Friday Full-Length: Dixie Witch, Into the Sun

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 20th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Dixie Witch, Into the Sun (2001)

I don’t think Texas heavy rock is what it is today without the groundwork that Austin’s Dixie Witch laid. I remember seeing them at Small Stone showcases at SXSW in the mid-’00s, and it was so clear whose town it was. When drummer/vocalist Trinidad Leal walked into Room 710, he owned the place. Nothing’s universal, of course, and Texas is huge, but do you get Mothership or Wo Fat without Dixie Witch paving the way? I don’t know. The trio of Leal, guitarist Clayton Mills and bassist Curt “CC” Christenson made their debut on John Perez of Solitude Aeturnus‘ vastly underrated Brainticket Records imprint, and would go on to sign to the aforementioned Small Stone by the time the follow-up, One Bird, Two Stones, arrived in 2003, reissuing Into the Sun that same year. Their songs of perservering through hard times and being on the road, blistering solos, thick grooves and Southern-without-caricature brand of rock would make them one of the quintessential Small Stone bands of their generation, kicking ass in the pre-social media age on songs that would become staples like the extended megagroover “Freewheel Rollin’,” “Into the Sun” itself and “Throwin’ Shapes.”

Like the best of their contemporaries, Dixie Witch recalled classic heavy rock and roll without sounding anything other than modern. A full 15 years later, if you sent me Into the Sun to review, I’d in no way call it dated. I’d call it awesome, from the title-track at the outset down to the cover of Joe Walsh‘s “The Bomber,” which closes. The soul and the force they put into these tracks — doubly impressive on a debut — would serve as a defining moment for everything they did after, whether it was One Bird, Two Stones, 2006’s Smoke and Mirrors or their 2011 last-LP-to-date (one never knows), Let it Roll (review here), and “Thunderfoot”‘s whiskey-drinking ways, trippy solo and fervent crash makes a great model to follow. That’s not to say the band didn’t grow during their tenure — Smoke and Mirrors was expansive and Let it Roll showed just how tightly honed their songwriting was, even though Mills had left the band — just that Into the Sun set the tone that Dixie Witch would build on as they moved through the decade that followed.

They were underrated at the time, but as a new generation of heavy rockers have come up in the last five or six years, Dixie Witch have been off the touring circuit. Guitarist Joshua “JT” Todd Smith, who replaced Mills for Let it Roll, seems to have relinquished his position to its former holder, and through 2015 and up to this March, Dixie Witch have done sparse live shows. Seems like an act ripe for a triumphant comeback, but of course Leal is touring and playing with Honky now as well, so what if anything might be in the cards for Dixie Witch is anyone’s best guess. But man, they were incredible on stage, and Into the Sun continues to hold up, as I expect it will into perpetuity.

Hope you enjoy.

The Patient Mrs. has been in London since last Sunday. She took a group of some of her students over on a study tour — my wife is a college professor — and will return next Wednesday. It probably would’ve been worse being home alone this week if I hadn’t spent so much time in traffic. 90 minutes to work every morning, except yesterday when it was 100, and at least another hour and a half to get home afterwards. Punishing. By the time I’ve gotten home, I’ve been too exhausted to be lonely. And well, being at work is what it is anyway. It’s not like that’s time otherwise spent hanging out. Not to say I don’t miss her, because I do very much. Fortunately, this trip is nowhere near as long as when she went to Greece for a month two years ago.

But yeah, just kind of a slog to get through the days this week. I knew I was tired when that Radio Moscow giveaway went up yesterday with the wrong venue address. I corrected it, and those things happen, but for me it’s usually a sign I’m on my ass. Get exhausted, get sloppy. I don’t think I’m the only one in the universe.

Good news is I’ve got a friend coming north to chill this weekend and I’ve got a day or two to get some errands done — air conditioners need to go in windows, dog food needs purchasing, some laundry, etc. — and the weather isn’t supposed to be shit here in the Commonwealth, so I should be vaguely restored by the time Monday comes back around and the bullshit parade begins anew. To offset that, I’ve got a pretty busy week in store.

Monday, I might have a Black Moon Circle track premiere from their new EP? Not sure yet, but I’m trying to work it out. Also a King Buffalo track stream. Tuesday a full stream of the new Farflung. Also going to try to fit in reviews for Electric CitizenEarthless/Harsh Toke and Hijo de la Tormenta, and there’s already a ton of news I’m behind on and a couple new videos to get up as well, so yeah, I expect a barrage. Anyone notice yesterday was seven posts? Today wound up being seven too. Wednesday was six. Not complaining, it’s just a lot to keep up with.

Sometimes as a result a venue that’s in Long Beach gets mixed up with the same venue in North Hollywood. It happens. Pretty sure no one notices but me anyway. Oh, and Albatross Overdrive. They noticed.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. I’m going to try to do the same and not throw out my back dealing with that AC. Please check out the forum and the radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Blues Funeral Enter the Studio this Weekend

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 20th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

blues funeral (Photo by Grooverock Photography)

Tomorrow, May 21, dual-guitar proto-doomers Blues Funeral will enter the studio to record their debut full-length. What’s been given the title The Search will comprise six songs to be tracked at Lucky Run Studios in the four-piece’s native Houston, Texas, for a total runtime of 41 minutes, give or take. As for who’ll be at the helm, it’s Michael Mikulka, who owns Lucky Run and is known for engineering Kyuss‘ early LP Wretch. Though both would fall under the general umbrella of “heavy,” those legendary desert rockers shouldn’t necessarily be taken as a comparison point when it comes to Blues Funeral, who as the live clip for “Autumn Dream” below shows, owe much more of their approach to organ-laced classic doom, marked out by the combined vocals of guitarists Maurice Eggenschwiler and Jan Kimmel.

Kimmel also handles organ on the track, and the harmonies of voice and instrument in combination with the key work gives an impression not unlike Beelzefuzz, though obviously the processes behind it are different. Kimmel, Eggenschwiler and drummer Cory Cousins come out of the band Sanctus BellumBlues Funeral is rounded out by bassist Gabriel Katz — and the new project has some of that same underlying metallurgy, but it’s still clear that they’re working to establish their own sound as well.

No word on a release date yet for The Search, but you can find album art by David Paul Seymour and some comment that Eggenschwiler was kind enough to give on the upcoming studio time below. Blues Funeral will also open the Houston date for The Obsessed, The Atomic Bitchwax and Karma to Burn tour on June 9, and that info follows:

blues-funeral-the-search

Maurice Eggenschwiler on recording:

“It’s crazy to think that we’ve already been playing together as a band for over a year. Though our music tastes are all fairly varied, we all share a mutual affinity for music from the ’60s and ’70s. Especially some of the music that really has a pronounced inclusion of Hammond organ. While we were playing together in Sanctus Bellum we’d always talked about a project that would allow us to bring in more of that shared influence, but never had the time to do it. When Sanctus needed to go on hiatus for a bit, we were finally given that opportunity and from November 2014 to date, we’ve had the chance to write and perform the six songs that are ultimately going to end up on this record… as well as a few others that we’re currently working on arranging and will unveil later. The album title, The Search, was taken in part from the first song that we arranged as a band and is also a bit of a nod to the idea that we’re searching to find that perfect blend of all our influences in this project. We’ve been thrilled to really push the boundaries of our songwriting with this project and are very excited to finally get the music out on a consumable format. We’re excited for what the future holds.”

Blues Funeral is:
Jan Kimmel (El Janni) – Guitar, Nord, Vocals
Maurice Eggenschwiler – Guitar, Vocals
Cory Cousins – Drums
Gabriel Katz – Bass

Blues Funeral live:
June 9 Walter’s Downtown, Houston, Texas w/ The Obsessed, The Atomic Bitchwax & Karma to Burn

https://www.facebook.com/bluesfuneralofficial
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZiv893LiFGmuOIYI9xO4iA

Blues Funeral, “Autumn Dream” Live, Jan. 31, 2016

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Destroyer of Light Announce West Coast Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 17th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Multi-level intrigue from Austin’s Destroyer of Light, who were also recently confirmed for the Shadow Woods Metal Fest in September (info here). The band will tour as a trio for the first time in June/July, still supporting last year’s Endsville (video premiere here) split with Godhunter — with whom they also toured in 2015 — and have a new album in the works, to be released early next year through a TBA label. Could be their Heavy Friends imprint will link up with Battleground again, as happened with the split, or could be they’ve been picked up by someone else. Also curious to see what happens with their lineup, since the PR wire hints at future announcements in that regard as well.

These dates were announced a bit ago at this point, but curiosity reigns:

destroyer of light west coast tour

DESTROYER OF LIGHT: Texas Outfit Confirms Western US June/July Tour; New Album In The Works

Austin, Texas-based psychedelic doom metal outfit, DESTROYER OF LIGHT, has confirmed a string of tour dates spanning the Western US in late June into mid-July.

The upcoming trek is the first extensive tour from the outfit since their massive run through the US in the Summer of 2015 with cohorts and labelmates, Godhunter, which was booked in support of their Endsville split 2xLP. This new trek sees DESTROYER OF LIGHT taking their Endsville anthems back out to the masses, beginning in Fort Worth on June 16th, then running up through the Central and Midwestern states to the Pacific Northwest, before running down the West Coast on their way back to Texas, the final show going down in the band’s hometown on July 11th.

Following the recent departure of their brother Keegan Kjeldsen, this tour will see DESTROYER OF LIGHT taking to the streets as a three-piece for the first time, with Jeff Klein handling lead guitars, Steve Colca on guitars and vocals, and Penny turner on drums, the trio strategically bulking up on extra amplification for the journey. The band is working on their new album, which will see release in early 2017 on a label to be announced at a later date along with more info on the permanent lineup.

Endsville is available through a joint release with Godhunter co-owned Battleground Records and DESTROYER OF LIGHT’s Heavy Friends Records, the 2xLP bearing two slabs of 180-gram vinyl on two colors packed in a gatefold sleeve. Order the digital and vinyl HERE.

DESTROYER OF LIGHT West Coast Tour 2016:
6/16/2016 The Grotto – Fort Worth, TX
6/17/2016 Road Map – Texarkana, AR
6/18/2016 Soundpony – Tulsa, OK
6/19/2016 The Elbow Room – Wichita, KS
6/20/2016 Bourbon Theatre – Lincoln, NB
6/21/2016 Three Kings Tavern – Denver, CO
6/22/2016 Flux Capicitor – Colorado Springs, CO
6/24/2016 Wastelander Studio – Boise, ID
6/25/2016 VFW – Missoula, MT
6/26/2016 Emerald of Slam – Richland, WA
6/27/2016 Victory Lounge – Seattle, WA
6/28/2016 The Panic Room – Portland, OR
6/29/2016 The Wandering Goat – Eugene, OR
6/30/2016 Club 66 – Ashland, OR
7/01/2016 Starlite – Sacramento, CA
7/02/2016 Hemlock Tavern – San Francisco, CA
7/03/2016 Sweet Water Saloon – Los Osos, CA
7/04/2016 Lexington – Los Angeles, CA
7/05/2016 Soda Bar – San Diego, CA
7/06/2016 The Womb Room – Las Vegas, NV
7/07/2016 Yucca Tap Room -Tempe, AZ
7/08/2016 Gary’s Place – Tucson, AZ
7/09/2016 The Sandbox – El Paso, TX
7/10/2016 The District O’Bar – Lubbock, TX
7/11/2016 The Grand – Austin, TX

http://www.destroyeroflight.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/destroyeroflight
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Heavy-Friends-Records/1396186950655438

Godhunter vs. Destroyer of Light, Endsville (2015)

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Doomstress Premiere “Way of the Mountain” Lyric Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 11th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

doomstress logo

Comprised of members of Project ArmageddonSparrowmilk and Venomin JamesDoomstress is a new trio looking to make their debut sometime in the coming months with an EP titled Supernatural Kvlt Sounds. The first audio from the recently-formed outfit arrives as a lyric video to the song “Way of the Mountain,” which finds the three-piece — “Doomstress” Alexis Hollada on bass/vocals, Brandon Johnson on guitar and Tomasz Scull on drums — chugging through doomed-out riffs and grooving into a solid introductory chorus. With empowerment lyrics and nature footage in the video for atmosphere, one begins to get a sense of what Doomstress are about, and the different vibe they’re going for separate from Project Armageddon, from whence Hollada and Johnson hail, who released their more metallic third album, Cosmic Oblivion (review here), last year.

The EP brings forth two originals in “Way of the Mountain” and “Sleep Among the Dead,” as well as covers of Uriah Heep and Coven, and while I wouldn’t attempt to judge a new band’s trajectory from hearing one song and reading the titles of three others, between that, the logos courtesy of The Perverted Old Goatess and the “Way of the Mountain” video below, Doomstress distinguish themselves by bringing a hard edge to modern doom, the heft in Johnson‘s guitar tone holding onto some of that punch from Cosmic Oblivion. Where Supernatural Kvlt Sounds, as their initial recordings, might lead them, probably best not to speculate, but the underlying foundation of songwriting they show in “Way of the Mountain,” the nodding toward a classic influence in their choice of covers and the clear intention toward aesthetic commitment they’re making at the outset all would seem to auger well.

Go ahead and get yourself introduced by checking out the video below, which is followed by some more background on the band, and please enjoy:

Doomstress, “Way of the Mountain” lyric video

Formed by Doomstress Alexis of Project Armageddon from Houston,TX, covering bass & vocals, she asked fellow Project Armageddon bandmate Brandon Johnson to bring his guitar skills to the sonic altar for her new project. Rounding out the project, Doomstress Alexis tapped Sparrowmilk drummer, Tomasz Scull from Cleveland, OH (also guitarist for Venomin James) to contribute his percussive stylings.

doomstress square logoDoomstress Alexis and Brandon travelled to Ohio in March to complete writing and to record a 4 song demo ep, “Supernatural Kvlt Sounds”, consisting of 2 originals and 2 covers.

Doomstress Alexis had certain artistic aesthetic ideas in mind for the new DOOMSTRESS project and shared these with Goatess Doomwych (the674society) who crafted the logo and art designs.

“Doomstress was spawned by Doomstress Alexis’s desire to take a more personal musical direction. While still rooted in doom and metal, Doomstress seeks to invoke heavier grooves found more in vintage & stoner rock. The layering of twin guitar and vocal harmonies allows Doomstress to bring a darker ambience and mood to the music. Lyrically and visually Doomstress appeals to free spiritedness, strength of self, elements of nature & the supernatural, as well as some occult and gothic themes.”

EP tracklisting:
1-Way of the Mountain
2-Rainbow Demon (Uriah Heep cover)
3-Sleep Among the Dead
4-Wicked Woman (Coven cover)

Doomstress on Thee Facebooks

Doomstress on YouTube

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Honky Confirm May 27 Release for Corduroy

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 10th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Last time we heard from Austin boogie-hard-and-boogie-all-the-time three-piece Honky, they were announcing a UK tour to be performed this July/August in the burly company of Desert Storm. As the PR wire now confirms, their first album in four years, Corduroy, will be out May 27 via Housecore Records. The record finds the band joined by Dixie Witch‘s Trinidad Leal on drums, which if that doesn’t mean anything to you, should. If Dixie Witch were putting out the albums today that they were putting out 10-15 years ago, you can bet your ass you’d know who they were. As it stands, like Honky, they’re way underrated, so in addition to being ass-kicking Texan heavy rockers, it’s a good fit on multiple levels.

The new song “Outta Season” is streaming in advance of the album release, and you’ll find it under the info below. Enjoy:

honky

HONKY: Long-Running Austin-Based Superboogie Trio Featuring Butthole Surfers, Melvins, Down, And Dixie Witch Alumni To Release Corduroy Full-Length This Month; New Track Posted

When you think of Texas, what comes to mind? Big skies? Big trucks? Hot women with big… hair? Everything, as they say, is bigger in Texas… And that what ain’t bigger is more bizarre. After all, in a state that refers to itself as a republic, things can get pretty skewed.

Enter HONKY, who proudly carries the torch held by the likes of Bloodrock, Pantera, ZZ Top and the red-headed stranger himself, Mr. Willie Nelson. This Austin superboogie trio was founded in 1996 by long time Butthole Surfer/part time Melvins bassist JD Pinkus, Bobby Ed Landgraf (Down, Skrew, …) on guitar, and Trinidad Leal (Dixie Witch) on them skins. Together the riff-rocking three-some have released some of the best stripped down, butt-shakin’, rock ever cut to wax, tape, or CD and have toured with the likes of Nashville Pussy, the Reverend Horton Heat, Fu Manchu, Melvins, Peter Pan Speedrock, Down, and David Allan Coe.

HONKY’s newest release (and eighth overall!) entitled Corduroy is another feast of down and dirty rock, rollin’ across the finish line on May 27th via on Philip Anselmo’s Housecore Records. Boasting nine tracks thick enough to eat with a fork but you’ll wanna keep a spoon handy so ya don’t miss out on that gravy, Corduroy was produced by JD Pinkus and mastered by Paul Leary with artwork and layout by Ryan Everett. Drum duties were handled by a more-than-qualified group of drummers, including Leal, Michael “Night Train” Brueggen (Blackula, Syrup, Supagroup), Dale Crover (Melvins), and even original HONKY drummer, Lance Farley, all makin’ the grooves proper. Guest appearances include Mark “Speedy” Gonzales and the Fantasma Horns, as well as the band’s favorite Honkette, Rae Comeau.

Corduroy Track Listing:
1. Corduroy
2. Baby Don’t Slow Down
3. Outta Season
4. Bad Stones
5. Ain’t Got The Time
6. Double Fine
7. Snortin’ Whiskey
8. I Don’t Care
9. Mopey Dick

Get down with HONKY live on their upcoming Texas and UK dates with additional live performances to be announced soon.

HONKY with Desert Storm:
6/11/2016 R.O.T. Rally @ Cowboy Harley-Davidson – Austin, TX
7/08/2016 Boneshakers – Corpus Cristi, TX
7/09/2016 White Oak Music Hall – Houston, TX
7/26/2016 Portland Arms – Cambridge, UK
7/27/2016 The Cavern – Exeter, UK
7/28/2016 The Underworld – London, UK
7/29/2016 The Bullingdon – Oxford, UK
7/30/2016 Red Sun Festival – Cardiff, UK
7/31/2016 Craufurd Arms – Milton Keynes, UK
8/01/2016 Exchange – Bristol, UK
8/02/2016 The Iron Road – Evesham, UK
8/03/2016 Arches Venue – Coventry, UK
8/04/2016 The Anvil – Bournemouth, UK

http://www.facebook.com/groups/76991967660/
http://www.honky.net
http://www.facebook.com/housecorerecords/
http://www.thehousecorerecords.com

Honky, “Outta Season”

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Wo Fat Premiere “Nightcomer” from Midnight Cometh

Posted in audiObelisk on May 4th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

wo fat

Texas fuzz forerunners Wo Fat are inching closer to the May 20 release date of their sixth album, Midnight Cometh (review here), on Ripple Music. The Dallas trio are newly returned from a second round through Europe alongside heavy rock chaosbringers Mothership that included stops at Desertfest in Berlin and London, as well as a host of packed-out club shows that only seemed to put an exclamation point on how much Wo Fat have grown over the last several years, in prestige as much as sound. They find themselves now among the foremost in the American heavy underground, legitimate ambassadors of US heavy with a sound of their own they’ve meticulously developed over the course of records like 2014’s The Conjuring (review here), 2012’s The Black Code (reviews here and here) — the two comprising an inescapable duo of LPs issued through Small Stone — and so on back through their catalog, each grown out of the accomplishments of the album before it. Crucially, while dealing familiar elements to their audience — heavy riffs, sprawling jams, bluesy vibes, an undercurrent of Southern grit and what guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump once referred to as “bayou juju” — they’ve never failed to move forward with each new release.

Midnight Cometh is no exception to that. I’ve already reviewed it — hence the link in the first sentence above — so I won’t dive too deep here, but the progression that Wo Fat have undertaken Wo-Fat-Midnight-Comethover their records, from one to the next, is as evident in the listening experience as it is clear in its intent. With an increased drive toward improvisation matched with a penchant for straightforward, landmark hooks like those in “Of Smoke and Fog” and “There’s Something Sinister in the Wind” and “Nightcomer” on the new album, Stump and drummer/vocalist Michael Walter (who played with bassist Ryan Lee of Crypt Trip on the Euro tour) still sound most of all like themselves, but increase their grasp on their aesthetic in a way that speaks not only to pushing themselves in their writing process, but to the chemistry they’ve developed on stage. They stand at the top of a crowded Dallas scene and have rightly garnered an international reputation for quality output, and as they ease into a more statesman-style role, their refusal to rest on past laurels becomes even more admirable. They are, to be blunt, the very best kind of heavy rock band.

With the record release looming like a devil at the crossroads of blues and fuzz, I’m thrilled to be able to premiere “Nightcomer,” the 10-minute closing track from Midnight Cometh. Don’t want to spoil it, so I won’t say much about it other than it sums up a lot of what’s working best throughout the album preceding, and that if you know Wo Fat — and by now, you probably should — you’re going to be glad you took the time to dig in.

Please find the track on the player below, followed by some comment from Stump, and enjoy:

Kent Stump on “Nightcomer”

“’Nightcomer’ is a heavy voodoo blues doom jam. The name is a reference to the midnight rider at the crossroads of blues lore and it’s essentially about corporate greed, dealings with the devil and consequences.”

Wo Fat on Thee Facebooks

Wo Fat on Bandcamp

CD Preorder at Ripple Music

LP Preorder at Ripple Music

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Stone Machine Electric Premiere “I am Fire” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 27th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

stone machine electric

Wade patiently into the murky depths of Stone Machine Electric‘s first single from their new album, Sollicitus es Veritatem, and imagine that the Texas two-piece are setting the stage on which, as the title indicates, nightmares might become reality. Of course, the nightmare they’re talking about — at least if the album artwork is anything to go by — is 30-plus years of Republican anti-government rhetoric coming home to roost, but that otherworldly sense of darkness is evident in the opening of “I am Fire” as well. And as much as Stone Machine Electric — the duo of guitarist/vocalist William “Dub” Irvin and drummer/vocalist/Thereminist Mark Kitchensstone-machine-electric-posterteased jammy vibes with their late 2015 EP, The Amazing Terror (review here), “I am Fire” does wind up with a hook to go with its rolling groove, centering the nightmare in a real-world structure.

As much as this is the real world, anyway.

As previously announced, The Obelisk is presenting Stone Machine Electric‘s release show for Sollicitus es Veritatem, which takes place at The Grotto in Fort Worth on May 27 and finds Dub and Kitchens joined by FoggThinman Conspiracy and The FTW. My reasoning for climbing on board for said event was pretty simple: I dig Stone Machine Electric a lot. Their material has always kind of a weirdo underpinning, whether they’re working in open structured jams or more grounded songcraft, and in combination with a richness of tone often captured by Wo Fat‘s Kent Stump, the appeal is that you never quite know what Stone Machine Electric are going to do next. You’ll know what I mean as “I am Fire” jumps from its intro into the nod of the first verse. They’re still able to catch their audience off guard. I like that.

Sollicitus es Veritatem is out May 17 — though if you’re in Europe, you can apparently buy copies from Wo Fat‘s merch table now — and you can find the premiere of the “I am Fire” video below.

Please enjoy:

Stone Machine Electric, “I am Fire” official video

The Obelisk presents “I Am Fire” – the first track off Stone Machine Electric’s anticipated album “Sollicitus Es Veritatem”. The new album is set to be released May 17th, 2016.

Stone Machine Electric on Thee Facebooks

Stone Machine Electric on Bandcamp

Release show event page

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Wo Fat, Midnight Cometh: Sinister Wind Blowing

Posted in Reviews on April 21st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Wo Fat Midnight Cometh

There are few if any US heavy rock acts going who can match the consistent quality of Wo Fat‘s output over the last half-decade. The Dallas fuzz riffers have grown into a distinct and distinguished outfit that is always identifiable from release to release, but never fails to grow. This is true as well of their sixth studio LP, Midnight Cometh — also their first for Ripple Music after issuing 2014’s The Conjuring (review here) and 2012’s The Black Code (reviews here and here) on Small Stone — in that its six songs/49 minutes bring the band’s sound another step forward, as shown in adding percussion elements to opener “There’s Something Sinister in the Wind,” in the vocal confidence of guitarist Kent Stump and in the overarching fluidity of the trio’s jams, of which there are many, and the poise with which they blend the catchy hooks of “There’s Something Sinister in the Wind,” “Riffborn,” “Of Smoke and Fog,” “Le Dilemme de Detenu,” “Three Minutes to Midnight” and “Nightcomer” — yes, all six tracks — with the more open and improvised-feeling stretches.

In some ways, Wo Fat aren’t doing much different than they did on earlier outings like 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra (review here) or 2008’s Psychedelonaut (review here), in that they blend a swamp boogie atmosphere with memorable songcraft, a jam-ready sensibility and strong chemistry between Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer/backing vocalist Michael Walter, but they leave little room as to the question of whether or not that basic pattern has been refined, and while The Conjuring felt like a landmark in their ascent to the fore of the American heavy underground — it was the record that took them to Europe, for example — Midnight Cometh once again reaffirms that their position is well earned.

It does not fix what wasn’t broken in their sound, but neither is it stagnant. In much the same way Wo Fat‘s sound has become more identifiable over the last decade since their 2006 debut, The Gathering Dark, so too has it progressed. They begin at a tumult with “There’s Something Sinister in the Wind” but soon hammer out an upbeat groove over which Stump slides in a solo before a percussion-laden verse and are into the chorus before the two-minute mark, wasting no time in setting the table for much of what will follow and build on the Southern voodoo blues atmosphere represented in David Paul Seymour‘s cover art and which “Of Smoke and Fog,” “Three Minutes to Midnight” and “Nightcomer” would seem to address directly while second track “Riffborn” and side B opener “Le Dilemme de Detenu” take their focus elsewhere.

wo fat

The split between the two halves of Midnight Cometh is of particular note, since it’s something of a departure from The Conjuring, which wrapped with its 17-minute jam-minded title-track. Here, Wo Fat give each portion of the record a grand finale, in “Of Smoke and Fog” and “Nightcomer,” respectively, and the effect is to make the listening experience focused less on any individual piece than on the affect and the flow of the album as a whole. I wouldn’t argue with either methodology, particularly since while there are commonalities between songs mostly in the structuring of choruses, the band takes care to shift here and there in vibe, whether it’s the more stripped down “Riffborn,” which is faster and jams its way through its second half and out having long since left its hook behind, or the mega-swinging “Le Dilemme de Detenu” (“the dilemma of the detained”), with swagger enough for a full-length on its own, never mind the ultra-fluid hypnosis they’ve just enacted across “Of Smoke and Fog.”

That track — “Of Smoke and Fog” — emphasizes a lot of what Wo Fat have come to accomplish at this stage in their progression. It moves easily through hooks and jams and even trips out psychedelic around eight minutes in, but never lets go of its sense of purpose, and while it’s also the longest cut on Midnight Cometh at 10:47, it puts that time to use summarizing the album’s course. At the end of side B, “Nightcomer” works in a similar vein, but with a darker feel and bigger chorus, with Stump and Walter offering some vocal harmonies before the final jam. Prior to that, the penultimate “Three Minutes to Midnight” showcases the comfort level the trio feel in pushing out a faster hook and more straightforward songcraft — yet another stuck-in-your-head hook — while also bringing back some of the percussive elements of the opener, and the fact that their structures are no less molten than their jams, able to be manipulated to suit the purposes of a given track, is among Midnight Cometh‘s most engaging aspects.

Whatever the pace or trajectory, Wo Fat play like a band six albums deep. They know what they want their sound to do, they know how to make it happen, and they know that to keep it interesting for themselves and their audience, they need to continue to challenge beyond what they’ve done before. Stump has emerged as a frontman and sounds in command of the material here, and together with Walter and Wilson, they’re more of a power trio able to bring their live dynamic to a studio recording without sacrificing fidelity to the cause of a superficially organic sound. Midnight Cometh comes across as full and natural, and continues Wo Fat‘s streak of highlight outings, making it all the more apparent just how much they need to be in the conversation of the best currently active fuzz purveyors, within Texas or without. They’ve long since come into their own, but they’re reshaping what “their own” is, and it’s a joy to watch for those lucky enough to be paying attention. One of the year’s best in heavy.

Wo Fat, “Three Minutes to Midnight”

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