Posted in Reviews on January 30th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Consolamentum is the fourth full-length from increasingly progressive UK-based doomers The Wounded Kings and also their debut on Candlelight Records. It’s also their most consistent album-to-album lineup in the band since 2010′s The Shadow over Atlantis (review here) followed 2008′s Embrace of the Narrow Housedebut with just the founding duo of guitarist/keyboardist Steve Mills and bassist/vocalist George Birch, who was out following The Wounded Kings‘ 2010 split with Cough, An Introduction to the Black Arts(review here), as Mills constructed a more complete lineup of the band that would be able to play live. The third album, 2011′s In the Chapel of the Black Hand(review here), arrived with a markedly quick turnaround considering that apart from Mills it was entirely new players involved — vocalist Sharie Neyland, drummer Myke Heath, bassist Jim Willumsen and guitarist Alex Kearney – and particularly with Neyland‘s haunting vocal resonance, tapped into dark elements of cult metal to coincide with three extended pieces the doom of which was complete and encompassing. On Consolamentum, all parties but Willumsen return, and though it’s somewhat ironic that with largely the same group they’d also have their longest break between records to date (three years), with Al Eliadis on bass and Chris Fielding producing, The Wounded Kings have created an album that feels like their most band-oriented work yet, recorded live and brimming with atmospheric density.
Like In the Chapel of the Black Hand, Consolamentum finds The Wounded Kings working with and around an extended trinity of songs. Opener “Gnosis” is the longest of the bunch (immediate points) at 13:20, and its complemented by the centerpiece title-track at 9:08 and the penultimate “The Silence” at 12:14. All three work at the hypnotic crawl one might expect from The Wounded Kings‘ past work — though “Gnosis” picks up toward the end and each seems to offer a payoff of its own — but there’s development evident not just in how well the five-piece work together over the course of Consolamentum‘s 47 minutes, but also in where they go. Each of the longer works is complemented by a shorter one, and as “Elige Magistrum” starts with a pickslide that such a perfect port of that from the beginning of Black Sabbath‘s “Into the Void” that I wondered at first if it might be a sample (it isn’t), it becomes clear that not only are The Wounded Kings reveling in the bleak, deep-running murk of their own tones and the ritual elements that Mills brings to tracks like “Lost Bride” with long-held Hammond notes, they’re also having fun doing it. Completely instrumental, “Elige Magistrum” (1:29) is essentially the band jamming on a riff. It just so happens that when The Wounded Kings do it, it sounds like the end of the world. The subdued “Space Conqueror” (2:23) follows “Consolamentum” and while the actual sound of it is minimalist and arguably the most brooding stretch on the record, it’s also called “Space Conqueror,” so, you know, it’s not without a sense of levity.
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
I was all set to pat myself on the back for making a podcast and posting it when someone might actually see it, unlike the last two (033 and 032), which rather impractically both went up on the eve of a major holiday, and then I remembered today was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Whoops. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Oh well. There’s always next month.
This one took kind of a strange and fun turn in the making and got very languid, very spaced out and sort of dreamy but still heavy in the bottom end. We start out with new stuff from We Hunt Buffalo, Truckfighters and Dwellers right in a row, and I guess that set the tone for a heavy roll that carried through a lot of the rest of the nearly-two-hour span. Not a complaint. I think it flows really well, and of course I hope you do too.
Once again, no real theme, though in addition to the aforementioned, you’ll also find new tracks from Sahg, Papir, Radar Men from the Moon, Pontiak and The Wounded Kings, the latter providing a grim finish after All Them Witches and Black Skies offer prime terrestrial psychedelia. It’s a good mix, all told. It grooves. It nods.
We Hunt Buffalo, “Blood from a Stone” from Blood from a Stone (2014)
Truckfighters, “Get Lifted” from Universe (2014)
Dwellers, “Creature Comfort” from Pagan Fruit (2014)
Salitter, “But I am Not Consoled” from Salitter EP (2013)
Papir, “I” from IIII (2014)
Radar Men from the Moon, “Surrealist Appearance” from Strange Wave Galore (2014)
The Ravenna Arsenal, “The Desert Shows No Mercy” from I (2013)
Pontiak, “Surrounded by Diamonds” from Innocence (2014)
Sahg, “Blizzardborne” from Delusions of Grandeur (2014)
Doctor Cyclops, “Cobweb Hands” from Oscuropasso (2014)
Mammatus, “Brainbow/Brain-Train” from Heady Mental (2013)
Sun Voyager, “Space Queen” from Mecca (2013)
All Them Witches, “Swallowed by the Sea” from Lightning at the Door (2013)
Black Skies, “Lifeblood” from Circadian Meditations (2013)
The Wounded Kings, “Consolamentum” from Consolamentum (2014)
Posted in Features on January 13th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Getting ready to type this list is like standing on the precipice of a canyon. Maybe that’s a little dramatic, but you get the idea. Last year was an all-out assault of music. I couldn’t have heard it all even if I’d wanted to, and while it’ll probably be June before I feel like I’m sufficiently caught up on 2013, the new-car-smelling rush of 2014 is already underway.
And the only thing to do is press on — though I’ve tried on several occasions, I can’t seem to stop time and review everything that I’m fortunate enough to encounter — and that means glancing ahead to what’s coming in 2014. I know I said so before, but once again, Happy New Year.
One of my favorite things to do is to look forward to a new album. I consider it a sign of the endurance of the human spirit not only that new creative works are being completed and distributed at such a constant rate, but that we can still anticipate the resonance of those works upon their arrival. I don’t mind telling you this is the largest of any such list I’ve ever written for this site. Even as I start it, I’m finding more to add, and I’m sure when it’s done it won’t be complete. So it goes.
There’s more to say, but I’ve delayed enough. We’ll go alphabetically, which is only unfortunate because it puts YOB last. Thanks in advance for reading.
1. Acid King, TBA
We start the same place we started in 2013, with Acid King. The San Francisco giants have sworn up and down they’ll have a new record out this year, and while I’ve yet to see any solid word of its coming manifest, I remain hopeful that it happens. Of course, that was also pretty much the case going into 2013, but they toured Europe last fall and even came out to the East Coast for a show and played some new material (review here), so if it’s to be that IIIfinally gets a follow-up some nine years later, it’s worth keeping an eye out ahead of time. Acid King on Thee Facebooks.
2. Alcest, Shelter
To be released this coming week on Prophecy Productions, the fourth Alcest full-length, Shelter (review here), is billed as a major sonic turn away from the France-based outfit’s black metal influences toward brighter sonic fare. It is that, but the nostalgic melodies and crucial emotionality that has always been the root of Alcest’s sound remains intact. It will be interesting to see what the response is upon its release, but Shelteris an early point of fascination for 2014. Alcest on Thee Facebooks.
3. All Them Witches, TBA
I’m not sure what they’re doing in the studio, if it’s a single, an EP or a full-length album, but this past weekend, on Jan. 11, Nashville heavy psych rockers All Them Witches posted the above picture with the simple tagline “Recording.” Fair enough. It seems soon for them to have another LP after 2013′s excellent Lightning at the Door (discussed here), but that album seemed to arrive soon after 2012′s Our Mother Electricity (reissued by Elektrohasch in 2013; review here), so who knows? It’ll be fun to find out either way. All Them Witches on Bandcamp.
4. Alunah, TBA
UK doomers Alunah will make their debut on Napalm Records with yet-untitled third album. With wider distribution at their disposal than that received by their 2012 outing, White Hoarhound (review here), I wouldn’t be surprised to see Alunah really leave a mark on 2014, but more fascinating to me than how many people get to hear it is how the band — who’ve swapped out bassists since their last outing — will follow-up the tremendously memorable songs on White Hoarhound. No doubt they can do it, it’s just hard not to be impatient. Alunah on Thee Facebooks.
5. Blackwolfgoat, Drone Maintenance
I was fortunate enough to be invited down to Amps vs. Ohms in Boston when Blackwolfgoat (aka Darryl Shepard, also of Black Pyramid, The Scimitar, ex-Hackman, Roadsaw, etc. and a new project I don’t think I’m allowed to talk about yet) was tracking the follow-up to 2011′s Dronolith, which was released on this site’s in-house label, The Maple Forum. Raw tracks can sometimes prove to tell little about the finished product of an album, but each piece on Drone Maintenancethat I heard had a distinct atmosphere, and “Cyclopean Utopia” was heavy enough on its own to warrant inclusion here. Rumor also has it that Black Pyramid offshoot The Scimitar will release a studio debut this year. Blackwolfgoat on Bandcamp.
6. Causa Sui, Live at Freak Valley
Holding the promise of over 90 minutes of live-recorded material from the 2013 Freak Valley festival in Germany, Causa Sui‘s Live at Freak Valley will see release through the band’s own El Paraiso Records and should provide further insight as a companion piece to their 2013 studio full-length, Euporie Tide. As that album boasted such an engaging live and progressive feel, successfully meshing desert and krautrock influences, I’d expect no less from the live outing, which though they’ve put out studio jams before — their three-volume 2008-2009 Summer Sessionsis a joy worthy of the season — is their first official concert recording. El Paraiso Records website.
7. Conan, Blood Eagle
Six devastating tracks that both continue Conan‘s sonic dominance and usher in a new era for the band. Not only is their second full-length, Blood Eagle, their debut on Napalm Records, but it’s also the first Conan LP to be recorded at Skyhammer Studios, which was built and is owned by guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis. Producer Chris Fielding worked with the band previously on 2012′s Monnos (review here) and 2010′s Horseback Battle Hammer EP (review here), and Blood Eagle benefits from that now familiar collaboration, bridging the gap between the faster, catchy sides of Monnos and the complementing ultra-plod of its longer tracks. Album opener “Crown of Talons” also ranks among the heaviest things they’ve ever done, and “Foehammer” takes it’s name from Gandalf’s sword, Glamdring, so I don’t know what more you could ever ask of a full-length than that. Conan on Thee Facebooks.
8. Eggnogg, You’re all Invited
With the addition of bassist Corey Dozier to the rhythm section with drummer Jason Prushko, Brooklynite doom-funk stompers Eggnogg have been able to move vocalist Bill O’Sullivan to guitar from bass, giving Justin Karol a chance to act all the more as a lead player. How this new four-piece dynamic might play out on You’re all Invited — or even if Dozier played on it — remains to be seen, but from what I’ve caught live, it’s turned them into a thicker, fuller-sounding band, and on new material and old, Eggnogg are coming into their own. They’re still a better band than they know, and one hopes they can get some road time in as well as release the LP to continue to refine their approach. Eggnogg on Thee Facebooks.
9. Elder, Live at Roadburn 2013
Granted it’s been available through Burning World Records digitally since last November, but Elder‘s Live at Roadburn 2013 is set for physical issue early this year through the label, and having stood in front of the stage to witness the set myself at Het Patronaat in Tilburg and then seen the line running outside the venue and down the block, I can tell you it’s a beast. Put it on vinyl with cover art by Adrian Dexter and maybe a photo or two by yours truly and you’ve got a good way to get a preview for what their sets at the two Desertfests might hold this year. Elder on Thee Facebooks.
10. 40 Watt Sun, TBA
Speaking of Roadburn, emotive UK doomers 40 Watt Sun are set to make a return appearance at the fabled fest in the Netherlands, and the word was they’d do so with material from the follow-up to their 2011 Metal Blade debut, The Inside Room (review here), which established the band, led by guitarist/vocalist Patrick Walker (Warning), as a deeply affecting act with a rich sonic texture. No word of an exact release date for the sophomore effort yet, but one expects it will receive no shortage of fanfare prior to and upon its arrival. 40 Watt Sun on Thee Facebooks.
11. The Golden Grass, TBA
Brooklyn trio The Golden Grass‘ One More Time b/w Tornado debut single was one of the best short releases of 2013, and the sunshiny classic heavy rockers will look to follow it with a first long-player this year. Recording is completed — the tracking was helmed by Andréa Zavareei, who also did the 7″ — and so is mixing, done by Jeff Berner (Naam, etc.), so with mastering in progress, hopefully it’s not too long before The Golden Grass can offer a right-on cure for wintry blues. It will be interesting to hear how they sustain and work within their positive vibes over the course of a complete LP. The Golden Grass on Thee Facebooks.
12. Greenleaf, Trails and Passes
Trails and Passes will be Greenleaf‘s first outing since 2003′s Secret Alphabets not to be fronted by Oskar Cedermalm (also of Truckfighters) and also finds the Swedish unit both with a new drummer (hello, Sebastian Olsson) and down from two guitars to one. It was five years between their third album, 2007′s Agents of Ahriman and 2012′s Nest of Vipers (review here), so with a quicker turnaround and a stripped-down songwriting approach that seems geared more toward a live-sounding heavy rock presentation, Greenleaf could easily be positioning themselves as a full(er)-time touring act. The more the merrier. Greenleaf on Thee Facebooks.
13. Grifter, The Return of the Bearded Brethren
UK power trio Grifter surprised some with the quality of songwriting on their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), the lacking pretense of which was in proportion to its classic heavy rock influence, but The Return of the Bearded Brethren, which is set to release on Ripple Music, won’t have the advantage of sneaking up. If they’re throwing down a gauntlet, the confrontational pose of the shirtless tattooed beardo on their LP cover would seem to indicate it’s a considerable one indeed, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Grifter made following up on their self-titled sound as easy as they made infectious hooks sound the last time out. Grifter on Thee Facebooks.
14. Hull, TBA
Down from a five-piece to a foursome after having lost one of their three guitars since the release of 2011′s stellar second LP, Beyond the Lightless Sky (review here), 2014 marks an interesting point for singular Brooklyn post-thrashers Hull. With a Roadburn appearance slated and a limited vinyl reissue of their 2007 Viking Funeral debut EP in hand, they’ll look to bring their conceptual songwriting into a new presentational arc, and while that’s a fascinating prospect, I’m also looking forward to their new album because it promises to be heavy as fuck whenever it happens to arrive, hopefully by the end of the year. Hull on Thee Facebooks.
15. Lowrider, TBA
Were this list numbered in anticipatory rather than alphabetical order, Lowrider would be much closer to the top than lucky number 13. The Swedish four-piece will be recording their first outing since 2000′s genre-landmark Ode to Io this year after reuniting on stage at Desertfest 2013 — they’ll return to London next month with Dozer — and while I don’t know if it’ll be out by the time 2014 is done, I do know that the sheer prospect of a new Lowrider makes this year much better than it would be otherwise. I already invited myself to Sweden for an in-studio. More to come. Lowrider on Thee Facebooks.
16. The Machine, TBA
A couple weeks back, Dutch heavy psych rockers The Machine — whose split with now-defunct countrymen Sungrazer (review here) was my favorite short release last year — held a poll on their Thee Facebooks page to name their upcoming fifth album, which will follow 2012′s Calmer than You Are (review here) on Elektrohasch. My suggestion? Come to Light. It has the advantage of sounding psychedelic with an undertone of enlightenment to speak to the band’s continuing progression and it keeps with the prior album in being a reference to The Big Lebowski. No word on whether or not they’ll use it, but I’ve got my fingers crossed. The Machine’s website.
17. Mars Red Sky, TBA
Currently in the mixing stage, the second Mars Red Sky long-player will arrive on the heels of 2013′s Be My Guide EP (review here) and the Bordeaux fuzz trio’s self-titled 2011 debut (review here) and a host of tours and festival appearances. While their plans to record in the California desert reportedly didn’t pan out, the trio put much of the album to tape over the course of a week in Brazil following dates in South America, so it should boast plenty of sunshine either way. The album is due for release in April — a pro-shot live video of the new song “Satellites” was recently unveiled — and Mars Red Sky will also play at Hellfest in their native France in June. Mars Red Sky on Bandcamp.
18. Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty
The Washington trio’s first album for Listenable Records and their second since picking back up after several years of inactivity while guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed concentrated on Stone Axe, Electric Mountain Majesty is done and mastered as of Jan. 5. Recorded by Reed himself, it will follow a pair of live outings in 2013 (reviews here and here) and 2012′s infectious return, Nomads(review here). I am fully prepared to have these songs stuck in my head for most of 2014, so bring it on. A March release has been floated, which would come ahead of an appearance at Freak Valley in late May. Mos Generator on Thee Facebooks.
19. Mr. Peter Hayden, Archdimension Now
Triumphantly creative Finnish cosmic doomers Mr. Peter Hayden will complete a trilogy with Archdimension Now that began with 2010′s Faster than Speed (review here) and 2012′s single-song 68-minute LP, Born a Trip (review here). Crushing tones and a formidable scope don’t seem like unreasonable expectations, though what really interests me is how the Satakunta five-piece will expand on the sound of their last album, which still seems to reveal something new each time I put it on. Their new single “We Fly High,” was streamed here recently and bodes well. Mr. Peter Hayden on Bandcamp.
20. Pallbearer, TBA
Pallbearer have toured hard since their 2012 debut, Sorrow and Extinction (review here), hit a nerve with doomers across the globe, and the four-piece from Arkansas are set to begin recording their next LP (presumably) for Profound Lore in February. If that puts a release for sometime in late Spring/early Summer, I would imagine it will come coupled with no shortage of live dates, since the band seems most at home on tour. Should be intriguing to have a document of how all that stage time has manifested in solidifying and adding confidence to their approach, and this is another one preceded by much anticipation. Pallbearer on Thee Facebooks.
21. Papir, IIII
It would seem I have some purchases to make in order to catch up with Danish heavy psych jammers Papir. Aside from their recent collaboration with Electric Moon, the upcoming IIII will sure enough be their fourth album. Available now to preorder through El Paraiso Records, it is a vinyl-ready 47 minutes of smoothly shifting transitions between lush atmospherics and driving fuzz-heavy rock, ready to stand in line with progressive European instrumentalists like 35007, My Sleeping Karma and indeed their label honchos, Causa Sui. I had caught wind of 2013′s IIIpreviously, but deeper back catalog investigation is definitely warranted. Papir on Thee Facebooks.
22. Pilgrim, TBA
Just before they left to tour Europe with Windhand, Providence, Rhode Island, doomers Pilgrim recorded their sophomore full-length at Moonlight Mile Recording in scenic Jersey City, NJ. After the huge response garnered — and, I should say, earned — by their 2012 debut, Misery Wizard, the band jumped from Alan Averill of Primordial‘s Metal Blade imprint, Poison Tongue Records, to Metal Blade proper for the new one, which along with Pallbearer, 40 Watt Sun, Serpent Venom and The Wounded Kings (and no doubt others) makes a prospect for a thoroughly doomed 2014. So be it. Pilgrim on Thee Facebooks.
23. Radio Moscow, TBA
As I type these words, heavy rockers Radio Moscow are mixing their yet-untitled fourth album (fifth if you count 2012′s 3 & 3 Quarters, which was comprised of early unreleased material) at Big Fish Recording in Encinitas, CA. Details on the release are sketchy at best at this point, and by that I mean nil, but at least there’s progress being made, and since it’s still January, it seems entirely likely the album will surface one way or another in the next 11 months, barring disaster. The bombastic blues jammers led by Parker Griggs toured Europe last fall and rumor is there’s a run in the works for the US at the end of February into March. Radio Moscow on Thee Facebooks.
24. Sigiriya, Darkness Died Today
What’s not to like about a new Sigiriya album? The UK four-piece premiered “Tribe of the Old Oak” from Darkness Died Todayhere last month, and in addition to the considerable pipes of new vocalist Matt Williams, the track showcased a somewhat moodier psychedelic vibe from the band, who continue to distance themselves from Acrimony, of which bassist Paul Bidmead, guitarist Stuart O’Hara and drummer Darren Ivey were members, while also exploring new avenues from those of Sigiriya‘s debut, 2011′s Return to Earth(review here). I haven’t heard the whole thing yet, but they set a high standard last time. Sigiriya on Thee Facebooks.
25. Sixty Watt Shaman, TBA
Reason to Live, was released by Spitfire Records (remember them?) in… wait for it… 2002. Some 12 years ago. Now, these dudes have been kicking around in other bands since Sixty Watt Shaman sort of melted away in the manner that underrated bands often unfortunately do, but with the announcement of their appearances this year at Desertfest (info here) in April and The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 in May (info here) came word of a new studio release. EP or LP unknown at present. As killer as Reason to Live was, it just doesn’t seem fair to expect Sixty Watt Shaman to be the same band they were more than a decade ago. As such, I don’t know what’s coming, but I’m keen to find out. Sixty Watt Shaman on Thee Facebooks.
26. Skraeckoedlan, Gigantos
The 2011 debut from upstart Swedish heavy-hitters Skraeckoedlan, titled Äppelträdet (review here), was recorded by Oskar Cedermalm of Truckfighters and had much of that band’s fuzzy compression in blend with their own Mastodon-ic plod. It was a combination that worked so well I thought for sure the young outfit would return to Studio Bombshelter for their next outing, but no dice. As a result, I’m not sure what to expect from Gigantos, but I dug what I heard in a recent live video from them, so we’ll see how it turns out when the LP is done and I’m not about to judge either way until then. Skraeckoedlan on Thee Facebooks.
27. The Skull, TBA
I have no interest in downplaying any of the original members of Trouble‘s contributions to that legendary Chicago doom band (nor the work they’re doing now or those contributing to it), but there can be no question that Eric Wagner‘s voice is a signature element, and right now, that’s something The Skull has over the outfit from whence they sprang. Add to that Ron Holzner‘s bass and Jeff “Oly” Olson‘s drums and you’re well on your way to some foundational heavy. Among the best signs is that The Skull were recording with Billy Anderson (Sleep, the Melvins, Acid King, etc.), who obviously knows his shit and is likely to capture their sound as it should be: Completely doomed. Also keep an eye out for Wagner‘s side-project, Blackfinger, who have an LP coming. The Skull on Thee Facebooks.
28. Sleep, TBA
This would be the mother of them all, I guess. A new Sleep album. In addition to hinting at new studio outings by his own three-piece Om and Matt Pike‘s High on Fire, bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros let it slip casual-style in an interview somewhere that Sleep were working on new material, thus snapping my Thee Facebooks feed in half. Fair enough. Working on material doesn’t mean we’ll see a record this year, or at all, but obviously if there’s a chance a new album might happen (I’ve been nerding out about the idea for a while; see here and here), it would be proof of justice in the universe. Seems an obvious thing that Billy Anderson would record this as well, and all the better. Can the Sons of Sabbath prove there’s life after Dopesmoker? For now, only the Antarcticans know. Sleep’s website.
29. Slough Feg, Digital Resistance
Slated for release through Metal Blade — they’re taking preorders — what if I’m not mistaken is the 32nd Slough Feg LP is due on Feb. 18. As much as I’m looking forward to the release of the record itself, having very, very much enjoyed 2010′s The Animal Spirits (review here), I’m even more interested to see if I finally get up the gumption to interview guitarist/vocalist Mike Scalzi. Something about a dude who doubles as a philosophy professor and who’s been putting out records in his band since I was nine and long before anyone gave a shit I’ve always found intimidating. We’ll see if I’m up to it this year. @Slough_Feg.
30. Snail, Feral
Last summer, West Coast riffers Snail announced the departure of guitarist Eric Clausen, which means that their fourth outing, Feral, will be their first as the trio of guitarist/vocalist Mark Johnson, bassist Matt Lynch and drummer Marty Dodson since their 1993 self-titled debut full-length (reissue review here). Should be interesting to see how the shift to their original lineup changes the tenor of Feral as opposed to their two albums with Clausen, 2009′s comebacker Blood (review here) and 2012′s Terminus (review here), but as the first audio from the record begins to surface, Snail‘s sound seems to still very much have its core intact. Terminusbrought in something of a rawer heavy metal influence coming off the languid, dreamy Blood, but as they’ve been back together now for going on half a decade, no doubt a few more twists are in store. Snail on Thee Facebooks.
31. Steak, TBA
Quickly emerging at the fore of London’s enviable up and coming heavy rock scene — and, in the case of guitarist Reece Tee, helping shape it as one of the architects of Desertfest — Steak are set to debut this year on Napalm Records with what will be their first full-length following two EPs, 2012′s Disastronaught (review here) and 2013′s Corned Beef Colossus (review here). They’ve put in time on tour — they’ll play in Spain with Monster Magnet and in London with Lowrider and Dozer in February — and seem to be ready to take the next step in releasing an album, and after the conceptual elements of both EPs, I’m eager to see where the next chapter of their story goes. Steak on Bandcamp.
32. Stubb, TBA
Tracking is to begin a few weeks from now for Stubb‘s second album at Jon Davis of Conan‘s Skyhammer Studios. After the release of their 2013 single, Under a Spell (review here), and the departure of drummer Chris West, guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson and bassist/vocalist Peter Holland acquired Tom Fyfe to fill the position, and subsequently found a label home on Ripple Music. It’ll be a different Stubb than they were on their 2012 self-titled debut (review here), but the fuzz runs strong in them however the changes might manifest in the finished product from the studio, and I can’t even think of “Under a Spell” without hearing the chorus in my head, so yeah, I’m on board.Stubb on Thee Facebooks.
33. SunnO))) & Ulver,Terrestrials
A collaboration between drone lords SunnO))) and Norwegian post-black metal progenitors Ulver probably isn’t the kind of thing that’s going to make you crush a beer can on your forehead and call your bros to come over and check it out (actually, I don’t know what kind of music does that, but it probably sucks), but Terrestrials has the potential to be one of 2014′s most unique releases all the same. After Ulver‘s delving into orchestral minimalism on 2013′s Messe I-IX, it’s really anyone’s best guess what this will sound like when it comes out on Feb. 4. SunnO))) explored some cinematic ground with 2009′s Monoliths and Dimensions (review here), but still, to speculate seems like setting myself up to be a fool later. Southern Lord Recordings website.
34. Tombs, Savage Gold
For their third album for Relapse, Brooklyn three-turned-four-piece Tombs headed south to Florida to record with Hate Eternal‘s Erik Rutan. If vague Thee Facebook posts are anything to go by, the resulting LP is 57:18 and titled Savage Gold. I’m not sure when it’ll be out, but as the follow-up to 2011′s widely and loudly lauded Path of Totality, whatever it’s called and whenever the new Tombs shows up, chances are it’s going to receive as much extremity as it doles out. Tombs on Thee Facebooks.
35. Triptykon, Melana Chasmata
Heirs to the black, shiny and probably spiky throne of Celtic Frost, ultra-dark metallers Triptykon will answer 2010′s Eparistera Daimones (review here) with Melana Chasmata, which though it’s somewhat easier to type is no doubt even more gleefully excruciating a listen. As with the debut, they’ll mark the release with an appearance at Roadburn (info here). No audio has surfaced yet, but with a release date set for April 24, that can’t be too far off. Will Tom G. Warrior push Triptykon further away from their Celtic Frost lineage? I don’t know, but if there’s beauty in darkness, he’s the one to find it. Triptykon on Thee Facebooks.
36. Truckfighters, Universe
Feb. 4 is the stated release date for Universe (review here), the fourth album from Örebro fuzzdudes Truckfighters. The Swedish three-piece explore ground that at the same time is more emotionally complex than their last outing, 2009′s Mania (review here), and also more straightforward in the songwriting, resulting in a collection of tracks not necessarily as upbeat as some of what they’ve done in the past, but ultimately working toward a different kind of realization. No doubt hard touring will follow throughout the rest of this year, so if you want to catch Truckfighters, you’re likely to get your chance. Truckfighters on Thee Facebooks.
37. Valley of the Sun, Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk
Like Truckfighters, Midwestern heavy rockers Valley of the Sun will issue their new album, the somewhat cumbersomely-titled Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk on Fuzzorama Records, and the two acts are slated to tour together in Europe from Feb. 8 through March 14 ahead of Valley of the Sun‘s April 1 release date. If you contributed to their crowdfunding campaign, you might already have a copy of Electric Talons of the Thunderhawkon vinyl, but either way, the official release is worthy of note, particularly for as much growth as the full-length (their debut) shows from 2011′s already-impressive The Sayings of the Seers (review here). Valley of the Sun on Thee Facebooks.
38. Weedeater, TBA
Not certain how to tell you this, but I’m not sure we’re going to see a new Weedeater album this year. Between the North Carolina sludgers’ busy tour schedule and Season of Mist reissuing their other four albums, it seems like an awful lot for Weedeater to then also write and record a follow-up to 2011′s Jason… the Dragon (review here). I’m not saying it can’t be done — hell, for all I know they’ve finished writing and the studio is booked — but if a new Weedeater arrives, although it was mentioned with their West Coast tour dates that start this week, right now it seems like it would be later in 2014 or maybe early 2015 by the time it gets here. Hey, I could be wrong. I’d prefer it that way. Weedeater on Thee Facebooks.
39. Wolves in the Throne Room, TBA
They put out BBC Session 2011 Anno Domini last year as a kind of holdover release, but last month brought news of new songs for 2014, which would be Wolves in the Throne Room‘s first since Celestial Lineage in 2011. They toured their heaviest yet that record, so a bit of a break wasn’t necessarily out of order, but for an act who inspire the kind of loyalty that Wolves in the Throne Room do, three years can be a long time. Not much by way of specifics on the new release, whether it’s a full-length or not, when they might record, where, or when it might surface, but we know they’ve got new material, and that’s a step. Wolves in the Throne Room’s website.
40. The Wounded Kings, Consolamentum
Due Feb. 24 on Candlelight, Consolamentum is the fourth long-player in the tumultuous career of British progressive doomers The Wounded Kings, who despite a seemingly endless series of lineup shifts have managed to release their four albums in a span of six years. With guitarist/founder Steve Mills at the core and the eerie but powerful vocals of Sharie Neyland over top, The Wounded Kings have tapped into a doom quick to separate itself from the pack, and Consolamentum conjures some of their most oppressive atmospherics yet, with expansive cuts like “Gnosis” and “The Silence” fed into by ambient passages and interludes. The Wounded Kings on Thee Facebooks.
41. Yawning Man, Gravity is Good for You
Desert legends Yawning Man released a split with Fatso Jetson in 2013 — only appropriate, since the two acts share Mario Lalli — but Gravity is Good for You, like whatever Acid King might have in store, is a holdover from last year’s list. Guitarist Gary Arce of the long-running and hugely influential instrumental jammers has reportedly been in the studio with Lalli and Third Ear Experience drummer Erik Mouness (video surfaced), but there’s yet to be concrete word on when Gravity is Good for You, reportedly a double album and the band’s follow-up to 2010′s Nomadic Pursuits(review here), might be finished. Got my fingers crossed it’s this year. Yawning Man on Thee Facebooks.
42. YOB, TBA
Feels like a terribly long way to go only to get to one of the albums I’m most looking forward to hearing, but the alphabet works in mysterious ways sometimes. On Jan. 7, Eugene, Oregon, überdoomers YOB posted the following on their Thee Facebooks: “Had an amazing YOB practice. The new songs are fully in focus. 2 mega DOOM bludgeoners, one “faster” song, and the most beautiful arrangement we’ve ever written to close. 4 songs, 55 minutes.” Last I heard, they were to begin recording for their seventh (man, time flies) LP this week with a release in the months to follow, and since YOB haven’t put out an album since 2004 that I didn’t pick it as my Album of the Year, you can bet your ass I’m looking forward to what they do next. Particularly that part about “the most beautiful arrangement we’ve ever written.” Sold. YOB on Thee Facebooks.
Others to keep an eye on, some mentioned above, some not:
Ararat, III (Another 2013 holdover) The Atlas Moth, The Old Believer (Out in June) Brant Bjork, Jakoozi Blackfinger, Blackfinger Godhunter, City of Dust Ice Dragon (Some older releases are being physically pressed and new stuff is never far off) King Buffalo (Their demo ruled) King Dead (First audio just surfacing, but holds promise) Lo-Pan (Been a while in the making at this point, hopefully 2014) Pet the Preacher, The Cave and the Sunlight The Proselyte (EP coming on Gypsyblood Records) Rainbows are Free, Waves ahead of the Ocean Saint Vitus (Began writing last Fall) Salem’s Pot, Lurar ut dig på prärien The Scimitar (Debut from Black Pyramid offshoot) Seedy Jeezus (Recording in Australia now with Tony Reed) Serpent Venom, Of Things Seen and Unseen Spirit Caravan (Nothing announced but you never know)
Various Artists, Songs of Townes Van Zandt Pt. II Wino & Conny Ochs (Maybe, maybe not) The Wisdoom, Hypothalamus Wo Fat (New album recorded)
I’m quite positive that the first thing to happen after this is posted is that someone will chime in with something I forgot. At least I hope that’s what happens. As large as this list has turned out to be (much, much larger than I thought it would be when I started taking notes for it), there’s no way it could cover everything, and I hope if there’s an upcoming release in particular that you’re looking forward to, you’ll please let me know in the comments.
Thank you so much for reading and for all of your support. Here’s to an amazing 2014.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 11th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
That each album by UK doomers The Wounded Kings would sound different from the one before it makes sense — for the most part it’s been a different lineup on all of them. But it goes deeper than that. Founding guitarist Steve Mills has always brought a fervently progressive mentality to his songwriting, since the band’s 2008 debut, Embrace of the Narrow House, and it extended right up to 2011′s In the Chapel of the Black Hand(review here), which was the first LP from the band to feature frontwoman Sharie Neyland. Consolamentum will be the second, and with live-recorded production from Chris Fielding and Candlelight Records behind it, I can’t wait to hear how it’s turned out.
Here’s the release announcement, courtesy of the PR wire:
THE WOUNDED KINGS Deliver The Goods With Consolamentum
Candlelight Records today confirms February 25th as the North American release date of Consolamentum, the label debut from English doom metallers, THE WOUNDED KINGS. Produced by Chris Fielding (Electric Wizard), the album will be available for preorders via iTunes and other digital platforms beginning January 14th.
Discussing the album earlier this year, guitarist and band founder Steve Mills revealed, “this album will be our most expansive and heaviest.” Indeed it is. Consolamentum’s opening song, “Gnosis,” clocks in at a mammoth thirteen minutes. From there it latches on to your soul as it travels a dark and desolate sonic terrain. “The entire album was recorded and mixed in six days during the hottest week of the year in a studio miles from anything in the Cornish countryside,” shares producer Chris Fielding. “Recorded completely live, it captures the natural feel of the band. I find it to be a real step forward musically and very rewarding.”
Overcoming numerous lineup shifts since their formation in 2005, Mills and the KINGS have amazed audiences with their powerful stage personae. To date the Dartmoor-based five piece has released three full-length studio albums and a well-received split album with Richmond, Virginia’s Cough. The band has been finding a growing American audience since the release of their 2011 album, In The Chapel Of The Black Hand. It is the first to feature Neyland.
Consolamentum Track Listing: 1. Gnosis 2. Lost Bride 3. Elige Magistrum 4. Consolamentum 5. Space Conqueror 6. The Silence 7. Sacrifice
THE WOUNDED KINGS is guitarist/keyboardist Steve Mills, vocalist Sharie Neyland, guitarist Alex Kearney, bassist Al Eliadis, and drummer Myke Heath.
Posted in Features on August 7th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
If you’re anything like me — and let’s just hope for your sake you’re not — then you’re sitting in front of your laptop staring at a calendar telling you it’s August wondering what the hell happened to June and July. Last time I turned around, it was barely summer, and now it’s starting to get cold at night.
We’re well past the halfway mark on 2013, and I know for some the year’s best picks are already set in mind, but there’s a ton of cool releases still to come before 2014 hits, and I figured now’s as good a time as any for a rundown of a few picks that seem to be sure to arrive prior to December 31. As much as anything’s ever “sure,” anyway. Subject to change, and all that.
With the gracious suggestions/assistance of those checking in on the forum (see that thread for many more picks) taken into consideration, here are 15 suggestions to be on a lookout for starting in September. Some of these I’ve heard, some I haven’t, but take it as a sampling of what I’m looking forward to, if nothing else.
And because I know nothing says “I know how to have a good time” like a list in order of release date, here goes nothing:
Vista Chino, Peace (Sept. 3)
It took me a couple listens to come around to Vista Chino‘s Peace (review here), but once I got to that point, there was no turning back. The much-anticipated Napalm Records debut from the four-piece birthed out of Kyuss Lives!, Peace ultimately moves forward as much as it looks back, and though much of the lyrics center around the lawsuit that forced Kyuss Lives! to change their name, the songs themselves do arrive at a certain place of acceptance by the end of the record, so that in the end it lives up to its title. Some won’t be able to make the leap over their expectations for what an album with Brant Bjork, John Garcia and Nick Oliveri on it should sound like, but most importantly, Vista Chino are pressing on and I hope this isn’t the last record they make together, even if Oliveri is already out of the band’s touring lineup.
Larman Clamor, Alligator Heart (Sept. 10)
The solo-outfit of graphic artist Alexander von Wieding, Larman Clamor has been pumping out quality swamp boogie for the last two years at a more than prolific clip. Last year, von Wieding made his debut on Small Stone with Frogs (review here), and while the forthcoming Alligator Heart (out through the same label) strips the approach down somewhat — as you can hear on the single “Banshee w’Me” — the murkedelic blues spirit remains supreme at the center of the project’s approach. Larman Clamor has flown relatively under the radar so far into its run, but showing a little bit of a poppier side on Alligator Heart‘s tracks might gain it some more attention. Von Wieding‘s songwriting continues to be worth the price of admission to the bizarre carnival he creates.
Windhand, Soma (Sept. 17)
Richmond-based cult sludgers Windhand made their debut on Relapse earlier this year on a split release with Cough — with whom they share a bassist and a hometown — and will follow that next month with Soma, their second LP behind their 2012 self-titled debut full-length. The band have only gotten darker and meaner since adding Cough‘s Parker Chandler on bass, and with that split heralding its coming, Somashould arrive with a fittingly devastating impact. Windhand have also put in no shortage of time on the road, and even as the new one comes out, they’ll be embroiled in a coast-to-coast US tour, so keep an eye out — and that goes for Europe too. I wouldn’t be surprised if a full tour with Inter Arma got announced around their joint Roadburn appearances next spring.
Sasquatch, IV (Sept. 24)
Sasquatch bloody Sasquatch. If you’ve got a face, these dudes’ll rock it right off. With IV(Small Stone) their first full-length since 2010′s III(review here), L.A. trio Sasquatch very casually offer a reminder that those who talk about how rock and roll needs to be “saved” don’t have a clue what’s really up, that rock and roll never went anywhere and that its awesomeness continues unabated. Need testimony? Check out the track stream for “The Message.” Classic grooves, class-y showoff solos, catchy tunes and later in the album even a foray into psychedelic jamming — let there be no doubt that Sasquatch have nailed down right where they want to be sound-wise and are ready to make the most of the good times they’re rolling out as they continue to lay their own railroad, grand and funky as it is. Soundgarden wishes they had this kind of edge.
Iron Man, South of the Earth (Sept. 30)
You’d pretty much have to be a jerk not to feel good about the fact that long-running, long-underappreciated Maryland doom stalwarts Iron Man are getting their due in the form of a Rise Above Records release for their new album, South of the Earth. I know that’s not the most impartial statement in the world, but seriously, who deserves Lee Dorrian-endorsed doom cred more than Iron Man? The names are few and far between. South of the Earthalready had me on the hook for being their first full-length with frontman Dee Calhoun on board alongside guitarist “Iron” Al Morris III, bassist Louis Strachan and drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann, but with the hopefully increased profile of issue on Rise Above, who knows what could be in store for them once it’s out?
Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight, Underground EP (Sept.)
Trippy Wicked caught me off guard last year with the heavier and more metal side that showed up on their Going Home long-player (review here), but this time I’m ready. I’ve readjusted my expectations for what the UK trio might unleash on the new Underground EP — set phasers to who-the-hell-knows — and after the quick mastery of the metallurgical arts they showed the last time out, I’m happy to follow wherever their creative whims might take them. I know this is a list of albums and technically an EP isn’t a full album, but screw it, I dig these guys and am fascinated enough by their progression that it’s worth including even the smaller release here. If the art for Underground(due out through Superhot Records) is anything to go by — and I don’t yet know that it is — we could be in for a pretty wild ride.
Earthless, From the Ages (Oct. 8)
San Diego instrumentalists Earthless are looking to make an epic return on From the Ages (Tee Pee Records), which is their first studio full-length in six years. Though they’ve had a steady stream of live releases, limited splits and the like, and guitarist Isaiah Mitchell released a debut album with the heavy psych outfit Golden Void last year, nothing’s quite the same as Earthless‘ righteous jams and extended progressions. Look out for the 31-minute title-track (one of four on the album; more info here) as Earthless step into the limelight and reap the momentum they’ve built through steady years of touring and critical acclaim. From the Agesmight just prove one for the ages.
Monster Magnet, Last Patrol (Oct. 15)
My only question when it comes to Monster Magnet‘s second album for Napalm Records — touted by frontman Dave Wyndorf as a return to their psychedelic beginnings — is how literally we’re supposed to take the title Last Patroland if indeed this is going to be the final go for the long-running and hugely influential New Jersey outfit. If so, they draw their circle as complete as they possibly could, and whether it’s “The Duke (of Supernature),” which has received nearly 23,000 plays since being premiered here on July 23, or the driving churn of “End of Time,” Monster Magnet tap into the spirit that propelled 1995′s Dopes to Infinity and readjust the balance of their influence in a way fans have been clamoring for for years now. The more I hear it, the more I need to hear it.
Pelican, Forever Becoming (Oct. 15)
A new Pelican album is an interesting enough proposition at this point — it’s been four years since the Chicago instrumental outfit released What We all Come to Need (review here) — but Forever Becoming (Southern Lord) has an added level of intrigue for being Pelican‘s first album without guitarist Laurent Schroeder-Lebec. Stepping in to fill the second guitar spot is Dallas Thomas of The Swan King, and it should be interesting to hear how the band’s approach has shifted after almost half a decade and what Thomas brings to the well-established chemistry between bassist Bryan Herweg, drummer Larry Herweg and guitarist Trevor de Brauw. If the first track is anything to go by, Pelican still sounds like Pelican, and I’m not going to complain about that.
Corrections House, Last City Zero (Oct. 29)
Probably the bigger surprise would’ve been if the super-type group Corrections House didn’t make their full-length debut on Neurot, but still, word was welcome when it came down a couple weeks back that the conjoined efforts of Scott Kelly (Neurosis), Mike IX Williams (EyeHateGod), Bruce Lamont (Yakuza) and Sanford Parker (Buried at Sea, Minsk and the guy you want to record your album) were resulting in an actual album to follow up on their initial single and tour earlier this year. Whether the entirety of the record works in the kind of industrial, post-Godflesh noise crunch they brought to the stage on that tour (review here), we’ll just have to wait and see. But I’m damn interested to find out.
Red Fang, Whales and Leeches (Oct.)
Those who heard Red Fang‘s 2011 boot-to-the-ass second album, Murder the Mountains (review here), will probably find Whales and Leeches (named for a track off their 2008 self-titled debut) a reasonable follow-up. The Portland forerunners’ second offering through Relapse finds bassist/vocalist Aaron Beam even more front and center with clean vocals, and ultra-catchy songs like “Blood Like Cream” and “No Hope” seem to pick up right where Red Fang left off last time, offsetting Beam‘s poppier style with guitarist/vocalist Bryan Giles‘ throaty grit . Watch out for much more to come on this one. Between the record itself and their formidable road ethic, you’re probably going to be hearing a lot about it.
The Melvins, Tres Cabrones (Nov. 5)
If you were to ask me how many records the Melvins have out in 2013, I’d go, “Uh… I dunno… six?” and the mere fact that that doesn’t seem like a ridiculous answer should be indicative of the frankly absurd pace at which the long-enduring Washington outfit add to their already insurmountable catalog. What makes Tres Cabrones (Ipecac) different? Reportedly, it’s a semi-reunion of the band’s 1983 lineup — as close as they were willing to get, was how Buzz Osbourne put it in the press release — that finds Dale Crover playing bass to make room for drummer Mike Dillard. The Melvins released the collection Mangled Demos from 1983 in 2005, but Tres Cabroneswill be entirely new material. You never know quite where the Melvins are headed next, and if anyone could find a way to go forward even as they go backward, it’d be them.
Sandrider, Godhead (Date TBA)
So in case you couldn’t tell by the “TBA” above, this one’s a bit of wishful thinking on my part. I don’t actually know that Sandrider (members of Akimbo and The Ruby Doe) will issue a follow-up to their 2011 self-titled Good to Die Records debut (review here) before the end of 2013, but golly, I hope they do. The band said on July 11 via their Thee Facebooks that they’d finished mastering the album, titled Godhead, for a Fall release, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see once it’s pressed and ready to go. The sooner the better, since that first record was a smoker and nothing says “autumn” like some noise crunch bombast. At least that’s what I have embroidered on my doilies…
Snail, Feral (TBA)
Not sure on the release date for West Coast riffers Snail‘s fourth album and third since reactivating in 2009 with Blood, but the recording’s reportedly done, so hopefully it’s not too long before they get it out. The band recently announced the departure of guitarist Eric Clausen, so they’re down to the original trio of guitarist/vocalist Mark Johnson, bassist Matt Lynch and drummer Marty Dodson, and how that will affect their sound on the follow-up to last year’s metallized self-release, Terminus (review here), remains to be seen, but if there’s any chance Snail might be able to get more road time in support of Feral, whenever it arrives, than no doubt it will have been worth the tumult in the meantime.And even if not, the album’s still one to watch for.
The Wounded Kings, Consolamentum (TBA)
Another one with no exact date, but according to producer Chris Fielding, it’ll be out before 2013′s over. Either way, when it lands, Consolamentum will serve as the Candlelight Records debut. It’s their fourth outing overall, and the second to be produced by Fielding and to feature frontwoman Sharie Neyland, whose work on 2011′s In the Chapel ofthe Black Hand (review here) made that album one of the year’s most satisfyingly bizarre and dreary doom offerings. Along with founding guitarist Steve Mills, Neyland returns for Consolamentum and whether it hits in 2013 or 2014, look for the band to progress from the last time out. Mills (interview here) is a relentlessly forward-thinking songwriter and his penchant for creating atmospheric and crushingly dark sonic spaces is not to be underestimated.
Whew. These things always take so much longer than I think they’re going to when I start writing names on Post-It notes.
Of course, this is just a sampling of what’s to come over the next few months. Borracho‘s new one is supposed to get a vinyl release, and A Storm of Light have a new record, plus I heard rumors of new Slough Feg (they have a new single that would seem to back that up) and a much-awaited Brothers of the Sonic Cloth full-length coming before the end of the year — I also, right now, quite literally this second, just got news of a new Diesto on Eolian Empire — so please don’t assume that if it’s not here it’s never coming or whatever. There’s so much out there, I always feel like I’m leaving out something big and/or awesome.
Kind of hard to get the full story on the new Smells Like Sweat documentary about Denmark’s 2012 inaugural Heavy Days in Doomtown fest from the trailer posted yesterday, but the clip of The Wounded Kings guitarist and founder Steve Mills saying, “I’m a lazy fucking bastard guitar player, and I like to have a lot of time to think between riffs,” would seem to indicate that good times abound.
Presumably there’s more to come — a trailer usually precedes a full feature — and in the meantime, the 2013 installment of Heavy Days in Doomtown has been announced for May 2-5 at Undomshuset in Copenhagen. Lineup info can be found in the comments of this post (thanks to those who posted it).
Here’s the trailer and a blurb from the creators about the theory behind the documentary:
A no budget film focusing in on doom as a movement more than a genre. Meet the bands and artists in one of the most embracing subcultures. See the venues melt away the difference between the bands and the audience in a DIY setting.
“Unknow Factor” is a collective of artists working in a copyleft setting to deliver stories from beneath the surface. No budget. No sponsors. Only the chaotic truth.
Posted in audiObelisk on June 26th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Roadburn audio stream season continues today with the next batch of sets recorded at this year’s fest at the 013 popcentrum and Het Patronaat in gorgeous Tilburg, the Netherlands. Any excuse to relive those four days back in April and I’ll take it. Thanks as always to Walter and the Roadburn crew and to Marcel van de Vondervoort for overseeing the recording process.
Posted in Features on April 14th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
04/15/12 — 00.04 — Saturday Night — Hotel Mercure
When my alarm went off this afternoon, it was with both excitement and a touch of apprehension that I considered the prospect of what today would bring Roadburn 2012, Day Three. Saturday, April 14. I looked at my pocket schedule — no fancy printouts or cellphone PDFs for me — and took a deep breath, steeling myself against the truly monolithic.
I’m sure the stories differ almost on a per-attendee basis, but my version of the final day of Roadburn proper went like this: Mike Scheidt, 40 Watt Sun, Dark Buddha Rising, Church of Misery, Pelican, The Wounded Kings, The Obsessed, Mars Red Sky, Sleep. If I was still standing, I wouldn’t know how.
The noon alarm gave me a little more time to get my head around what I was going to see, whereas the last two days it’s been up and go. Time well spent, since I was about to embark on the busiest day of this entire trip, a wave-crest culmination of everything that the last week-plus has been building toward. Fitting it should end with Sleep, since without them I and most of these bands probably wouldn’t be here. What now feels like aeons before the gods ascended their Olympus, however, Saturday afternoon began at 15.00 with Mike Scheidt in the Stage01 room.
Not 24 hours after YOB laid waste to the entire city of Tilburg performing all of The Unreal Never Lived, Scheidt, the guitarist, vocalist and driving force behind that band, emerged on 013‘s smallest stage to play acoustic songs from his upcoming Thrill Jockey solo release, Stay Awake — words which are also tattooed across his two hands, facing up for him to read. He got on stage talking about how excellent Doom had been the night prior and was soon in the thick of a spoken intro to a song called “Until the End of Everything.” I’ve heard the album a few times in preparation for a review, and it takes some of YOB‘s sonic mysticism into account on “Until the End of Everything” and a few other tracks, but Scheidt was careful as well to acknowledge singer-songwriter roots, alternating between finger-picking strings and a rhythmic strum that was familiar to many in the room in its construction.
He’s still clearly working out the approach he wants to take to the form, and said on stage as well that performing acoustic was a recent advent for him and that he was very much enjoying it, but as he dug into the throatier vocals on the closing title-track to Stay Awake, there was little to no perceptible temerity or lack of confidence in what he was doing. The songs sounded better live than they do on the record, but most importantly, there’s room for Scheidt to grow and explore new ideas outside the context of YOB, which at this point have established at least in part the palette from which they continue to refine their sound. That is, they have a “sound” they continue to refine, whereas Scheidt is still finding out what he wants to be as a solo artist, and seeing that unfold on stage was engaging.
Main room openers 40 Watt Sun had been on my list to see since I missed them when they came through New York last year, so when Scheidt was finished, I took the not-at-all-a-secret passageway from Stage01 and prepared myself to get sad. That’s what 40 Watt Sun do. Their doom is as much contingent on emotional weight — if not more — than tonal, and that could be heard as well on last year’s The Inside Room (review here). That puts them in a tight spot in terms of a stage show, however, since they’re basically limited then to how much they can really get into a show experience before undercutting the pervasive emotionality of the music. To work at all, they almost have to be boring to watch on stage. You can’t have some dude doing jumping jacks and playing a song like “Carry Me Home.”
Well, you could, but you’d probably get laughed at. 40 Watt Sun relied on the music to carry their ideas across on stage, and the songs had enough presence to make up for any fireworks that may have been absent otherwise. Vocalist/guitarist Patrick Walker (ex-Warning) was visceral in his presentation of the material, or perhaps “wrenching” would be a better word. In any case, they managed to make an entire concert hall of burly beardos miss their wives and girlfriends at the same time. Maybe that’s just me projecting. Fair enough. Before they were done, and before I actually allowed myself to feel something (yuck), I made my way into the Green Room to catch the start of Finnish blackened doomers Dark Buddha Rising, whose theatrics were of a much different and more, uh, theatrical variety.
Until they came out on stage and I recognized faces, I didn’t know this, but Dark Buddha Rising shares at least two of its members with Hexvessel, who played yesterday. While that adds a level of intrigue into the initial discovery of who they are, it says nothing about how much the two acts have in common, which in turn is just about nothing. Dark Buddha Rising take the ritual Hexvessel preach and bring it to corpsepainted life, their frontman/noise-manipulator doused himself in “blood” from a chalice as he screamed and worked a wah pedal with his hand to add to the rumbling ferocity of noise from the guitar, bass and drums. I could take or leave that side of it — the stage show — but they had the doom to back it up. Lumbering, lurching, crawling malevolence came out to turn the Green Room black, and the music was more powerful than any chalice could contain. Vinyl-only to an apparent point of religiosity, it made me sad to not immediately go buy everything they had on their table in the merch area. Fortunately, I had Church of Misery to help drown my sorrows.
Drown them they did. Or maybe they smothered them. Or stabbed them. Or blasted them with a sawed-off shotgun. Whatever it was, Church of Misery‘s murderous grooves “took care of” any and all residual woes and rolled them up in a rug, never to be seen again. Unfortunately, there were a few technical difficulties for bassist Tatsu Mikami. Fortunately, they happened right during the jam part of “El Padrino,” so guitarist Tom Sutton got to just play out the “na na na” riff for about four extra minutes while the stage crew brought out a new bass head. That wasn’t the last of Mikami‘s troubles, but those things are unavoidable sometimes, and it’s not like Church of Misery have never played Roadburn and probably won’t again next year. If you’ve got to have a house band, you could do a hell of a lot worse.
Once they were up and running again, Church of Misery had the main stage crowd already well on their (meat)hook. The new vocalist, whose name I still don’t know, made an excellent master of ceremonies, and though I left for a bit in the middle to get a quick bite, I was back in time to see them finish out in riotous form, making way for Chicagoan instrumentalists Pelican, whose new EP, Ataraxia/Taraxis, is the first release from the band since 2009′s What We all Come to Need (review here) brought back around some of the escapist atmospherics that peppered their earliest works while also remaining consistently and consciously heavy. I remember seeing them on the “Champions of Sound” tour with Scissorfight at the old Knitting Factory in New York, and though I know I’ve encountered them between then and now, that will always be my frame of reference. At some point, then, Pelican grew up.
As they played, I turned my head to look at the crowd behind me, and all there was was a sea of nodding heads. They still had plenty of energy on stage, but at the same time, Pelican was a fully mature band, who’ve earned their spot between Church of Misery and The Obsessed. The main room was jammed with people, and Pelicanhanded each one a bleeding eardrum. Their grooves were huge, the sound was reverberating off the walls in a massive hum, and they didn’t let up. It wasn’t just impressive. It was landmark, and it renewed my appreciation for what they do. I wasn’t even that excited to see them, thinking there was no way they’d be able to replace that Knitting Factory show in my mind, but they absolutely did. It’s like they realized they didn’t need to choose between being heavy and being ambient or melodic. They crushed, and in a way that I didn’t think they were capable of or interested in crushing. That was the most surprising part of all.
On my list of “must” bands, The Wounded Kings ranked pretty high. I’d missed them last time they were here, and what with their having a totally different lineup now, showing up at the Green Room seemed more than prudent. Guitarist Steve Mills, who is the only founding member of the band, led The Wounded Kings through a round of songs from 2011′s In the Chapel of the Black Hand, which is appropriate since that’s the only record that four of the five in the lineup played on. Vocalist Sharie Neyland had a bit of vibrato to her voice that was well matched by the rumble of Jim Willumsen‘s bass, and Mills — who’s been through his share of trials in getting the band to this point — seemed thoroughly satisfied with the fruits of his labor. They were an interesting comparison point to Dark Buddha Rising, since both bands could probably be classified as occult doom, but each has a drastically different take than the other on what that designation might mean.
As a singer, Neyland puts The Wounded Kings on a new level entirely, and I feel now having seen them live as I felt when I reviewed the record, which is I hope the lineup stays consistent. Drummer Mike Heath and guitarist Alex Kearney only added to the potency of the other players, and it seemed the atmosphere was set from the outset and maintained the whole way through. The Green Room was full too, and then some, and considering Pelican was still going in the main stage and Leaf Hound was at Het Patronaat, it’s safe to say The Wounded Kings have made some real fans along the way on their bumpy road to this point. Mills works quick — for instance, this lineup of the band was put together and an album was released in a year’s time — so hopefully it’s not too long before we get another glimpse inside their house of horrors.
By this time in the day, my back and forth was in full swing. I’d gone from Stage01 to the main room, to the Green Room, to the main room, to dinner, back to the main room, to the Green Room, and now was headed back to the main room again for The Obsessed‘s reunion set. It takes a toll, both physically and in terms of what you see, but the tradeoff is you see more bands. Whereas yesterday I got to get more of a feel forwhat everyone was doing — I saw full sets from Wino & Conny Ochs, Conan and YOB — today and Day One were a different kind of experience. Obviously one still full of enjoyment and thrills, they just come in more rapid-fire procession. I’ll admit too that although I did a lot of running around today — I mean a lot — the weekend was beginning even early this afternoon to extract its toll on my energy level.
I’m not bitching. I hope you won’t take that to mean it that way, but I think fatigue, being worn out, is part of the festival experience and worth talking about. I wouldn’t have chosen to be anywhere else for the duration of today — or this weekend as a whole, for that matter — but that doesn’t mean I didn’t make two trips to the espresso machine in the merch area this afternoon to gear up for the evening’s lineup. The second time, I put in two 50 Euro cents and got a double. It had to be done, because the fact of the matter is it’s not every day that The Obsessed get on stage and do a show. Roadburn seemed to know it, too, since when I came back into the main room for the set, the curtain was drawn.
This led me to wonder what they could possibly be hiding. The lineup, if I’m not mistaken, was announced beforehand as being drummer Greg Rogers and bassist Guy Pinhas alongside vocalist/guitarist Scott “Wino” Weinrich, so I’m not sure what was to be gained by drawing the giant curtain as the gear was loaded in and line checked. I didn’t expect much of a stage show, no explosions or dancing elephants, when The Obsessed got started, and sure enough, it was just the three of them rocking out those old songs. Once they actually began playing, though, I changed my mind about the curtain. It was awesome, and the reunion was special enough to warrant it. Once they hit into “Streetside,” I thought I tore my groove muscle — not to be confused with my “love muscle,” which is pretty much my forearm (heyo!).
Pinhas thanked the audience profusely and sounded utterly sincere, and he and Rogers nailed the material. It’s been since 1995 that The Obsessed played a set, though Weinrich worked Obsessed songs into his Wino trio performances, but if reunions from the likes of Saint Vitus and Sleep have shown anything, it’s that doom ages well. Getting to see The Obsessed play was one more really special occurrences that I’ve gotten to take part in on this trip, and I followed it up immediately by watching Mars Red Sky in the Green Room. It cost me part of The Obsessed‘s set, but after being so jealous of The Patient Mrs.‘ having seen them in Portland, Oregon, I had to follow up by seeing them for myself. The three-piece was positively humble and unassuming as they came out and started off their set with “Falls” from last year’s self-titled debut.
Guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras and bassist Jimmy Kinast have a new drummer in the lineup, as of reportedly two weeks ago, but the songs were smooth as they ran through them — “Strong Reflection,” the Kinast-vocal “Marble Sky,” “Curse” and a new song they didn’t give a title for but that seemed to show them heading further in the direction of balancing weighted tones with laid back grooves. You won’t hear me complain. It was one time this weekend where I can truly say that no one in the room was there by accident. Right across the hallway, you had The Obsessed rocking out songs that are legendary in doom, and yet the Green Room was full of heads come to worship at the warm fuzz coming from Pras‘ amp. For me, I’ll liken it to seeing Sungrazer at Roadburn last year, both in terms of the warmth of distortion and the equally rich satisfaction I got from doing so. They weren’t the highest profile act of the evening by any stretch, but Mars Red Sky were a highlight of my weekend (and with a weekend of highlights, that’s saying something), and I knew going into it that they would be.
Nonetheless, they were not the cap on the night. A mammoth, feedback-drenched, earth-rattling set from Sleep would follow back once more in the main room. Matt Pike, Al Cisneros and Jason Roeder. I’m honestly not sure if anything else needs to be said than that. Yeah, they’re not the full original trio of the band (though I’ve never heard anyone who’s actually seenRoederdrum on these songs complain; some conceptual kvetching), and yeah, nobody’s as young as they used to be, myself included, but goddamn, you put these guys on a stage and you better be sure your walls are reinforced. Doing one of their several extended sections of nothing but feedback and vibrating washes of noise, I found myself looking up at the 013 ceiling to see if anything was going to shake loose and fall on the crowd. I’m not kidding. I had my escape route all planned out — onto the stage, through the side door, out the loading dock. Off to safety I go.
It didn’t come to that, thankfully, but Sleep were at a pretty high threat level. High enough so that my earplugs did me no good whatsoever and my ears are ringing now. Before they even started — before his amps were even turned on — Pike came out and just started playing to the crowd. There was no sound, and he looked a little smashed, but even on mute, he earned vehement cheers. Before long, that solo turned into a mash of noise that, in turn, turned into the start of “Dopesmoker.” “Drop out of life with bong in hand/Follow the smoke toward the riff filled land” — words that have become the granite into which Sleep‘s legacy is carved, and I don’t mind saying I got chills up my spine as Al Cisneros delivered the lines. He did smoke a joint on stage, oh yes, and got a laugh by saying, “This intermission is brought to you by The Grass Company,” which is just down the street from 013 here in Tilburg. I don’t smoke, but I did suddenly want to order five shots and down them all; the music begging its adherents to be fucked up one way or another, I suppose.
Pike teased the opening riff of “Dragonaut” and a shockwave of electricity went through the crowd, and when they actually did it, it was glorious. Likewise “Holy Mountain” and “From Beyond,” both of which were just a huge, wondrous mess of abrasive noise and painful volume. The vocals weren’t the kind of shouts one hears when listening to Sleep’s Holy Mountain, or even Dopesmoker, but Cisneros was loyal to the songs all the same, vocally and musically, playing way up high on the neck of his five-string Rickenbacker, and where after seeing them in Brooklyn in 2010, I was unsure as to how the conflicting stage presences of Pike (a drunken madman) and Cisneros (a weedian guru) might play out correspondingly in their personal relationship, tonight they seemed absolutely on the same page with each other and with Roeder as the essential third of the band. One shudders at the possibility of a new album.
They went long, as I guess one will do when one is Sleep, and I had a laugh when they finished and the 1972 Charles Bronson movie The Mechanic came on the huge screen that was behind the band. Years ago, I interviewed Matt Pike for one of High on Fire‘s records — I think it was Blessed Black Wings — in person in Philadelphia, and afterwards at a bar, he told a story of being sat down as a child, I believe by his father, and being made to watch that very film since it was, “Everything you need to know about being a man.” Of course as soon as I could I got the DVD and watched it. It’s the story of two hitmen, a mentor and his protegé, and rife with betrayal, murder and a bizarre — and indeed, inherently masculine — code of honor that bonds its protagonists. Jan-Michael Vincent was the younger hitman. Anyway, the nod to The Mechanic gave me a chuckle as I worked my way through the beaten throng of Roadburners and out of the main room.
A Heavy Jam session with members of Witch and Earthless loomed ahead, but not for me. For me, it was back to the hotel to put the cap on this three-day exercise in riff worship. I’m not finished yet. Tomorrow is the Afterburner, and that’s got Electric Orange, Internal Void, and YOB doing all of Catharsis, among others, so I’m not yet in full-on reflection mode (not to mention it’s three in the damn morning), but suffice it to say for the time being that there’s a reason people come from around the world to play and attend this festival, and it’s because there’s only one Roadburn. It’s been exhausting, but it’s been a thrill too, and I’m looking forward to wrapping things up tomorrow with one more round of getting my ass handed to me at the Afterburner. Here’s to it.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 22nd, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
You know, it had been a little bit since a Roadburn announcement came through, and I thought maybe the four days of the fest (three for Roadburn proper and one for the Afterburner) were full, but nope. As it turns out, the addition of British cult doomers The Wounded Kings completes the lineup for Saturday, and there may yet still be more do come. God damn, this thing is huge.
Stoked to see The Wounded Kings as well, as their In the Chapel of the Black Hand (review here) was a highlight of the year in doom. Dig the news:
The Wounded Kings return to Roadburn Festival on Saturday, April 14, 2012 at the 013 venue in Tilburg, Holland (With the addition of The Wounded Kings to Roadburn 2012, the lineup for Saturday, April 14 is complete).
A new era of apocalyptic doom approaches! Featuring the dark and chilling vocals ofSharie Neyland along with Alex Kearney (guitar), Myke Heath (drums), Jim Willumsen (bass) and founder member Steve Mills (guitar).
Despite, or because of the hardships the Kings have endured over the last 12 months their determination and unique vision for heavy music remains as strong as ever. This new phase in the Kings‘ development undulates with vintage amplification, the riffs seething with menace and danger – things fans have come to love and expect!
It is a journey to ghostly worlds – suffocating and claustrophobic – where ancient terrors slowly seep into the blood stream. Roadburn will be grateful to get out alive with its soul and sanity intact – just as it should be!
Posted in Features on December 9th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Please note: This list is made up of my personal picks, not the results of the Readers Poll, which is ongoing — if you haven’t added your top 11 to that yet, please do.
It was an impossible task to keep up with everything that came out this year. I’ll say flat out that I didn’t. There are records that I just didn’t get to hear, and I should note at the outset that this list is mine. It’s based on my personal opinions, what I listened to the most this year and what I think 2011′s most crucial releases have been.
I’ve spent the better part of this week (and last, if brain-time counts) constructing this list, and I finally got it to a point where I feel comfortable sharing. Since last December, I’ve kept a Post-It of names, and all year, I’ve logged bands I’d want to consider for the final top 20. In the end, there were 78 bands and more that I didn’t get to write down for whatever reason. 2011 was nothing if it wasn’t overwhelming.
But here we are, anyway, and it’s done. Let’s get to it:
This is nothing if not a sentimental pick. Last year, I put Electric Wizard in the #20 spot because the record wasn’t out yet, and this year, I’m putting Suplecs (interview with bassist Danny Nick here) in just because I couldn’t imagine this list without them. Until literally a few minutes before I clicked “Publish” on this post, there was someone else in this spot, but ultimately, it had to be them. The New Orleans trio’s first record in half a decade wasn’t what I listened to most in 2011, it wasn’t the best album, or the most important, or career-defining, but when it came right down to it, god damn, I was just happy to have Suplecs back. It had been too long.
After a while, I was kind of shocked to find myself continuing to listen to Favourite State of Mind, the second album by Polish rockers Elvis Deluxe. The record’s dynamics didn’t immediately open up to me, but once I dug into the songs, I was wowed by their balance of catchy hooks and substantial-sounding riffs. The album was genre-relevant without being genre-minded, with vocal changes, organ, atmospheric shifts and a whole host of moods and turns. After hearing their 2007 debut, Lazy, I wasn’t expecting much out of the norm from Favourite State of Mind, and I’m still thrilled by just how wrong I was, and “Take it Slow” is among my favorite single songs of the year.
The gloomy opening statement from former Warning guitarist/vocalist Patrick Walker turned heads around the world with its unabashed emotional conviction, which was so much the central focus of the record as to be made a novelty by those who don’t usually consider doom an emotionally relevant genre (the widespread arguments against that notion I’ll leave for another time). What most stood out to me about The Inside Room was how the sentimentality translated into a gorgeous melodic sensibility and resulted in a lonely mood that was engrossing. On that level, it was easily among 2011′s most effective releases. It made you feel what it seemed to be feeling.
It was an album that lived up to its name. Return to Earth marked the remaking of one of heavy rocks most stoned outfits: Acrimony. But, as Sigiriya (interview with drummer Darren Ivey here), the four-piece (down from five) would show that the years since the demise of their former band had found them progressing as musicians, resulting in a sound less directly stoner, more modern, more earthy. The songs, however, were what made it. It’s still a rare day that goes by that I don’t hum at least part of the chorus of “Mountain Goat” to myself, and if Return to Earth was a new beginning for these players, I can’t wait to see where they go next.
In addition to being Totimoshi‘s first album for At a Loss following the end of their deal with Volcom, Avenger was the first Totimoshi record since 2003′s ¿Mysterioso? not to be produced by Page Hamilton, and where 2006′s Ladrón and 2008′s Milagrosa moved away from some of the noisy crunch in the guitar of Tony Aguilar (interview here), Avenger managed to be both a return to form and a progression of the band’s melodicism. It seems, as ever, to have flown under most radars, but Totimoshi continue to refine their songwriting and have become one of the heavy underground’s most formidable and least classifiable bands.
With their 2010 EP release, upstart British trio Grifter informed us that The Simplicity of the Riff is Key, and on their self-titled Ripple Music debut, they put that ethic to excellent use, resulting in straightforward, catchy songs that were as high-octane as they were low-bullshit. The ultra-catchy “Good Day for Bad News” showed Grifter at the top of their form, and with a dose of humor thrown in, Grifter was the drunken stoner rock party you always wanted to be invited to and, of course, finally were. Now if only I could get Skype to work and get that interview with Ollie Stygall moving, I’d be happy to tell him personally he put out one of 2011′s most kickass rock records.
I don’t know what’s most impressive about The Book of Knots‘ Garden of Fainting Stars — the songs themselves or that they were able to make any songs at all. With upwards of 20 guest spots around the core four-piece, the third in a purported trilogy of records from the avant rock originalists was an epic in every listen. Songs like “Microgravity” and the Mike Watt spoken word “Yeager’s Approach” pushed the limits of both genre and expectation, and miraculously, Garden of Fainting Stars was cohesive and enthralling in its narrative aspect. If it really was their last album, it was triumphant in a manner befitting its expanding-universe thematics.
Had it been a full-length, Invisible White would be higher on this list. Many out there who were enamored of Ancestors‘ 2008 Neptune with Fire debut have gone on to bemoan the Californian collective’s shift away from extended sections of heavy riffing and tales of sea monsters and other things that go “doom” in the night. I’m not one of them. The Invisible White EP was a brave step along a fascinating progression, and as Crippled Black Phoenix didn’t release a new album in 2011, I was glad to have Ancestors there to fill that morose, contemplative void, and I look forward to seeing how they expand on the ideas presented on Invisible White (if they decide to stick to this direction) for their next full-length.
Speaking of shifting approaches, still-young Massachusetts trio Elder also moved away from the Sleep-centric methods of their 2008 self-titled debut on the follow-up, Dead Roots Stirring. Still based very much around the guitar work of Nick DiSalvo (interview here), Elder songs like “Gemini” and the über-soloed “The End” pushed an influence of European heavy psych into the band’s aesthetic, and the result was both grippingly heavy and blown of mind. As an album long delayed by mixing and business concerns, when Dead Roots Stirring finally arrived, it was a relief to hear that Elder, though they’d varied the path, were still headed in the right direction.
Hands down the year’s best traditional doom release. The Wretch so gleefully and so earnestly employed the conventions of ’80s-style doom — most especially those of Saint Vitus and Trouble — that even though the lyrical and musical content was miserable, I couldn’t help but smile as I listened. Songs like “Bastards Born” and “The Scovrge ov Drvnkenness” pushed The Gates of Slumber away from the barbarism the Indianapolis outfit had been touting on their last couple albums, including 2008′s Conqueror breakthrough, in favor of a more purely Chandlerian plod. “To the Rack with Them” remains a standout favorite and a line often referenced in my workplace dealings.
I don’t know what you say to someone at this point who doesn’t like Weedeater. It just seems like a terrible way to go through life, without the madman ranting of “Dixie” Dave Collins (interview here) echoing perpetually in your ears, or never having witnessed their ultra-viscous fuzz in person. Jason… the Dragon was one of the earliest landmark releases of 2011, and practically the whole year later, it retains its hold, whether it’s the stomping fury of “Mancoon,” the lumbering groove of “Long Gone” or the surprisingly melodic “Homecoming.” The hard-touring, hard-hitting band did right in recording with Steve Albini to capture their live sound, and Jason… the Dragon was their strongest outing yet in terms of both songwriting and that unmistakable quality that makes Weedeater records Weedeater records.
I was surprised to see Rwake crack the top 10. Not because their first album in four years, the Sanford Parker-produced Rest, wasn’t superb, but because of how much the songs on the album stayed with me after listening. The Arkansas band’s last outing, Voices of Omens, was heavy and dark and had a lot going for it, but Rest upped the songwriting on every level and together with frontman CT (interview here) adopting a more decipherable shout over most of the record’s four main extended tracks, Rwake felt like a band reborn, and theirs was a highlight among several 2011 albums that showed there’s still room for individual growth and stylistic nuance within the sphere of post-metal.
It was back and forth, nine and eight, between Rwake and Hull for a while, but when all was said and done, the fantastic scope of Beyond the Lightless Sky gave the Brooklyn triple-guitar masters the edge. With a narrative structure behind it and a breadth of ambience and crushing, post-doomly riffing, Beyond the Lightless Sky was the defining moment that those who’ve followed Hull since their Viking Funeral demo have been waiting for. In concept, in performance, in sound and structure and heft, it absolutely floored me, and of all the heavy records I’ve heard with the tag applied to them in 2011, Hull‘s second full-length seems most to earn the tag “progressive.” A stunning and groundbreaking achievement.
One of 2011′s most fascinating developments has been the boom in European heavy psychedelia, and the self-titled debut from French band Mars Red Sky was among the best releases to blend a jam-based sensibility with thick, warm fuzz and memorable riffs. Together with the sweet-hued vocals of Julien Pras (interview here), those riffs made for some of the most infectious hooks I heard all year on songs like “Strong Reflection” and “Way to Rome,” and where other bands jammed their way into psychedelic oblivion, Mars Red Sky were able to balance their focus on crafting quality songs, so that although they sounded spontaneous, the material was never self-indulgent or lacking accessibility. One just hopes they don’t lose sight of that musical humility their next time out.
There was a point earlier this year at which I had forgotten about All We Destroy. After reviewing it in March, I simply moved on to the next thing on my list, and the thing after, and the thing after. But before I knew it, in my head was the voice of Jackie Perez Gratz, singing the line “As I live and breathe” over her own cello, the guitar of Max Doyle and Max Doyle‘s drums. It got so persistent that, eventually, I went out and bought the record, because the mp3s I’d been given to review simply weren’t enough. That was probably July, and I don’t think I’ve gone a week since without listening to Grayceon. So although I classify it in the same league as Rwake and Hull in terms of what it accomplishes in and for its genre, All We Destroy gets the extra nod for the fact that I simply haven’t been able to let it go. And though I’ve come to further appreciate “Shellmounds,” “Once a Shadow” and “A Road Less Traveled,” the 17-minute “We Can” — from which the above-noted lyric is taken — remains the best single song I heard in 2011.
On paper, this one should’ve flopped: Band with minor buzz and a cool video hooks up with indie rock dude to record an album of dopey riffs and beardo bombast. Instead, Red Fang‘s second album and Relapse debut became the 2011 vanguard release for the Portland heavy underground, which is arguably the most fertile scene in the US right now. They toured the record widely, and made another killer video for the mega-single “Wires,” but the reason Murder the Mountains is top five material is because it’s lasted. It was February that I reviewed this record, and March that I interviewed guitarist/vocalist Bryan Giles, and I still can’t get “Into the Eye” and “Hank is Dead” and “Number Thirteen” (especially the latter) out of my head. When it came down to it, the songs on Murder the Mountains lived up to any hype the album received, and I’m a sucker for quality songwriting. I mean, seriously. That key change late into “Number Thirteen?” It’s the stuff of the gods.
I wasn’t particularly a fan of Swedish rockers Graveyard‘s 2008 self-titled debut. Even watching them at Roadburn in 2010, I was underwhelmed. But when I heard Hisingen Blues and was able to get a feel for what the retro-minded foursome were getting at stylistically — and most of all, that they were acknowledging that they were doing it without being glib or ironic about it — I found the material irresistible. We’re getting into seriously indispensable records now; ones that I’ve been unwilling to leave home without since they came, in, and Graveyard‘s Hisingen Blues has been a constant feature in heavy rotation. Everything from the devilish testimony of the title-track to the wiry guitars of the chorus to “Ungrateful are the Dead,” to the Skynyrd-ified solo capping “Uncomfortably Numb”: It’s been a year of revelry in all of it, and since they overcame my prejudice to impress on such a level, Graveyard (interview with drummer Axel Sjöberg here) are all the more deserving of their spot on this list.
What I hear in the second album from Dutch trio Sungrazer is the heralding of a new generation of fuzz rock. Taking influence from their forebears in Colour Haze and Kyuss, the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Rutger Smeets (interview here), bassist/vocalist Sander Haagmans and drummer Hans Mulders followed and surpassed their stellar 2010 debut on every level, playing heavy riffs on expansive psychedelic jams and still finding room for some of 2011′s most memorable choruses in songs like “Sea” and “Goldstrike.” In so doing, Sungrazer affirmed the character of next-gen European fuzz and placed themselves at the fore of their scene, with touring and festival appearances to support. For their warmth of tone and for the fact that I spent the better part of the summer streaming the record through the Dutch website 3voor12, there was no way they were going to be left out of the top 20. It wasn’t until I sat down and actually put the numbers together, though, that I realized how vital Mirador actually was.
I was lucky enough to be sent some rough listening mixes of Ohio outfit Lo-Pan‘s Small Stone Records debut (following a reworked reissue of their Sasquanaut sophomore full-length), and in my email back to label head Scott Hamilton, I told him I thought he had a genuine classic on his hands. A year, I don’t even know how many Lo-Pan gigs and listens through Salvador later, I still feel that way 100 percent. If you were from another planet, and we got to talking at a bar, and you asked me what rock and roll should sound like in the place where I’m from, I’d hand you Salvador. I still think they should’ve started the album with “Generations,” but if that’s my biggest gripe, they’re clearly doing alright. “Bird of Prey” was the best live song I saw all year, and I saw it plenty, and cuts like “Bleeding Out” and “Struck Match” set the standard by which I’ll judge American heavy rock for a long time to come. Like the best of any class, Salvador is bigger than just the year in which it was released, and at this point, I don’t know what else to say about it.
This is as good as it gets, and by “it,” I mean life. YOB‘s last album, 2009′s The Great Cessation, was my album of the year that year as well, and I knew from the second I heard the self-produced Atma that nothing to come this year would top it. Like Ufomammut‘s Eve in 2010, Atma brings the entire genre of doom along with it on the new ground it breaks, refining what’s fast becoming YOB‘s signature approach even as it pushes ever forward. I still have to stop whatever I’m doing (not exactly good for productivity) whenever “Prepare the Ground” comes on, and songs like “Adrift in the Ocean” and “Before We Dreamed of Two” were humbling. Seriously. Humbling. Listening to them was like looking at those photographs from the Hubble that cover trillions of miles that we’ll never know and reveal gorgeous colors where our naked eyes only see black. If that sounds hyperbolic, thanks for getting it. YOB guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt (interview here) is, almost in spite of himself, one of American doom’s most crucial contributors, and with Atma, he and the rhythm section of bassist Aaron Reiseberg and drummer Travis Foster released what is without a doubt the best album of 2011.
A few quick housekeeping items and we’ll call it quits. First, honorable mentions. If this list went to 25, also included would be The Wounded Kings, Earth, Larman Clamor, Olde Growth and The Atlas Moth. Roadsaw were also in heavy consideration, so they’re worth noting, as are many others.
Obviously, I couldn’t include them, but two of my favorite releases in 2011 also came from Blackwolfgoat and HeavyPink, and I’m thrilled and honored to have helped put them out in the small way I did.
And as I said above, there are records I didn’t hear. I haven’t heard the new Black Pyramid yet. Or Orchid. Or a bunch more that I could go on listing. I’m only one man and this is only my list, for better or worse. Again, I really do hope you’ll contribute yours to the group poll, the results of which will be out Jan. 1.
I’ll probably have some more to wrap up 2011 as the month winds down, but until then, thank you so much for reading this and the rest of the wordy nonsense I’ve put up the whole year long. Your support and encouragement means more than I’m able to tell. Here’s to 2012 to come.
Posted in Reviews on October 6th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
It might be time to stop thinking of The Wounded Kings as traditional doom. On their third album since 2008, In the Chapel of the Black Hand (I Hate Records), the British outfit have all but completely grown past their earlier connections to the doom of yore – if there are any similarities between the thorough and encompassing atmospheres of these four tracks (really three and one well-placed interlude) and the likes of ‘80s and ‘90s doomers, it’s in the cultish atmospheres The Wounded Kings present, and that can be traced further back to ‘70s Hammer Horror and freak folk. Make no mistake, The Wounded Kings are doomed on In the Chapel of the Black Hand – perhaps even the most doomed they’ve yet been, which anyone who heard last year’s stellar The Shadow Over Atlantis or their An Introduction to the Black Arts split with Virginian volume mongers Cough will tell you is no easy feat – but the drive of the record is thinking forward rather than paying tribute, and that’s a big difference when it comes doom that’s played so excruciatingly slow. Part of any perceivable change in the band’s sound, however, has to be attributed to the fact that The Wounded Kings in 2011 is a completely different band than they were even a year ago.
Now a five-piece, guitarist Steve Mills has essentially reconstructed the band around himself, with vocalist Sharie Neyland taking over for Mills’ co-founder George Birch, and drummer Mike Heath, bassist Jim Wilumsen and second guitarist Alex Kearney coming aboard to round out the current lineup. It’s still Mills in charge of the writing, and his guitars were always layered anyway with Hammond and synth (which he also handles again here), but there are discernable musical differences between In the Chapel of the Black Hand and The Wounded Kings’ past incarnations and outings. Inarguably, Heath gives the best performance on drums the band has ever had on an album – and the best-sounding, as captured by Chris Fielding of the Welsh Foel Studios (Electric Wizard, Conan, Serpent Venom) – and Neyland’s vocals, while perhaps sharing some of Birch’s vibrato and echoing otherworldliness in their depictions of pagan and occult ceremonies and themes, are bound to be a key distinguishing factor for many listeners, if only for the gender-switch of the band’s frontperson. Mills remains consistent tonally, on these cuts, particularly with “Curse of Chains” from the Cough split, which had better production overall than the last record, but shows growth in his songwriting methodology. Centered around three longer tracks – “The Cult of Souls,” “Gates of Oblivion” (with parts subtitled “The Descent,” “Dominion” and “Arrival”) and the closing “In the Chapel of the Black Hand” – with the four-minute “Return of the Sorcerer” just before the closer, In the Chapel of the Black Hand feels more concise than its predecessor, even though it’s almost exactly the same length. The ambience of The Shadow Over Atlantis’ instrumentals, “Into the Ocean’s Abyss” and “Deathless Echo,” has been reworked and added to the songs themselves here, and In the Chapel of the Black Hand flows smoother for it, its doomed march that much more visceral.
Posted in Whathaveyou on April 21st, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Guitarist Steve Mills of UK-based cult doomers The Wounded Kings checked in with an update on the band, who are getting ready to record their third album (second for Sweden‘s I Hate Records) in June. Busy times for Foel Studios, it seems. Conan‘s new split was done there, as will be their next album, and Groan are headed in come mid-August for their second record, as reported yesterday. Makes me wonder who’s there in July.
Also of note in the realm of The Wounded Kings is a new lineup, which Mills details below. He has this:
We now have our new lineup complete with new members Alex Kearney (guitar) Jim Willumsen (bass) Sharie Neyland (vox) and Mike Heath (drums).
We will be entering Foel Studios (Electric Wizard, Napalm Death and Conan) in June to record the five tracks that will make up our third album, In The Chapel of The Black Hand, which will be released through I Hate Records once again.
Posted in Features on December 8th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’m going to be honest with you: I really, really like this album. I’ve gone back to it time and again since hearing it early this year, and doing so has brought me nothing but satisfaction. The Wounded Kings are a bright spot on the UK‘s hope for the doomed future. I felt that way with 2008′s Embrace of the Narrow House, and I feel that way with their I Hate Records debut, The Shadow Over Atlantis.
Not only is the record cohesive sonically and ideologically, but multi-instrumentalist Steve Mills and guitarist/bassist/vocalist George Birch inflict an atmosphere so dense that it affects your mood for the rest of the day. There’s plenty of doom out there that’s dreary, but The Wounded Kings go beyond the melancholic, plunging the depths of Lovecraftian terror and arising therefrom with a hellacious beauty in tow. “The Swirling Mist” and “The Sons of Belial” are more rituals than songs.
The Shadow Over Atlantis also marks the end of an era for The Wounded Kings, as they’ve since gone on to include a full-time bassist and drummer in Luke Taylor and Nick Collings (respectively). Already this new lineup has shown its prowess on the An Introduction to the Black Arts split LP with Cough, and with their increased ability to play live now that they’re a complete band, The Wounded Kings feel like they’re just getting started. Let’s hope that’s the case.
Posted in Reviews on November 16th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
Culled together on the aptly titled Forcefield Recordssplit release, An Introduction to the Black Arts, two of next-gen occult doom’s brightest (bleakest?) team up for more than 34 minutes of torturous musical sprawl. Dartmoor’s The Wounded Kings and Richmond, Virginia’s Cough reportedly got in touch with each other before any label got involved; drawn, no doubt, by their mutual predilection for riff-led worship and affection for the genre’s forebears. If the UK and US outfits have anything in common other than riffs, feedback and plod, it’s probably an affection for Electric Wizard, though that comes out more on Cough’s 18:36 “The Gates of Madness” than The Wounded Kings’ 15:03 “Curse of Chains,” which takes a less blatantly Oborn-ian approach and shares more in concept than strict execution with the band’s Dorset countrymen and adds more traditional doom to the mix.
“The Gates of Madness” was recorded by Sanford Parker at the same time Cough put to tape their recently-released Relapse Records debut, Ritual Abuse. They showed their love of Electric Wizard there, and follow suit on this extended cut, blending in screamed vocals as well to add notes of aggressive individuality, more in line with their 2008 Forcefield debut, Sigillum Luciferi. The difference, though, isn’t so great that anyone who heard and/or dug Ritual Abuse is going to be particularly surprised by “The Gates of Madness,” and rather, I’d argue that Cough’s Side A contribution to An Introduction to the Black Arts is an opportunity for those who couldn’t get enough of their sound on the sophomore outing to once more sample their heavier, more abrasive side. With droning, ultra-low tones and lumber sufficient enough to build a house, Cough easily justify the buzz they’ve been getting lately.
Posted in audiObelisk on October 20th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
The song is called “Curse of Chains,” it’s 15 minutes long and it comes from The Wounded Kings‘ new split with Virginian doomers Cough, An Introduction to the Black Arts, which is out Nov. 16 on Forcefield Records. If you think you can handle the sheer classicist doom misery of the song, put your robe on and feast your ears on its darkened wonders:
“…it was recorded in a studio rather than in my basement studio, so it’s a whole different process going on. We played it live with four musicians straight away, and it’s got a different sound again. It’s evolved. I think you’ll find that the musicianship is definitely better (laughs)… We got a much better drummer. I’m not putting myself down too much, but I play practically all the instruments on the album, and I play what’s needed to get my point across of what I’m trying to convey. On the new recording that’s coming out, there’s a drummer who’s a drummer. He lives for drums. And there’s a bass player who loves his bass and so forth. It’s evolved again, on a musicianship level of play.”
In case you missed it, our amigo Black Bubblegum over at BrooklynVegan premiered Cough‘s portion of the split on Monday. Cough will also be playing BrooklynVegan‘s CMJ showcase this Saturday with The Body, Inter Arma, Royal Thunder and Batillus at Union Pool. More info on that here.