Posted in Whathaveyou on September 6th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Long live the Kings! UK heavy psych rockers The Kings of Frog Island have secured an awaited vinyl release for their 2013 album, IV (review here), through Bilocation Records, and preorders are up now. This will mark the first time IV has received a physical pressing, and to be frank I’ll say it’s one well earned for the flowing psychedelia the band brought to it, as you can hear in the video for album highlight “Long Live the King” below. Some records are just a joy. This is one of those.
The Kings of Frog Island followed IV in 2014 with V (review here), another self-release, but this one pressed to a platter on their own. If the photos and vague posts on Thee Facebooks are anything to go by, work may or may not be underway on what I assume will be called VI when it’s done (if, you know, it exists), so I’ll be interested to find out in the weeks and months ahead what might be up in Amphibia these days.
For now, here’s the new cover for the record, the info on the vinyl and that video, ready for the digging:
IV now available on vinyl. Exclusive.
THE KINGS OF FROG ISLAND draw on a collective passion for cult movie soundtracks, mammoth riffs and high times. Stashed full of heavy psych rock and fragile laments to love, life and the eternal sleep. Journey across the mountains of madness, beyond the big black to the shores of Frog Island and on to the gates of Amphibia. Come take a trip …
After three successful releases on Elektrohasch Records The Kings Of Frog Island from Leicester, UK recorded their fourth effort – but unfortunately never released it until this day. The album shows the band in best form: tight stoner rock combined with amazing psychedelic touches, but never loosing their unique tone and style. A great blend, very refreshing in these days.
VINYL FACTZ – Plated & pressed on high performance vinyl in Germany – 111x green black white marbled (Exclusive mailorder edition, hand numbered) – 200x transparent green – 100x black – matte laquered 300gsm gatefold cover – special vinyl mastering
I maintain a deep affection for the second The Kings of Frog Island record, II, as I do for few others. Might sound like hyperbole, but the album is damn near perfect. Released by Elektrohasch in 2008, it followed their ’05 self-titled debut and fleshed out a sound somewhere between heavy psychedelia and warm-toned classic stoner rock that to this day, some eight years after the fact, remains high on my list of all-time outings in the genre. You know how sometimes an album hits you just right? That’s me and “The Watcher,” me and “Welcome to the Void,” “Joanne Marie,” “Hallucination,” the weirdo slide guitar pastoralism of “Laid” and the way it nods into “Ride a Black Horse” en route to the nighttime desert-style closing vibes of “Satanica,” “Witching Hour” and the epilogue “Amphibia Rising.” From the moment the train announcer comes on to say service to Frog Island has been canceled and we’ll have to catch the last train to Satansville, which departs at 23.58 from platform six, II has the perfect blend of flow and vibe and memorable songwriting. To be blunt about it, it’s one of my favorite records. I’m still surprised the universe didn’t collapse on itself when it was released, and of all the stuff that’s come out of the UK since, I can only assume it’s because The Kings of Frog Island don’t play out much that they haven’t had more of an influence. Much to the loss of everyone, really.
The band’s lineup has been somewhat nebulous in the years since II, but when I interviewed guitarist/vocalist Mat Bethancourtearly in 2009 (it was one of if not the first interviews to go on this site), he said the album was about, “The planets of Satanica and Amphibia are fighting an epic battle for control of the universe and all its lost souls.” Bethancourt, who cut his fuzzy teeth in the also-underrated Josiah, would move on from the band following 2010’s III (review here), to focus on the then-nascent Cherry Choke, but fellow founders Mark Buteaux (vocals/guitar) and Roger “Dodge” Watson (drums) would continue to delve into heavy psychedelia and an ever-jammier presence across 2013’s IV (review here) and 2015’s V (review here), basking in lush and exploratory elements that still owe part of their crux to what The Kings of Frog Island established here in the mega-fuzz of “Welcome to the Void” — a song that I continue to believe offers better tone than Electric Wizard‘s “Witchcult Today” — and the sentimental wisps of “Amphibia Rising.” I don’t know who won the battle for all those lost souls, but I know the process of duking it out made for one hell of a listen.
As of last month, The Kings of Frog Island were back in the studio working on what I can only assume will be called VI when it’s done. Whether or not that’ll be out this year or what, I don’t know, but they continue to be an act that I’m always deeply happy to hear from, and listening back to it now for the first time in a while, II (also previously discussed here) sounds more like a classic than it ever has, to me anyway.
As always, I hope you enjoy.
I’ve been in Atlanta all week for work. It’s been busy, but I feel like more for this site than for my job. Look at the last few days: Seven posts today, seven yesterday, five Wednesday (five is about normal), six Tuesday, six Monday. And I’ve been traveling. I said last Friday I didn’t know how it was going to work out, but it did. To the best of my knowledge, there isn’t anything I blew off. And if I’m wrong about that, it wasn’t anything malicious or conscious, I assure you.
I’ll be back in Massachusetts for it, but next week is also duly crammed. Monday I’m hosting a track premiere for Hotel Wrecking City Traders and a full album stream for Holy Grove. Tuesday is new stuff from Rhin and Young Hunter (and that review is going to take me a while, I can feel it already). Wednesday, a full stream from Ancient Warlocks. Thursday, a video premiere from Gozu. Friday, new Blackwitch Pudding. Plus I’ve got Merlin, Stars that Move, Queen Elephantine and Lord waiting to be reviewed, among others, so plenty to work on.
Because I apparently need to be this busy. And when I’m not, I have no idea what to do with myself.
We’ve been running the radio backup server for the last couple weeks, but this weekend I’m hoping to take the proper server hard drive and hook it into a Raspberry Pi I bought to replace the old box. Remains to be seen if I can actually make that happen, but I’m going to give it a shot anyway, and if it does happen, I have a bunch of records I want to add to the server, whether I get to write about them or not. And by that I mean I probably won’t have time to, but you know, we’ll see.
Just heard as well, but R.I.P. Keith Emerson.
Please have a great and safe weekend, whatever you’re up to. The Patient Mrs. and I will be bumming down to Providence tomorrow to buy ricotta cheese and probably some chicken, but other than that I’m looking forward to a quiet couple days before Monday brings the inevitable return-to-real-life shitstorm. Always an adventure.
Posted in audiObelisk on June 9th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Over the last couple years, Kozmik Artifactz and its close cohort, Bilocation Records, have assembled one of the most enviable label rosters in the world for heavy rock and roll and psychedelia. Their commitment is to vinyl releases in limited quantities, and their stuff usually goes. It’s harder to get in the States with import prices, but their reach includes American acts like Ruby the Hatchet, Bison Machine, Valley of theSun, Space God Ritualand The Dirty Streets, all of whom are featured alongside European groups Somali Yacht Club (Ukraine), Earthmass (UK), Sonora Ritual (Germany) and Domadora (France) as well as Australia’s Child on the new 18-track Home of the Good Sounds Vol. 2 label sampler, which is out today.
With new music from The Heavy Eyes — “Somniloquy” is the first I’ve heard of their upcoming third LP, He Dreams of Lions — as well as Buzzard, the new project from Place of Skulls and Pentagram drummer “Minnesota” Pete Campbell, and UK trioMammothwing, the sampler should have no trouble piquing interest among the converted while more familiar cuts from The Kings of Frog Island and Valley of the Sun reinforce a solid mixtape feel. I won’t belabor the point that you’re probably about to spend a decent portion of your afternoon head-to-head with these songs — it’s 18 tracks, after all — but there’s a decent flow from one to the next and it’s clear the label was looking to do more than just toss together something haphazardly. Anyone who’s ever held a piece of their vinyl can probably tell you that’s not how they roll.
Plenty of variety, plenty of heavy, and some brand new stuff to preview what they have coming hopefully before the end of 2015, there’s really no way to lose. If nothing else, you can’t beat the price. Kozmik Artifactz was kind enough to let me announce the comp’s arrival, and you’ll find it on the player below, courtesy of their Bandcamp, followed by their official word on today’s release.
Kozmik Artifactz and Bilocation Records are very proud to offer to their new and old followers the second label compilation ‘Home of the good sounds – Vol. 2’. The sampler features 18 bands from all over the planet including 12 tracks that are not published on vinyl yet, three of them are exclusively to be heard here: new stuff from The Heavy Eyes from their forthcoming third album ‘He dreams of lions’, mighty Buzzard (featuring Pete Campbell from Pentagram) with ‘Is you Is’ and Mammothwing with a new track from their upcoming epic album ‘Morning light’.
Posted in On Wax on September 16th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
There’s little I’m inclined to argue with less than a new The Kings of Frog Island record. Their 2013 outing, IV (review here), began a new era for the amorphous UK band, self-releasing LPs after a three-album stint on Elektrohasch, and they follow that LP quickly with the heady two-sides of V, which furthers their blend of classic psych, garage rock and heavy/desert rock impulses. I don’t think it really matters who shows up on a given day for the studio, just so long as they can jam, and V unquestionably benefits from that mentality, and this time around, steady partakers Mark Buteaux (vocals/guitar), Roger “Dodge” Watson (drums) and Gavin Searle are joined by Gavin Wright and Tony Heslop, who came aboard last time out, and Lee Madel-Toner, with Scarlett Searle guesting. Change and fluidity have been running themes for The Kings of Frog Island since their 2005 self-titled debut, and V is no exception.
Like IV, there’s no number anywhere on the 12″ sleeve that would tip you off if you didn’t already know it was the fifth album, but even side-by-side with its predecessor, V shows off a heady growth in sound and confidence from last year’s offering, Buteaux comfortable topping side A’s tripped-out closer “Raised in a Lion’s Den” with a single line of vocals (“I was born in a desert, raised in a lion’s den”) to add mystique to an already molten atmosphere. In particular, the blend of ambience and more grounded songwriting — something The Kings of Frog Island have never lacked — is readily on display throughout the new LP, an early highlight arriving with the psychedelic desertisms of “Sunburn,” the opener that billows out of the introductory “Tangerine.” For the first half, divisions between songs are otherwise pretty clear. “Tangerine” hypnotizes early and gives way directly to “Sunburn,” but that song, “Temporal Riff,” which follows, “Born on the Fourth” and “Raised in a Lion’s Den” have definitive starts and finishes, which by the time side B rounds out won’t be the case. “Temporal Riff” is another early high point, departing from “Sunburn”‘s distortion waves and into ’60s-style acoustic psych pop that subtly builds around a wash of cymbals that continues a theme from last time out of patient, impeccably captured drumming from Watson, fluid in the speakers and in the ears and a key element in the band’s approach. The song itself isn’t limited to that or to a jam — it has one of the album’s best hooks, right up there with “Sunburn” — but it makes the transition easier into the classic garage rock swagger of “Born on the Fourth,” a quicker jaunt distinguished by call and response vocals and the lyric “Put your hand in the palm of mine,” which mirrors the rhythmic insistence well.
“Raised in a Lion’s Den” is likewise well placed at the end of side A, since it foreshadows some of what side B gets up to with its lull-your-consciousness rollout and sense of lysergic space rock meandering. “Novocaine” is earthbound compared to some of what follows, with a lightly Beatles-style verse-into-chorus transition, but still plenty groovy, starting out soft and getting into volume-swell guitar antics and subdued airiness before the more purely desert-tinged “Five O Grind” reminds of the expanses a Kyuss influence can cover when put to best use. The swirl and heavier vibe is immediate, echoing vocals deep under the riff, the title repeated as the lyrical center of the song, the fuzz consuming. It’s the most forceful of the riffers on V, but not out of place either with “Novocaine” before it or “Destroy all Monsters” after, which references Godzilla in its title and is pretty clearly named for its largesse of riff, similarly to how “Temporal Riff” may have been titled for its backward-in-time vibing. “Five O Grind” is the last bit of earthly grooving The Kings of Frog Island do here, if you can call it that, since even when their material is structured it’s blissed out, and the last three cuts, “Destroy all Monsters,” “Make it Last” and “On” bleed together to finish the album in flowing fashion, the clear ending of “Five O Grind” with its lead guitar, buried vocals and steady nod giving way to the stomp of “Destroy all Monsters” — how else would one do that but with giant lizard feet and maybe a bit of laser breath? — which flows nebulously into “Make it Last” and “On.” Where the point of separation is between the last three tracks, I don’t know exactly, but “Destroy all Monsters” seems to separate after several turns of standalone drone riffing into feedback from which a more fuzzed riff emerges (the drums rejoin), and if you told me that was the switch into “Make it Last,” I’d believe you.
From there, one might point out any number of points at which “On” takes hold to round out V, but in doing so I think a crucial intent of the album would be sacrificed. As with IV, it’s pretty clear that a big part of The Kings of Frog Island‘s intent in only releasing an LP edition of V is that the record should be experienced as a whole, in one complete sitting split only between sides A and B. Ultimately, where “Make it Last” becomes “On” doesn’t matter. It’s the fades in and out, the feedback, drum-propelled, the steady bassline and the ground the material covers that’s all the more important than if the quick stop is where one ends and another begins. Either way, V is finished with its fading, synth-topped jam, a foundational guitar, bass, drum rhythm topped by a wash that continues even as ambient vocals make a surprise return as if to remind that there are still humans somewhere behind all this liquefied noise. Tambourine punctuates for a while and what must be “On” devolves into one last hypnotic wash of psychedelic melody, organ sounds being the last element present before the needle returns. I’ve been a nerd for The Kings of Frog Island since their 2008 fuzz-landmark, II, and in the years since, they’ve showed an unrelenting pursuit of expanded-mind exploration. What’s perhaps most encouraging about V is how amiable a companion it is for IV while maintaining a personality of its own. Clearly grown out of the preceding full-length, V seems to establish the band’s progression as one set to continue with no end in sight. Again, you won’t hear me argue.
The Kings of Frog Island, “Sunburn” official video
Posted in Features on July 8th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Before I even start, let’s get one thing out of the way. I want a new Sleep album too. My not including them on this list isn’t due to the fact that I don’t think a new Sleep album is a good idea, but just because I haven’t seen anything about it being recorded or released in the next five-plus months. If it hits on Jan. 1, 2015, I’ll be the happiest Baby New Year you ever saw, but that’s a different list altogether.
Ditto that Om and High on Fire. The latter were writing as of May, and I know Om did some recording way back in January, but I’ve yet to see solid word of new records at all, let alone before the end of the year. Either or both or all three may happen, but until I see some hint of it, all I can go on is the info I can find.
Seriously though, how badass would it be if all three put out albums before the New Year? That excitement is kind of what this list is about. Some of these records I’ve heard, but most I haven’t, so it’s just basic speculation about what I think could be some of the best releases in the next couple months. You’ll note that while there are plenty of dates TBA, nothing listed arrives in November, so as 2014 winds down, there’s bound to be even more quality stuff than appears here.
In fact, I struggled to take things out to get it down to 30. And it still goes to 31! I figured no one would mind. They’re numbered, but the list is in alphabetical order.
If I left something out you’re dying to hear, please let me know in the comments.
Thanks in advance for reading:
1. Alunah, TBA (Sept.)
Birmingham’s Alunah, like several others below, are a holdover from the Most Anticipated Albums list back at the start of the year. The difference between now and then is that, while its title still hasn’t been revealed so far as I know, their Napalm Records debut has been recorded, mixed and mastered, the latter by Tony Reed, the former by Greg Chandler of Esoteric, and given a September release date. Two years after Alunah made riffy doom sound easy on their sophomore outing, White Hoarhound (review here), I look forward to hearing how they’ve grown and shifted in their approach to warm-sounding tones and memorable hooks. They’ve set a pretty high standard for themselves. Alunah on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
2. Apostle of Solitude, Of Woe and Wounds (Oct.)
These guys. I don’t mind telling you it was a thrill when Indianapolis doomers Apostle of Solitude were announced as having signed to Cruz del Sur to release their third album, Of Woe and Wounds, this fall. Their second outing, 2010’s Last Sunrise (review here), didn’t get the attention it deserved, but the handful of songs they’ve made public since have shown much promise, and as the first Apostle of Solitude full-length to feature guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak (also Devil to Pay) in harmony with guitarist/vocalist Chuck Brown — the band is completed by bassist Dan Davidson and drummer Corey Webb — this is definitely going to make for a doomly autumn. Apostle of Solitude on Thee Facebooks, Cruz del Sur Music.
3. Blackwolfgoat, Drone Maintenance (Aug. 26)
Recorded late last year at Amps vs. Ohms in Boston, the third album from Maple Forum alum Blackwolfgoat — the prog-drone alter ego of guitarist Darryl Shepard (Milligram, Black Pyramid, The Scimitar, Roadsaw, etc.) — is the project’s most expansive outing yet, and it seems Shepard is moving more in a song-based direction, rather than some of the building loops of the past two offerings. Of course, there will be plenty of those as well, but watch out for some acoustic guitar, and deep-in-the-mix vocals, as they could easily hint of things to come. Or Darryl could turn it on its head and do a calypso record. Either way, I’m on board with no pretense of impartiality. Blackwolfgoat on Bandcamp, Small Stone’s Bandcamp.
4. Blues Pills, Blues Pills (Aug. 5)
The much-heralded Swedish/French/American psych-blues conglomeration Blues Pills will make their self-titled debut (short review here) next month, and while it’s probably going to be a bigger deal in Europe than in the States — at least until Nuclear Blast brings them over here for a tour, then the country is going to go apeshit for them — the songwriting and soulful execution of their tracks justifies the hype. There’s a bit of retro posturing to what they do, some Graveyard shuffle (it feels inevitable at this point with a ’70s-influenced band), but the grooves are easy to dig into and the potential is basically limitless for where they want to go. It’s scary to keep in mind, but this is just the beginning. Blues Pills on Thee Facebooks, Nuclear Blast.
5. Bongripper, Miserable (July 7)
You may notice something strange about the date above for a list of upcoming albums in that July 7 was yesterday. Well, Chicago’s Bongripper posted their new three-track full-length monster Miserable on their Bandcamp for stream and download ahead of the vinyl’s arrival, and it was just too righteous to leave out. Those seeking landmark riffing need look no further than the 19-minute centerpiece “Descent,” which meters out stomp enough that future “scientists” will study its footprint, and closer “Into Ruin” (28:25) is guaranteed to be the heaviest half-hour you’ll spend today. Miserable feels like a no-brainer, but maybe that’s just because Bongripper have such a propensity for pounding skulls into mush. Bongripper on Thee Facebooks, Miserable on Bandcamp.
6. Botanist, VI: Flora (Aug. 11)
I feel like I missed a couple numbers from San Francisco-based environmentalist black metal unit Botanist along the way, but they’ll nonetheless issue VI: Flora on The Flenser next month, furthering their marriage of destruction and beauty and insistent percussive expression. The spaces Botanist — a one-man project from Robert Martinelli — create feel ritualistic without the dramatic posturing that pervades much of the genre, and sound, somewhere between raging and mournful, is hypnotic. Whatever your expectation might be, Martinelli seems pleased to use it to their advantage, and ultimately, defy it. Post-human, hammered dulcimer-laden black metal. It would be harder for Botanist to not be unique. Botanist on Thee Facebooks, The Flenser.
7. Brant Bjork, TBA (TBA)
When Brant Bjork‘s next album might show up, I don’t know. I know he’s signed to Napalm, and I know the photo above was snapped as he finished some vocals before going on tour with his Low Desert Punk band that includes guitarist Bubba DuPree, bassist Dave Dinsmore and drummer Tony Tornay, but whether or not the album they made is the funk-inspired Jakoozi that’s been in the offing for a while, or another collection of songs, and if Napalm will get it out before the end of the year remain a mystery. I do find it interesting that for his first “solo” outing post-Vista Chino (that band being on hiatus), Bjork has assembled a new band to work with rather than record multiple instruments himself, but no matter who’s involved, when it’s Brant Bjork writing the songs, it’s gonna be high rock from the low desert. Can’t wait to dig into whatever comes. Brant Bjork on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
8. Earth, Primitive and Deadly (Sept.)
The headline for Earth‘s new album is it’s the one where they experimented with vocalists. And hey, if you’re going to toy around with the idea, you might as well get Mark Lanegan involved. The former Screaming Trees frontman is one of several singers appearing on Primitive and Deadly, due in September on Southern Lord, and it would appear that Earth‘s sound — always evolving, always somehow changing — is about to take another considerable turn. Fortunately, the Seattle band, led by guitarist Dylan Carlson and now approaching their 25th year, have long since proven worthy of trusting with their own direction. Earth will never be huge, by the simple nature of what they do, but their influence resounds and the quality of their output is unmatched. Earth on Thee Facebooks, Southern Lord Recordings.
9. Electric Wizard, Time to Die (Sept.)
“Wake up baby/It’s time to die.” So goes the title-track hook of Electric Wizard‘s new album and Spinefarm Records debut, Time to Die. As ever, it’s simple, hateful, drenched-in-fuzz misanthropy, and Electric Wizard revel in it accordingly. Their witchcult continues to grow in their native UK and abroad, and while their last two records have divided some listeners, they’ve invariably gained more ground than they’ve lost. A legal dispute with Rise Above finds them on the new label, and if there’s even the slightest chance that change will bring them to the US for a tour, I’ll take it. Expect 66 minutes of glorious filth. Electric Wizard on Thee Facebooks, Spinefarm Records.
10. Fever Dog, Second Wind (TBA)
Palm Desert youngsters Fever Dog have been kicking around the last few years finding their sound in varying elements of heavy rock and psychedelic experimentation. Most recently, they impressed with the single “Iroquois” (review here) taken from their new album Second Wind, and in looking forward to the full-length, I’m eager to learn how their style has solidified and what sort of vibes they conjure over its course. They’ve shown plenty of propensity for jamming in their prior work, so hopefully there’s a bit of that on hand as well. I’ve said before they’re a trio of marked potential, and nothing I’ve yet heard has dissuaded me from that impression. Fever Dog on Thee Facebooks, Fever Dog on Bandcamp.
11. Goat, Commune (Sept. 23)
Somehow, a band from Sweden who dress up in tribal costumes (problematic) and play Afrobeat psychedelia became a very, very big deal. I couldn’t explain it if I wanted to, and I won’t try, but I know that when Sub Pop releases Goat‘s second album, Commune, it’s going to be to a flurry of hype and heaps of critical fawning. It would be tempting to call Goat a novelty act, but their 2012 debut, World Music (discussed here), showcased a legitimately creative musical approach to go with the visual aspects of their presentation, and I find the fact that I have no idea what to expect from Commune to be refreshing. Goat on Thee Facebooks, Sub Pop Records.
12. Grifter, The Return of the Bearded Brethren (Aug. 11)
UK heavy rockers Grifter will make a welcome resurgence on Ripple Music with The Return of the Bearded Brethren, an album that builds on the straightforward, catchy sounds of their 2011 self-titled label debut (review here) and takes their infectiousness to new places lyrically, such as exploring issues of aging via an ode to Princess Leia from Star Wars. That particular brand of humor and is writ large on Grifter‘s second Ripple outing, and the trio set to work refining their take without losing the engaging feel of their self-titled. It feels like a long three years since that record hit, and I’ll be glad to have a follow-up in-hand. Grifter on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.
13. Ice Dragon and Space Mushroom Fuzz, New Blue Horizon/A Peak into the Future (TBA)
Unclear at this point whether Boston outfits Ice Dragon and Space Mushroom Fuzz collaborated on New Blue Horizon/A Peak into the Future, or if it’s a split. Either way, the prolific acts make a sound pairing. Both are vehemently creative and exploratory, psychedelic and progressive each in their way, and if what’s presumably a single finds them working together, all the better, but even if not, new material from either is nothing to balk at, particularly when topped off by such gorgeous artwork. Neither act is ever long from putting something out, so to have them come together one way or another makes a weird brand of sense, which I’m relatively sure the songs will as well. Ice Dragon on Thee Facebooks, Space Mushroom Fuzz on Thee Facebooks.
14. Ides of Gemini, Old World New Wave (Sept. 16)
Ides of Gemini‘s 2012 Neurot Recordings debut, Constantinople (discussed here), established the three-piece as freely inhabiting either side of the imaginary line between ambience and heaviness, J. Bennett and Kelly Johnston providing sometimes minimal, sometimes consuming foundations for vocalist Sera Timms (ex-Black Math Horseman, also Black Mare) to cast ethereal melodies. What Old World New Wave will hold sound-wise, I don’t yet know, but Ides of Gemini‘s otherworldly resonance and ultra-patient approach makes it well worth finding out. Ides of Gemini on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.
15. John Gallow, Violet Dreams (Aug. 4)
Frontman of Blizaro and Orodruin guitarist John James Gallo adds a ‘w’ to his last name and steps out solo on the I, Voidhanger Records release, Violet Dreams, the title hinting at some of his on-his-sleeve affinity for Italian psych-doom master Paul Chain and Swedish legends Candlemass. Gallo‘s work in Blizaro has a tendency to lean toward the progressive and cinematic, but as John Gallow, the focus is more on classic doom riffing and darkened metallurgy. As one would expect, he’s well in his element on the hour-long album, and I hope he decides to call the next one Ancient Theatre. Also note the incredible artwork of Costin Chioreanu. John Gallo on Thee Facebooks, I, Voidhanger Records.
16. John Garcia, John Garcia (Aug. 5)
A long-discussed solo debut for the former Kyuss frontman following a stint alongside Brant Bjork in Vista Chino, John Garcia‘s John Garcia (review here) finds the singer right in his comfort zone, topping desert rock riffs with his trademark guttural vocals. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I’d trade a second Vista Chino outing for it if given the choice — that band seemed to be on course for a sound of its own, separate from Kyuss‘ legacy, and that struck me as worth pursuing — but these songs have a similar enough production style that it’s easy to think of the one as an offshoot of the other, and of course Garcia calls his shots well throughout. John Garcia on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
17. King Buffalo, TBA (TBA)
Including King Buffalo here was pretty speculative on my part, but I dig the Rochester, NY, outfit and didn’t want to leave the prospect of their STB Records debut long-player out. It probably won’t land until 2015 — the future! — but their demo (review here) still gets regular plays around these parts, and I’m very much looking forward to catching them with similarly-minded Nashville blues rockers All Them Witches when they tour together next month. Whatever King Buffalo‘s recording/release plans might be, they’re definitely one to keep an eye on in the back half of this year. King Buffalo on Thee Facebooks, STB Records.
18. Kings Destroy, Kings Destroy (TBA)
Love these guys, love this band. I make no bones about it. Their third record, self-titled and produced as the last two were by Sanford Parker, is as close as they’ve yet come to capturing their live sound, and while they’ve yet to nail down an exact release date, they have a couple very cool tours in the works for this fall, including dates next month with Eric Wagner‘s Blackfinger, that will make a fitting lead-in to their best outing yet. I’ve heard this and had the chance to see some of the material live, and they’ve outdone themselves again, which, considering the esteem in which I continue to hold their 2013 sophomore full-length, A Time of Hunting, is really saying something. Kings Destroy on Thee Facebooks, War Crime Recordings.
19. The Kings of Frog Island, V (Fall)
Easily one of the LPs I’m most eager to hear over the next few months, and specifically on vinyl. The Kings of Frog Island have shown themselves to be so dedicated to the format that their early-2013 album, IV (review here), was presented as two bundled sides even digitally. They recently gave a taste of what their fifth album will in-part hold via a video for “Sunburn” and I’m told more jamminess ensues elsewhere to complement that track’s easygoing flow and platter-ready hook. All the better. The Kings of Frog Island on Thee Facebooks, The Kings of Frog Island on YouTube.
20. Lonely Kamel, Shit City (Sept. 9)
I’d be lying if I said part of my immediate interest in Oslo heavy rockers Lonely Kamel‘s fourth record wasn’t due to the cheeky title, but it’s been three years since the Napalm Records four-piece released their last album, Dust (track stream here), and as they’ve put in plenty of road-time, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to go into this time around with elevated anticipation. I’m not sure you could get away with calling an album Shit City unless you meant business. Got my fingers crossed that’s precisely the case with Lonely Kamel. Lonely Kamel on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
21. Lo-Pan, Colossus (Oct. 7)
Fucking a. Doing the research for this list was the first I’d seen the Jason Alexander Byers cover art for Lo-Pan‘s fourth album, Colossus, or its Oct. 7 Small Stone release date. I haven’t heard the tracks yet — they recorded in Brooklyn back in March, and while I got 2012’s Salvador (review here) pretty early, the Columbus four-piece seem to be keeping a tighter lid on the follow-up — and I can’t help but feel like that’s my loss. Judging by what I’ve heard of the material live, Lo-Pan have dug further into their individual brand of riff-led soulful heavy, and I’ve got a high wager that a few months from now, Lo-Pan‘s latest will make an appearance on another list. More to come. Lo-Pan on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
22. Novembers Doom, Bled White (July 15)
One of doom’s most fascinating and largely ignored progressions is that of Chicago melancholists Novembers Doom, who, when they started out 25 years ago, did so largely as a death metal band, and then moved on to pioneer an American interpretation of what’s commonly thought of as European doom, until, over their last several records, as they’ve started to move back to a more extreme, double-kick-drummed style. Bled White, on The End Records, continues along this path, but especially in the cleaner vocals of frontman Paul Kuhr there remain shades of the morose emotionality that typified what’s now become their mid-period doom idolatry. Unheralded, Novembers Doom keep exploring deeper, darker terrain. Novembers Doom on Thee Facebooks, The End Records.
23. Pallbearer, Foundations of Burden (Aug. 19)
Foundations of Burden is unquestionably among the second half of 2014’s most anticipated albums. Arkansas-based doom four-piece Pallbearer will mark its release with extensive European and North American tours, and where their 2012 Profound Lore debut, Sorrow and Extinction (review here), came out and caught listeners off-guard with its unabashed emotional core, their sophomore outing finds them positioned at the forefront of American doom. Already the hype machine is rolling out the red carpet for the Billy Anderson-produced Foundations of Burden, but no one can say these guys haven’t put their work in, and the record is indeed one to look forward to. Pallbearer on Thee Facebooks, Profound Lore Records.
24. The Skull, TBA (TBA)
For The Skull to put out an album of original material is a unique challenge. Their earlier-2014 first single (stream/review here) found them standing up to it on the new song “Sometime Yesterday Mourning,” but at least half the point of the band since its inception has been to pay homage to legendary doomers Trouble, from whence vocalist Eric Wagner, bassist Ron Holzner and drummer Jeff “Oly” Olson come. For their Tee Pee Records debut full-length — yet untitled and hopefully out before 2015 — it’ll be most interesting to see how guitarists Matt Goldsborough (ex-Pentagram) and Lothar Keller (Sacred Dawn) rise to the occasion of building off some of doom metal’s most celebrated tones. Fingers crossed on this one. The Skull on Thee Facebooks, Tee Pee Records.
25. Snail, Feral (TBA)
Nothing has been formally announced yet, but on Small Stone Records‘ website, they list Snail‘s Feral among their upcoming releases. It would make a suitable pairing, the West Coast riffers having previously worked with MeteorCity on their 2009 post-reunion outing, Blood (review here), prior to independently releasing 2012’s Terminus (review here), and Small Stone seems like a good home for their fourth overall record and return to form as a trio, which was their original incarnation before their original dissolution circa 1994. How they expand on the heavier crunch of Terminus remains even more a point of fascination, and surely their cult following will be glad to find out. I know I will. Snail on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
26. Steak, Slab City (Sept. 9)
After two strong EPs in 2012’s Disastronaught (review here) and 2013’s best-title-ever-boasting Corned Beef Colossus (review here), it’s time for London stoner rockers Steak to step up their game for their Napalm Records debut full-length. The four-piece headed to the Californian desert to record Slab City, and so it’s fair to think some of that atmosphere may have worked its way into the material. Would be an awfully long way to go, otherwise. In either case, Steak have showcased considerable songwriting chops already, now it’s just a matter of sustaining it for a full album’s runtime and keeping enough variety in their approach. I have no doubt they’re ready for this next step. Steak on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
27. Stubb, Cry of the Ocean (TBA)
It is with simple, unabashed warm feelings that I look forward to hearing Cry of the Ocean, the second long-player and Ripple Music debut from UK riffers Stubb. They’ve traded out drummers since 2012’s self-titled (review here), bringing aboard Tom Fyfe with guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson and bassist/vocalist Peter Holland, but I’m excited to hear what changes and shifts in sound Cry of the Ocean might have in store to match its provocative title. Goes without saying the photo above isn’t the final artwork, but instead Tony Reed‘s mastering sheet from back in May when he worked on the tracks. No solid release date yet, but hopefully soon. Stubb on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.
28. Torche, TBA (TBA)
Torche‘s new album and Relapse Records debut was originally slated for the end of the summer. Given that no official word has come out about a title or anything like that and the members of the band have been busy with other projects, it seems unlikely as of now that they’ll hit that target, but after something of a break so frontman Steve Brooks could focus on the resurgent trio Floor, Torche are in fact getting going again, beginning with their first tour of Australia this fall. Maybe their LP will be out by the time they go and maybe it won’t, but word on the street is that whenever the thing arrives, it’s gonna be heavy, which I have no problem believing. Torche on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
29. The Well, Monomyth (Late Summer)
I’ve been waiting since the March announcement that Austin trio The Well signed with RidingEasy Records for further word of their debut full-length, Monomyth (pretty sure that’s not the cover above), but thus far to no avail. Their 2012 single, Seven (review here), was a repeat-listen thriller, and anticipation abounds for what sort of psychedelic garage riffing they’ll conjure up for the album itself. It’s been a couple months at this point, and maybe it’ll be 2015 before Monomyth gets out, but screw it, a boy can hope. The Well on Thee Facebooks, RidingEasy Records.
30. Witch Mountain, Mobile of Angels (Sept.)
Please note: The original cover art with this post was not final and has been replaced with the above band photo.
Portland, Oregon’s Witch Mountain have spent much of the two years following their 2012 third LP, Cauldron of the Wild (review here) on tour in the US and abroad, playing fests, headlining, supporting, but generally putting in a lot of time. As such, Mobile of Angels, which will be out on Svart in Europe and Profound Lore in North America, comes as the end product of a considerable touring cycle. Has all that gigging worn Witch Mountain into the ground, or will they rise above it with metal-loving doom-blues supremacy? They’ve got a vinyl-ready 38 minutes on tap for September and if they’ve ever been in a position to make their case, it’s now. Watch out for the killer sway in “Can’t Settle,” the title of which seems a fitting theme for the band. Witch Mountain on Thee Facebooks, Profound Lore Records.
31. YOB, Clearing the Path to Ascend (Sept. 2)
Yet again — as was the case back in January — alphabetical order forces me to end with YOB, whose seventh full-length and Neurot debut might just be my most anticipated of all on this list. The recently-unveiled Orion Landau cover speaks to a brooding sentiment, and from the one time I was fortunate enough to hear it to-date, the four-track album from the Eugene, Oregon, natives corresponds to its visual side in being a more aggressive push than was 2011’s Atma (review here), but also more exploratory and contemplative in its approach. Now statesmen in American doom and the forebears of a cosmic-minded sound, YOB stand ready to showcase a creative progression that has yet to find its end point. YOB on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.
Other Notable Mentions
Just a couple of these I’d be remiss if I didn’t note. Some were carried over from earlier this year, others just come up along the way. Not sure on all the release dates, but these are worth keeping an ear out for:
Acid King — Were listed in January, but their record has a Feb. 2015 release date.
Bright Curse — Second album recorded at Skyhammer Studios.
Brothers of the Sonic Cloth — My understanding is the album is done and they’re waiting to secure a label. Seems like a good occasion for Southern Lord to step forward, if not Profound Lore or Neurot.
Eggnogg — Not sure if it’s their full-length, You’re all Invited, or something else that’s coming, but whatever. More stoner-funk riffing needs to be had.
40 Watt Sun — There was some word of this early in the year, but nothing since.
Godflesh — Their first in 15 years, A World Lit Only by Fire, will be out Oct. 7. A fuckup not including them on the list proper.
It’s Not Night: It’s Space — Eagerly awaiting the Small Stone debut from this instrumental outfit, but it might be next year.
Karma to Burn — New album, Arch Stanton, out in August. I emailed for a review promo and never heard back. Always a great feeling.
Larman Clamor — Solo-project from Alexander von Wieding has a new one in the can, but I’m not sure on the release schedule.
Lowrider — They’re working on it, but don’t hold your breath to have it out by December.
The Machine — Kind of a slow year for Elektrohasch, but the new one from these Dutch fuzzers would be a nice way end up.
Nachtmystium — Century Media releases their final album, The World We Left Behind, on Aug. 5.
Orange Goblin — Seriously debated putting them on the list, since I know they’ve recorded, but they seem to be promoting a recent reissue of 2007’s Healing through Fire and their upcoming European tour with Saint Vitus rather than their new album, so unless news comes out about it like this week from Candlelight, I wouldn’t expect it until early in 2015.
Pink Floyd — Believe it when I see it, but I honestly couldn’t care less either way if I tried.
Ruby the Hatchet — Their full-length Tee Pee debut is due sometime in the next couple months.
Sun Voyager — Upstate NY youngsters had hinted at new recordings.
Again, if I forgot anything — and I’m sure I did — please let me know in the comments.
The amorphous (and amphibious!) UK collective The Kings of Frog Island have new vinyl impending. A little more than a year after the self-release of their fourth album, IV (review here), the Kings will follow it up with V, their second long-player since parting ways with Elektrohasch, who released their first three records. I haven’t had the pleasure yet, but the band have unveiled a video for the song “Sunburn” from the new one, and it certainly sounds like things are right on track and that all is as it should be on Frog Island.
One of the most surprising aspects of IVwas just how jammed out it felt. The Kings of Frog Island, recording in their own Amphibious Sound Studios II, stretched beyond the garage styling of their third outing, the nighttime desert-isms of their second and the territory-scoping fuzz of their debut to toy with a whole host of new vibes. Made for vinyl and broken into two extended sides even digitally, IVknew what it wanted in terms of aesthetic and got there boldly, but it was clear The Kings of Frog Island were trying new sounds and reaching out into different spheres on purpose.
Part of that is lineup, the notable absence of Josiah‘s Mat Bethancourt, etc., but there’s a creative push at the heart of The Kings of Frog Island that remains consistent no matter who’s involved, and going by “Sunburn,” that remains true on Vas well. The new song retains the ultra-blissed out feel of IVto some degree, but to compare it to “Long Live the King” (video here), which was the public introduction to that album, its structure is much more straightforward and traditional, less jam-intensive. I don’t know at this point whether that will be the case for Von the whole — and, frankly, I can’t imagine The Kings of Frog Island would stick to just one approach the whole time anyway — but the catchy dreaminess of “Sunburn” makes an interesting first look at Vand shows the group’s progression is as alive as ever.
The video for “Sunburn” was made by Bulletree Films in Brazil. Enjoy:
The Kings of Frog Island, “Sunburn” official video
Posted in Features on March 27th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
A digitally-released full-length with its individual songs wrangled into two extended vinyl-side tracks, The Kings of Frog Island IVis an anomaly before you even press (or click) play. The Leicester outfit have proved as amorphous as they are amphibious over the course of their prior three self-titled albums, but IVmarks a couple big changes for the psychedelic rockers. Primarily, it’s their first outing without the input of guitarist/vocalist Mat Bethancourt, who split following the 2010 release of III(review here), and it’s also their first full-length to arrive without an Elektrohasch Schallplatten logo stamped on back.
But if these real-world changes have had any effect on the molecular creative doings in Amphibia, the Kings‘ ethic shows little shift for it. As they did on their 2005 self-titled and 2008 let-me-almost-go-five-minutes-without-telling-you-how-awesome-this-record-is follow-up, II, The Kings of Frog Island casually, naturally, blend desert rock organics with deep-running space tonality. The tracks on IV— there are 10 of them and it’s fun to suss out which starts when — vary in mood and tempo, but a strong thread courses throughout of inner-peace fuzz, and where III showed a rawer, garage rocking side of the band, IV(review here) reacts to unite this with prior accomplishments, resulting in a new and potent blend.
Much about the band — now comprised of guitarist/vocalist Mark Buteux, drummer Roger “Dodge” Watson, Gavin Searle, Gavin Wright and TonyHeslop, as well as other guests— remains obscure, and by all appearances, that’s on purpose. They don’t like having their picture taken and though Buteux talks about the processes involved in putting IVand the already-in-the-works Vtogether, who’s actually doing what and when is a mysteryThe Kings of Frog Islandseem to enjoy perpetuating. With good reason. Not only is a layer of murk fitting for their swampy thematic, but for an album where they’re asking (telling, really) their listeners to take in on as a whole instead of each track as an individual piece, a bit of meta-vagueness seems only appropriate.
Still, Buteux — Watson may have had a hand in here as well — remains forthcoming as regards the making of IVand the intent and concepts at work behind that album, while also giving a hint at what Vmight bring upon its arrival, which could be as soon as later this year. You’ll find the complete Q&A after the jump. Please enjoy.
Posted in Reviews on February 15th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
The aptly-titled fourth album by amorphous UK outfit The Kings of Frog Island marks a number of changes for the band. Foremost, IV is their first full-length without the contributions of guitarist/vocalist Mat Bethancourt of Josiah/Cherry Choke, and second, it’s their first album to be released not on Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Recorded at their own Amphibia Sound Studios II in Leicester over the course of the last couple years and released digitally to iTunes with a vinyl issue dependent on money raised through mp3 sales, the collection is also host to a few stylistic shifts in the band as well. Returning figures Mark Buteaux (vocals/guitar), Roger “Dodge” Watson (drums) and Gavin Searle are joined by Gavin Wright, Tony Heslop and a handful of guests – Ally Buteaux, Ian Piggin and Jim Robinson – and where their prior album, 2010’s III (review here), departed from the fuzz-soaked brilliance that arrived with 2008’s II (some of the finest British fuzz in the last 30 years, by my estimate), in favor of a more garage rock-sounding production – perhaps in part as a result of Bethancourt’s wandering interests; at least it’s easy to read it that way – IV makes an attempt to marry the varying sides of The Kings of Frog Island that have shown up over the course of the prior here albums and encapsulate the diversity of sound and mastery of flow that exist simultaneously in their work. To help accomplish this and aid in that flow, the 10 tracks of the 40-minute IV are presented as two evenly-divided vinyl sides (digitally, it’s two large files). Each clocks in at 20:19, with side A offering six individual cuts joined together as diverse jams and side B even more easy-flowing with four blissfully psychedelic pieces. Because it’s The Kings of Frog Island’s intention that IV should be taken as a whole, or at very least in halves, they’ve given a tracklisting so that each song can be identified, but for example, where “The Night Juno Died” ends and where “Weaving Shadows” begins at the start of side B is more or less up for grabs. I have it as where the drums kick in three minutes into the side, but really, you’re not supposed to know, and that winds up being part of the fun of the album.
I say “part,” because the bulk of IV’s appeal is the music itself. The Kings of Frog Island begin with a chime and a buzzsaw fuzz progression in “The Tenth Stone,” launching into one of the more driving stretches of the first side and the album as a whole, relying on an insistent rhythm and catchy chorus that does little to represent the full breadth of The Kings of Frog Island on their fourth studio outing, but engages nonetheless on an introductory level, vocals compressed, echoing and atmospheric as complemented by Ally Buteaux. The production on the whole doesn’t seem to be as loud as III, but the band works within their range to express a dynamic sensibility, moving from “The Tenth Stone” after about four and a half minutes in to “The King is Dead” with one of several transitional cymbal washes, keeping a quicker pace and desert-rocking chug to the guitar for (what seems like; again, all these separations are based on assumptions from listening) a brief instrumental that winds up in a synth line transitioning to “Witches Warning,” the first real showing on the record of the subdued side to The Kings of Frog Island’s sound. Soft, cooing vocals fade up while analog hiss, a quiet guitar line, snare vibes and bass carry a serenity that seems far removed from either “The King is Dead” or the opener yet still have come naturally from them. A spoken sample from Macbeth begins the transition to the more forward fuzz of “Volonte,” which features another choice chorus – perhaps the most memorable of IV – and a bassline pushing forward an instrumental swell that leads to a rich, fuzzy payoff. At 12:45, they move into the quieter “In the Watcher’s Blood,” which is kept in motion by the hi-hat and sampled birdsong, a wash of sunshine psychedelia in the guitar remaining peaceful despite, and side A wraps with “Shadowlands,” which is moodier in a classic and thoroughly British tradition, not nearly as directed toward upbeat fuzz rock as “Volonte” or “The Tenth Stone,” but emotionally affecting on a different level from everything else they here present, with contemplative plucked strings (ukulele maybe?) meeting a flange of electric guitar and accenting drum thud while the verse carries through to the more densely-layered chorus, another cymbal wash leading the way out of side A.