Posted in Whathaveyou on March 20th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Should you happen to be feeling lucky, Bilocation Records and Switchblade Jesus are giving away one of the three test pressings for the band’s self-titled full-length (review here), which would make a nifty pickup for some fortunate heavy rocker. Apparently the test pressings worked as well, since the label went ahead and pressed Switchblade Jesus‘ album in varying editions of colored 180g vinyl and has made them available for preorder now, hand-numbered gatefold style.
The CD version of the album, which was self-released last year, has sold out quickly enough, and it wouldn’t be much of a shock if the LP followed suit upon its release next month.
Details and links come courtesy of the PR wire:
SWITCHBLADE JESUS – Switchblade Jesus LP
Hailing from the land of oil and tar Switchblade Jesus is a 5 piece equivalent of a heard of elephants slamming into a brick wall. Jamming together since 2010 they had a killer ride so far – playing live nearly every week they were forged to a unbreakable live unit. They played a shitload of shows with great bands – just to name a few: Kylesa, Orange Goblin, The Sword, Wo Fat, Egypt, Baroness.
Asked what the fans can expect of the band, the guys state: “Loud alcohol fueled heaviness laced with fuzz and slight hallucinations of tube amps piercing your mind.” That is a word!
- 100x transparent green vinyl (EXCLUSIVE MAILORDER version incl. A3 poster & silkscreened card signed by the band) – 200x spooky clear/black marbled vinyl – 100x black vinyl – all high-quality heavy 180g vinyl pressed in Germany – matte laquered 300gsm gatefold cover – handnumbered
A1. Into Nothing 2:19 A2. Bastard Son 5:31 A3. The Wolves 3:45 A4. Sick Mouth 4:52 B1. Equinox 3:15 B2. Renegade Riders 4:38 B3. Copperhead 4:49 B4. Oblivion 6:26
Posted in audiObelisk on March 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Once, a very, very long time ago — okay, it was last December — thoroughly-synthed doom rockers From Beyond traveled from their native Houston to a much different land, Los Angeles. There, they met head to head in riffy combat with North Carolina’s ASG. Alright, so maybe it was less “riffy combat” and more of a Scion Rock Show, but either way, it happened. The date was Dec. 4, the show was free with an RSVP, and to continue their Rock Show series of releases that’s already resulted in the pairings of Fu Manchu/Moab and The Dirty Streets/Indian Handcrafts, Scion A/V is set to issue a split between ASG and FromBeyond, and I’m happy to be able to present the latter’s “The Fall to Earth” as a streaming debut to mark the occasion.
That gig, held at the Satellite, was From Beyond‘s first in L.A. and their first as a four-piece. When they put out their 2012 The Color out of Space EP (track stream here), they were a trio, but it was the lineup of Robert McCarthy (guitar/vocals/synth), David Grooman (guitar), Dick Beeman (drums/vocals) and Stephen Finley (bass, Moog Taurus) that landed in Silver Lake, and their Moogery and theatrical atmospherics obviously made an impression. “The Fall to Earth” makes the most of both of these, but that doesn’t take away from the crunching largesse of the rolling riff itself once it gets going. Shades of Electric Wizard give way to spaced-out vocal harmonies, creating a strong hook and a rare balance of emotional resonance, lyrical narrative and doomly engagement.
Structurally, “The Fall to Earth” is pretty simple, setting an ambient bed with its intro before launching into verse/chorus tradeoffs and finally marching out on its fuzzy central figure, but From Beyond remain cohesive in the atmosphere and make the track more than just a meandering freakout while also keeping a decidedly open feel. The Color out of Spacewas an impressive release from a band who knew where they wanted to be in terms of aesthetic, but we may have only seen the beginnings of From Beyond.
Please find “The Fall to Earth” on the player below, courtesy of Scion A/V, and please enjoy:
The ASG track is set to release March 25. Scion A/V announced yesterday that this year’s Scion Rock Fest will take place in Pomona, CA, on May 17. More info at the links.
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 11th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Last I heard of Austin trio The Well was their 2012 single, Seven(review here), which apparently means I have some catching up to do on their 2013 First TripEP, already in its third pressing. While I ponder whether or not that means it’s actually the third trip, the three-piece have inked a deal to release their full-length, Monomyth, through ascendant imprint EasyRider Records. They join an impressive and growing roster of acts, from Hornss and Salem’s Pot to Electric Citizen and Sons of Huns. Solid company to keep.
Here’s looking forward to the arrival of Monomyth (perhaps the band Monomyth can name their next album The Well). If you happen to be in Texas this week for SXSW, they’re playing several showcases. Details on that, the announcement of the signing, background on the band and the stream of First Tripfollow, should you like to familiarize:
THE WELL signs with EasyRider Records
The Well Signs with EasyRider Records, Catch them at SXSW this week!
EasyRider records is very excited to welcome Austin’s Hottest Export The Well to the EasyRider family. Their upcoming full length “MONOMYTH” will release in late summer of 2014! The Well is a 3 piece out of Austin TX, that captured my attention a few months ago. The sound is raw and big and extremely catchy. The are a hard working band from Austin that have come a long way and are excited to hit the road and support this beast of a record. They will be ALL over SXSW this week here are the dates and shows….
SXSW 3/12- RoadHouse Management/Nuclear Blast Official Showcase @ Red 7 3/13 – Unofficial Showcase Sons of Huns Orchid, Scorpion Child and Mothership. @ Wonderland. 3/14 – Texas Rock ‘n Roll Massacre – Sons of Huns Orchid, Scorpion Child and Mothership. @ Spider House Ballroom.
More About The Well - Austin based Power trio The Well formed in early 2011 lead by Guitarist/vocalist Ian Graham. Seeking a sound that grew from his own nostalgic desire, Ian sought a return to the musical memory of his youth. He began crafting songs that emulated the classical heaviness of his childhood heroes. Riffs the size of mountains, distorted and cuttingly sharp—slow, patient, dominating and heavy. The kind of sound that smashed open the doors and let loose the darkness. To help him capture the tonality of the sound inside his head, he enlisted the talents of bassist Lisa Alley and drummer Jason Sullivan.
In the Spring of 2012 The Well began working with Tia Carrera’s Jason Morales and recorded their debut 7? at the Barbeque Shack. By the fall, the band was back in the studio, this time at Ohm Recording Facility with Producer Mark Deutrom (The Melvins and Sun O)))) and Engineer Chico Jone working on a full length LP. The Well recorded with Converse Rubber Tracks during SXSW 2013, and put the resulting track, “Eternal Well” with a handful from the Ohm sessions together to form their EP entitled, “First Trip”.
The end of that year would see The Well performing alongside such acts as NAAM, Orange Goblin, Holy Grail, Lazerwulf and Dead Meadow. Sonic Vault Austin named The Well their 2013 Metal Band of the Year and the Austin Chronicle invited the band to be their showcased artist in their PaperCuts Series for February of 2014.
With ever growing press both locally and nationally, a 2014 SXSW Nuclear Blast showcase alongside the likes of Orchid and Kadavar, the band is ready for a busy year of touring and promoting their upcoming release.
Posted in Reviews on March 4th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Initially a 2013 self-release by the band on CD, the self-titled debut full-length from Corpus Christi, Texas-based heavy rockers Switchblade Jesus gets another look in 2014 thanks to a vinyl issue courtesy of Bilocation Records. The 35-minute album was greeted with a flurry of hyperbole upon its first arrival, so one expects an LP edition to be a welcome advent. The eight-track offering marks the last appearance in Switchblade Jesus of vocalist Pete Quarnstrom, his duties having since been taken over by guitarist Eric Calvert, joined in the now-four-piece by guitarist Billy Guerra, bassist Jason Beers and drummer Jon Elizondo, and finds the burly rockers engaged in comfortably-paced post-Pepper Keenan-era C.O.C. Southern-style heavy riffery, straightforward structures led by the guitars being underscored solidly by the rhythm section from “Bastard Son”‘s easy sway to the highlight closer “Oblivion,” which offers a more complex take. Much of what they have to offer throughout will be familiar in a songs-about-whiskey vein, shades of Clutch showing up on “The Wolves” while a Down influence seems to march hand in hand with a markedly unfortunate tinny snare sound on “Renegade Riders.” Quarnstrom, who vacated after a mini-tour in support of the album, mostly lets the riffs be his guide and is less “hey whoa mama yeah” than some I’ve heard in the I’m-a-bluesy-white-dude pastiche, but it winds up almost too easy to stick him in that category anyway, his approach aligning neatly with a staple trope within the current sphere of American heavy rock that one has been able to find in bands from all over the country, not just Texas or the South.
If that’s a sticking point for you, then Switchblade Jesus‘ Switchblade Jesusis going to take all the more exposure to find favor despite, though I wouldn’t say it’s incapable of doing so. Following the opening introduction “Into Nothing,” “Bastard Son” sets much of the tone for what’s to follow in aesthetic and pace, songs like “The Wolves” and “Sick Mouth” changing their pants, sonically speaking, but essentially moving on the same legs. There are touches of boogie to be had in “Sick Mouth,” and the tempo is somewhat quicker, but there’s an element of a comfort zone being established across the board here in booze-fueled riff rock that’s all well and good since they make it work, but also bound to be familiar to listeners who’ve encountered this kind of dudely groove before. I’m not inclined to rag on a relatively new band — formed in 2010 — for not having developed a complex stylistic take on their first outing; it just doesn’t seem fair. If Switchblade Jesus are setting themselves up for future creative development, then fine. I get some sense of that from “Oblivion,” but songs like “Equinox” and “Copperhead” show less of a tendency to shift atmosphere or mood, and Switchblade Jesuscomes off less varied for it. The acoustics on “Into Nothing” and the sort of cinematic soundscaping that accompanies lead one to expect a certain amount of ambience that the rest of the album seems to have no ambition to fulfill, instead burrowing into a well-worn brand of heavy rock that’s endearing enough to get them through the relatively brief 35 minutes of their debut, but will want more variety moving forward. If switching Calvert to a vocalist/guitarist role helps expand Switchblade Jesus‘ songwriting methodology, then it can only be a change for the better on the part of the band.
Posted in audiObelisk on February 12th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
You could call “Strugglin’” from I am the Albatross‘ forthcoming self-titled EP efficient not necessarily because it sounds so clean or its structure comes across so clearly. Certainly the hook is right there and plenty sharp, but even more than that, “Strugglin’” shows its down-to-business mentality in conveying such a wide swath of influence, moving in under five minutes’ time from Hank Williams-style country melancholy to all-out gypsy punk, resulting in a kind of spaghetti western speed rock that winds up held together even as it seems intent on tearing itself apart by an underlying quality of songwriting from the Austin-based trio of guitarist/vocalist Jesse Berkowitz, bassist/vocalist Giuseppe Ponti and drummer Marc Henry.
It’s not the kind of thing you hear every day around here, or anywhere else for that matter, and that ultimately was what appealed to me about the track, which as the title would indicate takes on hard times, drinking in motel rooms and the hope of their actually being another side. And not only does the song establish this wide stylistic range, but it builds smoothly from one end to the other, and when it’s at its tensest and most unbridled, the band shift into a waltz before cutting back to a solo and the last verses and chorus, even then keeping hold of the song which by then is full throttle with its fire and brimstone. I am the Albatross will self-release their debut EP on March 4.
Please find “Strugglin’” on the player below, followed by more info on the release, and enjoy:
I Am The Albatross – “Strugglin’”
“Strugglin’“ is the first single from the debut EP by the trio of Austin-based musical veterans that collectively form I Am The Albatross. The song begins as a stumbling, lost soul’s barroom lament before exploding into a blistering barn-burner, with a protagonist who dejectedly sneers at the hopelessness of the apocalyptic times he has found himself in. “Strugglin’“ propels itself forward on a high-speed, borderline polka, gypsy groove and eventually bursts into full on punk-rock fury.
“The song is an exaggerated expression of the feelings of imprisonment and tension that we all experience in times of financial and emotional insecurity. Everyone at some point in their life may find themselves trapped in a dark, windowless room (figuratively, hopefully), just searching for a crack in the wall where a tiny bit of light might be shining through,” explains band leader, Jesse Berkowitz. The debut self-titled EP from I Am The Albatross arrives on March 4th, 2014.
Today I have the extreme pleasure of premiering the artwork for Wo Fat‘s forthcoming fifth album, The Conjuring. Set for release on June 17 through Small Stone – though from what I hear it’ll be available at the merch table on the Dallas trio’s upcoming European tour — the cover art to The Conjuring arrives courtesy of none other than Alexander von Wieding, who has outdone himself in capturing the album’s brooding and dark psychedelia. Von Wieding did the cover as well for 2012′s The Black Code(review here), and of course counts Karma to Burn, his own Larman Clamor, Black Thai, Manilla Road and many others among his clientele. Samples of his work are available at his website.
Click the image below for a more detailed look, and just for kicks, I’ve also included the Wo Fat bio for The Conjuring, which I wrote:
Wo Fat – The Conjuring Bio
You can wade through as many press quotes about “Texas-sized” as you want or see how many top-whatever lists Wo Fat have made since the Dallas trio got started in 2003, but none of that is going to be the same as staring down their swampadelic fuzz groove for yourself. If you want to know the monster, shake its hand.
In 2014, Wo Fat will release The Conjuring, their fifth full-length and second through Small Stone. Like their last two, 2012’s The Black Code and 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra, it’s a heavy-riff/heavy-jam blast of a time – the kind of record that turns the vaguely interested into converts and that makes the corners on squares look even sharper. Guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer/backing vocalist Michael Walter are jazz-combo tight and their roll is easy and natural, like you remember Fu Manchu being, but bigger-sounding and in the case of The Conjuring, darker as well.
There’s been a creature lurking in the woods since Wo Fat’s 2006 debut, The Gathering Dark – their second album, 2009’s Psychedelonaut, pulled back on the threat some to lighten the mood – but whether it’s the motor-driven rush of “Read the Omens” or the you’re-already-lost-in-it riff-exploration of 17-minute closer “Dreamwalker,” The Conjuring is indeed a backwoods ritual. Bluesmen have sold their souls for less.
Veterans of Roadburn, slated for Freak Valley 2014 and self-sufficient with Stump handling the recording at the band’s own Crystal Clear Sound in Dallas, Wo Fat push their jams farther than they’ve ever gone before on these five tracks. Topped off with a mastering job from Nolan Brett at their studio and an otherworldly cover courtesy of Alexander Von Wieding, the beast that Wo Fat’s tectonic riffage calls to earth has never seemed more real or more alive than it does on The Conjuring.
The Conjuring tracklisting: 1. The Conjuring 2. Read the Omens 3. Pale Rider from the Ice 4. Beggar’s Bargain 5. Dreamwalker
Wo Fat: Kent Stump: Guitar/vocals Tim Wilson: Bass Michael Walter: Drums/backing vocals
Posted in On Wax on January 24th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’ve had Wo Fat on the brain lately, ever since I found out they’d have a new record out this year and they got announced for Small Stone‘s showcases in Boston and Brooklyn this March, as well as playing Freak Valley in Germany this coming May, so with a ton going on, it didn’t seem outlandish to pay their 2012 fourth full-length, The Black Code(review here), another visit. Small Stone put the thing out on vinyl last year in a first run of 500 split up among three color variations. Gone. Second pressing comes limited to 250 copies in 180g vinyl, either solid yellow or transparent orange. The one I got is solid yellow, which I think sits pretty well next to the Alexander Von Wieding album art, playing off the greens of the cover itself and in the gatefold and accenting the band’s logo and the sand of the otherworldly desert landscape.Call me superficial if you want, but in addition to being a fuzz-drenched glory-jam of a full-length, it’s also a nice-looking find.
As to the record itself, well, if you didn’t hear it when you came out, not to be a prick about it, but you’ve been missing out on some of the finest heavy fuzz the US has to offer. As the folks — myself included — who caught Wo Fat at Roadburn last year, they’ll tell you. Wo Fat tap into classically hairy tones and fit them to whatever proportional gag about “Texas-sized” you might want to make. Guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump drives the formidable groove of “Lost Highway” and “The Black Code” on side A, opening things up a bit to let drummer Michael Walter tie up purposefully-left-loose ends on “Hurt at Gone” while bassist Tim Wilson adds bottom end heft to the languid-but-swinging push. The Black Code was self-recorded, but wants nothing for production in either its clarity of natural vibe, and Wo Fat lock in their riffy grooves like the unpretentious heirs to Fu Manchu, saving plenty of room to jam in these long, spacious-sounding tracks.
That’s true all the more on side B of the vinyl, which feels all the more like a wall of fuzz with the CD-closing duo of “The Shard of Leng” and “Sleep of the Black Lotus” flowing one right into the next. One factor that particularly stands out in revisiting The Black Code is that although it’s the jammiest outing Wo Fat have released to date, the songs also hold tightly to memorable choruses, whether it’s “The Shard of Leng” building from its slow-groove intro into more straight-driving riffy crunch or “Lost Highway” kicking the record off with one of its most resonant hooks back on side A. As a power trio, Stump, Wilson and Walter are dead-on and their transitions run accordingly smooth. “The Shard of Leng” stomps its way through swaggering riffery, comfortably paced but irresistibly grooving, with Walter backing Stump‘s vocals in the chorus before breaking out the cowbell and signaling the move into The Black Code‘s longest jam, Echoplex and all.
“Sleep of the Black Lotus” keeps a similar vibe in its okay-this-is-the-song-and-then-we-jam-the-crap-out-of-these-riffs mentality, and though both sides are about even time-wise, the second feels longer with the two more extended tracks. Still, they make an excellent pairing even more on vinyl for being isolated from the rest of The Black Code, righteous and exploratory as they are. Whatever Wo Fat might have in store for their fifth album, and whenever it might arrive this year amid their touring first to the Northeast from Dallas and then overseas, it comes on the heels of their most accomplished full-length to-date — anyone further fiending for their fuzz should explore their 2013 split with Egypt (review here) — and for as great as The Black Codelooks and sounds on wax, I can’t wait to hear how they follow it up.
Newcomer Houston trio Funeral Horse only pressed 100 copies of their debut tape, Savage Audio Demon — its title seeking to describe a deceptively wide stylistic range in classic demo fashion — but from what I understand, at the time of this post a few still remain for sale. The three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Paul Bearer, bassist Jayson Adams, and drummer Kevan Harrison (apparently since replaced by Chris Larmour) formed in 2013, and sure enough, Savage Audio Demon has a feeling-it-out kind of vibe across its six songs presented three-each on two sides, but both within the tracks and in the presentation of the cassette, which is professionally dubbed clear red plastic and packed with a six-panel (the inside is blank) glossy J-card containing the art, tracklisting, thanks list and links (not that you can click a piece of paper, but it’s good to know anyway), they make it clear that they have some idea of what they want to do as a band, whether it’s the Om-style drone-infused meditation of opener “The Fedayeen” or the stripped-down punk ragers “Crushed under Shame and Misery” and “Invisible Hand of Revenge.”
The Melvins come up as an influence at several points throughout Savage Audio Demon, most notably on side two’s “Wings Ripped Apart,” but though the recording is raw and the vocals on the punkier songs coming across somewhat dry — obviously not on the megaphoned verses of “Funeral Horse” — what stands out most about Funeral Horse‘s debut is that they seem not only aware of the influences under which they’re working, aural and perhaps chemical, but actively striving to craft something of their own from them. At the start of side two, “Scatter My Ashes along the Mississippi” provides a steady Southern heavy bounce that serves as the bed for the highlight of the tape, gradually fading in over the course of a vaguely cultish first verse before speeding up to a more aggressive second half. A chop in the guitar line toward the end of that song feeds the warts-and-all feel of the recording, but they tie it up nicely with a return to the initial riff, leaving the leadoff cut as the real mystery of the release. Probably it could’ve closed just as easily as it opens (immediate points for starting off with the longest song; always a bold move), but it’s the background drone, the Cisneros-style vocals and the meditative spirit — though actually the breaks in the central progression remind most of Orange Goblin‘s “Cities of Frost” — that ultimately distinguish it from everything else on the tape.
Particularly because it arrives first, it throws the listener off guard when they shoot into the faster, more garage-sounding “Crushed under Shame and Misery,” but it’s easy to figure that was the idea in the first place. And while “The Fedayeen” is somewhat incongruous with the rest of what follows, it serves its purpose as as the opener in establishing an expectation that Funeral Horse can immediately and effectively work against. Call it trickery if you want, it’s hard to argue with the results, and in the end, it’s “The Fedayeen” that makes me the most curious about where Funeral Horse might go stylistically after Savage Audio Demon and in what direction their sound might continue to develop, or if the sides of their personality will cohere into something else entirely. It’s a common-enough experience in listening to bands getting their feet wet, but nonetheless true about what the trio accomplish on their first tape that it’s an enticing prospect to see how the progression might play out across their blend of punk, heavy rock and doomed riffing.
Posted in On Wax on December 10th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Austin jammers Tia Carrera were probably a little ahead of their time when they got going and started playing happy hours and pressing CDRs in the middle of the last decade, but certainly by the time they got around to releasing Cosmic Priestess(review here) in 2011, an improv-based heavy psych jam unit wasn’t unheard of. Yet their name is rarely in the conversation when it comes to this kind of psychedelia. That might be in part because they don’t really tour, but I think it has something to do with how much of a standout they are even in their hometown, which boasts plenty of heavy rock and plenty of jamming, but very little crossover. Veterans of course of SXSW, the trio has also jammed out at Roadburn and everything they recorded for Cosmic Priestess– which was their second offering through Small Stone after 2009′s The Quintessential(review here) — was improvised and recorded live to 1″ tape in 2010 with the lineup of guitarist Jason Morales, bassist Jamey Simms and drummer Erik Conn.
The sum total of the four tracks on the CD version of the album stood at 64 minutes, and to this day, the CD version of Cosmic Priestessis a considerable undertaking. Even if you’re just going to put it on to trip out to the echo and wah and lose yourself in whichever of the four extended jams, it’s a commitment in time and attention. They could’ve probably released the 33-minute “Saturn Missile Battery,” which was mixed by the band with Mark Deutrom (ex-the Melvins), on its own as a full-length and no one would’ve blinked, but the ambition in Tia Carrera‘s improvisational project finds its mirror in the amount of output they have to show for it, which of course is more than a single 12″ LP can hold.
Small Stone has pressed Cosmic Priestessto a 12″ platter, however — 250 copies on black wax and 250 in a yellow record with black and red swirl, both on 180 gram vinyl in a gatefold package that highlights the oh-hell-yessery of Alexander von Wieding‘s turn-it-sideways cover art — and the solution for making it fit has been to edit the songs. CD closer “A Wolf in Wolf’s Clothing” is out entirely, while opener “Slave Cylinder” remains untouched at 7:32. The real difference comes in middle pieces “Sand, Stone and Pearl,” which is 15:10 on disc and 11:40 on vinyl, and “Saturn Missile Battery,” taken from 33:40 to 20:48. Both still give plenty of time for Tia Carrera to make their point, of course, but it’s a change in how the album itself is presented, with “Saturn Missile Battery” occupying all of side B while side A has two relatively neat jams that run roughly the same amount of time. It changes the structure of the album, and I don’t think it’s for the worse.
It’s a hard thing to say you’re in favor of editing a band’s output, and I’m not going to say I am, only that Cosmic Priestesssounds really fucking good on vinyl, and if trimming off some of the material was how that happened, then it’s a fair enough trade from a listening standpoint. I put headphones on and was immediately sucked into the unfolding course of “Slave Cylinder,” and Conn‘s drumming on “Saturn Missile Battery” came across as all the more righteous, the subtle hiss of my record player adding complement to the band’s analog worship and classic heavy sensibilities. They’re still jamming the living hell out of the tracks, and while the LP edition of the album is shorter, the trade there is it’s also more accessible. By the time side B comes to its finish, I want Tia Carrera to keep going, and that’s just how it should be.
To the best of my knowledge, the three-piece hasn’t done anything in the studio since Cosmic Priestess, and members have other projects going, but they’ll still play shows in and around Austin every now and again. In light of the emergence of a more jam-minded heavy psychedelia over the last couple years, both in the US and in Europe, it would be interesting to see how a new Tia Carrera album fared upon release. Whether or not that’ll happen, I don’t know, but Cosmic Priestesshas easily proved worth a vinyl revisit.
Posted in audiObelisk on November 26th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
For over half a decade, Dallas, Texas, doom metal trio Elliott’s Keep have paid homage to fallen comrade Glenn Riley Elliott, the three-piece of Kenneth Greene (bass/vocals), Jonathan Bates (guitar) and Joel Bates (drums) having made their debut with 2008′s In Medias Res(review here). In some ways, that album has proven to be the blueprint for everything Elliott’s Keep have done since. Released on Brainticket, it established Elliott’s Keep as a powerfully metallic act running an electric current of Solitude Aeturnus-style traditional American doom metal through their songs. The ensuing follow-up on the same label, Sine Qua Non(review here), was more cohesive and more metal, but crucially, more confident in establishing its darkened course.
Elliott’s Keep‘s third album, the forthcoming Nascentes Morimur, holds to some of the band’s established traditions. It has a Latin title (meaning, “From the moment we’re born, we die”), as well as artwork with a castle keep on the front cover, and it sure enough taps into trad doom and metallic elements from what I’ve heard of it, but like last time around, there’s also progression on the part of the band. And since they returned to record with J.T. Longoria (Solitude Aeturnus, Absu, Mercyful Fate), that progression comes through with clarity and a professionally crisp presentation that’s still heavy as all hell. For example, take the closing track of the CD’s total nine, “Gates Beyond.”
What impresses most about the song isn’t necessarily that it expands the band’s sonic palette by incorporating violin alongside Greene‘s mournful vocals, but how well that expansion blends with the strength in the songwriting. Yeah, “Gates Beyond” is interesting, but it’s also quality doom, and I feel like all too often the one is sacrificed in service of the other (or the other to the one, as it were). Elliott’s Keep have been able to hold firm to the parts of their processes they want to maintain and at the same time bring in new ideas and ultimately change the output in a natural way. “Gates Beyond” proves that, five-years on from their first record, Elliott’s Keep are able to bend their sound to their will. They’re the masters of their own fate.
And that being the case, all the better that I have the opportunity to premiere “Gates Beyond” in advance of the album release. Check it out on the player below, and please enjoy:
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Elliott’s Keep‘s Nascentes Morimuris due in December and will be available on CD/digital. More info at the following links.
Posted in audiObelisk on November 8th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Homebrewing a genre blend that’s no more indebted to Georgia than to Norway or to the Bay Area, the Austin, Texas, trio Lions of Tsavo concoct a vicious complexity with their third full-length outing, Traverser. Varied in spirit, complex in mood and capable at a moment’s notice of unleashing cathartic blasts that even at their most brutal hold firm to a sense of atmosphere, the album is released this week on Toxic Assets and was recorded by the band as the follow-up to 2009′s Swarm of all the Unholy and 2008′s Firelung LPs. They’re on tour to support it now.
That’s simple enough to say, but it becomes a more difficult concept with a record as diverse as Traverser actually is. Though it maintains a cohesiveness of sound and Lions of Tsavo carve an identity out of their sundry changes and violent churn, Traverserhardly seems like it’s waiting for easy summation. Whether it’s the Remission-style tension twisting of “Berlahars” that later get a blackened revisit on the semi-title-track “Traverser of Guriin” or the post-metallic chugging and smooth shift to ambience of “Chemotrophs,” Lions of Tsavo‘s third outing is less about picking out individual hits than about the overarching 52-minute whole journey, bookended by the brooding intro “Circuitous” — which also finds a heftier mid-album companion in the short instrumental “Circuital” — and outro “Negentropy,” named for a measure of bringing chaos to order.
If that’s the intent behind the bookend, it’s a noble enough aim, and the semblance of structure adds to the feeling of consciousness at work across the 11 songs of Traverser– the band would also seem to be aware of the “album as journey” factor, given the title — but as always, the crux is in the trip itself more than the destination. From the progressive heaviness of “Permafrost” to the nonetheless melodic raging apex of “Sea of Crises” that serves as fitting payoff for the record in its entirety, guitarist/vocalist Ryan Chamberlain rasping out some of his most charred screams over top of the swirl created by his own layers of riffs, the bass of Daine Vineyard and Josh Dawkins‘ drums, it may require a few listens to sink in just how much Traverseris Lions of Tsavo‘s own sonically, but the brazen individuality is one of its most satisfying and lasting impressions.
In honor of the official release, I have the pleasure of hosting the entirety of Traverserfor streaming. Please find it on the player below, followed by the remainder of Lions of Tsavo‘s current tour dates, and enjoy:
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LIONS OF TSAVO Traverser Tour:
11/08/2013 Blue Nile – Harrisonburg, VA w/ Valkyrie
11/09/2013 TBA – Charleston, WV w/ Hericide
11/10/2013 Tree Bar – Columbus, OH w/ Dark Twin, Earthburner
11/11/2013 Butt Temple – Bloomington, IN w/ Torturess, Boddicker, Agakus
11/12/2013 New Vintage – Louisville, KY w/ Coliseum
11/13/2013 The Boro – Murfreesboro, TN w/ Black Thai, Black Tar Prophet, Behold The Slaughter
11/14/2013 Buccaneer Lounge – Memphis, TN w/ Shards of Humanity, Treeburner, Thetan
11/15/2013 Fatty Arbuckle’s – Shreveport, LA w/ Wartrodden, Cloudbreather
11/16/2013 606 Congress – Denton, TX w/ Baring Teeth
Having had occasion to see Texan cult metallers Venomous Maximus this summer at Days of the Doomed III — you might say that’s my ogre-paw wrist and hand at bottom left in the screen-grab above — I can tell you from experience that they’re a band who put genuine effort into their presentation. They celebrated the Napalm Records release of their debut full-length, Beg upon the Light(review here), by going on tour in June around the aforementioned fest, and they brought along photographer Ray Traboulay to make sure it was all properly documented. The results of that partnership between band and camera have been compiled together into a new picture video for the song “Dream Again (Hellenbach),” which I have the pleasure of premiering below.
“Dream Again (Hellenbach)” is one among a slew of catchy high points of the gleefully debauched Beg upon the Light. Guitarist/vocalist Gregg Higgins is at his most commanding, and along with guitarist Christian Larson, bassist Trevi Biles and drummer Bongo Brungardt, Higgins wields a careful balance of classic metal and heavy rock influences, the band winding up indebted to Judas Priest and other NWOBHM axe heroes en route to territory usually reserved for Coven worshipers and preachers of vaguely Sabbathian seance. That blend, in combination with an electric performance ethic, was what helped their reputation spread quickly and garner not just label attention, but a fervent critical and audience response to the album.
Texas hasn’t been short on riffs since ZZ Top were in diapers, but Venomous Maximus bring a spin to their approach that comes off less genre-adherent and more multifaceted than most and than it might at first seem. If you haven’t yet had the chance to get introduced to their classic metallurgy and lunatic swirl, “Hellenbach” makes a hell of a first impression, and Traboulay‘s live shots are an excellent companion to the otherworldly sensibility in the music.
In the PR wire info under the clip, Higgins and Traboulay give some background on the project and the theories that went into it. Please enjoy:
Venomous Maximus, “Dream Again (Hellenbach)” picture video
VENOMOUS MAXIMUS Debut Photo-Video – Announce Contest
Beg Upon the Light Out Now on Napalm Records
The Texan Dark Heavy Metal outfit VENOMOUS MAXIMUS has already risen to the status of a heavy hitter in the depths of the underground. This was showcased with the release of their debut album Beg Upon The Light earlier this year via Napalm Records. The album is available for purchase oniTunesandAmazon.
Today the band has released what they are describing as a “photo-video”. The “photo-video” is set to the song “Dream Again (Hellenbach)”. With this “photo-video” VENOMOUS MAXIMUS have started a contest to see who can share and spread the video the most online. The winner will be determined by whomever gets the most shares of their Facebook post or Tweet. The winner of the contest will receive a VENOMOUS MAXIMUS, T-shirt, CD, LP, trucker hat, patch and buttons.”
What exactly is a “photo-video”? Photographer and artist Ray Traboulay who is responsible for the project explains:
“VENOMOUS MAXIMUS is an “experience” or “state of mind” as opposed to a band. Photographing them proved to be an extremely fluid process as our collective energies aligned with ease.
Capturing their Spiritual energy and inserting it aesthetically into the photograph was achieved through multiple exposure and shutter drag photographic techniques as well as sensing their Kinetic energy seep into my pores. My initial thoughts and emotions after viewing them for the first time were hard to categorize.
After recently photographing Carnival in Trinidad and having an appreciation and respect for the pagan past, I was naturally drawn to them where their lyrical subject matter touch on these occult topics in their own manner.
I hope these photos do justice to the band’s live performance and convey to viewers to the best of my ability what they encompass as individuals and collectively once they hit the stage as a four piece. Once on stage they become a different beast incorporating spiritual elements of The Holy Mountain, Asian Mysticism, Deepak Chopra, and King Diamond are fused together to form their unique brand of Occult Rock. Infectious, big hooks and relevant subject matter in their lyrical make up…. they’ve got it all as far as modern rock and metal goes, not to mention down to earth and charismatic folk as well.
This is the central axis of Houston’s finest and is a band you want to look out for if you have not already and a band that should be best observed on a full moon.”
Frontman Greg Higgins commented on the photo video as well:
“Hopefully one day we will be able to see and understand things the way Ray captured us in these photographs. Ray has a way of making his photographs where it makes you wish you were there. Even if you’re in the photo it looks better than you remember and makes you want to go back to it.”
Posted in audiObelisk on September 18th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
This week marks the digital release of Mark Deutrom‘s fifth solo album, Brief Sensuality and Western Violence. Its title is a self-aware warning — one almost imagines the former Melvins bassist got it from a movie rating — that hints at some of what the full-length has on offer, as Deutrom embarks on wandering progressions of spaciously concocted jazzy, minimalist guitar and complements with a soft vocal delivery only to hit striking contrast with bouts of fuller distorted buzz or tonal crush, whether it’s the 20-minute opener (immediate points) “Dick Cheney,” which unfolds in movements of varied spirit, or “Venerate the Relic,” which seems to encapsulate the somewhat bipolar feel in its two evenly split halves. Elsewhere, Deutrom, who’s joined on drums and a variety of other noisemaking apparatuses by Arron Lack and who recorded Brief Sensuality and Western Violencein Austin, Texas, with Chico Jones at Ohm Recording Facility, is more driven not to separate, but bring the two seemingly at odds ideas together.
“Sky Full of Witches” has fuzz enough to make the Tee Pee Records roster blush, while the two-part “Temple Smasher/Other Gods” recalls some of the weirdo crunch of records like Stoner Witch and Stag — both of which Deutrom played on — before moving into one of the album’s most open and gleefully bizarre ambient stretches, the vocals keeping it somewhat grounded amid subtle oompah and amplified construction. Where the earlier “Winter Haystacks at Twilight” backed straightforward singer-songwriter peacefulness with progressively echoing leads (you can think Damnation-era Opeth for a frame of reference, but I doubt they’re an influence here), and closer “Turn Toward the Sun” provides fittingly hopeful canyon-icana, it’s ultimately “A Shaky Rabbit” that most coalesces the demon jazz and creeping intricacy that Deutrom has on offer. Like several of the other pieces, it’s split in half, but there’s a cohesion in theme and a steadiness of atmosphere that speaks to Deutrom‘s mastery of the form.
Cryptically, he describes the track thusly:
The world is really really scary for a scared rabbit, and then a wizard makes it even more more scary with a funk swamp.
Fair enough. Brief Sensuality and Western Violenceis available to download now ahead of a vinyl release early next year. There are a couple tracks streaming on Deutrom‘s Bandcamp page, but the chance to highlight “A Shaky Rabbit” wasn’t something I was going to pass up.
Check it out on the player below and please enjoy:
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I know for a fact that I’ve opined before on the merits of charm when it comes to otherwise kinda-dopey stoner rock, and that an album or EP or whatever can be as redundant as it likes in my eyes so long as there’s some personality on display. Well, when it comes to San Antonio heavy rocking four-piece Slo’ Poke, their Deliverus to Evel cassette doesn’t make any bones about its root influences so much as it downs a beer, smokes a joint and roughs up Fu Manchu start-stop grooves to give a Tejas Crossingkind of sensibility to otherwise straightforward, ultra-unpretentious fuck-yeah-good-time stonerisms. Flip tape to side 2 and repeat. Right on.
A lot of what you need to know about the band’s approach, you can probably pick up from the title. Last time I checked, 20 year olds weren’t talking about Evel Knievel — please note: I have no idea what the kids are talking about — so you can probably guess Slo’ Poke are in the over-30 demographic. The play on words tells you two things — there is a metal influence and though they don’t take themselves too seriously, there’s an element of cleverness at work as well. All that turns out to be true over the course of Deliver us to Evel, the metallic side and a bit more of the tongue-in-cheek vibe coming through on side 1′s “The 5th Horseman,” while the opener “Cockfight” provides as straight a port of the Fu as one could ask. In between, “I Shot Mark David Chapman” reminds of Clutch‘s funk-infused style of riffing, and “Ten Speed” keeps things suitably active on the way to “Winterbeard” and “Wizard’s Sabatical” (sic) closing out with unabashed stoner fervor.
Comprised of the foursome of guitarists Jeff Nettles and Matt, bassist Jason and drummer/vocalist Danny – whose voice is high in the mix initially, but settles back by the time “Hocus Pocus” (not a Focus cover) is over — Slo’ Poke reportedly got together in 2001. I don’t know how much material they actually have out and available for public consumption, but Deliver us to Evelsounds sure enough of its approach to make me think it wasn’t 12 years in the making. Whatever the case, it’s a decent bit of riffery aimed at the already converted that isn’t trying to be anything other than what it is. Probably won’t quake your earth, but if Slo’ Poke were playing at the bar down the street on some night I happened to be in San Antonio, for sure I’d be up for getting hit over the head with these riffs live.
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 2nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
With their eyes on a Fall 2013 release, Dallas doomers Elliott’s Keep have finished recording their third album, Nascentes Morimur. Last we heard from the trio, they were starting to record in May, so as the record is being mixed, they’re on track to have it out as planned. J.T. Longoria (whose considerable credentials you can see below) will be handling the mix, and while it’s probably not up there with the highest profile outings he’s worked on, Elliott’s Keep‘s mission of honoring their fallen comrade with heavy-as-hell trad doom continues to impress with both its sincerity and its metallic heft.
The band sent an update down the PR wire:
ELLIOTT’S KEEP COMPLETES RECORDING OF THIRD ALBUM
ELLIOTT’S KEEP, the Dallas metal doom trio have completed the recording of their third full-length album, entitled Nascentes Morimur, which is scheduled for a fall 2013 release.
As with their first two releases, ELLIOTT’S KEEP recorded again with J.T. LONGORIA (Solitude Aeturnus, Candlemass, Absu, Mercyful Fate, King Diamond, Volbeat). Primary recording was completed again at Nomad Studios in Carrollton, Texas. Drums were tracked at Empire Sound Studio in Carrollton, Texas.
Nascentes Morimur is currently being mixed by J.T. LONGORIA, with GARY LONG of Nomad Studios again mastering. In keeping with the band’s use of Latin titles, Nascentes Morimur means “from the moment we are born, we begin to die.”
Song titles for Nascentes Morimur are as follows:
Waves of Anguish Days of Hell Now Taken Feanor’s Bane Regicide Tale of Grief Convergence Omen Gates Beyond
In Medias Res was released in November 2008 on Brainticket Records. Sine Qua Non was released in September 2010 on Brainticket Records.