Posted in Whathaveyou on January 20th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
We’re knee-deep in prime festival-add time now, and Desertfest 2014 in both London and Berlin continues to tack on bands at an alarming rate. One struggles (and apparently fails) to keep up. A few more announcements have come out today, but for the ease of the reader and also my poor brain, here’s a quick rundown of the latest additions to both locales first:
London: Bright Curse, Radio Moscow, Borracho, 11Paranoias, The Cosmic Dead.
Berlin: Sasquatch (!), Radio Moscow, Doctor Doom, The Moth, Castle.
Kvelertak will play in Berlin and London, and in case you missed the exclamation point, it fucking rules that Sasquatch will join their labelmates Gozu in Berlin. European tour dates together, maybe? I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Meantime:
DesertFest 2014 Tunes into Radio Moscow
Next to join the annual DesertFest juggernaut are San Diegan blues-psych power trio, Radio Moscow; a band who manage to both chill you the fuck out and wake you the fuck up at the same time.
Part of that ‘70s revival scene that has invaded Europe in recent years – see Graveyard, Horisont, Gentlemans Pistols and Kadavar – Radio Moscow prove that the throwback vibes can be mastered on the more Western side of the Atlantic too. Starting out life as the duo of the multi-instrumentalist mainstay Parker Griggs and bassist Serana Andersen, Radio Moscow have been laying down the fuzz infused southern stomp since 2003 with their self-titled debut full length dropping in 2007. Three full lengths – including the absolutely stunningly swaggering sophomore, ‘Brain Cycles’ – and several bassists and drummers later, Radio Moscow have cemented their sound around the aching-heart blues strut of Parker Griggs, and a touch of distortion.
Definitely one to bring the foot-stomping and head-bopping to any swarm of onlookers, Radio Moscow are sure to slay in Camden this April. You stay bluesy San Diego.
Kind Words: Tom Geddes
DesertFest 2014 Takes the Bright Curse
Citizens of the world, Bright Curse have been kicking up a right old stink in our very own London since their acid and angst infused inception during the summer of 2012.
The trio, who hail from France, have been daring and dastardly enough to produce something that is all too rare nowadays: original music. Now, that doesn’t mean to say there aren’t echoes of inspiration in there in abundance. From Queens of the Stone Age to Graveyard to Dozer, they’re all present and accounted for yet buried so deep beneath the soil of Bright Curse’s smoky, solo-laden, shadow dwelling brand of rock it’s near impossible to put your finger on a dominant influence.
Their EP track ‘The Hermit’ is somehow both mesmerising and monstrous all at once; haunting whispers one moment lead into a crushing war-cry of composed fury the next that has Vikings racing away in retreat. Complete with obligatory badass artwork adorning their t-shirts Bright Curse could well have been designed with DesertFest in mind. Witnessing the prophecy unravel will be a mind-bending experience, for sure.
Kind Words: Dan Grigg
** DESERTFEST BERLIN 2014 – SASQUATCH CONFIRMED **
We are thrilled to announce that Los Angeles Rockers SASQUATCH are confirmed for DESERTFEST BERLIN 2014 !
SASQUATCH was formed in Los Angeles in 2001 by Philadelphia transplant Keith Gibbs (Guitar, Vocals) and Detroit natives Rick Ferrante (Drums) and Clayton Charles (Bass). After bursting onto the stoner rock scene with, not one, but two, closely packed studio albums (conveniently named Sasquatch “I” and “II”) in 2004 and 2006, the power trio went subterranean until 2010 before resurfacing with a new lineup (upon Clayton’s departure in 2007, the guys recruited Chicagoan Jason Casanova to join the fold) and a third opus (entitled, you guessed it… “III”), to the relief of many impatient fans.
This career-establishing trilogy managed to seduce listeners and critics by beginning with the debut’s roaring-down-the-highway riffs, hypnotic grooves and occasional forays into southern rock ; continuing with the sophomore LP’s increasingly focused, hook-laden hard rock classicism ; and culminating in the third album’s heightened states of fuzz-distortion and earth-rumbling power chords.
All the while, SASQUATCH steadily brought their advanced heavy rock “theories” to the people, as they demolished stages across the globe alongside the likes of Blue Cheer, Nebula, Unida, Solace and Fatso Jetson, to name a few. Most recently, the band was sighted marauding across Europe with Small Stone label mates Roadsaw & Dixie Witch.
In September 2013, the band returned with a brand-spanking new album titled “IV”. Drawing on influences from 70′s hard rock mixed with a dash of metal and an unmistakable undercurrent psychedelia, a clear songwriting approach keeping the focus on the hook, the band delivered their most mature, inspired and diverse song-set to date, chunked with compositional twists, both heartwarmingly familiar and totally unexpected, plus thundering power chords, sizzling solos, shrewd melodic flights and even super-trippy moments…
Wreaking havoc with this forth Small Stone release, SASQUATCH lead the way with their fiery brand of rock n’ roll, and we are really happy to have them playing at DESERTFEST BERLIN 2014 !
Posted in Features on December 16th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Please note: These are my picks, not the results of the Readers Poll, which is still going on. If you haven’t added your list yet, please do.
It’s always strange to think of something so utterly arbitrary as also being really, really difficult, but I think 2013 posed the biggest challenge yet in terms of getting together a final list of my favorite records. As ever, I had a post-it note on my office wall (when I moved, it moved with me) and I did my best to keep track of everything that resonated throughout the year. I wound up with over 40 picks and had to start putting them in order to whittle the list down.
I wound up with a top 20 that, even though it feels somewhat incomplete, I’ve found that I can at very least live with. That’s what I’ve done for the last week: Just lived with it. Even up to this morning, I was making changes, but in general, I think this gives some scope about what hit me hard in 2013. Of course, these are just my picks, and while things like my own critical appreciation factor in because that affects how I ultimately listen to a record, sometimes it just comes down to what was stuck in my head most often or what I kept putting on over and over.
That’s a simple formula to apply, but still, 2013 didn’t make it easy. Please note as you go through that there are some real gems in the honorable mentions. I thought about expanding the list to 30 this year, but the thought made my skull start to cave in, so I reconsidered.
Anyway, it only comes around once a year, so let’s do this thing. Thanks in advance for reading:
20. All Them Witches, Lightning at the Door
Traditionally, I’ve reserved #20 for a sentimental pick. An album that’s hard to place numerically because of some personal or emotional connection. This year wasn’t short on those, but when it came to it, I knew I couldn’t make this list without Lightning at the Door included, and since it was released just last month as the follow-up to the earlier-2013 Elektrohasch reissue of the Nashville, Tennessee, outfit’s 2012 debut, Our Mother Electricity (review here), I didn’t feel like I’ve had enough time with it to really put it anywhere else. It needed to be here, and so it is, and though I’ve listened to it plenty in the month since its release, I still feel like I’m getting to know Lightning at the Door, and exploring its open-spaced blues rocking grooves. All Them Witches are hands down one of the best bands I heard for the first time this year, and I’m looking forward to following their work as they continue to progress.
For a while after I first heard …Like Clockwork and around the time I reviewed it, I sweated it pretty hard. By mid-June, I had it as one of the year’s best without a doubt in my mind. Then I put it away. I don’t know if I burnt myself out on it or what, but I still haven’t really gone back to it, and while the brilliance of cuts like “Kalopsia” and “Fairweather Friends” and “I Appear Missing” still stands out and puts Josh Homme‘s songwriting as some of the most accomplished I encountered in 2013, that hasn’t been enough to make me take it off the shelf. I doubt Queens of the Stone Age will cry about it as they tour arenas and get nominated for Grammy awards, but there it is. I wouldn’t have expected …Like Clockworkto be so low on the list, certainly not when I was listening to “My God is the Sun” six times in a row just to try and get my head around the chorus.
Gorgeously produced and impeccably textured, The Winter Ward by Stockholm-based I are Droid aren’t generally the kind of thing I’d reach for, but the quality of the craft in songs like “Constrict Contract” and “Feathers and Dust” made it essential. Bits and pieces within harkened back to frontman Peder Bergstrand‘s tenure in Lowrider, but ultimately The Winter Wardemerged with a varied and rich personality all its own, and that became the basis for the appeal. As the weather has gotten colder and it’s gotten dark earlier, I’ve returned to The Winter Wardfor repeat visits, and as much as I’ve got my fingers crossed for another Lowrider album in 2014, I hope I are Droid continue to run parallel, since the progressive take on alternative influences they managed to concoct was carried across with proportionate accessibility. It was as audience friendly and satisfying a listen as it was complex and ripe for active engagement.
There was just nothing to argue about when it came to the self-titled debut from Massachusetts-based doomers Magic Circle, but what worked best about the album was that although the songs were strong on their own and seemed to have lurching hooks to spare, everything throughout fed into an overarching atmosphere that was denser than the straightforwardness of the structures might lead the listener to initially believe. It was a record worth going back to, worth getting lost in the nod of, and as the members are experienced players in a variety of New England acts from The Rival Mob to Doomriders, it should be interesting to find out what demons they may conjure in following-up Magic Circle, if they’ll continue down the path of deceptively subversive “traditionalism” or expand their sound into more progressive reaches. Either way they may choose, the material on their first outing showed an ability to craft an enigmatic, individualized sonic persona that never veered into cultish caricature.
If you’re into doom and you have a soul, I don’t know how you could not be rooting for Iron Man in 2013. Produced by Frank Marchand and the first full-length from the long-running Maryland doomers to feature vocalist Dee Calhoun and drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann alongside guitarist/founder “Iron” Al Morris III (interview here) and longtime bassist Louis Strachan. The difference in South of the Earthwas palpable even in comparison to 2009′s I Have Returned(review here). With more professional production, excellent performances all around in the lineup, memorable songs like “Hail to the Haze” and “The Worst and Longest Day,” and the considerable endorsement of a release through Rise Above/Metal Blade behind them, the four-piece sounded like the statesmen they are in the Maryland scene and showed themselves every bit worthy of inclusion in the discussion of America’s finest in traditional, Sabbathian doom. May they continue to get their due.
Whether it was what the lyrics were talking about or not, the message of “The Message” was clear: Never count out a catchy chorus. Now in operation for a decade, Sasquatch practice an arcane artistry with their songwriting. Void of pretense, heavy on boogie, they are as genuine a modern extension of classic heavy rock as you’re likely to find. The Los Angeles power trio outdid themselves with IV, veering boldly into psychedelia on “Smoke Signal” and honing their craft over various moods and themes on “Sweet Lady,” “Me and You” and “Eye of the Storm.” They remain one of American heavy rock’s key and consistently underestimated components, and the three years since the release of their third album, III(review here), seemed like an eternity once the quality grooves of “Money” and “Drawing Flies” got moving, the former an insistent rush and the latter open, dreamy and atmospheric, but both executed with precision and confidence born of Sasquatch‘s familiarity with the methods and means of kicking ass.
It was hard to know what to expect from Black Pyramid‘s Adversarial, their first release with guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard at the fore with bassist Dave Gein and drummer/engineer Clay Neely, but the Massachusetts outfit flourished on tracks like “Swing the Scimitar,” incorporating a heavy jamming sensibility with marauding riffs and grooves carried over from the style of their first two albums. Adversarial took the band to Hellfest in France this past summer, where they shared a stage with Neurosis and Sleep, and whether it was the raging chorus of “Bleed Out” or the clarion guitar line of “Aphelion,” the band showed their war ensemble could not be stopped. Their future is uncertain with Neely having relocated and Gein having an impending move of his own, but if Adversarialis to stand as the final Black Pyramid outing, they will at very least have claimed enough heads in their time to line fence-posts for miles. Still, hopefully they can find some way to continue to make it work.
Even the interlude “Seasick Serenade,” just over a minute and a half long, was haunting. Electric Relicsmarked the first full-length from Nashville’s Across Tundras to be released on their own label and the first since they issued Sage through Neurot in 2011 (review here), and as rolling and exploratory as its vibe was, songs like “Solar Ark,” “Pining for the Gravel Roads” and “Den of Poison Snakes” also represented a solidification of Across Tundras‘ sound, another step in their development that refined their blend of rural landscapes and heavy tones. Issued in April, it’s been an album that throughout the course of the year I’ve returned to time and again, and the more I’ve sat with it and the more comfortable it’s become, the more its songs have come to feel like home, which it’s easy to read as being their intent all along. Guitarist/vocalist Tanner Olson (read his questionnaire answers here), bassist/vocalist Mikey Allred and drummer Casey Perry hit on something special in these tracks, and one gets the sense their influence is just beginning to be felt.
Initially a digital self-release by the Washington, D.C. riff purveyors, Oculus just this month got a tri-color, tri-label and tri-continental vinyl issue, and the fanfare with which it arrived was well earned by the five songs contained on the two sides. Borracho‘s second album behind 2011′s Splitting Sky(review here) also marked a lineup shift in the band that saw them go from a four-piece to a trio, with guitarist Steve Fisher (interview here) stepping to the fore as vocalist in the new incarnation with Tim Martin on bass and Mario Trubiano on drums. The results in songs like “Know the Score” and closer “I’ve Come for it All” were in line stylistically with the straightforward approach they showed on their first offering, but tighter overall in their presentation, and Fisher‘s voice was a natural fit with the band’s stated ethic of “repetitive heavy grooves” — a neat summary, if perhaps underselling their appeal somewhat. Oculusshowed both that the appeal of Splitting Skywas no fluke and that Borracho with four members or three was not a band to be taken lightly.
Like the bulk of Ice Dragon‘s work to date, Born a Heavy Morning was put out first digitally, for free or pay-what-you-want download. A CD version would follow soon enough on Navalorama, with intricate packaging to match the album’s understated achievements, taking the Boston genre-crossers into and through heavy psychedelic atmospheres added to and played off in longer pieces like “The Past Plus the Future is Present” and the gorgeously ethereal “Square Triangle” by thematic slice-of-life set-pieces like “In Which a Man Daydreams about a Girl from His Youth” and “In Which a Man Ends His Workweek with a Great Carouse” that only enriched the listening experience and furthered Ice Dragon‘s experimental appeal. Ever-prolific, Born a Heavy Morningwasn’t the only Ice Dragon outing this year, physical or digital, but it stood in a place of its own within their constantly-expanding catalog and showcased a stylistic fearlessness that can only be an asset in their favor as they continue to chase down whatever the hell it is they’re after in their songs and make genuine originality sound so natural.
It seemed like no matter where I turned in 2013, Devil to Pay‘s Fate is Your Musewas there. Not that it was the highest-profile release of the year or bolstered by some consciousness-invading viral campaign or anything, just that once the songs locked into my head, there was no removing them, and whether it was straightforward rockers like “This Train Won’t Stop,” “Savonarola” and “Tie One On,” the moodier “Black Black Heart” or the charm-soaked “Ten Lizardmen and One Pocketknife” — which might also be the best song title I came across this year — it was a pretty safe bet that something from the Indianapolis four-piece was going to make a showing on the mental jukebox if not in the actual player (it showed up plenty there as well). Devil to Pay‘s first album since 2009, first for Ripple and fourth overall, Fate is Your Musewas a grower listen whose appeal only deepened over the months after its release, the layered vocals of guitarist Steve Janiak (interview here) adaptable to the varying vibes of “Wearin’ You Down” and “Already Dead” and soulful in classic fashion. They’ve been underrated as a live act for some time, and Fate is Your Musetranslated well their light-on-frills, heavy-on-riffs appeal to a studio setting.
9. Beast in the Field, The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below
Such devastation. Even now, every time I put on Beast in the Field‘s The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below, it makes me want to hang my head and wonder at the horror of it all like Marlon Brando hiding out in a cave. If anything at all, there wasn’t much I heard in 2013 that hit harder than the Michigan duo’s fifth long-player, released on CD in March through Saw Her Ghost with vinyl reportedly on the way now. Toward the middle of the year, it got to the point where I wanted to go door to door and say to people, “Uh excuse me, but this is absurdly heavy and you should check it out.” I settled for streaming the album in full and it still feels like a compromise. I tried to interview the band, to no avail — sometimes instrumental acts just don’t want to talk about it — but what guitarist Jordan Pries and drummer Jamie Jahr were able to accomplish tonally, atmospherically and bombastically in expansive and overwhelmingly heavy cuts like the 22-minute “Oncoming Avalanche” or the noise-soaked riffing of “Hollow Horn” put The Sacred Above, the Sacred Belowinto a weight class that it had pretty much to itself this year. It’s a good thing they had no trouble filling that space. I still feel like I haven’t recommended the album enough and that more people need to be made aware of its existence.
When I finally listened to Beelzefuzz‘s self-titled debut, I was really, really glad I had seen the three-piece — its members based in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania — play some of the material live. I don’t know if otherwise I’d have been able to distinguish between the progress elements of effects and looping and the live creation of layers and organ sounds through the guitar of Dana Ortt (interview here) and the simple humdrum of studio layering one finds all the time. I almost think for their next record they should track it live, just the three of them, and heavily advertise that fact to help get the point across that it’s actually just three players — Ortt, bassist Pug Kirby and drummer Darin McCloskey (also of PaleDivine) — creating the richness of sound on “All the Feeling Returns” and the eerie, gleefully weird progressive stomp on “Lonely Creatures.” The album became a morning go-to for me, and I don’t know how many times I’ve been through it at this point, but “Reborn” and “Hypnotize” and “Lotus Jam” continue to echo in my head even when it’s been a few days. That said, it’s rarely been a few days, because while I appreciate what the trio accomplish on their first record on an analytical level, the reason it is where it is on this list is because I can’t stop listening to the damn thing. Another one that more people should hear than have heard.
7. Samsara Blues Experiment, Waiting for the Flood
One of the aspects of Samsara Blues Experiment‘s third offering that I most enjoyed was that it wasn’t the album I expected German four-piece to make. After their 2011 sophomore album, Revelation and Mystery (review here), shifted its focus away from the jam-minded heavy psychedelia of their 2009 debut, Long Distance Trip (review here), my thinking was that they would continue down that path and coalesce into a more straightforward brand of heavy rock. Instead, when the four extended tracks of Waiting for the Floodshowed up with no shortage of swirl or sitar or open-ended expansion in their midst, it was a legitimate surprise. Repeat visits to “Shringara” and “Don’t Belong” show that actually it’s not so much that Samsara Blues Experiment turned around and were hell-bent on jamming out all the time, but that rather for their third, they took elements of what worked on their first two LPs and built lush movements on top of those ideas. As a happy bonus, this having grown more and more into their sound has helped push the band — guitarist/vocalist Christian Peters, guitarist Hans Eiselt, bassist Richard Behrens and drummer Thomas Vedder — into their own niche within the wider European heavy psych scene, and they’ve begun to emerge as one of its most enjoyable and consistent acts.
Kind of inevitable that there would be a lot of comparisons made between Mind Controland the preceding Uncle Acid album, Blood Lust. Certainly the newer outing — their third and first for Rise Above/Metal Blade – is more psychedelic, more tripped out and less obscure feeling than its predecessor. It didn’t have the same kind of crunch to the guitar tone, or the same kind of horror-film atmosphere or psychosexual foreboding, but the thing was, it wasn’t supposed to. The UK outfit continue to prod cult mentality even as their own cult grows, and as I see it, Mind Control made a lot of sense coming off Blood Lustin terms of the band not wanting to repeat the same ideas over again, but grow from them and expand their sound. Of course, with the strut at the end of opener “Mt. Abraxas,” they’ve set a high standard on their albums for leadoff tracks, but where Mind Controlreally made its impression was in the hypnosis of cuts like the Beatlesian “Follow the Leader,” the lysergic “Valley of the Dolls” or the maddening “Devil’s Work.” The deeper you went into side B, the more the band had you in their grasp. It was a different kind of accomplishment than the preceding effort — though “Mind Crawler” kept a lot of that vibe alive — and it showed Uncle Acid had more in their arsenal than VHS ambience and garage doom malevolence while keeping the infectiousness that helped Blood Lustmake such an impression.
Of the ones reviewed, Lumbar‘s The First and Last Days of Unwelcomewas the most recent inclusion on this list. Having worked with Lumbar multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Aaron Edge (interview here) in the past with his band Roareth releasing what would be their only album on The Maple Forum, this was a project to which I felt an immediate connection given the circumstances of its creation: Being written almost in its entirety and recorded in everything but vocals during a bedridden period following Edge‘s diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. The contributions of YOB/Vhöl frontman Mike Scheidt and Tad Doyle of TAD and Brothers of the Sonic Cloth were what got a lot of people’s attention for Lumbar‘s The First and Last Days of Unwelcome, but with the situation are the core of the seven tracks named “Day One” through “Day Seven,” what stood out to me even more than those performances was the utter lack of distance and the level of rawness in the album’s presentation. It puts you there. What you get with Lumbar is the direct translation of a range of emotions from hopeful to hopeless, angry, sad, beaten down and wanting answers, wanting more. There’s no shield from it, and as much in concept as in its execution, there’s no other word for it than “heavy.” The intensity Edge packed into just 24 minutes — and not all of it loud or over the top doomed or anything more than atmospherics — was unmatched by anything else I heard this year.
From just about any angle you want to view it, the situation that turned Kyuss Lives! into Vista Chino was unfortunate. However — and I know I’ve said this before — I really do believe that becoming Vista Chino, that furthering the distance from the Kyuss moniker, brand, legacy, and so on, was for the better of the band creatively. And not because the songs don’t stand up. I doubt it helped their draw much, but for vocalist John Garcia and drummer Brant Bjork (interview here), working as Vista Chino for the creation of Peace, and especially or Bjork working with guitarist Bruno Fevery for the first time in the writing process, it allowed them to step outside of what would’ve been insurmountable expectations for a “fifth Kyuss album” and create something honest, new, and ultimately, more true to the spirit of that now-legendary band. Let’s face it, you hear John Garcia, Brant Bjork and Nick Oliveri are working on a project together, you’re immediately comparing it to Kyuss anyway. At least with Vista Chino, they’ve given themselves the potential for growth beyond a preconceived idea of what Kyuss should sound like. Well what does Vista Chino sound like? It sounds like whatever the hell they want. On Peace, though many of the lyrics dealt with their legal battles over the Kyuss name, the vibe stayed true to a desert rock ethic of laid back heavy, and the round-out jam in “Acidize/The Gambling Moose” left Peacewith the feeling that maybe that’s where they’ve ended up after all. Fingers crossed Mike Dean (of C.O.C. and the latest live incarnation of Vista Chino) winds up playing bass on the record, but other than that, wherever they want to go with it, as a fan, I’m happy to follow along.
The second outing from Gozu on Small Stone, The Fury of a Patient Man tapped into so much of what made the Boston band’s 2010 Locust Season label debut (review here) work so right on and just did it better. Don’t get me wrong, I still dig on “Meat Charger,” but with tracks like “Snake Plissken,” “Bald Bull,” “Signed, Epstein’s Mom” (note: it was “signed, Epstein’s mother” on Welcome Back Kotter) and the thrashing “Charles Bronson Pinchot,” Gozu put forth a collection of some of 2013′s finest heavy rock and did so with not only their own soulful spin on the tropes of the genre, but a mature and varied approach that was no less comfortable giving High on Fire a run for their money than reveling in the grandiose chorus of “Ghost Wipe,” which was also one of the best hooks of the year, guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney (interview here) delivering lines in crisp, confident layers, perfectly mixed by Benny Grotto at Mad Oak Studios and cutting through the fray of his own and Doug Sherman‘s guitars, the bass of Paul Dallaire (who split duties with J. Canava; Joe Grotto has since taken over the position) and Barry Spillberg‘s drumming. What the future might hold for Gozu with the recent shift in lineup that replaced Spillberg with drummer Mike Hubbard (ex-Warhorse) and added third guitarist Jeff Fultz (Mellow Bravo) remains to be seen, but with European touring on the horizon for 2014 and appearances slated for Roadburn and Desertfest, the band seem to be looking only to expand their reach, and with the material from The Fury of a Patient Man as a foundation, they’ve got some major considerations acting in their favor. Another album from which I simply could not escape this year, and from which I didn’t want to.
Billed largely and at least in-part accurately as a return to the group’s psychedelic roots, Last Patrol was Monster Magnet‘s ninth full-length, their first in three years and their second for Napalm. The New Jersey outfit led by guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, founder and, in this case, co-producer Dave Wyndorf (interview here) did indeed delve into the space rock side of their sound more than they have in over a decade, and the effect that doing so had was like a great shaking-off of dust, as though the Bullgod in the John Sumrow cover art just woke up after a long slumber. Perhaps even more than tripping on the Donovan cover “Three Kingfishers” or on the more extended freakouts “Last Patrol” and “End of Time,” what really made Last Patrolsuch a complete experience was the depth of emotion. Wyndorf wasn’t just standing above an overproduced wall of distortion talking about how he’s the best lay in the galaxy or whatever — fun though that kind of stuff is and has been in the past — but songs like “I Live behind the Clouds,” “The Duke (of Supernature),” “Paradise” and “Stay Tuned” offered a humbler take, a spirit of melancholy that rested well alongside the unmitigated stomp of “Hallelujah” or the driving heavy rock of “Mindless Ones.” Even in its most riotous stretches, Last Patrolwas a humbler affair, with a more honest vibe than their last four, maybe five albums. A Monster Magnet release would’ve been noteworthy no matter what it actually sounded like, because that’s the level of impact they’ve had on heavy psych and underground rock over the last two decades-plus. The difference with Last Patrolwas that it was a refreshing change from what had started to sound like a formula going stale, and it was just so damn good to have them be weird again.
Finally, an album that asked the question, “What it was I’m going to do I haven’t done?” I knew at the year’s halfway point that Clutch‘s Earth Rockerwas going to be the one to beat, and that it wasn’t going to be easy for anyone else to top the Maryland kings of groove, who sounded so reinvigorated on songs like “Crucial Velocity,” “Book, Saddle and Go,” “Unto the Breach,” and “Cyborg Bette,” and on funkfied pushers like “D.C. Sound Attack!,” “The Wolfman Kindly Requests…” and “The Face.” They’d hardly been in hibernation since 2009′s Strange Cousins from the West, but four years was the longest they’d ever gone between albums, and it was past time for a new one. To have it arrive as such a boot to the ass just made it that much better, the band shifting away from some of the blues/jam influences that emerged over the course of 2005′s Robot Hive/Exodusand 2007′s From Beale Street to Oblivion — though those certainly showed up as well in the subdued “Gone Cold” and elsewhere — but thanks in no small part to the production of Machine, with whom the band last worked for 2004′s Blast Tyrant, Earth Rockerwas huge where it wanted to be and that gave Clutch‘s faster, more active material all the more urgency, where although the songwriting was quality as always, Strange Cousins from the West languished a bit at a more relaxed pace. The difference made all the difference. Whether it was the hellhounds on your trail (what a pity!) in “D.C. Sound Attack!” or the Jazzmasters erupting from the bottom of the sea to take flight, Clutch‘s 10th album was brimming with live, vibrant, heavy on action and heavy on groove, and on a sheer song-by-song level, a classic in the making from a band who’ve already had a few. At very least, it’s a landmark in their discography, and though vocalist Neil Fallon (interview here), guitarist Tim Sult, bassist Dan Maines and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster always change from record, but it’s the unmistakable stamp they put on all their outings that have earned them such a loyal following, and that stamp is all over Earth Rocker. Front to back, it is a pure Clutch record, and while I’ll happily acknowledge that it’s an obvious pick for album of the year, I don’t see how I possibly could’ve chosen anything else. Like the best of the best, Earth Rockerwill deliver for years to come.
The Next 10 and Honorable Mentions
I said at the outset I had 40 picks. The reality was more than that, but here’s the next 10 anyway:
21. Blaak Heat Shujaa, The Edge of an Era
22. The Freeks, Full On
23. Luder, Adelphophagia
24. The Flying Eyes, Lowlands
25. Black Skies, Circadian Meditations
26. At Devil Dirt, Plan B: Sin Revolucion No Hay Evolucion
27. Kadavar, Abra Kadavar
28. Naam, Vow
29. Mühr, Messiah
30. Uzala, Tales of Blood and Fire
Further honorable mention has to go to Pelican, Endless Boogie, Earthless, Phantom Glue, Goatess, Windhand, Gonga, TonerLow, Jesuand Sandrider.
Two More Special Records
I’d be unforgivably remiss if I didn’t note the release in 2013 of two albums that wound up being incredibly special to me personally: I vs. the Glacierby Clamfight and A Time of Hunting by Kings Destroy. Since it came out on this site’s in-house label, I didn’t consider the Clamfight eligible for list consideration and while I didn’t help put it out, the Kings Destroy I also felt very, very close to — probably as close as I’ve felt to a record I didn’t actually perform on — so it didn’t seem fair on a critical level, but I consider both of these to be records that in a large part helped define my year, as well as being exceptional in and of themselves, and they needed very much to be singled out as such. These are people whom I feel whatever-the-godless-heathen-equivalent-of-blessed-is to know.
Before I end this post, I want to say thank you for reading, this, anything else you may have caught this year, whatever it might be. To say it means a lot to me personally is understating it, but it’s true all the same. I’m not quite done wrapping up the year — I’ll have a list of the best album covers, another for EPs and singles and demos, and of course the albums I didn’t hear — so please stay tuned over the next couple weeks, but it seemed only fair to show my appreciation now as well. Thank you.
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With no slowdown in the music coming out as we move into the fall, it’s time for another audiObelisk podcast. Like last month, the idea here was to keep it super-simple, not go too long or get lost too much in including stuff just for the hell of it. Whether it’s a big band or someone you’ve never heard of in this tracklist, it’s all quality, and most of it is new. A couple of these albums haven’t even come out yet.
Things get pretty dark in the second of the two hours, but I figured what the hell? It starts off rockin’ with Sasquatch and The Freeks and so on, so it seemed there was room to doom out for a while, and once I threw in The Body, there was nothing to do but plummet even further. As it winds down, there’s some transition back to more rocking fare though with Earthless, so it’s not like it gets totally lost and drowns in the mire of dark tones and sonic abrasion. I know you were worried. I was too.
Like last time, it clocks in at just under two hours long. I hope you download and enjoy the tracks. Here’s the full rundown of what’s included:
Sasquatch, “The Message” from IV (2013)
Monster Magnet, “Mindless Ones” from Last Patrol (2013)
The Freeks, “The Secret Pathway” from Full On (2013)
Red Fang, “Blood Like Cream” from Whales and Leeches (2013)
Pyramido, “Tiden är Kommen” from Saga (2013)
Hollow Leg, “Ride to Ruin” from Abysmal (2013)
YOB, “Ether” from Catharsis (2013 Reissue)
Seremonia, “Suuri Valkeus” from Ihminen (2013)
Aqua Nebula Oscillator, “Human Toad” from Spiritus Mundi (2013)
Jesu, “Everyday” from Everyday I Get Closer to the Light from Which I Came (2013)
Ayahuasca Dark Trip, “To the Holy Mountain” from Mind Journey (2013 Reissue)
All Them Witches, “Born under a Bad Sign” (2013)
The Body, “Prayers Unanswered” from Christs, Redeemers (2013)
Primitive Man, “Antietam” from Scorn (2013)
Windhand, “Cassock” from Soma (2013)
Atlantis, “Omen” from Omens (2013)
Earthless, “Violence of the Red Sea” from From the Ages (2013)
Posted in Reviews on September 16th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
As bluesy, soulful and classically rocking as ever, Sasquatch return with their aptly-titled fourth album, IV, on Small Stone. Three years doesn’t seem like an especially long time for a band to take between outings — it’s roughly consistent for the Los Angeles trio with their 2004 self-titled debut, 2006′s IIand 2010′s III(review here) — but still, IVfeels like it’s been a while in arriving. Recorded earlier this year at Mad Oak (guitar and vocals) in Boston and Rustbelt in Detroit (drums and bass), one might expect the three-piece to sound fractured or cobbled together somehow, but though the nine-tracks of IVare professionally crisp, there’s nothing lacking in natural feel throughout, and Sasquatch‘s latest finds itself basking in the fullest fuzz since the first record. Taking the larger production sensibility that showed up their last time out after II‘s more stripped-down classic power trio feel and meshing it with gorgeous tonality from guitarist/vocalist Keith Gibbs, IVcalls to mind some of the best aspects of heavy rock — timelessness achieved by means of modernizing classic methods and structures, and updating heavy swing and swagger to sound not like a put-on, but like the inheritor of an expressive mode that’s dug underground to hide like mammals while the dinosaurs get taken out by an asteroid of bullshit — and proves over its vinyl-ready 43-plus minutes that Sasquatch deserve mention among the foremost of modern American practitioners of the form. Whether it’s the ultra-catchy opener “The Message” or more sonically spacious “Smoke Signal” or closer “Drawing Flies,” Gibbs, bassist Jason Casanova and drummer Rick Ferrante proffer exceptional songwriting, hitting all the marks along the way for gotta-groove fuzz rock supremacy while maintaining a stamp and personality of their own, characterized by Gibbs‘s belt-it-out vocals on “Sweet Lady” or the bevvy of solos he seems to just exude as Casanova and Ferrante maintain progressions behind, keeping the songs tight, purposeful and never overly indulgent. It’s beering music that makes little effort toward class but winds up there anyway, and while IIIoffered a host of memorable cuts, each piece on IVboth provides a standout and feeds into the larger, overarching flow.
There are moments particularly on side B where IVborders on too perfect — thinking of songs like “Wolves at My Door” and the shorter “Corner” — but, 12 minutes shorter than its predecessor, there’s no filler on Sasquatch‘s fourth, and even where their songwriting modus is most laid bare with a, “Let’s make this into a verse and chorus,” mentality, the quality of the material stands up to the familiarity of the intent. In addition, Gibbs has dialed back some of the Chris Cornell-style vocals that came out on IIIcuts like “Pull Me Under,” so that even in slower, more-open tempo stretches like that early into “Smoke Signal,” he sounds more like his own singer, giving IVall the more a sense of accomplishment. That song, “Smoke Signal,” is one of two included that top seven minutes long — the other is “Drawing Flies” — and both are used to close out their respective sides, underlining the classic album structure of IVoverall as a collection of high-quality individual pieces set to the best working order to bring out a dynamic feeling of movement between them. The earlier “Eye of the Storm” (5:12) reaches for some of the same ground, but ultimately finds itself distinguished more for the strength of its hook in following ultra-catchy opener “The Message” — simply one of the finest choruses the band has ever written — despite also slowing the tempo from that track. Built around motor riffing and straight-ahead uptempo groove, “The Message” arrives at its chorus to find Gibbs‘ double-tracked and singalong-ready with a cadence and lyrics that are simple enough to leave an immediate first impression that lasts through the rest of the album and of course the first of many stellar solos layered in atop rhythm tracks in a way that’s professional but not overdone, a long feedback outro adding to the edge en route to the guitar opening of “Eye of the Storm,” which has a more melodic riff and makes itself felt with a wash of crash from Ferrante and glorious bed of low end from Casanova. Vocal harmonies distinguish the chorus further, leading to second-half stomp that recalls some of the last album’s more weighted stretches, an Ozzy reference tossed in (“…the white horse it’s symbolic of course”) tossed in for good measure in a deceptively intense ending. Seems surprising they don’t go back to the original chorus at the end, but that’s likely the point.
Either next week — or more likely the week after, with the pace I’m working at these days — I’m going to do a full review of IV, the voluminous and aptly-titled fourth album from L.A. power trio Sasquatch, so I guess I’ll save whatever deep analysis I might make about it for that, but suffice it to say that if you were looking forward to this one, you were right. It’s the songs. Sasquatch toss of rock classics like they were empty bottles — downed another one, on to the next — and IV is silly with them, and also pushes the duly heralded outfit into new sonic territory with the psychedelic sprawl of “Smoke Signal” (more a suggestion to begin than a linguistic communication; though maybe it winds up the same), which features a guest appearance by Marc Gaffney of cross-country labelmates Gozu.
So not only is it Sasquatch doing what they do best, but also taking steps forward with their sound. I’ve been through it a couple times, but I’m looking forward to getting to know it better for a review. Not sure when the CD is due, but a stream/download in the meantime isn’t exactly a hardship, my general disdain for non-physical media notwithstanding. And by that I mean I can’t stand it.
There were two or three other posts I wanted to get up today, but I just ran out of day to do it. I ran into town (which, yes, is what I now call driving to Boston; it’s friggin’ awesome to not have to take 70 minutes to get to an urban center) in the afternoon and then had to play catchup with work for what’s now my only job. Yup, got completely shitcanned from the other job at NECA this week; won’t even be getting the it-was-a-quarter-of-my-former-salary freelance rate. One email and poof. I worked there longer than both my supervisors. Put together. It doesn’t matter.
I’m here with The Patient Mrs. and the little dog Dio, we had a good dinner, watched the ball game, had a good night. All told, the week ended on an up. Job shit, work drama. I don’t want any part of it. I’ve got only the vaguest of prospects and everyone I’ve hit up for potential writing work has blown me off. The other day I was looking up $10 an hour night security work for the fucking Pinkertons — hey, it’s a job — but it doesn’t matter. That will all get sorted. I’m going to keep plugging away, keep doing my best, try to laugh, remember to smile.
I didn’t get out this week to that Nightstick show — to either of them — and that was a bummer. Sunday though I’m going to do an in-studio with Darryl Shepard as he records the new Blackwolfgoat, so expect pics and a writeup on that on Monday, and next week I’ll also have reviews of Windhand and maybe the new Monster Magnet. I’ve got an interview with Red Fang in the can that I’d like to get posted as well, but maybe closer to the album release. Depends on time, basically.
Until then, I’m looking forward to the weekend, to a bit of running around tomorrow morning and chores followed by a quiet evening. Saturday stuff. Maybe I’ll take a nap.
Whatever you’ve got going, I hope you have a great and safe couple days. I might post some stuff tomorrow, but if I do or don’t I’ll see you back here Monday either way as well. All the best from me and mine to you and yours.
Posted in Features on August 7th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
If you’re anything like me — and let’s just hope for your sake you’re not — then you’re sitting in front of your laptop staring at a calendar telling you it’s August wondering what the hell happened to June and July. Last time I turned around, it was barely summer, and now it’s starting to get cold at night.
We’re well past the halfway mark on 2013, and I know for some the year’s best picks are already set in mind, but there’s a ton of cool releases still to come before 2014 hits, and I figured now’s as good a time as any for a rundown of a few picks that seem to be sure to arrive prior to December 31. As much as anything’s ever “sure,” anyway. Subject to change, and all that.
With the gracious suggestions/assistance of those checking in on the forum (see that thread for many more picks) taken into consideration, here are 15 suggestions to be on a lookout for starting in September. Some of these I’ve heard, some I haven’t, but take it as a sampling of what I’m looking forward to, if nothing else.
And because I know nothing says “I know how to have a good time” like a list in order of release date, here goes nothing:
Vista Chino, Peace (Sept. 3)
It took me a couple listens to come around to Vista Chino‘s Peace (review here), but once I got to that point, there was no turning back. The much-anticipated Napalm Records debut from the four-piece birthed out of Kyuss Lives!, Peace ultimately moves forward as much as it looks back, and though much of the lyrics center around the lawsuit that forced Kyuss Lives! to change their name, the songs themselves do arrive at a certain place of acceptance by the end of the record, so that in the end it lives up to its title. Some won’t be able to make the leap over their expectations for what an album with Brant Bjork, John Garcia and Nick Oliveri on it should sound like, but most importantly, Vista Chino are pressing on and I hope this isn’t the last record they make together, even if Oliveri is already out of the band’s touring lineup.
Larman Clamor, Alligator Heart (Sept. 10)
The solo-outfit of graphic artist Alexander von Wieding, Larman Clamor has been pumping out quality swamp boogie for the last two years at a more than prolific clip. Last year, von Wieding made his debut on Small Stone with Frogs (review here), and while the forthcoming Alligator Heart (out through the same label) strips the approach down somewhat — as you can hear on the single “Banshee w’Me” — the murkedelic blues spirit remains supreme at the center of the project’s approach. Larman Clamor has flown relatively under the radar so far into its run, but showing a little bit of a poppier side on Alligator Heart‘s tracks might gain it some more attention. Von Wieding‘s songwriting continues to be worth the price of admission to the bizarre carnival he creates.
Windhand, Soma (Sept. 17)
Richmond-based cult sludgers Windhand made their debut on Relapse earlier this year on a split release with Cough — with whom they share a bassist and a hometown — and will follow that next month with Soma, their second LP behind their 2012 self-titled debut full-length. The band have only gotten darker and meaner since adding Cough‘s Parker Chandler on bass, and with that split heralding its coming, Somashould arrive with a fittingly devastating impact. Windhand have also put in no shortage of time on the road, and even as the new one comes out, they’ll be embroiled in a coast-to-coast US tour, so keep an eye out — and that goes for Europe too. I wouldn’t be surprised if a full tour with Inter Arma got announced around their joint Roadburn appearances next spring.
Sasquatch, IV (Sept. 24)
Sasquatch bloody Sasquatch. If you’ve got a face, these dudes’ll rock it right off. With IV(Small Stone) their first full-length since 2010′s III(review here), L.A. trio Sasquatch very casually offer a reminder that those who talk about how rock and roll needs to be “saved” don’t have a clue what’s really up, that rock and roll never went anywhere and that its awesomeness continues unabated. Need testimony? Check out the track stream for “The Message.” Classic grooves, class-y showoff solos, catchy tunes and later in the album even a foray into psychedelic jamming — let there be no doubt that Sasquatch have nailed down right where they want to be sound-wise and are ready to make the most of the good times they’re rolling out as they continue to lay their own railroad, grand and funky as it is. Soundgarden wishes they had this kind of edge.
Iron Man, South of the Earth (Sept. 30)
You’d pretty much have to be a jerk not to feel good about the fact that long-running, long-underappreciated Maryland doom stalwarts Iron Man are getting their due in the form of a Rise Above Records release for their new album, South of the Earth. I know that’s not the most impartial statement in the world, but seriously, who deserves Lee Dorrian-endorsed doom cred more than Iron Man? The names are few and far between. South of the Earthalready had me on the hook for being their first full-length with frontman Dee Calhoun on board alongside guitarist “Iron” Al Morris III, bassist Louis Strachan and drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann, but with the hopefully increased profile of issue on Rise Above, who knows what could be in store for them once it’s out?
Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight, Underground EP (Sept.)
Trippy Wicked caught me off guard last year with the heavier and more metal side that showed up on their Going Home long-player (review here), but this time I’m ready. I’ve readjusted my expectations for what the UK trio might unleash on the new Underground EP — set phasers to who-the-hell-knows — and after the quick mastery of the metallurgical arts they showed the last time out, I’m happy to follow wherever their creative whims might take them. I know this is a list of albums and technically an EP isn’t a full album, but screw it, I dig these guys and am fascinated enough by their progression that it’s worth including even the smaller release here. If the art for Underground(due out through Superhot Records) is anything to go by — and I don’t yet know that it is — we could be in for a pretty wild ride.
Earthless, From the Ages (Oct. 8)
San Diego instrumentalists Earthless are looking to make an epic return on From the Ages (Tee Pee Records), which is their first studio full-length in six years. Though they’ve had a steady stream of live releases, limited splits and the like, and guitarist Isaiah Mitchell released a debut album with the heavy psych outfit Golden Void last year, nothing’s quite the same as Earthless‘ righteous jams and extended progressions. Look out for the 31-minute title-track (one of four on the album; more info here) as Earthless step into the limelight and reap the momentum they’ve built through steady years of touring and critical acclaim. From the Agesmight just prove one for the ages.
Monster Magnet, Last Patrol (Oct. 15)
My only question when it comes to Monster Magnet‘s second album for Napalm Records — touted by frontman Dave Wyndorf as a return to their psychedelic beginnings — is how literally we’re supposed to take the title Last Patroland if indeed this is going to be the final go for the long-running and hugely influential New Jersey outfit. If so, they draw their circle as complete as they possibly could, and whether it’s “The Duke (of Supernature),” which has received nearly 23,000 plays since being premiered here on July 23, or the driving churn of “End of Time,” Monster Magnet tap into the spirit that propelled 1995′s Dopes to Infinity and readjust the balance of their influence in a way fans have been clamoring for for years now. The more I hear it, the more I need to hear it.
Pelican, Forever Becoming (Oct. 15)
A new Pelican album is an interesting enough proposition at this point — it’s been four years since the Chicago instrumental outfit released What We all Come to Need (review here) — but Forever Becoming (Southern Lord) has an added level of intrigue for being Pelican‘s first album without guitarist Laurent Schroeder-Lebec. Stepping in to fill the second guitar spot is Dallas Thomas of The Swan King, and it should be interesting to hear how the band’s approach has shifted after almost half a decade and what Thomas brings to the well-established chemistry between bassist Bryan Herweg, drummer Larry Herweg and guitarist Trevor de Brauw. If the first track is anything to go by, Pelican still sounds like Pelican, and I’m not going to complain about that.
Corrections House, Last City Zero (Oct. 29)
Probably the bigger surprise would’ve been if the super-type group Corrections House didn’t make their full-length debut on Neurot, but still, word was welcome when it came down a couple weeks back that the conjoined efforts of Scott Kelly (Neurosis), Mike IX Williams (EyeHateGod), Bruce Lamont (Yakuza) and Sanford Parker (Buried at Sea, Minsk and the guy you want to record your album) were resulting in an actual album to follow up on their initial single and tour earlier this year. Whether the entirety of the record works in the kind of industrial, post-Godflesh noise crunch they brought to the stage on that tour (review here), we’ll just have to wait and see. But I’m damn interested to find out.
Red Fang, Whales and Leeches (Oct.)
Those who heard Red Fang‘s 2011 boot-to-the-ass second album, Murder the Mountains (review here), will probably find Whales and Leeches (named for a track off their 2008 self-titled debut) a reasonable follow-up. The Portland forerunners’ second offering through Relapse finds bassist/vocalist Aaron Beam even more front and center with clean vocals, and ultra-catchy songs like “Blood Like Cream” and “No Hope” seem to pick up right where Red Fang left off last time, offsetting Beam‘s poppier style with guitarist/vocalist Bryan Giles‘ throaty grit . Watch out for much more to come on this one. Between the record itself and their formidable road ethic, you’re probably going to be hearing a lot about it.
The Melvins, Tres Cabrones (Nov. 5)
If you were to ask me how many records the Melvins have out in 2013, I’d go, “Uh… I dunno… six?” and the mere fact that that doesn’t seem like a ridiculous answer should be indicative of the frankly absurd pace at which the long-enduring Washington outfit add to their already insurmountable catalog. What makes Tres Cabrones (Ipecac) different? Reportedly, it’s a semi-reunion of the band’s 1983 lineup — as close as they were willing to get, was how Buzz Osbourne put it in the press release — that finds Dale Crover playing bass to make room for drummer Mike Dillard. The Melvins released the collection Mangled Demos from 1983 in 2005, but Tres Cabroneswill be entirely new material. You never know quite where the Melvins are headed next, and if anyone could find a way to go forward even as they go backward, it’d be them.
Sandrider, Godhead (Date TBA)
So in case you couldn’t tell by the “TBA” above, this one’s a bit of wishful thinking on my part. I don’t actually know that Sandrider (members of Akimbo and The Ruby Doe) will issue a follow-up to their 2011 self-titled Good to Die Records debut (review here) before the end of 2013, but golly, I hope they do. The band said on July 11 via their Thee Facebooks that they’d finished mastering the album, titled Godhead, for a Fall release, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see once it’s pressed and ready to go. The sooner the better, since that first record was a smoker and nothing says “autumn” like some noise crunch bombast. At least that’s what I have embroidered on my doilies…
Snail, Feral (TBA)
Not sure on the release date for West Coast riffers Snail‘s fourth album and third since reactivating in 2009 with Blood, but the recording’s reportedly done, so hopefully it’s not too long before they get it out. The band recently announced the departure of guitarist Eric Clausen, so they’re down to the original trio of guitarist/vocalist Mark Johnson, bassist Matt Lynch and drummer Marty Dodson, and how that will affect their sound on the follow-up to last year’s metallized self-release, Terminus (review here), remains to be seen, but if there’s any chance Snail might be able to get more road time in support of Feral, whenever it arrives, than no doubt it will have been worth the tumult in the meantime.And even if not, the album’s still one to watch for.
The Wounded Kings, Consolamentum (TBA)
Another one with no exact date, but according to producer Chris Fielding, it’ll be out before 2013′s over. Either way, when it lands, Consolamentum will serve as the Candlelight Records debut. It’s their fourth outing overall, and the second to be produced by Fielding and to feature frontwoman Sharie Neyland, whose work on 2011′s In the Chapel ofthe Black Hand (review here) made that album one of the year’s most satisfyingly bizarre and dreary doom offerings. Along with founding guitarist Steve Mills, Neyland returns for Consolamentum and whether it hits in 2013 or 2014, look for the band to progress from the last time out. Mills (interview here) is a relentlessly forward-thinking songwriter and his penchant for creating atmospheric and crushingly dark sonic spaces is not to be underestimated.
Whew. These things always take so much longer than I think they’re going to when I start writing names on Post-It notes.
Of course, this is just a sampling of what’s to come over the next few months. Borracho‘s new one is supposed to get a vinyl release, and A Storm of Light have a new record, plus I heard rumors of new Slough Feg (they have a new single that would seem to back that up) and a much-awaited Brothers of the Sonic Cloth full-length coming before the end of the year — I also, right now, quite literally this second, just got news of a new Diesto on Eolian Empire — so please don’t assume that if it’s not here it’s never coming or whatever. There’s so much out there, I always feel like I’m leaving out something big and/or awesome.
Posted in audiObelisk on August 2nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Los Angeles trio Sasquatch have been proffering high-grade fuzz boogie for over a decade now. Having made their recorded debut in 2004 with the immediately-to-be-reckoned-with riffery of Sasquatch, the trio went on to refine a more classic heavy rock approach over the course of their subsequent two outings, 2006′s IIand 2010′s III(review here), finding a niche for themselves somewhere between the present and the past while at the same time continuing to distinguish themselves from their peers and furthering the chemistry between founders Keith Gibbs (guitar/vocals) and Rick Ferrante (drums) and bassist Jason Casanova, who joined in 2007 following the departure of Clayton Charles.
On Sept. 24, Sasquatch will issue IV through Small Stone as the latest step in these ongoing processes. What’s remained consistent throughout Sasquatch‘s work since the start is the band’s unhindered ability to craft a chorus that’s crisp, anthemic and forward-thinking all at once, and in that regard, IVis no different. Progress is evident in the band’s maturity of approach and the clarity with which they present their ideas — they know what they’re doing in other words — but even as they seem to have their sound nailed down, splitting the recording between Detroit and Massachusetts (both very far away from Los Angeles) and bringing in guest work from Gozu‘s Marc Gaffney and Small Stone honcho Scott Hamilton on vocals and guitar, respectively, Sasquatch are clearly making some effort to branch out beyond the reaches of their comfort zone.
Even the striking and futuristic cover artwork, courtesy of Casanova, speaks to the band looking forward more than ever before. Nonetheless, whether it’s the psychedelic explorations of “Smoke Signal,” on which Gaffney and Hamilton appear, the fervent Soundgarden-style stomp of “Sweet Lady,” the check-out-what-I-can-make-this-do lead work on “Me and You” or the rush of opener “The Message” that’s bound to carry you along with it, you’d be hard pressed to say Sasquatch aren’t in full command.
Today I have the extreme pleasure of premiering “The Message” from IV as a precursor to the album’s release next month. Please find it on the player below and enjoy:
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Sasquatch‘s IV is due out Sept. 24, 2013 on Small Stone Records. More to come.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 28th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
A friendly reminder that this very Saturday is Small Stone‘s showcase at The Magic Stick in Detroit. Since the one in Boston earlier this month was such an unholy good time, I can only heartily recommend that the entire Midwest shows up and prepares itself for riffy communion. Even if The Obelisk wasn’t presenting it, it’d still be a kickass rock gig, and probably as far east as we’re going to get Sasquatch anytime soon.
Label honcho (and Luder guitarist, as it happens) Scott Hamilton was recently interviewed by Detroit’s Metro Times about how he manages to thrive where so many others have succumbed to the likes of internet piracy, generational disinterest in rock, and so on. Pretty fascinating read, but before you click over, make sure you’ve got the skinny on the gig Saturday, because you don’t want to miss it.
Since many folks have been asking us for a few years now, we have finally caved in… So here it is in all its glory, a full blown SSR Showcase in the state that we actually live in. We have put together a top notch line up which features the return of New Jersey’s Halfway To Gone for the first time since 2005! Come early, stay late… The Magic Stick is great venue, and the drinks will be flowing at reasonable prices too… It should be an epic evening of rawk… Hell, we might even have copies of the new album from Five Horse Johnson at the show too.
Halfway To Gone (Long Branch, NJ) Five Horse Johnson (Toledo, OH) Sasquatch (Los Angeles, CA) Freedom Hawk (Virginia Beach, VA) Luder (Ferndale, MI)
Doors: 7pm Tickets: $10.00
The Fine folks over at Tito’s Vodka are helping us and the Magic Stick will have Tito’s Drink Specials All Night!
Founded in 1995 by Scott Hamilton, Detroit imprint Small Stone Records is the single most influential American heavy rock label of the post-Man’s Ruin era. What started as Hamilton releasing local Detroit acts of varied genres like Morsel, 36D and Perplexa soon took on a dedication to the heavy aesthetic that remains unmatched in both its scope and its reach of influence. Looking back, Five Horse Johnson‘s 1997 Double Down debut, seems to have been the beginning of Small Stone‘s turn down the fuzzly path. It’s like Hamilton followed the riff right down the rabbit hole and never looked back.
Now, 17 years on, Small Stone has a reach that goes beyond even the distribution of the albums it puts out. Thanks to the diligent work of Hamilton and oft-encountered names like Mad Oak Studios engineer/mixer Benny Grotto, mastering engineer Chris Gooseman, graphic artist Alexander von Wieding, among others, the label has earned a reputation for quality output that new releases are constantly reaffirming. Over the years, Man’s Ruin refugees like Sons of Otis, (The Men Of) Porn, Acid King and VALIS have come into the fold, but the crux of Small Stone‘s catalog is made up of acts like Roadsaw, Dixie Witch, Halfway to Gone, Throttlerod, Puny Human and Novadriver, who no matter what else they put out or who they put it out with, will always be considered “Small Stone bands.”
That designation and those groups specifically have helped establish a core American-style heavy rocking sound that the label seems to delight in toying with even as it continues to promulgate. Next generation bands like Gozu, Lo-Pan, Freedom Hawk, Backwoods Payback and even newer newcomers Wo Fat, Supermachine, Lord Fowl and Mellow Bravo — who don’t yet have albums out on the label — are expanding its breadth, and recent international signees Asteroid, Abrahma, Mangoo, Nightstalker and Mother of God should help ensure that Small Stone keeps pushing both itself and genre boundaries well into the next several years.
One of the hazards, however, of an ever-growing catalog, is that it can be hard to figure out where to start taking it on, and to that end, I’m happy to provide you with 10 essential Small Stone picks. Note I didn’t say “the 10 essential Small Stone picks,” because the reality of the situation is this is just the tip of the fuzzberg. If it’s any indication, I started out with five and couldn’t leave the rest out.
Here they are, ordered by the date of release:
1. Novadriver, Void (ss-022/2001)
Still an album that’s more or less impossible to pin to just one genre, the stoner/space/weirdo jams of Novadriver‘s 2001 outing, Void, reside somewhere between Monster Magnet‘s early Hawkwind worship and the unbridled intensity of groove that came out of Detroit’s early- and mid-’70s heavy rock and proto-metal. The fact that Novadriver also came from the Motor City speaks to the label’s local roots, but if Void was coming out even today, it’d be coming out on Small Stone.
2. Los Natas, Corsario Negro (ss-028/2002)
Personally, I think 2005′s El Hombre Montaña is a better album and 2009′s Nuevo Orden de la Libertad is an even better album than that, but Corsario Negro earns the edge as a starting point because it was the beginning of the Argentinian rockers’ relationship with Small Stone (they too were left without a home in the wake of Man’s Ruin folding). Plus, if you haven’t heard them before and you get this, you can still marvel at the subsequent offerings. Either way, totally necessary.
3. Various Artists, Sucking the ’70s (ss-032/2002)
In a lot of ways, this is what it’s all about. Badass bands playing badass songs. By this point, The Glasspack, Los Natas, Fireball Ministry, Halfway to Gone and Five Horse Johnson (who lead off the first disc) had already put out at least one album through Small Stone, but Sucking the ’70s made the most of the label’s burgeoning reputation, bringing in Clutch, Alabama Thunderpussy and Lowrider, along with bands who’d later add records to the catalog like Roadsaw, Suplecs and Lord Sterling, all covering hits and obscurities from the heavy ’70s. A gorgeous collection that would get a sequel in 2006. Still waiting on part three.
4. Dixie Witch, One Bird, Two Stones (ss-037/2003)
The Austin, Texas, trio would go on to become one of the most pivotal acts on the Small Stone roster, and they’d do so on the strength of their Southern riffs and the soul in their songwriting. Led by drummer/vocalist Trinidad Leal, Dixie Witch hooked up with Small Stone on the heels of their 2001 debut, Into the Sun, which was released by Brainticket, and quickly gained a reputation for some of the finest classic road songs that Grand Funk never wrote (see “The Wheel”). Their 2011 offering, Let it Roll, affirmed their statesmen status among their labelmates.
5. Sasquatch, Sasquatch (ss-044/2004)
I was pretty well convinced that when the L.A.-based Sasquatch released their self-titled debut in 2004, rock and roll was saved. Whoever it needed saving from, whatever needed to take place to make that happen, this record did it. Truth is, rock and roll didn’t really need to be saved — it needed a stiff drink, as we all do from time to time — but Sasquatch would’ve been right there even if it had. They’re a Small Stone original with all three of their records to date out through the label, and still one of the strongest acts in the American rock underground, even though they’d never be quite this fuzzy again.
6. Dozer, Through the Eyes of Heathens (ss-061/2005)
Even now, seven years later, I can’t look at this album cover without hearing the chorus to “The Roof, the River, the Revolver.” Between that and songs like “Man of Fire,” “Born a Legend” and “From Fire Fell,” Swedish rockers Dozer made their definitive statement in their label debut (fourth album overall). Another former Man’s Ruin band, they’d already begun to grow past their desert rock roots by the time they hooked up with Hamilton, and Through the Eyes of Heathens played out like what heavy metal should’ve turned into after the commercial atrocities of the late-’90s. A gorgeous record and still a joy to hear.
7. Greenleaf, Agents of Ahriman (ss-074/2007)
It’s like they built nearly every song on here out of undeniable choruses. Even the verses are catchy. I’ve championed Agents of Ahriman since before I started this site, and I feel no less vehement in doing so now than I did then. A side-project of Dozer guitarist Tommi Holappa that on this, their third album, included and featured members of Truckfighters, Lowrider, The Awesome Machine and others, Greenleaf became a distillation of many of the elements that make Swedish heavy rock unique in the world. It wasn’t aping classic rock, it was giving it a rebirth, and every Hammond note was an absolute triumph.
8. Iota, Tales (ss-084/2008)
Once, I had a t-shirt with the cover of Iota‘s Tales on the front. I wore it until it got holes, and then I bought another. That’s the kind of album Tales was. A trio crawled from out of Utah’s Great Salt Lake, Iota took Kyuss, launched them into space, and jammed out for five, 10 or 20 minutes to celebrate the success of the mission. Recently, guitarist/vocalist Joey Toscano has resurfaced in the bluesier, more earthbound Dwellers, which teams him with the rhythm section of SubRosa. Their debut, Good Morning Harakiri, was a highlight of early 2012, building on what Iota was able to accomplish here while pushing in a different direction.
9. Solace, A.D. (ss-093/2010)
It took the better part of a decade for the Jersey-bred metallers to finish what became their Small Stone debut after two full-lengths for MeteorCity, but when it finally dropped, there was no denying A.D.‘s power. My album of the year in 2010, the band delivered front to back on seven years’ worth of promise, and though it was recorded in more studios than I can count over a longer stretch than I think even Solace knows, it became a cohesive, challenging album, giving listeners a kick in the ass even as it handed them their next beer. I still get chills every time I put on “From Below,” and I put it on with near-embarrassing regularity.
10. Lo-Pan, Salvador (ss-116/2011)
If you know this site, this one’s probably a no-brainer pick, but the Columbus, Ohio-based riff merchants took on unabashed stoner rock fuzz for their Small Stone debut (third album overall) and made some of 2011′s most memorable songs in the process. Subversively varied in mood and heavy as hell no matter what they were doing, every part of Lo-Pan‘s Salvador worked. There was no lag. Small Stone also reissued the band’s 2009 outing, Sasquanaut, in 2011, but Salvador surpassed it entirely, bringing the band to new heights of professionalism they’d confirm by touring, well, perpetually. They’re still touring for it. You should go see them and behold the future of fuzz.
That’s the list as much as I could limit it. If you want to immediately add five more, throw in Roadsaw‘s self-titled (they’re writing the best songs of their career right now, I don’t care how attached to the early records you are), Puny Human‘s Universal Freak Out, Halfway to Gone‘s High Five, Milligram‘s This is Class War and Five Horse Johnson‘s Fat Black Pussycat. If you want to semi-immediately add five more than that, get the reissue of Acid King‘s Busse Woods, Mos Generator‘sSongs for Future Gods, The Brought Low‘s Third Record, Tummler‘s Early Man and Erik Larson‘s The Resounding. There. We just doubled the length of the list.
And the real trouble? I could go on. We didn’t even touch on curios like Axehandle, Lord Sterling and Brain Police, or The Might Could‘s Southern aggression, Hackman‘s instrumentalism or the druggy post-grunge of VALIS. Suffice it to say that Small Stone is one of very few labels out there from whom any output will at least be worth a cursory investigation. As the label continues to grow and develop in 2012 and beyond with new bands and new releases from its staple acts, taking on new avenues of commerce — like releasing vinyl for the first time, which it did in 2011 — whatever changes might crop up, Small Stone seems ready to meet the future, distortion pedal first. Can’t ask more of rock than that.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 17th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
Detroit rock kingpins Small Stone Records — who are the subject of this month’s podcast in honor of their two-day label showcase in Philadelphia next weekend — issued an update this week via the PR wire giving everyone the skinny on the label’s recent doings. Behold the report in its informative entirety:
First off, the new album from Denver’s Black Sleep of Kali, Our Slow Decay is now available at a better record store near you. If you can’t find it, feel free to get it from us.
The long awaited new album from Cleveland’s Red Giant, titled Dysfunctional Majesty rolls out to stores on the 28th of this month, but you can get it a little early right here on the Small Stone Online Store.
On the recording front, the new albums from both Suplecs and Roadsaw are almost finished (they just need to get mixed and mastered), and will both get released sometime between January and March of 2011. Also, the boys in Ironweed are still plugging away on their follow-up to Indian Ladder. Lo-Pan are scheduled to hit MadOak to record their follow up to Sasquanaut, and we will also be reissuing a new version of the Sasquanaut album that will be completely remixed by Benny Grotto and remastered by Mr. Goosman. This Winter both Dixie Witch and Sun Gods in Exile are scheduled to hit Mad Oak to record new albums for us as well.
You asked for it, so we are going to give it to you… Sasquatch’s III will be coming out on vinyl very shortly via Small Stone… That’s right folks, we are going to finally take the plunge into the vinyl game. We are currently getting the art together, and having the album remastered for the pressing plant.
Finally, we hope to see many of you in Philly next week… We have two rather kickass night of rock music all laid out for you at the Philadelphia Film and Music Festival.
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 14th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s the weekend of my wedding anniversary, but man, the lineup for Small Stone‘s Philadelphia showcase is pretty badass. True, I’ve seen most of these bands, but I don’t imagine House of Broken Promises are going to make a habit of being on the East Coast, Backwoods Payback are buddies, Solace kill every time, Red Giant‘s got a new album coming, I’d really, really like to hear some of the material from Sasquatch‘s third record live, and the Millcreek Tavern has their own home brew. Looks like it could be another test of The Patient Mrs. living up to her name.
Here’s the news from Small Stone:
Small Stone is pleased to announce that we will be doing two back-to-back showcases at The Philadelphia Film & Music Festival in September. Our events will be taking place at the MillcreekTavern which is located at 4200 Chester Avenue, University City, Philadelphia (215-222-1255). And, now for the lineup:
Friday September 24th: Dixie Witch, The Brought Low, Throttlerod, Lo-Pan, Sun Gods in Exile, Backwoods Payback
Saturday September 25th: Solace, Roadsaw, Sasquatch, House of Broken Promises, Gozu, Red Giant
Posted in Features on April 28th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
Nearly as rare as in-focus footage of their namesake are rock bands of Sasquatch‘s quality in Hollywood. The trio’s third album for Small Stone Records, III, is perhaps their most potent yet, meshing Grand Funk and Soundgarden and Sabbath in an environment where it’s less about how you play than who you are and what cellphone commercial your song has been in. As much as they don’t fit their surroundings, though, they’re just as necessary where they are: a voice of reason in a land where reason has no place. A rallying cry for the bullshit-free.
Guitarist/vocalist Keith Gibbs, bassist Jason Casanova (ex-Tummler) and drummer Rick Ferrante took part in this year’s SXSW festival and are among the bigger names at the upcoming Doom in June fest, but when I chatted with Gibbs (who is — you read it here first — a good dude) via telephonular apparatus, that had yet to be announced. A good portion of our conversation wound up being off the record, but Gibbs nonetheless spoke openly (and often hilariously) about the band’s excising of former bassist Clayton Charles, about making III and life in the post-apocalyptic hellscape they call home.
From their 2004 self-titled debut onward, I have always regarded Sasquatch as the great American hope for genuine stoner rock, and though, as Gibbs informs, they’ve moved somewhat beyond that classification, I am no less solid in my position today than I was six years ago. One still gets the feeling their best is yet to come.
My Q&A with Keith Gibbs is after the jump. Please enjoy.
Posted in Reviews on January 19th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
What Los Angeles rockers Sasquatch do with III is fuse the unmitigated fuzz stonerism of their first, self-titled album, with the classic feel of its 2006 follow-up, II,resulting in a brand of rock as much indebted to Grand Funk as Fu Manchu. III doesn’t even immediately strike as a stoner rock record, with opener “Get out of Here” (as in, “I gotta…”) based on a solid groove, but executed in a manner thoroughly modern despite any Southern rock influence. Highlight cuts “Pull Me Under,” “Burning Bridges” and the more boogieing “Walkin’ Shoes” follow likewise patterns, but somehow remain definitively stoner rock. The only answer is that Sasquatch are reshaping the genre to suit their needs.
“Pull Me Under” (thankfully not a Dream Theater cover) rocks slower than either the riffy and catchy “Complicated” or the chunkier, Helmet-style starts and stops of “Soul Shaker,” and with no shortage of character. Immediately following “Get out of Here,” “Took Me Away” centers around a bluesy riff executed with more than a little fuzz grown in. There’s more going on with III than fuzz and riffs though. Guitarist/vocalist Keith Gibbs is definitely at the center of the proceedings, but bassist Cas and drummer Rick Ferrante push the songs onto another level entirely, adding personality and well-placed flourishes to the material that prove both memorable and exciting to the ear.
If anything, I’d like to hear Gibbs take similar liberties with his material. Why not throw a quick squibbly lead line in between two verse riffs? It’s long since clear by the time the record’s back half opens with the acoustic-based Monster Magnetry of “New Disguise” that Sasquatch have a talent for arrangement waiting to be put to use, but there are moments of III that seem to be calling for a playfulness of which the band mostly steers clear. Fortunately, there’s enough rock to go around on a mid-paced groover like “Queen” that these are at best momentary distractions. And though I don’t want to tell Sasquatch how to run their band or anything, they could easily milk that guitar solo in “Queen” for another 17 minutes or so. Just saying.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 4th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
Anyone out there have any records you’re really looking forward to hearing this year? Preview stuff is always tricky to put together because it’s either rampant speculation or shortsighted. The fact is no one knows how a year will play out as it’s just beginning. There are all these “Albums to Watch Out For” lists and it’s either stuff you’ll never see or everything is released by the middle of March.
But hey, it’s an unpredictable world. Maybe The Melvins will have a record this year, maybe not. And if they do, maybe it’ll suck. One can never tell what life is going to bring.
With the usual stipulations that this is in no way comprehensive or based on anything other than personal opinion (namely mine), here are five albums I’m looking forward to hearing in 2010, numbered for convenience, not necessarily preference:
01. High on Fire, Snakes for the Divine: Duh. It’s probably the biggest “stoner metal” release of the first half of the year, if not the whole thing, and if not one of the biggest metal releases overall. I don’t know how Greg Fidelman will handle the production — so help me Robot Jesus if I don’t get to hear every Des Kensell tom thud — but even if it’s not up to par with Death is this Communion, the new High on Fire is bound to kick at least some ass.
02. Sasquatch, III: These guys already have two fantastic albums on Small Stone under their collective belt and are more or less the Great American Hope for 21st Century stoner rock. No pressure, dudes. Nothing really riding on this except the future of your country’s output in the genre. Not like if it’s not the greatest thing ever the whole world is going to laugh at America‘s diminished riff prowess (you know Belgium‘s just been waiting). So yeah, just play it cool.
03. Solace, A.D.: Long time coming, but I have faith that the Jersey boys will get it done and out this year. I’m not sure why exactly I have that faith, but I have it nonetheless. I’ve heard some of this material live and it destroys. It’s high time Solace started getting at least a piece of the recognition they deserve, and getting A.D. out is essential to that process. This might be that whole “rampant speculation” thing though, because A.D. is at least three years in the works at this point.
04. Brant Bjork‘s new album: Doesn’t have a revealed title yet, but if I had a New Year’s resolution (I don’t), it would be to interview Brant Bjork. He’s also reportedly got a live record out sometime soon, and he’s touring Europe again this Spring, so there’s a lot going on there.
05. Humo del Cairo, Humo del Cairo: MeteorCity is doing an issue of the Argentinian trio’s self-titled debut, and if there’s one thing I like, it’s stoner trios from Argentina. Especially ones with grooves as massive as “Cauce,” which you can hear on the band’s MySpace. Could be a sleeper hit, or could just rule. Count me in either way. I could have sworn I’d written about them before, but apparently not. An oversight soon to be corrected, I’m sure.