “In the Company of Creeps” and “Three Thousand Consecutive Breaths,” the first half of which is hard to get through before the early Genghis Tron-style dance pop synth line kicks in and guest vocalist J. White gives new wave accompaniment. “Glowing Sphere” is basically a blown-out drum rhythm with noise behind, and that’s all well and good, but both “Planet Collider” and “Five Words in Broken English” are more abrasive, the latter playing at free jazz without committing to that more than it commits to anything else and the former stabbing with high-pitched chirps. It’s obviously Triangle and Rhino’s intent, but that doesn’t lessen the relief any when it’s over and I realize I’ve been clenching my jaw the whole time.

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