Posted in Features on November 13th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Over the last couple weeks, we’ve started to see word come down of releases coming in the early part of the New Year. Standard stuff — it’s only about seven weeks away. But it’s got me thinking that in addition to the records that we know are coming in 2014, there are a whole lot more I’d like to see.
This list isn’t every band I’d like to have put something out in 2014, but it’s bands who’d have to reunite to do it.
Think of some of the reunions we’ve seen over the last few years — Sleep, Saint Vitus, Kyuss (kinda), Pentagram — amazing, legendary bands who’ve come back together for shows and/or albums. All day the PR wire sends along word of upcoming output. I’ve got no inside track on any of these, so don’t quote me on what’s just good-time speculation, but here are a few on my wishlist, just for fun:
Yeah, this was a no-brainer. I said the same thing back at the end of 2012 — that Sleep should get on putting out a new album. Well, it didn’t happen this year, and I don’t think they played more than a couple shows as High on Fire and Om continued their successful runs in support of 2012 outings, but Sleep have songs like “Antarticans Thawed” and “Sonic Titan” that have never had studio recordings, and golly, it sure would be nice. It’d just about make my damn day. Also year.
How likely is it?
Could go either way, really. Matt Pike, Al Cisneros and Jason Roeder seem to enjoy doing live shows as Sleep. Whether that translates to studio productivity and songwriting is an entirely different matter.
2. Spirit Caravan
This one’s been talked about for a couple years now. In 2010, former Spirit Caravan bassist and current Earthride/Weed is Weed frontman Dave Sherman said in an interview here it was a go, and it never materialized. Rumors have started to come around again, and the fact that Sherman and former Spirit Caravan drummer Gary Isom are working together in Weed is Weed bodes well, but guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich is plenty busy these days, with the ongoing Saint Vitus and The Obsessed reunions. Maybe he’s all reunioned out.
How likely is it?
Not very, at least for the time being. That both The Obsessed and Vitus have gotten back together means never say never, but unless there’s a big sudden hole in Wino‘s schedule, I wouldn’t count on it.
I still haven’t forgiven that Icelandic volcano for forcing me to miss Goatsnake at Roadburn in 2010. Some might think it’s silly to hold a grudge against a geological formation, but I say it’s animosity well earned. Goatsnake have done intermittent shows the last several years — less even than Sleep – as guitarist Greg Anderson continues to explore various forms of heavy with his label, Southern Lord Recordings, and contribute guitar to other projects along the way. While we’re fantasizing, though, let’s get Scott Reeder in on bass again.
How likely is it?
Given Southern Lord’s current hardcore fetish and having shirked off most of its riff-heavy acts over the last couple years, interest is probably pretty low on their part. Too bad. At this point, I’d even take a new SunnO))).
Fucking hell. I haven’t been able to go a day since I moved to New England — more than three months ago now — without thinking about New Hampshire’s proudest sons, Scissorfight. If they came out today, they’d be huge. As it was, they were about six years ahead of their time, and while I’m glad I got to see them play more than once, it would be amazing to have them stomp their way back and get the recognition they deserve. To put all the old albums back out on vinyl and top it off with a new one would most certainly be putting the fucking hammer down.
How likely is it?
Guitarist Jay Fortin (also an insanely talented photographer) and bassist Paul Jarvis can currently be found grooving in Supermachine. Scissorfight digitally released a greatest hits collection in 2012 though, so you never know.
The Swedish stoner pioneers started playing shows again this year, so the reunion is fresh. Why not strike while that iron is hot, get in the studio and surprise everyone with the first Lowrider album since 2000′s land-fucking-mark Ode to Io? I don’t have an answer to that question, because from where I sit and from what I saw at Desertfest in London earlier this year, Lowrider are a vital act who hardly seemed like they were gonna one-and-done it on getting back together. I’ve got my fingers crossed and until I get a reason to uncross them, they’re going to stay that way. It makes typing uncomfortable.
How likely is it?
Actually, of all the reunions on this list that have and haven’t happened, a new Lowrider record in 2014 seems to be the likeliest possibility. If it’s any kind of tell, the photo above was taken recently.
When was the last time you heard from Nebula? Was it the band “taking a break” and canceling their appearances at SXSW in 2010? Yeah, me too. Bummer, since their last album, 2009′s Heavy Psych(review here), was so chock full of vigor. That record boasted a new Nebula lineup around guitarist/vocalist Eddie Glass, and with Tee Pee behind them, it seemed like they were full speed ahead. Obviously it didn’t pan out that way or they wouldn’t be on this list. What would a new album bring? Hopefully a shit-ton of wah. Beyond that, wherever they wanted to go is fine by me.
How likely is it?
Doesn’t seem unreasonable to think Glass would get Nebula going again eventually, though with bassist Tom Davies currently in The Freeks and drummer Rob Oswald apparently living on the East Coast, it might require yet another lineup.
Such as it is, honorable mention goes to Dozer (who I didn’t include here because I’m so hopeful it’ll happen I’ve convinced myself it’s already in progress), Eyehategod (who’ve toured new material for years and will probably have an album out eventually), Sungrazer (yeah, I know they just broke up, but I’m still bummed about it) and Bongzilla (which would be cool, but I think I’d almost rather a debut Aquilonian LP), Norrsken (imagine Graveyard and Witchcraft members reclaiming the retro rock throne!) and probably 10 or 12 others.
I don’t need an excuse to post this Sleep rehearsal footage from 2009, so I’m not going to give one. It’s just awesome, and of all the poorly lit rehearsal room videos I’ve seen, this one for “Evil Gypsy/Solomon’s Theme” from the singularly righteous Sleep’s Holy Mountainmakes a case for the top spot. Presumably at this point they were preparing for their reunion appearances at All Tomorrow’s Parties, though I don’t know that for a fact. Aside from being generally killer, the clip earns extra notoriety for featuring the original trio lineup — Al Cisneros on bass/vocals, Matt Pike on guitar and Chris Hakius on drums. Of course as time went on and Sleep continued to play shows, Hakius would be replaced by Jason Roeder of Neurosis, who’s more than ably filled that role since.
It would be more than a year’s time before Sleep came east at all, so it’s cool to see an intimate glimpse at the band as they were just getting going again. You can see Hakius rubbing his right knee in the break between the song’s two parts. I guess maybe he was still getting used to playing the songs after a long absence of doing so. He retired from Sleep (and Om) after All Tomorrow’s Parties, so it’s somewhat rare to see him at all at this point in comparison to all the videos of Sleepplaying live since. Again, not that I need an excuse to post, but there’s one if you want it.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 28th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Okay, let me rephrase right off the bat — Sleep don’t need to put out an album at all. Sleep don’t need to do anything. With Al Cisneros in Om, Matt Pike in High on Fire and Jason Roeder in Neurosis, it’s not like the dudes in Sleep are lagging either on output or asskickery. However, “I think Sleep should put out a new record in an attempt to capture a special moment in the creative lives of its three members” hardly makes for a catchy headline. So here we are.
I’ve got a couple different levels of argument in favor of a new Sleep album, which would be their first since the epic Dopesmokerfinally saw the light of day officially in 2003. At the most basic level is the nerdy, “OMG more riffs”-type impulse — the side of me that wants to hear new Sleep just because it would be new stuff from the band who put out Sleep’s Holy Mountain20 years ago. I’m not about to invalidate that response. Fanboyism is what it is.
More than that, however, I think when you take a look at the response to the periodic shows Sleep have played over the last two-plus years (I first saw them in Brooklyn, Sept. 2010), their continued interest in performing live, their continued influence in the sphere of stoner metal, heavy psych, etc., and — because yes, this matters — the fact that there’s more of an audience for Sleep now than there ever was before, a new studio album is a logical next step. Most of all, creatively.
Take a look at this year’s releases from Om, High on Fire and Neurosis. All three bands had a records out in 2012, and all three were incredibly different. Cisneros explored lush melodies and a wider psychedelic expanse than ever before on Advaitic Songs (review here), while Pike issued High on Fire‘s most aggressive offering to date in De Vermis Mysteriis (review here), and in Neurosis, Roeder provided creative rhythms to ground some of the pioneering Bay Area outfit’s most complex material on Honor Found in Decay(review here). Each was a triumph completely on its own terms.
And that’s why I say now is the time for new Sleep. I’m not thinking that you put Cisneros, Pike and Roeder in a jam space and out comes “From Beyond Pt. 2.” Especially since it would be their first outing with Roeder on drums, I’d hope that a new Sleep record — while obviously steeped in Iommic tradition — sounded like nothing they’ve ever done before. If I wanted to hear what Sleep sounded as they were in their original incarnation, I’d put on one of the old albums. I want to hear what Sleep can put together sound-wise today. I want to hear Sleep with Roeder‘s drum fills, or some of the warmth of tone that Cisneros has developed in Om, or with the kind of solo that Pike wouldn’t have dared attempt at the time but has been decapitating audiences with ever since.
They’ve got their blueprint to work from in terms of riffs, tones and overall approach, but with as distinct as the three personalities have proven to be over the course of this year — and especially with how well the trio works on stage at this point; their set at Roadburn 2012 was hands down one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen — it just seems like there’s an opportunity now to stand up to the challenge of bringing together something that captures the different sides of each member’s personality while also remains uniquely Sleep‘s own, adding to the breadth of their ever-expanding influence.
It seems like a ludicrous idea, right? Well, Black Sabbath have a new record in the works. Saint Vitus put out an album this year. Hell, even the dudes from Kyuss have something going at this point. So why not Sleep? I never thought I’d get to see the band live, and it’s been a couple times now. We live in a universe of infinite possibilities, and though it’s hardly the likeliest announcement to come down the PR wire, would you really have thought they’d get back together for shows in the first place? It’s been over two years now.
So yeah, they don’t need to release an album in 2013 — or ever, for that matter — but if they did, they’d be coming together at just the time when they each seemed to be most on their own path. Whatever that might result in, whether it’s another Dopesmoker or something completely different, it seems like a worthwhile endeavor no matter how you want to look at it.
Posted in Features on December 5th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
This wasn’t the first time I’ve spoken to High on Fire guitarist/vocalist Matt Pike for an interview by a longshot, but it was the first time we’ve talked since he got sober earlier this year, and the difference was immediately apparent in his voice. He was about a week into the band’s current tour at the time — with Goatwhore, Primate and Lo-Pan for a five-week round of shows one of which I was fortunate enough to catch — and things were beginning to settle in. This is the first major touring that High on Fire has done since Pike entered rehab over the summer after dropping off the summer’s Mayhem festival, and though he admitted to some apprehension, Pike sounded clear-headed and glad to be back on the road.
Earlier this year, High on Fire revitalized their approach with the scathing De Vermis Mysteriis(review here). Not only in the fact that the album was based around a narrative concept — about a time-traveling Jesus twin — but just in the sheer sound of the thing. Pike, bassist Jeff Matz and drummer Des Kensell brought High on Fire’s tightness and chemistry to new levels, and captured by producer Kurt Ballou, songs like the arch-grooving “Madness of an Architect” or the ripping “Spiritual Rites,” the band sounded more vicious than ever before. The rawness of their bombast, something they moved away from with 2010′s Snakes for the Divine(review here), met with a maturity of process and crispness of sound that made the record easily among 2012′s best.
And while that position is nothing new for High on Fire — who’ve gone six full-lengths at this point without a real dud — the context surrounding De Vermis Mysteriismakes it standout as a landmark in the progression of the band, both musically and for the personal issues involved. Seeing them live last week, they’ve lost nothing of their on-stage potency, even if Pike is a little more reserved in his between-song banter — I was reminded a bit of his Sleep bandmate, Al Cisneros — speaking to the crowd rather than barking the war-cries of old. The tradeoff was in the performance, which was stellar, new material or old, and the band seemed poised to pick up their momentum right where they left off prior to the interruption this summer brought.
As honest and sincere as ever in the interview that follows, Pike talks about being on the road sober for the first time, about constructing De Vermis Mysteriis in the studio with Ballou and about the growth of the band as a trio with Matz — who came aboard as a full-time member prior to 2007′s Death is this Communion– taking on an increased role in the songwriting. You may also note I asked him about the Sonic Titan distortion pedal, which was something Jon Davis of Conan had mentioned earlier this year when I asked him about playing with Sleep in Norway. That interview is here if you’d like some context.
How could you not love those faces? So bright-eyed and innocent.
Today, I have the absurdly extreme pleasure of premiering three clips of heavy gods Sleep performing and being interviewed at the 2012 Scion Rock Fest. As with the Church of Misery premiere last week, these videos come courtesy of Scion A/V Metal, and I’m grateful for being given the chance to post them. With a hurricane bearing down outside my window and not knowing how long electricity is going to last, I can think of no better use for it than making public the videos of “Dragonaut,” “Jerusalem Pt. 1″ and the interview below. Well, maybe showering, but I’ll get to that in a bit.
If you’ve been lucky enough to see Sleep in the last couple years, you already know both that the three-piece are something special to behold and that the dynamic between bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros (also Om), guitarist Matt Pike (also High on Fire) and drummer Jason Roeder (also Neurosis) more than lives up to the legacy they made for themselves with landmark releases like 1993′s classic Sleep’s Holy Mountain, from which “Dragonaut” comes, and the ultimate stoner epic Dopesmoker, from which “Jerusalem Pt. 1″ is derived. As they’ve been playing live the last couple years — Roeder came aboard to replace original drummer Chris Hakius — they’ve broken up the pieces of the hour-long monster and dispersed them into the set, giving the whole thing an unhinged feel and continuing flow. I don’t feel the slightest bit hyperbolic when I say it’s among the heaviest things I’ve ever seen.
Please enjoy “Dragonaut,” “Jerusalem Pt. 1″ and the following interview with Cisneros and Roeder.
Sleep, “Dragonaut” Live at Scion Rock Fest 2012
Sleep, “Jerusalem Pt. 1″ Live at Scion Rock Fest 2012
Sleep Interview at Scion Rock Fest 2012
Thanks again to Scion A/V Metal for the permission to host these clips, and to Sleep, for all the riffs and badassery and crimson dragons and whatnot.
A couple weeks ago, I asked the question above: “What are the 10 greatest stoner rock records?” It was kind of just something I was throwing out there to see what came back. Nothing scientific, pretty vague on what “stoner rock” actually meant as a genre designation. Basically just trying to get a spur-of-the-moment response, like an inkblot test for riffs. First thing that comes to mind.
The response was awesome, so before anything else, thank you to everyone who contributed a list to the original post. I was taken aback by the number of replies that came in — a total 73 comments — and the resultant breadth of records named reads like a wishlist of the damned. Some people were pretty orthodox in their definition of the genre, and some more open in the bands they included, but working from everyone’s lists, I tallied up the votes, and while I don’t necessarily agree with all the choices personally (I added my own list as a comment to the initial post, so I won’t bother reprinting it), it was a blast to see what emerged on top. The people have spoken.
I tried to be as fair as I could in the tallying. There were some comments left that were individual songs and not albums, and those I didn’t count, but everything else went in, even if it was only mentioned once, and when someone said, for example, “Melvins – all,” I actually added a tally to everything by the Melvins that everyone else had said. Again, it’s not really a scientific thing polling demographic data, but it was a lot of fun.
Okay, here’s the list:
The Top 10 Greatest Stoner Rock Records Poll Results:
1. Kyuss, Welcome to Sky Valley (41 votes)
2. Sleep, Sleep’s Holy Mountain (27 votes)
3. Black Sabbath, Master of Reality (19 votes)
4. Kyuss,Blues for the Red Sun (18 votes)
5. Monster Magnet,Spine of God (15 votes)
5. Sleep,Dopesmoker(15 votes)
7. Electric Wizard, Dopethrone(14 votes)
7. Fu Manchu, In Search Of… (14 votes)
9. Queens of the Stone Age, Queens of the Stone Age (12 votes)
10. Fu Manchu, The Action is Go (10 votes)
As you can see, some real classics in there, and Welcome to Sky Valleywas far and away the winner, picked by 41 out of the 73 people (myself included), with Sleep and Black Sabbath behind. There were two ties at numbers five and seven, but beyond that, it’s a pretty clear picture of where people are at with their favorites.
What about everything else? Well, it was all counted. I broke all the entries down by number of votes and listed them by artist with albums in chronological order.
How desperate are we for new Sleep? Desperate enough that even a new promo shot earns its own post, thank you very much. Hell, it’s already the best-reviewed stoner metal band pic of 2012!
In the shot below, we see Sleep — drummer Jason Roeder (left), guitarist Matt Pike (right), bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros (bottom) — paying homage to Carl Sagan’s Cosmos with, among other things, righteous turtleneckage.
Posted in Features on April 14th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
04/15/12 — 00.04 — Saturday Night — Hotel Mercure
When my alarm went off this afternoon, it was with both excitement and a touch of apprehension that I considered the prospect of what today would bring Roadburn 2012, Day Three. Saturday, April 14. I looked at my pocket schedule — no fancy printouts or cellphone PDFs for me — and took a deep breath, steeling myself against the truly monolithic.
I’m sure the stories differ almost on a per-attendee basis, but my version of the final day of Roadburn proper went like this: Mike Scheidt, 40 Watt Sun, Dark Buddha Rising, Church of Misery, Pelican, The Wounded Kings, The Obsessed, Mars Red Sky, Sleep. If I was still standing, I wouldn’t know how.
The noon alarm gave me a little more time to get my head around what I was going to see, whereas the last two days it’s been up and go. Time well spent, since I was about to embark on the busiest day of this entire trip, a wave-crest culmination of everything that the last week-plus has been building toward. Fitting it should end with Sleep, since without them I and most of these bands probably wouldn’t be here. What now feels like aeons before the gods ascended their Olympus, however, Saturday afternoon began at 15.00 with Mike Scheidt in the Stage01 room.
Not 24 hours after YOB laid waste to the entire city of Tilburg performing all of The Unreal Never Lived, Scheidt, the guitarist, vocalist and driving force behind that band, emerged on 013‘s smallest stage to play acoustic songs from his upcoming Thrill Jockey solo release, Stay Awake — words which are also tattooed across his two hands, facing up for him to read. He got on stage talking about how excellent Doom had been the night prior and was soon in the thick of a spoken intro to a song called “Until the End of Everything.” I’ve heard the album a few times in preparation for a review, and it takes some of YOB‘s sonic mysticism into account on “Until the End of Everything” and a few other tracks, but Scheidt was careful as well to acknowledge singer-songwriter roots, alternating between finger-picking strings and a rhythmic strum that was familiar to many in the room in its construction.
He’s still clearly working out the approach he wants to take to the form, and said on stage as well that performing acoustic was a recent advent for him and that he was very much enjoying it, but as he dug into the throatier vocals on the closing title-track to Stay Awake, there was little to no perceptible temerity or lack of confidence in what he was doing. The songs sounded better live than they do on the record, but most importantly, there’s room for Scheidt to grow and explore new ideas outside the context of YOB, which at this point have established at least in part the palette from which they continue to refine their sound. That is, they have a “sound” they continue to refine, whereas Scheidt is still finding out what he wants to be as a solo artist, and seeing that unfold on stage was engaging.
Main room openers 40 Watt Sun had been on my list to see since I missed them when they came through New York last year, so when Scheidt was finished, I took the not-at-all-a-secret passageway from Stage01 and prepared myself to get sad. That’s what 40 Watt Sun do. Their doom is as much contingent on emotional weight — if not more — than tonal, and that could be heard as well on last year’s The Inside Room (review here). That puts them in a tight spot in terms of a stage show, however, since they’re basically limited then to how much they can really get into a show experience before undercutting the pervasive emotionality of the music. To work at all, they almost have to be boring to watch on stage. You can’t have some dude doing jumping jacks and playing a song like “Carry Me Home.”
Well, you could, but you’d probably get laughed at. 40 Watt Sun relied on the music to carry their ideas across on stage, and the songs had enough presence to make up for any fireworks that may have been absent otherwise. Vocalist/guitarist Patrick Walker (ex-Warning) was visceral in his presentation of the material, or perhaps “wrenching” would be a better word. In any case, they managed to make an entire concert hall of burly beardos miss their wives and girlfriends at the same time. Maybe that’s just me projecting. Fair enough. Before they were done, and before I actually allowed myself to feel something (yuck), I made my way into the Green Room to catch the start of Finnish blackened doomers Dark Buddha Rising, whose theatrics were of a much different and more, uh, theatrical variety.
Until they came out on stage and I recognized faces, I didn’t know this, but Dark Buddha Rising shares at least two of its members with Hexvessel, who played yesterday. While that adds a level of intrigue into the initial discovery of who they are, it says nothing about how much the two acts have in common, which in turn is just about nothing. Dark Buddha Rising take the ritual Hexvessel preach and bring it to corpsepainted life, their frontman/noise-manipulator doused himself in “blood” from a chalice as he screamed and worked a wah pedal with his hand to add to the rumbling ferocity of noise from the guitar, bass and drums. I could take or leave that side of it — the stage show — but they had the doom to back it up. Lumbering, lurching, crawling malevolence came out to turn the Green Room black, and the music was more powerful than any chalice could contain. Vinyl-only to an apparent point of religiosity, it made me sad to not immediately go buy everything they had on their table in the merch area. Fortunately, I had Church of Misery to help drown my sorrows.
Drown them they did. Or maybe they smothered them. Or stabbed them. Or blasted them with a sawed-off shotgun. Whatever it was, Church of Misery‘s murderous grooves “took care of” any and all residual woes and rolled them up in a rug, never to be seen again. Unfortunately, there were a few technical difficulties for bassist Tatsu Mikami. Fortunately, they happened right during the jam part of “El Padrino,” so guitarist Tom Sutton got to just play out the “na na na” riff for about four extra minutes while the stage crew brought out a new bass head. That wasn’t the last of Mikami‘s troubles, but those things are unavoidable sometimes, and it’s not like Church of Misery have never played Roadburn and probably won’t again next year. If you’ve got to have a house band, you could do a hell of a lot worse.
Once they were up and running again, Church of Misery had the main stage crowd already well on their (meat)hook. The new vocalist, whose name I still don’t know, made an excellent master of ceremonies, and though I left for a bit in the middle to get a quick bite, I was back in time to see them finish out in riotous form, making way for Chicagoan instrumentalists Pelican, whose new EP, Ataraxia/Taraxis, is the first release from the band since 2009′s What We all Come to Need (review here) brought back around some of the escapist atmospherics that peppered their earliest works while also remaining consistently and consciously heavy. I remember seeing them on the “Champions of Sound” tour with Scissorfight at the old Knitting Factory in New York, and though I know I’ve encountered them between then and now, that will always be my frame of reference. At some point, then, Pelican grew up.
As they played, I turned my head to look at the crowd behind me, and all there was was a sea of nodding heads. They still had plenty of energy on stage, but at the same time, Pelican was a fully mature band, who’ve earned their spot between Church of Misery and The Obsessed. The main room was jammed with people, and Pelicanhanded each one a bleeding eardrum. Their grooves were huge, the sound was reverberating off the walls in a massive hum, and they didn’t let up. It wasn’t just impressive. It was landmark, and it renewed my appreciation for what they do. I wasn’t even that excited to see them, thinking there was no way they’d be able to replace that Knitting Factory show in my mind, but they absolutely did. It’s like they realized they didn’t need to choose between being heavy and being ambient or melodic. They crushed, and in a way that I didn’t think they were capable of or interested in crushing. That was the most surprising part of all.
On my list of “must” bands, The Wounded Kings ranked pretty high. I’d missed them last time they were here, and what with their having a totally different lineup now, showing up at the Green Room seemed more than prudent. Guitarist Steve Mills, who is the only founding member of the band, led The Wounded Kings through a round of songs from 2011′s In the Chapel of the Black Hand, which is appropriate since that’s the only record that four of the five in the lineup played on. Vocalist Sharie Neyland had a bit of vibrato to her voice that was well matched by the rumble of Jim Willumsen‘s bass, and Mills — who’s been through his share of trials in getting the band to this point — seemed thoroughly satisfied with the fruits of his labor. They were an interesting comparison point to Dark Buddha Rising, since both bands could probably be classified as occult doom, but each has a drastically different take than the other on what that designation might mean.
As a singer, Neyland puts The Wounded Kings on a new level entirely, and I feel now having seen them live as I felt when I reviewed the record, which is I hope the lineup stays consistent. Drummer Mike Heath and guitarist Alex Kearney only added to the potency of the other players, and it seemed the atmosphere was set from the outset and maintained the whole way through. The Green Room was full too, and then some, and considering Pelican was still going in the main stage and Leaf Hound was at Het Patronaat, it’s safe to say The Wounded Kings have made some real fans along the way on their bumpy road to this point. Mills works quick — for instance, this lineup of the band was put together and an album was released in a year’s time — so hopefully it’s not too long before we get another glimpse inside their house of horrors.
By this time in the day, my back and forth was in full swing. I’d gone from Stage01 to the main room, to the Green Room, to the main room, to dinner, back to the main room, to the Green Room, and now was headed back to the main room again for The Obsessed‘s reunion set. It takes a toll, both physically and in terms of what you see, but the tradeoff is you see more bands. Whereas yesterday I got to get more of a feel forwhat everyone was doing — I saw full sets from Wino & Conny Ochs, Conan and YOB — today and Day One were a different kind of experience. Obviously one still full of enjoyment and thrills, they just come in more rapid-fire procession. I’ll admit too that although I did a lot of running around today — I mean a lot — the weekend was beginning even early this afternoon to extract its toll on my energy level.
I’m not bitching. I hope you won’t take that to mean it that way, but I think fatigue, being worn out, is part of the festival experience and worth talking about. I wouldn’t have chosen to be anywhere else for the duration of today — or this weekend as a whole, for that matter — but that doesn’t mean I didn’t make two trips to the espresso machine in the merch area this afternoon to gear up for the evening’s lineup. The second time, I put in two 50 Euro cents and got a double. It had to be done, because the fact of the matter is it’s not every day that The Obsessed get on stage and do a show. Roadburn seemed to know it, too, since when I came back into the main room for the set, the curtain was drawn.
This led me to wonder what they could possibly be hiding. The lineup, if I’m not mistaken, was announced beforehand as being drummer Greg Rogers and bassist Guy Pinhas alongside vocalist/guitarist Scott “Wino” Weinrich, so I’m not sure what was to be gained by drawing the giant curtain as the gear was loaded in and line checked. I didn’t expect much of a stage show, no explosions or dancing elephants, when The Obsessed got started, and sure enough, it was just the three of them rocking out those old songs. Once they actually began playing, though, I changed my mind about the curtain. It was awesome, and the reunion was special enough to warrant it. Once they hit into “Streetside,” I thought I tore my groove muscle — not to be confused with my “love muscle,” which is pretty much my forearm (heyo!).
Pinhas thanked the audience profusely and sounded utterly sincere, and he and Rogers nailed the material. It’s been since 1995 that The Obsessed played a set, though Weinrich worked Obsessed songs into his Wino trio performances, but if reunions from the likes of Saint Vitus and Sleep have shown anything, it’s that doom ages well. Getting to see The Obsessed play was one more really special occurrences that I’ve gotten to take part in on this trip, and I followed it up immediately by watching Mars Red Sky in the Green Room. It cost me part of The Obsessed‘s set, but after being so jealous of The Patient Mrs.‘ having seen them in Portland, Oregon, I had to follow up by seeing them for myself. The three-piece was positively humble and unassuming as they came out and started off their set with “Falls” from last year’s self-titled debut.
Guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras and bassist Jimmy Kinast have a new drummer in the lineup, as of reportedly two weeks ago, but the songs were smooth as they ran through them — “Strong Reflection,” the Kinast-vocal “Marble Sky,” “Curse” and a new song they didn’t give a title for but that seemed to show them heading further in the direction of balancing weighted tones with laid back grooves. You won’t hear me complain. It was one time this weekend where I can truly say that no one in the room was there by accident. Right across the hallway, you had The Obsessed rocking out songs that are legendary in doom, and yet the Green Room was full of heads come to worship at the warm fuzz coming from Pras‘ amp. For me, I’ll liken it to seeing Sungrazer at Roadburn last year, both in terms of the warmth of distortion and the equally rich satisfaction I got from doing so. They weren’t the highest profile act of the evening by any stretch, but Mars Red Sky were a highlight of my weekend (and with a weekend of highlights, that’s saying something), and I knew going into it that they would be.
Nonetheless, they were not the cap on the night. A mammoth, feedback-drenched, earth-rattling set from Sleep would follow back once more in the main room. Matt Pike, Al Cisneros and Jason Roeder. I’m honestly not sure if anything else needs to be said than that. Yeah, they’re not the full original trio of the band (though I’ve never heard anyone who’s actually seenRoederdrum on these songs complain; some conceptual kvetching), and yeah, nobody’s as young as they used to be, myself included, but goddamn, you put these guys on a stage and you better be sure your walls are reinforced. Doing one of their several extended sections of nothing but feedback and vibrating washes of noise, I found myself looking up at the 013 ceiling to see if anything was going to shake loose and fall on the crowd. I’m not kidding. I had my escape route all planned out — onto the stage, through the side door, out the loading dock. Off to safety I go.
It didn’t come to that, thankfully, but Sleep were at a pretty high threat level. High enough so that my earplugs did me no good whatsoever and my ears are ringing now. Before they even started — before his amps were even turned on — Pike came out and just started playing to the crowd. There was no sound, and he looked a little smashed, but even on mute, he earned vehement cheers. Before long, that solo turned into a mash of noise that, in turn, turned into the start of “Dopesmoker.” “Drop out of life with bong in hand/Follow the smoke toward the riff filled land” — words that have become the granite into which Sleep‘s legacy is carved, and I don’t mind saying I got chills up my spine as Al Cisneros delivered the lines. He did smoke a joint on stage, oh yes, and got a laugh by saying, “This intermission is brought to you by The Grass Company,” which is just down the street from 013 here in Tilburg. I don’t smoke, but I did suddenly want to order five shots and down them all; the music begging its adherents to be fucked up one way or another, I suppose.
Pike teased the opening riff of “Dragonaut” and a shockwave of electricity went through the crowd, and when they actually did it, it was glorious. Likewise “Holy Mountain” and “From Beyond,” both of which were just a huge, wondrous mess of abrasive noise and painful volume. The vocals weren’t the kind of shouts one hears when listening to Sleep’s Holy Mountain, or even Dopesmoker, but Cisneros was loyal to the songs all the same, vocally and musically, playing way up high on the neck of his five-string Rickenbacker, and where after seeing them in Brooklyn in 2010, I was unsure as to how the conflicting stage presences of Pike (a drunken madman) and Cisneros (a weedian guru) might play out correspondingly in their personal relationship, tonight they seemed absolutely on the same page with each other and with Roeder as the essential third of the band. One shudders at the possibility of a new album.
They went long, as I guess one will do when one is Sleep, and I had a laugh when they finished and the 1972 Charles Bronson movie The Mechanic came on the huge screen that was behind the band. Years ago, I interviewed Matt Pike for one of High on Fire‘s records — I think it was Blessed Black Wings — in person in Philadelphia, and afterwards at a bar, he told a story of being sat down as a child, I believe by his father, and being made to watch that very film since it was, “Everything you need to know about being a man.” Of course as soon as I could I got the DVD and watched it. It’s the story of two hitmen, a mentor and his protegé, and rife with betrayal, murder and a bizarre — and indeed, inherently masculine — code of honor that bonds its protagonists. Jan-Michael Vincent was the younger hitman. Anyway, the nod to The Mechanic gave me a chuckle as I worked my way through the beaten throng of Roadburners and out of the main room.
A Heavy Jam session with members of Witch and Earthless loomed ahead, but not for me. For me, it was back to the hotel to put the cap on this three-day exercise in riff worship. I’m not finished yet. Tomorrow is the Afterburner, and that’s got Electric Orange, Internal Void, and YOB doing all of Catharsis, among others, so I’m not yet in full-on reflection mode (not to mention it’s three in the damn morning), but suffice it to say for the time being that there’s a reason people come from around the world to play and attend this festival, and it’s because there’s only one Roadburn. It’s been exhausting, but it’s been a thrill too, and I’m looking forward to wrapping things up tomorrow with one more round of getting my ass handed to me at the Afterburner. Here’s to it.
If Sleep had more of a discography and I could say for certain I’d always be awake on a Saturday morning to post videos of them, I’d totally make this a weekly thing. But frankly, I don’t even want to be up now, I just am and have been since about 6:30AM. Pain in the ass week, as far as sleeping goes. The only night I slept through was Wednesday. Nonetheless, last night was so killer that I had to break out Sleep’s Holy Mountain to honor it. And then, having found the clip above with all the space footage — well, it was just too damn good to not post, even this morning.
Today is the last day of March. Next Thursday, I get on a plane and fly out to London in anticipation of Desertfest starting up on Friday. That will be excellent, and I’m looking forward to seeing the likes of Stubb, Stone Axe, Asteroid, Ancestors, Trippy Wicked, Grifter, Alunah and others I might not otherwise have the chance to see. The more I think about it, the more I want to take that approach. I mean, Church of Misery is playing Roadburn too, so I can always see them there (and I do mean always — it seems like they do Roadburn every year; not a complaint), and it makes more sense to me to catch bands like Serpent Venom and Dopefight, who I have less of a chance of catching otherwise. I don’t know, I ‘ll get it worked out, and wherever I end up, I’ll bring the camera and the keyboard along.
Before I go, however, the first part of this week coming I anticipate will be pure madness. Nonetheless, I’ve still got a bunch of stuff coming up, like the March numbers, a stream of the new album from Mangoo, the second “Spine of Overkill” column from Chris “Woody High” MacDermott, and more. I want to get a review up of the new Ufomammut record before I leave, but with work, I don’t know if I’ll have time to give it its due attention and I don’t want to half-ass it. Hopefully that comes together Monday or Tuesday. Wednesdays are pretty much a wash lately at the office as far as actually getting anything done goes.
But among the kickass elements that made yesterday so righteous was an interview conducted with Dave Chandler of Saint Vitus about their recently-reviewed new album, Lillie: F-65, and I want to get that posted at some point reasonably soon — maybe while I’m away, depending on my time and travel trajectory between Desertfest and Roadburn. In any case, it’s something to look forward to for April coming up. We’ll talk more about the month when the March numbers go up on Monday.
Until then, thanks to everyone for checking in this week, and thanks especially to the 136 commenters who entered the High on Fire giveaway. So far I’ve got two of the three winners who’ve emailed me back. If I don’t hear from the third by Monday, I’ll probably just pick someone else, so if you haven’t gotten a note from me, there’s still a shot before next week starts up. For now, though, I’m heading back to bed, or at least to the couch, to try and rest up on this rainy as hell Saturday. Maybe later I’ll watch some Star Trek and check in on the forum about it, but otherwise, I wish you a great and safe weekend. Enjoy, and we’ll see you back here Monday for the busiest week ever.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 6th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
With a subject like that, I don’t even need to post any news, but here it is anyway: Sleep will headline the 2012 Roadburn festival. Life doesn’t get much better, but I’ll save my ranting for later. Om are reportedly playing too (full on Cisernos fix!), and hopefully they’ll have a new album out by then. Here’s the news from Roadburn‘s site:
Roadburn headquarters are in a euphoric state as we report that West Coast stoner metal legends Sleep have been confirmed as the headliner at Roadburn Festival 2012. Sleep are irrefutably a seminal band of the stoner rock scene and to our elation they are coming to their spiritual home of Roadburn to anchor the 2012 festival.
Featuring original members Al Cisneros and Matt Pike together with drummer Jason Roeder of Neurosis, Sleepwill be playing (a one-off show) on Saturday, 14 April 2012. Al Cisneros will also be appearing with OM together with Emil Amos and Robert A.A. Lowe, bringing their hypnotic vibrations to Roadburn‘s mainstage on Thursday, 12 April.
We at the Roadburn Festival consider Sleep to be among the most important bands influencing today’s thriving stoner/sludge/metal scene. Their vision to combine the powerful riffs of BlackSabbathwith the outsider ethics of punk rock turned into an unstoppable amalgamation, one that catapulted them to international attention within a very short time. Their rapid rise and unquestionable musical significance is a testimony to the fact that they tapped into something that resonates inside virtually every fan of stoner metal today. They truly embody the spirit and power of The Riff.
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 3rd, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Good news on top of good news for anyone in the New York region or who might be traveling there next month to see Sleep. Winter and White Hills were announced yesterday as support acts for the upcoming Terminal 5 show in Manhattan on June 25. Should be awesome to see the reaction as Winter lays doomly waste to that warehouse-turned-dance-club-turned-rock-venue. I suspect a whole bunch of people are about to be viciously schooled in the ways of the abrasively slow. Killer.
This from the PR wire:
West Coast stoner metal legends Sleep recently confirmed support for their special New York City show at Terminal 5 on June 22 . The bill will now include two New York-based acts: Space rock duo White Hills and recently reunited death/doom trio Winter. Both bands were featured on this year’s illustrious Roadburn festival in Tilburg, Holland.
Sleep 2011 tour dates:
06/22 Terminal 5New York, NY w/ Winter, White Hills
06/24 Sled Island FestivalCalgary, AB
06/26 The WilternLos Angeles, CA
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 21st, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’m kind of surprised Sleep scheduled more shows, as there didn’t really seem to be any love lost between Al Cisneros and Matt Pike on stage when they played Brooklyn last year — it ruled, was certainly better than whatever else I might have been doing that night, but it was almost like watching two separate gigs happening at the same time where the two bands happened to be simultaneously playing different parts of the same songs — but hey, a Sleep show is a Sleep show, and I’ll be there. Inevitably this leads to the “new album?” question, but no word on that yet. Not sure how I feel about it, to be honest with you.
The PR wire has the short and sweet details:
Legendary stoner rock band Sleep has just announced a string of summer North American tour dates. On the heels of its sold out US tour run last September, the California trio will return to the stage this summer by popular demand. Live dates in NYC (June 22) and Los Angeles (June 26) will bookend an appearance at the Sled Island Music and Arts Festival in Calgary, AB on June 24, where the group will share the stage with The Dandy Warhols, Blonde Redhead, The Buzzcocks and more.
Sleep tour dates:
06/22 New York, NY Terminal 5 06/24 Calgary, AB Sled Island Festival 06/26 Los Angeles, CA The Wiltern
This is the mother of them all. Short of doing three songs in as many hours, which I could have done just as or even more easily, I don’t see how any audiObelisk Transmission could get heavier than this one. It’s just a little bit of an excuse on my part to have an easily accessible copy of Dopesmoker at all times, but with new music as well from Hypnos 69, a classic dirge from Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine and one of Boris‘ most avant garde moments, Transmission Zero Zero Nine is an absolute monster. I hope you dig it.
No need to hide the tracklist after a jump since it’s only four songs. Click the banner at the top of this post to get the file, or stream it on the player above. Here’s what we’ve got:
0:00:08 Sleep, “Dopesmoker” from Dopesmoker (Tee Pee, 2003)
There was no way I was going to make this podcast and not include this song. It’s the riff that launched a thousand clone bands, and Sleep‘s shining hour. Literally, an hour. Plenty of time to worship.
1:03:42 Hypnos 69, “The Great Work” from Legacy (Elektrohasch, 2010)
New music from these Belgian classic proggers. It’s the last cut on their new album, Legacy, and maybe their most aptly-titled song ever. Their sense of melody is second to none and the progressive elements in their approach have never shined brighter than they do here.
1:21:53 Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine, “He Who Accepts all That is Offered (Feel Bad Hit of the Winter)” from Rampton (Southern Lord, 2002)
The lineup of Lee Dorrian (Cathedral), Stephen O’Malley (SunnO)))/Khanate), Justin Greaves (Iron Monkey/now-Crippled Black Phoenix) and Greg Anderson (Goatsnake) only put out one album under this cumbersome moniker, taken from a song title on Earth‘s Earth 2. It’s a good thing. I don’t think the universe could handle a second without ripping in half.
1:51:35 Boris, “Flood” from Flood (MIDI Creative, 2000)
Is that guitar forward or backwards? Both? I doubt anyone really knows what Boris are getting up to for the entirety of this song, Boris included. I remember interviewing drummer Atsuo Mizuno a couple years back and he looked at me like my head was on backwards when I asked about it. See if you can figure it out.
Posted in Reviews on September 10th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
I know a lot’s been said about the Sleep shows at the Masonic Temple in Brooklyn (I only went to the second of the two), and honestly, apart from the obvious — “Sleep are gods” — there isn’t much to say. If forced, I’d probably pick the cover of Ozzy Osbourne‘s “Over the Mountain” as my personal highlight of the night, if only because after coming on following a projected still photo of Tony Iommi and a medley of Sabbath riffs and solos played over the P.A., I think everyone expected them to cover Black Sabbath, so doing Ozzy was a nice twist. Plus, there’s the whole “mountain” connection between the track and the classic Sleep’s Holy Mountain that was about as enjoyable as puns get.
You’ve probably heard already that they were fucking loud, and they were. I stood upstairs in the back, probably as far away from the stage (and, more to the point, the crowd) as I could get, and even still my earplugs felt futile. Even the rumbling of Al Cisneros‘ bass between the songs shook the half-wall on which I alternately leaned and sat for the two-hour show, and Matt Pike ran Marshall amps through Orange cabs that probably would have been enough on their own to blow out eardrums, never mind piping them through the Masonic Temple sound system. Had it not been so awesome, you might’ve been able to call it cruel.
They played all of Sleep’s Holy Mountain as they were reputed to be doing on this “Marijuanaut’s Return” tour, and peppered in sections of Dopesmoker, beginning the show with that album-long piece’s lumbering opening riff. Watching Cisneros and Pike play these songs was like watching B.B. King play the blues — you were seeing two people who were the absolute best at what they do doing what they were born to do. They may not like each other (Cisneros is all meditative contemplation on stage while Pike‘s energy is every bit as frenetic as it is in High on Fire even if the Sleep songs are slower), but there’s no denying the chemistry between the two players, and anyone who thinks Neurosis‘ Jason Roeder is anything less than a suitable fill-in for original drummer Chris Hakius is just wrong. In presence, hard-hitting and technique, he is easily a match for Hakius or anyone else, and the two groups’ shared Oakland roots puts Roeder probably the closest to an original member as Pike and Cisneros could come without getting someone who was actually in the band.
Brooklyn was Brooklyn, ever as was, ever shall be. I don’t even care anymore. I’d sit here and rip on flannel-clad hipsters, but who gives a shit? Sleep got back together and played shows. I’d go see that shit at a convention of Nazis with a Star of David tattooed on my forehead, I think I can put up with the Williamsburg trust-fund crowd. Plus, it was one of those gigs that brought out a whole group of friends I hadn’t seen in a while or don’t get to see all that often, so it was hardly me against the world. Once Sleep kicked into “Holy Mountain,” it was riffs, space and good times. Everything else be damned.
With the success of High on Fire and Cisneros‘ post-Sleep ritual drone outfit, Om, I can’t for the life of me imagine either of them actually wants to bring Sleep back on any kind of permanent basis, but they at least looked like they were enjoying the chance to revisit the material in front of the sold-out crowd, which is probably more than you could ask. Whether or not they continue to proceed the weedian toward Nazareth is really irrelevant at this point, I was just happy to see a killer band I never thought I would. Any other ranting about the importance of Sleep to stoner metal or the interaction between Pike, Cisneros and Roeder on stage is secondary to that, so I’ll spare it. Was a good night I look forward to remembering fondly.
Posted in Whathaveyou on June 21st, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god.
Seriously. Oh my god.
Legendary stoner rock band Sleep split in 1997 after two hugely influential albums. Members went on to form underground heroes OM and High on Fire, and more recently metal supergroup Shrinebuilder. This Fall, original members AlCisneros and MattPike will be joined by drummer Jason Roeder of Neurosis to perform the seminal Sleep’s Holy Mountain album as well as selections from Dopesmoker and more.
Sleep debuted with 1991′s Volume One album, recorded for San Francisco label Tupelo. Earache Records received the band’s next recordings in the mail as a demo. The label — impressed by Sleep‘s single-mindedness and unique vision – immediately signed the band and released the tape exactly as it was received. Record stores worldwide stocked Sleep’s Holy Mountain from November 1992 to this day.
The band then signed to London Records. Their debut album for the major took the form of one mammoth 63-minute leviathan of a track titled “Jerusalem.” The band resisted the label’s attempts at radio edits and bringing in their own engineer to remix the album in view of “marketability.” London balked at the prospect of promoting what probably still is the most extreme music ever recorded for a major label, so shelved the recording and dropped the band.
SLEEP 2010 US tour
9/03/2010 All Tomorrow’s Parties – Monticello, NY
9/07/2010 Starlight Ballroom – Philadelphia, PA
9/08/2010 Brooklyn Masonic Temple – NewYork, NY w/ Lichens
9/09/2010 Logan Square Auditorium – Chicago, IL w/ Lichens
9/10/2010 Mohawk – Austin, TX w/ Sub Oslo
9/11/2010 Roseland Theater/Music Fest NW – Portland, OR w/ Scott Kelly, YOB
9/12/2010 RegencyBallroom – SanFrancisco, CA