Six Dumb Questions with Alunah

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on November 1st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

It comes and goes from the ether of the mental jukebox, but the chorus of the title-track to Alunah‘s White Hoarhound is never far off. Its resonant melody, rich tones and ethereal subject matter stand the band’s PsycheDOOMelic label debut — second album overall behind 2010′s Call of Avernus — in line with rich traditions within British rock, from late ’60s psychedelic pop to thunderous modern doom and massively fuzzed riffing. White Hoarhound (review here) and Call of Avernus (review here) are both strikingly cohesive outings from a still relatively nascent four-piece, but the newer record sets itself apart in an atmosphere and thematic geared toward pre-Christian nature-worship and particularly the rich pagan history of the British Isles.

Songs like “The Offering,” “Belial’s Fjord,” and “Chester Midsummer Watch Parade” hone in on these ideas — as, I suppose, do the title-cut, opener “Demeter’s Grief” and the closing duo of “Oak Ritual I” and “Oak Ritual II” — but more to the point in terms of listening to the album, they do so with a clear-headed musicality, subtle psychedelic essence and gorgeous songwriting. Guitarist/vocalist Sophie Day (more often shortened just to Soph), fellow guitarist Dave Day, bassist Gaz Imber and drummer Jake Mason execute a tonal thickness that’s second to few whose entire schtick isn’t tonal thickness, but do so without sacrificing choruses that are memorable for more than just being heavy. As much as the riff of “Demeter’s Grief” launches the album in lumbering form, and as much as Imber‘s bass earns high marks across the board, it’s the songs themselves that stand out. Even the acoustic-led “Oak Ritual I” — on which Tony Reed, who mixed and mastered the Greg Chandler production, donates guest organ — leaves a lasting impression.

As Soph says herself on “Oak Ritual II,” “The connection to the earth feels electric this time.” Alunah have set themselves a path with White Hoarhound, and should they choose to walk it and develop their sound from what they present on these seven tracks, there’s little to limit whatever their contribution might become. It’s a special moment for the band, and given that, I wanted to hit the band up to get some idea of what went into making the songs and the album, their origins and plans going forward.

Soph was kind enough to accommodate. For those in the UK, Alunah are playing Nov. 10 at The Gas Works in Bradford and Nov. 16 in Birmingham at Asylum Birmingham with Gentlemens Pistols. More info on that at the links below. Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

1. Tell me about writing White Hoarhound. How and when did the songs start to come together? What was the first song you wrote for the album and how did it come about?

We gigged and toured Call of Avernus for quite a while, and all of our practices were taken up with us playing the songs off Avernus so we were itching to start coming up with new ideas. We probably started seriously thinking about the second album around the beginning of 2011. The first song we wrote was “Chester Midsummer Watch Parade,” we had a strong idea of how we wanted the album to sound and “CMWP” embodied that perfectly. Dave wrote the riff for it and it was just perfectly dark and moody whilst at the same time being uplifting and groovy. We’re not a dark, depressing band by any means but we do have that side to us, and “CMWP” captures that side to us whilst at the same time celebrating the Midsummer in typical Alunah style. As soon as we wrote it we started playing it live — the rest of the songs didn’t get a live airing until the middle of 2012.

2. In terms of putting the record together and structuring the songs one into the next, was “Oak Ritual II” always going to be the album closer? Did that song come first or the acoustic part before it?

Once we finished the songs it was a tossup between “Belial’s Fjord” or “Oak Ritual II” for the album closer and I think we made a good choice. “Oak Ritual” originally sounded quite different, and we only titled it in the studio. We moved the structure of the song around quite a lot, Dave and I had a jam at home and came up with the idea for “Oak Ritual I.” We went to rehearsal and played it to Gaz and Jake, from there we based the final “Oak Ritual II” on it so they kind of fed off each other in terms of which came first. The final “Oak Ritual I” wasn’t developed until we recorded it — the most of what you hear on the recording is Dave jamming on the acoustic. Same with all the backing vocals, they were las- minute studio additions, I’m so glad we did them too.

3. What is your lyric-writing process like? The lyrics on White Hoarhound seem to be coming from a quiet kind of place — they’re not really angry, sometimes sad, but still really thoughtful. Are there any rituals you have for writing the lyrics to get in the right mindset?

That’s a really nice summary of what I also feel about the lyrics. I don’t get into a ritual at all, with Avernus I remember sitting down and thinking “right, I’m going to write some lyrics,” but with Hoarhound I didn’t. The only song I really remember sitting down and writing was “Demeter’s Grief.” I’d been reading about the harvest, and the mythology attached to them, it fascinated me so I wrote that song. The rest of the songs kind of found me. I know that sounds pretentious but they did. I can’t remember ever sitting down and preparing myself to write them. I’m lucky to live amongst beautiful countryside, and I’m never short of inspiration. “White Hoarhound” was written from random thoughts which came into my head on a Welsh headland at a time when I found out my dad had lung cancer. “White Hoarhound” (normally spelt “horehound”) is actually a root the monks used to treat lung conditions with, and the headland I was standing on was where it was grown. I won’t go into massive detail on the others as I like listeners to attach their own meanings to them. I will say that this year has been a difficult one for my family, and the songs were born from a very sad and thoughtful period — they were my means of escaping into a different world. On a lighter note, I did watch a programme about flamingos and wrote a song about them… unfortunately for everyone, the rest of the band rejected it — that could have been a cracking song hahahaha!

4. Did you actually get to see the Chester Midsummer Watch? I caught some of it on YouTube and it seemed pretty psychedelic in that medieval kind of way — perfect for Alunah. That song seems to be in a tradition of British rock songwriting. Reminds me of a late ‘60s or early ‘70s psych record. Was there something in particular about the parade that inspired it?

I’m actually planning on going to see it next year — they also have a Winter Watch Parade which is smaller but has some of the characters from the Midsummer Watch Parade. The parade didn’t actually inspire the song, I’m not sure what did if I’m honest — we were just jamming and the riff came out of that. The lyrics, like the parade are celebrating the midsummer and I’m definitely interested in England’s medieval and also pagan culture. The song had a different name originally but when I read about the parade I changed the name in tribute. The parade was actually started in the 1100s and was banned for a period as it had dancing naked young boys as part of the parade — inappropriate even back then! It only recently came back to Chester and I think it’s just a beautiful, lively celebration of the Midsummer, complete with giants, jesters, dragons, devils and beasts. Thousands of people visit Chester to watch it, I’m not sure they all understand what it’s about but they all join in with the celebrations and it looks amazing, I can’t wait to visit next year.

5. How long were you in the studio recording? Did you do the album all in one shot or space it out? The tones are very warm and natural in the guitar and bass. Was there something specific about recording for White Hoarhound that you wanted to do differently from Call of Avernus?

We were in the studio recording for just five days, spaced out over weekends. We really wanted to capture the live tones on this record, we were close with Avernus but I think Greg (Chandler – who recorded it) nailed it with Hoarhound. We recorded AND mixed Avernus in four days. This time we spent more time recording and could work with our amps more to get the right sound. The other thing we did differently was to have someone else mix the record, Greg recorded and mixed Avernus, James Plotkin mastered it. This time Greg recorded, and Tony Reed mixed and mastered. Like us, Tony thrives on that ‘70s sound, so it was cool to have that meeting of different styles. He brought out the tones superbly, and we were especially pleased with the bass sound — so heavy!

6. You’re playing in November with Gentlemans Pistols and Desert Storm. Any other shows coming up, plans for the New Year you want to mention or closing words?

Yeah that’ll be an awesome gig on the 16th, we’re also in Bradford in November on the 10th with our mates Gods of Hellfire, Arkham Witch and Arke. We’ve got some big plans for 2013 which are being talked about at the moment — at least one big tour, possibly another and some other cool news which we’re discussing. Hahaha sorry to be so annoyingly vague but until they’re firm plans we don’t want to jinx things. Keep checking www.alunah.co.uk or www.facebook.com/alunah.doom for updates and thanks so much for everyone’s support in 2012.

Alunah on Bandcamp

PsycheDOOMelic Records

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Second Grave, Second Grave: Behind the Red Door

Posted in Reviews on September 17th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

One thing Massachusetts is never short on is heavy. The mostly-doomed foursome Second Grave no sooner made their existence public than they had their first EP ready to go, and the self-titled, self-released six-tracker is a vinyl-ready half-hour of surprising cohesion. As one might expect from such a fertile scene, there’s something of a pedigree involved – bassist Dave Gein doubles in Black Pyramid and guitarist/vocalist Krista Van Guilder is formerly of Warhorse and Obsidian Halo, in which fellow guitarist Chris Drzal also played, while drummer Chuck Ferreira is ex-Nodscene – so maybe the cohesive sound on the first outing shouldn’t come as such a surprise. It’s nobody’s first time out, in other words, and that prior experience has obviously bled into Second Grave. The sound blends doom, riff rock and an overarching sense of traditional metal darkness, and while the material isn’t bleak to the extent of some modern doom, neither is Second Grave in the business of upbeat heavy rock. They’re in the process of casting their own blend, rather, and even extended songs like the highlights “Covet” and “Mountains of Madness,” both of which top eight minutes, have a purposeful sense of structure and don’t veer too far into indulgence as to be accessible. The band flirts with horror culture – the title “Mountains of Madness” is a Lovecraft reference – but don’t seem to be committed to that aesthetic anymore than they’re ultimately willing to sign up and fill out their “Underground Doom Band” membership card, which if such a thing would exist one imagines might entitle them to discounts on cheap beer and Electric Wizard reissue LPs. Still, while some bands’ refusal to consent to genre signifies bold forays in defiance thereof, Second Grave remain easily accessible for any doomer who might undertake a listen while also giving a proper sampling of the various elements their sound incorporates now and might continue to bring in going forward. In that way, it’s very much a first release, however solidified the band is in their methods and the reasoning behind them.

They’ve pressed CDs – and of course Second Grave is available digitally as most releases are in this glorious future we all share – but the structure of the EP is clearly set up with vinyl in mind, even more so than the actual production of the songs, which was helmed by the band in conjunction with Gein’s Black Pyramid bandmate, Clay Neely, at Black Coffee Sound. Each theoretical “side” begins with an introduction-type piece, the first of which is “Through the Red Door.” An appropriate opener even more because of the EP’s red-door-inclusive artwork, contributed by Van Guilder, the first two minutes of Second Grave set creepy ambience off vague riffing, crafting what actually turns out to be the biggest sense of space in any of the six tracks as Van Guilder and Drzal’s guitars layer in and echo out before giving way to the rumble that leads into “Covet” and “Mountains of Madness.” Similarly, “Salvation” begins the second half of Second Grave’s Second Grave with a minute of classical acoustic guitar that also sets up a pair of tracks, the shorter “Soul Extinction” (4:32) and the finale “Divide and Conquer” (7:50). The sweet simplicity of “Salvation” is a long way, however, from the metal-minded doom that precedes it, and as “Covet” is shortly underway with engaging riffs, thundering drums and Van Guilder’s bluesy classic rock-style vocal, the vibe is chugging, more than capably melodic, and well-soloed. I keep looking for where its 8:48 runtime goes, and though there are leads and instrumental breaks, none of them accounts for any sense of ranging past the stated structure, and it seems like Second Grave are just effectively patient in their songwriting. There’s some similar crunch in how Neely captures the instruments to his own band – one can hear it in the snare sound and of course Gein’s tonality – but the mood is utterly different even as “Mountains of Madness” begins with a bass introduction to set the bounce of its more stonerly opening progression, giving way to a classic metal verse and a much stronger chorus to follow. At first, the ideas driving “Covet” and “Mountains of Madness” seem to be roughly the same, but following another impressive guitar solo in the second half of the latter, Second Grave embark at 6:39 on what’s unquestionably the most thoroughly doomed section of any of these songs.

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Visual Evidence: Sleep Take a Personal Journey through Carl Sagan’s Cosmos

Posted in Visual Evidence on August 15th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

How desperate are we for new Sleep? Desperate enough that even a new promo shot earns its own post, thank you very much. Hell, it’s already the best-reviewed stoner metal band pic of 2012!

In the shot below, we see Sleep — drummer Jason Roeder (left), guitarist Matt Pike (right), bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros (bottom) — paying homage to Carl Sagan’s Cosmos with, among other things, righteous turtleneckage.

I ask you, what’s not to love?

It's so influential!

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audiObelisk & Giveaway: Stream Order of the Owl’s In the Noon of the After Day in Full, then Win a Signed Copy of their “Cocaine Super Demon” 7″!

Posted in audiObelisk on August 14th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Giveaway rules are the same as ever. If you want to enter, just leave a comment to this post and make sure your email address is included so I can get in touch with you if you win. Five winners will be chosen at random a week from today and sent a signed copy of the “Cocaine Super Demon” 7″ (pictured below), so good luck.

Alternating between bizarre psychedelic quirk and crushing Orange-hued stoner distortion, Order of the Owl‘s debut, In the Noon of the After Day, tops 34 minutes and finds the trio well entrenched in the heavy underground sound of their native Atlanta, Georgia. Doomers will probably recognize bassist/vocalist Brent Anderson (right above) from his tenure in Zoroaster, and indeed Order of the Owl share some of that band’s wash-of-tone ethic, veering into expansive chanting when need be, but In the Noon of the After Day is dirtier, nastier and altogether meaner sounding. Its seven tracks bleed bombast and abrasive tonality.

The swaggering riffs of “Cocaine Super Demon” and “Wraith” as played by guitarist Casey Yarborough are both ballsy and expansive, Anderson adding a kind of droning punk feel to the vocals of the latter while drummer Corey Pallon drives the build on his kick bass, eventually leading freakout fills and a groove that to call anything less than lethal would be to do it a disservice. Musically, Order of the Owl are dangerous and unpredictable, with the all-out doom of “Class War” and the eight-minute “Mighty Demon Lover/Dead Trees” giving way to the ambient “Cope” before the title-track finishes out the release (it was billed as an EP, but I’d argue for calling it a full-length) with a spacier feel.

Artwork hasn’t been finalized yet, but In the Noon of the After Day is due for release before the end of the year on The Great Big, and it’s my pleasure to host it for your streaming pleasure on the player below:

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

Thanks to Order of the Owl and 313 Management for allowing me to host this stream and supplying the 7″s for the giveaway. For more on the band and the upcoming release of In the Noon of the After Day, find them on Thee Facebooks here.

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Buried Treasure: Ice Dragon, Elder and a Tale of Three Tapes

Posted in Buried Treasure, Duuude, Tapes! on August 9th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

The sun-drenched wonder you see in the photo above is the shelf unit at my office (I work here). Top to bottom, it’s got a turntable that needs a new belt, a Mini-Disc player (I used to use them for interviews and just kind of happened into the thing; it’s there now because I think it’s neat), dual cassette deck, 5-CD changer and receiver. The speakers on either side are Infinity studio monitors acquired at a discount for review, and there’s a subwoofer below that’s not pictured. I don’t always use it, because frankly my computer has some decent speakers as well and so I don’t really need it all the time, but sometimes, when I’m working late and no one else is around, there’s nothing else quite like it.

Of the components, the cassette deck is the newest. I hooked it up just this afternoon after finding it the other day laying around the house. I asked The Patient Mrs. what was up with it and she said it was part of the stereo she had as a kid (we’ve been together long enough that I already knew that), and as it was currently not in use, I immediately raised an eyebrow at the possibility.

That was a few days ago, and it wasn’t until today that I finally brought the thing to work and plugged it in. Thinking I was all smart, I grabbed what I thought were some spare A/V cables to go with but turned out to be the camera connector. Fortunately, also at the office, I found these laying around:

Monster Cables! That’s right. Today, I hooked up a cassette player with Monster Cables. A format that’s only “come back” as much as it has over the last couple years because it sounds crappy — hooked up like it’s part of an overpriced home theater. Hey, I roll with what I can find that I don’t have to pay for.

The impetus for this whole thing was the recent purchase of three tapes from Acid Punx Records. I’ve bought tapes here and there for a while now — I have a cassette player in my car and have considered it a point of pride for the seven years I’ve had it — but these were different. Mostly those tapes cost about 50 cents. These tapes cost $10 each.

Yes. I spent $30 on tapes. $35, actually, when you add shipping. I’d been turned onto Boston doomers Ice Dragon‘s newest album, Dream Dragon, in a thread on the forum, and I really dug it. In an all-too-familiar mix of impulse and strategy, I thought as I investigated various purchase options that I’d better pick up some older stuff that was available in limited runs before I missed out. The psychedelically cinematic Dream Dragon — which came out last month and is a pay-what-you-want download at Ice Dragon’s Bandcamp page — doesn’t seem to have a physical pressing yet anyway, so from Acid Punx, I got their 2007 self-titled and 2011′s The Sorrowful Sun instead.

Both tapes are first pressings, limited to 100 copies (the self-titled is a reissue) and pretty clearly homemade — all of which I like about them. While I was putting them in my virtual shopping cart, I stumbled on an Elder tape also for sale called Demos & Live (2007-2010) and couldn’t resist. The result:

It was actually pretty nerve-racking waiting for them to come in the mail. Not that Acid Punx took an exceedingly long time to send them or anything, but I’ll admit to feeling a little silly having shelled out $35 for three tapes. If I was at the grocery store, I’d be staring at the “Unit Price” sticker and punching myself in the head. Nonetheless, when they finally came, I heaved a sigh of relief and immediately put the Elder on in the car.

With the anticipation of seeing them over Labor Day weekend at SHoD in Connecticut mounting and that recent stream of their Armageddon Records vinyl, Spires Burn/Release, I’ve been on something of a kick. Of the tape, I’ll say that Elder were a much, much different band in 2007 than they are half a decade later. Guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo lets loose some pretty vicious sludgy screams, and especially on tape, it sounds like the material was recorded right on a room mic in the rehearsal space.

There are three demo tracks — “1162,” “Red Sunrise” and “Black Midnight” — and two live cuts — “Gemini” recorded at SHoD in 2009 and “Riddle of Steel” from Valley Homegrown TV in 2010.  As you might expect, the newest is the cleanest-sounding of the bunch, but overall, it’s a pretty concise look at how far the three-piece has come in their time together. Whatever faux-authenticity might come from listening to a bona fide demo tape in this day and age, Demos & Live (2007-2010) is legitimately a cool release, and I was glad to have picked it up.

I’ve got more digging into the two Ice Dragon tapes (both of which are also streaming on their Bandcamp) — and wanting to do that was a big part of why I finally caved and brought the tape player into the office — but on a cursory listen, they sound righteous in their lo-fi classicism, The Sorrowful Sun being more melodically developed than its self-titled predecessor. Both feel caked in blown-out-cone distortion and are pretty well suited to the format. I was glad to get them out of the car so they wouldn’t get any further warped by the heat. From what I’ve heard so far, they’re plenty warped on their own.

And while I get to know them better, I’ve got the joy of staring at the spines on my desk:

Even for $35, I could do much worse than that. Just for kicks, here’s the stream of Ice Dragon‘s Dream Dragon, which inspired all this silliness:

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Sons of Otis, Seismic: Spacequake.

Posted in Reviews on July 20th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

The thing about listening to Sons of Otis is that, if you’ve ever heard them before, you probably know what’s coming. The Toronto tone merchants have trafficked in densely crushing psychedelia since before the release of their first album, Spacejumbofudge, in 1996, and despite lineup tumult, extended breaks between records, and one retirement from live performances, Sons of Otis have remained largely loyal to their aesthetic over the course of their six full-lengths, the latest of which is the aptly-titled Seismic, on Small Stone. If there’s a more fitting descriptor of guitarist/vocalist Ken Baluke’s fuzz, it would almost certainly have to involve the cosmos – “space-tectonic,” perhaps, but that’s not quite as catchy an album name. In any case, the sound of the 51-minute/seven-track outing makes a fitting inspiration for the title Seismic, and while, again, that’s nothing new for Sons of Otis, they do seem to have coalesced and refined their sound somewhat, even from 2009’s Exiled (review here). Exiled had a lot in common with the sprawling, lurching riffage that songs like “Alone” and “PK” present on Seismic, but there’s a more prevalent blues edge in Sons of Otis circa 2012 that comes across in the first two tracks here, “Far from Fine” and “Lessons,” which both follow a smoked-out course of dirt-covered regret and self-loathing. “Far from Fine” launches with a buildup of amp noise and the exasperated lines “Here I go again/Nothing’s gonna change,” in Baluke’s familiar echoing gurgle, while “Lessons” finds him repeatedly asking, “When will I learn?” over a descending bassline from Frank Sargeant.

That addled sensibility isn’t necessarily new ground for Sons of Otis – one recalls songs like “Losin’ It” from 2001’s Songs for Worship or “Nothing” from 1999’s Templeball – but what the band does better on Seismic is balance that head-down sorrowfulness with hazy jamming and weighted psychedelics. Also the shortest apart from the Mountain cover “Never in My Life” on the album’s second half, “Far from Fine” and “Lessons” are the two shortest and more straightforward songs on Seismic, and they’re well placed at the front. By the time the noise-infused eight minutes of “Alone” kick in – drummer Ryan Aubin thundering the song’s beginning with what I can only assume are toms wide enough to drive a truck through – it marks a change of mood almost in spite of itself, and “Alone” follows suit. It’s slower than “Far from Fine” and more droning on its riff. There’s still a stoned sense of hopelessness to it, as there is to everything Sons of Otis puts out, but where Exiled was murky as regards its purposes, Seismic seems to be more – dare I say it? – clearheaded about what it wants to accomplish. I don’t think it would be fair to paint the picture of Baluke, Sargeant and Aubin as being suddenly mature as artists – Sons of Otis have never seemed particularly unclear about what they want to be sound-wise, but their presentation of the album is nowhere near as mud-soaked as their rumble seems to be. The first two tracks cross that line that Bongzilla did on Amerijuanican between riffy sludge and abrasive blues, and “Alone” follows with noisy psychedelic expansion of those ideas, culminating in a cymbal wash and amp freakout that serves as a firm reminder that it’s more than a little bit about pain.

“Guilt” is a minute shorter than “Alone,” but no less lysergic, creeping along its low-end dominance. To go by titles only, “Far from Fine,” “Lessons,” “Alone,” and “Guilt” might be enough to make one think Seismic follows a messy divorce (from what I hear, they’re all messy, but we say it anyway), but that’s pure conjecture. In any case, the downer spirit is maintained, and with “Guilt,” Sons of Otis force the realization of just how long they’ve been at this and how many have followed since trying to capture a similar tonal feel. Templeball was out by the time Ufomammut released their first record, and Sons of Otis have managed to develop their sound without letting go of their creative impetus. “Guilt,” as the end of the first half of the album, presents a wash of Echoplex swirl toward its finish, but though its guitar and bass tones are always central, it’s Aubin who really delivers the standout performance. Like everything else on Seismic, he sounds huge and in headphones, utterly encompassing, which is rare for drums. But even they seem to be tuned down, and each resultant thud is, well, I think you can guess the word to use.

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audiObelisk EXCLUSIVE: Stream Elder’s Spires Burn/Release 12″ in its Entirety

Posted in audiObelisk on July 19th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Fresh off a three-week tour that ended in Providence, Rhode Island, on July 6, ever-progressing Massachusetts trio Elder — guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto — have already released the follow-up to the sophomore outing they were out supporting. A limited 12″ vinyl (450 copies), Spires Burn/Release builds on the heavy psych intricacies of Dead Roots Stirring while keeping the crucial heaviness that has run a thread through Elder‘s work since their 2008 self-titled MeteorCity debut.

Spires Burn/Release is the first vinyl to be issued on the new label imprint of Armageddon Shop, which has physical stores in Boston and Providence (I’ve been there a couple times). The move into releasing music aligns Armageddon with the original label tradition — the first record labels were stores that wanted to sell music from artists around them; this is how the distribution model as we know it came about — and as Elder follow a similar aesthetic imprint of looking back for inspiration in their forward thinking, it’s all the more fitting that the two should join forces on this 12″. And at a full 22 minutes with a song per side, it’s not exactly a quiet entry into the market.

Both tracks on the offering, “Spires Burn” and “Release” have a clear path set out, but like with Dead Roots Stirring, Elder do well to obscure their linear structures with flourishes of elements from modern heavy psychedelia. Very quickly, the trio is becoming something that no other American band can quite claim to be, and as acoustics blend into the finishing moments of “Release,” the will for exploration and sonic expansion — not necessarily a surprise at this point in their career, especially after the last album — is nonetheless plain to hear. If they were to embark on a new era of krautrock-fueled progressive heaviness without losing sight of the groove at the base of their rhythms, well, I think that would be just fine.

Today I have the extreme pleasure of hosting Spires Burn/Release in its entirety for an exclusive stream. You’ll find both tracks on the player below, followed by some info on how to obtain the vinyl from Armageddon Shop even if you’re not in the Northeast and a few thoughts from DiSalvo on how it all came out. As always, I hope you enjoy:

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

Spires Burn/Release is, in my opinion, one step closer to our own sound we’ve been cultivating since Dead Roots Stirring. It’s both more “traditionally” heavy at parts and more experimental in ways, incorporating our personal influences of everything from krautrock to doom. Lyrically, the songs take a turn for the darker from DRS as well, and I think the variety of moods conveyed in the songs makes this our most dynamic release to date. — Nick DiSalvo

Elder‘s Spires Burn/Release is available now from Armageddon Shop at their online store. The striking cover art (click image above to enlarge) is by Fred Struckholz. Thanks to the band and label for letting me stream the songs.

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Black Pyramid: Engineering an Empire

Posted in Reviews on June 11th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster

Not sure what this has to do with a black pyramid, but it's creepy and I'll take it.Massachusetts doomers Black Pyramid meet at the point of the road whereby the venerated riffs of Sleep cross paths with the beastly aesthetic that has come to replace the boogie vans and pot references as the go-to subject T-shirt, anyone?matter for modern stoner metal. Guitarist/vocalist Andy Beresky has a voice caught between a gruff and clean delivery that sounds like it’s coming right out of the side of his mouth (whether it is or not, I have no idea, but that’s what it sounds like) and as he commences laying out his plot to “kill the Sagittarius” on “Visions of Gehenna” — track two on his band’s self-titled MeteorCity debut following the intro “…And the Gods Made War” — the mission of heralding the genre’s past while marching it into the future is clear. Black Pyramid is next gen stoner. Whatever wave we’re up to now. I can’t keep count.

The swaying-ship (or swinging beer stein, if you prefer) rhythm of “Mirror Messiah” plays a big part in the catchiness of the song, marked by drummer Clay Neely‘s tight but not patently technical style. Unlike many percussionists of the post-Brann Dailor era, Neely doesn’t overdo it and is able to sit back and ride the groove, bringing capable bassist Gein along in good measure. Unlike their most obvious comparison point — Sleep Black Pyramid sound cohesive and not loose or overtly jammy. Beresky isn’t necessarily a shredder when it comes to leads, but on “Mirror Messiah” he gives a good showing, and the ending segment of the song benefits strongly from his memorable lead lines.

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