Posted in audiObelisk on April 3rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Doomsayeris a fitting title for the forthcoming debut from Boston trio The Scimitar. The band build on the methodologies of BlackPyramid, the trio from which they splintered off last yearwith bassist Dave Gein and guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard picking up drummer Brian Banfield in the process, but craft their own identity as well in the blend of catchy songs and plodding, thudding doom. As a riffer and lead player, Shepard – also of Blackwolfgoat, Milligram, Hackman and too many others to count — sounds right at home on Doomsayer, though it might be the heaviest aesthetic in which he’s yet resided. Black Pyramid‘s 2013 outing, Adversarial(review here), which had Shepard and Gein in the lineup with drummer Clay Neely, is probably the closest comparison point, and Doomsayeris altogether a heavier album. Less bound by the expectations of stepping into someone else’s frontman spot, Shepard flourishes on cuts like “The Taker” and “World Unreal,” and the pummel the trio elicit only lets up on the acoustic interlude “Attrition.”
So it’s heavy in heavy’s element. Fair enough. As the first audio to surface from Doomsayerin its finished mix, “World Unreal” sets up a lot of what works really well about the album, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. In the High on Fire-style thrash of “Babylon,” they heavy-rock-grooving centerpiece take on Motörhead‘s “Metropolis” and the thunder-weighted payoff of closer “Crucifer,” The Scimitar distinguish themselves from Black Pyramid and showcase a songwriting process that’s started from a position of considerable accomplishment and only likely to come further into its own. With lyrics criticizing a conspiracy-minded view of the world — the lines “You’re seeing patterns that don’t exist/You think that everyone’s an enemy” stand out — a steady, rolling groove and metallic undertone in the chorus, “World Unreal” makes a striking introduction to the outlook and heft of Doomsayer, and while the version of the song that I have the pleasure of premiering isn’t mastered, it should still be plenty loud enough to get its point across.
Doomsayer was recorded by Glenn Smith at Amps vs. Ohms Studios and mixed by Benny Grotto at Mad Oak. The Scimitar will release Doomsayerin the coming months through Hydro-Phonic Records. Shows are rare, but the trio will take part in the Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 festival, May 3 and 4 at Ralph’s Rock Diner in Worcester, Massachusetts. More info at the links.
God. Damn. Quite a lineup, quite a poster. I’ll give credit to Hollow Leg‘s Brent Lynch who first brought my attention to the poster for his band’s March 26 gig at St. Vitus Bar in Brooklyn. The evening, on which Kings Destroy (fresh off their West Coast tour) headlines with Hollow Leg, Holly Hunt, Clamfight and The Scimitar supporting, is a benefit for Aaron Edge, the Seattle-based graphic designer and former Roareth (etc.) guitarist, whose struggle with multiple sclerosis led to the creation last year of Lumbar‘s The First and Last Days of Unwelcome(review here) and whose medical bills continue to accumulate.
True to oblivious form, I actually wasn’t aware The Obelisk was sponsoring the show or I’d have been plugging it much sooner. There were some discussions earlier on and I had thought it just kind of petered out as these things sometimes do, but I’m honored to have the name of this site associated with such a lineup, with War Crime Recordings who released Kings Destroy‘s A Time of Hunting last year, and of course with St. Vitus Bar, whose reputation at this point spreads well beyond the bounds of Brooklyn. I won’t be sorry to catch Hollow Leg and Holly Hunt when they come through Boston with Ichabod and Balam, but no doubt this is something special, and the poster, by Searing Limb‘s Connor Anderson, certainly lives up to the occasion.
Click the image to enlarge for a more detailed look (click it again to remove). For more on the Anderson‘s work, this show, the Holly Hunt/Hollow Leg tour dates and how you can contribute to Edge‘s continuing fight, check the links below.
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 3rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Though one hesitates to ever use the word “final” when it comes to a festival lineup, particularly when we’re still a few months out from the event taking place, The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 looks pretty damn complete. Some recent upheaval in the lineup has brought in Lord Fowl as a replacement for Phantom Glue and Kings Destroy for Kingsnake, but things seem solid and ready to proceed otherwise. Should be a packed weekend May 3 and 4 at Ralph’s Rock Diner in Worcester, Mass., and it’s definitely one I’m looking forward to with a killer blend of bands local to New England and not.
Complete lineup as it stands today follows, along with the runtimes for each set. Feel free to dive in:
Snake Charmer Booking proudly presents: THE EYE OF THE STONED GOAT 4 Festival
Saturday, May 3rd – Sunday May 4th 2014
2 Days! 20 Bands! 20 Bucks!
Ralphs Rock Diner 148 Grove St. Worcester, MA 01605
Saturday, May 3rd 2014
Admission: $20 (ALL WEEKEND)
Line-Up and Set Times:
SIXTY WATT SHAMAN (The Reunion!!!) 12:20am-1:15am
CORTEZ (Boston, MA) 11:20pm-12:00am
KINGS DESTROY 10:25pm-11:05pm
SUMMONER (Boston, MA) 9:30pm-10:10pm
LORD FOWL (New Haven, CT) 8:45pm-9:15pm
BEELZEFUZZ (Church Within Records – Maryland) 8:00pm-8:30pm
SECOND GRAVE (Massachusetts) 7:15pm-7:45pm
JOHN WILKES BOOTH (Long Island, NY) 6:30pm-7:00pm
SET (Worcester, MA) 5:45pm-6:15pm
BIRCH HILL DAM (Fitchsburg, MA) 5:00pm-5:30pm
Sunday, May 4th 2014
Admission: $20 (ALL WEEKEND)
Line-Up and Set Times:
ORDER OF THE OWL (Atlanta, GA) 11:20pm-12:00am
THE SCIMITAR (Boston, MA) 10:20pm-11:00pm
CURSE THE SON (Connecticut) 9:25pm-10:05pm
VOLUME IV (Ripple Music – Atlanta, GA) 8:30pm-9:10pm
ICHABOD (Boston, MA) 7:45pm-8:15pm
ROZAMOV (Boston, MA) 7:00pm-7:30pm
NEON WARSHIP (Small Stone Records- Ohio) 6:15pm-6:45pm
Posted in Questionnaire on December 17th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s a long list of bands that have played host at one point or another to guitarist Darryl Shepard. Having cut his teeth in outfits like Slaughter Shack and Slapshot, Shepard served as guitarist in Milligram and Roadsaw in the late ’90s and early ’00s, eventually emerging with his own (mostly) instrumental outfit, Hackman, releasing two albums on Small Stone. Already working in his own drone project, Blackwolfgoat – the second Blackwolfgoat album, Dronolith, was released on CD through The Maple Forum – he joined Black Pyramid on vocals and guitar after their second album and 2013′s Adversarial(review here) resulted on Hydro-Phonic, a record that took Black Pyramid on a tour of Europe that included a stop at Hellfest in France, where the above photo was taken by Nicolas Dessables. When further lineup issues cropped up with Black Pyramid drummer Clay Neely relocating, Shepard and bassist Dave Gein formed TheScimitar, whose debut LP is due in 2014.
A third Blackwolfgoat is also set for release next year (in-studio here), and The Scimitar are scheduled to play The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 in May and will reportedly have other sporadic shows supporting the album.
The Obelisk Questionnaire: Darryl Shepard
How did you come to do what you do?
I started playing music at a young age. In fourth grade I joined the school band, just as something to do. I originally wanted to play the saxophone, mainly because it looked cool, but they ran out of those so I picked the trumpet instead. Before that, we used to play the recorder in music class in school, and I always liked music class, so I guess that’s really why I joined the school band. I stayed with it right up until I graduated high school. When I was 14 or 15 I decided I wanted to play drums, but I didn’t have anywhere to put a drumset, so again I went with my second choice, the guitar. I just was drawn to music at an early age. Even though my parents weren’t musical my Dad was always playing music around the house, stuff like Earth, Wind and Fire, and he used to watch the TV show Soul Train all the time, and I loved that. And the Monkees, I watched that show religiously as a little kid. Once I graduated high school I put the trumpet down and focused only on the guitar, for the sole reason that I thought girls liked guitar players more than trumpet players. Not even kidding at all. I don’t think I knew who Chet Baker was at that point. So yeah, it’s all because of the Monkees and Earth, Wind and Fire, I guess.
Describe your first musical memory.
I think the very first musical memory I have involves the Monkees. I remember there was a birthday party at our house for me when I was probably five or six, and I distinctly remember dancing around and singing along to “No Time” by the Monkees off of Headquarters. I loved that song. And I remember all the other kids clapping and yelling when I finished my little act. That’s probably the first time that I did any type of “performing” in public, that I can remember. I couldn’t play an instrument at that point but I gave it my all. I was definitely hooked at that point.
Describe your best musical memory to date.
It would have to be playing with Black Pyramid at Hellfest in 2013. There have been other great shows, Milligram opening for Kyuss Lives! is one, but playing Hellfest was just a great time. We had an amazing slot and a long set, and the crowd was really into it. Soundchecking while Sleep were hanging out and talking to those guys and just feeling like we were part of this really awesome thing was a great feeling. There was a show earlier on that tour where it just sounded like complete crap onstage and I wasn’t happy at all about it, but all I had to do was think about playing Hellfest a couple of days later and it got me through that show. It just felt really good to feel like what we were doing was being appreciated by people who were fans of the music and who really cared about it. For me, it really does make a huge difference to have people enjoy what you’re creating, to GET IT, and Hellfest was a perfect example of that on a large scale.
When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?
I would say just recently, my belief in myself and that I would play music no matter what, that’s been tested. I’ve always believed that no matter my station in life or no matter what my circumstances were, I would always, without a doubt, play music. And recently that’s been tested, because I’m older now, and I have health issues to stay on top of, and I can’t go sinking money into musical endeavors with no financial payback like I used to be able to. I just can’t. I need a steady job, mainly for the health insurance. I can’t survive without insurance, due to my heart problems. I’ll always need to go back to the hospital and have procedures done and have the battery in my defibrillator changed for the rest of my life, things like that. That all costs a lot of money, and I wouldn’t be able to afford any of that without the insurance I get through my job. So I’ve really questioned if I can go on playing music in bands and how much longer this can continue without interfering with my “normal” life outside of music. It’s not even that I don’t want to play music anymore, it’s that I have a regular life and a way of living that I need to maintain, and I cannot have music interfere with that. I used to be very idealistic about that, thinking that music would always be the thing that I would do no matter what, but lately I’ve been questioning that a lot and trying to figure out how to make it all work.
Where do you feel artistic progression leads?
I feel that it leads to places that you’ve wanted to go to but haven’t yet arrived at. When I graduated high school I was thinking about going to Berklee School of Music. I had to go in for an interview, and the person I had to see asked me what I wanted from my guitar playing. I told him I wanted to be able to play whatever I thought of playing right as I was thinking it, that it would just be automatic. I’m not talking about notes per se, but whole ideas, I wanted to think of something musically and then just be able to execute it. He didn’t seem too impressed by that, by the way. And I didn’t go to Berklee, mainly because they wanted me to go as a trumpet major and I only cared about guitar at that point, and there are a 10 million guitar players at Berklee but only a handful of trumpet players, at least back then that’s how it was. All shredders. But I feel that after all these years of playing, after all the experiences I’ve had, I basically do that now in Blackwolfgoat. It’s all been a progression from the time I learned to play the main riff of “Smoke on the Water” on one string to now. I’ve played in hardcore bands, metal bands, total free-form improv noise bands, solo acoustic shows, cover bands, all of this stuff, and picked up something at every stop along the way, and it’s all in there now. And it’s been a progression, for sure. There’s still stuff I want to play that I haven’t quite gotten the hold of yet, but I’m looking forward to getting there.
How do you define success?
Man, that is a question with a lot of answers. For me, success is a few things. Sitting on my couch and coming up with a really cool riff that I dig is total success. There’s actually a feeling I get when I come up with something I really dig where I don’t even care if anyone else hears it, I’m not even thinking about that. I’m just completely into the moment and the sound of it RIGHT THEN, and if I get off on that then it’s a success. Self-satisfaction is the greatest success of all. Of course, getting music out there for people to hear and accomplishing that the way you want in and of itself is success. I’ve had recording sessions where something sounded so fucking awesome or so cool that again, it didn’t even matter if anyone outside the studio heard it, I was hearing it right there and then, and I get that same feeling of self-satisfaction. I’d call that success.
What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?
Probably the attacks on 9/11 in New York. I was in New York then and it was just a horrifying and shocking thing. The main thing I wish I had never seen was all the people going back to work just days after the attacks, and they were going to work in clouds of soot and smoke, and people were wearing masks to cover their mouths and just trudging back to work in all this destruction. It was a heavy thing to see. People just going about their lives and trying to work to make a living, make their rent, being attacked and then going back to work while the dust was still in the air. No rest at all, just back to the grind.
Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.
As far as something musical? I’m still trying to record that perfect album that’s eight songs in 40 minutes. And every song is cool and the whole thing is solid and stands as a whole and also as as individual pieces. A classic album in the sense of what bands used to do in the ’70. I don’t care about a 30-song album in 20 minutes, or a two-song, hour-long album. I really want to create my own version of a classic rock album that fits into traditional musical values, things like 40-minute albums. That, to me, is musical perfection. Again, that’s something that I’m working towards, making progress. Very few bands write classic albums like I’ve described. It can be done, some bands have done it, but yeah, I just want to create a perfect heavy rock album at some point. My own version of Zeppelin IV or Master of Reality.
Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?
At some point I’m going to publish my book, Black Thanksgiving, and I’m really looking forward to that. Even if it’s self-published or if someone else helps publish it, it’s gonna come out at some point. And I’m looking forward to having some time, some free time away from music and everything that entails, all the things that go into being in a band, having that time to really organize and get the stories together in a coherent manner that flows and putting it altogether officially. These stories have nothing to do with music directly or playing in a band, they’re not “band on tour” stories or like a musical diary or whatever, they’re stand alone stories that have nothing to do with music, which is what I set out to do. Believe it or not, there is life outside of music. I have an entirely different life outside of the band and outside the realm of music. And I dig that, a lot.
Well, this is convenient. Now a two-day fest, the Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 is coming to Allston, MA, and is set for May 3-4 at O’Brien’s Pub. I think I can safely say this will be the least amount of driving I will have ever done to get to a festival. And while that’s not as appealing as the the fact that Sixty Watt Shaman are doing a reunion set or that I’ll have another chance to check out Beelzefuzz and Curse the Son along with native Boston acts like Summoner, The Scimitar, Cortez and Ichabod, the ease of commute is not to be overlooked. I don’t have a 2014 calendar yet, but once I get one, you can pretty much consider it marked.
Kudos to Brendan Burns, who’s also gearing up to present Stoner Hands of Doom XIII in Virginia next weekend. Check out the poster for the event and the preliminary announcement below. More to come:
***SNAKE CHARMER BOOKING ANNOUNCES ESG4!***
Saturday May 3rd- Sunday May 4th 2014 O’Briens Pub / Allston, MA
Tickets On Sale: Jan 1st 2014 9am.
THIS IS A LIMITED ENGAGEMENT, THIS EVENT WILL SELL OUT!!! More details as they develop!
Posted in Reviews on July 22nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
True, I probably should’ve been looking over housing rentals and formulating a plan for what apartments to see the next day — since that’s why I was in Boston a week and a half ahead of moving to Massachusetts anyway — but on the other, far less responsible hand, The Brought Low. The NYC trio were coming up to play Radio in Somerville with local-types Planetoid, The Scimitar and Hey Zeus also on the bill, and well, if I’m going to be living somewhere, there’s no time like the present to start getting my ass out to shows. What at its most convenient is a four-hour drive had taken more than six, my car’s air conditioner cutting out on the way. I’d been up since five in the morning. It was time to rock and roll.
I’ve been to Radio a few times now — I think every time I’ve been there a band on Small Stone has played, usually Gozu — and it’s a cool room. I had to remind myself that Boston’s a rocker town with a rocker crowd, so the place would probably be packed, and by the time Hey Zeus were finished, indeed it was. Last time I saw the native outfit was their first show, in January. It was one of the coldest nights of the winter. Go figure that I should run into them again as the heat index pushed its way past 110. A band for all seasons, they apparently are.
Opening up, I thought it was a pretty ballsy move for them to throw in a “Space Truckin’” cover halfway through, but they absolutely nailed it, vocalist Bice Nathan channeling his inner Ian Gillan to hit the screaming pre-chorus “Yeah!” high notes on the ultra-catchy Deep Purple classic. Ballsy as it was, they’d double-down by closing out a set otherwise comprised of driving original material with a take on “Speed King” from In Rock. It was almost like the set had a side A and side B and each closed out with a Deep Purple song. Not a bad way to go out, come to think of it.
Between Nathan‘s expert fronting the band, guitarist Pete Knipfing‘s red-hot Southern-style classic rock leads and the groove held down by the rhythm section of bassist Ken Cmar and drummer Todd Bowman, Hey Zeus were as tight as you could possibly ask them to be, varying their pacing somewhere between mid-moving stonerly lumber and the grown-up punk that has fueled so much of Boston’s heavy rock over the years. I dug it last time, I dug it this time, but more importantly, I’ll look forward to digging it next time.Feeling more metallic from their very start, The Scimitar followed in plundering fashion.
Guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard (see also Blackwolfgoat, Hackman, Roadsaw, and the League of Excellent Human Beings) announced from the stage that it was just The Scimitar‘s second Boston show. The trio, made up of Shepard, his Black Pyramid bandmate Dave Gein and drummer Brian Banfield, more or less functioned as an extension of that band’s marauding musical ideology, walking a line between thrashing metal and doom that Shepard‘s riffs navigated with ease. Some parts reminded me of Black Pyramid‘s 2013 outing, Adversarial(review here), but in cuts like “World Unreal” and “Forever and Ever and Ever” — based on The Shining and being played for the first time — there began to shine an individual personality for The Scimitar that will inevitably win out.
Gein and Shepard, recently back from a European tour in support of Adversarialwith Black Pyramid, were dead on from the start, which gave Banfield a task in locking in with the two of them, but the drummer handled it well, the trio sounding solid if formative in their chemistry and like they were only going to get filthier sounding as time went on. I wondered if crusty battle doom was a thing, or if it could be, and as if either to answer or to shake me out of my bout of overthinking, they ran through “Void Traveler” on their way to closing out with the Motörhead cover “Metropolis,” giving a suitably grooving treatment to the mid-paced swagger of the original, which appeared on the 1979 landmark, Overkill. Needless to say, beer was spilled.
Dressed up in elaborate and professional-looking alien costumes — one guy actually looked so much like Nightcrawler from the X-Men that I thought that’s what he was going for at first — as they walked around Radio loading in and hanging out, Planetoid were playing last, which meant The Brought Low went on third after The Scimitar. There was a moment right before they took the stage that I could feel myself hit the wall. I stifled yawns and kept myself standing upright, but wow, I was ready to be done. The Brought Low, who were viewing this show as something of a makeup from having to cancel on the Small Stone Boston showcase last fall owing to the post-Hurricane Sandy gas shortage, hadn’t even started yet. I’d only seen two bands!
Proud to report that I didn’t split before The Brought Low‘s set was finished. The trio — Ben Smith (guitar/vocals), Bob Russell (bass/vocals) and Nick Heller (drums) — were on my hypothetical list of stuff to see before no longer living in the New York area, so even though it wound up being in Boston rather than their hometown I caught them in, I wasn’t about to complain. Their on the cusp of 15 years together and lived up to the high standard the sets I’ve seen them play have set, Smith and Heller both having grown out their hair some since I last encountered the band in Fall 2011. In that time, they haven’t put out anything new — their last offering was a three-song EP on Coextinction Recordings (stream and track-by-track here) — but even “What I Found” from their 2001 self-titled debut sounded fresh among newer songs like “Army of Soldiers” and “Black River” from the aforementioned three-tracker.
“Black River” in particular made for an exciting shift just past the halfway mark in the set as Russell took the fore vocally with Smith backing, where the band’s usual process works the other way around, their chemistry and unique blend of country twang and rocking city grit underscored by the swing in Heller‘s drums, perhaps most prevalent of all in the slower “My Favorite Waste of Time” from 2010′s Third Record (review here), which was also a highlight. I don’t know how many times I’ve called The Brought Low the best rock band in New York, but I’m still right. Whether it was “Old Century” or “The Kelly Rose,” the only thing they left me wanting was more The Brought Low. Beat to hell though I was, I’d have stayed if they went on twice as long.
As it was, they didn’t go much further than 40 minutes. An encore after “Blues for Cubby” rounded out and I said a few quick goodnights and made my way back to the hotel, feeling guilty for not catching Planetoid but assuming this wouldn’t be my last opportunity to do so. The next day I got up and went and found a place to live.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 7th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Over the weekend, your buddy and mine, Darryl Shepard (also Blackwolfgoat, Milligram, etc.) announced that he and his Black Pyramid bandmate Dave Gein had formed a new band, The Scimitar, with drummer Brian Banfield. The name comes from a song Shepard wrote with Gein and drummer Clay Neely in Black Pyramid, and with a new album from that band expected this year — it’s mixed and last I heard was being mastered — I can’t help but wonder if the difference won’t show itself in terms of the amount of live shows being played by The Scimitar. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Until then, Shepard says they’re working on material and will start playing out in the spring:
I’d like to announce the formation of a new band called The Scimitar. It consists of myself and Gein from Black Pyramid as well as drummer Brian Banfield. Black Pyramid will be playing out much less in 2013, so Gein and I decided to start a new project. It will basically be just an extension of BP, same style of songwriting, same tunings, etc. We have two songs near completion, and we’re working on a cover of Motörhead’s “Metropolis”. Black Pyramid isn’t going anywhere, just think of The Scimitar as an extension of that band. We should be ready to play shows in March or April.