On Wax: Candlemass, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus Live at Roadburn 2011

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

As somebody who was in that room when it happened, I don’t so much want to listen to this vinyl as build an altar to its graces. It was Candlemass‘ 25th anniversary show at Roadburn 2011, celebrating a quarter-century since the release of the seminal Swedish doomers’ debut, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus. To mark the occasion, they reunited for the first time with original signer Johan Längquist, who had never really even played with the band or done much more with them than sing on that record, and I tell you in all honesty, it was one of the best sets I’ve ever seen a band — any band — play, at Roadburn or otherwise. The Main Stage room at the 013 in Tilburg was jammed with people waiting to see what was billed as an early headlining set. Candlemass was the first act to go on that day, and they had originally been scheduled to appear in 2010, but for the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull’s eruption and subsequent disrupting of European airspace. So there they were, a year after the fact, fronted by Robert Lowe of Solitude Aeturnus and running through a string of hits, when Lowe takes a bow and moves off stage to make room for the arrival of Längquist.

Svart has done the moment justice on this 2LP set. It is a gatefold, limited to 800 copies — 400 black, 400 white — thick stock package and vinyl, three sides of music with side D an etching of the LP art, interpreted from the original Epicus cover by Erik Rovanperä. In look and in sound, it is a reverential artifact of that set. Two songs appear on each of the three sides, with the recordings helmed by Astrosoniq drummer and habitual captor of Roadburns Marcel van de Vondervoort as well as Robi de Lorijn, running in the standard album order, and live photos are included from in front of the stage, the band donating brief quotes of memories about playing along the bottom of the gatefold, bassist and principle songwriter Leif Edling going so far as to remark that he hopes one day to release a DVD of the performance as well. I wouldn’t mind that either. Looking at it on paper beforehand, it had seemed questionable whether Längquist, who hadn’t performed with Candlemass in so long, would be able not just to pull off the material, but match presence and fit with the rest of the band — Edling, guitarists Lars Johansson and Mats “Mappe” Björkman and drummer Jan Lindh — and by the time they hit the first chorus of “Solitude,” it was clear there was no issue.

Obviously those questions are long-since answered, but to hear that version of “Solitude,” as well as “Demon’s Gate,” “Crystal Ball,” “Black Stone Wielder,” “Under the Oak” and “A Sorcerer’s Pledge” — each a classic, each essential — so clearly and crisply on this vinyl only underscores how righteously Längquist stood in for the performance. It wasn’t just special, it was also good. Of course, 25 years later, the voice changes, and the highs in “Solitude” were left there in favor of something more attainable, but Längquist‘s voice had power enough not just to step in for Lowe, but to own those songs, which other singers had been working to make their own for over two decades. By the time I get to trading out the first LP for the second to hear them close out with “Under the Oak” and “A Sorcerer’s Pledge,” the little differences between the studio versions and the live ones stand out, how Johansson tackles the solos, the pacing differences, etc., and in both spirit and presentation, it’s Candlemass playing arguably their most classic outing, front to back, celebrating their legacy in what if I’m not mistaken has been a one-time-only fashion — that is, I don’t think they’ve done it again since. Whether you saw it or not, what doomed soul wouldn’t want to bear witness to such a thing?

Edling better get moving on that DVD.

Candlemass, “Under the Oak” Live at Roadburn 2011

Candlemass on Thee Facebooks

Svart Records

Epicus Doomicus Metallicus Live at Roadburn 2011 at Burning World Records

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Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus to Release Spirit Knife April

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Abramis Brama to Release Enkel Biljett May 2

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 13th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

It’s been a quick five years since Stockholm’s Abramis Brama released their last album, Smakar Söndag (review here), but the time differential seems to be something the long-running Swedish rockers are looking to address with Enkel Biljett, which immediately vibes more along the lines of their gloriously boogie-fied early works. This is twice as interesting since founding bassist Dennis Berg split in 2012, but Abramis Brama seem to have weathered the change well judging by the new song “Blåa Toner,” which can be streamed below courtesy of the Transubstans Soundcloud page. They sent the following info down the PR wire as well about the May 2 release for Enkel Biljett.

If you were looking for an excuse to learn Swedish other than their fantastic healthcare and general having-Western-Civilization-figured-out-ness try this:

Through the last 15 years Abramis Brama has released heavy, ecstatic, riff-oriented hard rock with Swedish lyrics and with the new album ”Enkel Biljett”, the band continues their journey with new found energy.

As the band’s sixth studio album, ”Enkel Biljett” proudly shares the heavy hard rock foundation with it’s predecessors and at the same time showcasing other dimensions of Abramis Brama than previously recorded.

2012 was a year of evolution in Abramis Brama, bassist and co-founding member Dennis Berg left the band after having completed a European tour including a live performance on the legendary German Tv show Rockpalast. Soon after, the remaining members found just what they were looking for in Mats Rydström (Backdraft, Pontus Snibb 3) who gladly accepted the offer to join the band. This progression gave the band new energy and inspiration that transpired in the studio and lead to nine vigorous songs.

The title track and lead single ”Enkel Biljett” was released in January 2014 (as a split vinyl with tour brothers Black Debbath of Norway). It was immediately picked up by the Swedish national radio and other commercial radio stations.

In Swedish the title ”Enkel Biljett” means one-way ticket, and the album is injected with a new spark and fire. The heavy riffs are of course still present as well as the psychedelic folky elements. Yet this time around there’s more to comprehend, savor and appreciate.

Current line-up:
Ulf Torkelsson, vocals.
Peo Andersson, guitar.
Fredrik Liefvendahl, drums.
Mats Rydström, bass.

https://www.facebook.com/transubstansrecords
https://www.facebook.com/AbramisBrama
http://www.abramisbrama.com/

Abramis Brama, “Blåa Toner” from Enkel Biljett (2014)

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Goatess Join Roadburn 2014 Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 20th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

The 2013 self-titled debut (review here) from Swedish stoner doomers Goatess — who are fronted by the considerable riff-riding pipes of Chritus Linderson (Lord Vicar, ex-Saint Vitus, ex-Count Raven) — left little room for argument, and while it’s a bummer that Berlin outfit The Oath won’t be able to make it out to Roadburn 2014, Goatess make a more than substantial replacement in the lineup. No clue on when on the opening day of the festival they’ll be playing or which stage in 013 they’ll grace, but cool that they’re involved either way. The countdown to April continues.

Announcement comes courtesy of the Roadburn website:

Goatess To Replace The Oath at Roadburn Festival 2014

We at Roadburn are very sorry to announce that The Oath have sadly had to cancel their appearance at Roadburn Festial 2014 due to personal circumstances. Hopefully, we’ll be able to welcome the band at Roadburn 2015.

Luckily, we’re able to report that Sweden’s Goatess will replace The Oath on Thursday, April 10th at the 013 venue in Tilburg, The Netherlands.

Featuring the vocal talents of one Christian ‘Chritus’ Linderson, formerly of Count Raven, Saint Vitus, Terra Firma, and currently of Lord Vicar, Goatess have taken a different tack and managed to take the previously almost-completely stripmined sound of Kyuss, circa Blues For The Red Sun, and make it sound fresh again!

Sure, there’s more than a tinge of Sabbath on Goatess‘ S/T album (released on the ever prolific Svart Records), but the band hews closer to the fuzzed-up tone of California’s favourite desert-fried sons than to the average bunch of Iommi-worshippers.

Goatess axeman Niklas knocks out a woozy-edged guitar that moves from psych-edged subtlety to great big fuck-off ballsy rifforama, with a sprinkling of eastern-sounding melody woven through, more-than-ably backed up by a bravura drum performance from skinsman Kenta and Findus‘ deeply impressive, fluid, nuanced bass, leaving Chritus to work his magic safe in the knowledge that the heavy lifting is well and truly taken care of.

Make sure to indulge yourself in Goatess‘ primordial, hypno fuzz at Roadburn Festival 2014.

Roadburn Festival 2014 will run for four days from Thursday, April 10th to Sunday, April 13th 2014 at the 013 venue in Tilburg, The Netherlands.

Tickets for the traditional Afterburner event on Sunday, April 13th at the 013 venue in Tilburg, The Netherlands are still available. Get in on the action HERE!

https://www.facebook.com/baldersounds
http://www.roadburn.com/roadburn-2014/tickets/

Goatess, “Alpha Omega” from Goatess (2013)

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Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus Anounce European Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 30th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

You might not know it yet, but you’re going to want to pay attention to the cumbersome name Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus. The Swedish four-piece are celebrating their 10-year anniversary as a band in 2014, and following a late-2013 reissue of their sophomore outing, Bloom (originally on Transubstans), they’ll make a proper debut on Small Stone this spring with Spirit Knife. I missed the boat on Bloom when it came out — not to mention their Elefanta full-length debut — but it’s something of a gem, and Spirit Knife pushes psych atmospheres and confident, commanding heavy rock further.

It’s not about how many beers you can drink so much as how far you can make the sound go. Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus can push out bluesy fuzz or, like on “Sworn Collision,” delve into wistful indie spaciousness, but they always do so with an imaginative ear toward classic pop rock and psychedelia, and they seem a safe bet to turn heads into converts here in the US as well once the new album arrives. One to watch, to put it more efficiently.

They’ll tour Europe to herald Spirit Knife‘s arrival. Dates and bio info on the band follow, courtesy of the PR wire:

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

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

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

JEREMY IRONS & THE RATGANG MALIBUS
“Spirit Knife Tour April 2014″

1 abril – COLOGNE (MTC Club)
2 abril – PARIS (Giburs Café)
3 abril – BARCELONA (Rocksound)
4 abril – MADRID (Siroco)
5 abril – SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA (Club Moon)
6 abril – LEÓN (Gran Café)
8 abril – BERLIN (Cortina Bob)

https://www.facebook.com/JeremyIronsandtheRatgangMalibus
http://smallstone.bandcamp.com/album/spirit-knife

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

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I are Droid, The Winter Ward: Leaving Ground

Posted in Reviews on September 19th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Sonic diversity within the confines of genre is rare enough, but when one encounters a band like I are Droid, it’s a fitting reminder that those who actually cross boundaries after acknowledging them are in much scarcer supply. I are Droid‘s second album for Razzia Records, The Winter Ward — their first outing was 2008′s cleverly-titled I are Debut – is such a release, culling together elements of modern alternative and classic heavy rock and marrying them with a vast array of sonic textures in the form of synth and programming. To give some basic idea of how that works, one might look at a song like “Kill it Good,” fourth on the album and among its most infectious tracks. On the surface, you have the trio of guitarist/vocalist Peder Bergstrand (once and again of Lowrider), bassist/backing vocalist Jens Lagergren and drummer Fredrik Okazaki Bergström, who proffer excellently composed and performed, driving rock and roll, but under that and running along with it there are layers of synth worked in and midi that comes courtesy of Bergstrand and producer/mixer Daniel Bergstrand. Not only do these electronic elements become essential to the overall listening experience of The Winter Ward, providing a bed for the strong hooks of “22:22,” “Feathers and Dust,” “Constrict/Contract” and “Kill it Good,” among others on the 11-track/46-minute offering, but they create an immersive depth in the mix that puts the audience in a different headspace while hearing the album almost without realizing it. They’re the world in which the songs happen, but they’re also part of the songs themselves, and it’s not necessarily appropriate to think of them as separate — the builds in “Feathers and Dust” and “22:22″ can attest to that, as the synth not only matches the forward motion of the other instruments, but is another, essential piece of the whole. Shades of Bergstrand‘s desert guitar tonality and fuzz show up in cuts like “Leaving Ground” (the longest on the album at 6:26) and the particularly Queens of the Stone Age-esque guitar progression in the verse of “Given is Given,” but even this is shifted and directed to suit I are Droid‘s more complex, more nuanced purposes. The real triumph of the record is that it’s pop.

It would be fascinating enough for I are Droid to put together a collection of songs using these methods and have it be a fucking mess, unstructured and dense with self-indulgence, but that’s not how The Winter Ward plays out. These songs have hooks of nearly unbearable potency, and at the heart of all this stylistic breadth there resides an adherence to classic, immediately familiar verse/chorus construction that makes a cut like the percussion-centric “Odes” as accomplished in terms of basic songwriting as it is aesthetically. Couple that with crisp production — Daniel Bergstrand‘s name might be familiar from his recording/mixing work for Meshuggah, In Flames, Behemoth, Devin Townsend, and so many others; the drum sounds here is a sure tell of metal roots, whatever context surrounds — intricate, headphone-worthy mixing and Peder‘s dynamic vocal sensibilities and The Winter Ward becomes even more accessible, the lyrics of opener “Then, at 15″ setting a wistful, reflective tone for the rest to follow that stays general enough to be universally relatable. This mood perfectly suits Peder‘s voice, which arrives melodic over an initial salvo of synth tings before the chugging guitar/bass and deceptively weighted drum thud begins and “Then, at 15″ starts both its hurried push and lyrical coming of age narrative. For as long as there’s been popular music, that’s been a theme of it, but I are Droid use the opener effectively as a point from which to expand — the subsequent “With Lowered Arms” and “Given is Given (Part I)” both drawing on some of the same sweet melancholy while broadening the palette overall, the second track maximizing an open, airy feel while “Given is Given (Part I)” grounds the overarching flow with an encompassing melody in the vocals and guitar, which dominates accompanied by Lagergren‘s bass. The methodology holds for the next couple tracks, as “Given is Given (Part I)” feeds into the ultra-catchy “Kill it Good” and “Feathers and Dust,” each of which efficiently toys with the balance of rock and electronic progressivism, pushing to one side or the other for any given verse or chorus, a double-edged hook emerging in “Kill it Good” that stands as one of The Winter Ward‘s strongest, though certainly there’s no shortage of competition.

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Dozer, Vultures: Before the Eyes of Heathens

Posted in Reviews on August 6th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Excluding a limited split 7″ with NYMF that heralded its coming, Vultures is the first outing from Swedish rockers Dozer in five years since they released 2008′s Beyond Colossal. That album, their fifth and second for Small Stone, became the capstone on Dozer‘s career when an indefinite hiatus was announced Fall 2009. After guitarist Tommi Holappa and drummer Olle Mårthans and bassist Johan Rockner played together (the latter on guitar) as part of the Greenleaf lineup for 2012′s triumphant Nest of Vipers album (review here), with TruckfightersOskar Cedermalm on vocals and bassist Bengt Bäcke, who engineered Dozer‘s first two albums and worked with other formative Swedish heavy rockers like Demon Cleaner — not to mention a guest appearance from Dozer guitarist/vocalist Fredrik Nordin on that record’s closing track — it was announced Dozer would return to the stage at Desertfest 2013. This was a welcome surprise even after Greenleaf played there in 2012 — Dozer‘s set was preceded by a Lowrider reunion in London and it has been one of the high points of my year so far — and while the immediate next question was when Dozer‘s next studio release would surface, Vultures arrives as a semi-complete answer to the question. Recorded in 2004-2005 at Rockhouse Studios in Borlänge, these six tracks were used as pre-production demos for what would later become the fourth Dozer album, 2005′s Through the Eyes of Heathens. They arrive here with a mastering job from Karl Daniel Lidén (who may or may not also play drums on them) and cover art by William Ede as a digital-only-for-now 26-minute EP that at very least shows Dozer have a continued interest in being Dozer. And if Vultures is a stopgap issued in order to keep their name in the minds of their fans while Holappa continues to write and record with a partially-revamped Greenleaf lineup, being one of those fans, I’m more than happy to take it. The Through the Eyes of Heathens era was a pivotal one in Dozer‘s progression, continuing the shift from the desert-style heavy of their first two albums — 2000′s In the Tail of a Comet and 2001′s Madre de Dios — that began to show itself on 2002′s Call it Conspiracy and pushing Dozer‘s style to individualized territory not yet heard from the band.

In any case, after five years, it was high time Dozer got something out, and Vultures provides a fascinating look at their creative process. For one thing, the songs are remarkably put together despite their “demo” tag. I don’t know for sure if Bäcke engineered this recording — he helmed their first two records and prior demos at Rockhouse — but from the sound of the tracks, I’d believe it. Nordin‘s vocals are layered, the drums have a crisp pop to them, Rockner‘s bass rumbles with fuzzy conviction and the guitars layered and driving in that style that was so quickly becoming Dozer‘s own at this point in their career. Dozer would ultimately take to Seawolf Studios on an island off the coast of Finland to record the final album, and it’s perhaps most curious of all that not one track from Vultures was used in full. There are pieces here in songs like “The Imposter” and closer “To the Fallen” that one familiar with the finished record might be able to recognize, at least in spirit if not note-for-note, but nothing on Vultures was directly ported to Through the Eyes of Heathens. The effect this has is two-fold. First, it makes the new EP that much more of a new release — it is genuinely unheard material. Second, it makes Vultures even more intriguing as a look into Dozer‘s creative process. Was this something that had never happened before, that the songs took such drastically different forms by the time they were finished? Was the original intent to get these tracks on tape so as to write new material using them as a base to work from? What was it about a song like opener Vultures “The Blood is Cold” that didn’t make the final cut, or was it not even an issue of that, and rather, the band knew all along these tracks wouldn’t be on the record but wanted to have them documented anyway for just this future purpose? These questions abound, but what’s most pivotal about Vultures as a standalone release is that it captures Through the Eyes of Heathens-style songwriting with production more akin to Madre de Dios and In the Tail of a Comet, making it a wholly unique entity within Dozer‘s catalog, which if it needs to be said, is one of the finest and most essential the Swedish heavy underground has ever produced.

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Candlemass to Release Epicus Doomicus Metallicus Live at Roadburn 2011 LP on Svart

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 22nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

In the two years since, CandlemassEpicus Doomicus Metallicus performance live at Roadburn 2011 has become my go-to example of the kind of thing one finds at the Tilburg-based fest and pretty much nowhere else on earth. To date, the Swedish doom legends’ reunion with vocalist Johan Längqvist is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen at a show, so my question is this: Is it possible to resist the proposition of Candlemass, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus Live at Roadburn 2011 because I don’t want to have to buy it on LP, or is it time to get over the self-imposed embargo, cope with The Patient Mrs.‘s rolled eyes and just get the damn thing? I guess we’ll just have to see where I end up.

Epicus Doomicus Metallicus Live at Roadburn 2011 is due out June 14 on Svart. The PR wire offers considerable temptations:

Today, SVART RECORDS announces June 14th as the international release date for CANDLEMASS’ vinyl-only Epicus Doomicus Metallicus – Live at Roadburn 2011 album. CANDLEMASS’ debut album Epicus Doomicus Metallicus is a genre-defining classic if there ever was one – the starting point of modern epic doom metal, even. In 2010 and 2011 CANDLEMASS invited the original Epicus vocalist Johan Längqvist back into the fold for a few select shows celebrating the album’s 25th birthday. This vinyl-only release captures the band performing Epicus Doomicus Metallicus album live at the sold-out Roadburn Festival in Holland, April 2011. Mixed from a professional 32-track recording and mastered vinyl under the supervision of band founder/mainman Leif Edling, this is the ultimate live version of the classic.

The SVART release has the album spread over three sides of vinyl and an etching on side D. The two LPs are wrapped in a gatefold jacket, and the set is available on black or white vinyl. Both versions are limited to 400. Comments Leif Edling: “No volcano could stop us this time to perform the Epicus album at the Roadburn festival in Holland. It was a very special day, filled with great music, incredible fans, and a band that had a lot of fun doing this! After 25 years original, Epicus singer Johan Längqvist is onstage with us to perform something that people say is one of the doom metal classics. And I think we did a pretty good job there at Roadburn. We played well, and the show was a total success! So here it is, CANDLEMASS live at the Roadburn festival…as it was, no overdubs…recorded on 32 channels…a fine slice of legendary doom released on big, fat, double-packed vinyl!”

MORE INFO:
www.svartrecords.com
www.facebook.com/svartrecords

Candlemass, “Solitude” Live at Roadburn 2011

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Mamont Post New Video for “Stonehill Universe”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 27th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

To date, they’re not revolutionaries or anything like that, but I like Swedish four-piece Mamont. I dug their EP well enough, but with the cumbersomely-titled 2012 debut full-length, Passing through the Mastery Door (review here), it was easy to hear they were beginning a process of coming into their own, and that sensibility I almost always find exciting in an album. The band, based in Nyköping and Stockholm and previously interviewed here, seem bent on doing the work of a genuine creative progression — both in their songwriting and in terms of putting in time on the road — and in their new video for the track “Stonehill Universe,” they show that even a simple performance clip of a group in a room (or two) still has space to show a bit of individuality. I’m not the betting type, but I’m looking forward to hearing what Mamont do next, and this is fun in the meantime.

Enjoy:

Mamont, “Stonehill Universe” Official Video

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New Keepers of the Water Towers, The Cosmic Child: Weight of Space

Posted in Reviews on January 29th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

It’s been two years since Stockholm heavyweights New Keepers of the Water Towers released their sophomore full-length, The Calydonian Hunt, through MeteorCity, and that span of time has found them making a jump in more than just their label. Issued via Listenable Records, their third album, The Cosmic Child, finds New Keepers of the Water Towers a much more mature, more patient band, embarking on progressive psychedelic sprawl and incorporating acoustics alongside periods of the more expected weighted distortion. Tracks are by and large longer than either the second album (review here) or their Chronicles debut (review here), which compiled two self-released EPs into a 60-minute long-player rife with formative Mastodonic crush, and the three-turned-four-piece don’t shy away from including atmospheric interludes both within the songs and in the form of the closing title-track. All told, The Cosmic Child runs through six tracks in just under 47 minutes, and while there are times where it seems like New Keepers of the Water Towers have wandered beyond their capacity to restore structured order, there’s never actually a moment throughout where the songs get away from them, and the record winds up being as much of a success as it is a surprise, though those diametrically opposed to progressive indulgences will want to stay wary, as The Cosmic Child is full of them right from the beginning of opener “The Great Leveller,” which swirls to a march led by drummer Tor Sjödén and complemented by the guitars of Rasmus Booberg and Victor Berg (Björn Andersson has since joined on bass, but in this liner-noteless digital age, there’s no word on whether or not he’s actually playing on the album). “The Great Leveller” swells to a slow verse plod topped with melodic vocals and open, big-sounding guitar, gradually giving way to the chorus and a chugging rhythm playing out under a grandiose echoing, winding solo. The Mastodon feel isn’t completely gone from New Keepers’ sound – let’s not forget that they too “went prog” – but The Cosmic Child feels less outwardly concerned with showy technicality than it does with mood and atmosphere, “Visions of Death” setting a side-to-side sway in its guitar line that rests on a strong rhythmic foundation between the bassline and the drums.

There’s a current of excellent guitar leads throughout The Cosmic Child, and “Visions of Death” certainly has one in its midsection, but even these are never so over-the-top as to distract from the overall balance of the material, which rests between modern prog metal and heavy psychedelia. At nearly nine and a half minutes, “Visions of Death” presages much of what’s to come thematically from 12-plus-minute cuts like “Pyre for the Red Sage” (12:05) and “Lapse” (12:32), but each piece of the album has an identity of its own that simultaneously works to the benefit of the whole work. This is the best case scenario for a thematic, semi-narrative album, which The Cosmic Child purports to be (no lyric sheet with that download). Piano drives a transition between “Visions of Death” and the subsequent “Pyre for the Red Sage,” which opens with the same line and adds acoustic guitar for its introductory base. By the end of the first full minute, the song has unfolded its grandeur, but as big as it gets – it gets plenty big – there remains a grounding element in a catchy chorus and driving kick bass. Booberg, Berg and Sjödén all handle vocals reportedly, and on “Pyre for the Red Sage,” layers assure that as much largesse is carried across musically, it’s duly met with the singing. Before its halfway point, the track breaks to synth ambience and moves gradually, patiently, over its next couple minutes to post-Floydian prog metal, a thrashy riff running rhythm for a semi-shred solo that works because of the time spent getting to it. The guitar line that follows is one of the more memorable aspects of the song and indeed the album, and it’s met by far-off echoing vocals before a slowdown introduces the acoustics that will carry into “Cosmosis,” typified by a sweet vocal melody and rounding out with a darker electric guitar line that serves as a foreshadow to “Lapse,” the culmination of The Cosmic Child and New Keepers’ most ambitious single work to date.

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Ponamero Sundown Meet the Clown in the Woods in New Video for “The Dice”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 8th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Few rules in life I’d be willing to call absolute, but I think it’s safe to say that if you’re walking through the woods and you run into a dude in a creepy clown mask, your day just got a whole lot worse. It’s a lesson we should be teaching our children, really.

We last heard from heavy rocking Swedish foursome Ponamero Sundown in 2011 with the album, Radio Eléctrica (review here), a straightforward bit of Euro heavy brought to light by Transubstans Records. The clip you’ll find below, which splices the aforementioned PSA about forest clowns (also dudes in pig masks, we can’t forget them) with performance footage of the band, is for the song “The Dice” from that album, which Ponamero Sundown are due to follow up this year if they want to keep the two-year pace they established between their ’09 debut, Stonerized (review here) and the sophomore outing.

Those suffering coulrophobia may want to avoid, but everyone else, feel free to enjoy:

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On the Radar: Amaxa

Posted in On the Radar on January 3rd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Like many in the current crop of Swedish heavy bands, Stockholm-based Amaxa owe much of what they do directly to post-Sabbath early ’70s riffing, bands less given to outwardly stonerized lyrics or a focus on what would become doom. Organ shows up on their self-titled, self-released debut LP, but even when it picks up, “Shooting Star” is more psychedelic and thicker toned than you’d call what Deep Purple were doing at the time. They cite Mountain specifically and Swede-prog progenitors Kebnekajse, and I’m no one to argue, but it’s impossible to ignore the trailblazing bands like Graveyard, Witchcrat and Burning Saviours have done over the course of the last decade as well. Either way you look at it, Amaxa are playing off ideas that will be readily familiar to experienced listeners within the genre.

The band is comprised of guitarist Peter Pedersen, bassist Anders Broström, vocalist/organist Erik Broström and drummer Jimmy Halvarsson, and much of what might distinguish them among their peers in Sweden’s crowded retro set lies in the organ and how it’s used to play up prevailing psychedelics that come through alongside blues rock riffing and palpable tonal warmth while the production balances modern techniques and the already-stated retro aesthetic. Longest cut “Welcome in Sanity” meters out darker stomp, but even so keeps the pace moving centered around an undulating bassline from Anders and Jimmy‘s tense ride cymbal, both of which open wide in the chorus to the 6:19 track, which in turn has room in its second half for a sort of mini-freakout shuffle. At very least, Amaxa are schooled in the tenets of the sound they’re presenting on their first album.

Killer low-end is a regular feature throughout Amaxa‘s Amaxa, but “The Heartache of Philip Marlowe” belongs to Peter‘s guitar and to Jimmy‘s cowbell. Tonally, it’s some of the best fuzz Amaxa have on offer, and put to a start-stop groove in the verse that Erik matches in his vocals. The album ends with fitting swirl and some heretofore unheard melodic complexity, hinting of things to come maybe on future releases, and if nothing else, the fact that they self-released it and pressed to vinyl bodes well for a sense of professionalism to grow. Because apparently I have a Soundcloud account now and because Amaxa (also on Thee Facebooks here) posted the tracks there, here’s the full record:

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At a Glance: Switchblade, Switchblade [2012]

Posted in Reviews on December 12th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Undeterred by the departure of bassist/vocalist Anders Steen after the release of their fifth album in 2009, Stockholm-based drone metallers Switchblade have pressed on as the duo of guitarist Johan Folkesson and drummer Tim Bertilsson, adopting the motto “less is more” and using the lack of a permanent third party to their advantage on the follow-up sixth outing — self-titled as all their releases have been since starting out — by inviting a slew of guests to join them on these recordings. For the ease of telling them apart, presumably so you don’t go, “Hey, did you hear Switchblade by Switchblade?” and the other party answers, “Which one?” the band has subtitled their full-lengths with the year of release, and so with Switchblade [2012] (released on Trust No One/Denovali), they mark a new era for the band.

To find a Switchblade song with a title other than its runtime or a number indicating its place in the tracklist, you’d have to go back all the way to Switchblade [2000], released some three years after they got together, and Switchblade [2012] follows suit aesthetically with many of the sort of branded tenets the band has developed over the course of their decade and a half together, arriving in three extended movements each with its own defining progression and standout elements. The liner to the digipak CD breaks “Movement I” (14:34) down into “Grave I/Dissonance I/Coda I,” “Movement II” (10:48) into “Nocturne/Mezzo/Coda II” and “Movement III” (11:33) into “Grave II/Dissonance II/Elegy/Finale,” so the impression is of one larger, mostly instrumental work tied together by various musical themes. That turns out to be the case, but each of the three tracks still has something of its own to offer.

As regards the guest appearances, though it would seem to contradict the “less is more” ethic –actually being more than less — appearances from Katatonia vocalist Jonas Renkse, Kongh vocalist David Johansson, Terra Tenebrosa vocalist The Cuckoo and Spiritual Beggars keymaster Per Wiberg wind up shaping the atmosphere of Switchblade [2012] in a huge way, stacked though the vocals are into the second half of the 37-minute album. So too does a major contribution come from the engineering job of Karl Daniel Lidén (Vaka, ex-Greenleaf/Demon Cleaner), whose  open-air mic placement on Bertilsson‘s drums adds a dimension of space to the recording that’s utterly his own. Longstanding Katatonia aficionados will be interested to know that Renkse growls here rather than relies on the emotional clean approach he’s used in his band for over a decade now, leaving Johansson to a cleaner, semi-spoken incantation that comes on in layers in the back end of “Movement II” and The Cuckoo to return in “Movement III” after a bizarre appearance in the grooving second half of “Movement I.”

Perhaps even more than the vocals, though, Wiberg‘s contributions on organ — both when they’re there and when they’re not — set the tone and atmosphere of Switchblade [2012]. Folkesson and Bertilsson (who also runs Trust No One Recordings) affect doomed minimalism at its finest during the opening stretches of “Movement III,” but it’s the contrast and lack of Wiberg‘s presence where he had done so much to fill out the fast and slow components of “Movement II,” that really brings the starkness to bear. At 10:48, “Movement II” is also the shortest song Switchblade have had on an album since 2003, so it’s a change working on multiple levels. As “Movement III” picks up in its second half and the album sloths in the general direction of its apex, both vocals and organ join in to accompany, first from Renkse again — his throat sounding raw, inflamed and dry – then in a serious of gurgles and screams from The Cuckoo, who tops a final(e) slowdown in excruciating fashion as “Movement III” deteriorates. All the while, though, working alongside Folkesson‘s guitar, Wiberg is filling out the track in the low-end space a bassist might otherwise occupy.

Ultimately, it seems to be Switchblade‘s encompassing sense of musical adventure that has kept them from being hindered by Steen‘s absence. By bringing in outsiders to take part, they’ve made sure not to delve further into minimalism than intended, while still allowing for a feeling of space to be carried across during droning guitar section that precedes the bell-of-the-ride swing of “Movement I,” arguably as active instrumentally as they get here — and another instance in which Wiberg makes his impact felt — so that whatever sacrifice they’ve had to make, the sound of Switchblade [2012] winds up broader, not at all contracted. To put it on their terms, though I’d argue that they got there with more, not less as they posit, the end result is still more, not less. If it’s more is more or less is more, whatever. It’s more in the end, and if Switchblade are bent on making complex ideas and logistics seem simple, that can only help them as they commence refining the nascent duo approach they present here. 15 years on, a new beginning.

Switchblade on Thee Facebooks

Trust No One Recordings

Denovali Records

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I Are Droid Post Video for “Given is Given (Part 1)” from The Winter Ward

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 26th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

My motivations for posting this video for the song “Given is Given (Part 1)” from Swedish trio I are Droid‘s upcoming sophomore album, The Winter Ward are twofold. First, it’s fuzzy and Swedish, so it’s kind of a no-brainer that I’d put up a post about it anyway. That’s kind of my thing. Second, that dude in the middle up there reluctantly removing his hood is none other than guitarist/vocalist Peder Bergstrand, former and apparently once again frontman for Lowrider.

And with the announcement a couple weeks back that those seminal Swedish stoner mavens have reunited for a one-off at next year’s London Desertfest, yeah, you could say there’s an added level of interest there. In I are Droid, Bergstrand is joined by drummer Fredrik Okazaki Bergström and bassist Jens Lagergren. The Winter Ward is due out early in 2013 on Razzia Records, and sometime in the next couple weeks, I’ll be running an interview with Bergstrand about the Lowrider reunion, how it all came about, how it plays into working with I are Droid, and so on.

As it’s nice to have a little context for that kind of thing, here’s “Given is Given (Part 1).” Please enjoy:

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Graveyard Announce US Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 1st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Word just came down the PR wire of Graveyard 2013 US tour dates. The band are not to be missed live, and I for one am looking forward to hearing how they bring their new album, Lights Out (review here), to life on stage.

See you in Philly:

GRAVEYARD: U.S. TOUR DATES ANNOUNCED!

FINALLY: People in the States can stop complaining about not having some real goddamned rock ‘n’ roll shows to go to. Plus, our neighbors to the north & south have good reason to grab their passports and head for their borders.

Rejoice Faithful Disciples of the Scuzz and Fuzz of Analog Sound for I say unto you that Sweden’s finest, GRAVEYARD, are coming back to headline in the U.S. to support their new album, Lights Out, due out in North America on November 6th!

Launching on January 23rd in Boston, Massachusetts, the tour will feature special appearances in Seattle, Washington and Houston, Texas from The Devil’s Blood and Royal Thunder.

Confirmed tour dates are:

01/23/13 Royal Boston – Boston, MA
01/24/13 Underground Arts – Philadelphia, PA
01/25/13 Bowery Ballroom – New York, NY
01/26/13 Black Cat – Washington, D.C.
01/27/13 Music Hall of Williamsburg – Brooklyn, NY
01/29/13 The Orange Peel – Asheville, NC
01/30/13 Exit/In – Nashville, TN
01/31/13 The Masquerade – Atlanta, GA
02/01/13 The Hi-Tone Café – Memphis, TN
02/02/13 The Firebird – St. Louis, MO
02/04/13 The Shelter – Detroit, MI
02/05/13 Lincoln Hall – Chicago, IL
02/06/13 7th Street Entry – Minneapolis, MN
02/08/13 Larimer Lounge – Denver, CO
02/09/13 Urban Lounge – Salt Lake City, UT
02/11/13 The A Club – Spokane, WA
02/12/13 Wonder Ballroom – Portland, OR
02/13/13 Neumos – Seattle, WA *featuring The Devil’s Blood and Royal Thunder*
02/15/13 Slim’s – San Francisco, CA
02/16/13 Slim’s – San Francisco, CA
02/17/13 El Rey Theatre – Los Angeles, CA
02/18/13 The Casbah – San Diego, CA
02/19/13 The Crescent Ballroom – Phoenix, AZ
02/21/13 Emo’s East – Austin, TX
02/22/13 Granada Theater – Dallas, TX
02/23/13 Fitzgerald’s – Houston, TX *featuring The Devil’s Blood and Royal Thunder*

Additional shows will be announced soon.

With legions of devoted fans, you’d best buy your tickets ASAP ‘cause these dates WILL sell out.

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