The first time I saw Black Cobra was in a Manhattan basement club called Lit Lounge at a show I put together in 2005, and it was a genuine “Oh shit” moment. The duo of guitarist/vocalist Jason Landrian (ex-Cavity) and drummer Rafa Martinez (who was also still part-time bassist for Acid King at that point) were among the rawest and meanest heavy bands I’d ever come across. Later that year, I’d catch them in a shoe museum in Los Angeles with Torche and to this day it remains one of the heaviest shows I can (barely) remember. Their debut album, Bestial, was released on At a Loss in 2006, and the band relocated from the East Coast to San Francisco, though really, for several years they were nomadic, never seeming to stay too long off the road between tours, hand-delivering punishment to an increasingly devout audience. Southern Lord picked them up for 2007′s Feather and Stone full-length, and their run continued at a gallop as fierce as their own thrashing riffs. 2009′s Chronomega followed and 2011′s Invernal (review here) brought a conceptual edge to their approach, taking the Polar explorations of British researcher Ernest Shackleton to dark and monstrous places, thematically and sonically.
They remain a force on the road, having just completed a week-long West Coast run with Weedeater after having made a stop in Miami to share the stage with Holly Hunt and Shroud Eater in December and another right after the New Year to play Brooklyn’s St. Vitus bar with Throaat and Blackout.
The Obelisk Questionnaire: Rafa Martinez
How did you come to do what you do?
I’m assuming you mean playing music. Growing up I copied everything my older brother did so when he picked up a guitar I followed right behind. He introduced me to metal and punk music. We had a couple bands together but he slowly stopped and it became my life.
Describe your first musical memory.
When I was three I remember learning how to use a turntable with Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
Describe your best musical memory to date.
Sharing the stage with Sleep and Neurosis at Hellfest this last summer was very memorable.
When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?
Once we were about to go onstage and the stage manager told us our set was being cut by 15 minutes. I told him that we would do no such thing and that his un-American censorship would be protested by our fans and that they would more than likely do things to him. We did our full set and as the crowd cheered for more, the stage manager obliged to their supplicant cries.
Where do you feel artistic progression leads?
How do you define success?
Feeling good about what you do never compromising your ideals. Getting free pizza once in a while is nice too.
What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?
Seeing that sorry-ass excuse of existence, waste of space, fetid effluvia emitting piece of gonorrhea the world knows as Creed winning a Grammy for Best Rock Performance in 2001. I know it was a slow year and all but there’s no logical reason for something like that to happen. But then again George W. Bush got elected twice so we’re all slowly getting used to events like these that make absolutely no sense.
Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.
Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?
I heard a rumor that both Police Academy and Footloose are being remade at the moment. Looking forward the their premieres.
Posted in Features on December 23rd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I know, I know. There’s been a pretty fair amount said about Lumbar‘s The First and Last Days of Unwelcome around here, from the announcement to the interview, album review, and best of list, and I can’t really promise this’ll be the last of it, but a few words and then I’ll leave it alone for a while. There were plenty of other contenders for the best debut of 2013, whether it was reinvigorated veterans in Vista Chino or newcomer innovators like Beelzefuzz, but in the end, I had to go with what’s more likely than not a one-off from (left to right above) Mike Scheidt (YOB), Tad Doyle (TAD, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth), and Aaron Edge (Roareth, Iamthethorn, etc.) for two reasons: Urgency and the moment.
Urgency because of the music itself — the overlaid screams and moans that top the thunderous descending progression of “Day Two,” the lost-in-a-fog feel of “Day Four,” the weeping guitar chaos of “Day Three.” The First and Last Days of Unwelcomepacked an entire discography’s worth of heavy into a 24-minute release, and even at its nadir of volume in the droning and far-off vocal tunnel of “Day Five,” was intense beyond the point of exhaustion, Edge working through the trauma of being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the best way he knew how: By recording an album. The urgency comes through in the complete immersion of an emotional state, in the turbulence that bleeds from every second of these seven songs, and in the un-concluded feel of the last, which machine-drones itself to a finish as if to indicate the utter lack of an ending to Edge‘s ongoing story.
And the moment. Yes, it’s awesome that Scheidt, Doyle and Edge came together to all work on an album, but more than that, it’s how they came together and that the result was this album. The story of Edge recording the instrumental parts while laid up in bed, in real, physical pain, is excruciating, but it’s how that is translated into the songs that gives them such power. To be able to hone that, and then bring Scheidt and Doyle into the fold and make The First and Last Days of Unwelcome complete is capturing an entirely different kind of moment; the special nature of the collaboration in concept and execution is undersold by any “supergroup” tag you might want to instill. Lumbar proved to be beyond that, a fleeting and daringly honest slice of life that didn’t want pity or sympathy or anything other than to search out some meaning in what seemed void outstretched.
To call it a “debut” implies there might be a follow-up, and it seems unlikely at this point that there will, but even so, no first outing crashed quite as hard into the consciousness in 2013 as Lumbar‘s The First and Last Days of Unwelcome, and if it’s a call that never gets its answer, there’s no doubt in my mind its echo will last a long, long time.
Now I’ll shut up about it.
Lumbar, The First and Last Days of Unwelcome (2013)
Posted in Features on December 16th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Please note: These are my picks, not the results of the Readers Poll, which is still going on. If you haven’t added your list yet, please do.
It’s always strange to think of something so utterly arbitrary as also being really, really difficult, but I think 2013 posed the biggest challenge yet in terms of getting together a final list of my favorite records. As ever, I had a post-it note on my office wall (when I moved, it moved with me) and I did my best to keep track of everything that resonated throughout the year. I wound up with over 40 picks and had to start putting them in order to whittle the list down.
I wound up with a top 20 that, even though it feels somewhat incomplete, I’ve found that I can at very least live with. That’s what I’ve done for the last week: Just lived with it. Even up to this morning, I was making changes, but in general, I think this gives some scope about what hit me hard in 2013. Of course, these are just my picks, and while things like my own critical appreciation factor in because that affects how I ultimately listen to a record, sometimes it just comes down to what was stuck in my head most often or what I kept putting on over and over.
That’s a simple formula to apply, but still, 2013 didn’t make it easy. Please note as you go through that there are some real gems in the honorable mentions. I thought about expanding the list to 30 this year, but the thought made my skull start to cave in, so I reconsidered.
Anyway, it only comes around once a year, so let’s do this thing. Thanks in advance for reading:
20. All Them Witches, Lightning at the Door
Traditionally, I’ve reserved #20 for a sentimental pick. An album that’s hard to place numerically because of some personal or emotional connection. This year wasn’t short on those, but when it came to it, I knew I couldn’t make this list without Lightning at the Door included, and since it was released just last month as the follow-up to the earlier-2013 Elektrohasch reissue of the Nashville, Tennessee, outfit’s 2012 debut, Our Mother Electricity (review here), I didn’t feel like I’ve had enough time with it to really put it anywhere else. It needed to be here, and so it is, and though I’ve listened to it plenty in the month since its release, I still feel like I’m getting to know Lightning at the Door, and exploring its open-spaced blues rocking grooves. All Them Witches are hands down one of the best bands I heard for the first time this year, and I’m looking forward to following their work as they continue to progress.
For a while after I first heard …Like Clockwork and around the time I reviewed it, I sweated it pretty hard. By mid-June, I had it as one of the year’s best without a doubt in my mind. Then I put it away. I don’t know if I burnt myself out on it or what, but I still haven’t really gone back to it, and while the brilliance of cuts like “Kalopsia” and “Fairweather Friends” and “I Appear Missing” still stands out and puts Josh Homme‘s songwriting as some of the most accomplished I encountered in 2013, that hasn’t been enough to make me take it off the shelf. I doubt Queens of the Stone Age will cry about it as they tour arenas and get nominated for Grammy awards, but there it is. I wouldn’t have expected …Like Clockworkto be so low on the list, certainly not when I was listening to “My God is the Sun” six times in a row just to try and get my head around the chorus.
Gorgeously produced and impeccably textured, The Winter Ward by Stockholm-based I are Droid aren’t generally the kind of thing I’d reach for, but the quality of the craft in songs like “Constrict Contract” and “Feathers and Dust” made it essential. Bits and pieces within harkened back to frontman Peder Bergstrand‘s tenure in Lowrider, but ultimately The Winter Wardemerged with a varied and rich personality all its own, and that became the basis for the appeal. As the weather has gotten colder and it’s gotten dark earlier, I’ve returned to The Winter Wardfor repeat visits, and as much as I’ve got my fingers crossed for another Lowrider album in 2014, I hope I are Droid continue to run parallel, since the progressive take on alternative influences they managed to concoct was carried across with proportionate accessibility. It was as audience friendly and satisfying a listen as it was complex and ripe for active engagement.
There was just nothing to argue about when it came to the self-titled debut from Massachusetts-based doomers Magic Circle, but what worked best about the album was that although the songs were strong on their own and seemed to have lurching hooks to spare, everything throughout fed into an overarching atmosphere that was denser than the straightforwardness of the structures might lead the listener to initially believe. It was a record worth going back to, worth getting lost in the nod of, and as the members are experienced players in a variety of New England acts from The Rival Mob to Doomriders, it should be interesting to find out what demons they may conjure in following-up Magic Circle, if they’ll continue down the path of deceptively subversive “traditionalism” or expand their sound into more progressive reaches. Either way they may choose, the material on their first outing showed an ability to craft an enigmatic, individualized sonic persona that never veered into cultish caricature.
If you’re into doom and you have a soul, I don’t know how you could not be rooting for Iron Man in 2013. Produced by Frank Marchand and the first full-length from the long-running Maryland doomers to feature vocalist Dee Calhoun and drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann alongside guitarist/founder “Iron” Al Morris III (interview here) and longtime bassist Louis Strachan. The difference in South of the Earthwas palpable even in comparison to 2009′s I Have Returned(review here). With more professional production, excellent performances all around in the lineup, memorable songs like “Hail to the Haze” and “The Worst and Longest Day,” and the considerable endorsement of a release through Rise Above/Metal Blade behind them, the four-piece sounded like the statesmen they are in the Maryland scene and showed themselves every bit worthy of inclusion in the discussion of America’s finest in traditional, Sabbathian doom. May they continue to get their due.
Whether it was what the lyrics were talking about or not, the message of “The Message” was clear: Never count out a catchy chorus. Now in operation for a decade, Sasquatch practice an arcane artistry with their songwriting. Void of pretense, heavy on boogie, they are as genuine a modern extension of classic heavy rock as you’re likely to find. The Los Angeles power trio outdid themselves with IV, veering boldly into psychedelia on “Smoke Signal” and honing their craft over various moods and themes on “Sweet Lady,” “Me and You” and “Eye of the Storm.” They remain one of American heavy rock’s key and consistently underestimated components, and the three years since the release of their third album, III(review here), seemed like an eternity once the quality grooves of “Money” and “Drawing Flies” got moving, the former an insistent rush and the latter open, dreamy and atmospheric, but both executed with precision and confidence born of Sasquatch‘s familiarity with the methods and means of kicking ass.
It was hard to know what to expect from Black Pyramid‘s Adversarial, their first release with guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard at the fore with bassist Dave Gein and drummer/engineer Clay Neely, but the Massachusetts outfit flourished on tracks like “Swing the Scimitar,” incorporating a heavy jamming sensibility with marauding riffs and grooves carried over from the style of their first two albums. Adversarial took the band to Hellfest in France this past summer, where they shared a stage with Neurosis and Sleep, and whether it was the raging chorus of “Bleed Out” or the clarion guitar line of “Aphelion,” the band showed their war ensemble could not be stopped. Their future is uncertain with Neely having relocated and Gein having an impending move of his own, but if Adversarialis to stand as the final Black Pyramid outing, they will at very least have claimed enough heads in their time to line fence-posts for miles. Still, hopefully they can find some way to continue to make it work.
Even the interlude “Seasick Serenade,” just over a minute and a half long, was haunting. Electric Relicsmarked the first full-length from Nashville’s Across Tundras to be released on their own label and the first since they issued Sage through Neurot in 2011 (review here), and as rolling and exploratory as its vibe was, songs like “Solar Ark,” “Pining for the Gravel Roads” and “Den of Poison Snakes” also represented a solidification of Across Tundras‘ sound, another step in their development that refined their blend of rural landscapes and heavy tones. Issued in April, it’s been an album that throughout the course of the year I’ve returned to time and again, and the more I’ve sat with it and the more comfortable it’s become, the more its songs have come to feel like home, which it’s easy to read as being their intent all along. Guitarist/vocalist Tanner Olson (read his questionnaire answers here), bassist/vocalist Mikey Allred and drummer Casey Perry hit on something special in these tracks, and one gets the sense their influence is just beginning to be felt.
Initially a digital self-release by the Washington, D.C. riff purveyors, Oculus just this month got a tri-color, tri-label and tri-continental vinyl issue, and the fanfare with which it arrived was well earned by the five songs contained on the two sides. Borracho‘s second album behind 2011′s Splitting Sky(review here) also marked a lineup shift in the band that saw them go from a four-piece to a trio, with guitarist Steve Fisher (interview here) stepping to the fore as vocalist in the new incarnation with Tim Martin on bass and Mario Trubiano on drums. The results in songs like “Know the Score” and closer “I’ve Come for it All” were in line stylistically with the straightforward approach they showed on their first offering, but tighter overall in their presentation, and Fisher‘s voice was a natural fit with the band’s stated ethic of “repetitive heavy grooves” — a neat summary, if perhaps underselling their appeal somewhat. Oculusshowed both that the appeal of Splitting Skywas no fluke and that Borracho with four members or three was not a band to be taken lightly.
Like the bulk of Ice Dragon‘s work to date, Born a Heavy Morning was put out first digitally, for free or pay-what-you-want download. A CD version would follow soon enough on Navalorama, with intricate packaging to match the album’s understated achievements, taking the Boston genre-crossers into and through heavy psychedelic atmospheres added to and played off in longer pieces like “The Past Plus the Future is Present” and the gorgeously ethereal “Square Triangle” by thematic slice-of-life set-pieces like “In Which a Man Daydreams about a Girl from His Youth” and “In Which a Man Ends His Workweek with a Great Carouse” that only enriched the listening experience and furthered Ice Dragon‘s experimental appeal. Ever-prolific, Born a Heavy Morningwasn’t the only Ice Dragon outing this year, physical or digital, but it stood in a place of its own within their constantly-expanding catalog and showcased a stylistic fearlessness that can only be an asset in their favor as they continue to chase down whatever the hell it is they’re after in their songs and make genuine originality sound so natural.
It seemed like no matter where I turned in 2013, Devil to Pay‘s Fate is Your Musewas there. Not that it was the highest-profile release of the year or bolstered by some consciousness-invading viral campaign or anything, just that once the songs locked into my head, there was no removing them, and whether it was straightforward rockers like “This Train Won’t Stop,” “Savonarola” and “Tie One On,” the moodier “Black Black Heart” or the charm-soaked “Ten Lizardmen and One Pocketknife” — which might also be the best song title I came across this year — it was a pretty safe bet that something from the Indianapolis four-piece was going to make a showing on the mental jukebox if not in the actual player (it showed up plenty there as well). Devil to Pay‘s first album since 2009, first for Ripple and fourth overall, Fate is Your Musewas a grower listen whose appeal only deepened over the months after its release, the layered vocals of guitarist Steve Janiak (interview here) adaptable to the varying vibes of “Wearin’ You Down” and “Already Dead” and soulful in classic fashion. They’ve been underrated as a live act for some time, and Fate is Your Musetranslated well their light-on-frills, heavy-on-riffs appeal to a studio setting.
9. Beast in the Field, The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below
Such devastation. Even now, every time I put on Beast in the Field‘s The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below, it makes me want to hang my head and wonder at the horror of it all like Marlon Brando hiding out in a cave. If anything at all, there wasn’t much I heard in 2013 that hit harder than the Michigan duo’s fifth long-player, released on CD in March through Saw Her Ghost with vinyl reportedly on the way now. Toward the middle of the year, it got to the point where I wanted to go door to door and say to people, “Uh excuse me, but this is absurdly heavy and you should check it out.” I settled for streaming the album in full and it still feels like a compromise. I tried to interview the band, to no avail — sometimes instrumental acts just don’t want to talk about it — but what guitarist Jordan Pries and drummer Jamie Jahr were able to accomplish tonally, atmospherically and bombastically in expansive and overwhelmingly heavy cuts like the 22-minute “Oncoming Avalanche” or the noise-soaked riffing of “Hollow Horn” put The Sacred Above, the Sacred Belowinto a weight class that it had pretty much to itself this year. It’s a good thing they had no trouble filling that space. I still feel like I haven’t recommended the album enough and that more people need to be made aware of its existence.
When I finally listened to Beelzefuzz‘s self-titled debut, I was really, really glad I had seen the three-piece — its members based in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania — play some of the material live. I don’t know if otherwise I’d have been able to distinguish between the progress elements of effects and looping and the live creation of layers and organ sounds through the guitar of Dana Ortt (interview here) and the simple humdrum of studio layering one finds all the time. I almost think for their next record they should track it live, just the three of them, and heavily advertise that fact to help get the point across that it’s actually just three players — Ortt, bassist Pug Kirby and drummer Darin McCloskey (also of PaleDivine) — creating the richness of sound on “All the Feeling Returns” and the eerie, gleefully weird progressive stomp on “Lonely Creatures.” The album became a morning go-to for me, and I don’t know how many times I’ve been through it at this point, but “Reborn” and “Hypnotize” and “Lotus Jam” continue to echo in my head even when it’s been a few days. That said, it’s rarely been a few days, because while I appreciate what the trio accomplish on their first record on an analytical level, the reason it is where it is on this list is because I can’t stop listening to the damn thing. Another one that more people should hear than have heard.
7. Samsara Blues Experiment, Waiting for the Flood
One of the aspects of Samsara Blues Experiment‘s third offering that I most enjoyed was that it wasn’t the album I expected German four-piece to make. After their 2011 sophomore album, Revelation and Mystery (review here), shifted its focus away from the jam-minded heavy psychedelia of their 2009 debut, Long Distance Trip (review here), my thinking was that they would continue down that path and coalesce into a more straightforward brand of heavy rock. Instead, when the four extended tracks of Waiting for the Floodshowed up with no shortage of swirl or sitar or open-ended expansion in their midst, it was a legitimate surprise. Repeat visits to “Shringara” and “Don’t Belong” show that actually it’s not so much that Samsara Blues Experiment turned around and were hell-bent on jamming out all the time, but that rather for their third, they took elements of what worked on their first two LPs and built lush movements on top of those ideas. As a happy bonus, this having grown more and more into their sound has helped push the band — guitarist/vocalist Christian Peters, guitarist Hans Eiselt, bassist Richard Behrens and drummer Thomas Vedder — into their own niche within the wider European heavy psych scene, and they’ve begun to emerge as one of its most enjoyable and consistent acts.
Kind of inevitable that there would be a lot of comparisons made between Mind Controland the preceding Uncle Acid album, Blood Lust. Certainly the newer outing — their third and first for Rise Above/Metal Blade – is more psychedelic, more tripped out and less obscure feeling than its predecessor. It didn’t have the same kind of crunch to the guitar tone, or the same kind of horror-film atmosphere or psychosexual foreboding, but the thing was, it wasn’t supposed to. The UK outfit continue to prod cult mentality even as their own cult grows, and as I see it, Mind Control made a lot of sense coming off Blood Lustin terms of the band not wanting to repeat the same ideas over again, but grow from them and expand their sound. Of course, with the strut at the end of opener “Mt. Abraxas,” they’ve set a high standard on their albums for leadoff tracks, but where Mind Controlreally made its impression was in the hypnosis of cuts like the Beatlesian “Follow the Leader,” the lysergic “Valley of the Dolls” or the maddening “Devil’s Work.” The deeper you went into side B, the more the band had you in their grasp. It was a different kind of accomplishment than the preceding effort — though “Mind Crawler” kept a lot of that vibe alive — and it showed Uncle Acid had more in their arsenal than VHS ambience and garage doom malevolence while keeping the infectiousness that helped Blood Lustmake such an impression.
Of the ones reviewed, Lumbar‘s The First and Last Days of Unwelcomewas the most recent inclusion on this list. Having worked with Lumbar multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Aaron Edge (interview here) in the past with his band Roareth releasing what would be their only album on The Maple Forum, this was a project to which I felt an immediate connection given the circumstances of its creation: Being written almost in its entirety and recorded in everything but vocals during a bedridden period following Edge‘s diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. The contributions of YOB/Vhöl frontman Mike Scheidt and Tad Doyle of TAD and Brothers of the Sonic Cloth were what got a lot of people’s attention for Lumbar‘s The First and Last Days of Unwelcome, but with the situation are the core of the seven tracks named “Day One” through “Day Seven,” what stood out to me even more than those performances was the utter lack of distance and the level of rawness in the album’s presentation. It puts you there. What you get with Lumbar is the direct translation of a range of emotions from hopeful to hopeless, angry, sad, beaten down and wanting answers, wanting more. There’s no shield from it, and as much in concept as in its execution, there’s no other word for it than “heavy.” The intensity Edge packed into just 24 minutes — and not all of it loud or over the top doomed or anything more than atmospherics — was unmatched by anything else I heard this year.
From just about any angle you want to view it, the situation that turned Kyuss Lives! into Vista Chino was unfortunate. However — and I know I’ve said this before — I really do believe that becoming Vista Chino, that furthering the distance from the Kyuss moniker, brand, legacy, and so on, was for the better of the band creatively. And not because the songs don’t stand up. I doubt it helped their draw much, but for vocalist John Garcia and drummer Brant Bjork (interview here), working as Vista Chino for the creation of Peace, and especially or Bjork working with guitarist Bruno Fevery for the first time in the writing process, it allowed them to step outside of what would’ve been insurmountable expectations for a “fifth Kyuss album” and create something honest, new, and ultimately, more true to the spirit of that now-legendary band. Let’s face it, you hear John Garcia, Brant Bjork and Nick Oliveri are working on a project together, you’re immediately comparing it to Kyuss anyway. At least with Vista Chino, they’ve given themselves the potential for growth beyond a preconceived idea of what Kyuss should sound like. Well what does Vista Chino sound like? It sounds like whatever the hell they want. On Peace, though many of the lyrics dealt with their legal battles over the Kyuss name, the vibe stayed true to a desert rock ethic of laid back heavy, and the round-out jam in “Acidize/The Gambling Moose” left Peacewith the feeling that maybe that’s where they’ve ended up after all. Fingers crossed Mike Dean (of C.O.C. and the latest live incarnation of Vista Chino) winds up playing bass on the record, but other than that, wherever they want to go with it, as a fan, I’m happy to follow along.
The second outing from Gozu on Small Stone, The Fury of a Patient Man tapped into so much of what made the Boston band’s 2010 Locust Season label debut (review here) work so right on and just did it better. Don’t get me wrong, I still dig on “Meat Charger,” but with tracks like “Snake Plissken,” “Bald Bull,” “Signed, Epstein’s Mom” (note: it was “signed, Epstein’s mother” on Welcome Back Kotter) and the thrashing “Charles Bronson Pinchot,” Gozu put forth a collection of some of 2013′s finest heavy rock and did so with not only their own soulful spin on the tropes of the genre, but a mature and varied approach that was no less comfortable giving High on Fire a run for their money than reveling in the grandiose chorus of “Ghost Wipe,” which was also one of the best hooks of the year, guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney (interview here) delivering lines in crisp, confident layers, perfectly mixed by Benny Grotto at Mad Oak Studios and cutting through the fray of his own and Doug Sherman‘s guitars, the bass of Paul Dallaire (who split duties with J. Canava; Joe Grotto has since taken over the position) and Barry Spillberg‘s drumming. What the future might hold for Gozu with the recent shift in lineup that replaced Spillberg with drummer Mike Hubbard (ex-Warhorse) and added third guitarist Jeff Fultz (Mellow Bravo) remains to be seen, but with European touring on the horizon for 2014 and appearances slated for Roadburn and Desertfest, the band seem to be looking only to expand their reach, and with the material from The Fury of a Patient Man as a foundation, they’ve got some major considerations acting in their favor. Another album from which I simply could not escape this year, and from which I didn’t want to.
Billed largely and at least in-part accurately as a return to the group’s psychedelic roots, Last Patrol was Monster Magnet‘s ninth full-length, their first in three years and their second for Napalm. The New Jersey outfit led by guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, founder and, in this case, co-producer Dave Wyndorf (interview here) did indeed delve into the space rock side of their sound more than they have in over a decade, and the effect that doing so had was like a great shaking-off of dust, as though the Bullgod in the John Sumrow cover art just woke up after a long slumber. Perhaps even more than tripping on the Donovan cover “Three Kingfishers” or on the more extended freakouts “Last Patrol” and “End of Time,” what really made Last Patrolsuch a complete experience was the depth of emotion. Wyndorf wasn’t just standing above an overproduced wall of distortion talking about how he’s the best lay in the galaxy or whatever — fun though that kind of stuff is and has been in the past — but songs like “I Live behind the Clouds,” “The Duke (of Supernature),” “Paradise” and “Stay Tuned” offered a humbler take, a spirit of melancholy that rested well alongside the unmitigated stomp of “Hallelujah” or the driving heavy rock of “Mindless Ones.” Even in its most riotous stretches, Last Patrolwas a humbler affair, with a more honest vibe than their last four, maybe five albums. A Monster Magnet release would’ve been noteworthy no matter what it actually sounded like, because that’s the level of impact they’ve had on heavy psych and underground rock over the last two decades-plus. The difference with Last Patrolwas that it was a refreshing change from what had started to sound like a formula going stale, and it was just so damn good to have them be weird again.
Finally, an album that asked the question, “What it was I’m going to do I haven’t done?” I knew at the year’s halfway point that Clutch‘s Earth Rockerwas going to be the one to beat, and that it wasn’t going to be easy for anyone else to top the Maryland kings of groove, who sounded so reinvigorated on songs like “Crucial Velocity,” “Book, Saddle and Go,” “Unto the Breach,” and “Cyborg Bette,” and on funkfied pushers like “D.C. Sound Attack!,” “The Wolfman Kindly Requests…” and “The Face.” They’d hardly been in hibernation since 2009′s Strange Cousins from the West, but four years was the longest they’d ever gone between albums, and it was past time for a new one. To have it arrive as such a boot to the ass just made it that much better, the band shifting away from some of the blues/jam influences that emerged over the course of 2005′s Robot Hive/Exodusand 2007′s From Beale Street to Oblivion — though those certainly showed up as well in the subdued “Gone Cold” and elsewhere — but thanks in no small part to the production of Machine, with whom the band last worked for 2004′s Blast Tyrant, Earth Rockerwas huge where it wanted to be and that gave Clutch‘s faster, more active material all the more urgency, where although the songwriting was quality as always, Strange Cousins from the West languished a bit at a more relaxed pace. The difference made all the difference. Whether it was the hellhounds on your trail (what a pity!) in “D.C. Sound Attack!” or the Jazzmasters erupting from the bottom of the sea to take flight, Clutch‘s 10th album was brimming with live, vibrant, heavy on action and heavy on groove, and on a sheer song-by-song level, a classic in the making from a band who’ve already had a few. At very least, it’s a landmark in their discography, and though vocalist Neil Fallon (interview here), guitarist Tim Sult, bassist Dan Maines and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster always change from record, but it’s the unmistakable stamp they put on all their outings that have earned them such a loyal following, and that stamp is all over Earth Rocker. Front to back, it is a pure Clutch record, and while I’ll happily acknowledge that it’s an obvious pick for album of the year, I don’t see how I possibly could’ve chosen anything else. Like the best of the best, Earth Rockerwill deliver for years to come.
The Next 10 and Honorable Mentions
I said at the outset I had 40 picks. The reality was more than that, but here’s the next 10 anyway:
21. Blaak Heat Shujaa, The Edge of an Era
22. The Freeks, Full On
23. Luder, Adelphophagia
24. The Flying Eyes, Lowlands
25. Black Skies, Circadian Meditations
26. At Devil Dirt, Plan B: Sin Revolucion No Hay Evolucion
27. Kadavar, Abra Kadavar
28. Naam, Vow
29. Mühr, Messiah
30. Uzala, Tales of Blood and Fire
Further honorable mention has to go to Pelican, Endless Boogie, Earthless, Phantom Glue, Goatess, Windhand, Gonga, TonerLow, Jesuand Sandrider.
Two More Special Records
I’d be unforgivably remiss if I didn’t note the release in 2013 of two albums that wound up being incredibly special to me personally: I vs. the Glacierby Clamfight and A Time of Hunting by Kings Destroy. Since it came out on this site’s in-house label, I didn’t consider the Clamfight eligible for list consideration and while I didn’t help put it out, the Kings Destroy I also felt very, very close to — probably as close as I’ve felt to a record I didn’t actually perform on — so it didn’t seem fair on a critical level, but I consider both of these to be records that in a large part helped define my year, as well as being exceptional in and of themselves, and they needed very much to be singled out as such. These are people whom I feel whatever-the-godless-heathen-equivalent-of-blessed-is to know.
Before I end this post, I want to say thank you for reading, this, anything else you may have caught this year, whatever it might be. To say it means a lot to me personally is understating it, but it’s true all the same. I’m not quite done wrapping up the year — I’ll have a list of the best album covers, another for EPs and singles and demos, and of course the albums I didn’t hear — so please stay tuned over the next couple weeks, but it seemed only fair to show my appreciation now as well. Thank you.
Posted in Reviews on December 3rd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
By now, the origin of Lumbar has quickly become legend. In its complete recording form, Lumbar is instrumentalist/vocalist Aaron Edge, who’s joined by Mike Scheidt and Tad Doyle on vocals and vocals/recording, respectively. These are names of considerable consequence to have attached to a project. Between Doyle‘s pedigree in TAD and the awaited Brothers of the Sonic Cloth and Scheidt standing as one of his generation’s most innovative luminaries in doom (doominaries?) for his tenure over the last decade-plus in YOB, even before you get to rattle off the long list of projects in which Edge has taken part — Iamthethorn, Harkonen, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Himsa, Grievous, Maple Forum alums Roareth, countless others, and even more when you factor in those to whom he’s contributed art or design work — it’s hard not to be sold beforehand on Lumbar‘s Southern Lord debut, The First and Last Days of Unwelcome. On personnel alone, it’s a landmark, but the real crux of the album isn’t in some supergroup amalgam of ego. It’s in the intensely personal nature of the material. As Edge explained in an interview here, most of The First and Last Days of Unwelcomecame together during a period of immobility following his being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. 40 days in bed. No stranger to self-recording, Edge programmed the drums, fired up a Verellen Skyhammer preamp pedal and transposed 24 minutes’ worth of visceral human experience into seven varied tracks that are at times hopeful, at times oppressive and defeated, but always essentially, deeply his own. After the parts were recorded, he brought them to Scheidt, who in turn suggested they track with Doyle at his Studio Witch Ape in Washington. The First and Last Days of Unwelcomeis impossible to divorce from this context, because it is the context, and knowing how it happened, the raw circumstance of how it was made, the freshness of the wounds driving it, brings a level of admiration to the project with which even its lineup can’t hope to compete.
I won’t feign impartiality. Between having helped Roareth put outtheir first and only record through this site’s in-house label — it was the first release, actually, and my conversations with Edge are good memories that were pivotal in making it happen — and having been in touch over the years with Scheidt as well as being a fan of his and Doyle‘s work, there’s just no way I can pretend to approach Lumbar from neutral ground. Generally, I look at that as a drawback, but in the case of The First and Last Days ofUnwelcome and how personal the nature of the album is, I think it actually helps. For years and years, Edge has bounced from one project to the next — even as I type this he’s looking for a band to sing for in Portland — but aside from being arguably the highest-profile, Lumbar might also be the most his own of everything he’s done. The expression in these songs, whether it’s the desperate cloying that begins centerpiece “Day Four” or the explosion of rage that emerges from it, is his. And the claustrophobia of “Day Five,” in which the world seems to be happening somewhere outside the echo chamber of the song itself, isn’t impartial. There’s no distance to Lumbar whatsoever, no moment where the artist responsible has stepped back and said, “I’m going to write about this experience.” That’s not what The First and Last Days of Unwelcomeis. Instead, each of these pieces is a transcription of a moment or a stretch of this time. Some, like “Day One,” “Day Two” (the tracklisting corresponding with the days) and “Day Six,” are transposed as relatively complete song ideas — the vocal and instrumental arrangements satisfy as finished products — but not everything is designed to be so neat. The drumless “Day Three” works around a frantic guitar-as-fiddle progression that seethes with tension waiting to boil over as a low rumble rises beneath, Edge shouting, “Why are you here?” from within the morass. He’s low in the mix, overwhelmed at first, and comes forward only as the song itself works to an end of echoing heartbeats and droning, and the aforementioned “Day Five” is a postcard from some unspoken level of hell that conveys its agonies and is gone. No verses or choruses; atmospheres and impressions. Front to back, it is a brief — again, just 24 minutes — but haunting listen.
Lumbar, “Day Six” from The First and Last Days of Unwelcome
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There’s nothing comfortable about listening to Lumbar‘s debut and quite possibly only outing, The First and Last Days of Unwelcome. A 24-minute full-length comprised of seven tracks of huge tones and fraught wails, screams and psychedelic helplessness, there’s a consuming darkness in the audio that bleeds through the atmosphere in layers of drones, lumbering riffs and varied vocals from the three component members of the project — Aaron Edge (Roareth, Rote Hexe, Hauler, etc.), Tad Doyle (TAD) and Mike Scheidt (YOB, Vhöl) — all of whose personalities are evident throughout the monumental proceedings.
Aaron Edge has spent years bouncing from band to band, new project to new project, as well as working as a graphic designer for Southern Lord (which is releasing Lumbar) and others in a sort of tornado of creativity. In all my dealings with him — Roareth‘s first and only CD came out on The MapleForum – I’ve found him to be passionate, dedicated and exceedingly driven. The kind of person who’s already there by the time you’re ready to go. Relentless in his energy and will to create, he’s also a marathon runner, long-distance biker, vegan and straightedge. Someone for whom movement both conceptual and physical is the norm. Perhaps because of that it was all the more a shock early this year when he was diagnosed with MS.
Talking to him about it now, several months after the fact, Edge hardly remembers how he spent the 40 solid days in bed from the pain, but it was during this traumatic time that he wrote what would become Lumbar (and two other in-progress projects) once Scheidt and Doyle gotinvolved. The name Lumbar derives from the medical procedure “lumbar puncture,” also known as a spinal tap, wherein a needle is inserted between the vertebrae of a person’s back and spinal fluid is collected for diagnosis. Edge has had a few at this point, and one could easily look at The First and Last Days of Unwelcomeas the same kind of process.
Because where many might allow for some distance — that is, might wait until an experience is over and then write an album about it — in Lumbar, Edge thrusts listeners into the moment itself. The album’s seven tracks, broken down as “Day One,” “Day Two” and so on, are like a transcription of agony. There isn’t distance or the feeling of safety that distance might provide. With Scheidt and Doyle contributing to the vocal arrangements and recording, Edge tells a story through captured moments that’s haunting, tragic, beautiful, hopeful at times and incomplete in the way that life itself is incomplete and in the way that his story, his battle with this disease, is ongoing and continues to shape what has become his being.
In the interviews that follow, Edge discusses how Lumbar came together, working with Scheidt and recording with Doyle, the relationships he’s had with the two over the years, doing art for YOB and playing drums for a time in Doyle‘s band, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, as well as sharing the first listen to the finished product of The First and Last Days of Unwelcome with family and friends in a moment of communal support, while Scheidt – checking in from Idaho on a solo tour alongside Uzala – expands on his friendship with Edge, how he came to be involved in Lumbar and his feelings on how the album came out.
Because I spoke to Edge first, then Scheidt, that’s how I’ve chosen to present the Q&As. If you haven’t yet, check out “Day Six,” one of the album’s most exceedingly righteous stretches, on the player above.
The First and Last Days of Unwelcome will be released on LP and digital through Southern Lord on Nov. 26, with CD to follow from the band and a cassette through Holy Mountain.
As always, thanks for reading. Interviews are after the jump.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 10th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
So you’re telling me that there’s a band walking around that has Mike Scheidt from YOB, Tad frickin’ Doyle from TAD/Brothers of the Sonic Cloth and Roareth alum Aaron Edge playing as a trio? Right now? On this planet? Well I dare say then that this, indeed, is where it’s at.
Southern Lord Recordings is the lucky outlet who gets to issue Lumbar‘s debut LP, The Firstand Last Days of Unwelcome, in November. Pretty sure Tad recorded, and Brad Boatright of Audiosiege mastered the record. It’s done. It’s coming. This is a real thing. You should be excited about it.
To trace the connections — which I’m sure go back much farther than this — Edge played for a time with Doyle in Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, and also designed the YOB logo and did the artwork for 2009′s we’re-back-and-we’re-pissed album, The Great Cessation(review here). Doyle also recorded Scheidt‘s solo album, Stay Awake. There’s probably much more to it than that, but what it all rounds out to is a Pacific Northwest stew of churning psychedelic worship and a full-length that plays to the strengths of all three involved. You know you’re getting something heavy and you’re right.
Expect more to come in the days that follow, but for now, check out the album art and the minimal announcement and then sweat it out until we can get some audio from this thing.
Lumbar — The First and Last Days of Unwelcome
A crushing sonic endeavor featuring: Mike Scheidt + Tad Doyle + Aaron Edge
We (Tad, Mike and Aaron) are proud to announce that our new recording, “The First & Last Days of Unwelcome”, shall be released this November on Southern Lord Recordings. More news when more news is known. Thanx for the support and interest thus far.
Update: Says Scheidt of the project:
“Aaron Edge wrote all of the music and lyrics, I helped with arranging the vocals and also contributed vocals, Tad did vocals and mixed the album. For the most part, this beast is all Aaron Edge and it’s about his struggle with MS. Heavy shit indeed.”
Posted in audiObelisk on August 13th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
As a precursor to the forthcoming full-length, Forever Becoming, which is due out Oct. 15, Chicago instrumentalists Pelican will release a 7″ single through The Mylene Sheath that’s set to feature an alternate recording of the song “Deny the Absolute.” On the album, the rush you hear at the start of “Deny the Absolute” signals the moment of switch between the opening ambience of “Terminal” and some of Pelican‘s most forward-driving riffage, and though it hardly showcases the depth of mood that Forever Becoming seems to have at its disposal — Pelican having long since come of age in joy as much as struggle, musically — sometimes it’s best to let a badass riff do the talking for you. Hardly the first time Pelican are doing that.
Check out “Deny the Absolute” on the player below, hoisted from Pelican‘s Soundcloud, and give it a listen in kind with the previously streamed “Immutable Dusk” for even more landmark-type riffing. The Mylene Sheath will issue the Deny the Absolute7″ on Aug. 20, and the pre-order link is included with Pelican‘s tour dates here.
Taken from the forthcoming 7″ on The Mylene Sheath. Available August 20th 2013.
PELICAN US TOUR DATES Oct 17 – Brooklyn, NY – Invisible Oranges CMJ Showcase* Oct 18 – Brooklyn, NY – Invisible Oranges CMJ Showcase* Oct 19 – Allston, MA – Great Scott * Nov 1 – Cleveland, OH – Peabody’s ^ Nov 2 – Washington, DC – DC9 ^ Nov 3 – Philadelphia, PA – First Unitarian Church ^ Nov 4 – Chapel Hill, NC – Local 506 ^ Nov 5 – Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade ^ Nov 6 – Birmingham, AL – Zydeco ^ Nov 7 – Baton Rouge, LA – Spanish Moon ^ Nov 8, 9, & 10 – Austin TX – Fun Fun Fun Fest Nov 13 – Chicago, IL – Bottom Lounge * w/ King’s Destroy ^ w/ Coliseum
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 10th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
They had the Ataraxia/Taraxis EP last year (review here), but Forever Becoming will be Pelican‘s first full-length since 2009′s What We all Come to Need. That album (review here) was the last to feature guitarist Laurent Schroeder-Lebec, and though the title hints at a sense of transition, the track “Immutable Dusk,” which the band premiered today, finds their signature blend of post-rock ambience and metallic crunch well intact. If you listen, make sure you listen the whole way through. The payoff at the end is stellar.
Pelican kick off a European tour tomorrow at Stoned from the Underground in Germany and have announced dates on the East Coast with Kings Destroy and others. Behold:
PELICAN ANNOUNCE FIRST NEW ALBUM IN FOUR YEARS
FOREVER BECOMING DUE THIS OCTOBER, FOLLOWED BY US TOUR WITH COLISEUM, KINGS DESTROY, AND OTHERS
Pelican, the Chicago-based quartet whose instrumental excursions to the confluence of caustic heaviness and cathartic melody pioneered a subgenre, have announced their first full album in four years, Forever Becoming, due October 15 on forward-thinking metal imprint Southern Lord. Recorded at Electrical Audio with Chris Common (who engineered the group’s last album as well as albums by Chelsea Wolfe and These Arms Are Snakes), Forever Becoming is an immense, speaker-rattling meditation on the acceptance of mortality and its place in the eternal cycle. Composed of eight songs (full tracklist below), the album boasts a sonic palette that veers from pummeling metal, to contemplative ambience, to melodic catharsis all with landmark grace.
Following a hiatus that saw the departure of founding guitarist Laurent Schroeder-Lebec and the arrival of new second guitarist Dallas Thomas (also of The Swan King), the forthcoming album is the work of a wholly revitalized unit, sounding more focused and assured than ever. The current lineup’s undeniable chemistry was forged in front of crowds at festival appearances, including Bonnaroo, Roadburn, and Maryland Death Fest, as well as a handful of headlining club shows. Pelican return to the road in support of the new album this Fall with reigning post-hardcore stalwarts Coliseum. The tour focuses on the East Coast (the band’s first tour of the area since 2009), in addition to a coveted slot at this year’s Fun Fun Fun Fest and a run of previously announced European dates that kick off this week (all dates below).
US TOUR DATES Oct 17 – Brooklyn, NY – Invisible Oranges CMJ Showcase* Oct 18 – Brooklyn, NY – Invisible Oranges CMJ Showcase* Oct 19 – Allston, MA – Great Scott * Nov 1 – Cleveland, OH – Peabody’s ^ Nov 2 – Washington, DC – DC9 ^ Nov 3 – Philadelphia, PA – First Unitarian Church ^ Nov 4 – Chapel Hill, NC – Local 506 ^ Nov 5 – Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade ^ Nov 6 – Birmingham, AL – Zydeco ^ Nov 7 – Baton Rouge, LA – Spanish Moon ^ Nov 8, 9, & 10 – Austin TX – Fun Fun Fun Fest Nov 13 – Chicago, IL – Bottom Lounge * w/ King’s Destroy ^ w/ Coliseum
FORVER BECOMING TRACKLIST 1. Terminal 2. Deny the Absolute 3. The Tundra 4. Immutable Dusk 5. Threnody 6. The Cliff 7. Vestiges 8. Perpetual Dawn
PREVIOUSLY ANNOUNCED EUROPEAN TOUR DATES July 11 DE – Erfurt – Stoned From The Underground July 12 DE – Berlin – Festival Kreuzberg July 13 FIN – Joensuu – Ilosaarirock July 15 UK – Brighton, The Haunt July 16 UK – Leeds, Brudenell Social Club (w/ JK Flesh) July 17 UK – London, The Garage (w/ JK Flesh) July 18 NL – Tilburg, 013 (w/Torche) July 19 BE – Dour, Dour Festival (w/Torche, Converge) July 20 DE – Siegen, Vortex Club July 22 ITA – Milan, Segrate July 23 ITA – Roma, Traffic Live July 24 AT – Innsbruck, PMK July 25 AT – Vienna, Arena (w/ Mouth Of The Architect) July 26 RU – Moscow, Plan B (w/ Mouth Of The Architect) July 27 RU – St Petersburg, Arktika (w/Mouth Of The Architect)
Posted in Whathaveyou on June 7th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I assume the drummer position in Weedeater will once again be filled by Travis Owen (Whores), who took on the role for the trio’s short tour around Maryland Deathfest a couple weeks ago replacing founding member Keith “Keko” Kirkum, as well of course as for the fest itself, though I guess you never know. Maybe they found a permanent replacement. Maybe it’s him. One way to find out would be to show up at the gig, I suppose.
So it goes. As volatile as their on-stage persona can be, Weedeater had a better run with their original lineup than most. Joining them throughout the summer dates below are ASG, whose new record Blood Drive has apparently been met with a welcome reception, and Lo-Pan, who are currently on the road with Torche.
Here’s the latest from the PR wire:
WEEDEATER AND ASG ANNOUNCE U.S. TOUR
ASG’S BLOOD DRIVE MARKS N.C. BAND’S HIGHEST DEBUT
Weedeater and ASG have announced a four-week tour across the United States, kicking off on June 27 in Savannah, Ga. at The Jinx.
The tour comes as ASG celebrate their highest charting and most critically acclaimed album to date, the breakthrough release Blood Drive. The twelve-song collection landed at #15 on Billboard’s Heat Seeker chart and also had impressive debuts on the trade magazine’s Hard Music (#32) and Indie (#67) charts. The album is streaming via Bandcamp at asgnation.bandcamp.com.
Weedeater & ASG presented by Brooklyn Vegan and Invisible Oranges June 27 Savannah, GA The Jinx June 28 Atlanta, GA The Earl June 30 New Orleans, LA One Eyed Jacks July 1 Houston, TX Fitzgeralds July 2 San Antonio, TX Korova July 3 Austin, TX Red 7 July 4 Denton, TX Rubber Gloves (Free Show) July 5 Norman, OK The Opolis July 7 Tempe, AZ Pub Rock July 9 San Diego, CA Soda Bar July 10 Los Angeles, CA The Whiskey July 11 Santa Cruz, CA Catalyst July 12 Oakland, CA Oakland Opera House July 13 Portland, OR Ash St. Saloon July 14 Seattle, WA The Highline
ASG only July 16 Denver, CO Larimer Lounge July 17 Lawrence, KS The Replay Lounge July 18 Oklahoma City, OK The Conservatory July 19 Nashville, TN Springwater July 20 Asheville, NC Broadway
Weedeater July 16 Vancouver, BC Electric Owl July 18 Calgary, AB The Palamino July 20 Edmonton, AB The Pawn Shop July 23 Winnipeg, MB Windsor Hotel July 24 Fargo, NC The Aquarium July 25 Great Falls, MT Machinery Row July 27 Missoula, MT Farmageddon Festival July 30 Denver, CO Marquis Theater
Weedeater & Lo Pan August 1 Chicago, IL Ultra Lounge August 3 Nashville, TN Exit/In August 4 Johnson City, TN Hideaway August 6 Asheville, NC Broadways August 7 Charlotte, NC Chop Shop August 8 Richmond, VA Strange Matter August 9 Raleigh, NC The Maywood August 10 Wilmington, NC Soapbox
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 30th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
San Francisco duo Black Cobra‘s forever tour continues. The two-piece are still out in support of 2011′s Invernal, traveling overseas once more to join forces with Bison B.C. — who seem to have finished their contract with Metal Blade after three albums — and Norwegian punk noisemakers Arabrot. They’ll start in France tomorrow, and Black Cobra will wrap the tour there as well, their final date of the Euro/UK trek being as part of the Hellfest in Clisson, where they’ll share a stage called “The Valley” (wonder where you got that idea, Hellfest) with Neurosis, Sleep and BlackPyramid,among others.
Wild times as always, but that seems to be Black Cobra‘s specialty. Here’s the latest from the PR wire:
BLACK COBRA EU/UK TOUR WITH BISON BC AND ARABROT KICKS OFF THIS WEEK
San Francisco-based sludge-mangling duo BLACK COBRA will uncoil across the UK/EU taking part in a summer tour with Bison BC and Arabrot, the shows kick off this week in Paris and culminate in the massive annual three day Hellfest extravaganza in Clisson, France. Running from June 21st through 23rd, this year’s festival includes bands as massive as Kiss, ZZ Top, Danzig and Twisted Sister, with Black Cobra playing on the first day in “The Valley” joining Neurosis, Sleep, High On Fire, Pallbearer, labelmates Black Breath and Eagle Twin and more on one massive bill.
Here are the full dates:
31/05/2013 Glazart, Paris – France 01/06/2013 Saint Des Seins, Toulouse – France 02/06/2013 TBA – France 03/06/2013 Borderline, London 04/06/2013 TBA – UK 05/06/2013 Ivory Blacks, Glasgow 06/06/2013 Exchange, Bristol 07/06/2013 Patronaat, Haarlem – Netherlands 08/06/2013 Magasin 4, Brussels – Belgium 09/06/2013 Festsaal Kreuzberg, Berlin – Germany 10/06/2013 Bastard Club, Osnabruck – Germany 11/06/2013 Chemiefabrik, Dresden – Germany 12/06/2013 Juha West, Stuttgart – Germany 13/06/2013 L’Usine, Geneva – Switzerland 14/06/2013 Les Caves du Manoir, Martignv – Switzerland 15/06/2013 Freakout Club, Bologna – Italy 16/06/2013 Lo-Fi Club, Milano – Italy 17/06/2013 Arena, Vienna – Austria 18/06/2013 Feierwerk, Munchen – Germany 19/06/2013 Schalchthof, Wiesbaden – Germany 20/06/2013 L’Entrepot, Arlon – Belgium 21/06/2013 Hellfest, Clisson – France
Released in October 2011 via Southern Lord, BLACK COBRA‘s fourth LPInvernalwas one of the most critically acclaimed releases to emerge from the metal/sludge scene that year. Recorded at Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou’s God City Studio and mastered by John Golden (Neurosis, Melvins, Weedeater), the album propelled the most diversified and matured songwriting from the duo to date forward with incredibly thunderous production, the theme to the entire record based on a post-apocalyptic trek to a nuclear infested and mutated Antarctica, inspired in part by the treks of English researcher Ernest Shackleton. The band perpetually toured through the year surpassing their 600th show mark in 2012 since the release of their debut LP Bestial in 2006.
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.