Posted in Reviews on April 14th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
There are two ways by which a project like Six Organs of Admittance‘s Hexadic comes about: Genius and boredom. I suspect that for Ben Chasny, who has spearheaded the band since its incarnation before the turn of the century, it was some working combination of the two that drove him to create the “Hexadic System,” which uses playing cards in some obscure process to construct various elements of songwriting, piecing material together, picking notes and so forth. Set to be released as part of a decade-long association with Drag City as a bundle with a 115-page book explaining the system and a custom-designed deck of playing cards presumably for use by anyone who might want to give it a shot on their own, it is a challenging record conceptually and in the practice of listening that it seems fair to call Six Organs of Admittance‘s most experimental work to-date. That’s saying something. From Chasny‘s 1998 self-titled debut with Six Organs and certainly through his work with Comets on Fire, he — and a variety of other players included (or not) along the way — has maintained a fiercely creative drive. From early blends of synth and acoustics to bedroom folk to more complex arrangements, drone, psychedelia, brilliant traditional songwriting and far-ranging freakouts, it’s been a journey with more turns than straightaways, and while there’s a consistency in Chasny‘s level of performance and a progressive narrative can be drawn from one album to the next — Hexadic could be his 13th, depending on how and what you count — he’s maintained an ability to surprise each time out. So it is with Hexadic.
I won’t pretend to understand the mechanics of the record’s construction (unless the whole thing is bunk, which would be a much more prickish kind of genius), but as it’s how the songs were made, it seems prudent to include at least part of Chasny‘s explanation. Here it is:
This release is the result of years of working on a new way to compose music. We’ve been using the word “system,” but it would probably be more accurate to describe it as an “open system.” It is very malleable. The particular songs on this record were bent toward the idea of rock music. I composed 30 pieces using this system. Of those 30 songs, I chose nine that could best be worked into a rock format for Hexadic. I wanted to make a rock record. So there you have it.
…The system itself consists of different aspects, or correspondences, that can interact with each other or exist on their own. There are game, graphic, and language aspects that intersect with the plane of tonal relationships in a way that creates a unique assemblage. In fact, all of the words on the record were written using the language aspect of the system. The game aspects of the system can be played for fun or used as a compositional method. They can even be used as a performance in itself if the players are confident enough.
The work draws inspiration and uses ideas from three figures: Ramon Llull, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, and Gaston Bachelard.
Fair enough. Working on the recording with drummer Noel Von Harmonson, and bassists Rob Fisk and Charlie Saufley, Chasny uses this system of his own creation to craft nine varied tracks that run a gamut from the open-spaced jazzy post-rock of “The Ram” to the noise-caked drone of “Vestige” and the tense basslines and light guitar strums of “Hesitant Grand Light.” There are, as promised, “rock record” moments, but “Maximum Hexadic” — which is as freaked-out as Hexadic gets, with furious swirls of guitar and frenetic drums that pound away in a two-minute furious burst between the drawling, blown-out undulations of “Wax Chance” and centerpiece “Hollow River”‘s more plodding instrumental incantations — is more intricate structurally than one might expect from the quoted phrase. It’s been a long time since Chasny took shelter from the ash. Even the songs that have vocals, “Sphere Path Code C,” for example, use them not necessarily to convey an emotion or single idea in verses and choruses so much as to add another incarnation of the system itself, their patterns chaotic above likewise instrumental shifts. It’s not quite jamming, which Six Organs did plenty of on 2012’s heavy psych-minded Ascent (review here), but aurally kin to some of early Sonic Youth‘s feedback-caked excursions, with a sense of plan underlying and thicker tones. The earlier “Wax Chance” works in something of a similar form, but has a more solidified sense of verse to it, where “Sphere Path Code C” plays toward a more destructive result. All depends on what cards you draw, I guess. Or maybe not.
The more frustrated cuts like “Maximum Hexadic,” “Wax Chance,” “Sphere Path Code C” and the first half of closer “Guild” have a tendency toward the abrasive, and while the whole album is a challenging listen, it’s these most that would seem to convey the restlessness at the heart of Hexadic‘s creation. Still, an unexpected highlight is “Future Verbs,” which arrives late after “Sphere Path Code C” and finds Chasny exploring repetitions of a creeper guitar line over a slow, minimal drum and bass progression. Some ambient changes, but it’s primarily a mood piece, and there isn’t much more to it than that, but it’s one of the album’s most memorable tracks, giving way smoothly to the drone/bass interplay of “Vestige” and “Guild,” which in addition to ending Hexadic is also its longest track at 6:53, successfully ties together the unhinged and atmospheric sides of the release, starting off at full tilt and scaling back as it moves into its second half to end the album with a whisper. Fitting that Six Organs would end off by directly conveying the dynamic possibilities in the system Chasny created, since that’s essentially what the album demonstrates over its course front to back. That does not mean it will be a favorite for everyone who has followed Six Organs of Admittance even just over the last decade, but as open as the system is, it’s just as easy to imagine that Hexadic could take on a life of its own within Chasny‘s songwriting sphere and, amid other releases, become a series — Hexadic II, Hexadic III, and so on. That’s getting ahead, obviously, but as much as he is able to put together in these tracks, there’s as much potential for development as there has always been in his work, that progressive thread turning, but continuing ever forward. Approach with an open mind. One of the best aspects of Chasny‘s efforts here is that if a listener doesn’t want to, they don’t have to even think about the songwriting method, the system or anything like that, if they don’t want to do so. Ignore it, if you want, and just listen to the resulting songs. Hexadic works that way, too.
Posted in Features on January 21st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
This is the longest list of anything I’ve ever done, and it might be the longest I ever do. The truth is, when I started keeping track of things coming out in 2015, back around October/November, I had no idea what I was getting into. More and more names just kept getting added to the list, and between solid release dates, bands entering the studio, writing sessions underway and the usual round of vague “they’re due”-type speculation, it kept growing. Even now, I’m quite sure that by the time I’m finished with this, I’ll add something else, and 90 will become 91, and then someone will point out something glaring I forgot and 91 will become 92, and so on.
I don’t think I could reasonably expect anyone to read 90 complete entries, so I’ve broken it down somewhat. There are 52 weeks in a year, so my thinking is that if you buy one record per week, I’ve got recommendations to carry through till December (with the acknowledgement that we’re already a couple weeks into 2015) and then more beyond that. Even asking you to skim 52 entries is a lot, but hell, we’ve got 12 months until 2016, so there’s plenty of time. We’ll do 52 entries and then list the others, both alphabetically.
Thank you in advance for reading.
1. Acid King, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere
If this was my year-end list instead of my year-start list, Acid King‘s Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere would be my album of the year. Best album of 2015 about 20 days into it? Maybe. The Oakland trio’s first outing in nearly a decade is a joy of languid riffing and heavy spaceout, songs like “Coming down from Outer Space” and “Center of Everywhere” reminding of just what it is we’ve been missing about Acid King all these years. They’ve continued to play live all that time, of course, and Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere, which is due April 14 on Svart, plainly demonstrates that they’ve lost none of the potency for years absent from studio work. More to come. Acid King on Thee Facebooks, Svart Records.
2. All Them Witches, TBA
The Nashville four-piece blew up following the 2013 digital release of their second album, Lightning at the Door, which saw a physical pressing last year (review here), and with a growing public at their heels and a salivating underground press anxious to hear what they come up with next, All Them Witches hit the studio this month to put together their third full-length. They’re on tour in Feb., and it seems reasonable to expect they’ll be trying out new material on the road, but as free-flowing as Lightning at the Door was, it’s hard not to consider the follow-up one of 2015’s most anticipated records, whenever it arrives and whatever shape(s) it takes. All Them Witches on Thee Facebooks, official website.
3. Anthroprophh, U.F.O.
Guitarist/vocalist PaulAllen, formerlyof TheHeads,teamed up with Jesse Webb and Gareth Turner of the duo Big Naturals as his rhythm section for 2014’s Outside the Circle (review here), and for his new release under the Anthroprophh moniker for Cardinal Fuzz, Allen centers around different U.F.O. abduction reports from the UK between 1954 and 1978, each of the eight tracks taking its name from the date and location of a reported incident. Sound fucking awesome? Yeah, I agree. Expect raw psychedelic experimentation, heavy swing and interpretive instrumentalism galore on the two-sided release when it gets declassified on Feb. 2, pressed in an edition of 500 copies. Anthroprophh on Thee Facebooks, Cardinal Fuzz.
4. Arenna, TBA
Spanish heavy psych outfit Arenna will release the follow-up to their 2011 Nasoni Records debut, Beats of Olarizu (review here), and they just this week posted the 10-minute opener “Butes” from their sophomore outing (listen here). The first album earned them a hearty following, and it’s been four years since it came out, but somehow I doubt Arenna will have much trouble picking up where they left off in their wide-open, jam-heavy sound. They mark a decade together in 2015, and they seem to just be getting started, so I’m particularly interested to learn how the European heavy underground takes to their second LP, which is due to be mastered next month and released sometime thereafter. Arenna on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
5. The Atomic Bitchwax, Gravitron
New Bitchwax? Sold. The stalwart New Jersey three-piece — now featuring two members of Monster Magnet — will release Gravitron on April 21 via Tee Pee Records, just in time to make a stop a few days later at Desertfest London 2015. They toured Europe last summer as well, and I think the fact that they’ll be over that way when they put Gravitron out speaks volumes to their priorities at this point, but who can blame them? Perpetually underappreciated in the US, they’ll follow-up 2011’s The Local Fuzz (review here) in grand form at Desertfest (they play Berlin as well), finally getting their due even if they have to get on a plane to get it. The Atomic Bitchwax on Thee Facebooks, Tee Pee Records.
6. Black Cobra, TBA
Hints were dropped back in November that raging two-piece Black Cobra were working on material for a new album. Whenever it arrives, this year or next, it will be their sixth and first since 2011’s Invernal (review here), which I don’t think I’m alone in counting as their finest moment to-date. They’ll also be at Desertfest for a return appearance, and wherever they go, devastation follows. They posted this week that their tour van has passed the 300,000-mile mark, which is emblematic of the workout they’ve given it over the last decade-plus, and I’d expect no slowdown, tempo or itinerary-wise, from them in 2015, regular oil changes notwithstanding. Black Cobra on Thee Facebooks, Southern Lord Recordings.
7. Black Rainbows, Hawkdope
There are 90-someodd bands included in this feature, all told. Might be over 100. I’m not sure anybody beats Italian trio Black Rainbows in the album-title department, however. Hawkdope, man. Hard to mess with that. Guitarist/vocalist Gabriele Fiori continues to keep his finger on the pulse of European heavy rock with his Heavy Psych Sounds imprint, and while I haven’t heard Hawkdope yet, it seems likely they’ll continue the push toward heavy psychedelia that 2013’s Holy Moon EP (discussed here) and their inclusions in last year’s four-way split (review here) spoke of, but of course, they can always throw down some top notch fuzz riffing as well. Black Rainbows on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
8. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth
Six years after the arrival of their demo (review here), Brothers of the Sonic Cloth will make their self-titled debut through Neurot Recordings on Feb. 17. Immediately notable for being the brainchild of guitarist/vocalist Tad Doyle (ex-TAD), bassist Peggy “Pegadeth” Doyle and drummer Dave French, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth pushes plodding heavy into seething aggression with a lumber only made more potent by Billy Anderson‘s production. It’s been a while in the making, true, but the album’s execution leaves no room for argument in its lung-deflating tonal density. Justifies the wait and then some. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.
9. Chiefs, Tomorrow’s Over
With vinyl to follow in May on Battleground Records, Arizona/SoCal heavy rockers Chiefs will release their debut LP, Tomorrow’s Over, via Roosevelt Row on Feb. 24. Its striking cover art by David Paul Seymour offers immediate intrigue, as did Chiefs‘ inclusion on their 2014 split 7″ with Fuzz Evil (streamed here). The song from that, “Stone Bull,” won’t be featured on the album, but all four cuts from Chiefs‘ 2013 Buffalo Roam demo will, which should give you some indication as to how much the trio got it right the first time around. The title-track of the demo opens, and the album takes its name from one of the demo tracks as well, so it all ties together. Chiefs on Thee Facebooks, Battleground Records, Roosevelt Row Records.
10. Clutch, TBA
Clutch‘s Earth Rocker (review here) was the undisputed high point of 2013, and the long-running Maryland four-piece have returned to the Machine Shop studio (now located in Texas) to record the follow-up to it. They’ve been playing new material live for a while now, as they’ll do, and while they always manage to change things up from album to album, the fact that they’ve going back to work with Machine again makes in plain that they’re where they want to be at this point sound-wise. As if there was ever any doubt. Their forever-tour will continue, but it’s good to know they’re taking a little break from the road to put together another slab for their always-expanding, always-frothing fanbase. Clutch on Thee Facebooks, Weathermaker Music.
11. Conan, TBA
I’m not sure if it will be out before the end of 2015, but whenever it arrives, the next Conan should be a much different affair than we’ve yet heard from the UK thunderplodders, whose 2014 Napalm Records debut, Blood Eagle (review here), further established their dominance among the heaviest bands in doom. Since that album hit, guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis has traded out two-thirds of the trio, bringing in producer Chris Fielding on bass/vocals and new drummer Rich Lewis. Davis‘ riffs have always been at the core of what makes Conan the beast they are, so I wouldn’t expect much fixing of what isn’t broken, but don’t be surprised if some different personalities emerge in Fielding and Lewis as well. Conan on Thee Facebooks, Conan’s webstore.
12. Colour Haze, To the Highest Gods We Know
Yeah, I’m sneaking this one in here. Sorry, but frankly, I think Colour Haze deserve more than a toss-it-out-there mid-December album release date, so instead of the CD release, which was last month, I’m choosing to think of the impending Feb./March vinyl issue as the official one for To the Highest Gods We Know (review here), which is both a fascinating and fitting answer to Colour Haze‘s 2012 outing, She Said (review here). Feels strange so early in the year to start calling out end-of-year highlights, but between this and Acid King, I feel like two of my top five are already set in stone, and that’s a pretty good start to any year. Colour Haze are one of the most important heavy rock bands of their generation, and they continue to expand their form and the genre as a whole. Colour Haze’s website, Elektrohasch Schallplatten.
13. Corrections House, TBA
Their totalitarian fetishizing well intact, the it’s-a-supergroup-but-don’t-call-it-a-supergroup Corrections House announced back in November that they’d have a sophomore effort out this year to follow their 2013 debut, Last City Zero. The returning lineup of guitarist Scott Kelly (Neurosis), vocalist Mike Williams (Eyehategod), saxophonist Bruce Lamont (Yakuza) and keyboardist/programmer Sanford Parker (Buried at Sea, etc.) is enough to warrant attention in itself, and while their industrial tinged output isn’t really my thing sound-wise, they’re not an assemblage easily ignored. Hopefully a recently canceled round of tour dates doesn’t derail the new release plams. Corrections House on Thee Facebooks, at Neurot Recordings.
14. Corsair, One Eyed Horse
Virginian dual-guitar classic heavy rock/metallers Corsair are now three years removed from their Shadow Kingdom Records self-titled debut (review here), and their new album, One Eyed Horse, arrives with a striking-almost-disturbing cover and a refined progressive edge. Their melodic sensibility has never been in question, and guitarists Marie Landragin and Paul Sebring, bassist Jordan Brunk (who, like the guitarists, contributes vocals) and drummer Michael Taylor will look to expand their reach even further with the eight new vinyl-ready tracks. One looks forward to the album and hopes for a tour in equal measure. Corsair’s website, Shadow Kingdom Records.
15. Crypt Sermon, Out of the Garden
Classic doom bleeds through the cover of Philly five-piece Crypt Sermon‘s debut full-length, Out of the Garden. Set to release Feb. 24 on Dark Descent Records, I’d expect Out of the Garden to be an early highlight for the year in doom despite being Crypt Sermon‘s first outing. Their Demo MMXIII (review here) found them well schooled in the tenets of the downtrodden, and while the record may end up a sleeper, it’s one that no doubt will find its way to the right ears; namely those of the old school doomers tired of psychedelic idolatry, who want something dark, beaten and grueling without concern for genre-melding or novelty. So, doom on. Crypt Sermon on Thee Facebooks, Dark Descent Records.
16. Ecstatic Vision, TBA
Also based in Philadelphia, heavy psych troupe Ecstatic Vision signed to Relapse on the strength of a demo and an apparent willingness to hit the road — they’ll do so this spring alongside YOB and Enslaved — and as just about any band who’s ever sent that label a rough recording will likely tell you, that’s no small feat. I was fortunate enough to catch them in Brooklyn last month (opening for YOB, as it happened), and the appeal was easy to see in their space rock jamming, lighting effects and propensity for deceptively quick rhythmic turns. A debut offering is reportedly due this year, and as it will come after they spend a month on the road, I expect it will be something to behold. Ecstatic Vision on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
17. Elder, Lore
What to say about Elder? They’re a bright spot in the hope for the next generation of heavy rock, but they were that already. What really distinguishes their third album, Lore, is the fiercely progressive bent of the tracks, songs like “Compendium” (streamed here) taking the hypnotic rhythms of 2012’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here) and refining what Elder — the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto — do with a newfound clarity of purpose and precision execution. They make well-thought-out songs sound exciting front to back, and if you’ve ever dug anything they’ve done, you’re going to shit a brick when you hear the title-track of Lore. Elder on Thee Facebooks, Armageddon Shop, Stickman Records.
18. Enslaved, In Times
I make no bones or apologies about being an Enslaved fan. The Norwegian progressive black metallers strip down their presentation with In Times, the follow-up to 2012’s Riitiir (review here), solidifying some aspects of their approach while nodding at the brutality of yore in a still-somehow-forward-thinking manner. They never fail to deliver, and they’ve long since hit a stride where they can deliver album after album and come up with ways to advance their sound each time out. Recording themselves has only made them bolder over their last couple records, and In Times benefits from this in its brought-to-fruition experiments as well. It would take a lot for these guys to do wrong in my eyes. Enslaved on Thee Facebooks, Nuclear Blast Records.
19. Eye, TBA
They’re the Midwest’s inadvertent answer to the West Coast’s Moog-prog vibing, and Ohio’s Eye want for nothing in comparison to any of their coastal contemporaries. The photo above was taken recently in the studio — I’ll just assume the room is actually that color when they record and that that is not, in fact, an Instagram filter — tracking their third record and follow-up to 2013’s brilliant-yes-brilliant Second Sight (review here), which rightfully garnered attention far and wide. No release date yet for the new one from what I’ve seen, but the album is reportedly done, so hopefully it won’t be too long before it sees release, most likely on vinyl since that seems to be where the band’s heart lies. Eye on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
20. Freedom Hawk, TBA
After an appearance last year at Roadburn and confirmation of a return trip to Europe this spring for Freak Valley in Germany, Virginia’s Freedom Hawk would seem to have considerably expanded their reach. Last year saw them lose guitarist Matt Cave and transition from a four-piece to a trio, and they were in the studio in the fall to record their second album for Small Stone behind their 2011 label debut, Holding On (review here), and while I’m not sure if it’s finished or if it will be out in time for the band’s sojourn abroad, one assumes it will be out sooner or later. Their late-2013 Live at the Jewish Mother download makes a decent stopgap if you’ve got a hankering, but they’re due for a new one for sure. Freedom Hawk on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
21. Glowsun, Glowsun
In a recent discussion about finally picking up Glowsun‘s 2012 outing, Eternal Season, I said I wasn’t going to miss their next record, so I guess you could call this me holding myself to that task. The French heavy psych outfit have a new one, apparently self-titled — though of course I could be wrong; I’m just going by the album art — due out for release this Spring. I haven’t seen an official date from Napalm for when it’s due, but it’s not one I’m going to let slip by one way or another as I did for far too long with Eternal Season. Some mistakes don’t bear repeating, and Glowsun‘s output is of a quality that demands immediacy. At least now I know it. Ha. Glowsun on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
22. Goatsnake, TBA
Rumors abound about a new Goatsnake. They’re in the studio, this is done, that isn’t done, they’re over here, over there. They’re headlining Freak Valley and playing Psycho California, and they headlined Southwest Terror Fest III last fall, but the last official word I saw about a new album — it would be their first since their 2004 Trampled Under Hoof EP — was last Sept., when word came down that it was happening at all and that Southern Lord would put it out. A timetable on when would be convenient, but maybe that’s asking too much and I should be grateful it’s even being discussed. They remain on my bucket list of bands to see before I die. One of these days I’ll get there. Southern Lord Recordings, Southern Lord on Thee Facebooks.
23. Gozu, TBA
Probably the biggest change for Boston’s Gozu since the 2013 release of their second album for Small Stone, The Fury of a Patient Man (review here), is the solidification of their lineup. As they enter into the process for their third Small Stone outing, they’ll do so with bassist Joe Grotto and drummer Mike Hubbard. Grotto played on part of Fury, but Hubbard (ex-Warhorse) is a new presence entirely in the band. They’ve also experimented with a third guitarist, so they might not be so solidified, but they’ve got a monster of a core four-piece to work with in Grotto, Hubbard, guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney and guitarist Doug Sherman, and they seem poised to get the most out of the chemistry they’ve busted their collective ass to develop. Gozu on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
24. High on Fire, TBA
I feel like a new High on Fire record isn’t even just an event for heavy rock at this point but for metal as a whole. The Matt Pike-fronted three-piece hit the studio this month (this week?) after a quick tour up the East Coast, returning to Massachusetts to work with Converge‘s Kurt Ballou at his Godcity Studios, where they also busted out 2012’s De Vermis Mysteriis (review here). For anyone who heard that record, it should be plain why they’d want to work with Ballou again — even enough to go to Massachusetts in January — and whenever their next one shows up, no doubt it will do so as one of 2015’s most anticipated offerings. I’m not sure what to expect other than “heavy,” but that’s enough to go on for now. High on Fire on Thee Facebooks, eOne Metal.
25. Hollow Leg, TBA
My interest was piqued early last year when Floridian sludgers Hollow Leg issued their God-Eater single and spoke of it as the beginning of a change in direction. The change? More melody, a less outright aggressive style, more of an emphasis on thickness rather than rawness. As a starting point, the song “God-Eater” seemed to bode well, and I’m hoping in 2015 that Hollow Leg follow through at least partially on its promise. Not that the viciousness of 2013’s second LP, Abysmal (review here), left me particularly wanting, just that they seemed to be following a fulfilling new-ish path, and I thought the sound was one worth pursuing. They’ve said their third will be out this year, so I’ll take it. Hollow Leg on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
26. Horsehunter, Caged in Flesh
Australian four-piece Horsehunter made an impression a few weeks back with the 16-minute “Stoned to Death,” the opening track from their Magnetic Eye Records debut LP, Caged in Flesh, and it stands to reason why. Crushing tones, brutal vibes and hints of psychedelic wash abounded on what was a gripping sample of the album, which the band had recorded, scapped because it wasn’t heavy enough and then recorded again. There are four songs on Caged in Flesh, so “Stoned to Death” is literally just the beginning for Horsehunter, whose foreboding atmospherics come across no less punishing than their most weighted of tones. Horsehunter on Thee Facebooks, Magnetic Eye Records.
27. Kind, TBA
I’ve been lucky enough to see Boston four-piece Kind play twice, the lineup of vocalist Craig Riggs (also Roadsaw), guitarist Darryl Shepard (also Black Pyramid, Blackwolfgoat, etc.), bassist Tom Corino (also Rozamov) and drummer Matt Couto (also Elder) taking shape visibly from one show to the next. Their debut full-length is in progress now at the Riggs-owned Mad Oak Studios in Allston, and while I don’t think I can say yet what label it’s coming out on (it’s not Small Stone), the latest word I’ve gotten is that a summer release is booked. Definitely interested to hear how the jams I’ve seen live translate to a studio recording, and how Corino‘s tone comes through Mad Oak‘s board. Kind on Thee Facebooks, on Soundcloud.
28. Kings Destroy, Kings Destroy
So, you’d think the pic of Kings Destroy bassist Aaron Bumpus above is from some recent studio shot while they’re tracking their third album, right? Nope. The self-titled’s been in the can for months. It’s out in April on War Crime Recordings. What Kings Destroy are doing now is working on album number four, and I bet before it comes out, they’ll be on number five. Fiercely creative. I’ve had the KD record for I don’t know how long at this point, and it’s the best thing they’ve done yet. I can’t even pretend to feign impartiality after being asked to tour with them twice last year — a fucking blessing both times — but it’s the closest they’ve come to their live sound so far and that progress suits them remarkably well. Kings Destroy on Thee Facebooks, War Crime Recordings.
29. Lamprey, TBA
The two-bass Portland trio Lamprey‘s recent stop-motion video for “Iron Awake” served due notice of their impending album, as yet untitled, and while it’s the shortest track on there by a considerable margin, it nonetheless represents the big-crash, big-impact severity of the outing as a whole. Not sure through what label it will surface if one at all or on what media it will be pressed — the word burning above, which I hope is the album cover, may or may not be — but the full-length seems poised to establish them as a force after 2012’s The Burden of Beasts EP (review here) brought their sometimes-plodding, sometimes-sprinting heavy rock into focus. Also, one of the songs is called “Lament of the Deathworm,” and that just rules. Lamprey on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
30. Lord Dying, Poisoned Altars
The hard-touring Portlanders teamed up with Dark Castle drummer Rob Shaffer for their sophomore outing for Relapse Records, Poisoned Altars (review here), and though he’s since out of the band, his presence bolsters the songs in Lord Dying‘s blend of High on Fire-style thrash and Crowbar-loyal sludge. A pervasive sense of simplicity helps the material achieve maximum force, but the hard-won nature of Lord Dying‘s cohesion isn’t to be understated or underappreciated — they did about 18 months of touring in support of their first effort, Summon the Faithless. At least they know their time wasn’t misspent. Seems likely they’ll continue to pound the pavement throughout 2015, so keep an eye open. Lord Dying on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
31. Magic Circle, TBA
Rest assured, I’ve seen zero confirmation that a new Magic Circle album is under way. There’s been no word from the by-now-notoriously secretive Massachusetts-based band or their label, Armageddon Shop, on the subject of a follow-up to their 2013 self-titled debut (review here). This is rampant speculation. Their first 7″ was recently re-pressed, though, so there’s activity in their camp one way or another. They also made their way out to Seattle in October to open for Satan, which only emphasizes the fact that you never really know when they’re going to show up until they do. Ditto that their next album, I suppose. Hopefully this year it happens. Armageddom Shop website, on Thee Facebooks.
32. The Midnight Ghost Train, Cold was the Ground
Riotous Southern heavy rockers The Midnight Ghost Train have outdone themselves with their Napalm Records debut, Cold was the Ground, taking the rager blues of 2012’s Buffalo (review here) to new heights of manic push. After several years of steady touring, the Kansas-based trio of guitarist/vocalist Steve Moss, drummer Brandon Burghart and bassist Mike Boyne are an explosive live act, and as the recent video premiere for “Gladstone” showcased, their third album reaps the rewards of their labors. It’s due to release March 10 in North America, but I really don’t need to note the date, because you’ll hear it coming a mile away like the freight train that it is. The Midnight Ghost Train on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
33. Minsk, TBA
A new Minsk full-length is an utterly fascinating thought. Sorry if that sounds cold or overly clinical, but it’s true. Consider that it’s been six years since the Chicago post-metallers last released an album. That record, 2009’s With Echoes in the Movement of Stone (review here), hit at what was arguably the pinnacle of post-metal’s stylistic movement, the waters having since receded in no small part because Minsk wasn’t around to push forward creatively. Now, with slots booked at Roadburn and Desertfest, they’ll make a return to the studio as well, and I have absolutely zero idea of what to expect from them. A partially-revamped, Sanford Parker-less lineup only adds further intrigue. Minsk on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
34. Mondo Drag, Mondo Drag
This is one of I think two or three releases on this list that’s already out. The self-titled Mondo Drag (review here) nonetheless warrants inclusion for its heavy psych boogie concoctions and natural-toned spirit, not full-on retro but still well-indebted to the heavy ’70s in its use of organ and guitar and the swing of its rhythm section. That rhythm section? Zack Anderson and Cory Berry, who, fresh out of Radio Moscow, stepped in to record with fellow Iowans Mondo Drag in 2012 before founding Blues Pills. A shortlived moment in Mondo Drag‘s history, perhaps, but they got a killer record out of it, and while the recordings are already three years old, they’re well worth the time to appreciate. Mondo Drag on Thee Facebooks, Bilocation Records.
35. Monolord, Vaenir
Swedish trio Monolord won over hearts and minds bigtime with their 2014 RidingEasy Records debut, Empress Rising, earning a spot on the 2014 Readers Poll right between Eyehategod and Mastodon. That’s rather significant company to keep — and all the more so for a band’s first record — and with Vaenir, we’ll get to hear how the intervening year has seen them progress. They’ve already proven a favorite among the converted, and they’ll tour in Feb./March with Salem’s Pot ahead of an appearance at Roadburn prior to Vaenir‘s April 28 arrival date, so it looks like they’ll keep their momentum moving forward through the release and most likely beyond. Monolord on Thee Facebooks, RidingEasy Records.
36. Neurosis, TBA
Okay. I don’t know that Neurosis‘ next album will be out in 2015. It’s just not a thing I know. What I know is that the ultra-seminal five-piece are getting together to write in Feb., and that they’re a no-bullshit band when it comes to writing and recording, so the timing works that, if they make new songs happen this winter, their record would probably be ready for release sometime in the summer or early fall. That’s what I’m going on. It might be that they write half the album now and half in 2016, but from what I hear they’re planning on doing some more significant touring this year, so it would stand to reason they’d want to do it with a follow-up to 2012’s Honor Found in Decay (review here) under their collective belt. We’ll see what we get. Neurosis on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.
37. Pentagram, TBA
I saw Pentagram play 20 shows last year. Believe me when I say the pairing of frontman Bobby Liebling and guitarist Victor Griffin has never seemed stronger musically, and with bassist Greg Turley and drummer Sean Saley, Pentagram head into the making of their next album firing on all proverbial cylinders. Metal Blade, who also issued their 2011 comeback album, Last Rites (review here), seems the likely outlet for the yet-untitled offering, which the band will herald with a headlining performance at Psycho California alongside Sleep and Cult of Luna on May 15-17, and which will no doubt dig deep into Pentagram‘s long history of doom for a trove of classic-style riffs. Pentagram on Thee Facebooks, Metal Blade Records.
38. Ruby the Hatchet, Valley of the Snake
A not-so-subtle Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats influence permeates Ruby the Hatchet‘s Tee Pee Records debut, Valley of the Snake, which is something the Philly-based band seems to acknowledge willfully on “Vast Acid,” frontwoman Jillian Taylor crooning “I’ll cut you down” toward the end of the song in a call-out of one of the UK outfit’s most resonant hooks. Otherwise, the organ-laced five-piece get down on more psychedelic vibes, though the heavy ’70s swing in the drums could be taken as another common factor, if you really wanted to stretch it. Either way, a laid back, less murderous atmosphere persists, and that suits me just fine. Out Feb. 24. Bonus points for the gorgeous Adam Burke cover art. Ruby the Hatchet on Thee Facebooks, Tee Pee Records.
39. Saturnalia Temple, To the Other
The entire meaning of being a “cult” band has changed since Sweden’s Saturnalia Temple released their UR demo in 2007, but after their 2011 debut, Aion of Drakon, hit with such a low-end wash of psychedelic obscurity, I’m intrigued to hear what they’ve come up with on To the Other, the cover’s foreboding darkness, consuming swirl and bizarre patterning seeming a fit for their sonic methodology. To the Other is out April 7 on The Ajna Offensive, and features Tim Call of The Howling Wind and Aldebaran on drums alongside Saturnalia Temple guitarist/vocalist Tommie Ericksson and bassist Peter. Saturnalia Temple on Thee Facebooks, The Ajna Offensive.
40. Six Organs of Admittance, Hexadic
I’ll make no claims toward understanding the theoretical basis driving the latest outing from the Ben Chasny-helmed project Six Organs of Admittance, which in its 17-year history has gone from bedroom folk and avant electronics to the far-ranging heavy psych jamming of 2012’s Ascent (review here). Chasny, joined by members of Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound and Deerhoof on the album — which is due out Feb. 17 on Drag City — seems to have developed a compositional method based around a system involving playing cards and varying tonal intensities. No idea what the hell any of it means, but it sounds like a freakout to me, so I’m in. Six Organs of Admittance website, Drag City Records.
41. Snail, Feral
Come on, Snail. Even if Feral‘s not coming out until later in the year, you can send it to me. I won’t tell anybody if you don’t want me to. I can keep it to myself. Hell, I won’t even review it until I get word that it’s cool to do so, I just want to hear the damn thing. Alright, Snail, have it your way. I’ll just sit here and remember how awesome Terminus (review here) was when that came out in 2012, and Blood (review here) before that in 2009 back when I did snarky headlines for reviews. That’s cool. I’ve waited this long for your Small Stone debut to make its way into my ears, I guess I’ll just keep waiting until it shows up. Which it would be awfully nice if it did as soon as possible. Today works. Now works. Snail on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
42. Sourvein, Aquatic Fanatic
At the risk of being sincere, I’ll say it warms my cold, doomed heart to know that Sourvein‘s next album is going to be released by Metal Blade Records. After trudging the Southern sludge underground for, what, 20 years?, the Cape Fear-based outfit led by T-Roy Medlin (whose lineage goes back to Buzzov*en, lest we forget their role in establishing the sound) are finally poised to get their due, and I think it’s fucking awesome. Mike Dean‘s producing the thing, and you know Sourvein are going to tour the hell out of it because that’s what they do whether they’ve got a new record or not. I’m calling it the feelgood story of the year, which is perfect since the music will most likely be utterly scathing. Sourvein on Thee Facebooks, Metal Blade Records.
43. Spidergawd, II
Just stop reading and go fucking listen to Spidergawd. Here, I did a track premiere a little bit ago for the song “Tourniquet.” It rules. Go listen to that. For the life of me I have no idea why this band’s name isn’t on the lips of every boogie-loving heavy rocker in the universe. Stickman has the new album, Spidergawd II, sold out in the special edition preorders, but there’s a regular version still available and apparently en route from the plant, and for the love of all things riffed, it’s glorious. So get on it. I implore you. And no, I don’t have any idea what’s going on with the album cover, so don’t ask. No time for questions anyway. Get listening. Spidergawd on Thee Facebooks, Stickman Records.
44. Stoned Jesus, The Harvest
Ukrainian heavy rockers Stoned Jesus posted the opening track from their third album, The Harvest, a while back on their Bandcamp page, and my goodness it does swing. They’ll make their way to the US for the first time in support of The Harvest, appearing at the Psycho California fest and hopefully elsewhere, and they do so having built up a steady following with their first two long-players, 2010’s First Communion (noted here) and 2012’s Seven Thunders Roar (review here), their most stonerly of names spread far and wide ahead of the latest offering’s early March arrival following 2013’s jams collection, The Seeds, Vol. 1. Stoned Jesus on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
45. Torche, Restarter
I haven’t heard it yet, but Torche‘s awaited Relapse Records debut, Restarter, is due out Feb. 24 and the band are kicking into gear once again to mark its coming. They’ve already announced US and European tours to carry them through June, and I don’t imagine there are many markets they’ll leave un-hit by the time they’re through. Their last album, 2012’s Harmonicraft (review here), was a solid showing of what’s come to be expected of them in terms of hooks, upbeat heaviness and melodies, but especially with the ambitious title, the new label and the energized-seeming schedule, I’m hoping that Restarter gives the band the same kind of boot to the ass they’ve been to delivering the heavy underground for the last decade. Torche on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
46. Ufomammut, Ecate
Very, very much looking forward to hearing Ecate, the newest outing from Ufomammut and their “second” album for Neurot Recordings behind the 2012 two-parter Oro (reviews here and here). Why is kind of a silly question — new Ufomammut is its own excuse for anticipation — but truth be told, they’ve always managed to get bigger-sounding and more expansive with each LP, and after having to break their last album in half and release the two pieces months apart from each other, I’m dying to know where they go with Ecate, what shifts in their sound the last couple years — including last year, which was their 15th anniversary — have brought and where in the cosmos they might be headed now. Ufomammut on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.
47. Valkyrie, TBA
During what I guess we’ll call Valkyrie‘s original run, the Virginia two-guitar four-piece released a pair of albums, 2006’s Valkyrie and 2008’s Man of Two Visions — both of which were reissued through MeteorCity in 2010 — before guitarist Peter Adams, who founded the band with his brother, guitarist/vocalist Jake Adams, got signed to Relapse with his other group, Baroness. Now back with Earthling‘s Alan Fary on bass and drummer Warren Hawkins, they’ve got their new LP recorded with Sanford Parker and reportedly in the can for an early 2015 release, also through Relapse. They’ll no doubt be greeted as heroes when they play the Maryland Doom Fest in June, and understandably so. Valkyrie on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
48. VA, Electric Ladyland Redux & The Best of James Marshall Hendrix
Magnetic Eye Records launched a Kickstarter campaign last fall with the ambitious aim of paying homage to Jimi Hendrix by having current heavy rock artists (Elder, Earthless, Wo Fat, Gozu and more; full list here) re-record Electric Ladyland in its entirety. The project, on track to be released this year to coincide with what would’ve been Hendrix‘s 73rd birthday in November, expanded to include a tribute best-of collection as well, and has grown in repute ahead of its actually being issued to stand as a gathering of some of the finest the underground has to offer playing some of the best rock and roll ever crafted. From the idea to the impending reality of it, there’s really no arguing with this one. Magnetic Eye Records on Thee Facebooks, Magnetic Eye webstore.
49. Wino & Conny Ochs, Freedom Conspiracy
When Scott “Wino” Weinrich entered rehab late last fall, he mentioned in a public statement several projects in the works. Spirit Caravan‘s reunion is ongoing. Saint Vitus are due for a next album, but he also noted the second release for his collaboration with German singer-songwriter Conny Ochs, Freedom Conspiracy, as being in early 2015. Particularly after the ultra-intimate, solo feel of Wino‘s 2010 acoustic debut, Adrift (review here), the first collaboration with Ochs, 2012’s Heavy Kingdom (review here), was an unexpected expansion of the form that paid sonic dividends in both the songwriting and performance of both players. A second installment should benefit from the chemistry they built on the road for the debut. Conny Ochs on Thee Facebooks, Exile on Mainstream.
50. Wizard Eye, TBA
Heard it. Slays. Actually, I’m not sure if the version of Wizard Eye‘s sophomore full-length I got was final, but the songs were killer either way, and the Philly stoner-toner three-piece will have the album out on vinyl later this year through a newcomer label that I don’t think I’m supposed to mention yet so I won’t. Either way, they’re included here because the more heads they reach the better, their blend of rolling grooves, sludged out vocals and the occasional bout of theremin is just right for the riff-loving purist in all of us. Their recent live outing, Riff Occult Live (review here) says it better than I could, so make a note to yourself to dig into that at your next convenience. It’s name-your-price on Bandcamp. Wizard Eye on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
51. Wretch, TBA
Listed as the “bastard spawn” of The Gates of Slumber, Wretch finds that band’s guitarist/vocalist Karl Simon teamed with bassist Bryce Clark and drummer Chris Gordon, the prior outfit having been laid to rest in 2013 after what seemed like an excellent return to form in 2011’s The Wretch (review here) and subsequent Scion-sponsored EP. I haven’t heard the new band yet, but some demos have made their way out thus far, and you’d have to figure it won’t be too long before Simon, Clark and Gordon make their proper debut as Wretch and start a new chapter in one of modern traditional doom’s most pivotal legacies. Wretch on Thee Facebooks, Tone Deaf Touring.
52. Zun, TBA
Early in 2013, a song called “Come through the Water” (review here) appeared as the first audio from a new project helmed by guitarist Gary Arce of Yawning Man called Zun. It was to be used as Zun‘s portion of a split with Fatso Jetson and while I’m not sure that ever materialized, it drew immediate attention for the collaboration between Arce and vocalist Sera Timms of Ides of Gemini and Black Mare, also formerly of Black Math Horseman. A significant duo for sure. With Bill Stinson (also Yawning Man) on drums, they’re set to debut later this year on Small Stone with their first album, and if Timms and Arce aren’t enough to draw your attention so late in the feature — the hazards of alphabetics — the one and only John Garcia is set for a guest appearance on the record. Dig that, desert rockers. Yawning Man on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
Going Into Overload…
So, okay. At this point, you could literally buy a different record each week of this year and hear something that, unless there’s some disaster between the idea of the album and the actual thing itself, is most likely worth your time. That’s not too bad. But we’re not at 88 yet, so with those 52 already set, I’ve got 36 more that you might want to keep on your radar.
Some of these are solidly lined up, some are slated to be recorded, etc., so the same rule of “things don’t always work out the way they’re supposed to” applies. With that caveat:
53. Abrahma, TBA — Their second album for Small Stone is due sometime this year.
54. Bedroom Rehab Corporation, Fortunate Some — From what I hear, the Connecticut twosome have their second record in the can.
55. Black Black Black, TBA — Brooklyn outfit featuring former members of Disengage should have a sophomore album out in 2015.
56. Black Pyramid, New 7″ — The trio will release a new single to coincide with their Euro tour that includes a stop at Desertfest.
57. Bright Curse, New 10″ EP — It was mentioned the new lineup would record an EP before taking on their next album.
58. Camel of Doom, TBA — Was announced in December there’d be a new Camel of Doom along with a vinyl of their last album.
59. Cherry Choke, Raising the Waters — Should be out this month on Elektrohasch.
60. La Chinga, TBA — Vancouver group’s Small Stone debut is reportedly being mixed.
61. Curse the Son, TBA — I’m hoping this one gets out by the end of the year. It will be the CT trio’s first with their new bassist.
62. Egypt, Endless Flight — North Dakota’s favored sons will return with a new full-length this summer. Album trailer posted with a clip of the new song “Tres Madres.”
63. Enos, TBA — Not sure where they’re at with it, but worth keeping an eye out.
64. Foghound, TBA — The Maryland rockers have finished tracking their new album with Mike Dean of Corrosion of Conformity at the helm.
65. Funeral Horse, TBA — They’ve been full of surprises on their first two releases and they work quick, so I wouldn’t be surprised if something new showed up.
66. Fuzz Evil, TBA — Interested to see where they go on an LP after their split with Chiefs.
67. The Glasspack, Moon Patrol — A snippet clip has been posted that bodes well. Supposed to be done recording in the spring. They’re currently sorting out label whatnots.
68. Graves at Sea, TBA — Yeah, it’s been more than a decade since their demo, but a split and an EP into their reunion, they just signed to Relapse, so now might be the time a debut album shows up.
69. House of Broken Promises, TBA — Should be a change from the first album after swapping out bassist/vocalists. They killed live last I saw.
70. Ice Dragon, TBA — No solid word of a new release from the Boston garage doom forerunners, but they’re always up to something.
71. Killer Boogie, Detroit — The debut from this Black Rainbows offshoot is out this month on Heavy Psych Sounds.
72. Krautzone, TBA — German synth-heavy prog-jammers have hit a groove and hopefully they continue to ride it as well as they have thus far.
73. Leeches of Lore, TBA — Wishful thinking on my part? Maybe. Got my fingers crossed, though.
74. Legion of Andromeda, Iron Scorn — They’re about as extreme as extreme doom gets. Album out next month.
75. Lord Fowl, TBA — I think they’re writing. Might be 2016 before it gets here, but I’ll take it whenever it comes. They’re worth a mention either way.
76. The Machine, TBA — Been a minute since we last heard from the Dutch heavy psych jammers. They were on this list last year as well.
77. Mirror Queen, Scaffolds of the Sky — Should be out in April on Tee Pee, and that suits me just fine. Choice grooves for springtime.
78. Mountain God, Forest of the Lost — A single-song EP from the Brooklyn post-sludgers is out in Feb. with a release show booked.
79. Om, TBA — I’ve yet to see solid evidence that a new Om is in the pipeline, but no one knew that Sleep single was coming last year either.
80. Planes of Satori, Planes of Satori — Dug their single, hope the full-length follows suit.
81. Pombagira, Flesh Throne Press— Their sixth album and Svart debut is due on March 23 as per this week’s announcement.
82. Righteous Bloom, TBA — My understanding was the Beelzefuzz offshoot are writing. Would be good if they can pick up where the prior act left off.
83. Royal Thunder, Crooked Doors— The Atlanta outfit’s second album for Relapse is due out April 7.
84. Sandrider/Kinski, Split — Don’t know much about Kinski, but new Sandrider is enough to sell me on it. Out Feb. 17 on Good to Die.
85. SardoniS, TBA — Expect big lumbering riffs from this Belgian duo, always. A new album is en route, last I heard.
86. Sun Voyager, TBA — Didn’t get to hear their last tape, but a five-song EP is due out sometime soon.
87. Sweat Lodge, Talismana — Not much word since they signed to Ripple, but they said this year, so until I hear otherwise…
88. Throttlerod, TBA — A teaser clip of new riffage came out over this past weekend. New Throttlerod is never something to complain about.
89. Venomous Maximus, Firewalker — When they signed to Shadow Kingdom in November, they gave it the ol’ “sometime in 2015.”
90. Weedeater, TBA — After a whole series of reissues, their Season of Mist debut is due.
91. Wight, Love is Not Only What You Know — Alphabetically last but not at all last in my heart, Germany’s Wight have their third record in progress. More in the comments.
92. Wo Fat, Live Juju at Freak Valley— Wo Fat‘s live set from the 2014 Freak Valley fest in Germany is due to release on vinyl March 17 in an edition of 500 copies.
Others to Keep an Eye On…
Guitarist Ian Gerber of Indianapolis’ The Heavy Co. has a couple side-projects going, but new stuff from his main band doesn’t seem unlikely either. New York’s Geezer might also have something new before December in addition to Ripple‘s CD version of their Gage release, and labelmates King Buffalo are continuing their relationship with STB Records via a new spit next month, so hopefully a debut LP follows that. Let it Breathe should make their debut on the label too in 2015.
Recently streamed trio Wake up Lucid release their EP on March 31. Last I heard The Body had a new one coming too in collaboration with Thou. Sixty Watt Shaman have plans to record tracks for a split due out later this year, and they’ll reissue their first album, 1998’s Ultra Electric, as well. Look out for Godhunter‘s split/collaboration with Amigo the Devil, and the second offering from Black Moon Circle is on the way. Balam‘s full-length should also be out sometime this year, and I anxiously await news of a solid release date for the third Clamfight record.
Murmurings abound also for new ones from Graveyard, Greenleaf, The Sword, Vhöl and others.
Plus, Sleep still exist and that simple fact probably makes them worth more of a mention than this quick aside. Their 2014 single The Clarity was an offering of pure Iommic idolatry. A sign of things to come? Who the hell knows.
If you don’t have enough to go by yet, labels like Sulatron, Tee Pee, El Paraiso, Ripple, Small Stone, STB, Napalm and so on are always worth a keen watch what’s next. There’s always something.
Which I guess is the point of this whole thing. I’m sure, even as huge as this list is, someone is going to drop a comment immediately that will make me slap my forehead and wonder how I ever forgot whatever it is. It’s always something. It looks like it’s going to be a tremendous year, so if you’ll pardon me, I’ll cut out quick and get started making my way through it.
No doubt I’ll add to this post over the next couple days, so if the numbers change, don’t be surprised. In any case, if you made it this far, thanks again for reading. May your 2015 be filled with excellent music and even better times.
Posted in Reviews on December 4th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
In light of the fact that we’ll be moving there at some point within the next eight months, The Patient Mrs. and I decided to head up to Massachusetts this past weekend. She got a job at a university in Bridgewater and I’d never seen the town, and well, if I’m gonna live there it made sense to have a look. Since going to shows is a big part of what I do with my time, it also made sense to check out Six Organs of Admittance at the Brighton Music Hall in Boston, about half an hour away. The whole thing was very sensible.
The theory was it’s not like I’m going to stop seeing bands, it’s just that the places I’ll be seeing them will be different. A different scene. That’s okay though. I’ve heard Boston is very welcoming to outsiders. Ha.
Helping ease my transition was the simple fact that the joint Ben Chasny and his East Coast cohorts in Six Organs of Admittance — on the West Coast, he reportedly played with members of his other band, Comets on Fire, but no dice for the Eastern run — was called the Brighton. I couldn’t help but be immediately comfortable in a place that shared its name with the Brighton Bar in Long Branch, NJ, where I’ve seen (and played) more shows than I have time to sit and remember. Several cans of Sapporo and the company of The Patient Mrs.herself may also have helped. Nothing to be terrified of here.
Opening act Major Stars were on when I got there. The band is local to Boston but Drag City labelmates with Six Organs, once did a split with Comets on Fire and a bit given to the driving psychedelic swirl that also provides the pulse of Six Organs‘ latest album, Ascent (review here), so if nothing else, they made sense on the two-band bill. Frontwoman Hayley Thompson-King won the prize for tightest leather pants of the evening — I didn’t even know there was a contest and so had left my own at the hotel — and guitarists Wayne Rogers, Kate Biggar and Tom Leonard provided ample churn behind her chic-but-more-than-capable croon.
They rode the line between heavy psych and indie pretty hard, but the three guitars had distinct tones among them and that added a level of interest in watching them on stage with no prior listening experience. Rogers walked back and forth in a way that was almost hypnotic, and Biggar‘s instrument was gorgeous in a museum-quality sense. Bassist Dave Dougan and drummer Casey Keenan had their work cut out for them in holding the varied assault together, but ultimately, they were up to it. Keenan would wind up pulling double-duty in Six Organs as well, and he did so having already made a positive impression on the crowd, which seemed much more familiar with Major Stars‘ work than I could claim to be.
As regards Six Organs of Admittance, they were just what I was looking for. I’d just spent about five hours on the road to Boston and, only the night before, had driven to and from Philadelphia to catch High on Fire (review here). To hit two shows in a row is one thing, but to do it one city to the next is another. But Chasny, electric guitar in tow — this was the first time I’ve seen him play electric, which he did neither at Roadburn 2009 nor at that awful night in Brooklyn — along with Keenan, second guitarist John Shaw of Magik Markers and bassist Andrew Mitchell (who formerly accompanied Chasny on live guitar), opened with the driving jam “Waswasa” from Ascent, which was consuming in its frenetic freakout from the word go.
Being the only material put together with a full band in mind, where prior Six Organs outings were Chasny solo affairs with periodic guest spots, Ascentobviously featured heavily in the set. Fine by me, since despite bitching about the cash I shelled out for it, I actually quite enjoyed the album. Mitchell‘s fuzzy bass on “One Thousand Birds” — which Chasny joked was about “a hundred birds” — was a highlight, and for someone who’s been so subdued every other time I’ve seen him on stage, Chasny tore into his many solos, leaving Shaw to cover the rhythms while he proffered a swaggering mastery straight out of classic rock. It was a long way from Compathia, but damn if it wasn’t a good time.
The moods varied throughout from bombastic chaos to Dead Meadow-style shoegazing psych, but Six Organs kept a firm grip no matter how far out they went either way, the insistent rhythm and tossed-off sounding verses of “Even if You Knew” standing out as particularly vivid. When they wanted to be, they were raucously heavy in a psych sense — that’s to say, not beholden to tonal thickness — but there was no ideological genre allegiance, and so they were free stylistically to roam as they pleased. At the end of the set, Chasny came back out and did a couple songs solo. It felt a little perfunctory, which I chalked up to residual adrenaline from the full set prior and a conscious shift from one modus to the other. I’ve never gone from playing psychedelic freak rock to quiet, intimate folk, but I can imagine it’s not as easy as flipping a switch. He seemed a bit like he was reminding himself to slow down.
Nonetheless, the glimpse at the “usual” Six Organs of Admittance methodology was welcome, if only as it provided contrast to what Chasny has done with the project on Ascentand by extension with this tour. Boston was the first night, but if there were more than one or two hiccups, I didn’t notice. The band seemed to operate smoothly, Keenan‘s drumming fluid with the two guitars and bass, and Chasny took well to the frontman role, his presence on stage only enhanced by the unhindered conviction with which he delivered the material.
If this was my first show in Boston attended while also thinking about the city on some kind of residential level, I couldn’t have really asked for more than I got. The Patient Mrs. and I cabbed it back to the hotel, I took the dog out — my dog is so housebroken that your dog is embarrassed about it, and rightly so — and we crashed. Saturday was to be spent looking at houses down in Bridgewater, and it wouldn’t have done to sleep through such things.
Posted in Reviews on November 16th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Usually you don’t think of Six Organs of Admittance — the syllabically and emotionally weighted psych/folk incarnation of Comets on Fire guitarist Ben Chasny — as music in which the listening experience is relative to volume. Go figure that after nigh on 15 years and more headphone-ready contemplations than I think anyone can reasonably be asked to count, Chasny would present a record like Ascent(Drag City), which more or less flies in the face of his usual methods. Have at you, expectations.
Space rocking, freaking out on psych jams and, yeah, even proffering a bit of that fleet-fingered acoustic work that’s made Six Organs sound rich even at Chasny‘s most minimal moments, Ascentteams the guitarist/vocalist with — wait for it — his own band. That’s right kids. Backing Chasny‘s classic space rock thrust on cuts like opener “Waswasa,” “One Thousand Birds” or the catchy and bass-heavy later cut “Even if You Knew” is none other than Comets on Fire. Seems superfluous to say the two entities work well together, since Chasny is also in that band, but the songs on Ascentflat out rule.
The last Six Organs record, 2011’s Asleep on the Floodplain(review here) was touching on a more cohesive psychedelic fascination, but it’s still a pretty big jump from that to the rolling vinyl-set groove of “One Thousand Birds.” A cut like “They Called You Near” (is that a Blazing Saddles reference?) mounts an atmospheric build of chorus vocals and surrounding drone, and the solo acoustic “Your Ghost” — at least conceptually — could have come off any album since 2005’s School of the Flower, but “Waswasa” is high-order heavy psych, and the shoe-gazing pastures of “Close to the Sky” keep a heady Dead Meadow-style sensibility to them that culminates in a swirling, cathartic-sounding solo. Even the dreamy closer “Visions (from Io)” is complete in a way Six Organs has shown little prior interest in being. Maybe it was something Chasny needed to get off his chest. What the fuck do I know.
However much of Ascentwas captured live — obviously things like Chasny‘s multi-tracked vocals weren’t, but the instrumental jams easily could’ve been — it sounds vibrant and organic thanks at least in part to the production of The Fucking Champs‘ Tim Green, and the project’s long-heralded experimental penchant is presented clearly with varying underlying noises, drones, at time buried in the mix, at time consuming it, as with the rising electric solo to ultimate prominence in contrast to the acoustic beginnings of “Solar Ascent.” Ideas like that have been fair game for Six Organs for a while, but it’s the context that’s different, the full-band feel and what that full band is proffering that marks the change.
They’re touring the record, and though I’ve never seen Comets on Fire, I have caught Chasny as Six Organs before, and it should be interesting to see him as a “frontman” for a full band. In any case, with Ascent, he and his Comets cohorts have made a record distinct from either entity’s discography and yet inextricably part of both. Most importantly, the songs engage with the depth of melody thatthankfully continues to typify Chasny‘s work in the band, and despite the boom in the accompaniment department, the music remains undeniably his own.
Posted in Reviews on January 31st, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
If the Wikipedia count is to be believed, then including 7”s, EPs, full-length albums and the occasional limited-to-100-copies CDR, Asleep on the Floodplain (Drag City) is the 25th release from Six Organs of Admittance. Starting with 1998’s self-titled and weaving his way through a number of multi-album experiments and sonic phases, Californian singer/songwriter Ben Chasny (also of Comets on Fire) has kept a base of neo-folk and acoustic guitar across the Six Organs of Admittance discography, and on the latest, he scales back some of the fuller sounds of his previous album, Luminous Night, and returns to the home-based recording style of records like 2003’s Compathia. The main difference is the growth the ensuing eight years has brought about and Chasny’s depth of melodic range. In atmosphere, despite a contribution from Elisa Ambrogio on “River of My Youth” and some natural-sounding drones accompanying electric strums on “Brilliant Blue Sea Between Us,” Asleep on the Floodplain is lonely. Not empty, and not Chasny‘s most minimal work, but very solo sounding.
The album opens instrumentally with “Above a Desert I’ve Never Seen,” displaying immediately one of Chasny’s greatest strengths in its lyrical guitar lines. He doesn’t use guitar to substitute for vocals where there aren’t any, instead capturing a listener’s attention in a completely different way. His deft fingering has always made Six Organs of Admittance stand out, and that carries over to Asleep on the Floodplain. “Light of the Light” is a shorter, vocal song with a memorable melody that leads well into “Brilliant Blue Sea Between Us.” That three of the first four tracks on the album are instrumental should say something about Chasny’s focus, but the actual feel of Asleep on the Floodplain is so smooth-running that the water-based thematics come off as all the more appropriate. The title of the album, “Brilliant Blue Sea Between Us,” “Saint of Fishermen” and “River of My Youth” all contain some reference to water, and the flow of the songs speaks to that being on purpose. Could just as easily be me reading into it, but the transitions between instrumentals that leads into “Hold but Let Go” – the centerpiece and highlight cut for those craving vocals and structure – is soothing no matter what images you want to place over-top.
Posted in Features on January 17th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’d have done a 2011 list earlier, but honestly, after the massiveness that was the top 20 countdown, I needed a break from all the list-type stuff. Next thing I knew, January was more than halfway over and no predictions had yet been made about what some of the best things to come would be. Just shameful.
This is just going to be a two-parter, and I’m keeping it to five albums on each list for a total of 10 records to look forward to in 2011. If that’s not enough for you, well, stay tuned, because I’m sure there’s going to be plenty more than 10 reviews posted this year. Hell, I think there already have been, so there you go.
The reason these are “the sure bets” is because I’ve already heard them and know they rule. Let’s get to it:
Lo-Pan, Salvador: The Ohio four-piece’s Small Stone label debut full-length has “classic” written all over it. I heard some rough mixes back in December and I’ve heard some less-rough mixes now, and I honestly haven’t felt this way about a straightforward stoner rock record since I heard the first Sasquatch album in 2004. The songwriting is brilliant, the performances masterful and the production stellar. You’re gonna shit when you hear “Chichen Itza” and “Deciduous.”
Crowbar, Sever the Wicked Hand: It’s kind of funny, but Crowbar influenced a whole younger generation of bands and on Sever the Wicked Hand, it sounds like that younger generation has re-influenced Crowbar, or at least reminded them of what they do best. Some of the material on Sever the Wicked Hand is a little fast, but there are some real quality tracks, and at this point it’s been so long I’m just glad they have a new record out.
Earth, Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I: Part one in a series of two new works by Earth , Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I (review here) brings cello accompaniment to Dylan Carlson‘s trademark drone guitar, filling out the sound with a subtle and melodic lushness it’s never before had. Earth are never going to be for everyone, but their latest should delight longtime fans and catch a couple newcomers as well.
Weedeater, Jason… the Dragon: Sludge meets swampy Southern blues on the latest record from the North Carolinian outfit which, like Earth, will be released via Southern Lord in March. Their sound is as nasty as ever, but there’s evidence of stylistic branching out in songs like “Homecoming” and “Palms of Opium,” and it’s exciting to hear the band trying new things, especially when they work. Full review is here.
Six Organs of Admittance, Asleep on the Floodplain: I’ve been a nerd for this Ben Chasny solo project for a number of years now, and on his new record, which is due out on Drag City on Feb. 22, the Comets on Fire guitarist does away with some of the psychedelic and/or droning aspects of the last couple albums in favor of a return to acoustic solo-songwriter material. Translation: He’s right in his element. More to come.
Tomorrow we’ll do Pt. 2, which will be full of pure speculation, and thus a lot of fun.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 14th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
Drag City has news about the new record from neo-folk outfit, Six Organs of Admittance, otherwise known as guitarist/vocalist Ben Chasny (Comets on Fire) and friends. The album, to be titled Asleep on the Floodplain, follows last year’s Luminous Night and is definitely something to look forward to in the New Year.
The label sent this down the PR wire:
Comprised of 10 blissful, primarily acoustic tunes, a delicacy wafts forth from Asleep on the Floodplain, the new album by Six Organs of Admittance. After 2009’s sonically dense Luminous Night, Chasny returned to the familiar environs of home recording to sculpt and assemble this batch of jams, freeing himself from the restrictions and deadlines studios might normally impose upon a song. Thus creating a living nest in which this material could grow and breathe, the album took longer to complete but sounds effortless– and bright with light. Much of Asleep on the Floodplain draws on imagery from Chasny‘s youth, a time spent in Elk River. “Dawn, Running Home” remembers sleep-overs in a friend’s tree-fort and the subsequent morning return to Ben’s own house. Maintaining Six Organs‘ penchant for cameos, Elisa Ambrogio magik-ally contributes to “River of My Youth.” The theopoetics of Catherine Keller resonate on “S/Word and Leviathan”; while Gaston Bachelard‘s poetics of reverie are felt throughout the record.
Working alone allowed for what could be described as a more cohesive album, giving Chasny time to reflect and make his own conclusions about how a song should move, or when it was finished, in his own time. To that end, each song is memorable of it’s own volition, yet drifts as necessary onto the common plane of Asleep on the Floodplain. Six Organs of Admittance has completed a new album, and we wish to share it with you so that you, in turn, will share it with others. Allow the comfort of beasts, Asleep on the Floodplain.
Asleep on the Floodplain tracklisting:
1. Above a Desert I’ve Never Seen
2. Light of the Light
3. Brilliant Blue Sea Between Us
4. Saint of Fishermen
5. Hold but Let Go
6. River of My Youth
8. S/Word and Leviathan
9. A New Name on an Old Cement Bridge
10. Dawn, Running Home
Posted in Reviews on October 13th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster
A short while after his set was over, I found Six Organs of Admittance?s Ben Chasny at the bar sitting next to the figure announced to the crowd as Andrew when he had taken the stage. ?This is my friend Andrew,? Chasny had said. Fair enough.
I had spent the better part of the Six Organs set cursing out, both inwardly and outwardly, the crowd surrounding, whose rude, self-important chatter had ruined the whole thing. Fucking hipsters. When I ran into Chasny at the bar — I?d gone looking for another beer — I told him how fucking ridiculous the asshole factor had been and how I?d seen his Roadburn set and basically that Brooklyn could suck my balls. Already well liquored up, I?ve no delusions that it was received as eloquent.
Prior, about five minutes into the show, I had sent a text message to The Patient Mrs., who was having a sandwich and watching the playoffs at another bar down the street, that said I might have no recourse but to get plastered, such was the level of recession-proof pose out beardo hipster douchery surrounding. I?d arrived at Europa about 30 seconds into the recently interviewed Naam?s first song, and the crowd only got worse as the night wore on. Nothing to do but get drunk.
?Please don?t. We?re broke.? was the message I got back. Sorry baby.