Posted in Whathaveyou on September 15th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Brooklyn’s Kings Destroy will head to Europe this fall. The genre-defiant five-piece will head overseas with Chicago’s The Skull for the first time since the release of their 2015 self-titled third album (review here), which was released by War Crime Recordings, who, in the interest of full disclosure, also pressed up my book. I’ll confess I was invited to go along with Kings Destroy on this tour as I did twice in the US circa 2014, but the basic fact of the matter is those kinds of things are way easier to do when you’re out of work, which, at the moment, I’m not. Unless I get canned between now and then. If that happens, I’m fucking there.
The Obelisk All-Dayer veterans will be keeping good company one way or another, both in touring with The Skull and in bringing aboard none other than the Mayor of Boston Heavy, Darryl Shepard (Kind, The Scimitar, Hackman, Milligram, Blackwolfgoat, so many others) himself — to play bass no less. Shepard had a few words about filling the low-end position this time out, and you’ll find those, Kings Destroy‘s announcement, the dates, and the stream of the self-titled below, because I’m thorough like that when I like a band this much.
Have at you:
Excited to announce that Kings Destroy will be joining The Skull for the majority of their British/European tour in November! Some additional German KD-only dates TBA. See you on the road!
Darryl Shepard on touring with Kings Destroy:
When Kings Destroy ask you to play bass for them on their European tour, you say yes. I’m very honored and excited to be joining these guys on bass for their tour with The Skull in November.
The Skull & Kings Destroy Nov. 2016 European tour: 03.11.2016 GB London @ Koli’s Night Club 04.11.2016 GB Bristol @ Exchange 05.11.2016 GB Milton Keynes @ Crauford Arms 06.11.2016 GB Birmingham @ The Rainbow 07.11.2016 NL Tilburg @ Little Devil 08.11.2016 NL Utrecht @ DBs 09.11.2016 DE Karlsruhe @ Jubez 10.11.2016 AT Vienna Doom Over Vienna Festival @ Viper 12.11.2016 NL Nijverdal @ Cult-Art Shop 13.11.2016 NL Drachten @ Iduna 14.11.2016 DE Wiesbaden @ Schlachthof 15.11.2016 DE Kassel @ Schlachthof 16.11.2016 DE Hamburg @ Hafenklang
Posted in Whathaveyou on June 6th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
This is one of those tour-to-end-all-tours tours. Beginning in Austin on Sept. 27, including a stop Oct. 14 at Erosion Fest and culminating Oct. 23 at Southwest Terror Fest, the newly-announced tour with Saint Vitus, The Skull and Witch Mountain also covers both coasts in nearly its month-long stretch. I’ll admit the prospect of seeing these three bands together at the Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn has my arm hair standing on end, remembering the Vitus-at-Vitus gig from 2012 (review here) as one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, at that venue or anywhere else. It’ll be a different lineup of the band this time, with original vocalist Scott Reagers back in that position as the Die Healing-referential poster art indicates, but they’re keeping excellent company in The Skull and Witch Mountain as well, so kudos all around, including to Nanotear, which put the package together.
Witch Mountain have a couple dates as well en route to meeting up with the others. Find the complete routing, including those shows, below:
SAINT VITUS tour dates All dates with THE SKULL, WITCH MOUNTAIN Sept. 27 Austin, TX @ Midway Field House Sept. 28 Dallas, TX @ Gas Monkey Dallas Sept. 29 San Antonio, TX @ The Mix Sept. 30 Shreveport, LA @ Riverside Warehouse Oct. 1 New Orleans, LA @ One Eyed Jack’s Saloon Oct. 2 Atlanta, GA @ The EARL Oct. 3 Raleigh, NC @ Kings Oct. 5 Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts Oct. 6 Boston, MA @ @Middle East Oct. 7 Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus Bar Oct. 8 Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop Oct. 9 Indianapolis, IN @ 5th Quarter Lounge Oct. 10 Chicago, IL @ Reggie’s Bar Oct. 11 Madison, WI @ High Noon Saloon Oct. 12 St. Paul, MN @ Turf Club Oct. 14 Missoula, MT @ Erosion Festival Oct. 15 Seattle, WA @ El Corazon Oct. 16 Portland, OR @ Star Theater Portland Oct. 18 Sacramento, CA @ Starlite Lounge Oct. 19 Oakland, CA @ Oakland Metro Operahouse Oct. 20 Costa Mesa, CA @ Wayfarer. Oct. 21 Los Angeles, CA @ The Viper Room Oct. 22 San Diego, CA @ Brick By Brick Oct. 23 Tucson, AZ @ Southwest Terror Fest
Witch Mountain shows on the way to meet up with Saint Vitus + The Skull: 9/22 Portland, OR – Dante’s (WM only) 9/23 Boise, ID – Neurolux (WM only) 9/24 Salt Lake City, UT – Metro (WM only) 9/25 Denver, CO – Hi-Dive (WM only)
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 27th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Have to chuckle a bit at The Skull calling a tour ‘November of Doom,’ when they’re from Chicago and that same city is host to Novembers Doom, but hey, sometimes coincidences happen. On their latest run of Europe, which follows two earlier this Spring, including one that stopped for a total of three sets at Roadburn 2016, they’ll be joined by Portland, Oregon’s Witch Mountain. As coordination would have it, the two bands share a guitarist in Rob Wrong at this point, so though he’ll be pulling double-duty, the pairing makes an awful lot of sense. The Skull, who are continuing to support their 2014 debut, For Those Which are Asleep (review here), as well as a self-titled follow-up EP (review here), features vocalist Eric Wagner, bassist Ron Holzner, guitarist Lothar Keller and drummer Sean Saley, in addition to Rob Wrong.
To my recollection, this is the first time Witch Mountain will be headed to Europe since acquiring vocalist Kayla Dixon. They toured North America last Spring alongside Enslaved and YOB and are about due for a follow-up to 2014’s Mobile of Angels (review here), their gorgeous and fraught fourth full-length.
Both bands also play Erosion Festival 2016 (info here) in Missoula, Montana, this October.
From the PR wire:
THE SKULL featuring former Trouble members including vocalist Eric Wagner and bassist Ron Holzner are returning to Europe in November 2016!
The Skull & Witch Mountain: 11/04 Bristol, UK Exchange 11/05 Milton Keynes, UK Crauford Arms 11/06 London, UK Underworld 11/07 Tilburg, NL Little Devil 11/08 Utrecht, NL DBS 11/09 Karlsruhe, DE Jubez 11/10 Vienna, AT Doom Over Vienna 11/11 Arnstadt, DE Rockjunfer 11/12 TBA 11/13 Drachten, NL Iduna 11/14 Wiesbaden, DE Schlachthof 11/15 Kassel, DE Schlachthof 11/16 Hamburg, DE Hafenklang 11/17 Dortmund, DE Piano 11/18 Würzburg, DE Hammer Of Doom 11/19 Winterthur, CH Gaswerk
Posted in audiObelisk on May 11th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Some good shit here. I was bummed to miss Atomikylä and Oranssi Pazuzu both at Roadburn 2016, but having caught the likes of Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, The Skull, Bang, Tau Cross and Repulsion, it’s not like you’re going to find me complaining. Even less so now, since though we’re not yet a month out from when the festival actually took place in its home of Tilburg, the Netherlands, the first round of the traditional audio streams have arrived. All of the above mentioned are included, as well as Sinistro, Dark Buddha Rising and Abyssion, making it a pretty succinct summary of the breadth of the fest as a whole, from warm-toned classic rock to raging grind and black metal to the dreariest depths of doom. Yup, that about covers it.
As always, these streams were captured by Marcel van de Vondervoort — who also played this year with Astrosoniq; can’t wait till their set gets posted — and I’m thrilled to host them both for the memories they bring back and for the chance to hear stuff I didn’t get to see. I don’t mind telling you and I don’t think I’m giving away any state secrets when I say it was a hard transition back to real life this year, so to have a bit of escapism in the form of these sets is most welcome.
I hope you also enjoy digging in:
Abyssion – Live at Roadburn 2016
Atomikyla – Live at Roadburn 2016
Bang – Live at Roadburn 2016
Brothers of the Sonic Cloth – Live at Roadburn 2016
Dark Buddha Rising – Live at Roadburn 2016
Oranssi Pazuzu – Live at Roadburn 2016
Repulsion – Live at Roadburn 2016
Tau Cross – Live at Roadburn 2016
Sinistro – Live at Roadburn 2016
The Skull – Live at Roadburn 2016 (Thursday, April 14)
The Skull – Live at Roadburn 2016 (Friday, April 15 – playing Trouble’s Psalm 9 in its entirety)
Special thanks as always to Walter for letting me host the streams. For all of this site’s coverage of Roadburn 2016, click here.
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 9th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Working out of a home-base in Missoula, Montana, Erosion Festival 2016 has announced a formidable lineup bringing together bands from the West Coast and the Midwest and beyond, including headliners Saint Vitus, Acid King and The Skull, for a two-night stint at Stage 112. Familiar names from the Pacific Northwest include Mos Generator, Witch Mountain, Mammoth Salmon, Teepee Creeper, Mother Crone and Disenchanter, and they’re joined by Thorr Axe, Chron Goblin, Stone Elk, Wizzerd, American Falcon, and others for a heavy weekend surrounded by mountains and Montana’s open sprawl. I wonder if it snows in Missoula in October.
There’s more info to come from the fest in terms of who’s playing when, how much tickets are, how to buy them, when to buy them, and so on, but the lineup is the news here and the lineup is more than solid. If you’re wondering, Missoula does have an international airport. Not that I’ve looked or anything, but flights seem to be pretty cheap.
From the festival:
We are very excited to finally announce our entire 2016 Erosion Festival line-up! It’s an honor to have these awesome bands on board for 2016, please welcome SAINT VITUS, THE SKULL, ACID KING, and WITCH MOUNTAIN!
Erosion will be held in Missoula, MT on Friday October 14th and Saturday October 15th @ Stage 112. 18 bands total for 2 nights of heavy music and great times we hope to see you there!
We will have ticket information soon, our facebook event page, and the official Erosion Fest 2016 poster, with all the information you’ll need.
Thank You all for supporting us and we’ll see you in October!
Erosion Festival lineup: Saint Vitus The Skull Acid King Witch Mountain Mos Generator Thorr Axe Mammoth Salmon Mother Crone Disenchanter Chron Goblin Teepee Creeper Swamp Ritual Stone Elk American Falcon Shramana Wizzerd The Old Ones Piranha Dog
Already it seems like Roadburn is in full swing. There’s no sense of the outside world, only Roadburn, which always has and always will. Familiar faces abound, and new ones too. A lot of them. That build-out on the 013 allowed for more tickets sold, so inarguably Roadburn 2016 is the most crowded this event has ever been. That’s saying something. Mostly, it’s saying, “get there early if you want to get up front.”
I did just that what seems like a million hours ago for The Poisoned Glass starting the day — the first day; my god, it’s still the first day — at Het Patronaat, aka the church. The band is new, but the players involved were clearly known to the early crowd, vocalist/noisemaker Edgy59 and bassist G. Stuart Dahlquist both veterans of widely influential doom extremists Burning Witch. By astounding coincidence, their debut album, 10 Swords, came out this week via Ritual Productions, and they played the vast majority of it and then some, the volume of Dahlquist‘s bass loud enough to vibrate earplugs and dissuade any accusations of minimalism one might try to make.
With Edgy59 switching between harsh screaming rasps and cleaner vocals, it was entertaining to look around the room and see so many smiling faces among those in attendance. Yes, the music is unspeakably dark. Yes, it sounds like your soul in a trash compactor. Doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. Their post-Khanate dystopian oppression found its audience for sure, and it was gripping to watch the seething intensity in Edgy59‘s performance particularly, his movements restless in comparison to the slow motion tempos of the material. They were as heavy in mood as in Dahlquist‘s tone, and inescapable in their rumbling churn. Perfect for the church.
As they were wrapping up, Inverloch were taking the stage in the redone Green Room. I tried to catch some of Mantra Machine, but already the Cul de Sac was full and it would remain so for the duration. I thought about running over to Extase, which is around the other side of the alley behind the Patronaat, to get a sample of Grafir, but wound up marauding through the merch section — like a fucking champ — and back at the church to catch Der Blutharsch and the Infinite Church of the Leading Hand, who, as it turns out, were exactly what I was looking for.
Later on, I’d go back to the merch area to pick up a full copy of their new record, The Wolvennest Sessions, which came out in December, and grabbing 2012’s The Story About the Digging of the Hole and the Hearing of the Sounds from Hell on a whim, basically because that’s how good Der Blutharsch and the Infinite Church of the Leading Hand Were, the Austrian experimentalists celebrating their 20th anniversary with a short tour in the winding-down stage. Their blend of classic krautrock and forward-thinking psychedelia was a joy to take in, and since their stuff is so far out, I didn’t really know what was coming. Anything would’ve been a surprise. With founder Albin Julius on synth and vocals, they spread their sound out over their hour-long set and seemed right at home in the flow.
There seems to be some threat that this is their last tour. Obviously, I don’t know if that’s true or not, and since they’re pretty prolific, I wouldn’t take that to mean they’re done overall — though one never knows — but even if it’s a year or a few years before they get out again, I felt fortunate to watch them play. It’s the kind of thing I’d never get to see anywhere but at Roadburn, something I didn’t even know how badly I wanted to watch, and though I checked out a little early to go catch The Skull on the Main Stage back at the 013, Der Blutharsch and the Infinite Church of the Leading Hand left one of the day’s most memorable impressions. Considering the course of the day, that’s saying something.
Yeah, I watched The Skull last night at the Hardrock Hideout (review here). It’s a fact. I thought this was their set of Trouble songs, and there were a few sprinkled in for good measure, of course — “R.I.P.,” “At the End of My Daze,” “Come Touch the Sky” and so on — but was awfully Skull-y for being the Trouble set, which as it turns out is late tomorrow night. Go figure. No harm done, of course. Let “A New Generation” and “The Longing” be the worst things that ever happen at Roadburn. They riffed on “I Want You/She’s so Heavy” and tossed “Till the Sun Turns Black” into the set, which was certainly welcome, and after the swinging “Send Judas Down,” which included a nod to “In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida,” it was once again the title-track from For Those Which are Asleep (review here) rounding out.
To see them on such a huge stage less than 24 hours after seeing them in a club that holds about 200 people was something of a trip, but The Skull were no less in command of the cavernous space than they were the tiny Cul de Sac, where New Keepers of the Water Towers were going on shortly. I ran over quickly to see if there was any room in the building. There was enough for me to buy a copy of their new album, Infernal Machine(review here), but by the time you walked to the bar in the much-longer-than-it-is-wide venue, there was basically no passage through the throng of humanity. Buying the record seemed like the least I could do for having made the attempt to see them and failed, and once I got it, I headed back to the Main Stage to watch The Skull finish and to wait for Hexvessel, who were one of my most anticipated bands for the entire fest, to take the Main Stage.
I said as much in today’s Weirdo Canyon Dispatch (issue here) but nature-worshiping Finnish outfit Hexvessel‘s new record, When We are Death (review here), stands among the best albums of 2016 so far. Before they went on, I ran over to the merch area — more of a waddle, really — and picked up the artbook edition of the album as well as a patch with a fish head on it. They also had owls and bears and several other wildlife options, but you don’t see a lot of fish in underground heavy, so I was all about it. No idea what I’ll do with the thing, not being the battle-vest type, but whatever. For three euro? Sold. Their set more than justified both purchases, focused heavily on the new album and a huge shift in dynamic from when they were here in 2012, having departed from their folkish roots on the strength of infectious, progressive and deeply nuanced songs like “Mushroom Spirit Doors,” a set highlight, and “Cosmic Truth,” which frontman Mat McNerney prefaced by saying it was about, “true love and spaceships.” Needless to say, right up my alley.
Quietly percussive, “Hunter’s Prayer” finished off what seemed to be Hexvessel‘s regular set, after “Cosmic Truth,” “Mushroom Spirit Doors,” “Transparent Eyeball,” “Teeth of the Mountain,” “Mirror Boy,” and “Sacred Marriage” and the earlier “Woods to Conjure” from 2012’s No Holier Temple, but the band did an encore of sorts with “Earth over Us” and “When I’m Dead” back to back, both maddeningly catchy, the former delivered with surprising heft from the stage, before closing with “Invocation Summoning” from their 2011 debut, Dawnbearer, McNerney encouraging the crowd to sing and clap along, which of course it did.
Timing worked out that as Hexvessel were finishing, Bang were starting in the Green Room, so I hobbled over there and waited for the Franks and Jake to follow-up their Hardrock Hideout set with another runthrough of their heavy ’70s lost classics. They did not disappoint, and their warm, laid back take on heavy rock continues to thrill. I’ve seen the band I don’t even know how many times at this point — let’s say circa 15 — but their vibe is always right on, and I don’t think I’ve heard bassist Frank Ferrara‘s tone sound as full and inviting as it has last night and tonight. He and guitarist Frankie Gilcken founded the band in 1969 and their self-titled debut was released two years later, and Ferrara remarked from the stage that their first European appearance — this one — was 46 years in the making. Time flies.
Much to their credit, they lived up to the occasion, and though he’s far from being an original member of the band, Jake Leger‘s drums have become essential to Bang‘s live presence. Maybe they’ll do another record, maybe they won’t, but with Leger swinging away behind, Gilcken and Ferrara are that much more able to nail that spirit every time out. “Lions, Christians” was a highlight, and of course “Our Home,” both from the self-titled, but in the live setting, the much newer “The Maze” is no less vintage-sounding. I think Leger is a big part of that. A third in the power trio, at very least. As they always do, Bang looked to be genuinely enjoying making their European debut, and a crowd that already knew their songs made it seem all the more overdue.
Back on the Main Stage, Converge were finishing up their set playing 2001’s Jane Doe in full: The album that launched 100,000 metalcore bands who were nowhere near as interesting as Converge ever were. Hard to hold that against it, I suppose. I caught the tail end of the set, which was as furious as it would have to be, and the four-piece of vocalist Jacob Bannon, guitarist Kurt Ballou, bassist Nate Newton and drummer Ben Koller brought out former bassist Stephen Brodsky (also Cave In) to join them on guitar and melodic vocals for the closing title-track from Jane Doe, its sweep well on the other side of epic. Not really my thing stylistically, but people were jammed into the Main Stage space for them, and I watched as dudes had to be helped out of the front for what I guess was a rare Roadburn pit — unless someone just stepped on that guy’s foot, which would be sadder somehow — so it was clear the room was making the connection to the off-genre elements Jane Doe brought to hardcore, or more likely, they made that connection 15 years ago. Either way.
My second failure at Cul de Sac came after Converge were done when I ran over to try to see the reunited Gomer Pyle. No luck. Same as with New Keepers: I bought a CD and that was about as close as I could get. Fair enough. By this time, I was reconciling myself to the fact that I’d probably not get in to see either Zone Six at Cul de Sac or CHRCH at Extase, both of which were bigtime mental bummers. Still, as consolation, Paradise Lost playing their defining 1991 opus, Gothic, in its entirety ain’t bad. That album turns 25 this year, has been reissued multiple times over, and its influence continues to spread, now feeding a new generation a blueprint of how to do death/doom so very, very right.
It would’ve been an event to see Paradise Lost play anything, but “Gothic,” “Shattered,” “Dead Emotion” — this is the stuff of which doom extremity is made. I stayed a while to pay my respects and then did decide after all to not be a defeatist jerk and see if I could get in for Zone Six after all. I could. The key was to be early as hell. That’s an old Roadburn trick. The German space jammers, who feature in their ranks Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt and Komet Lulu, both of Electric Moon, played as a trio with Rainer Neeff on guitar, which meant that synth specialist Modulfix was missing, but the jams were happening either way. I dug the gosh darn heck out of last year’s Love Monster (review here), and they were another act where the safer assumption probably would’ve been that I’d never get to watch them do a set save at Roadburn. I am very, very fortunate to be here.
Zone Six played in the dark. I mean it. Cul de Sac isn’t exactly bright to start with, and Lulu asked before they went on to have the lights turned down so it was like shooting a show in Boston in there. With Sula filling in on synth, their swirl was certainly colorful enough that it would’ve justified a bit of brightness, but I’ll take what I can get and the pictures can work themselves out. I got to see Zone Six. That’s a win. And since I had a hot streak going, I thought maybe I’d give Extase a shot for CHRCH to round out the night on a bludgeoning note of tonal mass, their Unanswered Hymns (review here) debut album on Battleground Records continuing to resonate as one of 2015’s best. As fate would have it, my luck held.
My two gotta-sees for today were Hexvessel and CHRCH. I wish I could say I stayed for the latter’s full set, but between the fact that it was getting on midnight and I had writing to do and the full-crowd press up against the stage in Extase bringing on a need for breathable air that smelled like something other than beer sweat, I indeed did not. Was enough to see them play “Unanswered Hymns” though to justify my anticipation. The Sacramento five-piece are touring to support the aforementioned first LP, and they’re doing numerous fests in the US as well as putting in this abroad road time, so it probably won’t be the last time in my life I run into them, but I was extraordinarily glad I did. Partially veiled frontwoman Eva played up a ritualistic sensibility with incense at the front of the stage, but really, so much of what they did was about absolutely crushing everything in their path — which is a kind of ritual, granted — that their primary impression was one of sheer impact. Switching between screams and cleaner croons, Eva shared vocal duties with guitarist Chris, whose growls underscored the death/doom aspects of CHRCH‘s sound, making them all the more crushing.
Listening to Unanswered Hymns, it was clear CHRCH (who were called Church at the time) were onto something that could be really special. After watching them bring that material to life, I feel no less vehement in my appreciation for just how on-the-right-path they absolutely are. Their second offering will be a big tell. I can’t wait to hear what it has to say.
When it was time to go, I fought my way through the wall of humans at Extase and eventually out into the street where some non-Roadburn-type tourists were taking their picture in front of the big cathedral. Dudes were plastered. I took their picture with one of their phones and told them to have a good night. Theirs might’ve just been beginning, and I suppose in a way mine was too, but with Day One of Roadburn 2016 down, I felt like something really substantial had been accomplished even as I looked at the schedule for tomorrow and Saturday and Sunday and knew that there remains so much more to come.
For the last couple years, the Hardrock Hideout has served as both a precursor to Roadburn proper and a showcase for a different side of the fest’s scope: namely thrash. Clearly Roadburn is changing the script somewhat in 2016, however, since this year’s Hardrock Hideout lineup worked in a range of styles and expanded its bill from two to three acts. To the best of my knowledge, Jucifer was on board first, but either The Skull or Bang is worth making room for, despite the fact that they’ll both also play as part of Roadburn itself, which starts tomorrow. In the case of The Skull, twice.
The Hardrock Hideout also made for a handy reminder of one other thing: Just how unbelievably crowded this weekend is going to be. I got to the Cul de Sac — located right in the heart of Weirdo Canyon — about half an hour before Bang went on and still there were other people up front. It’s only Wednesday! I’m willing to wager that a good portion of the people attending this weekend aren’t even in town yet. Absolute madness.
I’d slept for about 40 minutes beforehand, but that didn’t stop the show from being killer front to back. Here’s how it went down:
It’s been about a year and a half since the last time I saw Bang (review here), and that interim has clearly had some effect on guitarist Frankie Gilcken and bassist/vocalist Frank Ferrara and drummer Jake Leger in an expanded setlist with cuts like “Come with Me” and “Future Shock” from their 1971 self-titled debut, which has been newly reissued via Svart Records. They had copies of that and the concurrent Mother reissue, but I didn’t see Death of a Country or Music, though to be fair, I couldn’t just missed it. Either way, it would’ve been hard to find a better-suited opener for Roadburn‘s festivities than Bang. Their sound is so laid back and classic in its tone and execution that it gave The Skull and Jucifer a foundation from which to expand with their own sets, at the same time, providing Bang with a fantastic European debut. That’s right. In the band’s 40-plus-year history, this was the first time they ever gigged in Europe. Talk about setting high standards. Of course, “Our Home” was a highlight, and they closed out with “Questions,” leaving the crowd shouting for more when they were done.
Feels a little like tattling to say so, but Eric Wagner smoked three cigarettes on stage tonight. Three. It may have been smelly, but it didn’t stop the band from going full-force into Trouble classics like “R.I.P.,” “At the End of My Daze” and “Bastards Will Pay,” which showed up early and was among the most welcome inclusions in the set. As noted, The Skull — Eric Wagner (ex-Trouble), guitarists Lothar Keller and Rob Wrong (also Witch Mountain), bassist Ron Holzner (ex-Trouble) and drummer Sean Saley (ex-Pentagram) — will play two more sets this weekend. One will be comprised of Trouble material, the other The Skull originals from their 2014 Tee Pee Records debut, For Those Which are Asleep (review here), and presumably some newer material as well. To that end, they included the new song “The Longing” from their recent tour EP (streamed here), and “Until the Sun Turns Black” from the full-length, and after pushing toward the end with a couple Trouble standards, it seemed especially telling that they closed with the title-track from For Those Which are Asleep, which was, it’s well worth noting, more than up to the task, Saley hammering the heavy groove of its choruses while Rob Wrong — a relatively recent addition to a seemingly perpetually fluid lineup around Keller, Wagner and Holzner — shredded out solos in trade with Keller on the other side of the stage. Wagner, on his third butt by then, joked about having just come through Tilburg a month ago and played Little Devil, but he and the entire band seemed glad to be back, and if Tilburg was showing any sign of The Skull fatigue, I certainly couldn’t see it.
From thunderous, plodding doom to teeth-gnashing grindcore — often in the span of a measure or less — Jucifer have a reputation for onslaught that is well earned. The long-running two-piece of guitarist/vocalist Gazelle Amber Valentine and drummer Edgar Livengood seemed to have some technical trouble as they were setting up Valentine’s two guitar half-stacks (one for each side of the stage) and bass rig, and also early in the set, but it would’ve taken heavy industrial/construction equipment and trained professionals to derail their momentum. Their sound a force of extremity in its purpose and its sheer sense of attack, they were quickly off and running, Livengood reaching up to hit his high crash cymbals with twirling sticks and a primal joy in his work that one occasionally sees in drummers truly born to do what they’re doing, which I’d argue Livengood is. This was my first time seeing Jucifer, I’ll confess. It should’ve been much sooner. Valentine‘s vocals were a little low in the mix, buried under the immense slab of weight that was her guitar tone, but one would be hard pressed to say they didn’t get their point across. By then, the Cul de Sac was packed beyond the point of being able to move through the crowd, and standing in front of Valentine and Livengood was like being able to watch the gleeful steamroller about to flatten you into pavement and being able to do nothing about it. Far worse ways to go. They’re of course known for their stylized wall of cabinets that they take on tour with them — they’re pretty much constantly touring; a few years ago there was word they were fully nomadic, living out of their camper, but I’ve no idea if that’s still the case — but even without that imposing wall of speakers, Jucifer were loud enough to vibrate earplugs in the ear and they gave Roadburn the riotous start it deserves.
It’s after one in the morning, local time. Tomorrow I need to be up to finalize the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch issue, so I’ll cut it there and just say thanks for reading and there’s much more to come.
In Fall 2014, Chicago doomers The Skull offered up their debut album, For Those Which are Asleep (review here), on Tee Pee Records. For a few years prior, the band had been kicking around as a solid five-piece, mostly playing out with takes on classic material from Trouble, of which vocalist Eric Wagner (who also has a new solo album out) and bassist Ron Holzner were members during what might be called that band’s peak era. The Skull has seen a number of other players come and go around Wagner, Holzner and guitarist Lothar Keller, including former Trouble drummer Jeff “Oly” Olson and guitarist Matt Goldsborough, who has filled in with Pentagram for Victor Griffin. And their evolution continues in 2016. Their new self-titled five-song EP, called simply The Skull, finds the trio of Keller, Holzner and Wagner joined by former Pentagram drummer Sean Saley and Witch Mountain guitarist Rob Wrong and presents the first new studio material from the group since For Those Which are Asleep in its leadoff track “The Longing.”
The classic doom swing of Trouble‘s landmark works lives on in The Skull — not to mention Trouble, who are also still active — but even as Wagner and Holzner continue to pay homage to what that band did, The Skull has its own progression under way as well. The LP showed that and the EP does likewise, whether it’s the high-low pairing of vocal layers in the chorus or the solo shredded out over the song’s transmoded “Hole in the Sky” riff. “The Longing,” which lives lyrically up to that title in describing a particular kind of soul torture, is paired with a remake of the Trouble song after which The Skull are named, taken from the 1985 sophomore outing of which it also served as the title-track. A cover, since Wagner is the only member tying the band to the album (Sean McAllister played bass on that record), tapping into Trouble‘s Christian lyrical themes and meeting them with an updated tonality, production, and sense of depth in the mix, which remains even in the furious thrashing apex late in the track, in which the guitars put on another clinic and Wagner pushes his voice to the point of breaking without going over that line.
Admittedly, the new studio material — these two songs — is a draw, but 2016 will see considerable touring from The Skull as well, and in addition to the perhaps-underappreciated “A New Generation” from For Those Which are Asleep, the recently-recorded live tracks “Assassin” (another Trouble cover, from Psalm 9) and “Til the Sun Turns Black,” captured just last month at Reggies in Chicago, make a solid case for the band’s live dynamic, even with this still-new lineup, and as they make ready to head to Europe for the first time — not before they represent their hometown in supporting Sleep at Thalia Hall on Jan. 27 — it seems apparent they chose to name the EP The Skull not just because of the Trouble tune they’re covering on it, but because of how well it represents the various sides of what they do, whether that’s reinterpreting a classic, forging ahead in developing their own identity, or bringing both to the stage with vitality that helped craft that legacy in doom in the first place.
The Skull‘s The Skull EP is out Jan. 22, and its studio tracks are available now to stream on the player below. More info on the release follows, as well as The Skull‘s tour dates, of which there are many.
New song, “The Longing” and updated take on “The Skull”. Also, ‘A New Generation” + 2 live tracks, recorded 12.4.15 in Chicago.
THE SKULL recently recorded two songs for a 7″ single for Tee Pee Records to be released in April. “The Longing” is a bluesy doom metal traditional Skull song while B-side “The Skull” is an updated version of the classic song that originally appeared on Trouble’s 1985 record of the same name.
1. The Longing 2. A New Generation (from “For Those Which Are Aleep”) 3. The Skull 4. Assassin (LIVE in Chicago) 5. Til the Sun Turns Black (LIVE in Chicago)
“Having named the band THE SKULL after the classic horror movie of the same name it seemed fitting to do an updated version of a song I co-wrote called “The Skull” for its 30 year anniversary,” commented vocalist Eric Wagner. ” Its the perfect B-side and Lyrically resonates in the World we live in Now….and it happens to be the name of our band. Funny how that works out.”
THE SKULL recorded their packed concert December 4th at Reggies Rock Club in Chicago and picked two additional songs to add to the new EP/CD. “Till the Sun Turns Black” a heavy Bluesy number and the crowd favorite “Assassin” will join “The Skull” and “The Longing” (from the 7″) as well as the single “A New Generation” from their critically acclaimed debut record “For Those Which Are Asleep.”
“We are eagerly anticipating having the EP in our hands and for sale at our SOLD OUT pre-tour show with SLEEP at the Thalia Hall in Chicago, added bassist Ron Holzner. This year is starting off with a bang and gonna be a busy one.”
THE SKULL ON TOUR: Jan 27 Thaila Hall Chicago, IL w/ Sleep Feb 26 Little Devil Tilburg, Netherlands Feb 27 Poppodium Q-Factory Amsterdam, Netherlands Feb 29 Underground Koln, Germany Mar 01 Forum Bielefeld, Germany Mar 03 Klubsen Hamburg, Germany Mar 04 Bandhaus Leipzig, Germany Mar 05 JUZ Klex Greifswald, Germany Mar 06 Ucho Gdynia, Poland Mar 08 Paunchy Cats Lichtenfels, Germany Mar 09 Chemiefabrik Dresden, Germany Mar 10 Cassiopeia Berlin, Germany Mar 11 Framus & Warwick Music Hall Markneukirchen, Germany Mar 12 Backstage München, Germany Mar 14 Explosiv Graz, Austria Mar 15 Museum Obchodu Bratislava, Slovakia Mar 16 Dürer Kert Budapest, Hungary Mar 17 Viper Room Wien, Austria Mar 18 Weekender Club Innsbruck, Austria Mar 19 Freakclub Bologna, Italy Mar 20 Jubez Karlsruhe, Germany Apr 14 Roadburn Festival Tilburg, Netherlands Apr 15 Roadburn Festival Tilburg, Netherlands Apr 16 1000Fryd Aalborg, Denmark Apr 17 Stengade København N, Denmark Apr 19 Truckstop Alaska Gothenburg, Sweden Apr 20 Revolver Oslo, Norway Apr 21 Onkel Aksel Kristiansand, Norway Apr 22 Tribute Sandnes, Norway Apr 23 Inside Bergen, Norway Jun 18 HellFest Clisson, France