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Live Review: Maryland Doom Fest 2016 Night Two

Posted in Reviews on June 26th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

maryland doom fest poster

I don’t think it’s the record for how many bands I’ve seen in one day, but it has to be close. After a pummeling Day One at Cafe 611 (review here), Day Two of Maryland Doom Fest 2016 featured a whopping, nigh-on-overwhelming 12 acts, starting at 2:15PM and running until shortly before 2AM. Joy among joys, my camera continues to be non-functional, but I did the best I could with my phone and kept it at that. Not sure what I’m going to do about that one yet. Cry a little? Yeah, maybe. Maybe on the way home.

For now, as Jesse “The Body” Ventura once so eloquently put it, “I ain’t got time to bleed.” Day Three starts in a scant couple hours and after two days of marathon nonstop heavy, I’m ready to get back into the fray. Let’s do this thing.

Dee Calhoun

Dee Calhoun (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Iron Man frontman Dee Calhoun recently released his debut solo record, Rotgut (review here), and provided a direct contrast in how the second day started at Maryland Doom Fest 2016 as compared to the first, which opened with Black Urn, who I think remain the most extreme sludge act of the weekend so far. “Screaming Mad Dee” played acoustic heavy metal blues, joined on semi-unplugged bass by Iron Man bandmate and all-around master of things low-end Louis Strachan, and started his set with the album-opener “Unapologetic,” which I suspect is something of a creedo for the singer. Maybe I should say singer/guitarist, since Calhoun proved his mettle on the latter throughout the set, bringing out his son, Rob Calhoun, for a particularly touching rendition of “Little Houn Daddy Houn” that was as genuinely heartwarming as anything I’ve ever seen at a heavy show, and closing out with a cover of Black Sabbath‘s “Snowblind,” the solo for which is a test for any guitar player. Bolstered by Strachan taking on Geezer Butler basslines — talk about “in your element” — Dee nailed it, and the filing-in early crowd, who caught on to shout “cocaine!” for the second verse, was glad to be along for the ride.

Thousand Vision Mist

Thousand Vision Mist (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Fronted by guitarist/vocalist Danny Kenyon and taking their name from the debut of his former band, Life Beyond, the three-piece Thousand Vision Mist offered one of the day’s most individualized takes on a doomed approach, their progressive turns enacted fluidly by the rhythm section of Tony Comulada (who’d also play later with War Injun) and drummer Chris Sebastian. It hasn’t been that long since I saw them for the first time last fall at Vultures of Volume II (review here), and the impression at MDDF wasn’t much different. People were still filing in as Kenyon and company made their way through the memorable “Darklight” and “Tears of the Moon,” the second of which also served as the centerpiece of their 2015 demo, which was available at the merch table and is their only release to-date so far as I know. They closed with another cut from that initial offering, “Heart String Wild Fire Blues,” finding a place for themselves between Rush and The Obsessed. Not at all bad territory to stake out.

Wicked Inquisition

Wicked Inquisition (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Minnesota’s Wicked Inquisition said early into their set that this was “in all likelihood” their last show ever. The band formed in 2008 and released their self-titled debut (review here) last year after a demo and a couple EPs, blending oldschool thrash, classic metal and doom fluidly on cuts like “M.A.D.” and “Death of Man.” I don’t know for sure, but I’d assume part of the reason they’re calling it quits is that guitarist/vocalist Nate Towle has joined Virginia-based Satan’s Satyrs, and that’s a hell of a back and forth from MN to VA. Whether or not the breakup is permanent is of course up to the future, but Towle, guitarist Ben Stevens, bassist Jordan Anderson and drummer Jack McKoskey leaned toward doom as one of the weapons in their arsenal to be broken out when called for and otherwise kept their metallic tinge shining via some slow-Slayer dual-guitar to keep the crowd hooked. It worked. Cheers to Towle on getting the Satan’s Satyrs gig, which seems like a good one if you want to tour, and best of luck to everyone in Wicked Inquisition going forward. I’m glad I got to see them while I could.

Ironboss

Ironboss (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Long-running Baltimorean outfit Ironboss are about to issue what may or may not be their first album in more than a decade in the form of Rock Fuck Fight, and their set brought the further intrigue of featuring Bruce Falkinburg — hardly recognizable with short-cropped hair from the last time I saw him, which admittedly was years ago when he was playing with The Hidden Hand — on guitar. The burly brand of heavy the five-piece elicited was much less sludge than I thought it would be, I couldn’t help but have a harsher impression thinking back to 2001’s Guns Don’t Kill People… Ironboss Does!!, but I guess that was 15 years ago and a different lineup. Granted, there was a touch of chaos in the atmosphere, almost punkish, but the songs resided in a mid-paced push, comfortable but still aggressive. They apparently just tracked six songs live with J. Robbins, so it would seem that Ironboss have returned to kill again.

Spillage

Spillage (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Been a couple years and a 2015 self-titled debut since I saw Chicago’s Spillage make their stage debut at Days of the Doomed II in Wisconsin (review here), but my prevailing memories of the the band were still positive. Members of the Trouble family tree via founding guitarist Tony Spillman, who’s worked with that legendary Midwestern outfit for some untold number of years, and through Spillman‘s tenure in Earthen Grave, they for sure had that aspect to their sound, but the energy of their delivery and the classic metal vibe that guest-frontman Elvin Rodriguez brought with him in his Dio-style presentation was well suited to making an impression of their own. Along with album tracks like “In Hell,” opener “The Darkness” and “Land of Opportunity,” Spillage closed out with the Cliff Richard cover “Devil Woman,” which also appeared on the record and which they played when last I saw them as well. A staple, then. Hard to argue. After 12 bands, that swinging hook remained among the most prevalent on my mental jukebox.

Wizard Eye

Wizard Eye (Photo by JJ Koczan)

What a joy it is to watch Wizard Eye play. The Philly trio roll heavy grooves beamed in from sonicstonersubspace and the obvious pleasure they take in doing so is infectious. Another act who played Vultures of Volume II last fall (review here), they’ve since released their self-titled 2015 sophomore album (review here), with its excellently crusted take on heavy vibes. Guitarist Erik Caplan had his theremin handy, as always, but along with the caveman shouts from bassist Dave Shahriari and the steady swing from drummer Mike Scarpone, what came through most to me this time around was how killer a guitar player Caplan is. With that theremin, he could easily drop out during solo sections and wail on the theremin, its squealing awesomeness taking the place of any guitar work. Instead, he absolutely shreds out leads and then lights up the theremin on a cut like “C.O.C.” from 2010’s Orbital Rites debut. So it’s adding to the sound, rather than compensating for something not there. It makes all the difference seeing them do a set, which I’m glad to do every single time I’m able.

Hollow Leg

Hollow Leg (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Along with Holly Hunt, Shroud Eater and a couple others, Jacksonville’s Hollow Leg are among the principal reasons to be sad when the polar ice caps melt and Florida sinks under rising sea levels. The four-piece of vocalist Scott Angelacos, guitarist/vocalist Brent Lynch, bassist Tom Crowther and drummer Tim Creter have never failed in my experience to deliver lethal sludge like some fucked-up cousin of Sourvein, but as 2016’s Crown (review here) showcased, their sound has only grown richer over the years and they brought that feel to Maryland Doom Fest 2016 in “Seaquake,” “Electric Veil” and “Coils” along with the earlier digital single “God Eater” (posted here). With Lynch adding to Angelacos‘ dudely rasp, the vibe was even more unhinged as they played, and next to Wizard Eye they seemed only to build on the intensity of volume and heft while keeping the vicious push moving forward. Labelmates with Dee Calhoun on Argonauta Records, they’ve been on the road with Irata for the better part of a week and sounded tight enough to make one believe they were a few shows deep. Clearly too abrasive for some, but I thought they were right on.

War Injun

War Injun (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I guess they went with the name War Injun because calling themselves Maryland Doom Allstars” would sound too much like a softball team. Fronted by Internal Void‘s J.D. Williams, featuring, as noted, bassist Tony Comulada, along with guitarists Russ Strahan (ex-Pentagram, as well as Weed is Weed and many others) and Kenny Staubs (Outside Truth), and drummer JB Matson — one of the organizers of Maryland Doom Fest 2016 — it’s a formidable grouping nonetheless. Their groove was likewise formidable. Matson didn’t make it easy for his own outfit, putting them after Wizard Eye and Hollow Leg as a lead-in for Brimstone Coven, but War Injun not only pulled one of the night’s best crowds, they absolutely leveled the place. Williams, who’d performed the night before with Internal Void, remained a complete madman on stage, and the riffs from Staubs and Strahan were classic Maryland doom through and through, peppered with more aggressive push. Last time I saw them was Stoner Hands of Doom XI in 2011 (review here), and they hit even harder than I remembered.

Brimstone Coven

Brimstone Coven (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Like Castle yesterday, I feel like I came out of Brimstone Coven‘s set with an entirely deeper appreciation for what the West Virginian outfit does. Next month, they hit the road for a handful of Midwestern dates with Castle, as it happens, and both bands are ones that you just have to see live to really understand. That’s not to take away from what Brimstone Coven — “Big John” Williams on vocals, Corey Roth on guitar/vocals, Andrew D’Cagna bass/vocals and Justin Wood on drums — were able to do on their 2016 debut LP, Black Magic (review here), but the impression they made on stage was on a different level, WilliamsRoth and D’Cagna coming together to completely nail down vocal harmonies over weighted doom riffing, shedding some of the cult rock vibe of the record in favor of an almost progressive feel with moments of brash heavy rock for counterweight. It was the kind of set that made me want to go back and take another look at the album, the highlight being “Slow Death,” which seemed at first like a strange one for Williams to shout out “to the ladies,” but ultimately made sense in light of the lyrics. They were the day’s most pleasant surprise, though I probably shouldn’t have been surprised.

Blackfinger

Blackfinger (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Of all the sets I’ve seen vocalist Eric Wagner perform — and at this point I’ve seen him perform a few — he always looks like he’s having the best time with Blackfinger. Granted, he was all smiles at Roadburn this year with The Skull as well, but there’s a level of appreciation for some of Blackfinger‘s more Beatlesian melancholy in tracks like “I am Jon” and “On Tuesday Morning,” both from their 2014 self-titled debut (review here), that comes through visually on stage and in the vibrant presentation of the material. Having Terry Weston of Penance/Dream Death on guitar doesn’t hurt either, but with guitarist Matthew Tuite, bassist Matthew Cross and drummer David Snyder, the lineup did justice to Wagner‘s legacy in Trouble as well as their own sonic persona. As always, Wagner‘s charisma as a frontman made him a focal point, but that’s nothing new for him, and he handled the room with his usual laid back flair. Somehow it wouldn’t seem like a doom fest if he didn’t show up in one outfit or another. He carries so much of the essence of the sound with him wherever he goes.

Place of Skulls

Place of Skulls (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Once again, in the tonal battle of Victor Griffin vs. the universe, Victor Griffin wins by a landslide. It took Place of Skulls a while to get going — something with the guitar stack, I don’t know — but once the set started, the trio were among the highlights of the weekend so far. With the night’s biggest crowd at attention, Griffin held court alongside his Death Row bandmate Lee Abney on bass/backing vocals and drummer Russell Lee Padgett, but I could be wrong. It’s been six years since they released As A Dog Returns (review here) — though the 2013 self-titled debut from the short-lived In~Graved project (review here) seems to have been rebranded as a Place of Skulls release this year — and five years since last I saw them play, but for it being the first time in a while, Place of Skulls were very much still Place of Skulls, the band who released one of the best American doom records of all time in 2003’s With Vision, from which they aired the title-track, “The Monster,” “Long Lost Grave” and “Last Hit” along with a cover of The Animals‘ “Misunderstood” that has become a regular feature in Griffin-related sets, be it with In~Graved or Pentagram. Like Eric WagnerGriffin takes a lot of who he is from band to band, and his mark on doom is unmistakable.

Bang

Bang (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’ve seen Bang play upwards of 15 times on two different continents in the last two or three years, and they’ve never been a letdown. Like the day started easing into the heavy with Dee Calhoun‘s acoustic set, Bang — who also had a new drummer — provided the sweet swing that would smooth the way out. The classic heavy rockers, playing to support reissues of their catalog on Svart Records, were given a rousing introduction by Dave Sherman of The Obsessed, who cited them as a major influence for Maryland doom as a whole and his career specifically. From there, Frankie Gilcken launched the opening riff of “Keep On,” and Bang were underway. Bassist/vocalist Frank Ferrara was in top form through “Lions… Christians,” “The Maze” and the ballad “Last Will and Testament,” which was given its usual intro. It was late and the room had dissipated somewhat, but Bang‘s tones were as warm and inviting as ever, and plenty of people held on until the finish, savoring every moment they could get. Again, not by any means my first time at the dance with these cats (except the drummer), but they remain something truly special to watch and are a testament to the enduring appeal of heavy’s essential formative years.

Within minutes of getting back to the Super 8 after the show, I was falling asleep. Still, I felt better after last night than Friday, and with 11 more bands playing tonight, that’s probably a good thing. First band starts in about two hours, and I need coffee, so I’m gonna take care of that as priority one and then go from there.

More to come from Maryland Doom Fest 2016.

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Maryland Doom Fest 2016 Adds Place of Skulls and Internal Void

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

maryland doom fest 2016 lineup

Last month, when the complete lineup for Maryland Doom Fest 2016 was announced here, there was some measure of confusion as to whether or not Internal Void would play. At the time, promoters JB Matson and Mark Cruikshank said the band, who released three albums — Standing on the Sun (1993), Unearthed (2000) and Matricide (2004) — during their initial run and have been off and on since (mostly off), would not, but that guitarist Kelly Carmichael would be unveiling a new project at the fest.

Whether or not that will still happen, I’m not sure, but Carmichael — who also played a solo blues set at Vultures of Volume in MD in Sept. (review here) — and the rest of Internal Void will indeed play, for what may or may not be the first time since 2013. They and Place of Skulls have joined the bill among previously-announced headliners Spirit Caravan, Bang and Unorthodox, and Place of Skulls are in a pretty similar situation. Their shows are more frequent, admittedly, but between guitarist/vocalist Victor Griffin‘s intermittent tenure in Pentagram and getting the In~Graved project going and bringing it to fruition, they’re nowhere near as active as they once were. To wit, their most recent outing, As a Dog Returns (review here), was released in 2010.

So, if you’ve been keeping up, this means that Griffin will be there, Wino will be there, Sherman will be there, and UnorthodoxWar InjunPale DivineAdmiral Browning and Internal Void will play (among many others). It really is a Maryland doom fest. It’s not just a clever name.

True to the no-frills heart of Maryland doom, the announcement that came with the additions of Place of Skulls and Internal Void was straightforward, to the point, and laid it all on the line. It follows the posters below in its entirety:

Yet another chance for you to get stoked!

Be there…..or suck.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-maryland-doom-fest-2-weekend-passes-2016-tickets-18924966083
https://www.facebook.com/The-maryland-DOOM-Fest-815331421863100
https://www.facebook.com/events/864772630244169/
http://www.themarylanddoomfest.com/

Place of Skulls, Live at Bannerfest 2014

Internal Void, Live at Stoner Hands of Doom X, 2009

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Wino Wednesday: Place of Skulls, “Long Lost Grave”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 1st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Happy Wino Wednesday.

I know we’ve discussed it before — we’re more than three years deep now on Wino Wednesday, there’s not a lot that hasn’t been covered at one point or another — but I really do think that Place of Skulls‘ 2003 sophomore outing, With Vision, is one of the best American doom records of the last decade. Even putting aside the novelty of the collaboration between Scott “Wino” Weinrich and Victor Griffin, whose band it was, it was the songs themselves, the nuances and differences and similarities of craft between the two legendary guitarists, that made it such a special release. Of course, the collaboration didn’t last, but even as a one-time thing with Wino in and out of the band, With Vision was an integral meeting of masters of the form and the results were every bit as stunning as their pedigrees would suggest.

They trade off lead vocals throughout the album, and it’s easy enough to read the shifts in approach to riffing as indicative of who wrote which song. “Long Lost Grave,” for example, has Wino on vocals, and it sounds pretty much like a Wino song, at least until the soloing at the end. Much of With Vision plays out like this, with one or the other at the fore, but the tradeoffs give the record a vibrancy that Place of Skulls‘ subsequent two albums, 2006’s The Black is Never Far and 2010’s As a Dog Returns (review here), couldn’t match with Griffin as the lone songwriter. That’s not to knock him as a songwriter — through Death RowPentagramPlace of Skulls and most recently In~Graved, he’s proved a landmark craftsman of traditional doom — but he can’t be two people. It’s just all the more reason With Vision is essential listening.

Of course, the Griffin and Wino collaboration was short-lived, and to date there hasn’t been any hint that they might at some point work together again. It’s probably more likely than a second Shrinebuilder record, less likely than cities on Mars. So be it. With Vision still stands up 11 years after its release, so dig into “Long Lost Grave” and have an excellent Wino Wednesday:

Place of Skulls, “Long Lost Grave”

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Buried Treasure: Redscroll Records on Black Friday

Posted in Buried Treasure on November 26th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

When I worked at KB Toys store #1051 in Morris Plains, New Jersey, they used to call it “Green Friday,” and as I started there when I was just turned 16, that was how I came to know Black Friday, which is what most people in the US call the day after Thanksgiving — the busiest shopping day of the year and the “official” kickoff of the holiday retail season.

Black Friday takes its name not from the shadow that consumerism at large casts on American culture, but from the simple fact that it’s the day that moves most stores from the red into the black for the year. It’s when they start turning a profit. Seeing an opportunity to continue their mission of promoting independent music culture, the fine folks behind Record Store Day got involved this year, bolstering the event with special releases and other initiatives. I’d expect more of that kind of thing next year.

Late last month, when I was at Redscroll Records in Wallingford, Connecticut, on my apparently annual autumn pilgrimage, I was given a flyer for their Black Friday specials, and knowing that I was going to be in the state for the Thanksgiving holiday, kindly suggested to The Patient Mrs. that I might like to wake up early and hit up the sale, which was 25 percent off everything in stock except for turntables.

So it was. My alarm went off yesterday at 5:35AM, and when I walked into Redscroll at 6:02 or thereabouts, the place was already full. Outside, the sun was just starting to think about rising. As I suspected I might, I had the CD racks mostly to myself (at least as compares to vinyl — LPs are by far the priority for the shop), but it was easily the most crowded I’d ever seen it. People were friendly, though, making way for each other and handing off releases to other potential buyers. I used the 25 percent discount as an excuse to pick up a few odds and ends, most of which I’d already heard, but hadn’t gotten full copies of, and other discs I’d wanted to grab this year that I hadn’t gotten the chance.

For example, I long since own Sovereign by Neurosis, but a quarter off the price was enough for me to grab the 2011 reissue, and stuff like CandlemassAshes to Ashes live record and Place of SkullsAs a Dog Returns had just kind of slipped through the cracks in terms of getting a physical copy. I bought The Body & Braveyoung‘s Nothing Passes to include in the next podcast (no big surprise: it sounds totally fucked), and was hoping to nab The Atlas Moth‘s An Ache for the End for the same reason, but they were out of it, and I drowned my sorrows in some cheap George Carlin, Goblin and Free instead.

Now that I’ve heard the low-end centric mega-grooves of Saturnalia Temple‘s Aion of Drakon, I’m officially stoked to check them out at Roadburn next year. And because I haven’t been able to leave there without doing so the last couple times I’ve been, I picked up a Cable CD, this time the 2008 reissue of their first album, Variable Speed Drive, the original version of which I’ve been hunting on eBay for a bit with no real success.

It was just over $100 for 10 discs, which wasn’t bad and was enough to earn me a free Redscroll t-shirt that I’ll wear proudly. I went back to the motel and crashed out for a couple more hours before getting up and heading south back to Jersey to go to work, and after that, on the way further south to Maryland, I requested yet another stop from The Patient Mrs., this one to Vintage Vinyl, to pick up that Atlas Moth record and settle the matter once and for all. I also got a full copy of Invisible White by Ancestors. Both at full price, and neither with any regret.

Vintage Vinyl in the evening was empty compared to Redscroll in the morning, which was troubling, since that’s pretty much the only shop in New Jersey where I can do something like stop in and pick up an Atlas Moth or an Ancestors CD and be confident that they’ll actually have such a thing. I know they had stocked some of the Record Store Day Black Friday special releases, but hopefully they come around to the sale stuff too, because god damn, I’d hate to lose that place as a resource.

In the meantime, a package showed up in the mail yesterday from All That is Heavy with a copy of Master Sleeps by Hills, which is jammier than I thought it would be, and the Rise Above reissue of NecromandusOrexis of Death, which Tony “I Have Excellent Fucking Taste and Stone Axe is My Band to Prove It” Reed recommended a while back I make mine. Altogether, this probably represents the bulk of the music I’ll buy through the end of 2011, so it was good to send the year out with a bang. I should have plenty to keep me busy until January comes.

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Wino Wednesday: The Buyer’s Guide and Visions of Place of Skulls

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 5th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

The forum is lucky enough to play host to a resurrected and updated version of the Scott “Wino” Weinrich: Buyer’s Guide that was originally posted on (the still-missed) StonerRock.com. The Wino buyer’s guide is a proven resource, and author Throatwobbler provides insight, context and real guidance on a release-by-release — and in the case of Wino, band-by-band — basis. If you’re new to Weinrich‘s work, or even if you want an interesting read, I highly recommend it. I have it and Throatwobbler‘s also-updated Pentagram buyer’s guide bookmarked for future reference, and I’ve copied the Wino one after the jump here for ease of access. It’s huge.

As I was reading through it looking for inspiration for this week’s Wino Wednesday post, I was reminded of Place of Skulls‘ excellent 2003 album, With Vision. It turned out to be little more than a blip in Weinrich‘s storied career — that is, it was Victor Griffin‘s band even before Wino added his profile to it and he only stayed on board for that one record — but the Weinrich/Griffin pairing resulted in some truly landmark tracks, among them “Last Hit,” on which (as Throatwobbler notes in the guide), they trade vocals.

Here’s that song for your YouTubular pleasure:

Extra special thanks to Throatwobbler for his hard work writing the guide, posting it on the forum and for allowing me to host it here. Please click “Read more” below to view it in its entirety.

Read more »

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audiObelisk: Fourth Batch of Roadburn 2011 Streams Posted (Features Ufomammut, Black Pyramid and More)

Posted in audiObelisk on May 27th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

As ever, I thank Walter and the Roadburn crew for their generosity in allowing me to host the links to the official streams from Roadburn 2011. As we Americans get ready to celebrate Memorial Day, I can think of few better complements for a barbecue than The Machine‘s Hendrixian take on heavy jamming, or, as the evening wears on, drinks are imbibed and fists are raised in triumph, Black Pyramid‘s doomy gallop. And, of course, just in case the universe comes to a crashing end (as my work email account just did), there’s Ufomammut playing Eve in its entirety for sonic complement. You can’t ask for more than that. From life. But there’s more anyway, so enjoy the aural hubris:

Black Pyramid
http://3voor12.vpro.nl/speler/ondemand/44772202#ondemand.44772202

Dragontears
http://3voor12.vpro.nl/speler/ondemand/44772206#ondemand.44772206

The Gates of Slumber
http://3voor12.vpro.nl/speler/ondemand/44772216#ondemand.44772216

Place of Skulls
http://3voor12.vpro.nl/speler/ondemand/44772220#ondemand.44772220

Sourvein
http://3voor12.vpro.nl/speler/ondemand/44772226#ondemand.44772226

Spindrift
http://3voor12.vpro.nl/speler/ondemand/44772231#ondemand.44772231

The Machine
http://3voor12.vpro.nl/speler/ondemand/44772239#ondemand.44772239

Ufomammut
http://3voor12.vpro.nl/speler/ondemand/44772244#ondemand.44772244

These and all Roadburn audio streams were recorded by the vigilant Spacejam team headed by Marcel van de Vondervoort (also of ass-kicking rockers Astrosoniq), so if you see him, please say thanks for all the hard work. Roadburn 2011 took place April 14-17 at the 013 Popcentrum in Tilburg, The Netherlands. If you’d like to read more than you could ever possibly want to read about it, click here.

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Roadburn 2011 Adventure Pt. 5: Program the Brain and the Heartbeat

Posted in Features on April 15th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

5:45PM — Friday — Hotel Mercure, Tilburg

Well, there was some sleep to be had, but not much. I got to bed at around three and gave up trying at nine this morning, after nodding off and waking up, putting on headphones to try that, pillow over the head and the rest. I’m notoriously a light sleeper anyway, and Tilburg is short neither on hustle nor bustle. I slept for about 90 minutes solid this afternoon, and that in combination with the 20 minutes here, 20 minutes there, has been enough. I’m not at just this moment, but if I wanted to, I could still be standing.

Place of Skulls started their set with my favorite song of theirs: “Silver Chord Breaks” from With Vision. That felt good to hear. In a little while, Winter will be on in the main stage area, and I want to be there for that, so I don’t know if I’ll post this now or later on in the night like yesterday, but we’ll see how it goes. After missing them in Brooklyn, it’s definitely something I want to catch this time around.

Beyond that, the night has SunnO))) and Voivod on offer, along with Earth, who switched places with Circle with Pharaoh Overlord owing reportedly to a flat tire on the way in, putting the latter on the main stage now and the former in the Midi Theatre at 8:30PM. I’d like to catch some of that.

Funny story: I was headed the photo pit to shoot Circle with Pharaoh Overlord, and security stopped me and told me I needed a photo pass. I said I didn’t think that was the case, since I had a “working” wristband (the same thing happened to me at Metalliance at Irving Plaza a couple weeks ago). Security disagreed, and I said, “Really? You’re going to make me leave and get a photo pass and come back?” and he said, “Really.”

So I went back around to where I first checked in and asked for a photo pass. Walter, who runs this show literally and figuratively, was there, but it wasn’t something I wanted to bother him with, so I asked the girl behind the counter could I please have a photo pass, and she asked me how big was my camera. I took it out, and she scrutinized its size, and said okay. I felt like I was having my junk measured. Glad to have passed muster.

I’d also like a sit-down meal, though, which is something I haven’t had in a couple days. Probably I could hit up any number of the pubs in what I’ve come to (lovingly) refer to as Weirdo Canyon — stay tuned for more on that — but time, etc. Scheduling is an issue in more ways that just trying to see bands. I haven’t talked to The Patient Mrs. since Wednesday morning Jersey time, and I miss her.

Today is SunnO)))‘s curated day, and though I’m still disappointed they didn’t take my suggestion and call it SunnO)))burn, it’s been pretty good. I got to see the one-man drone/noise oddity of Keiji Haino — easy to see the influence he’s had on the day’s curators as he played through three full Marshall stacks and an Ampeg bass rig — and a couple minutes of Year of No Light‘s live soundtrack to the film Yampyr, which was cool in its way. You know how sometimes when you sing along to a song you don’t know that well, the words remind you of the different parts of the song as you go? You finish the line, and so forth? They were kind of finishing the line of the silent movie. Cool to watch, and it synched up to varying degrees, but a bunch of skinny French dudes droning out has its own appeal, at least judging by the crowd it drew.

I didn’t get to see Mamiffer or Trap Them, and I tried to catch a couple minutes of Aluk Todolo, but as usual, the Green Room was impenetrable. Hopefully I’ll have better luck and/or timing when Beaver starts up at 7:15.

Interesting mix so far. Right now it’s more allergy meds for me and then back over for Winter. More to come later.

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Place of Skulls Interview: Victor Griffin on As a Dog Returns, Spirituality, The New Pentagram Album, Playing Roadburn, Why Music Should be More Than Just Heavy Riffs, and Much More

Posted in Features on December 23rd, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster

Legendary American doom guitarist Victor Griffin — of Death Row, Place of Skulls and Pentagram — and I spoke over the course of two consecutive nights. When I called the first night for the interview, he was in the car, listening to an early mix of Last Rites, the new album by Pentagram — whom he rejoined earlier this year — and though that wasn’t the intended topic of the discussion, it was bound to take up some of the time.

What instigated the conversation was the newest record by Place of SkullsGriffin‘s priority band. Dubbed As a Dog Returns, the album is unquestionably a reboot for the trio of Griffin, bassist Lee Abney (also of Death Row, who reunited for this year’s Roadburn festival in The Netherlands) and drummer Tim Tomaselli. In addition to getting back to their doomed roots, As a Dog Returns also revitalizes Griffin‘s lyrical explorations of his Christian faith, songs like “Breath of Life” and “He’s God” as open and honest in their subject matter as I found Griffin to be in our talk.

The second night of the interview, Griffin was in his studio working on some solo overdubs for Last Rites, and as we moved from Place of Skulls and his beliefs to his return to Pentagram and working once again with vocalist Bobby Liebling, whose sobriety has been discussed here in the past, Griffin took a step back to take a look at both bands’ overall place in doom, and his as well, opining on why in its 30-plus years as a genre, doom has never really hit the mainstream in the way of some other styles, and whether or not he’d even want it to.

Fact of the matter is this: I could go on and on about what Victor Griffin said or whatever, but what it rounds out to is this is one of the best interviews I’ve ever done. For The Obelisk or any other outlet. Victor Griffin was more sincere in his answering my questions than I could have possibly asked, and at the end of the second phone call, I felt like I genuinely knew more about his perspectives on life, music, and God. I hope that as you read through the 7,400-word exchange (with a centered photo to differentiate between the two days), that comes across more than anything else.

Q&A is after the jump. Please enjoy.

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