Murcielago, Murcielago: Like Bricks

Posted in Reviews on November 25th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

murcielago murcielago

Listening to Murcielago‘s self-titled, self-released debut, it’s not a huge surprise that some of it comes across sounding akin to Boston heavy rock headliners Roadsaw. There are commonalities superficial and otherwise. First of all, their lineup boasts guitarist Ian Ross, who also plays in Roadsaw. The album was recorded by Benny Grotto, who has also helmed outings for Roadsaw, at Mad Oak Studios in Allston, Massachusetts, which is owned by Roadsaw vocalist Craig RiggsRiggs also makes a guest appearance on the boogie-fied penultimate cut, “Zora,” backing up bassist Neil Collins, who works in a somewhat likeminded style vocally at points throughout as well. And aside from the consistency of Ross‘ guitar tone and being demographically similar — at least the three-quarters of the band that’s not Ross; that part is demographically the same — the two acts share a core approach based around giving modern heavy interpretation to classic methods. As I understand it, Ross joined Murcielago after they had already been together for some time with Collins, guitarist/backing vocalist Matthew Robbins, who also sings lead on “Fairlane Swain” and took the photo on the cover, and drummer Brian Chaloux, so I don’t know where they were in terms of writing this material when he came aboard, but his tone, even in combination with Robbins‘, is recognizable. Murcielago distinguish themselves through what they do with their riff-led heavy grooves, and in the subtly brooding personality that emerges on cuts like opener “Bulldozers,” which leads off the 10-song/43-minute offering nestling quickly into a steady rolling groove that proves to be a specialty of Murcielago as the album progresses. Ultimately, if they prove anything across Murcielago‘s span, it’s that they know what they want sound-wise and they know how to make it a reality, which is more than a lot of “first albums” can offer.

If you’re a fan of unpretentious American heavy, Small Stone-style rock, there’s going to be little here with which to find argument. “Bulldozers” and “Money,” both right around six minutes, show off the fullness of sound Murcielago can harness when they so choose and the swing that they can bring to a rhythm, Collins giving away some punk roots in the chorus of the latter, which hits hard after a start-stop verse. Unsurprisingly for a two-guitar four-piece, there’s a good bit of soloing to be had, and Ross and Robbins trade off readily — the former in the right channel, the latter in the left — adding salt to “Money,” which but for “Fairlane Swain” is the longest track here at 6:01. “Cheebahawk,” which follows, is shorter and faster both, but not so far removed in spirit, its straightforward push, crisp cymbal sound and Collins‘ vocal command guiding from a riff-heavy beginning into a quick, semi-twanging midsection that presages some of what’s to come on “Smoke Season” before returning to the thick-toned riffs and a one-into-the-next solo from Robbins and Ross, leading to the last verse and chorus. When it arrives, “Smoke Season” is the first of three shorter pieces. It and the later “Like Bricks,” which provides a split between highlights “Way too Far” and “Fairlane Swain,” are interludes, and the backwards-cymbal-forwards-guitar “The Last Line” is the album’s outro after “Zora.” They get progressively longer until the last one, but the difference is “Smoke Season” is acoustic — Collins and Robbins working together on guitar — and it’s probably the most classic rock stretch of Murcielago, which is fitting since it kicks off a strong middle-third and comes before the fuzzed out “Don’t Do Nothin’,” Collins channeling his inner Riggs with just the right riff to do so over. One of the record’s most resonant hooks, “Don’t Do Nothing” gives way to the no-frills stomp-and-run of “Way too Far,” and the two make for an excellent pair, showing off some of Murcielago at their best.

murcielago

That said, Murcielago is also a record that becomes a richer listen as it goes on. If one looks at the tracklist as divisible into three sections, “Bulldozers,” “Money” and “Cheebahawk” make for a solid lead-in, “Smoke Season,” “Don’t Do Nothin’,” and the mega-catchy “Way too Far” push further into quality songwriting and begin to expand the instrumental scope, and with “Like Bricks” as an intro, “Fairlane Swain,” “Zora” and “The Last Line” show that they’re not afraid to shake up their own approach, whether it’s with Chaloux‘s backwards cymbals on the outro, bringing in Riggs on “Zora” — which seems to be about a two-year sailing trip undertaken by Collins from 2004 to 2006 — or Robbins taking lead vocal charge on “Fairlane Swain.” At 7:44, the latter strikes a balance between instrumental progression and a foundational hook revolving around the lines, “Heavy metal parking lot/Just a dimebag of shit pot…” describing scenes taken from what seems to be personal reference — a photo of a 1966 Ford Fairlane provided by and presumably featuring one Steve Swain flipping off the camera is included in one of the inside panels of the six-panel digipak — atop a riff that’s just about universal before delivering the title line with underclassman’s reverence to a classic image of cool. Or is it contempt? Either way, the album’s instrumental payoff follows, built from the ground up and boasting highlight guitar work from both Robbins and Ross, and “Zora” gives a Dozer-worthy last kick in the ass before the quiet psych-bluesy “The Last Line” caps off a record that doesn’t seem to want to end. Fair enough, but by the time it gets there, Murcielago‘s Murcielago can’t be accused of leaving something unsaid. Rather, the foursome’s debut delivers a complete-album feel and a vibe that develops as it unfolds and helps greatly to individualize the band. Whatever, and whoever, they may share, Murcielago leave their first long-player behind them having given the listener a sense of who they are musically and what they want to accomplish here and going forward stylistically. They’re not green as musicians and they don’t sound like it, but the self-titled neither lacks pulse nor wants anything for songwriting.

Murcielago, “Way too Far”

Murcielago on Thee Facebooks

Murcielago on Bandcamp

Murcielago at Bull Moose Records

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Face on Mars, Face on Mars: Getting Loud

Posted in Reviews on November 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

face on mars face on mars

Though Mississippi-based five-piece Face on Mars got together in 2006, their recent self-titled full-length is their debut. They had a track feature on a StonerRock.com compilation back when such things existed and released a split in 2011 with punkers Before I Hang, the song from which, “Jump the Gun,” also appears as the centerpiece of the nine-track Face on Mars. They position themselves as a psychedelic fuzz band, and eight-minute closer “The Last Astronaut” has some trippy effects and a jammier feel to bear that out, but the bulk of what the album has to offer is straightforward, Small Stone Records-style American heavy rock, guitarist/vocalist Drew Kern tapping into his inner Dave Wyndorf vocally while the band — Kern, guitarist/vocalist Matthew Curtis, bassist Jonathan Lee Parks, drummer Jarod Lumpkin and keyboardist/guitarist Drew White – drive home riffs somewhere between a less-garage Baby Woodrose and, particularly in the case of opener “We Get Loud,” earlier Queens of the Stone Age‘s still-accessible sprint. A love of classic heavy is professed, and I don’t doubt it, but the production is modern across Face of Mars‘ 43 minutes, which play out in capably heavy, somewhat predictable fashion their riff-led, full-toned thrust.

An earlier cut like “Golden Throne” and the later “Screaming Boy” seem to have some touch of Lord Fowl-style boogie, but not knowing when in the last eight years these tracks were written, I wouldn’t want to cite an influence mistakenly. No doubt the Chris Goosman mastering job had some effect in that regard — Goosman handles a lot of work for Small Stone, including the aforementioned Lord Fowl‘s 2012 outing, Moon Queen – but Face on Mars inject some classic Sabbathism into “Beat ‘em Dead”‘s bluesy roll and find further distinction through White‘s various synth/key/lapsteel contributions. Kern is an able vocalist well suited to the riffs he’s topping, his style gruff but not caricature dudely, and over Lumpkin‘s cowbell and funked out start-stop riffing in second cut “Psychedelic Jesus,” he keeps a solid balance of restraint and blues in what he does, bolstered by echoes so that the style comes across somewhere between KISS and Mountain as filtered through the second Sasquatch record. Face on Mars have a few killer hooks up their collective sleeve, and “Psychedelic Jesus” is one of them, and the fuzzier “Jump the Gun” is another, but there’s room to grow as well in the handling of a lower tempo in “Source of Ignition.” They’re right to want to change things up, and they’re right in where they want to do it, but while the second half of the track takes off in an airy barrage of guitar leads (before returning to the chorus), the earlier verses don’t have the same kind of power. “Screaming Boy,” which follows, is a suitable kick in the ass to get things moving again.

face on mars

The instrumental “Minnows” (shortest here at 2:12) is a lead-in for “The Last Astronaut (longest at 8:37), but has its own progression as well, and particularly with how well the one plays off the other, I wouldn’t call what Face on Mars present on their first album underbaked or overblown — they simply give themselves avenues for further development should they embark on a follow-up to their debut. I’d be interested to hear them continue to toy with psychedelic elements — the keys, the wash of leads — as they refine their verse/chorus tradeoffs and tighten some of the transitions like that coming back to the hook in “Source of Ignition.” “The Last Astronaut” isn’t close to being their most raucous moment, but I’d argue it’s their most commanding, and the exploratory feel that comes forward as it moves past the halfway point (not to mention Parks‘ bassline) satisfies immensely. I guess that’s the kind of thing you do in your last song, but Face on Mars prove throughout this outing that they know what they’re doing enough to be more daring should they want to be. Among the elements that ultimately work greatly in their favor is the production of Face on Mars – helmed by the band with engineering/mixing by Mark Black at Black Magic Studios in Hattiesburg — sometimes in areas not known for a huge heavy rock scene, bands come out with records that sound either too metal and have no low end or too flat and lack warmth. Face on Mars sound crisp and come through clearly on these tracks, and are plenty full between the guitars, bass, and synth, but still have enough natural edge so that they don’t sound completely divorced from what the songs might be when coming from a stage. Whatever they do from here, however they might evolve, they’ll do so from a worthy first outing light on pretense and assured of where it wants to be sonically.

Face on Mars, Face on Mars (2014)

Face on Mars on Thee Facebooks

Face on Mars on Bandcamp

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Here’s Kings Destroy Doing “Smokey Robinson” in Rhode Island

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 17th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

kings destroy (Photo by Tim Bugbee)

Here’s a fun fact: I fucking hate videos I’m in. Photos too. Really anything. If I can go without seeing, hearing, reading myself, seeing my name, feeling like I exist, escaping for 20 seconds from crippling neurotic self-awareness, whatever, that’s the way to go. The conundrum here is that even by saying that, I’m pointing out the fact that I’m in this video, but I think even if you didn’t know it was me and you watched it, you might be wondering to yourself, “Who’s the longhair dick up front taking pictures?” I’m that dick. That’s the guy. Get him.

I didn’t write about it in the tour report, but before the doors opened at The Met in Providence, I was sitting at the bar with The Patient Mrs., and one of the dudes who works there or owns the place or whatever came up and started asking where we got our passes all in an accusing tone of voice and shit, like we broke into the Pentagram show and stole them off the table or something. I was like, “The guy standing next to you gave them to us,” and then asked him if he wanted to fight about it. Got a winner of a look for that one — and rest assured, if he or the dude with him had wanted to fight, I’d have gotten my ass handed to me — but whatever. By then I’d been 12 nights out of 12 nights on that run and wasn’t ready to greet dickitude with anything other than the same.

Hope you enjoyed the digression. The mind makes these associations, event with place, place with time, song with season, and so on. To the best of my achingly limited understanding, this is the first video of Kings Destroy playing the song “Smokey Robinson.” It comes from that Providence show and was filmed by Pentagram drummer Sean Saley. I’m happy to report that even though I pollute the thing early on with my existence, the giant head that shows up right in front of the camera at the end belongs to someone else. We have to take our victories where we can get them.

Kings Destroy‘s next show is Dec. 12 at Brooklyn’s St. Vitus bar with YOB and Tombs. I am hoping to attend. “Smokey Robinson” will be featured on their third album, which will be out next year, and has been stuck in my head for the better part of the last three weeks even though I know about one-third of the words, and that’s being generous. It’s not something I’m posting because I feel obligated, or to fill space, or whatever. It’s a quality song and I had something to say about the video, so fucking there you go.

Dig:

Kings Destroy, “Smokey Robinson” Live at the Met, Providence, RI, Nov. 2, 2014

Kings Destroy on Thee Facebooks

Kings Destroy on Bandcamp

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Friday Full-Length: Floor, Floor

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 14th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Floor, Floor (2002)

The self-titled debut full-length from Floor is a monument to the gloriousness of weighted tonality. For me, particularly over the last couple years, it’s an album I’ve come to associate with motion, with going places. Reason being is that it was on an iPod I’d initially bought for The Patient Mrs. years back but wound up sort of appropriating after she more or less discarded it (this same iPod was also recently stolen out of my car by some jerk who remains at large), and with the relatively limited selection there as compared to my CD rack, I’d find it in the playlist usually while sitting in an airport and be all excited, pretty much each time out. So walking on airplanes, walking off airplanes, getting from here to somewhere else, Floor‘s Floor is the record for me by which that happens. It’s been my soundtrack for at least the last four trips to Roadburn.

It also seems fitting that it should be a travel album because the music itself is so compelling. Whether it’s “Scimitar,” or “Downed Star” or the one-two-three quick punch of “Twink,” “Sheech” and “Assassin,” which I still feel like I’m trying to catch up to, the album itself moves. The Miami trio of guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks – who’d go on to found Torche following Floor‘s dissolution — guitarist Anthony Vialon and drummer Henry Wilson propelled themselves from one song to the next, sometimes in attention-deficit-disorder leaps that seemed to leave ideas incomplete in a punkish sort of tradition and sometimes just at the right time, but never with a moment wasted. To date, it remains one of heavy rock’s best examples of a lean record that still sounds mammoth and pummeling — that’s not to mention the upbeat tempos or pop influence — and its thrust and brash feel has had a considerable influence since the time of its release on No Idea Records in 2002. Probably too early to call it a classic just 12 years after the fact, but there’s nothing that seems like it’ll stop it from getting there as the years continue to progress.

All the more so because of Floor‘s reactivated status, and with this lineup. Earlier 2014’s Oblation (review here) was a worthy successor to Floor‘s original run, which came to an end with 2004’s sophomore outing, Dove. By then the lineup had changed and it was clear the dynamic in the band was shifted, but from the time Floor got back together following the welcome reception of their 10LP Below and Beyond box set through Robotic Empire (who also have a reissue of the self-titled for sale on their Bandcamp with outtakes), the question of a new album was always there, and they answered that question loudly and in progressive, still immensely heavy form. Brooks seems primed for a shift back to Torche in 2015 for their Relapse label debut, but Floor continue to play shows in support of Oblation as well, shifting from a “reunion” band to a working one. They’ll play Roadburn and Desertfest in 2015 and probably much more around Europe between. As a fan of the band, I hope they continue on and put out a follow-up fourth long-player, but the self-titled continues to hold a special place in my heart, even if that place seems to constantly be in motion.

Hope you enjoy.

Will keep it quick this time. Stay tuned next week. Hopefully I’ll have a review of the new Murcielago record, plus the Orange Goblin which I’m sure you’ve already heard, plus an interview one way or another, be it the Lowrider Q&A or one with Soph from Alunah. I’ve also got a track premiere and quickie Q&A with It’s Casual slated for Wednesday and maybe one or two audio-type tricks up my sleeve for the rest of the week as well. We’ll see how it shapes up.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Hjortene Announce Repress of Self-Titled Debut

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 5th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

hjortene

Danish rockers Hjortene released their self-titled debut full-length back in the Spring, and having sold out of the first pressing have done the only reasonable thing and whipped up another batch. This time around, Hjortene‘s Hjortene is available in an edition of 300 thick-stock brown vinyl platters with alternate artwork from what they used on the first pressing. The record, if you’ll recall, was a frenzy of stoner riffing, so if you missed it before all the other copies went, the band and their imprint, Walden Rekords, have you covered in style.

Info, background and the album stream follow, courtesy of the band, who also promise new material on the horizon:

hjortene vinyl

HJORTENE news: New heavy brown vinyl + concert dates + new sounds (soon)

The first edition (300) of Hjortene S/T on black heavy vinyl sold out a few months ago. Therefore we have made a new batch (300), and this time on heavy brown vinyl.

The artwork is slightly altered – as it is a brown print on heavy rough cardboard. This edition includes a free download coupon for the album. All other owners of the first vinyl edition can write us for a free download code as well.

The self titled record was recorded live at Black Tornado studios in Copenhagen, Denmark with Anders Onsberg Hansen (Baby Woodrose, Spids Nøgenhat, Highway Child) and the album is indeed very warm sounding since all songs are recorded direct to analogue tape (btw on the same tape recorder Nirvana used to record ‘In Utero’).

On the album, the band worked with three distinct handpicked guest musicians:

— Valient Himself from American Valient Thorr lend his vocal duties on the opener 180.000 km/t. The guest vocals became possible after a long correspondence between the lead singer and the band, and the recording took place in a conference room at the venue before Valient Thorr’s last gig in Copenhagen.

— Lorenzo Woodrose from Baby Woodrose and Spids Nøgenhat is an old friend of the band, who guests on Canada with a 1½ minute double fuzz- space echo-wah solo, where he plays against himself in guitar sequences intertwining endlessly.

— President Fetch/Molle from legendary danish punkband President Fetch participates on the shortest track of the record, James Brown. The President wrote the lyrics about the King of Soul, who wishes to fly with UFO’s in Thuringia and walk on coals with the Mau Mau.

The sound of Hjortene is like dry wood beeing chopped with a fuzz pedal set to 11, and an old tube amp puking blood. The album is packed with solid bass heavy riffs that will cater for fans of Fu Manchu, Brant Bjork, Nebula, The Sword and Mudhoney, but with more unconventional song structures and experimental (animal-)sounds.

Previously all Hjortene’s songs have been in their native language, but on this album Danish and English is mixed. The lyrics are a bipolar mixture focusing from birth to death and on the mind’s darkets corners. For example the 9 minute long Canada: What happens, when you’re sitting in the most peaceful enviroment in the forests of Canada, and suddenly you feel yourself so clearly that all the bad things you have accumulated over time just comes tumbling.

In 2004 Hjortene won an P3 Guld-award and later they released the 10” mini album ’Brøl Stød Løb’ (2007). In 2008 Hjortene released the split-EP ‘World Domination’ (2008) with Swedish band Omar.

This winter the following concerts are booked:

November 8 with President Fetch @ High Voltage, Copenhagen (Denmark)
December 12 @ Gimle Soundtjek, Roskilde (Denmark)
January 30 @ Festival, Aalborg (Denmark)
January 31 @ Radar, Aarhus (Denmark)

— NEW RIFFS —
Hjortene also started working on new material, and some sound snippets will be up on the band’s Soundclouad in the nearest future: https://soundcloud.com/hjortene

http://hjortene.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/hjortene/

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Mondo Drag to Release Self-Titled Album on Kozmik Artifactz

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 5th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

mondo drag

Now located in Oakland, California, after first coming together in the Midwest, Mondo Drag are preparing to issue their sophomore long-player. Self-titled and due out this winter through Kozmik Artifactz, the record features the rhythm section of Cory Berry and Zack Anderson, both now out of the band and better known as the now-former drummer and bassist for Blues Pills and Radio MoscowMondo Drag was recorded right around the time Blues Pills were getting going, and though Berry and Anderson would soon split for Sweden, their presence on the album, especially at what was a pretty tumultuous time coming off their unceremonious departure from Radio Moscow, makes the follow-up to Mondo Drag‘s 2010 debut, New Rituals (review here), an even more enticing prospect.

The PR wire brings a look at the cover art and tells the whole story:

mondo drag cover

MONDO DRAG sign for new album with Kozmik Artifactz

Heavy psych / prog band MONDO DRAG is proud to announce the release of their second full-length LP which is Self-Titled. The Oakland, CA-based outfit’s heavy-hitting new record will be released this Winter – on CD and vinyl (180-gram, gatefold LP) — via Kozmik Artifactz.

Under the spiritual guidance of the forefathers of heavy psych, prog, and proto-metal, MONDO DRAG has created an amalgamation of sounds the likes of which have not resounded through the atmosphere for decades. The bands unique sound, and rare cohesion probably stem from the fact that core members John Gamino, Nolan Girard, and Jake Sheley actually grew up within a one mile radius from each other, attended the same schools, were part of the same music scene, and have played in bands with each other for 15 years.

The release of New Rituals (Alive Records)in 2010, saw the band headlining numerous U.S tours, appearing at many high-profile fests around the country including several official showcases at SXSW (and a dozen more unofficial ones), and headlining slots at both the Chicago Pysch Fest and the Cincy Psych Fest. You can also find them on the Austin Psych Fest 3 DVD (w/ The Black Angels, The Warlocks, Warpaint, et al.).

After a tumultuous tour in March 2011, Johnnie (drums, vocals) and Dennis (bass) left the band. After looking high and low for a new rhythm section, the band caught a break when Cory Berry and Zack Anderson moved back to Iowa after quitting Radio Moscow. The two came to live with the band, while rehearsing and preparing material for the new album. This transitional period also saw John assume the role of vocalist for the band.

In the Winter of 2011-2012, the band returned to Future Appletree Studios Too (New Rituals was recorded here also) to record with friend and gear guru, Patrick Stolley. Zack and Cory came to stay with the band again, but this time they also brought along with them Elin Larsson. While Zack and Cory were recording with Mondo Drag they were also forming Blues Pills and recording their Bliss EP for Crusher Records.

Utilizing Stolley’s extensive vintage gear library and his expansive knowledge of analog recording, they were able to capture full-band live performances recorded to analog tape. Most of the live tracking was recorded with 1940’s and 50’s RCA ribbon mics and everything recorded on the album ran through tube pre-amps and transformers of the same era.

Shortly after the album was recorded, Zack moved to Sweden and Cory soon followed to pursue their new group, Blues Pills, which was really taking off in Europe. This left the band with still no rhythm section. After much thought, the band decided it was time to move and reform the group so in 2013 they caravanned to Oakland, CA with all of their records and gear.

Since then, the band has picked up a new rhythm section and has quickly become a staple of the bay area’s psych/prog scene playing with bands like Hot Lunch, Lecherous Gaze, Wild Eyes, Once and Future Band, and Hedersleben.

This album features the lineup of John Gamino (vocals / keyboards), Nolan Girard (guitar), Jake Sheley (guitar), and the rhythym section of Zack Anderson (bass), and Cory Berry (drums), both formerly of Radio Moscow and founding members of Blues Pills.

Upcoming shows:
12/12 at Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco W/ Older Sun, Banquet

www.mondodrag.com
www.kozmik-artifactz.com

Mondo Drag, Live in Oakland, CA, May 31, 2014

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Moon Curse Self-Titled LP Available to Preorder

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 13th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

moon curse

Riff monger three-piece Moon Curse first came to my attention at Days of the Doomed last year, delivering more than solid stoner march and deeply weighted groove. Their self-titled debut full-length was originally self-released in 2012, and the band has been through two pressings (there are still a couple copies left of the second at their Bandcamp) up to this point and no doubt soon enough the third will be gone as well, with Bilocation Records stepping in to get behind the release for a European audience. Of all the records I regret not buying at that fest, theirs just about tops the list, but I’ve drowned my sorrows numerous times in the stream of the album, which now includes the bonus track “Seminary Woods,” included for your perusal here.

Good band. They’re about due for a follow-up, but I’m glad to see this record getting some attention with the Bilocation issue, about which you can find more info below, courtesy of the PR wire:

moon curse moon curse

MOON CURSE – Moon curse LP

Beneath the faded light of Milwaukee’s infamous “polish moon” clock tower (a structure built for the sole intent of dominating the night sky and the view of it’s immigrant residents), three bleary eyed mystics brew stoner hymns dedicated to baphomet bongsmoke, Pontiac muscle and 70’s rock n’ rollers. following a DOOMED path, tred by true HEAVY fanatics before them, a path that will always remain for those dedicated to the riff; MOON CURSE walk with intent to play loud and proud! Keith bangs the drums, Rochelle strums the Squier P bass, and Matt breaks Orange amplifiers and howls. One could cite Sabbath (duh!), Zeppelin, or a handful of other protometal-fuzz-stoner-whatever-rock as influnces, but you get the idea! You know it! You love it! So … GET CURSED!

VINYL FACTZ
-100x white w/ green (EXCLUSIVE MAILORDER edition)
-200x clear w/ white
-Plated & pressed on high-performance 180g vinyl
-pressed in Germany
-matt laquered 300gsm gatefold cover
-Artwork by Vincent Zager
-handnumbered
-especially mastered for vinyl
-incl. bonus track

TRACKS
A1. Medicinecoma 5:42
A2. Northern High 7:11
A3. Seminary Woods 9:10 (BONUS TRACK!)
B1. Brontis 5:43
B2. Chandra 2:05
B3. Black Elk 8:45

http://shop.bilocationrecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Mooncurseband/
http://mooncurse.bandcamp.com/

Moon Curse, “Seminary Woods”

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On Wax: Spidergawd, Spidergawd

Posted in On Wax on October 9th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

spidergawd-spidergawd-lp-and-cover-and-cd

A spirit of reverence is immediate, even before you put on the self-titled debut full-length from Norway’s Spidergawd. The vinyl — now in its third pressing, as I understand it — comes courtesy of Crispin Glover Records, and is presented in bright red, 180g form, housed in a blue transparent plastic sleeve. Already we see the interplay of color that the album itself will proffer. Its striking, thick-glossy-stock pagan-futuristic cover art follows suit, the tracklisting and recording info hidden inside, waiting to be found, and the whole package, which also includes a CD, is housed in a clear plastic sleeve that boasts the band’s logo for a layered-over effect when the put together. Spidergawd‘s music is as intricate a take as I’ve heard on ’70s-style boogie, with at-times manic progressive rhythmic turns matched to upbeat, classic heavy forward motion, and clearly the 12″ was meant to be a multi-sensory experience. Even unto how the texture of the sleeve feels in your hands, it offers more than just the audio.

The name Motorpsycho won’t be as immediately familiar to Americans as to Europeans, but the rhythm section of the long-running prog pioneers features here, bassist Bent Sæther and drummer Kenneth Kapstad joining guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Per Borten and saxophonist Rolf Martin Snustad in the spidergawd-spidergawd-lp-sleeve-and-recordTrondheim-based Spidergawd, the self-titled also boasting pedal steel from Roar Øien and trumpet from Kim Alexander Eriksen. The horns are used well beginning from side A opener “Into Tomorrow,” accenting the chorus of the album’s shortest cut without being overdone, adding to the excitement of the song itself, Borten‘s vocal command — readily on display throughout — and the instrumental chemistry between the guitar, bass and drums. “Into Tomorrow” is a forward, driving heavy rock song with an ear toward ’70s rock, but nothing on Spidergawd‘s Spidergawd is particularly retro-sounding, the production clear and full and not necessarily geared toward playing up a vintage style, though “Blauer Jubel” or “Southeastern Voodoo Lab” definitely lean more into that influence stylistically.

Even aside from Kapstad‘s gonna-put-on-a-clinic-and-still-sound-like-I’m-having-fun drumming, there’s a lot about the LP that’s easy to get into. Borten‘s guitar jangles and swaggers over Sæther‘s twisting fuzz jam, and though Spidergawd obviously have the chops to pull off the blinding shuffle of “Blauer Jubel,” technical prowess isn’t shown off at the expense of songwriting. “Master of Disguise” sees fit to out Graveyard Graveyard, a tense verse opening to a raucous, full-speed-ahead chorus of classic pursuit, and even if they hadn’t built such momentum over the course of “Into Tomorrow” and “Blauer Jubel,” the play of guitar and bass in the solo section — that low end tone — is a firm signifier these cats mean business. Still keeping a modern production, they update the best aspects of classic heavy rock and deliver a style both familiar and their own wrapped in virtuosic performance and variability, the horns returning on “Southeastern Voodoo Lab” to help round out side A in swinging fashion, pushing toward a guitar-led blues-solo apex with Kapstad pulling back to a half-time crash before once more joining the air-tight rush for a return to the verse.

A flip to side B brings more surprises in the form of the 14-minute “Empty Rooms,” an extended heavy psychedelic jam that begins with a solid minute-plus of Snustad‘s echoing sax before the guitar and bass begin to swell into the mix. Fuck, it’s righteous. They bring the volume up and hold a ringout as Kapstad‘s snare drumrolls a quick build, and Borten starts the vocals of the first verse aboutspidergawd-spidergawd-back-cover-and-cd four minutes after the song began, backed by Sæther‘s bass. They take off from there, once again at barnburner speed, and a solo at around eight minutes in brings a tempo change to a more languid groove, the bass and guitar fuzzed out in a descending progression toward what would seem to be a finish before start-stop chugging revives the movement, bass once more serving as the foundation for the guitar and Soundgarden-gone-psych compressed vocals that carry past the 10-minute mark. A jazzy, airy, unhurried solo caps over the last couple minutes, the sax gone, pedal steel buried deep in the mix but there enough to be in conversation with Borten, and the jam gradually fades out past its 14th minute, a jarring last minute swell signaling the shift into closer “Million Dollar Somersault,” its title and its initial bassline reminiscent of Queens of the Stone Age but ultimately working on a different plane, like the embodiment of everything hyper-stylized indie rockers fall short of conveying, ultra-swinging and poised even as its noisy apex approaches, fittingly grounding after “Empty Rooms” but still way, way out there, coming to a sudden finish as the needle returns, daring you to go another round.

Spidergawd have a couple singles under their belt on Crispin Glover, but this is their first full-length. One doesn’t want to get into they’re-gonna-be-huge kinds of hyperbole, both because it’s useless and because it ultimately detracts from conveying the actual value of the album, but there’s nothing Spidergawd sets out to do that its six tracks don’t accomplish, and front to back, the record breathes life into ’70s influenced heavy, showing there’s more to be done than simply trying to ape the sound as best as possible. I’ll say flat out it’s a hell of a record. If you don’t take my recommendation to heart, I hope it finds you some other way.

Spidergawd, “Into Tomorrow”

Spidergawd on Thee Facebooks

Crispin Glover Records

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Friday Full-Length: Captain Beyond, Captain Beyond

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 3rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Captain Beyond, Captain Beyond (1972)

Sometimes in listening to Captain Beyond‘s classic 1972 self-titled debut, it’s easy to forget that there were just four members in the band. At times they’re almost orchestral, layers of guitar and vocals making their way in and around winding, still-heavy riffs and grooves. The lineup was considerable even then — vocalist Rod Evans (ex-Deep Purple), guitarist Larry “Rhino” Reinhardt (ex-Iron Butterfly), bassist Lee Dorman (ex-Iron Butterfly) and drummer Bobby Caldwell (who played with Johnny Winter and would go on to form Armageddon) — but no question that Captain Beyond‘s Captain Beyond was more than the sum of its parts. Few records of the era so successfully bridged the then-widening gap between heavy rock and prog, and frankly few have come along since that could excite fans of both. Its bizarre structure, with each side almost a record unto itself with its own themes and progression, makes it all the more complex, but it’s also a remarkably smooth listen, with cuts like “Mesmerization Eclipse,” “Dancing Madly Backwards (On a Sea of Air),” “Raging River of Fear” and “As the Moon Speaks (To the Waves of the Sea)” creating memorable, lasting impressions.

Lasting enough that Captain Beyond has had four decades of cult influence. After hearing Evans sing “Frozen Over,” I don’t think one can put on early Pentagram without hearing a similarity in Bobby Liebling‘s approach — Pentagram also had the lead track on Record Heaven‘s Thousand Days of Yesterdays tribute — and from The Atomic Bitchwax to Mastodon, scores of bands have taken lessons from Reinhardt‘s style of riffing and spaced-out leads, his layering acoustic and electric rhythms and the jazzy punch of the movement in this Caldwell‘s compositions. And Captain Beyond‘s Captain Beyond was truly a moment that wouldn’t come again. By the time a year has passed, Caldwell was out of the band, and replaced on 1973’s Sufficiently Breathless by Marty Rodriguez, with Dorman at the fore as principal songwriter. Sufficiently Breathless was a more than solid follow-up to Captain Beyond, but the group’s legacy continues to be based largely on their accomplishments here and the rare character and breadth that this album brought to bear. It is rightly considered among the most pivotal works of early heavy rock.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

So. Last Saturday, my mother-in-law’s old, sick pekingese got dropped off so The Patient Mrs. and I could take care of it while her mom was on vacation. You can see where this is going. The week started off — first thing Monday morning — with The Patient Mrs. asking me to get up and confirm her suspicion that the dog had died. Sure enough. I checked for a pulse, as if such a thing were possible on so fluffernutter a dog as a pekingese, and declared her suspicion correct. Added surreality came when a structural engineer and a lawyer showed up to look at something with the house (long, irrelevant story) and I had to hurry to pick up the dog and clean up the various leaked-out fluids so they could enter without having to step over the body. I had not yet brushed my teeth.

The Patient Mrs. found a local kennel that also doubled as a crematorium — take a second and let that sink in — so what else to do? I put the dog in a box and we drove over, about 15 minutes in the car. Our own dog, the little dog Dio, we left home to deal with her confusion. There was a form The Patient Mrs. filled out and then the lady behind the counter at the crematorium was like, “Okay, come on,” and directed us to follow her to the furnace, telling us along the way about the state contracts they have with the Mystic Aquarium, the roadkill, etc. All the while we’re on this piece of property back in the woods, walking past the pet cemetery, canopy of trees overhead with grey skies. I was fairly certain that The Patient Mrs. and I were both going to be killed and shoved in the furnace with only the texts I’d sent my family about the ordeal left for detectives to trace the whereabouts of our murderers.

We weren’t, thankfully. We got into an open barn with what was quite clearly the furnace in the middle of the room, ashes and metal trays on the floor, the vague smell of burning in the air, and I began to wonder if it was a do-it-yourself kind of deal. This worry also proved unfounded. The woman directed me to put the box down on a table nearby and we left, chatting pleasantly and awkwardly as we traipsed through the woods back to my car. I knew this dog well, and there wasn’t really much to say anyhow, so that was it. And everything was fine until I started to have these thoughts that what if I was wrong? What if the dog wasn’t really dead, if it had just peed itself and been asleep and breathing too shallow for me to tell? Of course it was dead — the body was limp when I picked it up — but still, I couldn’t shake the image of the dog waking up in that cardboard box on that table, and it stayed with me the last five days. Even now, and we’ve already gotten the call to go pick up the cremains.

That was how the week started. It’ll end in a little while when I head out to see Kind and The Golden Grass in New Bedford at a taco joint. So yeah, a little strange.

Next week, stick around for a review of that show, plus on Monday a stream of the new split between Krautzone and Lamp of the Universe, an Apostle of Solitude giveaway, review of the new Lo-Pan and Electric Wizard and as many other records as I can manage to fit. If you didn’t notice, I tried to cut back on the word counts for reviews because they were getting out of hand again. We’ll see how long it lasts, but at least I’m trying to keep it under control. Sometimes the sentences just keep going.

Go Giants for Acid King, go Orioles for all of Maryland doom. Hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: The Melvins, Slow Season, Beak, GravelRoad and The Lords of Beacon House

Posted in Radio on October 3rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk radio

Yeah, it’s been a couple weeks since I added records to The Obelisk Radio playlist, mostly because these posts are a pain to set up, but once again, I’ve been keeping track of stuff to go up and this time around we’ve got 24 new albums joining the ranks. Some of it is stuff recently covered — 35007, Ice Dragon, Truckfighters — and some has yet to be — Nick Oliveri, Brant Bjork — but as ever, it’s a lot of good stuff, so if you get the chance to hit up the playlist and updates page, you should find plenty there for your perusal, in addition to the running tab of the playlist, which from where I sit puts the whole stream in a different league of enjoyable. Hope you agree.

A lot to cover, so let’s get to it.

The Obelisk Radio Adds for Oct. 3, 2014:

The Melvins, Hold it In

the melvins hold it in

Sometimes I have to wonder how it is that for a band who are so off the wall and experimental one can still basically approach any Melvins record no matter who’s involved in making it and have a decent idea of what to expect. Yeah, guitarist/vocalist King Buzzo and drummer Dale Crover have hooked up with JD Pinkus and Paul Leary of Butthole Surfers, and yeah, “You Can Make Me Wait” sounds like it would play over alternate universe credits to The Breakfast Club, but a lot of Hold it In (released by Ipecac) — “Bride of Crankenstein,” “Onions Make the Milk Taste Bad,” “Sesame Street Meat,” “Nine Yards” — is pretty much in the Melvins wheelhouse. It’s in moments like the jangly “Eyes on You,” trucker rocking “Piss Pisstoferson,” spacious seven-minute jammer “The Bunk Up” and sprawling noise finish “House of Gasoline” that Hold it In really distinguishes itself, but there are stretches even in those where the Melvins just continue to sound like the Melvins. I know they’ve got a fanbase that will eagerly snap up everything they do, and after 30 years of busting their collective ass on tour and in the studio without major commercial success, I’ll far from begrudge them their following, it just seems like for as much praise is heaped in the direction of every new Melvins release, there’s not nearly as much genuinely new ground being broken as time goes on and that even the gleefully weird territory Hold it In covers is starting to feel an awful lot like a comfort zone. The Melvins on Thee Facebooks, Ipecac Recordings.

Slow Season, Mountain

slow season mountains

Whichever of Cali four-piece Slow Season‘s parents introduced them to Led Zeppelin, thanks. The Visalia outfit will release their second album, Mountains, this November on RidingEasy Records, following-up a 2012 self-titled, and by way of advance notice, the thing’s a ripper, echoing out Plant-style vocals and Bonham stomp with an underlying skater-rock groove that fits well with the label’s output in bands like The WellElectric Citizen, and so on. Of course, there’s more than that at play — second cut “Synanon” reminds of some of The Flying Eyes‘ heavy psych rollout — but from the oohing and ahhing that cap “Damo’s Days” to the bombast that comes to the fore in “Wasted Years,” Zeppelin are a central influence, bolstered throughout by touches of early Soundgarden and forays into mega-swagger for “King City” and acoustic psychedelia in “Apparition.” Mountains‘ bread and butter, though, is the meaty riffer fare of “Shake” and closer “The Defector,” the sheer arrogance of which impresses, let alone the fluidity of the riff or the obvious aesthetic drive of the production. Slow Season on Thee Facebooks, RidingEasy Records.

Beak, Let Time Begin

beak let time begin

Not to be confused with Beak>, who are a different band entirely, post-metal four-piece Beak are based in Chicago and Let Time Begin (released by Someoddpilot Records) is their chugging, growling, atmospherically ranging debut full-length. Chicago has proven a hotbed for the genre, and Beak seem well aware of the tenets, trading off crushing riffs for atmospheric post-rock airiness, the lineup of Chris Eichenseer, Jason Goldberg, Andy Bosnak and Jon Slusher taking an Isis influence to unexpected synthy weirdness on “The Breath of Universe” — a vocoder early bringing to mind some of Cynic‘s post-reunion proggism — after the lumbering of “Light Outside.” Longer songs like “Into the Light” and “Carry a Fire” flow well, incorporating some blackened guitar squibblies and echoing screams between them, and the penultimate “Over the Shelter, the Morning” moves from abrasive feedback to contemplative ambience ahead of “Fiery They Rose,” which meters out weighty pummel but ultimately caps Let Time Begin on a subdued note that’s both satisfying and emblematic of a burgeoning will toward individuality. Beak on Thee Facebooks, Someoddpilot Records.

GravelRoad, El Scuerpo

gravelroad el scuerpo

Seattle blues rockers GravelRoad get the vibe just right on “Waiting for Nothing,” which opens their fifth album, El Scuerpo (Knick Knack Records), rocking out quiet, unpostured blues to lead the way into the record’s varied takes, from the boogie-woogie shuffle of “40 Miles” to the psychedelic fluidity of “Green Grass,” straight-up heavy rock of “DD Amin,” languid roll of “Asteroid” and upbeat finish of “Flesh and Bone,” which is among the happiest songs I’ve ever heard about cannibalism. My chief issue with some of their past work has been a tendency toward disjointedness and a modern blues production style that hones in on clarity and the brightness of the guitar and gives up some of the malevolence of the low end — something more related to my own perspective listening than the actual mission of the band — but El Scuerpo flows well and a mix by Jack “Yes, That Jack Endino” Endino treats eight-minute heavy jam rocker “Asteroid” with its due reverence, and the more I hear it, the more I want to hear it. GravelRoad on Thee Facebooks, Knick Knack Records.

Lords of Beacon House, Lords of Beacon House

Los Angeles heavy rockers Lords of Beacon House serve notice of their arrival this fall via a three-song EP on Homhomhom that takes loose, Graveyard-style ’70s worship and adds a touch of Western flair in the snare march of “Seven Days” and Sabbathian string pull on “Cool Water Blues.” The EP (they call it an album, it’s really more of a demo, but whatever you want to call it) runs shortest to longest, and opener “Distant Thunder” is the most straightforward of the bunch accordingly, but even in its 8-track chug, Lords of Beacon House showcase natural tones and a penchant for writing strong hooks that continues right through until the last repeat of the line “I asked for water/She gave me gasoline” in “Cool Water Blues,” which rounds out with familiar if welcome nod. They’re a new band and so far as I can tell, this self-titled is the first audio they’ve made public, but they seem to have a handle on what they want to do, and that’s never a bad place to start working from. More to come, I’m sure, and thanks to Bill Goodman for steering me their way. Lords of Beacon House on Thee Facebooks, Homhomhom.

As noted, this is just a fraction of the stuff that joined the playlist today, so if you get a second, check out the rest at The Obelisk Radio updates and playlist page.

Thanks for reading and listening.
 

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White Dynomite Self-Titled Reissue Due Oct. 14 on Ripple Music

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 2nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

white dynomite

Twelve days might not be much advance notice for the locking up the good china, but it’s what we’ve got to work with ahead of Ripple Music reissuing the 2012 self-titled debut from Boston heavy punkers White Dynomite. The fivesome — high in the running for “Dudes Who Took ‘Sharp Dressed Man’ Most Literally” — are reportedly putting together new material for a sophomore outing to come in 2015, unless I’m crazy and didn’t actually see that somewhere, probably Thee Facebooks. Anyway, a lot of what you need to know is right there on the cover, so I won’t delay the news with a lot of whathaveyou.

Goes like this:

white-dynomite-vinyl-(Photo-courtesy-of-Tim-Catz)

WHITE DYNOMITE to reissue self-titled debut via Ripple Music

Ripple Music is proud to announce that Boston’s riff-heavy rockers WHITE DYNOMITE are set to release the vinyl re-issue of their 2012 self-titled album in October. The reissue will be released on limited edition black and colored vinyl as well as digitally via bandcamp.

Release Dates:
North America: Oct 14, 2014
Europe/UK: Oct 13, 2014

Born of boredom and bourbon, WHITE DYNOMITE are considered gentlemen of experience and true Rock City pedigree. Featuring ex-members of ROADSAW, LAMONT and WRECKING CREW, this five man band has a shared love for all things loud, fast and loose. There’s more to their story than just the suits.

WHITE DYNOMITE call Boston home but their brand of action requires a map. Jump into their jalopy for a trip thru the streets of NYC with The Ramones and The Dictators blaring thru the deck. Then shoot across the pond to London for a holiday party with Slade and T.Rex. Get back behind the wheel and swerve left into Sweden thru Hellacopters and Turbonegro country. Make a quick stop in AC/DC’s Aussie garage before bouncing down Detroit’s back alleys with The Stooges and MC5 riding shotgun. WHITE DYNOMITE do it all in one night.

Say what you will about the white polyester suits. Throw away the cheap shades. You can even make them bathe and shave. It won’t matter. WHITE DYNOMITE have enough punk muscle and rock ‘n’ roll heart to deliver the dangerous goods loaded, rolling and exploding in a cloud of smoke.

ripple-music.com
facebook.com/WhiteDynomiteBoston
http://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/white-dynomite

White Dynomite, White Dynomite (2012/2014)

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Duuude, Tapes! Entierro, Entierro EP

Posted in Duuude, Tapes! on September 30th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

entierro-tape-and-case

A five-track release of pro-produced, deeply aggressive beer metal, Entierro‘s Entierro EP has been pressed to tape in a limited edition of 50 copies. The tape itself is white, the J-card professionally printed as a one-side foldout, and the five songs included repeat on both sides. Download included. Both the material and its presentation are straightforward — the Connecticut outfit would much rather steamroll than impress with nuance — and as their first release under the moniker after forming as Treebeard in 2010, I’d expect no less from the Waterbury/New Haven double-guitar four-piece. Bassist/vocalist Christopher Taylor Baudette doubles in Nightbitch, but Entierro are a far more down-to-earth project, proffering dudely, metallic chugging and beer-raising groove with more than an edge of East Coast intensity.entierro-j-card-unfolded Baudette, guitarist/vocalist Javier Canales, guitarist Christopher Begnal and drummer John Rowold all feed into a burl that stays consistent throughout and only gets more prevalent as they push toward the thrashy closer “Fire in the Sky.”

Opening with the longest inclusion in the 5:11 “Cross to Bear” (immediate points), Entierro‘s Entierro starts out slow with a rolling, crisply produced riff around which the vocals work in a clean, metallic melody, the pace quickening in the second half to a chugging shuffle. As it should, “Cross to Bear” sets the tone. Guitars trade and combine leads, the tempo builds from slow to raucously fast, and Entierro cap with a big round of riffing, drawing back to the chorus and reinforcing a structure that — while not in doubt — shows they’re coming out of the gate with a good handle on their songwriting. The subsequent “Time Rider” provides the most memorable hook of the tape, and centerpiece “The Mist” opens up the groove and stomps out its rhythm with a sense of foreboding befitting its lyric. Again, Canales and Begnal impress on guitar, as they did in the early going of “Time Rider” as well, and though it seems like “Entierro/More Dead than Alive” is going to be somewhat calmer — the eponymous part of the song seems to be a bass solo from Baudette — it winds up a rager to set up the further aggro-ism entierro-tapeof “Fire in the Sky,” which rounds out as if to remind the listener Entierro were a metal band the whole time.

There was no doubt, whatever other heavy elements they worked in, but “Fire in the Sky” is sufficient payoff for the tension of the tracks preceding either way, its lyrics not bothering to look to tales of monsters or horror but focusing on the everyday terrors that exist on the current world stage. What they have to say about it is basically that the situation is grim and we’re all screwed, and it’s hard to fault them the perspective. Four years on from getting together, Entierro have a handle on their sound well enough, but I’d be interested to hear how it sounds live in comparison to the tape, since the clarity of production is such a big part of what makes it sound so particularly metal. I don’t take metal as a negative necessarily, I’m just curious if the band’s next outing will continue down that path or expand soundwise into more of a rock feel in kind with some of the earlier riffing on “Time Rider” or “The Mist.” I wouldn’t speculate, and more importantly for the time being, Entierro‘s Entierro intrigues enough that seems worth waiting to find out.

Entierro, Entierro (2014)

Entierro on Thee Facebooks

Entierro on Bandcamp

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On the Radar: Hijo de la Tormenta, Hijo de la Tormenta

Posted in On the Radar on September 23rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

hijo de la tormenta

With their self-released, self-titled full-length debut, Argentinian three-piece Hijo de la Tormenta embark on what they like to call “forest psychedelia,” or “psicodelia del monte” (“mountain psychedelia”). I think the latter might be a more apt desciptor for the Córdoba unit’s sound itself, which balances gracefully wandering passages with dense tonal largesse — big riffs and open spaces brought to bear with a patient sensibility that impresses all the more considering Hijo del la Tormenta‘s Hijo de la Tormenta arrives preceded only by a 2012 EP, Simple 5/12. There isn’t as much a feeling either of foreboding or nature worship that “forest” brings to mind in a musical context, but frankly, wherever Hijo de la Tormenta are spending their time outside, in the forest, the mountains, both or neither, it’s clearly working for them. Their first full-length is engaging and immersive, creating a rich flow early on and running a wide scope in their largely-instrumental material that one gets the sense is only going to get wider as time goes on. Nor do they forget to kick a bit of ass, as songs like “Alienación” and second cut “Dilusiva” showcase.

The latter is about as straightforward and immediate as the trio of guitarist/vocalist Juan Cruz Ledesma, bassist Guido di Carlo and drummer Santi Ludueña get, but even their jammiest and most meandering stretches — a song like nine-minute opener “Viaje de Ida/Viaje de Vuelta” (reportedly based on a poem by Roberto Bolaño) or the two-parter hijo de la tormenta self-titled“Desde la Espesura,” which sandwiches “Dilusiva” on the other side — retain a feeling of motion. A big part of that stems from the fervency of their grooving in a song like “Alienación,” the opening sample of which jars a bit but not enough to really be a misstep, each successive track on Hijo de la Tormenta drawing the listener further into the linear course of the album as a whole. “Desde la Espesura (Lado A)” and “Desde la Espesura (Lado B)” both do an excellent job of that, departing from some of “Viaje de Ida/Viaje de Vuelta”‘s bigger sound to a more hypnotic vibe, and though it has a build, “Sierras del Paiman” continues in this fashion en route to the return to longer-form songwriting on “Alienación,” lead guitar dominating the mix in the second half for an extended, bluesy solo that pushes the song into highlight territory, a rumbling fuzz remaining after the rest of the elements seem to recede.

“Alienación” is paired with “Desalienación,” which opens with Hijo de la Tormenta‘s most forceful riffing since “Dilusiva” and shifts fluidly into a slower, more subdued bass-led groove. That, in turn, progresses smoothly into jazzy snare work, airy guitar strums — offset, of course, by dense fuzz — and late-arriving vocals providing the album’s most singularly Los Natasian moment. That band’s Gonzalo Villagra mastered, and the bulk of Hijo de la Tormenta‘s sound is less Natas-derived than many I’ve encountered in Argentina’s well-populated heavy scene, but it’s also worth noting that the band’s moniker was used as the opening line of the title-track lyrics to Los Natas‘ 2006 album, El Hombre Montaña. Still, the simple fact that Hijo de la Tormenta would position themselves in a heavy rock landscape other than the desert speaks to a burgeoning drive toward individualism, and as they finish out with the psychedelic “Postales del Fin del Mundo” with a heady jam topped by ethereal layers of guest vocals from Laura Dalmasso it seems less like they’ve shown their complete range on what’s nonetheless a cohesive and engaging first long-player. As they continue to refine their sound, expect the geography likewise to come more into focus.

Hijo de la Tormenta, Hijo de la Tormenta (2014)

Hijo de la Tormenta on Thee Facebooks

Hijo de la Tormenta on Bandcamp

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VINYL WEEK: 35007, Especially for You, 35007 and Liquid

Posted in On Wax on September 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

During their time together, it was said that Netherlands-based progressive heavy rockers 35007 were “a state of mind.” That’s fair. A lot of bands have slogans. Looking back on their catalog now, nearly a decade after the 2005 release of their final album, Phase V (discussed here), their discography seems less a state of mind than a world to be explored. Germany’s Stickman Records, which was the band’s label home for most of their tenure, has continued to foster that exploration since 35007‘s dissolution, both in making their studio outings available to those bold enough to find it and in fostering other European heavy prog acts like Motorpsycho, whose legend and catalog seems to grow each year. In a grand gesture of reverence, Stickman has recently reissued three of 35007‘s albums on vinyl: 1994’s Especially for You debut, 1997’s sophomore long-player 35007, and 2002’s Liquid.

Each release is different, and it’s important to remember that we’re spanning eight years of the band, different lineups, a developing approach, but what unites all three is the bleeding-out passion with which the reissues are executed. Not just time, effort and money put into them, but love. It’s evident in the gatefolds of 35007 and Especially for You, or in the way the color of the vinyl matches the album artwork for all three — black and red on Especially for You, white on 35007 and blue on Liquid. These are 180g treasures for a group who, if they’d come along a decade later than they did, would still probably be considered among the forebears of modern European heavy psychedelia. In presentation and in the sound of each of these, the spirit of honoring the band is obvious and palpable, and while that might intimidate the novice or someone less familiar with 35007‘s work, the music itself is so consuming that one can’t help get immersed, first time listener or not.

A quick breakdown:

Especially for You (1994)

35007 especially for you

Their earliest work. Especially for You only barely represents the ground 35007 would cover and break in their time together. There are flashes of the progressive fluidity their heavy psychedelia would later accomplish on the late instrumental “Water,” which appears here on side C, leaving the second half of he second record to “Slide,” but much of 35007‘s first outing got its personality from its crunching riffs, and while they’d gain a reputation afterward as an instrumental unit, songs here are often distinguished by vocals, and that begins on opener “Zandbak,” which takes an early stoner rock nod and build off it with keys and samples in an nascent showing of experimentalism. The subsequent “Basiculo ad Cunnum” is more indicative of the atmospherics and blend of Krautrock texturing, tonal heft and patience that would develop in their sound, but it too has a younger intensity to it, 35007 figuring out their where their place is even as they come do define it, keyboards factoring in heavily throughout, even as side B’s “Bad Altitude” starts out all riff and swagger en route to one of the LP’s most satisfying blissouts.

Space funk joins heavy rock impulses on the later “U:mu:m’nu:” and “Cosmic Messenger,” hinting at some of the territory 35007‘s countrymen in Astrosoniq would cover in the years to come, and “Slide” closes Especially for You with prog-metal chugging — it was 1994, so Tool‘s Undertow might’ve been a factor in the rhythm and vocal shouts — and a kitchen-sink finale of noise, swirl and sampling. If anything’s a giveaway of the 20 years that have passed since its initial release, it’s the production, since the adventurousness and will toward progression at its heart is still very much evident in what they accomplish. It’s a hard record to dig into without thinking of what 35007 did afterwards, but that doesn’t makes the space-rocking “The Elephant Song” any less enjoyable as the centerpiece of side B, its wanderings both engaging and righteously trippy, buried-deep semi-spoken vocals calling throaty shots atop a deep swirl of lead guitar echo. There are bands out there today, more than a few, who are trying to sound like this and haven’t yet caught up to what 35007 did their first time out two decades ago. That sounds like hyperbole, but it’s also true.

35007 (1997)

35007 into the void we travelled

It would be difficult to mess with the low-end fuzz that underscores the breathing tension of 35007 opener “Herd,” and you won’t hear me try. I’ll again compare it to Astrosoniq‘s propensity for opening to a chorus, but it’s really just the tip of the weird futuristic submarine racing apparatus when it comes to 35007‘s second album, also known as Into the Void We Travelled. Issued three years after their debut as their first outing on Stickman, it’s immediately more cohesive stylistically, a bruiser riff in “Soul Machine” finding accompaniment in the keys and psychedelic undercurrents, the two sides playing off each other rather than competing as they sometimes seem to be on Especially for You. Of course, the ambient vibe isn’t absent either, as “Short Sharp Left,” which rounds out side A takes hold with a swaggering, almost Western, guitar line and drum stomp only after a stretch of ambience that picks up directly from “Soul Machine,” making it impossible to tell on the LP where one ends and the other starts. A lot of what 35007 accomplishes on this album is laid out in the first of its four sides, but the thrill of the journey and hearing where the band takes its now-more-solidified approach — be it the plus-sized riffing of “Big Bore” on side B or the subsequent Zeppelin-in-space acoustics of “Vein” — shouldn’t be discounted either.

“Undo” explodes to start out side B prior to the farther-out method expansion of “Big Bore” and “Vein,” but it’s side C and D that seem in hindsight to show where 35007 were really headed, and among these albums, the divide between the two halves of the self-titled is most stark. Songs like “Herd” and “Soul Machine” and “Big Bore” have an experimental or proggy edge to them, no doubt about it, but with “66” and “Powertruth” on side C and “Locker” and “Zero 21″ bled together on side D, the band shifts first into organ-laced ’70s weirdness before moving into head-down prog chug and keyboard interplay on “Powertruth” — listening right after Especially for You, the song seems in direct conversation with parts of “Slide,” but it’s ultimately more straightforward — building to a rushing head before being carried out by its frenetic keyboard line. Similar impulses drive “Locker” and “Zero 21″ — a flair for capturing the “let’s try this” moment — but the closing duo come across most as the moment where 35007 found their niche in a psychetronic (now almost entirely) instrumental blend of heaviness and atmospherics, starting so quiet and patiently evolving the movement over the two songs to the record’s blood-stirring apex. This was a crucial transitional phase in the band, and in terms of harnessing where they were coming from and where they were headed, it brings together the best of both worlds.

Liquid (2002)

35007 LIQUID

Preceded by a 1999 Stickman reissue of Especially for You and 2001’s Sea of Tranquility EP, the 2002 Liquid full-length is as aptly-named as an album can get. Of the three new vinyl releases it’s the only one that fits on a single LP — it is a full 20 minutes shorter than the self-titled and has a printed record sleeve instead of a gatefold — but the expanses 35007 cover across its four tracks more than answers for any “Hey, where’d the rest go?” type questioning that might arise. Liquid is arguably 35007‘s most essential release. Phase V would expand on these ideas and concepts and delve further into ambience, but Liquid was the lightbulb moment in the narrative of band, certainly as pertains to these three outings and overall as well. The tonal warmth in the bass on “Tsunami” or the smoothness of the production, the patience in its completely instrumental transitions and the flow between one song and the next and within songs as well as parts shift into others, it’s fluid, lush heavy psych that’s neither one more than the other in an impeccable and beautiful balance. It made space rock new again, and unlike Especially for You and 35007, it was also clearly intended to be a vinyl release, its four component tracks breaking evenly into two halves and feeding into each other with an audible break between sides A and B.

Flip the band’s name upside down and it spells “Loose,” but I’m not sure they were ever tighter or more coherent than they are here, building with keys and riffs and effects as “Crystalline” morphs gradually out of “Tsunami” to jam its way forward and back again into its own mix, a strong current of synth remaining with volume swells to set a wave pattern from which the guitars, bass and drums burst in for the final stretch, their cold disappearance after the climax seeming to cut short a track that’s already reached toward eight minutes long. On side B, the shorter “Evaporate” recalls some of the progressive metal riffing of 35007‘s earlier days, but like the band’s approach overall, it is more clearheaded about what it wants to accomplish, toying with back-and-forth tension release in what might’ve been a verse and a chorus five years prior but here serve as a means to a more complex end, giving way somewhere in a wash of keyboards to closer “Voyage Automatique” as bass plays the pivotal role of anchoring the proceedings, not weighing them down necessarily, but making sure there’s solid ground somewhere beneath all the open space. Gradually, “Voyage Automatique” builds to a head in a patient linear execution, and Liquid ends with a fading keyboard line that seems to still be exploring, reaching further out from where the band decided to vacate the jam, leaving it and the listener alike to process the data uncovered by all this exploration.

From their beginning, 35007 was a progressive heavy rock act with an individualized take. The fact that they were then able to realize their potential and push themselves further into their own sound made them truly distinct among what was happening in heavy music at the time, and while they’re not around now to continue that journey — members can be found in Monomyth and Neon Twin — reissues like these show just how special their work was. Due reverence, through and through.

Recommended.

35007, Liquid (2002)

35007’s website

Stickman Records

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On the Radar: The Sun, the Moon and the Witch’s Blues

Posted in On the Radar on September 11th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

the sun the moon and the witch's blues

There are probably a couple distinct jams within the 18-minute span of the eponymous track on Swedish duo The Sun, the Moon and the Witch’s Blues‘ self-titled debut EP, in terms of the songwriting. By that I mean  although the Örebro duo of Robin Hirse (ex-Asteroid) and Jonas Ljungkvist get pretty deep in an immersive flow, it still sounds like more happened in the track than they hit record and went to town on an improv heavy psych exploration. Individual movements they may be, still better to get lost in the whole. The beginning unfolds with echoing Morricone guitar, and unfolds a slow heavy rock groove, and they proceed through numerous shifts and movements that piece together well but have some breaks between them as well. What individual titles might be, I don’t know, but with the results Hirse and Ljungkvist get across the sprawl in “The Sun, the Moon and the Witch’s Blues,” which fleshes out with organ before the vocals kick in right around the five-minute mark, I’m not about to argue.

Hirse‘s voice will sound familiar to those who heard him with Asteroid, who released their second and apparently final full-length in 2010’s II (review here), and to a degree, one might consider the new, cumbersomely-monikered two-piece an outgrowth from that album’s jam-minded heavy rock sensibility, but the feel on The Sun, the Moon and the Witch’s Blues represents a discernible stylistic shift as well, and not just in the the sun the moon and the witch's blues self titledoccasional Westernism. The vibe here is bluesier, the build looser. Hirse and Ljungqvist credit Tobias Eriksson, Joakim Kohlscheen and Jimmi Kohlscheen as “helping” with the EP and don’t get more specific than that, but they’re definitely working toward a full-band aesthetic one way or another, rather than the minimalism that duos can sometimes purposefully convey. Even as “The Sun, the Moon and the Witch’s Blues” pushes through its heavier apex and into foot-stomp-and-hand-clap revival, vocals layered for a near-gospel effect, this is true in the space the song creates, and as the song is led into its final phase groove by the guitar, one gets a sense of a unit clicking pedals on to make the machine go.

I was a nerd for Hirse‘s prior outfit even unto their swansong 7″ (review here), and The Sun, the Moon and the Witch’s Blues present enough of a turn sonically to clearly be on their own path, but neither is the development of Hirse‘s craft scrapped entirely or burned to the ground in favor of starting completely over. What the EP sounds like, when you get right to it, is a vinyl side, and after listening through more than a couple times in the days since its Sept. 6 release, I’d like to find out what’s on side B. The Sun, the Moon and the Witch’s Blues are reportedly heading back into the studio in short order, so it might not be all that long before we get there. Right on.

The Sun, the Moon and the Witch’s Blues, Self-titled EP (2014)

The Sun, the Moon and the Witch’s Blues on Thee Facebooks

The Sun, the Moon and the Witch’s Blues on Bandcamp

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