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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