Later this year, Pittsburgh riff metallers Supervoid will release a split with Minneapolis four-piece Red Desert on Ripple Music as part of the label’s noble oh-my-god-there-are-too-many-bands-okay-fine-we’ll-just-put-out-stuff-from-everyone series of splits titled The Second Coming of Heavy. They recently tracked new material with Matt Very at Very Tight Recordings to include for their part and, diligent sirs that they are, video recorded what seems more or less like the entire experience. Or at least enough of it to edit it down and give everyone a little glimpse at what it was like in the studio.
Seems like a pretty laid back atmosphere, which always helps. If you’ve ever seen Supervoid‘s press shots, you know they’re not inclined to take themselves too seriously — though in my experience even the most heads-down-get-to-business session has a tendency to devolve into running gags, dick jokes, etc. — so it’s not much of a surprise they’d be having a good time while recording. Even better though is the fact that, as you hear the song being built in the beginning, one part at a time, the second half brings a (partial) reveal of the finished track along with a montage of its making. So you get a taste of the completed new music as well as a look at how it came together.
If I’m not mistaken, this will be Supervoid‘s first outing as a four-piece after quietly parting ways with guitarist Dave following 2013’s Filaments long-player (review here) and the subsequent 2014 digi-single, “Against Sunrise,” so I wouldn’t be surprised if some sonic changes are in store as they move from two guitars to one. Filaments is mostly sold-out, but there are a few limited-edition hand-made digipaks available at their Bandcamp, which will likely be gone by the time they make the trip to Long Island for the Eye of the Stoned Goat 5 fest in June. More info on that here.
Posted in Reviews on October 29th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
…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 pretty under the weather for this one, so I stayed on that balcony for the duration. The show was the four touring bands — Kings Destroy, Bang, Radio 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 like 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 Ferrara, Frankie Gilcken and Jake Leger continuously smoothing out their classic sound, Leger blending seamlessly with 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 on 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.
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 having-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 even 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.
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.
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!
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 PlanetsEP, both tracks from which, “Arcane Groves” and “Wake of the Smoke Jumper,” also appear refined here. Near as I can tell, Filamentsdoesn’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 theGates, The Crownand 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. Filamentsis 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 Planetsas 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.
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 Sabbathlet 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
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:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
Supervoid will release Filamentson Oct. 26 as they open for Orange Goblin at Pittsburgh‘s Rex Theater. More info and tickets at the links following.
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?