Posted in Reviews on April 15th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’m not about to take credit or anything, but last year, when London-based trio Stubb posted a homemade video for the track “Under a Spell,” I said I thought the song, originally recorded for but left off of their 2012 self-titled debut (review here), was good enough to warrant release as a single. It had been included on a Ripple Music compilation, which was how it initially got out, but it seemed to me that with a Kozik-style cover and a track to pair with, “Under a Spell” would be more than able to hold its own on a 7″. Lo and behold, the band actually made it happen, teaming “Under a Spell” with new song “Bullets Rain (From the Angry Sky)” as a B-side for a Stone Stallion Rex Records release, limited to 300 copies press to blue vinyl. Again, I’m not taking credit, but it was cool at least to see that Stubb – comprised at the time of guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson, bassist/backing vocalist Peter Holland and drummer Christopher West (who’s since been replaced by Tom Fyfe) — also thought enough of the song to make Under a Spellhappen in such a manner. One more time, not taking credit.
That being the case, and in light of my ongoing affections for Stubb‘s self-titled and these dudes in general — and in the case of Holland and West, for their other band Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight — I feel like it’s worth pointing out that when it comes to Under a Spell, likely any rock you might want to throw in any direction you might want to throw it is likely to hit a more impartial reviewer than I am, but with that disclaimer, I’ll also say that both “Under a Spell” and “Bullets Rain (From the Angry Sky)” actually have the songwriting to back up their fuzzy vibes. To wit, the single’s eponymous chorus emerges out of a moodier feel than most of what made up the self-titled and is grandiose without being pompous and a payoff for the tension created through the guest Hammond of Nick Siepmann during the verse. With cuts like “Hard Hearted Woman,” “Road” and “Scale the Mountain,” the self-titled showed Dickinson‘s penchant for helming a memorable hook, but Under a Spell shows Stubb also can change to a darker vibe if need be while still keeping tonally consistent with the fuzz of the record. “Under a Spell” and “Bullets Rain (From the Angry Sky)” both center around darker lyrical themes, but the strength of structure remains and, as ever, it’s the riffs driving the two cuts forward.
The organ on “Under a Spell” is an immediate identifier, but it’s not the only one, as the song starts off with a quiet, contemplative guitar line, complemented by Holland‘s fills on bass and West‘s ride cymbal before shifting, at 1:20, into its driving central progression — heavier, thicker, meaner. Dickinson‘s lyrics are a classic rocker’s tale of betrayal, the opening lines, “You and me, man/We are not the same,” being all the more resonant for their simplicity. Siepmann (who also recorded these tracks while Tony Reed mixed and mastered) is present throughout the bridges but takes a backseat to the guitar, bass and drums during the verses and chorus, returning for the instrumental push that ends the song after being introduced on guitar before the four-minute mark. Dickinson and Holland work especially well together in the solo section, and Holland‘s time in Trippy Wicked with West isn’t lost in their fluidity of groove in the final slowdown, Dickinson letting himself get lost in a fuzzy lead while the bass and drums slow to lock in a final groove. On the flip side, “Bullets Rain (From the Angry Sky) is both more immediate and longer, reaching to 6:37, which makes it longer than everything on the self-titled save for the jamming closer — the same could be said of “Under a Spell” at 5:19, but only by a few seconds.
Holland joins Dickinson in the chorus each time in a call and response, and there are several points where Stubb seem to all come together around the central idea, one hitting after the next particularly in the post-chorus second half solo section. There are Sabbathian moments on guitar, but despite its grim imagery, “Bullets Rain (From the Angry Sky)” is all movement and little doomed, even as the bass takes the fore past five minutes in and introduces the final section of the track, vocal hooting matching Dickinson‘s leads for a few measures before he launches into a run that would likely make that impossible to finish up. A long ringout and some fading noise takes care of the remaining 30 seconds or so, and Stubb come out of Under a Spell smiling through the dirt they’ve kicked up along the way. For anyone who heard the self-titled, these two tracks make a sound follow-up and something of a collector’s piece as well, but most importantly, they offer a shift in atmosphere even from what the twanging “Crying River” brought to the full-length’s otherwise forward fuzz, perhaps indicating that Stubb‘s next outing will be a much different affair. Whether or not that’s the case, I feel the same way about Under a Spell as I did the first time I saw the video: It’s more than strong enough to stand on its own. Very cool release, and one for which I’m absolutely not going to take any credit.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 14th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
A little while back, UK fuzz rockers Stubb premiered a video for “Under a Spell,” a non-album track that was recorded after their 2012 self-titled full-length (review here). When I posted it, I said I thought the song was good enough to warrant highlighting on a 7″ single, maybe with a live track on the B-side and a Frank Kozik-style cover. Nice thought, but I didn’t imagine in a million years it would actually happen.
Lo and behold, the dudely dudes of Stubb have followed through on a new Under a Spell 7″, pressed on blue vinyl through Stallion Rex Records that also includes the new song “Bullets Rain (From the Angry Sky),” with both tracks mixed and mastered by (who else?) Tony Reed. Check out the badass motorcycle-and-puppy cover and announcement from guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson below:
We are excited to announce that we will have a 7″ record coming out on Stone Stallion Rex records very soon. Pressed on blue coloured vinyl with a special textured cover the record will be limited to 300 copies and contains two brand new songs, Under a Spell and Bullets Rain (from the angry sky). More details soon so you can get ordering!
Posted in Features on December 20th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Please note: This list is my personal picks, not the Readers Poll, which is ongoing — if you haven’t added your list yet, please do.
As ever, I’ve kept a Post-It note on my wall all year long, and as the weeks and months have ticked away, I’ve added names of bands to it in preparation for putting together my Top 20 of 2012. There was a glut of excellent material this year, and I know for a fact I didn’t hear everything, but from bold forays into new sonic territory to triumphant returns to startling debuts, 2012 simply astounded. Even as I type this, I’m getting emails about new, exciting releases. It’s enough to make you lose your breath.
Before we get down to it and start in with the numbers, the hyperbole, etc., I want to underscore the point that this list is mine. I made it. It’s not the Readers Poll results, which will be out early in January. It’s based on how I hear things, how much I listened to each of these records, the impressions they left on me — critical opinion enters into it, because whether or not I want to I can’t help but consider things on that level when I listen to a new album these days — but it’s just as much about what I put on when I wanted to hear a band kick ass as it is about which records carried the most critical significance or import within their respective genres.
Over the last couple years, I’ve come to think of the #20 spot as where I put my sentimental favorite. That was the case with Suplecs last year, and in 2012, the return of Mos Generator earns the spot. The band being led by guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed, Nomadsmarked a rehifting of Reed‘s priorities from Stone Axe, with whom he’d proffered ’70s worship for several years prior, and wound up as a collection of some of my favorite heavy rock songs of 2012 — tracks like “Cosmic Ark,” “Torches” and “Lonely One Kenobi” were as strong in their hooks as they were thorough in their lack of pretense. But the bottom line is I’m a nerd for Reed‘s songwriting, playing and production (more on that to come), and at this point it’s not really something I can even pretend to judge impartially. Still, the record’s friggin’ awesome and you should hear it as soon as you can.
Seems like it would make sense to say Golden Void would be higher on the list if I’d spent more time with it — written up just a month ago, it’s the most recent review here — but the fact is I’ve sat with Golden Void‘s self-titled debut a lot over the course of the last month-plus, and I’ve been digging the hell out of it. Really, the only reason it’s not further up is because I don’t feel like I have distance enough from it to judge how it holds up over a longer haul, but either way, the Isiah Mitchell-led outfit’s blend of heavy psych, driving classic rock and retro style gave some hope for beefing up the US’ take on ’70s swagger — usually left to indie bands who, well, suck at it — and also showed Mitchell as a more than capable vocalist where those who knew him from his work in Earthless may only have experienced his instrumental side. A stellar debut, a wonderful surprise, and a band I can’t wait to hear more from in the years to come.
This was basically the soundtrack to my summer. From the catch-you-off-guard aggression in opener “I Spit on Your Grave” to the extended stoneralia of “Master of Nuggets” and the jammy “Southern Comfort and Northern Lights,” the follow-up to Wight‘s self-produced debut Wight Weedy Wight(review here) showed an astonishing amount of growth, and though it had the laid back, loose feel that distinguishes the best of current European heavy psych, Through the Woods into Deep Waterwas also coherent, cohesive and impeccably structured. I thought it was one of the year’s strongest albums when it was released, and its appeal has only endured — as much as I listened to it when it was warm over the summer, now in December I put it on wishing the temperature would change to match. The songs showed remarkable potential from the German three-piece and cast them in an entirely different light than did their first out. Really looking forward to where they might go from here, but in the meantime, I’m nowhere near done with Through the Woods into Deep Wateryet.
“Oh, Moon Queen! Flyin’ down the world on a moonbeam!” Somehow the first lines of the opening title-track to Lord Fowl‘s Moon Queen always seem to wind up stuck in my head. The Connecticut foursome made their debut on Small Stone with the loosely thematic full-length, and touched on a sense of unabashedly grandiose ’70s heavy rock in the process. That said, Moon Queenwasn’t shooting for retro in the slightest — rather, guitarist/vocalists Vechel Jaynes and Mike Pellegrino fronted the band’s classic sensibilities with a wholly modern edge, like something out of an alternate dimension where rock never started to suck. The classic metal guitar in “Streets of Evermore” and the swaying groove from bassist Jon Conine and drummer Don Freeman under the wandering leads of “Hollow Horn” made Moon Queenmore stylistically diverse than it might otherwise have been, but at its core, it was a collection of stellar heavy rock songs, unashamed of its hooks and unafraid to put its passions front and center. They packed a lot into a 47-minute runtime, but I’ve yet to dig into Moon Queen and regret having pressed play. Another band to watch out for.
It was impossible not to be swept up in the hype surrounding Pallbearer‘s Profound Lore debut, but one listen to Sorrow and Extinctionand it was clear that its resounding praise was well earned. By blending thickened psychedelic tonality and emotionally resonant melodies, the Little Rock, Arkansas, four-piece concocted the single most important American doom release of the year. Their efforts did not go unnoticed, and as they supported the album on tour, the swell of the crowds spoke to the right-idea-right-time moment they were able to capture in songs like the stunning “An Offering of Grief” and “The Legend.” There’s room for growth — I wouldn’t be surprised to find guitarist Brett Campbell‘s vocal range greatly developed next time out — but Pallbearer have already left a mark on doom, and if they can keep the momentum going into wherever they go from here, it won’t be long before they’re being cited as having a significant impact on the genre and influencing others in their wake.
I already singled out Kadavar‘s Kadavaras the 2012 Debut of the Year, so if you need any sense of the reverence I think the German trio earned, take whatever you will from that. There really isn’t much to add — though I could nerd out about Kadavar‘s ultra-effective retroisms all day if you’re up for it — but something I haven’t really touched on yet about the record: When I was out in Philly last weekend, the DJ cleverly mixed Kadavar into a set of early ’70s jams, and it was all but indistinguishable in sound from the actual classics. That in itself is an achievement, but Kadavar‘s level of craft also stands them out among their modern peers, and it was drummer Tiger‘s snare sound that I first recognized in “All Our Thoughts,” so right down to the most intricate details, Kadavar‘s Kadavarwas a gripping and enticing affair that proved there’s still ground to cover in proto-heavy worship.
The fuzz was great — don’t get me wrong, I loved the fuzz — but with Stubb‘s Stubb, it was even more about the songs themselves. Whether it was the interplay between guitarist Jack Dickinson and bassist Peter Holland (also of Trippy Wicked) on vocals for the chorus of “Scale the Mountain” or the thickened shuffle in “Soul Mover” punctuated by drummer Chris West‘s (also Trippy Wicked and Groan) ever-ready fills, there wasn’t a clunker in the bunch, and though it’s an album I’ve basically been hearing since the beginning of the year, its appeal has endured throughout and I still find myself going back to it where many others have already been forgotten. With the acoustic “Crosses You Bear” and more laid-bare emotionality of “Crying River,” Stubb showed there was more them than excellence of tone and with the seven-minute finale “Galloping Horses,” they showed they were ready to jam with the best. Truly memorable songs — and also one of the live highlights of my year.
Orange Goblin‘s purpose seemed reborn on their seventh album and Candlelight Records debut, A Eulogy for the Damned. Culling the best elements from their last couple albums, 2007′s Healing Through Fire and 2004′s Thieving from the House of God, the long-running London troublemakers upped the production value and seemed bent from the start on taking hold of the day’s sympathy toward their brand of heavy. With tales of alcoholic regret, classic horrors and a bit of cosmic exploration for good measure, they marked their ascent to the top of the British scene and took well to the role of statesmen, headlining Desertfest and proceeding to smash audiences to pieces around the continent at fests and on tours. Look for them to do the same when they bring the show Stateside in 2013 with Clutch. Their plunder is well earned, and I still rarely go 48 hours without hearing the bridge of “The Fog” in my head. Can’t wait to see them again.
While I still miss Los Natas, my grief for their passing has been much eased over the last two years by frontman Sergio Chotsourian‘s doomier explorations in Ararat. The first album, 2009′sMusica de la Resistencia(review here), ran concurrent to Los Natas‘ swansong, Nuevo Orden de la Libertad, but with II, the new three-piece came into their own, setting space rock synth against low-end sprawl, thick drumming and Chotsourian‘s penchant for experimenting with structure. Extended tracks “Caballos” and “La Ira del Dragon (Uno)” were positively encompassing, and showed Ararat not only as a distinct entity from Los Natas, but a turn stylistically for Chotsourian into elephantine plod, wide-open atmospherics and a likewise expansive creative sensibility. The acoustic “El Inmigrante” and piano-led “Atenas” offered sonic diversity while enriching the mood, and closer “Tres de Mayo” hinted at some of the melding of the various sides that might be in store in Ararat‘s future. If the jump from the first record to the second is any indicator, expect something expansive and huge to come.
Italian cosmic doom meganauts Ufomammut outdid themselves yet again with Oro, breaking up a single full-length into two separate releases, Oro: Opus Primum and Oro: Opus Alter. But the album — which I’ve decided to list as the single entity Oro rather than its two component parts basically to save myself some brain space — was more than just big in terms of its runtime. More importantly, Ufomammut were able to hold firm to their commitment to stylistic growth, drawing on their greatest triumph yet, 2010′s Eve (review here), the trio pushed themselves even further on their Neurot Recordings debut, resulting in an album worthy of the legacy of those releasing it. I don’t know if Oro will come to define Ufomammut as Eve already seems to have — dividing it as they did may have made it harder for listeners to grasp it as a single piece — but it shows that there’s simply no scaring the band out of themselves. Brilliantly tied together around a central progression that showed up in “Empireum” from Opus Primumand “Sublime” on Opus Alter, I have the feeling Ufomammut will probably have another album out before Oro‘s breadth has fully set in.
Behold the standard bearers of heavy. It wasn’t long after hearing UK trio Conan for the first time that I began using them as a touchstone to see how other bands stacked up, and to be honest, almost no one has. Led by the inimitable lumber provided by the tone of guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis (interview here), Conan stripped down their approach for Monnos, returning to Foel Studio in Wales to work with producer Chris Fielding — who’d also helmed their 2010 Horseback Battle HammerEP — and the resulting effort was both trim and humongous. Early tracks like “Hawk as Weapon,” “Battle in the Swamp” (an old demo given new life) and “Grim Tormentor” actually managed to be catchy as well as sonically looming, and the more extended closing duo of “Headless Hunter” and “Invincible Throne” showed that Conan could both use their tone to build forward momentum and plod their way into ultra-slow, ultra-grim despairing nothingness. Monnos affirmed Conan as one of the most pivotal acts in doom, and with new material and a home studio reportedly in the works, as well as further European touring on the docket for early 2013, their onslaught shows no signs of letting up. Right fucking on.
In some ways, it seems like the easiest thing in the world, but with My Sleeping Karma‘s fourth full-length, Soma, it really was just a question of a band taking their sound to a completely new level. The German heavy psych instrumentalists brought forth the sweetness of tone their guitars have harnessed over the course of their three prior offerings, but the progressive keyboard flourishes, the warmth in the bass, the tight pop of the drums — it all clicked on Somain a way that the other records hinted was possible and made the album the payoff to the four-piece’s long-established potential. Wrapped around the titular theme of a drink of the gods and with its tracks spaced out by varying ambient interludes, no moment on the album felt like it wasn’t serving the greater purpose of the whole, and the whole proved to be a worthy purpose indeed. Hands down my favorite instrumental release of the year and an effort that pushed My Sleeping Karma to the front of the pack in the crowded European heavy psych scene.
The damnedest thing happens every time I turn on Graveyard‘s third album, Lights Out, in that before I’m halfway through opener “An Industry of Murder,” I have to turn it up. The reigning kings of Swedish retro heavy wasted no time following up 2011′s stunning sophomore outing, Hisingen Blues(review here), and with the four-year gap between their self-titled debut and the second record, it was a surprise from the moment it was announced, but more than that, Lights Outshowed remarkable development in Graveyard‘s sound, offering elements of classic soul on songs like “Slow Motion Coundown” and “Hard Times Lovin’” to stand alongside the brash rock and roll of “Seven Seven” or the irresistible hook provided by “The Suits, the Law and the Uniforms” or the single “Goliath.” A landmark vocal performance from guitarist Joakim Nilsson and newly surfaced political bent to the lyrics hinted that Graveyard were nowhere near done growing, but seriously, if they put out four or five more records in the vein of Lights Out, I doubt there’d be too many complaints. Already one can hear the influence they’ve had on European heavy rock, and Lights Outisn’t likely to slow that process in the slightest.
Three drum hits and then the lurching “Let Them Fall” — the leadoff track on the first Saint Vitus studio album since 1995 — is underway, and it’s exactly that lack of pomp, that lack of pretense, that makes Lillie: F-65so righteous. Admittedly, it’s a reunion album. They toured for a couple years playing old material, then finally decided to settle in and let guitarist Dave Chandler (interview here) start coming up with a batch of songs, but you can’t argue with the results. They nailed it. With Tony Reed‘s perfect production (discussed here), Vitus captured the classic tonality in Chandler‘s guitar and Mark Adams‘ bass and kept to their sans-bullshit ethic: A short, 33-minute album that leaves their audience wondering where the hell that assault of noise just came from. Scott “Wino” Weinrich‘s presence up front was unmistakable with Chandler‘s punkish, no-frills lyrics (as well as his own on “Blessed Night,” the first song they wrote for the album), and drummer Henry Vasquez not only filled the shoes of the late Armando Acosta but established his own persona behind the kit. I hope it’s not their last record, but if it is, Saint Vitus came into and left Lillie: F-65as doom legends, and their work remains timeless.
Talk about a band who shirked expectation. Guitarist/vocalist Justin Maranga and I discussed that aspect of Ancestors a bit in an interview over the summer, but it’s worth underscoring. There was next to nothing in either of Ancestors‘ first two albums to hint at where they’d go with the third. Both Neptune with Fire and Of Sound Mind(review here) were rousing, riff-led efforts that headed toward a particular heavy sensibility, but it was with last year’s Invisible WhiteEP (review here) that the L.A. outfit began to show the progressive direction they were heading. And In Dreams and Timeis even a departure from that! It’s kind of a departure from reality as well, with the Moog/organ/synth mesh from Matt Barks and Jason Watkins (also vocals), dreamy basslines from Nick Long and hold-it-all-together drumming of Jamie Miller — since out of the band. Closer “First Light” was my pick for song of the year, and had the album been comprised of that track along, it’d probably still be on this list somewhere, but with the complement given to it by the piano sprawl of “On the Wind” and driving riffs and vocal interplay of “Correyvreckan” (if you haven’t heard Long‘s bass on the latter as well, you should), there was little left to question that this was the strongest Ancestors release of their career to date and hopefully the beginning of a new era in their sound. They’ve never been what people wanted them to be, but I for one like not knowing what to expect before it shows up, at least where these guys are concerned.
After what I saw as a lackluster production for 2010′s Snakes for the Divine, Oakland, CA, trio High on Fire aligned themselves with producer Kurt Ballou (Converge) for De Vermis Mysteriis and completely renewed the vitality in their attack. Built on the insistence of “Bloody Knuckles,” furious fuckall of “Fertile Green,” unmitigated piracy of “Serums of Laio” and eerie crawl in “King of Days,” De Vermis Mysteriis was both aggressive in High on Fire‘s raid-your-brain-for-THC tradition and extreme in ways they’ve never been before. Groovers like the instrumental “Samsara” and earlier “Madness of an Architect” offered bombast where the thrash may have relented, while “Spiritual Rites” proved that guitarist/vocalist Matt Pike (also Sleep; interview here), bassist Jeff Matz and drummer Des Kensell had arrived at a new threshold of speed and intensity. Whatever personal issues may have been in play at the time, High on Fire delivered a blistering full-length that stands up to and in many ways surpasses any prior viciousness in their catalog, and their level of performance on their current tour makes it plain to see that the band is ready for ascendency to the heights of metal. They are conquerors to the last, and if De Vermis Mysteriisis what I get for wavering, then I’ll consider my lesson hammered home in every second of feedback, tom thud and grueling second of distortion topped with Pike‘s signature growl.
When I interviewed interviewed Steve Von Till about Honor Found in Decay, the Neurosis guitarist/vocalist called the band “a chaos process” in reference to their songwriting. I have no trouble believing that, because while Neurosis stand among the most influential heavy metal bands of their generation — having had as much of an effect on what’s come after them as, say, Meshuggah or Sleep, while also having little sonically in common with either of them — it’s also nearly impossible to pinpoint one aspect of their sound that defines them. The churning rhythms in the riffing of Von Till and his fellow frontman, guitarist/vocalist Scott Kelly (interview here), Dave Edwardson‘s intensity on bass and periodic vocal, the assured percussive creativity of Jason Roeder and theexperimental edge brought to bear in Noah Landis‘ synth and sampling all prove to be essential elements of the whole. On Honor Found in Decay — and this isn’t to take away anything from any other particular member’s songwriting contributions — it would be Landis standing out with his greatest contributions yet, becoming as much a defining element in songs like “At the Well,” “Bleeding the Pigs” and “Casting of the Ages” as either Kelly or Von Till‘s guitars. Had I never seen the band before, I’d have a hard time believing Honor Found in Decay could possibly be representative of their live sound, but they are every bit as crushing, as oppressive and as emotionally visceral on stage — if not more so — as they are on the album, and while their legacy has long since been set among the most important heavy acts ever, period, as they climb closer to the 30-year mark (they’ll get there in 2015), Neurosis continue to refuse to bow to what’s expected of them or write material that doesn’t further their decades-long progression. They are worthy of every homage paid them, and more.
It’s hard for me to properly convey just how happy listening to Greenleaf‘s Nest of Vipersmakes me, and I’ve got several false starts already deleted to prove it. The Swedish supergroup of vocalist Oskar Cedermalm (Truckfighters), guitarists Tommi Holappa and Johan Rockner (both Dozer), bassist Bengt Bäcke (engineer for Dozer, Demon Cleaner, etc.) and drummer Olle Mårthans (Dozer) last released an album in 2007. That was Agents of Ahriman, which was one of my favorite albums of the last decade. No shit. Not year, decade. With a slightly revamped lineup and Dozer‘s maybe-final album, 2008′s Beyond Colossal, and the never-got-off-the-ground side-project Dahli between, Nest of Viperslanded this past winter and with the shared membership, Karl Daniel Lidén production and consistency of songwriting from Holappa (interview here), I immediately saw it as a sequel to the last Dozer, but really it goes well beyond that. Tracks like “Dreamcatcher,” “Case of Fidelity,” “The Timeline’s History” and soaring opener “Jack Staff” show that although they’d never really toured to that point and been through various lineups over the years, Greenleaf was nonetheless an entity unto its own. Cedermalm‘s vocals were a triumph, Mårthans‘ drumming unhinged and yet grounded, and guest appearances from organist Per Wiberg and vocalists Peder Bergstrand (Lowrider/I are Droid) and Fredrik Nordin (Dozer) only enriched the album for repeat listens, which I’m thrilled to say it gets to this very day. If I called it a worthy successor both to Dozer and to Agents of Ahriman, those words alone would probably fall short of conveying quite how much that means on a personal level, so let its placement stand as testimony instead. This is one I’ll be enjoying for years to come, and when I’m done writing this feature, this is the one I’m gonna put back on to listen through again. It has been, and no doubt will continue to be, a constant.
Go figure that the Om record two albums after the one called Pilgrimagewould feel so much like a journey. Further including multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Robert A. A. Lowe (also of experimental one-man outfit Lichens) alongside the established core duo of drummer Emil Amos (also of Grails) and bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros (also of Sleep), as well as incorporating a range of guest appearances from the likes of Grayceon‘s Jackie Perez Gratz on cello and Worm Ouroboros‘ Lorraine Rath (who appeared on 2010′s God is Goodas well) on flute, Om fleshed out what was once a signature minimalism to the point of being a lush, constantly moving and markedly fluid entity. Cisneros, as the remaining founder and lead vocalist, served as a unifying presence in the material — his bass still was still very much as the center of “Gethsemane” or the more straightforward and distorted “State of Non-Return” — but those songs and “Addis,” “Sinai” and gloriously melodic closer “Haqq al-Yaqin” amounted to more than any single performance, and where prior Om outings had dug themselves deep into a kind of solitary contemplation, Advaitic Songslooked outward with a palpable sense of musical joy and a richness of experience that could only be called spiritual, however physically or emotionally arresting it might also prove. I’ve found it works best in the morning, as a way to transition from that state of early half-there into the waking world — which no doubt has more harshness in mind than the sweet acoustics and tabla at the end of “Haqq al-Yaqin” — so that some of that sweetness can remain and help me face whatever might come throughout the day. A morning ceremony and a bit of meditation to reorder the consciousness.
Didn’t it have to be Colour Haze? Didn’t it? Two discs of the finest heavy psychedelic rock the world has to offer — yes I mean that — plus all they went through to get it out, the drama of building and rebuilding a studio, recording and re-recording, pressing and repressing, what else could it have been but She Said? After two-plus years of waiting, I was just so glad when it actually existed. Late in 2008, the Munich trio released All, and that was my album of the year that year as well (kudos to anyone who has that issue of Metal Maniacs), but I feel like even if you strip all that away and take away all the drama and the band’s influence, their standing in the European scene, guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek (interview here) fostering next-gen talent on Elektrohasch and whatever else you want or need to remove, She Said still holds up. Just the songs themselves. The extra percussion layered in with Manfred Merwald‘s drums on “She Said,” the horns and Duna Jam-ambience on “Transformation,” the unpretentious boogie of “This” on disc one, or the rush of “Slowdown” on disc two and the culmination the whole album gets when the strings kick in on “Grace.” Those strings. God damn. Suddenly a 2CD release makes sense, when each is given its own progression, its own destination at which to arrive, and tired as I am I still tear up like clockwork when I put on “Grace” just to hear it while I type about it. Beautifully arranged, wonderfully executed, She Saidcouldn’t be anywhere but at the top spot on this list. The warmth in Koglek‘s guitar and Philipp Rasthofer‘s bass on “Breath” and the way their jams always seem to have someplace to go, I feel like I’m listening to a moment exquisitely captured. There isn’t a doubt in my mind Colour Haze are the most potent heavy rock power trio in the world, and that their chemistry has already and will continue to inspire others around them, but most importantly, She Saidmet the true album-of-the-year criteria in not seeming at all limited to the confines of 2012 — as though it had some kind of expiration date. Not so. Even though I’ve already been through them more times than I know or would care to share had I counted, I look forward to getting to know the songs on She Saidover the years to come, and as I have with Colour Haze‘s works in the past, seeing their appeal change over time the way the best of friends do. It couldn’t have been anything but Colour Haze. Whatever hype other albums or bands have, for me, it’s this, and that’s it.
If this list went to 25, the next five would be:
21. Snail, Terminus
22. Revelation, Inner Harbor
23. Wo Fat, The Black Code
24. Groan, The Divine Right of Kings
25. Caltrop, Ten Million Years and Eight Minutes
Honorable mention goes to: Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight (another one about whom I have a hard time being impartial), Mighty High, At Devil Dirt, Bell Witch, Samothrace, Enslaved, Viaje a 800, and Larman Clamor.
Also worth noting some conspicuous absences: Witchcraft, Swans, Baroness, Royal Thunder, The Sword, Torche. These albums garnered a strong response and have done well in the Readers Poll looking at the results so far, but please keep in mind, this is my list, I took a night to sleep on it, I stand by it and I’ve got my reasons for selecting what I did. You’ll find about 5,000 words of them above.
Thank you as always for reading. If you disagree with any picks, want to add your own take on any of the above, or anything else — really, whatever’s cool — please leave a comment below.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 11th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
I can tell it’s getting on the holidays because the escapist in me is kicking down the doors of my brain wanting to travel. As such, when I look at the list of UK trio Stubb‘s upcoming shows — brief though it is on relative terms — I can’t help but want to jump in a plane and be like, “Yeah, sorry, I know there’s a ton of weird obligation stuff to do, but uh, rock and roll,” show my passport and be gone. So it goes, and I don’t.
It’s a ways off, but apparently Stubb are going to play The Trip Out next year, which is a vintage bike show about 90 minutes north of London that looks like it kicks ass kinds of classic ass. One can only hope they bring cameras with them for a video. Hopefully closer in the pipeline is a new release the band quickly hints at. Could it be the “Under a Spell” 7″ requested earlier this year? While I cross my fingers, here’s the latest from the band:
So a little round up of what we have coming up:
Thursday 20th December- The Black Heart, Camden with XII Boar and Gurt. Money goes to cancer charity Concerts for Cures
Saturday 16th February- The Borderline, Supporting Sungrazer and The Machine
September 2013- The Trip Out custom bike/car show, Bedfordshire
We also have a special release coming up that we’ll fill you in on very soon!
Charming bastards that they are, UK fuzz rock trio Stubb went ahead today and posted a video for their unreleased song “Under a Spell.” The track, which was left off their self-titled debut, released earlier this year, is a burner — with classic “rockers are diff’rent”-type lyrics, an instant hook in its chorus following the softer intro, and a rawer, half-shouted vocal from guitarist Jack Dickinson (hat above). Long story short, it sounds badass, with featured guest Hammond work from Nick Siemper to go along with the performances of Dickinson, bassist Peter Holland (pipe above) and drummer Christopher West (tea above).
As noted last week, the track appears on the new Ripple Effect digital compilation, Head Music Vol. 1, but after listening to the song a couple times on its own while watching this video, I’m thinking a 7″ single might be in order for “Under a Spell.” Not that it won’t get heard on the Ripple comp, just that I think it’s of a quality enough to be featured on its own vinyl side as well.
Even if Stubb don’t have another unreleased track to put it with, they could use, say, this version of “Scale the Mountain” with Mykey Haslip from Stone Axe doing guest vocals in the chorus as a B-side (or the Superhot Sessions version of “Hard Hearted Woman”), and they’re good to go. Put a classic Kozik-type cover on it all block letters and some grainy picture from the ’70s, and release it in limited numbers through their own Superhot Records? I’ll buy that frickin’ thing.
Check out the clip below and see if you don’t agree:
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 25th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Kudos to heavyweight supporters of the rock The Ripple Effect. Today they sent out word that in celebration of their five-year anniversary, they’ve released a digital compilation that includes the likes of recent Ripple Music signees Devil to Pay alongside Borracho, Stubb, Hong Faux, Hosoi Bros., Venomin James and many more. Dig the news and the Bandcamp stream below:
The Ripple Effect Unleashes 5 Year Anniversary Free Download Compilation
What started out five years ago as a forum for two music lovers to share their obsession with obscure/little-heard rock music, has grown and evolved into a record label, a top-rated radio show, and one of the world’s premiere sites for discovering new and lost classic music: The Ripple Effect.
To celebrate five years of collective Ripple Madness, Todd Severin (Racer X) and John Rancik (Pope JTE) are unleashing a massive download compilation album, featuring some of the best of the new wave of modern heavy rock bands. And it’s all entirely free!
Best of all, the compilation features many brand new, previously unheard, unreleased tracks by some of the bands leading this charge of the Heavy. In addition, you’ll find tracks from several albums buzzing across the websites and music blogs, and several new and waiting-to-be discovered bands.
To be released on July 22, throughBandcamp, The Ripple Effect unveils, The Ripple Effect Presents: Volume 1- Head Music. In its depths you’ll find such notable bands as Stubb, Ape Machine, Devil to Pay, Miss Lava, Voodoo Johnson, Borracho, and more. 23 tracks in all. All free. Some of the absolute best heavy rock the world has to offer.
And continue to check outThe Ripple Effecteach day for the latest music discoveries, and theRipple Music record labelfor the latest releases from bands like Stone Axe, Mos Generator, Grifter, Trucker Diablo, Poobah, Fen, JPT Scare Band and more.
Posted in Features on June 25th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
The last couple years, I’ve done a top five of the first half, and that’s cool, but as I sat down the other day to make the list that follows, I realized the numbers didn’t work. If I’m going to finish 2012 off with a top 20 — which unless a piano falls on my head between now and then I am — then half of that is 10. Half a year, half a top 20. I was never much for math, folks.
But the important thing is I got there in the end, and with a full top 10, I have a little more room to nerd out on what I think are some (not all) of the best releases of the last six months. And just so I can say I said it twice, these are my personal picks, based on what I’ve listened to most as much as whatever estimation of aesthetic value I might make. Let’s get to it:
10. Witch Mountain, Cauldron of the Wild
If you’re asking yourself, “Hey, wasn’t Witch Mountain‘s Cauldron of the Wild just reviewed the other day?” you’re right, it was. That’s why it’s number 10 — because I know it’s a really good record, but I’m not sure yet what the replay value will be as the year progresses. Let it say something that I didn’t want to make this list without including the third album from the Portland doom bluesers, but without the benefit of a little distance from the songs (I still have “Shelter” stuck in my head from reviewing it, though that may prove a permanent scenario), I thought it better to play it cautious than be overly excited. Sometimes it’s hard to restrain the geek within, and I know I’m not the only one Cauldron of the Wild has had that effect on.
9. Caltrop, Ten Million Years and Eight Minutes
Deceptively progressive and study on repeat visits, the newest full-length from North Carolina’s Caltrop, Ten Million Years and Eight Minutes, is an album that doesn’t bow to accessibility but gets there naturally on its own anyway. The music the four-piece makes is technically complex, but the use they put that complexity to is warm and inviting, where so much prog feels cold and showy. Maybe that’s the Southern heat working its way into the tracks, but either way, with the varied work of multiple songwriters and a consistency of atmosphere running throughout, Ten Million Years and Eight Minutes helped me make the transition out of winter and into the warmer weather. I continue to think of Caltrop as a woefully underrated band.
8. Stubb, Stubb
The self-titled Superhot Records debut from London-based trio Stubb (review here) was a simple case of fuzz done right. The rhythm section here also had a strong outing on Superhot in the form of Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight‘s Going Home (review here), but partnered up with guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson, the bass/vocals of Pete Holland and drums of Chris West formed a power trio inspired by classic rock but not imitating it, which is increasingly rare. Their stoner groove was straightforward and heartfelt and the songwriting on tracks like “Mountain” and “Hard Hearted Woman” left absolutely nothing to be desired. I consider myself lucky for having seen them live, and doing so only increased my appreciation for the album.
7. Ararat, II
Sergio Chotsourian‘s second album in post-Los Natas project Ararat (review here) was both more cohesive than its 2009 predecessor, Musica de la Resistencia (review here), and thicker. Indeed, it was his bass tone that made the rumble in extended tracks like “Caballos” and “La Ira del Dragon (Uno)” so indispensable. Ararat has a different dynamic than did Los Natas, but hearing the beginning of what will hopefully be a long process of development has been part of the fun of listening to the band so far. Still, it’s the songs themselves more than their context that stand out, and every time I listen to “Lobos de Guerra y Cazadores de Elefantes,” I swear it seems like my brain is going to turn into liquid and start seeping out of my ears. It’s hard not to dig a record that makes you feel that way.
6. Ufomammut, Oro: Opus Primum
I’ll admit, this one’s a bit of a running gag I have with myself. Ever since I put Ufomammut‘s Eve as the number six on my top 10 of 2010, I’ve regretted it, and the thing about Oro: Opus Primum is (review here) that it’s only half the album, with Oro: Opus Alter still to come as the second part of their Neurot Recordings debut. So when I was wondering where to stick this thing on the list, the number that immediately came to my head was six and there it stands. Amazing to think that we’ll get another Ufomammut record before the year’s out. I look forward to hearing that, and in the meantime, there have been several occasions for which nothing has seemed quite doomed enough that Oro: Opus Primum has fit just right. Ufomammut have been and continue to be something really special.
5. Orange Goblin, A Eulogy for the Damned
What’s not to like about the prospect of a new Orange Goblin record? Nothing, that’s what. With killer songs like “Acid Trial,” “The Fog,” “The Filthy and the Few” and blistering leadoff single “Red Tide Rising,” A Eulogy for the Damned (review here) was the first highlight of 2012 and a fitting summation of much of what’s always been awesome about the band, who’ve become godfathers of the British heavy underground. The production on the album is cleaner than the band comes off live, but the energy in the tracks is undeniable, and it’s with that that Orange Goblin justify the five-year wait since 2007′s Healing through Fire last tore the heavy rock scene a new arsehole. They might be real rock ‘n’ roll’s best kept secret at this point, and their seventh album sends the damned out with a fitting tribute from some of their own kind.
4. Conan, Monnos
Try though I may — and I should probably say here that I haven’t tried — I still can’t get the riff to “Grim Tormentor” from Conan‘s Monnos (review here) out of my head. The album, which was the follow-up to 2011′s split with Slomatics and 2010′s mighty Horseback Battle Hammer debut, found the British trio bringing their songwriting up to a level to match Jon Davis‘ monstrous guitar tone, furthering their dual vocal approach between Davis and bassist Phil Coumbe while upping the pace somewhat on the album’s first half lend fleetness to the stomp in Paul O’Neil‘s drums. Monnos‘ second half was more ethereal, slower, swampier, with the morose “Golden Axe” paving the way for “Headless Hunter” and “Invincible Throne” to level everything in their path with atmosphere as dense as their musical weight. Easily the heaviest album I’ve heard so far this year.
3. Greenleaf, Nest of Vipers
Whenever I do these lists, I hit a point where on a given day they’re all number one. Sometimes it’s just between two albums. In 2010, it was six. This list, so far into 2012, it’s three, and Swedish heavy rock supergroup Greenleaf‘s Nest of Vipers (review here) is the first of them. I’ve been stoked on this record since before I heard it, and while that probably doesn’t do much to argue for my impartiality on the matter, I also don’t give a crap, because Greenleaf fucking rules. I’ll have an interview in the weeks to come with guitarist Tommi Holappa (also ex-Dozer) about the band, and once again, this is definitely one that is going to reappear on the top 20 come December. Not a doubt in my mind. I wasn’t sure the band would be able to live up to 2007′s landmark Agents of Ahriman, but the more I listen to Nest of Vipers, the clearer it becomes that they did precisely that.
2. Ancestors, In Dreams and Time Brilliantly melodic, rife with complexity of emotion and execution, Los Angeles-based Ancestors‘ third album, In Dreams and Time, was the full-length answer to last year’s blissfully melancholic Invisible White EP. Finding the band mature, progressive and worshiping the song rather than the form, they transcended genre as easily as they embarked on it, crafting a wash of melody in Moog, synth, organ, guitar and vocals alike in their richest arrangements yet, culminating in what’s probably the single best extended guitar solo I’ve heard in the last five years on 19-minute closer “First Light,” a song that’s got so many ups and downs contained within its runtime that it’s practically an album unto itself. A gorgeous record and one that has enriched my excitement for Ancestors as they continue to throw creativity in the face of expectation and not look back either on what they’ve done before or what others think they should be doing.
1. Saint Vitus, Lillie: F-65
I’m more than happy to confess that part of my enduring affection for Lillie: F-65 comes from the fact that it’s Saint Vitus‘ first album in 17 years. If you want to tell me which part of that isn’t a totally valid reason to make it number one on this list, I’ll listen. It might not change my mind about the album, which arrives following three successfully reunited years touring and doing shows together. Led as ever by the stripped-down songwriting of guitarist Dave Chandler (interview here), Saint Vitus perfectly reinvigorated their most classic methods on Lillie: F-65 (review here) without sounding like they were wearing a suit that didn’t fit. The Tony Reed-produced album was the first to be fronted by Scott “Wino” Weinrich since 1990′s V, and proved that the chemistry between he and Chandler is a huge part of what has made the band legendary in American doom these last several decades. Together with bassist Mark Adams and drummer Henry Vasquez, Chandler and Wino issued the greatest of 2012′s doom triumphs so far, and in a mere fucked-up, feedback-soaked 33 minutes silenced every reunion naysayer with ears to hear their distant scream. Saint Fucking Vitus.
Wouldn’t be a list without a fair bit of honorable mentions. First to Snail, whose Terminus will probably end up on the year-end list when the time for that arrives, and also to C.O.C., High on Fire, Les Discrets, Wino & Conny Ochs and Electric Moon. Been a pretty good year so far. Here’s to the next six months of it.
This came in the other day, and if I had half a brain in my head, I probably would’ve posted it as the Frydee video, but whatever. Once you take a look at the video below and listen to the killer version of “Hard Hearted Woman” Stubb do in this, reportedly the first in a series of “Superhot Sessions” from Superhot Records, I doubt you’ll hold it against me. Check out the clip, followed by some PR wire-type info from the label, and enjoy having it stuck in your head for the rest of the day. The song, not the info, though I guess that’s kind of catchy too, in its way.
In March 2012 SuperhotRecords invited resolvefilm (http://resolvefilm.co.uk/) to come and film Stubb performing a live and slightly reworked take of “Hard Hearted Woman.” This is the first of the Superhot Sessions.
Every now and then we’re going to invite one of our bands or a just a band we really dig to come and perform live for us. We’ll film it, record it and throw it out there so anyone, no matter what corner of the planet they’re on, can see what that band is really about. So here it is, Superhot Sessions 001: Stubb – “Hard Hearted Woman.”
First, you have to understand that The Rambler, shady though the name might be, was awesome. The kind of awesome that has Westmalle at 3.50 Euro. I thought I was playing it safe — hell, I had the dubbel and not the tripel — but the fact that I’d eaten nothing up to that point in the day but a protein bar came back to haunt me. By the time I sauntered out of The Rambler, I was sloshed.
The good news is that tragedy — and by that I mean vomit — was avoided. And between arrival at and departure from The Rambler, massively good times ensued watching Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight, Stubb and Stone Axe play to an enthusiastic room that included several faces I recognized from Desertfest this weekend. I’d gotten into Eindhoven just a few hours prior, and was ready to have a little beery fun.
Chatted it up with the bands for a while, all of whom I saw last Friday (Stone Axe twice) and already had a few in me by the time Trippy Wicked took the stage. They’d soundchecked prior and the room — Xmas lights, wood floor, racks of CDs in the corner, full-size coffins to mark the men’s and women’s restrooms and Queens of the Stone Age‘s Lullabies to Paralyze on the P.A. — had pretty good acoustics. For rock. The stage area was wider than it was long, and I guess The Rambler was kind of a dive, but classier than that, even with the coffins. It was toying with country, is another way to put it. Again, it turned out to be a cool spot.
Unfortunately, riding around in a tour van all weekend had left Trippy Wicked guitarist/vocalist (and Stubb bassist/vocalist) Peter Holland with a cold. He looked and reportedly felt like hell, but wasn’t about to cancel the set; the show, going on, so forth. He rested up and before they played and when they got going, he played most of the set with his distortion off and changed the setlist to accommodate. I’ve seen Holland and drummer Christopher West do Trippy Wicked acoustic, so hearing the songs not as loud as they might otherwise be wasn’t really anything new, and in the semi-country surroundings, with the slight twang Holland puts on his singing voice, it actually sounded pretty good when they did “Southern” and “The Water.”
Later into their time, Stone Axe frontman Dru Brinkerhoff brought Holland some whiskey and, his voice already pretty blown out, I guess he figured there was no more harm he could do. The distortion was kicked on and he was full-on dry-throating it through the end. Admirable, and again, it didn’t sound that bad. Heavy rock works with a gravely voice, so while it wasn’t necessarily the most representative outing for the band, though Holland, West and bassist Dicky King all played really well and the songs got their point across. I’m looking forward to checking out their new album, not just because Holland has grown so much as a vocalist, but also because both times I’ve seen the band now, their chemistry has been top notch. It was a casual night — at one point, Holland remarked on how he knew everyone in the crowd — but even so, Trippy Wicked rocked like pros and only got better as they kept going.
Holland still had to get through Stubb‘s set, so he wasn’t yet off duty. After a bit of a break, West went back to the drums, Holland moved over to bass, opting out of a microphone, which left guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson in charge of covering all the vocals. He did it, and did it well, and since most of the audience, myself included had already seen the band in the last week, everyone knew what was up and it was fine. Stone Axe drummer Mykey Haslip got up and shared Dickinson‘s mic for the chorus of “Mountain,” and “Hard Hearted Woman” and “Road” were great to hear again, even with the single vocals. Straight-backed and keeping perfect time while also executing a barrage of fills, West showed his versatility as a drummer and was a pleasure to watch, and by the end, even Holland was singing along. It was more of a party than a show, almost.
“Galloping Horses,” which closes their new, Superhot Records self-titled debut (review here) was especially killer, Dickinson shifting his inflection and timing just a bit to make a full verse out of the repeated line, “The skies are crimson red” and taking a long solo in the semi-psychedelic midsection before coming back for one last chorus. They’re pretty straightforward in terms of style, but more even than the record showed potential, the live show confirmed it. I’d say I’m excited for what Stubb do next — and I am — but don’t let that imply that I’m at all finished with the self-titled, because it’s got way more than two months of staying power. Classic fuzz is timeless.
And speaking of classic, Stone Axe are a band I could very easily get used to seeing on a regular basis. This was the third set in five days (granted, one was the Free covers set, but still), and I was only more stoked for having some idea of what was in store. They got going as I was wrapping what would not turn out to be my last beer, and seemed more relaxed than at Desertfest. Brinkerhoff looked to be pretty well in the bag, but his voice was spot on, and the hooch only added to the swagger of his stage presence, which along with Tony Reed‘s guitar, is an essential element of the band. The aforementioned Haslip on drums and bassist Mike DuPont showed their prowess as a rhythm section behind, and though standing on the left side of the stage, it was almost like watching two acts at once, they were undeniably on the same page with the same mission in mind.
Their set ran long, which, you know, was awesome, and they threw in “The Skylah Rae” and “Taking Me Home” along with “Black Widow” and “Riders of the Night” from the first album and “Chasing Dragons,” “Just a Little Bit” and the excellent “Ain’t Gonna Miss It” from the second. “The Skylah Rae” in particular was something special, but Stone Axe‘s AC/DC stomp was in top form the whole time, and everyone was smiles and laughs and drinks and seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves through each catchy as hell chorus, Brinkerhoff driving home the memorability of Reed‘s songwriting every chance he got. And for his part, Reed demonstrated once again his clear mastery of the classic heavy rock form, backing Brinkerhoff on vocals every now and again and tearing through worship-worthy solos with what he made look like ease.
When it was over, I was more or less finished with the day. Several nights of less than stellar sleep had left me tired enough, and Westalle, though delicious, makes a lousy energy drink, so I said goodbyes and thanks and split out for the two block walk back to my hotel room, stopping along the way for pommes frites and more beer which I ended up crashing out before I could drink. It seems funny to say it, since all I’m going to be doing starting tomorrow for four days straight is seeing bands at Roadburn, but it was awesome to see a show over here that was just a gig, not a fest. Just another stop on a tour. Eindhoven’s a beautiful town and this was a really good night I won’t soon forget. I’m just glad I remember it.
Posted in Features on April 6th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
04/06/12 — 22:47 GMT — Friday — Hotel
Beyond the blister lurking underneath the callous of my foot, it’s hard to remember where today even began, though I’ll say that having failed yet again to attain a cellophone for the Eurozone — I mention it only because my lack of competency at this point I find comical — I made my way around the High Street intersection, trying to follow the weirdos this way and that in search of the Black Heart. It was, as a young man named Isaac guided me, behind the Underworld, back down an alley called Greenland Place. I guess it was a street. Hard to know, really.
I was early, having failed gloriously to acquire a phone, and after getting my wristband (it’s gold, you can see some red ones above), I sat at the bar and had a few Camden Town Lagers. Amazing how similar their font looks to the Brooklyn Brewery. Even the taps looked alike. Anyway, the lager was decent, and I was waiting — viciously awkward soul that I am sitting at a bar by myself — for Stone Axe to go on and do their set of Free covers. I ran into Pete Holland from Trippy Wicked/Stubb and then Tony Reed from Stone Axe, and following a few more drinks and some pleasant conversation, Desertfest was underway. That’s probably as good a place to start as any.
Stone Axe made a set of Free songs so much their own that, half the time, I wouldn’t have even questioned whether or not they were covers. Helps a bit that Free is probably the single act from which the Washington four-piece — whose Live at Roadburn 2011 CD I somehow ended up buying twice — most draw stylistically, but either way, they killed it. Highlights included “Fire and Water” from the 1970 album of the same name and they closed with “All Right Now,” which was somewhat expected, it being Free‘s most enduring “hit,” but nonetheless one of the many tracks Stone Axe sounded natural embodying, vocalist Dru Brinkerhoff making the lyrics sound like something he just came up with. A killer way to start the fest and it made me look forward to their set of originals at The Purple Turtle still to come.
From there, I was fortunate enough to have some kind soul willing to lead my semi-drunk ass down the block to the Purple Turtle in time to catch Stubb. I’m not going to lie, for me, this was the meat of the fest. It’s why I came to London; to see bands I wouldn’t be able to catch otherwise. Stubb, which boasts in its lineup two-thirds of Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight, did not disappoint. From “Mountain” — on which guitarist Jack Dickinson and bassist Pete Holland shared vocals excellently during the chorus — to the closer “Soul Mover,” they were an absolute thrill to watch, and as the room at The Purple Turtle was totally packed, it seemed I wasn’t the only one who thought so. It felt like I was transplanting myself on another locale’s scene, and you know, I was glad to do it. These dudes, aside from being a kickass band, I consider friends, and the chance to see them live, as well as to see Trippy Wicked immediately following, was something really special. In short, it’s why I’m here.
Holland moved over to guitar for the Trippy Wicked set, and drummer Christopher West stayed put as bassist Dicky King came on stage to make up the difference for Dickinson departing. He didn’t go far, though, as Trippy Wicked got going, backing up Stubb‘s power trio ethic with one of their own. They have a new album out, and I bought it back at the Black Heart, just to have the chance to support the band directly, and after hearing them play, I’m looking forward even more to checking it out. Holland‘s vocals have come a long way since they started out, and King and West make a formidable rhythm section behind the guitar melody. Like Stubb, they were a native band I felt lucky to be able to catch. As I’ve grown increasingly envious of the UK scene over the last few months, it was awesome to see Trippy Wicked in front of their own crowd. I think I’ll probably skip out on Berlin next week and try to catch these dudes with Stone Axe (and Stubb, naturally) in Eindhoven on Tuesday. We’ll see how it goes, but either way, killer set from a killer bunch of guys. Seriously. Made me glad I came.
Ditto that for Stone Axe, whom, though we hail from the same continent, I’ve only ever seen in Europe. Last year, their set at Roadburn made me not regret missing Ufomammut in the slightest — which should say something about the rock quotient; most of that set is available on that live CD I decided to make a double — and as afternoon transitioned into evening, I wanted to make sure I caught their originals to follow up on the killer start their set of Free covers made to the fest as a whole. Brinkerhoff and Reed showed no wear for pulling double-duty — maybe the fact that they’re touring with Trippy Wicked and Stubb had them keeping up with Holland and West on the two-set front — and the whole set was a party, the highlights of which were “Chasing Dragons” and “We Know it’s Still Rock and Roll,” which had one of the night’s best sing-alongs. I was right up front while they played, and I had no regrets for it. I missed Ancestors while Stone Axe was playing (and maybe a bit during the changeover to Greenleaf), but I’ll make the effort to see them next weekend at Roadburn. Stone Axe was a necessity.
Greenleaf, as the band who sealed the deal in my mind for coming here in the first place, all the more so. I didn’t anticipate much in their set older than 2007′s Agents of Ahriman, if only for the lineup involved, and that was pretty much how it went. They threw in a couple older songs, but by and large it was Agents material and songs from the new album, Nest of Vipers (review here), including the opener “Jack Staff,” “Case of Fidelity” and “Lilith,” which was missing its organ a bit, but still left me with no complaints overall. They started off with “Alishan Mountain” from Agents of Ahriman, in what I can only assume was a personal favor to me, and commenced from there to what I can say with no exaggeration I will consider a landmark experience for me as regards show-going. No bullshit. Greenleaf was a band I never thought I’d see. They were just too far away, and with guitarist Tommi Holappa in Dozer and vocalist Oskar Cedermalm in Truckfighters, I just didn’t think it would happen. No matter what else happens to me on this trip, I saw Greenleaf. Fuckin’ a. If I’m 100 percent honest, that’s enough. I could’ve caught a plane home after their set and still felt like I won out. Also cool to see Cedermalm‘s fellow Truckfighters, Niklas “Dango” Källgren and Oscar “Pezo” Johansson in the crowd. Gave the whole thing a family atmosphere, not that one was lacking after the sets that had already gone down at The Purple Turtle.
I wanted to stay and see Sigiriya, but I also didn’t want to miss Asteroid back at the Black Heart, so I decided to compromise. I stayed for the first couple Sigiriya songs before heading out to the other venue. Worth noting that along with Ancestors, Sons of Alpha Centauri, Karma to Burn and Rotor were on the main stage at the Underworld tonight, but I didn’t make it there at all. Tomorrow I will to catch Roadsaw, Sungrazer, etc., but not tonight. Anyway, Sigiriya‘s Return to Earth wasn’t exactly fresh on my mind — that is, it’s been a minute since I last put it on — but the songs came right back, whether it was “The Mountain Goat” or “Whiskey Song,” and the grooves were mighty. They were killing it, hands down, but I had to head out to catch Asteroid, so I departed a few songs into their set and made back for the Black Heart, my own black heart heavy in my hands at having split out on what I knew was some righteous rock.
There was, however, no debating it. I had to see Asteroid. Not seeing Asteroid simply would not do. It brought the day full-circle to be back at the Black Heart, and I topped off what was already a several-hours-long buzz with one last Camden Town Lager and waited for the Swedish trio to take the stage. Outside, the dudes from Black Pyramid were getting ready to head across the street to catch Karma to Burn, and I knew that would be awesome, but hell, I’d come too far to miss it now. Asteroid took the stage promptly and kicked into what seemed like an hour-long jam. It’s interesting now that I’ve seen both bands to realize how much they have in common tonally with Graveyard, but they’re on their own trip. “Time” knocked me out, and “Disappear” was more than a treat. They wound up doing about half of “Dr. Smoke” from the first album as a semi-encore, the crowd singing along to the riff with hands held high. I was in the back by then, my feet beginning to feel those new-sneaker blisters taking hold, but I stayed until they were finished, and — I can’t think of another way to put it — they were awesome, guitarist Robin Hirse and barefoot bassist Johannes Nilsson splitting vocal duties with ease and capturing the organic sounds of their albums (the second one is reviewed here) with what seemed like no trouble at all.
I made my way back to the hotel as quickly as I could when they were done, hoping perhaps to catch an open coffee/sandwich shop along the Parkway here in Camden Town, alas, to no avail. Some spicy ramen noodles, a bag of salt and pepper chips and, finally, another protein bar served as dinner to cap a long day of music and drink. Tomorrow I’ll wake up and likely do it all again, though hopefully having some time in the morning to go CD shopping before Desertfest kicks up its sands again. I’ve got my wristband. My earplugs. My Advil. I’m ready for whatever comes.
Just a friendly reminder that some of what I’m most looking forward to seeing at Desertfest in London isn’t just happening there — that Stone Axe, Stubb and Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight are hitting the road for nine days solid of shows together in the UK and Europe. I didn’t have the heart to ask them if they needed a merch beardo, but anyway, if you’re in that part of the world, consider this your official recommendation to show up at the following:
First up in the new releases feature is Stone Axe Captured Live! Roadburn Festival 2011. This release will be available on CD/LP. The LP has nine blistering tracks from our set at the Roadburn festival in Holland, April 16, 2011. The CD has four extra tracks. The set has a good mix of Stone Axe classics and songs that we rarely play live. Get it from Ripple Music.
Next up is the Stone Axe II deluxe 2CD set. Ripple Music has released the second installment of the Stone Axe reissue series. Unlike the two-disc Stone Axe I reissue from last year this is a 2CD set rather than a CD/DVD combo. For disc 2 of the set, I compiled everything that has only been available on vinyl up to this point, including our contribution to the Stone Axe/Wight split 12″. It’s 60+ minutes of virtually unheard material. It’s like having a new Stone Axe record.
Last but not least is the Wight/Stone Axe split 12″. This split is an interesting departure for Stone Axe. It marks the first studio recording that features the whole live band. Taking from Wight‘s queue, we set up at our studio and wrote and recorded three songs in two hours. All of the live tracks were kept and then vocals and keyboards were added to give a nice spacey feel to the songs. We feel like the sounds range from soundtrack-era Pink Floyd to Iron Butterfly. It was a treat for us to do. check out Wight and Fat & Holy Records.
Posted in Reviews on February 2nd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
They want to riff and they want to rock, and on their self-titled debut full-length, UK trio Stubb do plenty of both. Originally formed in 2006 with a different bassist and drummer alongside guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson, the band recorded a demo a year later with Tim Cedar of Part Chimp and, in 2009, reemerged having imported a new rhythm section in the form of Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight’s Peter Holland (bass/vocals) and Christopher West (drums). This incarnation of Stubb hit the studio with Cedar late in 2010 to lay down the eight songs that would become Stubb and took to the road in 2011 with Stone Axe on a European tour.
The album is released through Superhot Records, boasts a mix and master job by Tony Reed of Stone Axe, and finds Stubb aligning themselves to a rising tide of British heavy rock – that’s not to say “a new wave” – that includes such riff-happy clean-vocal acts as Grifter, Alunah, and indeed, Trippy Wicked, among many others. Fuzz abounds, but Dickinson, Holland and West do more than just follow the guitar through verses and choruses, touching on acoustic freak-folk and heavy rock classicism in a manner that does nothing to upset the overall flow of the album, which gradually reveals a strength of songwriting to complement the initial catchiness of the first couple tracks. Although it’s been six years since Dickinson started the project, one might think of Stubb as a new band, as his chemistry with Holland and West presents itself here for the first time. On either level, though, Stubb’s Stubb gleefully preaches to the choir of Heavy while showing the band has more to them than just riffs and grooves.
Even if that weren’t the case, with the engaging fuzz and ripping leads that open kickoff track “Road,” riffs and grooves would almost be enough. The nod-inducing stomp and Dickinson’s tone remind of when The Atomic Bitchwax took on Core’s “Kiss the Sun” for their own self-titled debut, but Stubb push a strong chorus all their own, Holland offering backing support for Dickinson’s lead vocal while West’s snare pops clearly and crisply, keeping the song upbeat but not too fast. Stubb wind up at their strongest in this middle pace, maximizing the impact of the riffs and still allowing for a laid back, stonerly feel. “Scale the Mountain,” which follows the opener, continues the momentum, making the first nine of Stubb’s total 35 minutes a powerful opening duo, and reeling back in its first second as if to steel itself for the five minutes of riffing to come.
Dickinson again works a solo into the intro as a precursor to the verse, but shifts the method some, stepping back to let Holland take the lead in singing the chorus. The two have enough variance in their diction that the shift is pretty clear, and as they move back and forth throughout Stubb, “Scale the Mountain” is a solid foreshadow of what’s to come. Holland’s vocal work in Trippy Wicked has left him more than prepared to tradeoff with Dickinson, who here adds backing “woo”s to the memorable title/chorus line. A brief break seems to be waiting for a guitar solo to come in, but one never does, and the chorus returns to lead the song to its flange-y finish and Holland’s bass intro to the somewhat more subdued “Flame.”
It’s here that Stubb begin to unveil the classic rock linearity of the album’s structure. They’ve opened strong with “Road” and “Scale the Mountain,” and with “Flame,” they shift the mood a bit – granted, not as much as if they’d put the folksy “Crosses You Bear” in that third spot, but still. A bluesy, winding riff gives Holland the chance to add some choice fills, and West times well his jumps from the hi-hat to the crash, giving way to the driving second half of the track and the combined Dickinson/Holland vocals that mindfully veer from the verse/chorus patterning so far established. Holland’s bass again burns tubes alongside Dickinson on “Soul Mover,” which ingrains the line, “Oh baby, I don’t know what you like/But I’ll keep you satisfied” on the brain like it was branding cattle or internet memes. The pace is faster, perhaps expectedly, but “Soul Mover”’s shuffle is a departure even from “Flame” and further confirmation of Stubb’s classic heavy affiliations.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 15th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Good news out of the UK in the form of heavy rocking trio Stubb‘s full-length debut. The band will semi-self-release their self-titled on CD, LP and download through drummer Chris West‘s Superhot Records imprint. Knowing West to be a man of impeccable taste, it should be interesting to see what he does with a label. Certainly as a first offering, Stubb is a great way to start.
This from the PR wire:
The brand new label SuperhotRecords is proud to announce the upcoming release of British psych rock power trio Stubb‘s debut self-titled album. The eight-song LP will be released on 6th February 2012 on vinyl, CD and digital with an album release show planned for 4th February in Camden, London.
In late 2010 the band headed to DropoutStudios in London, England, and laid down eight tracks of fuzzed out modern salutes to the good old days; straight up rock songs recorded mostly live in a basement studio manned by TimCedar of PartChimp. After touring with StoneAxe in April 2011, Tony Reed of MosGenerator and StoneAxe fame was put in charge of mixing and mastering and even makes a guest appearance.
In March/April 2012 Stubb will head out on the road again with StoneAxe and fellow Britons Trippy Wicked & the Cosmic Children of the Knight for a two-week UK/Mainland European tour. The band will also make an appearance at London Desertfest on Friday 6th April.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 14th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
I almost don’t want to say it out loud because I’m afraid an Icelandic volcano will erupt and I’ll miss their set, but as someone who lives on the other end of the country from the band, I’m stoked as hell at the prospect of finally being able to catch Ancestors live at London Desertfest next April. They’re among several in the latest batch of confirmations, which also includes German heavy psych upstarts Samsara Blues Experiment, British trio Stubb, Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight, Horisont and more.
Full info on the fest, and the Berlin Desertfest, which is also shaping up, is available at the Desertscene website. In the meantime, here’s a few updates and the poster with the latest lineup:
Atmosphericness will be washing over us in waves with Ancestors, who are now confirmed for Desertfest. The L.A. based 4 piece will be laying down there unique mixture of progressive invention and with influences of doom, stoner and psych all running through their epic tuneage, these guys are sure to blow your mind away. After receiving critical acclaim for their 2009 album Of Sound Mind and having shared a 7? split with the mighty Graveyard, last summer saw them release an EP called Invisible White. Ancestry is a hobby, Ancestors are an experience.
Desertfest are very pleased to announce German heavy psych stoners, Samsara Blues Experiment. These guys have many influences ranging from spiritual to Eastern sounds which adds to the whole Experience. Based in Berlin, the Experiment were founded in ‘07 and could have been seen on the recent “Up in Smoke Vol. III” European Tour. Samsara means “to flow together” and we are looking forward to merging with the band next year at Desertfest. Peace.
Desertfest are pleased to announce UK psych Rockers Stubb. A mutual love of Jamming gave birth to a three-piece of fuzzy psyched rock that come to be known as Stubb. They have toured Europe with the mighty StoneAxe and shared stages with bands such as GentlemansPistols, Firebird and more. Hopefully by the time they hit Desertfest they will be riding high on their debut album which is due for release early next year.
Not content with the usual round of fuzzy cellphone pictures and the requisite group shot where everyone in the bands stands together at the end of the run and makes funny faces before going their separate ways, UK heavy rockers Stubb are putting together a documentary of their time on the road with Stone Axe surrounding the latter’s Roadburn performance this past April. Stubb guitarist/vocalist Jack “Mindzap” Dickinson put up a trailer for the finished product still in progress, and it looks like good times: