Posted in Reviews on January 1st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
I thought last night about changing the name of this feature to “First Licks 2015,” but on further reflection, that’s just too much licking. It’s bad enough as it is. All the same, Happy New Year to you and yours, wherever you and they may be. I hope in 2015, your reviews pile never gets so backed up that you think about doing something so absolutely insane as tackling them all at once to wipe the slate clean. Then again, being completely inundated with music has its upsides. The music, for one.
We press on today with the fourth installment in the “Last Licks 2014″ series. These are reviews 31-40. I passed the halfway point yesterday with barely so much as an inward breath to appreciate the moment, and I can only hope the pile of discs before me goes so smoothly. I’ll let you know when I get there. Until then, no need to dally, let’s get underway with the first reviews of 2015.
Thanks for reading:
Seven that Spells, The Death and Resurrection of Krautrock: Io
Reportedly second in a series of three albums from Croatian heavy psych rockers Seven that Spells, The Death and Resurrection of Krautrock: Io follows a first installment subtitled Aum released in 2011 and brings forth heady, mostly instrumental progressions of extended runtimes and a satisfying blend of weighted tones and stylistic clarity. The three-piece who released their first album in 2003 alternate between three shorter pieces and two longer ones across the 47-minute Sulatron Records outing’s five tracks, and while I’m not entirely sure what is the narrative that’s taking place across them, there’s definitely a plotted course and concept at work behind the material – it does not come across as haphazard in any way. When they arrive, vocals do so as chants coinciding with sweeping passages, as on “Burning Blood,” the culmination of which is worthy of being the apex of a trilogy in progress. Io takes the off-the-cuff authenticity in heavy psych and gives it direction and purpose beyond simply being. No small feat, no small results.
Some metal isn’t doom, some doom isn’t metal, but Texas trio Elliott’s Keep play doom metal, and make no mistake. Their third long-player, Nascentes Morimur, comes after 2008’s In Medias Res (review here) and 2010’s Sine Qua Non (review here), and like them, it was produced and mixed by J.T. Longoria, so that their darkened, metallic chugging is presented with a crisp bite. The three-piece of Kenneth Greene (bass/vocals), Jonathan Bates (guitar) and Joel Bates (drums) toy with the balance between death and doom effectively across Nascentes Morimur’s nine tracks, making highlights of early moments like the double-kick-laden “Now Taken” and the chorus of the proceeding “Days of Hell.” Later cuts like “Tale of Grief” and “Omen” follow suit, with Jonathan riffing out classic metal vibes while Greene switches between clean singing and a rasping, almost black metal in places, scream. Their command never wavers, though, and while there have never been many frills about their approach, Elliott’s Keep have come to offer a fist-pumpingly heavy, sharp-edged push.
Bluesy Minneapolis double-guitar four-piece The Lone Crows show an affinity for classic rock stylization on their World in Sound second full-length, Dark Clouds. Produced modern, with lead guitar front and center, there’s more rock to Dark Clouds than heavy rock, but the vocal style of guitarist Tim Barbeau – joined in the band by guitarist Julian Manzara, bassist Andy Battcher and drummer Joe Goff – has some ‘90s inflection to it, and every now and then they get into a bit of bounce, as on the title-track and “The Dragon.” The penultimate “Midnight Show” would seem like the peak of the album, and sure enough it has one of its best hooks, but the recording doesn’t allow for the same push one imagines the material would carry live, and the quiet ending of “On that Day” feels flat compared to some of The Lone Crows’ bluesy peers. I chalk it up to the difference between blues rock and heavy rock and my own expectations, rather than some fault in the band.
I’m not sure if it would be appropriate to call Krautzone an offshoot of Zone Six, of which all four members – guitarist Rainer Neeff, synth-providers Modulfix and Sula Bassana, and percussionist Komet Lulu (the latter two also of Electric Moon) – take part, plus bassist Onkel Kaktus, but either way, the sound is nebulous, brilliantly textured for a meditative, slow-motion churn, and utterly engrossing. Their Sulatron debut, Kosmiche Rituale, is comprised of three lengthy explorations, tones washing in and out of each, smoothly offset by Neeff’s flight-taken guitar, minimal but earthy percussion and an improvised sensibility. “Liebe” (12:46) and “Kosmiche Rituale” (9:09) comprise side A and “Only Fools Rush In” (20:41) consumes side B entirely, a wash of synth and cymbals announcing its arrival as it sets about unfolding its long course, every bit living up to the album’s title in the process. Krautzone also released a split with Lamp of the Universe in 2014 (review here), but on their own, they shine with the chance to really stretch out.
Italian instrumentalists L’Ira del Baccano make their full-length debut with the lushly conceived Terra 42, a six-track, 57-minute outing that works in three overarching “phases.” The first of them includes tracks one through three and is dubbed “The Infinite Improbability Drive,” and it makes up more than half the album’s runtime, the first, 13-minute part standing alone while the two subsequent nine-minute stretches feed one directly into the next in a psychedelic wash of open guitar building to a raucous heavy rock finish. Phase II, “Sussurri… Nel Bosco di Diana” is the next two cuts, and moves smoothly from a Yawning Man-style jam to more riff-based thickness. The longest individual part, Phase III, is the 14-minute “Volcano X13,” track six, on which the band move fluidly through their heavy psych and rock impulses, synth and guitar intertwining well as L’Ira del Baccano affirm their more-than-burgeoning stylistic breadth. It’s an interesting, somewhat familiar blend, but they put it to good use on Terra 42 and engage with the spaciousness created.
Reactivated Montreal noisemakers Lae enlisted the help of their producer, Today is the Day’s Steve Austin, in handling lead vocals for their debut, Break the Clasp, which is a move fitting for their anti-genre approach to noise, drone, doom, post-everything, and so on. A Battleground Records/The Compound release, Break the Clasp reworks unheard material from Lae’s original run in the mid-‘90s – an album that never came out, essentially – but the vitality in the 13 tracks (yes, even the crushingly slow ones) is fresh to the point of its newness, and even the parts meant to be abrasive, opener “Sexy Sadie” or pieces of “17 Queen,” for example, hold onto a wonderful depth the mix and a feeling of texture that feeds Break the Clasp’s otherworldly spirit and brings you along its path of consuming strangeness. Austin is a presence, but by no means the star, and the whole band Lae shines across Break the Clasp’s fascinating span. A debut no one knew they were awaiting, but they were.
Psychedelia implying such a colorful sound, and black metal implying essentially the absence of that color, the two have rarely been paired well, but Finnish four-piece Atomikylä display a resounding space on their five-song debut full-length, Erkale (released by Future Lunch), and they’re not through the 13-minute opener, “Aluaineet,” before I think they might have mastered the balance between effects wash, unmitigated thrust and far-back screaming that most others have left too far to one side or the other. The four-piece with a lineup half from Oranssi Pazuzu and half from Dark Buddha Rising don’t stay in one place stylistically – the title-track has an almost krautrock feel, while the subsequent “Ihmiskallo” is more resolved to doom – but they keep a consistency of blinding bleakness to Erkale that results in a decidedly individualized feel throughout the 48 minutes. Droning and jazzy guitar experimentalism prevails in “Who Goes There,” and 10-minute closer “Musta Kulta” both broadens the atmosphere and underscores Atomikylä’s vicious stylistic triumph, capping Erkale with a mash of squibblies and screams, effects and distortion that’s so filthy it can’t help but be beautiful.
Freiburg, Germany, trio Deaf Proof – guitarist/vocalist J. Fredo, bassist JP and drummer Pedro – released their first demo in 2013, but the three-song/34-minute EP (it’s more like an album, but I won’t argue) Death Sounds Angry is a decidedly more assured, professional affair. The vibe is loose and, in the reaches of 18-minute middle cut “Origin of Pain,” jammy, but the three-piece still seem to have some idea of where they want their material to go, even as they feel their way toward those ends. A Colour Haze influence? Maybe, but less than one might think given the current climate of European heavy psych. JP’s bass has a tendency toward darker undertones, and when they hit the payoffs for “Death Sounds Angry and Hungry for More,” “Origin of Pain” and “The Sense,” they reveal themselves to be in search of something heavier and less peaceful. J. Fredo’s vocals are a little forward in the mix, but Death Sounds Angry still offers plenty to chew on for the converted.
Progressive, mostly instrumental and hypnotic, Zagreb, Croatia, trio Jastreb released their self-titled debut as a single 36-minute song in 2012, and the follow-up, Mother Europe (on HauRucK), is no less ambitious. Vocals appear here and there, both from the core three-piece and a guest spot, but the heart of what Jastreb do is rooted in their ability to craft movements that pull listeners in without falling into lulls of unconsciousness – to wit, the repetitions of “The Black Mountain” seem still but are constantly building and moving forward – as well as in arrangement flourishes like synth, Hammond, sitar and violin among the shades of post-metal in “Haemmer” or the bleary, drone-backed opener “North,” which comes companioned by the subtle churn of “South” to end the album. Not necessarily psychedelic in a loose or jammy sense, but immersive, and purposeful in its variety; the sitar and guest vocals on “The Silver Spire” arrive just at the moment when one thinks they might have heard it all. Could say the same of the record itself, I suppose.
Passage of Gaia is the sixth album from progressive melo-doomers Arctic Sleep. A four-piece from Milwaukee including bassist/drummer/cellist/vocalist Keith D, guitarist Mike Gussis and vocalist Emily Jancetic (John Gleisner plays drums live), one is reminded both of the Floydian consciousness of mid-period Anathema (my go-to comparison point for this kind of stuff, admittedly) and the drama in Katatonia and some of Novembers Doom’s clean sections, but ultimately, Arctic Sleep emerge from the eight-track/54-minute DIY long-player with their own personality, measured out in the careful vocal collaboration between Keith D and Jancetic, songs like “Terra Vindicta,” “Green Dragon” and “Passage of Gaia,” and the varied structures between the more rocking “Terra Vindicta” and the build of “Solar Lament.” Through it all, nothing’s out of balance, and Arctic Sleep execute Passage of Gaia with the poise demanded by the style and the fact that it’s their sixth album, accomplishment suiting them as well as the melancholy of closer “Destroy the Urn,” which almost loses its restraint at the end. Almost.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 29th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Interesting news all around from Texas three-piece Funeral Horse. The Houston-based rockers have netted fascination on their two releases to-date, 2013’s Savage Audio Demon (review here) and this year’s Sinister Rites of the Master (review here, stream here), and it seems they’ll continue to do so as we move into 2015. Having already done a stint along the West Coast, they mention in the update below they’ll do more US touring — maybe this time they’ll come east? — and also the word “Europe” is included as a possibility for next fall. Curious to see what shape that takes as the months go on, and if Funeral Horse will wind up at any of the annual fests that happen over there around that time. That would explain early hint-dropping of the tour. Hmm…
Also — and maybe that’s me burying the headline a bit — they’ve swapped drummers, bringing in Chris Bassett alongside guitarist/vocalist Paul Bearer and bassist Jason Argonaut in place of Chris Larmour, who if you’ll recall wrote the short story that came with the Sinister Rites of the Master vinyl. No small change, but with mention of Bassett making the band tighter and doomier in the announcement below, which also brings word that Funeral Horse are hitting the studio next month, the plot gets even thicker.
FUNERAL HORSE announce recording of new album, new drummer
Dusting themselves off from their recent West Coast USA tour, Texas stoner doom trio FUNERAL HORSE has announced that they will be entering the studio to record the follow-up to their acclaimed second album, Sinister Rites of the Master (Artificial Head Records).
Additionally, the band wishes to officially announce Chris Bassett as their new drummer. Chris will be joining the band in the studio to lay down the tracks for the third FUNERAL HORSE release.
Recording will begin in January with nine songs currently slated for release. The band has once again selected Digital Warehaus in Houston, Texas as the studio for recording. Renowned artist Savage Pencil has been tapped for the cover art to the new album.
“We are extremely lucky to have found Chris and have him on board with us,” explained singer/guitar player Paul Bearer. “Not only has he picked up the new material quickly, he has helped to tighten the focus of the band and bring more of the doom element into our sound.”
Additional info on the upcoming album will be released in the coming weeks as FUNERAL HORSE prepares to finish recording and then hit the road again around North America and Europe in the fall of 2015.
Posted in Features on December 26th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Please note: These are not the results of the Readers Poll. That’s still going on. Please feel free to submit your list.
Making and releasing a first full-length album is a special moment in the life of any band, and that’s why I wanted to single out some of the best debuts of the year. I’ve never done this before, and so maybe with a top 10 I’m testing the waters a bit, but it seemed a worthwhile project anyway. It was a long (inner) debate about whether or not to include EPs and singles here too, but in the end, it just seemed to work better with albums.
Not to take anything away from shorter releases, but putting out a debut EP is much different than a debut LP. First of all, a debut LP can come after several EPs or singles or demos or whatever and still be considered first. What a first album says to the listener is, “Okay, we’ve come this far and we’re ready to take this step.” Some bands, once they start putting out albums, never go back to EPs. Others who’ve been around for 30 years still release demos every now and then, but even so, a group only ever gets one crack at their first album, and it can be one of the most important things we ever do.
Compared to how many come out any given month, year, century, etc., very few debut long-players ever wind up being classics, and who knows what the future might hold for any of these acts on this list, but that not knowing and that excitement are part of the fun.
Let’s get to it:
The Top 10 Debut Albums of 2014
1. The Well, Samsara
2. The Golden Grass, The Golden Grass
3. Spidergawd, Spidergawd
4. Atavismo, Desintegración
5. Blues Pills, Blues Pills
6. Steak, Slab City
7. Comet Control, Comet Control
8. Elephant Tree, Theia
9. Black Moon Circle, Black Moon Circle
10. Temple of Void, Of Terror and the Supernatural
A couple honorable mentions. First to Valley of the Sun‘s Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk, which I still didn’t know what to do with the release date for. Officially 2014, but kinda released in 2013 too. I was back and forth on it. Also Wasted Theory‘s burly debut, Monolord‘s Empress Rising, Child‘s Child, the Silent Chamber, Noisy Heart sprawling one-song LP from Sylvaine.
Some notes: Actual time spent listening played a big role in the structuring of this list. More so than the Top 30 of 2014, I would say. The Well‘s Samsara and the self-titled debut from The Golden Grass featured pretty high on that list as well, and that’s because both of them were records that I continually went back to and found satisfying after they came out. In both bands I think there’s significant stylistic potential, but more importantly, they both came out of the gate with their mission solidified and ready to roll.
With Spidergawd‘s Spidergawd, the progressive take on classic heavy rock boogie was blinding, but righteous. Their second album is due early next year on Stickman and I’ll have more on it to come in the weeks ahead. Atavismo‘s Desintegraciónhit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. Just four songs, but the atmosphere was gorgeous enough that after listening I went back and asked the band if I could host a stream in hopes that more people would hear it. Fortunately for anyone who listened, they were kind enough to comply.
On sheer impact alone, I think Blues Pills‘ Blues Pills warrants inclusion on this list, but in my own listening, I put on the top four so much more often that I couldn’t really justify placing it any higher. But in terms of a first album coming out and really propelling a band to the next level, I think for a lot of people it’s probably the debut of the year. Fair enough. Steak‘s Slab City found the London four-piece physically and stylistically right in the heart of the California desert and their passion for that place and its sound came across heartfelt on the recording, which only heightened the appeal.
And while I’m still sorry to see Quest for Fire go, the debut from offshoot Comet Control helped ease that sorrow neatly with a blend of driving heavier space rock and psychedelic vibing. Cool album, bodes well. You could say the same for Elephant Tree‘s Theia, I suppose. Their take on psychedelia melded with screamy sludge successfully where I think a lot of bands would’ve fallen flat trying the same thing, and that’s definitely something noteworthy in an initial offering, particularly one not preceded by an EP or other kind of release.
To round things out, two very different records. Black Moon Circle‘s self-titled took a popular stylistic course — melding heavy rock and psychedelic jamming — and showed the trio beginning to make it their own. That’s something I hope will continue on their second outing, which, like that of Spidergawd, is coming on quick early in 2015. And finally, Temple of Void‘s extreme, deathly take on doom courted genres smoothly and delivered its punishment with efficiency while holding together a coherent atmosphere of darkness and aggression. It was a sadistic joy to behold.
If you missed it, there were a couple debuts included on the Top 20 Short Releases of 2014 list as well — Gold & Silver, Wren, Death Alley, and so on — so if you’re looking for more of that kind of thing, you don’t have to look too far. I hope if there was a debut album this year that particularly caught your attention, you’ll let me know in the comments.
Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Please note: These are not the results of the Readers Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t added your list yet, please do.
This was a hard list to put together. The top three have been set in my mind for probably the last month, but trying to work my way backwards from there was a real challenge — what’s a top 10 record, a top 20 record, a top 30, honorable mentions and all the rest. I’ve never done a full top 30 before, always 20, but the truth is there was just too much this year to not expand.
I’m still juggling numbers even as I put together this post, and I’m sure that by the time I’m done several records will have switched places. That’s always how it seems to go. What I’m confident that I have is a list accurately representing critique and my own habits, both what I gravitated toward in listening throughout the year and what I feel is noteworthy on a critical level. This site has always been a blend of those two impulses. It’s only fair this list should be as well.
Before we dig in, you should note this is full-length albums only. I’ll have a list of short releases (EPs, singles, demos) to come, as well as a special list of debut releases, since it seemed to be a particularly good year for them. And since I’m only one person, I couldn’t hear everything, much as I tried.
The kings of London’s heavy scene offered more powerhouse heavy rock with their eighth album and second for Candlelight, and their rabid and ever-growing fanbase ate it up. Back from the Abyss proved yet again that few can attain the kind of vicious force that seems to come so natural to Orange Goblin, and made it clear their domination shows no signs of losing momentum.
A darker affair from Port Orchard, Washington’s Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty still found its core in the songwriting led by guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed. They’re a band with some changes on the horizon, and I’ll be interested to hear what hindsight does to these songs. As it was, the hooks and downer vibes may have been in conceptual conflict, but the execution was inarguable.
Richer in the listening than 2012’s Misery Wizard debut, Pilgrim‘s II: Void Worship nonetheless held firm to the doomly spirit that’s made the Rhode Island outfit such a sensation these last couple years. Its longer songs, “Master’s Chamber,” “Void Worship” and the emotionally weighted “Away from Here,” were particularly immersive, and they remain a bright spot in doom’s future.
His long-awaited solo debut, John Garcia‘s John Garcia offered memorable tracks culled from years of songwriting from the former Kyuss, Slo Burn, Unida and Hermano frontman, performed in the classic desert rock style he helped define. I’m not sure it was worth trading a second Vista Chino record for, but it was hard to argue with “The Blvd” and “All These Walls.”
An overwhelming two-disc barrage from a relentless creativity that, more than 30 years on from its first public incarnation, is still to be considered avant garde. I’m not sure planet earth realizes how lucky it is to have Swans running around unleashing all this chaos, but I hope they don’t stop anytime soon. To be Kind was brutal and beautiful in like measure.
Icelandic four-piece Sólstafir hit on a rarely attained balance of gorgeousness and melancholy, and while Ótta is expansive, it’s also gripping front to back and is the best execution of its style I’ve heard since Anathema‘s Alternative 4, which is not a comparison I make lightly. A challenging record, but satisfying in kind and universal in its expressiveness.
The follow-up to Greenleaf‘s stellar 2012 outing Nest of Vipers (review here) brought lineup changes and stripped away many of the textural elements of the band’s sound — guest appearances, arrangement flourishes — in order to get back to a classic heavy rock sound and translate better to the stage. With guitarist Tommi Holappa‘s songwriting ever at the core, it would be unfair to call the process anything but a success.
Most of the headlines went to the fact that Primitive and Deadly had vocals, where the generally-instrumental Earth had avoided singers for 18 years prior, but even putting aside Mark Lanegan and Rabi Shabeen Qazi, whose performance on “From the Zodiacal Light” was the high point of the record, presented Earth‘s always progressive tensions in a rawer, heavier production, and was a joy for longtime fans.
Six years and one breakup later, Portland, Maine, doom trio Ogre returned with The Last Neanderthal, neither afraid to revel in Sabbathian traditionalism or rock out a more upbeat cut like opener “Nine Princes in Amber.” For bassist/vocalist Ed Cunningham, guitarist Ross Markonish and drummer Will Broadbent, it was a welcome resurgence of pretense-free heavy riffs and grooves.
Of course, at the time we didn’t know it would be the final outing from this lineup of UK doomers The Wounded Kings, whose guitarist/founder Steve Mills has now reunited with original vocalist George Birch, but Consolamentum was a hell of a closing statement anyway for this era of the band, showcasing their murky, increasingly progressive style still waiting for wider appreciation.
Wasn’t sure where to put Floor‘s reunion offering, Oblation, on this list at first, since I kind of fell off listening to it as the year went on, but I’ve gone back to it over the last couple weeks and it has held up to the revisit, whether it’s songs like the extended “Sign of Aeth” or shorter, catchy pummelers like “Rocinante” or “War Party.” Floor‘s 2002 self-titled holds an untouchable legacy in heavy rock, but I think the years will prove Oblation a worthy successor. Nobody knew what they had with Floor at the time either.
Little on 2011’s Motherfucker Rising (review here) or their 2010 demo (review here) prepared for the kind of assault that Druglord‘s Enter Venus brought to bear. Four stomp-laden slabs of tectonic crash and distortion, vocals buried under and calling up from the amp-bred fog. The Virginian trio were in and out on the 27-minute 12″ release, but had enough heavy for a record twice as long, and the tinges of darkened psychedelia made their songs like a lurking presence just on the edge of consciousness, a threat waiting to be unleashed.
For the sheer variety of Ararat‘s third album in rockers like “Nicotina y Destrucción,” “El Hijo de Ignacio,” the experimentalism of “El Arca” and the piano-driven “Los Viajes” and the acoustic closer “Atalayah,” and the assured, flowing manner in which the Argentina trio pulled it all off, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz should be higher on this list than it is. Part of that might be my frustration at my apparent inability to buy a copy, but don’t let that take away from the quality of the material here, which is wonderfully chaotic, memorable and engaging, rushing in some places and stopping to weep in others.
You won’t hear me deny that Radio Moscow‘s primary impact is as a live band, but their fifth album, Magical Dirt, managed to bring forth much of their psychedelic blues presence in “Death of a Queen,” “Before it Burns” and “Gypsy Fast Woman,” the blinding rhythmic turns and wah-soaked guitar supremacy of Parker Griggs front and center throughout. Together with bassist Anthony Meier (also Sacri Monti) and drummer Paul Marrone (also Astra and Psicomagia), Radio Moscow are hitting their stride as one of heavy rock’s most powerful power trios. One never knows what to expect, but hopefully they keep going the way they are.
Four years isn’t the longest time I’ve ever waited for a record to come out, but in the case of Indianapolis’ Apostle of Solitude, it felt like an especially long stretch. Their third full-length and first for Cruz del Sur, Of Woe and Wounds followed the anticipation-building Demo 2012 (review here) and a couple splits and brought aboard bassist Dan Dividson and guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak (also Devil to Pay), who fit well with drummer Corey Webb and guitarist/vocalist Chuck Brown to result in a payoff worthy and indicative of the time that went into its making. Hands down one of the finest acts in American doom.
Stubb‘s second long-player, also their debut on Ripple, gets a nod for the sense of progression it brought in answering the potential of the trio’s 2012 self-titled debut (review here), guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson, bassist Peter Holland and new drummer Tom Fyfe expanding the scope to include more heavy psych influence and soul along with the fuzz riffs and steady rolling while giving no ground in terms of the level of craft at work. Cry of the Ocean has become one of those albums where all I have to do is look at a title, be it “Cry of the Ocean Pt. I” or “Sail Forever” or “Heartbreaker,” and the song is immediately stuck in my head. With these tracks, that’s not at all a complaint.
14. Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, Black Power Flower
Brant Bjork has worn many hats, literal and figurative, over the years, whether it’s drummer in Kyuss or Fu Manchu, producer, solo artist or bandleader. With Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, he steps once again into the latter role, and with guitarist Bubba DuPree, bassist Dave Dinsmore and drummer Tony Tornay, presents not only on his heaviest record to date, but what could easily begin a sustainable full-band progression that can go just about anywhere his songwriting wants to take it. “Stokely up Now,” “That’s a Fact Jack,” “Controllers Denied” and “Boogie Woogie on Your Brain” made for some of 2014’s best in desert rock, and Black Power Flower was an stellar return for Bjork to his “solo” work.
An earlier version of this list had Pagan Fruit at a lower number, but I couldn’t live with it not being closer to the top 10. Salt Lake City’s Dwellers pushed deeper into laid back psych and blues on their second album, and in doing so, crafted an atmosphere entirely their own. From “Creature Comfort” down to “Call of the Hollowed Horn,” with triumphs along the way like “Rare Eagle,” “Totem Crawler” (“Ohh, my queen… To whom, I crawl…) and “Son of Raven,” Pagan Fruit became a staple of my 2014, building off their 2012 debut, Good Morning Harakiri (review here), but presenting their stylistic growth with a confidence and poise that can only come from a band who’ve figured out what they want to be doing and how they want to do it. Front to back, Pagan Fruit sounds like an arrival.
What made Brooklyn trio The Golden Grass‘ self-titled debut such a special released wasn’t just that it was heavy, or that the tracks were catchy, or that guitarist Michael Rafalowich and drummer Adam Kriney could harmonize over Joe Noval‘s warm-toned basslines. That was all great, don’t get me wrong, but what really stood out about The Golden Grass was its irony-free positivity, the way it was able to capture an upbeat, sunshiny feel without having to smirk about it on the other side of its mouth. It was self-aware, to be sure — knew what it was doing — but the way I see it, consciousness only makes the stylistic choices more impressive. Add to that the nuance they brought to ’70s revivalism, and all that stuff about catchiness and the harmonies, and there just wasn’t a level on which the album didn’t work.
My appreciation continues to grow for The Well‘s Samsara, which successfully pulled together influences from garage doom and heavy psychedelia while crafting an identity for the Austin, Texas, three-piece at once raw and melodically accomplished, guitarist Ian Graham and bassist Lisa Alley sharing vocals to classic effect on “Refuge” while otherwise trading off lead position to bolster variety in the material. The high point might’ve been the eight-minute “Eternal Well,” on which Graham, Alley and drummer Jason Sullivvan conjured some of their grooviest demons, but the hooks of “Mortal Bones,” “Trespass” and the attitude-laced “Dragon Snort” were no less engaging. One of many strong releases from their label this year — Slow Season, The Picturebooks, etc. — they seemed to come ready to serve notice of a stylistic movement underway.
10. Montibus Communitas, The Pilgrim to the Absolute
Peruvian psych adventurers Montibus Communitas more or less blew my mind when I heard their late-2013 offering, Harvest Times earlier this year, and the narrative, conceptual 2014 release, The Pilgrim to the Absolute, is even more of an achievement in its portrayal of improvised exploration, sonic ritualism and open creativity. The weaving of longer pieces against shorter ones with the various steps along the path as presented in the titles, some journeying, some arriving, some descriptive, almost all accompanied by nature in one form or another, gives The Pilgrim to the Absolute an almost impressionistic quality, so that even as you listen to it, you engage it as much as it carries you along its vibrant, breathtaking progression en route to the closing title-track, which is a destination every bit worthy of the journey. This is the most recently reviewed inclusion on this list, but Montibus Communitas‘ latest readily earns its place in the top 10. It is unique in its surroundings.
Looking back at the last two Fu Manchu records, 2007’s We Must Obey and 2009’s Signs of Infinite Power, it seemed reasonable to expect the groundbreaking SoCal fuzz foursome to put out another collection of big-sounding riffs in a big-sounding production. Nothing to complain about, but probably not a landmark. By going the other way completely — stripping their buzzed-out riffing down to its punkish core thanks in no small part to recording with Moab‘s Andrew Giacumakis — Fu Manchu served up a raw reminder both of where they came from and how top notch their songwriting remains. Reissuing their earliest work and being on their own label might’ve had something to do with it, but whatever it was, the 35 minutes of Gigantoid was as efficient a heavy rock outing as one could hope from an already legendary band, whether it was the hook-prone opening salvo of “Dimension Shifter,” “Invaders on My Back,” “Anxiety Reducer” and “Radio Source Sagittarius” or the righteous ending jam “The Last Question.”
Given the origins of The Skull — ex-Trouble members Eric Wagner, Jeff “Oly” Olson and Ron Holzner joining with Lothar Keller and a series of other guitarists, finally Matt Goldsborough, working essentially as a tribute band to their former outfit — I think not only did the quality of the material and performance on For Those Which are Asleep surprise, as well as the classically doomed feel that resonates throughout the album, but the sheer heartfelt nature of songs like “Sick of it All,” “Send Judas Down” and the title-track itself. This wasn’t a cynical attempt to make a go of an already set legacy. It was an expression of appreciation both for what they accomplished as Trouble and a desire to continue that work. The Skull‘s whole thing has been that they’re “more Trouble than Trouble,” and in their lineup that’s been true since they brought Olson on board. For Those Which are Asleep demonstrated that the classic spirit of that band is alive and well, its address has just changed. Moreover, it’s the beginning of a new progression for that spirit, and I hope it continues.
Nineteen years after releasing their self-titled debut, New York’s Blood Farmers contended for 2014’s comeback of the year with their sophomore outing, Headless Eyes — a morose, horror-obsessed six-track collection that on “Night of the Sorcerers” owed as much to Goblin as to Sabbath. The closing cover of David Hess‘ theme from The Last House on the Left, “The Road Leads to Nowhere,” was a late bit of melodic flourish to add depth, but how could the highlight be anything other than the 10-minute title-track itself, with its samples from the 1971 horror flick The Headless Eyes, bassist Eli Brown in a call and response with lyrics comprised of lines directly taken from the movie? That after playing shows the last several years, Blood Farmers managed to get a record out was impressive enough. That Headless Eyes turned out to be the year’s best traditional doom release was an entirely different level of surprise. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for their third, but Brown, guitarist David Szulkin and drummer Tad Leger gave plenty to chew on with Blood Farmers‘ second. It was better than would’ve been fair to expect.
A lot of what you need to know about Lo-Pan‘s fourth album you learn in the first five seconds of opener “Regulus.” There’s no fancy intro, no time wasted, nothing to take away from the directness of the song itself. Tones are crisp — the verse is already underway — and guitar, bass and drums are laser-focused in their forward movement. Even when vocalist Jeff Martin enters the song, roughly six seconds later, his arrival comes with no indulgence, no pomp. Colossus is easily Lo-Pan‘s most immediate work to date, and throughout, Martin, guitarist Brian Fristoe (since replaced by Adrian Zambrano), bassist Scott Thompson and drummer Jesse Bartz retain that focus no matter where the material takes them, delivering a clinic in how to kick as much ass as possible at any given moment on cuts like “Marathon Man” and “Eastern Seas,” or even bringing in guest vocalist Jason Alexander Byers, who also designed the album cover, for a spot on “Vox.” They had a hard task in following up 2011’s Salvador (review here), but the Columbus, Ohio, unit stood up to the challenge and met it and everyone else head-on.
What to do with All Them Witches‘ Lightning at the Door? The Nashville four-piece released the album last fall digitally, but it wasn’t until this September that it saw a physical manifestation. In fact, if you go back, it was included on the Top 20 of 2013 as well. Which is the release date? I don’t know. What I know is that in terms of the sheer amount of time spent listening, I put on Lightning at the Door more than any other record this year. From where I sit, that alone gets it a place in the top five. Yeah, it might be a cop-out to do a “5a,” but sometimes exceptions have to be made, and All Them Witches have proved to be nothing if not exceptional in their still relatively brief, jam-laden history, the psych-blues dynamic between bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, Fender Rhodes specialist Allan van Cleave and drummer Robby Staebler pushing them quickly to the fore of American heavy rock’s innovators, their natural, improv-sounding material feeling brazen and exploratory while reshaping the elements of genre to suit their needs. One can only see this dynamic developing further as they continue to grow as a live band, so Lightning at the Door may just be the start, and that’s perhaps most exciting of all.
A beautiful, stunning work made even more powerful by the honesty driving it. Portland, Oregon’s Witch Mountain completed a trilogy with the Billy Anderson-produced Mobile of Angelsthat brought about some of the best doom of this young decade, their 2011 return from a years-long hiatus, South of Salem (review here) serving as the foundation for a stylistic progression that continued on the following year’s Cauldron of the Wild (review here) and onto Mobile of Angels itself as the four-piece’s most accomplished album to date. The reason it feels like such a concluding chapter is because of the departure of vocalist Uta Plotkin, whose voice helped establish Witch Mountain both on stage and in the studio, leaving founders Rob Wrong (guitar) and Nathan Carson (drums) with the sizable task of finding a replacement. That situation will be what it will be, but Mobile of Angels remains a gorgeous, lonely testament. Plotkin gives a landmark performance on “Can’t Settle” and “The Shape Truth Takes,” which in the context of what was happening in Witch Mountain at the time ring with a truth that’s rare in or out of doom, and she seems to have left the band just as they were hitting their finest hour. So it goes.
In all of heavy, there is no assault so severe as Conan‘s. With their second full-length and debut on Napalm Records, the UK trio solidified the two sides of the preceding 2012 outing, Monnos (review here), in constructing material that, fast or slow, short or long, retained an epic feel melded with their ungodly tonality and memorable songwriting. Their first recording at guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis‘ Skyhammer Studio, it affirmed Conan‘s will to conquer in its two massive bookends, “Crown of Talons” and “Altar of Grief,” and in the High on Fire-worthy gallop of “Foehammer” — a bludgeon commandingly wielded by Davis, bassist/vocalist Phil Coumbe and drummer Paul O’Neil, the latter to of whom have since left the band to be replaced by longtime-producer Chris Fielding and Rich Lewis, respectively. What effect the changes might have on the band — except apparently more touring, which isn’t a bad thing — have yet to be seen, but Conan are already in the process of writing a follow-up to Blood Eagle, so it doesn’t seem like it’ll be all that long until we find out. With Davis still steering the band in songwriting and overall direction, one severely doubts they’ll be fixing what obviously isn’t broken anytime soon. None heavier.
Dallas riff-rockers Wo Fat have grown steadily over the course of their five albums, from the nascent heavy roll of 2006’s The Gathering Dark, to the hooks of 2008’s Psychedelonaut (review here), the jamming that started to surface on 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra (review here) and was pushed further on 2012’s The Black Code (review here). And their approach has been as steady as the frequency of their releases. In making The Conjuring, the three-piece were simply engaging the next step in their progression, but the material on the five-track/48-minute outing goes further than just that. Putting aside (momentarily) the 17-minute closer “Dreamwalker,” the other cuts, “The Conjuring,” “Read the Omens,” “Pale Rider from the Ice” and “Beggar’s Bargain” each found a place for themselves in pulling together jammed-sounding elements with a memorable construction, and when guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer Michael Walter did kick into “Dreamwalker,” they hit on not only their longest piece yet, but their most accomplished showcase of the chemistry that has developed between them. That song is a beast unto itself, but as has been the case with Wo Fat each time out so far in their career, there’s nothing on The Conjuring to give the impression the band can’t or won’t continue to keep going on the path that’s worked so well for them on this point. They’ve spent the last eight years on the right track and have yet to waiver. The Conjuring should be played at top volume for anyone who contends there’s no life left in heavy rock and roll.
Mars Red Sky‘s second LP and first for Listenable, Stranded in Arcadia was originally supposed to be recorded in the California desert, but visa problems kept the French trio of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matgaz in Brazil, where they’d previously been touring. Thus, “stranded in Arcadia,” which is basically another way of saying “lost in paradise.” Can’t say the Bordeaux three-piece didn’t make the most of it, though. Songs like “The Light Beyond” and “Hovering Satellites” — not to mention the utter melodic bliss of “Join the Race” — took cues from their 2011 self-titled debut (review here) in terms of memorable songwriting and melodic craft, but added to that heft and tonal richness more of a psychedelic vibe, so that not only was there fuzz and wah, but a spacious world in which the songs took place. With Kinast on lead vocals, the sneaky boogie of “Holy Mondays” became a highlight, and the one-two swing ‘n’ stomp of “Circles” and “Seen a Ghost” were a perfect demonstration by the band of the various sides of their sound, particularly following after the dreamy instrumental “Arcadia,” an echoing jam distinguished by Pras‘ wistful guitar lead and coming before the closing “Beyond the Light,” which reprises the opener’s resonant unfolding. It probably wasn’t the record they intended to make, but Stranded in Arcadia became one of my go-to albums for 2014, and like the best of any given year’s output, I’ve no doubt it will transcend the passage of time and continue to deliver for years to come. Hell, I was barely done with the debut when this one came out.
Can’t imagine this is any great surprise. Not only did Clearing the Path to Ascend – YOB‘s seventh album and first for Neurot — produce my pick for song of the year in its sprawling, emotionally weighted 18-minute closer, “Marrow,” but in the three full-lengths the Eugene, Oregon, trio of drummer Travis Foster, bassist Aaron Rieseberg and guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt have released since the latter reformed the band after breaking it up following 2005’s The Unreal Never Lived, all three have been my album of the year. The Great Cessation was in 2009, and Atma was in 2011. Consistency aside, I’ll point out specifically that each of the same three records has earned that position, perhaps Clearing the Path to Ascend most of all for its progressive feel, moving past genre even at its most raging moment, second cut “Nothing to Win,” the chorus of which proved that among everything else YOB could be, they could be anthemic. The cosmic, spiritual questing that has always been present in their songs, that feeling of searching, showed up in opener “In Our Blood,” but even there, it was evident YOB were pushing themselves beyond what they’ve done before, rewriting their own formulas incorporating lessons from their past in among their other points of inspiration. “Unmask the Spectre” could have easily been an album closer itself, with its patient exploration and feverishly intense payoff, but with the melodic progressivism of “Marrow” and the soul poured into every second of that track, every verse and chorus, solo and build — including the Hammond added to the last of them by producer Billy Barnett — YOB created a landmark both for themselves and the increasing many working under their influence. I’ve said on several occasions (bordering on “many” at this point) that YOB are a once-in-a-generation band, and it feels truer in thinking of Clearing the Path to Ascend than it ever has. Without a doubt, album of the year and then some.
First, special note to Colour Haze‘s To the Highest Gods We Know. I’ve decided to count it as a 2015 release since the vinyl will be out in Spring, but otherwise surely it would earn a place on this list. Blackwolfgoat‘s Drone Maintenance also deserves note.
A few other honorable mentions:
Mothership, Mothership II — It’s hard to argue with a classic heavy rock power trio kicking ass. I won’t try.
Alunah, Awakening the Forest — Every time I make a list, no matter what kind of list it is, there’s a band I wind up kicking myself for forgetting about at the time. This is the case 100 percent with why Alunah aren’t in the Top 30. In fact, I might go in and swap them out with somebody.
Ice Dragon, Seeds from a Dying Garden — Boston experimental psych/garage doomers continue to defy expectation. May their weirdness last forever and continue to produce material so satisfying.
Truckfighters, Universe – I thought at some point I’d go back to Universe again, but never really did. A problem with me more than the album.
Steak, Slab City — An impressive debut following two strong EPs.
Godflesh, A World Lit Only by Fire — I never got a review copy, so I never reviewed it. Its name is here because I’m a fan of the band and glad they’re back.
Thou, Heathen — Just recently purchased this and am only getting to know it, but a ridiculously strong album.
Corrosion of Conformity, IX — Everybody who gets a boner whenever Pepper Keenan is mentioned in connection with this band has missed out. This record and the self-titled kick ass.
Spidergawd, Spidergawd — Holy shit they’re over here! No they’re over there! No wait over here again! Oh my god I’ve just gone blind!
Monster Magnet, Milking the Stars — I wasn’t sure what to do with this since technically it’s not a new album, mostly reworked songs from the last one. I still listened to it a ton though, whatever it is.
Slomatics, Estron — Another one I’m just getting to know, but am very much digging.
Electric Wizard, Time to Die — People seem to do this thing where Electric Wizard puts out a record, everyone slathers over it for a few months and then spends the next two years talking about how it sucked. I guess I’ll be on the ground floor with not having been that into Time to Die.
Pallbearer, Foundations of Burden — Had to put their name somewhere on this list or someone would burn my house down. Album of the year for many.
The list goes on: Monolord, Comet Control, Mammatus, Triptykon, Eyehategod, Fever Dog, Moab, Karma to Burn, Atavismo, Grifter, 1000mods, Megaton Leviathan, Wovenhand, Mr. Peter Hayden, Primordial, and many more.
Before I check out and go sit in a corner somewhere to try and rebuild brain power after this massive dump of a purge, I want to sincerely thank you for reading. If you check in regularly, or if you’ve never been to the site before, if you don’t give a crap about lists or if you’re gonna go listen to even one band on here, it’s fantastic to me. Thank you so much for all the support this site receives, for your comments, for sharing links, retweeting, whatever it is. I am a real person — I’m sitting on my couch at this very moment — and being able to do this and have people see it and be a part of it with me is unbelievable. I realize how fortunate I am. So thank you. Thank you.
More to come as we close out 2014. I’ll have a list of short/split/demo releases, a year-end podcast, a list of the best debuts, a round up of the best live shows I saw, as much more as time allows. Please stay tuned.
And again, thank you. If I left anyone off the list, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments and contribute your own top albums, however many there are, to the Readers Poll.
Posted in On Wax on December 19th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Austin-based Mark Deutrom and North Carolinians The Asound team up for a split 7″ released through Tsuguri Records, the imprint helmed by Asound bassist Jon Cox. One track from each outfit is included, Deutrom – who has a new band going called Bellringer (more on them to come) and has collaborated with no shortage of others but is probably best known for playing bass in the Melvins during their Stoner Witch era — tossing in a quick, punkish burst of an A-side in “Mini-Skirt,” while The Asound let their riffs breathe a little more on side B with “The Chief of Thieves,” a steady roll captured raw and suited to the 7″ form. Sound-wise, it’s not so different from their recent live split with Lenoir Swingers Club (review here), but the output is clear enough to indicate a studio recording, even if it’s one still punk enough to warrant the black and while cover art on the 7″ sleeve — a traditionalism well suited to both inclusions.
Deutrom reportedly recorded “Mini-Skirt” at the same time he tracked the jazzy solo offering Brief Sensuality and Western Violence (review here), and with Aaron Lack on drums, what might’ve been left off the record on account of not fitting sonically earns a distinctive place here via thickened shuffle and unceasing forward motion. Easy enough to be reminded of Butthole Surfers and the Melvins both, but “Mini-Skirt” makes its point in the unflinching, almost garage-sounding nature and in its quick-turning solo culmination. Where the record from whence it doesn’t come was a headier affair, “Mini-Skirt” is simple and decidedly anti-progressive, a sprint put to tape. It contrasts effectively with The Asound‘s “The Chief of Thieves,” which keeps to a slower pace, but the two find common ground in their rougher-edged production an in the density of their tones, the fervency of their crash and the efficiency with which they deal out their riffing.
Guitarist/vocalist Chad Wyrick leads the proceedings for The Asound, with Cox and drummer Michael Crump following the lurching groove set by the guitars more or less for the duration. It’s a riff worth basing a song around, and even the solo section in the second half seems to base its rhythm around that same movement, the vocals by then having dropped out to let the band get to the heart of the matter. No question the B-side is longer than the A, but in the context of what they’re doing, Wyrick‘s singing over the wailing distortion recalling some of Floor‘s appeal in combining doom and more accessible sonic forms, I don’t think I’d call “The Chief of Thieves” less productive than its companion, only going for — and, I’d argue, hitting the mark — on a different side of the same style. The Asound end after all that rolling on a quick-fading feedback that calls to mind the constraints of the format. That is, there’s nothing sonically to make me think that riff couldn’t have gone on another seven minutes or so.
But then it would be an entirely different kind of release — and Deutrom would probably need more than one song — so I’ll instead take the tight-packed grooves on the platter itself to stand as a visual metaphor for what “The Chief of Thieves” has to offer during playback. The 7″ is limited to 200 copies in green or black vinyl, and while it might be a stopgap for both parties concerned, it also asks next to no indulgence on the part of its audience and easily proves worth the time it takes to listen.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 10th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Austin heavy rockers Sweat Lodge will release their debut full-length, Talismana, on Ripple Music. The well-vested four-piece are streaming the song “Slow Burn (Reprise)” from the album on their Bandcamp, and in a little over two minutes, it gives a sense of psychedelic flourish on top of a big-riffed rollout, echoing vocals and a cool experimental vibe. I bet they’d kill it on a show with The Well.
No exact release date for Talismana yet, but I’ve seen both “early 2015″ and “Spring 2015,” so let’s say sometime before June? Super.
The PR wire brings context:
SWEAT LODGE: Austin Heavy Psych Act Signs With Ripple Music; New Track From Upcoming Album Talismana Streaming Now On Bandcamp
Austin, TX’s heavy psychedelic act SWEAT LODGE has signed with Ripple Music and their new album, Talismana, will be out in early 2015. Keep an eye out for more details in the coming weeks, but for now, you can get a taste of the new album by clearing yourself an area to rock out and streaming the infectiously groovy track “Slow Burn” on Bandcamp.
Sweat Lodge are aptly named, as the sound produced by this Austin TX, vibe tribe is best experienced in a dark, smoke filled room. Eschewing modern tendencies in heavy music to rely on brute force, the group combines epic, technical songwriting with enough neolithic heaviness to keep the cavemen happy. Beginning as a bass/drums/vox trio in summer 2010, the band developed a groove-laden sound that relied on Caleb Dawson’s heavy yet nuanced backbeat and the saturated tone of Austin “The Shock” Shockley’s gnarled bass-fuzz, laying the foundation for singer Cody Lee’s soaring vocals. As heard on their cardinal self-titled 7” recorded the following year with Orville Neeley (OBN III’s, Bad Sports etc.) the tight, dynamic rhythm section and commanding vocals deliver the songs expertly, but their ambition to expand sonically would require the addition of 6-string guitar. Enter guitarist Javier Gardea and permanent addition to the groups lineup,guitarist Dustin Anderson,who play off of one another to create a web of intricate melodic sections matched with one-ton riffs and passages of hypnotic psychedelia. In the two years since,the group’s sound has gotten bigger and better, culminating in the recording of the group’s first LP.
The debut full-length Talismana tackles the ponderous concept of man finding his place in the universe and the many physical and spiritual hurdles one faces in the process. In using the concept of the talisman as protection against evil and vice as well as a catalyst for change in the self and society as a whole, frontman Lee uses his songs as a platform to address the metaphysical and psychological plight of modern man through the lense of ancient wisdom and magical practice. Much like the ceremonial lodge which inspired their name, the music of Sweat Lodge offers enlightenment and purification to those who can stand the heat.
Look for more info on Talismana, Sweat Lodge’s Ripple Music debut album, in the coming weeks!
Well, Texas duo Stone Machine Electric didn’t call it Garage Tape because they broke the bank and spent half a million dollars recording it, but don’t be put off. While the title speaks to the DIY nature of its origins, Garage Tape actually sounds clear and warm enough to get its message across. Guitarist William “Dub” Irvin and drummer Mark Kitchens tracked the release — which is comprised of two extended improvisations — in the actual garage of the latter with Erik Carson of Tin Can Records, who also mixed and mastered the tape, on July 26, 2014. Their mission, as they put it, was to give listeners a raw look at their creative process, and as time goes on, they seem to be driving further toward making jamming central to that. The chemistry between Irvin and Kitchens is undeniable (their connection has resulted in a number of come-and-gone-again bassists) across each of Garage Tape‘s component halves, duly named on the translucent blue cassette as “Side A” (20:52) and “Side B” (21;39), and the languid, thick-toned rollout that ensues is only given more of a demo feel with the analog hiss of a tape beneath.
At one point relatively late into side A, Irvin seems to loop a rhythm track and proceeds to solo over it. That’s a progression that fades out as the first of the tape ends (there’s a bit of silence since “Side B’ is longer) and in again as the second half begins, so yeah, I have no trouble believing that Stone Machine Electric played out the material for Garage Tape live in one whole jam. In that way, breaking it up into two sides actually kind of interrupts the flow for a minute, but honestly, if after the 20 minutes of “Side A” are done, you’re not completely immersed in Irvin and Kitchens‘ hypnotic repetitions, it probably wasn’t going to happen at all. As they push closer to the core of their own creativity, their material becomes more fluid, extended and accomplished, but if you can’t get down with improv heavy jamming, Garage Tape isn’t the place to start, even with Irvin‘s effects experiments throughout, “Side B” seeming to bubble with Echoplex-style pulsations behind its airy soloing and rhythm track to which, to Kitchens‘ credit, the drums hold firm, shifting as the six-minute mark of “Side B” approaches to drive the jam into its next stage. This conversation between drummer and guitarist takes place in the several movements of “Side A” as well, and it’s clearly a language that’s developed between the two players over their time together.
On the other hand, if you’re someone who can hang with a 40-minute getdown, Stone Machine Electric‘s Garage Tape cycles through this-could-be-a-song-oh-wait-let’s-try-this riffy movements with an utter lack of pretense and a molten fluidity that a still-limited number of bands in the US seem keen on portraying at all, let alone developing or using as the basis for their approach. That makes Garage Tape a bolder release, though honestly it’s not like Stone Machine Electric have been stifling impulses to-date, whether it’s their 2013 self-titled full-length (review here) or subsequent live outing, 2013.02.07. One could easily see that live set as a manifestation of the same impulse driving Garage Tape – to put as little space as possible between the band’s processes and the listener’s experience — but Garage Tape gets more to the heart of where they’re coming from and what they have to offer those who’d take them on. It’s an admirable goal and an admirable jam, and with their experimental will reinforced via a download called “Side C” that collaborates with Arlington-based noisemaker the owl and the octopus to remix and retool a 20-minute version of the initial Kitchens and Irvin jam, Garage Tape still shows there’s more weirdness to come from the duo, who’ve always excelled in that regard.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 4th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
On March 17, Texas riffers Wo Fat will release Live Juju: Wo Fat at Freak Valley. Their first official live album, it was recorded earlier this year as the name implies at Germany’s Freak Valley festival, which was part of Wo Fat‘s “Texas Takeover” European tour with Mothership, and is available to preorder now through the Dallas trio’s own Fuzz Lab Records in a limited vinyl pressing of 500 copies.
Guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump of Wo Fat – who’ve already put out one of 2014’s best records in the form of The Conjuring (review here) on Small Stone – offered this comment on the new release and what was clearly a special performance for the band:
“Freak Valley was one of the highlights of what was a pretty smokin’ European tour that we did last spring. It was a transcendent experience for us to be a part of this amazing event with such a killer lineup of bands and the support of so many great fans. We decided to call the album Live Juju partly to try and convey some of the magic that was in the air that day that started out cold and wet and turned into a beautiful sunny spring day not long before our set.”
Preorders for Live Juju: Wo Fat at Freak Valley come with an immediate download of “Read the Omens,” which featured in their 40-minute Freak Valley set from The Conjuring. More info on the release follows here, courtesy of the band:
Recorded Live at Freak Valley, Netphen, Germany, May 30, 2014 by Jens Hunecke of Heinen Studios Mixed By Kent Stump at Crystal Clear Sound Mastered by Nolan Brett at Crystal Clear Sound Released by Fuzz Lab Records
The vinyl will include a download immediately of one song and a download of the entire album on the release date.
Track List: 1. The Black Code 2. Read the Omens 3. Bayou Juju 4. Enter the Riffian 5. Sleep of the Black Lotus
Recorded Live at Freak Valley, Netphen, Germany, May 30, 2014 by Jens Hunecke of Heinen Studios Mixed By Kent Stump at Crystal Clear Sound Mastered by Nolan Brett at Crystal Clear Sound Released by Fuzz Lab Records
Posted in audiObelisk on December 2nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Available now to preorder from Tofu Carnage Records in a 200-gram, translucent red-and-purple-with-blue-splatter pressing, A Holy Land Beneath a Godless Sky is the first full-length from Austin, Texas, viola-laden five-piece Sans Soleil, but rather than a stumbling debut from a group looking to find their footing, the four-track collection is as rich conceptually and in its execution as its physical manifestation. It’s also no less complex in its arrangement, pushing through a thick-toned 35 minutes of smoothly woven tapestry, heavily weighted but not at the cost of a sense of movement. Instrumental for the duration, “A Holy Land,” “An Umbral Plain,” “Across Brilliant Sands” and the concluding “Beneath a Godless Sky” evoke the journey they’re meant to convey, as guitarist Lee Frejyalune and violist Eva Vonne illuminate in what’s easily the most comprehensive track-by-track I’ve been fortunate enough to feature here.
Vonne, Frejyalune, guitarist Dustin Anderson, bassist Theron Rhoten and drummer Zach Hoop work quickly to create a rhythmic current around which their melodies and tempo shifts move. The production of A Holy Land Beneath a Godless Sky is geared toward an open, spacious feel, and that comes across both in the emergent roll of “A Holy Land” and in the slow, tilt-your-head-back-and-close-your-eyes beginning of “An Umbral Plain,” the textural feel of which makes it both a highlight and standard representation for what Sans Soleil have to offer. With patience and string-fueled grace, Sans Soleil enact builds throughout “An Umbral Plain,” the tidal-swaying post-rocker “Across Brilliant Sands” and bookending “Beneath a Godless Sky” that each craft their own context, each piece — this goes for “A Holy Land” as well — teaching you along the way how best to read it, so that by the time the crash-heavy “Beneath a Godless Sky” begins its conversation with the opener, the album’s consuming moodiness has become the world in which the songs take place.
And as we learn below, it’s a desolate landscape. I don’t know if I see it quite as empty as Vonne and Frejyalune – empty spaces in my mind always seem to come out in lone echoing guitar, whereas a lot of what Sans Soleil has going on is less minimal — but neither am I inclined to argue against a band’s interpretation of their own work. For insight into how Sans Soleil put together A Holy Land Beneath a Godless Sky, I’ll turn it over to them with appreciation for their thoughtfulness in the discussion of what the album is working to portray.
You can find the entirety of A Holy Land Beneath a Godless Sky on the player below, followed by the track-by-track. Please enjoy:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
Track-by-Track from Eva Vonne and Lee Frejyalune:
When we titled these songs, we wanted “A Holy Land (Part One)” and “Beneath a Godless Sky (Part Two)” to frame the album. We wrote them as one long piece divided into two interpretations of a theme. Eva wanted the names to work together as a sentence, and when Lee suggested “A Holy Land Beneath a Godless Sky,” we found the name of our album. “An Umbral Plane” and “Across Brilliant Sands” complete a short lyric, the titles working as a verse narrating a journey through a fallen and forgotten place, its ruins bearing the scars of vicious struggle, soaring triumph and tragic collapse, worn away by the unrelenting march of time.
Eva: A piece of music I have continually drawn inspiration from is Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” where Mussorgsky depicts an imaginary tour of an art collection. This album especially was crafted in a similar manner – of an outsider looking in. I have long been fascinated by the history and culture of Europe following the collapse of the Roman Empire and I think that is where I personally draw inspiration from, but of course our narrative is not rooted in any specific time or place. Rather it is the idea of a lone antihero traversing alone across an abandoned and ruined place and imagining where the relics of this grand past civilization might have originated.
Lee: The band’s name was taken from the 1983 Chris Marker film, which is a loose, cinematic essay of sorts that drifts through various ideas and images with a sort of meandering narrative. I feel that this album (and most of our music, generally speaking) works in a similar way. Each member brought to the arrangements their own take on some similar ideas: a long journey; struggle, triumph, and loss; things melancholic and void. Our “wanderer” makes what meaning they can from the ruins and artifacts encountered through a combination of the sparse context given and projection of their own narratives and experiences. The band has a similar process, in that we build our songs from fragments of riffs, melodies, and ideas, and when the whole is pieced together we look at it from the outside and find what meaning lies in what we’ve written.
A HOLY LAND
Our working title for this song was “Part One” and we wrote it with “Beneath a Godless Sky” together as one long piece.
Eva: We imagine this track as introduction to the solitary journey. It begins as a mournful dirge, but towards the end there is a reclamation and so begins the imagining.
Lee: Our wanderer finds themselves in unfamiliar surroundings, awake with a start to begin looking for direction, meaning, a way home. The scope of their surroundings is vast, overwhelming and the task seemingly impossible. Overcoming these, the first steps are taken.
AN UMBRAL PLANE
Our working title for this song was “Steeple.”
Eva: This track we see narrating the darkest part of the journey, of our wanderer encountering the most macabre and distressing artifacts of human persecution and suffering.
Lee: Artifacts and remnants the wanderer finds suggest war, collapse, ruin. Something great once was here, but came apart in a tragic and violent end. There have been no lives lived here for centuries, not even bare subsistence. The wanderer keeps hope in their heart, a meager guiding light shielded against a torrent of despair.
ACROSS BRILLIANT SANDS
Our working title for this song was “Presence.”
Eva: In this track our wanderer is traversing though once grand and monumental structures now in ruin.
Lee: In my mind, this song describes a blistering desert, the last enduring shards of broken cities, ruined temples, defiled obelisks jutting defiantly from the sand which has worked relentlessly to erode and bury them. Our wanderer considers whether these structures were human triumph over the hostile wilds, or if whatever brought them to ruin blighted this land as well. Waves of sand and heat tear at the wanderer’s body as they trudge determinedly towards a distant and massive ruin that lies at what they hope to be the end of this wasteland.
BENEATH A GODLESS SKY
Our working title for this song was “Part Two,” the conclusion to “Part One.”
Eva: In this track we see our wanderer piecing together all they have encountered.
Lee: The end of the journey, a moribund arrival at a non-destination. Is there meaning to be made from the things encountered and experienced? Have they spent this journey drifting through nothing to find nothing? Does the wanderer press on, or abandon hope and wait to join those who came before, forgotten to time? They know this land held lives holy and verdant, but they have long left, and when those who knew their names perished, the gods perished also.
Posted in On Wax on November 24th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Perpetually and gleefully weird, Texan outfit The Linus Pauling Quartet — in which, make no mistake, there are five members — toy with Lovecraftian themes on their new single, “C is for Cthulhu,” conjuring the Great Old One himself with a hook worth of its Sesame Street-style title. The band’s heavy riffing style comes out in full force across the five-minute cut, pressed with the B-side “My Desire,” a cover of back-in-the-day Houston noisemakers The Pain Teens, in a red 7″ platter edition of 300 copies, the guitars fuzzed out and appropriately lumbering for their subject matter. Production-wise, it’s less raw than some of what Linus Pauling Quartet have done in the past — recording was helmed by bassist Stephen Finley — but particularly for only being a release with two tracks, goes a long way toward showcasing the band’s sans-pretense quirk and open creative sensibility. That is to say, whatever they feel like doing, there’s a good chance they’re going to do it.
“C is for Cthulhu” itself has a metallic feel, thanks in no small part to its burly riff and some death growls backing the chorus. They’re deep in the mix — the lines being, “Don’t eat/Don’t sleep/Hear me calling from the deep,” one imagines that (presumably it’s) guest vocalist Stevie Sims is taking the role of Cthulhu himself in backing guitarist/vocalist Clinton Heider — but set a weighted atmosphere for the track surrounding, and The Linus Pauling Quartet revel in it. With Heider, Finley, guitarist/backing vocalist Ramon “LP4″ Medina, organist/synth-specialist Charlie Horshack, Sims, drummer Larry Liska and Erich Zann (another Lovecraft reference) credited with violin, there’s plenty going on throughout “C is for Cthulhu,” but the structure remains straightforward, and it’s the aforementioned chorus that’s the center around which the rest churns. Some vague chanting crops up as they move past the halfway mark and into a fervent solo section with Heider forward in the mix, but they pull back to the verse and give the chorus another runthrough, extending the end on the way to a last-minute kick in pace that rounds out. Flip the record over, and you might think it’s a completely different band.
Having another vocalist plays a big role in that regard. The core five-piece of the band is the same — Sims and Zann, if Zann is a real person,are out — but Heider steps back on vocals and Carol Sandin Cooley takes the mic. A veteran of Houston experimentalists Sad Pygmy, Cooley establishes a punkish command over the rawer-sounding guitar buzz of “My Desire,” The Linus Pauling Quartet taking The Pain Teens‘ noise-caked proto-industrial thud and approaching it with clear reverence. In another context, the main riff could just as easily be grunge as Godflesh, but the heavy treatment it gets — meaner than “C is for Cthulhu” — is one that suits it. “My Desire” is far less playful than its companion A-side, but culminating in a cut-off swell of noise that ends cold for the needle return, it goes show that the band who a couple years ago put out a 3CD set called Assault on the Vault of the Ancient Bonglords neither take themselves too seriously nor are purely interested in screwing around. Or if they are, at least they make it work.
My copy of the 7″ came with a 9 of clubs that had one of the clubs scratched off and what looks like a custom design on back, a sticker, and a download code featuring alternate masters of the two tracks, plus the art itself, which comes on a quality stock that unfolds to the liner notes and lyrics for “C is for Cthulhu.” C is for Cthulhu follows 2013’s Find What You Love and Let it Kill You 7″ EP, and one can only imagine what horrors The Linus Pauling Quartet have yet to come.
The Linus Pauling Quartet, C is for Cthulhu (2014)
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 20th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Following a release of their 2012 long-player, Beg upon the Light (review here), through Napalm, Houston cult heavy rock four-piece Venomous Maximus have inked a deal to issue their follow-up, Firewalker, on Pittsburgh’s Shadow Kingdom Records. Presumably the new album will be out sometime in 2015, and considering the passion Shadow Kingdom puts into its acts — their love of Corsair is fervent enough that it can be seen from orbit — the fact that they’d even bring the band on board means they’re ready to get in deep. Fair enough. Venomous Maximus are vicious live, and hopefully with Shadow Kingdom behind them, they’ll be able to continue to get out and tour as much as possible.
The PR brought word from the label:
We have been waiting so long to tell you this great news and now is finally the time to reveal what’s been happening in the SKR camp…
Shadow Kingdom Records is extremely proud and honored to announce the signing of Houston, Texas’ VENOMOUS MAXIMUS.
The name of the band reminds us of the classic Gladiator film where Russell Crowe (aka “Maximus”) was nothing short of a complete madman who would die for his family and country without fear or worry of what might happen to him in the process. VENOMOUS MAXIMUS is very much like that in their attitude and approach to playing music with conviction and without any genre barriers. In VENOMOUS MAXIMUS, we have a band that is interested in writing GREAT, memorable songs that vary in length, tempo, and emotion.
Those whom are familiar with VENOMOUS MAXIMUS’ 2012 Napalm Records release, “Beg Upon the Light”, know what kind of a treat you’re in for. The band’s upcoming new album “Firewalker” is a great continuation of their talents. It’s really rare to find bands that have no barriers and just focus on quality songs. This really takes us back to the beginning of Heavy Metal when BLACK SABBATH would put out records. Some of the jams would be fast and heavy, while others would be slow and powerful. BLACK SABBATH could play any genre because they invented all of the heavy metal genres you hear today and when you hear VENOMOUS MAXIMUS’ music, it reminds us of those same ideals. It’s just GREAT music and you love hearing it.
Gregg Higgins heads this band with his very powerful and commanding vocals and chants that immediately raise fists in the air. There’s an obscure Psych / Rock band (also) in Texas from the 70’s/80’s called “Roky Erickson”. if you’re not familiar, click on these two YouTube links and soak yourself into “Night of the Vampire” and “Stand for the Fire Demon”), and play it LOUD. Gregg’s strong vocals remind us of Roky’s vocals in a way that is so captivating, it literally forces you into their world, and you get lost in the music. With the rest of the band being tighter than two coats of paint, this band can do it all and do it all extremely well! VENOMOUS MAXIMUS can easily become as big as — and share fans with — bands like GRAND MAGUS, HIGH ON FIRE and MASTODON, while not sounding like any of those bands and paving their own “path of doom”.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
You know what makes The Well getting robbed worse? It’s their first tour, and it was pretty much over! Yesterday, before making their way from Memphis, Tennessee, to Shreveport, Louisiana, the Austin-based trio decided to take a tour of Sun Studios. I’ve been on that tour. You get to see the room where The Million Dollar Quartet happened, and the tour guide talks about Johnny Cash putting dollars in his guitar to play “Folsom Prison Blues” and so on. It’s a good time, except that when The Well exited through the gift shop, they found that their van had been broken into, and their luggage, laptop and the $1,900 that was presumably the money they’d managed to earn on the road with All Them Witches for most of the 15 nights prior were gone. What a bummer.
I’m not sure who Cynthia Ruiz is, but she jumped on the situation by setting up a crowdfunding campaign to help The Well get back to where they need to be following the RidingEasy Records release of their first full-length, Samsara (review here). Their tour ends tonight in Dallas. You know the drill. Link and info below:
Help the Well Get Well
“Well, it happened. While we were touring sun studios, someone broke into the van. THANK GOD they didn’t get any gear thanks to built in shelves separating the back of the van, but they stole ALL our luggage, Lisa’s computer and $1900 in cash. Feeling sick right now. Onward to Shreveport. Fuck.”
People say Karma is a bitch, but let’s prove she can be a sweetheart, too. If you believe in good people and good music, please show THE WELL some love and send them a buck or two in light of their recent misfortune in the south. While their gear was spared, all of their personal luggage, laptop, and well-earned cash was stolen by some rat bastards on the last leg of their inaugural tour. In all, the band lost about $4000 to some sorry ass thieves and I’d love to see some of that returned to them. Help me help them end their first tour with some positivity and hell yeahs!!!
Posted in Radio on November 14th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Managing to do rounds of adds to The Obelisk Radio two weeks in a row? Why, that’s almost too much on-it to bear. I’ll try really hard to contain my self-satisfaction. Okay no I won’t.
A pretty diverse bunch of records joining the playlist today. There are 11 total that went up, and in addition to correcting the oversight of not having put up YOB‘s Clearing the Path to Ascend yet (infinite apologies), there are also new ones from Lord Dying and Primordial, It’s Casual and the recently-reviewed Elephant Tree. Also the Atavismo that I put up the info for the other day and which will be reviewed at some point soon, and five records I thought it would be worth highlighting out of the bunch. Some of these artists I’m sure you know, one or two maybe not, but again, it’s a fairly wide stylistic berth and that’s just the way I like it best.
The Obelisk Radio adds for Nov. 14, 2014:
Jakob Skøtt, Taurus Rising
His third solo album, Taurus Rising is also the second of the year for Copenhagen-based Causa Sui drummer Jakob Skøtt. Released through El Paraiso Records, it continues in the vein of earlier 2014’s Amor Fati in pursuing more of a full-band vibe, but strips that down somewhat to incorporate just synth and live drums. The result across Taurus Rising‘s five tracks is an unremitting progressivism, showcasing Skøtt‘s allegiance to krautrock in songs like opener “Escape from the Keep” while the centerpiece “Pleiades” has a little more of a psychedelic swirl. Keyboards arrive in multiple layers throughout, filling out the mix, and Taurus Rising becomes all the more impressive when one considers that Skøtt is essentially jamming with himself. He does so with a strong sense of evoking varied atmosphere from the tracks, the closing duo of “Bucket Brigades” (10:13) and “Taurus Ascendant” (7:59) pushing deep into spaced-out dynamics and, in the case of the latter, providing the album with its fullest wash and most satisfying linear build. Whether or not Skøtt intends to keep up this pace of releases, I don’t know — no reason not to so long as he’s inspired; it’s his playing, recording and label — but the prog-jazz sensibility of Taurus Rising seems ripe for further development. Jakob Skøtt on Thee Facebooks, El Paraiso Records.
Sleeping Pulse, Under the Same Sky
Sleeping Pulse are not yet fully through “Parasite,” the opening track on their Prophecy Productions debut, Under the Same Sky, before Mick Moss lets loose the full emotional juggernaut of his vocal delivery. The duo is a collaboration between Moss, best known as the frontman and founder of Antimatter, and Portugal-based guitarist Luís Fazendeiro of Painted Black, who wrote the music. At 10 songs and 55 minutes, Under the Same Sky is tied together both through Moss‘ voice and a persistent airiness that, were it not so cleanly presented, I’d almost be tempted to call post-rock. It is darkly progressive, and the lyrics match, weaving tales of manipulation in the subtly building “The Puppeteer” (also watch out for the sampled applause about a minute in) and betrayal throughout moody cuts like the later “Noose” and “War.” For those who know Antimatter – whose latest full-length, Fear of a Unique Identity (review here), was released in 2012 — Sleeping Pulse finds Moss well in his element across the board, but Fazendeiro varies the style such that the piano-led “The Blind Lead the Blind” and emergent distortion chug of “Painted Rust” fit well alongside each other, and Under the Same Sky flows smoothly to its concluding title-track, a minimal piano piece backed by ebow-style tones and once more showcasing the resonance in Moss‘ blend of fragility and defiance. A sleeper not to be slept on, particularly with winter ahead. Sleeping Pulse on Thee Facebooks, Prophecy Productions.
Palm Desert, Pearls from the Muddy Hollow
Perhaps unsurprising when one considers they take their name from the hometown of California’s ’90s desert rock movement, but Poland’s Palm Desert owe a large sonic debt to Kyuss. In the Wroc?aw four-piece’s style of riffing, tonality and propensity for the occasional stoner jam on their third album, Pearls from the Muddy Hollow (Krauted Mind Records), they show their allegiance to the desert style and its blend of fuzzed-up punk and laid back psychedelia. Vocalist Wojciech Ga?uszka helps change things up, however, with some elements of Soundgarden-era Chris Cornell to go with periodic John Garcia gruffness, so that Pearls from the Muddy Hollow‘s nine tracks make a suitable companion piece to Steak‘s 2014 full-length debut, Slab City, which basks in a similar mindset. That’s not to say Palm Desert bring nothing of their own to the style — both the quick “Rise Above” (not a Black Flag cover) and extended closer “Forward in the Sun” (8:19) branch beyond idolatry to an individualized moment — just that the resounding impression throughout Pearls from the Muddy Hollow is Kyuss loyalism. Within the style, they do well in portraying a warm-toned feel and shift smoothly between movements both inside of and between their songs. They’re not revolutionary, but Palm Desert do justice to a familiar sound and sometimes that’s plenty to make for a quality record. Another decent bit of output from Poland’s fertile scene. Palm Desert on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
High Fighter, The Goat Ritual EP
Formed earlier this year as an amalgam of members from A Million Miles and Buffalo Hump, Hamburg, Germany’s High Fighter storm out of the gate with the five-song The Goat Ritual EP, a 21-minute thrust of modern metal and heavy rock ideals. Vocalist Mona Miluski shifts readily between a bluesy clean delivery and searing screams over the nod-ready riffing of guitarists Christian “Shi” Pappas and Ingwer Boysen, bassist Constantin Wüst and drummer Thomas Wildelau trading off between riding the grooves on “2Steps Blueskill” and energizing the bounce on “Fire in the Sun.” Second cut “Breaking Goat Mountains” seems to be particularly geared toward Kyuss‘ “Green Machine” in its riff, but bleaker, screamier centerpiece “Black Waters” shifts between the EP’s heaviest assault and a guitar-only peaceful moment that rounds out with a bit of fading feedback that leads to the wakeup punch of “Fire in the Sun,” in turn given over to the mosh fodder of “In Veins”‘s early going, which somehow transitions into more laid-back heaviness in its second half, of course building back to the initial riff to round out. In its production and much of its execution, it’s metal, but High Fighter keep command of heavy rock elements in such a way as to showcase the nascent moments of what has the potential to be a fascinating progression. The ritual, it would seem, is only beginning. High Fighter on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Sans Soleil, A Holy Land beneath a Godless Sky
Calling a string-infused, instrumental post-metal release “atmospheric” seems completely superfluous, but Austin fivesome Sans Soleil put enough of a focus on ambience throughout their four-track Tofu Carnage Records debut long-player, A Holy Land beneath a Godless Sky, that to not say so would be worse. Eva Vonne‘s viola plays a major role in the band’s sound on “A Holy Land” and is complemented there and thereafter by guitarists Dustin Anderson and Lee Frejyalune and bassist Theron Rhoten, but it doesn’t come across as trying to fill a gap where vocals might otherwise be, instead just a weaving current between the distortion and sub-doom plod of drummer Zach Hoop, whose crash distinguishes itself on “An Umbral Plain” in keeping a slow march together early and moving fluidly to double-time in the middle third. Dense but not claustrophobic, the subsequent “Across Brilliant Sands” opens direct interplay between Vonne and a line of lead guitar before moving into Grayceon-style sparseness and explosion, or at least a more doomed interpretation thereof, and building to what feels like an apex for the album until the 11-minute closer “Beneath a Godless Sky” busts into a gallop as it passes the halfway point and relents from there only to resume again with greater force, closing out A Holy Land beneath a Godless Sky with a fitting push to coincide with the tonal weight preceding. An exciting and engaging debut from a group who arrive with a firm sense of what they want to convey sonically and emotionally. Sans Soleil on Thee Facebooks, Tofu Carnage Records.
Like I said at the outset, a little all over the place this week, but hopefully you find something to dig one way or another. To check out the full list of adds for this week and every week back to late 2012, and to see what’s been played on The Obelisk Radio today (some good stuff there), check out The Obelisk Radio Updates and Playlist page. It’s where the cool kids hang out, or something.
Posted in On Wax on November 11th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
There is a stark contrast between the A and B sides of The Cosmic Trigger‘s new, self-released 7″, The Cosmic EP. The Fort Worth four-piece’s release, pressed to thick vinyl and arriving in a quality-stock matte-finish gatefold sleeve with righteous vertical cover art by Michael Sturrock, is two songs, “Voltaire” and “Catharsis,” totaling just over 11 minutes, and they vary their sounds widely from one to the next. “Voltaire” owes some of its rocking bounce to Thin Lizzy, the guitars of Spenser Freeman and Tyrel Choat meshing along a running, winding course, while Choat‘s vocals growl out a kind of drawn-back Metallica gruffness in the verse, only to open to a cleaner shout in the chorus, given steady punctuation by drummer Josh Farmer‘s sharp snare and a low-end foundation for the guitars by bassist Dustin Choat. It’s catchy, and the recording — by Wo Fat‘s Kent Stump at Crystal Clear Sound in Dallas — is clear and crisp. It seems initially that perhaps too much so, and like The Cosmic Trigger would benefit from being roughed up a bit, but particularly for those who didn’t hear their 2012 debut full-length, The New Order of the Cosmos, “Catharsis” goes a long way toward explaining where the band is coming from.
Not to be confused with the YOB song of the same name, “Catharsis” works its way around a prog-metal bassline from Dustin and, though Tyrel works in largely the same vocal style, the lyrics (printed on the inside of the vinyl gatefold) give a different take, a severe narrative of betrayal and a murderous chorus of, “You ain’t going home tonight/You’ve seen my face/I’ll see the light drain from your eyes/But you ain’t going home tonight,” blindsiding with its violent intent. By contrast, “Voltaire”‘s lyrics call out the philosopher and question the prospect of modern mortality, but if they’re concerned with death, it’s certainly not death by the speaker’s own hands directed at what seems like an ex-girlfriend. Maybe I’m reading too much into metaphor, but it comes on pretty strong in the song itself, the tapped guitar and basslines building to a head before launching into a riffier closing section after the lyrics, “You’ve made your choice and/Now you’re dead to me.” Fair enough. It may be that The Cosmic Trigger enjoy toying with these ideas as much as they clearly enjoy pitting subgenres against each other, but if you were to take on The Cosmic EP unawares, it could easily be jarring. I guess, if you’re going to take a listen, just be warned. Someone might get hurt.
The full-length, though it featured a different guitarist alongside Tyrel, worked in a similar stylistic vein on the border between heavy rock groove, metallic aggression and progressive intricacy. Listening to The Cosmic EP, it seems the band are still figuring out where on that spectrum exactly they want to position themselves, or at least which stylistic basis from which they want to explore outward. Performance-wise, they’re tight and cohesive enough that there’s nothing to make me think they wouldn’t be able to arrive at that point, and both of these songs are well constructed, it’s just a very ambitious aesthetic they’re trying to capture and they have work to do before they get there.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 11th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Arlington, Texas, two-piece Stone Machine Electric are moving ever closer to the heart of the jam. They’ve set a Dec. 9 release date for the limited cassette issue of Garage Tape, the title of which seems to tell a lot of the story. It’s Stone Machine Electric — the once again and seemingly permanently sans-bass duo of guitarist/vocalist William “Dub” Irvin and drummer/vocalist/thereminist Mark Kitchens — jamming in a garage. In August, they had Erik Carson of Tin Can Records record them at their practice space, and the fruits of that session are what you get with Garage Tape. Considering the band’s last release was the show-recording 2013.02.07 (discussed here), they seem to be pushing further toward giving listeners an inside look at what they do, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s always an awesome thing to see with a band like this.
Not only are they going as raw as possible, though, but as a bonus, they’ve partnered with Texan countryman expirimentalist and lower-case practitioner the owl and the octopus for a special remix of Garage Tape itself. I guess the whole thing? I’m not really sure, but it’s a fascinating idea. The PR wire has more:
STONE MACHINE ELECTRIC – Garage Tape Remix
On December 9th, 2014, we will release the “Garage Tape” digitally and on cassette. This outing will show you what it is like peer into our jam space. These jams weave in and out of consciousness, glazing the listener with tonal build-ups and tearing out landscapes with riff-laden precision. “Garage Tape” demonstrates how to lose your head and see what happens.
Texas heavy duo, Stone Machine Electric, will be releasing the “Garage Tape” on December 9th, 2014. In anticipation of this, the band has decided to add a little something extra to this release.
Stone Machine Electric has recruited local noisemaker extraordinaire, the owl and the octopus, to do a remix of the “Garage Tape”. It will be included as an extra with the download of the tape. Please note that all tapes will come with a digital download included. Hopefully it will be ready by release…
Release show is set for January 16th, 2015 at The Grotto with Wo Fat and Maneaters of Tsavo, with special guests Whoa! Fat Machine.