30 Before ’15: Records Not to Miss Before the New Year Hits

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 2012′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.

NachtmystiumCentury 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.

Thanks for reading.

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The Kings of Frog Island Get Some Rays in “Sunburn” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 1st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

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 IV was 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, IV knew 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 V as well. The new song retains the ultra-blissed out feel of IV to 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 V on 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 V and 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

The Kings of Frog Island on Thee Facebooks

The Kings of Frog Island on SoundCloud

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The Kings of Frog Island Interview with Mark Buteux: Fear of an Amphibious Planet

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 IV is 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 IV marks 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 Tony Heslop, 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 IV and the already-in-the-works V together, 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 IV and the intent and concepts at work behind that album, while also giving a hint at what V might 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.

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The Kings of Frog Island, IV: Living Long

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.

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The Kings of Frog Island Release IV on iTunes

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 24th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Their last album found them veering more toward a jangly garage rock sound, and with IV, UK fuzz experts The Kings of Frog Island seem to marry those influences with the fuzz that made 2008′s II so entrancing, resulting in a heavy psychedelic brew arriving as two whole vinyl sides, sans compromise and fully tripped out.

This is The Kings of Frog Islands‘ first offering since the departure of guitarist/vocalist Mat Bethancourt, and the band is reportedly looking to release the album on vinyl pending a response to the digital version, about which you can find more info below:

The Kings of Frog Island IV Receives January 2013 iTunes Release

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/iv/id595829277

We proudly present a digital only release of the latest episode from the Leicester UK based fuzz rock collective. The album is available as a download consisting of 2 x 20 minute long tracks, and the track listing is:

Side A
The Tenth Stone
The King Is Dead
Witches Warning
Volonte
In The Watchers Blood
Shadowlands

Side B
The Night Juno Died
Weaving Shadows
Eleven Eleven Eleven
Long Live the King

It is our intention to release the album in a limited vinyl format should demand warrant, but no date has been set. A CD version is not anticipated.
In keeping with previous installments, information from the band is at a premium as they resist leaving their natural studio habitat. Drawing inspiration from film sound tracks and ambient fuzz from years gone by, this is a journey into innerspace from the Midlands.

The Kings of Frog Island IV are:
Mark Buteux
Tony Heslop
Gavin Searle
Dodge Watson
Gavin Wright
With:
Ally Buteux
Ian Piggin
Jim Robinson

Recorded at Amphibia Sound Studios II, Leicester, between the summers of 2010 and 2012.
Copyright and Produced by The Kings of Frog Island 2013.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Kings-Of-Frog-Island/123205451039992
http://www.last.fm/music/The+Kings+of+Frog+Island

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Looking for Today: 20 Albums to Watch for in 2013

Posted in Features on January 15th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Last year was a monster. You might say I’m still catching up on reviews for records that came out in October. Yet here we stand in 2013. It’s a whole new year and that means instead of looking back at some of the best releases, it’s time to look ahead and nerd out at what’s to come. Frankly, either way is a good time, but with some of what’s included on this list, 2013 has the potential to be yet another incredible year for lovers of the heavy.

Across a range of genres and subgenres, there are bands big and small, known and unknown, getting ready to unleash debuts, follow-ups and catalog pieces that by the time December rolls around, will have defined the course of this year. It’s always great to hold an album in your hands, to put it on and listen to it for the first or 19th time, but part of the fun is the excitement beforehand too, and that’s where we’re at now.

Some of these I’ve heard, most I haven’t, and some are only vague announcements, but when I started out putting this list together, my plan was to keep it to 10 and I wound up with twice that many because there was just too much happening to ignore. The list is alphabetical because it doesn’t make any sense to me to rate albums that aren’t out yet, and I hope if you find something you’d like to add, you’ll please feel free to leave a comment below.

Thanks in advance for reading, and enjoy:

Acid King, TBA


We begin with only the basest of speculations. Would you believe me if I told you that 2013 makes it eight years since the heavier-than-your-heavy-pants San Francisco trio Acid King released their last album, III? Of course you wouldn’t believe me. You’d be like, “Dude, no way,” but it’s true. Eight friggin’ years. They’ve hinted all along at new material, toured Europe and played fests in the States like Fall into Darkness, but really, it’s time for something new on record. Even an EP. A single! I’ll take what I can get at this point, so long as it’s Lori S. riffing it.

Ararat, III


Chances are, the above isn’t the final art for Argentinian Los Natas-offshoot Ararat‘s forthcoming III, but frontman Sergio Chotsourian has posted a few demos over the last several months and the logo image came from that. Either way, with as far as last year’s II (review here) went in expanding their sound, I can’t wait to hear the final versions of the tracks for the next one. They’re still flying under a lot of people’s radar, it seems, but Ararat are quickly becoming one of South America’s best heavy psych acts. Do yourself a favor and keep an eye out.

Bezoar, TBA


Brooklyn trio Bezoar‘s 2012 debut, Wyt Deth, might have been my favorite album that I never reviewed last year, and needless to say, that’s not a mistake I’m going to make twice. The new songs I’ve heard the three-piece play live have ruled and an alliance with engineer Stephen Conover (whose discography includes Rza and Method Man) is intriguing to say the least. I’m sure whatever Bezoar come out with, the performances from bassist/vocalist Sara Villard, guitarist Tyler Villard and drummer Justin Sherrell will be as hard to pin down as the debut was. It’s a record I’m already looking forward to being challenged by.

Blaak Heat Shujaa, The Edge of an Era


Due out April 9, Blaak Heat Shujaa‘s The Edge of an Era will mark the full-length debut for the ambitious trio (now based in L.A.) on Tee Pee Records following on the heels of the impressive The Storm Generation EP (review here). From the Scott Reeder production to the band’s engaging heavy psych/desert rock blend, this one seems bound to win Blaak Heat Shujaa a lot of new friends, and if the advance EP is anything to go by, The Edge of an Era could prove to be aptly-titled indeed.

Black Pyramid, Adversarial


No release date yet, but so far as I know, Adversarial, which is Massachusetts doom rockers Black Pyramid‘s third album and first to be fronted by guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard, is recorded, mixed and mastered. Song titles include “Swing the Scimitar,” “Onyx and Obsidian,” “Issus,” “Bleed Out” and “Aphelion” (the latter was also released as a limited single in 2012 by Transubstans as a split with Odyssey), and having seen the band live with this lineup, expect no less than a beheading. Also watch for word from the recently announced side-project from Shepard and bassist Dave Gein, The Scimitar.

Black Sabbath, 13


There was a bit of a shitstorm this past weekend when the title of Black Sabbath‘s first Ozzy Osbourne-fronted album since 1978 was revealed in a press release. Nonetheless, 13 is set for release in June and will feature Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine on drums in place of Bill Ward, who last year was engaged in a well-publicized contract dispute with the band. Bummer though that is and as crappy and generic a title as 13 makes — especially this year — let’s not forget that Heaven and Hell‘s The Devil You Know also had a crap title and it was awesome. I’m not sure if I’m willing to stake anticipation on the difference between the vocals of Ronnie James Dio circa 2010 and Ozzy Osbourne in 2013, or Rick Rubin‘s production, but hell, is Geezer Butler playing bass on it? Yes? Well, okay then, I’ll listen. The world can do a lot worse than that and another batch of Tony Iommi riffs, whatever else may be in store.

Clutch, Earth Rocker


It’s a ripper. With Earth Rocker, Clutch reunite with Blast Tyrant producer Machine and the results are a record varied enough to keep some of the recent blues elements of the past couple albums (“Gone Cold”) while also showcasing a reinvigorated love of straight-up heavy rock numbers on tracks like “Crucial Velocity,” “Book, Saddle & Go” and “Cyborg Betty.” Longtime Clutch fans can expect a bigger guitar sound from Tim Sult, killer layering and much personality from vocalist Neil Fallon and yet another stellar performance from the best rhythm section in American heavy, bassist Dan Maines and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster. No doubt in my mind it’ll prove one of the year’s best when 2013 is done. Once more unto the breach!

Devil to Pay, Fate is Your Muse


Last month, I hosted a Devil to Pay video premiere for the Indianapolis-based rockers’ new track, “This Train Won’t Stop,” from the 7″ single of the same name that precedes the release of their Ripple Music debut full-length (fourth overall), Fate is Your Muse. If the 575-plus Thee Facebook “Likes” are anything to go by, anticipation for the album is pretty high. Reasonably so. When I saw Devil to Pay at last year’s SHoD fest, the new material was killer and the band seemed more confident than ever before. Stoked to hear how that translates to a studio recording and how the band has grown since 2009′s Heavily Ever After.

Egypt, Become the Sun


Technically speaking, Become the Sun is the full-length debut from North Dakota doomers Egypt. The band released their self-titled demo through MeteorCity in 2009 (review here), were broken up at the time, and reassembled with a new guitarist for Become the Sun – which is the only album on this list to have already been reviewed. I don’t know about a physical release date, but it’s available now digitally through iTunes and other outlets, and however you do so, it’s worth tracking down to get the chance to listen to it. Underrated Midwestern riffing, hopefully with a CD/LP issue coming soon.

The Flying Eyes, TBA


Currently holed up in Lord Baltimore Studios with producer Rob Girardi, Baltimore’s The Flying Eyes are reportedly putting the finishing touches on the follow-up to 2011′s immersive Done So Wrong, an album full of young energy and old soul. Along with Blaak Heat Shujaa above, I consider these dudes to be right at the forefront of the next generation of American heavy psych and I’m excited to hear what kind of pastoral blues works its way into their tracks when the album finally gets released. They’re a band you’re probably going to hear a lot about this year, so be forewarned.

Gozu, The Fury of a Patient Man


The melodicism of Boston-based Gozu‘s second Small Stone full-length, The Fury of a Patient Man (I swear I just typed “The Fury of a Patient Mrs.”) is no less striking than its album cover. I’ve had this one for a while, have gotten to know it pretty well and my plan is to review it next week, so keep an eye out for that, but for now, I’ll just say that the sophomore outing is a fitting answer to the potential of Gozu‘s 2010 debut, Locust Season (review here) and marks the beginning of what already looks like another strong year for Small Stone. I never thought I’d be so into a song called “Traci Lords.”

Halfway to Gone, TBA


What I’d really like to see happen is for Halfway to Gone – who are high on my list of New Jersey hometown heroes and who haven’t had a new LP out since their 2004 self-titled — to put out a new record in 2013, for it to lay waste to everyone who hears it, and for the band to finally get the recognition they’ve long since deserved. I’ve been charged up on revisiting their three albums since I saw them at the Brighton Bar this past July and after a long wait, rumors, breakups, makeups, etc., I’ve got my hopes up that this year is when these dudes pull it together and make a new one happen. It’s been too long and this band is too good to just let it go.

Kings Destroy, TBA


Confession time: I have the Kings Destroy record. I’ve had it for a bit now. It rules. I don’t know when you’re gonna hear it, but it’s strange and eerie and kind of off the wall stylistically and it doesn’t really sound like anything else out there. Last I heard they’re looking for a label, and whoever ends up with it is lucky. I use a lot of descriptors for bands and their albums, but rarely will I go so far as to call something unique. This album is. If you’ve had the chance to check out songs like “The Toe” and “Turul” live, you know what I’m talking about, and if you haven’t, then stick around because with all the sessions I’ve had with the tracks, I still feel outclassed by what these guys are doing. Shine on, you doomed weirdos.

The Kings of Frog Island, Volume IV


I keep going back to the video for “Long Live the King” that Leicester, UK, fuzz rockers The Kings of Frog Island put up back in October. No, really, I keep going back. It’s a good song and I keep listening to it. Just about any other details regarding their fourth album and first without guitarist/vocalist Mat Bethancourt (Josiah, Cherry Choke), Volume IV, are nil, but periodic updates on the band’s Thee Facebooks have it that progress on the recording is being made, and in the meantime, I don’t seem to have any trouble paying return visits to “Long Live the King.” Hopefully Elektrohasch stays on board for a CD release, and hopefully it happens soon.

Lo-Pan, TBA


Several times over the last couple months I’ve had occasion to say it to people and I’ll say it here as well: I think Lo-Pan are the best American stoner rock band going right now. I was interested to see how they handled the bigger stage for their opening slot for High on Fire and Goatwhore (review here), and as ever, they killed. I haven’t the faintest idea what their recording plans might be, if they’ll even sit still long enough to put an album to tape in time to have it out in 2013 — I suspect it depends on what tour offers come up in the meantime — but new songs “Colossus” and “Eastern Seas” bode well for their being able to continue the course of momentum that the excellence of 2011′s Salvador (review here) and all their hard work before and since has put them on.

Queens of the Stone Age, TBA


It probably wouldn’t be fair to call the upcoming Queens of the Stone Age album a reunion between Josh Homme and Dave Grohl since the two also played together in Them Crooked Vultures and Grohl only drummed on Songs for the Deaf, but it’s exciting news anyway and could mean good things are coming from QOTSA, whose last outing was 2007′s comparatively lackluster Era Vulgaris. The big questions here are how the time apart from the band may or may not have affected Homme‘s songwriting and where he’s decided he wants to take the Queens sound. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Sungrazer & The Machine, Split


With the Strikes and Gutters tour already booked to support it (dates above; or here), Dutch upstart heavy psych jammers The Machine and Sungrazer have teamed up for a split release as well that’s bound to feature some of the year’s best fuzz. The two bands have a lot in common, but they’re pretty distinct from each other sonically too, and with The Machine guitarist/vocalist David Eering helming the recording, you can safely bet it’ll capture the live, jammy feel both groups share. Latest word has it that the mastered tracks are in-house, so watch for more to come as we get closer to the Valentine’s Day launch of the tour.

Truckfighters, TBA


The Swedish fuzz juggernauts’ fourth album overall, this will be Truckfighters‘ first with new drummer McKenzo alongside the core songwriting duo of Dango and Ozo. They’ve been teasing recording updates and threatening song clips, but as soon as I run into something concrete, I’ll share. I’m especially looking forward to the Truckfighters album since it means they’ll likely come back to the US for another tour, and since 2009′s Mania (review here) was so damned brilliant. Not sure on a release date, but it’s high on the list of necessities anyway, however low it may appear alphabetically.

Valley of the Sun, TBA


All I’m going on in including Ohio-based desert rockers Valley of the Sun on this list is a New Year’s message they put out there that read, “Happy New Year, Brothers and Sisters!!! You can count on a Valley of the Sun full-length in 2013.” Hey, I’ve relied on less before, and even if you want to call it wishful thinking, the Cincinnati trio are due a debut full-length behind 2011′s righteous The Sayings of the Seers EP (review here). Even if it doesn’t show up until November or December, I’ll basically take it whenever the band gets around to releasing. Riffs are welcome year-round.

Vhöl, TBA


Well, I mean, yeah. Right? Yeah, well, sure. I mean. Well. Yeah. I mean, sure. Right? It’s a supergroup with YOB‘s Mike Scheidt on vocals, John Cobbett of Hammers of Misfortune on guitar, Sigrid Sheie of Hammers of Misfortune on bass and Aesop Dekker of Agalloch and Worm Ouroboros on drums. Album’s done, set for release on Profound Lore. So, I mean, you know, yeah. Definitely. No music has made its way to the public yet — though that can’t be far off — but either way, sign me the fuck up. Anywhere this one goes, I’m interested to find out how it gets there.

Vista Chino, TBA

After that lawsuit, it’s not like they could go ahead and call the band Kyuss Still Lives!, so the recently-announced Vista Chino makes for a decent alternative and is much less likely to provoke litigation. But still, the Kyuss Lives! outgrowth featuring former Kyuss members John GarciaNick Oliveri and Brant Bjork along with guitarist Bruno Fevery is of immediate consequence. I’m not sure what the timing on the release is, but they’ve already been through enough to get to this point that one hopes a new album surfaces before the end of 2013. What I want to know next is who’s recording the damn thing.

Yawning Man, Gravity is Good for You


Not much has been said in the time since I interviewed Gary Arce, guitarist and founder of influential desert rock stalwarts Yawning Man, about the 2LP Gravity is Good for You release (the Raymond Pettibon cover for which you can see above), but the band has been confirmed for Desertfest since then and they’re playing in L.A. on Jan. 25, so they’re active for sure and presumably there’s been some progress on the album itself. It remains to be seen what form it will take when it surfaces, and the lineup of the band seems somewhat nebulous as well, but when there’s a desert, there’s Yawning Man, and there’s always a desert. 2010′s Nomadic Pursuits (review here) was a triumph, and deserves a follow-up.

Anyone else notice that the “20 Albums to Watch for” list has 22 albums on it? Maybe I wanted to see if you were paying attention. Maybe I can’t count. Maybe I just felt like including one more. Maybe I had 21 and then added Vista Chino after someone left a comment about it. The possibilities are endless.

So too is the list of bands I could’ve included here. Even as I was about halfway through, a new Darkthrone track surfaced from an album due Feb. 25 called The Underground Resistance, and news/rumors abound of various substance concerning offerings from YOB, EggnoggWhen the Deadbolt Breaks, Mars Red SkyAsteroid, Apostle of Solitude, WindhandPhantom Glue, the supergroup Corrections House, Kingsnake, Sasquatch — I’ve already made my feelings known on the prospect of a new Sleep record — news went up yesterday about Inter Arma‘s new one, and you know Wino‘s gonna have an album or two out before the end of the year, and he’s always up to something good, so 20, 22, 35, it could just as easily go on forever. Or at least very least the whole year.

If there’s anything I forgot, anything you want to include or dispute, comments are welcome and encouraged.

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The Kings of Frog Island Have a New Album and a New Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 9th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Here’s a phrase you won’t hear me use often: “Kyuss-worthy fuzz.” It’s that level of tonal gorgeousness that bleeds through in the work of Leicester, UK, outfit The Kings of Frog Island. Their second album, 2008′s aptly-titled II, is for my money one of the best desert rock albums ever to come from a place with no sand (though perhaps there is sand on Frog Island — I really should finish that geological survey), and though they veered more toward the garage rock end of things with the 2010 follow-up, III (review here), their latest work finds them at their most spaced-out yet, at least as far as the new video below for the song “Long Live the King” goes.

The reason I say that is because no single track ever really represents the whole album when it comes to The Kings of Frog Island — there’s something to be said for switching it up — but since the band was awesome enough to post on the forum the news of their forthcoming new album, Volume IV, and the departure of guitarist Mat Bethancourt, also of Cherry Choke and possibly still Dexter Jones Circus Orchestra, I’d be remiss if I didn’t bask in the warmth of “Long Live the King”‘s fuzzy sprawl.

And yeah, a lot of it’s about that tone, but the vocals here also rule (reminding me of Lamp of the Universe) and this band does more with a single cymbal wash than most do with an Orange full stack, so dig the tune and their words below:

After Mat Bethancourt left to concentrate on Cherry Choke, the rest of the band retreated back into their natural habitat: the studio.

After 2 years locked in Amphibia, the new album is now in the can. No release details as yet, expect a digital release first with a vinyl issue to follow.

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Hail to The Kings of Frog Island, Baby

Posted in Reviews on August 17th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster

I was surprised to learn The Kings of Frog Island were releasing the third installment of their purported trilogy, not because two years after II was so soon, but just because I haven’t yet finished listening to that album. Nonetheless comes III, released like 2005’s self-titled and the 2008 follow-up through Germany’s Elektrohasch Schallplatten and a further development of the UK outfit’s fuzz-laden style. At the center of the attack are vocalist/guitarists Mark Buteux and Mat Bethancourt (the latter ex-Josiah and current Dexter Jones Circus Orchestra) and drummer Roger “Dodge” Watson, though Gavin Searle adds vocals, Gregg Hunt plays bass and there are numerous guests throughout. The Kings of Frog Island are what early Desert Sessions jams might have been had they happened in London in the winter instead of, well, the desert.

The main comparison point for The Kings of Frog Island has always been Queens of the Stone Age, and that holds true on III. After the opening intro “In Memoriam,” on which a list of condemned is read out over beating drums, there comes “Glebe Street Whores,” which has shades of “Regular John” from the Queens of the Stone Age 1998 self-titled release in its insistent rhythm and catchy riff. The vocals come on strong, somewhat overblown, and seem to rest on top of the instruments in the mix rather than cut through them, which can make them seem loud. That comes up again later in the album, but if you can find just the right volume and adjust your equalizer to fill out the sound, it’s not an issue. One of III’s catchiest tracks, “Bride of Suicide,” follows “Glebe Street Whores,” and is pushed along at a good clip by steady snare hits from Watson and a good balance of cleaner and fuzz-soaked guitars over a long opening lead section. On first listen, III will sound like The Kings of Frog Island have abandoned some of the warmth of II, and maybe they have, I don’t know, but these songs are still plenty hairy.

There’s a sonic shift with “Dark on You,” on which the album begins to move slower, more deliberately, and with a moodier (and not surprisingly, given the title) darker feel. Longing takes the fore as the central emotion during the oft-repeated memorable chorus, and some lightly strummed guitar from either Buteux or Bethancourt – or maybe someone else, The Kings of Frog Island aren’t  exactly forthcoming with the credits – reminds that the band is up to more than simple stoner rock songwriting. That’s reinforced on “The Keeper Of…,” which is longer, more feedback-centric and reminiscent somewhat of II’s more meandering moments. The opening segment reminds me too of the intro to the title track of Los NatasNuevo Orden de la Libertad, but that’s more likely sonic coincidence than anything else, and there’s certainly more to the track than its beginning; the open jam feels recorded live and added to, filled out, by later studio work, which is not a side III has yet shown.

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Two Albums that Would Have Made the Top 10 if They Hadn’t Been Released Last Year

Posted in Buried Treasure, Features on December 30th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster

Every year there’s a last-minute sneak onto the countdown. Two years ago, Primordial‘s To the Nameless Dead came out in November and was my pick for album of the year. I stand by that, by the way. I guess the closest thing to that happening this year is Shrinebuilder, though they more or less had a spot waiting for them, it was just a matter of assigning the proper number when the time came. Last year, there were two late-released records that made my top 10 that I think are worth another mention as we get ready to close the books on 2009.

Namely, Beyond Colossal by Dozer and II by The Kings of Frog Island.

We’ll take them one at a time. For Dozer, who have since relinquished their crown as the kings of Swedish stoner metal to go on hiatus, Beyond Colossal was a further step away from their riff rock beginnings. Their fifth album overall — second for Small Stone — it was a heavy and aggressive exploration of sound that resulted in a collection of memorable tracks including “Empire’s End” and “Two Coins for Eyes,” both of which featured guest vocals from Clutch‘s Neil Fallon. But it wasn’t just his appearance that made Beyond Colossal special. The energy in “The Flood,” the dynamism of “The Ventriloquist” and even the bravery of quiet closer “Bound for Greatness” all shine both within the Dozer catalog and without.

For the UK‘s The Kings of Frog Island, II was an appropriately-titled second offering via Elektrohasch Schallplatten. While what I recalled of their first album was that it was fuzzy, stoned and riffy with psychedelic undertones, this one came and blew it away in almost every sense of the word. For the hair grown on the guitar tone in “Welcome to the Void” alone — the riff to which I can’t get out of my head just from thinking about it as I type — II has been a mainstay in my CD player throughout 2009. The transposed down-home blues of “The Watcher” and the darker, more sinisterly rhythmic “Witching Hour” are constant fixtures in the mental jukebox, and those are just the tracks I can think of off the top of my head. Once the record actually goes on, it’s simply a matter of being taken someplace else. Leicester, perhaps, where the band is from. Who knows.

Point is this, both Beyond Colossal and II have already shown that they can hold up for a solid year (which, as we all know, is a lot more than plenty of albums) without losing their appeal. If nothing else, that’s definitely worth some consideration. “Attention could be paid,” and so forth.

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Cherry Choke and the Big Get On

Posted in Reviews on May 20th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster

Bethancourt wants to reach out and grab you.When last we left British guitarist/vocalist Mat Bethancourt, he was detailing the battle between the planets Satanica and Amphibia for all the lost souls in the universe as it played out on the second album from his band, The Kings of Frog Island. Bethancourt (also of Josiah) now joins bassist/backing vocalist Gregg Hunt and drummer Dan Lockton in Cherry Choke, a garage rocking power trio whose self-titled debut album, available via Elektrohasch Schallplatten, revels in its simplicity and rootsy flavor.

Split even on CD into sides one and two, Cherry Choke offers 10 straightforward tracks wherein the fuzzy tone that’s come to be expected from Bethancourt in Josiah and The Kings of Frog Island mostly takes a back seat to a cleaner type of distortion akin to the ’70s-inspired indie that’s dominated the party rock ideal for the better part of this decade. If I said Cherry Choke takes inspiration from Hendrix, The Stooges, MC5 and T-Rex, it would be the same as saying “they play garage rock,” but there it is.

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It’s Good to be The Kings of Frog Island

Posted in Features on February 18th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster

It doesn't say it anywhere on there, but this is II.II, the aptly-titled second album from the UK‘s The Kings of Frog Island is the very essence of stoner rock, packed so tightly with fuzz-laden grooves that all you can do is sit and space to it. The hypnotic vibe of “Welcome to the Void” could be prescribed as medication for anxiety disorders, and the darkness of cuts like “The Watcher” and “Witching Hour” take a cosmopolitan approach to classic heavy metal paranoia, bringing influences not only from the deserts of California, but also the echoing gospel tones of Southern Appalachia.

To hear multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Mat Bethancourt (also of classic fuzz rockers Josiah and newborn amped up garage trio Cherry Choke) tell it, they’re just a bunch of stoners writing songs about planetary warfare. In any case, right on.

The album comes some three point five years after its predecessor (delivered by none other than heavy psych’s foremost purveyors, Elektrohasch), and was largely recorded live at guitarist Mark Buteux‘s Amphibia Sound Studios on June 6, 2006. Roger “Dodge” Watson provides a classic ping ride behind “Joanne Marie” and drives the rest of II deep into the reaches of a catchy, classic pop-flavored stratosphere, setting expectations high for what will reportedly be the last album of a trilogy. You’ll never guess the title.

After the jump, Bethancourt fills The Obelisk in on all things future, past and present, including what happened to bring Josiah to an untimely end and when we can expect that third installment from The Kings of Frog Island.

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