Posted in Whathaveyou on July 27th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Fascinating transition for The Skull, who since the release of their 2014 Tee Pee Records debut album, For Those Which are Asleep (review here), have gone from being more Trouble than Trouble to owing just as much of their collective pedigree to Pentagram with the addition of drummer Sean Saley alongside guitarist Matt Goldsborough — both of whom I’m pretty sure were in Pentagram when I saw them at Desertfest London in 2013. Go figure.
What that means to The Skull‘s overall aesthetic will of course remain to be seen, guitarist Lothar Keller (who was never in either Trouble or Pentagram — yet!) having such a huge role in what they do, as well as bassist Ron Holzner and vocalist Eric Wagner, but wherever they go from their first album, I’m glad to see them getting out for a decent bit of touring, even if it’s headed west instead of east. The rest will sort itself out, but more time on stage can only make them a tighter unit and expand on what they were already able to bring to the studio the first time around.
The PR wire has tour details:
The Skull Announces North American Tour Dates
Doom Titans featuring Ex-Members of Legendary Metal Bands TROUBLE and PENTAGRAM Set to Hit the Road
THE SKULL, featuring vocalist Eric Wagner and bassist Ron Holzner, formerly of metal legends TROUBLE, guitarist Matt Goldsborough and drummer Sean Saley (both ex-PENTAGRAM) and guitarist Lothar Keller, has announced a North American tour in support of its debut album, For Those Which Are Asleep.
THE SKULL will launch the 16-city trek on September 11 in Milwaukee, WI. The tour will run through September 29 in New Orleans, LA. At the shows, THE SKULL will perform both songs from For Those Which Are Asleep and time-tested favorites from its canon of TROUBLE classics. The just-announced live dates are as follows:
THE SKULL tour dates: September 11 Milwaukee, WI Metal Grill September 12 Kansas City, MO Riot Room September 13 Denver, CO Larimer Lounge September 15 Spokane, WA The Pin September 16 Boise, ID Neurolux September 17 Vancouver, BC Rickshaw September 18 Seattle, WA El Corazon September 19 Portland, OR Star Theatre September 20 Oakland, CA Opera House September 22 Los Angeles, CA Satellite September 23 San Diego, CA Hideout September 24 Phoenix, AZ Pub Rock September 25 Albuquerque, NM Launchpad September 26 Fort Worth, TX Lola’s September 27 Tulsa, OK Downtown Lounge September 29 New Orleans, LA Sibera
[Please press play above to hear a full stream of Sacri Monti’s Sacri Monti, which is out July 24 on Tee Pee. Preorders are available here. Thanks to the label, PR and band for allowing me to host the album.]
SoCal five-piece Sacri Monti traffic in liquefied kosmiche bliss. The natural word to follow that is “exclusively,” but that’s not quite true in this case, as it would indicate a single-mindedness that neither they nor their self-titled six-track/43-minute Tee Pee Records full-length debut actually possess, the album instead working in a natural-flowing, bright toned spectrum of guitar-driven, organ-laced classic heavy psych, six-stringers Brenden Dellar (also vocals) and Dylan Donavon, Evan Wenskay (organ, synth, Echoplex), bassist Anthony Meier (also of Radio Moscow) and drummer Thomas Dibenedetto (also of JOY) touching on progressive ideas and methods without going full-on krautrock noodle or losing their sense of groove, which remains paramount through the initial shuffle of “Staggered in Lies” and the harder-hitting swing of “Glowing Grey” in the 14-minute one-two punch that leads off.
The established track record of their rhythm section should speak for itself, but it’s worth pointing out that as is the case in the best of heavy psych scenarios, it’s the drums and the bass anchoring the bulk of this material, the especially memorable “Slipping from the Day” seeming that much dreamier because of the solid foundation from which it spreads itself out. Dellar, Donavon and Wenskay enact an immersive swirl on “Staggered in Lies” and vibe remains prevalent throughout the cuts that follow, Sacri Monti‘s Sacri Monti kaleidoscoping through a wash of fuzzy distortion that seems to revel in the chaos of its own making.
Improv seems to play pretty heavily into the band’s methodology, so it’s not really such a surprise that “Slipping from the Day,” “Glowing Grey” and “Sitting around in a Restless Dream” would differ from the versions included on Sacri Monti‘s Demo 2014, released on tape by Under the Gun Records. “Slipping from the Day,” formerly a 12-minute jam, is here trimmed down to six and a half, and it proves a highlight toward the middle of the record, soaked in wah and centered around the repeated line, “Hold on, you’re really slipping from the day,” and variations thereupon. The psychedelic fervor Sacri Monti conjure isn’t to be understated, and it really is an album-long vibe, but far from monochromatic, “Sitting around in a Restless Dream” takes ’70s biker riffing and launches it into a stratosphere of swirling boogie, Dellar‘s voice echoing out as Wenskay seems to manipulate the Echoplex for further looped intricacy — just in case things weren’t freaked out enough.
At just over five minutes, “Sitting around in a Restless Dream” is the shortest of the six cuts, but it packs plenty of space into that time and one has the feeling that on any given night Sacri Monti happen to play it, it might range much further. The subsequent “Ancient Seas and Majesties” brings a turn that pushes the guitar forward, finding a middle ground between the otherworldly mastery of “Slipping from the Day” and the earthier “Staggered in Lies,” the organ seeming to follow the vocals as much as it sets matches step with the bass and drums and adds to the melody proffered by the guitar. In short, it’s everywhere, and it works much to the advantage of the song and the album as a whole.
If you thought by the time you got there that Sacri Monti had no more tricks up their collective sleeve, the languid, bluesy initialization of “Sacri Monti” serves as a swift correction, unfolding gracefully over the course of its first two-plus minutes with a building wave of keys and guitars, the latter introducing the next movement’s riff at 2:40 into the total 12-minute run. It’s mostly instrumental, which is fitting since the band have toyed with structures throughout, but when the vocals do arrive in the second half of the song one can’t help but be reminded of some of Hypnos 69‘s proggy triumphs, and Sacri Monti seem to be working form a similar base of influences in their finale.
As the song comes to its head — hypnosis long since enacted on the listener — and spends its last minute or so wrapping up, one can’t help but hope that the fivesome continue to explore that side of their sound, and begin to mold energy as readily as they do volume, resulting in a shift of atmospherics no less molten than the overarching affect of their debut. As it stands, Sacri Monti is an exciting opening salvo from an act whose promise feels written into each of its jams, and whose balance between songcraft and improvisation serves as an immediately distinguishing factor amid an increasingly crowded Southern Californian heavy psych scene.
The way their songs play out here, they’d almost have a harder time not sounding like themselves, since so much of what they do is based around the forming chemistry of their lineup that one hopes will continue to grow the more time they spend on stage. How much that will happen owing to members’ obligations elsewhere, I don’t know, but if Sacri Monti‘s debut is an alert to the lysergic converted of a pursuit under way, it’s one that well earns any and all attention paid.
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 16th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
File this one under “Damn Those are Gonna be Some Good Shows” as Earthless and Elder pair up to tour Australia beginning Oct. 22. It’s a quick run, but an utterly badass pairing of bands, that, if I happened to be on the other side of the planet, I’d be sure to hit up. This will be Elder‘s first time down there — you might recall a couple years back they were all set to go with YOB (who will be there next month as well) but it didn’t pan out — while I’m pretty sure Earthless have made the trip before. Either way, there’s just nothing about those two getting together that doesn’t flat out rule.
News came down off the PR wire a couple minutes ago:
EARTHLESS (USA) & ELDER (USA) AUSTRALIAN TOUR OCTOBER 2015
LIFE IS NOISE is proud to announce the heavy-psych double-bill of the year, as Elder and Earthless tour Australia this October.
Earthless want you to know how it feels to touch the sky. With smoldering guitar riffs that stretch from here to infinity, the San Diego trio are at once cosmic and timeless, rooted in a profound respect for the Zeppelin/Sabbathian tradition yet with eyes firmly cast forward. Never mind the retro rock revivalists or the ’70s throwbacks – Earthless aren’t nostalgists; they’re sonic luminaries dragging psychadelia by the wah pedal into the 21st century and beyond.
Isaiah Mitchell is the kind of guitar prodigy that comes along only once in a generation. Underpinned by the military precision of Mario Rubalcaba’s drumming and Mike Eginton’s fundamental grooves, Mitchell’s chaotic fretwork is as unpredictable as it is ambitious.
Elder are a sleeper cell of colossal talent. Never has three-piece so seamlessly merged the atmosphere of doom with the depth of stoner rock and the vitality of psychedelic rock. Their latest album, Lore, is a quiet masterpiece – a blizzard of riffs that shine with melody, dynamism and songwriting sophistication well beyond the young band’s years.
Few bands have the gall to cover Jimi Hendrix, and even fewer can do it well, but Elder did just that in June when they released a rip-roaring cover of Voodoo Child (Slight Return) for the Hendrix tribute Electric Ladyland Redux. Nick DeSalvo’s guitar sounds on the brink of bursting into flames as he blazes through solo after solo.
Elder’s sonic mastery extends beyond the studio – the trio’s live documents and show-stealing sets at Roadburn and Psycho California are a testament to Elder’s limitless potential.
Elder and Earthless have never shared a stage before. There’s no telling what havoc these two riff lords will wreak. Don’t miss the psych trip of the year. Witness these two blow minds on the following dates:
Perth – The Rosemount Hotel – October 22, Melbourne –The Corner – October 23, 2015 Sydney – Newtown Social – October 24, 2015 Brisbane – Crowbar – October 26, 2015
Tickets on sale now through lifeisnoise.com, Oztix and venue outlets.
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 13th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
West Coast psychedelic exports JOY and Amsterdam proto-punk riffers Death Alley will pair up for a run through Europe in September. Labelmates on Tee Pee, Death Alley will be supporting their 2015 debut full-length, Black Magick Boogieland (review here), while JOY have been tossing out word of their next outing for about two months now without any official confirmation of a release date, which presumably is coming soon. When it arrives, their second offering for Tee Pee will serve as the follow-up to 2014’s lived-up-to-its-name Under the Spell of Joy (review here).
Cool pairing, in any case, which each band offering something of its own in a way that I’d imagine will make for a complementary vibe at the shows. Tour announcement follows, as sent down the PR wire:
Swamp Booking and TeePee Records are pleased to present:
DEATH ALLEY & JOY European Tour 2015 05/09/15 Siegen/Germany Vortex 06/09/15 Amsterdam/Netherlands Vrankrijk 07/09/15 Rotterdam/Netherlands V11 08/09/15 Wurzburg/Germany Immerhin 09/09/15 Münich/Germany Backstage 10/09/15 Wien/Austria Arena 11/09/15 Marina di Ravenna/Italy Hana-Bi 13/09/15 Villimpenta (Mn)/Italy Parco Giochi 14/09/15 Torino/Italy Blah Blah 15/09/15 Zurich/Switzerland Kinski 16/09/15 Kreuzlingen/Switzerland Horst Club 18/09/15 Berlin/Germany SWAMP FEST 19/09/15 Mannheim/Germany Mohawk Festival 22/09/15 Hamburg/ Germany Rock Cafe´St. Pauli 23/09/15 Copenhagen/Denmark KB18 25/09/15 Oslo/Norway Hostsabbat Festival 26/09/15 Linkoping/Sweden The Crypt
The sound of JOY has been described as “a spaced-out sonic groove-ride” and “outer reach freak out”, but that hyperbole alone doesn’t do justice to the group’s measured mode of attack. JOY puts a premium on establishing both structure and dynamics, its kaleidoscopic flurry and full-throttle riffage is anchored by both subtle detail and surprising textural depth. Record Collector says that JOY “take the blues about as far out as they can stretch ’em and they’re far more psychedelic than a band like Blue Cheer ever was, even in their most lysergic moments,” a claim that can be debated by those whom have seen JOY share the stage with acts such as Dead Meadow, Harsh Toke, Hot Lunch, Sacri Monti and at last year’s well-documented west coast tour with psychedelic giants (and new labelmates) Earthless. The follow-up to JOY’s 2012 self-titled debut, Under the Spell of Joy was recorded and mixed by ASTRA guitarist Brian Ellis and features eight smoldering songs that suck the listener into a a surging sea of searing solos and psychedelic swagger. Special guests on Under the Spell of Joy include Nik Turner (Hawkwind), Parker Griggs (Radio Moscow) and Ellis.
Amsterdam’s heavy, punked-out, proto-metal outlaws DEATH ALLEY have signed to NYC’s Tee Pee Records. The ferocious four piece will let loose the full length LP, Black Magick Boogieland, on May 19. The album is the highly anticipated debut from the underground band featuring former The Devil’s Blood guitarist Oeds Beydals and ex-members of Gewapend Beton and Mühr.
The sound of DEATH ALLEY has been described as “an unorthodox cross contamination of MC5, Captain Beyond, Blue Öyster Cult, Motörhead and Black Sabbath” and “Rock ‘N’ Roll played with metal finesse and a pitch black psychedelic soul”. In 2013, DEATH ALLEY released the limited 12? split vinyl single, “Peter Pan Speedrock vs. Death Alley”, which announced the group’s formation with a vengeance. The band’s debut 7? — Over Under b/w Dead Man’s Bones — dropped last year via Van Records and was hailed as “a serious musical Rock ’N’ Roll statement.” DEATH ALLEY followed the release of the 7? with an appearance at the 2014 Roadburn Festival and month-long European tour with new label mates, The Shrine.
“It’s thrilling to release our first full-length on Tee Pee, to become part of a family of bands whose music inspires us and with people we know well,” says DEATH ALLEY front man Douwe. “It’s about time Tee Pee opens the gates to Black Magick Boogieland.”
Posted in Features on July 6th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
If 2015 ended tomorrow, I think you’d still have to say it was a pretty good year for heavy rock. Doom veered into a swath extremes — its own subgenres emerging almost one by one in a growing splinter that nonetheless continues to draw water from its roots — while the neo-stoner ignition of the West Coast continued its boom of new acts proffering classic groove. The East reveled in a progressive vision just waiting to be picked up by others, and in Europe, the ’70s traditionalist movement spread ever wider, essentially defining a modern sound in organic sounding, sometimes-vintage elements. Whether you’re going for crushing, oppressive barbarism or cosmos-bound blissouts, it is, in short, a good time to be alive.
Of course, 2015 doesn’t end tomorrow, and there’s still a whole lot of year to come. About half, as it happens. So, as has been the tradition around here for the last half-decade — and seems to be the tradition in a growing number of outlets; not taking credit or claiming to have invented anything, just noting a proliferation — it’s time to count down the best records of the year so far. There have been more than a handful of gems, and since in December I’m planning on doing a top 30, we’ll mark half the year with a top 15. Seems only fair.
Please note that this isn’t purely a critical evaluation, but a personal list, and that what I’ve put on most is as crucial a factor in my ranking as how important I think a given record is. You know the drill by now. Let’s go:
Kiev three-piece Stoned Jesus have a varied stylistic history, and their third outing, The Harvest was ultimately a success in large part because of its complete refusal to be defined. Atop a foundation of quality songcraft, the trio proffered a sound that was not necessarily experimental in terms of anti-structure noise or effects onslaughts, but bold in each of its forays outward from its heavy rock underpinnings.
It has consistently taken me a while to get a hold on what Freedom Hawk are up to. The steady elements in their sound are held to so firmly that on the first couple listens, it seems to just be more of the same. But the more one digs in, the more there is to be found, and with Into Your Mind, the Virginia Beach trio overcome losing a member to create their most progressive outing to date, flourishes of psychedelia melding easily with their signature style of sunshiny riffing.
Five albums deep, Germany’s My Sleeping Karma are an act unto themselves. Their progress has been natural, fueled by a clear, varied sense of exploratory will, and the results on this year’s Moksha were nothing short of stunning. Branching out their arrangements might not be new to them, but the inclusion of horns, drones, percussion, etc., amid the central guitar, bass, keys and drums lent an almost orchestral feel to the flow between the tracks, and one can only hope they continue on their current path, because it is unquestionably the right one.
So much potential, so much vitality at the heart of this debut from Death Alley. The Amsterdam-based four-piece (interview here) stormed out of the gate with a ripper of a debut, and just when you seemed to have it all figured out, they hit the ignition on a 12-minute full-impulse space rock thrust, a guest vocal appearance from Farida Lemouchi (a former bandmate of Death Alley guitarist Oeds Beydals in The Devil’s Blood) adding both mystique and emotional resonance to what was already a stunning track. With all the riotousness preceding, Black Magick Boogieland readily lived up to its righteous title.
Midwestern-turned-West-Coast heavy psych rockers Mondo Drag may have taken their time in releasing their self-titled sophomore outing, which followed their 2010 debut, New Rituals (review here), and was recorded in 2012, but it’s easy to imagine that’s because they wanted the circumstances to be as special as the album itself, recorded with a fleeting five-piece lineup that included the one-time rhythm section of Radio Moscow who wound up leaving to further their then-nascent project, Blues Pills. Even without that lineup shift as a factor, the late ’60s vibe Mondo Drag brought out across the release proved eminently listenable and has held up on repeat visits.
A gorgeous, shimmering and melodically resonant debut from the Dutch four-piece Cigale, their self-titled gracefully maintained tonal presence and warmth while also enacting a psychedelic sprawl and grooving serenity that acted like the landscape in which the songs took place. It was a rich, bright vibe, and an utter joy to behold, tracks like “Harvest Begun,” “Feel the Heat” and “Eyes Wide Shut” proving as memorable as they were inviting. Having two former members of the much-missed fuzz rock outfit Sungrazer may have initially turned some heads in their direction, but Cigale‘s first album proved they’re an outfit with their own personality, their own development to undertake, and already much to offer.
The awaited return of The Machine brought the band’s fifth album and a further-refined sense of maturity in their processes, as well as intrigue as to where they might be headed, two dual modes of open-ended jamming and more structured songwriting playing off each other in the extended “Chrysalis (J.A.M.)” and “Come to Light” and the more verse/chorus stylizations of “Dry End” and “Off Course.” To be perfectly honest, I doubt The Machine will ultimately pick one side over another, since if Offblast! proved anything it’s that they can easily handle either or both, but as they continue to grow, it’s encouraging to have their style establish itself as so multi-faceted.
First time I pressed play on Gravitron was a real “oh shit!” moment. The last release from NJ stalwarts The Atomic Bitchwax was 2011’s The Local Fuzz (review here), a single-song full-length instrumental riff onslaught that had its charm but was inherently divorced from the appeal of the band’s songwriting. Not only does Gravitron re-factor that in with songs like “Roseland,” “It’s Alright,” “Coming in Hot” and “Ice Age Hey Baby,” among others, but it hits with kick-in-the-ass production force and an all-out heaviness that 2008’s TAB4 showed the three-piece steering directly away from. Just a killer record. Utterly void of pretense. No bullshit. No need to rely on anything more than chemistry, and with the Bitchwax, that’s plenty.
7. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth
Right now, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth are my band to beat for Debut of the Year, and I’m quite frankly not sure how anyone is going to be able to do it, so if list time comes in Dec. and you see Tad Doyle‘s trio marked out as such, know that it’s been that way in my head for some time. The three-piece of Doyle, bassist Peggy “Pegadeth” Tully and drummer Dave French arrived with a roar, and even when their self-titled let up sonically, the atmosphere remained viscerally heavy. Six years having passed since the release of their first demo (review here), I wasn’t sure there was ever going to be an album, but then to have Brothers of the Sonic Cloth show up and enact such thorough demolition only made it more impressive.
It can’t possibly be a surprise to have Luminiferous show up somewhere on this list. The seventh long-player by High on Fire had all the rage and bombast in “Slave the Hive” and “The Black Plot” that have become the band’s hallmarks over their 17 years together, but branched out progressively as well in songs like “The Cave” and “The Falconist,” the latter of which was brazenly catchy and about as emotionally direct as the band has ever gotten, their general modus being — and in that song too, just to a lesser extent — a metaphor-laced lyrical approach. That song was a triumph and so was the album as a whole; the second collaboration with producer Kurt Ballou building on the rampaging victories of 2012’s De Vermis Mysteriis (review here) while also showing growth on the part of one of modern metal’s most pivotal bands.
Hitting more or less concurrent with a vinyl release of their prior album, 2013’s A Time of Hunting (review here), Kings Destroy‘s Kings Destroy is not at all coincidentally titled. Over the course of now three full-lengths, the New York five-piece — about whom I feign no impartiality, let it be noted — have distinguished themselves with a sound neither noise, nor doom, nor heavy rock, but drawing on elements of all three when it suits their purposes with chemistry built from years of being in bands together of various stripes and in various genres. What stands the self-titled out from their past work, in part, is that it is the closest they’ve yet come to capturing their live sound in the studio, and accordingly, it’s a volatile kind of heavy that bends aesthetic to its will rather than capitulating to expectations of any sort. I don’t think they’re done growing by any stretch, but Kings Destroy feels like an arrival front-to-back.
This one was almost a sneak-attack. German heavy psych forerunners Colour Haze released To the Highest Gods We Know, their 11th full-length, in Dec. 2014 on CD (the vinyl was in 2015, which is what we’re counting in this instance), with very, very little fanfare of any sort. There was a track premiere here that came shortly after the album was announced, but I think it was officially out less than a month after its existence was made public, which for a band of Colour Haze‘s stature and influence was surprising. Less devoted to grandeur than 2012’s 2CD She Said (review here), it nonetheless pushed the band’s sound forward and found them experimenting in their studio, particularly on the string-quartet-inclusive finale title-track, which offset jams like “Überall” and the laid back highlight “Call” with a rhythmic oddness that was somehow still Colour Haze‘s own. I couldn’t help but wonder where it was leading, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t masterful in its own right.
Goatsnake didn’t have it easy going into their third album. It had been 15 years since their sophomore outing, Flower of Disease, 11 since their last EP, and five since they first started playing shows again. Expectations? Through the roof. Among heavy rock heads, a new Goatsnake was like seeing the mountaintop. I mean, a big fucking deal and then some. Then the record hits, and there’s just about no way it can live up to the anticipation, but god damn if Goatsnake not only finally put out a third album, but one that was better than I think anyone could’ve hoped for. Hearing Pete Stahl with however many backup singers he had on “Another River to Cross” et. al. was like finding an animal in its native habitat, and between his soul, Greg Anderson‘s riffs, bassist Scott Renner‘s low end rumble and drummer Greg Rogers‘ roll, Black Age Blues won almost immediately and then spent the rest of its 47 minutes throwing itself a victory party. “Elevated Man,” “House of the Moon,” “Jimi’s Gone,” “Grandpa Jones,” almost on a per-track basis, Goatsnake added to the reasons they’ve been so heralded despite a decade-plus’ absence from the studio.
On the level of achievement alone, Elder‘s Lore will be the album of the year for many, and there are times (such as right now) when I listen to it and question whether or not it isn’t also my pick for that honor, but wherever it falls on whatever list, far more important is what the Massachusetts/Rhode Island/New York trio manage to accomplish across their third LP’s formidable five-track/59-minute span, songs like “Compendium” and “Deadweight” bridging a rarely approached gap between heavy and progressive rocks while maintaining a flow consistent with the psychedelic vibing of 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here) but grown outward in another aesthetic direction and no sooner setting foot on the ground than seeming to master it in a flurry of blinding turns, sprawling soundscapes and clarity of mind that found perhaps its greatest expression in the centerpiece title-track, the 15-minute “Lore” itself, which I’ve no doubt will stand among if not atop the best songs of 2015 when the year is over and encapsulates the ambition and the corresponding breadth of Elder‘s songwriting, the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan, and drummer Matt Couto rising as one of the East Coast’s most pivotal acts, with a sound completely their own.
1. Acid King, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere
I use the word “molten” pretty regularly to describe an album or song that seems to just ooze its way out of the speakers or shift seamlessly between its songs, but Acid King set an entirely new standard for the term with Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere. Their first outing for Svart and their first release in a decade, its 55 minutes were a riff-rolling nirvana of lurching fuzz and tonal excellence, the guitar of Lori S. at the fore accompanied by Mark Lamb‘s bass and Joey Osbourne‘s drums, the swing of which propelled a highlight track like “Coming down from Outer Space” right back into it, while elsewhere on the record, “Silent Pictures,” “Red River” and “Infinite Skies” torched stoner conventions into a new space-biker rock, culminating in the heavy psych of “Center of Everywhere,” which seemed to emanate from the place it was describing, at once empty and full. More than just a welcome return after a long dearth of releases, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere found Acid King progressed even beyond where they were with 2005’s III, though more than anything else, what makes it my top pick for the year so far is the fact that I can’t seem to walk away from it for too long before going back, and ultimately, that’s what it all comes down to with his kind of thing. I’ve yet to find a standard to which these songs don’t live up.
A few others worth noting. The Sun Blood Stories album (streamed here) continues to resonate. Also Monolord, Valkyrie, Lamp of the Universe, Garden of Worm, Wo Fat‘s live record, The Midnight Ghost Train‘s Cold was the Ground and Ufomammut‘s Ecate. The Black Rainbows was a joy, as was Spidergawd‘s second LP, and while I still feel like I haven’t given it its due, the Sumac won many over and should get a mention. Steve Von Till‘s solo outing and the latest from Enslaved are worth seeking out as well for anyone who hasn’t heard them yet.
More to Come:
The year’s only half over, which is kind of a scary thought but true nonetheless. Watch out in the coming months for new stuff from Bloodcow, All Them Witches, Clutch, Graveyard, Zun, Sacri Monti (if that one’s not already out), Snail, Uncle Acid, and Kind. The new Kadavar is a sure-fire top tenner, and between that, the potential for a new Neurosis album and stuff like Magnetic Eye Records‘ Electric Ladyland [Redux], there’s no way the book is written on the best of 2015.
So stay tuned.
And if I’ve still got your attention, thanks for reading.
Posted in Reviews on June 30th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Day one down and feeling good so far. Day two continues the thread of mixing more known quantities with bands either self-releasing or putting out demos, etc., and I like that. More than last time around — last quarter, if you want to use the business-y sounding language for it — I tried to really get a balance across this batch of reviews, posted yesterday and coming up over the next couple days. We’ll see how it works out when it’s over. It remains a ton of stuff, and I hope you dig it. Day two starts right now.
Quarterly review #11-20:
Horsehunter, Caged in Flesh
Pushing their way to the fore of Melbourne’s heavy surge, double-guitar four-piece Horsehunter proffer oppressive tonal crush on the four tracks of their 2LP Magnetic Eye Records debut, Caged in Flesh. The story goes that, unsatisfied the initial recordings weren’t heavy enough, the band – guitarists Michael Harutyanyan (also vocals) and Dan McDonald, bassist/vocalist Himi Stringer and drummer Nick Cron – went back into the studio and redid the entire thing. Mission accomplished. By the time 16-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Stoned to Death” is done, lungs are suitably deflated, spines are cracked, skulls cleaved, and so on. They’re hardly the only ones in the world to conjure formidable tonal heft, but it’s the deft changes in vocals – clean here, shouts there, more abrasive at the start of the title-track – and the sense of atmosphere in the three-minute penultimate interlude that really distinguish Horsehunter, as well as how smoothly that atmosphere integrates with the pummel in the second half of closer “Witchery,” attention to detail and awareness of the need for more than just sonic weight boding well for future progression.
A staggeringly heavy debut full-length from Sacramento, CA, five-piece Church, Unanswered Hymns was initially released digitally by the band and quickly picked up for a cassette issue by Transylvanian Tapes and forthcoming LP through Battleground Records. One gets the sense listening to the three extended tracks – 19-minute opener “Dawning” being the longest of the bunch (immediate points) – that those won’t be the last versions to come. Psychedelic doom blends seamlessly with vicious sludge extremity, creating a morass engulfing in its tones, spacious in its breadth and unrepentantly heavy, making it one of 2015’s best debut releases, hands down, and a glorious revelry in bleak tectonics that challenges the listener to match its level of melancholy without giving into an impulse for post-Pallbearer emotive theatrics. As thrilling as they are plodding, expect the echoes of “Dawning,” “Stargazer” and “Offering” to resonate for some time to come, and should Church show any predilection for touring in the next couple years, they have the potential to make a genuine impact on American doom. Yes, I mean it.
Recorded in a day and released by Grimoire Records, the four-track Without Form is slated as the debut from Baltimore atmospheric doomers Corpse Light, but the band have had tracks come out in drips and drabs since getting their start as Ophidian in mid-2012, even if this is their first proper release. Either way, “The Fool” sets up an immediate and grim ambience, the churning lurch from guitarists Keiran Holmes and Don Selner and bassist Aurora Raiten set to roll by Lawrence Grimes (The Osedax) and given earthy aggression by the vocals of Jim Webb. “Lying in State” fleshes out these morose aggro vibes, but it’s with the drop-everything-and-kill peak of the subsequent “R Complex” that Corpse Light hit their angriest mark. If Without Form was just about that, it would be the highlight, but the album’s 29 minutes have more to offer than pissed off tonally-weighted post-hardcore, as closer “Kenophobia”’s clever turns and deceptive forward momentum demonstrate, though a touch of that kind of thing never hurts either.
Heavy psych four-piece Sunder will make their debut this summer through Tee Pee and Crusher Records with a 7” for “Cursed Wolf,” so consider this notice of the tracks on their not-for-public-consumption demo a heads up on things to come. Their “Deadly Flower” was streamed here this past April, and the band’s previous incarnation, The Socks, released their self-titled debut (review here) on Small Stone in 2014, but with songs like the key-laced stomper “Bleeding Trees,” the ‘70s rusher “Against the Grain,” and the Uncle Acid-style swinging “Daughter of the Snows,” the Lyon, France, outfit continue to refine a style drawing together different vibes of the psychedelic era. “Deadly Flower” was also distinguished by its key work, and as for “Cursed Wolf” itself, the melody reminds of proto-psych Beatles singles (thinking “Rain” specifically), but the groove still holds firm to a sense of weight that’s thoroughly modern, and by that I mean it sounds like 1972. Keep an eye out.
Granted not everyone is going to make this immediate association, but when I first saw the moniker T-Tops, I couldn’t help think of like C-grade generic stonerisms, songs about beer and pretending to be from the South and all that. If you experienced something similar in seeing the name, rest easy. The Pittsburgh trio of guitarist/vocalist Pat Waters (ex-The Fitt, Wormrigg), bassist Jason Orr (Wormrigg) and drummer Jason Jouver (ex-Don Caballero) are down with far more sinister punk and noise on their self-titled, self-released debut full-length, riding, shooting straight and speaking truth on cuts like “Wipe Down” and the catchy “Pretty on a Girl” after the tense sampling of “A Certain Cordial Exhilaration” turns over the power-push to “Cruisin’ for a Bruisin’.” “Ralphie” is probably an inside-joke if not a Christmas Story reference, but point is these guys are way less about-to-sing-about-muscle-cars than the name implies and their tight, crisp rhythmic turns come accompanied by vicious tonal force and an utter lack of bullshit, which is a scenario far preferable to that which one might otherwise expect.
Issued by Aqulamb in the imprint’s standard 100-page art book/download format, the self-titled debut from fellow Brooklynites The Space Merchants seeks to draw a line between psychedelic rock and country. And not pretend country like people with a Johnny Cash fetish because he covered that Nine Inch Nails song one time – actual, bright, pastoral, classic country. Call the results psychtwang and applaud the effort, which works oddly well in a thoroughly vintage context to come across on “Mainline the Sun” like something from a lost ‘60s variety show. Parts of “One Cut Like the Moon” and the later fuzz of “One Thousand Years of Boredom” give away their modernity, but The Space Merchants’ push toward a stylistic niche suits them well, and the intertwined vocal arrangements from guitarist Michael Guggino, bassist Aileen Brophy and keyboardist Ani Monteleone – Carter Logan drums to round out the four-piece – add to the rich, welcoming feel that remains prevalent even as the eight-minute “Where’s the Rest of Life” slips into wah-soaked noise to finish out.
The undercurrent of black metal coursing beneath the surface of Etiolated’s debut full-length, Grey Limbs, Grey Skies, eventually comes to the surface in 10-minute opener “Internal Abyss” and 16-minute eponymous closer, which bookends, but in part it’s the tension of waiting for those rampaging surges that keeps one hooked to the Armus Productions release. Guttural death growls echo up from dense tonal reaches, and tempo shifts, whether in those longer tracks or three-minute lumbering slice “Futility” are fluid, the North Carolina five-piece executing a slow-grinding chug in centerpiece “Exsanguinate,” which seems like a murk without end until the 1:47 “For Your Hell” kicks into a speedier, more blackened rush, guest vocalist Ryan McCarthy joining guitarist/vocalists James Storelli and Walls, bassist Cody Rogers and drummer Elliot Thompson in furthering the already prevalent sense of extremism before “Etiolated,” after a surprisingly peaceful if brooding midsection, plods the album to a close. To say “not for the faint of heart” would be putting it lightly, but if I had a vest and if Etiolated had patches, the two parties would definitely meet up at some point in the near future.
It has not taken long for the discography of UK psych jammers Blown Out to become a populated murky cosmos of its own. Planetary Engineering is released on Oaken Palace Records and finds the three-piece of guitarist Mike Vest (also Bong, etc.), bassist John-Michael Hedley (also Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs) and drummer Matt Baty (also the head of Box Records) exploring two mesmeric and sprawling instrumentals – one per side – that bend and flourish and hypnotize in organically-concocted swirl. Side A’s “Transcending Deep Infinity” tops 20 minutes and shifts from its spacey build to a low key groove at about 7:30 in, pulsing forward once more amid head-turning repetition, deep echoes and longform nod, culminating in a two-minute fadeout that brings forward “Thousand Years in the Sunshine,” an immediate bass groove and interstellar swirl no less trance-inducing than its predecessor. Cyclical drum fills morph over time behind the guitar and bass, and Planetary Engineering seems to push continually further out until, of course, it disintegrates, presumably as it crosses the galactic barrier.
I was fortunate enough to have been in attendance at Het Patronaat in Tilburg when French post-black metallers Les Discrets took the stage at Roadburn 2013. As such, it’s with some trepidation I approach their Live at Roadburn recording on Prophecy Productions – the impression they made live wasn’t something I’d want potentially spoiled or brought to earth by a document proving it was just another set. With Neige of Alcest on bass with guitarist/vocalist Fursy Teyssier, Les Discrets proved to be something really special to those who, like me, were there to catch them, and the eight-track Live at Roadburn – fortunately – captures both the majestic lushness they brought with them and the underlying weight that seemed to add impact to the material. What might sound like post-production mixing on “L’Echappée” or the wash of “Chanson D’Automne” isn’t – it really was that beautiful and that perfectly balanced coming from the stage. A vastly underrated act and a document that reminds of how stellar they were without sullying the memory in the slightest.
Brooklynite foursome Beast Modulus seem to care less about meshing with ideas of genre than sticking them in a meatgrinder and seeing what comes out. To wit the riotous chugging of “Cowboy Caligula,” and the blackened thrust of “WaSaBi!” on their self-released, self-titled outing, which leads to dueling growls and screams on the tonally weighted post-hardcore “Fabulous,” and the appropriately mathy turns of the thrashing “Tyranny of Numbers.” Inventive in their stylizations and in where the six songs included on the release actually go – hint: they go to “heavy” – the lineup of vocalist Kurt Applegate, guitarist Owen Burley, bassist Jesse Adelson and drummer Jody Smith have some post-Dillinger Escape Plan vibe in the calculated chaos of “Kalashnikov,” but closer “Killing Champion” is too impatient to even be held by that, the prevailing manic angularity of Beast Modulus ultimately crafting its own identity from the physical assault the music seems intent on perpetrating upon the listener.
Posted in Whathaveyou on June 26th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
A wiser person than myself once opined that there are two kinds of people in this world, Rush fans and everyone else. Pittsburgh heavy rockers Carousel obviously know their target demographic lies within the former contingent. Their second album for Tee Pee Records, 2113 — as in, one more than 2112 — will be released on Aug. 28. The Scion Rock Fest veterans will have released their debut on the label almost exactly two years prior in the form of Jeweler’s Daughter (reviewed/streamed here), a record no less leggy than its cover art and which has stood up to any good times its been asked to complement since.
2113 is nothing if not an ambitious title, but with the arrival of Pentagram/The Skull guitarist Matt Goldsborough to the lineup — he’s not the only one with connections to a classic band; drummer Jake Leger doubles in Bang — Carousel look to step out beyond their debut, or at very least troll some Rush fans by covering Joe Walsh, which is no less entertaining.
The PR wire speaks:
CAROUSEL to Release New Album, 2113, August 28
Hard-Rocking PA Group Set to Unleash Follow-Up to Celebrated Debut, Jeweler’s Daughter
Pittsburgh hard rock heroes CAROUSEL will release their sophomore LP 2113 on August 28 via Tee Pee Records. The eagerly-anticipated follow up to CAROUSEL’s revered debut, Jeweler’s Daughter, 2113 is a midnight binge-blur of muscular, dynamic R’N’R, filled with timeless hooks and killer, scorching solos. On the new album, CAROUSEL welcomes new guitarist Matt Goldsborough — also of Pentagram and The Skull — into the band, joining the formidable lineup of Dave Wheeler (guitar, vocals), Jake Leger (drums) and Jim Wilson (bass).
CAROUSEL is a band that knows how to capture your attention; the group has the unique ability to filter the music of their childhood heroes through a contemporary lens. On 2113, the four-piece unleashes charged-up rhythms and wicked dual-guitar harmonies that lay a strong foundation for the shining voice and catchy choruses of front man Dave Wheeler. 2113 is the ultimate nighttime driving music; a head-turning blend of Casablanca-era KISS and prime time Thin Lizzy with one foot in the past and the other firmly secured in the future. 2113 also contains a “hidden” bonus cover of the Joe Walsh classic, “Turn to Stone”.
2113 Track listing: 1.) Trouble 2.) Photograph 3.) Buried Alive in Your Arms 4.) Jim’s Song 5.) Highway Strut 6.) Strange Revelation 7.) Man Like Me 8.) 2113 9.) Turn to Stone (Joe Walsh cover)
Posted in audiObelisk on June 23rd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
“Let’s get into something heavy,” croons Fogg bassist/vocalist Brandon Hoffman to begin “Mountain,” though by the time they get around to that organ-infused cut at the start of side B to their sophomore outing and Tee Pee Records (tape and LP also through Under the Gun Records) debut, High Testament, the chilled-out Fort Worth, Texas, power trio — Hoffman, guitarist Chase Jowell and drummer Ethan Lyons — have long since covered that ground. The follow-up to their late-2013 debut, Death, the new LP stands strong at 40 solid minutes of trippy neo-fuzz, all air push on the low end in Hoffman‘s tonal glory, the Geez running strong in his fills, and righteously swinging in Lyons‘ jam-propelling cymbal work while Jowell tears into solos with that young-dude-about-to-embarrass-a-bunch-of-old-dudes-by-playing-old-dude-music-the-way-young-dudes-play-it vitality. Opening duo “Joy of Home” and “You are Welcome” on side A live up to their names, preaching clear to the converted with just enough acid in their pH that when they shift into acoustic/Mellotron vibing with “The Garden” it’s still easy to follow along.
The album’s longer stretches prove particularly sure-footed despite a ranging breadth of boogie, “Joy of Home,” “Seasons,” “Mountain” and closer “Grass in Mind” all cruising at over six minutes and the latter approaching 10. “Seasons” serves as the centerpiece of the tracklisting and finds the three-piece rooted deep in Witch-y rolling and Fuzzy turns, but Hoffman‘s vocals keep a keep a shoegazing echo to them that ensures the laid back feel holds together no matter how active the material actually gets, “Seasons” getting plenty active in its name-brand Sabbath-worship tightness of swing in the second half, that momentum carrying over to the calmer start of “Mountain,” which has a build of its own and stands out all the more thanks to the organ guest spot from Ryan Lee, not that High Testament was hurting for a classic feel as it was. I’m not sure it’s fair to call this stuff ’70s-style or retro anymore since it’s also so much the sound of right now, and Fogg are warm-toned but not especially “vintage”-sounding, but whatever tag you might want to lay on them, the tracks hold up in performance and construction, and the flow across each side of the record is seamless.
With “Hand of the Lord” serving as a companion piece to the acoustics of “The Garden,” that leaves “Grass in Mind” with the task of drawing the various sides and elements at work throughout High Testament together, and apart from a second organ appearance, the song does precisely that, with a rolling groove given a sense of chaos through Lyons‘ drums and an especially blown-out fuzz from Hoffman and Lee. Quick-turning rhythms betray some of the band’s youth, but it’s worth noting how crisp Fogg are while sounding so loose. “Grass in Mind” rumbles through three stages, opening with a verse and chorus feel like the bulk of its predecessors before moving into a less-structured but still plenty swinging proto-prog jam and finally turning around the seven-minute mark to sweeter acoustic minimalism to end a mostly raucous outing on a fairly contemplative note. Maybe they’re hinting at further complexity to develop in their sound, or maybe that’s just the only place that part fit. I wouldn’t want to speculate. Either way, as a first outing for Tee Pee and thus a first exposure to many who’ll take them on, myself included, High Testament boasts striking cohesion in its purpose and the methods by which that purpose is executed. Harder to believe than how together these cats are is that they’re not from San Diego or Santa Cruz, as their sound seems primed for California’s current psych revival.
One can only assume they’ll get there eventually and find welcome when they do. Regardless of geography, however, Fogg‘s vibe and immediate chemistry remains palpable. The album is out today on Tee Pee and can be heard in full on the player below.
Hope you dig it:
Fort Worth, Texas power trio FOGG will release its new album, High Testament, June 23 via Tee Pee Records. The record is the follow-up to the group’s 2014 debut, Death. High Testament will drop on cassette via Under the Gun Records, who will co-release the LP version of the album in conjunction with Tee Pee.
FOGG worship at the altar of the almighty riff, conjuring leaden tombs of amp-destroying sound. The warped riff-riders — who have been burning up the southern heavy music scene — crank howling psychedelic? metal and 70’s biker doom topped with gnarly shredding and strangely unique vocals that hover distantly over landslides of chest-rattling bass and drum tumble. High Testament deals heavy quantities of hazy hooks and woozy timbres, which combine to paint a dreamy aesthetic; a hazy, neon form that sounds like metal chords trapped in a never-ending film dissolve.