Whatever your political affiliation, I think it’s safe to say at the very least that the middle of the last decade was an interesting time to be an American. Still reeling from post-9/11 paranoia about terrorism, the country having split into vehement factions either for or against going to war in Iraq (for all the good it did, either the war or the protests leading up to it), George W. Bush‘s reelection in 2004 — things seemed to be tripping over themselves to fall apart. But you know, you had to go buy an iPod or the terrorists won.
Through all this mass psychosis and jingoistic fuckery, The Hidden Hand released their second album in 2004′s Mother Teacher Destroyer. In my opinion, it’s the strongest of the Wino-led trio’s three albums — striking a balance between 2003′s punkish Divine Propaganda and 2007′s more progressive The Resurrection of Whiskey Foote — but more to the point, it’s a solid and concise chronicle of the sentiments in both the public conscious and unconscious. Together with bassist Bruce Falkinburg and drummer Dave Hennessy, Wino made some of the most explicit social commentary of his career.
To wit, the third song on the album, “Desensitized.” At six and a half minutes, it was the longest track on Mother Teacher Destroyer, and while other songs delved into Zeppelin-style epic themes and tales of battles lost and won, “Desensitized” and “Travesty as Usual” stood in the tradition of protest songs, each driving riff serving as another mark of resistance. The lyrics echoed this sentiment as well:
Sad times are here today all around Strange vibes here to stay to bring us down For the people they don’t care Pushing all into despair
No, it can’t be true It couldn’t happen to you Hey, it must be clear They’ll try to keep us in fear
Disinformation is the tool Media controlled, divide and rule Anxious minds their questions lead To the structure of deceit
No, it won’t be true Don’t let it happen to you Hey, it must be clear They’ll never keep us in fear
Note that the last chorus ends in a hopeful tone, but there’s something too in the verses that seems to know the size of the struggle being engaged. Wino‘s always had a socially conscious side to his songwriting, but that was never quite so prevalent as in The Hidden Hand, and they were nothing if not timely in their arrival.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 22nd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
You’d have to figure that in order to be Earth‘s longest tour since the band got together in 1990, it would have something like 137 dates scheduled. Nope, 25. Still a solid month on the road though, so kudos to the band for pushing themselves 22 years later to go farther and continue exploring new ground, sonic and geographic.
Aligned with the likes of Eagle Twin, Stebmo and The Body along the way, it’s kind of like a tour of Earth playing with acts influenced by Earth. Can’t imagine that’s anything new for them at this point.
They’re still out supporting Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II(review here), and the shows start this week, so keep an eye out:
EARTH Prepare For American Fall Tour
Following bursts of worldwide touring in support of their two-part Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light album series, Seattle’s EARTH will embark on their newest tour this week, with a nearly month of live performances confirmed across America.
The most extensive American tour EARTH have planned since their 1990 inception, the Seattle purveyors of the slow-motion riff will traverse the country and back on a twenty-five date run, kicking off this Wednesday, October 24th in Portland, Oregon. Along the way the quartet will take part in the massive annual Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin, Texas alongside literally dozens of international artists of all genres. This will be the first U.S. tour since they hit the road in support of Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I in 2011, the band’s set for the tour confirmed to contain a majority of the material from Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II.
While the band is touring in support of the Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light albums, the EARTH lineup for this voyage will be the touring lineup from the band’s lauded 2008 LP The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull, comprised of Steve Moore on keys and trombone, Don McGreevy on bass, Adrienne Davies on drums and founder Dylan Carlson on guitar. Support will be provided by Stebmo (featuring members of Earth and more) as well as Southern Lord labelmates Eagle Twin and Fontanelle throughout the journey.
EARTH Fall Tour: 10/24/2012 Rotture – Portland, OR w/ Fontanelle, Stebmo 10/26/2012 Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock – Los Angeles, CA w/ Fontanelle, Stebmo 10/28/2012 Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA w/ Fontanelle, Stebmo 10/29/2012 Soda Bar – San Diego, CA w/ Stebmo 10/31/2012 Rhythm Room – Phoenix, AZ w/ Balmorehea, Stebmo 11/02/2012 Auditorium Shores – Austin, TX @ Fun Fun Fun Festival 11/03/2012 Bryan Street Tavern – Dallas, TX w/ Stebmo 11/04/2012 One Eyed Jacks – New Orleans, LA w/ Stebmo 11/06/2012 Will’s Pub – Orlando, FL w/ Stebmo 11/07/2012 The Earl – Atlanta, GA w/ Daughn Gibson, Stebmo 11/08/2012 Grey Eagle – Asheville, NC w/ Stebmo 11/09/2012 Rock and Roll Hotel – Washington, DC w/ Eagle Twin, Stebmo 11/10/2012 Littlefield – Brooklyn, NY w/ Eagle Twin, Stebmo 11/11/2012 TT the Bears – Cambridge, MA w/ Eagle Twin, Stebmo 11/12/2012 Johnny Brenda’s – Philadelphia, PA w/ Eagle Twin, Stebmo 11/13/2012 Altar Bar – Pittsburgh, PA w/ Eagle Twin, Stebmo 11/14/2012 Grog Shop – Cleveland, OH w/ Eagle Twin, Stebmo 11/15/2012 Taft Ballroom – Cincinnati, OH w/ Eagle Twin, Stebmo 11/16/2012 Township – Chicago, IL w/ Eagle Twin, Stebmo 11/17/2012 Township – Chicago, IL w/ Eagle Twin, Stebmo 11/18/2012 Triple Rock Social Club – Minneapolis, MN w/ Eagle Twin, Stebmo 11/19/2012 The Record Bar – Kansas City, MO w/ Eagle Twin, Stebmo 11/21/2012 Marquis Theatre, Denver, CO w/ Stebmo 11/24/2012 The Shakedown – Bellhingham, WA w/ The Body, Low Hums 11/25/2012 The Crocodile – Seattle, WA w/ The Body, Stebmo
We’re more than halfway through 2012, and we’ve already seen great releases from the likes of Orange Goblin, Pallbearer, Conan, C.O.C., Saint Vitus and many others, but there’s still a long way to go. The forecast for the next five months? Busy.
In my eternal and inevitably doomed quest to keep up, I’ve compiled a list of 13 still-to-come releases not to miss before the year ends. Some of this information is confirmed — as confirmed as these things ever are, anyway — either by label or band announcements, and some of it is a little bit vaguer in terms of the actual dates, but all this stuff is slated to be out before 2013 hits. That was basically my only criteria for inclusion.
And of course before I start the list, you should know two things: The ordering is dubious, since it’s not like I can judge the quality of an album before I’ve heard it, just my anticipation, and that this is barely the beginning of everything that will be released before the end of 2012. The tip of the fastly-melting iceberg, as it were. If past is prologue, there’s a ton of shit I don’t even know about that (hopefully) you’ll clue me into in the comments.
Nonetheless, let’s have some fun:
1. Colour Haze, She Said(Sept./Oct.)
I know, I know, this one’s been a really, really long time coming. Like two years. Like so long that Colour Haze had to go back and remake the album because of some terrible technical thing that I don’t even know what happened but it doesn’t matter anymore. Notice came down yesterday from guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek that the recording is done and the long-awaited She Saidis on the way to be pressed on vinyl and CD. Got my fingers crossed for no more snags.
2. Enslaved, RIITIIR (Sept. 28)
The progressive Norwegian black metallers have put out 10 albums before it, and would you believe RIITIIRis the first Enslaved album that’s a palindrome? Kind of cheating to include it on this list, because I’ve heard it, but I’ve been through the record 10-plus times and I still feel like I just barely have a grasp on where they’re headed with it, so I think it’ll be really interesting to see what kind of response it gets upon release. Herbrand Larsen kills it all over these songs though, I will say that.
3. Mos Generator, Nomads(Oct. 23)
Hard for me not to be stoked on the prospect of the first new Mos Generator album since 2007, especially looking at that cover, which RippleMusic unveiled on Tuesday when it announced the Oct. 23 release date. It’s pretty grim looking, and even though Mos once put out a record called The Late Great Planet Earth, I’ve never thought of them as being particularly dark or doomed. I look forward to hearing what Tony Reed (Stone Axe, HeavyPink) has up his sleeve for this collection, and if he’s looking to slow down and doom out a bit here, that’s cool too. I’ll take it either way.
4. Ufomammut, Oro – Opus Alter(Sept.)
No, that’s not the cover of Oro – Opus Alter, the second half of Italian space doom grand masters Ufomammut‘s Oro collection — the first being Opus Primum (review here), which served as their Neurot Recordings debut earlier this year. That cover hasn’t been released yet, so I grabbed a promo pic to stand in. I’m really looking forward to this album, though I hope they don’t go the Earth, Angels of Darkness Demons of Lightroute and wind up with two records that, while really good, essentially serve the same purpose. I’ve got my hopes high they can outdo themselves once again.
5. Witchcraft, Legend(Sept. 21)
I guess after their success with Graveyard, Nuclear Blast decided to binge a bit on ’70s loyalist doom, signing Witchcraft and even more recently, Orchid. Can’t fault them that. It’s been half a decade since Witchcraft released The Alchemist and in their absence, doom has caught on in a big way to their methods. With a new lineup around him, will Magnus Pelander continue his divergence into classic progressive rock, or return to the Pentagram-style roots of Witchcraft‘s earliest work? Should be exciting to find out.
6. Wo Fat, The Black Code(Nov.)
After having the chance to hear some rough mixes of Texas fuzzers Wo Fat‘s Small Stone debut, The Black Code, I’m all the more stoked to encounter the finished product, and glad to see the band join the ranks of Lo-Pan, Freedom Hawk and Gozu in heralding the next wave of American fuzz. Wo Fat‘s 2011 third outing, Noche del Chupacabra (review here), greatly expanded the jammed feel in their approach, and I get the sense they’re just beginning to find where they want to end up within that balance.
7. Blood of the Sun, Burning on the Wings of Desire(Late 2012)
As if the glittering logo and booby-lady cover art weren’t enough to grab attention, Blood of the Sun‘s first album for Listenable Records (fourth overall) is sure to garner some extra notice because the band is led by drummer/vocalist Henry Vasquez, better known over the past couple years as the basher for Saint Vitus. Whatever pedigree the band has assumed through that, though, their modern take on classic ’70s heavy has a charm all its own and I can’t wait to hear how Burning on the Wings of Desire pushes that forward. Or backward. Whatever. Rock and roll.
8. Swans, The Seer(Aug. 28)
This one came in the mail last week and I’ve had the chance to make my way through it only once. It’s two discs — and not by a little — and as was the case with Swans‘ 2010 comebacker, My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky(review here), the far less cumbersomely titled The Seeris loaded with guest contributions. Even Jarboe shows up this time around, doing that breathy panting thing she does. Unnerving and challenging as ever, Swans continue to be a litmus for how far experimentalism can go. 3o years on, that’s pretty impressive in itself.
9. Swallow the Sun, Emerald Forest and the Blackbird(Sept. 4)
Apparently the Finnish melo-doom collective’s fifth album, Emerald Forest and the Blackbird, came out earlier this year in Europe, but it’s finally getting an American release in September, and as I’ve always dug the band’s blend of death metal and mournful melodicism, I thought I’d include it here. Like Swans, I’ve heard the Swallow the Sun once through, and it seems to play up more of the quiet, weepy side of their sound, but I look forward to getting to know it better over the coming months.
10. My Sleeping Karma, Soma (Oct. 9)
Just signed to Napalm Records and tapped to open for labelmates Monster Magnet as they tour Europe performing Spine of Godin its entirety this fall, the German four-piece are set to follow-up 2010′s Tri(review here) with Soma. Details were sketchy, of course, until about five minutes after this post initially went up, then the worldwide release dates, cover art and tracklist were revealed, so I updated. Find all that info on the forum.
11.Eagle Twin, The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale(Aug. 28)
Way back in 2009 when I interviewed Eagle Twin guitarist/vocalist Gentry Densley about the band’s Southern Lord debut, he said the band’s next outing would relate to snakes, and if the cover is anything to go by, that seems to have come to fruition on The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale, which is set to release at the end of next month. As the first album was kind of a mash of influences turned into cohesive and contemplative heavy drone, I can’t help but wonder what’s in store this time around.
12. Hooded Menace, Effigies of Evil(Sept. 11)
You know how sometimes you listen to a band and that band turns you on in their liner notes to a ton of other cool bands? I had that experience with Finnish extreme doomers Hooded Menace‘s 2010 second album, Never Cross the Dead (review here), except instead of bands it was hotties of ’70s horror cinema. Needless to say, I anxiously await the arrival of their third record and Relapse debut, Effigies of Evil. Someone needs to start a label and call it Hammer Productions just to sign this band.
13. Yawning Man, New Album (Soon)
Make no mistake. The prospect of a new Yawning Man album would arrive much higher on this list if I was more convinced it was going to come together in time for a 2012 release. As it is, Scrit on the forum has had a steady stream of updates since May about the record — the latest news being that it’s going to be a double album — and Scrit‘s in the know, so I’ll take his word. One thing we do know for sure is that the band in the picture above is not the current Yawning Man lineup. Alfredo Hernandez and Mario Lalli out, Greg Saenz and Billy Cordell in. Bummer about the tumult, but as long as it’s Gary Arce‘s ethereal guitar noodling, I’m hooked one way or another.
Since we closed with rampant speculation, let me not forget that somewhere out there is the looming specter of a new Neurosis album, which the sooner it gets here, the better. Perhaps also a new Clutch full-length, though I doubt that’ll materialize before 2013. And that’s a different list entirely.
Thanks for reading. Anything I forgot or anything you’d like to add to the list, leave a comment.
Posted in Features on June 1st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Last weekend, reinvigorated New York doomers Winter played the Maryland Deathfest. This weekend, they’re at Chaos in Tejas in Austin. Over the course of the last year-plus, they’ve taken part in the Southern Lord-driven Power of the Riff festival and they played the main stage at SunnO)))‘s curated day at Roadburn 2011. They’ve come to be seen as a pivotal act within extreme doom — forbears of the likes of Grief and among the first American bands to incorporate the influence of Hellhammer and Celtic Frost into metal that was as heavy in tempo as it was in tone. Their influence has spread through more than one generation of acts.
Tell that to Stephen Flam, though, and you might get a laughing response like, “Eh, this generation’ll be done with Winter in probably about two years.” The guitarist and cowriter of Winter‘s only album to date, 1990′s Into Darkness (reissued by Southern Lord in 2011), is humble as regards the band’s seminal position, and — to hear him tell it — largely unaware of the contemporary genre he helped form. This interview was conducted the week of Maryland Deathfest (just a couple days after I ran into him at the Pallbearer and Loss show in Brooklyn, which also comes up in conversation), and Flam‘s tone was more curious than accomplished. At several points, he asked me, “Really?” when I spoke of the impact Winter had following their breakup. I suppose it’s debatable as to the reach of underground death-doom, but within that realm, Winter was doing what they were doing on the East Coast at a time when just about nobody had caught on yet. Naturally, that sounds great in hindsight, but at the time, nothing supports a doomly atmosphere like being almost entirely misunderstood.
As such, Flam tells stories of being flipped off by headbangers looking to mosh and finding a more open-minded base of operations in New York’s early ’90s crust and underground punk scene. His voice picks up talking about playing basements and Squat or Rot benefits for Rock Against Racism alongside bands like Nausea and Apostate. Compare that to his stories of opening for Death or Sepultura out on Long Island, and there’s little question where Winter‘s fonder memories reside. He’s not bitter about it, by any means — there was more laughter here than I noted in the transcription — but the sense of surprise he conveyed in talking about the reception Winter has had since their resurgence began was unquestionably genuine. 20 years ago, no one got it. Now they do. That’s a big change when you go from one idea of what your band was to the other.
But if Winter are at home in anything, it’s extremes. Flam, bassist/vocalist John Alman and drummer Jimmy Jackson (who played live previously and has since replaced Joe Goncalves full-time) have begun to write new material and Flam is optimistic they’ll be able to capture and expand on the same vibe as Into Darkness without repeating themselves. The guitarist spoke at some length on both the future and the past of the band. Seriously, you might wind up taking this one on in pieces, but it’s definitely recommended reading, and as Winter do interviews about as often as they put out records, I couldn’t be more thrilled to bring you the conversation in its entirety. We were on the phone for about 50 minutes, and Flam being a native New Yorker, that translated to just over 7,100 words.
You’ll find the complete Q&A after the jump, and please enjoy. Thanks to Steve Murphy for his help in coordinating.
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 29th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
After hearing “Heartbreaker” recently at the Saint Vitus Bar, I broke out Goatsnake‘s first album, I, this past weekend, and it was one of those “holy shit” moments, as in, “holy shit, why don’t I listen to this record more?” I was on a pretty sizable Goatsnake kick for a while there, but like all good kicks, they kind of fell from the consciousness forefront and ‘G’ is a hard space to reach on the shelf and blah blah blah.
The point is that it’s a mistake I’m working to correct. If you need convincing to break some Goatsnake out today, here are five solid reasons you should do so:
1. Because it’s sunny or rainy or whatever.
Unlike most bands, Goatsnake can go with any kind of climactic condition. This is because they play both kinds of music: Stoner and doom.
Sunny day? You’ve got “Slippin’ the Stealth” from the first record ready to go. Rainy as shit? Their version of Sabbath‘s “Who are You?” is fittingly miserable. A band for all days, they were.
2. Because unless you’re one of 30 people, you haven’t seen this video.
Someone took it upon themselves to make an animation for the song “Raw Curtains” from 2000′s Dog Days EP. Check it out:
3. Because of Greg Anderson’s guitar tone.
This one kind of goes without saying, but seriously, when was the last time you heard a Sunn amp do that? Okay, it probably hasn’t been so long at this point, but when was the last time you heard a Sunn amp do that in 1999? They were truly ahead of their time.
4. Because Pete Stahl is a weirdo.
See also: earthlings? You could write a masters thesis on the layering and the melodies thrown into “IV” from the first record — and don’t think I haven’t wanted to — but whatever level you want to approach it on, the way Stahl rides that groove is unreal. He’s basically riff-surfing. Not to mention Guy Pinhas‘ bass line. Seriously, if you’re not listening to Goatsnake yet, try and resist this:
5. Because if we all do it, maybe they’ll tour.
I’m not going to say I want a new Goatsnake record, because I think all these dudes, including Stuart Dahlquist (Asva) who played bass on the second record, Flower of Disease, and drummer Greg Rogers (also, like Pinhas, of The Obsessed) have other stuff going on, but a couple East Coast shows would be much appreciated, like one in my back yard with the bug zapper going. Let’s try and make that happen.
Posted in Reviews on April 20th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
If the question is, “What are Pelican doing on their new four-song Ataraxia/Taraxis EP?” then the answer is, “Whatever the hell they feel like.” The Chicago instrumental foursome, now marking more than a decade of existence, have successfully interwoven post-rock atmospherics into doomed guitar crunch, and over the course of their career, helped set the stage for what we now think of as post-metal while never quite conforming wholly to the aspects of that or any other genre. Ataraxia/Taraxis finds its release through Southern Lord, and like the band’s label-debut full-length, What We all Come to Need (review here), did in 2009, the latest studio outing seems to be bent on keeping the band’s urban escapist atmospheres alive while measuring them against noisy tonal heft. It’s interesting that the title, which comes from the opening and closing tracks, respectively, would refer to first a state in which anxiety is absent, and then to the opposite – one in which it’s very much present. One might expect that to coincide sonically, the four tracks of Ataraxia/Taraxis – those being “Ataraxia,” “Lathe Biosas,” “Parasite Colony” and “Taraxis” – would also get progressively heavier or more frantic, as we move from one state to the next, but that doesn’t seem to really be the case. Although there’s no shortage of heaviness, particularly as the build of the five-minute closer comes to its head, Pelican’s flow isn’t so cut and dry as that, and listening, that’s probably to the benefit of the individual pieces themselves, as each has its own stylistic and structural agenda apart from the service it does to the 18-minute EP as a whole, beginning with the gradual arrival of “Ataraxia” and the intertwining of acoustic and electric guitars and other ambience that makes up its progression.
The inclusion of acoustics itself is notable within Pelican’s back catalog, though it’s not the first time they’ve come up, but they do seem to be more of a focal point on Ataraxia/Taraxis than they’ve ever been, and it’s enough to make me wonder if the band came into this recording thinking they were doing their version of the proverbial “unplugged” release. If that’s so, they’re still very much plugged in, whether it’s the sweet electric notes and underlying noise rumble of “Ataraxia” or the distorted riffy chug of “Lathe Biosas,” which answers the relative stillness of the preceding track with an unabashed heavy groove made all the more potent by drummer Larry Herweg’s changes between straightforward and half-time measures. The arrival of “Lathe Biosas” acts as what “Ataraxia” has been building toward – it’s the payoff, in other words – but if “Ataraxia” is an intro, it’s certainly one with a progression of its own. In any case, the guitars of Laurent Schroeder-Lebec and Trevor de Brauw carefully shift from the opening riff of “Lathe Biosas” into lead and rhythmic positions before meeting again in what serves as a sort of music-only chorus, until about halfway in, a break offers airy post-rock noodling skillfully kept grounded by bassist Bryan Herweg’s progressive maintenance of the build. The “chorus” returns, and “Lathe Biosas” reveals itself to be something of a pop song, structurally, right up to the repeated chorus and the chugging outro brought to a halt by Herweg’s punctuating snare. Where What We all Come to Need seemed to patiently revel in its atmospherics, to dwell more in its parts, Ataraxia/Taraxis moves quickly – perhaps that’s the shift that inspired the title – but there’s still a decent amount of space imbued into “Parasite Colony.”
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 2nd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
I had more or less forgotten about it until reading the bit about the snakes in the below press release, but way back in September 2009, I interviewed Gentry Densley of Eagle Twin and he spoke about some of these themes that are apparently set up to play out on the band’s forthcoming sophomore outing, The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale. Good to know this stuff has been brewing with the duo for a while.
Chalk up another one to look forward to:
Salt Lake City-based heavy rock duo Eagle Twin have completed their anticipated sophomore LP and are preparing to devastate forward-thinking riff-seekers once again in 2012.
Titled The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale, the new Eagle Twin opus picks up right where the band’s acclaimed debut LP, The Unkindness of Crows, left off. In this installment, the crows documented in the first album have battled the sun and were burned back down to earth as black snakes, the concept of the album continuing mainly on the snake and its various mythic and symbolic incarnations. Ultimately the great ancestral snake is transformed from its lowly beginnings back into a bird soaring upon the thermals. Recorded with Randall Dunn in London Bridge Studio, also as with the first album, the record boasts some of the most mesmerizing and monstrous riff transformations from Eagle Twin to date.
Eagle Twin merges the talents of guitarist GentryDensley of legendary post-hardcore/jazz icons Iceburn with the thunderous percussion of TylerSmith formerly of Form of Rocket. Following a cult split 7″ with NightTerror in 2009, Eagle Twin‘s incredibly potent and unique, multifaceted approach became apparent to the world when their debut album, The Unkindness of Crows,stormed doom and experimental music fans later that year.
Posted in Reviews on February 1st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
One would be hard pressed to overstate Earth’s legacy. The long-running and relentlessly creative Seattle drone unit led by guitarist Dylan Carlson have, over the last 20-plus years, amassed an outstanding discography of influential work – from 1993’s Earth 2, which helped solidify the grooves now inherent to riff rock, to 2005’s Hex: Or Printing in the Infernal Method, which found a reformed Earth infusing their sound with elements from Americana the ripples of which are felt today in indie rock, dark folk and alternative metal. They didn’t do it alone, but they did it. In 2011, Earth followed 2008’s jazzy and defiant The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull with Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I (review here), which moved further out of the shadow of Hex, bringing in Lori Goldston’s cello as a major focal point musically alongside Carlson’s guitar, the drums of Adrienne Davies and Karl Blau’s bass, and beginning to shift Earth’s attentions toward improvisation. The 20-minute closing title-track of that album was all improv, and with Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II (Southern Lord), Earth continue to expand on the ideas they presented in the first half, while also revealing more of the ever-changing band’s personality in this incarnation. Sonic congruencies abound – as one would expect, considering the two parts were recorded in the same sessions with Stuart Hallerman (who also helmed Earth 2) – but Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II does more than just continue the strain of its predecessor.
Goldston’s cello, again, is in a featured role, and superficially, the two Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light albums don’t vary much in mood or overall tone. Earth’s patience is just as prominent throughout the centerpiece “Waltz (A Multiplicity of Doors)” as it was on “Father Midnight” on I. The drive toward juxtaposition in track titles – songs like “Descent to the Zenith” and “Hell’s Winter” – seems to have dissipated on Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II, however, as “Sigil of Brass,” “His Teeth Did Brightly Shine” and “The Corascene Dog” are working, linguistically, in another vein. Perhaps it’s ironic or nitpicking to talk about language on an album that’s entirely instrumental, but titles and themes are an important part in how Earth sets the mood for a record or even a single track. One reads the minimalist interplay between Carlson and Blau differently as “Sigil of Brass” opens the album because of the track name. It’s also among the album’s moodiest pieces, and the shortest by nearly five minutes; the last could also lead to one seeing it as an introduction, but there’s enough substance to it to argue to the contrary as it gives way to the nine-minute “His Teeth Did Brightly Shine,” which, however “jammed” it might be – the quotes there to mark the distinction between what Earth are doing here and the usual ebb and flow of guitar-led jamming – still retains some clear compositional elements. If they’re improvising, they’re working from a base of prior construction – a starting point to get them going – and on “His Teeth Did Brightly Shine,” they’re doing so without Davies. As the song develops, that lack of clear drums can leave it feeling somewhat unhinged, but it’s hard to imagine that isn’t what Earth were going for, or at very least, that Carlson was pleased with the outcome when it was over.
No lie, this isn’t the first time I’ve come upon a Wino Wednesday and fired up the YuberToubs to look for The Hidden Hand‘s “Sons of Kings.” The song is my favorite from 2004′s Mother Teacher Destroyer and seems miles away stylistically from a lot of the post-Spirit Caravan trio’s other work, particularly the rawer, faster debut, Divine Propaganda, released just the year prior.
Looking at the record in hindsight, I have a hard time separating it from the political context surrounding. Songs like “Desensitized,” “Travesty as Usual” and “The Deprogramming of Tom Delay” are blatant social commentaries lyrically, but even “Magdalene,” which isn’t, has an air of sadness about it that seems weighted down by war and the hopelessness that seemed to pervade the American progressive thoughtscape around President Bush’s reelection. It was a fucked up time to be alive and aware of what was happening around you (though not nearly as bad for Americans as for the people we were bombing), and as much as Mother Teacher Destroyer worked in two threads and coated some of its themes in epic imagery, picture thinking of your country by the three descriptors in the title. It was kind of like that.
Maybe that made The Hidden Hand‘s sophomore outing unbalanced, but I don’t think so. Wino, bassist/vocalist Bruce Falkinburg and drummer Dave Hennessy hit on a musical flow that stayed consistent whoever was doing the writing and wherever the lyrics may have gone. It’s an underrated album in the Wino canon, and I was glad someone finally put it up for streaming so I could share it here.
It’s not the most exciting video — basically just the song playing and still photos of Scott “Wino” Weinrich and bassist Jon Blank — but I think the song speaks for itself. “Release Me” was the opening track on 2009′s Punctuated Equilibrium, which was the debut and the only release to date from the Wino band; Weinrich, Blank and Clutch‘s Jean-Paul Gaster on drums. A power trio, indeed.
I was lucky enough to see this lineup play at Roadburn in 2009, just a couple weeks before Blank died of an overdose and cast an immutable shadow over the album and the Wino band. They toured some afterwards, opening for Clutch on an American summer jaunt that found Gaster more than ably pulling double duty, but that was it after that. Wino went back on tour with Saint Vitus, did his acoustic record and worked on Premonition 13 and Shrinebuilder, and Gaster continued his never-ending road work with his main outfit.
Whether the Wino band ever does another record, the pairing of Weinrich and Gaster was something unique in the catalogs of both players. Gaster‘s popping snare added bounce to Weinrich‘s riffs, which in turn provides opportunities for stylistic exploration away from Clutch‘s well-established latter-day bluesy aesthetic. Maybe they’ll get back and do it again at some point, maybe they won’t. Either way, Punctuated Equilibrium stands out as a special moment in one of the underground’s most storied discographies, and “Release Me” is one of those songs that just feels like home.
I hope you dig it on this last Wino Wednesday of 2011. See you in the future.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 6th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’ve been waiting for this one ever since I interviewed Earth mastermind Dylan Carlson earlier this year. Though the band’s original intent had been to release two albums the same year, it’s looking currently like Feb. 14, 2012, will see the materialization of Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II. Nothing like a little drone on your Valentine’s Day.
In any case, here’s looking forward to it, and here’s (in a much more literal way) the news off the PR wire:
The second half of Seattle drone icons Earth‘s Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light is being prepared for release on SouthernLord in North America this February 14 on CD, LP and digital download formats.
Recorded in the same two week session as 2011′s lauded Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I by StuartHallerman at Avast and mastered by MellDetmer, Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II carries on in the freely and folkloric vein of the last release and invokes even more improvisational and unrestrained energy than its predecessor.
Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light II is striking in many ways, not least in the wildly improvised nature of this particular recording. The songs “Sigil of Brass” and “The Corascene Dog” perfectly emphasize how the interplay between the foursome has evolved even further since the first installment. Meanwhile, the track “His Teeth Did Brightly Shine” veers further into an entirely other direction, recalling sounds of the great British Acid Folk generation. This new material brings forth some highly original and deeply mesmerizing tones throughout, at times more hopeful and less dark and death oriented than previous work. Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light II is ultimately a completely unanticipated direction for Earth, and a very welcome one at that.
The lineup again consists of AdrienneDavies on drums and percussion (on this release there is more percussion of all sorts), LoriGoldston (Nirvana, David Byrne, Black Cat Orchestra, LauraVeirs) returns on cello, and Karl Blau (K Records, Laura Veirs, Microphones) plays bass. This also marks the first time the band on the record has toured outside of the US West Coast in preparation for the album. As with the first part, it again has truly amazing artwork by Stacey Rozich.
Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light IITrack Listing: 1. Sigil of Brass 2. His Teeth Did Brightly Shine 3. Multiplicity of Doors 4. The Corascene Dog 5. The Rakehell
Posted in Features on November 1st, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Like a lot of people, I feel safe saying one of the heaviest live shows I’ve ever seen was a Black Cobra show. Unlike a lot of people, I can say the gig took place in a shoe museum. Yup, that’s right: a shoe museum. As in a museum… for shoes. Wanna know something else? Torche played too.
I was in Los Angeles on a pseudo-business trip, and in between squandering my savings at Amoeba Records and eating the best Mexican food I’d ever had, I caught wind of Black Cobra being in town. Can’t say it was much of a surprise, since Black Cobra‘s reputation for touring so damn much is well earned and they can pretty much pop up anywhere at any time, but when I walked into the place and saw the shoes belonging to former and/or dead A-list celebrities, well yeah, it felt a little surreal.
That was 2006. Black Cobra had just released their first album, Bestial, and were really just starting to amass their cred as a live band. Since that time, they’ve put out three more records — the latest being the stellar Invernal (review here) on Southern Lord — and have come to be recognized as one of the most brutal acts in their generation of Heavy. They’re outclassed by none in terms of performance, and for being comprised solely of guitarist/vocalist Jason Landrian and drummer Rafa Martinez, their presence is staggering.
Invernal was produced by Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou in his Godcity Recording Studio in what Landrian reveals was a matter of days; even fewer than either the band or the respected engineer/mixer thought going into the project. The album is righteous in its intensity and focus, and working from Antarctic themes lyrically and musically, comprises some of the most pummeling Black Cobra material to date. To be blunt, they’ve outdone themselves, and as much as they’re known for being a live band more than a studio band, Invernal deals any such characterizations a decisive blow.
From his home in foggy San Francisco, Landrian took my call and discussed working with Ballou and what his and Martinez‘s time at Godcity was like, their upcoming tour with Kyuss Lives! and The Sword (I went right for the hard-hitting questions on that one, as you’ll see), the thematics at play with Invernal, how he and Martinez work together in the studio and on the road, and much more.
Posted in Reviews on September 29th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
They are among the upper echelon of today’s heavy live acts, but that has turned out to be the undoing of each successive full-length from near-nomadic Los Angeles duo Black Cobra: The inability to stand up to the high standard set by the live show. And since Black Cobra have also spent a goodly portion of the last six years on the road, there has been less need to focus on the records, because, hell, those songs are going to be better live anyway. With Invernal, their fourth LP — second for Southern Lord behind 2009’s Chronomega – Black Cobra reach new heights of recorded intensity. A song like “Erebus Dawn” sees guitarist/vocalist Jason Landrian and drummer Rafael Martinez in complete mastery of their complex and tonally thickened thrash. Invernal is the kind of album for which hyperbolic exclamations of the word “insane” were made. It refines chaos into a laser-accurate attack and puts Black Cobra at the forefront of their class of risen riffers. It makes the last High on Fire album seem tired. I’m pretty sure if you asked it, it would bake you a pie. But even with all the über-effective bombast, tonal righteousness and clear growth from Chronomega and anything else that’s preceded in their discography, I’m not sure if Invernal stands up to what Black Cobra do live.
The difference between Invernal and everything else Black Cobra have done – and it’s a big difference – is I’m not sure it’s trying to. More than anything they’re released to date, Invernal finds Landrian and Martinez a mature studio act. They’re not just trying to compress their live show to disc, they’re making an album, and ultimately, that’s a huge part of what makes Invernal succeed as one of the best releases in 2011. The recording job of Converge’s Kurt Ballou does effectively balance their overwhelming crest with an appropriate amount of clarity (not too clean, but clean enough to appreciate), but even more than that, the principle change seems to have been in the overall goal and mindset of the recording. One can appreciate the album on its own terms and then look forward to the experience of witnessing the material live. There’s less pining involved, and I think that has to be thanks in part to the songs themselves. My chief complaint with Black Cobra from a songwriting standpoint has always been that the material doesn’t stand up to the experience of it – that is, you hear a Black Cobra song, feel like you’ve been punched in the face with awesome, and don’t remember a thing afterwards. Invernal changes that as well, with twists and turns and a genuine progression from track to track, beginning with opener “Avalanche,” on which Landrian approaches an Al Jourgensen-style verse vocal with both confidence and a sense of individuality.
His vocal shift – there are plenty of screams on “Avalanche” and elsewhere, so it’s not like he’s gone completely clean – is a natural progression from the last album and rightfully prominent where it needs to be in Ballou’s mix. The focus remains on the overall effect of the music, and Landrian’s chemistry with Martinez is palpable in how they interact on guitar and drums. As “Avalanche” transitions immediately into “Somnae Tenebrae” – the shortest song but for closer “Obliteration” – the band’s added focus on structure is made apparent: They wanted to start off pummeling, and their opening salvo does precisely that. “Somnae Tenebrae” isn’t Invernal’s most memorable track, but it does successfully convey Black Cobra’s “holy shit that’s heavy” live presence and offer some thrashing groove in its latter half. When it crashes, it gives a couple seconds for listeners to catch their breath, which is the perfect way to set up album highlight, “Corrosion Fields.” The interplay between the tracks feels more thought out than ever, if that hasn’t yet been made clear, but when “Corrosion Fields” kicks in following some sparse playing from Landrian and periodic crashes from Martinez, the focus is less on stepping back and examining the moves Black Cobra are making and more on “How do I make this as loud as possible as quickly as possible?”
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 26th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Jeebus loves me, this I know — because Kyuss Lives! is coming to Jersey in December and they’re bringing Black Cobra with them. I’ve only been to the Wellmont Theatre once, to see Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull (ruled), but I’ll be god damned if there’s anywhere else on the planet I’m headed when Dec. 10 rolls around.
And while I don’t want to say the cosmos added Black Cobra to these dates and brought Kyuss Lives! back to the East Coast specifically as a favor to me, I think we all know the score. Here’s the total rundown courtesy of the PR wire:
The previously-announced second leg of the KyussLives! North American tour dates this November, featuring Black Cobra and TheSword in support, has just expanded to include five brand additional dates including LosAngeles at the beginning of the tour, and four new East Coast shows at the end of the tour (Baltimore, MD, NewHaven, CT, Huntington, NY, Montclair, NJ).
Black Cobra w/ Kyuss Lives!, The Sword: 11/17 House of Blues San Diego, CA 11/18 Wiltern Theatre Los Angeles, CA ** 11/19 The Regency Ballroom San Francisco, CA 11/21 Roseland Theatre Portland, OR w/ YOB 11/22 Showbox SODO Seattle, WA w/ YOB 11/23 Commodore Ballroom Vancouver, BC 11/26 Flames Central Calgary, AB 11/27 Edmonton Event Centre Edmonton, AB 11/29 Garrick Centre Winnipeg, MB 11/30 First Avenue Minneapolis, MN 12/01 Turner Ballroom Milwaukee, WI 12/02 Vic Theatre Chicago, IL 12/03 Crofoot Ballroom Pontiac, MI 12/05 The Palace Theater Greensburg, PA 12/06 Town Ballroom Buffalo, NY 12/07 Ram’s Head Live Baltimore, MD ** 12/08 Toad’s Place New Haven, CT ** 12/09 The Paramount Huntington, NY ** 12/10 Wellmont Theatre Montclair, NJ ** [** = newly announced tour date]
Some things to note in the Weedeater clip above: First and foremost, that room looks to be about the size of my office. Second, they come out to the theme song from Sanford and Son. Third, there’s a bottle of Robitussin taped to the side of “Dixie” Dave Collins‘ amp with a straw sticking out of it that he drinks from at several intervals, including as they transition from “God Luck and Good Speed” to “Wizard Fight,” when he chases it with what I assume is whiskey.
Another reason I decided to go with Weedeater was because earlier today I did a phone interview with artist Joe Wardwell. Wardwell‘s paintings draw a lot from heavy rock and doom for inspiration and a gallery show he has going on in NYC through October is titled “Untied We Stand” — a line taken from “God Luck and Good Speed” — so the song’s been in my head. I’ll hopefully have that Q&A posted in the next week or two. In the meantime, you can check out Wardwell‘s work here. It rules and the interview was great as well. Dude loves his Boris, loves his Sabbath, loves his Melvins. Right on.
Given all that, I couldn’t possibly have chosen anything else to close out the week — not to mention Weedeater‘s earth-swallowing volume or tonal weight, which is suiting me perfectly on this tired-as-hell Friday afternoon. The reason I’m signing off early (usually I’d wait to cap another ultra-exciting couch-bound Friday night with a post, but it’s about 4PM now) is because I’m heading out in a bit to make my way down to Philadelphia, again, for the start of the Small Stone showcase, which kicks off tonight at The M-Room. I don’t want to miss Infernal Overdrive, and I think they’re opening, so I need to haul ass a bit.
Thanks to everyone for checking in this week. It was crazy on this end, between the Brooklyn show and Kyuss Lives! Wednesday night, and it isn’t over yet. I’ll be in Philly the next two nights, then back to Jersey Sunday to do school work. Next week it starts all over. I do hope to get some more album reviews posted next week, but I’ll be checking out Akris at the Cake Shop in Manhattan on Tuesday, and I hope to get my massive interview with Rwake frontman CT posted, so we’ll see what there’s time for. In the meantime, keep your ears posted for a Windhand stream that’s coming Thursday and hopefully another that I can’t quite reveal just yet in case it falls through.
Some news for The Maple Forum coming soon as well, it looks like.
So big stuff yet to come. Not sure yet how I’m going to handle posting from/about the showcase, but if you check in over the weekend, you might find some stuff on it up.
Either way, great and safe couple days. See you on the forum and back here for more shortly.