Posted in Whathaveyou on November 20th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Following a release of their 2012 long-player, Beg upon the Light (review here), through Napalm, Houston cult heavy rock four-piece Venomous Maximus have inked a deal to issue their follow-up, Firewalker, on Pittsburgh’s Shadow Kingdom Records. Presumably the new album will be out sometime in 2015, and considering the passion Shadow Kingdom puts into its acts — their love of Corsair is fervent enough that it can be seen from orbit — the fact that they’d even bring the band on board means they’re ready to get in deep. Fair enough. Venomous Maximus are vicious live, and hopefully with Shadow Kingdom behind them, they’ll be able to continue to get out and tour as much as possible.
The PR brought word from the label:
We have been waiting so long to tell you this great news and now is finally the time to reveal what’s been happening in the SKR camp…
Shadow Kingdom Records is extremely proud and honored to announce the signing of Houston, Texas’ VENOMOUS MAXIMUS.
The name of the band reminds us of the classic Gladiator film where Russell Crowe (aka “Maximus”) was nothing short of a complete madman who would die for his family and country without fear or worry of what might happen to him in the process. VENOMOUS MAXIMUS is very much like that in their attitude and approach to playing music with conviction and without any genre barriers. In VENOMOUS MAXIMUS, we have a band that is interested in writing GREAT, memorable songs that vary in length, tempo, and emotion.
Those whom are familiar with VENOMOUS MAXIMUS’ 2012 Napalm Records release, “Beg Upon the Light”, know what kind of a treat you’re in for. The band’s upcoming new album “Firewalker” is a great continuation of their talents. It’s really rare to find bands that have no barriers and just focus on quality songs. This really takes us back to the beginning of Heavy Metal when BLACK SABBATH would put out records. Some of the jams would be fast and heavy, while others would be slow and powerful. BLACK SABBATH could play any genre because they invented all of the heavy metal genres you hear today and when you hear VENOMOUS MAXIMUS’ music, it reminds us of those same ideals. It’s just GREAT music and you love hearing it.
Gregg Higgins heads this band with his very powerful and commanding vocals and chants that immediately raise fists in the air. There’s an obscure Psych / Rock band (also) in Texas from the 70’s/80’s called “Roky Erickson”. if you’re not familiar, click on these two YouTube links and soak yourself into “Night of the Vampire” and “Stand for the Fire Demon”), and play it LOUD. Gregg’s strong vocals remind us of Roky’s vocals in a way that is so captivating, it literally forces you into their world, and you get lost in the music. With the rest of the band being tighter than two coats of paint, this band can do it all and do it all extremely well! VENOMOUS MAXIMUS can easily become as big as — and share fans with — bands like GRAND MAGUS, HIGH ON FIRE and MASTODON, while not sounding like any of those bands and paving their own “path of doom”.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 7th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Virginian progressive heavy rockers Corsair will release their second full-length for Shadow Kingdom Records, One Eyed Horse, in January 2015. The double-guitar four-piece toured Europe earlier this year and recorded the follow-up to 2012’s Corsair (review here) last winter in their native VA, which is where we find them in the new video teaser they’ve posted ahead of the album.
Presumably, the farmscape we’re seeing is that surrounding White Star Sound in Louisa, Virginia, where basic tracks for One Eyed Horse were done live with engineers Adam Wolcott Smith and Andy Gems over the course of last December/January, with vocals, solos and other additional recording added at Mulberry Inn in Charlottesville by bassist/vocalist Jordan Brunk and guitarist/vocalist Marie Landragin. The band is completed by guitarist/vocalist Paul Sebring and drummer Wade Warfield. What we see in the clip seems to be the live tracks being laid down, though there could be some solo stuff mixed in there as well — Corsair use a lot of lead guitar — but it’s pretty obviously a laid back atmosphere in the studio, lots of laughs, funny faces, goofy voices, early drinking, the occasional pillow positioned as a phallus, and so on. All the usual shenanigans, in other words, which is as it should be.
There aren’t any vocals shown, but we still seem to get enough to get an idea of what Corsair are up to this time around, and it’s cool to get a glimpse of how it came together as it was happening:
Corsair, One Eyed Horse video teaser
Corsair have also released three tracks from the album for streaming on their Bandcamp page, “Ghostlands,” “One Eyed Horse” and “Brothers,” and I’d be remiss if I didn’t include them as well. Once again, One Eyed Horse is out in January 2015 through Shadow Kingdom Records. More to come, I’m sure:
Posted in audiObelisk on August 11th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Onward rolls Cardinals Folly‘s cult. The Finnish trad doom trio’s exclamatory sophomore full-length, Our Cult Continues!, is out Aug. 19 via Shadow Kingdom Records, and it’s a beast of morose theatrics and rolling riffage. Hailing from Helsinki and — just to get it out of the way — yes, owing a bit of a debt to Finland’s Sabbath-worship forebears in Reverend Bizarre, Cardinals Folly made their debut through the label in 2011 with Such Power is Dangerous!after kicking around since the mid-aughts under both their current moniker and the earlier The Coven. The metal of doom is the order of the day, and through fat bass tone, hard-hit drums and classic-minded guitar work, Cardinals Folly showcase a delight for reveling in the darker side of their genre.
Hard to blame them for that, since they’re so clearly enjoying themselves. The band is comprised of bassist/vocalist Mikko Kääriäinen, guitarist Juho Kilpelä and drummer Joni Takkunen, and from the opening invocations of “Eko Eko Azarak” in the intro “Chant of Shadows,” Cardinals Folly dive into a melancholy otherworldliness, not psychedelic or blissful, but full of bleak churning and smoke trails, Kääriäinen‘s voice cutting through songs like “Morbid Glory” and “Sighisoaran” to recount tales of who knows what swirling terrors. On the seven-minute “The Lover’s Crypt,” his bass and Takkunen‘s drums pave the way for an especially fuzzed-out, winding intro lead that unfolds to one of the record’s most memorable progressions, peppered by a build-up of despair that only becomes more prevalent as the song itself seems to disintegrate.
It is the penultimate of Our Cult Continues!‘s eight tracks, and with the 10-minute closer “Fallout Ritualist” backing it up, isn’t quite the apex of the album, but “The Lover’s Crypt” serves as a fitting summary of what Cardinals Folly have working for them on their second long-player, a prevalent attention to atmosphere taking hold not necessarily at the expense of the songwriting. I’m fortunate to be able to premiere the stream for “The Lover’s Crypt” ahead of the album release next week, and you’ll find it on the player below.
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
It’s been about 3 years since Cardinals Folly put their debut album out through Shadow Kingdom Records. Their sophomore effort is a definite step up in the songwriting department and much more memorable than their debut. This one has the traditional Cardinals Folly sound, but we’re hearing the Warning – Watching from a Distance / 40 Watt Sun – The Inside Room influence creep into their sound this time around. If you’re into collecting underground Doom Metal, check this band out. Fans of Cathedral, Reverend Bizarre, Witchfinder General will be interested to hear this album. This certainly gets my vote for best album artwork of 2014. If you’d like a t-shirt of this cover, we have those available at the Shadow Kingdom Records online heavy metal store.
1. Chant of Shadows 2. Morbid Glory 3. The Black Baroness 4. Our Cult Continues! 5. Sighisoaran 6. Walvater Unveiled 7. The Lover’s Crypt 8. Fallout Ritualist
This week brings even more radio adds than I expected. I had kind of a hard time whittling it down to figure what I wanted to write about, to be honest with you, but we got there in the end, and I’m thrilled to have another batch of additions to the playlist for this week. Doing this seems to have quickly become a Friday ritual for me, and frankly, I can think of worse ways to spend the afternoon than listening to and writing about a bunch of records. Like just about everything else, for example.
Adds for May 30, 2014:
Iron Man, The Passage & Generation Void
Two brand new vinyl reissues from Shadow Kingdom Records. Digital promos are particularly useless in the case of badass LPs, and I’m pretty sure both of these albums by Maryland doom stalwarts Iron Man, 1994’s sophomore outing, The Passage, and it’s 1999 follow-up, Generation Void, are already on the Radio playlist, but screw it, it’s Iron Man. If the chances of hearing an Iron Man song go up with each file added, then it’s worth tossing both of these records on the server. Generation Voidis a full-on lost classic of doom, and if you don’t already own it, I’d imagine the vinyl of The Passagejustifies picking it up based on the artwork alone. Either way, you’re never gonna lose when it comes to these guys, and Shadow Kingdom‘s loyalty in following up its CD reissues with LP versions is commendable. On Thee Facebooks, Shadow Kingdom website.
Electric Citizen, Sateen
Led by guitarist Ross Dolan and vocalist Laura Dolan, this Cincinnati four-piece traffic in high-order retro-minded Sabbathisms that keep in mind just how much boogie went along with all that darkness. To wit, the shuffle at the heart of the organ-laced “The Trap” and “Burning in Hell” or the push in the earlier “Magnetic Man.” Sateen, the band’s debut on RidingEasy Records, features riffs and leads heavily, and Laura‘s croon never strays from the forefront in delivering a barrage of hooks through the ’70s-worship production, but as with Sabbath themselves, the foundation of what Electric Citizen accomplish in these memorable, immediately familiar tracks is built on a foundation of rhythmic excellence in the bass and drums, here provided by Nick Vogelpohl and Nate Wagner, respectively. That organ ain’t half-bad either. The album arrives with no shortage of hype, but it’s a shockingly cohesive debut in style and performance, and the songwriting more than earns its way. On Thee Facebooks, RidingEasy Records.
Disenchanter, On through Portals
The Sept. 2013 Back to Earth demo from Portland, Oregon, doom-blues metallers Disenchanter has been sitting on my desk for an embarrassingly long time. That release is added to the playlist as well, but on the early-2014 follow-up, On through Portals, the trio of guitarist/vocalist Sabine Stangenberg, bassist Joey DeMartini and drummer Jay Erbe stretch out the form somewhat. Both arrive as EP-style releases, but On through Portals tops half-an-hour and executes a darkened psychedelic flow over its three extended tracks — “Journey to Abydos/Moon Maid” (12:15), “Invoke” (7:38), and “Into Darkness” (11:20) — so it could just as easily pass for a short album. Either way, the partial shift in aesthetic suits Disenchanter well, and what seems to have been in-process on their first demo comes closer to fruition here. Songs are patient and lumbering, but never boring, and Stangenberg‘s vocals layer effectively at the front of the mix to give the impression of a consummate frontwoman in the making. I won’t declare their development finished, but On through Portalsis a big and interesting step for Disenchanter to take. On Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Junior Bruce, The Nomad
Just two tracks on this latest release from Southern heavy rockers Junior Bruce. The Nomad is the second of two (to date) digital releases following Junior Bruce‘s 2012 debut full-length, The Headless King, and intended as a complement to last year’s TheBurden. Fair enough. Taken as such or on their own, The Nomad‘s two cuts, “The Promised Sleep” and “Nomad,” offer unpretentious heavy rolling groove from the Floridian five-piece fronted by Scott Angelacos and featuring bassist Tom Crowther, both also of Hollow Leg and formerly Bloodlet and Hope and Suicide. Molasses riffs from guitarists Nate Jones and Bryan Raymond and steady crash from drummer Jeff McAlear further distinguish “Nomad” in the Southern tradition, and the single/EP is twice as intriguing in the context of Hollow Leg‘s most recent recording, “God Eater” (discussed here), which moved in a more rocking direction as well. Itseems to work for both bands. On Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Anuseye, Essay on a Drunken Cloud
Cuts like “J R” and “Wrong Blues” take ’90s crunch and heavy rock vibes to heart, but where Italy’s Anuseye really distinguish themselves on their Vincebus Eruptum Recordings debut — other than with their somewhat unfortunate moniker — is in the weirdo jamminess of “Push Magic Button” or the psychedelic exploration of “Earthquake.” Essay on a Drunken Cloud boasts a few riffs and effects-laced stretches like that in “Cursed Pills” that might call to mind guitarist Luca Stero and vocalist/guitarist Claudio C.‘s and prior work together in That’s all Folks, but Anuseye has a personality of their own here, with bassist Michele V. and drummer Antonello C. keeping step with the strange vibes every step of the way. The balance shifts effectively between psych rock and noisy post-punk, but songs like “Demon Pulse” and the penultimate “S.S. Abyss” find an engaging and unexpected middle ground on which to make an impression. And then they do. For those days when you feel like you’re heard everything a riff can do, Essay on a Drunken Cloudmight just convince you there’s still territory to be discovered. On Thee Facebooks, at Vincebus Eruptum.
For the complete list of this week’s adds, click here.
Posted in Features on April 30th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
This kind of thing happens every now and again throughout the course of a year, where there just happens to be one day filled with killer releases. It’s convenient if periodically overwhelming, and even in this age of preorders and stuff just showing up in the mail — a somewhat disconnected process compared to going to a shop and asking at the counter if something is in yet, but again, convenient — a day like that can be special. I remember days like that going back a longer time than I care to admit, and yesterday was definitely one of them as well.
If you felt the North American continent rumble just a little bit, that was probably just the combined weight — applied one on the West Coast, one on the East — of Fu Manchu and Floor putting out records at the same time. What will no doubt be two of 2014’s best releases when the year is done both arrived on April 29, but they were hardly the end of the story. In case you missed any of it, here’s a convenient (there’s that word again), alphabetically-organized assemblage from which to organize yourself before payday:
1. Floor, Oblation
Released by Season of Mist. File picking up the first Floor record since 2004’s Dove as a no-brainer. The Miami trio of guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks, guitarist Anthony Vialon (interview here) and drummer Henry Wilson have been kicking around doing stuff live since a little while after they released their 8CD Below and Beyond box set in 2009, but Oblation(review here) is the new album and spiritual successor to 2002’s landmark self-titled outing. Following that one up is no easy task and they know it, but I think history will serve Oblationwell in the long run, songs like “Love Comes Crushing” and the eight-minute “Sign of Aeth” expanding the sludge-pop formula that made Floor‘s early work so vital without sacrificing the hooks that at this point have spanned more than a decade en route towards timelessness. Floor on Thee Facebooks.
Floor, Oblation (2014)
2. Fu Manchu, Gigantoid
Released by At the Dojo. The first new Fu Manchu self-release after two full-lengths on Century Media and a handful of reissues through their own imprint, Gigantoidbrings a rawer sound from the widely influential SoCal fuzz stalwarts. They recorded with Moab guitarist Andrew Giacumakis, and while the album boasts some quintessential examples of what’s always made the Fu‘s songwriting so infectious — looking at you, “Anxiety Reducer” and “Radio Source Sagittarius” — their hardcore punk roots come through on “No Warning” and Gigantoidrounds out with an extended jam led by bassist Brad Davis on “Last Question” and filled out through a barrage of effects from guitarist Bob Balch. If I can get to it today I’ll have an interview up with guitarist/vocalist Scott Hill (otherwise tomorrow), and a review is forthcoming, but the short version is Gigantoidis one of the year’s best, no doubt. Fu Manchu on Thee Facebooks.
Fu Manchu, Selections from Gigantoid (2014)
3. Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus, Spirit Knife
Released by Small Stone. Swedish upstarts Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus offer engaging touches of heavy psychedelic blues and expanded-definition stoner rock on their third long-player and Small Stone debut, Spirit Knife (stream/video premiere here), working naturally in a classic heavy context without pretending the last 40 years never happened. The album is immersive and atmospheric, offering standout moments of righteousness in 10-minute opener “Fog by the Steep,” “Clang,” “Point Growth” and elsewhere, and provides a look at a unit with the potential to continue to expand their sound going forward. Seems like JIRM have thus far flown under North American radars for the most part, but Spirit Knifeis worth the effort of tracking down, and by that I mean clicking “play” on the Bandcamp stream below to hear it for yourself. Give it some time to unfold and you won’t regret it. Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus on Thee Facebooks.
Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus, Spirit Knife (2014)
4. Revelation, Salvation’s Answer
Released by Shadow Kingdom. Perennially underappreciated Maryland doomers Revelation and Pittsburgh’s Shadow Kingdom Records are no strangers. The label has handled reissues of 1992’s Never Comes Silence, 1995’s …Yet So Far, and 2008’s Release, in addition to having the first release of 2009’s For the Sake of No Oneand 2012’s Inner Harbor. This time, the band and imprint partner up for a revisit of Revelation‘s 1991 debut, Salvation’s Answer, and while the look is overdue, it’s no less welcome for its late coming. Salvation’s Answermight sound raw 23 years after the fact, but its elemental sound remains deceptively atmospheric, and like much of Revelation‘s earlier output, it wears a deep-running melancholy on its sleeve and blends progressive guitar work with a strong foundation of metallic groove. Revelation on Thee Facebooks.
Revelation, Salvation’s Answer (1991/2014)
5. Salem’s Pot, …Lurar ut dig på prärien
Released by EasyRider Records. Mired in drug-derived riffing and classic horror/exploitation ambience, Swedish four-piece Salem’s Pot have plenty of scummer groove in common with Electric Wizard on their debut, …Lurar ut dig på prärien, but if worshiping at the altar of Sabbath and drawn-out fuzz was a crime, we’d all have been put to death years ago. Their reverential depravity comes through in the three extended tracks, “Creep Purple” (14:28), “Dr. Death” (9:52) and “Nothing Hill” (9:12), and the album unfolds in a haze of degenerate psychedelia. It’s crafted with vinyl in mind, but give me a CD to get lost in front-t0-back without having to worry about changing sides, because Salem’s Pot isn’t the kind of listen where you want to have anything whatsoever to do with consciousness. You could tag it derivative, but what isn’t? Familiar though it might be, it’s still worth a nod. Salem’s Pot on Thee Facebooks.
Salem’s Pot, “Nothing Hill” from …Lurar ut dig på prärien (2014)
6. Wovenhand, Refractory Obdurate
Released by Deathwish Inc. History has taught time and again not to be surprised when it comes to the David Eugene Edwards-led outfit Wovenhand, and their seventh offering and first for Deathwish Inc., Refractory Obdurate continues to expand beyond genre bounds, incorporating tonal weight into their signature brilliant arrangements so that songs like “Masonic Youth” (get it?) and “Hiss” pummel their payoffs as much as they enhance the atmospheres of “Salome,” “King David” and the joyously rumbling “Good Shepherd.” Wovenhand are a singular entity on stylistic terms, and Edwards‘ commanding presence burns through this material even at moments when he seems consumed by the full-breadth chaotic churning surrounding him in the mix. Refractory Obdurate– culling influences no less a patchwork than its cover art — is the work of genius, driven by faith and in perpetual development. Wovenhand on Thee Facebooks.
Wovenhand, Refractory Obdurate (2014)
That’s a pretty good day. If I left anything out or if you’ve already picked any of these up, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments. Thanks as always for reading.
Posted in Features on March 12th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
…Yeah, I know, 24 is a buttload of records to buy in the span of about a month and a half. To do the division, it would mean buying a new album every 2.04 days. Probably not feasible in terms of time, let alone budget, but hell, it’s a nice thought and seeing the onslaught of new stuff coming between now and the end of April, I thought maybe a list would help keep it all straight. Even if I’m only helping myself, I could probably spend my time in worse ways.
Worth noting that even with 24 albums, presented below in order of release, I feel like there’s stuff I’m forgetting. Frankly, it’s an overwhelming amount of material, so if I’ve missed something or there’s something you’d like to see added to the list, as always, that’s why there’s a comments feature.
Okay. These are numbered just for fun, but listed by date:
1. Orange Goblin, A Eulogy for the Fans (March 12)
My understanding is that London’s foremost doom scoundrels, none other than Orange Goblin, have been selling copies of A Eulogy for the Fans since starting their US tour with Clutch on March 8 in Cincinnati, Ohio, but today is the official release date, and I can think of no better place to start than with the four-piece’s ferocious performance at the 2012 Bloodstock festival, captured audio and video in all its bloodsoaked glory. Not to be missed or taken lightly because it’s a live record. Album review here.
2. Borracho, Mob Gathering 7″ (March 13)
Even though it’s comprised of older tracks, the new Mob Gathering 7″ from Borracho is welcome by me for two reasons: I’ve never heard the songs before and Borracho rocks. The Washington D.C.-based riffers recorded “Mob Gathering” and “Short Ride (When it’s Over)” in 2009 and are set to release the cuts on a limited platter in black and orange swirl through Spain’s Ghost Highway Recordings and Germany’s No Balls Records. They’ve been playing live as a mostly-instrumental outfit while guitarist/vocalist Noah is out of the country on what I can only assume is an awesome spy mission, so if you need a Borracho fix — and it’s obvious from the way your hands are shaking that you do — this might be the way to go. More info here.
3. Inter Arma, Sky Burial (March 15)
Like Windhand below, Inter Arma are recent Relapse Records signees from Richmond, Virginia, and Sky Burial will serve as their first release for the label. Literally and figuratively, the album is expansive, topping 69 minutes and pummeling the whole way through with a genre-transcending concoction of bleakness that’s not so much aligned to any particular heavy aesthetic so much as it is set to its own atmospheric purposes. Through this, Inter Arma emerge terrifyingly cohesive where many others would falter, and their second LP behind 2010’s Sundown (review here) leaves a progressive impression despite an almost complete lack of sonic pretense. Mostly, it’s fucking heavy. Track stream and info here.
4. Clutch, Earth Rocker (March 19)
If 2013 ended tomorrow, Clutch‘s Earth Rocker would be my album of the year. That’s not saying the situation will be the same nine months from now when I actually start putting that list together (already dreading it), but as of March 12, it’s the cat’s pajamas and no foolin’. The long-running Marylanders outdid themselves and put together a surprisingly fast, energetic collection of songs that don’t forsake the bluesy tendencies of their last album, 2009’s Strange Cousins from the West, so much as they put some of the jamming on lockdown in favor of all-out pro-grade heavy rock and roll. The velocity is crucial and the wolfman is out, but it feels like the party’s just starting. Look for them on tour sometime between now and forever. Album review here.
5. Black Mare, Field of the Host (March 20)
Black Math Horseman and Ides of Gemini frontwoman Sera Timms (who’s also recently collaborated with Yawning Man‘s Gary Arce in the new outfit Zun) steps further out on her own with the solo-project Black Mare, from whom Field of the Host is the first album. Due March 20 on LP through The Crossing and on cassette through Breathe Plastic, limited in both cases and sure to be gone shortly after release if they’re not already taken through pre-orders. Fans of Timms‘ past works will be glad to hear the misty wash of melody and dreamy, somehow sad, languid roll of “Blind One,” for starters. Audio and info on the forum.
6. Kvelertak, Meir (March 26)
Short of setting themselves on fire, Norwegian triple-guitar six-piece Kvelertak did just about everything they could to get noticed in support of their 2010 self-titled debut LP (review here), and sure enough, their work paid off in getting signed to Roadrunner Records for all territories outside their native Scandinavia (where Indie Recordings holds sway) and trumpeting up a wave of anticipation for their second full-length, Meir. Their energetic, genre-crossing approach might not be for everybody, but the band have turned a lot of heads and I wouldn’t at all be surprised to find them on bigger tours this year with Roadrunner behind them. More info on the forum.
7. Black Pyramid, Adversarial (April 2)
This is actually the first time the Eli Wood cover art for Black Pyramid‘s Adversarial has been seen in full, so you know. The Hydro-Phonic Records release of the third Black Pyramid album and first to be fronted by guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard along with bassist David Gein and drummer Clay Neely punctuates the beginning of a new era for the Massachusetts trio. If the advance listen to closing track “Onyx and Obsidian” is anything to go by, they could very well be at their most potent yet, and though I’d hardly consider myself an impartial observer, as a fan of the band, this is one I’ve been looking forward to for a while now. More to come. Track stream here.
8. Moss, Horrible Night (April 2)
I’ve yet to hear the complete album, but UK trio Moss seem poised to surprise with a cleaner vocal approach on Horrible Night, their first offering since 2008’s impressive Sub Templum LP and two EPs in 2009, so in addition to wondering how they’ll pull it off, the level of the shift remains to be seen. That is, how big a deal is it? Should I call my mom? Is this something grandma needs to know about? Time will tell, but for it having been five years since the last time a Moss record reared its doomly head, it seems only fair to give the band a little breathing room on their evolution. More info and video here.
9. Mars Red Sky, Be My Guide EP (April 8)
How glad am I that French fuzz rockers Mars Red Sky have a new EP coming? Well, I’m not as happy that it’s coming as I am that it’s frickin’ awesome. The trio keep the weighted bass tones that gave so much depth to their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), but they’ve also clearly set to work expanding the formula as well, adding stomp to second track “Seen a Ghost” and an eerie repetitive sense to side B closer “Stranger,” while also broadening their melodic reach and taking claim of whichever side of the line they want between fuzz rock and heavy psychedelia while remaining so much more to the ears than either genre descriptor can offer to the eyes. At half an hour, my only complaint with it is it’s not a full-length album. Video trailer and info here.
10. Blaak Heat Shujaa, The Edge of an Era (April 9)
A sample of the poet Ron Whitehead — who also featured on Blaak Heat Shujaa‘s late-2012 debut EP for Tee Pee Records, The Storm Generation (review here) — comes to clarity just in time for the gonzo Boomer poet to let us all know that, “America is an illusion” (that may be, but it’s an illusion with an army of flying killer robots), and from there, the youngin’ desert transplants embark on a low-end-heavy freakout topped with sweet surf rock guitars and set to use in intricate, sometimes surprisingly jagged, rhythmic dances. Mario Lalli of Fatso Jetson guests, Scott Reeder produced. Review is forthcoming, but till then, there’s more info here.
11. Devil to Pay, Fate is Your Muse (April 9)
Fate is Your Muse serves not only as Indianapolis rockers Devil to Pay‘s Ripple Music debut, but also as the double-guitar foursome’s first outing since 2009’s Heavily Ever After. With tales of lizardmen attacks and the alleged end of the world, it’s got its fair share of personality, and set to the chugging riffs, melodic vocals and straightforward heavy grooves, that personality still goes a long way. I’ll have a review up before this week is out (I hope), but still, I wanted to make sure to include Devil to Pay here too, since their songs command both attention and respect. To wit, I just can’t seem to get “This Train Won’t Stop” out of my head. Video and info here.
12. Cough & Windhand, Reflection of the Negative Split (April 15)
Virginian doomers Cough and Windhand share a hometown in Richmond, a love of volume, a bassist in Parker Chandler and now a label in Relapse Records, so yeah, a split makes sense. Reflection of the Negative will be Windhand‘s first release through Relapse ahead of their sophomore full-length, scheduled for later this year (info here). For Cough, this split marks their first outing since 2010’s An Introduction to the Black Arts split with UK masters The Wounded Kings (review here), and they’ll present the 18-minute “Athame,” while Windhand bring forth “Amaranth” and “Shepherd’s Crook.” More info here.
13. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Mind Control (April 15)
What the last Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats album, 2011’s Blood Lust (semi-review here), did so well was capture the atmosphere and the grainy imagery of late ’60s/early ’70s psychedelic horror and put it into audio form. For that, Blood Lust earned massive praise, but I still think that without the central core of songwriting underneath the genre trappings, it would’ve fallen flat. When it comes to Mind Control, the question waiting to be answered is if the band wants to stick to the blueprint they’ve established or go brazenly into uncharted weirdness. I’m not really sure they can lose, either way. Info and music here.
14. Kadavar, Abra Kadavar (April 16)
Their debut on new label Nuclear Blast and the quick-arriving answer to my pick for 2012 debut of the year, Abra Kadavar arrives with plenty of anticipation leading the way. The retro-rocking German trio have their work cut out for them in following that self-titled, but however it turns out in the comparison, it will be fascinating to learn how Kadavar develops the band’s sound and whether or not they prove able to push the boundaries of their aesthetic while simultaneously setting a new standard for promo photos. New video here.
15. Spiritual Beggars, Earth Blues (April 16)
I guess when it comes to these long-running Swedes, everybody’s got their favorite lineup, their favorite tunes, etc., but for me, I’m just impressed that Michael Amott — now more than 20 years on from starting Spiritual Beggars as a side-project while still in grindcore pioneers Carcass — still has any interest in keeping the classic rock Hammond-loving outfit grooving. Their last outing, 2010’s Return to Zero (review here), was the first to feature vocalist Apollo Papathanasio, formerly of Firewind, and though those songs were solid, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re more settled in on Earth Blues when it drops via InsideOut Music on April 16. More info on the forum.
16. Beastwars, Blood Becomes Fire (April 19)
Alternating between periods of brooding intensity and all-out crushing heaviness, the second full-length from New Zealand’s Beastwars, Blood Becomes Fire, is nasty, nasty, nasty. It’s nasty when it’s quiet and it’s nasty when it’s loud. It’s the kind of record you put on and you’re like, “Damn that’s nasty.” And you’re not wrong. The four-piece — touring shortly with Unida — upped their game even from 2011’s self-titled debut (review here), and for anyone who heard that record, you know that’s saying something. I’m still in the “getting to know it” phase, but so far all that nasty feels pretty right on. More info here.
17. Ghost, Infestissumam (April 19)
Man, this one just kind of happened, huh? I suck — and I mean S-U-C-K suck — at keeping up with band hype. I’m the dude who hears the record three months later and goes, “Yeah, I guess that’s cool,” as countless reviews here can attest, including the one for Ghost‘s 2010 debut, Opus Eponymous, but with the Swedish cult heavyweights, all of a sudden I turned around and blamo, major label deal, semi-name change to Ghost B.C., and enough slathering over the impending Infestissumam to make the first album seem like less than the hyperbole it was treated to initially. Funny how that happens. Out in April? I’m sure I’ll review in June and go, “Yeah, I guess that’s cool.” More info on the forum.
18. One Inch Giant, The Great White Beyond (April 19)
Now signed to Soulseller Records, Swedish heavy rockers One Inch Giant will unveil their debut full-length on April 19 and as three of my favorite words in the English language are “Swedish heavy rockers,” I’m excited to find out how this Gothenburg four-piece follow-up their Malva EP, and if they can capture some of the extreme dynamic they brought to their live show when they toured the US last summer — a run of shows that included a stop at SHoD. Hard not to pull for a band after they come over to play club dates. More info and music here.
19. The Heavy Co., Midwest Electric (April 20)
It was actually the other day writing about The Heavy Co.‘s Midwest Electric that I had the idea for this feature, so however high the profile might be for some of these albums — Ghost walks by on their way to cash a check — it was these unpretentious Hoosier rockers and their new outing, Midwest Electric, that started me off. From what I’ve heard so far, the new collection sounds a little more confident in exploring psychedelia than did the trio’s 2011 debut EP, The Heavy (Please Tune In…) (review here), so I’m looking forward to hearing if and how that plays out over the course of the whole thing. Video trailer here.
20. Gozu, The Fury of a Patient Man (April 23)
I have an interview slated for later this week with Gozu guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney, and I’m even more excited for this time than I was when we last spoke, around their 2009 Small Stone debut, Locust Season (review here), since in everything but its goofball song titles, the sophomore outing marks a huge developmental step in the band’s melodic reach and songwriting chemistry. Stay tuned for that interview and check out the Bandcamp stream included with the album review here.
21. Yawning Man & Fatso Jetson, European Tour Split 7″ (April 26)
Note: I don’t actually know that April 26 is the day that what’s sure to be 2013’s most desert-rocking split is due to arrive, I just know that it’s Fatso Jetson and Yawning Man‘s European tour split, and that’s the day the Euro dates start — with performances at Desertfests London and Berlin, to be more specific. Given both the greatness of Fatso Jetson‘s last record, 2010’s Archaic Volumes (review here), and of Yawning Man‘s own 2010 outing, Nomadic Pursuits (review here), the bands’ shared lineage and the relative infrequency of their touring, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to hope that, even for a single, they pull out all the stops. And starts. And riffs. More info on the forum.
22. Serpent Throne, Brother Lucifer (April 29)
Philly-based instrumental heavy rockers Serpent Throne will follow-up 2010’s White Summer/Black Winter (review here) with Brother Lucifer, and while no one can ever really know what to expect, it’s a safe bet that the dual-guitar outfit will have the solos front and center once again. Having seen them do a couple new songs back in December, I can’t blame them in the slightest. Looking forward to letting these songs sink in for a while and having those solos stuck in my head. Track stream here.
23. Melvins, Everybody Loves Sausages (April 30)
Hey wow, a Melvins covers album. Finally, an opportunity for the band to let their hair down and go wild a bit, right? I mean, at long last, they can really feel free to indulge a little and explore their musical roots in a free and creative way. Okay, you get the point. In all seriousness, it’s a pretty cool idea and anything that teams the Melvins with Scott Kelly to do a Venom song is probably going to be a worthy cause. The most amazing part of it is they haven’t already done a version of “Black Betty.” More info on the forum.
24. Revelation, Inner Harbor (April 30)
Their most progressive outing yet and their first album since 2009, Revelation‘s Inner Harbor (review here) is bound to surprise some who thought they knew what to expect from the Maryland doom stalwarts who double as the classically rocking Against Nature. Good thing Inner Harbor had a digital release last year through the band’s Bland Hand Records to act as a precursor to this Shadow Kingdom CD issue. Rumor has it vinyl’s on the way as well, so keep an eye out, since John Brenner‘s guitar tone should be heard on as natural-sounding an apparatus as possible. More info here.
Okay, so you’re saying to yourself, “Golly, that’s a lot of stuff.” You’re absolutely right. But even as I was typing up this feature, I got word of a new Queen Elephantine full-length coming in April, so even as much as this is, it’s not everything. And that’s not even to mention May, which will bring a new Shroud Eater EP, a new Kylesa record and a new Mark Lanegan collaboration, among however much else. Tons of stuff to keep your ears out for, and like I said way back at the top of this thing, if you have something to add, a comment’s always appreciated.
With a stylistic blend almost unto itself of classic heavy rock, prog and metal’s dual-guitar theatrics, Corsair‘s Corsairis not a record up for trifling. The band, native to Charlottesville, Virginia, self-released their first full-length earlier this year (review here) in what has become their standard format of a screenprinted folded box called an arigato pak (nice to finally have a name for it) with original art by guitarist/vocalist Marie Landragin, also seen on their prior 2011 Ghosts of Proxima CentauriEP (review here) and 2010’s Alpha Centauridebut (review here).
Could have been any number of the sides of their sound that did the job — from the rife Thin Lizzy-style guitarmonies of Landragin and Paul Sebring to Jordan Brunk‘s smooth basslines and the bounce in Aaron Lipscombe‘s drumming — but the album caught the attention of Shadow Kingdom Records, who have overseen a reissue of Corsair‘s self-titled on CD, with reworked art (still Landragin‘s design) in a full jewel case. If we were betting on motives, however, I might place my coin on it being the underlying human-ness of the album’s eight tracks, such that as proggy as Corsair might get, they never sound cold or staid, so that as Brunk and Sebring and Landragin trade off vocals or come together for effective layering and veer musically into more metallic thrust on a track like “Gryphon Wing,” the feeling is natural and nothing seems out of place.
Shadow Kingdom has gotten behind the band in a big way, and it’s understandable why. Over the four-plus years since they got together and with a minimum of lineup changes, Corsair have emerged as an act with marked potential, not necessarily for commercial interests (though the songs are accessible), but for creating something unique in their resonant progressive rock. With the label’s version of the record en route and having followed their evolution over the last couple years, it seemed the perfect opportunity to hit up the band for an interview. Brunk, writing from France, recently took some time out to reflect on Corsair‘s origins and where they’re headed in his answers to the Six Dumb Questions that follow below.
1. The self-titled is the first Corsair album to reach the public with a label backing it. How do you feel about the album being the first impression many people will have of the band? How did Shadow Kingdom get involved in the release?
Our self-titled album, as a whole, best represents to date the artistic vision of the band, so we are proud to have it be the first impression of a larger audience. Opening with “Agathyrsi,” an instrumental track, makes clear what we are all about; that the music, with guitar riffs as the focal point, comes first. Following suit, the rest of the album is indicative of the shared writing process with its rotating lead vocals, honed guitar harmonies, and trading solos. Listening to the album nearly a year after starting the process, there are details that could be improved, whether sonically in the mix or minor changes we’ve made in a live setting as afterthoughts. I feel most musicians will find minor flaws in their own material, being indicative of the desire to grow and improve.
Tim McGrogan (aka Shadow Kingdom) contacted us and told us that he’d been really digging our music and wanted to know if we were interested in signing to a record label. Initially, he bought five copies of each of our self-releases to sell on his website, but soon thereafter, his interest peaked and he scheduled a conference call with us to establish the grounds for a mechanical distribution contract.
2. For anyone who may have picked up the album previously, how does the Shadow Kingdom version differ? Is it a jewel case release? Was the mix or master changed at all for the new edition? Will you do a vinyl run?
The Shadow Kingdom release will be in a jewel case with an insert including lyrics and pictures of the band. The artwork and layout were reworked by Marie and tweaked by Tim from ShadowKingdom. The mix and master remain the same from the original release. It’s too soon to say for certain whether or not we will do a vinyl run, but if it makes sense later on, we would love to press to vinyl, not only for the sonic quality, but to give the artwork room to shine.
3. How would you chart the band’s growth along the releases so far? How has Corsair’s sound developed between Alpha Centauri, Ghosts of Proxima Centauri and the self-titled? How was your time recording for the self-titled, and were there experiences you drew on from the prior two that went into the making of this album?
Alpha Centauri was initially meant by the band to be a demo of songs we had ready to record in a weekend session with producer Lance Brenner. We were collectively inexperienced in the studio and were hesitant to believe that what we had was worthy of more. We loved playing together, but had no goals other than having something to give to people. Lance took the material to another level and gave us a finished product beyond what we expected, thus encouraging us to release it as an EP rather than a demo.
From the beginning, the guitar work was our ace-in-the-hole and showed promise to grow as our songwriting matured. There are some killer solos in there by Paul and Marie, and the rhythm section was tight and simple. In the studio Paul‘s ability to write guitar harmonies (listen to the riff post-chorus in “Last Night on Earth”) and Marie‘s affinity for delay and guitar effects (listen to the intro of “Space is a Lonely Place”), blossomed and gave the songs greater depth and layers of sound. Leigh Ann Leary played solid beats at Corsair‘s beginning and I (Jordan) either locked in with her, sometimes joined in with the guitars to beef up the riffs, or sometimes played somewhere in between the two.
I was keen to learn all I could on the engineering and production side and so paid attention to things like microphone placement and mixing techniques. We worked together with Lance on the production and ended up with a sound that was part ‘70s, dialing back the overall high frequencies (particularly the cymbals), and part ‘80s, evident on “Beware the Black Fleet” with its crowd vocals. Alpha Centauri plays like a collection of short stories, combining the subjects of space travel and mythology with an affinity for adventure.
We walked away with a nice little EP, which was then sent by mail to reviewers. Marie‘s craftiness may well be what initially gained the band any attention outside of Charlottesville because not only did she put much time, effort and care into the design and artwork, but she had the idea of screen printing onto arigato packs from Stumptown printers, then folding them up into little boxes to house the CDs. The icing on the cake was the colorful collaged kraft paper, wrapping the package like a present, that caught Ray Dorsey‘s eye at Ray’s Realm, and from his review, others in the online metal community (like The Obelisk, Metal Review and Hellride Music) took notice.
As we approached the process of recording Ghosts of Proxima Centauri,Corsair saw a shift with Aaron Lipscombe on drums. He brought greater versatility to our songwriting, adapting to ideas quickly and owning them from that point forward. This made possible more ambitious transitions and dynamic changes as the new material took form. I think the transitions and rhythmic changes in “Centurion” were especially challenging and reflected our eagerness to push the boundaries.
On Ghosts, we began sharing the vocal duties, and I say “duties” because they are always the last thing we write, often in the studio while working on the album. The guitar work comes relatively easy when compared to getting a vocal track that is up to par. Of the six songs, Paul sang lead on two (“Warrior Women” and “Eyes of the Gods”), Marie sang lead on one (“Orca”) and backup on two (“Centurion” and “Eyes…”), and I sang lead on two (“Burnish the Blades” and “Centurion”) and backup on two (“Warrior Woman” and “Eyes of the Gods”). A hodge-podge, yes, but it assembled something that reflects the shared nature of our songwriting.
We also chose to invest in studio gear rather than studio time to gain the luxury of recording at our leisure. When you want to make a record well, you can either take the fast and expensive route by paying an experienced producer, or the slow cheaper route in which the producer is relatively new to the game. However, we knew that getting a good drum sound was important and sought help at the beginning. We teamed up with Lance again, got the drums and rhythm guitars finished in a weekend, and left to record the solos, additional guitars, and vocals at our house.
We had time on this record to do multiple takes of solos and wait for the right one to sink in, and if we didn’t get it the first time, then we tried again without having to go to a studio. We could just meet up at the practice house and record. Some of the orchestrated parts with multiple harmonies may not have happened given our low budget if we were paying by the hour. There is more of ourselves on this album, all the way through the production. We had freedom to work, while performing best under our own pressure and artists control. It felt more like our own record in the end despite whatever shortcomings there might have been sonically. I know what I think is that it could be improved, but it’s an insider’s perspective that is highly critical. Parts of the session were messy because we were learning along the way, but we did our best to tidy up and make it feel cohesive.
A high point in the process was bringing in Gabe Cooper to play violin on “Eyes of the Gods.” We plugged his preamp into a Marshall stack and it gave the effect of music coming from a gramophone, like in an old recording. One of my favorite sounds on the record comes during the quiet build in the middle of “Eyes…” I added a Big Muff and an Akai Head Rush into the signal chain and when he gave the bow a stroke, it sounded like a UFO was landing. So we took the next logical step and doubled it! You can hear it dancing around when the song hangs just before the rollercoaster arpeggios kick in.
Ghosts was an incredible learning experience for the band and we gained much more confidence going forward with a new batch of songs that had people taking notice when we played them live. We learned by being hands-on throughout the process and were ready to do it all over again.
In the beginning of 2012, we decided to record once more but this time, really push ourselves to produce enough material to do an album instead of an EP. Start to finish, it was a whirlwind effort beginning in February and finishing with the product in hand for a release show on April 21. The deadline was self-imposed and we worked hard to be efficient within a strict budget. I am very proud of the quality we achieved in the tightness of our playing, the careful engineering, and the clarity of the mix. This time, we recorded drums with our friend and peer, Nate Bolling, in three separate sessions spread out over a couple of weeks. Again, the guitars, bass, solos, vocals, and overdubs came afterwards in our home recording studio, and with a better working knowledge from the onset, we finished with a fine record. In other words, we didn’t mess around.
This time, we found the beefy guitar tone we were searching for on the last album by correcting a slight phasing issue caused by using two microphones on the cabinet. The songwriting was a bit more concise and hard-hitting. Overall, it felt less complicated, like the mystery of the studio was gone and in its place was a cozy little home. To get deep into the studio knowledge and tweaks that made this effort better would be to open a whole other bag of worms, delving into gear-nerd-land.
As a side note (to escape the aforementioned g-n-l), for Halloween in 2011, we played a show as Thin Lizzy for a 45-minute set, mainly from their Live and Dangerous album. For a month and a half before showtime, we learned their material, which we all love, and it helped us once again to learn and grow. “Chaemera” is definitely a nod to Thin Lizzy as a strong influence. It could be a reason why the major scale started to emerge in our songwriting, so if the metal heads out there find some of our songs to be too happy, I suggest going back and giving Thin Lizzy a listen.
All three of our releases begin with an instrumental track, so I find the best way to chart our progress is to Listen to (in order), “Skykrakken,” “Wolfrider” and “Agathyrsi.” By just looking at the titles, you can infer that Corsair emerged from darkness with its tentacles full of guitars (“Skykrakken”), we seized the reins and tried to control the beast (“Wolfrider”), and after studying its ways, we gained access to ancient knowledge (“Agathyrsi”). (You might have to Google “agathyrsi” to get the last one… It’s a stretch, I know.)
4. How do you see yourselves developing going forward? The span between the three outings so far was pretty short. Have you started writing for another album or EP yet? Any plans for when you might next record?
Currently, Marie and I are living in Marseille, France, and are using the time to write new material until we return to Charlottesville in January. We brought recording equipment and all the while, we’ll send ideas back to the States for Paul and Aaron to contribute. Likewise, Paul will send any new ideas and we’ll be working together through the internet and our friend Nate Bolling‘s home studio. Once we return to Charlottesville, VA, in January, the next step is then to do our best to lay down the tracks and make another record.
5. Do you have any interest in hitting the road as a touring act? How does the Corsair experience live compare to listening on the album?
Corsair live is much sweatier. It took time to rehearse the material and get it tight, but then it took a little while longer until we got comfortable enough with the material to open up and actually perform. When we started, we were guilty of shoegazing because it took great concentration to play the parts well. Except for Paul… He’s always been an animated and skillful guitar player with his flying V and killer stage moves. Now, we’ve all opened up and try to put on a show to amp up the experience of hearing the songs live.
I think a turning point for the band was about two years ago when we did another Halloween show as Spinal Tap. To pull it off, not only did we have to play the songs well, but get into character and put on a performance. Having a good laugh at ourselves was a great lesson to learn and made us a better band on stage; more comfortable. I mean, once you’ve put on a wig and some shiny tights in front of a 300-plus crowd and owned it, you can pretty much pull off your own material in your own clothes anytime.
Now, I don’t mean to say that we ham it up, but we try to bring a high level of energy to get the crowd going, so that when the pockets of space open up in our songs, the effect is strong. Aaron does a great job controlling the dynamics of the band, and we all can feed off each other easily after playing together for a while.
Vocals have always been the most challenging part of our performance and until recently, it was consistently hard to hear ourselves singing atop the guitar stacks. In the last year, we upgraded our PA, which can finally compete with guitars, and have been working on the three part harmonies that are on some of the studio recordings to surprising success. Many musicians spend a lot of their time and money searching for the right guitar and amp, but to pull off a consistently good live performance, you need to invest into a decent PA as well.
As for touring, we never have been much of a touring band, playing about six shows a year in Charlottesville with a handful of jaunts up the Northeast to NYC, Philadelphia, and D.C., Richmond, and Harrisonburg, VA. I think our interest in touring is dependent on the potential for growing interest outside of our hometown. If we have good reason to travel, besides taking a mini-vacation and having fun, then we’re happy to do so. We’ve put in the time in our hometown amongst high-caliber musicians to hone our skills and stand out amongst the rest, so despite not having toured much, we’re ready for whatever is to come.
6. Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?
I think the underlying tide that keeps this band moving is the sense of adventure that we feel in our music. Somewhere along the line, we called our material “adventure rock” and it stuck because whenever we play the songs, despite whatever else is going on in our lives, there’s always a moment when we look up at each other and smile. There’s an escape from reality into our own world, which we shape with all the courage we can muster.
Posted in Features on November 21st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Their third new studio album since getting back together as Revelation and issuing 2008’s Release on Leaf Hound, Inner Harbor is an album that bleeds authenticity. After a while and the work that the Baltimore trio of John Brenner (guitar/vocals), Bert Hall, Jr. (bass) and Steve Branagan (drums) have also done as the concurrent act Against Nature, one almost comes to expect a level of musical humanity in the sound, but Inner Harbor(review here) takes the unpretentious progressive elements in Revelation‘s approach and pushes them further, evoking the melancholy in which they’ve always trafficked without sounding like a put-on or over-the-top in any sense that might apply.
Yet I wouldn’t call Inner Harborreserved. In the interview that follows, Brenner talks about the process of paring down the six tracks to fit them on the LP version of the album (released by Pariah Child Records, as opposed to the CD on Shadow Kingdom or the free download available through the band’s own Bland Hand imprint), and it seems like a process involving little if any restraint, resulting in an album that went from 60 minutes to 35. Tracks like “Jones Falls” and “Terribilita” aren’t likely to overwhelm with a sonic assault, but both convey effectively the raw emotional aspect that’s at the heart of classic doom.
Because Revelation are a constantly evolving process, however,that emotionality comes with some stylistic shifts that anyone who heard either Releaseor 2009’s follow-up, For the Sake of No One(or the earlier records, for that matter), could be easily surprised by — most notably the extensive incorporation of progressive synth alongside the guitar, bass and drums. Revelation have never been about expansive arrangements or overly indulgent explorations, instead finding effective conveyance through relatively simple, traditional means and tones, but on a song like the closing “An Allegory of Want” or “Rebecca at the Well,” they’re showing more of a classic prog influence — i.e. Rush — and making it work within the context of their long-since-proven ability for songcraft.
The changes might not be so devastating for anyone who’s followed Revelation since they got back or Branagan, Hall and Brenner‘s work in Against Nature, but the Rush influence was something I specifically wanted to explore in the back and forth with Brenner, along with the evolution of their self-recording process and the differences that have emerged between Against Nature and Revelation over the last few years. Brenner, an admitted introvert but no less sincere in his answers than he is in the music he writes, was especially poignant in discussing the meaning behind the title Inner Harbor, and how important the interpretations of individual words is to him both in the band and in general.
And maybe those parts are specifically worth a look, but honestly, the whole thing makes for a good read. You’ll find the complete 5,500-word Q&A after the jump.
Posted in Reviews on October 16th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
I am constantly working at a deficit. Financially, yes, because like many of my countrymen I’m am tens of thousands of dollars in debt — but also in terms of reviews. I’malwaysbehind on reviews. Hell, it was into July of this year before I finally put the kybosh on writing up anything from 2011, and I’m pretty sure if I hadn’t put my foot down on it, I’d still have year-old albums going up or older. My to-do list grows like a witchcult.
It’s not something to complain about and I’m not complaining. I’m stoked people give enough of a shit to send their CDs in to be reviewed — especially those who actually send CDs — and it’s for that reason that I do this second reviewsplosion (first one here).
Yeah, as ever, I’m behind on reviews, but I’m also working on being more concise — I swear I am; check out the At a Glance reviews if you don’t believe me — and one of the things I liked so much about the last reviewsplosion was it forced me to get to the fucking point. As direct a line as possible to a review. Boiling the idea down to its essential core.
With that in mind, here’s my attempt to both balance my review budget and be as clear as humanly possible. Hope you dig:
Altar of Oblivion, Grand Gesture of Defiance
The subject of some spirited debate on the forum, the second record from Danish five-piece Altar of Oblivion revels in traditional doom methods. There’s an air of pomp in some of the songs — “Graveyard of Broken Dreams” lays it on a little thick — but by and large, Grand Gesture of Defiance(Shadow Kingdom) is a more than solid showing of genre. Classic underground metal flourishes abound, and while it’s not a record to change your life, at six tracks/34 minutes, neither does it hang around long enough to be overly repetitive. You could do way worse. Altar of Oblivion on Thee Facebooks.
Blooming Látigo, Esfínteres y Faquires
Primarily? Weird. The Spanish outfiit Blooming Látigo make their debut on Féretro Records (CD) and Trips und Träume (LP) with the all-the-fuck-over-the-place Esfínteres y Faquires, alternately grinding out post-hardcore and reciting Birthday Party-style poetry. They reach pretty hard to get to “experimental,” maybe harder than they need to, but the on-a-dime stops and high-pitched screams on tracks like “Onania” and “Prisciliano” are well beyond fascinating, and the blown-out ending of “La Destrucción del Aura” is fittingly apocalyptic. Who gave the art-school kids tube amps? Blooming Látigo on Bandcamp.
Five years since their second offering, Green Magic, left such a strong impression, Italian stoner rock trio El-Thule return with Zenit (Go Down Records), which makes up for lost time with 50 minutes of heavy riffs, fuzzy desert grooves and sharp, progressive rhythms. The band — El Comandante (bass), Mr. Action (guitar/vocals) and Gweedo Weedo (drums/vocals) — may have taken their time in getting it together, but there’s little about Zenit that lags, be it the faster, thrashier “Nemesis” or thicker, Torche-esque melodic push of the highlight “Quaoar.” It’s raw, production-wise, but I hope it’s not another half-decade before El-Thule follow it up. El-Thule on Thee Facebooks.
Botanist, III: Doom in Bloom
It’s a nature-worshiping post-black metal exploration of what the History Channel has given the catchy title “life after people.” If you’ve ever wondered what blastbeats might sound like on a dulcimer, Botanist‘s third album, III: Doom in Bloom has the answers you seek, caking its purported hatred of human kind in such creative instrumentation and lyrics reverent of the natural world rather than explicitly misanthropic. The CD (on Total Rust) comes packaged with a second disc called Allies, featuring the likes of Lotus Thief and Matrushka and giving the whole release a manifesto-type feel, which suits it well. Vehemently creative, it inadvertently taps into some of the best aspects of our species. Botanist’s website.
Say what you will about whiteboys and the blues, the bass tone that starts “Nobody Get Me Down” is unfuckwithable. And Seattle trio GravelRoad come by it pretty honestly, having served for years as the backing back for bluesman T-Model Ford. The album Psychedelta (on Knick Knack Records) jams out on its start-stop fuzz in a way that reminds not so much of Clutch but of the soul and funk records that inspired Clutch in the first place, and though it never gets quite as frenetic in its energy as Radio Moscow, there’s some of that same vibe persisting through “Keep on Movin'” or their Junior Kimbrough cover “Leave Her Alone.” Throaty vocals sound like a put-on, but if they can nail down that balance, GravelRoad‘s psychedelic blues has some real potential in its open spaces. GravelRoad on Thee Facebooks.
The Linus Pauling Quartet, Bag of Hammers
Texas toast. The Linus Pauling Quartet offer crisp sunbursts of psychedelic heavy rock, and after nearly 20 years and eight full-lengths, that shouldn’t exactly be as much of a surprise as it is. Nonetheless, Bag of Hammers(Homeskool Records) proffers a 41-minute collection of heady ’90s-loving-the-’70s tones while venturing into classic space rock on “Victory Gin” and ballsy riffing on “Saving Throw.” Being my first experience with the band, the album is a refreshing listen and unpretentious to its very core. Eight-minute culminating jam “Stonebringer” is as engaging a display of American stoner rock as I’ve heard this year, and I have to wonder why it took eight records before I finally heard this five-man quartet? Hits like its title. LP4’s website.
Odyssey, Abysmal Despair
It’s the damnedest thing, but listening to Abysmal Despair, the Transubstans Records debut from Swedish prog sludge/noise rockers Odyssey, I can’t help but think of Long Island’s own John Wilkes Booth. It’s the vocals, and I know that’s a really specific association most people aren’t going to have, but I do, and I can’t quite get past it. The album is varied, progressive, and working in a variety of modern underground heavy contexts nowhere near as foreboding as the album’s title might imply, like Truckfighters meets Entombed, but I just keep hearing JWB‘sKerry Merkle through his megaphone. Note: that’s not a bad thing, just oddly indicative of the greater sphere of worldwide sonic coincidence in which we all exist. If anything, that just makes me like Abysmal Despair more. Odyssey on Soundcloud.
Palkoski, 2012 Demo
Conceptual Virginian free-formers Palkoski released the three-track/67-minute 2012 demo earlier this year through Heavy Hound. Most of it sounds improvised, but for verses here and there that emerge from the various stretches, and the band’s alternately grinding and sparse soundscapery results in an unsettling mash of psychotic extremity. It is, at times, painful to listen, but like some lost tribal recording, it’s also utterly free. Limited to 100 CDs with a second track called “The Shittiest EP Ever” and a third that’s a sampling of Palkoski‘s ultra-abrasive noise experimentation live, this one is easily not for the faint of heart. Still, there’s something alluring in the challenge it poses. Palkoski at Heavy Hound.
Radar Men from the Moon, Echo Forever
Following their charming 2011 EP, Intergalactic Dada and Space Trombones, the Eindhoven instrumental trio Radar Men from the Moon (On the Radar’ed here) return on the relative quick with a 51-minute full-length, Echo Forever. More progressive in its jams, the album’s psychedelic sprawl shows the band developing — I hesitate to compare them to 35007 just because they happen to be Dutch, but the running bassline that underscores “Atomic Mother” is a tempter — but there’s still an immediacy behind their changes that keeps them from really belonging to the laid-back sphere of European jam-minded heavy psychedelia. They’re getting warmer though, stylistically and tonally, and I like that. Interesting to hear a song like “Heading for the Void” and think Sungrazer might be burgeoning as an influence. Cool jams for the converted. Radar Men from the Moon on Bandcamp.
Sound of Ground, Sky Colored Green
There are elements of of Yawning Man, or Unida or other acts in the Californian desert milieu, but basically, Moscow’s Sound of Ground sound like Kyuss. They know it. Their R.A.I.G. debut full-length, Sky Colored Green, makes no attempt to hide it, whether it’s the “Green Machine” riffing of “Lips of the Ocean” or the speedier Slo-Burnery of “El Caco,” though the metallic screaming on “R.H.S.” is a dead giveaway for the band’s youth, coming off more like early Down than anything Josh Homme ever plugged in to play. While not necessarily original, the trio are firm in their convictions, and Sound of Ground tear through these 11 tracks with engaging abandon. The Russian scene continues to intrigue. Sound of Ground on Thee Facebooks.
Posted in Reviews on September 13th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Since regrouping in 2004 and releasing their second album, The Lords of Hypocrisy, and following two years later with Magical & Mythical, things have been relatively quiet for unsung NWOBHM heroes Pagan Altar. Vinyl splits with Jex Thoth in 2007 and Mirror of Deception in 2011 have kept their name out there, but the father/son founding team of Terry Jones (vocals) and Alan Jones (guitar/backing vocals) have been pretty quiet, playing sporadically but not with any great regularity or promotion. That may or may not change in 2013 as the Joneses make their US debut with a new lineup of Pagan Altar at the Maryland Deathfest – an appearance that hopefully arrives concurrently to a new album – but until then, the band look backwards with a reissue of some of their earliest recordings in the form of the 32-minute The Time Lord collection. Released on CD by respectable NWOBHM historians Shadow Kingdom Records (see also Manilla Road, Jameson Raid, Wolfbane and doom from Iron Man, Revelation and Argus, among others), this remastered, re-artworked version of The Time Lord is actually a reissue of a reissue, these five tracks having seen release on vinyl in 2004 when the band first came back together, but in the spirit of 1998’s Volume 1 – which was recorded in 1982 – 2012 finds these tracks from 1978-’79 no less thrilling than they might ever have been, the opening duo of “Highway Cavalier” and the title-track recorded at a professional studio in London and the remaining three – “Judgement of the Dead,” “The Black Mass” and “Reincarnation” put to tape in the band’s own studio. And it was tape. You can hear the audio hiss on “Judgement of the Dead,” from 1978, Terry and Alan Jones joined by bassist Glen Robinson and drummer Ivor Harper, who’d be replaced by Mark Elliott by the time 1979 arrived. It being a collection of material recorded across a swath of time and with different personnel – “Highway Cavalier” and “The Time Lord” also feature second guitarist Les Moody – an overarching flow isn’t really a concern, but it’s worth noting that one can listen to The Time Lord as a single record and not just a compilation and find it enjoyable on that level as well, the pre-shred in the guitars of “Highway Cavalier” portending what underground metal would become as it matured over the next decade.
It’s the shortest track on The Time Lord by nearly three full minutes, but “Highway Cavalier” might also be the most aptly-titled song on the release. At 2:37, it establishes some kinship with Motörhead’s pervasive bullshit-free ethic and relies on head-down, forward-directed push which Terry tops with vocal grit that’s still melodic without being overdone. The chug is slower than Pagan Altar’s London-based contemporaries, who would release Overkill the next year, but the simplicity of the groove is there, and it echoes as much through the material as Terry’s singing does while he sings about the idyllic biker-type freedom of the open highway: “I’m living free and easy/That’s how it’s gonna be/I’m free, free, free to be me.” It’s a chorus that only has time to repeat twice but nonetheless proves among the most effective on The Time Lord, setting up an interesting context for the more psychedelic “The Time Lord,” which takes a relatively simple guitar line and draws out the leads to efficiently give the song a sense of space. It’s quite a jump from frill-less “Highway Cavalier” to the title-cut, but the latter has a no-less-straightforward structure for its first half and it’s not until after a final chorus around four minutes in that Pagan Altar – then Terry and Alan as well as Moody, Robinson and Harper – break into an extended instrumental jam that rounds out the remainder of the time, a bit of Southern inflection working into the guitar solo underscored by Robinson’s low end righteousness (no doubt bolstered by the remaster job here) as Harper skillfully holds the progression together and provides a sense of linear movement. They crash to a relatively unceremonious finish, like they just decided to stop – though one imagines they kept that jam going much longer in practice at the time – and “Judgement of the Dead” brings about the first of the three self-recordings. The sound is rougher, but not terribly or detrimentally so – the lo-fi production and tape hiss fit the slower, Sabbath-style plod of the track pretty well. Terry delivers an excellently warbling cave echo vocal and though they’ve lost Moody in the interim, the guitars still have time to add little flourishes like plucking the strings up on the headstock and not missing a beat in the central riff of the verse. Rather than a long instrumental second half, “Judgement of the Dead” brings back its chorus in the midst of a break and then cycles through again, ending just under the seven-minute mark with one last chorus.
Posted in audiObelisk on August 27th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Anytime you can see Maryland doom stalwarts Revelation, consider doing so highly recommended. First off, they don’t play live that often, and second, the trio of guitarist/vocalist John Brenner, bassist Bert Hall, Jr. and drummer Steve Branagan are a direct line to the defeat at the heart of classic doom. The band’s earliest material stems back to the beginnings of the ’90s, but even more than 20 years later, the emotional atmosphere they capture isn’t quite like anything else.
Revelation will be playing this Friday, Aug. 31, at Stoner Hands of Doom XII in New London, Connecticut, sharing the stage that night with Earthride, Pilgrim, Lord Fowl and others. To honor that event, and to spread word of their ongoing productivity, the band sent over the new song “Terribilita.”
The track comes from Revelation‘s upcoming full-length, Inner Harbor — one assumes named just as much for the hurts that stay with us as for the inner harbor of Baltimore — which will see release in the coming months. Shadow Kingdom will have a CD out, and Inner Harborwill be out on vinyl through Ireland’s Pariah Child Records. As with all Revelation releases and everything the band does with their alter-ego Against Nature incarnation as well, the album will also be available for free download from Brenner‘s own Bland Hand Records.
Before we get there, though, “Terribilita” brings forth Revelation‘s oft-understated vibing with previously unheard clarity in the recording. Brenner‘s guitar sounds fuller and more vibrant than ever, and even Branagan‘s drums come through more clearly even than on 2009’s For the Sake of No One, nestling into tight rhythms alongside Hall‘s always classy, always grooving bass. Decades later, Revelation remain an underground treasure.
Please enjoy “Terribilita” on the player below:
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All of Revelation and Against Nature‘s impossibly huge and ongoing discographies — including rare live recordings — can be downloaded for free over at Bland Hand‘s website, as well as releases from Iron Man, Beelzefuzz, Pale Divine and many others. Keep an eye on Shadow Kingdom‘s page too for news on the physical pressing.
Posted in Reviews on August 22nd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Not to be confused with the early ‘70s occult folk outfit of the same name, the metal band Coven formed in Detroit in 1985. Soon after the release of their 1987 debut album, Worship New Gods, the foursome would be contacted by the Jinx Dawson-fronted unit who once reminded us that witchcraft destroys minds and reaps souls, and forced to change their name to Coven 13, but for the first record, which came to enjoy a kind of limited cult appeal over the years since its initial issue, they were still Coven, and so it is on the new Shadow Kingdom Records repress of Worship New Gods. The new version is billed as a 25th anniversary celebration release, but it’s not bloated with special bonus tracks, interviews or anything like that, instead just focusing on the album itself. Frankly, that’s treat enough. Shadow Kingdom have spent the last few years paying direct homage to the NWOBHM and classic metal, but Coven are a bit harder to place stylistically, aligning themselves to fantasy metal on songs like “Riddle of Steel” and the Camelot-themed “Wicked Day,” a sort of non-industrial proto-goth on “Kiss Me with Blood” and keep a semi-pagan sensibility in their use of runes on the album cover and in the memorable finale, “Loki.” Whatever else it has going for it, Worship New Gods bleeds personality. The vocals of David Landrum are more swaggering than one might expect for something so stylistically varied and roughly produced (the album sounds both of its era and of its budget), and bassist/keyboardist Roger Cyrkiel, who also recorded, adds a flourish of melody and atmosphere that goes beyond the traditional metal songwriting. A song like “Ruler” may have gang-chant-esque backing vocals in its chorus, but “Threshold of the New,” despite having a near-Misfits punkish forward drive in Brian McGuckin’s drums, is as atmospheric as it is abrupt, Landrum’s vocals holding to a sub-swirl of compression and echo and guitarist Todd Kreda offering surprising shred in his solo.
It’s pretty easy to see why Worship New Gods earned its reissue. Apart from the fact that Coven have reunited as Coven 13 with second guitarist Richie Karacynski and reportedly begun work on a new album to be released on Shadow Kingdom, this nine-track/39-minute collection seems to feed off its blend, and while in the years since its initial release, some of the elements at work across this material have broken off into their own styles – goth, doom, pagan metal, etc. – these songs arguably capture a crossroads moment in the growth of metal as a whole. Apart from that, it sounds cool. More to the point, it sounds Old, and mysterious, and obscure, which no doubt accounts for a good portion of its appeal. That said, Coven had a surprising grasp on their aesthetic, multifaceted as it was, and songs like “Burial Ground,” “Wicked Day,” “Ruler,” and “Threshold of the New” sound dated here, but not at all irrelevant. “General’s Eyes” is memorable in more than just its commonality of progression with Metallica’s “Four Horsemen” (and, by extension, Megadeth’s “Mechanix”), and whether the foursome is thrashing out as they are early in that track or working in the more open, plodding style of “Loki,” they maintain a strong undercurrent of craft and pop hooks that works to tie Worship New Gods together as a cohesive whole. Landrum’s vocals are rough in some places – on the closer he seems to be struggling to keep up with the chorus – and his over-the-top approach probably isn’t going to sit well in all ears, but he effectively caps the atmosphere in “Riddle of Steel” and “Kiss Me with Blood,” and despite only being three tracks apart, the stylistic gap between those songs is much wider. I don’t know if Coven set out to make an album so varied – it’s hard to listen to a reissue like this and divorce hindsight from what actually went into making it a quarter-century ago – but the nuances they bring to their approach make Worship New Gods a richer listen than one might initially think on the first or second time through.