Posted in Whathaveyou on October 11th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Originally announced at the beginning of September, the first volume of the Myelin Constellation MS benefit comp has been released. You can see below all the artists who took place in the thing with previously unreleased material, but seriously, it’s the $6 price tag that should be catching your eye. To shell out so little cash, have it go to a good cause — because, really, fuck MS — and get 20 tracks from killer bands, including Sleestak, whose own Matt Schmitz put the whole thing together can’t be seen as anything but a bigtime win if you’ve got ears and six dollars to your name.
Schmitz sent the following down the PR wire:
Myelin Constellation Vol. 1 is released!
I’m just gonna make this quick because I’ve been fairly busy with a handful of different things.
Myelin Constellation Volume 1 is out now (actually released October 1st but only got around to doing an email for it now). Please go tohttp://mconstellation.bandcamp.com/to download your copy. 20 bands, $6 or more if you can. Every bit helps us out over here and I appreciate everyone who has downloaded it so far! Thank you! Bands that appear in this first edition include:
Northless Sons Of Otis Gates Of Slumber Backwoods Payback Coltsblood Wo Fat Stone Magnum Apostle Of Solitude Sons Of Alpha Centauri Sleestak Black Capricorn At Devil Dirt Confused Little Girl Abrahma Narcotic Luxuria Asatta Headless Kross Myopic Empire Switchblade Jesus Albatwitch
Make sure to read the liner notes on the Bandcamp page please! Visit our Facebook page athttp://facebook.com/mconstellationand stay tuned for news regarding Volume 2. As always we are constantly accepting submissions from bands who have live, unreleased, alternate version, remixed, demo, rare, or just plain brand spankin’ new songs in their archives and want to be a part of this benefit comp for Multiple Sclerosis.
Thanks to all the bands who have helped, all the blogs, radio stations, and individuals that have helped with promoting this project!
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 23rd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Bummer news out of the Midwest this morning as it seems Indianapolis trad doomers The Gates of Slumber have broken up following the departure of bassist Jason McCash. The trio’s last album was 2011′s stellar The Wretch(review here), and they also put out an EP through Scion A/V earlier this year, also closing out Days of the Doomed III in Wisconsin back in June. Never say never, even in doom, but if this is really is the end for the band, they leave a sizable legacy behind them of having been at the forefront of introducing traditional, Vitus-style doom to a new generation of fans and producing some of the most epic doom of the last decade.
No word on how this will affect The Gates of Slumber‘s slot supporting Church of Misery on their recently announced North American tour, but if I had to guess, I’d say it’s off. Hard to do two weeks on the road when you’re not a band anymore. Twice the bummer.
Here’s the announcement, as originally posted on Hellride.
The Gates are Closed
Some of you may have noticed that Jason quit The Gates of Slumber this past week.
So, yeah. it’s done. I always said I’d never go on doing TGoS without Jason, I don’t think anyone ever really believed it, but yeah, it’s done. I did start the band, but McCash has been my best friend for the last 20 years, the last 10 in this damn band. He wrote amazing music and was a killer person to be around on the road.
Somewhere about 3 years back shit started to change, and it’s ended with him quitting. I’m sure he needs the break, probably from me… I’m starting to *kind of* get the hint.
So yeah. It’s done.
Says McCash on his leaving the band:
I am really sorry to see this decision being made. It wasn’t my intention to prematurely end something that Karl and I have slaved over and over of for so many years. I didn’t want to hasten this day in coming. I had to come to my decision as a matter of fixing all those things in my life that was damaged and left ignored. This Dam of my life is cracked and broken and the high water line is over flowing and I really need to devote all my attention and sanity to fix these problems. I can no longer ignore them. I so wish these weary travelers (Karl, Bob and myself) chose a different path to travel down recently than the one we recently choose as things could have and should have been a lot better than what they are and maybe I wouldn’t have made this decision which brought on everything else. I apologies to Karl Simon and Bob Fouts again for this. Who knows what tomorrow will bring…
The Gates of Slumber, “Death March” official video
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 9th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Supporting their earlier 2013 release, Thy Kingdom Scum (review here), Japan’s resident serial-killer-obsessed lords of Sabbathian stonerized doom madness Church of Misery will return to US shores next month. They’ll arrive fresh off a stint in Australia that ends on Oct. 6 and includes a performance at the Doomsday Festival in Sydney.
Joining them for the North American run will be a rotating cast of characters including Saviours, Wizard Rifle, The Gates of Slumber and Against the Grain. The first two will cover the West Coast portion of the tour and the latter will pick up in the Midwest and carry on east before Church of Misery head back west to finish out in Arizona and Los Angeles, as if just to make sure they’ve utterly destroyed the appropriate amount of major urban centers before leaving. No doubt they will.
Church of Misery are also set to release a new DVD on Emetic Records by the title of Terror in Tokyothat captures them in December of last year and also includes the entirety of their Maryland Deathfest performance as bonus footage. The tracklisting and a clip from that follow the tour poster below:
Church of Misery returns to the U.S.!
with Saviours, The Gates of Slumber, Wizard Rifle, Against The Grain
OCTOBER 18 Oakland CA @ Oakland Opera House 19 San Francisco CA @ Thee Parkside 20 Portland OR @ Rotture 21 Seattle WA @ The Crocodile 22 Bellingham WA @ The Shakedown 23 Vancouver BC @ Rickshaw Theater 24 Edmonton AB @ Pawn Shop 25 Calgary AB @ Palomino 30 Fargo ND @ The Aquarium 31 Saint Paul MN @ Turf Club
NOVEMBER 01 Chicago IL @ Ultra Lounge 02 Rock Island IL @ Rock Island Brewing Co. 03 Grand Rapids MI @ Pyramid Scheme 06 Pittsburgh PA @ 31st Street Pub 07 Syracuse NY @ Lost Horizon 08 Toronto ON @ Hard Luck 09 Ottawa ON @ Mavericks 10 Montreal QC @ Il Motore 11 Providence RI @ AS220 12 Brooklyn NY @ Saint Vitus Bar 13 Richmond VA @ Kingdom 14 Baltimore MD @ Ottobar 16 Atlanta GA @ The Earl 17 New Orleans LA @ One Eyed Jacks 18 Austin TX @ Mohawk 19 Dallas TX @ Club Dada 22 Tempe AZ @ Yucca Tap Room 23 Los Angeles CA @ The Satellite
Church Of Misery – Terror In Tokyo
Terror in Tokyo is Church Of Misery’s 4th dvd and first to ever be available outside of Europe or Japan and 1st since since 2007′s Live In Red – Eurotour 2005. Along with the main feature the entire set from the 2012 Maryland Death Fest has been added as bonus material.
Track Listing – Main feature at 20000 VOLT, Kouenji, Tokyo 29th December 2012. Run time 2.5 hours
1. B.T.K 0 2. Lambs to the slaughter 3. Brother Bishop 4. Candy Man 5. Born to raise hell 6. Taste the pain 7. Killfornia 8. Red ripper blues 9. El Padrino 10. Shotgun boogie 11. Sick of living 12. Badlands 13. I,Motherfucker 14. Blood sucking freaks 15. Where evil dwells ~ jamming 16. For mad men only 17 Filth bitch boogie
Church of Misery, “Blood Sucking Freaks” from Terror in Tokyo
It was a really, really busy weekend. I’m glad to say I did actually get to stand still for a bit and watch each of the 19 acts performing at Days of the Doomed III at The Blue Pig in Cudahy, Wisconsin, but I was just as likely to be parking myself somewhere to pop open the laptop or back and forth in front of the stage taking pics.
At one point, one of the dudes working at the venue said to me while I had the computer open, “You’re supposed to be enjoying yourself, not working.”
And it occurred to me that this is how I enjoy myself.
A 20-minute break between each band didn’t leave much wriggle room to go searching for the perfect shot of each band and still give the actual set the clacky-clacky it deserved. As such, I wound up with a lot of photos, and since I wouldn’t have time to include them in the actual live-blog posts (day one and day two), it only seems fair to give them their own post.
Below — with setlists when I could get them — you’ll find pictures of Iron Man, Penance, Venomous Maximus, Kings Destroy, Lucertola, Moon Curse and Gravedirt from day one, and The Gates of Slumber, In~Graved, Dream Death, Pale Divine, Earthen Grave, Leather Nun America, King Giant, Spillage, Chowder, Beelzefuzz, Gorgantherron and Whaler from day two.
Posted in Features on June 22nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
06.22.13 — The Blue Pig — Cudahy, WI
11:41AM: Quiet start this morning at The Blue Pig for day two of Days of the Doomed III, but no doubt things will pick up shortly. Today is 12 bands in more than 13 hours, so it’s going to be a long one, a busy one and I expect by the end of it, a tired one, but that’s a long ways off, and after a hotel breakfast and a couple minutes respite before heading down to the venue, I’m feeling good and doing my best to ignore the prospect of the drive tomorrow morning. Much to do before I get there.
In about 20 minutes, Whaler from Michigan kick off the day, followed by Gorgantherron, Beelzefuzz, Spillage, King Giant, Leather Nun America, Earthen Grave, Pale Divine, Dream Death, In~Graved and The Gates of Slumber. It’s a powerful lineup, but they must have powerwashed the venue after last night, brought in a firehose or something, because it smells much better this morning than it did by the end of yesterday’s bands.
Last night was pretty riotous by the end of Penance and Iron Man, so I figure there’s a lot of attendees getting off to a slow start this morning, but if the kickoff is as righteous as yesterday’s — and I hear excellent things about Whaler — I’ll be glad I got here early.
Before I start, and since I don’t know if I’ll have the energy to point it out later, I just want to say a quick thanks to Mercyful Mike Smith for putting on Days of the Doomed III, and for the tremendous work he’s done assembling this lineup and getting the right crew in hand to make it run so smoothly.
Alright, here goes:
12:37PM: Apparently, Michigan trio Whaler had something of a late night. They were not alone, but they nonetheless delivered a respectable set of roughed-up/burled-up Kyuss-style heavy rock and showcased a dynamic of their own within the semi-familiar riffing. Guitarist/vocalist Adam Lupo and bassist Eric Lomba had rich tones and drummer Adam Weiler, despite chasing his cowbell across his kit as it moved away from him, was adaptable either to the desert grooves of the material they played earlier or the thicker, Sleep-y vibes of their closing instrumental. Their debut LP, Deep Six, was self-released last December and I’ll see if they have any available. It probably wasn’t an ideal time to see them — noon after a hell of a Friday night — but they opened day two with smooth, rolling grooves and an engagingly bullshit-free atmosphere.
1:28PM: Imported from Indiana, the trio Gorgantherron clearly got more comfortable as their set went on and seemed more at home in their faster parts, rather than some of the more languid sections. All three members — Chris Flint (drums), Clint Logan (guitar), and Toby Richardson (bass) — contributed vocals, and that gave cuts like “Mothra” and the particularly memorable “Assimilate” a touch of flavor, which went down well with the crowd, still rolling in and wiping the crust from its collective eyes. Keeping holy the Sabbath, Gorgantherron hit on a few satisfying shuffles in their solo parts, Logan taking the fore with a smile to rip out blues leads while Richardson and Flint held down the solid grooves beneath. They weren’t trying for anything fancy, but there was some potential there, and they sat naturally between doom and heavy rock as only a band who doesn’t think there should be a line between them can.
2:40PM: I don’t know what Beelzefuzz are ready for, but whatever it is, they’re ready for it. The Maryland bizarro doom trio had Days of the Doomed III more or less eating out of their hands 10 minutes before they went on, and it was readily apparent that they were the show-up point for a lot of people this afternoon. The band’s way of rewarding such loyalty? Well, they brought up Eric Wagner to cover “Ride the Sky” by Lucifer’s Friend, and that was pretty awesome, Wagner and guitarist/vocalist Dana Ortt trading off parts and laughing all the while. Beelzefuzz have a new record coming Aug. 9 on The Church Within, and I’ve yet to see them and not be impressed. I realized watching them that it had only been a couple months since I caught them in Delaware at The Eye of the Stoned Goat 2, but nothing here felt redundant or stale. Bassist Pug Kirby and drummer DarinMcCloskey were dead on with slow, creeping grooves that gave Ortt plenty of space to weird out with vocal effects, organ-sounding guitar and all the rest. If their record captures even a fraction of what these guys have turned into in a live setting, it might just be the summer’s don’t miss for doom.
3:45PM: When I streamed a couple tracks from Chowder‘s Passion Riftfull-length last summer, I wondered how they’d be able to bring so many textures to a live setting. Now I know: They do it with their feet, and they do it very carefully. Maryland doom nobility Josh Hart (guitar; also bassist for Earthride) and John Brenner (bass; also guitarist/vocalist for Revelation) both had an array of foot-pedals at their disposal and they made liberal use of them to add to the instrumental progressive runs of their material. Early on, Hart blew out the Sunn head he was playing through — always a bummer, especially for someone who’s come a long way — but Al Morris from Iron Man‘s amp was brought in as a replacement, Chowder recovered and the three-piece rounded out by drummer Ronnie Kalimon (Unorthodox) had the room packed out by the time they were done. I don’t know if maybe they were playing doomier songs for the fest or if the tones were just different live, but they seemed thicker tonally than I recalled from the album and I didn’t hear any whining about it. Cool set, and where they seemed on paper like an odd fit, they made sense for the bill after all.
4:42PM: Going by their name and how they worked on stage, Chicago-based Spillage would seem to be the brainchild of guitarist Tony Spillman, who’s pulling double-duty later in a set with Earthen Grave. Days of the Doomed III was their first show, and while it was the “featuring Bruce Franklin of Trouble” portion of the lineup that first drew my attention, the whole band was stellar. Really. And not just for a first show, either. They were tight, the songs were spot on, they covered “Devil Woman” by Cliff Richard, and had a great energy throughout their whole time on stage. They looked genuinely thrilled to be here, thanked the crowd, thanked Mercyful Mike Smith several times, and even though Spillman had a little technical difficulty, there was never any real loss of momentum as they settled into a killer set that ranks up there with Moon Curse yesterday as one of the weekend’s most pleasant surprises. With two guitars, keys, bass, drums and standalone vocals, they were crowded on the Blue Pig stage, but that only added to how together they were sonically. I haven’t the faintest idea what their plans as a band might be, when they’ll put material to tape, etc. — they have shirts for sale but no music — but as righteous and enjoyable as their set was, I’ll be keeping an eye out and hoping they can bring the same vitality to a studio recording. An awesome debut.
5:58PM: There hasn’t been much Southern metal thus far into the fest, but if there was a quota, King Giant just met it. I was pretty familiar with their stuff after streaming their Dismal HollowLP last year, and they were basically what I expected, just tighter and louder. In the case of vocalist Dave Hammerly, much louder. Of the two mics he had on stage, one cut through the Virginian five-piece’s thick riffing enough to border on abrasive, but they grooved out darkly nonetheless, here touching on Down, there nodding out a Clutch riff. It was burly stuff, and I think a lot of people unfamiliar with what they do decided it was a good time to grab a bite to eat — they love their own here, as everywhere — ahead of some of the evening’s headliners, but King Giant were professional and energetic, many-hatted (four out of five) and they made the most out of the time they had, playing to a tight group of their fans who seemed appreciative enough to make up for everyone else.
Leather Nun America
6:50PM: I’ll give it to Cali trio Leather Nun America (also stylized with a lowercase ‘a’ to start the last word), they know what they like. Tonally, guitarist/vocalist John Sarnie was straight-up Wino, and the band covered “To Protect and Serve” from The Obsessed‘s The Church Withinto drive the point home. Bassist/backing vocalist Francis Roberts, his eyes rolled back, was a more unhinged presence than Sarnie, but it made the dynamic on stage more complex and, frankly, more satisfying. I was starting to drag ass a bit and so ordered a pizza (hasn’t arrived yet, but I’ll get to eat at some point) and had another bottle of water, but some of the people who were in and out during King Giant settled in for Leather Nun America and the band, despite being the only West Coast act on the bill, seemed right at home amongst the doomed.
8:22PM: I’ve seen Earthen Grave a few times now — here last year, at SHoD — and to my ears they’ve never sounded so good. Of course, nailing a cover of Rainbow‘s “Stargazer” with not one but two violins (Rachel Barton Pine and her younger sister dueling it out) helps, and bringing Victor Griffin up to take on Pentagram‘s “Relentless” (who better?) for a set closer helps as well, but even so, from the opener “Death is another Word” — the bonus track on the Ripple Music reissue of their self-titled debut — to the plodding aggression of “Dismal,” the Chicago outfit seemed to hit it just right this time around. Maybe they’ve coalesced more as a unit, or maybe I’m on some post-pizza energy boost — pizza gives you energy, right? – but they killed it, and placed where they were in the lineup, they more or less started off the evening’s headliners, with Pale Divine, Dream Death, In~Graved and The Gates of Slumber still to come. Things are about to get heavy and miserable, but I’m up for it, and judging by the howls of the crowd who just moved from in front of the stage being changed over to the tvs in the back which have the Blackhawks game on, the crowd is up for it, so what the hell? Let’s make an evening of it.
9:39PM: With three new songs in tow, Pennsylvania/Maryland trio Pale Divine — drummer Darin McCloskey doubling up on the day after performing earlier with Beelzefuzz — sounded positively refreshed. Guitarist/vocalist Greg Diener and bassist/backing vocalist Ron McGinnis (aka Fez, also of Admiral Browning) have gelled tonally to the point where you’d swear the latter had always been in the band, and likewise, McGinnis brings a different personality with him that adds to the chemistry. I took it as a sign that they’ve already started to write a follow-up to last year’s Painted Windows Black — which, not to take away from it, was accomplished but hardly what I’d call refreshed — and for as gloomy and plodding as the material is, spirits seemed high straight through when they handed a mic into the crowd where it was picked up by Sanctus Bellum‘s Benjamin Yaker and shared with Butch Balich and Mercyful Mike Smith for a finale take on “Amplified” from Pale Divine‘s 2001 debut full-length, Thunder Perfect Mind. The Blue Pig is packed out (still watching hockey), and the mood is good, so with three bands left to go, the night is on a roll.
10:54PM: I’ve had my earplugs in for too long, can feel my right ear beginning an infection. Probably better that than dare to take on Dream Death unarmored. I knew when I missed them in April at Roadburn that I’d have seeing them at Days of the Doomed III to look forward to, and honestly, I’ve looked forward to it ever since. The Pittsburgh four-piece — all of whom played at one point or another during Penance‘s set last night — are something of a legendary act, and here, it felt like it. Fists pumped to “Divine Agony” and a slew of cuts from the band’s 2013 new album, Somnium Excessum, including “Feast” and “You’re Gonna Die up There.” The biggest response was saved, fittingly, for closer “Back from the Dead,” and if ever you wanted to see who in the crowd knew a song and who didn’t, you need look no further than who followed the on-a-dime time changes in “Back from the Dead,” raging Celtic Frost fast and dark, viciously primitive but still holding a potent tension after all these years. They were welcomed as liberators, and it’s hard to imagine it wasn’t gratifying for the band. When they were done, Mike Smith took the stage (he’s been introducing each act) and called the raffle. I didn’t win, despite my sure-bet tickets. Always next year. The good news is Dream Death were excellent and I got to pick up a copy of Somnium Excessum, which I’m looking forward to adding to my already considerable ride-home playlist for tomorrow. Right on.
12:24AM: Well, Victor Griffin wins tone again. He can take home his trophy from Days of the Doomed III and put it next to the similarly-shaped awards for tone he’s picked up at probably every show he’s played in the last 25 years. Much of the In-Graved set was familiar from Roadburn, but “Digital Critic” still made an effective opener and “Late for an Early Grave” seemed especially rousing. The lights went out for a minute, but were quickly restored, not that it stopped the band in the slightest. Bassist Dan Lively stepped in to fill the role Guy Pinhas had held for the European tour, and he, drummer “Minnesota” Pete Campbell and keyboardist Jeff “Oly” Olson meshed well, and the band had clearly gotten more cohesive over the course of their time in Europe, which ended a month ago now if I’ve got the dates right. Still. Ron Holzner came out for a song and Campbell broke all his drumsticks, so it was a loose vibe but a tight band, which is just as it should be. In~Graved rounded out with the Animals cover “Don’t Let Me be Misunderstood” into Place of Skulls‘ “Last Hit,” which if nothing else was a stirring reminder to me of just how good 2003′s With Visionwas. I could go on a whole rant about it, but wow, it’s been a hell of a day. This is the proverbial home stretch though — or whatever the hockey equivalent is, in honor of the Blackhawks, who apparently won — and with The Gates of Slumber still to come, I know this is still the place to be. Feet sore, head sore, brain tired, but not done yet.
The Gates of Slumber
2:12AM: Just for kicks — also in the name of Science Bloody Science! — during The Gates of Slumber‘s set, I walked outside the venue and down the street to see how many houses I’d pass before I couldn’t hear the band anymore. I got six properties away from The Blue Pig, and I could still hear them, but it seemed reasonable to assume that the people inside the house couldn’t feel the vibrations of Jason McCash‘s bass, and that would have to do. I’d have kept going, maybe, but I wanted to see the band. It’s been a minute and I was hoping for some new material. They played “Death March” from their Scion-sponsored StormcrowEP, which I also picked up off the merch table, and that sounded pretty vicious. The place was winding down on the quick, people giving drunkhugs and saying their “see you next year”s, but I wasn’t gonna split until they were done. Not that I didn’t think about cutting out and going back to the Best Western, but putting it to the scale of having been there for over 13 hours, another couple minutes to watch “The Scovrge ov Drvnkenness” or “Day of Farewell” — which is one of those songs I’m reminded of how much I dig every time I hear it — or the closer “Coven of Cain” didn’t seem unreasonable. It had been a long day, but The Gates of Slumber – McCash, guitarist/vocalist Karl Simon and drummer “Iron” Bob Fouts — were the downtrodden nail in Days of the Doomed III‘s coffin, and the fest would’ve been hard pressed to find someone more appropriate to close out after In-Graved and the many others preceding. By the time the house lights came up, it was clear the night was over.
2:32AM: Back at the hotel now, listening to someone stomp the living shit out of the floor one level up, also known as the ceiling of this room. All the same, this chair seems absurdly comfortable. One more time, I just want to thank Mercyful Mike Smith for the effort and execution behind this fest. The whole crew at The Blue Pig ran this thing smoothly from front to back, kept the mood positive and kept the drinks flowing. Also special thanks to Postman Dan for generally being awesome and for specifically dealing with me running back and forth and taking out the laptop like a dork. It’s much appreciated.
There are a lot of others. A lot. I’d start to list them, but it’s getting on 3AM and I have the alarm set for just about four hours to get up and start the at-least-15-hour drive back to New Jersey. Gotta be to work on Monday. So I’m gonna get to bed and then get coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.
The lineup is set for the two-day Days of the Doomed III fest out at The Blue Pig in Cudahy, Wisconsin, and it’s looking to be fairly monstrous again in 2013. June is a ways off, so obviously anything can change at any time, but hell, pretty much pick any five of the bands on this list, put them on a bill together, and it’s a show worth making a trip to see. Dream Death and Orodruin within the span of 24 hours of each other? Penance leading into Iron Man? Well, I guess you’re just gonna have to sign me up for that one.
A new trailer, put together by Kathy Reeves, has surfaced for the fest that gives a glimpse at the lineup and sets the tunes to, what else?, old public domain car crash footage. Awesome. Enjoy and here’s looking forward:
Posted in Radio on January 30th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Rife with unfuckwithable plod and thickened miseries, The Gates of Slumber this week unleashed five new tracks as a Scion A/V Metal-sponsored EP called Stormcrow. The collection, produced by Sanford Parker, feels even more weighted in the low end than did their last album, 2011′s excellent The Wretch (review here), and the Indianapolis-based trio have kept the ultra-despondent vibe of that record alive while expanding the scope a bit musically, crushing as much with tone as with emotionality.
“Death March” and “Dragon Caravan” retain the memorability of The Wretch, not so much relying on hooks to grab the listener’s attention as leaving an indent behind when they’re done. The louder the material on Stormcrowgets, the deeper that indent goes, but nothing The Gates of Slumber does feels excessive or wanting for authenticity. They have become the forerunners of classic American doom over the last several years, and while it’s easy to read Stormcrowas a victory lap, it’s also a next step in their ongoing development.
Even if the ultra-Vitusisms of The Wretchleft you wanting (which, if you heard them, they likely didn’t), guitarist/vocalist Karl Simon, bassist Jason McCash and drummer “Iron” Bob Fouts do the hard work here of making them more their own, closer “Of that Which Can Never Be” reminding of some of Paul Chain‘s desolation as filtered through Orodruin‘s last demo. Scion A/V Metal has made the EP available as a free download, which you can find at the link below, and the five tracks have also been added to The Obelisk Radio as of today. Doom on.
Posted in Features on December 9th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Please note: This list is made up of my personal picks, not the results of the Readers Poll, which is ongoing — if you haven’t added your top 11 to that yet, please do.
It was an impossible task to keep up with everything that came out this year. I’ll say flat out that I didn’t. There are records that I just didn’t get to hear, and I should note at the outset that this list is mine. It’s based on my personal opinions, what I listened to the most this year and what I think 2011′s most crucial releases have been.
I’ve spent the better part of this week (and last, if brain-time counts) constructing this list, and I finally got it to a point where I feel comfortable sharing. Since last December, I’ve kept a Post-It of names, and all year, I’ve logged bands I’d want to consider for the final top 20. In the end, there were 78 bands and more that I didn’t get to write down for whatever reason. 2011 was nothing if it wasn’t overwhelming.
But here we are, anyway, and it’s done. Let’s get to it:
This is nothing if not a sentimental pick. Last year, I put Electric Wizard in the #20 spot because the record wasn’t out yet, and this year, I’m putting Suplecs (interview with bassist Danny Nick here) in just because I couldn’t imagine this list without them. Until literally a few minutes before I clicked “Publish” on this post, there was someone else in this spot, but ultimately, it had to be them. The New Orleans trio’s first record in half a decade wasn’t what I listened to most in 2011, it wasn’t the best album, or the most important, or career-defining, but when it came right down to it, god damn, I was just happy to have Suplecs back. It had been too long.
After a while, I was kind of shocked to find myself continuing to listen to Favourite State of Mind, the second album by Polish rockers Elvis Deluxe. The record’s dynamics didn’t immediately open up to me, but once I dug into the songs, I was wowed by their balance of catchy hooks and substantial-sounding riffs. The album was genre-relevant without being genre-minded, with vocal changes, organ, atmospheric shifts and a whole host of moods and turns. After hearing their 2007 debut, Lazy, I wasn’t expecting much out of the norm from Favourite State of Mind, and I’m still thrilled by just how wrong I was, and “Take it Slow” is among my favorite single songs of the year.
The gloomy opening statement from former Warning guitarist/vocalist Patrick Walker turned heads around the world with its unabashed emotional conviction, which was so much the central focus of the record as to be made a novelty by those who don’t usually consider doom an emotionally relevant genre (the widespread arguments against that notion I’ll leave for another time). What most stood out to me about The Inside Room was how the sentimentality translated into a gorgeous melodic sensibility and resulted in a lonely mood that was engrossing. On that level, it was easily among 2011′s most effective releases. It made you feel what it seemed to be feeling.
It was an album that lived up to its name. Return to Earth marked the remaking of one of heavy rocks most stoned outfits: Acrimony. But, as Sigiriya (interview with drummer Darren Ivey here), the four-piece (down from five) would show that the years since the demise of their former band had found them progressing as musicians, resulting in a sound less directly stoner, more modern, more earthy. The songs, however, were what made it. It’s still a rare day that goes by that I don’t hum at least part of the chorus of “Mountain Goat” to myself, and if Return to Earth was a new beginning for these players, I can’t wait to see where they go next.
In addition to being Totimoshi‘s first album for At a Loss following the end of their deal with Volcom, Avenger was the first Totimoshi record since 2003′s ¿Mysterioso? not to be produced by Page Hamilton, and where 2006′s Ladrón and 2008′s Milagrosa moved away from some of the noisy crunch in the guitar of Tony Aguilar (interview here), Avenger managed to be both a return to form and a progression of the band’s melodicism. It seems, as ever, to have flown under most radars, but Totimoshi continue to refine their songwriting and have become one of the heavy underground’s most formidable and least classifiable bands.
With their 2010 EP release, upstart British trio Grifter informed us that The Simplicity of the Riff is Key, and on their self-titled Ripple Music debut, they put that ethic to excellent use, resulting in straightforward, catchy songs that were as high-octane as they were low-bullshit. The ultra-catchy “Good Day for Bad News” showed Grifter at the top of their form, and with a dose of humor thrown in, Grifter was the drunken stoner rock party you always wanted to be invited to and, of course, finally were. Now if only I could get Skype to work and get that interview with Ollie Stygall moving, I’d be happy to tell him personally he put out one of 2011′s most kickass rock records.
I don’t know what’s most impressive about The Book of Knots‘ Garden of Fainting Stars — the songs themselves or that they were able to make any songs at all. With upwards of 20 guest spots around the core four-piece, the third in a purported trilogy of records from the avant rock originalists was an epic in every listen. Songs like “Microgravity” and the Mike Watt spoken word “Yeager’s Approach” pushed the limits of both genre and expectation, and miraculously, Garden of Fainting Stars was cohesive and enthralling in its narrative aspect. If it really was their last album, it was triumphant in a manner befitting its expanding-universe thematics.
Had it been a full-length, Invisible White would be higher on this list. Many out there who were enamored of Ancestors‘ 2008 Neptune with Fire debut have gone on to bemoan the Californian collective’s shift away from extended sections of heavy riffing and tales of sea monsters and other things that go “doom” in the night. I’m not one of them. The Invisible White EP was a brave step along a fascinating progression, and as Crippled Black Phoenix didn’t release a new album in 2011, I was glad to have Ancestors there to fill that morose, contemplative void, and I look forward to seeing how they expand on the ideas presented on Invisible White (if they decide to stick to this direction) for their next full-length.
Speaking of shifting approaches, still-young Massachusetts trio Elder also moved away from the Sleep-centric methods of their 2008 self-titled debut on the follow-up, Dead Roots Stirring. Still based very much around the guitar work of Nick DiSalvo (interview here), Elder songs like “Gemini” and the über-soloed “The End” pushed an influence of European heavy psych into the band’s aesthetic, and the result was both grippingly heavy and blown of mind. As an album long delayed by mixing and business concerns, when Dead Roots Stirring finally arrived, it was a relief to hear that Elder, though they’d varied the path, were still headed in the right direction.
Hands down the year’s best traditional doom release. The Wretch so gleefully and so earnestly employed the conventions of ’80s-style doom — most especially those of Saint Vitus and Trouble — that even though the lyrical and musical content was miserable, I couldn’t help but smile as I listened. Songs like “Bastards Born” and “The Scovrge ov Drvnkenness” pushed The Gates of Slumber away from the barbarism the Indianapolis outfit had been touting on their last couple albums, including 2008′s Conqueror breakthrough, in favor of a more purely Chandlerian plod. “To the Rack with Them” remains a standout favorite and a line often referenced in my workplace dealings.
I don’t know what you say to someone at this point who doesn’t like Weedeater. It just seems like a terrible way to go through life, without the madman ranting of “Dixie” Dave Collins (interview here) echoing perpetually in your ears, or never having witnessed their ultra-viscous fuzz in person. Jason… the Dragon was one of the earliest landmark releases of 2011, and practically the whole year later, it retains its hold, whether it’s the stomping fury of “Mancoon,” the lumbering groove of “Long Gone” or the surprisingly melodic “Homecoming.” The hard-touring, hard-hitting band did right in recording with Steve Albini to capture their live sound, and Jason… the Dragon was their strongest outing yet in terms of both songwriting and that unmistakable quality that makes Weedeater records Weedeater records.
I was surprised to see Rwake crack the top 10. Not because their first album in four years, the Sanford Parker-produced Rest, wasn’t superb, but because of how much the songs on the album stayed with me after listening. The Arkansas band’s last outing, Voices of Omens, was heavy and dark and had a lot going for it, but Rest upped the songwriting on every level and together with frontman CT (interview here) adopting a more decipherable shout over most of the record’s four main extended tracks, Rwake felt like a band reborn, and theirs was a highlight among several 2011 albums that showed there’s still room for individual growth and stylistic nuance within the sphere of post-metal.
It was back and forth, nine and eight, between Rwake and Hull for a while, but when all was said and done, the fantastic scope of Beyond the Lightless Sky gave the Brooklyn triple-guitar masters the edge. With a narrative structure behind it and a breadth of ambience and crushing, post-doomly riffing, Beyond the Lightless Sky was the defining moment that those who’ve followed Hull since their Viking Funeral demo have been waiting for. In concept, in performance, in sound and structure and heft, it absolutely floored me, and of all the heavy records I’ve heard with the tag applied to them in 2011, Hull‘s second full-length seems most to earn the tag “progressive.” A stunning and groundbreaking achievement.
One of 2011′s most fascinating developments has been the boom in European heavy psychedelia, and the self-titled debut from French band Mars Red Sky was among the best releases to blend a jam-based sensibility with thick, warm fuzz and memorable riffs. Together with the sweet-hued vocals of Julien Pras (interview here), those riffs made for some of the most infectious hooks I heard all year on songs like “Strong Reflection” and “Way to Rome,” and where other bands jammed their way into psychedelic oblivion, Mars Red Sky were able to balance their focus on crafting quality songs, so that although they sounded spontaneous, the material was never self-indulgent or lacking accessibility. One just hopes they don’t lose sight of that musical humility their next time out.
There was a point earlier this year at which I had forgotten about All We Destroy. After reviewing it in March, I simply moved on to the next thing on my list, and the thing after, and the thing after. But before I knew it, in my head was the voice of Jackie Perez Gratz, singing the line “As I live and breathe” over her own cello, the guitar of Max Doyle and Max Doyle‘s drums. It got so persistent that, eventually, I went out and bought the record, because the mp3s I’d been given to review simply weren’t enough. That was probably July, and I don’t think I’ve gone a week since without listening to Grayceon. So although I classify it in the same league as Rwake and Hull in terms of what it accomplishes in and for its genre, All We Destroy gets the extra nod for the fact that I simply haven’t been able to let it go. And though I’ve come to further appreciate “Shellmounds,” “Once a Shadow” and “A Road Less Traveled,” the 17-minute “We Can” — from which the above-noted lyric is taken — remains the best single song I heard in 2011.
On paper, this one should’ve flopped: Band with minor buzz and a cool video hooks up with indie rock dude to record an album of dopey riffs and beardo bombast. Instead, Red Fang‘s second album and Relapse debut became the 2011 vanguard release for the Portland heavy underground, which is arguably the most fertile scene in the US right now. They toured the record widely, and made another killer video for the mega-single “Wires,” but the reason Murder the Mountains is top five material is because it’s lasted. It was February that I reviewed this record, and March that I interviewed guitarist/vocalist Bryan Giles, and I still can’t get “Into the Eye” and “Hank is Dead” and “Number Thirteen” (especially the latter) out of my head. When it came down to it, the songs on Murder the Mountains lived up to any hype the album received, and I’m a sucker for quality songwriting. I mean, seriously. That key change late into “Number Thirteen?” It’s the stuff of the gods.
I wasn’t particularly a fan of Swedish rockers Graveyard‘s 2008 self-titled debut. Even watching them at Roadburn in 2010, I was underwhelmed. But when I heard Hisingen Blues and was able to get a feel for what the retro-minded foursome were getting at stylistically — and most of all, that they were acknowledging that they were doing it without being glib or ironic about it — I found the material irresistible. We’re getting into seriously indispensable records now; ones that I’ve been unwilling to leave home without since they came, in, and Graveyard‘s Hisingen Blues has been a constant feature in heavy rotation. Everything from the devilish testimony of the title-track to the wiry guitars of the chorus to “Ungrateful are the Dead,” to the Skynyrd-ified solo capping “Uncomfortably Numb”: It’s been a year of revelry in all of it, and since they overcame my prejudice to impress on such a level, Graveyard (interview with drummer Axel Sjöberg here) are all the more deserving of their spot on this list.
What I hear in the second album from Dutch trio Sungrazer is the heralding of a new generation of fuzz rock. Taking influence from their forebears in Colour Haze and Kyuss, the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Rutger Smeets (interview here), bassist/vocalist Sander Haagmans and drummer Hans Mulders followed and surpassed their stellar 2010 debut on every level, playing heavy riffs on expansive psychedelic jams and still finding room for some of 2011′s most memorable choruses in songs like “Sea” and “Goldstrike.” In so doing, Sungrazer affirmed the character of next-gen European fuzz and placed themselves at the fore of their scene, with touring and festival appearances to support. For their warmth of tone and for the fact that I spent the better part of the summer streaming the record through the Dutch website 3voor12, there was no way they were going to be left out of the top 20. It wasn’t until I sat down and actually put the numbers together, though, that I realized how vital Mirador actually was.
I was lucky enough to be sent some rough listening mixes of Ohio outfit Lo-Pan‘s Small Stone Records debut (following a reworked reissue of their Sasquanaut sophomore full-length), and in my email back to label head Scott Hamilton, I told him I thought he had a genuine classic on his hands. A year, I don’t even know how many Lo-Pan gigs and listens through Salvador later, I still feel that way 100 percent. If you were from another planet, and we got to talking at a bar, and you asked me what rock and roll should sound like in the place where I’m from, I’d hand you Salvador. I still think they should’ve started the album with “Generations,” but if that’s my biggest gripe, they’re clearly doing alright. “Bird of Prey” was the best live song I saw all year, and I saw it plenty, and cuts like “Bleeding Out” and “Struck Match” set the standard by which I’ll judge American heavy rock for a long time to come. Like the best of any class, Salvador is bigger than just the year in which it was released, and at this point, I don’t know what else to say about it.
This is as good as it gets, and by “it,” I mean life. YOB‘s last album, 2009′s The Great Cessation, was my album of the year that year as well, and I knew from the second I heard the self-produced Atma that nothing to come this year would top it. Like Ufomammut‘s Eve in 2010, Atma brings the entire genre of doom along with it on the new ground it breaks, refining what’s fast becoming YOB‘s signature approach even as it pushes ever forward. I still have to stop whatever I’m doing (not exactly good for productivity) whenever “Prepare the Ground” comes on, and songs like “Adrift in the Ocean” and “Before We Dreamed of Two” were humbling. Seriously. Humbling. Listening to them was like looking at those photographs from the Hubble that cover trillions of miles that we’ll never know and reveal gorgeous colors where our naked eyes only see black. If that sounds hyperbolic, thanks for getting it. YOB guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt (interview here) is, almost in spite of himself, one of American doom’s most crucial contributors, and with Atma, he and the rhythm section of bassist Aaron Reiseberg and drummer Travis Foster released what is without a doubt the best album of 2011.
A few quick housekeeping items and we’ll call it quits. First, honorable mentions. If this list went to 25, also included would be The Wounded Kings, Earth, Larman Clamor, Olde Growth and The Atlas Moth. Roadsaw were also in heavy consideration, so they’re worth noting, as are many others.
Obviously, I couldn’t include them, but two of my favorite releases in 2011 also came from Blackwolfgoat and HeavyPink, and I’m thrilled and honored to have helped put them out in the small way I did.
And as I said above, there are records I didn’t hear. I haven’t heard the new Black Pyramid yet. Or Orchid. Or a bunch more that I could go on listing. I’m only one man and this is only my list, for better or worse. Again, I really do hope you’ll contribute yours to the group poll, the results of which will be out Jan. 1.
I’ll probably have some more to wrap up 2011 as the month winds down, but until then, thank you so much for reading this and the rest of the wordy nonsense I’ve put up the whole year long. Your support and encouragement means more than I’m able to tell. Here’s to 2012 to come.
Posted in Reviews on November 18th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
From what I understand, Brooklyn‘s Saint Vitus bar is significantly less convenient for those who actually live in the city, but for me it’s just great. It may not be built on top of a subway station, but I know how to get to Greenpoint with my eyes closed (though maybe I keep them open anyway when I’m in the Queens-Midtown Tunnel), and I’ve yet to see a show there that wasn’t worth the effort of driving in.
The place seems like a decent compromise between being completely inconvenient on one side or the other between those who live in the city and those who don’t, is what I’m saying. They need to invest in a grown-up lighting rig for the stage in back, but other than that, it seems to be developing into a cool spot and I hope it continues to do so. By the time I got over to Manhattan Ave. last night, I was champing at the bit to get to the venue. Somehow I’d gotten it in my head that it was an early show. It wasn’t.
I was there maybe 20 minutes ahead of the start of Mount Olympus‘ set, which wasn’t bad, considering the bar was already starting to fill up. This being just two days after watching Fu Manchu pack out Santos Party House in Manhattan, it was duly encouraging to see a crowd at Saint Vitus, but I guess I’m still not used to people being at these shows. It’s cool and all, and I’m glad more and more are coming out, but it catches me off guard every time. I always expect the place — wherever it might be — to be empty.
But as Mount Olympus got going, they had plenty of audience to high-five, and high-five they did. Guitarist/vocalist Michael Guggino, who helmed the band with a kind of Josh Homme-ian casualness, came down from the stage at several points to engage the crowd. The music varied from punkish tempos to stonerly riffs, and in their last song, Guggino and fellow six-stringer Dickie Spectacular hit up a classic metal solo duel that was a bit cheeky but still more on the side of charming than obnoxious. My inner 14 year old thought it was epic in the same way he wanted to go play Dragon Warrior. I can’t keep that kid interested in anything these days.
Among set regulars “Medusa,” “The Mountie” and “Old Yeller,” Kings Destroy also played three newer songs that apparently they also recently cut as a demo (which they’re in the process of finishing) for their next album. I’d heard “The Toe” a few times already, and it was starting to get familiar, which is always cool, but the set-opener “Dice” and the penultimate “He Who Hath No Name” — which also apparently has the working titles “Decrepit Old White Woman” and “Skullduggery of Tricks” — were totally new to me.
Obviously seeing them once in a live setting is no basis for an ultimate judgment one way or the other, but it seems like the band is starting to branch out, be a little more brazen in what they’re doing. Steve Murphy‘s vocals are more confident and farther-ranging, and particularly “He Who Hath No Name” (or whatever it winds up being called; hard to beat “Decrepit Old White Woman”) was more complex musically and in terms of mood. They’re growing and learning what works best for them and how they can development. It’s exciting to watch. As Murphy took his turn coming down from the stage, guitarist Chris Skowronski sang along to “Old Yeller” from the stage — and that seems like a small thing, but you’ll never see it among bands unless the players have a real appreciation for what each other are doing.
It was the last night of the tour for The Gates of Slumber and Premonition 13, and the former took the stage in workman-like fashion. Over the course of their last couple albums and as they’ve spent more time on the road, touring life seems to have lost some of its novelty for Karl Simon and company, but he, bassist Jason McCash and drummer J. Clyde Paradis still got plenty into what they were doing. The setlist was derived almost entirely from their latest album, The Wretch, which is nothing to complain about.
Songs like “To the Rack with Them” and “The Scovrge ov Drvnkenness” were high points, but the unabashed doom misery of “Day of Farewell” made the set. They may have become the road dogs of American trad doom — seeing them now as opposed to a couple years back is much more like watching a professional band play one in a series of shows — but there’s no denying the potency of the material. Compared even to when they rolled through earlier this year with Orange Goblin, the energy was down, but The Gates of Slumber impressed nonetheless. By the time they finished, the room was full, and it would only get more so for Premonition 13.
Having it on good authority that the hot sauces Premonition 13 were selling at their merch table were delicious, I tried to buy the plum one (there were plum, peach and habanero options), but they were out and I picked up a full copy of the CD instead to go with the promo I’d received to review back when the record came out. The songs from that disc were memorable at the time and proved all the more recognizable as the band got going, starting off with dual e-bow guitar introductions from Scott “Wino” Weinrich and Jim Karow.
In talking to The Gates of Slumber‘s McCash prior to his band’s set, he said that the two bands were sharing a van and that Wino and Karow just jammed all the time. He wasn’t criticizing. He was amazed. He said they had little battery-powered amps, and all they did was play guitar together. Well, watching Premonition 13 on stage, I believed it. Of all the players I’ve seen Wino work with in a live setting, he was the most comfortable and at ease with Karow by a mile. They were like two parallel lines standing on opposite sides of the stage. Of course, Wino has the legacy and pedigree behind him, but the simpatico there was palpable.
I don’t know who was playing bass (maybe someone can help me out on that?), but Karow, Wino and drummer Matthew Clark ran through a set of cuts from the 13 album and it wasn’t so much a surprise, but they killed. I snapped some pictures and then stood in back to watch them run through the start-stop stomp of “Clay Pigeons,” the classically moody “La Hechicera de la Jeringa” and the blistering “Hard to Say.” Seems redundant to make the point that it was awesome, but it was. Solos were tossed back and forth, and though it’s not the highest-profile project Wino has running currently — that would probably either be the supergroup Shrinebuilder or Saint Vitus, whose first album in 17 years is due in March — Premonition 13 proved that it has something unique to offer among the slew of other Weinrich-inclusive acts from over the years. Karow‘s lead vocal on the bluesy “Modern Man” made that abundantly clear.
The subdued “Senses” made for a surprising finish to the set, but sure enough, Premonition 13 weren’t really done. As the audience clamored for one more song, Wino explained from the stage that, since the band was born from jamming, they’d like to finish by just jamming out for a while. Karow started playing a riff and they did exactly that. People had begun to trickle out already, to the bar or beyond, but those who stayed were glad they did, and watching the wall of noise gradually build coming from Wino and Karow‘s Marshalls, I felt like I had a better sense of where the band was coming from than even from listening to their songs.
Premonition 13 begin a European tour this weekend, and if you’re in that part of the world (they’ll play with Trippy Wicked in London; not to be missed), consider the show recommended. With everything else Weinrich has coming up and the fact that the band seems to be driven more by his friendship with Karow than any real business concern, who knows when the chance to see them will come again? I don’t regret one bit taking advantage of the opportunity.
I wanted to stick around and talk to Wino, maybe nerd out a bit on the limited information I have as regards the Saint Vitus record and the Conny Ochs collaboration, but my well honed instincts on such matters told me that it was better to leave the poor man alone and keep my fanboy bullshit to myself, so I did that instead and drove back through Manhattan, waiting through about 45 minutes of Holland Tunnel traffic to get back to the valley and take out the recycling and the garbage — someone had conveniently placed a broken microwave on the kitchen floor in hopes that, one assumes, garbage fairies would come and remove it from there to outside in the trash can — at 2AM. Part of the sky was clear, but tiny flakes of snow were falling from what clouds there were, and I couldn’t help but wish for a blizzard, which as any meteorologist will tell you, is just doom dressed in white.
Extra pics after the jump. I know this was a long one, so thanks for reading.
A mere two weeks ago, I posted notice that the kind souls at the All That is Heavy webstore were having a mega-sale with discs and t-shirts at 25 and 50 percent off. I also confessed that I did this only after going in and solidifying my own purchase. Well, the box showed up Wednesday and I’ve been making my way through the goods ever since. Here’s what I picked up:
The Body, All the Waters of the Earth Turn to Blood Paul Chain “The Improvisor,” Cosmic Wind Church of Misery, The Second Coming (Diwphalanx reissue) Leif Edling, The Black Heart of Candlemass The Gates of Slumber, Villain, Villain 500 Ft. of Pipe, Dope Deal 500 Ft. of Pipe, The Electrifying Church of the New Light Masters of Reality, Pine/Cross Dover (American version) Mustasch, Parasite! OJM, The Light Album OJM, Under the Thunder OJM, Volcano Ponamero Sundown, Stonerized Raging Slab, Raging Slab (2009 Rock Candy reissue) Sgt. Sunshine, Black Hole Sin of Angels, In the Grip of Despair
Stuff like the 500 Ft. of Pipe and Mustasch I’d had my eye on for a long time. The psyched-up Fu Manchu fuzz of the former has been a delight long awaited. With The Body, I felt like I was finally giving into the hype, but at the sale price, decided it was now or never. Ponamero Sundown I wanted to listen to again before reviewing the new one and couldn’t find my old sleeve promo — apparently I’ve never heard of YouTube — and Masters of Reality I bought solely for the different label name on the side of the disc. It’s not the first time I’ve done that with them.
OJM I wanted to backlog since reviewing Volcano, and I included Volcano too because I didn’t have a full copy. The Raging Slab I very much enjoyed last night after work, imagining what new wave/no wave New Yorkers must have thought of them busting out those songs in 1989 and seeing the old pictures of drummer Bob Pantella, now of The Atomic Bitchwax. Sgt. Sunshine‘s a little stranger than I expected, but still pretty cool, and listening to it now, I think I might’ve already owned this Sin of Angels CD.
The rest I haven’t gotten to yet, but it’s worth noting that even with the drastically slashed prices, Dan and Melanie — the above-noted kind souls — included a freebie in the form of Black Materia, by Black Materia, which is rife with Anathema-style sorrow and metallic melody, in addition to being a Final Fantasy reference. Dig it.
The sale’s still on, but I don’t know for how long or anything like that. Hopefully I’ll have time to recoup some funds for another round before it ends, but even if not, I think I did alright the first time. If you missed the link above, check out the list of goods here.
Posted in Features on July 1st, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Well, that’s another TFFH down. Of course, I haven’t heard every record that’s come out in the last six months — I feel like half of them I’m still waiting to review (Ulver, Zombi, etc.) — but I’ve done the best I can to get through as much as I can, and that’s where I stand. Here’s the list one more time, all together:
The Top Five of the First Half of 2011:
1. Lo-Pan, Salvador
2. Graveyard, Hisingen Blues
3. Red Fang, Murder the Mountains
4. Weedeater, Jason… the Dragon
5. The Gates of Slumber, The Wretch
It’s been a really strong year so far, and like I said at some point, there were records I reviewed in the last two weeks that could easily have been on the list. I’m thinking of Elvis Deluxe and The Book of Knots there, but honorable mention certainly also goes out to Olde Growth, Premonition 13, Earth, Roadsaw, Dark Castle, Sourvein, and plenty of others. There never seems to be any shortage of killer records.
Hope you enjoyed reading these posts, and in case you didn’t see, Gaia from Number of the Blog started a list thread on the forum, so if you haven’t yet, feel free to drop by and let everyone know your picks. You can always leave a comment here too. Those are welcome, and either way, thanks.
Lots to come in the rest of 2011. I just read in the latest Alone Records newsletter that Viaje a 800 will have a new record out before the end of the year, and that was killer to find out, and of course there’s stuff like YOB and Dixie Witch too that should hit pretty hard when it lands. Here’s looking forward to the next thing.
Posted in Features on June 22nd, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
The Gates of Slumber‘s first album with drummer J. “Cool Clyde” Paradis, The Wretch gathers eight despondent tracks of potent traditional doom that demonstrate quite clearly why the Indianapolis trio have garnered their reputation as one of the best American acts going in the genre. Their last two records, 2008′s Conqueror and 2009′s Hymns of Blood and Thunder, were the band’s breakthrough, but with The Wretch, they cut the tempos and were able to put across a minimal, miserable atmosphere, epitomized in the woeful guitar and vocals of Karl Simon.
Balance that with a depth of songwriting that made cuts like “To the Rack with Them” and “The Scourge ov Drvnkenness” as effective on a structural level as they were in terms of ambience, and flat-out, The Wretch just ruled. Simon, Paradis and bassist Jason McCash were able to keep the barbaric feel of their prior to albums while also inflicting their melancholy on listeners, and of all the doom I’ve heard so far into 2011, none of it has been quite as doomed as The Gates of Slumber. It’s not just about being loud, or just being heavy, but it’s the downtrodden spirit driving the songs.
That feeling can’t be faked, can’t be a put-on, can’t be bullshit. You’re either in it or you’re not, and The Gates of Slumber pulled it off with a sincerity and honesty that was matched by the fact that the material also rocked. The Wretch has plenty of time to prove its merits over extended listens in 2011, but more than that, I expect its timeless doom will satisfy for years to come. If you haven’t heard it yet, it’s not too late.
Posted in Reviews on May 30th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
I didn’t know what to expect in terms of the crowd this past Friday at Santos Party House, knowing that a few of NYC‘s usual suspect-type show-goers had made their way down to Maryland Deathfest, which was also running this weekend, but by the time Orange Goblin went on, the place was packed, and even for Kings Destroy, who opened the night up at around 7:45PM, there was a good, eager crowd happy to soak up as much doom as possible.
In that regard, Kings Destroy completely delivered. I know I’m nowhere near impartial when it comes to these guys, having released their (fucking excellent) And the Rest Will Surely Perish album on The Maple Forum (the band still has copies for sale here), but they just keep getting better. Their new bassist was right in the pocket, and of all the times I’ve seen them, I don’t think drummer Rob Sefcik has ever sounded better. He kept the pacing of the songs down and gave Chris Skowronski and Carl Porcaro‘s guitars plenty of room to breathe, but still hit heavy and clean on the toms, adding no shortage of thunder to the proceedings. You could feel the air move.
They had one yet-unnamed new song on offer, which was their closer, and though vocalist Steve Murphy later told me they played it too fast, the track had a cool, later-Sabbath vibe that sat well next to album cuts like “XXY” and “The Mountie.” I dug it, anyway, but I guess that was bound to happen. Kings Destroy groove like few are bold enough to do in New York, and I’m even gladder to call them friends than I am to plug the hell out of their record every chance I get. They’re only getting better.
It was kind of a funny circumstance, but I’ve only been to Santos Party House twice now (this show and when Weedeater came through in February), and Brooklyn psych outfit Naam played both shows. The trio — who are on most if not all of the tour with Orange Goblin and The Gates of Slumber — had a synth organist on stage with them, and it really filled out their sound. They said he was doing a couple shows as part of the band, and Naam are a force on stage anyway, but this put them in a different league altogether, with guitarist/vocalist Ryan Lugar‘s tone being excellently complemented and filled out by the sustained organ sounds.
And as regards Naam, I can’t think of another way to say it: bassist John Preston Bundy has one of the best doombeards in NYC. That thing is good, and he clearly knows it. As Naam wound down their set with the epic title-track from their Kingdom EP, his vocals complemented Lugar‘s and the resultant swirl was even more visceral for the organ sounds. Naam was probably the odd band out among the three doomier acts on the bill, but if it bothered them, they never let on, and the hometown crowd — which unless I’m mistaken included a few family members who gathered around for pictures after their set — ate it up. I don’t think there was anyone there who needed convincing, but if there was, they were duly convinced.
I had been looking forward to seeing The Gates of Slumber since picking up their newest installment, The Wretch, at Roadburn and reveling in its doomly snail’s pacing. When last I saw them, it was in the small room under Webster Hall, and they were good then, but there’s no denying guitarist/vocalist Karl Simon is completely in his element rocking out mournful total-doom songs about drinking and losing at life. They were killer. Hard not to hoist a claw or two to such rampant musical misery.
The material from The Wretch was some of the strongest they played — that’s not to discount the impact of “The Ice Worm’s Lair” — and new drummer “Cool Clyde” Paradis has a clearly natural ability to play slow and still make it sound heavy. Between him and bassist Jason McCash, Simon had formidable backup, although maybe that’s underplaying their roles in the band a bit, since each third of the trio brings so much to the whole. Either way, their songs managed to sound empty and minimalist and still without actually being boring or inaccessible, and they showed that their latest lineup is their strongest yet.
And then, after three already killer sets, there came Orange Goblin. The foursome had been wandering through the crowd for most of the night, back and forth between backstage and the bar, the can, etc., and they came out introduced by AC/DC‘s “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll).” Santos was long since packed out, and it was more of a party (as the name of the venue would suggest) than a show by the time they were a few songs in. The songs from Orange Goblin‘s last album, 2007′s Healing Through Fire, went over especially well — “They Come Back” and “Harvest of Skulls” being high points — but even through classics like “Cozmo Bozo” and “Aquatic Fanatic,” frontman Ben Ward had the crowd eating from his hand.
There was a mosh pit, if a friendly, old-school-metal, “let’s all bump into each other and not throw punches,” one, and a single diver took the stage no less than four times, singing along with Ward and even once trying to grab the vocalist’s beer, which was where the line seemed to be drawn. As it’s become my motto for existence, “Some You Win, Some You Lose” was a special boon, guitarist Joe Hoare putting the song’s awesome main riff to good use for the crowd singing along to Ward. There was a three-song encore of “Time Traveling Blues,” “Quincy the Pigboy” and “Scorpionica,” all of which sent the audience apeshit, though maybe a little less so for the former, which is a slower cut. Nonetheless, Orange Goblin were amazing the whole way through.
It had me thinking back to the last time they were in town, in 2006 with Scissorfight at thenow-showless Continental, and how even though they’ve only been back to the US once since then (for the Planet Caravan fest in North Carolina in 2009), their reputation has grown enormously. I recall the Continental being crowded, but nothing like this. Santos is a much bigger room, and it was full, so there’s no doubt the last couple years have brought well-spread word on their unique and boozy brand of mayhem. All the more exciting, then, to think what they’ll be able to accomplish with their next album. Ben Ward called the NYC show a “life-changing moment,” and maybe it was.
Orange Goblin was nonetheless headed south to Maryland Deathfest and then out for more shows with Naam and The Gates of Slumber, so once it was over, it was over. Someone suckerpunched Tommy Southard from Solace outside the venue, perhaps out of jealousy of Solace‘s last album, A.D. (which was my pick of the year in 2010), but I didn’t stick around to watch the drama unfold if there was any. With a long-enough drive back to Jersey, some late-night empanadas and subsequently my humble river valley ahead, I split out for the car, rife with the kind of energy only a really, really good night can provide.
I know this was a long one, but if you’re still reading, thanks for that. More pics after the jump.
Posted in audiObelisk on May 27th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
As ever, I thank Walter and the Roadburn crew for their generosity in allowing me to host the links to the official streams from Roadburn 2011. As we Americans get ready to celebrate Memorial Day, I can think of few better complements for a barbecue than The Machine‘s Hendrixian take on heavy jamming, or, as the evening wears on, drinks are imbibed and fists are raised in triumph, Black Pyramid‘s doomy gallop. And, of course, just in case the universe comes to a crashing end (as my work email account just did), there’s Ufomammut playing Eve in its entirety for sonic complement. You can’t ask for more than that. From life. But there’s more anyway, so enjoy the aural hubris:
These and all Roadburn audio streams were recorded by the vigilant Spacejam team headed by Marcel van de Vondervoort (also of ass-kicking rockers Astrosoniq), so if you see him, please say thanks for all the hard work. Roadburn 2011 took place April 14-17 at the 013 Popcentrum in Tilburg, The Netherlands. If you’d like to read more than you could ever possibly want to read about it, click here.
Posted in Features on May 23rd, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
For anyone who’s ever heard Indianapolis doomers The Gates of Slumber, it’s not exactly a revelation that guitarist/vocalist Karl Simon is a fan of genre gods Saint Vitus, but when I heard their latest album, The Wretch (review here), it was easy to see it went well beyond that. Lots of people like bands. This was something more.
As such, I knew that in asking Simon to compile a list of his five favorite Vitus tunes, he’d come back with some interesting choices, and sure enough, I wasn’t disappointed. Here are his picks, complete with accompanying audio:
5. “The Troll”
“I’ve been down so long, I cannot see, anyway out of me…” What more needs to be said, really? The grizzled riffing and the tale of a depressive man locked in a feedback loop. The second verse explains why the loop exists; the third brings it home: “Bats and worms are my friends; they’ll stick with me till the end… down here I am my own man…” and a nihilistic Chandler tremolo solo. Wino‘s vocal performance on this song is one of his best. Basically a blues jam which Vitus did a lot, only it’s way fucked up. I identify with the lyrics so god damned much sometimes. It pains me.
4. “Shadow of a Skeleton”
Okay, so a lot of “fans” have a real problem with the C.O.D. record. Well, I have a problem with those fans. Attention posers: not one weak track on this record. In fact, in many ways this record is, in my eyes, a return to the feeling and production values of the early days, only with the addition of some guitar harmonies. And oh yeah, one of the best singers in the history of metal is wailing all over this record. This song has a bulldozer riff that just boggles the mind and makes me want to ruin my neck; Armando‘s drumming is fucking brutal; classic lyrics about a fucking reanimated skeleton coming after your ass…. what more do you want?!
3. “The End of the End”
I am totally obsessed with this riff. The best song Wino ever sang on in my opinion, and the best one that Vitus did with him! I love the pitch shifted vocals and the syncopated drumming. The environmentally aware/anti-nuclear power/war lyrics paint a potent and timeless picture that is just awesome. I love that it has no chorus as well, only the beak down that leads to the solo. Vitus had this weird habit of saving off their most potent songs for EPs… which was a dirty trick, I think! But I love it. Thirsty and Miserable is a must have just because of this song, and Walking Dead speaks for itself.
There is something about this open wah guitar tone that makes me want to throw things at the wall. The circular riff and Reager‘s demon wail. So goddamn good. And then the bass and drum break with Mark Adams taking it for a walk. The Iron Maiden influence is so clear here! It’s just a potent and short burst of energy. I do have to say that The first three releases by Saint Vitus had some real unique magic to them that just can not be equaled by anyone.
1. “The Psychopath”
Essentially, what we have here is a fairly standard blues formula, but goddamn if it isn’t totally taken in the most obscure and odd direction. Chandler is abusing his wah pedal the whole fucking time. Reager’s, owning it… again. How people can not like his voice is so strange to me, but whatever. A song about the M.K. Ultra experiments gone awry. But the real treat here is the main solo break. There are a few leads that really stick out for me, and this is my favorite. Four minutes into the song it starts, nice and melodic… and Chandler is not given credit for that! If Kurt Cobain is a genius then Dave Chandler needs a thousand times that credit. At 5:40, the airplane flanged shred turns into these sick and emotive bends that always give me the chills. It’s a shame that “metal” people in 1984 were totally too weak to have possibly gotten this band. But then things worked out pretty fucking well…. You can spend your life thinking about thing things that could have been. Fact is there were a thousand limp thrash bands and horrid butt “metal” bands out there, but only one Saint Vitus. And 31 years later nobody but nobody cares about Seduce or Viking or whatever… not even the dudes who were in the fucking bands. SaintVitus ruled them then and rules them now.