Posted in Reviews on September 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Of the more-than-several local shows I’ve been to since moving to New England now more than a year ago, this one had probably the strongest front-to-back bill. It was Elder‘s return gig to US soil. They and Rozamov and Summoner would head south the next day to appear Brooklyn’s Uninvited festival, and partnered with Worcester four-piece SET, it was night at the Middle East‘s upstairs room that highlighted some of the best Boston’s next-gen has to offer. Phrases like “all killer, no filler” were invented for evenings such as these.
To put a personal spin on it, I’ll say as well that it was a cap for me for my first year of living here. 13 months ago, I attended Elder‘s farewell at the Great Scott prior to their going on hiatus (Rozamov played that as well). I had lived in the area for barely two weeks, it was my first show in town as a resident. I was confused and uncomfortable in more than just that I’m-out-of-the-house kind of way. I’m not sure I’d have found the Middle East without the Maps on my phone, but at least when I got to Cambridge, I knew what to expect and where I might find parking. A work in progress, yes, but little things make a difference.
SET opened, and went on a couple minutes after 8:30, kicking off in raucous form. I wasn’t the only one who knew to show up early — upstairs at the Middle East isn’t a huge room, but it’s big enough that if you weren’t going to draw, it would look empty — and SET pulled a decent crowd. It was my third time seeing them behind shows at the Dragon’s Den (review here) and the Stoned Goat fest in Worcester (review here) and I was pleased to be more familiar with songs like “Valley of the Stone” and “Wolves behind the Sheep,” the balance of thrash and heavy rock within which threw down a heavy gauntlet for the other three bands to pick up. If they played it, I didn’t catch “Sacred Moon Cult,” the closer from their spring 2013 Valley of the Stone outing, but seeming to decide to do so off the cuff, they finished out with a convincing take on Pentagram‘s classic “Forever My Queen,” giving double-guitar thrust to the rawness of the original’s riffing.
In addition to being a strong bill, it was also fairly diverse within a heavy scope. That became apparent as Summoner, who played next, made ready to take the stage with both a sound and a character far disparate from that of SET, trading out that’s band’s harsher edge and grittier presence for smoother, more progressive heaviness. What the two bands had in common was a clear thread of tonal heft — Rozamov and Elder followed suit in that regard as well — but Summoner‘s influences, more in the Mastodon/Baroness vein, were spaced out wide enough from the preceding act that they were immediately distinguished. This was also the first I’d seen them since the release of their second album, 2013’s Atlantian, on Magnetic Eye Records, and while I knew from prior experience they delivered live, it was interesting to see them do so as a more mature, established outfit than they were late in 2012 when I caught them in New York.
They pummeled and stomped and dug themselves into their material neatly, clearly enjoying the process as well, guitarists AJ Peters and Joe Richner tilting their heads back across various leads and riffs while vocalist/bassist Chris Johnson kept a consistent, sincere smile across his face no matter how hard he also happened to be slamming the song at the time, and behind, drummer Scott Smith propelled their neo-metallic stomp. Much of what they played came from their 2012 debut, Phoenix, but “Horns of War” represented Atlantian well and “The Interloper” and “Winged Hessians” seemed to rouse no complaints from the increasingly full room there to watch them. When Rozamov went on, the trio would be a turn back toward darker, rawer vibes, but a propensity for big tones remained firm. I stood in front of bassist Tom Corino and could just about have swam through the density oozing out of the speaker cabinet.
It was a bit much, apparently, since part-way through the Rozamov set the bass cut out, leaving drummer Will Hendrix and guitarist/vocalist Matt Iacovelli to fill the time while the problem was discovered, analyzed and ultimately remedied. Blown tube. It didn’t take long, but Rozamov‘s dark, thickened-thrash had built a good head of steam by then and they essentially had to put their momentum back together from scratch. To their credit, they did. By the end of their set, which was a little longer than SET or Summoner‘s had been, it was easy to forget there had been an interruption at all. Much of their material seemed newer than 2013’s Of Gods and Flesh EP, and I’m not sure what they might have in the works, but I think the only Boston band I’ve seen more in the last year is Gozu, and I’ve yet to emerge from a Rozamov set less than impressed.
And Elder. Well, Elder are world-class at this point. They hadn’t played in the States since that farewell show last August, but they did a run of European gigs and their third album is reportedly in the can headed for a 2015 release. One might expect a band in their circumstance to be a little rusty — guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto all live in different states as well — but there wasn’t anything I could’ve asked from Elder‘s set it didn’t deliver, including a glimpse at their new stuff. The song “Compendium” from the new record was the only new one aired, the rest of what they played drawn from 2012’s stellar Spires Burn/Release EP (review here) and 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here), but it offered a sense of progression nonetheless, a forward motion in its central riff acting as a kind of launch point from which the trio boomeranged, pushing as far as they could before snapping back to the initial movement in the manner that has become as much a part of their style as Donovan‘s head-spinning bass fills or Couto‘s unmitigated swing.
To that, I’ll just note that, including this show, I’ve seen Couto play drums in three different bands/iterations in the last month — with Kindin Worcester, with Darryl Shepard‘s Blackwolfgoatin Allston, and here — and while those were a formative act and a sit-in jam, I think it’s still worth pointing out that with Elder, it was a different level of performance entirely. Locked in with Donovan and DiSalvo, he seemed decidedly in his element, and that goes for the other two members of Elder as well, the three of them air-tight on the expansive “Release” and Dead Roots Stirring‘s “Knot,” which rounded out the album and this set alike. It seemed we might get an encore, but I think venue curfew was a factor — it was getting on midnight, and it’s not like it was a Tuesday or anything — and the house lights came up in the universal sign of get-the-hell-out. I’d wanted to pick up a copy of Elder‘s Live at Roadburn, since I hear one or two of my photos is included, but it was packed over there and I had writing to do, so I split into the fall air to start the not-inconsiderable hike back to my car and home.
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 3rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Though one hesitates to ever use the word “final” when it comes to a festival lineup, particularly when we’re still a few months out from the event taking place, The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 looks pretty damn complete. Some recent upheaval in the lineup has brought in Lord Fowl as a replacement for Phantom Glue and Kings Destroy for Kingsnake, but things seem solid and ready to proceed otherwise. Should be a packed weekend May 3 and 4 at Ralph’s Rock Diner in Worcester, Mass., and it’s definitely one I’m looking forward to with a killer blend of bands local to New England and not.
Complete lineup as it stands today follows, along with the runtimes for each set. Feel free to dive in:
Snake Charmer Booking proudly presents: THE EYE OF THE STONED GOAT 4 Festival
Saturday, May 3rd – Sunday May 4th 2014
2 Days! 20 Bands! 20 Bucks!
Ralphs Rock Diner 148 Grove St. Worcester, MA 01605
Saturday, May 3rd 2014
Admission: $20 (ALL WEEKEND)
Line-Up and Set Times:
SIXTY WATT SHAMAN (The Reunion!!!) 12:20am-1:15am
CORTEZ (Boston, MA) 11:20pm-12:00am
KINGS DESTROY 10:25pm-11:05pm
SUMMONER (Boston, MA) 9:30pm-10:10pm
LORD FOWL (New Haven, CT) 8:45pm-9:15pm
BEELZEFUZZ (Church Within Records – Maryland) 8:00pm-8:30pm
SECOND GRAVE (Massachusetts) 7:15pm-7:45pm
JOHN WILKES BOOTH (Long Island, NY) 6:30pm-7:00pm
SET (Worcester, MA) 5:45pm-6:15pm
BIRCH HILL DAM (Fitchsburg, MA) 5:00pm-5:30pm
Sunday, May 4th 2014
Admission: $20 (ALL WEEKEND)
Line-Up and Set Times:
ORDER OF THE OWL (Atlanta, GA) 11:20pm-12:00am
THE SCIMITAR (Boston, MA) 10:20pm-11:00pm
CURSE THE SON (Connecticut) 9:25pm-10:05pm
VOLUME IV (Ripple Music – Atlanta, GA) 8:30pm-9:10pm
ICHABOD (Boston, MA) 7:45pm-8:15pm
ROZAMOV (Boston, MA) 7:00pm-7:30pm
NEON WARSHIP (Small Stone Records- Ohio) 6:15pm-6:45pm
First thing, let me give the immediate and familiar disclaimer: This isn’t everything. If I wanted to call this list “The ONLY 10 Album Covers that Kicked Ass in 2013,” I would. I didn’t do that, because there were way more than 10 covers that resonated when I saw them this year. The idea here is just to check out a few artists’ work that really stuck out as memorable throughout the year and really fit with the music it was complementing and representing.
As always, you can click the images below to enlarge them for a more detailed look.
The list runs alphabetically by band. Thanks in advance for reading:
Like Nick Keller‘s cover for New Zealand heavy plunderers Beastwars‘ 2011 self-titled debut (review here), the darker, moodier oil and canvas piece that became the front of Blood Becomes Fire(review here) created a sense of something truly massive and otherworldly. A huge skull with sci-fi themes and barren landscape brought to it foreboding memento mori that seemed to suggest even land can die. It was an excellent match for the brooding tension in the album itself.
The level of detail in Arrache-toi un oeil‘s cover for Blaak Heat Shujaa‘s full-length Tee Pee Records debut, The Edge of an Era(review here), would probably be enough for it to make this list anyway, but the Belgium-based art duo seemed thematically to bring out the swirl, chaos and underlying order within the Los Angeles trio’s desert psychedelia. Blue was for the vinyl edition, brown for the CD digipak (both were revealed here), but in either format it was a reminder of how much visual art can add to a musical medium.
Black Pyramid, Adversarial
Cover by Eli Wood.
I look at the Eli Wood cover for Black Pyramid‘s Adversarial(review here) as representing the task before the band in putting out their third LP. Released by Hydro-Phonic, the album found Black Pyramid coming head to head with both their audience’s expectations of what they were in their original lineup and their own will to move past that and become something else. If there was a second panel to the cover, it would show the arrow-shot warrior standing next to the severed head of the demon he slayed. Easily one of my favorite covers of the year. The scale of it begged for a larger format even than vinyl could provide.
It was such a weird record, with the interludes and the bizarre twists, that Samantha Allen‘s cover piece for Ice Dragon‘s Born a Heavy Morning (review here) almost couldn’t help but encompass it. The direct, but slightly off-center stare of the owl immediately catches the eye, but we see the titular morning sunshine as well, the human hand with distinct palm lines, illuminati eye and other symbols — are the planets? Bubbles? I don’t know, but since Born a Heavy Morningwas such an engrossing listening experience, to have the visual side follow suit made it all the richer.
Kings Destroy, A Time of Hunting
Cover by Aidrian O’Connor.
In Magyar mythology, the bird-god Turul is perched atop the tree of life and is a symbol of power. With its theme in geometry, Aidrian O’Connor‘s cover piece for Kings Destroy‘s ATime of Hunting — which was originally titled Turul– gave a glimpse at some of that strength, positioning the viewer as prey below a creature and sky that seem almost impossible to parse. I felt the same way the first time I put on the finished version of the Brooklyn outfit’s second offering, unspeakably complex and brazenly genre-defiant as it was.
Alexander von Wieding deserves multiple mentions for his 2013 covers for Black Thai and Small Stone labelmates Supermachine, but he always seems to save the best for his own project, Larman Clamor. The one-man-band’s third LP, Alligator Heart(review here), was a stomper for sure, but in his visual art for it, von Wieding brilliantly encapsulated the terrestrial elements (the human and reptile) as well as the unknowable spheres (rippling water, sun-baked sky) that the songs portrayed in their swampadelic blues fashion. It was one to stare at.
Similar I guess to the Beastwars cover in its looming feel and to the Black Pyramid for its scale, John Sumrow‘s art for Monster Magnet‘s Last Patrol(review here) mirrored the space-rocking stylistic turn the legendary New Jersey band made in their sound, taking their iconic Bullgod mascot and giving it a cosmic presence, put to scale with the rocketship on the right side. It stares out mean from the swirl and regards the ship with no less a watchful eye than Dave Wyndorf‘s lyrics seem to have on society as a whole.
There’s a mania to Orion Landau’s cover for Red Fang‘s third album, Whales and Leeches, and while the songs that comprise the record are more clearly structured, the collage itself, the face it makes when viewed from a distance, and the (from what I’m told is brilliant) cut-out work in the physical pressing of the album, all conspired to make one of 2013’s most striking visuals. As the in-house artist for Relapse, Landau is no stranger to landmark pieces, but this was a different level of accomplishment entirely.
Fuck. Look at this fucking thing! Galaxy spiral, vagina-dentata, creepy multi-pupil eyes and a background that seems to push the eye to the middle with no hope of escape even as blues and oranges collide. Wow. Sandrider bassist JesseRoberts‘(see also The Ruby Doe) artwork for Godhead (review here) is the only cover on this list done by a member of the band in question, and though I’m sure there are many awesome examples out there, I don’t know if any can top this kind of nightmarishness. Unreal. The sheer imagination of it.
When I put together a similar list last year, it had Summoner‘s first album under the moniker, Phoenix, on it, and with their second, they went more melodic, more progressive, and showed that heaviness was about atmosphere as much as tone, and that it was a thing to be moved around rather than leaned on. The Alyssa Maucere art, dark but deceptively colorful, rested comfortably alongside the songs, with a deeply personal feel and unflinchingly forward gaze, somewhat understated on the black background, but justifying the portrayal of depth.
As I said above, there’s a lot of stuff I could’ve easily included on this list, from The Flying Eyes to Sasquatch to Black Thai to Lumbar, Samsara Blues Experiment, Goatess, At Devil Dirt and others. Hopefully though, this gives a sampling of some people who are doing cool work in an under-represented aspect of underground creativity.
If I left anything out or there was a cover that really stuck with you that I didn’t mention, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
If you’re in the States and celebrating Thanksgiving this week, I thought maybe a new podcast would be good to have along for the travel. Maybe you take it with you on the road, or maybe put some headphones on in one of those need-to-get-away moments that invariably crop up over the holidays. I always get very stressed out at this time of year. I’d be lying if putting this together wasn’t a bit of therapy for my own anxiousness, but I also thought that if someone else was in the same boat, they might also appreciate it. Or maybe not and you just want to rock without using it as an escape for deep-rooted psychological issues. That’s cool too.
This one has a lot of good stuff that I’ve come across lately, from the opening Foghound track on through the Clamfight single that was featured here a couple weeks back, and on to the B-side of the single that Ice Dragon released just this weekend, finally rounding out with the closing track from Uzala‘s new album, Tales of Blood and Fire, “Tenement of the Lost,” which was so captivating when I saw them in Providence last month. It’s a wide variety, but it flows well from song to song and I think it’s a good time.
Hopefully you agree. I’m especially happy with how well the last three songs, which make up the bulk of the second hour, came together. My hope is you’ll be too hypnotized by one song to realize when it’s gone into the next. Whether or not that happens, please enjoy.
Foghound, “Dragon Tooth” from Quick, Dirty and High (2013)
Lizzard Wizzard, “Total Handjob Future” from Lizzard Wizzard (2013)
Summoner, “Into the Abyss” from Atlantian (2013)
Groan, “Slice of that Vibe” from Ride the Snake EP (2013)
The Vintage Caravan, “Let Me Be” from Voyage (2013)
Run After To, “Melancholy from Run After To/Gjinn and Djinn (2013 Reissue)
Clamfight, “Bathosphere” from single release (2013)
No Gods No Masters, “Lie to Me” from No Gods No Masters EP (2013)
Horseskull, “Arahari” from 2013 Promo
Gudars Skymning, “Gåtor I Mörkret” from Höj Era Glas (2013)
Ice Dragon, “Queen of the Black Harvest” from Steel Veins b/w Queen of the Black Harvest (2013)
T.G. Olson, “Return from the Brink” from The Bad Lands to Cross (2013)
EYE, “Lost are the Years” from Second Sight (2013)
Øresund Space Collective, “Black Sabbath Forever in Space” from Live at Loppen 2013.11.19
Selim Lemouchi and His Enemies, “The Ghost of Valentine” from Earth Air Spirit Water Fire (2013)
Uzala, “Tenement of the Lost” from Tales of Blood and Fire (2013)
Posted in Features on November 19th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
It happened at the start of last month that there was a Tuesday during which I was so overwhelmed by the sheer awesomeness of the releases available that I had no choice but to present a rundown of all of them. No choice. You would ask, “Couldn’t you just –” and I would cut you off to say, “No I couldn’t.” It had to be all of them.
So it is today. Last night, Young Hunter posted a new EP, and Across Tundras guitarist/vocalist Tanner Olson released a new folk/Americana solo outing, and today has been more or less an onslaught of “out today!” and “don’t miss it!” and so on. Well, I’ve whittled what I’m sure is an incomplete list down to seven brand new releases currently available for download. Some of them — like the Stone Machine Electric and Tanner Olson — are pay-what-you-will, but even those asking for a cash deposit should prove well worth the investment. You can always get a sampling beforehand, and I’ve included players below to facilitate.
Here we go:
1. Black Skies, Circadian Meditations
This one’s a gem. The North Carolina duo of guitarist/vocalist Kevin Clark and bassist/vocalist Michelle Temple teamed up with Caltrop drummer John Crouch and the result is a more patient collection and exploratory feel than that which reared itself on 2011’s On the Wings of Timedebut. Progressive but not pretentious, atmospheric but not letting go of its rocking side, it’s an album that begs for multiple listens and satisfies even more with them. Both Clark and Temple come off as more confident on vocals, and extended bookends “Lifeblood” (the 10-minute opener) and “The Dusk/Invisible Figures” (the nine-minute closer) showcase a burgeoning affinity for heavy psych mindgaming. It’s as much fun as it is a journey. Get it here.
Black Skies, Circadian Meditations (2013)
2. T.G. Olson, The Bad Lands to Cross
If you haven’t yet started to obsessively keep tabs on the Across Tundras/T.G. Olson Bandcamp page, it’s a worthwhile endeavor. Olson is a prolific and experimental songwriter, and as much as he works in the traditional forms of country twang and Americana spaciousness, so too does he bend those elements to the will of his material. His latest outing, The Bad Lands to Cross, is a relic waiting to be unearthed. Recorded live with one Shure SM57 microphone, it’s an hour long collection as prone to beauty as tragedy, songs like “Return from the Brink” hovering somewhere between the canyon sides of the anxious and secure. He sings, which he doesn’t on all of his solo releases (see The Complete Blood Meridian for Electric Drone Guitar), and one might consider The Bad Lands to Cross a spiritual companion to Across Tundras‘ 2013 outing, Electric Relics(review here), but it more than stands on its own, whether it’s the minimalist folk of “Rarefied Blue” or the harmonica-laden melancholy of the Gene Clark cover, “Some Misunderstanding.” Get it here.
T.G. Olson, The Bad Lands to Cross (2013)
3. Sandrider, Godhead
Sandrider are the antidote to stagnation. Their second album for Good to Die Records, Godhead (review here), pummels with reckless glee and abandon, but don’t let that lead you to believe it isn’t also precise. The post-Akimbo three-piece of drummer Nat Damm, guitarist/vocalist Jon Weisnewski and bassist/vocalist Jesse Roberts returned to Matt Bayles to record the follow-up of their clarion 2011 self-titled debut (review here), and the continued partnership found Sandrider all the more gnarly and aggressive, but also with a development in their melodic sensibility to match. Songs like the opener “Ruiner” and punkish “Champions” are an unabashed good time — get loaded and call them “epic” — and cuts like “Godhead” and the closer “Traveler” work in more complex terrain, showing the dynamic at work between all three members of the band, each of whom proves essential in crafting the atmosphere of the whole. Listen to it for a party or for thinky-thinky bludgeoning. Either way you don’t lose. Also available on gatefold vinyl. Get it here.
Sandrider, Godhead (2013)
4. Second Grave, Antithesis
They call it an EP, but it eats like a full-length. Fronted by former Warhorse guitarist/vocalist Krista van Guilder and featuring Black Pyramid/The Scimitar bassist Dave Gein along with guitarist Chris Drzal and drummer Chuck Ferreira, Second Grave revel in doomed atmospheres and heavy metal stoicism. Their AntithesisEP follows last year’s self-titled debut outing (review here) and over the course of its two tracks, “Mourning Light” (6:37) and “Drink the Water” (11:41), it showcases what’s working in the band’s quickly solidifying approach, whether it’s the solo and riff interplay of the two guitars, undulating heavy grooves in the bass and drums, or van Guilder‘s propensity for throwing in ripping screams along with her melodic clean singing. The more rocking “Mourning Light” and “Drink the Water” play out the duality shown on the Cory John Heisson artwork, and recording by Black Pyramid‘s Clay Neely at Black Coffee Sound and a mastering job from Revelation‘s John Brenner wrap Antithesisup as a doom metaller’s delight in style and affiliation. Get it here.
Second Grave, Antithesis (2013)
5. Stone Machine Electric, 2013.02.07
When Arlington, Texas, riffers Stone Machine Electric released their self-titled full-length (review here) in January 2013, they had recently added third member Mark Cook on Warr guitar. Cook didn’t appear on that album, which was produced by Wo Fat‘s Kent Stump, and is seemingly since out of the band, but was on board alongside guitarist/vocalist William “Dub” Irvin and drummer Kitchens for this recorded show, which as the title would indicate was taped on Feb. 7, 2013. They were at The Grotto that night in Ft. Worth, and they played a considerable set. 2013.02.07clocks in at 53 minutes, and extended pieces like “Carve” and “No/W/Here” give the trio plenty of space to jam out. Naturally, they take advantage, and though the lineup was new and the recording is rough, what purports to be the first in a series of free live albums from Stone Machine Electric seems to come as a document of an already bygone moment. One hopes their lineup issues get sorted soon one way or another so they can follow 2013.02.07 and the self-titled in good time. Get it here.
Stone Machine Electric, 2013.02.07 (2013)
6. Summoner, Atlantian
Didn’t I just write about this album? Well yes, yes I did. Summoner‘s second offering under the moniker and third overall, Atlantian (released by Magnetic Eye Records), is an ambitious and unrepentantly proggy heavy rock record. You’ll find some riffy thrust on “Horns of War,” but notice that they lead with “The Gatekeeper,” a track which couples its big-bigger-biggest plod with some of Summoner‘s most accomplished melodicism to date. Atmospheric explorations like “Changing Tides” (presumably the end of side A on the vinyl) and peaceful closer “Taken by the Sea” show the Boston foursome branching out beyond the reaches even of 2012’s Phoenix, and while the crushing progressions of “Into the Abyss” and the forward rush of “The Prophecy” offer contrast to these sleepier stretches — too substantial and precariously placed to be interludes — the full-album flow that runs across Atlantiandemonstrates in no uncertain terms just how far Summoner have come since starting out as Riff Cannon with 2009’s Mercury Mountain. Get it here.
Summoner, Atlantian (2013)
7. Young Hunter, Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain
With no more ceremony than a quick, “Hey this is out now,” Young Hunter casually released a three-song follow-up to their wildly impressive 2012 full-length, Stone Tools (discussed here). I’ve gone back to that album often since I first heard it, and Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountainis a terrifyingly solid answer to the formative work the doubly-drummed seven-piece did on their debut, whether it’s the mountain gothic stomp of “Welcome to Nothing” or spacious sway of the ensuing “Trail of Tears,” which is dark and otherworldly but tied to the cold clarity of a desert night all the same, picking up in its second half to a joyous guitar-led ritualizing that legitimately earns a Neurosis comparison more than most of what gets compared to Neurosis these days. Rounding out with the moody, percussion-led “Dreamer,” Young Hunter showcase a bit of drama to go with the intensity presented elsewhere, launching into full-bore thickness and fervent, desperate shouts. Someone needs to sign this band immediately. Tee Pee? Hell, Neurot? Someone’s gotta step up. This is too good. Reportedly a new lineup is in construction as guitarist/vocalist Benjamin Blake (and maybe others) has relocated from Arizona to Portland, Oregon (of course), and these tracks will be used as part of a split tape with Ohioan, but they’re free now, so go to. Get it here.
Young Hunter, Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain (2013)
Happy listening. If there’s anything I missed, please let me know in the comments.
Boston-based bashers Summoner release their second album, Atlantian, today on Magnetic Eye Records. The full-length follows their 2011 debut, Phoenix, which arrived after the band switched names from Riff Cannon and took on a more progressive aesthetic. Atlantiancontinues to work in that vein, but is also more melodically confident and given to fits of head-down driving. It’s clear in its production and intent, as you can hear in the full Bandcamp stream courtesy of the label right here:
Summoner, Atlantian (2013)
Atlantian was recorded by Summoner vocalist/bassist Chris Johnson and guitarist AJ Peters — Joe Richner also plays guitar and Scott Smith drums — and in celebration of the release, in addition to the album itself, the band has also made available the second in a series of behind-the-scenes clips about the recording process. Last time around, they were just getting to the studio and getting started. Now the foursome are wading deeper into the making of the record, and it’s possible to get more of a feel of how they work together toward the goals they’d previously laid out.
They go pretty in-depth over the course of the eight-minute video, and where a lot of this kind of behind-the-scenes footage will kind of give you one sample riff and then two minutes of dudes fucking around before the “NEW ALBUM COMING SOON” sign flashes and it’s over, Summoner really seem to be more interested in conveying how Atlantianwas constructed and how it was particularly for Johnson and Peters to work as both engineers and players. Smith undersells his role in saying “I’m just the drummer,” but it comes clear over the course just how much each member of the band makes up the whole of the finished product.
Reportedly they’ll have vinyl ready for Nov. 30 (they play the Middle East that night), but you can download Atlantiannow and check out the clip below for a glimpse at how it all came together:
Summoner‘s second LP under that moniker, Atlantian, is set to be released in November through Magnetic Eye Records. The Boston-based outfit issued their debut, Phoenix, after changing their name from Riff Cannon, whose own debut was 2009’s Mercury Mountain, and whose approach was different enough to justify the switch in name. A double-guitar four-piece, the band documented the making of Atlantianand have begun to post clips in an apparent series of three behind-the-scenes looks at the making of the album, which will be a vinyl-only 180 gram pressing (of course with a download available via the usual suspect list of purveyors) and will feature the following tracks and art:
01 The Gatekeeper
02 The Prophecy
03 Horns of War
04 Changing Tides
05 Into the Abyss
06 Crystaline Sky
08 Taken by the Sea
I dug these guys when they were Riff Cannon and both times I saw Summoner last year, they killed. Going by the descriptions they give of some of the differences in approach this time around — and even more importantly, by how excited they seem to be taking on the task of making a new album — Atlantianis one I’m looking forward to hearing. If you happen to be in the Boston area at the end of November, they’ll be playing a release show at The Middle East on Nov. 30 with Rozamov, Jack Burton vs. David Lo Pan and Second Grave. I’ve already got my calendar marked. More info is here.
Hopefully I’ll have more to come on Atlantian as we get closer to the release, but in the meantime, check out the first behind-the-scenes episode below and enjoy:
Whatever medium you enjoy music through, LPs, CDs, digital, tapes, reel-to-reel, Edison cylinders, the fact of the matter is that artwork — the visual representation of the album — makes a huge difference in the overall impression a record makes. There are bands who slave away for months negotiating fine details with artists and there are bands who snap a picture of themselves and throw it out front on their way to grab their next beer. Both methods have yielded classic results.
As 2012 winds down, I thought it might be fun to go back to the start of the year and take a look at some of the best album art that accompanied some killer albums. This isn’t the Best Albums list, just some of what I think is the Best Art. I’ll try my best to keep my reasons short as we go along alphabetically:
Alcest, Les Voyages de l’Âme
The sort of gloomy lushness that artist Fursy Teyssier brought to the cover for Alcest‘s Les Voyages de l’Âme was breathtaking from the first glance. Teyssier (also of Les Discrets; interview here) wonderfully captured the morose beauty in Alcest‘s music and painted a masterpiece that transcended “rock art” as much as the album itself transcended black metal or any other genre in which one might try to pigeonhole it.
The sentinel that has now graced the cover of the last couple Conan releases has mirrored the British act’s ascent in joining the ranks of great heavy metal mascots. Tony Roberts, who drew the piece on the cover of Monnos, has become an essential part of the band’s mythology, meeting their ultra-crushing tonality with visuals that seem to work in atmospheres no less oppressively brutal. If art was ever heavy, it was heavy here.
A pretty simple idea, but wonderfully executed, the front of Portland neo-traditionalists Doomsower‘s debut EP, 1974, came from an EPA photo documentary project that took place the same year. I picked it for this list not because it was so intricate or anything like that, but proof that sometimes something that seems basic can also be just right for the songs — the rails parallel, but joining, seeming to indicate Doomsower‘s journey undertaken.
Electric Moon, The Doomsday Machine
The question wasn’t so much would there be an Electric Moon cover on this list, but which one? The prolific German heavy psych jammers have a cache of treasure in the work of bassist Komet Lulu, and when it came time to choose from among the several recordings the band released in 2012, The Doomsday Machine stood out as a departure from the bright colors and classic psychedelia, being a painting by Lulu‘s father, Ulla Papel. Here’s to genetics.
Groan, The Divine Right of Kings
Having also handled Groan‘s split with Finnish trad doomers Vinum Sabbatum, W. Ralph Walters outdid himself with Groan‘s full-length follow-up, The Divine Right of Kings. With strong References to Hieronymus Bosch‘s vision of hell, Walters visualized the band’s move into classic metal and mixed it with manic get-stoned-and-stare kitchen-sinkery much as Groan continued to consort with brash heavy rock and doom. Walters‘ work on Blue Aside‘s The Moles of a Dying Race was no less distinct an achievement.
Larman Clamor, Frogs
Aside from thinking frogs are awesome in general, I was stoked to see how incredibly well Alexander von Wieding‘s art for his band Larman Clamor‘s 2012 offering fit the music. Otherworldly, darkly psychedelic and caked in haze, the dead stare of the frankenfrog on the front of Frogs perfectly matched von Wieding‘s swampy, bluesy style and looked even better on vinyl. Having also contributed to records by Lord Fowl, Wo Fat, Cortez and others this year, von Wieding has made himself one of the most essential heavy rock artists the world over.
Neurosis, Honor Found in Decay
Were it not for the discussion about the process of putting it together in the interview I did with Neurosis guitarist/vocalist Steve Von Till at the end of October, Josh Graham‘s cover for Honor Found in Decay — especially being so similar in idea to his work on Soundgarden‘s King Animal — probably wouldn’t have made this list, but knowing the level of construction that went into making the piece, from painting the jawbones to using artifact arrowheads from Slovakia, I couldn’t help but see it in a different light. Graham‘s ended his association with Neurosis, but if this is how he went out, they couldn’t have asked for more.
I had spent some serious time with Summoner‘s Phoenix by then, had been in talks with the band about releasing it on The Maple Forum, but it wasn’t until I held the LP in my hands at SHoD and really saw the Alyssa Maucere cover in-person that I realized what I was looking at. And once you see it, it’s not really subtle at all. Get it yet? There’s a cock and balls on the right side. I gotta give it to the Boston outfit and to Maucere for sneaking and yet not at all sneaking that one in there. Hey, if you don’t appreciate some phallic humor every now and again, you’re probably not going to start a website called The Obelisk.
Ufomammut, Oro: Opus Primum & Oro: Opus Alter
Is it cheating to include both covers from Ufomammut‘s Oro two-album series? Probably. Do I give a shit? Not in the slightest, because the Italian collective — who for visual purposes go by the name Malleus — tapped into new territory of psych art with the pieces for Oro: Opus Primum and Oro: Opus Alter, manifesting the idea of “psychedelic metal” in the actual style and inks used, while also contrasting dark and light and conveying the permanent nature of gold itself and the notions of hypnotic ritual that show up in their music. These covers were proof that Ufomammut are more than just the masters of their sound.
Another Tony Roberts creation, but in a completely different style from Conan‘s Monnos above, the bleak cover of UK nautical doomers Undersmile‘s 80-minute debut LP Narwhal seemed to embody everything the band had to offer on the album. It was dark, with hard drawn structural lines, but also sprawling, encompassing every panel of the digipak and running into the liner much as Undersmile‘s oceanic themes ran into every minute of the music, crushingly heavy or minimalist and ambient. Less about the titular creature within and more about the sea itself, it conveyed an utter hopelessness and the smallness of humanity when set against something so massive as the sea.
There were plenty more I could’ve included here — records from High on Fire, Om, Graveyard, Wight, Caltrop, Ancestors, Samothrace, Vulture and several others all are worthy of honorable mention, but for one reason or another, these were the standouts to me and I hope you agree that even in this go-ahead-and-download-it age of immediate convenience, the visual art remains pivotal to an album experience.
Someone you think got left out? If you’ve got any suggestions to add, agreements or disagreements, I’d love to get a discussion going in the comments, so please, have at it.
Posted in Reviews on October 19th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
I was stoked for this show. If I hadn’t been, I probably wouldn’t have gone. Still, there was a point early into the evening at which I stood back and had the thought, “I’m at a CMJ showcase.” It’s been years. Like a lot of the overblown hoopla in the music industry, I usually skip out on NYC’s CMJ fest — because here’s the thing no one tells you: It’s no different from NYC every other night. Oh, there are 100 shows and industry types lurking around in suit jackets and jeans? Sorry, that happens every single week. It’s a big part of why the last show I went to in Manhattan was in March.
This, however, was the Heavy Planet CMJ showcase, and if something was going to get me to drive my jaded, been-in-this-business-too-long ass across the self-proclaimed greatest city in the world, it was the chance to see Borracho, Valley of the Sun, Eggnogg and Summoner on the same bill. Shock Radar opened and the show was at Fontana’s – a place that, if I’ve ever been there, it was probably when I was in college, and then probably a CMJ show — and after being kept late at work, I got there early into Shock Radar‘s set, having parked outside at the same time Borracho arrived and seen them get into a parking altercation with another driver. They were right to not want to give up that spot. It was prime.
Much like the show itself. Here’s how it all went down:
New York natives and apparently somewhat responsible for lining up Fontana’s as the venue for the gig, it was my first experience with Shock Radar in a live setting after checking out some of the tracks from their Live Like Lions10″ in advance. Admittedly, I didn’t catch the whole set, but I must have gotten most of it, and in any case, it was enough for the band’s post-grunge affected East Coast noise crunch to make an impression. The vocals had that kind of throaty 1995 vibe like when everyone realized they couldn’t be Layne Staley and had to think of something else to do, but they were solid — the kind of moody act you’d happen onto on one of those nights stumbling through the city, winding up in some hole with more liquor in your system than you intended. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.
I could tell right away that Boston’s own Summoner were used to playing on stages this size because every time vocalist/bassist Chris Johnson turned around, he pulled the neck of his bass in toward himself so as to avoid a collision with guitarist Joe Richner. The four-piece had impressed at SHoD, so I wasn’t necessarily surprised by the vitality they brought to their performance or the appealing interplay of Richner and AJ Peters‘ guitars, but their new-school crush satisfied nonetheless, and both Peters and drummer Scott Smith went out of their way to mention they’ll be recording a new album next month. Their latest, Phoenix, is still pretty fresh, but I look forward to hearing the intensity they bring to new material in the studio. In the meantime, “The Interloper” from Phoenixwas a highlight and they went back to their early days as Riff Cannon to close out with the title-track to 2009’s Mercury Mountain, a last-minute burst of energy that made for a raucous finish. I could’ve done with a longer set, but Summoner made every second count, and the smoothness with which they execute their changes and the sheer joy they seem to take in playing these songs made them a pleasure to watch. Again.
My second Eggnogg gig and I’ve no doubt I’ll be back for thirds. The Brooklyn trio included two new songs in their set from their forthcoming and mostly completed new album, including the eponymous “Eggnogg,” which seems to revive the elephantine stomp of “The Gods Will Destroy the Hive” from their prior EP compilation, The Three. Their methods are simple, but their employ more than effective. They riff and groove — tonal thickness is a must — and bassist Bill O’Sullivan‘s bluesy delivery took a turn for the shoutier on the newer material. Especially seeing them right after Summoner emphasized the stark contrast between the two young acts. Both are very good at what they do and cohesive beyond their years, but Eggnogg‘s patience and relatively simplistic songwriting modus and Summoner‘s intensity and rampant dual lead-work seemed to be coming from different places entirely. I liked that, though. Eggnogg are getting their bearings as a live act, but between this gig and the show at the St. Vitus bar in August that I was lucky enough to catch, they’ve affirmed what I dug so much about their recorded material and given me something to look forward to on the next one. Time for them to start piling up amplifiers and get their tones to room-shaking volume.
Valley of the Sun
The lesson of Cincinnati’s Valley of the Sun — and this is a lesson I’m happy to learn anytime the opportunity presents itself — is “oh what a difference a great drummer makes.” You know the scene. You’ve seen those bands that seem to have it all together, and there’s just that one missing element. In my experience, what can really put a good band over the top is a killer, creative drummer, and Valley of the Sun have one in Aaron Boyer. Guitarist/vocalist Ryan Ferrier and bassist Ryan McAllister had their shit together, no doubt about it, but together with Boyer, they hit a level of professionalism that’s road-ready and completely attuned to its aesthetic. Valley of the Sun also played some new tunes, as well as a few highlights from 2011’s The Sayings of the Seers(review here), which I was stoked to be able to pick up on vinyl, and it was crisp American-style heavy rock, desert-fuzzed and in the Kyuss tradition, but fluid in its ’70s worship and presented with the utmost confidence. This being my first time seeing them, what I got was exactly what I’d hoped to get. For having just two EPs out, their sound is remarkably mature, and that speaks to Ferrier, McAllister and Boyer having a clear idea of what they want to do musically, which can only serve them well leading into their next studio outing. Good band, man. A name to watch for.
In another flashback to this year’s Stoner Hands of Doom, the three-piece incarnation of Washington D.C.’s Borracho — or, as I’ve come to call them, Borratrio — took the stage at Fontana’s with barely so much as a hello. Led by guitarist Steve Fisher (who seems to have an inexhaustible supply of classic rock t-shirts — awesome) in the absence of guitarist/vocalist Noah, who is out of the country on what I can only assume is a dangerous spy mission, they once again let the riffs do the vast majority of the talking, though vocals showed up in what would otherwise be the backing lines toward the end of “All in Play” and in “Concentric Circles,” which remains viciously catchy no matter who’s fronting it. Overall, Borracho were much tighter here than at SHoD, not only for the lack of technical difficulties, but in general on the level of chemistry between Fisher, bassist Tim Martin and drummer Mario Trubiano, who seemed only too happy to pick up the gauntlet Aaron Boyer threw down in Valley of the Sun‘s set. The two bands are reportedly headed back to D.C. tonight for another gig. They worked well together, so hopefully this isn’t the last time they join forces. Despite Noah‘s continued MIA-ness, Borratrio have new songs in progress as well.
Ultimately, I think that’s what made last night special — the fact that Borracho, Summoner, Valley of the Sun and Eggnogg all have new stuff on the horizon that hasn’t yet been released. Maybe Shock Radar too, I don’t really know, but to have everyone on board playing fresh material alongside a few familiar tracks was awesome, and in true showcase fashion, I felt like I was watching acts each in their own way poised to hit the next level in what they do. Kudos to Heavy Planet for putting together an excellent bill (I got to meet Toby at the show and he seemed like a good dude), and to the bands for kicking ass.
Posted in Features on September 2nd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
How surprised was I to win the Stoner Hands of Doom XII raffle last night? Well, I’m not exactly the guy who never wins anything, but I am the guy who says he never wins anything when he wins something once every eight to 10 years, so yeah, I was pretty blown away. I didn’t even really get the chance to go through the box of goodies last night — Pale Divine had just played and The Skull was about to take the stage — but the loot is plentiful.
My ticket won me a bounty of doomly goods, from Iron Man vinyl to CDs from Kin of Ettins, Beelzefuzz, Faces of Bayon, Black Cowgirl, Ichabod, One Inch Giant, and so on, plus posters for the last several SHoD fests, including one for SHoD VII in Arizona, when Acid King played. There are ones in there for SHoD X and SHoDXI as well, both of which I played in different bands, so it’s kind of special to have them, and an assortment of doomly patches and stickers — not to mention an entire wardrobe of t-shirts — but the highlight of the whole package has to be the official Stoner Hands of Doom XII pedal, which has the Skillit-designed skull artwork of this year’s fest painted right on. I can’t wait to get it home and hook it up to my ukulele. I’m dead serious.
Thanks obviously go out to Rob and the whole SHoD crew. One of the great things about being here the last several days has been seeing all the familiar faces. Today is the final day of the fest. When I came out of the El ‘n’ Gee last night, the entire town of New London appeared to be smashed, so it’s not such a surprise that it’s kind of sleepy and quiet now as I write this in a shady corner in the parking lot across from the venue, but soon enough, Minneapolis sludgers Witchden will start another full day of excellent heaviness that I’ll once more be documenting as we go along.
If you’ve been reading these posts, thank you for that. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have. It’s kind of a trip to be reviewing a band’s set and then have them come over and say hi, as happened a few times yesterday, but it’s been a lot of fun. More to come in a bit for day four of SHoD XII.
UPDATE 2:02PM: They had a hell of a trip to get here and a first-band-on crowd to play to, but Minneapolis sludgers Witchden were tight enough to show they had a little road time along their way. The two-guitar five-piece boasts Jeff “Kong”Moen, now apparently formerly of Sourvein on drums, and he provided both energy and crash behind vocalist Jason Micah, whose vicious screams came across with an almost hip-hop style presence. Maybe it was the upturned hat, but everyone else was pretty much headbanging, and his stage moves just gave off that kind of vibe. On the other hand, the riffs of guitarists were straight out of the sludge playbook, heavy enough to transcend the stoner and really get into some muddy nastiness. I bought the CD, and they were also selling handmade dugouts, which are apparently a thing that exist. They were $20 a pop, and as much as I like to support independent woodworking, I stuck with the album and think it was probably the right idea. A heavy start, and the first fog machine of the whole fest (surprised the hell out of me, like, “Oh yeah! Fog!” — it’s been a long weekend), but we’re underway for sure now.
UPDATE 2:46PM: They were a lot of fun, because they were literally kids — their parents were here — but Insano Vision also seriously brought it to SHoD XII, and by “it” I mean the inimitable vitality of rock and roll youth. They were fast and heavy and jumping around the stage, and it gives what I’ve been calling “energetic” all weekend an entirely different touchstone. A double-guitar four-piece from North Haven, I’d be amazed if a single one of them could gain entry to the bar area at the El ‘n’ Gee, but heavy is heavy. Lead guitarist Doug Glaser (above) tapped through a couple killer solos, jumping around the stage during set highlight “Unknown,” and while they still have their kinks to work out, they have plenty of time to do it. Very cool, very metal, and great to see some youngins kicking ass. As they’re local, I don’t know that I’d put them on after Witchden, but I think they surprised everyone here with both their chops and their presence. They tore through their set quickly, leaving a strong impression in their wake. Will be interesting to see how they develop, but it was more than pleasant to be caught off-guard as I was and I think a lot of others were as well.
UPDATE 3:39PM: I think I pulled my rock muscle. It was a pretty bold choice on New Jersey four-piece Infernal Overdrive‘s part to throw in the 12-minute jam (which was shortened, but still) “Motor” so early into the set, but they pulled it off, ranging far into psychedelic moodiness and then bringing it back into their own brand of classic-type riff rock. Brothers Keith (bass) and Marc Schleicher (guitar/vocals) held down cuts like “Viking” — which I’m dying to hear the final version of — the former with his customized Captain America bass, now featuring blue knobs. They’re always a show, huge on personality, but the songwriting backs it up. “I-95,” from their Small Stone debut, Last Rays of the Dying Sun (review here) is maddeningly catchy, and though Marc didn’t jump off the stage in his James Brown boogie routine, he and guitarist Rich Miele both sounded excellent and drummer Mike Bennett pushed a big rock finish over the top, the band’s logo proudly blazing off the front of his kick bass. For a band that doesn’t tour six or seven months each year, Infernal Overdrive always throw down, and every time I see them, I manage to enjoy it more than the last. Word is Hovel‘s brakes went out, and while they’re reportedly okay, they’re also reportedly not coming. Bummer, as it would’ve been cool to catch their set, but at least nobody got hurt.
UPDATE 5:OOPM: Some more familiar faces in Richmond, Virginia, SHoD veterans Fire Faithful. Their most recent full-length, Please Accept this Invocation (review here), was fit to please, if somewhat under-recorded, but like last year, the four-piece delivered in a live setting. As expected they called for backup (vocals) well into the proceedings, but the earlier “Wonton Lavey,” and “Dollar Bottomed Out” also stood out. The Ladies Faithful joined in for “Harvest Moon,” “A Devil in London” and the finale “King Macabre,” helping Fire Faithful do Virginia proud. Their Southern-style metal/doom is definitely traceable to its geography, with guitarist Shane Rippey‘s Pepper Keenan-style riffs and the post-Dave Sherman/Phil Anselmo vocal approach of Brandon Malone, but the band is clearly also working to come into their own more in terms of sound, and just going by this set, it seems to be worth their effort. There’s growth yet to be had, but they’re closer even than they were at SHoD XI. We’ll see when their next release drops how their development translates to the studio, but they’re getting there.
UPDATE 6:01PM: Near as I can tell, New Hampshire trio Skrogg only played four songs — “The Cajun Lady” and “Anita Ride” from their 2011 self-titled debut EP (review here) and two new ones — but man, that set was full. Low end permeated guitar and bass alike, and drummer Felix Starr had a floor tom mounted as his rack for extra thunder to stand up to Reverend Maxfield and Jasper Gloom. Maxfield handled vocals in addition to the guitar, delivering classic-rock-style lyrics with a dudely burl that seemed less like a put-on than some I’ve heard. Helps the authenticity cause that he spoke the same way. They cracked jokes between songs, with Starr referencing Wayne’s World (“I like to play”) and Dumb and Dumber(“the beer flows like wine”), among others, in the process. The two newer songs were both longer and more expansive instrumentally than the EP material, the first a wide-berth blues number and the second blending familiarly thickened fuzz into a twisted biker metal groove. They brought their own crowd to go with that already present at the El ‘n’ Gee, and I’d gladly wager that when Skrogg plays locally in New Hampshire, it’s a fucking rager of a party. I wouldn’t mind seeing it, but the export version was pretty killer as well. This is one of those bands who are just too dead on to not get picked up by some label sooner or later. I’ll look forward to hearing the new stuff put to tape.
UPDATE 7:02PM: Kind of a hard-luck set for Doom Capitol quality heavy rockers Borracho, who played SHoD XII as a trio sans guitarist/vocalist Noah. They made the best of it. Most of the set was instrumental — the midsection of “Grab the Reins” recognizable anyway — but guitarist Steve Fisher took the front position on “Concentric Circles.” Add to Noah‘s absence Fisher’s own technical problems with his Model T, and it’s probably not how they’d want to be remembered, but they still grooved the shit out of the El ‘n’ Gee, bassist Tim Martin also having his say vocally and filling the gaps in tone left by the lack of second guitar, the warmth of Martin‘s tone all the more audibly locked in with Mario Trubiano’s drumming. It was kind of an oddly-constructed set, with most of the instrumental material up front and then a last couple songs with vocals, but they made it work with what they had as a trio, though I think if they’d opened with “Concentric Circles” and then gone into the extended instrumental stuff, it might have flowed more easily. I don’t know for sure and so don’t want to conjecture, but I don’t think Noah is actually out of the band, just not here, so it doesn’t seem like something that was really planned for. Hopefully everything’s cool and Borracho can get back to four-piece form soon, and if for whatever reason that doesn’t happen, they still showed promise as a trio keeping the riffs at the fore.
UPDATE 8:04PM: This is a band about whom I can’t even really hope to feign impartiality. I’ve known frontman Ken-E Bones of Long Island sludge mainstays Negative Reaction for about a decade at this point if not longer, and drummer Joe Wood is my touchstone for awesome when it comes to human beings. Like you meet someone and go, “Wow, this seems like a really cool person.” My next step is to wonder if they’re as good a person as Joe Wood, and in every instance so far, the answer as been no. It was a thrill just to see these dudes, let alone watch them play a set. Of note, however, is that Bones and Wood have a new bass player in Jaime (pronounced hi-may), who replaces Damon Lippy. Not sure what’s the situation there, but as ever, Negative Reaction made for a strong trio, hitting up “Docking Bay 94″ and “Dopamine” from their 2011 outing, Frequencies from Montauk(review here) amid classics like “Go Die” and rousing opener “Loathing.” They got a good response from the crowd and seemed to be genuinely enjoying each other’s company and that of the audience, so right on. Add to that Bones flopping around on stage during the finale of “A Bit of Numb,” and you’ve got good times all the way through.
UPDATE 8:56PM: I’m starting to drag, and not a little, but Boston double-guitar foursome Summoner (né Riff Cannon, which if nothing else was a more descriptive name) were definitely not. Once upon a time — last year — I was in talks with the band to release their full-length, Phoenix, on The Maple Forum. That didn’t work out, but the band remains killer, vocalist/bassist Chris Johnson jumping up on drummer Scott Smith‘s kit early in the set and only getting more into it from there as guitarists Joe Richner and AJ Peters alternated between post-metal noodling and sludged-out crunch. I’d never actually seen them before, either as Summoner or their prior incarnation, but it was like they were trying to drive their music directly into the skull, no need for soundwaves or anything. They played in the dark, as some bands will do, but were a treat to watch, and if I was just a little bit more the vinyl-buying type, I’d be walking out of here tonight with a copy of Phoenix. Nonetheless, I’ll be revisiting my download of the record this week for sure. Their builds and crashes warrant yet another in an ongoing series of listens. Good band, and they seem like they’re only going to get better as they keep pushing themselves.
UPDATE 9:45PM: So here’s a bit of breaking news for you on a Sunday night: Massachusetts trio Black Pyramid just finished recording a new album — today. Apparently right before the three of them — guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard, bassist Gein and drummer Clay Neely – got in the car to come to New London. How badass is that? “Yeah, so we just finished our album, whaddya wanna do now?” “Let’s go play SHoD.” “Okay.” They rolled into the El ‘n’ Gee like the riff marauders they are and from there it was all battle axes and scimitars and bloodspurts. Most of what they played was off that new album, including a ripping instrumental that only served to emphasize how quickly they’ve come together as a unit and how tight they are performance-wise. Shepard brings a lot of personality to the band, and I don’t know the names of the songs, because they’re new and I’ve only just heard them here, right now, but there was one start-stop part where I feared for the lives of his strings he was hitting it so hard. I didn’t even know they were recording as of yet, so it’s awesome to hear that’s on the way, and gives me something to look forward to in 2013 as well as hopes of catching Black Pyramid again soon.
UPDATE 10:52PM: Holy shit. I finally got to fucking see Elder. You know those bands that every single time you would otherwise be in the same place on the same night — them on a stage, you probably drunk and awkward at a bar — it never works out? That’s me and Elder. It’s been years at this point. They’re in New York, I’m in Boston. They’re in Boston, I’m in Jersey. I’m in Boston, they’re in Germany. But here’s the thing. There’s not a chance I’d trade seeing Elder tonight for seeing them ever before, because right now, they’re at their absolute best yet. I don’t know if you heard the Spires Burn/Release12″ that was streamed here not too long ago, but it’s been nearly half a decade and Elder – guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, mulletted bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto – just keep getting better. They slammed into “Release” from that 12″ and it was glorious, no shit, and capped an already fantastic set with the title-track from Dead Roots Stirring. My only mistake was opening the laptop too early, so I had to stay back by the bar longer than I would’ve wanted to and not go up front, but other than that, it was perfect. I’m trying really hard lately to guard myself against hyperbole, because while it’s great for having bands use your quotes in their promotional materials, it’s shitty criticism and every act has things that work and things that don’t. That said, Elder fucking made my night. I mean it. Of all the really, really cool shit I’ve already seen today — from old friends to bands I’ve never even heard of — to finally see Elder was incredible. Might be some of the best American heavy psych I’ve ever seen.
UPDATE 12:25AM: This was the first time I’d seen Iron Man since they acquired vocalist Dee Calhoun. In that time, they’ve put out two EPs — last year’s Dominance (review here) and the new Att hålla dig över, which I picked up tonight at the merch table. Calhoun‘s singing is pure Halford, right down to the face-ripping screams and the double-hand clutch on the mic, but god damn can he pull it off. If you want to compare to former Iron Man vocalists, he’s a better Halford than Joe Donnelly was an Ozzy, and Joe Donnelly did a pretty mean Ozzy. Decked out in bandanna, beard and doomly black duster, Calhoun gave Iron Man a presence of up front like I’ve never seen them have before, raw talent blended with performance edge, and it seemed more than ever like guitarist “Iron” Alfred Morris III has finally met his match in a singer. Morris is the walking embodiment of all that is Maryland doom (at very least, he makes up half and Earthride‘s Dave Sherman comprises the rest), so it goes without saying that he killed it, and watching them run through “Ruler” and other songs off the EPs and Iron Man‘s last full-length, 2009’s I Have Returned, like opener “I Have Returned” and “Run from the Light” gave me a new appreciation for the dynamic between Morris and bassist Louis Strachan, whose fills added both raw groove and vitality in playing off Morris‘ riffing. If there’s a more perfect way to cap off a Stoner Hands of Doom fest, I can’t think of it. For the finishing touch, they brought up SHoD organizer Rob Levey (above, with Calhoun) to sing the title-track from 1993’s Black Night, noting as they did that he fronted the band at that time. Before Iron Man started, Levey was on stage after they picked the raffle winner (I didn’t go two for two), and he said this was the best lineup of the band he’d seen in the last 15 years. I don’t have the same kind of experience with them, obviously, but they’re definitely in a new class, and well deserved. They brought the house down, and when they finished, I said a crazy amount of goodbyes and adjourned to the same parking lot where I posted from this morning. Seemed only fitting to round out the day in the same spot. As anyone who saw me move into the same corner and plug in my laptop during almost every band’s last song over the course of the last three days might be able to tell you, I’m a creature of habit. I’m going to get in the car in just another minute or so and drive back to where I’m staying, but unless some of the adrenaline in me from the end of SHoD XII dies down, I’ll add a conclusion to this when I land, so stay tuned. Not quite done yet.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 21st, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Heavy Bostonian foursome Riff Cannon announced last night that they’ve changed their name and will be known as Summoner going forward. As Riff Cannon, they released the excellent Mercury Mountain in 2009 and recorded the forthcoming Phoenix, which will be Summoner‘s first release, out in 2012 on a to-be-determined label. We’d been talking about doing it on The Maple Forum, and may yet, but the band is rightly taking the opportunity to shop the album around with the band’s new moniker. Whoever gets behind it, the record is a monster, so hopefully it’s released soon.
In the meantime, Summoner sent this down the PR wire:
Just wanted to let everyone know that we will be changing our name. After much deliberation and discussion between the guys in the band, we have decided to move forward with this. The new name will be SUMMONER. The old name will be missed, and yes we understand that a lot of people really like it, but we also found that just as may people don’t like it…. including ourselves.
I’ll spare you the long drawn out explanation of when and why we have decided to do this. Just know that we are the exact same band… SAME DUDES, SAME MUSIC, DIFFERENT NAME.
Please follow the link to the new Facebook page and “LIKE” us so we can keep you all updated on news, shows, and most importantly, when we will be releasing the new album Phoenix!!! The record is mixed, mastered and we have some amazing cover art (courtesy of AlyssaMaucere). We’re going to take some time to shop the record around while we settle in as SUMMONER.
Thanks to everyone who has supported us over these last few years… now it’s time to move forward!!! — Summoner (formerly Riff Cannon)