Deville Run the Edge in “The Knife” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Following up on a Heavy Psych Sounds reissue of their 2007 Come Heavy Sleep debut, Swedish heavy rockers Deville have a new video for the song “The Knife.” The track comes from the Malmö four-piece’s 2013 full-length, Hydra (review here), which was also their first release on Small Stone Records. As timing would have it, Deville head out on a European tour this week, having finalized the dates at the start of April, and “The Knife” makes a solid argument for showing up to see them if you happen to be in that part of the world. One doubts they’ll be playing on top of a giant guitar or that there will be huge spinning blades — probably for the best — but as Deville stand in a fine tradition of their country’s heavy rock without bowing to the retro pressures of the current scene, they only make themselves more individualized for their efforts.

Between that conceptual appeal and the actual fruit of Deville‘s songwriting, it doesn’t seem like a way to lose out. “The Knife” was among the most memorable cuts on Hydra, so whether you caught wind of the album or not last year, it’ll be worth either the refresher or the initial exposure to check it out. Rock and roll:

Deville, “The Knife” official video

Music video by Deville performing The Knife.
Taken from the album “Hydra” Small Stone Records 2013.
Directed by: Henrik Christoffersson
Filmed by: Henrik Christoffersson & Peter Tarpgaard
Edited by: Henrik Christoffersson

Europe spring tour is up! New dates added!

25/4 GER Duesseldorf-Pitcher
26/04 CH Lugano TI/STREET/ART Festival
27/04 IT Pescara-Orange Rock Cafè
28/04 IT Roma-Sinister Noise
29/04 IT Santa Croce Sull’ Arno-Rock City
30/04 IT Montecchio Maggiore-E20
01/05 IT Piacenza-Cuncertass Festival
01/05 IT Seregno-Sala Malasangre
02/05 CH St Gallen-Rumpeltum
03/05 IT Torino-Cafè Liber
04/05 FRA Lyon-Le Moko
05/05 FRA Draguignan-Bucephale
06/05 IT Padova-Sotterranei
07/05 FRA Besanqon-Les passagers du Zinc
08/05 BEL Hasselt-Carpe Diem
09/05 GER Munster-Rare Guitar
10/05 GER Berlin-Jaegerklause

Deville on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records

Heavy Psych Sounds’ Bandcamp

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Dwellers Premiere “Son of Raven” from New Album Pagan Fruit

Posted in audiObelisk on April 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Given the chance to pick a track for streaming ahead of the May 6 official release date for Dwellers‘ second album, Pagan Fruit, my mind immediately gravitated to “Son of Raven.” It’s not a raging rocker by any means, and Pagan Fruit – which follows the Salt Lake City trio’s 2011 debut, Good Morning Harakiri (review here) — has a few of those, but it’s among the record’s most memorable anyway, with guitarist/vocalist Joey Toscano (ex-Iota) howling out a psych-blues chorus that sticks relentlessly in the listener’s head, all the while he, bassist Dave Jones and drummer Zach Hatsis (both culled from SubRosa) elicit a smooth progression, dynamic and flowing naturally between open, spacious verses and the return to the infectiously moving hook, subtle keys throughout leaving a mark almost unconsciously. “Son of Raven” is the centerpiece of Pagan Fruit, and for good reason.

Setting aside the quality of the songwriting itself, which is consistent throughout the nine-track/48-minute outing, what “Son of Raven” shows even more than opener “Creature Comfort” or a cut like the later, cello-infused “Spirit of the Staircase” is the level of growth between Dwellers‘ first time out and where they are now. Having recently revisited Good Morning Harakiri on vinyl, it sets up much of the soul one finds refined on Pagan Fruit, but just in terms of the sheer confidence of the three-piece in their approach, the newer album allows them to push further into their sound and come up with something that’s more their own. “Son of Raven” is a showcase of patience. Unhurried but not still, it’s the kind of song that would be all but impossible to find on a band’s first album and even on Dwellers‘ second, it makes an impressive accomplishment and is a landmark in the tracklist, among other highlights like the hard-driving “Devoured by Lions,” which follows, and the extended finale “Call of the Hollowed Horn,” which revels in the unpretentious atmospherics the entirety of Pagan Fruit has managed to maintain.

In part, it’s the balance between that atmosphere and the sonic forcefulness of Dwellers that makes the long-player such a special, engaging listen. The band pushes the traditional boundaries of rock, psychedelia and blues, and in so doing, finds an individual place within them.

Give it a couple seconds to start, and please enjoy “Son of Raven” on the player below:

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

Pagan Fruit was recorded by Andy Patterson at The Boars Nest in Salt Lake City, mixed by Eric Hoegemeyer in Brooklyn and mastered by Chris Gooseman in Michigan. Cover art is by Adrian Brouchy of Coven Illustración, and the album will be released on May 6 through Small Stone. More info at the links.

Dwellers on Thee Facebooks

Pagan Fruit at Small Stone’s Bandcamp

Small Stone Records

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Mike Cummings of Backwoods Payback

Posted in Questionnaire on April 17th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

My understanding is that if you’re in a heavy band and you’ve made your way through West Chester, Pennsylvania, on an East Coast tour, you’ve probably either stayed at Mike Cummings‘ house or played with his band, Backwoods Payback. As the frontman of the underappreciated and hard-driving foursome, Cummings presents an indomitable personality on stage and off, but is given to backing that up with a thoughtful approach in his lyrics as well as in writings apart from the band. A book of poetry, Confessions of a Lackluster Performer, was published in 2009, and aside from the self-deprecating title, it showed Cummings able to work in textures beyond those of his songcraft, though it seems to be that side of his creativity that most exerts itself. Backwoods Payback made their debut on Small Stone with 2011′s Momantha (review here) and subsequently issued a live EP in 2012 and a studio EP, In the Ditch (streamed here), earlier in 2014.

In addition, Cummings embarked on his first solo acoustic tour last fall (review here), and the release of his full-length solo debut, Get Low, is expected April 19.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Michael Rudolph Cummings

How did you come to do what you do?

I’ve always written in some form or another, since as early as I can remember. Music just seemed to be the next extension of that. It just happened.

Describe your first musical memory.

I had a little portable record player in a blue canvas-colored suitcase. I’m sure there was one in most households with a kid my age (or maybe not, the more I think about it). The movie E.T. had just come out and my mom gave me the Neil Diamond “Heartlight” single. I played that for hours at a time, over and over.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

It changes all the time. Whenever I finish a recording or write a new song, that’s the high I’m always chasing. I just finished my first solo record. Listening back to the tape in the room and forgetting how we even made this thing that was being played back to me…that’s my best memory at the moment.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

Every day something I believe in is tested.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

I can’t even begin to try and imagine where it leads. I just follow it wherever it wants to take me.

How do you define success?

Doing the best I can at whatever it is that I am doing and knowing that I gave it all I had.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

Everything I have seen makes me who I am today. Nothing… Some things are just harder to handle than others.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

I have so much to do still, books to write, songs to sing, pictures to draw. It’s such a strange trip when it happens. I can’t sit and force it. It’s like a wave, and I have to ride it out when it comes.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

Waking up tomorrow.

Michael Rudolph Cummings, “Ranch Song” from Get Low (2014)

Mike Cummings on Thee Facebooks

Mike Cummings on Bandcamp

Backwoods Payback on Thee Facebooks

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Gozu Head to Europe; Tour Starts this Weekend

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 7th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

This week, Boston’s own Gozu fly to Europe to begin a tour that will carry them for the next two weeks from Roadburn to the Desertfest in Berlin. It’s an enviable trip with what’s sure to be extra-righteous beginning and endpoints, and though it will have only been about half a month since I last watched them play, I consider Gozu among my gotta-see Roadburn bands. Why? Because everybody brings it toRoadburn. Tired? Jetlegged? Whatever the circumstances are, if you’re ever gonna kill, you’re gonna kill there. I’m looking forward to it.

Dates and whatnots follow, as dictated by the PR wire:

GOZU: Massachusetts Riff Rockers To Embark Upon First-Ever European Tour; The Fury Of A Patient Man Limited Edition Vinyl Out Now

Massachusetts hellions, GOZU, will take their riffs overseas next week for their first-ever European takeover! Set to begin at the legendary Roadburn Festival, the band will wage a full-on volume ambush through ten select locales in the Netherlands, Germany, Slovenia and Italy, concluding with a performance at Desertfest in Berlin.

GOZU will be touting the fruit of their The Fury Of A Patient Man full-length released last Spring via Small Stone. The self-produced ten track monster earned widespread praise for its Chris Cornellian vocal swells and robust, heavy rock swagger.

A special deluxe edition of The Fury Of A Patient Man was recently released via Small Stone in celebration of the upcoming European journey. Limited to 500 copies, the 2XLP set comes on 180-gram wax with a wide spine jacket, poly-lined sleeve, and two colors – LP one is “clear green” while LP two is “solid purple.” Sides one, two and three feature tracks from the original album, while side four offers up exclusive vinyl-only numbers with one original tune (“Break You”) and GOZUed renditions of Simply Red’s “Holding Back The Years” and D’Angelo’s “Shit, Damn, Motherfucker.”

GOZU Spring Tour 2014:
4/12/2014 Roadburn – Tilburg, NL
4/13/2014 Hafenklang – Hamburg, DE
4/15/2014 Feierwerk – Munich, DE
4/16/2014 Channel Zero – Ljubiljana, SI
4/17/2014 Magnolia – Milano, IT
4/18/2014 E20 Underground – Montecchio, IT
4/19/2014 TBA
4/20/2014 TBA
4/22/2014 Das Bette – Frankfurt, DE
4/23/2014 Musicon – Den Haag, NL
4/24/2014 The Underground – Cologne, DE
4/25/2014 Astra Kulturhaus Desertfest – Berlin, DE

Order the vinyl edition of The Fury Of A Patient Man at THIS LOCATION.

http://www.facebook.com/GOZU666
http://www.smallstone.com

Gozu, The Fury of a Patient Man (2013)

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Deville Announce European Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 4th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

After a gig-heavy 2013, hard-rocking Swedish crowdpleasers Deville are getting set to head out on another European tour in support of 2013′s Hydra (review here). The four-piece also reportedly have a video in the works for “The Knife” from that album — it’ll be their second behind “Lava,” which you can see below — and in December, they issued a re-recorded version of their 2007 Buzzville Records debut, Come Heavy Sleep, through Italian imprint Heavy Psych Sounds.

Good to stay busy, I’m told. The PR wire has tour dates:

Deville, European Spring Tour

Deville will hit the road again and these are the spring dates for Europe!

April25 2014 Dusseldorf,Germany-Pitcher
April26 2014 Lugano,Switzerland-TI/STREET/ART Festival
April27 2014 Pescara,Italy-Orange Rock Cafè
April28 2014 Roma,Italy-Sinister Noise funeral mantra
April29 2014 Santa Croce Sull’ Arno,Italy-Rock City
April30 2014 Montecchio Maggiore,Italy-E20
May12014 Piacenza,Italy-Cuncertass Festival
May2 2014 St Gallen,Switzerland-Rumpeltum
May3 2014 Torino,Italy-Cafè Liber
May5 2014 Draguignan,France-Bucephale
May6 2014 Padova,Italy-Sotterranei
May7 2014 Besanqon,France-Les passagers du Zinc
May8 2014 Hasselt,Belgium-Carpe Diem
May9 2014 Munster;Germany-Rare Guitar
May10 2014 Berlin,Germany-Jaegerklause

http://www.facebook.com/devilleband
http://soundcloud.com/devilleband
http://www.deville.nu
http://smallstone.com/
http://heavypsychsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com/

Deville, “Lava” official video

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On Wax: Dwellers, Good Morning Harakiri

Posted in On Wax on April 4th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

I think when Salt Lake City trio Dwellers released their 2011 debut, Good Morning Harakiri, I was still too enamored of guitarist/vocalist Joey Toscano‘s previous outfit, Iota, to fully appreciate it on its own level. Iota‘s 2008 full-length, Tales, presented a masterful and forward looking blend of Hawkwindian psychedelics and Kyuss-style stoner rockery, and though I enjoyed Good Morning Harakiri (review here) thoroughly at the time and have only grown to dig the band more since, its unrepentant bluesiness — made a vital element thanks in no small part to the swinging rhythm section of bassist Dave Jones and drummer Zach Hatsis (both of SubRosa) — fit oddly with the context of what I was expecting. I was thrown off by it and had to right my assumptions before I could really dig in.

Listening to Small Stone‘s LP edition of Good Morning Harakiri — limited to 500 copies and pressed either in cyan/red swirl (as mine is), black or transparent purple 180g vinyl — I have no such momentary hesitation, thanks both to the time I’ve already spent listening to Dwellers‘ debut and time spent with its forthcoming follow-up, Pagan Fruit (review pending), due out May 6. Particularly in light of the sophomore outing coming up, Good Morning Harakiri seems ripe for a revisit, and the vinyl version provides a perfect excuse, its six tracks rearranged from the CD such that what was the fourth track, “Ode to Inversion Layer,” is repositioned as the opener and the relatively brief “Lightening Ritual” moves up to end side A, leaving side B to the combined sprawl of “Vulture” and “Old Honey,” both of which hover around the 10-minute mark.

That change makes sense practically — there’s only so much room on a given side — and sonically. “Ode to Inversion Layer” unfolds more gradually than did “Secret Revival,” the former opener and here the second cut, setting the listener up to expect a more languid roll than the swaying tension of “Secret Revival” might have, with no sacrifice of hook from one to the other. As it is on the platter, “Ode to Inversion Layer” draws you in and “Secret Revival” provides a smack to the face, Hatsis slamming hard on his crash in the chorus while Toscano – who seems apprehensive in his vocal approach as compared to the new album; this is shown largely in where he sits in the mix in one compared to the other — drawls out a resonant chorus, slowing fluidly in its midsection to smooth the shift into “Blackbird,” which worked well on CD also, his vocals a far back swirl of echo amid the weighted fuzz of his guitar and rumble of Jones‘ bass.

A dead stop precedes “Black Bird”‘s arrival, but the changeover is easy nonetheless, and of the tracklisting shuffles between the CD and LP editions of Good Morning Harakiri, putting “Black Bird” and “Lightening Ritual” next to each other gives the album a midsection comprising its strongest hooks, the stomp of “Black Bird” and the blown-out intensity of “Lightening Ritual” playing exceedingly well together. And when it comes to “Vulture” and “Old Honey” on side B, 20 solid minutes of Dwellers jamming out supernova blues is not a proposition with which I’m about to argue. Seated together, “Vulture” and “Old Honey” offer more than simple long-form indulgences, the former making deft rhythmic turns into a newly-paved groove that runs a highway right through the wandering nighttime desert ritualism of the latter. I don’t have to pick a favorite from between them, so I won’t. Better just to enjoy them back to back as what makes for half an album more immersive than most full-lengths.

As Dwellers come more into their own in 2014 with Pagan Fruit, I’m glad to have the chance to give Good Morning Harakiri another spin and appreciate some of what seemed like unevenness at the time for the progressivism it actually represents. One can only hope the second album holds up so well three years later.

Dwellers, Good Morning Harakiri (2011)

Dwellers on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records on Bandcamp

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Live Review: Small Stone Boston Showcase with Mellow Bravo, Wo Fat, Lo-Pan, Gozu, Roadsaw and Neon Warship, 03.28.14

Posted in Reviews on March 31st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

I’ve had some pretty landmark good times at Small Stone showcases over the last 10 or so years. Some of them — admittedly, the more recent ones — I’ve even remembered. The last one in Massachusetts was 2012 at Radio in Somerville (review here) was a monster, and as my first time in the upstairs room at the Middle East in Cambridge, I can’t imagine a more fitting occasion. A six-band bill with a shared love of riffs and a record label in common, it was a front-to-back night of volume, distortion, and groove, and from Neon Warship through Roadsaw, Gozu, Lo-Pan, Wo Fat and Mellow Bravo, there was no letup. No moment when you’d want to go outside and smoke or get some air. No moment when the place to be wasn’t in front of the stage.

That’s rare enough when three acts are playing, let alone twice as many. The same lineup minus Mellow Bravo and plus Geezer would play the next night at St. Vitus bar in Brooklyn, but as I had family coming north Saturday and zero dollars for gas, this was my fix. Parking in Cambridge on a Friday night is a singular joy between what’s campus housing for this or that elite-perpetuation factory and other sundry restrictions, but I found a spot and made it into the Middle East well enough in advance of Neon Warship starting off the night. Here’s how it went down from there:

Neon Warship


Of all the acts who’d take stage Friday night, Neon Warship were the most recent addition to the label’s roster. Picked up late in 2013, the Dayton, Ohio, three-piece gave a taste of Small Stone to come with their steady rolling riffs and the post-The Sword vocal stylings of guitarist Kevin Schindel, who when he hit into his higher register made up for some of Freedom Hawk‘s absence from the bill. It was my first exposure to them live, though their 2013 self-titled debut had made an impression, and though they’ve been a band for three years, they came across initially as still getting their feet under them on stage. They were well received by what was rightly a friendly crowd, however, and flourished as their set progressed, getting more comfortable as they went on. It was short sets for everybody, however, so just as Neon Warship were hitting their stride, they were also wrapping up. I doubt it’ll be my last encounter with them, and I’d be interested to see them go longer and have more of a chance to engage the audience. They seemed to be headed in that direction.

Roadsaw

I knew when I left the house that it was going to be an evening of top-notch guitar work. What I didn’t realize was that Ian Ross of Roadsaw was going to meet the quota on his own. Don’t get me wrong — situated as early headliners no doubt to bring in the local crowd early and get them drinking; a nefarious plot that worked wonders — all of Roadsaw was on fire, including new drummer Kyle Rasmussen (Phantom Glue) who recently came aboard to replace Jeremy Hemond for reasons yet undisclosed, but Ross seemed particularly to rise to the occasion that the night presented, and whether he was tearing ass through “The Finger” from 2001′s Rawk ‘n’ Roll or leading the way through the undulating stonerism of “Black Flower,” if it wasn’t the best I’ve ever seen him play, it was certainly close. They finished out with two from their 2011 self-titled (review here) — which at this point is begging for a follow-up — “Long in the Tooth” and “Weight in Gold,” and were nothing if not in headliner form, frontman Craig Riggs sharing a mic with bassist Tim Catz after swinging his enough to dislodge its cable and all four bringing their still-too-short set to a monstrously noisy finish. Sometimes earplugs just don’t matter.

Gozu

Never say never in rock and roll, but at least for the time being this night marked the end of Gozu‘s three-guitar experiment. Lead player Jeff Fultz, who’d pull double-duty with Mellow Bravo, is reportedly on the move out of the area, so there goes that. And while his farewell with Mellow Bravo would be drunker/more emotional later on — he’d been in Mellow Bravo five years, a few months playing with Gozu — it was nonetheless a stellar sendoff. For me, they seemed to affirm the potential for Gozu as a five-piece they showed when I saw this lineup make its debut at the Great Scott back in January (review here), songs like “Irish Dart Fight” and “Meth Cowboy” benefiting both from the extra heft and and still nascent dynamic between Fultz and Doug Sherman‘s soloing. Guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney brought his own edge via a Gretsch hollow-body guitar — I don’t play, but if I had the money to spend I’d buy one just to look at it — and Joe Grotto, his foot up on the monitor, was duly animated holding down the low end, while still-relatively-new drummer Mike Hubbard made himself comfortable in the slower, more swinging terrain of “Alone,” the closer from 2010′s Locust Season (review hereand a rare enough inclusion in the set that I don’t think I’d ever seen them play it before. Certainly not since 2013′s The Fury of a Patient Man (review here) was released, anyway. They didn’t get to “Meat Charger,” but “Ghost Wipe” had been a raucous enough opener that all was well. They’re ready to hit Europe next month.

Lo-Pan

Oh, it had been too long. Too long. Not quite a year since they headlined the third Eye of the Stoned Goat fest in Brooklyn (review here), but still, that’s too long to go without seeing Lo-Pan. They played a set comprised almost entirely of new material, songs from the fourth album, Colossus, they’re recording with Andrew Schneider in Brooklyn this week, some I’d heard — “Colossus,” “The Duke” — others that were completely new. Hearing a runthrough of something once live is no way to judge how it will sound on record, but as guitarist Brian Fristoe nestled into the open, winding grooves of his own riffs backed by bassist Scott Thompson and drummer Jesse Bartz while vocalist Jeff Martin soul-man crooned behind, Lo-Pan sounded like Lo-Pan, and yes, I mean that as a compliment. It means the Ohio four-piece have established their sound and know what sides of what they do they want to develop and they’ve set to the work of that. I pulled my earplugs about halfway out for “El Dorado” from 2011′s Salvador (review here), but even the stuff I hadn’t heard before was easy to appreciate. As the hardest-touring band on Small Stone, Lo-Pan lack nothing for presence on stage, and though I almost got cracked in the head by Thompson‘s bass once or twice and when the night was over, I’m pretty sure it was Bartz‘s crash cymbal ringing in my ears, they silver-plattered a reminder of how vital an act they are. It would be premature to say their best days are ahead of them since Colossus is just now in progress, but they showed the room at the Middle East that anything’s possible, even topping Salvador.

Wo Fat


Getting to see Texas trio Wo Fat play a packed room was one of the highlights of my Roadburn 2013 (review here), and with their second Small Stone outing (fifth overall), The Conjuring, on the way, brief as it was, their set was no less enjoyable here. At the same time they’re probably the best advertisement for Texan tourism I can think of, it’s probably also a good thing they’re from so far away, otherwise I’d probably wind up saying something like, “Oh, it’s only 10 hours. That’s not too far to drive to see Wo Fat again.” The TSA had rifled through guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump‘s gear, so they had to set everything up from scratch before they got going, but once they did, it was a weekend’s worth of fuzz condensed and served in a three-song can. Bassist Tim Wilson was dug in deep for “The Conjuring,” which took hold following a noisy transition from “Nameless Cults” from their 2013 Cyclopean Riffs split LP with Egypt (review here) and in turn shifted via jam into “Sleep of the Black Lotus” from 2012′s The Black Code (review here), the whole set coming across as one consistent riff and fuzz fest, grounded by the plod of drummer Michael Walter. Wo Fat are masters of getting the most out of a slow stoner groove and pushing it into or out of a faster rush (“The Conjuring” does this really well), and the swamp-voodoo lyrical themes they’ve paired with their Fu Manchu-worthy tonality fits perfectly. They don’t have Lo-Pan‘s road experience, but like their Ohio compatriots, Wo Fat clearly know what works in their approach. They wrapped up with a big rock finish — no other way to do it, really — and suddenly the night seemed too short…

Mellow Bravo

…But the fact of the matter is when you want to round out a party in Boston, Mellow Bravo are the way to go. As noted, it was guitarist Jeff Fultz‘s last show with the band, and they were in top form to say goodbye. Irrepressibly outspoken frontman Keith Pierce warned the audience that they were going long in his honor, and while the local six-piece left the room thoroughly entertained — aside from borrowing my camera to take a house-lights-up shot of the crowd, I also saw Pierce at the bar at one point, and he finished the set in the audience — it was readily apparent that for them this was more than just another show or even a label showcase. For Pierce, keyboardist/vocalist Jess Collins, guitarist Andrew Doherty, bassist/vocalist Seager Tennis and drummer Dave Jarvis, they were losing a bandmate and a friend and paying him bittersweet tribute. That’s how it felt watching, anyhow. I’ve seen Mellow Bravo a few times at this point, as well as Collins and Pierce in their acoustic side-project, Tastefulnudes (live review here), and while this was hardly the tightest, crispest set I’ve watched from them, they gave the night a suitable finale, more or less starting an afterparty while they were still playing. To say the very least of it, it was worth sticking around for.

Other bands had started to pack up, but there was still a good deal of milling about, drinking, band-bonding, etc. going on. It was just hitting two in the morning, which had the bar in get-the-fuck-out mode, so I hiked the several blocks back to my car made my way home, more than a little bummed to know what I’d be missing the next night in Brooklyn but feeling fortunate to have been able to see the show I did.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

Read more »

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Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus to Release Spirit Knife April

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 28th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

As the old idiom goes, the world’s all yours when you’re a young band with a funny name. I’ve said it before, but it’s worth reiterating that Sweden’s Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus are one to watch out for this year. After reissuing their prior outing, Bloom, on Small Stone late last year, the four-piece will debut proper on the label with Spirit Knife next month. They’ve also got European touring throughout April and May booked to mark the occasion, so one way or another, they’ll be around. The track “Wind Seized” from Spirit Knife is available to stream now and gives a pretty solid example of their spaced-out approach to writing songs that get stuck in your head almost without your realizing it.

The PR wire wants to be your friend. Won’t you open your heart?

JEREMY IRONS & THE RATGANG MALIBUS: Swedish Psychedelic Space Rockers To Release New Full-Length Via Small Stone This April

According to ancient lore, and cult of the antediluvian pagan deity, Ginsu the Magnificently Pointy, a Spirit Knife consists of a bone blade bonded to the souls of the Mud People. He or she that defended oneself or took the life of an enemy with the Spirit Knife became magically bonded to the blade and, thus, the only person who could touch or wield it in future battle. Spirit Knife is also the title of the new album by JEREMY IRON & THE RATGANG MALIBUS – aka JIRM – and we have it on good authority that every musical warrior brave and proud enough to wield it upon release this April through Small Stone Recordings will find him or herself spiritually and eternally bound to its preternatural musical goodness – just like the Mud People of yore.

Imagine, if you will, Jeff Buckley jamming with Can, and you’ll have a fair gist of the fantastic voyage that awaits the armies of the Spirit Knife; an album that finds JIRM rekindling their time-traveling communion with vintage psychedelia and Krautrock, while expanding on the sonic palette revealed by the ensemble’s past full-lengths, Elefanta and Bloom.

Once again, but more powerfully than ever before, JIRM, deliver imposing passages of torrential guitars that rattle and roll, shimmy and soar with oceanic reverb and sweaty rock and roll, partnering with thrumming keys and mesmerizing Motorik drums to incite cyclical hypnosis for protracted song-suites,ever teetering between tight instrumental control and loose vibes to achieve optimal tantric tension and release through music.

All this from a group founded in 2004, in the town of Eskilstuna, Sweden, before relocating to Stockholm three years later, where and whence vocalist/guitarist Karl Apelmo, guitarist Micke Pettersson, bassist Viktor Källgren and drummer Henke Persson have since produced the aforementioned two albums and, now, the impending Spirit Knife.

Elaborates Pettersson, “The result of Spirit Knife is, by its lion’s share, an overgrown and large album where the quartet certainly isn’t making any further compromising of the epic.”

Spirit Knife was recorded at Puch Studios in Stockholm, Sweden, mixed by Viktor Källgren, produced by the JIRM collective and mastered by Chris Goosman (Early Man, Sasquatch, Dixie Witch, Solace et al) at Baseline Audio Labs in Ann Arbor, Michigan and features the striking cover art of Sebastian Thomsson.

Spirit Knife Track Listing:
1. Fog by the Steep
2. Wind Seized
3. Sworn Collision
4. Once Levitated
5. Clang
6. Deep Hardened Woods
7. Point Growth
8. Spirit Knife

So remember the legends of the ancients as you file into record stores (or wherever it is people get their music in these modern, troubled and godless times) to pick up your copy of Spirit Knife – on CD, digital formats, or just maybe some crazy colored LP version that could happen down the line – and shout “Hail to the Mud People!” They knew how to rock out with their bad pre-historic selves.

Spirit Knife will be released via Small Stone Records on April 29th, 2014. Preorder your copy today at THIS LOCATION where you can also check out second track, “Wind Seized.”

http://www.facebook.com/JeremyIronsandtheRatgangMalibus
http://www.smallstone.com
http://www.facebook.com/smallstonerecords

Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus, “Wind Seized” from Spirit Knife (2014)

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Scott Hamilton of Small Stone Records

Posted in Questionnaire on March 25th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

This coming weekend, Detroit’s Small Stone Records hosts two label showcases on the East Coast. The first takes place Friday night at the Middle East in Boston and the second is Saturday at Brooklyn’s St. Vitus bar (info on both here). With Gozu and Freedom Hawk and Wo Fat headed overseas and new releases to come in 2014 from Dwellers, Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus, Greenleaf, Wo Fat and Lo-Pan, it’s arguable that Small Stone has never had as much of an impact as it’s having now. A foray into the vinyl market seems to have paid off, and with acquisitions from across the pond like France’s The Socks, Italy’s Isaak and Portugal’s Miss Lava, the imprint’s reach only seems to be growing.

In 2015, Small Stone marks 20 years since its inception. It has succeeded against odds, trends and, frankly, logic, thanks to the vigilance and keen ear of its founder and owner, Scott Hamilton, who also plays guitar in the prog/psych rock outfit Luder. As a curator, Hamilton‘s ear is second to none, and his passion for searching out the underground’s best has led to landmark heavy rock from the likes of Dixie Witch, Sasquatch, Dozer, Los Natas, Halfway to Gone, Roadsaw, Acid King and many more. I sometimes feel like a nerd for covering as much Small Stone stuff as I do, but it’s inevitable. There’s no getting around the quality of the work being fostered by Hamilton‘s steady hand.

So I’ll probably keep going with it.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Scott Hamilton

How did you come to do what you do?

I have been obsessed with music for my entire life (both as a fan and as musician), so I am pretty sure that obsession led me into what I do now. I knew in my high school and college years that I wanted to do music in some form for a career (plus you had the added bonus of not needing cut your hair or work in a stuffy office environment), but I had no clue or connections to point myself in the proper direction to make it a reality. After many an odd job in the early ’90s at various music related gigs (playing in bands and working at record stores, radio stations, major record labels, etc.), I discovered that I both wanted and needed to start a record label. Small Stone was born out of this.

Describe your first musical memory.

This is easy…  It was my Dad blasting Jimi Hendrix, The Stones, James Brown and Santana in the house on his very vintage hi-fi system. I think by the time I was three, I was actually spinning the records from his collection myself, and mostly likely ruining a few of them in the process… Shortly thereafter, discovering bands like KISS and Aerosmith also have had a very lasting effect on me too.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

There are too many… so I will list my top five:

1. Seeing The Cult in 1985 on the Love Tour when I was a Junior in High School. To this day, one of the best concerts I have ever been too.

2. Playing in my first band in high school was awesome, even if it was the ’80s. It was great discovering that thing my bandmates and I used to call “the buzz.” The buzz is when you and your fellow musicians all lock in, everything clicks, and you go on this crazy spiritual high where the hair on the back of your neck stands up. It is was  and is the ultimate feeling that every musician and music fan is always looking for. I sometimes get it with my current band Luder when we are rehearsing and working on new material from time to time.

3. Purchasing my first KISS album… It was KISS Alive, by the way. My mother still says that KISS ruined my life.

4. About eight years ago when I had shitty day job for Live Nation, I got to stand behind Joe Perry’s rig for the majority of the concert, and that was a big deal for me… It also helped that setlist was 95 percent pre-’80s Aerosmith, and for as lame as the band is now, they were fantastic on that evening.

5. Jane’s Addiction… I must have seen them 10 times between 1988 and 1991, and that band had the magic, and also gave that “buzz” I was talking about.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

I think that this happens on a monthly basis. It is just part of living, growing, and moving forward. It is usually not a fun experience, either…

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

I think it leads to greatness down the line for any individual that is creating something, be it music, art, whatever. A creative person will always feel the need to keep exploring and learning new things to better sharpen their skill sets. If I had more time, I would spend it writing riffs and melodies, and improve on any and all basic skills when it comes to a guitar, but I have limited time to do that since I have a family and a business that must come first. With that said, I am always humming something in my head, and I will sneak off to the basement for about 30 minutes per day when I can to make some music.

How do you define success?

To me, success means that I get to do what I want for a vocation versus wearing a suit at some soul-sucking corporate job. In that sense, I have great success. But on the other hand it would be nice to break a band on the roster and help get them to a level of a band like Clutch. But that has not happened as of yet, so I just keep on keeping on until I obtain that level of success in the future.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

In 1989 I was driving on the freeway about 20 miles west of Hartford, CT (on my way back to MSU from a Summer working on Nantucket). This convertible Corvette cam flying past me, and seconds later it somehow rear-ended the pickup truck in front of me. The Vette flew up in the air, flipped over the pickup and landed on on the freeway with his roof facing down — but the convertible top was down. The Vette driver was killed, blood, brains, and flesh all over the freeway. That vision has stuck with me ever since.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

I would love to be involved in creating a timeless album — a classic if you will. Something that has the staying power of Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Led Zep IV, etc., and more realistically, I would love to create a very large swimming pool in my backyard.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

70 degree days.

Small Stone Records on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records website

Luder, Adelphophagia (2013)

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Lo-Pan to Start Recording Next Month; Touring Starts March 20

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 10th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

The three years since Lo-Pan released their landmark third album, Salvador (review here), have gone quick, but more importantly, they’ve gone. Ohio’s heavy fuzz four-piece have done no shortage of touring since that record came out (also before), but the time has come for them to get back in the studio, which they’re slated to do next month to record what’s already been dubbed Colossus for a release later this year on Small Stone. True to form, they’re hitting the road for one last go beforehand, turning the two nights of Small Stone‘s Boston and Brooklyn showcases into a 10-date run to honor their newfound alliance with Tone Deaf Touring.

They’re partnered with Whores for that stint, which starts on March 20, and expect more on the release of Colossus in the months to come. Until then:

LO-PAN: Ohio Riff Rock Perpetrators Enter Studio Next Month; Band Unites With Tone Deaf Touring – Live Takeovers Announced

Ohio riff rock perpetrators LO-PAN, will enter Translator Audio in Brooklyn, New York next month to record their forthcoming new full-length for amplification station, Small Stone Recordings. Titled Colossus, the offering will be mixed and mastered by Andrew Schneider (Unsane, The Brought Low, Keelhaul) with art direction by Jason Alexander Byers (Black Black Black, Disengage). A Fall release is expected.

In related news, LO-PAN recently joined forces with the roadburning heavyweights at Tone Deaf Touring (Corrosion Of Conformity, Weedeater, ASG) and will embark upon a short stint of live abrasions later this month alongside manic noiserockers, Whores. The ten-date motorcade will include two special Small Stone Showcases in Cambridge and Brooklyn. The following month, the band will join reunited iconic stoner rock sorcerers, Spirit Caravan, and the wicked doom bringers in Pilgrim for a performance in Columbus with additional bouts of onstage debauchery to be announced in the coming months.

LO-PAN Spring Takeover 2014:
3/20/2014 The Cactus Club – Milwaukee, WI w/ Whores
3/21/2014 Cobra Lounge – Chicago, IL w/ Whores
3/22/2014 Ruby’s – Columbus, OH Ruby’s w/ Fuck You Pay Me, White Wolves
3/23/2014 Grog Shop – Cleveland, OH w/ Whores, Fuck You Pay Me
3/24/2014 The Union – Athens, OH w/ Whores, Horseburner
3/25/2014 Brillobox – Pittsburgh, PA w/ Whores
3/26/2014 The Depot – York, PA w/ Neon Warship, Black Cowgirl, Witch Hazel
3/27/2014 The M Room – Philadelphia, PA w/ Neon Warship, Skeleton Hands
3/28/2014 Small Stone Showcase @ Middle East – Cambridge, MA w/ Roadsaw, Mellow Bravo, Gozu, Neon Warship
3/29/2014 Small Stone Showcase @ Saint Vitus – Brooklyn, NY w/ Wo Fat, Lo-Pan, Roadsaw, Neon Warship, Geezer
4/09/2014 Skully’s – Columbus, OH w/ Spirit Caravan, Pilgrim
4/17/2014 Pinned 4 – Columbus, OH w/ Neon Warship, Ride To Ruin, Beggers

Check out the revamped lopandemic.com website for show updates, new merch and other LO-PAN-centric awesomeness.

http://lopandemic.com
http://smallstone.com

Lo-Pan, “Colossus” Live in Portland, OR, Dec. 15, 2012

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Gozu Announce European Dates; Indiegogo Campaign Launched

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 7th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Gozu have a busy spring planned, between the Small Stone showcases later this month in Boston and Brooklyn and their inaugural European tour, which includes slots at Roadburn and Desertfest in Berlin. Couple that with a vinyl release for 2013′s stellar The Fury of a Patient Man (review here) which includes no fewer than three bonus tracks, and it’s a hell of a lot for the Boston four-piece to take on. To help with expenses, they’ve started an Indiegogo campaign to allow supporters to, well, support them as they make their way across the capital-C continent. There are a smattering of cool rewards as well, up to and including spending time in the studio as they record their next album (sounds good to me), signed vinyl, a guitar lesson from Doug Sherman and more.

Check it all out here: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/gozu-european-tour-2014

Guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney smooth-talks his way into hearts and wallets alike in the video below, and if the style of the following PR wire info on the tour looks familiar, it’s because I wrote it.

Have at you:

GOZU Announce European Touring; Confirmed for Roadburn & Desertfest Berlin

The Fury of a Patient Man Vinyl Release Coming

Boston’s GOZU will be making their first trip to Europe this Spring, supporting their 2013 Small Stone release, The Fury of a Patient Man. The four-piece, who recently added drummer Mike Hubbard (ex-Warhorse) to their lineup, are slated to appear at April 12 at Roadburn 2014 in Tilburg, the Netherlands, and at Desertfest Berlin on April 15.

To mark the occasion(s), the band will release a limited 2LP edition of The Fury of a Patient Man through Small Stone and Germany’s Cargo Records, with 500 copies pressed and vinyl-exclusive tracks, including covers of Simple Red and D’Angelo. The LPs will be 180g vinyl and should be out in March.

Before they head overseas, GOZU will play two Small Stone showcases in Cambridge and Brooklyn, joining labelmates Roadsaw, Lo-Pan, Wo Fat, Neon Warship and others at The Middle East and the Saint Vitus Bar on March 28 and 29, respectively. All confirmed dates follow:

GOZU Tour Dates:
03/28 Cambridge, MA, The Middle East w/ Mellow Bravo, Wo Fat, Lo-Pan, Roadsaw, Neon Warship
03/29 Brooklyn, NY, Saint Vitus Bar w/ Wo Fat, Lo-Pan, Roadsaw, Neon Warship, Geezer
04/12 Tilburg, Netherlands, 013, Roadburn Festival
04/13 Hamburg, Germany, Hafenklang
04/14 Germany, TBA
04/15 Munich, Germany, Feierwerk
04/16 Ljubiljana, Slovenia, Channel Zero
04/17 Milano, Italy, TBA
04/18 Montecchio, Italy, E20 Underground
04/19 Italy, TBA
04/20 CH, TBA
04/22 Frankfurt, Germany, Das Bett
04/23 Germany, TBA
04/24 Cologne, Germany, Underground
04/25 Berlin, Germany, Astra Kulturhaus, Desertfest 2014

GOZU lineup:
Marc Gaffney: vocals/guitar
Joe Grotto: bass
Mike Hubbard: drums
Doug Sherman: guitar

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/gozu-european-tour-2014
https://www.facebook.com/GOZU666
http://gozu.bandcamp.com/
http://www.last.fm/music/Gozu
http://www.reverbnation.com/gozu666
http://www.smallstone.com/
http://smallstone.bandcamp.com/

Gozu Indiegogo Campaign Video

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Freedom Hawk Confirm European Touring in April

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 25th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Centered around their slot at Roadburn on April 10, Virginian dual-guitar fuzz rockers Freedom Hawk will embark April 5 on a stint that will also take them through Germany, Belgium and France over the course of a week of shows. The four-piece have been working on a follow-up to 2011’s Small Stone debut, Holding On (review here), and with new material expected in their set, their next full-length is due to be recorded over the summer for an early-2015 release.

The PR wire has the particulars:

Small Stone Records and Eclipse Productions Presents: Freedom Hawk (USA) European Tour including Roadburn Festival appearance

In April of 2014, the band known as Freedom Hawk will swoop into Europe complete with their shredding heavy riffs, rolling groove and soulful guitar melodies wrapped in metal packaging. They will be performing at a short run of club shows in Germany, Belgium, France, and Netherlands including an appearance at Roadburn in Tilburg, Netherlands. After tearing up SXSW last year, many showcase events and club shows in the U.S., this unsuspecting and highly underrated group is honored to be invited to the highly coveted Roadburn festival and will be ready to embrace European fans of heavy rock with open talons.

Hailing from the barrier dunes of Virginia, this quartet’s brand of heavy, dark stoner rock fueled by the sun coupled with a high energy live show, leaves many scratching their heads wondering if they’ve stepped through a time warp that has taken them to rock’s heyday of the 70’s. With their latest release ‘Holding On’ coursing through the night air for several years now , the album has had time to embed in the minds of many and grow on others to be regarded as a must have in any music collection.

You surely will not want to miss their live show that will be sure to include one or two unreleased new tunes feathered into the set list to test out on the European audience much like the one titled “Blood Red Sky” that has been exposed to the US audiences. Unfortunately for Europe, Freedom Hawk will need to get back to their creative home nest to continue working on their new full-length album set with the band to record in late summer. The new album is anticipated to be released to the masses via Small Stone Records in late 2014/early 2015 in hopes to please the need of the faithful and newcomers alike.

From the casual rock’n'roller to the rebellious riff-rastler, none of which will be put out to past, it’s guaranteed these new tunes will want to be heard on full blast. In the meantime, do yourself a favor and go get their latest album, Holding On, on CD or your usual digital providers like iTunes, Amazon, etc. and if you’re lucky 180g Vinyl on the bands merch table or at your local record store as they are sold out via Small Stone Records. Regardless, their latest album is sure to please in any format! Let’s Rawk!

Freedom Hawk Tour Dates:

April 5 Siegen, Germany VORTEX
April 6 Antwerp, Belgium AMC
April 7 Paris, France Le Glazart
April 8 Dusseldorf, Germany The Pitcher
April 9 Berlin, Germany Jagerklause
April 10 Tilburg, Netherlands **Roadburn Festival
April 11 Wurzburg, Germany Immerhin
April 12 Munster, Germany RARE Guitar

New Merch available on-line now and on the merch table.

freedomhawk.bandcamp.com/merch
www.freedomhawk.net
www.smallstone.com
www.facebook.com/freedomhawkmusic
www.twitter.com/freedomhawkband
www.instagram.com/freedomhawkband
smallstone.bandcamp.com/album/holding-on

Freedom Hawk, Live at the Jewish Mother (2913)

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Friday Full-Length: Puny Human, Universal Freak Out

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 15th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Puny Human, Universal Freak Out (2007)

Man, I don’t care who you were on that stage, if it’s a personality contest, Jim Starace was gonna win it. One of the best local rock shows I ever caught in NYC (and one I saw a couple times) was Puny Human around the time Universal Freak Out came out in 2007 with Solace at Ace of Clubs in Manhattan. That was the tail end of shows in Manhattan, I guess, but they were so right on. Heavy, a good time, phenomenal songs. Their earlier two records on Small Stone (lots of Small Stone around here these days, but I figured I’d roll with it to close the week), 2001′s Revenge is Easy and 2003′s It’s Not the Heat, it’s the Humanity, probably get most of the love. It was those albums that had the band opening for Clutch. But I thought Universal Freak Out was such a boot to the ass of an NYC scene that was just starting to take itself way too seriously, and from “Wake up Williamsburg” to “Number of the Beauty” to “Twin Fever,” it remains in my eyes a record that doesn’t have nearly enough worshipers to its credit.

Starace — who was joined in Puny Human on Universal Freak Out by brothers Josh (bass) and Jason (guitar) Diamond as well as drummer/backing vocalist John Bongiorno replacing Iann Robinson, who played on the first two full-lengths — passed away late in 2012, and while the album was already something special in my eyes, it’s since become all the more precious, from the “oh, frickin’ yeah” in “The Real Johnny Charm,” which also boasts a Danko Jones guest appearance, to the sheer cleverness running through “Planting My Impatience” and the hooks that run across all its tracks. It’s a close to perfect heavy rock record. Very New York, which is probably why the rest of the galaxy didn’t fall at its feet — that and as I recall they weren’t doing much in the way of touring by then — but a collection of songs that really tapped into something special in East Coast riffing and a singular sense of humor and presence that unfortunately Starace took with him.

It’s strange to me to think of something just seven years ago as a bygone age, but to look at the “NYC scene” now — first of all, there isn’t one, it’s the Brooklyn scene — it really is a completely different generation. Where have you gone, Atomic Number 76? Brooklyn’s not bad though, just new. More varied, if anything. Anyway, I loved this Puny Human record when it came out and I still do. Hope you do too.

Last night, I drove down to New Jersey in a snowstorm. It was hellish. Tonight I drove back to Massachusetts in cold but otherwise far more preferable climate conditions. Tomorrow The Patient Mrs. has family coming to celebrate her birthday, which was this week. They’re bringing the kids and staying over to Sunday. I do not expect much in the way of sleep. Add to that the six-plus inches of snow we’re supposed to be getting starting at noon tomorrow and yeah. I’m not expecting a restful couple of days. Doesn’t matter, I have work to do anyway.

Next Friday, I fly out of JFK Airport — yup, another trip south in less than a week’s time; if you’re not familiar with the Eastern Seaboard, it’s four hours each way in the car — to join Kings Destroy on their tour with Pentagram and Radio Moscow. I am unreasonably excited for the trip. I will have my camera and my laptop and a number of charging utilities to try and keep it all up and running and I will update as much as I am able on the shows and the travel. I expect to have some time and that by the end of the week, all the members of Kings Destroy will be very tired of listening to me type. Apologies in advance, gents.

Much to do before I go. Monday, a full stream of the new Backwoods Payback EP. Tuesday, a track premiere from Million Dollar Fix. Wednesday… well, it’s Wino Wednesday, isn’t it? That’s an event unto itself. Thursday brings a video premiere from The Graviators and then whoosh, I’m out. I’d like to try to sneak a review or two in there and a new podcast as well, but frankly I’ve got I lot of ducks to get in a row for job-type work, so I expect to be somewhat pressed for time. You know whatever I can do I’m going to try to get done.

We’re getting on two in the morning and I don’t know if anyone is going to see this so late anyway, but if you do, I hope you check out the Puny Human and dig it and I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Wo Fat to Release The Conjuring June 17; Artwork and Details Revealed

Posted in Visual Evidence on February 12th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Today I have the extreme pleasure of premiering the artwork for Wo Fat‘s forthcoming fifth album, The Conjuring. Set for release on June 17 through Small Stone – though from what I hear it’ll be available at the merch table on the Dallas trio’s upcoming European tour — the cover art to The Conjuring arrives courtesy of none other than Alexander von Wieding, who has outdone himself in capturing the album’s brooding and dark psychedelia. Von Wieding did the cover as well for 2012′s The Black Code (review here), and of course counts Karma to Burn, his own Larman ClamorBlack ThaiManilla Road and many others among his clientele. Samples of his work are available at his website.

Click the image below for a more detailed look, and just for kicks, I’ve also included the Wo Fat bio for The Conjuring, which I wrote:

Wo Fat – The Conjuring Bio

You can wade through as many press quotes about “Texas-sized” as you want or see how many top-whatever lists Wo Fat have made since the Dallas trio got started in 2003, but none of that is going to be the same as staring down their swampadelic fuzz groove for yourself. If you want to know the monster, shake its hand.

In 2014, Wo Fat will release The Conjuring, their fifth full-length and second through Small Stone. Like their last two, 2012’s The Black Code and 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra, it’s a heavy-riff/heavy-jam blast of a time – the kind of record that turns the vaguely interested into converts and that makes the corners on squares look even sharper. Guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer/backing vocalist Michael Walter are jazz-combo tight and their roll is easy and natural, like you remember Fu Manchu being, but bigger-sounding and in the case of The Conjuring, darker as well.

There’s been a creature lurking in the woods since Wo Fat’s 2006 debut, The Gathering Dark – their second album, 2009’s Psychedelonaut, pulled back on the threat some to lighten the mood – but whether it’s the motor-driven rush of “Read the Omens” or the you’re-already-lost-in-it riff-exploration of 17-minute closer “Dreamwalker,” The Conjuring is indeed a backwoods ritual. Bluesmen have sold their souls for less.

Veterans of Roadburn, slated for Freak Valley 2014 and self-sufficient with Stump handling the recording at the band’s own Crystal Clear Sound in Dallas, Wo Fat push their jams farther than they’ve ever gone before on these five tracks. Topped off with a mastering job from Nolan Brett at their studio and an otherworldly cover courtesy of Alexander Von Wieding, the beast that Wo Fat’s tectonic riffage calls to earth has never seemed more real or more alive than it does on The Conjuring.

The Conjuring tracklisting:
1. The Conjuring
2. Read the Omens
3. Pale Rider from the Ice
4. Beggar’s Bargain
5. Dreamwalker

Wo Fat:
Kent Stump: Guitar/vocals
Tim Wilson: Bass
Michael Walter: Drums/backing vocals

https://www.facebook.com/wofatriffage
http://wofat.net/
http://smallstone.com/
http://smallstone.bandcamp.com/

Wo Fat, “Nameless Cults” from Cyclopean Riffs split with Egypt (2013)

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Ben Smith of The Brought Low

Posted in Questionnaire on February 10th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

If The Brought Low are on stage, you can safely bet that you’re going to have a good time. With thickened blues-via-punk grooves from bassist Bob Russell and drummer Nick Heller and a touch of twang in the vocal delivery of guitarist Ben Smith, the NYC trio’s songs present a character to heavy rock that no one else captures in quite the same way. At this point, experience is a factor. 2014 marks 15 years of The Brought Low, which formed in 1999 after the dissolution of Smith and Heller‘s prior outfit, the hardcore band Sweet Diesel. Their first, self-titled album was released on Tee Pee in 2001, and it would be half a decade before the follow-up, Right on Time, surfaced through Small Stone. Their aptly-titled 2010 Third Record (review here) was very much that, literally as well as figuratively in terms of expanding their range of influence and solidifying the progression of their first two outings. It delved further into blues and sad country, but still held firm to its rock and roll roots, ultra-memorable songs like “The Kelly Rose” and “Old Century” positioning The Brought Low as a band out of time even as they were utterly in their element being so.

Northeast regional shows have always been The Brought Low‘s trade, but they get out from time to time if the occasion suits, as SXSW has a couple times. Their latest release, an EP through Coextinction Recordings (stream here), arrived in 2011 and the band continues to work on their next full-length, while Smith and Heller step aside as well for periodic reunion gigs with Sweet Diesel.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Benjamin Howard Smith

How did you come to do what you do?

I was very lucky to have been born into a big, artistic, musical family. My father wrote plays, my mother wrote novels, my sister sang in the church choir and my brothers played in rock bands. Playing music and being creative wasn’t an act of rebellion for me. It was something I was expected to do, like, “When are you going to learn how to play an instrument?” My brother taking me to see The Who movie The Kids Are Alright is what made me want to play guitar though it took a couple stops and starts before I really made the effort to learn how to play. A friend once said to me, “You love music so much you should really learn how to play,” which made a lot sense.

Describe your first musical memory.

When I was two years old my family did a house exchange and spent the summer in North London. Upstairs there was a record player and a stack of 45s including “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones, or as I called it, “GET NO!,” which I made my siblings play over and over and over and over and over and over…

Describe your best musical memory to date.

As a musician? As a music fan? As a human being? So many. You know, the first thing that comes to mind is Christmas morning, 1980, coming down and seeing a row of records propped up on one corner, like diamonds, across the living room couch. It was The Clash, London Calling, and Ramones, Rocket To Russia, and probably something by Led Zeppelin and Rush as well. The smell of new records and getting a paper cut under your thumbnail opening them and looking at the packaging and reading the lyrics and discovering all this new music. It’s still one of the greatest joys in life and still happens to this day. Well, you know, the discovering new music part, not the diamond LP display. Though that would be awesome too.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

Nothing comes immediately to mind though I think all your beliefs should be tested and examined and questioned. Otherwise it’s not a belief; it’s just something you were taught and arbitrarily decided you agreed with. Or maybe that is belief. I’ve had lots of beliefs since I was born. Some of these beliefs I still follow to this day. Others I have examined and decided I no longer agreed with. I don’t know. What’s with the serious questions, man?!?! Shouldn’t we be talking about Les Pauls and Black Sabbath already?

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Death. No, just kidding. For argument’s sake you could say AC/DC and Motörhead and plenty of folk and blues artists have had little use for it and it hasn’t seemed to hurt them any. By the same token, other musicians constantly evolve and change and push themselves. Both instincts can lead to great music. Also, if you play music for any amount of time you will, generally speaking, evolve and progress as a player. For myself, I am certainly a different person and musician than I was when I started out in bands.

How do you define success?

I’ve always felt as long as I could find someone who wants to put out my records, I have succeeded. I actually see some money now thanks to some of our songs being licensed to TV shows but in the end it’s a nominal amount and not enough to live on let alone support a family. I feel extremely blessed though for all the good fortune I’ve had as a musician. I have many talented friends who have not had the opportunities I have. Music has helped me see the country and even some other countries. Music is how I met my wife. Music is how I’ve made the majority of my friends over the last 20 years including some people whose records I used to buy. How cool is that? I have friends who are in more successful bands, some who actually make a living as a musician. Some of them are in bands with people they hate and are watching their children grow up on their iPads. I have always played in bands with my best friends and have had the joy of watching my daughter grow up first hand. Success is relative. Ultimately the success I’m most concerned with is the artistic achievement. Greatness is always the goal.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

Nothing. I’m glad I have seen everything I have, good and bad, beautiful and ugly. All of it is part of me and is something I have learned from or lived through, even if it was disturbing or upsetting. That said, I’m not a homicide detective or a combat soldier and the things I have seen in my life don’t compare to what people see who live in worlds where death and violence are a constant presence.

I will say, I lived in Manhattan on September 11th and stepped onto 5thAve., which looked down at the World Trade Center, moments after Tower One fell and I am glad I didn’t see that with my own two eyes. Also, I truly detest the sight of another human’s feces. So anytime I stepped into a bathroom and saw another person’s shit, I wish I hadn’t seen that.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

A soul album. Like Stax, Muscle Shoals-style Southern soul. With horns and ballads and backup singers, the whole nine. And guitar solos. If I had infinite time and resources I’d be in about 10 different bands playing 10 different styles of music.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

All of it. The seasons, life, watching my daughter grow up, taking on new challenges. I am pretty cynical by nature and generally pessimistic about humanity but let’s be real, we all, all of us here in America and in the world where we can read stoner rock music blogs on our computers live lives of tremendous ease and good fortune. Life is good. Yes, we sometimes have personal struggles, financial, physical or otherwise, but really, compared to so many in the world, we have so much. I am very thankful for all the good fortune I have had in my life; having a great family, growing up in the greatest city in the world, having the best friends a guy could ever want. Whatever happens next, I’m down.

The Brought Low, Third Record (2011)

The Brought Low on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records

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