Posted in Reviews on November 5th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
There was little to argue against on Sandrider‘s late-2011 self-titled full-length debut (review here). The first outing from the Seattle trio of guitarist/vocalist Jon Weisnewski, bassist/vocalist Jesse Roberts and drummer Nat Damm was intense, intricate and at times pummeling — a lethal churn of controlled chaos, deceptively tight for how loose its grooves seemed to swing. Good to Die Records, who also issued the first album, releases the follow-up, Godhead, this month, and it finds Sandrider in much the same straits, taking a more rock-based approach to the explosive charge Weisnewski and Damm brought to their former outfit, Akimbo, while sounding even more like their own unit thanks to further cohesion as a trio with Roberts,whose own experience with swagger and abrasion in The Ruby Doe has made for an easy transition. The three-piece returned to work with Matt Bayles (Isis, Mastodon, many others), likely with the thought that if it wasn’t broke it didn’t require fixing, and they were right. Godheaddevelops Sandrider‘s approach as they showed it their first time out, with the title-track, “Overwatch” and “Beast” ranging further melodically than they might have dared with their initial run, and sticks to the upbeat push that made the self-titled both consistent with Damm and Weisnewski‘s later work in Akimbo and so irresistibly engaging. This second album isn’t a huge leap in sound, but it didn’t need to be. It’s a step in what thankfully appears to be an ongoing progression, and the growth they show in these 10 single-word-title songs feels natural, whether it’s Weisnewski‘s guitar leading a quiet, tense ambience in “Overwatch” — which of course precedes a relaunch to full volume — or the excellent vocal interplay with Roberts.
At just under 45 minutes, Godheadis about five minutes longer than was Sandrider, but nothing here reaches as close to the 10-minute mark as did “The Judge” from that album, the closest being “Godhead,” at 6:52, with the rest varying fairly widely from the West Coast punkish brevity of “Scalpel” — is Weisnewski saying, “This is my lucky pencil?” — at 2:31 to the more comfortable four-to-five-minute range in which reside “Castle, “Overwatch,” “Champions,” “Beast” and closer “Traveler.” As one would expect or at very least hope, Godheadis settled and cohesive in more than just the runtimes of its component tracks. They suggest listening loud, and they’re not wrong, but the record provides a few landmark hooks along the way that remain vital at any level they might be encountered, opener “Ruiner” being exceptionally well chosen for its position for both its “We Will Rock You” introductory buildup from Damm on drums or Weisnewski‘s pushing himself to hit a high note over a stop only to resume the crunching riff made all the more nod-ready by Roberts‘ low end. As Sandrider continue to establish themselves beyond the work of members’ other outfits, they do so without sounding forced. Damm features heavily on “Castle” and his snare and kick both sound as massive as any of the tones in the guitar and bass — he’s a whirl of insistent fills in the song and elsewhere, but finds resolution in more open and grooving moments, in the pocket of Roberts‘ bassline on “Tides,” for example, or driving the forward rush of “Champions.” Being longer than its predecessor has taken away some of the immediacy and the feeling that by the time you’ve caught up to it, it’s over, from Godhead, but hardly all of it, and Sandrider are capable of quick turns in rhythm and meter both within and between songs — see “Gorgon” and how it leads into the quieter start of the title cut — that give the material a vibrant, live feel despite the crisp production.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 2nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
In just a few short hours, Seattle rockers Ancient Warlocks will kick off a West Coast tour at the Highline in Seattle in support of their forthcoming self-titled debut, set to see LP/CD release through Lay Bare Recordings. The fuzzy outfit will be joined in a week’s time by Mars Red Sky, so if there wasn’t already enough impetus to see them to get you off your ass should you happen to be in that part of the world, there’s a little more. A lot more, actually. That’s a damn good show.
Ancient Warlocks sent over word of the dates and the album via the PR wire, and as you peruse that and sneak a peak at the LP, make sure you check out the video at the bottom as well, because it’s frickin’ fuzztastic.
Ancient Warlocks Ready First Album for Release
After three years amongst the albumless, Seattle rockers Ancient Warlocks are finally dropping their first LP. And as one would expect, they’ll be spending the first half of October running up and down the West coast supporting it. Take a peek at the dates and then rock accordingly!
The album is a self titled affair and features previously unreleased recordings of eight of the songs they’ve been playing at shows over the past few years. Fledgling label Lay Bare Recordings went the extra mile by including the full album on CD in the package along with the record. Speaking of packaging the jacket is coarse matte paper and sports a front cover by Portland artist Eric Pruyn and a gatefold courtesy of the legendary Adam Burke.
Limited to a total pressing of 300, there will be 200 in black vinyl and 100 in black and white marble. They’ll be selling it on the table while on the road and of course those of us not on the West coast can preorder from Burning World Records with an official ship date of 11/11. The first 50 black and first 50 marble preorders will include the Ancient Warlocks/Mos Generator split single released earlier this year.
Ancient Warlocks on tour: 10/2 The Highline – Seattle, WA 10/4 Black Forest – Eugene, OR 10/5 The Alibi – Arcata, CA 10/6 The Hemlock – San Francisco, CA 10/7 DIY SLO – San Luis Obispo, CA 10/8 The Shakedown – San Diego, CA 10/9 The Saloon – Encinitas, CA 10/10 Five Star Bar – Los Angeles, CA 10/11 Arlene Francis Center – Santa Rosa, CA 10/12 Ash St Venue – Portland, OR 10/13 Chop Suey – Seattle, WA 10/18 McCoy’s Cavern – Olympia, WA
Posted in Reviews on September 23rd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Presented across two vinyl sides released by Knick Knack Records, the aptly-titled EP II from Seattle foursome Mystery Ship revels in a swath of classic heavy rock and blues influences. One might also see them as taking cues from the European retro-minded jetset, acts like Graveyard and Kadavar, but as they display in the smoothly executed jam/build on the closing “Wild Eyes,” they have a sensibility of their own to work within, and a recording job from Jack Endino results in a sound that’s wholly natural, but not reaching for any kind of heavy ’70s lo-fi analog-ism. Nothing against that approach or for it, it’s just now what Mystery Ship do on EPII. Rather, guitarist/vocalist Michael Wohl, bassist/vocalist Alex Hagenah, guitarist Josh Kupferschmid and drummer Travis Curry take classic swing — and in this, the work of the rhythm section particularly is not to be understated — and couple it with an easy, engaging laid back flow that lasts throughout EPII‘s 18 minutes, giving an increasing view of complexity at work leading up to the culmination of “Wild Eyes.” “Better Off,” “Paleodaze,” “Man about Town” and “Wild Eyes” each arrive as longer than the last, and the effect that has is that Mystery Ship increasingly draw the listener into the progression. The release isn’t really long enough to give a full-album flow, but given how one song moves to the next, whether it’s the quick one-two of “Better Off” into “Paleodaze” or the more languid shift between “Paleodaze” into “Man about Town” — never mind the side switch that brings “Wild Eyes” into the mix — there’s enough overarching groove on EP IIto reinforce the idea that Mystery Ship will have no trouble crafting that full-album flow when they get there.
The overall course of EP IIis somewhat less epic than the Adam Burke cover art might lead one to believe — even “Wild Eyes,” which tops seven minutes, does so without relinquishing its modest, organic vibe — though the cover remains appropriate for the classic atmosphere Mystery Ship proffer. As was the case with the classic rockers from whom they’re taking influence — and with the modern, mostly-European retro bands working under similar influence, for that matter — there’s a lot of blues in Mystery Ship‘s aesthetic. Not surprisingly, Wohl and Kupferschmid lead the way on guitar, starting at a running pace on “Better Off” and hitting an early stride of intricate but not technical-sounding or showy stylistic engagement. Swaggering through a motor-ready riff, the opener is as lively as the band gets here, but they prove early that they can work across a variety of paces to effect a quality chorus that’s memorable if rushing past, extra “woo!”s added just to let the listener know the band’s also having a good time with all that boogie. “Paleodaze” makes excellent use of the two guitars from the start, but is slower and more open in the verse, bluesier all around. The interplay of lead and rhythm line gives some effect of modern heavy metal, but the context and execution is altered to make it work here, and though they’re still moving at a decent clip, when they break to a more uptempo instrumental jam in the second half of “Paleodaze,” the difference is striking, and no less so when they transition into the final verse and you realize it’s only been about three and a half minutes when the song ends. Working with a lyrical narrative and a change in vocals — could be Hagenah taking the fore from Wohl or vice versa, I don’t really know — “Man about Town” is a highlight of EP II for hitting the middle ground between the first side and the second. The lines, “I couldn’t tell if they were fighting/Till the older man went down/But he took his bottle with him/You could tell it by the sound,” make for a singularly memorable verse that’s no less a hook than the chorus that follows and as they open up to full-sounding near-shuffle, Mystery Ship nonetheless display a patience of composition that distinguishes them outright. A return to the chorus prior to the concluding stomp only further implants it in the consciousness.
Snail released the All Channels are Open EP in 1994 on Big Deal Records to serve as the follow-up to their 1993 self-titled debut full-length (reissue review here). It would be the last outing the former and once again West Coast trio would have prior to calling it quits after demoing songs for an album that wouldn’t greet the riff-worshiping public for another 16 years. That record was 2009′s Blood(review here), and Snail have been going strong since. Their 2012 self-released TerminusCD (review here) was a winner all the way, they played Doom in June this year and are reportedly working on another new long-player perhaps even as I type this. Right on.
I make no bones about being a fan of the band, so when I saw on their Thee Facebooks that they made All Channels are Open a for-cheap download ($3) on the Snail Bandcamp, I took it as an excuse to revisit the druggy five-track outing, which I picked up on CD a while ago but haven’t given nearly as many spins as either of the two recent albums or even the self-titled. Basically, I wanted to end the week with something I knew I liked and saw from them this was up. Here’s what they had to say about it:
Some of you were asking where to get this. We don’t have physical copies but here’s a high-quality download if you’re into it. Otherwise, there are old copies floating around out there, just starting to get expensive due to being out of print. Buy digital and support us instead!
Good stuff. I continue to dig Snail, their unassuming vibe, their fascinating story, their excellent, laid back grooves and even their more aggressive moments, which never quite lose sight of the melody underneath. Looking forward to their new one.
Holy fucking shit. I don’t at all mind saying this was the worst week I’ve had in four years. Even worse than when we didn’t get that house up here because of the fucking gas leak about a month ago — and that was plenty terrible for my tastes. Started out pretty strong with that Truckfighters show on Monday. Then Tuesday I got a note from The Aquarian that they were cutting my already embarrassingly low salary in half because it’s print media and they don’t make any money. I managed to keep most of my income from them, and then on Wednesday, my other job — the website-management thing I’ve been doing for four-plus years that’s been the only job I’ve ever had where I’ve felt the compensation is remotely commensurate for the work put in — pulled the rug out from under me out of the blue. Shitcanned for absolutely no reason. “Blah blah blah corporate buzzwords.” I’ve been “streamlined” more times than I care to fucking count. “Nothing to do with your performance, your work is excellent, but, well, we’ve fucked over everyone else on our staff and it’s your turn. By the way, how about you keep working for us for less than a quarter of what we were paying you before?”
Bottom line is I’m 31 years old. I have made several truly, truly terrible life choices. I’ve made one good one, and that’s The Patient Mrs., but just about everything else, ever, has been shit. And it continues to be shit. I have no idea what I’m going to do for work — because The Aquarian salary isn’t enough to live on in this place that I just signed a lease on three fucking weeks ago – no idea how it’s going to affect this site, no idea of anything. I’m at a complete fucking loss. Tonight I throw my hands up in the air, shake my head and say I simply don’t fucking know. I don’t know.
So yes, this is a week I’m very glad to see come to an end. Whatever happens from here, it can’t possibly get much worse. The only way to go is up. And telling myself that is how I’ll get through without having my skull collapse on itself like a neutron fucking star.
Next week: I wanna review Argus. I don’t know yet what else, but definitely that. Renate/Cordate have waited like five months for a review too, so look for something on them. And there’s a Swedish band called Signo Rojo who I wanted to write about today but ran out of time (I have family in from out of town this weekend and had to get the place ready this afternoon), so look for that Monday. As to the rest, I’ll gladly refer you to the part above where I said I had no idea. I interviewed Brant Bjork the other day. Maybe I’ll put that up. Guess I’m going to have some time to transcribe shit now at least.
While I’m not sure I agree with the initial assertion of the product copy below — I’d argue otherwise at very least on a level of exclusivity that metal is no more about hate than it is love, pumpkin pie or any other single thing — the ultimate mission going on here is one to support. Earlier this year, former Roareth guitarist and friend of the site Aaron Edge was diagnosed with MS and has been fighting the disease since, accumulating medical bills and all the other expenses that arise when your body betrays you.
To help offset some of these costs, Edge‘s Invisible Hour design company has put together the goat-tastic “Metalheads Against MS” shirt you see below, followed by a link to the shirt pre-order:
Metal is about hatred. It’s about disgust and distrust. It’s about the release of energy and rage. Metal has (and will always be) about aggression via heavy riffs and lyrics. Metal contains a strong disdain for the sheep that follow blindly, for those that lack of their own opinion, for all who give up without a fight. That said, some hands dealt to us require true strength to persevere. Some are forced to fight harder. This shirt is dedicated to them, specifically those that struggle to control the terrible disease that is Multiple Sclerosis. Channel your hate, the hatred for MS.
This two-color, American Apparel fine jersey shirt is 100% cotton and printed in the United States. The beautifully illustrated goat was done by Invisible Hour. This pre-order is only up for two weeks!
Posted in Radio on July 3rd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
A lot of what you need to know about Entmoot‘s debut outing is right there in the big capital letters of the title — DEMO. Taking some of Ice Dragon‘s we’ll-just-record-this-here sensibility and combining it with a two-bass heavy approach, the Seattle-based three-piece got their start earlier this year, so yes, DEMOis rough, and it is definitely a first outing. The band formed after the dissolution of prior outfit Dead River – not to be confused with either the Australian trio or the New Hampshire duo operating under the same moniker, or anyone else, I suppose — and the four tracks of DEMOmake for a loud, ugly, abrasive opening statement, crafting a foot-catching muck of low end from the bass work of Patrick Moening and Justin Ellis such that Jordan Sattelmair‘s drums can hardly escape the tonal morass.
I’ll be perfectly honest: They had me at the name Entmoot. But after making my way through the drudgery of DEMOa couple times, there’s more to them than just Tolkien-ian nerdery and eight strings of rumble. Like a slower version of Lamprey, who were en route to mastering the form when last I heard them, Entmoot are feeling out the kind of lurch that two basses can produce, and judging from Moening‘s sludgy shouts cutting through “Space Wizard,” they seem to be pleased with the results. I was given express instructions to skip past the version of “I am Error” uploaded, but checked it out anyway, and though it’s not quite as accomplished as the subsequent “Glump,” it’s still enough to give a rehearsal-room vibe for what Entmoot are discovering as their own sound.
At its root, though, DEMOsounds totally fucked up, and I like that about it. Entmoot just released it at the end of May, so I don’t know if a follow-up is in the works or what, but Entmoot have started playing out and the tracks (even “I am Error”) are available now for free download. You can hear DEMOnow as part of regular rotation on The Obelisk Radio and here’s the stream via their Bandcamp:
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 3rd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
You know when the last time I listened to Sandrider‘s 2011 self-titled debut was? Frickin’ this afternoon. That album continues to thoroughly kick my ass around the block (review here), so it’s good news to see the Seattle trio are hitting the studio for a follow-up with producer Matt Bayles, who helmed the last one as well and who blah blah blah Mastodon, Isis and a ton of others. Right on.
Because the hits keep coming, Sandrider have some pro-shot footage of the new song “Gorgon” as well that follows with the PR wire update from Good to Die Records:
SANDRIDER enters the studio!
Seattle, WA’s hard rock saviors, SANDRIDER (ex-Akimbo), enter the studio this weekend to record the hotly anticipated follow-up to their much praised 2011 self-titled debut. The band is again recording with Matt Bayles (Russian Circles, Ken Mode, Mastodon, Helms Alee) at Red Room Studio and a Late Fall / Early Winter release is expected via Good to Die Records.
More details, including album title, release date and regional touring plans will be announced soon. The band’s debut is currently available for streaming via their official Bandcamp page, and a pro-shot video of brand new song “Gorgon” can be viewed [below].
This summer you can catch SANDRIDER on the Neumos stage at the Capitol Hill Block Party in Seattle. Pre-sale tickets are available HERE.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 10th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Good news that Samothrace are coming east for a US tour in support of 2012′s Reverence to Stone(review here). That record killed and I missed them last time they rolled out this way. This time the calendar is marked and hopefully a piano doesn’t fall on my head between now and then. If one falls on it afterwards, well, fair enough. At least I got to see Samothrace.
The PR wire sent over this announcement earlier, and would you believe I wasn’t sitting in front of a keyboard? Fixed that right up.
Onward to whathaveyou:
SAMOTHRACE Confirms American Winter Tour Routing
SAMOTHRACE has posted the confirmed routing for their upcoming Winter US tour, as the crew continue to support their acclaimed second LP, Reverence To Stone. The bedlam will unravel with a hometown show in Seattle on February 15th, then continues on a mangled, counter-clockwise loop through the Midwest, Gulf Coast, Southeast and up the East Coast on their way back westward, with eighteen cities confirmed to endure their slow motion turmoil during the venture. The majority of the dates will see SAMOTHRACE forging alongside Metal Blade doom trio Pilgrim.
The touring will continue this Spring, as SAMOTHRACE will advance onto European soil for the first time ever, the band confirmed to perform at Heavy Days in Doomtown, an international DIY doom/stoner/sludge festival in Ungdomshuset, Copenhagen, Denmark running from May 2nd through the 5th. At this year’s event they will rage the stage alongside Graves At Sea, Pagan Altar, Cough, Procession, Danava, Moss, Bell Witch, Dark Buddah Rising, Conan, Lecherous Gaze, labelmates Mournful Congregation and loads more. Following the fest the quartet will traverse the European continent on an additional two-week tour, with dates to be announced in the coming weeks.
SAMOTHRACE US Winter Tour: 2/15/2013 The Highline – Seattle, WA 2/16/2013 TBA – Portland, OR 2/17/2013 Rotture – Portland, OR 2/20/2013 Aqualung – Denver, CO 2/21/2013 The Conservatory – Oklahoma City, OK 2/22/2013 Rubber Gloves – Denton/Dallas, TX 2/23/2013 Red 7 – Austin, TX 2/24/2013 Siberia – New Orleans, LA w/ Pilgrim 2/25/2013 TBA – Birmingham, AL w/ Pilgrim 2/26/2013 529 – Atlanta, GA w/ Pilgrim 2/27/2013 Slim’s Downtown – Raleigh, NC w/ Pilgrim 2/28/2013 Strange Matter – Richmond, VA w/ Pilgrim 3/01/2013 Saint Vitus Bar – Brooklyn, NY w/ Pilgrim 3/02/2013 Beaumont Warehouse – Philadelphia, PA w/ Pilgrim 3/03/2013 Ottobar – Baltimore, MD w/ Pilgrim 3/04/2013 Howlers – Pittsburgh, PA w/ Pilgrim 3/05/2013 TBA – Cleveland, OH w/ Pilgrim 3/06/2013 The Ultra Lounge – Chicago, IL
If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “But wait a second… Didn’t Snail already make a video for the song ‘Ritual’ from their most excellent 2012 album, Terminus, and didn’t The Obelisk premiere it?” Well, okay, maybe you weren’t thinking in those exact terms, or thinking that at all, but either way the answer is the same: Kinda.
Back before Terminus was released, I put up an interview with guitarist/vocalist Mark Johnson and bassist Matt Lynch about the making of the album, and indeed, there was a video premiere along with that Q&A, and indeed, that video was for the song “Ritual.” The difference is that this new clip wasn’t made by the band and it’s an original project by an outsider rather than compiled with found footage by the band themselves. I liked the other video, but you know, I like this one too, and they’re both (mostly) black and white, so there’s even a bit of continuity between them.
Actually, to be perfectly honest, my first thought when I was watching the “Ritual” clip below directed by Maxime Weber was to wonder if the office park that appears at around the two-minute mark and again later in some of the color section wasn’t the same one that was used for filming Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, but no, it turns out it was all filmed in Luxembourg, and I’m a jerk. Glad I got that one settled.
Enjoy “Ritual,” and if you’ve enjoyed it before, take it as a cue to break out Terminusfor another listen. I did:
It’s been a full 18 years since Stoner Witch was released as the second of three albums the Melvins would put out through Atlantic Records, and I still feel like there’s just no keeping up with it. The quick turns in “Sweet Willy Rollbar,” the immediate throwoff of “Skweetis,” the before-it-was-cool Morricone whistles of “Roadbull,” the Side Two weirdness of “Shevil,” and “Lividity.” It’s probably not the best album from this era of the band — I’d give that title to 1993′s Houdini — but Stoner Witchis one of those records that has a language all its own, an album that you can walk up to someone, go, “Dude, Stoner Witch!” and know immediately by their reaction if you’ve got a new friend.
Listening to Stoner Witchon tape — similar I suppose to listening to it on vinyl, but cheaper and boxier — it’s easy to lose track of the parts, so that as you come around to the slow progression and creepy whispers of “At the Stake” at the end of Side One, it’s from a mash of early ’90s avant heavy rock. The tape, which is clear — awesome — was worth the five bucks I paid before I even put it on, and though I’ve owned Stoner Witch on CD for many years now, the inherent compression of the format makes a big difference in the actual listening experience, as the high and low ends seem pushed together as King Buzzo‘s vocals, zit-like, are forced to the surface of the songs.
I guess this is “commercial” Melvins as much as something like that ever existed, but let’s face it, without the push Atlantic gave them and the work they did supporting Houdini, Stoner Witchand 1996′sStag, they wouldn’t be the band they are today, touring 50 states with a new live record out what seems like every six weeks or so. That’s not to say the Melvins weren’t working on their own terms at all times — to think that the abrasive noise at the start of “Magic Pig Detective” came out on a major label is fucking astounding — but these full-lengths, along with others along the way in their massive discography and 30-year tenure, helped define the band they’d become. Whichever you pick as your favorite, and whichever format your hear it on, Stoner Witchis a classic.
And should you happen to stumble into the tape as I did, hopefully you also enjoy getting lost in it all over again. If the future’s more your taste, here’s this:
Posted in Features on December 14th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Putting themselves quickly at the fore of a burgeoning Stateside death-doom revival, Seattle-based duo Bell Witch made their debut in 2011 with a remarkably well-received demo. The initial four-track release (review here) landed with enough of an impact to bring bassist/vocalist Dylan Desmond (also of Samothrace) and drummer/vocalist Adrian Guerra (formerly of Sod Hauler) to the attention of tastemaking imprint Profound Lore, which picked them up for the release of the subsequent debut, Longing(review here). Desmond and Guerra, who’d released an album called Mnemosynetogether as part of a heavy psychedelic trio called Lethe (review here), departed those stylistic confines with Bell Witch, opting instead for the dreary drama and far-off melodicism they present on Longing‘s six-track/67-minute sprawl.
It’s a fascinating album for several reasons. Primarily because Desmond and Guerra do so well in alternating between a sense of wide-open space, oppressive tonality and nascent harmonized vocals, but also because of the intricacies they bring to the material, working in defiance of the notion that just because something is slow and open-sounding, it has to be simple all the time. That’s never been true, and as Bell Witch switch between growls and clean-sung arrangements and Desmond taps his six-string bass to emulate a guitar solo, it’s clear that there’s more to the band than just holding out riffs until the sound fades away — though when they do that as well, it works greatly to enhance the atmosphere of Longing, the mood of which has no trouble living up to the title it’s been given.
Perhaps the album’s greatest achievement comes on 13-minute second track “Rows (of Endless Waves),” on which Desmond and Guerra, both contributing to the initial barrage of screams and growls, are joined by Erik Moggridge, known for his Portland, Oregon-based solo-project, Aerial Ruin. As the lumbering fury winds down, Moggridge comes on to top periodic rhythm lines and higher-register bass notes with folkish verses that don’t necessarily depart from the darkness of the rest of the full-length, but provide complexity and depth to what that darkness means on a sonic level. At 9:35, bolstered by colossal instrumental swell, Moggridge leads a defiant recitation of vaguely Celtic-derived sway, and from the standpoint of melody and emotional resonance, it’s as rich as Longinggets, begging in its last minute to be sung along to as the waves of destruction mentioned in the lyrics seem to be crashing all around the final moaning vocalizations.
The inclusion and expansion of “Beneath the Mask” and “I Wait” from the demo was a launch point for the conversation, but there was much more than just that I wanted to discuss with Desmond, including the differences between recording with Bell Witch and with Samothrace — whose 2012 outing, Reverence to Stone(review here), was among the year’s most exciting albums, on recording Longingand what other than those two tracks they wanted to bring to their first album, on the use of melody and how it might continue to develop on their next batch of material, which Desmond reveals is already in progress. Choosing his words carefully, the bassist talked openly about all these and more.
Please find the complete 3,200-word Q&A after the jump, and please enjoy:
Posted in Radio on December 12th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Of the apparently hundreds of albums being added to The Obelisk Radio on a weekly basis, the one that stands out most to me this week is Giza‘s Future Ruins. A debut full-length from the instrumental Seattle trio, Future Ruinswas recorded and mixed by Matt Bayles (Mastodon, Isis, etc.) and hits on a lumbering pace, vaguely post-metal in its style, but more because of a pervasive drone influence than any aping of the subgenre’s forebears. The crux of the six tracks doesn’t seem to be moody ambience or contemplative spaces so much as aurally crushing tones periodically contrasted with, well, semi-crushing tones.
It’s pretty crushing, I guess is what I’m getting at. Guitarist Richard Burkett, bassist Steve Becker and drummer Trent McIntyre will release the plodding six-track full-length (which starts with its longest song in the 10-minute “Séance” — immediate points) on CD in January, and it’s available on their Bandcamp now. It’ll be getting regular rotation on the radio station, and I’ve included the Bandcamp stream as well to highlight what Giza (on Thee Facebooks here) have going on. Hope you dig it:
Posted in Reviews on November 13th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
After a well-received 2011 demo, Seattle bass/drum duo Bell Witch make their full-length debut via Profound Lore with the 67-minute Longing, an album as much about atmospheric weight as catastrophic low end. Bassist/vocalist Dylan Desmond some will recognize as a founding member of Samothrace, whose 2012 LP Reverence to Stone (review here) was thrillingly heavy, or perhaps the underrated Lethe instrumental outfit, who released their only album to date in the form of 2009’s Mnemosyne (review here). In Bell Witch, Desmond is joined on drums and vocals by Adrian Guerra, and the pair manage to move with striking fluidity between sections that sound full and gut-twistingly heavy and sparse, ambient minimalist parts that seem to stretch sonically even farther than the runtimes of the songs themselves. No easy feat, that. Longing opens with its longest track (immediate points), the 20-minute “Bails (of Flesh),” but even so, three of the other five on the album top 12 minutes. But for the opener, nothing stretches past the 18 minutes of “Mayknow” from the demo (review here), but neither “Rows (of Endless Waves)” (13:02), nor “Longing (The River of Ash)” (12:06) are lacking for sprawl, and at 5:54, “Beneath the Mask” is essentially a filled-out version of what served as the demo intro, that track and the following “I Wait” (12:25) having also appeared there, and closer “Outro” follows with 3:27 more of atmospheric soundscaping. Perhaps the most notable point of growth between the demo and Longing lies in the vocals, which Desmond and Guerra execute in contrasts of extreme funeral doom growls and sad clean singing that adds mournful melodies to the band’s carefully constructed lumber, and particularly in the case of the late-track apex of “Rows (of Endless Waves)” sets Bell Witch on a course of emotional resonance similar to that which has brought the likes of 40 Watt Sun and Pallbearer (more closely related to the former, sonically speaking) such success over the last couple years. That’s not to say Bell Witch are aiming at the same kind of appeal – that’s really just a part of what they do – but their doom is modern in the sense of not feeling a need to cloak its sadness or titular longing in anything other than tonal thickness or impossibly slow tempos.
Being a duo works to Bell Witch’s advantage. At no point in the album does there seem to be a lack of presence where one isn’t intended. Longing, like Samothrace’s Reverence to Stone, was recorded by Brandon Fitzsimons, and Desmond’s tone remains consistent through these songs as it was on that record – rich and encompassing. But though “Bails (of Flesh)” opens quietly with an underlying rumble, at no point does there seem to be anything missing, most especially guitar, which if you asked me, I’d swear the first track has. Overtop of the grueling plod, there’s a solo, and it could be Desmond running his bass through an effects loop and layering in the recording, or it could be someone picked up a guitar, I suppose anything’s possible. In any case, Guerra does an excellent job holding the slower pace together as he does throughout the whole of the album, and when the vocals kick in just past the five-minute mark on the CD, they roar. I mean it. The growl is forward in the mix without wholly dominating it, but it is animalistic and terrifyingly well done. There are some who decry abrasive vocals outright – I’m not one of them. With a record like Longing, how it’s said counts almost as much as what’s being said, and lyrics like, “Hate for will/My grief will be avenged” are all the more foreboding for the indecipherable brutality of their presentation. Instrumentally, on the first track it’s the drawn out lead lines that carry across the emotionality until a midsection break touches on some clean vocals – not quite to the same level as “Rows (of Endless Waves),” but along the same lines – before the massive lumber resumes at 15:28 and the song begins its long march into oblivion, the growls returning to lead the way out and into the beginning of “Rows (of Endless Waves)” which is bombastic in comparison, a barrage of drums from Guerra meeting with the bass riffing and vicious screams and growls. For the first minute or so, it is unbearably heavy, but gradually, the song emerges, and by the time three minutes have passed, Bell Witch have gracefully shifted into minimalist pastoralia, beginning the build that will encompass the remaining 10 minutes of the track.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 22nd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
You’d have to figure that in order to be Earth‘s longest tour since the band got together in 1990, it would have something like 137 dates scheduled. Nope, 25. Still a solid month on the road though, so kudos to the band for pushing themselves 22 years later to go farther and continue exploring new ground, sonic and geographic.
Aligned with the likes of Eagle Twin, Stebmo and The Body along the way, it’s kind of like a tour of Earth playing with acts influenced by Earth. Can’t imagine that’s anything new for them at this point.
They’re still out supporting Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II(review here), and the shows start this week, so keep an eye out:
EARTH Prepare For American Fall Tour
Following bursts of worldwide touring in support of their two-part Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light album series, Seattle’s EARTH will embark on their newest tour this week, with a nearly month of live performances confirmed across America.
The most extensive American tour EARTH have planned since their 1990 inception, the Seattle purveyors of the slow-motion riff will traverse the country and back on a twenty-five date run, kicking off this Wednesday, October 24th in Portland, Oregon. Along the way the quartet will take part in the massive annual Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin, Texas alongside literally dozens of international artists of all genres. This will be the first U.S. tour since they hit the road in support of Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I in 2011, the band’s set for the tour confirmed to contain a majority of the material from Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II.
While the band is touring in support of the Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light albums, the EARTH lineup for this voyage will be the touring lineup from the band’s lauded 2008 LP The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull, comprised of Steve Moore on keys and trombone, Don McGreevy on bass, Adrienne Davies on drums and founder Dylan Carlson on guitar. Support will be provided by Stebmo (featuring members of Earth and more) as well as Southern Lord labelmates Eagle Twin and Fontanelle throughout the journey.
EARTH Fall Tour: 10/24/2012 Rotture – Portland, OR w/ Fontanelle, Stebmo 10/26/2012 Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock – Los Angeles, CA w/ Fontanelle, Stebmo 10/28/2012 Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA w/ Fontanelle, Stebmo 10/29/2012 Soda Bar – San Diego, CA w/ Stebmo 10/31/2012 Rhythm Room – Phoenix, AZ w/ Balmorehea, Stebmo 11/02/2012 Auditorium Shores – Austin, TX @ Fun Fun Fun Festival 11/03/2012 Bryan Street Tavern – Dallas, TX w/ Stebmo 11/04/2012 One Eyed Jacks – New Orleans, LA w/ Stebmo 11/06/2012 Will’s Pub – Orlando, FL w/ Stebmo 11/07/2012 The Earl – Atlanta, GA w/ Daughn Gibson, Stebmo 11/08/2012 Grey Eagle – Asheville, NC w/ Stebmo 11/09/2012 Rock and Roll Hotel – Washington, DC w/ Eagle Twin, Stebmo 11/10/2012 Littlefield – Brooklyn, NY w/ Eagle Twin, Stebmo 11/11/2012 TT the Bears – Cambridge, MA w/ Eagle Twin, Stebmo 11/12/2012 Johnny Brenda’s – Philadelphia, PA w/ Eagle Twin, Stebmo 11/13/2012 Altar Bar – Pittsburgh, PA w/ Eagle Twin, Stebmo 11/14/2012 Grog Shop – Cleveland, OH w/ Eagle Twin, Stebmo 11/15/2012 Taft Ballroom – Cincinnati, OH w/ Eagle Twin, Stebmo 11/16/2012 Township – Chicago, IL w/ Eagle Twin, Stebmo 11/17/2012 Township – Chicago, IL w/ Eagle Twin, Stebmo 11/18/2012 Triple Rock Social Club – Minneapolis, MN w/ Eagle Twin, Stebmo 11/19/2012 The Record Bar – Kansas City, MO w/ Eagle Twin, Stebmo 11/21/2012 Marquis Theatre, Denver, CO w/ Stebmo 11/24/2012 The Shakedown – Bellhingham, WA w/ The Body, Low Hums 11/25/2012 The Crocodile – Seattle, WA w/ The Body, Stebmo
Posted in Reviews on October 16th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
I am constantly working at a deficit. Financially, yes, because like many of my countrymen I’m am tens of thousands of dollars in debt — but also in terms of reviews. I’malwaysbehind on reviews. Hell, it was into July of this year before I finally put the kybosh on writing up anything from 2011, and I’m pretty sure if I hadn’t put my foot down on it, I’d still have year-old albums going up or older. My to-do list grows like a witchcult.
It’s not something to complain about and I’m not complaining. I’m stoked people give enough of a shit to send their CDs in to be reviewed — especially those who actually send CDs — and it’s for that reason that I do this second reviewsplosion (first one here).
Yeah, as ever, I’m behind on reviews, but I’m also working on being more concise — I swear I am; check out the At a Glance reviews if you don’t believe me — and one of the things I liked so much about the last reviewsplosion was it forced me to get to the fucking point. As direct a line as possible to a review. Boiling the idea down to its essential core.
With that in mind, here’s my attempt to both balance my review budget and be as clear as humanly possible. Hope you dig:
Altar of Oblivion, Grand Gesture of Defiance
The subject of some spirited debate on the forum, the second record from Danish five-piece Altar of Oblivion revels in traditional doom methods. There’s an air of pomp in some of the songs — “Graveyard of Broken Dreams” lays it on a little thick — but by and large, Grand Gesture of Defiance(Shadow Kingdom) is a more than solid showing of genre. Classic underground metal flourishes abound, and while it’s not a record to change your life, at six tracks/34 minutes, neither does it hang around long enough to be overly repetitive. You could do way worse. Altar of Oblivion on Thee Facebooks.
Blooming Látigo, Esfínteres y Faquires
Primarily? Weird. The Spanish outfiit Blooming Látigo make their debut on Féretro Records (CD) and Trips und Träume (LP) with the all-the-fuck-over-the-place Esfínteres y Faquires, alternately grinding out post-hardcore and reciting Birthday Party-style poetry. They reach pretty hard to get to “experimental,” maybe harder than they need to, but the on-a-dime stops and high-pitched screams on tracks like “Onania” and “Prisciliano” are well beyond fascinating, and the blown-out ending of “La Destrucción del Aura” is fittingly apocalyptic. Who gave the art-school kids tube amps? Blooming Látigo on Bandcamp.
Five years since their second offering, Green Magic, left such a strong impression, Italian stoner rock trio El-Thule return with Zenit (Go Down Records), which makes up for lost time with 50 minutes of heavy riffs, fuzzy desert grooves and sharp, progressive rhythms. The band — El Comandante (bass), Mr. Action (guitar/vocals) and Gweedo Weedo (drums/vocals) — may have taken their time in getting it together, but there’s little about Zenit that lags, be it the faster, thrashier “Nemesis” or thicker, Torche-esque melodic push of the highlight “Quaoar.” It’s raw, production-wise, but I hope it’s not another half-decade before El-Thule follow it up. El-Thule on Thee Facebooks.
Botanist, III: Doom in Bloom
It’s a nature-worshiping post-black metal exploration of what the History Channel has given the catchy title “life after people.” If you’ve ever wondered what blastbeats might sound like on a dulcimer, Botanist‘s third album, III: Doom in Bloom has the answers you seek, caking its purported hatred of human kind in such creative instrumentation and lyrics reverent of the natural world rather than explicitly misanthropic. The CD (on Total Rust) comes packaged with a second disc called Allies, featuring the likes of Lotus Thief and Matrushka and giving the whole release a manifesto-type feel, which suits it well. Vehemently creative, it inadvertently taps into some of the best aspects of our species. Botanist’s website.
Say what you will about whiteboys and the blues, the bass tone that starts “Nobody Get Me Down” is unfuckwithable. And Seattle trio GravelRoad come by it pretty honestly, having served for years as the backing back for bluesman T-Model Ford. The album Psychedelta (on Knick Knack Records) jams out on its start-stop fuzz in a way that reminds not so much of Clutch but of the soul and funk records that inspired Clutch in the first place, and though it never gets quite as frenetic in its energy as Radio Moscow, there’s some of that same vibe persisting through “Keep on Movin’” or their Junior Kimbrough cover “Leave Her Alone.” Throaty vocals sound like a put-on, but if they can nail down that balance, GravelRoad‘s psychedelic blues has some real potential in its open spaces. GravelRoad on Thee Facebooks.
The Linus Pauling Quartet, Bag of Hammers
Texas toast. The Linus Pauling Quartet offer crisp sunbursts of psychedelic heavy rock, and after nearly 20 years and eight full-lengths, that shouldn’t exactly be as much of a surprise as it is. Nonetheless, Bag of Hammers(Homeskool Records) proffers a 41-minute collection of heady ’90s-loving-the-’70s tones while venturing into classic space rock on “Victory Gin” and ballsy riffing on “Saving Throw.” Being my first experience with the band, the album is a refreshing listen and unpretentious to its very core. Eight-minute culminating jam “Stonebringer” is as engaging a display of American stoner rock as I’ve heard this year, and I have to wonder why it took eight records before I finally heard this five-man quartet? Hits like its title. LP4′s website.
Odyssey, Abysmal Despair
It’s the damnedest thing, but listening to Abysmal Despair, the Transubstans Records debut from Swedish prog sludge/noise rockers Odyssey, I can’t help but think of Long Island’s own John Wilkes Booth. It’s the vocals, and I know that’s a really specific association most people aren’t going to have, but I do, and I can’t quite get past it. The album is varied, progressive, and working in a variety of modern underground heavy contexts nowhere near as foreboding as the album’s title might imply, like Truckfighters meets Entombed, but I just keep hearing JWB‘sKerry Merkle through his megaphone. Note: that’s not a bad thing, just oddly indicative of the greater sphere of worldwide sonic coincidence in which we all exist. If anything, that just makes me like Abysmal Despair more. Odyssey on Soundcloud.
Palkoski, 2012 Demo
Conceptual Virginian free-formers Palkoski released the three-track/67-minute 2012 demo earlier this year through Heavy Hound. Most of it sounds improvised, but for verses here and there that emerge from the various stretches, and the band’s alternately grinding and sparse soundscapery results in an unsettling mash of psychotic extremity. It is, at times, painful to listen, but like some lost tribal recording, it’s also utterly free. Limited to 100 CDs with a second track called “The Shittiest EP Ever” and a third that’s a sampling of Palkoski‘s ultra-abrasive noise experimentation live, this one is easily not for the faint of heart. Still, there’s something alluring in the challenge it poses. Palkoski at Heavy Hound.
Radar Men from the Moon, Echo Forever
Following their charming 2011 EP, Intergalactic Dada and Space Trombones, the Eindhoven instrumental trio Radar Men from the Moon (On the Radar’ed here) return on the relative quick with a 51-minute full-length, Echo Forever. More progressive in its jams, the album’s psychedelic sprawl shows the band developing — I hesitate to compare them to 35007 just because they happen to be Dutch, but the running bassline that underscores “Atomic Mother” is a tempter — but there’s still an immediacy behind their changes that keeps them from really belonging to the laid-back sphere of European jam-minded heavy psychedelia. They’re getting warmer though, stylistically and tonally, and I like that. Interesting to hear a song like “Heading for the Void” and think Sungrazer might be burgeoning as an influence. Cool jams for the converted. Radar Men from the Moon on Bandcamp.
Sound of Ground, Sky Colored Green
There are elements of of Yawning Man, or Unida or other acts in the Californian desert milieu, but basically, Moscow’s Sound of Ground sound like Kyuss. They know it. Their R.A.I.G. debut full-length, Sky Colored Green, makes no attempt to hide it, whether it’s the “Green Machine” riffing of “Lips of the Ocean” or the speedier Slo-Burnery of “El Caco,” though the metallic screaming on “R.H.S.” is a dead giveaway for the band’s youth, coming off more like early Down than anything Josh Homme ever plugged in to play. While not necessarily original, the trio are firm in their convictions, and Sound of Ground tear through these 11 tracks with engaging abandon. The Russian scene continues to intrigue. Sound of Ground on Thee Facebooks.