Posted in Whathaveyou on July 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’ll be honest. There are times when I post about all these badass European fests when I get frustrated, wondering when I might get to see Conan and Black Shape of Nexus and YOB and Wovenhand on the same bill in the US. But you know what the answer to that question is? Never. It’s never gonna happen. Talk to me all you want about the growing fest culture in the States — meaning there are like two that are sustainable over the long term — but we’re likely to win the World Cup before we’re able to make a show like this happen. Our healthcare sucks too and we’ve spent over a decade bankrupting ourselves fighting needless wars so that five or six dickbags can viciously profiteer therefrom. You take the good with the bad. At least we’ve got new Sleep.
I won’t get to Amplifest in Portugal, unfortunately, but if you’re in that part of the world at the beginning of October, consider yourself fortunate. The two-dayer has confirmed screenings for two Chelsea Wolfe films, and added Swans and others to its already considerable lineup.
AMPLIFEST: Chelsea Wolfe’s “Lone” and “March of the Gods” to be screened || Swans, Cult of Luna, Ben Frost & more confirmed
Amplifest is due to happen in Porto, Portugal, on the 4th and 5th of October. This year’s line-up features performances from Swans, Cult of Luna, Ben Frost, Conan, Pallbearer, Wolvserpent, Wovenhand, Pharmakon and more. Tickets on sale.
Chelsea Wolfe’s “Lone” and documentary on metal music in Botswana “March of the Gods” will be screening in Amplifest 2014, scheduled to the weekend of October 4th and 5th. With talks with the confirmed artists and exhibitions still to be announced, this year’s edition will also feature concerts and performances from artists as influential and important to modern art and music as Swans, Cult of Luna, Ben Frost, Marissa Nadler, Yob, Wovenhand, Wolvserpent, or Pharmakon, to name just a few.
“Lone” works as a cinematic counterpart of Chelsea Wolfe’s latest album “Pain is Beauty”, but it stands perfectly on its own as a beautiful and enthralling art piece. Crafted both by Wolfe herself and renowned director Mark Pellington, “Lone” brings to a visual dimension all the distinctive factors in Chelsea Wolfe’s music: beauty in darkness, innocence and violence. Following her memorably breathtaking show at last year’s Amplifest, we will again be delighted by Chelsea Wolfe’s art, this time on screen.
Heavy Metal music is, unquestionably, a product of western culture – but the anger that leads to such an extreme way of expression is universal. “March of the Gods”, directed by Raffaele Mosca, is a rockumentary that portrays the thriving Metal scene in Botswana, a sparsely populated, and mostly deserted, country in Southern Africa. With a focus on the story of Wurst, one of Botswana’s most popular metal bands, the film shows us how such an orthodox music style can blend with African traditions and create a microcosm full of passionate and peculiar characters.
Announced acts: Alhousseini Anivolla, Ben Frost, Black Shape of Nexus, Bosque, Conan, Cult of Luna, Hexis, Marissa Nadler, Pallbearer, Peter Brötzmann & Steve Noble, Pharmakon, Swans, Urfaust, VVOVNDS, ?, Wolvserpent, Wovenhand, Yob
Amplifest is more than a festival, it’s an experience. It is due to happen in Porto, Portugal, on the 4th and 5th of October. Tickets available atAMPLISTORE: 2-day passes: 65 euros 1-day pass: soon
Posted in Reviews on May 19th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Outside Boston’s Royale, elaborately made-up young women in expensive-looking dresses stood waiting in a line while bearded-types smoked cigarettes on the sidewalk. Royale, which hosted Swans on Saturday, is a nightclub in what I guess was Boston’s theatre district. There are at least two rooms in the place, maybe more. Swans played upstairs, a larger hall, good lights, good sound, an elevated area in front of the stage that it took me a second to realize would become a dance floor as soon as 10PM hit and the weirdo contingent shuffled out to let the clubbers lang — if that can be a verb for what one does when clubbing at the risk of betraying my inexperience in this regard.
And indeed, 10PM. The show was even earlier than I anticipated it being from the Royale‘s website saying doors at 6, show at 7. In the rare and appreciated company of The Patient Mrs., I rolled in at about 6:50 and found Jenny Hval on stage, maybe halfway through her set. Who knew? A lot of people, judging by the crowd. I didn’t find out about that whole “out by 10″ thing until I was already there, and needless to say the evening made more sense afterwards. For Hval‘s part, the Oslo native and her accompanying duo of Håvard Volden and Kyrre Laastad ran a line between moody alternative pop and more experimental indie ambience. Probably not something I’d have gone to see were Swans not coming on next, but creative and well-presented from the few songs I saw. I wouldn’t have minded showing up earlier if I’d been so lucky.
Hval and Co. played in front of Swans‘ elaborate setup — a pedal steel was brought out later for Christoph Hahn, but drummer Phil Puleo and multi-instrumentalist Thor Harris already had their stations ready, and amps for guitarist/vocalist Michael Gira, bassist Chris Pravdica and guitarist Norman Westberg were prepositioned — and that made the changeover shorter than it probably would’ve been otherwise, but still, barely being 8PM, it hardly felt like they needed to rush. Supporting their newly-released third full-length since reactivating, To be Kind(review here), the Swans tour was newly begun. A night in D.C., a night in Philly, then Boston, followed by Manhattan and Brooklyn as a warmup for a longer stretch through the UK taking them through the rest of May into early June, with a longer summer US tour to follow mid-June into July.
My expectations for Swans were high. I remembered well the teeth-vibrating heaviness they conjured at Roadburn 2011, playing material from 2010’s don’t-call-it-a-comeback My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky(review here) as well as some early versions of songs like “The Apostate,” which would appear on 2012’s The Seer. “The Apostate” was aired at the Royale as well, making it the oldest song in a set that included two-point-five from To be Kind in “Oxygen,” “A Little God in My Hands,” and a mutated take on “Bring the Sun,” which appears as the first half of the 34-minute “Bring the Sun/Toussaint l’Ouverture” on the record, and two new songs, “Frankie M.” and “Don’t Go.”
The impulse with Swans since they started playing again — Gira transitioning from Angels of Light back to Swans as he shifted in 1997 from Swans to Angels of Light — has been to think of how apocalyptic they sound, to delve into drone-as-shattering-consciousness hyperbole. I’ve done it too more than once. I think it says much more about who these people are as artists and the deep creative need at work that, the same week their new album is released, they’re already remolding the material and playing two brand new, yet-unrecorded cuts, one of them opening the set. I don’t know whether “Frankie M.” or “Don’t Go” will wind up on the next Swans studio outing, and if they do, I’d expect they’ll be retooled in one manner or another, but just the fact that that’s how Swans go about their business where they could just as easily be plugging the t-shirts and vinyl at the merch booth said a lot about their priorities and how passion-driven they are.
Most likely, two nights into what will be several months of shows, Swans would tell you the show will get tighter. Gira hinted at same in mentioning how the stuff was all pretty new after “Don’t Go,” before he put his guitar down and danced like the mad conductor Jim Morrison wanted to be when he grew up for the bulk of “The Apostate,” directing Harris to hit this or that effect, maybe go for the flute, the horn, the gong, the chimes, or any number of other of the instruments he had in the little box constructed around him next to Puleo‘s also-expansive drum kit, or matching eyes with Pravdica in timing out measures for the insistent slams that start “Bring the Sun.” This lineup of Swans, inexperienced though they may be with bringing To be Kind to the stage, have been playing together for a few years now and it shows. Gira‘s signals, whether it’s a reeled-back leg kick to time a hit for the whole band or a subtle eye-glance to one player or another around him, are well read, and the fullness of sound Swans craft when they choose to do so is as consuming as their reputation would have you believe.
“A Little God in My Hands” was the second song played, behind “Frankie M.,” and offered an early bit of accessibility for what would soon turn into an amorphous spread of builds and crashes. “Oxygen” has form, and so does “The Apostate,” but live the bleed from one piece into the next was only distinct when it came to a silent finish, and while “The Apostate” seemed when they were done like that was it, “Bring the Sun” justified its place as the finale by giving an interpretation of drone-as-ritual that few I’ve seen live could rival. Whatever that track is going to turn into by the time Swans are done doing shows for To be Kind remains to be seen, but hopefully some recording of it surfaces somewhere along the line. It was distinct from the album version not just for dropping the “Toussaint l’Ouverture” half, but also it seemed to be finding its way as it went on — not a jam exactly, but live exploration unfolding in real-time swells of volume and tension. A solid 90 minutes had passed when they were done. I was surprised to look at my watch and see it was 20 after nine.
Downstairs at Royale, thudding dance beats pumped through the wall and as the art students, aged-out goths, metal intellectuals, kids who Pitchfork told to be there, stoners, girlfriends, industrial heads and others poured out of the front door, I spied some sidelong glances from those waiting to go upstairs and… well, whatever it was. So be it. If palpable, willful deviance from the norm was to be the vibe given off, then Swans made perfect figureheads for the evening.
Some more photos after the jump. Thanks for reading.
Posted in Reviews on May 9th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
What makes To be Kind so devastating isn’t the fact that it’s chaos or that, led by guitarist/vocalist/founder Michael Gira, Swans are tossing out random strands across the 2CD/3LP’s two-hour span and just waiting to see what sticks. It’s that there’s consciousness at work in this material, that these pieces have solidified around initial ideas, come together over a period of time to be what they are, and that even in the 34-minute we’re-gonna-outdo-The-Beatles-and-The-Doors-at-their-own-games-and-still-be-Swans “Bring the Sun/Toussaint l’Ouverture,” which over its time runs from snare-driven tension and pseudo-religious chanting to Gira sloganeering in French — “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” makes an appearance with an extra rolling of the ‘r’ in the latter before Gira seems to switch to Spanish — there’s direction. Usually that’s linear, and the third album since Swans‘ reactivation follows suit with its predecessors, 2012’s The Seer and 2010’s My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky (review here), in its inimitable complexity and in how it was constructed. The core Swans lineup around Gira has been remarkably consistent since they ended their 15-plus-year hiatus, with Norman Westberg on guitars, Phil Puleo on percussion, keys and vocals, Christoph Hahn on guitar and vocals, Thor Harris drumming and adding further percussion, also playing viola and singing and Christopher Pravdica playing bass and guitar and singing. Bill Rieflin (also of King Crimson) also appears on various instruments and is credited as “honorary Swan forever,” which if you’ve got a business card is a nifty title to have on it. These players shift their roles depending on what the song calls for at any given moment — no word on who does the sawing that appears midway through “Bring the Sun/Toussaint l’Ouverture,” though the horses were wrangled by Guillermo Tellez Gonzales “Charo” — and as has been their wont, Swans bring in multiple guests throughout to handle brass instruments, additional vocals, piano, strings, etc. A varied sound is something of a given — to wit the funky stomp of disc-one centerpiece “A Little God in My Hands” or its rawer disc-two counterpart “Oxygen” — but To be Kindis cohesive and gripping in its intensity, whether it’s the bombast later in “She Loves Us” or the brooding psychedelia that emerges on the subsequent “Kristen Supine.”
The response has been accordingly hyperbolic. Big surprise, right? Swans put out an album that sounds like Swans and critics line up to wax poetic about the genius at work in their dark artistry, all sentence-wank and extremity of phrase. Whatever. Fact is that Swans have always been a challenging listen — yes, even The Burning World– and for as long as they want to, they’ll continue to be one. With Gira‘s laser-guided übersneer in “Just a Little Boy (For Chester Burnett),” the derisive laughter that follows, the teeth-grinding build of “Screen Shot” that finally and thankfully pays itself off near the end of the song, the base judgment in “Some Things We Do,” particularly the first half of To be Kind, with “Screen Shot” (8:05), “Just a Little Boy (for Chester Burnett)” (12:40), “A Little God in My Hands” (7:08), “Bring the Sun/Toussaint l’Ouverture” (34:05) and “Some Things We Do” (5:09), isn’t.The second disc comes across friendlier, if one can use that word, with “She Loves Us” (17:01), Kirsten Supine” (10:32), “Oxygen” (7:59), “Nathalie Neal” (10:15) the “To be Kind” (8:23) — at very least the titles speak to ideas of love and life, whereas on “Some Things We Do,” those are broken down into a listing, “We laugh, we drink, we fuck,” and so on. “Screen Shot,” with its gradual beginning and eight-minute build, sets a precedent for several of the other pieces to follow. A course is established and the journey is undertaken. Elements are added on the way and a build begins. That build is carried out over some stretch of time, skillful, linear. They keep it going. Tension mounts. Just when they get to the point where you feel like your head is going to explode if the song doesn’t, they hold it. That’s what they sustain. The payoff isn’t the climax — it’s that moment just before that gets drawn out. “Bring the Sun/Toussaint l’Ouverture” does this twice. “She Loves Us,” with its frenetic bassline, percussive tribalism and backing drone, also does it twice, deconstructing itself to disjointed noise both times. “Kirsten Supine” culminates in a stomp and wash. “Oxygen” builds on that with horns and slamming single hits, and though “Nathalie Neal” is more straightforward, its chanting chorus providing an incantation of a hook, it too comes to a head before dropping out to the quiet conclusion that continues on with the closing title-track before it hits its own stride of impossible tension and release.
Posted in Whathaveyou on April 21st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Supported by a seemingly endless supply of vitriol nearly as much as by a string of limited live and homemade releases, the ongoing reactivation of Swans will release its latest document, a 2CD called To be Kind which undoubtedly isn’t, on May 13 via frontman Michael Gira‘s Young God Records — Mute for everywhere outside North America. The hugely influential outfit have announced tour dates across various regions of the country as well as in the UK and into Canada that will keep them busy through the summer and into fall as they support the new album.
The new song, “A Little God in My Hands,” can be heard below, following details off the PR wire:
Swans announce new Sept. tour dates in N. Am.
Swans announce details of the first few legs of a year-long, worldwide tour starting May 2014, following the release of the new album To Be Kind on Young God Records (North America) May 13 and on Mute May 12 in the rest of the world.
The US dates begin in Washington, DC May 14. Full details below.
Swans are Michael Gira, Norman Westberg, Christoph Hahn, Phil Puleo, Thor Harris and Christopher Pravdica and these are their first US dates since last July.
‘To Be Kind’ features several special guests: Little Annie, St. Vincent, labelmate Cold Specks and Bill Rieflin. The album was produced by Michael Gira, and recorded by John Congleton at Sonic Ranch, Texas. Further recordings and mixing were accomplished in Dallas, Texas.
Explaining the proposed formats, Gira has said, “It will be available as a triple vinyl album, a double CD, and a 2XCD Deluxe Edition that will include a live DVD. It will also be available digitally.
Swans, led by Michael Gira, formed in 1982 and, after disbanding in 1997, returned with the critically acclaimed albums ‘My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky’ (2010) and 2012’s ‘The Seer’. 2014’s new album ‘To Be Kind’ was in part funded through sales of the live 2 CD set “Not Here/Not Now” availableexclusively from the band’s site.
SWANS SPRING US TOUR Jenny Hval supports on May dates May 14 – Washington DC, Black Cat Mainstage May 15 – Philadelphia PA, Union Transfer May 17 – Boston MA, Royale Nightclub May 18 – New York NY, Bowery Ballroom May 19 – Brooklyn NY, Music Hall of Williamsburg
UK TOUR May 22 – Manchester UK, Academy 2 May 23 – Newcastle UK, Hoults Yard May 24 – Glasgow UK, The Arches May 25 – Aberdeen UK, The Lemon Tree May 27 – London UK, Brixton Electric May 28 – Bristol UK, Trinity Community Arts May 29 – Reading UK, Sub89 May 31 – Birmingham UK, Supersonic Festival – Custard Factory June 1 – Leeds UK, Cockpit June 2 – Brighton UK, Concorde 2 Support comes from Jenny Hval on all the May dates.
SWANS SUMMER US TOUR – Xiu Xiu support on June/July dates June 17 – Quebec QC Le Cercle June 18 – Montreal Qc Theatre National June 20 – Toronto ON Yonge-Dundas Square Stage- MNW Festival June 21 – Detroit MI St Andrews Hall June 22 – Chicago IL Lincoln Hall June 24 – St Louis MO The Ready Room June 26 – Dallas TX Trees June 27 – Austin TX Mohawk Austin June 28 – Houston TX Fitzgerald’s Upstairs June 30 – Nashville TN Exit / In July 1 – Charlotte NC Neighborhood Theatre July 2 – Louisville KY The New Vintage July 3 – Pittsburgh PA Rex Theater July 5 – Buffalo NY Tralf Music Hall July 6 – New Haven CT Toad’s Place Tue 9/2 Denver, CO – Bluebird Theater Thu 9/4 Seattle, WA – Showbox Fri 9/5 Vancouver, BC- the Venue Sat 9/6 Portland, OR – Roseland Theater Mon 9/8 San Francisco-, CA Independent-Bluebird Theater Thu 9/11 Hollywood CA- The Roxy Theatre
Posted in Features on January 1st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Happy New Year to everyone around the world. It’s January 1, 2013, and to celebrate the New Year the best way I know how, I got right to work on tabulating the results of the 2012 Readers Poll. I’ve been tracking the results as they’ve come in over the course of December, and as you can see in the list below, it was a tight race for the top spot right up to the end.
Before we run down the finished list, I want to extend gratitude to each and every one of the 296 people who contributed their top 12 so this list could be put together. It’s an amazing response and I was super stoked that so many of you were able to take part. Thank you for that. Right from the first day the form went up, I knew this was going to be awesome, and it wound up exceeding my every expectation. It was a great sendoff to the year. Much appreciated.
Here are the results of the Top 20 of 2012 Readers Poll:
1. Om, Advaitic Songs – 108 votes
2. High on Fire, De Vermis Mysteriis – 106
3. Graveyard, Lights Out – 86
4. Neurosis, Honor Found in Decay – 65
5. Ufomammut, Oro – 63
5. Witchcraft, Legend – 63
6. Colour Haze, She Said – 56
6. Saint Vitus, Lillie: F-65 – 56
7. Kadavar, Kadavar – 49
7. Pallbearer, Sorrow and Extinction – 49
8. Orange Goblin, A Eulogy for the Damned – 46
9. Baroness, Yellow and Green – 39
10. Conan, Monnos – 38
11. Swans, The Seer – 35
12. Astra, The Black Chord – 31
13. Greenleaf, Nest of Vipers – 31
13. The Sword, Apocryphon – 31
14. Royal Thunder, CVI – 26
14. Wo Fat, The Black Code – 26
15. Ancestors, In Dreams and Time – 25
16. Torche, Harmonicraft – 23
17. Corrosion of Conformity, Corrosion of Conformity – 22
18. Enslaved, Riitiir – 19
19. Goat, World Music – 18
19. Melvins Lite, Freak Puke – 18
19. Soundgarden, King Animal – 18
20. Amenra, Mass V – 17
20. Samothrace, Reverence to Stone – 17
Witch Mountain, Cauldron of the Wild Rush, Clockwork Angels Stoned Jesus, Seven Thunders Roar Troubled Horse, Step Inside
Converge, All We Love We Leave Behind – 15 Mighty High, Legalize Tre Bags – 15 My Sleeping Karma, Soma – 15
Pretty wild to have Om and High on Fire so close, and they were tied for a long, long time, but Om retained an early lead and managed to pull it out in the end. As you can see, there were a number of releases that tied with others for their position. Seemed only fair to me to include all of them, and I also threw in those with 16 and 15 votes as well, just because it was close. In total, there were an astounding 1,200+ albums entered into consideration.
Once again, thanks to everyone for making this Readers Poll happen and for taking the time to be a part of it. Already looking forward to some fantastic things to come in 2013, so please stay tuned and keep your lists handy.
We’re more than halfway through 2012, and we’ve already seen great releases from the likes of Orange Goblin, Pallbearer, Conan, C.O.C., Saint Vitus and many others, but there’s still a long way to go. The forecast for the next five months? Busy.
In my eternal and inevitably doomed quest to keep up, I’ve compiled a list of 13 still-to-come releases not to miss before the year ends. Some of this information is confirmed — as confirmed as these things ever are, anyway — either by label or band announcements, and some of it is a little bit vaguer in terms of the actual dates, but all this stuff is slated to be out before 2013 hits. That was basically my only criteria for inclusion.
And of course before I start the list, you should know two things: The ordering is dubious, since it’s not like I can judge the quality of an album before I’ve heard it, just my anticipation, and that this is barely the beginning of everything that will be released before the end of 2012. The tip of the fastly-melting iceberg, as it were. If past is prologue, there’s a ton of shit I don’t even know about that (hopefully) you’ll clue me into in the comments.
Nonetheless, let’s have some fun:
1. Colour Haze, She Said(Sept./Oct.)
I know, I know, this one’s been a really, really long time coming. Like two years. Like so long that Colour Haze had to go back and remake the album because of some terrible technical thing that I don’t even know what happened but it doesn’t matter anymore. Notice came down yesterday from guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek that the recording is done and the long-awaited She Saidis on the way to be pressed on vinyl and CD. Got my fingers crossed for no more snags.
2. Enslaved, RIITIIR (Sept. 28)
The progressive Norwegian black metallers have put out 10 albums before it, and would you believe RIITIIRis the first Enslaved album that’s a palindrome? Kind of cheating to include it on this list, because I’ve heard it, but I’ve been through the record 10-plus times and I still feel like I just barely have a grasp on where they’re headed with it, so I think it’ll be really interesting to see what kind of response it gets upon release. Herbrand Larsen kills it all over these songs though, I will say that.
3. Mos Generator, Nomads(Oct. 23)
Hard for me not to be stoked on the prospect of the first new Mos Generator album since 2007, especially looking at that cover, which RippleMusic unveiled on Tuesday when it announced the Oct. 23 release date. It’s pretty grim looking, and even though Mos once put out a record called The Late Great Planet Earth, I’ve never thought of them as being particularly dark or doomed. I look forward to hearing what Tony Reed (Stone Axe, HeavyPink) has up his sleeve for this collection, and if he’s looking to slow down and doom out a bit here, that’s cool too. I’ll take it either way.
4. Ufomammut, Oro – Opus Alter(Sept.)
No, that’s not the cover of Oro – Opus Alter, the second half of Italian space doom grand masters Ufomammut‘s Oro collection — the first being Opus Primum (review here), which served as their Neurot Recordings debut earlier this year. That cover hasn’t been released yet, so I grabbed a promo pic to stand in. I’m really looking forward to this album, though I hope they don’t go the Earth, Angels of Darkness Demons of Lightroute and wind up with two records that, while really good, essentially serve the same purpose. I’ve got my hopes high they can outdo themselves once again.
5. Witchcraft, Legend(Sept. 21)
I guess after their success with Graveyard, Nuclear Blast decided to binge a bit on ’70s loyalist doom, signing Witchcraft and even more recently, Orchid. Can’t fault them that. It’s been half a decade since Witchcraft released The Alchemist and in their absence, doom has caught on in a big way to their methods. With a new lineup around him, will Magnus Pelander continue his divergence into classic progressive rock, or return to the Pentagram-style roots of Witchcraft‘s earliest work? Should be exciting to find out.
6. Wo Fat, The Black Code(Nov.)
After having the chance to hear some rough mixes of Texas fuzzers Wo Fat‘s Small Stone debut, The Black Code, I’m all the more stoked to encounter the finished product, and glad to see the band join the ranks of Lo-Pan, Freedom Hawk and Gozu in heralding the next wave of American fuzz. Wo Fat‘s 2011 third outing, Noche del Chupacabra (review here), greatly expanded the jammed feel in their approach, and I get the sense they’re just beginning to find where they want to end up within that balance.
7. Blood of the Sun, Burning on the Wings of Desire(Late 2012)
As if the glittering logo and booby-lady cover art weren’t enough to grab attention, Blood of the Sun‘s first album for Listenable Records (fourth overall) is sure to garner some extra notice because the band is led by drummer/vocalist Henry Vasquez, better known over the past couple years as the basher for Saint Vitus. Whatever pedigree the band has assumed through that, though, their modern take on classic ’70s heavy has a charm all its own and I can’t wait to hear how Burning on the Wings of Desire pushes that forward. Or backward. Whatever. Rock and roll.
8. Swans, The Seer(Aug. 28)
This one came in the mail last week and I’ve had the chance to make my way through it only once. It’s two discs — and not by a little — and as was the case with Swans‘ 2010 comebacker, My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky(review here), the far less cumbersomely titled The Seeris loaded with guest contributions. Even Jarboe shows up this time around, doing that breathy panting thing she does. Unnerving and challenging as ever, Swans continue to be a litmus for how far experimentalism can go. 3o years on, that’s pretty impressive in itself.
9. Swallow the Sun, Emerald Forest and the Blackbird(Sept. 4)
Apparently the Finnish melo-doom collective’s fifth album, Emerald Forest and the Blackbird, came out earlier this year in Europe, but it’s finally getting an American release in September, and as I’ve always dug the band’s blend of death metal and mournful melodicism, I thought I’d include it here. Like Swans, I’ve heard the Swallow the Sun once through, and it seems to play up more of the quiet, weepy side of their sound, but I look forward to getting to know it better over the coming months.
10. My Sleeping Karma, Soma (Oct. 9)
Just signed to Napalm Records and tapped to open for labelmates Monster Magnet as they tour Europe performing Spine of Godin its entirety this fall, the German four-piece are set to follow-up 2010’s Tri(review here) with Soma. Details were sketchy, of course, until about five minutes after this post initially went up, then the worldwide release dates, cover art and tracklist were revealed, so I updated. Find all that info on the forum.
11.Eagle Twin, The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale(Aug. 28)
Way back in 2009 when I interviewed Eagle Twin guitarist/vocalist Gentry Densley about the band’s Southern Lord debut, he said the band’s next outing would relate to snakes, and if the cover is anything to go by, that seems to have come to fruition on The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale, which is set to release at the end of next month. As the first album was kind of a mash of influences turned into cohesive and contemplative heavy drone, I can’t help but wonder what’s in store this time around.
12. Hooded Menace, Effigies of Evil(Sept. 11)
You know how sometimes you listen to a band and that band turns you on in their liner notes to a ton of other cool bands? I had that experience with Finnish extreme doomers Hooded Menace‘s 2010 second album, Never Cross the Dead (review here), except instead of bands it was hotties of ’70s horror cinema. Needless to say, I anxiously await the arrival of their third record and Relapse debut, Effigies of Evil. Someone needs to start a label and call it Hammer Productions just to sign this band.
13. Yawning Man, New Album (Soon)
Make no mistake. The prospect of a new Yawning Man album would arrive much higher on this list if I was more convinced it was going to come together in time for a 2012 release. As it is, Scrit on the forum has had a steady stream of updates since May about the record — the latest news being that it’s going to be a double album — and Scrit‘s in the know, so I’ll take his word. One thing we do know for sure is that the band in the picture above is not the current Yawning Man lineup. Alfredo Hernandez and Mario Lalli out, Greg Saenz and Billy Cordell in. Bummer about the tumult, but as long as it’s Gary Arce‘s ethereal guitar noodling, I’m hooked one way or another.
Since we closed with rampant speculation, let me not forget that somewhere out there is the looming specter of a new Neurosis album, which the sooner it gets here, the better. Perhaps also a new Clutch full-length, though I doubt that’ll materialize before 2013. And that’s a different list entirely.
Thanks for reading. Anything I forgot or anything you’d like to add to the list, leave a comment.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 10th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
These updates are quickly becoming the highlights of my week. Although I can’t imagine the room won’t be so packed as to allow one to breathe and exist at the same time, seeing Michael Gira perform a solo acoustic set might just be worth the lack of oxygen. Toss in Killing Joke and Dutch doom innovators Celestial Season and the latest Roadburn news just made my afternoon. Dig it:
Voivod and Roadburn are equally thrilled to announce that seminal post-punk pioneers KillingJoke will perform at Roadburn 2012 on Thursday, April 12th as part of the newly expanded Au-delà du Réel event.
Killing Joke was at the top of Voivod‘s wish list as soon as they accepted the curator invitation.
Unfortunately, JazColeman (vocals, keyboards and arrangements), GeordieWalker (guitar), Youth (bass) and PaulFerguson (drums) could not make it to Tilburg on Friday, April 13th due to prior commitments. However, in the spirit of Roadburn and true to the OuterLimits theme, it was quickly decided to expand Au-delà du Réel and turn Voivod‘s dream of sharing a stage with KillingJoke into reality.
Please note that Voivod‘s second show originally scheduled for Saturday, April 14th has been moved to Thursday, April 12th as part of the specially extended Au-delà du Réel. The main stage lineup for Thursday, April 12th (in alphabetical, not official running order): Agalloch, d.USK/diSEMBOWELMENT, KillingJoke, OM, Ulver and Voivod.
While Swans’ intensely heavy headliner performance at this year’s Roadburn is still resonating in our collective minds, we’re elated to announce the return of MichaelGira for an acoustic solo performance on Thursday, April 14th at the MidiTheatre in Tilburg, Holland.
In related news: Reunited Dutch doomsters CelestialSeason will perform their influential, groundbreaking second album, Solar Lovers in its entirety for the first time ever at Roadburn Festival 2012 on Saturday, April 14th, MidiTheatre in Tilburg, Holland.
Barn Owl, Jucifer, Urfaust, The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation, Purson, Hammers of Misfortune, Orchid, Sigiriya, LordVicar and End of Level Boss have also been confirmed for Roadburn Festival 2012.
Tickets for Roadburn 2012 will go on sale Saturday, November 26th, 10:00 Central European Time. There will be a 2 ticket limit (per order) for 3-day and 4-day passes and Afterburner tickets –the same goes for the Campsite Tickets. More info here.
Posted in Features on September 23rd, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Usually, in interviews, there’s a brief bit of smalltalk at the beginning and the end. “Thanks for taking the call,” “Appreciate the time,” and that sort of thing. A question I get asked a lot is, “Hey, are you coming out to X show?” It’s something people ask mostly to be polite.
At the end of our interview, when Swans guitarist/vocalist Michael Gira asked me if I’d be on hand for either the I’ll be Your Mirror fest in Asbury Park that his band is playing or the Brooklyn show preceding, I said I’d like to hit up Brooklyn (to which David Eugene Edwards of Wovenhand has been added for an acoustic set), but that if I did, I’d have to deal with being surrounded by Williamsburg hipsters.
Gira‘s response — without a second of delay or hesitation of any kind — was, “bring a flamethrower.”
Shit you not.
It’s that kind of unbending will for confrontation that’s helped Gira and Swans cast a hugely influential net on underground music, be it Neurosis and the post-metal born in their wake or Godspeed You! Black Emperor and the avant-garde style experimentation they in turn have fostered. Swans are a root band, setting a lineage of distinct and aggressive crescendos. Their music feels like it’s crashing down on you as you listen.
Despite the long break between the studio albums Soundtracks for the Blind (1996) and My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky (2010) and Gira‘s shift in direction that took place with the dark acoustic-led Americana of Angels of Light (whose seven-album discography is a beast unto itself), that oppressive feeling has remained consistent. The personnel may have changed — and Gira‘s drive for challenge has led to a sound that’s moving forward rather than trying to harken back to something it would inevitably fail to capture — but new Swans is still Swans.
My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky was one of 2010’s densest and most crushing releases, and in the interview below Gira discusses what led him to revive the band, the development of even newer material — some of which has already been recorded — a forthcoming live album, the practicalities involved in putting out music on his own label, Young God Records, the relationship between Swans and Angels of Light and much more.
Posted in Features on April 16th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
3:01AM — Saturday Night/Sunday Morning — Hotel Mercure, Tilburg
I wound up giving up on seeing Shrinebuilder and Ufomammut tonight in favor of Stone Axe and Swans. I don’t know if it was the right decision, and quite frankly, fuck it, I’m through making the right decisions. I’m too tired and I’m too fuck-offy to care what I should be seeing. I made tonight at Roadburn what I wanted it to be, and you can fuck right off if you think I should have been somewhere other than I was.
Pushed my way through to Ramesses in the Green Room when I got back to 013, and no regrets for that, although the space was packed. They were ballsy, they were heavy, they killed, blah blah blah. It was good, and the more I stood there the more I wanted to hear their upcoming album, the promo for which is on my desktop at the office, so I guess mission accomplished. I’m starting to run out of euphemisms for “I liked it.” So fuck it. I liked Ramesses. They were good.
While making my way through the merch area for the umpteenth time this weekend, I ran into the dudes from Stubb, who were on tour with Stone Axe until tonight. I kind of offered to put out their record if they couldn’t find a better deal, so that was something, but more importantly, after shooting the shit for a while, I did the science and decided to see Stone Axe instead of Shrinebuilder. The math was simple and went like this: I’ve seen Shrinebuilder; I haven’t seen Stone Axe. Equation over.
Stone Axe, for what it’s worth, laid rocking waste to the Bat Cave. Theirs was the first set all weekend I’d seen in there, and if it’s the only one — which, since nothing for the Afterburner is booked in there, I guess it will be — it was the right choice. They rocked. And that’s it. I felt like I knew them from listening to the records, but live, Stone Axe is a different beast entirely. Tony Reed killed it on guitar and Dru Brinkerhoff was drunk enough to swipe my beer from the front of the stage before their set even started. It was a rock and roll party, and for a couple minutes, I managed to let go of what a miserable bastard I am, how fucking stressed out I’ve been about work, about school, about this site, all that shit.
It was brief, but for just a bit of Stone Axe, I genuinely didn’t care anymore about any of it. I pulled my earplugs out and let go, and honestly, I don’t think I’ve done that since Neurosis played here in 2009. It didn’t matter that when I get back to Jersey I have a ton of shit to catch up on, or that I spent most of the day wanting to blow my brains out all over the gorgeous Tilburg sidewalk, or that hits are down this month and everyone thinks I give a shit one way or the other what gets posted on the forum when I don’t, or what kind of asshole dwells on this crap anyway when he’s supposed to be having the time of his life: I just rocked out and that was it. I had to travel over 3,600 miles to make that happen.
Like I said, the respite was short-lived, and I was soon back to my grumpy fuck-all. I walked out of Stone Axe partied out, watched them close through the door and soon and set up shop in the main stage photo pit (fucking where else?) for Swans, who proved unphotogenic and apocalyptic in equal measure. I stayed until they did “Jim” from last year’s My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky and then split to come back to the Mercure and call it a night and revel in the foulness of mood for a bit. Oh, if only Evoken were playing now.
One more day to go. It’ll be 4AM at least by the time I finish uploading the photos for this post, so I’ll wake up when I wake up and head over to 013, probably same as today. I’m tired, I miss The Patient Mrs. and my tolerance for weirdos is at its end, but on my way out of the venue, I ran into Winter‘s drummer and he seemed like a cool cat, and I got Johan Lundquist, Robert Lowe and Leif Edling to sign my Roadburn flyer, and I told David D’Andrea I wanted to interview him for this site, so I don’t at all mark the night a loss. I also got one of the last discs of whatever it was White Hills was selling, so tongue out to anyone else who wanted it.
A photographer took my picture yesterday for the Dutch 3voor12 site, which in addition to covering the fest is doing a special pictorial on beards. I had to give my name (JJ Koczan), where I was from (New Jersey) and how long I’ve been growing my beard (a year-plus), and though she told me it would be online today, I can’t find it. Probably for the best. The first part of the series is here if you want to check it out. The rest I don’t know. Maybe I’ll show up there sooner or later and you can find out first-hand why I make it a policy never to put pictures of myself on this site.
Afterburner tomorrow. I want to see Sungrazer so bad I can taste it.
Posted in Reviews on September 22nd, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
With the first new Swans album in 14 years, My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky (Young God),vocalist/guitarist/producer/songwriter Michael Gira is showing how a reunion is properly handled. You don’t just go out there and trot out the greatest hits. You don’t make it a blatant cash-grab. You create something. You reenter a headspace, make a new record, and give your fans a new context for understanding how you’ve grown and progressed since the last go around. Most importantly, you don’t try to remake what you’ve already done. Gira, who’s spent his post-Swans years developing the apocalyptic-folk strains of Angels of Light, reignites Swans with the vigor of a new band already established in its approach, vehement in its creativity and positively crushing in its sonics.
Joining him in the endeavor are former Swans guitarists Norman Westberg and Christoph Hahn, as well as a host of personalities from various Swans and Angels of Light tours and albums, including drummer/percussionists Phil Puleo and Thor Harris and bassist Chris Pravdica. Conspicuously absent is Jarboe. Gira’s songwriting is center, as ever, and several of the My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky cuts could be heard on the precursor limited acoustic record I am Not Insane (also Young God), which was released in order to finance the recording of this new album. Here, though, the tracks are fleshed out with sundry noises and percussive twists and very much “plugged in,” opener “No Words/No Thoughts” tackling a godless universe with all the crushing weight that implication has for mortality. At over nine minutes, the song undulates rhythmically, reeling back and unleashing a growing barrage of new elements one after another until cutting to Gira’s vocals so the effect can be even greater when the music starts again.
So this new incarnation of Swans isn’t afraid to be heavy, but there’s more to their sound than slow builds and crashes. Anyone wondering why Swans had such an influence over the generation of acts that followed need look no further than tracks like “Reeling the Liars In” or the even-more sinister “Jim,” which evoke dark atmospheres that’s largely to Gira’s desolate-sounding vocals. In “Jim” especially, Gira’s vocal cadence shows what players like Steve Von Till and Scott Kelly of Neurosis were able to glean from Swans’ original run and put in the context of their own work. One could say the same for “My Birth,” on which every snare hit feels like a gut-punch in an insistent rhythm the likes of which Godflesh based most of its tenure on. Despite a number of jumps in aesthetic, from “Reeling the Liars In,” which but for the personnel involved probably could have been an Angels of Light song and no one would have batted an eye, to “Jim,” to “My Birth,” and so on, Gira is what ties the album together.