Posted in audiObelisk on June 6th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Today it is my extreme pleasure to host the first of what I hope will be many batches of audio streams from Roadburn 2012. This year, instead of links, I’m honored to host the audio streams themselves, which you’ll find on the players below. Extra special thanks to Walter and the Roadburn crew, and to Marcel van de Vondervoort and his team for recording these sets.
Alkerdeel – Roadburn 2012
Ancestors – Roadburn 2012
BlackCobra – Roadburn 2012
Bong – Roadburn 2012
Horisont – Roadburn 2012
Sigiriya – Roadburn 2012
YOB – The Unreal Never Lived live at Roadburn 2012
Posted in Features on April 6th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
04/06/12 — 22:47 GMT — Friday — Hotel
Beyond the blister lurking underneath the callous of my foot, it’s hard to remember where today even began, though I’ll say that having failed yet again to attain a cellophone for the Eurozone — I mention it only because my lack of competency at this point I find comical — I made my way around the High Street intersection, trying to follow the weirdos this way and that in search of the Black Heart. It was, as a young man named Isaac guided me, behind the Underworld, back down an alley called Greenland Place. I guess it was a street. Hard to know, really.
I was early, having failed gloriously to acquire a phone, and after getting my wristband (it’s gold, you can see some red ones above), I sat at the bar and had a few Camden Town Lagers. Amazing how similar their font looks to the Brooklyn Brewery. Even the taps looked alike. Anyway, the lager was decent, and I was waiting — viciously awkward soul that I am sitting at a bar by myself — for Stone Axe to go on and do their set of Free covers. I ran into Pete Holland from Trippy Wicked/Stubb and then Tony Reed from Stone Axe, and following a few more drinks and some pleasant conversation, Desertfest was underway. That’s probably as good a place to start as any.
Stone Axe made a set of Free songs so much their own that, half the time, I wouldn’t have even questioned whether or not they were covers. Helps a bit that Free is probably the single act from which the Washington four-piece — whose Live at Roadburn 2011 CD I somehow ended up buying twice — most draw stylistically, but either way, they killed it. Highlights included “Fire and Water” from the 1970 album of the same name and they closed with “All Right Now,” which was somewhat expected, it being Free‘s most enduring “hit,” but nonetheless one of the many tracks Stone Axe sounded natural embodying, vocalist Dru Brinkerhoff making the lyrics sound like something he just came up with. A killer way to start the fest and it made me look forward to their set of originals at The Purple Turtle still to come.
From there, I was fortunate enough to have some kind soul willing to lead my semi-drunk ass down the block to the Purple Turtle in time to catch Stubb. I’m not going to lie, for me, this was the meat of the fest. It’s why I came to London; to see bands I wouldn’t be able to catch otherwise. Stubb, which boasts in its lineup two-thirds of Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight, did not disappoint. From “Mountain” — on which guitarist Jack Dickinson and bassist Pete Holland shared vocals excellently during the chorus — to the closer “Soul Mover,” they were an absolute thrill to watch, and as the room at The Purple Turtle was totally packed, it seemed I wasn’t the only one who thought so. It felt like I was transplanting myself on another locale’s scene, and you know, I was glad to do it. These dudes, aside from being a kickass band, I consider friends, and the chance to see them live, as well as to see Trippy Wicked immediately following, was something really special. In short, it’s why I’m here.
Holland moved over to guitar for the Trippy Wicked set, and drummer Christopher West stayed put as bassist Dicky King came on stage to make up the difference for Dickinson departing. He didn’t go far, though, as Trippy Wicked got going, backing up Stubb‘s power trio ethic with one of their own. They have a new album out, and I bought it back at the Black Heart, just to have the chance to support the band directly, and after hearing them play, I’m looking forward even more to checking it out. Holland‘s vocals have come a long way since they started out, and King and West make a formidable rhythm section behind the guitar melody. Like Stubb, they were a native band I felt lucky to be able to catch. As I’ve grown increasingly envious of the UK scene over the last few months, it was awesome to see Trippy Wicked in front of their own crowd. I think I’ll probably skip out on Berlin next week and try to catch these dudes with Stone Axe (and Stubb, naturally) in Eindhoven on Tuesday. We’ll see how it goes, but either way, killer set from a killer bunch of guys. Seriously. Made me glad I came.
Ditto that for Stone Axe, whom, though we hail from the same continent, I’ve only ever seen in Europe. Last year, their set at Roadburn made me not regret missing Ufomammut in the slightest — which should say something about the rock quotient; most of that set is available on that live CD I decided to make a double — and as afternoon transitioned into evening, I wanted to make sure I caught their originals to follow up on the killer start their set of Free covers made to the fest as a whole. Brinkerhoff and Reed showed no wear for pulling double-duty — maybe the fact that they’re touring with Trippy Wicked and Stubb had them keeping up with Holland and West on the two-set front — and the whole set was a party, the highlights of which were “Chasing Dragons” and “We Know it’s Still Rock and Roll,” which had one of the night’s best sing-alongs. I was right up front while they played, and I had no regrets for it. I missed Ancestors while Stone Axe was playing (and maybe a bit during the changeover to Greenleaf), but I’ll make the effort to see them next weekend at Roadburn. Stone Axe was a necessity.
Greenleaf, as the band who sealed the deal in my mind for coming here in the first place, all the more so. I didn’t anticipate much in their set older than 2007′s Agents of Ahriman, if only for the lineup involved, and that was pretty much how it went. They threw in a couple older songs, but by and large it was Agents material and songs from the new album, Nest of Vipers (review here), including the opener “Jack Staff,” “Case of Fidelity” and “Lilith,” which was missing its organ a bit, but still left me with no complaints overall. They started off with “Alishan Mountain” from Agents of Ahriman, in what I can only assume was a personal favor to me, and commenced from there to what I can say with no exaggeration I will consider a landmark experience for me as regards show-going. No bullshit. Greenleaf was a band I never thought I’d see. They were just too far away, and with guitarist Tommi Holappa in Dozer and vocalist Oskar Cedermalm in Truckfighters, I just didn’t think it would happen. No matter what else happens to me on this trip, I saw Greenleaf. Fuckin’ a. If I’m 100 percent honest, that’s enough. I could’ve caught a plane home after their set and still felt like I won out. Also cool to see Cedermalm‘s fellow Truckfighters, Niklas “Dango” Källgren and Oscar “Pezo” Johansson in the crowd. Gave the whole thing a family atmosphere, not that one was lacking after the sets that had already gone down at The Purple Turtle.
I wanted to stay and see Sigiriya, but I also didn’t want to miss Asteroid back at the Black Heart, so I decided to compromise. I stayed for the first couple Sigiriya songs before heading out to the other venue. Worth noting that along with Ancestors, Sons of Alpha Centauri, Karma to Burn and Rotor were on the main stage at the Underworld tonight, but I didn’t make it there at all. Tomorrow I will to catch Roadsaw, Sungrazer, etc., but not tonight. Anyway, Sigiriya‘s Return to Earth wasn’t exactly fresh on my mind — that is, it’s been a minute since I last put it on — but the songs came right back, whether it was “The Mountain Goat” or “Whiskey Song,” and the grooves were mighty. They were killing it, hands down, but I had to head out to catch Asteroid, so I departed a few songs into their set and made back for the Black Heart, my own black heart heavy in my hands at having split out on what I knew was some righteous rock.
There was, however, no debating it. I had to see Asteroid. Not seeing Asteroid simply would not do. It brought the day full-circle to be back at the Black Heart, and I topped off what was already a several-hours-long buzz with one last Camden Town Lager and waited for the Swedish trio to take the stage. Outside, the dudes from Black Pyramid were getting ready to head across the street to catch Karma to Burn, and I knew that would be awesome, but hell, I’d come too far to miss it now. Asteroid took the stage promptly and kicked into what seemed like an hour-long jam. It’s interesting now that I’ve seen both bands to realize how much they have in common tonally with Graveyard, but they’re on their own trip. “Time” knocked me out, and “Disappear” was more than a treat. They wound up doing about half of “Dr. Smoke” from the first album as a semi-encore, the crowd singing along to the riff with hands held high. I was in the back by then, my feet beginning to feel those new-sneaker blisters taking hold, but I stayed until they were finished, and — I can’t think of another way to put it — they were awesome, guitarist Robin Hirse and barefoot bassist Johannes Nilsson splitting vocal duties with ease and capturing the organic sounds of their albums (the second one is reviewed here) with what seemed like no trouble at all.
I made my way back to the hotel as quickly as I could when they were done, hoping perhaps to catch an open coffee/sandwich shop along the Parkway here in Camden Town, alas, to no avail. Some spicy ramen noodles, a bag of salt and pepper chips and, finally, another protein bar served as dinner to cap a long day of music and drink. Tomorrow I’ll wake up and likely do it all again, though hopefully having some time in the morning to go CD shopping before Desertfest kicks up its sands again. I’ve got my wristband. My earplugs. My Advil. I’m ready for whatever comes.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 10th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
London Desertfest is apparently announcing a band a day this week, and tomorrow, Sunday’s headliner (you’ll note it says “Very Special Guests” on the poster above) will be unveiled. The news that Lord Vicar and Sigiriya have been added to the bill is worth posting in the meantime, seeing as how it’s, you know, awesome. Serious lineup coming together — I have the feeling it’s going to be a hard time deciding where to be at any given moment. Can’t wait till the full schedule is up.
Arising from the ashes of Reverend Bizarre, who called it a day back in ‘07 came Lord Vicar. With PeterVicar (formerly of RB) now going by his real name KimiKarki, he felt he had unfinished business. The four-piece doom metallers are eager to destroy you with their brutal intensity. Fans of Trouble, SaintVitus and Pentagram take note: Lord Vicar will be preaching their brand of doom at Desertfest.
If you don’t know already, Sigiriya emerged from the mighty Acrimony who disbanded back in ‘01. Dorian, Stuart, Paul and Darren decided to form a completely new band with a more sonic riff-worshipping sound. The guys didn’t hang about between the demise of Acrimony and the birth of Sigiriya serving time with the likes of IronMonkey, Dukes of Nothing, Yeti, Helvis and Black Eye Riot. Hailing from Wales, the four-piece recently opened at the OrangeGoblin Xmas gig and are receiving rad reviews on their live performances and for their debut album Return to Earth.
Posted in Features on December 9th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Please note: This list is made up of my personal picks, not the results of the Readers Poll, which is ongoing — if you haven’t added your top 11 to that yet, please do.
It was an impossible task to keep up with everything that came out this year. I’ll say flat out that I didn’t. There are records that I just didn’t get to hear, and I should note at the outset that this list is mine. It’s based on my personal opinions, what I listened to the most this year and what I think 2011′s most crucial releases have been.
I’ve spent the better part of this week (and last, if brain-time counts) constructing this list, and I finally got it to a point where I feel comfortable sharing. Since last December, I’ve kept a Post-It of names, and all year, I’ve logged bands I’d want to consider for the final top 20. In the end, there were 78 bands and more that I didn’t get to write down for whatever reason. 2011 was nothing if it wasn’t overwhelming.
But here we are, anyway, and it’s done. Let’s get to it:
This is nothing if not a sentimental pick. Last year, I put Electric Wizard in the #20 spot because the record wasn’t out yet, and this year, I’m putting Suplecs (interview with bassist Danny Nick here) in just because I couldn’t imagine this list without them. Until literally a few minutes before I clicked “Publish” on this post, there was someone else in this spot, but ultimately, it had to be them. The New Orleans trio’s first record in half a decade wasn’t what I listened to most in 2011, it wasn’t the best album, or the most important, or career-defining, but when it came right down to it, god damn, I was just happy to have Suplecs back. It had been too long.
After a while, I was kind of shocked to find myself continuing to listen to Favourite State of Mind, the second album by Polish rockers Elvis Deluxe. The record’s dynamics didn’t immediately open up to me, but once I dug into the songs, I was wowed by their balance of catchy hooks and substantial-sounding riffs. The album was genre-relevant without being genre-minded, with vocal changes, organ, atmospheric shifts and a whole host of moods and turns. After hearing their 2007 debut, Lazy, I wasn’t expecting much out of the norm from Favourite State of Mind, and I’m still thrilled by just how wrong I was, and “Take it Slow” is among my favorite single songs of the year.
The gloomy opening statement from former Warning guitarist/vocalist Patrick Walker turned heads around the world with its unabashed emotional conviction, which was so much the central focus of the record as to be made a novelty by those who don’t usually consider doom an emotionally relevant genre (the widespread arguments against that notion I’ll leave for another time). What most stood out to me about The Inside Room was how the sentimentality translated into a gorgeous melodic sensibility and resulted in a lonely mood that was engrossing. On that level, it was easily among 2011′s most effective releases. It made you feel what it seemed to be feeling.
It was an album that lived up to its name. Return to Earth marked the remaking of one of heavy rocks most stoned outfits: Acrimony. But, as Sigiriya (interview with drummer Darren Ivey here), the four-piece (down from five) would show that the years since the demise of their former band had found them progressing as musicians, resulting in a sound less directly stoner, more modern, more earthy. The songs, however, were what made it. It’s still a rare day that goes by that I don’t hum at least part of the chorus of “Mountain Goat” to myself, and if Return to Earth was a new beginning for these players, I can’t wait to see where they go next.
In addition to being Totimoshi‘s first album for At a Loss following the end of their deal with Volcom, Avenger was the first Totimoshi record since 2003′s ¿Mysterioso? not to be produced by Page Hamilton, and where 2006′s Ladrón and 2008′s Milagrosa moved away from some of the noisy crunch in the guitar of Tony Aguilar (interview here), Avenger managed to be both a return to form and a progression of the band’s melodicism. It seems, as ever, to have flown under most radars, but Totimoshi continue to refine their songwriting and have become one of the heavy underground’s most formidable and least classifiable bands.
With their 2010 EP release, upstart British trio Grifter informed us that The Simplicity of the Riff is Key, and on their self-titled Ripple Music debut, they put that ethic to excellent use, resulting in straightforward, catchy songs that were as high-octane as they were low-bullshit. The ultra-catchy “Good Day for Bad News” showed Grifter at the top of their form, and with a dose of humor thrown in, Grifter was the drunken stoner rock party you always wanted to be invited to and, of course, finally were. Now if only I could get Skype to work and get that interview with Ollie Stygall moving, I’d be happy to tell him personally he put out one of 2011′s most kickass rock records.
I don’t know what’s most impressive about The Book of Knots‘ Garden of Fainting Stars — the songs themselves or that they were able to make any songs at all. With upwards of 20 guest spots around the core four-piece, the third in a purported trilogy of records from the avant rock originalists was an epic in every listen. Songs like “Microgravity” and the Mike Watt spoken word “Yeager’s Approach” pushed the limits of both genre and expectation, and miraculously, Garden of Fainting Stars was cohesive and enthralling in its narrative aspect. If it really was their last album, it was triumphant in a manner befitting its expanding-universe thematics.
Had it been a full-length, Invisible White would be higher on this list. Many out there who were enamored of Ancestors‘ 2008 Neptune with Fire debut have gone on to bemoan the Californian collective’s shift away from extended sections of heavy riffing and tales of sea monsters and other things that go “doom” in the night. I’m not one of them. The Invisible White EP was a brave step along a fascinating progression, and as Crippled Black Phoenix didn’t release a new album in 2011, I was glad to have Ancestors there to fill that morose, contemplative void, and I look forward to seeing how they expand on the ideas presented on Invisible White (if they decide to stick to this direction) for their next full-length.
Speaking of shifting approaches, still-young Massachusetts trio Elder also moved away from the Sleep-centric methods of their 2008 self-titled debut on the follow-up, Dead Roots Stirring. Still based very much around the guitar work of Nick DiSalvo (interview here), Elder songs like “Gemini” and the über-soloed “The End” pushed an influence of European heavy psych into the band’s aesthetic, and the result was both grippingly heavy and blown of mind. As an album long delayed by mixing and business concerns, when Dead Roots Stirring finally arrived, it was a relief to hear that Elder, though they’d varied the path, were still headed in the right direction.
Hands down the year’s best traditional doom release. The Wretch so gleefully and so earnestly employed the conventions of ’80s-style doom — most especially those of Saint Vitus and Trouble — that even though the lyrical and musical content was miserable, I couldn’t help but smile as I listened. Songs like “Bastards Born” and “The Scovrge ov Drvnkenness” pushed The Gates of Slumber away from the barbarism the Indianapolis outfit had been touting on their last couple albums, including 2008′s Conqueror breakthrough, in favor of a more purely Chandlerian plod. “To the Rack with Them” remains a standout favorite and a line often referenced in my workplace dealings.
I don’t know what you say to someone at this point who doesn’t like Weedeater. It just seems like a terrible way to go through life, without the madman ranting of “Dixie” Dave Collins (interview here) echoing perpetually in your ears, or never having witnessed their ultra-viscous fuzz in person. Jason… the Dragon was one of the earliest landmark releases of 2011, and practically the whole year later, it retains its hold, whether it’s the stomping fury of “Mancoon,” the lumbering groove of “Long Gone” or the surprisingly melodic “Homecoming.” The hard-touring, hard-hitting band did right in recording with Steve Albini to capture their live sound, and Jason… the Dragon was their strongest outing yet in terms of both songwriting and that unmistakable quality that makes Weedeater records Weedeater records.
I was surprised to see Rwake crack the top 10. Not because their first album in four years, the Sanford Parker-produced Rest, wasn’t superb, but because of how much the songs on the album stayed with me after listening. The Arkansas band’s last outing, Voices of Omens, was heavy and dark and had a lot going for it, but Rest upped the songwriting on every level and together with frontman CT (interview here) adopting a more decipherable shout over most of the record’s four main extended tracks, Rwake felt like a band reborn, and theirs was a highlight among several 2011 albums that showed there’s still room for individual growth and stylistic nuance within the sphere of post-metal.
It was back and forth, nine and eight, between Rwake and Hull for a while, but when all was said and done, the fantastic scope of Beyond the Lightless Sky gave the Brooklyn triple-guitar masters the edge. With a narrative structure behind it and a breadth of ambience and crushing, post-doomly riffing, Beyond the Lightless Sky was the defining moment that those who’ve followed Hull since their Viking Funeral demo have been waiting for. In concept, in performance, in sound and structure and heft, it absolutely floored me, and of all the heavy records I’ve heard with the tag applied to them in 2011, Hull‘s second full-length seems most to earn the tag “progressive.” A stunning and groundbreaking achievement.
One of 2011′s most fascinating developments has been the boom in European heavy psychedelia, and the self-titled debut from French band Mars Red Sky was among the best releases to blend a jam-based sensibility with thick, warm fuzz and memorable riffs. Together with the sweet-hued vocals of Julien Pras (interview here), those riffs made for some of the most infectious hooks I heard all year on songs like “Strong Reflection” and “Way to Rome,” and where other bands jammed their way into psychedelic oblivion, Mars Red Sky were able to balance their focus on crafting quality songs, so that although they sounded spontaneous, the material was never self-indulgent or lacking accessibility. One just hopes they don’t lose sight of that musical humility their next time out.
There was a point earlier this year at which I had forgotten about All We Destroy. After reviewing it in March, I simply moved on to the next thing on my list, and the thing after, and the thing after. But before I knew it, in my head was the voice of Jackie Perez Gratz, singing the line “As I live and breathe” over her own cello, the guitar of Max Doyle and Max Doyle‘s drums. It got so persistent that, eventually, I went out and bought the record, because the mp3s I’d been given to review simply weren’t enough. That was probably July, and I don’t think I’ve gone a week since without listening to Grayceon. So although I classify it in the same league as Rwake and Hull in terms of what it accomplishes in and for its genre, All We Destroy gets the extra nod for the fact that I simply haven’t been able to let it go. And though I’ve come to further appreciate “Shellmounds,” “Once a Shadow” and “A Road Less Traveled,” the 17-minute “We Can” — from which the above-noted lyric is taken — remains the best single song I heard in 2011.
On paper, this one should’ve flopped: Band with minor buzz and a cool video hooks up with indie rock dude to record an album of dopey riffs and beardo bombast. Instead, Red Fang‘s second album and Relapse debut became the 2011 vanguard release for the Portland heavy underground, which is arguably the most fertile scene in the US right now. They toured the record widely, and made another killer video for the mega-single “Wires,” but the reason Murder the Mountains is top five material is because it’s lasted. It was February that I reviewed this record, and March that I interviewed guitarist/vocalist Bryan Giles, and I still can’t get “Into the Eye” and “Hank is Dead” and “Number Thirteen” (especially the latter) out of my head. When it came down to it, the songs on Murder the Mountains lived up to any hype the album received, and I’m a sucker for quality songwriting. I mean, seriously. That key change late into “Number Thirteen?” It’s the stuff of the gods.
I wasn’t particularly a fan of Swedish rockers Graveyard‘s 2008 self-titled debut. Even watching them at Roadburn in 2010, I was underwhelmed. But when I heard Hisingen Blues and was able to get a feel for what the retro-minded foursome were getting at stylistically — and most of all, that they were acknowledging that they were doing it without being glib or ironic about it — I found the material irresistible. We’re getting into seriously indispensable records now; ones that I’ve been unwilling to leave home without since they came, in, and Graveyard‘s Hisingen Blues has been a constant feature in heavy rotation. Everything from the devilish testimony of the title-track to the wiry guitars of the chorus to “Ungrateful are the Dead,” to the Skynyrd-ified solo capping “Uncomfortably Numb”: It’s been a year of revelry in all of it, and since they overcame my prejudice to impress on such a level, Graveyard (interview with drummer Axel Sjöberg here) are all the more deserving of their spot on this list.
What I hear in the second album from Dutch trio Sungrazer is the heralding of a new generation of fuzz rock. Taking influence from their forebears in Colour Haze and Kyuss, the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Rutger Smeets (interview here), bassist/vocalist Sander Haagmans and drummer Hans Mulders followed and surpassed their stellar 2010 debut on every level, playing heavy riffs on expansive psychedelic jams and still finding room for some of 2011′s most memorable choruses in songs like “Sea” and “Goldstrike.” In so doing, Sungrazer affirmed the character of next-gen European fuzz and placed themselves at the fore of their scene, with touring and festival appearances to support. For their warmth of tone and for the fact that I spent the better part of the summer streaming the record through the Dutch website 3voor12, there was no way they were going to be left out of the top 20. It wasn’t until I sat down and actually put the numbers together, though, that I realized how vital Mirador actually was.
I was lucky enough to be sent some rough listening mixes of Ohio outfit Lo-Pan‘s Small Stone Records debut (following a reworked reissue of their Sasquanaut sophomore full-length), and in my email back to label head Scott Hamilton, I told him I thought he had a genuine classic on his hands. A year, I don’t even know how many Lo-Pan gigs and listens through Salvador later, I still feel that way 100 percent. If you were from another planet, and we got to talking at a bar, and you asked me what rock and roll should sound like in the place where I’m from, I’d hand you Salvador. I still think they should’ve started the album with “Generations,” but if that’s my biggest gripe, they’re clearly doing alright. “Bird of Prey” was the best live song I saw all year, and I saw it plenty, and cuts like “Bleeding Out” and “Struck Match” set the standard by which I’ll judge American heavy rock for a long time to come. Like the best of any class, Salvador is bigger than just the year in which it was released, and at this point, I don’t know what else to say about it.
This is as good as it gets, and by “it,” I mean life. YOB‘s last album, 2009′s The Great Cessation, was my album of the year that year as well, and I knew from the second I heard the self-produced Atma that nothing to come this year would top it. Like Ufomammut‘s Eve in 2010, Atma brings the entire genre of doom along with it on the new ground it breaks, refining what’s fast becoming YOB‘s signature approach even as it pushes ever forward. I still have to stop whatever I’m doing (not exactly good for productivity) whenever “Prepare the Ground” comes on, and songs like “Adrift in the Ocean” and “Before We Dreamed of Two” were humbling. Seriously. Humbling. Listening to them was like looking at those photographs from the Hubble that cover trillions of miles that we’ll never know and reveal gorgeous colors where our naked eyes only see black. If that sounds hyperbolic, thanks for getting it. YOB guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt (interview here) is, almost in spite of himself, one of American doom’s most crucial contributors, and with Atma, he and the rhythm section of bassist Aaron Reiseberg and drummer Travis Foster released what is without a doubt the best album of 2011.
A few quick housekeeping items and we’ll call it quits. First, honorable mentions. If this list went to 25, also included would be The Wounded Kings, Earth, Larman Clamor, Olde Growth and The Atlas Moth. Roadsaw were also in heavy consideration, so they’re worth noting, as are many others.
Obviously, I couldn’t include them, but two of my favorite releases in 2011 also came from Blackwolfgoat and HeavyPink, and I’m thrilled and honored to have helped put them out in the small way I did.
And as I said above, there are records I didn’t hear. I haven’t heard the new Black Pyramid yet. Or Orchid. Or a bunch more that I could go on listing. I’m only one man and this is only my list, for better or worse. Again, I really do hope you’ll contribute yours to the group poll, the results of which will be out Jan. 1.
I’ll probably have some more to wrap up 2011 as the month winds down, but until then, thank you so much for reading this and the rest of the wordy nonsense I’ve put up the whole year long. Your support and encouragement means more than I’m able to tell. Here’s to 2012 to come.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 2nd, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
The list keeps growing. At this point, I don’t know how they’re going to pack it all into four days or how I’m going to manage to see half these bands without keeling over from exhaustion. Needless to say, I’ll be practicing my deep-knee rock squats between now and next April in preparation for the madness that awaits in Tilburg. I can almost do three in a row.
Here’s the latest from Roadburn:
Roadburn‘s excited to announce that Hammers of Misfortune have been confirmed for the Thursday Roadburn date, Thursday, April 12, 2012 at the 013 venue in Tilburg, Holland.
Led by the driven, outspoken JohnCobbett (also of Ludicra fame), San Francisco, CA-based progressive metal band Hammers of Misfortune borrow elements from hard rock and folk, doom and thrash, and amalgamates those elements into a sound of their own. Whatever style they borrow from, or whichever tools they decide suit the work, they morph them effortlessly into their own aesthetic. At the end of the day, Hammers of Misfortune are the result of an unflinching artistic vision, and always sound exactly like themselves.
The layered male and female vocals are paired beautifully with the incredibly complex guitar work; the riffs give way to intricate, plaintive solos; the sophisticated keyboards can be nimble and playful or wistful and emotional as their songs dictate. If you’re a Hammers of Misfortune novice, please check out their latest album 17th Street, as it will be on many year-end lists.
We’re also pleased to announce that Urfaust, Sigiriya, hailing from Wales, LordVicar, the all-star doom metal band, featuring Kimi “Peter Vicar” Kärki (Orne, ex-ReverendBizarre) on guitar and Christian “Chritus” Lindersson (ex-SaintVitus, ex-CountRaven and TerraFirma) on vocals, and Orchid have been added to the lineup for Roadburn Festival 2012 as well.
Posted in Features on August 19th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Welsh four-piece Sigiriya garner immediate interest based solely on their pedigree — all four members of the band used to be in Acrimony — but on their debut album, Return to Earth (released Sept. 1 on The Church Within), it’s the songs themselves that hold the attention. Likewise, one listen through Return to Earth, and it’s plain to see why the members of Sigiriya, when they were getting this project together, decided against just making it a 4/5 Acrimony reunion: Tumuli Shroomaroom this ain’t.
Rather, Sigiriya takes the riffy center that was always under the resin-caked grooves of Acrimony and brings it to the forefront. Songs like “Robot Funeral” and “Tobacco Sunrise” offer more straightforward heavy rock, and though Return to Earth gets even heavier at times (“Dark Fires” borders on metal), the album is precisely as Sigiriya wanted it to be in that it modernizes the approach of the members’ prior band without sacrificing what made them want to get back together in the first place.
Guitarist Stuart O’Hara, drummer Darren Ivey, bassist Paul “Mead” Bidmead and vocalist Dorian Walters took the moniker Sigiriya from a sacred mountain in Sri Lanka, and though that alone might lead one to think their songs would be spiritual explorations rife with sitar and vague interpretations of ancient mysticism, Return to Earth isn’t that at all. True to its name, the album keeps its head down, it’s amps up, and wants much more to kick your ass than to trip you out. Either way, it’s a killer ride. Full review is here.
In the discussion that follows, Ivey talks about what made Sigiriya come together some eight years after Acrimony‘s last studio release (a split with Japenese masters of mayhem, Church of Misery), why they did so without the involvement of former Acrimony second guitarist Lee Davies, now of the more commercially-minded rock outfit Lifer, how they got hooked up with The Church Within, their plans following the release of Return to Earth, and much more. As theirs is one of the more impressive debuts I’ve heard in 2011, I’m thrilled to be able to bring you this interview.
Please find enclosed the complete email Q&A with Darren Ivey of Sigiriya, and please enjoy.
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 28th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
At this point, Orange Goblin‘s holiday shows and tours are the stuff of legend. Like rehab in reverse. I’ve never been fortunate enough to attend one myself, but my understanding is they keep a cooler nearby with a few spare livers, just in case anyone’s should give out before the night is through.
It’s a little bittersweet this year, though, since as a semi-proud Jersey Boy, I’m used to seeing Solace taking part in the debauchery. Nonetheless, the show must go on, and joining Orange Goblin at the Underworld in Camden, are Gentlemans Pistols and Sigiriya, who’ve also confirmed a September release for their recently-reviewed album, Return to Earth. More to come on that, but in the meantime, here’s the flier for the show:
Posted in Reviews on May 27th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
The much-missed British stoner rock outfit Acrimony released their last studio full-length in 1996’s Tumuli Shroomaroom. Splits followed with Iron Rainbow and Church of Misery, and the Leaf Hound Records compilation Bong on – Live Long! followed in 2007, but the band effectively broke up in 2002, so the return of four out of the original five Acrimony members in the new band Sigiriya is welcome news for any worshiper of the riff, whether they were a fan of Acrimony or not. Only guitarist Lee Davies is missing from Sigiriya’s debut, Return to Earth, (released via The Church Within Records), but the remaining four-piece is no less cohesive for the lack of a second guitar. Because it’s essentially the same band, they’ll inevitably be compared to Acrimony, and on that level, Sigiriya boast a crunchier sound, less geared toward psychedelia or excursions in the stoner caravan of yore. Stuart O’Hara (who was also in Iron Monkey) leads the way with thickened riffs, and vocalist Dorian Walters rides the formidable grooves expertly on Return to Earth’s seven tracks, while bassist Paul “Mead” Bidmead and drummer Darren Ivey inject a surprisingly metallic feel to “Dark Fires” and “Robot Funeral,” marking a serious change in ethic from what one might have expected in an Acrimony offshoot.
But then, it has been nine years, and one expects that if the intent of O’Hara, Walters, Bidmead and Ivey had been to simply recapture Acrimony’s sound, they’d have just reunited under that name, rather than start a completely new band. Sigiriya is clearly meant to be its own entity, and it winds up being just that. Familiar elements show up, but tracks like “Whiskey Song” or the brazenly catchy opener “The Mountain Goat” have an appeal surprisingly distinct from anything Acrimony ever did. Walters’ voice has shifted in feel since back when, though he still has a gruff delivery, and O’Hara’s guitar is more self-assured, less uncertain in its tone. Where in listening to Acrimony’s debut, Hymns to the Stone (1994), one gets the sense that it’s a rock record with metal production, and is a little confused on that level (as one might expect since “stoner rock” was just getting underway as a genre) Return to Earth knows precisely where it wants to be at all times, and the band are comfortable in toying with expectation and adding flourishes to their material to make it distinct. The sound of the album is full and loud and between O’Hara’s guitar and Bidmead’s bass, the classic groove of “Robot Funeral” seems to build with each cycle through the start-stop verse riff, giving Walters plenty of room to complement with his vocals, and I hear very little in these songs that should disagree with stoner metallers at all. As heavy as it is, there’s no sacrifice of melody, as the raucous “Hurricaine” (sic) proves, and though Sigiriya are decidedly modern in their approach, their pedigree sets them up to be neither derivative nor redundant. To be blunt about it (pun totally Nintendo), Return to Earth kicks a fair amount of ass.
Posted in On the Radar on September 13th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
Well, if there’s one thing “Mountain Goat” and “Deathtrip,” the two brand new tracks posted by the UK‘s Sigiriya, show us, it’s that the dudes from Acrimony have been keeping up with stoner rock for the nine years since their original band broke up. Sigiriya has four out of the five Acrimony members — only guitarist Lee Davies is absent — and under their new moniker, the band plays a totally modern, much less shroomed take on riff metal. In no way is Sigiriya a throwback or an attempt to recapture Acrimony‘s past greatness. One expects if they wanted to do that, they would have just reunited Acrimony.
The shorter “Mountain Goat” and more expansive “Deathtrip” were posted on SoundCloud, which I’m going to pretend to have heard of before for fear of being behind the times. SoundCloud allows for embedding its players, so you can hear both songs below (or click here). “Mountain Goat” is definitely the more straightforward of the two songs; at 3:22 it’s a recognizable stoner excursion. At over 10 minutes, however, “Deathtrip” does the bulk of the work distinguishing Sigiriya from both Acrimony and the modern stoner metal scene. The guitar of Stuart O’Hara comes on well-layered, offering melody and crunch, and vocalist Dorian Walters seems more melodically capable as well for his time away. It’s been nine years. A little development shouldn’t be much of a surprise.
And the rhythm section — bassist Paul Bidmead and drummer Darren Ivey — are as locked in on “Deathtrip” as they ever were on Acrimony‘s now-classic Tumuli Shroomaroom, proving no less adept at keeping a groove going during the song’s lengthy jam than during the riffy freakouts of yore. I’ll say if you dug/dig Acrimony you’ll like Sigiriya, but that’s not because they’re the same musically. Despite the subtle end of “Deathtrip,” Sigiriya is (at least going by these two songs) much less psychedelic. They’re doing what the age demands of them, and they’re doing it well. As someone into Acrimony, but more as someone into Sigiriya, I look forward to hearing more.