Posted in Whathaveyou on April 2nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
True to form of his main outfit, the Melvins, guitarist/vocalist Buzz Osborne has announced that he’ll be supporting his forthcoming solo debut, This Machine Kills Artists — out June 3 on Ipecac — with an extensive, 38-show coast-to-coast, north-south-and-in-between tour. It’s an intimidating list of gigs, and it starts out May 17 at the Scion Rock Fest before launching in full on June 10. If he’s not a singer-songwriter yet, chances are he will be by the time this run is finished.
I defer to the PR wire:
THE MELVINS’ BUZZ OSBORNE ANNOUNCES EXTENSIVE THIS MACHINE KILLS ARTISTS SUMMER TOUR
THIS MACHINE KILLS ARTISTS SET FOR JUNE 3 RELEASE
Melvins’ front man Buzz Osborne has confirmed a seven-week U.S. tour, which kicks off June 10 at The Casbah in San Diego.
Osborne previously announced the release of his first solo, acoustic release, This Machine Kills Artists, which is set for a June 3 release via Ipecac Recordings. Rolling Stone recently premiered the song “Dark Brown Teeth”, describing the track as “doomy, ill-angled” and with the “Beefheartian edge his band is renown for.”
Osborne will document the solo outing through an ongoing travelogue on Noisey.com.
May 17 Pomona, CA Scion Rock Fest
June 10 San Diego, CA The Casbah June 11 Echo Park, CA The Echo June 12 Santa Ana, CA The Observatory June 13 Fresno, CA Strummer’s June 14 Sacramento, CA Assembly June 15 San Francisco, CA Great American Music Hall June 17 Eugene, OR Wow Hall June 18 Portland, OR Hawthorne Theatre June 20 Seattle, WA Neumo’s June 21 Bellingham, WA The Shakedown June 22 Spokane, WA The Hop June 23 Missoula, MT The Palace June 24 Billings, MT The Railyard June 26 Fargo, ND The Aquarium June 27 Minneapolis, MN Grumpy’s June 28 Milwaukee, WI Shank Hall June 30 Grand Rapids, MI The Pyramid Scheme
July 1 Columbus, OH A&R Music Bar July 2 Detroit, MI Small’s July 3 Cleveland, OH The Grog Shop July 6 South Burlington, VT Higher Ground July 7 Portland, ME Portland City Music Hall July 10 Allston, MA Brighton Music Hall July 12 Hamden, CT The Ballroom at The Outerspace July 13 New York, NY Santos Party House July 14 Brooklyn, NY The Wick July 15 Philadelphia, PA Underground Arts July 17 Baltimore, MD Ottobar July 18 Charlottesville, VA The Southern July 20 Carrboro, NC Cat’s Cradle July 22 Atlanta, GA The Basement July 23 Birmingham, AL The Bottle Tree July 25 New Orleans, LA One Eyed Jack’s July 26 Houston, TX Warehouse Live July 27 Austin, TX Red 7 July 28 Sam Antonio, TX Limelight July 30 Tucson, AZ Club Congress July 31 Pioneertown, CA Pappy and Harriet’s
Posted in On Wax on March 19th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
If you’ve got a mind to dig it, Mystery Ship don’t skimp on the vibe. Their straightforwardly-titled EP II(review here) was an attention-getter last year, and though it comes accompanied by Adam Burke artwork of a much different style (that sleeve is white, despite any shadow in the picture), the new, subsequent Knick Knack Records 7″ single, Bridgeburner b/w Chinatown, follows suit in continuing the development of Mystery Ship‘s retro grooving. There’s an awful lot of heavy ’70s loyalist rock and roll out there, but an awful lot less of it comes from the States, and on “Bridgeburner” and “Chinatown” — both of which are denoted on back of the record sleeve as being the A side — the Seattle four-piece make a solid argument for American contribution to the form of classic heavy rock.
Unpretentious and unaggressive, but still weighted in tone and forceful in their push, their take isn’t wholly unlike that of like-minded East Coasters The Golden Grass, though Mystery Ship have an inherently bluesier style and get down with some post-Graveyard shuffle, particularly here on “Bridgeburner,” which sets out on a warm bassline from Alex Hagenah (also vocals) that sets an organic tone for the entrance of guitarist Josh Kupferschmid, lead guitarist/vocalist Michael Wohl and drummer Travis Curry, none of whom disrupt it. Like both songs are listed as the A side, both also start with some in-studio mention of whether or not the tape is rolling, so that live feel is no accident as “Bridgeburner” moves from its strong hook into a Wohl led break that’s somewhat airy despite the tension held in Curry‘s toms. A boogie good for the soul, and not the last they have to offer.
Hagenah and Wohl trade who takes the lead vocal on “Bridgeburner” and the more swing-heavy blues of “Chinatown,” but neither song is wholly one or the other up front, and that works to the benefit of both and the distinction of one from its flipside. “Chinatown” only feels like it’s missing snaps to be complete in an alternate-universe lounge kind of way, but it makes due with its classy-in-spite-of-itself feel and offers a chorus somewhat more in the pocket than that of “Bridgeburner,” but making sly use of clean tones in the verse only to feed to dirtier leads later on, of course bookending with a last refrain, delivered more fervently.
They’re in and out in under eight minutes — unless it takes you 10 to get up and flip the record — and since both “Bridgeburner” and “Chinatown” were recorded in Jan. 2013, they more or may not show where Mystery Ship are now, more than a year later, but the quality of the songwriting makes Bridgeburner b/w Chinatowna significant-enough stopgap that it’s worth digging into. I’ll be interested to hear how Mystery Ship‘s penchant for variety plays out over the course of a debut full-length, and just how bluesy they’ll go when given the opportunity to really meander. Could a 10-minute psych/blues freakout be in the works? Got my fingers crossed.
Posted in Reviews on March 6th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s a big world and there’s a lot to review in it, so I won’t do much to delay. This time around covers both coasts of the US as well as Europe and even Australia, proving once again that heavy knows no borders and seems to be at home wherever it goes. It’s a pretty varied batch this time as well, but should provide some fun along the way.
Billing themselves as “Seattle’s only rock duo” — which is charming if unlikely — guitarist/vocalist Ben Harwood and drummer Jeff Silva self-release their second album as Hobosexual (I see what you did there…) in the aptly-titled 12-tracker, II. It’s a record that brims with attitude from the chugging, semi-Melvinsian opening of “Switchblade Suburbia,” but there’s a depth of tone and swagger to back up the smacktalk in their songwriting. The 38-second “Ghettoblaster” is Hendrix-style feedback and soloing, playing directly into “Hostile Denim”‘s lead-obsessed Rolling Stones hook ‘n’ push. Topped off with striking artwork from Adam Burke of Fellwoods, IIproves very much of its Pacific Northwest origins — a magical land where everybody has a beard and they all listen to stoner rock — and while the tongue-in-cheek snark of “Sex Destroyer” might be over-the-top to some, Hobosexual avoid the minimalist aesthetic some duos use as a crutch for lazy songwriting, make old riffs new again and showcase some melodic depth in Harwood‘s vocal layering, positioning songs like “The Black Camaro Death” and the penultimate “BMX” highlights arguing against style over substance amid party-ready riffing and don’t-have-a-fuck-to-give panache. Their 2010 self-titled debut worked in similar stylistic parameters, but IIstrikes as more confident overall, and it’s a record that you’re either going to fall prey to its sleaze or shoot down early and go about your night. If the album’s a party, I feel at times like my invite must have gotten lost in the mail, but Hobosexual provide a decent reminder nonetheless that there are those capable of turning heavy rock into a good time and put it on the listener to ask why they should take it so seriously in the first place. FOAD: Fuck off and dance.
Strange things are afoot throughout Italian four-piece Midryasi‘s third album, Black, Blue and Violet. The multifaceted heavy outfit run a gamut from Pentagram-esque riff doom to Pink Floyd-infused progressive texturing, all the while keeping a clarity of sound that can likely be traced to the metallic roots of bassist/vocalist Convulsion, who aside from having played in DoomSword can be traced to a number of more extreme outfits. His brother, DoomSword vocalist Deathmaster, shows up on opener “The Counterflow,” but Black, Blue and Violet never goes quite so far into one subgenre or another, the keyboard work of Umberto Desanti always adding an edge of prog to whatever else might be happening, whether it’s the otherwise doomed “Diagonal” or the dramatic verses of the title-track. Released through My Graveyard Productions, Midryasi‘s third ultimately finds its atmospheric crux in an intelligent construction, but perhaps feels somewhat distant in its performance, coldly executed. That’s an inherent tradeoff for the complexity of its arrangements, maybe, and there’s something to be said in argument for the skillful calculation at work across these seven tracks that run smoothly with the underlying drum work of Sappah and fluid guitars of Paolo Paganhate and hit their high-point with the rumbling “The Nuclear Dog,” which provides the most memorable hook of the long-player and seems to revel most in the psychedelic and progressive weirdness that the whole album moves within. The six-and-a-half-minute “Hole of the Saturday Night” closes out with a heavy rock riff and vocal delivery from Convulsion that moves in some of the same (stone) circles as Venomous Maximus, though that’s likely a coincidence of common influence between the two, and with a smooth, consistent production, Midryasi wind up sounding most of all like a band working on its own level. And successfully.
Raucous Berlin six-piece Operators made an impression in 2012 with the unabashed new school stoner rock of their self-titled debut (review here) now a little older, a little wiser, a little more drunk, the band returns with Contact High, a record that wears its influences on its sleeve in much the same manner as the Satellite Beaver, Neume and Stonehenge patches grace the varsity jacket of the figure on the album’s cover. “Kiss of De Ath” resides at the end of side A of the eight-track/39-minute offering and offers some of Operators‘ most satisfying boogie as Konni‘s organ and the guitars of Jacky and Dirk align for an intricate but still-rolling groove of a midsection build while Stonehenge‘s Enni steps in as a guest singer, but it’s vocalist Eggat who makes the first impression on opener “Terra Ohm,” setting up a strong hook for the rest of Contact High to live up to. The album plays out unpretentious and riotous in kind, and while they haven’t necessarily settled down since their first outing, it’s easy enough to hear Operators as having solidified their approach somewhat. Konni‘s keys work just as well alongside the rhythm section of bassist Dän and drummer Säsh as with the guitars, and Eggat proves a formidable enough presence on cuts like “If I Burn,” “Bring on the Spice” (I don’t know whose guitar solo that is, but kudos) and the driving “Contact High” to reign the rest into cohesion. The six-and-a-half-minute “Arrows” shows a more subdued side that, somewhat surprisingly, never quite explodes into the noisy chicanery found elsewhere. Could it be that Operators are growing up right before our ears? I don’t know, but the results are fascinating and display more even potential from these Desertfest veterans.
Grand soundscaping, an underlying sense of ritual, and a pervasive experimental bent — it shouldn’t really be a surprise that Spain’s Pylar boasts some manner of allegiance to forward or at least side-to-side thinking doomers Orthodox and the avant extremists Blooming Látigo, but the unit’s Knockturne Records debut, Poderoso Se Alza en My, strikes as a decidedly more conceptual work, with one song spilling into the next, religious themes crossing through minimalist atmospheres and a periodic lurch emerging that’s as much a trip aurally as mentally. Two longer cuts, “El Pylar Se Ha Alzado” (13:49) and “Al Fin Te Contemplo Entre las Ruinas del Tiempo (Pentagrammaton)” (12:11) sandwich five not-quite-as-extended segments as the opener (the longest on the record; immediate points) and closer of the 68-minute behemoth, which one would be thoroughly mistaken to dub a “compact” disc. It is, instead, expansive and challenging, rife with droning tension, vague shouts in Spanish seeming to describe some torment either physical or spiritual amid art-jazz percussion in another dimension’s time signatures. Will not, will not, will not be for everyone, but Pylar‘s first is a fascinating and dense work that one could easily spend any number of months dissecting, only to still come up with an incomplete picture of its scope, and for those with a high tolerance for the experimental and indulgences of noise, the intense swell of “La Gran Luminaria” could easily prove essential as the culmination point for what seems to be an album-long drive toward enlightenment and the sundry terrors it might carry with it. If you think you’re bored of the mundane, Poderoso Se Alza en Myis ready to pull back the veil and toy for a while with what you used to think of as “your” consciousness.
I remain a sucker for Aussie heavy. System of Venus guitarist/vocalist/graphic designer Fatima Baši? gets into a doomly melodic range that reminds at times — as on “Dancing in Hell’s Garden” — of Alunah‘s Soph Day, but the rough edges in her guitar and Amanda‘s bass add a more distinct ’90s feel to the seven-track/36-minute proceedings on their full-length debut and first release, as the crunch in “Monster Ego” will further attest. Drummer Matt Lieber shows himself comfortable with the quick tempo changes in that song and elsewhere on the self-titled, self-released offering, and though the centerpiece “Dr. Dumb” works quickly to earn its position in the CD’s tracklist, ultimately the opener “Blackrock” and the closing duo of “Nothing” and “Beast” are the strongest statements the album has to make in showcasing the diversity nascent in System of Venus‘ approach, “Beast” rising to an apex that though satisfying feels somewhat shortlived in providing the payoff for the record as whole while “Nothing” holds to a quieter, brooding sentiment that plays off the foundational bassline of “Gannets Drive,” giving what might’ve otherwise easily turned out to be a demo an LP’s overarching flow and speaking to an early awareness of quality construction from the Melbourne trio, though “Gannets Drive” seems to cut out early, building to a hit that’s snapped mid-crash, so perhaps there remain some kinks to work out one way or another. All the same, taken as a whole, System of Venus‘ System of Venussatisfies as the debut of a band feeling out where they want to be sonically, and bodes well for where they might grow their sound somewhere between grunge, doom and heavy rock.
02.23.14 — 12:47AM Pacific — Sat. Night — El Corazon, Seattle, WA
“High drama…” — Steve Murphy
I’m going to try to make this quick, because my laptop clock says 3:47AM and I can’t help but feel like that’s accurate. Tonight at El Corazon in Seattle. First night of the tour. Weather as advertised. Volume as advertised. Doom of many shapes. Place filled up as the night went on. A special cheers to the giant who decided it was fun to dig in elbows up front during Pentagram.
Tonight was a five-band bill. One of several that I know of on this run. Front to back and jetlagged, it was a hell of a way to start the tour. Good crowd though, unless you count the aforementioned giant. Which I do. In bruises.
Here’s how it went down:
I know the deal is the tour and the touring bands, and I’m way down with that or I wouldn’t be here in the first place, but I was really glad I got to see Ancient Warlocks play. I also got to meet guitarist/vocalist Aaron Krause and guitarist Darren Chase and it was good for the soul. Their easy-rolling fuzz and trad-stoner grooving must have been a good match tonally for Mars Red Sky a few years back when they teamed up, but they were locked in and not at all out of place on the stage. When I asked Chase if they had any copies of their album to buy, he said they were sold out. It was easy to see why when they played.
They were a late add to the lineup, but a welcome one. Lesbian crossed genre lines fluidly and touched on black metal, doom and even some thrash with natural ease. They’re the kind of band that, if I lived in this town, I’d probably go see a lot, but as it is, this was the first time. Even after Ancient Warlocks loaded their gear off the stage, there was a considerable wall of amps, and I think an entire layer in that wall belonged to Lesbian. Hard to argue with the density of sound they were able to elicit from them, two guitars and bass running in gleeful aural excess. Bassist/vocalist Dorando Hodous said their last song — unless I’m mistaken about this — was about a “really horny dinosaur.” I didn’t catch the title, but it fucking ruled.
At this point, I feel comfortable saying I’ve seen Kings Destroy more than any band in the last three years. If that’s not true — and it is, by a mile — then it certainly will be by the end of this trip. Tonight was the first night of the tour, and it took them a song or two to click, but somewhere right around a new song called “Embers” that has, among other things, the most complex vocal melody I’ve heard from the band, they locked it in and were full-throttle the rest of the five-song set. “The Mountie” into “Casse-Tete” worked well to open, but once they slammed into “The Toe,” I think they made a lot of new friends. Leaving the rest of the band on stage, vocalist Steve Murphy hopped down into the crowd for closer “Blood of Recompense,” walking away when the song was over and handing the mic to a random guy in the crowd who, as he told his friends after putting it back on the stage, was tempted to make a dick joke, but decided against it.
Radio Moscow had the leg up. On the universe, it seemed, but at least on the other two touring acts, since they’d already had a couple gigs under their belt over the last few nights. It’s a crazy change in vibe to have the San Diego-based trio playing between Kings Destroy and Pentagram, but they hit into “I Just Don’t Know” from 2011′s Brain Cycles and the room, which by then was packed out, was theirs. They also brought the Mad Alchemy light show with them, though the oils were going for all the bands and I guess will be for the duration of the tour. Not going to complain, and it works especially well for Radio Moscow, who tossed in a new song full of intricate starts and stops that served as a reminder of how ridiculously tight the band’s rhythm section, bassist Anthony Meier and drummer Paul Marrone are, though it’s guitarist/vocalist Parker Griggs who takes the bulk of the solos, each one earned and soaked in wah.
I don’t care who you are or what you’ve seen, watching Pentagram play “Forever My Queen” is one of the great joys of doom. When I came back from dinner before the show started, I got to watch some of their soundcheck, so I knew “Be Forewarned” was coming — you might say I was forewarned — but “8″ from Last Rites and “Dying World” from the self-titled were cool to hear alongside staples like “Sign of the Wolf (Pentagram),” “All Your Sins” and “When the Screams Come.” While they were setting up their gear, someone in the crowd looked up and said, “Holy shit, it’s Victor Griffin!” and that about sums it up. His tone and Bobby Liebling‘s frontman presence are a rightfully legendary combo, and even though it was the first night of their tour as well, they sent the Seattle crowd into the evening well aware of who and what they had just seen. The current Pentagram lineup, with Griffin, Liebling, bassist Greg Turley and drummer Sean Saley already sounded like pros, but I’ll be really interested to see where they’re at by the time we roll into San Francisco.
We loaded out the gear from El Corazon about as fast as we could and on the way back out to the Red Roof Inn, I asked Jim Pitts to stop the van so I could jump out and take a picture of the Space Needle. No regrets. Tomorrow morning, 11AM, we head to Portland. It’s after 3:30AM now. I think everyone was a little more relaxed with the first show down. Myself included.
Posted in Features on February 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
02.22.14 — 4:16PM Pacific — Saturday — El Corazon, Seattle, WA
“You could auction this moment…” — Chris Skowronski
Woke up at about seven this morning (on this time) and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I got up and went downstairs. Had some coffee and sat for a bit in the Red Roof Inn lounge, which was where the muffins probably would’ve been if there’d been any. Back upstairs to bed until after 11AM, shower, then waiting to come here, basically. Rewatched last week’s episode of True Detective and some of the long-since-jumped-the-shark second season of Twin Peaks while Carl and Chris warmed up their guitars by jamming first along to Carl’s iPad and then on some new riffs. I’m not coming into this trip with any great romantic ideal about life on tour. My impression is it’s a lot of waiting, a lot of driving, and then shows. Dudes are out getting drinks and I’m sitting at the venue listening to music and waiting. Rob and I miss our dogs. Load-in was 4PM. With seven people, it didn’t take long.
Jim Pitts is a fucking pro. He seems like a good-natured guy on first impression and he definitely came prepared: Hand sanitizer, Febreeze, baby oranges, work gloves. Dude has it together. I have no idea how the Kings Destroy dudes got in touch with him, but he’s stepped into a wrangler mode that he’s obviously comfortable with. The van’s pretty cushy, which is fortunate because there are some long drives coming up. The one from the hotel was not much to speak of in length, but a first look at Seattle was interesting. People knew what they were doing with building a town by the time they got out here. Cities in the Northeast, — Philly, Boston especially, New York too once you’re out of Manhattan’s grid — feel like they just kind of happened. I guess because they did. There’s a reason states out here have square borders and the East Coast is shaped like fuckall.
No sign yet of anyone from the Pentagram or Radio Moscow camps. It is early. There are a few other vans around outside, but I don’t know who’s who. Ancient Warlocks go on at eight. El Corazon looks like a cool room. Wider than it is long, which I like. Big stage. Spirit Caravan are coming through here and the flyer has a picture of Shrinebuilder on it. Had a laugh at that, but the space itself is right on. Blue floor in the bar, black in the stage area, and there’s a smaller side room. I think there’s a six-band bill in there tonight. Five in here, so that’s a total of 11 bands in two rooms. I was trying to buy a bar in Boston over the last several months but it fell through. I could run a place like this. No prospects for doing so (anymore) or funding to make it happen, but if I could end up with a space like this, I’d do it forever.
We’re staying again at the Red Roof Inn. Not sure if there will be room for luggage in the back of the van with the amps and such, but if we have to rent a trailer, tomorrow’s the day to find it out with a relatively short trip to Portland. I feel anxious for the first night of the tour, which is odd since I’m not actually playing.
Posted in Features on February 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
02.21.14 — 11:30PM Pacific — Friday — Red Roof Inn, Seattle, WA
“On official review…” – Rob Sefcik
They say you find interesting things when you travel. I’ve found the neatest headache! Hit me about an hour into the flight and I immediately flashed back to Last Night Me, who, when he was packing his bags, couldn’t imagine any reason he might need the ibuprofen in his carry-on. What a jerk. Add your stereotypical screaming kid, some cramped quarters and flight attendants of all stripes and preoccupations bumping my shoulder on way by, and that’s basically the story of the flight. I put on the Young Hunter EP while we were landing and I was pretty sure it was going to crash the plane. At that point, I was ready.
I sat in a row with Carl and Steve from Kings Destroy, having met the band at the gate at JFK. Rob and Chris were a couple rows up and back, respectively, and Aaron was on the other side of the aisle from me. We were late taking off, but the sunset was expansive out the gate window, so you take the good with the bad. They’ve all gone off to a bar somewhere down the way. 13-something-or-other it’s called. I’ve turned on the AC and will shortly get myself some ice water and I dug out the ibuprofen and had a protein bar and I think that’ll do it for me. On their way out, Chris reminded me that “this is where the stories happen.” He’s not wrong, but something tells me I won’t be light on stories.
Carl had left his bag on the plane. The picture above was him after going back to get it. Spirits are high, laughs were had. Jim Pitts, who’s reportedly driving the van, was stuck in traffic and is due to arrive here at the Red Roof Inn shortly. I’m looking forward to meeting him. Steve informed he’s an oldschool hardcore dude. When I asked, “Who isn’t?” he rightly said, “You.” Touche. We took a shuttle over from the airport. I’ve seen no needles from space, no Robbie Cano. Tomorrow, I figure. Need to hit a bookstore as well. Forgot a book. Fucking amateur hour.
Back east, it’s coming up on three in the morning. I don’t know what the plan is for tomorrow, but then, I didn’t know what the plan was for tonight. I’m here though. I’ve never been in this city and I’m looking forward to seeing it by daylight, and I’m hardly out living it up, but at least I’m here. Feels like an accomplishment.
Earth, The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull (2008)
If Earth had decided after their 2005 comeback studio album, Hex; or Printing in the Infernal Method, to put out another full-length of similarly-minded Dead Man-inspired Americana desolate soundscapes, I doubt there would’ve been many complaints. I think in some ways the heavy underground is still coming to grips with that album, now almost a decade later, and it has served as a point of influence for many in a wide variety of subgenres probably even more than something like Earth 2 – Special Low Frequency Versiondid for the band in the early ’90s. Maybe that’s overstating it. Still, you get the idea. No one would’ve argued with Hex Pt. 2.
That’s not the band’s nature, it seems. None of their albums or even their bevvy of live releases splits, etc., really makes any effort toward retreading past ground, and when they released The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull on Southern Lord in 2008, all you had to do to realize how different its character was from its predecessor was look at the artwork. It’s like the color wants to punch you in the face. And the elaborate font of the band’s logo — or the huge one, if you have the vinyl — left a much different, much fuller impression than the stark, grainy black and white of Hex. The music on The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skullproved similarly colorful, richly thematic, patient as ever and no less evocative than was the record before it, if somewhat harder to place in time and atmosphere.
More open, in other words. The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skullwas a powerful development of the ideas presented on Hex; or Printing in the Infernal Method, and while the album hasn’t had the same kind of sonic legacy in the half-decade since its release, it continues to resonate and radiate a rich, human beauty, and I continue to like very much the places it takes me when I put it on, as now.
Tonight The Patient Mrs. and I drove south to Connecticut to have dinner with her mother and grandmother ahead of her birthday, which is next week. Two hours each way and we just got back a little while ago, so yeah, the Earth record is about fitting with my energy level right now. It was a hell of a week, and I feel like I could really, really stand to get out to a show in the next couple days, so I’m going to look around and see if there’s anything I can make happen in that regard. It’s been a while at this point. Feels like too long.
I’ll review whatever it is, should I prove successful in finding something, and look out next week as Ben Smith from The Brought Low will answer The Obelisk Questionnaire, and I’ll have reviews up of Slough Feg and maybe that SunnO)))/Ulver collaboration, since this drone seems to be hitting so right. I’ve done two weeks in a row now of review roundups; one went over decently well and this week’s seems to have fallen utterly flat. Okay then. I’ll give it another go this week and see what happens.
Also look for a writeup on Blackwitch Pudding‘s new vinyl if I can find a way around showing the needlessly sexist album cover, and though I’ll be traveling south (yes again) next Friday and won’t have much by way of posts during the day, I might get a podcast ready to go up so at least there’s something. Hopefully things shake out that I have time.
It also looks like I’ll be going to Roadburn after all. More on that in the weeks to come.
I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and the radio stream, because they kick ass.
I don’t think I really need to go out of my way to justify including Sap as a heavy work. Sometimes I wonder what I would’ve thought of Alice in Chains had I been 15 or 20 years older than I was when they broke big, if the whole thing would’ve seemed as ridiculous to me then as a lot of modern alternative and pop hard rock seems to me now. Like Primus, of whom I’ve expressed a similar enduring affection, Alice in Chains hit me at just the right time. Dirt came out in Sept. 1992, and that would be the first of their albums that I heard. I was 11 years old.
Their post-reunion stuff hasn’t really interested me — I bought a used copy of Black Gives Way to Blue not so terribly long after it came out, but hardly listened to it. I heard part of one song from the one they did last year on the radio and it had that computerized wall of sound guitar anti-tone thing going for it, like Nickelback with a pitch-corrected Jerry Cantrell harmony. A futuristic nightmare in which something that once seemed so pure, on Facelift, Sap, Dirt, Jar of Flies, and the self-titled (which gets written off a lot but was actually really, really dark), comes back as unaware self-parody. Robots impersonating flowers. Food: Now with more flavor. Somewhere in a nameless city, Rowdy Roddy Piper puts on a pair of sunglasses.
But this. Beautiful. At least for the four songs of Sap proper, and then they get into the silly bonus track lest they be taken too seriously. I had this on earlier this week, turned up loud, was singing along to notes I used to be able to hit I guess before I turned 30 and finally hit puberty. My intention was to close out this week with something else, something a little more “the norm” as much as there is one, or at least something that’s not such an unrepentant downer, but this was more honest to where my head’s been at the last few days so there wasn’t really a choice. If it’s not your thing, or maybe it didn’t get into you when you were the right age, I’d be happy to hear about it in the comments.
Sorry about that whole “no posts” thing yesterday. I try to avoid that whenever I can, at least get something up. Yesterday The Patient Mrs. and I were on the road all day coming back from a mid-week trip south to Jersey. There’s a good chance this will come up again. I’ll try to give some notice or post what I can. I do my best.
Lots of news this week. Lots of videos. Not a lot of reviews. Here are the next five album reviews I’m going to write for this site. Ready? Weedpecker, Colour Haze (the Ewige Blumenkraft reissue), Conan, Mammatus and Papir. I really fucking hope it’s not a month before I get those done, but if it is, fuck it. That’s what I want to write about so that’s what I’m going to write about. I spend an awful lot of time feeling obligated and like I’m behind on shit. Well, I am behind, a lot, but when it comes to it, I do this to have a good time and write about music I enjoy, so if you’re not one of those next five reviews, I’m sorry but you’re gonna have to wait a little longer. Please know that your patience is appreciated.
I did a killer interview the other day with Rev. Jim Forrester about the Sixty Watt Shaman reunion. I’m not sure when I’ll have the time to transcribe it — Conan is next, then Alcest — but I’ll get there. I wish I had more time. Also money. Also abdominal definition. Also the ability to express emotions beyond frustration. It’s a long list. I wish and wish.
But life is what happens while you sit around and wish on bullshit you either can or can’t make real, so fuck it. I hope your week was incredible like the first time you heard Sabbath and it clicked, and I hope your weekend follows suit. If you stick around, I’ll have a new podcast coming either Sunday night or Monday morning, and there’s a lot of other silly nonsense to come as well next week other than whatever reviews I can get done. I hope you’ll hang out.
Thanks all, enjoy Sap, and please check out the forum and radio stream.
Posted in Radio on December 19th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s a release home-recorded entirely with instrumental acoustic guitar, so yeah, it should probably go without saying that Michael Wohl‘s Eight Pieces for Solo Guitarhas an intimate vibe. Nonetheless, Wohl, who also serves as guitarist/vocalist in Seattle rockers Mystery Ship – their EP II(review here) was one of my favorite short releases this year — manages to explore a range of emotional expressions within the decidedly minimal atmosphere, from the toe-tapper “No Ticket Blues” to the open-spaced folk of “Lonesome No More.”
Calling it primitive feels like underselling it, but fortunately there’s very little of the cloying-at-authenticity in what Wohl does that one often finds in neo-Americana folk. And it’s not simple by any means. Each of the titular eight pieces has a concept at work, as Wohl himself elucidates in a track-by-track accompanying the digital release even as he gives the tuning info:
Eight instrumental acoustic guitar songs recorded in my apartment between January 2012 and May 2013. Remastered July 2013.
1. Sheepmanblues: drone blues with a nod to Murakami, played in CGCGCE tuning. The SHEEPMAN is ever-present and cryptic in his instruction & aim.
2. No Ticket Blues: Played in DADF#AD. An original composition, indebted to Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Skip James. Ain’t got no Ticket, ain‘t got no ride.
3. Moonfeeder: nocturne played in DADFAD
4. Poor Boy Long Ways From Home: adapted from an arrangement from John Fahey who I think adapted primarily from Barbecue Bob and Booker White. This is one of the oldest songs. No one wrote it but it floats in the firmament of American music. Rev. Robert Wilkins secular song “That’s No Way to Get Along” became “Prodigal Son” when he took up the cloth and this song bears much similarity. Adapted by the Stones on the Beggar’s Banquet album.
5. Melatonin Blues / Fever Dream: I stayed up for way too long and improvised this arrangement of a couple ideas and figures I had been playing for a while.
6. Rainin’ Sideways: came up with on the couch while visiting my home, played in Open C. Recorded in Seattle on one of the ugliest days in history.
7. Long After We Are Dead: one of the first instrumental songs I wrote. It came together after visiting Antietam, Gettysburg, and other Civil War sites.
8. Lonesome No More: In E Standard tuning, capo’d 2nd fret. A foray into spatial composition…echo & distance.
Naturally, having a direct discussion from Wohl on the intent and meaning behind the songs gives the 27-minute album a different context, but even without it, it’s easy to get a sense of where the divide in “Melatonin Blues/Fever Dream” lies, the former staying somewhat in line with the rootsy style of “Sheepmanblues” and the latter wandering into more intricate changes, still keeping a down-home twang, but come into a folkier place.
The overall spirit of the songs is humble — a far cry from some of the swagger Wohl shows in Mystery Ship — and deeply personal, and in some cases, immediately and unconsciously familiar. The take on “Poor Boy Long Way from Home” gives a bare-bones look at where Masters of Reality picked up some of the melody for “John Brown,” and “Rainin’ Sideways” takes even more appeal from the fact that it seems like it’s about to come apart at any given moment.
Wohl has a tape version of Eight Pieces for Solo Guitarout and a 7″ coming that’s also set to feature “Moonfeeder,” but because it’s something that might catch people off guard in listening, I thought it would be perfect as well for The Obelisk Radio. You can hear it there now as part of the regular streaming rotation and check it out on the Bandcamp player below. Enjoy:
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: