Posted in Features on April 30th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
This kind of thing happens every now and again throughout the course of a year, where there just happens to be one day filled with killer releases. It’s convenient if periodically overwhelming, and even in this age of preorders and stuff just showing up in the mail — a somewhat disconnected process compared to going to a shop and asking at the counter if something is in yet, but again, convenient — a day like that can be special. I remember days like that going back a longer time than I care to admit, and yesterday was definitely one of them as well.
If you felt the North American continent rumble just a little bit, that was probably just the combined weight — applied one on the West Coast, one on the East — of Fu Manchu and Floor putting out records at the same time. What will no doubt be two of 2014’s best releases when the year is done both arrived on April 29, but they were hardly the end of the story. In case you missed any of it, here’s a convenient (there’s that word again), alphabetically-organized assemblage from which to organize yourself before payday:
1. Floor, Oblation
Released by Season of Mist. File picking up the first Floor record since 2004’s Dove as a no-brainer. The Miami trio of guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks, guitarist Anthony Vialon (interview here) and drummer Henry Wilson have been kicking around doing stuff live since a little while after they released their 8CD Below and Beyond box set in 2009, but Oblation(review here) is the new album and spiritual successor to 2002’s landmark self-titled outing. Following that one up is no easy task and they know it, but I think history will serve Oblationwell in the long run, songs like “Love Comes Crushing” and the eight-minute “Sign of Aeth” expanding the sludge-pop formula that made Floor‘s early work so vital without sacrificing the hooks that at this point have spanned more than a decade en route towards timelessness. Floor on Thee Facebooks.
Floor, Oblation (2014)
2. Fu Manchu, Gigantoid
Released by At the Dojo. The first new Fu Manchu self-release after two full-lengths on Century Media and a handful of reissues through their own imprint, Gigantoidbrings a rawer sound from the widely influential SoCal fuzz stalwarts. They recorded with Moab guitarist Andrew Giacumakis, and while the album boasts some quintessential examples of what’s always made the Fu‘s songwriting so infectious — looking at you, “Anxiety Reducer” and “Radio Source Sagittarius” — their hardcore punk roots come through on “No Warning” and Gigantoidrounds out with an extended jam led by bassist Brad Davis on “Last Question” and filled out through a barrage of effects from guitarist Bob Balch. If I can get to it today I’ll have an interview up with guitarist/vocalist Scott Hill (otherwise tomorrow), and a review is forthcoming, but the short version is Gigantoidis one of the year’s best, no doubt. Fu Manchu on Thee Facebooks.
Fu Manchu, Selections from Gigantoid (2014)
3. Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus, Spirit Knife
Released by Small Stone. Swedish upstarts Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus offer engaging touches of heavy psychedelic blues and expanded-definition stoner rock on their third long-player and Small Stone debut, Spirit Knife (stream/video premiere here), working naturally in a classic heavy context without pretending the last 40 years never happened. The album is immersive and atmospheric, offering standout moments of righteousness in 10-minute opener “Fog by the Steep,” “Clang,” “Point Growth” and elsewhere, and provides a look at a unit with the potential to continue to expand their sound going forward. Seems like JIRM have thus far flown under North American radars for the most part, but Spirit Knifeis worth the effort of tracking down, and by that I mean clicking “play” on the Bandcamp stream below to hear it for yourself. Give it some time to unfold and you won’t regret it. Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus on Thee Facebooks.
Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus, Spirit Knife (2014)
4. Revelation, Salvation’s Answer
Released by Shadow Kingdom. Perennially underappreciated Maryland doomers Revelation and Pittsburgh’s Shadow Kingdom Records are no strangers. The label has handled reissues of 1992’s Never Comes Silence, 1995’s …Yet So Far, and 2008’s Release, in addition to having the first release of 2009’s For the Sake of No Oneand 2012’s Inner Harbor. This time, the band and imprint partner up for a revisit of Revelation‘s 1991 debut, Salvation’s Answer, and while the look is overdue, it’s no less welcome for its late coming. Salvation’s Answermight sound raw 23 years after the fact, but its elemental sound remains deceptively atmospheric, and like much of Revelation‘s earlier output, it wears a deep-running melancholy on its sleeve and blends progressive guitar work with a strong foundation of metallic groove. Revelation on Thee Facebooks.
Revelation, Salvation’s Answer (1991/2014)
5. Salem’s Pot, …Lurar ut dig på prärien
Released by EasyRider Records. Mired in drug-derived riffing and classic horror/exploitation ambience, Swedish four-piece Salem’s Pot have plenty of scummer groove in common with Electric Wizard on their debut, …Lurar ut dig på prärien, but if worshiping at the altar of Sabbath and drawn-out fuzz was a crime, we’d all have been put to death years ago. Their reverential depravity comes through in the three extended tracks, “Creep Purple” (14:28), “Dr. Death” (9:52) and “Nothing Hill” (9:12), and the album unfolds in a haze of degenerate psychedelia. It’s crafted with vinyl in mind, but give me a CD to get lost in front-t0-back without having to worry about changing sides, because Salem’s Pot isn’t the kind of listen where you want to have anything whatsoever to do with consciousness. You could tag it derivative, but what isn’t? Familiar though it might be, it’s still worth a nod. Salem’s Pot on Thee Facebooks.
Salem’s Pot, “Nothing Hill” from …Lurar ut dig på prärien (2014)
6. Wovenhand, Refractory Obdurate
Released by Deathwish Inc. History has taught time and again not to be surprised when it comes to the David Eugene Edwards-led outfit Wovenhand, and their seventh offering and first for Deathwish Inc., Refractory Obdurate continues to expand beyond genre bounds, incorporating tonal weight into their signature brilliant arrangements so that songs like “Masonic Youth” (get it?) and “Hiss” pummel their payoffs as much as they enhance the atmospheres of “Salome,” “King David” and the joyously rumbling “Good Shepherd.” Wovenhand are a singular entity on stylistic terms, and Edwards‘ commanding presence burns through this material even at moments when he seems consumed by the full-breadth chaotic churning surrounding him in the mix. Refractory Obdurate– culling influences no less a patchwork than its cover art — is the work of genius, driven by faith and in perpetual development. Wovenhand on Thee Facebooks.
Wovenhand, Refractory Obdurate (2014)
That’s a pretty good day. If I left anything out or if you’ve already picked any of these up, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments. Thanks as always for reading.
Posted in Features on March 12th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
…Yeah, I know, 24 is a buttload of records to buy in the span of about a month and a half. To do the division, it would mean buying a new album every 2.04 days. Probably not feasible in terms of time, let alone budget, but hell, it’s a nice thought and seeing the onslaught of new stuff coming between now and the end of April, I thought maybe a list would help keep it all straight. Even if I’m only helping myself, I could probably spend my time in worse ways.
Worth noting that even with 24 albums, presented below in order of release, I feel like there’s stuff I’m forgetting. Frankly, it’s an overwhelming amount of material, so if I’ve missed something or there’s something you’d like to see added to the list, as always, that’s why there’s a comments feature.
Okay. These are numbered just for fun, but listed by date:
1. Orange Goblin, A Eulogy for the Fans (March 12)
My understanding is that London’s foremost doom scoundrels, none other than Orange Goblin, have been selling copies of A Eulogy for the Fans since starting their US tour with Clutch on March 8 in Cincinnati, Ohio, but today is the official release date, and I can think of no better place to start than with the four-piece’s ferocious performance at the 2012 Bloodstock festival, captured audio and video in all its bloodsoaked glory. Not to be missed or taken lightly because it’s a live record. Album review here.
2. Borracho, Mob Gathering 7″ (March 13)
Even though it’s comprised of older tracks, the new Mob Gathering 7″ from Borracho is welcome by me for two reasons: I’ve never heard the songs before and Borracho rocks. The Washington D.C.-based riffers recorded “Mob Gathering” and “Short Ride (When it’s Over)” in 2009 and are set to release the cuts on a limited platter in black and orange swirl through Spain’s Ghost Highway Recordings and Germany’s No Balls Records. They’ve been playing live as a mostly-instrumental outfit while guitarist/vocalist Noah is out of the country on what I can only assume is an awesome spy mission, so if you need a Borracho fix — and it’s obvious from the way your hands are shaking that you do — this might be the way to go. More info here.
3. Inter Arma, Sky Burial (March 15)
Like Windhand below, Inter Arma are recent Relapse Records signees from Richmond, Virginia, and Sky Burial will serve as their first release for the label. Literally and figuratively, the album is expansive, topping 69 minutes and pummeling the whole way through with a genre-transcending concoction of bleakness that’s not so much aligned to any particular heavy aesthetic so much as it is set to its own atmospheric purposes. Through this, Inter Arma emerge terrifyingly cohesive where many others would falter, and their second LP behind 2010’s Sundown (review here) leaves a progressive impression despite an almost complete lack of sonic pretense. Mostly, it’s fucking heavy. Track stream and info here.
4. Clutch, Earth Rocker (March 19)
If 2013 ended tomorrow, Clutch‘s Earth Rocker would be my album of the year. That’s not saying the situation will be the same nine months from now when I actually start putting that list together (already dreading it), but as of March 12, it’s the cat’s pajamas and no foolin’. The long-running Marylanders outdid themselves and put together a surprisingly fast, energetic collection of songs that don’t forsake the bluesy tendencies of their last album, 2009’s Strange Cousins from the West, so much as they put some of the jamming on lockdown in favor of all-out pro-grade heavy rock and roll. The velocity is crucial and the wolfman is out, but it feels like the party’s just starting. Look for them on tour sometime between now and forever. Album review here.
5. Black Mare, Field of the Host (March 20)
Black Math Horseman and Ides of Gemini frontwoman Sera Timms (who’s also recently collaborated with Yawning Man‘s Gary Arce in the new outfit Zun) steps further out on her own with the solo-project Black Mare, from whom Field of the Host is the first album. Due March 20 on LP through The Crossing and on cassette through Breathe Plastic, limited in both cases and sure to be gone shortly after release if they’re not already taken through pre-orders. Fans of Timms‘ past works will be glad to hear the misty wash of melody and dreamy, somehow sad, languid roll of “Blind One,” for starters. Audio and info on the forum.
6. Kvelertak, Meir (March 26)
Short of setting themselves on fire, Norwegian triple-guitar six-piece Kvelertak did just about everything they could to get noticed in support of their 2010 self-titled debut LP (review here), and sure enough, their work paid off in getting signed to Roadrunner Records for all territories outside their native Scandinavia (where Indie Recordings holds sway) and trumpeting up a wave of anticipation for their second full-length, Meir. Their energetic, genre-crossing approach might not be for everybody, but the band have turned a lot of heads and I wouldn’t at all be surprised to find them on bigger tours this year with Roadrunner behind them. More info on the forum.
7. Black Pyramid, Adversarial (April 2)
This is actually the first time the Eli Wood cover art for Black Pyramid‘s Adversarial has been seen in full, so you know. The Hydro-Phonic Records release of the third Black Pyramid album and first to be fronted by guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard along with bassist David Gein and drummer Clay Neely punctuates the beginning of a new era for the Massachusetts trio. If the advance listen to closing track “Onyx and Obsidian” is anything to go by, they could very well be at their most potent yet, and though I’d hardly consider myself an impartial observer, as a fan of the band, this is one I’ve been looking forward to for a while now. More to come. Track stream here.
8. Moss, Horrible Night (April 2)
I’ve yet to hear the complete album, but UK trio Moss seem poised to surprise with a cleaner vocal approach on Horrible Night, their first offering since 2008’s impressive Sub Templum LP and two EPs in 2009, so in addition to wondering how they’ll pull it off, the level of the shift remains to be seen. That is, how big a deal is it? Should I call my mom? Is this something grandma needs to know about? Time will tell, but for it having been five years since the last time a Moss record reared its doomly head, it seems only fair to give the band a little breathing room on their evolution. More info and video here.
9. Mars Red Sky, Be My Guide EP (April 8)
How glad am I that French fuzz rockers Mars Red Sky have a new EP coming? Well, I’m not as happy that it’s coming as I am that it’s frickin’ awesome. The trio keep the weighted bass tones that gave so much depth to their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), but they’ve also clearly set to work expanding the formula as well, adding stomp to second track “Seen a Ghost” and an eerie repetitive sense to side B closer “Stranger,” while also broadening their melodic reach and taking claim of whichever side of the line they want between fuzz rock and heavy psychedelia while remaining so much more to the ears than either genre descriptor can offer to the eyes. At half an hour, my only complaint with it is it’s not a full-length album. Video trailer and info here.
10. Blaak Heat Shujaa, The Edge of an Era (April 9)
A sample of the poet Ron Whitehead — who also featured on Blaak Heat Shujaa‘s late-2012 debut EP for Tee Pee Records, The Storm Generation (review here) — comes to clarity just in time for the gonzo Boomer poet to let us all know that, “America is an illusion” (that may be, but it’s an illusion with an army of flying killer robots), and from there, the youngin’ desert transplants embark on a low-end-heavy freakout topped with sweet surf rock guitars and set to use in intricate, sometimes surprisingly jagged, rhythmic dances. Mario Lalli of Fatso Jetson guests, Scott Reeder produced. Review is forthcoming, but till then, there’s more info here.
11. Devil to Pay, Fate is Your Muse (April 9)
Fate is Your Muse serves not only as Indianapolis rockers Devil to Pay‘s Ripple Music debut, but also as the double-guitar foursome’s first outing since 2009’s Heavily Ever After. With tales of lizardmen attacks and the alleged end of the world, it’s got its fair share of personality, and set to the chugging riffs, melodic vocals and straightforward heavy grooves, that personality still goes a long way. I’ll have a review up before this week is out (I hope), but still, I wanted to make sure to include Devil to Pay here too, since their songs command both attention and respect. To wit, I just can’t seem to get “This Train Won’t Stop” out of my head. Video and info here.
12. Cough & Windhand, Reflection of the Negative Split (April 15)
Virginian doomers Cough and Windhand share a hometown in Richmond, a love of volume, a bassist in Parker Chandler and now a label in Relapse Records, so yeah, a split makes sense. Reflection of the Negative will be Windhand‘s first release through Relapse ahead of their sophomore full-length, scheduled for later this year (info here). For Cough, this split marks their first outing since 2010’s An Introduction to the Black Arts split with UK masters The Wounded Kings (review here), and they’ll present the 18-minute “Athame,” while Windhand bring forth “Amaranth” and “Shepherd’s Crook.” More info here.
13. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Mind Control (April 15)
What the last Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats album, 2011’s Blood Lust (semi-review here), did so well was capture the atmosphere and the grainy imagery of late ’60s/early ’70s psychedelic horror and put it into audio form. For that, Blood Lust earned massive praise, but I still think that without the central core of songwriting underneath the genre trappings, it would’ve fallen flat. When it comes to Mind Control, the question waiting to be answered is if the band wants to stick to the blueprint they’ve established or go brazenly into uncharted weirdness. I’m not really sure they can lose, either way. Info and music here.
14. Kadavar, Abra Kadavar (April 16)
Their debut on new label Nuclear Blast and the quick-arriving answer to my pick for 2012 debut of the year, Abra Kadavar arrives with plenty of anticipation leading the way. The retro-rocking German trio have their work cut out for them in following that self-titled, but however it turns out in the comparison, it will be fascinating to learn how Kadavar develops the band’s sound and whether or not they prove able to push the boundaries of their aesthetic while simultaneously setting a new standard for promo photos. New video here.
15. Spiritual Beggars, Earth Blues (April 16)
I guess when it comes to these long-running Swedes, everybody’s got their favorite lineup, their favorite tunes, etc., but for me, I’m just impressed that Michael Amott — now more than 20 years on from starting Spiritual Beggars as a side-project while still in grindcore pioneers Carcass — still has any interest in keeping the classic rock Hammond-loving outfit grooving. Their last outing, 2010’s Return to Zero (review here), was the first to feature vocalist Apollo Papathanasio, formerly of Firewind, and though those songs were solid, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re more settled in on Earth Blues when it drops via InsideOut Music on April 16. More info on the forum.
16. Beastwars, Blood Becomes Fire (April 19)
Alternating between periods of brooding intensity and all-out crushing heaviness, the second full-length from New Zealand’s Beastwars, Blood Becomes Fire, is nasty, nasty, nasty. It’s nasty when it’s quiet and it’s nasty when it’s loud. It’s the kind of record you put on and you’re like, “Damn that’s nasty.” And you’re not wrong. The four-piece — touring shortly with Unida — upped their game even from 2011’s self-titled debut (review here), and for anyone who heard that record, you know that’s saying something. I’m still in the “getting to know it” phase, but so far all that nasty feels pretty right on. More info here.
17. Ghost, Infestissumam (April 19)
Man, this one just kind of happened, huh? I suck — and I mean S-U-C-K suck — at keeping up with band hype. I’m the dude who hears the record three months later and goes, “Yeah, I guess that’s cool,” as countless reviews here can attest, including the one for Ghost‘s 2010 debut, Opus Eponymous, but with the Swedish cult heavyweights, all of a sudden I turned around and blamo, major label deal, semi-name change to Ghost B.C., and enough slathering over the impending Infestissumam to make the first album seem like less than the hyperbole it was treated to initially. Funny how that happens. Out in April? I’m sure I’ll review in June and go, “Yeah, I guess that’s cool.” More info on the forum.
18. One Inch Giant, The Great White Beyond (April 19)
Now signed to Soulseller Records, Swedish heavy rockers One Inch Giant will unveil their debut full-length on April 19 and as three of my favorite words in the English language are “Swedish heavy rockers,” I’m excited to find out how this Gothenburg four-piece follow-up their Malva EP, and if they can capture some of the extreme dynamic they brought to their live show when they toured the US last summer — a run of shows that included a stop at SHoD. Hard not to pull for a band after they come over to play club dates. More info and music here.
19. The Heavy Co., Midwest Electric (April 20)
It was actually the other day writing about The Heavy Co.‘s Midwest Electric that I had the idea for this feature, so however high the profile might be for some of these albums — Ghost walks by on their way to cash a check — it was these unpretentious Hoosier rockers and their new outing, Midwest Electric, that started me off. From what I’ve heard so far, the new collection sounds a little more confident in exploring psychedelia than did the trio’s 2011 debut EP, The Heavy (Please Tune In…) (review here), so I’m looking forward to hearing if and how that plays out over the course of the whole thing. Video trailer here.
20. Gozu, The Fury of a Patient Man (April 23)
I have an interview slated for later this week with Gozu guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney, and I’m even more excited for this time than I was when we last spoke, around their 2009 Small Stone debut, Locust Season (review here), since in everything but its goofball song titles, the sophomore outing marks a huge developmental step in the band’s melodic reach and songwriting chemistry. Stay tuned for that interview and check out the Bandcamp stream included with the album review here.
21. Yawning Man & Fatso Jetson, European Tour Split 7″ (April 26)
Note: I don’t actually know that April 26 is the day that what’s sure to be 2013’s most desert-rocking split is due to arrive, I just know that it’s Fatso Jetson and Yawning Man‘s European tour split, and that’s the day the Euro dates start — with performances at Desertfests London and Berlin, to be more specific. Given both the greatness of Fatso Jetson‘s last record, 2010’s Archaic Volumes (review here), and of Yawning Man‘s own 2010 outing, Nomadic Pursuits (review here), the bands’ shared lineage and the relative infrequency of their touring, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to hope that, even for a single, they pull out all the stops. And starts. And riffs. More info on the forum.
22. Serpent Throne, Brother Lucifer (April 29)
Philly-based instrumental heavy rockers Serpent Throne will follow-up 2010’s White Summer/Black Winter (review here) with Brother Lucifer, and while no one can ever really know what to expect, it’s a safe bet that the dual-guitar outfit will have the solos front and center once again. Having seen them do a couple new songs back in December, I can’t blame them in the slightest. Looking forward to letting these songs sink in for a while and having those solos stuck in my head. Track stream here.
23. Melvins, Everybody Loves Sausages (April 30)
Hey wow, a Melvins covers album. Finally, an opportunity for the band to let their hair down and go wild a bit, right? I mean, at long last, they can really feel free to indulge a little and explore their musical roots in a free and creative way. Okay, you get the point. In all seriousness, it’s a pretty cool idea and anything that teams the Melvins with Scott Kelly to do a Venom song is probably going to be a worthy cause. The most amazing part of it is they haven’t already done a version of “Black Betty.” More info on the forum.
24. Revelation, Inner Harbor (April 30)
Their most progressive outing yet and their first album since 2009, Revelation‘s Inner Harbor (review here) is bound to surprise some who thought they knew what to expect from the Maryland doom stalwarts who double as the classically rocking Against Nature. Good thing Inner Harbor had a digital release last year through the band’s Bland Hand Records to act as a precursor to this Shadow Kingdom CD issue. Rumor has it vinyl’s on the way as well, so keep an eye out, since John Brenner‘s guitar tone should be heard on as natural-sounding an apparatus as possible. More info here.
Okay, so you’re saying to yourself, “Golly, that’s a lot of stuff.” You’re absolutely right. But even as I was typing up this feature, I got word of a new Queen Elephantine full-length coming in April, so even as much as this is, it’s not everything. And that’s not even to mention May, which will bring a new Shroud Eater EP, a new Kylesa record and a new Mark Lanegan collaboration, among however much else. Tons of stuff to keep your ears out for, and like I said way back at the top of this thing, if you have something to add, a comment’s always appreciated.
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 18th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Looks like Pittsburgh imprint Shadow Kingdom Records and underappreciated Maryland doom stalwarts Revelation will be continuing their alliance with a release of the latter’s newest album, Inner Harbor (review here), in April. As they usually do, Revelation self-released the album digitally last year and highlighted a more progressive sound, still melancholic, but steeped in a kind of resigned mellowness of spirit as well. If you didn’t hear it then, it’s worth hearing now.
The members of Revelation‘s other outfit Against Nature (same dudes, different band) will be playing a show in Philadelphia earlier in April as well that a trailer has just been released to help promote. Find that after the PR wire info about the Inner Harborrelease:
Shadow Kingdom Records To Release REVELATION’s “Inner Harbor” In April
April 30th, 2013 will see the release of Inner Harbor, the newest album from long-running prog rock/doom outfit REVELATION.
In existence since the mid-80’s REVELATION has earned the respect of many bands and fans from all around the world and are often credited with creating the Progressive Doom Metal genre. They’ve taken the very best sounds of Rush, Black Sabbath, and early Heavy Metal to create yet another masterpiece amongst a catalog of many with Inner Harbor. This is quite possibly the band’s most fluid and laid-back release to date. While the sound is difficult to pinpoint, one can hear classic REVELATION mixed in with a dash of 70’s Italian Progressive Rock. The music flows through you so smoothly and freely, that you’re going to feel like you’re in a state of deep relaxed meditation.
The combined creative forces of drummer Steve Branagan, guitarist/vocalist John Brenner and bassist Bert Hall Jr. are responsible for over twenty full-length releases – split between REVELATION and their eclectic alter-ego AGAINST NATURE – and countless demos and EPs. Inner Harbor was made available as a digital release last year by the band’s own Bland Hand Records (www.againstnature.us/BH/) and will see worldwide distribution on CD format by Shadow Kingdom Records in April. Pre-orders are being taken at the newly revamped Shadow Kingdom Records Webstore atwww.shadowkingdomrecords.com.
In other news, Revelation‘s alter ego Against Nature will be playing a rare gig in Philly on April 6 with Beelzefuzz, Wizard Eye and Lucertola at The M Room. A video promo for the show has been put together by Lucertola‘s Tad Leger (also Blood Farmers) and you can find it below:
Posted in Features on November 21st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Their third new studio album since getting back together as Revelation and issuing 2008’s Release on Leaf Hound, Inner Harbor is an album that bleeds authenticity. After a while and the work that the Baltimore trio of John Brenner (guitar/vocals), Bert Hall, Jr. (bass) and Steve Branagan (drums) have also done as the concurrent act Against Nature, one almost comes to expect a level of musical humanity in the sound, but Inner Harbor(review here) takes the unpretentious progressive elements in Revelation‘s approach and pushes them further, evoking the melancholy in which they’ve always trafficked without sounding like a put-on or over-the-top in any sense that might apply.
Yet I wouldn’t call Inner Harborreserved. In the interview that follows, Brenner talks about the process of paring down the six tracks to fit them on the LP version of the album (released by Pariah Child Records, as opposed to the CD on Shadow Kingdom or the free download available through the band’s own Bland Hand imprint), and it seems like a process involving little if any restraint, resulting in an album that went from 60 minutes to 35. Tracks like “Jones Falls” and “Terribilita” aren’t likely to overwhelm with a sonic assault, but both convey effectively the raw emotional aspect that’s at the heart of classic doom.
Because Revelation are a constantly evolving process, however,that emotionality comes with some stylistic shifts that anyone who heard either Releaseor 2009’s follow-up, For the Sake of No One(or the earlier records, for that matter), could be easily surprised by — most notably the extensive incorporation of progressive synth alongside the guitar, bass and drums. Revelation have never been about expansive arrangements or overly indulgent explorations, instead finding effective conveyance through relatively simple, traditional means and tones, but on a song like the closing “An Allegory of Want” or “Rebecca at the Well,” they’re showing more of a classic prog influence — i.e. Rush — and making it work within the context of their long-since-proven ability for songcraft.
The changes might not be so devastating for anyone who’s followed Revelation since they got back or Branagan, Hall and Brenner‘s work in Against Nature, but the Rush influence was something I specifically wanted to explore in the back and forth with Brenner, along with the evolution of their self-recording process and the differences that have emerged between Against Nature and Revelation over the last few years. Brenner, an admitted introvert but no less sincere in his answers than he is in the music he writes, was especially poignant in discussing the meaning behind the title Inner Harbor, and how important the interpretations of individual words is to him both in the band and in general.
And maybe those parts are specifically worth a look, but honestly, the whole thing makes for a good read. You’ll find the complete 5,500-word Q&A after the jump.
Posted in Reviews on October 18th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
It seems strange to think that three years would pass before Revelation put out another record. The trio of John Brenner (guitar/vocals), Bert Hall (bass) and Steve Branagan (drums) released For the Sake of No One (review here) late into 2009, and it was the third of three full-lengths issued in a 16-month span (not counting the …Yet So Far reissue on Shadow Kingdom, but counting the previously unreleased self-titled from 1988). Still, it’s been three years and that time has brought some changes in Revelation. Not in lineup, or in their general writing ethic, but like much of Revelation’s music itself, the shifts the band is making stylistically are subtle. Their new work, Inner Harbor (free download through Bland Hand, CD forthcoming on Shadow Kingdom, vinyl through Pariah Child), is a full 10 minutes shorter than was For the Sake of No One, but more pivotally, its six tracks find the long-running Baltimore trio pushing into new, progressive territory, with keyboards featuring heavily in line with the guitars on tracks like “Rebecca at the Well” and closer “An Allegory of Want.” At the same time, Inner Harborpresents both the most active songs of Revelation’s new tenure – marking the middle of the last decade the point at which they got back together after disbanding after 1998’s Fourteen Inches of Fury four-way split – with the surprising upbeat motor-thrust of “Eve Separated,” and the most subdued tracks in terms of production, the opening title-track being no less a signal of a shift in modus than the aerial photo of Baltimore’s inner harbor is set when set against the classic art and sculpture that served as covers for For the Sake of No One, 2008’s Release, or Revelation. Additionally, as the band’s alter ego, Against Nature, has begun to distinguish itself from the three-piece’s work in Revelation by adding vocalist Ron “Fez” McGinnis for their latest album, Fallen Rock, released earlier this year, Revelation has in turn stepped out from its morose past to become something more aesthetically complex. Of course, they remain doomed, and when they want to, Revelation can elicit a plod second to none within the sphere of Maryland doom – see the early moments of “Jones Falls” – but they’re by no means limited to just that here. Less so than they’ve ever been.
Seems silly to put it in some kind of “casting off expectations” narrative, since Bland Hand is the band’s own label and it’s not like they’ve ever been shooting for having their songs used in car commercials or the reflective moment in your favorite sitcom, but one way or another, Inner Harbor is less tied to genre than anything Revelation has put out previously. It remains tonally gorgeous, with Brenner and Hall emitting rich warmth to match Brenner’s quiet vocal style and the often soft, straightforward drumming of Branagan, but “Rebecca as the Well” has a darker atmosphere and thicker pulse, and second track “Terribilita” comes as close to a shuffle as I’ve ever heard from Revelation in its intro before keyboard sirens – if I find out that’s a guitar, I’ll be genuinely surprised, but Brenner reportedly a big Rush fan, so anything’s possible with layering – underscore a fervent verse nod. Many of these shifts in approach and/or method can be chalked up to simple comfort. Revelation did not rush to get Inner Harbor out – if they had, it probably would’ve dropped in 2010 and been a much different album – and that extra time seems to have served the songs well. In particular, Hall’s performance on bass throughout these tracks is stellar. The final moments of “Terribilita” make a striking example, but no more or less so than the second half of “Eve Separated,” on which the bassist weaves a rhythm under Brenner’s guitar solo that proves no less engaging than that solo itself. Even in the slower stretches of “Rebecca at the Well,” Hall is forward in the mix and a huge part of carrying across Revelation’s emergent prog fetish – though in that regard, the synth really is at the core and it’s not so much that Hall is putting on a clinic technically as much as he’s playing thoughtfully and artfully on these tracks. With a more dynamic production, the ending swirl of “Rebecca at the Well” might be even more of an apex to close out the album’s first half, with layered solos, synth and Hall’s bass and Branagan’s drums holding down the rhythm beneath, but they’ve retained an element of DIY in their recording, while also staying true to their live sound. In any case, they more than get their point across.
Posted in Features on August 31st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’m not sure how long my laptop battery is going to last, or what I’m going to do when it dies, but the idea for tonight is to write as much as I can while I’m actually at the El ‘n’ Gee in New London for the second night of Stoner Hands of Doom XII. Tomorrow starts earlier, so I don’t know when else I’ll have time to write.
In other words, I basically said “Fuck it, I’ll do it live.”
What you see in the photo above is the view from the couch I’m sitting on in the corner of the bar area. There are no plugs in the walls save for one that’s otherwise occupied. Tonight’s lineup is seven bands, which is one more than yesterday. Connecticut natives When the Deadbolt Breaks are setting up their gear behind me on the stage, and they’ll be followed in turn by Wizard Eye from Philadelphia, Long Island’s own John Wilkes Booth, Massachusetts’ Faces of Bayon, CT’s Lord Fowl, Maryland doomers Revelation. Rhode Island upstarts Pilgrim will close out the night. They’re here already wandering around, as are the Wizard Eye dudes.
Gonna be a good time no matter what else goes down, I’ve got no doubt. It’s also fest organizer Rob Levey‘s birthday tonight, so to Rob, happy birthday from the couch.
Night two of SHoD XII gets underway in about an hour, give or take. I’ll hopefully have updates as we go along, added to this post.
When the Deadbolt Breaks
UPDATE 7:43PM: As ever, Connecticut natives When the Deadbolt Breaks dipped their audience in a distortion caked coating of the truly deranged. They’ve gotten a new bassist since I last saw them, guitarist/vocalist Aaron Lewis perpetually chasing a rhythm section that can keep pace with him, both in tempo and tone. And by “keep pace,” I mean play slow as fuck. Reportedly, the second platter of Deadbolt‘s forthcoming 2LP release is one 60-minute-long song. That’s probably a solid format for the band to work in, as Lewis‘ songs have always tended to wander into these sort of pits of ambient quicksand. When he spaces out thusly, the atmospherics are almost always hypnotic, such as 10 minutes ago, when John Wilkes Booth vocalist Kerry Merkle had to rouse me back to conscious before handing me a couple stickers. The crux of Deadbolt‘s approach though is playing those sections off the droning doom that follows and metering them with sections of mournful, Danzig-style clean singing. There still isn’t a subgenre designation for what they do, but maybe sooner or later someone will come up with something. In any case, with all the lights turned low and a projector going, they were a suitably menacing start to tonight’s diverse roster of acts.
UPDATE 8:41PM: Guitarist/vocalist Erik from Philly trio Wizard Eye looked the part of the wizard manning his theremin, his dreadlocks dragging on the floor of the stage behind him, impossibly long. Long like you think of roads as being long. The three-piece blended Weedeater sludge with Fu Manchu stonerisms, had some Sabbath in there of course, but did not short either on aggression. Erik does guest leads on the new Clamfight CD and he showed off a bit of that prowess as well, in between bursts of dual-vocals with bassist Dave while Scott slammed away behind. They’ve got a CD for sale that I’ll pick up before the night is through, I’ve no doubt. This despite the incense on the stage behind Erik, which has now made the front of the El ‘n’ Gee smell like a teenager’s bedroom. Part of the package, I guess, and if it’s to be a total sensory experience, I suppose I shouldn’t complain. They were — what’s the word again? — heavy. Some familiar elements, but put to good use, and the theremin went a long way in adding to the overall wash of noise. Stone and tone: It’s not exactly the new math when it comes to this kind of thing, but Wizard Eye did well with it. The balance of the vocal mics was a little off coming through the house, but I get the sense in a smaller room, they’d be absolutely crushing. Philly’s Kung Fu Necktie, perhaps, or some basement where the soundwaves have no place to go and no choice but to cleave your skull.
John Wilkes Booth
UPDATE 9:33PM: I’ve known these dudes for years. Played shows with them, seen them come into their own as a band. It’d been a while though, and in the interim, John Wilkes Booth — as bands will do — wrote a shitload of new material. Also, apparently at some point Kerry Merkle‘s megaphone had babies and grew an entire family of effects pedals for the vocalist. Well done, proud papa. It’s been over three years since they released their Sic Semper Tyrannisfull-length (review here), so maybe they’re due for a new record as well. In any case, their crunching ’90s riffs — not quite stoner, not quite noise, but definitely heavy and skirting the line between the two — did not fail to satisfy, and Merkle‘s effects added complexity to what, admittedly, I used to enjoy the rawness of, without necessarily distracting from what bassist Harry, drummer Christian and subdued guitarist Jason were doing. Solid heavy rock band, as ever, and it’ll be interesting to hear how the vocal extras factor into a new recording. Actually, I guess I’d just like to hear a new recording, however the pedals may or may not play into it. These guys pretty obviously just do it because they love to do it, and that’s always welcome on any stage I happen to be in front of.
Faces of Bayon
UPDATE 10:25PM: If the next wave of stuff people decide to give a shit about was to be doom riffing mixed with old school death metal, I’d be happy to watch Massachusetts’ own Faces of Bayon lead the charge. Before the set even started, the charm was evident, as guitarist/vocalist Matt Smith asked the crowd in a low growl if they liked stoner doom. Later, after his amp cut out in the middle of one of the tracks from their Heart of the Fire LP — which, pros to the last, bassist Ron Miles and drummer Mike Brown kept going — Smith apologized to the crowd with a simple, “Sorry,” before resuming his tale of the fall of Lucifer in a low, throaty whisper. No substitute for that kind of charm, and to go with it, Faces of Bayon were crushingly heavy, Miles playing a six-string in the deathly tradition. I don’t think the winds of trend will ever blow in their favor, but I also don’t think they give a shit. They closed with a new song from an upcoming album which Smith said would be recorded this fall, and I guess someone needs to tell these dudes Labor Day’s on Monday so they can get on it. That last album got a huge response, so I’ll look forward to seeing how the next one comes out. If their closer was anything to go by, you can bet on slow, heavy and evil, with more than just a dash of stoner.
UPDATE 11:11PM: Double kudos to Connecticut’s Lord Fowl for not only rocking the house, but for rocking the house after the ultra-doom bestowed upon it by Faces of Bayon. I had wondered how the transition would go from Faces of Bayon‘s downer moodiness and morose heavy to Lord Fowl‘s upbeat arena-ready hooks, but the latter more than pulled it off. Their record, being the last one I reviewed before leaving to come up here on Thursday, was still pretty fresh in my head, but even those who didn’t know the songs were hooked by the time the four-piece were through album and set opener “Moon Queen” and its follow-up “Touch that Groove.” Another transition straight off the Moon Queen album that worked really well was “Streets of Evermore” into “Dirty Driving,” guitarist/vocalists Vechel Jaynes and Mike Pellegrino trading off lead spots in the process. I don’t know how much of the audience knew the songs going into the set, but Lord Fowl’s brand of rock is basically undeniable if you’ve ever had a ’70s chorus stuck in your head. They were unafraid to smile on stage, and everywhere they went, they made sure the crowd came with them. It was a lot of fun, and I still think there’s a lot more potential to them even than they showed tonight, though they showed plenty.
UPDATE 12:17AM: Of the handful of times I’ve seen Maryland doom stalwarts Revelation, this was easily the best. If you want to think of this weekend as one huge tone-off, then John Brenner and Bert Hall are the dudes who sneak in just at the last minute totally unsuspecting and walk away with the prize. They didn’t play anything new — as Brenner said on stage, they don’t know the songs — but their set was tighter and more energetic than I’ve ever seen from them. They weren’t jumping around the stage by any means, not thrashing about, but they delivered all the same. Brenner’s Laney sounded gorgeous, Hall played a bass that had an axe built into the body — one assumes it’s in case he has to chop wood in the middle of the set — and drummer Steve Branagan held down both quiet and loud with ease. Like several of the acts tonight — When the Deadbolt Breaks, John Wilkes Booth, Faces of Bayon – they’ve got new material in the works (as a recent audio stream will attest), but as the penultimate band of the night, they did well bridging a sizable gap in modus between Lord Fowl and Pilgrim still to come. The room has mostly cleared out and it’s getting late, but the people still here are glad to be, alternating between partying outside in the fenced patio area of the El ‘n’ Gee and just getting drunk(er) at the bar. Either way.
UPDATE 1:14AM: That picture above of Pilgrim was taken before the show started. Much to the credit of the hot-as-hell Rhode Island trio, they were here the whole show, and didn’t leave so far as I know as so many who played did. Maybe they went and got a bite to eat or something like that — to be fair, I wasn’t keeping tabs on them all night. Before their set started, they asked specifically to play in the dark, and the request was granted, so I was doubly glad to have snapped a few shots outside of them on the couch outside on the sidewalk. They’re the first band to play this fest that everyone in the place went right to the front of the stage to see. I stood back, and I think doing so helped me to see what it is about them that has the hype rolling so hard. To share: They’re young, and they’re frighteningly cohesive. They play off familiar elements — slow riffs, emotional anguish — but do so with strong performances and an air of sincerity. If you wanted to paint a picture of an exciting young act in the genre, that picture would probably look a lot like Pilgrim, and whatever excitement they have around them, they do well to justify it with the promise they show both on stage and in their recorded work. They were a great cap for the night and had a tremendous response. No complaints from my end. The only x-factor is if they can keep it together, but pending that, they’re most definitely on the right track. If nothing else, they’ve proven they’re a band worth pulling for.
UPDATE 2:25AM: Blue moon indeed. It’s full and up there and hard to argue with, and I’m down by the shoreline of the Long Island Sound outside with the laptop and I’m tired but things have been far worse. The trip back from New London to here was uneventful, at least in comparison to the evening preceding. Tomorrow I’m going to have to figure out a way to see every band play and also provide myself with some basic kind of nutrition. There’s a grease truck in the public parking lot across the street from the El ‘n’ Gee. The last two nights in a row I’ve been tempted to get a cheeseburger for the ride and both times I’ve chickened out and just gotten a bottle of water. Maybe tomorrow will be my day.
Akris are slated to open the gig at noon. I doubt they’ll actually start on time, but that’s what’s slated to go down, so I’m going to try to be there before then. I’ll crash out in a couple minutes, but not just yet.
Posted in audiObelisk on August 27th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Anytime you can see Maryland doom stalwarts Revelation, consider doing so highly recommended. First off, they don’t play live that often, and second, the trio of guitarist/vocalist John Brenner, bassist Bert Hall, Jr. and drummer Steve Branagan are a direct line to the defeat at the heart of classic doom. The band’s earliest material stems back to the beginnings of the ’90s, but even more than 20 years later, the emotional atmosphere they capture isn’t quite like anything else.
Revelation will be playing this Friday, Aug. 31, at Stoner Hands of Doom XII in New London, Connecticut, sharing the stage that night with Earthride, Pilgrim, Lord Fowl and others. To honor that event, and to spread word of their ongoing productivity, the band sent over the new song “Terribilita.”
The track comes from Revelation‘s upcoming full-length, Inner Harbor — one assumes named just as much for the hurts that stay with us as for the inner harbor of Baltimore — which will see release in the coming months. Shadow Kingdom will have a CD out, and Inner Harborwill be out on vinyl through Ireland’s Pariah Child Records. As with all Revelation releases and everything the band does with their alter-ego Against Nature incarnation as well, the album will also be available for free download from Brenner‘s own Bland Hand Records.
Before we get there, though, “Terribilita” brings forth Revelation‘s oft-understated vibing with previously unheard clarity in the recording. Brenner‘s guitar sounds fuller and more vibrant than ever, and even Branagan‘s drums come through more clearly even than on 2009’s For the Sake of No One, nestling into tight rhythms alongside Hall‘s always classy, always grooving bass. Decades later, Revelation remain an underground treasure.
Please enjoy “Terribilita” on the player below:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
All of Revelation and Against Nature‘s impossibly huge and ongoing discographies — including rare live recordings — can be downloaded for free over at Bland Hand‘s website, as well as releases from Iron Man, Beelzefuzz, Pale Divine and many others. Keep an eye on Shadow Kingdom‘s page too for news on the physical pressing.
Posted in Reviews on June 18th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
First, a note on the travel: There was a lot of it. Taking the day off work, I left early on Thursday morning, stopped in Toledo, Ohio, to hit Ramalama Records for the second time, and headed up to Lansing, Michigan, and find one Postman Dan, whose name will probably pop up a few times throughout this and the Day Two review to come and who I’m just going to assume you know if you’re reading this, because if you’ve ever been in the Midwest at a show or gone to fests like Emissions from the Monolith, Templars of Doom, Alehorn of Power, or if you were at this one, you probably do know him. He’s a pretty friendly guy, and he gets around.
Enough so that he invited me to crash at his place Thursday night, which I was happy to do. We went down the road a ways in Lansing and caught local Melvins aficionados BerT doing a new song in their rehearsal space — the band was kind enough to plug back in when we got there just after they’d finished practice; the new material sounded killer and they gave me a copy of their droning new split tape with Hordes and threatened an East Coast tour to come — before, during and after a few beers and in the morning, hit up Lansing’s Flat, Black and Circular record store for a batch of goodies the likes of which I’ve not acquired in a while. Needless to say, report to follow.
Soon it was off to Cudahy, Wisconsin, where just a few short blocks from the Milwaukee Airport, the second installment of the Days of the Doomed fest would be starting in no time. It was about 11 hours from Jersey to Lansing, and about five and a half from Lansing to Cudahy, but I was alright with the drive so long as I got there on time. Made it with an hour to spare and found a way more pro setup at The Blue Pig than I expected. A raised stage included a separate drum riser, professional lighting rig and a P.A. that seemed to frame the entire stage in speaker cabinets. The bar was around the corner from the open floor in front of the stage (it looked like two spaces that had a wall in the middle taken down to accommodate the stage area) and TVs in the back showed the Brewers and the Twins all weekend. The walls, as one might figure from the venue name, were blue.
Already, fest organizer Mercyful Mike Smith was running around engaged in that special kind of stress that I’ve only seen in those forced to corral large numbers of doomers to be in one place at one time. With time to eat before Snake Dance launched the shorter Friday lineup that also included Nebraskans Super Invader as well as Sanctus Bellum, Stone Magnum, Orodruin and Revelation (War Injun didn’t make it out), I made my way down the block to the cafe next door to The Blue Pig and had some Albanian sausages with feta and tomatoes and an order of fries to provide a foundation for a decent night’s drinking ahead.
It was news to me to find this out, but apparently what’s special about Albanian sausages is you taste them every time you burp for the rest of the night — and, perhaps, your life — but I ordered them because I’d never seen them before, and if it was an education I wanted, it was an education I got. Back at The Blue Pig, the home brew was a lighter-type beer called Spotted Cow, and I commenced pint-sized incremental suicide solutions at a moderate to slow pace, wanting to keep my head about me for the drive back to the hotel down the road and in general to remember what was happening because I knew it would be a while before I’d be able to write about it.
To that end, I took notes. I hate taking notes at shows. There’s no way to do it and not look like a complete dick (thanks to Eli Brown for visual evidence, and yes, I wore fucking sandals; funny, I don’t remember doom having a uniform when Istarted listening to it), but you can see the results at the top of this post, and clearly there was a lot to note, beginning just as soon as the Chicago two-guitar foursome Snake Dance got started. Introduced as most of the acts were by Smith himself, Snake Dance immediately commenced a straightforward at all costs hard rock that was vaguely adherent to punk the way Motörhead nods at The Stooges, but more or less disinterested with everything that came after a certain point in time. Hard to peg a year to it, but you can bet it’s before grunge hit.
Guitarist/vocalist Scott seemed to be in charge from the outset, and when he asked the still-arriving crowd, “Anybody like muscle cars?” before playing “426 Hemi Cuda,” he did so in a manner so irony-free, I was immediately reminded of Negative Reaction, similarly existing on a plane most people will never know or access and still reaching out to an audience to see who’s on board for the ride. Scott would soon shout out to Monster Magnet and C.O.C., and that only furthered the connection in my mind with that band’s more heavy rocking latter-day output, which weren’t bad for what they were, essentially a more punk-minded exploration of those influences.
And yeah, they were alright to open. Maybe having come a long way was a part of it, but sometimes I want a fest like this to have a headliner early to start things off, kind of like what Leif Edling was talking about in that recent interview — someone with more of a draw to lure people in early, get them drinking and really give the weekend a launch. I’ll say, however, that by the time Snake Dance were finished, the room was already pretty full, and it remained so for the duration of the night and the Saturday to follow, so what the hell do I know. Not like I’ve ever put one of these things on.
Solace/The Disease Concept guitarist Tommy Southard (there to close the fest out with the former band) recommended Super Invader, so I bought their two CDs on his word. The bassless three-piece came through fine for their lack of low end, though I wondered if they had some personal objection to it or just hadn’t yet found the right person, since it didn’t seem like it would hurt them. A few Church of Misery riffs here, a few Orange Goblin cadences there, but basically they were a stoner metal band with a light-box that shone every time pierced-septum vocalist Adam stomped on it and also seemed to contain a fog machine. Something to be said for that kind of novelty. It looked homemade and I respect that.
They covered Cavity‘s “Supercollider,” and I respect that too. In general, their riffs were better than their stage raps — taking a break from his throaty vocal approach, Adam at one point tried to shout out the Green Bay Packers and was met with doomly crickets – but with more stonerly grooves, they gradually won sympathy for their cause, and I didn’t regret buying the CD. Should be interesting to hear how the live sound translates when I get to listen, but either way, they gave a decent enough showing and guitarist Dustin had presence to back up his riffs and tone.
Two bands into the day’s total six, I still had yet to be overwhelmed, but the sort of workmanly beginning to Days of the Doomed II was fitting the kind of overall metallicism that seems to have triumphed in the Midwestern heavy underground — at least if this weekend’s sampling was anything to go by. Where on the East Coast, it seems to be a race to find out who can accumulate the most indie cred while also denying they’re a stoner rock or a doom band, the sense I got at The Blue Pig was more in line with a post-Pantera metal brotherliness. Not sure I feel more aligned with one or the other at this point — one bases its elitism vaguely on class/education and the other vaguely on gender/race, and each has its appeal musically despite being problematic on these levels — that’s not to mention the fashion requirements, which are a separate issue unto themselves — but for what it’s worth, it’s not like I caught shit at any point during the fest for sitting in the corner next to the classic arcade game and writing notes between and during the sets. And I very easily could have. I stole the bar’s pen.
Since everyone was playing through the same backline of cabinets, changeovers were quick and the show was running early almost as soon as it was running. I’d been specifically looking forward to seeing Houston-based Sanctus Bellum — last week’s Wino Wednesday featurees — and was glad to get a copy of their soon-to-be-reviewed second album, The Shining Path, from the band. They were super-solid, and among the more intricate of the acts in the lineup of the whole weekend, stylistically speaking. They straddle that very line in the previous paragraph between what is straightforward metal and what is doom and what is rock, and seemed on stage as they have on both their albums to have crafted a niche for themselves within that line.
In what I consider to be one of the weekend’s biggest personal victories, I waited until Saturday to nerd out to vocalist Justin Waggoner about his former band, Mr. Plow‘s final and Kurt Vonnegut-themed album, Asteroid 25399, but helping in that process was just how different Sanctus Bellum really is. In this context, his raw, lightly effected vocals (which produced several coughs between songs) come through with more in common with the moments in Acid Bath when Dax Riggs decided to be soulful than any kind of stoner rock, and the guitars were darker in tone and method alike. Their tone, though consistent with the albums, seemed to be coming through the P.A. thin, and when I looked and saw that both guitarists Jan Kimmel and Maurice Eggenschwiler were playing through Dime amps, I wasn’t necessarily surprised, remembering a similar issue when I saw Crowbar in Jersey late in 2010.
Still, their songs make complex ideas seem relatable, and bassist Ben Yaker and drummer Carl Cousins made for a plenty-strong rhythm section to fill out the two guitars in the five-piece. Waggoner didn’t front the band, per se, and instead, he, Yaker, Kimmel and Eggenschwiler stood in a line in front of the stage. When it came time for a cover of Pentagram‘s “The Sign of the Wolf” — one of the fest’s two Pentagram tributes — the vocalist stepped back and the band brought up guests out of the crowd, including Orodruin guitarist John Gallo and bassist Michael Puleo, who’d shortly kick more than a fair amount of ass after Indiana’s Stone Magnum got through with their leather ‘n’ chrome Judas Priest-style trad metal.
No disrespect to musically. They were among the tightest bands of the whole weekend had a crisp, clear idea of what they wanted to do and a pro presentation to match. They like their Trouble and I won’t fault them for that either. But the stage moves left me cold and the chrome cross on the mic stand felt like too much. The songs weren’t terrible, and in fact I’m usually on board for a totally unironic embrace of the cliche — the weekend had more of them than it had covers; Stone Magnum taking on Deep Purple‘s boogie rocking “Black Night” — but watching, found myself more enthralled that the Brewers and the Twins were tied 3-3 in the bottom of the sixth.
I spent a good portion of the rest of that evening trying to reason out why, too, because once Orodruin started, it’s not like they were high experimental art. On paper, what’s the difference between a “Locksmith of Misery” and a “Wicked Wizard?” that I should so much prefer the other to the one? They were both trad doom, just with vastly different takes on it, and where Stone Magnum were more schooled in how to be a metal band, Orodruin were unquestionably more schooled in the ethics that inspired that metal in the first place. One of Days of the Doomed II‘s most potent power trios and an act I’d never seen before, they absolutely fucking killed. Puleo was among the most effective vocalists in the whole fest lineup (and yes, Eric Wagner played Saturday), and of the more than several three-piece bands who played, their dynamic between the players seemed to have the biggest impact on the overall sound. Gallo proved to be a madman on guitar, his tone unmatched and his stage-faces framed by his oddly-shaped beard, and drummer Mike Waske was absolutely essential to their stomp and swagger.
My sense for what to expect from Sanctus Bellum was pretty good, but Orodruin surprised the hell out of me, and I was really glad to have picked up a copy of the limited-to-30 CDR In Doom, from which they played several songs, including set-highlight “Shipwrecked.” Low, slow and dark, they felt like a band people are missing out on, who should tour and sell out of their merch every show they play. They weren’t clean, but they were tight and their sound was diverse but unwaveringly natural and unforced, and for a band who lives some 11 and a half hours away in Rochester, NY, they made a home for themselves in Cudahy and got the best crowd response of the night, including from me. Claws were thrown.
Even guitarist/vocalist John Brenner of Revelation acknowledged Orodruin‘s having killed it in a break between songs, saying they were a tough act to follow. He was right. Brenner has a righteous tone of his own, bassist Bert Hall is a board certified badass, Steve Branagan somehow manages to make rock drumming sound intimate, and they’ve put out more albums between Revelation and their alter-ego band Against Nature in the last three years than most people do in a lifetime, but their stage presence is subdued, and watching them, it’s more about the emotional resonance of the music than it is about the classic horror awesomeness. Nonetheless, the Marylanders did not — could not, really — disappoint, though I was glad I’d seen Against Nature at SHoD last year so I had some idea of what to expect. I felt like that gave me some advantage over a lot of the Days of the Doomed crowd, which began to thin out as the trio wound down.
That said, the differences between seeing a Revelation set and an Against Nature set are marked. Sure, it’s the same people — in the crowd too; I recognized SHoD organizers Rob and Cheryl Levey and a host of other faces from Maryland — and a lot of the same kind of presentation, but the personalities of the songs are much different, and what sounds like humbleness in Against Nature is recast as a deep woe in Revelation. Still, there’s a classic rock influence in there that’s impossible to deny — Brenner said it came from, “Trying to play Rush wrong” — and that came across as well as the warmth in Hall and Brenner‘s tones.
It was not yet one in the morning when Revelation were done, but they’d played their full set and I was quick to get back to the hotel after a long enough day of driving, drinking and rocking (not at the same time, though I did rock and drive for a little bit there, listening to the new Witch Mountain with Postman Dan) with the prospect of Saturday still to go. I said a few quick goodnights, threw down a smoke bomb, and disappeared as mysteriously as I’d arrived.
Day Two to come tomorrow. More pics after the jump in the meantime. Thanks for reading.
Not to be confused with the webstore formerly associated with StonerRock.com, this All That is Heavy is a mini-fest taking place next month up in Ottawa, Ontario. The lineup and show info/links/promo video, etc. have been posted on the forum, so check it out there if you want more info, but since the poster kicked so much ass, I figured I’d highlight it here too.
Posted in Features on August 11th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
Guitarist/vocalist John Brenner of Maryland outfits Against Nature and Revelation has probably the “healthiest” work ethic I’ve ever encountered when it comes to recording, and by “healthy,” I mean obsessive. Since 2005, Against Nature has put out no fewer than 14 records, and it always feels like the next one isn’t far off — because it isn’t. A little while ago, I reviewed Chasing Eagles, only to find out that Cross Street would be arriving shortly, with Stone over Stone due up thereafter.
They’re a lot to keep up with for sure. Releasing albums through their own Bland Hand Records imprint with art by Brenner himself, Against Nature is the vehicle by which Brenner, bassist Bert Hall, Jr. and drummer Steve Branagan explore their more rocking influences, from the early prog of Rush to the swaggering boogie of Humble Pie. When it comes time to doom out, the same lineup performs as Revelation, which has been active in one incarnation or another since 1986, and in the last two years put out albums through labels such as Japan‘s Leaf Hound, Germany‘s The Church Within, and Pittsburgh‘s Shadow Kingdom.
If two constantly expanding discographies wasn’t enough, Brenner is also partially responsible for the Born to be Doomed festival, which this year featured Revelation alongside acts like Apostle of Solitude, Black Pyramid and Blood Farmers on July 2 and 3, with Against Nature headlining a warm-up show the night before. It was on the first day of the festival that I called for the following interview, and found Brenner, unsurprisingly, to be moving quickly from one thing to the next.
In the conversation after the jump, John Brenner discusses the differences between Revelation and Against Nature, how one band grew out of the other, his writing methods and how he is able to maintain such a prolific level of output. I found him to be friendly, engaging and completely unpretentious. I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did. Read more »
Maryland‘sis pretty much the style people mean when they say “traditional doom.” There are three things you want to know right away about the Maryland scene, and they are as follows: Pentagram, The Obsessed and Hellhound Records. With that as your starting point, you can’t really go wrong, but like any fertile bandscape, Maryland (and, by extension the D.C., or “Doom Capitol” scene) has much more to offer the curious listener than just its biggest bands.
In addition to the five albums I’m listing here, you might also want to check out material from Iron Man (Shadow Kingdom has a couple cool reissues and their latest album), Unorthodox, Against Nature, Spirit Caravan, Wretched, Place of Skulls, Nitroseed and many more. But, to get you introduced to the scene and some of its most influential and important acts, feel free to start with the following:
1. Pentagram, First Daze Here: You can get Relentless instead if you feel strongly about it, there are no shortage of reissues out there, but if you really want to understand Pentagram‘s influence, you need to go to their earliest recordings, and this Relapse compilation has them. American doom from the age of Sabbath. They laid the foundation.
2. The Obsessed, Lunar Womb: I picked Lunar Womb because MeteorCity reissued it a couple years back and it’s easy to come by. In this age of wonders, you could just as easily pick up The Church Within if you’re looking to spend a little more. The Obsessed is the band that first gave us guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich, whose influence is paramount in modern doom. Currently on the road with the reunited Saint Vitus, he can also be heard in Spirit Caravan, The Hidden Hand and elsewhere.
Posted in Reviews on December 30th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster
Released separately on the same day by Pittsburgh’s Shadow Kingdom Records, Revelation’s …Yet So Far and For the Sake of No One provide a look at one of Maryland doom’s longest running legacies as it was 14 years ago and as it is today. Respectively. Hellhound had the original release of …Yet So Far back in 1995, while For the Sake of No One is the brand new follow-up to last year’s Release and finds the band at perhaps their most mournful yet.
And I do mean mournful. For the Sake of No One — which maintains the Revelation lineup of Steve Branagan (drums), John Brenner (guitar/vocals) and Bert Hall (bass) — starts off with the woeful one-two punch of “A Matter of Days” and “Offset,” both of which creep at a true doom slow pace that just makes you want to hang your head. “Canyons,” the longest song at 9:11, hits hard in both musical weight and emotional content. The groove is solid, and there’s an under-produced feeling that pervades (Brenner handled recording and mixing, as with Release) that only winds up adding to the cult vibe throughout. This is doom for doomers, folks. Novices or anyone craving timing changes or math-metal parts needs to find themselves another boat.
Things do pick up somewhat with the shorter “On a Promotory” in the middle of the album, and there are some surprises hidden on Side B that contrast the straightforward dirge of For the Sake of No One’s forward face. “The Whisper Stream” boasts the record’s best (and maybe most extended) solo from Brenner, a moment of upbeat classic rock in a swirling sea of doom. The last few minutes of the extended “Vigil” have a bumping bass line from Hall and a lead line that speaks to ‘80s style of rock, and the closing title track starts off eerily quiet, only to blindside with yet another cut of the massive doom that typified the album’s first half.
Posted in Reviews on May 26th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster
The remarkably prolific alter ego of traditional doomers Revelation, Baltimore trio Against Nature take a much different approach, pulling together elements of classic, unpretentious prog, ambient rock, psychedelia and mellow riffers to create a style both unique and amorphous. On their two records from 2008 — note that to date they have a full-length and an EP out in 2009 as well — Natural Blue and Accumulus, both self-released through the band’s own Bland Hand Records, Against Nature journey through a varied landscape of considered rock and roll, at times offering a Brant Bjork-style smoothness (as on Natural Blue opener “Sonic Tonic”) and at times tripping their way into a great mostly-instrumental beyond (as on Accumulus‘ “All in Motion”). Whatever sound they’re adopting, though, a consistency in tone and production ties each of the records to themselves and each other. There is a definite Against Nature sound, and it’s complex.
Both of the albums, as well as the 12 other releases the band has issued since 2005, are available for free download on the Against Nature website, and physical pressings of each are limited to 90 copies that come with hand-made covers signed by guitarist/vocalist John Brenner in gorgeous designs that jpegs fail to do justice. Obviously this is not a band with high commercial aspirations. Rather, what shines through on Accumulus and Natural Blue is a genuine love for the creative process. Memorable riffs pervade cuts like “NOS” and “Normal Nihilists,” linking the two albums together, but Accumulus has a more progressive feel than its predecessor, which is emblematic of the drive and willingness to experiment fueling the band on in place of mainstream notoriety, fame or a large cash flow. They do it to do it. If they didn’t enjoy it, there would be no reason to continue.
Posted in Reviews on February 16th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster
Tilled from the most fertile soil in the US for growing traditional doom — namely the Maryland/D.C. scene that birthed Pentagram, Wretched, The Obsessed, Iron Man, Unorthodox, Wino‘s bands, Earthride and countless others — Baltimore‘s Revelation began issuing demos in 1987 and put out three full-lengths before disbanding following …Yet So Far in 1995. A 2003 reissue of 1996’s Frozen Masque demo showed there was still interest and 2007’s Paleontology collection of early works provided a tape-hissy bugle announcing Revelation‘s return to active status.
After having the shovel strength to unearth Stone Garden and put out Pale Divine‘s much-storied first release, Crimson Tears, the up and coming Shadow Kingdom Records digs its heels into the underground to licenseRelease, Revelation‘s first new full-length in 14 years.
And they came up with a meisterwerk of true American doom.